There are many commandments in the Holy Scriptures which Yahweh the
Almighty God of Israel gave mankind through His servant Moses. They
were intended to regulate all life on earth and they fall into several
All these laws are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. As
stated above they were initially given to Israel, but were intended
for the benefit of all mankind. It is undoubtedly one of humanity's
greatest blunders that Yahweh's laws have been rejected by all nations
in favour of countless impotent human regulations, most of which need
updating every generation.
2. Facts about Yahweh's Laws
Before we begin our study of the ceremonial laws in Scriptures, there
are certain facts we need to recognise about divine law. The facts are
- ALL the commandments of Yahweh are perfect
Every one of the Almighty's commandments is faultless and is never
in need of update no matter how many centuries roll by. Like their
divine Author they change not, because they are already absolutely
||7: The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the
testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
- ALL Yahweh's commandments are eternal
By this I mean that the essence, the kernel, the high level spiritual
requirement and objective of every divine commandment is everlasting
and will apply throughout eternity. In other words, at its heart every
divine commandment, moral and ceremonial, contains a sacred truth
which can never become obsolete! By way of definition we may say that
ceremonial or symbolic commandments are those which employ
ceremonies or symbols to point out their inner truths. The symbol or
ceremony may in time become unnecessary, but the moral requirement of
every divine law is everlasting and will apply for all time. More
about this fact later.
||7: The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his
commandments are sure.|
8: They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done
in truth and uprightness.
||44: So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever
3. Cermonial & Symbolic Commands
When we study the commandments of the Most High we notice that in
addition to the above categories they may also be classified as
3.1 Divine Objectives
These are laws which simply define Yahweh's objectives. They tell us
what we should be, rather than what we should do or not do. They
include directives such as:
- Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 18:13)
- Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven
is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
3.2 Moral Requirements
These are moral commandments which explain how - with Yahweh's help -
those divine objectives may be reached. Moral commandments include the
Ten Commandments and those listed below:
- And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee,
but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love
him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy
soul. (Deuteronomy 10:12)
- And he (Jesus) answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
3.3 Ceremonial or Symbolic Commandments
A ceremonial command is one which employs a ceremony or symbolic token
to demonstrate or call to mind some high-level moral lesson or objective. Unlike
plain moral commands (e.g. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal etc.) which quite plainly spell out a
moral requirement, ceremonial commandments also contain
symbolic activities or tokens which dramatise the inner moral
lesson being taught. This article has been produced to explain a few
(not all) of these ceremonial commands. They include commands
In these commandments you will notice that symbolic
tokens or ceremonies are employed in order to demonstrate or explain
the deep moral lessons contained in the command: lessons which would
otherwise be missed.
Prior to the Messiah's death on Calvary, if a sinner wanted mercy
he/she was obliged to sacrifice an animal and offer its blood to the
Most High before forgiveness could be obtained. In short, no faith in the blood -
no mercy. As the scripture says:
||22: And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and
without shedding of blood is no remission.
Yahweh called for animal sacrifices in order to demonstrate to
the repentant sinner the enormous price the innocent victim had to pay
before pardon was possible. Every animal sacrifice was in fact a
practical lesson pointing to Messiah's death on Calvary! Since the
Saviour's sacrifice we sinners no longer need to kill literal animals.
Faith in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah is all that we now need to
obtain mercy. In effect the ceremonial aspect of this law, that is, the slaying of an innocent animal, is
obsolete: it is no longer necessary to sacrifice bulls, lambs or
But, and here is a fact many Christians miss, the main lesson of
this ceremonial command (that is the spiritual requirement
which calls for faith in the Saviour's blood before forgiveness is
possible) still stands! Even now, some 2000 years after the
Messiah's death on Calvary, we still need to approach Yahweh's Mercy
Seat with blood: though now it is with faith in the blood of His Son,
the Lamb of God. In other words though the dramatized, instructional,
ceremonial element involving the shedding of a farm animal's
blood has ceased, the spiritual requirement to approach the
Most High with faith in the Lamb's blood still stands. That part of
the commandment is eternal: it will never cease to apply. Yes,
throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity the redeemed will approach
Yahweh's throne through the merits of His Son's shed blood. Sure we
will not be everlastingly in need of forgiveness, for we will then be
sinless: but we will, nonetheless, always be in need of the Almighty's
favour and blessing which were won for us by His Son's blood. That fact, the
inner core of the command, will never become obsolete; because time and
space can never cancel our dependence on the Saviour's blood.
