There is a letter that has been making the rounds on the internet for well over a decade, dubbed the “Dr. Laura Letter.” A reader of this site recently asked my thoughts on the letter.
From what I can gather, a person by the name of Dr. Laura Schlesinger made some comments condemning homosexuality several years ago via a talk show or radio program. This, of course, created great controversy. A person supposedly wrote a “response” to her comments, and asked ten main questions about the Bible.
While I don’t have time to address each specific question with as much depth as I’d like, I will try to address each question briefly. Of course, these questions were written in a satirical way, and the main point of the questions was to try to point out the “absurdity” of the Bible.
Sadly, it is very clear that the author of the letter had no interest in learning the truths or context behind these passages. Instead, it appears that they only wanted to cherry-pick some passages that they thought were absurd in an attempt to smugly mock the Bible. Here are the questions in the letter with my brief response:
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
Whenever skeptics mention how the Bible is so “evil” because it condones slavery, I immediately know two things about them: (1) They’ve never read the Bible with any depth, and (2) they are incredibly ignorant of what slavery actually meant back then. I’ve already addressed part of this in another post on the Bible verse about beating slaves, a verse the skeptics also enjoy using often.
Slavery is something that has long been a part of society, and it still is today in many parts of the world (in the form of illegal sex slavery). However, slavery in the Bible it is not the same kind of slavery that most of us think of today. It was never to be an oppressive form of slavery, which God abhorred. We can clearly see God’s view of oppressive slavery when we see his reason for sending Moses to free the Israelites from Egypt:
And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:9-10)
And we can’t forget that God solemnly warns the Israelites to never oppress people they took in as slaves or guests:
You shall not wrong a sojourner, or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
Instead, slavery (in the Bible context) was more like a form of indentured servitude, or like a live-in maid or butler. Some compare it to a social class, and with good reason: A person who was financially broke could become a “slave” for a set period of time, and work to pay off debt or to have guaranteed housing and care. This happened when the Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery while they were in Egypt:
Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate. (Genesis 47:19)
Slavery could actually be a good thing when done right (and not oppressively), and it did wonders to keep the “homeless” population under control. If you were broke, no problem–just go be a servant for a while.
Furthermore, slaves usually had a set limit of time they served. In Exodus 21, Hebrew slaves could work no longer than 6 years, and after that, had to be released from their contract for nothing. Some people actually became slaves forever (by choice), simply because they would have bonded with their “master,” and they would have preferred to stay with them and enjoy their prosperity. They didn’t want to be freed in some cases. In the following passage, the Bible gives instructions for such a case:
But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free.’ (Exodus 21:5)
Finally, God warned individuals who had slaves to treat them fairly and not to be harsh (Ephesians 6:9), and Christians were encouraged to free slaves and treat them as fellow brothers in the faith (Philemon 1:15).
In short, the Bible never condones oppressive forms of slavery, and Christians were urged to treat their servants well and to free them when possible.
Ironically, skeptics often forget that the most brutal forms of human oppression throughout history came from unbelievers, not Christians. Stalin was an atheist and brutal dictator who ruthlessly murdered and suppressed millions.
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
This question is meant to mock the passage in Exodus that details the treatment of female servants. I’ve already covered the context of Biblical slavery above, so I won’t repeat it. The point of this passage in Exodus 21:7 was to ensure that women who entered into a servant contract was provided with proper care. Here is the entire passage so that we can examine it:
And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. (Exodus 21:7-11)
The passage specifically deals with a man allowing his daughter to enter as a female servant (or potential wife) to another man (which would have included duties the daughter would have likely performed in her own home, such as helping farming and other similar chores). It is not talking about sex slavery or prostitution, which the Bible expressly forbade (Leviticus 19:29).
It was a common custom in those days that parents often exercised rights over their children, and this is true for many cultures–not just the Israelites. In heathen, ungodly nations, parents could be very unloving with their children and sell them into brutal slavery, prostitution, and so forth. Recognizing the evil context of slavery in the surrounding nations, God commanded Moses to write provisions in the law for women who became servants in exchange for their care. God didn’t want women to be treated like oppressed slaves (or neglected) if a man chose not to marry the woman.
While this passage may look like bizarre at first, it’s important to understand what God is doing here. In those days, poverty could be severe. People couldn’t go and get food stamps and welfare housing. If they couldn’t get food, they died. If a family realized that they could not provide for their child, they would have sought a suitable family to provide for her, and in return, this daughter would have all of her needs met (food, clothing, and shelter) while working as a servant (not an oppressed slave). Keep in mind that men became slaves too, so this isn’t just about women–this law is just adding a layer of protection for women.
