Parashah 26: Sh’mini (Eighth)

Leviticus 9:1-11:47

“On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon, his sons and the leaders of Isra’el …” (Leviticus 9:1)

After spending seven days in the Tabernacle, Aaron and his sons are called by Adonai to make offerings. The number eight in Hebrew is sh’mona and is represented by the letter chet. The number eight symbolizes ‘new beginnings.’ Eight people in Noach’s family were saved on the Ark and had a ‘new beginning’ in a changed world. The circumcision of a baby boy happens on the eighth day, a ‘new beginning’ as a child of the covenant. Feast of Tabernacles is an eight-day festival prophetic to the restoration and ‘new beginning’ of the Messianic Era. Yeshua was resurrected on the first day of the week, but in a continuous cycle of days, it was the eighth day, ‘a new beginning.’ All dedications of the Tabernacle took eight days, and the account of the holy oil lasting eight days during Hanukkah brought a ‘new beginning’ through purification for the Temple.

Aaron offered a calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering as atonement for himself and the people. The people of Isra’el were to offer a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb for a burnt offering, an ox and ram for a peace offering, and a grain offering mixed with olive oil for their own atonement. These sacrifices were offered because “today Adonai is going to appear to you” (Leviticus 9:4).

Aaron presented his offerings as Adonai instructed. He dipped his finger in the blood of the sin offering and put it on the four horns of the Altar of Sacrifice; the rest was poured out at its base. He burned the fat on the Altar; and completely burned up the meat outside the camp. He splashed the blood of the burnt offering against the sides of the Altar. Piece by piece the animal, including the head, went up in smoke on the Altar. After washing the organs and lower parts of the legs, Aaron burnt them on the Altar and they went up in smoke.

Aaron presented the people’s offerings. He presented their sin and burnt offerings just like his own. For the grain offering, he took a handful and made it go up in smoke on the Altar in addition to the morning’s burnt offering. He splashed the blood of the peace offering against the sides of the Altar. All the fat from the animal was put on the breasts and it all went up in smoke on the Altar. Aaron made a wave offering of the right thigh and breasts as he was instructed.

“Aaron raised his hands toward the people, blessed them and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering and the peace offerings.  Moshe and Aharon entered the Tent of Meeting, came out and blessed the people.  Then the glory of Adonai appeared to all the people.  Fire came forth from the presence of Adonai, consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).

BUT … A Small BUT Important Word

“BUT Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, each took their censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and offered unauthorized fire before Adonai, something he had not ordered them to do.  Fire came down from the presence of Adonai and consumed them, so that they died in the presence of Adonai” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

BUT is a small word, BUT it is very important in the context of this account. BUT, interrupts the glorious events of the day when fire from the presence of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh consumes the burnt offering and the people of Isra’el shouted and fell on the faces.

Priests were to be obedient in every aspect of their service to Adonai in the Mishkan. Everything had to be done precisely as instructed byAdonai, BUT Nadav and Avihu did something they had not been instructed to do.

They offered ‘unauthorized fire’ or as some Bible’s translate ‘strange fire.’ Though burning incense was part of the priestly duties, they had not been given instructions to do it. They may have been caught up in the awe of the moment or were responding to the joy of being in Adonai’s presence, BUT in either case, the fire was ‘strange fire’ and unacceptable to Adonai. In Hebrew, ‘strange fire’ is esh zarah; esh means ‘fire’ and zarah means ‘to winnow, scatter or cast away.’

Hebrew Word Pictures
Nadav (Gives) – נדב – nun, dalet, bet
– life pathway to the house

Avihu (He is my father) – אביהוא – alef, vav, yod, hey, vav, alef
– first strength bound to the finished work,
reveal the binding of the first strength

When King David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he had it set on a new cart. pulled by oxen, and driven by Uzza and Achyo. When they arrived at the threshing floor of Nachon, the oxen stumbled and the Ark began to slip off the cart. Uzza reached out to steady it. Adonai immediately struck him dead. Uzza’s intention was to protect the Ark, BUT his action was unacceptable to Elohim.

R.C. Sproul, an American theologian said this about ‘strange fire:’ ”One aspect of the modern church that most saddens and concerns me is that believers are no longer encouraged to have a healthy fear of God. We seem to assume that the fear of the Lord is something that belonged to the Old Testament period and is not to be a part of the life of the Christian. But fear of God involves not simply a trembling before His wrath, but a sense of reverence and awe because of His glorious holiness. Even though we are living on the finished side of the cross, the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10a).  God is still a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). When we come into His presence, we are to come as children, as those who have been reconciled, but there is to be a godly fear inspired by respect for the One with whom we are dealing.”

