Children do it a lot. Mom dresses them up; they dress themselves down by running out to play in the dirt in their best clothes. God’s children do the same thing. He dresses us up in our best wedding garments, but we sometimes get our wedding garment soiled. Human children’s clothing can be cleaned when they become unclean and so can Believers’ spiritual garments.
The Mitzvot/Laws of “cleanness” and “uncleanness” are among the most misunderstood and disdained of all the laws in the Torah. People view them as oppressive, backward, primitive, unfair, and worst of all, unnecessary. None of these adjectives apply. The Mitzvot/Laws are liberating, proactive, progressive, rational, and very necessary.
All of the Mitzvot/Laws of uncleanness are meant to teach us about 1) the affects of death, and 2) the important metaphysical connection between our bodies and souls.
The laws of cleanness and uncleanness are very simple to understand. The problem is no English word equates to the Hebrew word “tumaw”. English translates it as “unclean”. Since “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, being unclean must be a bad thing, right?
The answer is “not necessarily”. The cleanness and uncleanness laws deal with the connection between our physical bodies and our souls. These Mitzvot are intended to remind us that what we do with our bodies affects our souls. For this reason, the Mitzvot/Laws of cleanness and uncleanness are a blessing.
The state of uncleanness is not sinful or bad in and of itself. Rather, it speaks to a state of impurity brought about by circumstances not within the control of the individual. God is merciful in the area of situations, circumstances and conditions that we are not able to control. These things include the death of a loved one and the monthly menstrual cycle of women, just to name two.
The Biblical teaching of clean and unclean is always contextual because the Hebrew word “tumaw” has many meanings. Each situation requires one to use the contextual meaning in order to understand the reason for the Mitzvot/Law. Some of the contextual words we can use are: contaminated, prohibited or “off-limits”, polluted or defiled, and “not food”. Tumaw means all of these things and more.
In the context of unclean meat, any meat that does not come from a clean animal is unclean because it is “not food”. We must not think of unclean meat as fit for human consumption. The truth of this matter is borne in modern science. There is overwhelming evidence that pork taxes the body’s digestive system while the pollutants from the unclean animal’s body builds up in the human body causing disease. Scavenger animals are unclean – “not food”. Bottom-feeding fish and shellfish are also “not food” fit for human consumption. They carry pollutants in their bodies that are passed to human beings.
Eating meat that is unclean, “not food”, is bad for the planet. God created these animals precisely to clean up the pollution of other animals and humans. When these animals are taken from their natural habitats through fishing and agriculture, the environment is adversely impacted. Pigs break up the soil naturally during rutting, something they do daily. This breaking up is beneficial for aerating the soil. Soil aeration freshens the soil and releases pollutants from it and the air and light kills harmful mold spores. Shellfish and other bottom feeders eat the fecal waste of other fish, thus keeping the water clean.
Eating the meat of an unclean animal is a sin. Why? Possibly because of the length of time for being unclean. A person can be unclean from one to seven days. Aside from the disease and death factors, it takes much longer than seven days for the body to release the toxins ingested from eating meat that is “not food”. So, it is not possible to ingest unclean meat then become clean again at evening (which is when the new daily cycle begins and when that which was unclean becomes clean once again) or by the end of next week.
Most people will be able to understand why touching a dead body makes one unclean. The dead bodies of all animals and humans breed bacteria within minutes after the death occurs and they begin releasing toxic gases. Modern people know this. But there is more to this than meets the eye.
God is a God of the living – not the dead. The Egyptians and other pagan cultures throughout history focus on death. Even in modern times, we have a funeral industry that harks back to Egyptian times.
God does not want His people focused on death, but on Life! By teaching us that dead bodies are unclean, we are restrained from creating our careers around dead bodies. And when a death occurs in our families, we should take care of that person ourselves as a final act of mercy and honor to that person. Even in Yeshua’s day, family members or those close to the deceased handled the body. There was no funeral industry in Hebrew society.