We can now see how that the essence of the sacrificial
commands, the great moral truths they prefigure, are eternal; even
though in ages past they needed a ceremonial drama (the slaughter of
innocent animals) to explain their high-level objectives and deep spiritual meanings. For more details, see our
online booklet on Animal Sacrifices.
Circumcision is another ceremonial commandment with deep spiritual
meaning. It is a physical token, a symbolic sign in the flesh,
of total commitment and obedience to the God of Israel. It signifies
the absolute degree of holiness the Most High requires of His
people. Yahweh said to Abraham:
||11: And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall
be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
The ceremonial aspect of circumcision was raised by the early church
not many years after the Saviour's resurrection. The Apostles and
elders met to discuss the matter and, guided by the Holy Spirit,
directed that Gentile believers need not be physically circumcised. Read about
their meeting in Acts 15. The apostle Paul confirmed the decision
taken at that meeting by writing:
|1 Corinthians 7:
||18: Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become
uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be
8: Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,
but the keeping of the commandments of God.
The SBS article concerning circumcision
further explains that decision and how that even though the ceremonial
aspect of the circumcision command was suspended for Gentile believers, its moral objective (holiness) for all believers - abides forever! This leads me to the opinion that if the ceremonial law concerning physical circumcision, which is by far one of the most powerful in Scripture, was suspended for Gentile believers, then the ceremonial laws, concerning 'the wearing of phylacteries,' 'mixing wool with linen,' 'wearing fringed garments' etc., which are all far less permanent than being physically circumcised, are also temporarily suspended for Gentile believers - during this age at any rate.
Phylacteries are prayer bands containing short extracts from Yahweh's
law. They were worn on the forehead and forearm.
||4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:|
5: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8: And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9: And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
This ceremonial law symbolises the need to keep the Almighty's
commandments in thought, word and deed. Phylacteries also informed an onlooker that the
wearer was a believer in Israel's God. This law also prefigures the
time when Yahweh will personally inscribe his law on our minds and actions.
Linen is cloth made from flax, a blue flowered plant cultivated for
its textile fibre and its seed called linseed. Garments made of linen
were used primarily in the worship of Yahweh. Linen was not to be
mixed with wool any more than the sacred is to be mingled with the
secular, or truth mixed with error. This law symbolizes, amongst other
things, the need to keep holy and secular things apart.
||8: ... Behold, the days come, saith the lord, when I will make a
new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the
day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of
Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them
not, saith the Lord.
10: For this is the covenant that I will make with
the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my
laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to
them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
||19: Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle
gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled
seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen
come upon thee.
The Scriptures tell us that linen was used in the following instances:
If you read these passages you will see that linen is a special
material with rich symbolic meaning. Besides its pure white appearance
it has the added advantage that it does not cause sweat as does wool,
the material worn by the common working man.
- The Tabernacle curtains and court were made of linen. (Ex 26:1, Ex 27:9)
- The Temple Veil was linen. (2 Chron.3:14)
- The Priest's garments were linen. (Lev.16, 1 Sam.22:18, Eze 44:17-19)
- The temple singers wore linen. (2 Chron 5:12)
- The prophet Samuel and king David wore linen ephods on special
occasions. (1 Sam.2:18, 2 Sam. 6:14)
- The state dress of Joseph and Mordecai were made of linen.
(Genesis 41:42, Esther 8:15)
- Heavenly messengers wore linen. (Eze.9:2, Daniel 10:5)
- The Saviour's body was wrapped in linen before being placed in the
- The Lamb's Wife will be clothed in linen, which represents holiness and
Another symbolic command Israel was given concerned the wearing of
fringed borders of blue on their garments. Like the
phylacteries on the forehead and forearm these fringed borders would
also remind the wearer to keep the commandments of the Lord: each
tassel being a symbol of an individual command.
||18: They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have
linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with
any thing that causeth sweat.
In ancient Israel no physically blemished descendant of Aaron was
allowed to officiate as a priest. Blindness, lameness, a flat nose,
the itch, a broken foot, a hunch back, all these and other physical
blemishes were enough to keep a person out of the officiating priesthood. Yahweh
wanted His priests to be physically perfect: the lesson
being that they should be spiritually perfect. That is, they shouldn't
be spiritually blind, deaf, deformed, ugly or impotent.
||38: Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make
them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their
generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a
ribband of blue: |
39: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may
look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do
them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes,
after which ye use to go a whoring.
