Zechariah, chapters 1-8

“Here is the man whose name is Sprout. […] He is the one who will build the temple of Jehovah, and he is the one who will assume the majesty. He will sit down on his throne and rule, and he will also be a priest on his throne […].”
~Zechariah 6:12,13

In most forms of government, it makes more sense to have a separation of church and state.
Otherwise it becomes too easy for those who hold power to commit crass abuse.
But Bible prophecies point toward a Messiah who would rule both as king and high priest.
In the history of Israel, no leader ever carried out both functions.
The only person apt for such weighty duties is Christ. (Ge. 14:18; Ps. 110:1,4; Heb. 7:11-25)
Jesus is the only being who has the necessary experience, wisdom and power to reconcile us with God and rule in justice.

Deuteronomy, chapters 19-22

“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”

~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4

To be honest, this passage shook my faith.

Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?

Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).

The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.

The passage explains:

“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)

If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).

After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).

The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.

We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.

For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?

In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).

Numbers, chapters 14-16

And the priest will make atonement for the person who made a mistake by an unintentional sin before Jehovah, so as to make atonement for it, and it will be forgiven him.
~Numbers 15:28

Here we see Jehovah God’s merciful side, for he differentiates between one who sins out of ignorance or incompetence from one who sins as a consequence of pre-meditated evil.

Upon the realization of having committed a sin, Christians do not need to present an animal sacrifice as Israelites did, but Christ did give us instructions as to how to make amends with God.

“When you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret . . . ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified . . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,’” (Matt. 6:6-12).

When sinning against someone, Christ instructed his followers to ‘first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift [to God]’ (Matt. 5:23,24).

If the sin is a serious wrongdoing, the congregation received these instructions:

“Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him [by God]. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed,” (Jas. 5:14-16).

The ‘greasing with oil’ figuratively refers to the refreshing Bible-based counsel mature elders give to the spiritually ‘indisposed.’

We should not, then,  fear admitting our sins, for Jehovah promises that he who is “leaving them will be shown mercy,” (Prov. 28:13).

Leviticus, chapters 14-16

[…] The goat designated by lot for A·za′zel should be brought alive to stand before Jehovah in order to perform the atonement upon it, so that it may be sent away for A·za′zel into the wilderness.
~Leviticus 16:10

The word “Azazel” seems to come from two Hebrew words.

Na·saʼ′ can mean pardon, take away, carry and in this instance, disappear;ʽez means goat (Insight, vol. ii, “Pardon”).

In effect, Azazel means disappearing goat, scapegoat, or as the Greek Septuagint translates it, “the one averting evil,” (Insight, vol. i, “Azazel”).

The High Priest of Israel was to enter the Most Holy, that is, the compartment of the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, only once a year.

There, he was to make atonement first for himself and his family, then for all of Israel (Lev. 16:12-16).

This occurred on the holiday known as Atonement Day.

This was the only day in which all of Israel was obligated to fast and ‘afflict their souls.’ They were prohibited from working on this day (Lev. 16:31).

There were two goats: one goat was sacrificed to Jehovah as a sin offering on behalf of the nation, and the other stood before Jehovah while the life of the sacrificed goat was symbolically transferred to the live goat through the blood it shed (Lev. 17:11).

Then the live goat was led away and set free in the wilderness, carrying off the nation’s sins, so to speak (Lev. 16:20-22).

The prophet Isaiah correctly applied this ceremony to what Christ was to do for mankind:

“Truly he himself carried our sicknesses,
And he bore our pains.
But we considered him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgression;
He was crushed for our errors.
He bore the punishment for our peace,
And because of his wounds we were healed,”
(Isa. 53:4,5).

Therefor both goats represent one symbol: that of Christ shedding his blood for us, presenting it in Heaven before his Father, and through his atonement, carrying away the sins of repentant humanity (Heb. 9:11, 12).

The High Priest entering the Most Holy to make atonement for Israel represented Christ entering Heaven and making atonement for all of humanity.

The High Priest entering the Most Holy to make atonement for Israel represented Christ’s entering Heaven to make atonement for all of repentant humanity.

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 10-13

If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a male, she will be unclean for seven days […] If she should give birth to a female, she will then be unclean for 14 days […]
~Leviticus 12:2,5

Why this discrepancy in the length of time an Israelite woman would be considered unclean?

At first read it seems rather sexist.

What did being unclean imply?

During the time she was physically unclean, the woman was not to have sexual relations with her husband. This promoted self-discipline and hygiene in the Israelite culture. During the next 33 days, in the case of a baby boy, or 66 days, in the case of a baby girl, the mother was ceremonially unclean, which meant she was not to come into contact with holy objects (Lev. 12:4,5; Insight on the Scriptures, vol. ii, “Mother,” par. 3).

Why was the new mother “unclean” to begin with?

The research explains that because of the imperfect state of humanity, the reproductive organs which were once meant to pass perfect life, now actually pass the “inherited effects of sin,” that is, illness and death (Watchtower, 5/15/2004, p. 23; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12).

This ‘passing on of sin’ required some atonement, which is why God asked for a burnt offering and a sin offering, (Lev. 12:6).

These sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice which would atone for all of repentant humanity’s sins (Gal. 3:24; Heb. 9:13,14; 10:3,4).

To put this into a more familiar context, let us remember that even Mary recognized her own sinful state when she and Joseph presented baby Jesus at the temple and offered a humble sacrifice (Luke 2:22-24).

Israelite birth customs drew attention to our lamentable condition of being born in sin as opposed to perfection, and therefor highlighted the need for a savior from this state, the need for the expected Messiah.

So why the discrepancy in the length of “unclean” time between the sexes?

In the Bible, ‘the woman was created for the sake of the man,’ and not the other way around, (1 Cor. 11:9).

In family life, a woman is to subject to her husband’s role as head of the household (Eph. 5:22,23).

“Thus, from birth, the Law distinguished between male and female, assigning to the latter a subordinate position,” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. i, “Clean,” par. 11).

From this we can conclude that the time needed for a mother to become physically and ceremonially clean after giving birth to a girl served to remind society that not only were they all sinners, but females should subject to their husbands/fathers within family life.