God said that seven days would be sufficient to be unclean and to mourn. Not only does the fact that dead bodies are unclean prohibit our focus on death through obtaining a career in the funeral industry, but this ritual uncleanness assures the family’s privacy when mourning. The seven days when the entire family is likely unclean, they are free to touch each other, dry each others’ tears, hold each other and deal with the loss of their loved one. Seven days of mourning are sufficient to drain away the shock of the death so that we can move through the other stages of grief. There is true mercy in this Mitzvot.
The Mitzvot/Law that is the most difficult for modern women is the uncleanness of menstruation. This Mitzvot/Law is viewed by modern, sophisticated, feminist women as a slap to womanhood. Actually, the reverse is true.
The contextual meaning of the Hebrew word “tumaw” in this case is “prohibited” or “off-limits”. The required separation of women during their state of “tumaw”, uncleanness, has many blessings. First, it helps us to constantly remain aware that women’s bodies are designed to bring life. Menses brings death. The egg that could have been a new life will now and forevermore be dead. Every woman knows the agony of that moment when the blood stain appears. This agony is there for a reason. It is our reminder that our bodies, at that moment, are carrying death instead of life.
The Bible says that “Life is in the blood”. A woman’s body bleeds to carry death away from her so that she will have another chance to bring life. Yeshua’s blood cleanses us from spiritual death because His blood is pure and holy, while a human woman’s blood is the opposite. Hers is contaminated spiritually by the sin of Eve and physically by the diseases that often flow with it. The evidence of it appears in her body every month. These reasons are why her blood is prohibited and Yeshua’s is accepted.
In the case of sexual relations between a husband and wife during her menstrual cycle, the word unclean is equated with “off-limits”.
Childbearing and childrearing are hard jobs. Add to that the constant haranguing of a husband whose sexual appetite cannot be satisfied, and you end up with an overwhelmed woman. The Mitzvot/Law of uncleanness is designed to give her a break from her husband’s demands for fourteen days. She needs a rest from all this for her own well-being.
After she gives birth, she needs more rest than usual because of the strain of bringing life into the world. Her time of “tumaw” is longer after birth because of the greater effort involved than when she merely menstruates. It also affords her the time to bond to her baby in a much deeper way than most modern mothers. This Law is actually woman-affirming and life-affirming.
The breaks that occur in the sex lives of husbands and wives because of this Mitzvot/Law is meant to result in greater appreciation of each other. It also makes the next sexual union occur on what is likely the day of the wife’s ovulation.
This does not mean that God wants women to feel guilty for not always being barefoot and pregnant. He only wants men and women to appreciate the sanctity of life and have a constant reminder of their need for God. Setting the wife apart from her husband is intended to reinforce all of these things for both of them.
Yeshua became ritually unclean every time He reached out to touch someone with leprosy. When the woman with the issue of blood touched Him, He felt his power “go forth” from Him. But it did not anger Him.
Was this an indication that Yeshua/Jesus was ignoring the Law? Was He casting it aside? No. Yeshua/Jesus demonstrated the mercy in the Law. Repeatedly, He pointed out to the Pharisees that they have missed the entire point of the Law, which was to bring mercy. Being unclean is not a sin. Yeshua/Jesus did not sin when he touched an unclean person. Instead, He showed us what it literally means to lay down ones life for another.
When we touch someone who is unclean for any reason, we remain unclean for the rest of the day. That is the worst that happens to us. But to the person we touched, we might have brought great joy. All people need loving touch. It is not a sacrifice at all for us to touch an unclean person in order for him or her to know that someone cares.
Moreover, these Mitzvot/Laws are not for the purpose of creating social classes as some have alleged. This is because these Laws apply to everyone equally. Even Priests were subject to becoming unclean during the performance of their Temple duties (as in the case of preparing the red heifer).
