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What the Bible says about Ceremonial Cleanliness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 22:4-9

The priesthood received a portion of some of the offerings, the devoted things that Israel brought to be offered to God. However, they could only eat it if they themselves were clean.

It is important for us to understand that the defiling thing (what makes a person unclean) may not, of itself, be sin—or that the person has necessarily sinned by coming in contact with it. What it represents or symbolizes is important to us here. We are dealing with a ritual, so the defiling thing represents, symbolizes, typifies, sin and its effects. This is not to say that coming into contact with some of these things might not be potentially physically harmful—because disease may very well be communicated by coming into contact with a corpse, for example. Nonetheless, the possibility of defilement by sin is taught in every case in which God declares a person unclean. That person is thus unsuited to serve Him until the defilement is removed through the washing ceremonies He prescribes.

Why is God so insistent about avoiding contamination? The answer appears in Haggai's question to the priests:

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, "If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?"'" Then the priests answered and said, "No." And Haggai said, "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" So the priests answered and said, "It shall be unclean." Then Haggai answered and said, "'So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,' says the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.'" (Haggai 2:10-14)

God is consistent about avoiding contamination because it is so easy for what is contaminating and defiling to our character to transfer to us. Human nature is like a magnet that attracts defilement. Above all people in Israel, the priests had to be clean, and the principle applies to us. Theirs was mostly a physical cleanliness, but moral, spiritual, and ethical cleanliness is certainly implied. By contrast, ours is primarily a spiritual, moral, and ethical cleanliness with the physical implied.

These Old Covenant laws serve as reminders and guides about how serious God is—and therefore, we should be—about not becoming contaminated by the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Two)

Joshua 5:10-11

The following quotation is from the Pentecost Study Material, assembled by Dr. Charles V. Dorothy during and following the 1974 study by the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), which provided the paper to its ministry:

Some brethren are concerned over the alleged "arbitrary" decision, especially since Joshua 5:10-11 seems to show the Israelites counted that Pentecost from Sunday, the High Day within Unleavened Bread. More study is needed and more is being done. (p. 73; emphasis his)

It appears that Dr. Dorothy was sensitive to some people's skepticism, otherwise why did he emphasize "seems"? Did he draw attention to the word because he felt that the doctrinal committee was banking on something vague, assuming some points, and reaching a conclusion it could not fully justify?

Joshua 5 is where the majority of the disagreement begins. Joshua 4:19 records that the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River on the tenth day of the first month. Joshua 5:1-9 leads a reader to conclude that the Israelite males were probably circumcised beginning on the eleventh day. But even this may be an assumption because Joshua 5:10-11 does not say that Israel kept Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. In other words, it could have been lawfully kept in the second month (Numbers 9), although this scenario is less likely.

At no time or place in Scripture does God designate what month or day of the week this date fell upon that year. In fact, researchers are unable to give an absolute answer even to what year Israel entered the land. We always end up with calculated guesses. Should we build an important spiritual doctrine on a guess?

It is not this article's purpose to prove whether the Wavesheaf offering took place in the first or second month, only that Joshua 5 does not prove that the Israelites offered one at all. If they did not make one, it absolutely destroys the assumptions of a first day of Unleavened Bread Wavesheaf ceremony, since Joshua 5:10-11 is the source used to "support" this deviation.

So where is the authority from God's Word that Israel's observance of Passover that year was on a weekly Sabbath and that Wavesheaf Day was the next day, a Sunday, the first day of Unleavened Bread, a high-holy-day Sabbath? What positively, absolutely, biblically affirmed events are these conclusions based upon?

Notice that, thus far, the chapter makes:

1. No mention of an altar.

2. No mention of a priest.

3. No mention of the offerings God commanded to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13).

4. No mention whatever of a harvest.

5. No mention of the waving of the sheaf.

Interestingly, God mentions the circumcisions (which had not been performed during the wilderness journey), yet He makes no mention of what would have been the first altar, first sacrificial offerings, and first formal service in the Promised Land. It would also have been the first waving of the sheaf in the land.

However, Joshua 5:11 does say, "They ate the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day." There is nothing wrong with this statement unless one claims that the Israelites had to wave Canaanite-grown grain before God for acceptance before they could eat it. Do the ceremonial instructions give them permission to do this? Do the wavesheaf instructions require that they do this?

The answer to both questions is "No." In fact, such a wavesheaf is strictly forbidden. Exodus 23:16 says this in direct reference to Pentecost: "The Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field" (emphasis ours throughout). The offering had to be made of something the Israelites had sown by their own labors! Pentecost ends the harvest begun on Wavesheaf Day. Therefore, the same "you have sown" qualification applies to Wavesheaf Day as to Pentecost.

The Israelites had surely labored in harvesting grain in Canaan, but they had not sown what they harvested upon entering the land. It was an incomplete production and therefore not qualified. God could not accept such an offering because it did not meet the qualifications He had laid down for a holy people.

For God to accept such an offering would break the spiritual principle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 3:9: "We are laborers together with God." The Israelites were not part of the cycle of cooperation of purpose between them and God in the production of this particular harvest. It was therefore unacceptable for use as the wavesheaf.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5

Mark 7:14-23

Mark 7:14-23 (and its parallel account in Matthew 15:1-20) is another set of scriptures that some believe state that nothing entering into a man can defile him, therefore eating whatever one wishes is perfectly all right. Can this be correct?

Those who believe this fail to understand the subject of the chapter, which is Jesus' denunciation of the Pharisees for their rejection of God's commandments in favor of their own traditions (verse 8). Verse 2 introduces the context: "Now when [the Pharisees] saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault." The dispute was over ceremonial cleanliness - eating without first washing one's hands - which is not even an Old Testament law but a "tradition of the elders" (verse 5), which the Pharisees had themselves proclaimed authoritative.

In addition, beyond this fact, note that the kind of food the apostles were eating is "bread," not meat. Jesus' later comments speak generally of "foods" and "whatever enters the mouth," not specifically meat. Mark 7 is not about clean and unclean meats at all!

Verse 19 contains the phrase "thus purifying all foods," and many have jumped to the conclusion that Jesus declared all foods clean (as many marginal references state). The context, again - the very sentence in which it appears - proves this false: "Do you [disciples] not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, thus purifying all foods?"

First, "thus" is not in the Greek text but has been supplied by the translators. Without it, the sentence plainly states that the stomach "purifies" any kind of food put in it, not that Jesus had somehow declared all foods to be purified. Second, purified is the Greek word katharízoon, which means "to cleanse," "to purify," "to free from filth." In relation to the stomach's or the digestive tract's ability to "purify" food, the sense of katharízoon in this verse is "to purge of waste." This is brought out clearly in the parallel statement in Matthew 15:17: "Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?"

Do these scriptures do away with the law concerning clean and unclean meats? Not at all!

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?

Mark 7:15

He is not talking about food, but about dirt that might be on unwashed hands or in unwashed pots.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works

John 13:10-11

The footwashing is simply a ritual, a ceremony, a symbolic act that outwardly manifests an inward attitude and conviction. In the example of Judas Iscariot, we see that though he went through the ritual, he was not really clean. The ritual could not remove the terrible sin that he was about to commit against his Creator. Because he had not repented of his sin, footwashing was meaningless to Judas.

Paul writes, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5). Isaiah urges, "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings" (Isaiah 1:16). In his psalm of repentance, on the other hand, David beseeches God, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). Thus, we see that this rededication to God at Passover is a shared effort between us and God. We renew our faith in Christ's sacrifice, redevote ourselves to the New Covenant, repent of our spiritual failings, and seek forgiveness, and He forgives us and cleanses us of our sins.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 




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