Monday, August 10, 2015


It is well known that the Old Testament has a whole system of clean and unclean, and holy and normal things.

Now, a moment's reflection shows that it is absurd to think that a table or a pair of tongs, say, could be really spiritually unclean. Physically unclean, sure. That it sorted out with hot soapy water and antibacterial spray. But spiritually unclean? Surely not.

The clean / unclean system is clearly symbolic.

And it seems most likely that it is related to the only things in the world that can be really spiritually unclean: sinful human beings.

This is obviously true in the case of the sacrifices. The sacrificial animal represents and takes the place of human beings.

Or think of the concept of unclean and holy ground. Why is the ground unclean? Because in Genesis God curses it because of human sin. The ground cries out against people for vengance from God. That is why people wear shoes: they don't want the unclean ground on them. It is why Moses takes off his shoes at Sinai when he is on holy ground. It is why the priests don't need shoes in the holy ground of the temple. It is why animals without shoes (with the wrong kind of feet) are unclean.

Simple, eh?

(I owe this stuff to The Revd Dr James Jordan's Lectures on Exodus)

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