The ceremonial laws concerning uncleanness are further examples of
commandments which contain deep spiritual truths. When we study these
laws we soon realise that symbolic uncleanness is all around.
A very brief reference to them is given below.
||16: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17: Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.|
18: For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
19: Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
20: Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
21: No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.
22: He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.
23: Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.
||16: And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. |
17: And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.
18: The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.
19: And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
20: And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
21: And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
22: And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
23: And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth,
when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.
||16: And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the
open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be
unclean seven days.
What do these laws mean for believers in the 20th/21st century? What deep
spiritual lessons do they contain which are relevant in this day? The
answer is: they teach us that all mankind is spiritually impure and
unclean! Never a month goes by but that most of us will come in
contact with someone with a skin disease, a menstruating woman, a
corpse, or furniture used by such folk. In ancient days all such
physical contacts resulted in a person becoming ceremonially
unclean. But what of today? Do the ceremonial aspects of these
laws still apply? To be sure physical uncleanness should be
washed away with soap and water as soon as possible; (or some disinfectant used if a contagious disease is involved) but what of the
spiritual uncleanness those physical conditions symbolized in those commandments? How
can the human race be purified from spiritual uncleanness? We echo the
words of the prophet Isaiah who, after a brief glimpse at Yahweh's
holiness, cried out:
||5: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean
lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine
eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
Is there escape from the frightening variety of sin and its resulting
spiritual uncleanness? I am happy to report that there is: and
it is found in the Saviour. Sure, we could and should wash with soap
and water and be physically clean: but how can we wash away the
filth of unbelief and sin? The answer is: we need the blood of Jesus
Christ to cleanse us from all sin. Nothing else will cleanse us.
|1 John 1:
||7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son
cleanseth us from all sin.
||14: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all
iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
||8: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your
hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Yes, cleansing from sin is only possible by faith in the
Lamb of God who taketh away the
sin of the world.
11. The Big Question Is
Do modern believers in Yahweh the Almighty God of Israel need to keep the
ceremonial (instructional) requirements of the above named
commandments? In other words: do we need to offer 'animal sacrifices,'
'circumcise our baby sons,' 'wear phylacteries' and 'fringed garments?' Is
it a sin to mix fibres: i.e. 'wool with nylon,' 'polyester with cotton,'
'linen with wool?' Is it wrong for a physically blind or blemished
person to minister in the church? Are undertakers, doctors and nurses
to be classified as 'unclean' seeing that they daily come in contact
with symbolically unclean bodies? How do we relate to the ceremonial
aspects of these commands?
My answer, which is based on the spirit-directed decision of the
Apostles concerning circumcision in
Acts 15, is as follows: The moral directives and
objectives of ceremonial commandments stand forever: they are
eternal. But the symbolic tokens or instructional
ceremonies given to teach those moral lessons are not required of
Gentile followers of the Most High: not in this age at any rate. That
is why we in SBS do not 'sacrifice animals,' 'circumcise our sons,' 'wear
phylacteries' or 'treat doctors, nurses and undertakers as ceremonially
unclean.' Nor would we refuse to listen to a preacher who was
'physically blemished' in some way.
Having said that, we are ever conscious of the moral lessons the
ceremonial commands contain: and since most of them aim at
forgiveness, holiness, obedience and purity we are happy to
study them in depth and live up to their moral requirements.
We have seen that Yahweh's commandments fall into several
categories and that each law contains at its heart an eternal
truth. As the Scriptures teach:
||7: ...All his commandments are sure. 8: They stand fast for ever and
We have also seen that the ceremonial aspect of certain commands
is no longer called for, though the moral core of every command abides
forever. This translates as follows:
- Animal Sacrifices
Before we can approach Yahweh's throne for mercy or blessing we
must come with faith in the blood of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, the
Lamb of God.
All true believers must put away the sins of the flesh and aim for
holiness and total commitment to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We must constantly keep the laws of Yahweh in mind (symbolised by
the forehead) and put them into practice (symbolised by the forearm or
- Linen / Wool / Fringed Garments
We must never mix or dilute the sacred with the secular. Nor
should we forget or be ashamed of the eternal laws of the Most High.
- Unblemished Priesthood
Those who officiate in spiritual matters should be people of the
very highest moral standards: because spiritual defects disqualify
- Spiritual Impurity
We live in a sinful world and daily come in contact with sin's
effects. Only the blood of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah) can
cleanse us from sin. See our Everlasting Gospel Library for
details about spiritual cleansing, salvation and life eternal.
Author: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland
Reformatted: December 1999