The Mitzvot/Laws of uncleanness have everything to do with our relationship with God. We are His Bride adorned in a holy spiritual garment. What we do in our bodies affects how our wedding dress appears to God. He is always viewing the condition of our wedding dress. We only feel it, but someday, when we are all able to see the actual condition of our wedding attire, some will be surprised how many wrinkles and soiled spots are on their holy garment.
When God brought the mixed multitude of Hebrews and Gentiles out of the wilderness, He presented them with a marriage proposal. Moses was the matchmaker who kept running between God and the people; the people and God. In Exodus 19, after numerous incidents where Moses had intermediated between God and the people, God asked Moses to ask the people if they would like to be HIS people. This was a marriage proposal.
Moses went to the people and asked them. They accepted God’s Ketubah – the Covenant – by saying they would do all that God asked of them. After accepting the Covenant, the people became God’s Bride. This Covenant relationship is still relevant today. God did not break His own Covenant nor did He abolish His Covenant’s Laws.
We must remain “clean” in our wedding garment if we are to be ready when Yeshua/Jesus appears to take us home, whether in death or at the Rapture. Just as no bride would put on her dress, then go play in the mud, Believers are expected to keep their “wedding dress” clean, too.
The basics of the Mitzvot/Laws of clean and unclean are to avoid:
- Touching a dead creature.
- Touching human uncleanness or a dead person.
- Touching four legged, winged insects.
- Touching or eating a clean animal that dies from natural causes or from acts of predators
- Giving birth
- Touching a woman during her monthly period.
- Going into an unclean house.
- A person with a bodily discharge, including semen, and whatever that person touches.
- Contact with people who have infectious diseases.
This article did not cover every situation in depth, only the most controversial issues (no pun intended). It should be obvious why God wants us to avoid playing with certain insects. They might harm us.
An unclean house is one that has mold. It has only been in recent decades that scientists have figured out that mold in homes is the cause of numerous chronic and acute diseases.
Only in recent centuries have doctors and scientists become aware that contact with another’s bodily fluids might cause disease. This knowledge erupted with the advent of AIDS.
And who doesn’t know to stay away from people with colds, flu and other contagious diseases?
These laws teach us something about our world with us in it. We can see that sin resulted in death and that since death is an unnatural state for man (God did not intend for us to die and is now working toward bringing us back to our former state of immortality) it is something that we are to avoid. All of the above prohibitions are for the purpose of helping us avoid death.
We also learn from these laws that it is not possible for us to stay in a state of spiritual purity on our own. Observing these laws throughout our lives is a constant reminder of our need for Yeshua and His Torah. We can’t make a sacrifice to get rid of our uncleanness, although there were sacrifices for stages of impurity that occurred after an episode of uncleanness. We must bear our uncleanness. This illustrates how desperate our situation would be if no sacrificial system had been made possible by God. These are not punishments – they are REMINDERS. These short reminders that God provided for our education serve a useful purpose after all.
It is God’s desire that His people have better lives than those in the world. He wants us to have better health, live stress-less lives, prosper and be happy. God wants these things for us for two reasons : first, He loves us and wants the best for us, but 2) He wants to provoke the world to jealousy so that everyone will come to Him. For this reason, God has provided His people with Laws that will cause health, wealth and happiness. In fact, He says so Himself in His Torah.
What God says is that IF we obey the Laws of the Torah, then He will provide blessings. In addition, we learn respect for life, gain an appreciation for ethical behavior, learn that sexuality is to be separated from the holy, and understand the association of God with life and wholeness rather than death and disorder.
|Leviticus 5:2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.||A dead thing is considered unclean. Touching it makes the person unclean.|
|Leviticus 5:2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
Leviticus 5:3 Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
Leviticus 10:10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
Leviticus 11:47 To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.
Leviticus 11:24 And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 12:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
Leviticus 12:4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
Leviticus 12:5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
Leviticus 13:3 And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.
Leviticus 14:36 Then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest go into it to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean: and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house:
Leviticus 14:37 And he shall look on the plague, and, behold, if the plague be in the walls of the house with hollow strakes, greenish or reddish, which in sight are lower than the wall;
Leviticus 15:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.