The New King James Version calls the ‘strange fire,’ ‘profane’ which is chalal in Hebrew and means ‘to pollute or defile.’ The root of chalal is chol and means ‘common.’ The event of esh zarah should be a warning to each of us.

Over the centuries, the church has lost its reverence for the holy days of Elohim and has embraced ‘unauthorized’ holidays. Though the church sincerely believes it is honoring Elohim, they are sincerely wrong and, like Nadav and Avihu, they will be cast away. Though believers may not be consumed by fire as Aaron’s sons or struck dead like Uzza, they still offer profane gifts that have cut them off from the spiritual roots of their faith leaving them to slowly die. The profane fire offered by the priests who had been consecrated as ‘Kadosh l’Adonai’ cut them off from the people of Isra’el through death!

“Through those who are near me I will be consecrated, and before all the people I will be glorified”
(Leviticus 10:3).

Aaron kept silent. 

“I said, ‘I will watch how I behave, so that I won’t sin with my tongue; I will put a muzzle on my mouth…. I was silent, said nothing, not even good; but my pain kept being stirred up. My heart grew hot within me; whenever I thought of it, the fire burned’” (Psalm 39:1-3).

What could Aaron say?  What words could possibly express what he had just witnessed? Two of his sons, who had been given the high calling of cohen, had offered esh zerah and were dead!   Their cousins removed the bodies, still wearing their tunics, from in front of the Mishkan and carried them outside the camp. The community of Isra’el mourned their deaths, but Aaron and his two living sons, Eliezar and Itamar, were instructed not to mourn.

They were told not to unbind their hair or tear their clothes so they wouldn’t die and make Adonai angry with the entire community. They were told not to leave the Tabernacle or they would die because they still had anointing oil on them.   They were told not to drink intoxicating liquor, basically get drunk to drown their pain, or they would die.   In the midst of the agonizing pain that Aaron and his living sons were experiencing, Adonai was training them as the spiritual leaders of Isra’el to distinguish between the holy and the profane.

Hebrew Word Pictures
El’azar (God has helped) – אליעזר – alef, lamed, yod, ayin, zayin, resh
– first strength urges forward the finished work,
understand the division of the highest authority

Itamar (Palm Island) – איתמר – alef, yod, tav, mem, resh
– first strength of the finished work of the mighty covenant, the highest authority

Moshe told Aaron and his living sons to make a grain offering from the offerings made by fire to Adonai. They were to eat it without leaven next to the Altar. They were to eat it in a holy place because it was their share of the holy offering. The breast and thigh that was waved as a peace offering was eaten by Aaron, his sons, and daughters.

In the confusion of the consuming fire and the death of their brothers, Eleazar and Itamar messed up, too. The goat for the sin offering for Isra’el went missing. Moshe discovered it had been burned up and became angry with Eleazar and Itamar. When he questioned Aaron, Aaron finally spoke, “Even though they offered their sin offering and burnt offering today, things like these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have pleased Adonai?” (Leviticus 10:19)

Aaron knew his heart was not right before Elohim.  His response reveals his humanity and also his righteous faith. He understood the spiritual purpose for the sin offering and proved himself worthy to be the high priest of Adonai.

Priestly Responsibilities

“So that you will distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and so that you will teach the people of Isra’el all the commandments Adonai has told them through Moshe” (Leviticus 10:10-11).

Being part of any sanctified priesthood has responsibilities.  Just because we have put our faith in Yeshua doesn’t mean that we no longer have holy responsibilities.

The Levitical priests were to teach all of the instructions given by Adonai to Moshe. The royal priesthood has the same responsibility.  In order to teach the commands of Elohim, we must know them. The consuming focus of Adonai’s amazing grace has brought many believers to the place of not knowing or even caring about the instructions of Elohim. Lawlessness continues to accelerate and sin is normalized in personal lives as well as in the community of believers.

Every priest of Elohim is to distinguish between the holy and the profane or common. Common means ‘ordinary or everyday’ while profane means ‘to defile.’ Common activities are distinct from what is unique to the few. The customs of the nations are common while the instructions to the Israelites are not.  The six days of creation are common while the Sabbath is not. The name of Adonai is not to be profaned because it is holy, yet many use His name in a common, profane way.

Distinguish Between the ‘Clean’ and ‘Unclean’

Every sanctified priest is to distinguish between what is ‘holy’ and what is ‘common’ and between what is ‘clean’ and ‘unclean.’ There were ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ rules for hygiene and overall physical health.  There were different ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ instructions for men, women, and priests.  There were ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ regulations for sickness and infectious disease.  Leviticus 11 describes ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals and gives instructions for what Elohim considers food and what He does not.

“For I am Adonai, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy. Such, then, is the law concerning animals, flying creatures, all living creatures that move about in the water, and all creatures that swarm on the ground. Its purpose is to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:45-47).

