Series: Thru the Bible
Shedding Light on Guidelines & Rules
Deuteronomy chapter 14
Deut. 14:1-21, HCSB “You are sons of the LORD your God; do not cut yourselves or make a bald spot on your head on behalf of the dead, (2) for you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD has chosen you to be His special people out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
This first mention is a guideline more than a command.
This is made clear by two things in particular:
- The mention of “for the dead”. Deuteronomy was written at least 3,400 years ago, and this is the first mention of any such practice which reveals it’s pagan origin. This practice is mentioned in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos & Micah. The Egyptians, from which they came did not shave their heads for the dead as we would understand it since they nearly all lived with shaved heads and wore wigs…but the “front of their heads” namely, their eyebrows – they would shave for the dead and it may even be one of the primary reasons this is mentioned though throughout the Ancient Near east this was a common practice. Also, many civilizations still wound or mutilate themselves for the dead. In the Dani tribe of Papua, New Guinea, a women will cut off the top of her finger to the first joint if she loses a family member or child. GOD HATES THIS!
- We know that this shaving of the head is not in itself the problem – but it’s association with pagan rituals. We know this because in Judaism people often shaved their heads – like at the fulfillment of a Nazarite vow [Num. 6:3-8].
That is what made it a Guideline rather than a command. There was nothing in and of itself wrong with shaving the head – it was it’s association with pagan worship which made it prohibited. They were to distinguish themselves from the secular world around them – which is something God is STILL keen on doing under the New Covenant.
Let’s turn to 1 Cor.11 where Paul addresses something under the New Covenant – to Gentile Christians which is very much like this “rule”.
1Cor. 11:1-16, HCSB “(1) Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ. (2) Now I praise you because you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. (3) But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. (4) Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. (5) But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. (6) So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered. (7) A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. (8) For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man; (9) and man was not created for woman, but woman for man. (10) This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because of the angels. (11) However, in the Lord, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. (12) For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.
(13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (14) Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, (15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. (16) But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.”
Paul addresses gender distinction in the Body Under the New Covenant here in this chapter by pointing back to God’s original intent in Creation! This is the same thing Jesus did on several occasions. [Services where we have dealt with this are found at the following links – Silent Women; Gender Roles Q&A Pt. 1; What the Bible says about Gender Pt.1; What the Bible says about Gender Pt.2; What the Bible says about Gender Pt.3.]
Then Paul invites these Gentile believers to judge the matter themselves. This was VERY IMPORTANT. By inviting them into the judgment Paul is…
- Teaching them to think within the confines of scripture
- Equipping them for their jobs as Christians which includes making judgments among one another – 1 Cor. 6:1-11.
- Causing them to OWN the conclusion themselves RATHER than just parrot Paul’s words!
He does however guide their judgment process…
Judge for yourselves,
“Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?”
“Does not the immediate culture around you teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but for a woman it is her glory?”
First – what is the context? Praying in church.
Second – Paul did not ask if it was sin, but “proper”. In other words is it becoming of a Christian?
Third – Paul in this portion does not point back to Creation for his argument
but to the culture immediately around them.
Why? Because in their culture and in fact in their very city there was a pagan temple where the priests of that temple had long hair and the priestesses shaved their head.
This is why Paul ends his encouragement towards them with the words, “If anyone seems contentious we as Christians have no such custom, neither do the churches of God.” This means that if someone wants to argue about it saying, “this isnt Christian doctrine!” their right. Nevertheless, Paul admonition stands firm on solid ground and Godly tradition – to avoid the appearance of evil! This makes this what I would personally call a Guidelines rather than a rule.
This is PART of the reason for this command and the one we are to read in verse 21. The reason is because Israel, at this time, was quite prone to acclimation to the cultures around them. They (like so many today) did not want to be different – because it distinguished them and separated them from the rest of the world.
Now this next part should appear very familiar! We covered it in detail in – Clean & Unclean.