Consider this: What you’re reading here is somewhat similar to a woman entering the military today. The military often offers a “lump sum” payment in exchange for a person’s contractual service (ie, they “buy” them). While under contract, they essentially own you. You do what they tell you to do. You’re essentially the military’s “slave” for as long as you’re under contract. If they say to get up at 6:00 a.m. and scrub the toilets, you’re gonna do it. If they tell you that you’re going to Afghanistan, you’re going.
The military is perhaps a good example to understand the context of slavery back then. In this case, it was more of a contractual relationship that included a sign-on bonus. The woman, if unhappy or unprovided for, could leave at any time. While this may seem like a bizarre, outdated custom, things haven’t changed much today–people still enter the military for lump sum payments and care in exchange for their service to our country, just like individuals in the Old Testament times could enter servanthood/slavery for a set time for housing/care to individuals.
This law forced the man (or family) who took in the daughter to treat her well. It forbade him from “reselling” the girl into brutal, oppressive slavery in the surrounding nations, and it ensured she would always have her needs met. This arrangement also allowed for the girl to marry either the master or his son (depending on the situation), which of course she would have agreed to with her parents prior to the arrangement. Paying a sum of money (or giving gifts) to father of a bride was common then. In today’s culture, it has reversed, and the parents of the bride are often expected to pay for the wedding (although not all follow this custom today).
There are some very important things to remember when we think of this act of “selling” a daughter to be a servant:
- Obviously, the girl would have been a suitable age if she was being given in marriage or working as a servant.
- No father in his right mind is going to allow his daughter to become a servant or wife to some creep. To see how Israelites reacted to a woman being treated badly, look at Genesis 24 with the story of Dinah. Jacob’s sons were infuriated that she was raped, and they refused to let her marry the man who raped her, despite his offerings of gifts and money. They eventually put to death the man that did this act, along with all the men in the city.
- Men would have undoubtedly consulted their daughters to ensure they felt comfortable with the person prior to the exchange. Perhaps the best example of this is in Genesis 24:58, when Rebekah willingly left her family to marry Isaac (without even meeting him, I might add!). The parents asked her if she wanted to go, and she was happy to go on her own free will. They had a great marriage that produced Esau and Jacob.
- Jews often treated their servants very well, and servants often shared rights such as an inheritance, and sometimes even were treated better than the master’s children (Proverbs 17:2). For an example of a Jewish man with servants, consider the book of Job. Job said this about his female servants: “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a young woman (or maid) with lust” (Job 31:1). In another example, consider Boaz in the book of Ruth. These men were all portrayed as Godly men who took great care of their servants, as well as the poor and oppressed.
- God specifically says that the man may not act “deceitfully” with the girl. If he marries a wife, he must still provide for her. If he, his son, or the girl no longer liked the arrangement, the girl was free to leave.
Given the above context, it is clear that this is not some heinous act, and it makes sense in the context of that day. God worked with existing social customs to create a system to protect women. It would have been revolutionary in its day, and Jews were known for having a high moral bar when it came to their laws and customs. God did not want a woman to be abandoned or sold to some unscrupulous, ungodly nation that practiced wickedness. God did not want a woman to be treated as a sex slave or live in destitute conditions. But He did allow for a woman to become a servant of another man or family–if she was willing to do so. Therefore, Moses provided these restrictions within the law (and many others) to ensure a woman would be treated well.
Curiously, I wonder if unbelievers who raise such a fuss over this passage also get upset when unbelieving celebrities “sell” their daughters’ pictures to the paparazzi for millions? Or I wonder if they raise a fuss when an unbelieving woman pays thousands to have a doctor kill a child in the womb? Or I wonder if they get upset when people enter the military for a lump sum to work as a “servant” for a time? Or I wonder if they get upset if an unbeliever in today’s time allow their children to enter foster care or put them up for adoption?
It’s just a thought, because I’ve often found that people who like to nit-pick Bible verses like the one above almost always turn around and condone something far worse in today’s society, such as abortion.
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Leviticus 15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Leviticus chapter 15 deals with various bodily secretions that can occur (semen emission, menstruation, and other types of fluid discharge). When a bodily emission occurred, the person was considered “unclean” until the discharge ended. God gave the Israelites instructions for germ control and basic hygiene, as well as ceremonial practices for that time (sacrifices in certain scenarios).
