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There are many instances of ritual impurity in the Bible. These were people who had contracted what we often refer to as leprosy, for example, or who had been in contact with a dead body.
According to the law of Moses, anyone with a ritual impurity was considered unclean and was not permitted to come into contact with other people so that their impurity was not transferred to another.
They were at times isolated from society, as in the case of those with skin disease, and often suffered greatly.
When we look at these stories through the lens of Yeshua, however, things change dramatically. We see that Yeshua not only touched and healed those with ritual impurities, but His purity was imparted to them instead.
This was a radical act of love and inclusion that overturned all expectations.
Join me as we look at what ritual impurity was and why this fact about Jesus is extremely important.
What is Ritual Impurity in the Bible?
Ritual impurity is a matter of Jewish Law established in Torah.
This was an impurity that made a person “ceremonially” unclean and was not a matter of MORAL purity.
In other words, when a person was ritually impure, it meant they could not take part in certain aspects of Temple life (or Tabernacle prior to the Temple).
It did NOT make a person a social outcast, as is often portrayed.
Many things that rendered a person ritually unclean were very natural occurrences that we all experience as part of life (a woman’s menstrual period, seminal emissions, touching a corpse) and even beautiful in some cases (such as childbirth).
Contrary to what is often believed, this was not something that was unfairly aimed at women.
There were many things that also affected the ritual purity of males as well, and even the priests who served in the Temple, were at times, ritually impure.
The Law prescribed what was to be done in various circumstances to render a person clean again, dependent upon what it was that rendered them impure. After they were declared to be clean, they would resume activities at the Temple and in their community or “camp.”
I stress – this was not moral impurity! This did not make someone sinful or an outcast. It was a temporary condition with a specific remedy, and the two should not be conflated.
When you came into contact with a person with a ritual impurity, you could also be made ritually impure, and you had to also take the necessary steps prescribed in the Law to render yourself clean again.
Again, and I cannot stress this enough, this was not a cleanness from a sinful or moral perspective. I emphasize this because this is often SO misunderstood. This is a RITUAL cleanness.
Impurity in the Bible – The Holy and the Profane
There is a distinct difference between that which is kodesh (holy) and that which is chol (profane).
And I want to clear this up at the onset because, while people have a fairly good understanding of what holiness is, the profane is often misunderstood.
Profane is often associated with words like “profanity,” and people associate it with bad behavior, bad speech, and sinfulness.
But profane is simply “the ordinary.” It is that which is mundane, but more specifically, that which is not kedushah.
I will give an example.
Hashem created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.
He created the animals, and finally, He created man.
For six days, God created, and at the end, He called it “good” (“very good” on the sixth day when He beheld all of creation).
Then the Lord created the Sabbath day, a day He ceased from all His works of creation.
But He did not declare it “good,” like the others. No, this day, the Shabbat day, He called kedushah; holy.
Everything else, including mankind, was good. But the Sabbath day He declared holy and ultimately commanded we keep it holy as well.
So when looking at the days of creation, the other six days were not bad.
We have the Word stating that they were good! But they were profane, ordinary, not holy.
The Healings of Jesus: The Woman With an Issue of Blood
One of the commands or mitzvot is to wear tzitzit or fringes on the corners of our garments. These fringes are there to remind the person to keep the commands.
So when we hear this story or read about it, we often hear it said or translated that the woman touched the hem of his robe or the hem of his garment. But it was not hem but fringes.
The garment they speak of is a tallit katan and is a four-cornered garment that is worn under clothing that sort of looks like a poncho.
The fringes attach to this garment at each corner.
So the fringes of his garment spoken of are his tzitzit, sometimes translated as “tassel”.
Numbers 15:38-40 says:
In the account of Matthew 9:20-22, we see a slightly abbreviated version of the woman hemorrhaging blood, who is now ritually impure because of it, and she is approaching Yeshua and reaches out, trying to remain unseen, and she touches His garment.
She is ritually unclean because she has an issue of blood that comes from her womb.
That being said, when she touches him, He sees who she is and does not chastise or call out to stop what was happening but rather tells her, “Take heart, daughter,” He said, “your faith has made you well.”
It says at that very moment she was healed.
She would then go and complete the needed steps for purification, such as immersing in the mikvah (a ritual pool of living waters).
Mark 5:25-34 goes a little more in-depth:
Right away, the blood flow stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed from her disease.
At once, Jesus, knowing in himself that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched Me?”
His disciples responded, “You see the crowd pressing upon You, and you say, ‘Who touched Me?'” But He kept looking around to see who had done this.
But the woman, scared and shaking, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in shalom and be healed from your disease.”
Now some people might ask why Mark’s account differs from Matthew’s, and my answer is that it doesn’t.
They had different focuses and purposes for telling the story.
Matthew’s is more abbreviated as Matthew wanted to emphasize specific things that Matthew did not feel the need to.
Mark spent more time on this, as did Luke in his account.
It does not create a disparity any more than my husband and me relaying an account of something to you. The details of the story he will focus on, I assure you, will differ from mine!!
The point is that this woman who had been affected by bleeding from her uterus for many years, and who sought medical attention to no avail, came to the Master and just knew if she could only reach out and touch his tzitzit that she would be healed.
She was a Jewish woman, so she knew she was ritually impure. But she was desperate for healing.
What happened next is very significant.
Jesus, touched by this woman with a ritual impurity, was not made impure by her.
His purity flowed to her!
Your faith has made you well. Go in shalom and be healed from your disease.
She could then go and fulfill the purification ritual and take part in the Temple life once again.