“(3) You must not eat any detestable thing. (4) These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, (5) the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. (6) You may eat any animal that has hooves divided in two and chews the cud. (7) But among the ones that chew the cud or have divided hooves, you are not to eat these: the camel, the hare, and the hyrax, though they chew the cud, they do not have hooves–they are unclean for you; (8) and the pig, though it has hooves, it does not chew the cud–it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses. (9) “You may eat everything from the water that has fins and scales, (10) but you may not eat anything that does not have fins and scales–it is unclean for you. (11) “You may eat every clean bird, (12) but these are the ones you may not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, (13) the kite, the various kinds of falcon, (14) every kind of raven, (15) the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the gull, the various kinds of hawk, (16) the little owl, the long-eared owl, the white owl, (17) the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, (18) the stork, the various kinds of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. (19) All winged insects are unclean for you; they may not be eaten. (20) But you may eat every clean flying creature.”
“(21) You are not to eat any carcass; you may give it to a resident alien within your gates, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
Jamieson-Fausset & Brown,
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk — This is the third place in which the prohibition is repeated [Exod. 23:19; Exod. 34:26]. It was pointed against an annual pagan ceremony.
Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself,…. This law is repeated from Lev. 17:15.
thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; not to the proselyte of righteousness, for he might not eat of it any more than an Israelite, and if he did, he was obliged to wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and was unclean until the evening, as in Lev. 17:15 but to a proselyte of the gate, who took upon him, as Jarchi observes, not to serve idols, one that has renounced idolatry, but has not embraced the Jewish religion; such an one might eat of things that died of themselves, or were not killed in a proper manner. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan call him an uncircumcised stranger or proselyte, who had not submitted to circumcision, as the proselyte of righteousness did:
or thou mayest sell it unto an alien; an idolater, one that was neither a proselyte of righteousness nor of the gate, an entire alien from the commonwealth of Israel; one that was occasionally in the land of Canaan, or was travelling in it or through it, to such an one it might be sold:
for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; separated from all others, and devoted to his service, and therefore must live on clean, food and good meat, and not eat what others might:
Guzik somewhat agrees,
You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk: This unusual law was a command to not imitate a common pagan fertility ritual. It illustrated the third principle behind the dietary laws of Israel:
- For I am the LORD your God: God claims the right to speak to every area of our life, including what we eat. He had the right to tell Israel what to eat and what not to eat.
- You shall therefore sanctify yourselves: One great purpose of the dietary laws of Israel was to sanctify – to set them apart – from other nations. It made fellowship with those who did not serve God far more difficult.
- We see this sanctifying effect in Dan. 1:1-21, where Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the unkosher food at the king of Babylon’s table – and God blesses them for being set apart for His righteousness.
- Neither shall you defile yourselves: Not only did unclean animals defile one spiritually, but there was also a hygienic defilement, and Israel was spared many diseases and plagues because of their kosher diet.
So this command appears to be a statement of separation from the nations, and prevented Israel from having easy fellowship (sitting down at a common meal) with Gentiles.
This law, because of strange rabbinical interpretations, became the reason why one cannot have a kosher cheeseburger. Observant Jews today will not eat milk and meat at the same meal (or even on the same plates with the same utensils cooked in the same pots), because the rabbis insist that the meat in the hamburger may have come from the calf of the cow that gave the milk for the cheese, and the cheese and the meat would “boil” together in one’s stomach, and be a violation of this command.
Where as Adam Clarke refers to someone called Calmet (presumably Benedictine Calmet of 18th century England who wrote a valuable dictionary of the Bible of which there is an English translation, and a highly esteemed commentary on all the books of Scripture) – who thinks that this precept refers to the paschal lamb only, which was not to be offered to God till it was weaned from its mother; but see the note on Exod. 23:19.
Deut. 14:22-29, HCSB “(22) Each year you are to set aside a tenth of all the produce grown in your fields.
“(23) You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of the LORD your God at the place where He chooses to have His name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the LORD your God.