Adonai begins His instructions about foods by describing “the living creatures which you may eat among all the land animals” (Leviticus 11:2). Elohim is the Creator of all things. He can tell us what we may eat and what we may not eat. He is the potter and we are his clay vessels (Isaiah 29:16). We are not to question His instructions, only hear His voice and obey His commands. His dietary instructions were not about health or eating a healthy diet. They were faith-based instructions for “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:16).

Chew Cud and Divided Hoof
In order to eat certain mammals, they must chew the cud and have a divided hoof. These animals do not have both and were not created as food: camel, coney, rabbit, pig, horse, squirrel, and donkey.  We do not eat camels, horses or donkeys so why do we believe eating rabbits, pigs, and squirrels is acceptable to Elohim?

Water Creatures
Any fish that has fins or scales may be eaten. This would include salmon, trout, halibut, perch, rockfish, bass, and albacore tuna.

While visiting Isra’el, our family took a boat excursion on the Sea of Galilee.  The boat pilot, a Messianic Jew, showed us how to throw a traditional casting net over the side of the boat.  It was  round with weights along the edge and had no bottom.   Attached to the net was a line that he held in his hand as he threw the net over the side of the boat. When the net was cast out into the water, it sunk. When it was pulled back up, only the fish that had fins and scales became caught in the net. The others, the bottom dwellers, swam away.

Any water creature without fins and scales, like shrimp, oysters, lobster and clams, are detestable to Elohim.   Detestable in Hebrew is sheqets and means ‘abhorrent’ or ‘abomination.’  Abomination is toebah and means ‘causing disgust or hatred.’  When we choose to eat things that Adonai considers detestable, we become an abomination and are no longer righteous because we didn’t obey His instructions through faith.

Creatures of the Air
The list of detestable creatures, not to be eaten include eagles, vultures, osprey, ostrich, screech-owl, little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the horned owl, the barn owl, the pelican, the stork, the hoopoe, seagull, various kinds of herons, buzzards, ravens and hawks, and the bat.

The list of detestable animals from pig to seafood to creatures of the air include all of the animals created as beasts of burden or scavengers.  Scavengers eat the garbage of man (pig); they eat the garbage of the oceans (shrimp, lobster, scallops); and they eat the carcasses dead animals (eagles and vultures).  When we eat these animals, we eat the garbage of the air, land, and sea.

Touching the carcass of a dead animal, even a ‘clean’ animal, makes an individual ‘unclean.’ Whoever touches the carcass of a dead animal is to wash their clothes and will remain ‘unclean’ until evening.  Simply, this means good hygiene after dealing with a dead animal.  This is natural in western culture because it is logical and wise, and it also is an instruction of Adonai.

Winged Insects
All winged swarming creatures that move on all fours are detestable unless they have jointed legs above their feet enabling them to jump off the ground.  The ones that may be eaten as food are all varieties of locusts, grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets.

Several years ago, we had a plague of grasshoppers in Nebraska.  They ate everything from the vegetable garden and summer flowers to the screens on our windows.  During that plague, I actually researched how to prepare and cook grasshoppers. If we were ever in need of food, grasshoppers could become our sustenance along with the crickets that hid out in our basement.

“If one of them [unclean winged insect] falls into a clay pot, whatever is in it will become unclean, and you are to break the pot.  Any food permitted to be eaten that water from such a vessel gets on will become unclean, and any permitted liquid in such a vessel will become unclean… even a stove or oven” (Leviticus 11:34).

This verse instructs about a fly falling into a pot of stew or chicken soup.  Though it is difficult to throw away food, it needs to be disposed of in its entirety. Living in the country where flies abound, I have never had to actually throw away a pot of stew, but their constant presence in my kitchen made the event likely.

Selah
Clay jars that have something ‘detestable’ in them are to be destroyed. According to 2 Corinthians 4:7, we are clay jars.

Small Creatures
These small creatures are not considered food by Elohim: the weasel, mouse, various kinds of lizards, the gecko, crocodile, the skink, sand-lizard and the chameleon.  When they are dead, they are ‘unclean’ and anything that touches them, including food utensils becomes ‘unclean’ and must be washed.

Be Holy As I Am Holy

“I made myself accessible to those who didn’t ask for me, I let myself be found by a nation … not called by my name. I spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people … who follow their own inclinations; a people who provoke me to my face all the time … they eat pig meat and their pots hold soup made from disgusting things” (Isaiah 65:1-4).

Adonai’s reason for giving us dietary instructions: He wants us to be holy as He is holy. He doesn’t only want Isra’el to be set-apart for Him, He also wants those who love His Son to become holy, distinguishing between the ‘clean’ and ‘unclean,’ between the animals that were created as food and those that were not. Disobedience to one simple food command brought sin into the world. Because of disobedience to Adonai’s one instruction about the fruit of a tree, Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise.

