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Wool and Linen, Meat and Cheese
By Dr. David Bowen
If you’ve never been to Israel, let me encourage you to do so. It’s an amazing experience!
Not surprisingly, when people plan to go for the first time, they have many questions. Is it safe over there? How long is the flight? How much does it cost? Is the food good? All their questions eventually get answered.
Once they get settled into the hotels and see the buffet, they know the food is wonderful. However, it doesn’t take long for some to notice the morning breakfast has a wide assortment of eggs, bread, fruit, and cheeses; and the dinner has a wide variety of meat, vegetables, and desserts, but there is no dairy. I’ll often get asked why can I butter my bread in the morning but not have any butter for my bread at dinner?
Is it Kosher?
I explain the standard answer is it’s not kosher. Where did this practice come from? Is that in the Bible? Well, yes and no.
I bring this scenario up because it is essential to keep the interpretation of Scripture in its proper context rather than allowing human reasoning to decipher what the Word is saying. When I speak about using human reasoning, I mean be careful not to say, “I think the Bible means this…” and have that be your final understanding of the meaning of God’s Word. Parts of Scripture may seem to make sense from a human mind’s point of view, but as Isaiah 55:8 warns, God’s thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not God’s ways. In the breakfast/dinner scenario, man’s thoughts and ways are disallowing the serving of meat and dairy together.
Not having meat and cheese together comes from Exodus 23. Those of the Jewish faith believe the Bible says serving meat and dairy together is not kosher. Exodus 23:19 does say one shall not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. However, this command does not say whether dairy and meat can be consumed in the same meal. Jewish tradition turned the interpretation of the “young goat” into “all meat,” and “its mother’s milk” became “any dairy product.” In reality, if a young goat was cooked, it could be cooked in milk just as long as it did not come from its mother. This understanding would mean consuming any meat with any dairy product in the same meal is not dishonoring Kosher laws.
What is missing here and where the heart of the issue lies is found in Deuteronomy 4:2 which warns, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” Placing a manufactured prohibition on what God had said and taking the original purpose out of context directly violates God’s law.
Remember when I said if the hotel is kosher the dinner they serve will have meat but no cheese or butter or any dairy will be served? Remember I also said at dinner there is an amazing display of desserts such as rugelach, cakes, and even ice cream. I’ve always wondered how desserts are made. Are they baked free of milk, eggs, and butter?
Two in One
Two passages in the Mosaic Law forbid the wearing of different fabric types, making it against the law to wear blended fabrics, meaning an item woven from two different materials. Leviticus 19:19 says, “You shall not crossbreed two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment of two kinds of material mixed together.” Deuteronomy 22:9-11 goes into specifics — you shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mix. In the ancient world, wool and linen would have been the primary options for clothing, wool coming from the hair of sheep or goats, and linen made from plant fibers.
So, is it wrong for a modern-day Christian who sincerely wants to honor God’s Word to wear clothing made of two different types of material? No, it is not.
My goal here is not to address whether the ceremonial laws of ancient Israel still apply to us today. They do not, but again, that’s not my point. What I am trying to emphasize is the importance of interpreting Scripture in the proper context and not yielding to the temptation of understanding God’s Word through the eyes of human reasoning.
To say it bluntly, do not add to what the Bible says, and do not subtract from what Scripture says. The proper interpretation of God’s warning against the mixing of two different types is to warn against allowing false religion to seep into one’s relationship with the Lord. We are to worship and serve God alone.
The Sermon on the Mount
Those who listened to Jesus teach were amazed at His teaching (Mark 1:22). Why were they amazed? Because He taught with authority, meaning His teaching was in proper context. Having the correct interpretation is key to understanding Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. What He taught on the side of that mountain and in the various synagogues around the Sea of Galilee routinely went directly against what the religious leaders taught. Why did Jesus do this? Because he wanted people to understand the true purpose and meaning of what God had said and not how man interpreted God’s heart.
Leviticus 10:6 reads, “Do not tear your clothes, or you will die, and the Lord will be angry with the whole community.” Does this mean that all the teenage girls who wear torn jeans will die for wearing them? Of course not. The proper interpretation is a warning not to question God’s righteous judgment. The setting in Leviticus is the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who disobeyed God’s direct command and took something sacred and defiled it with something of their own. In response, tearing one’s clothes would imply a belief that God was wrong in bringing His judgment against Nadab and Abihu. It has nothing to do with teenage girls shopping at the Gap.
Exodus 23 does not say whether dairy and meat can be consumed in the same meal. If your clothes are a mixture of wool and linen, you are not dishonoring God. Likewise, Leviticus 10:6 does not forbid the wearing of torn jeans. What is important is that you take the time to study the purpose and meaning of God’s Word so that you can live in a way that honors and worships your Lord and Savior.
Maranatha, Lord Jesus!