Leviticus 15:4 Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.
Leviticus 15:16 And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:19 And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:20 And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
Leviticus 15:21 And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:22 And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
Leviticus 15:24 And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.
Leviticus 15:25 And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean.
Leviticus 15:33 And of her that is sick of her flowers, and of him that hath an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him that lieth with her that is unclean.
Leviticus 17:15 And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean.
Numbers 19:5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.
10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
Numbers 19:11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
Numbers 19:16 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
Numbers 19:14 This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
Numbers 19:13 Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
Numbers 19:20 But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
Numbers 19:15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
Numbers 19:22 And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
Deuteronomy 12:15 Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.
Deuteronomy 12:22 Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.
Deuteronomy 14:7 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.
Deuteronomy 14:8 And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
Deuteronomy 14:10 And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
Deuteronomy 14:19 And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
Deuteronomy 23:14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
|A dead thing is considered unclean. Touching it makes the person unclean.
The phrase “the uncleanness of man” explains everything there is to know about the subject. Man is unclean. He only becomes clean through God’s mercy to Him. We can only approach God when we are ritually clean and not defiled. We revert to our unholy state when we refuse to obey God’s Word.
The purpose for the observance of clean and unclean is for us to know what is holy and unholy.
Beasts that may be eaten are also those beasts that God calls clean. We are to make a distinction between the clean and the unclean. The unclean are prohibited – “off-limits” – to us.
Uncleanness remained for the rest of the day in which one became unclean. At evening, one became clean again. But it was necessary to mikvah/baptize – immerse in a ritual bath.
Why was the evening the time when the uncleanness passed? Because that was the start of the new day. God was merciful in not allowing our impurities to remain too long.
The prohibition of handling “creeping” things is understood in the word “abomination”. The pagans that surrounded the Children of Israel used snakes and various insects, often even revering them as gods in their own right. This practice is an abomination to God and He did not want His people to engage in it.
The reason that a woman was unclean only seven days for birthing a boy was because she had to present him to the Priests for circumcision on the eighth day. An unclean person, man or woman, cannot enter the temple. After the circumcision, and after the new mother left the Temple, she once again became unclean and had to complete her purification.
Leprosy refers to both the actual disease and to a host of other diseases that cause open sores. All diseases are unclean. It is a matter of health and quarantining the individual so as not to infest the entire population. Diseases such as these are very contagious and have been thought to be the cause of some entire cultures disappearing.
Mold. Homes are subject to mold. Mold is such a health hazard that God condemned it as such and made it unclean to cause His people to separate from that which was harmful to them.
Open sores are a health hazard to others. God desires that we live healthy lives. In the case of contagious diseases, these laws are for our protection.
Whatever the ill and unclean person touches becomes unclean to avoid the spread of the disease.
Sexual intercourse was cause for becoming unclean. Today, we know that semen is the source of many diseases. These rituals of washing the body, the clothes, the sheets and anything that the semen contacts are for the purpose of our health.
Also, the rituals of cleanliness are constant reminders of our need for purity – they keep our minds headed in God’s direction and do not allow the degradation of human sexuality to the debase level to which it was in the surrounding nations and to which it has fallen today.
Menstrual separation is viewed by the world as oppressive to women. This separation is not only liberating, but it is healthful, too. One of the biggest complaints of women in marriage is the constant haranguing by husbands for sex, especially during menstruation. The second biggest complaint by women is the lack of intimacy with the husband. Separation during menstruation achieves the goal of allowing the woman a break from sexual activity and the break results in greater respect and intimacy when the union is once again made. Also, the additional seven-day purification makes first sexual contact close to, even during, the time of ovulation. This is in accordance with the fact that sex is meant for procreation first over our personal enjoyment.
Menstrual blood is a natural internal cleansing system that brings forth whatever is inside. In some cases, this might be disease.