The healing power of Jesus flowed to this woman with ritual impurity and made her well!
Jesus’ purity prevailed over her impurity!
Jesus never went through the prescribed steps for someone who had become ritually impure from touching someone with an impurity because his purity defeated her impurity.
The Healings of Jesus: Jesus Heals the “Leper”
Next, we will look at the healing of the “leper”.
Leper is a broad and inaccurate term for someone infected with tzara’at, a skin disease. It is often referred to as leprosy and it is similar but it is not leprosy.
We often have this picture painted for us of people with tzara’at being social outcasts, but Miriam herself, the sister of Moshe, was infected with tzara’at by Hashem for being critical of Moshe and, ultimately, of Hashem.
The people waited for her in the wilderness until her disease had passed and she could continue on with the group.
She was not an outcast.
She would wait to be healed and well, then would show herself to the priests to determine she was in fact healed, and then purify herself and move on.
It was more like a quarantine than a banishment.
So that being said, let’s look at the healing of the “leper”.
So Jesus, in the Word, heals the man, rendering him clean with regards to his tzara’at being healed (he would still have to take other steps as we will see in a moment).
But Jesus touches him while doing this.
That should render him unclean. It would if it were anyone else. But this wasn’t just anyone else.
Jesus tells the man to go to the priest and offer the gift prescribed in Torah, so Jesus has the man follow what is prescribed in Torah.
While Jesus healed, He did NOT ever try to usurp the authority given to the Levites by Hashem.
God determined some duties were only to be performed by the priests, and this was one of them.
That is why He instructed the man to show himself to them and offer the gift. In other words, Yeshua observed Torah!
But at no point do we see Yeshua show himself to the priest or isolate himself. Why?
Some would say it is because he came to abolish Torah Law.
But again, we see Yeshua instructing the man to follow the Torah and show himself to the priest!
It cannot be both ways. Yeshua cannot abolish and yet live Torah!
Rather it was because once again, Yeshua’s purity could not be overcome by the man’s impurity.
Healing flowed through Yeshua to the man, and ultimately His purity did as well since the man would be determined to be clean.
But at no time did touching what was impure make Yeshua impure.
Let’s look at another example. This time, we will look at impurity from touching a corpse.
The Healings of Jesus: Jesus Raises Jairus’ Daughter
And so this begs the question, what about when Jesus touched a dead body? We have examples of this in the Word.
I do first want to say that there is always someone who has to touch a body. Priests themselves can and do become impure from time to time! Everyone did! The ashes of the red heifer were specifically for the priests who became impure from touching a corpse.
Taking care of a deceased body is considered one of the highest forms of chesed or loving-kindness. Why?
Because the greatest loving-kindness you can show to another is one when they can do nothing for you in return.
It is kindness shown without any expectation of reward. The dead can do nothing for you.
So while touching a dead body renders you unclean, once again, it does not mean you are bad or an outcast. It is a RITUAL uncleanness.
So, we have the story of Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, a synagogue leader, came to Yeshua in an excited state, pleading with him to come and touch his daughter, who had died, so she could live. Jairus, in Matthew 9:18 says:
What is interesting in this verse is that the synagogue leader is asking Yeshua to touch the body of his daughter.
He had the faith that, not only could Yeshua touch her and make her live but that He would not be defiled by touching a body.
Yeshua responded going with him. His disciples and others followed along as best they could through the crowds that were following them.
After getting past all those people, Yeshua finally arrived at a house and told the people who were mourning to go away because she was only sleeping. He then goes to where the little girl was!
He touched this little lifeless body, it suddenly awoke back up and lived again!
The impurity normally put upon a person who touches a body did not touch Yeshua. How do we know?
Again, He did not go to be cleansed the way the Word in Torah prescribes.
He had no need to as the power that heals, the power that cleanses, the power that makes one whole dwelled in His very being.
How do you purify the One who purifies?
Impurity in the Bible – Jesus’ Purity Prevails Over Impurity
Dr. Mark S. Kinzer, in his paper delivered at the 4th Hashivenu Forum, wrote:
And so we see that Yeshua’s purity prevails over impurity, even the ritual defilements of those who touch him. And in this way, his healing powers are transmitted to all around him, making them pure.
He prevails over sickness. He prevails over disease, He prevails over defilement, and ultimately over sin and death.
What Does His Purity Mean for Us?
Yeshua is the Living Torah. He is the Word, the memra of God. He is all purity and all kedushah.
This is important for us to know as believers.
We look toward the Olam Haba; the World to Come.
This is the Messianic Kingdom where purity prevails over impurity and is totally kedushah, totally Shabbat.
It is shalom (peace), it is holiness, it is purity and full of life and free of death.
Dr. Kinzer, in the same paper for the Hashivenu Forum, states:
Purity and Approaching Jesus
So what does this say about our own condition when approaching Jesus?
It says that we do not need to be concerned about any “impurities” from our past.
The purity of Jesus prevails over all other types of impurity in the Bible, including moral impurities or sin.
And when it comes time for us to approach him in prayer or fellowship with others, his purity is ours as well. We are made pure through grace.
It tells us that the coming Kingdom is a Kingdom of purity and kedushah.
It also tells us that his healing power has left behind a newness within us, an inner change so deep that no human eye can see it.
We are made pure and now able to come boldly into God’s presence without fear because He will never repudiate anyone who approaches him through faith, repentance, and confession.
The Word says in Hebrews 4:16:Jesus' healing power has left behind a newness within us, an inner change so deep that no human eye can see it. Click To Tweet
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