The “uncleanliness” referred to in these verses likely had two purposes/meanings: Practical and symbolic. A woman or man is literally unclean in the practical sense, because we all know that germs spread through bodily fluids. When these germs saturated a woman or man’s garment, they were potentially contaminated with disease-causing agents. Some of the discharges described in this chapter have the same characteristics as sexually transmitted diseases (especially the male discharge described). In a closely habited population in the middle of the wilderness, proper sanitation and even quarantine was essential to keep germs under control.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that these people had none of the luxuries we all take for granted today. They had no tampons, pads, water faucets, washing machines, soap, or bubble baths. When a man or woman had a bodily discharge, they were required to remain isolated so as to prevent sickness or germs from spreading. Think of the mess that a woman’s period could cause within just a day or two with no running water or washing machines in a hot wilderness. Although they were instructed to wash themselves when they could, we have to keep in mind that water was often scarce (Exodus 17:2), and they most certainly would not have had soap (and if they did, it was rare).
In addition, there is symbolism with the uncleanness, which refers to the fact that we are all tainted by sin and in need of a savior. The Old Testament is filled with ceremonies that are meant to remind the Israelites that they were sinners in need a savior. These ceremonial laws also acted as a way to instruct them in the ways of righteousness. As a side note, the priests functioned as doctors, and they would often inspect various diseases and offer prayers and sacrifices for them.
While this question is meant to mock the fact that women and men had to deal with basic hygiene issues that we still deal with today, these requirements make perfect sense given the historical context. In reality, the Bible is far ahead of its time in requiring this type of germ control. The ceremonial aspects of cleansing, sacrifice, and isolation reminded the Israelites (and us), that we all are tainted by the uncleanness of sin and that we all need a savior. When Adam sinned, it separated man from God’s fellowship–it quarantined us all. We all became tainted and unclean. However, when we accept Christ, we become clean and untainted. We’re washed in the blood of the Lamb, and our filthy garments become as white as the driven snow.
Incidentally, I wonder if unbelievers who find an issue with this passage also find an issue with similar things in today’s society, such as when a patient with Ebola is isolated in a hospital room for a time, or when a paramedic wears gloves so as not to become “unclean” from touching a patient’s blood? There’s really not much of a difference, and these passages confirm the Bible’s advanced knowledge of disease propagation.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
When the Old Testament refers to a sacrifice, it sometimes says that it has a “pleasing aroma” to the Lord. It is clear that this is not literal, but symbolic. How can we know? Several reasons. First, God is spirit, and nothing about the smell of burning meat is going to appeal to Him. He has no need of food like we humans do. Oh, sure, Christ–in his humanity and incarnation–ate food and became hungry. He was fully man and fully God while on Earth. But God, in his complete glory, has no need of any food. He’s God; He’s spirit.
Another reason we know this is symbolic is because the “sweet savor” or “pleasing aroma” is attributed to offerings that did not include meat. Grain offerings had a pleasing aroma (Leviticus 2:2). In addition, Christ’s own sacrifice created a pleasing aroma to God the Father:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2)
Furthermore, even Christians are described as having this pleasing aroma:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?… (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
So, it’s clear that this pleasing aroma phrase is symbolic. But why does God keep using this phrase of “sweet savor” or “pleasing aroma?” What does it symbolize?
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mother would cook a huge meal for our family. We would have turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, corn, cake, cookies, pie, and all of the trimmings. She would usually place the ham in the oven (or a Crockpot) overnight. In the morning, she’d get up early (usually long before I got up) and begin cooking the turkey and other food so that the meal would be done in time for the family get-together.
I distinctly remember waking up as a boy, and the smell of all of that food cooking would swirl together and permeate my nostrils. That smell was so strong that I could almost cut the air with a knife and eat it. It was truly a pleasing aroma, and I can still recall that smell to this day.
As I smelled that amazing smell, my stomach would begin to burn with great intensity. My mouth would water at the thought of all that delicious food as I stumbled out of bed. You see, my mind knew what that pleasing aroma represented: food. I knew that a great need that I had (hunger) was about to be fulfilled.