There is another reason for the prohibition against touching what she touches because “life is in the blood”. The blood of any source other than the sacrificed blood of unblemished animals, then later the blood of Yeshua, was prohibited. God protects and separates the blood. The menstrual blood of woman is not pure because humans are the source of sin in the world. The blood prescribed by God for our sins is pure and holy.
If a woman’s menstrual cycle begins during sexual intercourse, the man shares her seven day unclean period, but he does not have to go through the seven day purification period.
Women are unclean for the entire time that they bleed. The woman who touched the hem of Yeshua’s garment had bled for twelve years. He felt power leave Him, yet he was not angry with the woman even though she was unclean. This is because Yeshua regularly practiced the higher aspect of these laws in that He frequently willingly became unclean in order to heal others.
This is the most important lesson of these laws. Yeshua said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. To touch a leper or a menstruating woman is an act of mercy that the Pharisees could not understand. They did not view Yeshua’s acts of mercy as such, but rather as a way to aggravate them. Yeshua did not flaunt the law nor did He intend to aggravate the Pharisees.
Not only are certain animals prohibited for eating, but even clean animals that die of natural causes or are killed by predators become unclean and are off-limits for human consumption.
The sacrifice and burning of the red heifer causes uncleanness. This is likely because of the importance of the red heifer. Notice that everything, including the heifer’s dung, is burned to obtain ashes. The ashes were then used for ritual cleansings. The ashes were also unclean, but only a clean man could handle them.
We see here the lesson of sin. The red heifer is burned completely – the good parts of the heifer along with the undesirable parts. This shows us the nature of sin. Parts of humans are good, but parts of us are bad. This came from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now, mankind has a mixed nature of good and evil. This mixture is itself sinful because we were created sinless.
It is for this reason that anyone handling the red heifer and her ashes becomes unclean. What a great illustration of the nature of man.
In most other cases of uncleanness, the only requirements are waiting until evening and taking a ritual bath – a mikvah (baptism).
This commandment is very useful during war. It allows the troops to physical rest after every battle. It also provides mental and emotional healing after involvement in such brutality as killing another person.
Family members and friends of family were given this seven-day mourning period of separation upon the death of a loved one. Mourners were off-limits to others and would have been left alone to grieve with each other. This meant that anyone not directly affected by the death would not bother the mourners. People bringing food, as is still the custom, would have left it outside the door of the dwelling. Rather than being viewed as a “punishment” for having had a family member die, this Mitzvot is a commandment of mercy.
God will not allow impurity to defile His Tabernacle. What is God’s Tabernacle? The reference here not only applies to the Tent or the Temple, but to the congregation. God is telling us here that His congregation is His Tabernacle. Uncleanness is still a problem of God’s Body, but our Savior has provided a better way for us to be cleansed of all of our impurities.
Open containers allow bugs, mold spores that travel through the air (we have already seen that mold is a polluter), allergens and many other things to contaminate the contents. This is a matter of health for God’s people.
When we are contaminated, we can pass that contamination along to others. This is not only a physical reality, but it is also a spiritual one.
God does not exclude anyone from living normally during a time of uncleanness. We see here that God permits people to eat. This is because contamination is not an everlasting condition as is sin. Sinners eat. God wanted His children to know that unclean people had the right to be fed.
We are commanded to not eat unclean animals. It is sin, rather than simply making one unclean, because one must disobey the commandment to not eat anything unclean.
The root of sin is always disobedience.
God explains the reason for the rules of behavior during periods of contamination. It is because there is no contamination in Him and He walks among us. How much more willing should we be to observe these things now that His Spirit lives inside of us and is not merely external to us as was the case in those day?
We must keep His camp/congregation holy. It is these things that set us apart – sanctify us – from the world. There are only two kinds of people in the Bible – God’s people and those who are NOT God’s people. The only way for God to show the world His holiness if for His people to do what God does which is to BE HOLY.
That is the purpose of these Mitzvot.