(24) But if the distance is too great for you to carry it, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far away from you and since the LORD your God has blessed you, (25) then exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place the LORD your God chooses. (26) You may spend the money on anything you want: cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or anything you desire. You are to feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your family. (27) Do not forget the Levite within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance among you.
(28) “At the end of every three years, bring a tenth of all your produce for that year and store it within your gates. (29) Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreign resident, fatherless, and widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the LORD your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”
Let’s unpack this!
1st let’s observe that the tithe was annual since they were based upon the increase of the field -whether livestock or harvests. A tenth of the INCREASE was to be brought to the place God had placed Him name. We know this to be that tabernacle based upon MANY scriptural witnesses.
- In the wilderness wanderings it was said so.
- God told Israel that after they settled in the Promised Land he would choose the location where His name would dwell – which was at Jerusalem in the Tabernacle.
- David called the Tabernacle “God’s house”
- Malachi tells us the purpose was that there would be food “in my house”
So the tithes were brought EVERY year to the Levites at the tabernacle.
Remember the Levites gave a 10th of that to the single family of the priests.
Since Israel was NOW going to be spread out over a large land mass in the Promised Land rather than tightly camped around the wilderness tabernacle – God, Who is kind and does not wish for us to be overburdened made a provision for getting the increase to Jerusalem with ease if it would be overly taxing or impossible to transport the goods themselves – they might be sold for MONEY. WITH SOME of that money they were to purchase food and drink of whatever sort they liked and enjoy a communal meal to which they were to invite their local Levites who lived among them and who made this journey WITH them.
Every THIRD year, the foreign resident, the fatherless and widow were invited to come as well. This third year tithe was considered by Jewish Rabbis to be a “non-landed” tithe – meaning those who had no possession in the land which would include these very people listed…the Levite (who was always part of this feast), the fatherless since they had no inheritance they also had no land, the widow who herself would own no land except in extraordinary situations and the foreigner who dwelt among them.
It seems unlikely that God intends us to understand by this that the entirety of the 10th was used up in a single feast or the Levite would have no provisions for that year – except for their portions from the sacrifices which would be hard to obtain since they did not all live in Jerusalem. This was for a single feast of communion between Israel and their spiritual leaders.
I want you to notice as well that the Levites were those who ministered to the ministers – they were NOT the ministers themselves so to speak. Yet, God included them as part of His house – for which there would be provision.
At the end of three years … the Levite … shall come, etc. — The Levites having no inheritance like the other tribes, the Israelites were not to forget them, but honestly to tithe their increase [Num. 18:24]. Besides the tenth of all the land produce, they had forty-eight cities, with the surrounding grounds [Num. 35:7], “the best of the land,” and a certain proportion of the sacrifices as their allotted perquisites. They had, therefore, if not an affluent, yet a comfortable and independent, fund for their support.
So what did the Levites do once they settled in the land – there was no need to make ready and carry the tabernacle once it was settled in Jerusalem?
In the Temple, Levites would aid in its construction and upkeep, would sing Psalms during Temple services, serve as guards and performing other services which aided the Priests in their duties.
Levites also served as teachers and judges.
They lead and maintained the cities of refuge in biblical times.
One thing of interest is what God did with this once hot-headed, impetuous and blood thirsty tribe.
If you remember it was Levi and Simeon who unilaterally decided to scheme against and destroy Shechem due to the misfortunes of their sister Dina – who in all reality had brought her misfortunes upon herself through disobedience, promiscuity and intrigue. [See Counsel of my Sons ]
Levi had a proclivity towards war! In fact, their call to ministry was through a call to arms! At the incident of the Golden Calf God called all who would – to His side and the Levites were the first to respond. He them commissioned them to go out and kill family or friend who were not on God’s side – which they readily did. THIS was Levi’s last official act of war. For God turned this tribe into a tribe of peace. They were NOT included in the census for war, were exempt from fighting in a war though they were required to take part in the saving of lives in times of direct threat which might occasion the need for fighting.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
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