God loved the sweet savor of a sacrifice, because He knew what it represented: that salvation would come through the blood of His Son. It can come through no other way. And that’s the great desire that God has–to save you and I from our sins so that we can have eternal fellowship with Him. God does not delight in sending people to hell. Don’t get me wrong–He will send people to hell. In fact, as a righteous and holy judge, He MUST send unrepentant sinners to hell, just as a righteous judge in a courtroom today should condemn an ungodly rapist to jail. But God doesn’t want us in hell. God wills that every man and woman be saved:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Every sacrifice in the Old Testament is nothing more than a picture of the literal sacrifice of Christ on the cross. God the Father used the sacrifice of the Son as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. The animal sacrifices paint a vivid, unforgettable picture of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Every time the Israelites performed a sacrifice, they were reminded of their own sinful nature. They were reminded that “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). They were reminded that God would one day give the greatest sacrifice of all: He would send His only begotten Son to the cross to pay the penalty for sins, that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
A point of confusion for unbelievers (and even some Christians) is this whole business about Old Testament laws, ceremonies, and customs. Israel was a theocracy during this time, meaning that God Himself was the direct king and ruler of it. As God brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, He established these laws, ceremonies, and customs for them to follow.
There are many reasons for these customs and laws. Galatians 3:24 tells us that the law was a “schoolmaster,” and it’s purpose was to bring them to Christ, that they may be justified by their faith. The law also revealed their sin and their need for a savior. Some of these laws or customs also had symbolic meanings, reflecting Christ’s sacrifice. They were also meant to make the Israelites uniquely identified with the God of the Bible, which made a strong distinction between them and the numerous false gods being worshiped at that time in the surrounding pagan nations.
Genesis tells us that God ceased working on the seventh day and rested from His work. God had the Israelites do the same. Why? God wanted the Israelites to finally have rest from their work after being oppressed in Egypt (Mark 2:27). God also wanted them to be distinguished from the pagan nations. In addition, He wanted to establish some bold similarities between Himself and His children (the Israelites). Like Father, like son. Finally, God wants to keep them pure so that Christ’s lineage will not be tainted. So for all of these reasons, He had them cease working on the seventh day during this period in history.
Christians no longer have to follow the ceremonial laws in the Old Testament, including special dietary laws, sabbaths, festivals, and so forth. Why? Because God’s word says so:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.(Colossians 2:17)
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.(Galations 3:23-26)
These ceremonial laws ceased when Christ’s work at the cross was completed. Christ fulfilled the law. Therefore, Christians are no longer obligated to observe the Sabbath as a ceremonial law. Instead, we honor Sunday as the Lord’s Day, because this is when the Christians in the New Testament would gather together for corporate worship, as well as when Christ rose from the grave.
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Leviticus 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
In the Old Testament, the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination to God. It also says that eating shellfish is an abomination. Here are two sample verses:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13) KJV
Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you. (Leviticus 11:12) KJV
Although the King James Version translates both as “abomination,” there are different Hebrew words used in the original manuscripts. Leviticus 20:13 uses a word that was transliterated as “toebah,” which means abomination or abhorrence. Leviticus 11:12 uses a Hebrew word transliterated as “sheqets,” which means detestable, unclean, or forbidden.
Sheqets is most often used with the ceremonial aspects of the law (dietary restrictions, etc.). This word can mean simply “unclean,” “detestable,” or “forbidden.” Toebah, however, is most often associated with more serious sins that result from gross immorality, such as sexual sins or child sacrifice. Moreover, both words are used interchangeably for sins or customs that God says to avoid, but “toebah” does seem to have a stronger sense of condemnation behind it. So in a sense, toebah is used most often when describing a more serious category of sins, or sins that God particularly despises.
The important thing to note here is not the “degree” of abomination that is expressed, but rather, the fact that ANY sin or act of disobedience is offensive to God. God hates all sin. If a person has committed even one sin, it is enough to keep him or her out of heaven (unless they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, of course). All sin is an abomination to God, including sins I’ve committed in my life.
The real point of this question is probably to ask why homosexuality is still considered a sin, but it is not a sin for Christians to consume shellfish. After all, they’re both clearly condemned in the Old Testament. Aren’t Christians who eat shrimp just a bunch of hypocrites? No, they aren’t, and the answer to why one can eat shrimp but not engage in homosexuality is simple.
Eating shrimp or avoiding certain foods refers to the ceremonial law that was fulfilled at the cross (dietary laws). The Bible clearly indicates that this was a ceremonial law no longer binding on Christians (Mark 7:19; Acts 11:9). Even though Christians may eat foods that were previously categorized as “unclean,” it doesn’t mean Christians can use their bodies as garbage disposals. We are still expected to avoid gluttony, exercise self-control, and use discernment and wisdom with our diets. Eating ham and other unclean foods is allowed, but eating them to excess will likely cause health problems in the long run.