“But it tastes good. I like it.” This response reveals the heart condition of those who refuse to accept that Elohim has dietary instructions. Yeshua did not suffer death on the cross to redeem the pig, the eagle or the lizard. Peter understood that his vision was not about suddenly being free ‘from the law’ to have a pork roast, but that the message of salvation in Yeshua was to be shared with the gentiles.

The Real Problem with ‘Porky the Pig’
Jewish people who were forced to convert to a new religion called Christianity were called maranos. This word in Spanish means ‘damned, accursed, banned, and hog.’ This name was applied to Spanish-Portuguese Jews when they succumbed to eating the ‘flesh of swine’ in order to save their lives.

Pig in the form of pork, sausage or bacon has been used throughout Christian history to force Jewish people to convert to Christianity on pain of death. Jewish people converted to this foreign religion to avoid cruel and inhumane persecutions based solely on the fact that they obeyed Elohim’s commandments: did not eat pig, circumcised their sons, kept the Sabbath, and the Feasts of Adonai. They were forced with threat of death to disobey Adonai’s eternal commands in order to reside within the Christian community as a marano ‘pig’ convert.

The whole issue of eating pork, bacon, and ham –– the flesh of swine –– has been and continues to be used by the enemy to keep Jewish people from knowing the love of God through their own Messiah. It is eaten explicitly by people who say they know and love Jesus Christ! This is unfortunate because the Jews are looking for a Messiah who will teach the Torah in proper perspective as Yeshua did. They do not recognize a pork eating Christian Jesus as their deliverer and they never will.

“As people who obey God, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

Yeshua and the Pharisees

An Exegesis of Mark 7

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of Torah who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Yeshua and saw some of his disciples eating food with ‘unclean‘ – that is, ceremonially unwashed-hands” (verse 1).

Verse 1 states two specific things that set the foundation for the entire chapter. First, the disciples are eating food. The Greek word for ‘food’ in this verse is artos and means ‘bread.’ The disciples are not eating just any food, they are eating bread. Second, they have not ceremonially washed their hands.

“The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders” (verse 2).

Verse 2 explains that hand washing was a prerequisite to eating food, in this case bread. Hand washing had become a man-made tradition that even included a prescribed way to wash the hands.

“When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles” (verse 3).

Verse 3 expounds on the tradition that was not just about hand washing, but about everything used for eating. The ‘tradition of the elders’ made cooking and eating a burden because of all the rules, including the ritual hand washing.

“So the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah asked Yeshua, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean‘ hands?’” (verse 4).

The question the Pharisees ask in Verse 4 has nothing to do with what the disciples were eating, but why they were not following the ‘tradition of the elders’ with regard to ceremonial hand washing. According to these leaders, the disciples were eating bread with unwashed or ‘unclean’ hands.

“Yeshua replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions’” (verses 6-8).

From this point, there is no further mention of artos –– bread. The ‘traditions of the elders’ are being disputed in Mark chapter 7, the man-made Jewish rituals that nullify the commandments of God, specifically in reference to hand washing.

Yeshua continues to give other examples of when the Pharisees and teachers of Torah “nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (verse 13).

“Again Yeshua called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean” (verse 14).

Yeshua doesn’t mention food or bread in Verse 14. He says that nothing ‘outside’ a man can make him ‘unclean.’

“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, the disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out of his body (into the latrine)” (verses 17-19).

Yeshua never mentions bread or even food when he explains the parable to his disciples. He says that nothing entering a man from outside makes him ‘unclean.’ The issue still being discussed is ceremonial hand washing. Yeshua’s disciples could have come from the marketplace, a grain field or even from fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Their hands were dirty and they were eating bread. This offended the leaders who held to the ‘tradition of the elders’ with regard to ritual hand washing. According to their tradition, no one is supposed to eat food, in this case bread, with dirty hands. Yeshua tells his disciples that dirty hands don’t make a man dirty or ‘unclean’ in his heart. The dirt that may enter his mouth on the bread from his unwashed hands will go through his body and out into the toilet.

Verse 19 causes all the confusion, “In saying this, Yeshua declared all foods clean.” In some versions of the Bible, there is a footnote clarifying that this parenthetical statement was added later by translators, meaning that some translator injected his doctrinal opinion rather than taking the Scriptural words and discussion at face value.

However, what the translator wrote is also true. Everything created by God for food is ‘clean.’ However, the specific food spoken about in this passage, bread, has always been, and always will be ‘clean.’ Some versions of the Bible have translated artos as ‘meat’ taking Yeshua’s parable in a very different direction than what the Pharisees asked, Yeshua explained, and his disciples understood.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, Study Helps, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

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