Studies in Torah

Parashat Shemini (שמיני): Leviticus 9–11

In our joy to come into close relationship with the Creator, we may forget to have respect of Who He is. One of the lessons of this week’s Torah reading, שמיני Shemini (“eighth”), covering Lev. 9:1–11:47, is remembering how to discern what God has set apart — cleaned up — from what isn’t. That’s behind the object lesson of clean and unclean foods, and put into sharp focus in Acts 10.

The second Torah reading is Num. 19:1–22 (see related studies).

The standard Haftarah (Writings and Prophets) reading for this week is 2Sam. 6:1–7:17 (see related studies). A second Haftarah reading is Ezek. 36:16–38.

Leviticus 9-11: Become clean and holy from the inside out

Leviticus 9–11: Confidently entering God’s presence with reverence


Leviticus 9

God ordains the Tabernacle and priesthood of Israel

God, through Moshe (Moses), consecrates His mediator, Aharon (Aaron). There is a clear transfer of spiritual authority from Moshe to Aharon at this point. This is a foreshadowing of God’s consecration of Yeshua, our Messiah as our High Priest, who had to walk a sacrificial walk for us that we could hear, do and walk in God’s word as He does. After Moshe consecrated Aharon and his sons, there was no longer any doubt as to how God has chosen to be the mediator between Himself and His people.

Leviticus 10

Two priests die in the line of Temple duty

We explore the “strange fire” or “foreign fire” offered by two priests in Leviticus 10 that got God so angry He incinerated both immediately. Was this capricious, or was the Author of Life teaching something fundamental through these deaths?

Leviticus 11

‘Unclean’ vs. ‘abomination’ in meat; purification of women after childbirth

The phrase “unclean” and “abomination” are different words. The reason that God introduces certain animals clean and fit to eat versus unclean and unfit to eat is a lesson to us to look at the character of the animals. The length of a woman’s purification is twice as long for a female child as a male child. Liberals claim this is about a lack of thankfulness for the female child, but the real issue is the health of the mother after childbirth.

God’s lessons in ‘abomination’ of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’

Uncleanness is not a sin in and of itself. It’s a temporary state, not a permanent state. God shows here how to go from unclean to clean, not only of ourselves but of household items, clothing, etc. God is showing us how clean He is and how we are to become like him. This isn’t about “dos and don’ts” but because He wants us to be holy and to be His people.

More lessons from food of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’

Leviticus 11-16 are about how to discern “cleanliness” vs. “uncleanliness.” God is giving us these instructions because He is holy — literally, set apart or distinct — and wants us to be holy, i.e., set apart for God’s purpose. God does not say that we will never be in a situation where we will be exposed to “uncleanliness.” Exposure to “uncleanliness” is a part of being in this world. God is giving us a simple object lesson about how to go from unclean to clean, from unholy to holy.

Second Torah reading: Numbers 19:1-22

The red heifer

One of the most mysterious passages regarding the sacrifices involved with the sanctuary and temple of Israel is the red heifer. In fact, this teaching in Numbers 19 is intimately connected with the mission of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

High priest as a type of the Messiah; lesson of the mysterious red heifer

There is a very special but blunt message in Numbers 18–19, targeted to the High Priest and his family. Moses is not addressed at all. God impresses upon the High Priest family and the Levites the seriousness of their charge. They are given certain rights within in the community of Israel but also gives them very serious responsibilities. God also places serious consequences on the High Priestly family and the Levites if they are derelict in their Temple duties.

Red heifer a picture of Messiah

God did not create the ritual of the red heifer, described in Numbers 19, to prevent the spread of disease but to make sure we don’t treat the death of a fellow human being casually. That’s regardless of whether their death was recent or many years ago. Death is our enemy. Death is not natural. Death is not our friend. The symbol of the red heifer points to the Messiah, and we can learn how much Yeshua did for us through that symbol.

Haftarah: 2nd Samuel 6:1–7:17

David brings the Ark to Yerushalayim

David moves the Ark of the Testimony to Yerushalayim. Along the way, a priest is killed when he tries to “help” God in keeping the Ark from falling from a cart.

How did God measure David’s worth?

Many who read this text think that God is somehow rejecting David or turning away from him, but this is not the case at all. God is not rejecting David but He is giving David a great insight into God’s purpose for him. David finds out what God really thinks of him. How many of us hear straight from God what He thinks of what we are doing for ourselves and our future generations? So, rather than thinking of this story as a type of rebuke to David, consider it God’s gift to David.

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