In contrast, homosexuality is a part of a moral law meant to govern sexual relations of mankind until the end of the age. We know that it is still a sin for individuals to engage in homosexuality because the New Testament also condemns it many times:
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:26-27)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals. (1 Corinithians 6:9)
The Bible is a completed work, and it says that is not going to change any further (Revelation 22:18). Therefore, homosexuality will remain a sin forever, regardless of what society says. That may disappoint some people, but it’s true. Nevertheless, we all have fallen short of God’s glory, and a homosexual can repent and trust in Christ for salvation, just as the fornicator or pornographer or adulterer can. God wills that no person perish, but that all call upon Him for eternal life.
7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
There was no “wiggle room” in the Old Testament for half-hearted worship or blemished priests. God was serious about the priestly duties and sacrificial ceremonies. He did not want lame or blemished animals being sacrificed, nor did He want individuals with physical defects serving as priests. Why?
You have to keep this one point in mind: The sacrifices in the Old Testament painted an unforgettable picture of Christ’s eventual sacrifice on the cross. In order for the picture or symbolism to work, it had to match that of Christ’s own life and sacrifice. A lamb or animal placed on the altar was to be unblemished. Why? Christ Himself was unblemished. Blemishes in our body represent the effects of sin and genetic error as a result of living in this fallen world. Christ was sinless. He was pure and unblemished in his character. He was the only sinless human to grace this world. He could touch sin, but sin couldn’t touch Him.
The priests offering the sacrifices were also to be without blemish. Why? Because Christ is our ultimate High Priest (Hebrews 9:11). He is the priest who offered Himself as a sacrifice for the whole world. And you know what? He continues to intercede between us and God the Father to this day (Romans 8:34). That’s one of his tasks within the Trinity–He acts as a mediator reconciling us to the God the Father.
Obviously this has nothing to do with God having a sense of “disgust” with people who are handicapped. Never! In fact, Christ showed tremendous love and compassion to people with physical infirmities while He lived on this earth. This is evident in the many miracles He performed in the New Testament, even to the point of infuriating the Pharisees for healing a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5-6).
God isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with a handicap or physical defect in these passages. But God wanted a clear picture presented to the Israelites: The priest and offerings were to be unblemished, because the ultimate Priest and sacrifice would also be unblemished and untainted. A sinless man would die for sinners.
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
Again, this is a ceremonial law detailing proper hairstyles for the Israelites. In this culture, pagan priests and idolaters in the surrounding nations would shave their heads in patterns described in Leviticus 19:27, which looked like a “bowl” cut. God didn’t want His children associated with that behavior or with the worship of those false gods. Therefore, God told the Israelites to avoid hairstyles that emulated the pagans in the surrounding nations.
This shouldn’t be difficult to understand. After all, if there is some gang in my area cutting their hair in some distinct pattern or wearing certain color patterns to represent their gang, I’ll ask my son not to cut his hair like that or wear those clothing patterns. Why? I don’t want him associated with people like that. Likewise, God wanted His people to stand for righteousness. He wanted them to be different than others in this world, and that’s still true today.
Even though this particular law is associated with ceremonial law–which was fulfilled at the cross–there is also an eternal moral principle associated with it, which is that God wants us all to be distinct from the secular, ungodly world around us. Here are a few scriptures which show us how strongly God wants us to stand apart from the rest of the secular world:
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
While the New Testament gives us no certain length or specific hairstyle requirements, it does establish the general principle that men should have relatively short hair (ie, look like men), and women should have longer hair (ie, look like women). This is best seen in the following verse:
“Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” (I Corinthians 11: 14-16)
In other words, God wants men to be men (and growing a beard is certainly Biblical), and He wants women to be women. In today’s culture, Satan is hard at work blending gender lines.
In summary, while the New Testament does not provide a specific ceremonial law regarding hair length or style, God does reiterate the principle of distinction between the sexes, as well as distinction from secular practices and customs that reflect a spirit of rebellion. Tattoos, inappropriate facial or bodily piercings, bizarre hairstyles, and inappropriate attire certainly fall into that category today.
9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
In this section, God differentiates between the “clean” and “unclean” animals that the Israelites may consume for food, and He warns not to even as much as touch the carcass of an unclean animal. If they did touch a carcass, they were considered unclean for a short period. God does not disclose His exact reasons for these dietary restrictions, but we do know that they likely had health benefits (many of the “unclean” animals ate scavenged foods and were prone to carry diseases).
Given the fact that the “unclean” animals mentioned were prone to a wide range of diseases, it is pretty clear why God wouldn’t want them touching a dead carcass. They carried numerous diseases and parasites. The Israelites couldn’t go to Wal-Mart and buy soap or whip out some hand sanitizer!
This diet also made the Israelites unique among the surrounding nations, and it would have prevented them from dining with surrounding pagan nations that ate such “unclean” food. God may have had other reasons, but we are not told all of the reasons for His commands. As Christians, we don’t always know why God may do certain things in our life, but we are told to walk by faith, not sight.
As stated earlier, these dietary prohibitions were only meant for the Israelites, not for the church age. Dietary laws were part of a ceremonial law that was meant to distinguish Israelites as unique children of God. The Bible makes clear in the New Testament that Christians can now consume these foods without it being sin (Mark 7:19; Acts 11:9). However, it is not always wise to consume these foods in great quantities for obvious health reasons. And again, Christians are still bound by the basic principles of protecting their body, using self-control, and abstaining from gluttonous eating habits.
Of course, playing with a football is fine. This question shows the extreme ignorance of some unbelievers in their attempt to mock God’s word so that they can feel comfortable in their perverse sexual sins.
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Leviticus 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20:14)
Planting two different crops and wearing garments mixed with different threads is another part of the ceremonial law that symbolically represents Israel’s “separation” from the surrounding pagan nations. As with dietary restrictions, these laws may have served a practical purpose as well.
I know that when my wife and I plant a garden, we can’t plant certain crops close to each other. They’ll compete for nutrients and they can both die, or one will overtake the other and kill it. This may have been a practical reason for this command. Concerning the mixed fabrics, some practical reason may have been that the garment wouldn’t last as long, or it may have shriveled up over time. In the New Testament, Jesus pointed out the futility of sewing a new unshrunk cloth onto an old garment, as it will rip even more and be ruined (Mark 2:21). Alternatively, some scholars suggest that pagans may have worn similar patterns, and God is forbidding the wearing of similar patterns in this passage.
Whether God had practical reasons in mind or not, the symbolism is clear: God doesn’t want the Israelites mixing with ungodly pagan people. While Christians no longer have to follow the symbolic laws, the same basic principle is reiterated in the New Testament:
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Being separate doesn’t mean we treat people with disrespect, or that we shun the very sight of unbelievers. We are called to treat all people with love and respect–even our enemies. We may work with unbelievers, have family who are unbelievers, and so forth. But we are warned against entering into close, personal relationships with those who reject Christ. This is true for marriage, friendships, and so forth. I’ve had this play out in a very practical way in my life. Standing up for Christ will cause you to have nothing but conflict with people who don’t share your faith. It isn’t wise to get into close entanglement with them. It only leads to strife and unhappiness for both people.
The last part of this question mocks the death penalty in the Old Testament, especially in relation to blaspheming and cursing. What’s funny is that atheists always seem so concerned with putting vile criminals to death, but they cheer when a woman has an abortion. I’ve never understood their reasoning for why it’s okay to kill innocent life, but not vile criminals. Anyway, the Bible supports the death penalty for the same reasons doctors support cancer removal–you need to remove harmful people so that they can’t harm innocent people, just like you remove cancer to prevent it spreading and harming the body.
Cursing God revealed an obvious rejection of His commands and a spirit of rebellion. This attitude is contrary to what God wanted for this budding nation. God didn’t want rebellious brats running around influencing the nation Israel to do evil or reject His commands. Therefore, it was of extreme importance during this time to keep the nation as sound as possible. After all, the Messiah was to come through this line.
Conclusion: You Can Trust God
Attempts to mock or scoff at the Bible always fall flat. The questions above reveal a mind that is not interested in learning truth, but only a desire to mock God so that unbelievers can feel comfortable in their perverse sins. The questions also reveal a low level of intelligence and high level of immaturity.
God’s word is truth. It gives life to those who read it and accept it with great joy. The most amazing thing of all is God’s love. He endures endless mocking and scoffing like the “letter” above, yet He stands ready to grant eternal life to anyone who calls upon the name of His son.
Have you accepted Christ? Have you been forgiven of your sins? The Bible says that if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. Accept Christ today as your Lord and Savior, and He’ll change your life for eternity. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is the best decision I’ve ever made. I hope you do the same.