Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Why Did God Forbid Mixing
Linen and Wool Threads
-by Tony Warren
ne of the questions that is frequently asked of Christians is, "Why Did God Forbid Mixing Linen and Wool Threads?" This verse is often cited in the standard argument that skeptics give to mock Biblical prohibitions, because it appears to them to be so trivial and completely ignored in modern theology. Many Christians are also puzzled as to why God would make such a law, and what it would possibly mean for us today? There are two places in the Bible that prohibit wearing clothing mingled with linen and wool, and in both instances the references are clearly in the context of other prohibitions against mixing diverse animals or seeds together. This precept is listed in both Leviticus and in the book of Deuteronomy:
When viewed in its proper context, we see that this prohibition does not stand alsone. It appears together with laws against mixing seeds and yoking together different animals. And note the reason God gives for not sowing two different types of seeds together is clearly so that the fruit of the seed they had sown would not be defiled. So the reasons for the prohibition of planting two kinds of seeds in a field, yoking a donkey together with an ox, and of mixing wool and linen fibers together, are quite easy to discern. It is the same reason God prohibited Israel from eating shellfish () or pigs (), which He calls an abomination. Not to illustrate that Shrimp and Pork were unhealthy foods, but rather the law illustrated in these ceremonial precepts the symbolism of the spiritual differences between unclean and clean people. It signified the God breathed principle of separation, purity and distinction. By God making a distinction between beasts () considered clean and could be eaten, and beasts considered unclean and not to be eaten, He was pointing to the separation of God's people from the Gentile unbelievers. The threads that could not be mixed with other diverse threads pointed to that same separation. Likewise, the donkey that could not work yoked together with the Ox and the diverse seeds that could not be planted in a field together. It was all to signify something infinitely more important than dietary, labor and clothing restrictions. These laws regulating separation of animals, seeds and threads were instituted by God as signs or parallel demonstrations to highlight the issue of keeping the children of Israel separate from the corruption of non believers and avoid syncretism.
- "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.
- Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.
- Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together."
The people of Israel were a Covenanted people that were separated unto sanctification in the service of God. And these laws were designed to keep them mindful of that separation, a sign of their distinctness as Godís holy people. Linen is from a plant (often flax) fiber, while wool is from animal fiber. When you interweave these fibers, you are mixing two very diverse kinds. It signifies mixing righteousness with unrighteousness. We may compare scripture with scripture and consider the declaration of God concerning the offerings of Cain and Abel. Cain brought a plant offering, and Abel brought an animal offering, and it is no coincidence that God did not favor Cain's offering, while favoring Abel's offering.
- "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."
Abel brings God the firstling of sheep and Cain brings a plant offering. One is respected of God and the other is not. This symbolizes that one was a believer's offering (Abel) unto righteousness, and the other unacceptable unto unrighteousness. An unrighteousness that ended in the murder of his brother. Abel then is a portrait of God's people, while Cain of those without faith and in unbelief. Like linen versus wool, righteousness is not mixed with unrighteousness.
- "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
- And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
- But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
Two diverse kinds of people, but only one of faith in the righteousness of Christ. The other an unrighteous murderer. With the law of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, God decreeing to Israel that linen (which is a plant fiber) should not be mixed with wool (an animal fiber), as an illustration that believers and unbelievers are diverse people. They are not to be unequally yoked together. One is of an acceptable offering unto God, and the other is not. One is not to be yoked together with the other anymore than a Donkey should be yoked together to plow with an Ox. Which is why in Leviticus we see the context is that God forbids His people's cattle from being mingled with diverse kinds also. It seems obvious the reason God decreed these ceremonial laws be observed was so that Israel would understand that He had made them a distinct people, and they should remain distinct and separated from the unbelieving (), and if not they had transgressed the law of God. Linen and wool were not to be married in the same garment to symbolize this same separation of God's people. To yoke the two together would violate the Covenant principle of distinction and special nature of Israel. Not at all unlike God's ordinance that He gave to His New Testament people to remain distinct and separate.
- "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."
2nd Corinthians 6:14-17
- "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
- And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
- And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
- Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
This is why a Donkey could not be yoked together with an Ox. It signified that God's people were a unique and chosen kingdom of Priests that should not mix with other kinds or worldly societies. And 2nd Corinthians illustrates to us that God's covenant with His people has not changed in all these years, so that they are still bound by this sign of distinction. They are still a separate Ox from the animal of the world. And they are still not to be uneuqlly yoked together with them. In the Old Testament His people could not wear a garment of divers materials like wool and linen together because the garment of Israel signified the righteousness clothing of the sacrifice, Christ. Therefore it could not be mingled with a diverse kind of cloth to make it impure or corrupt. Having apparel mingled with different threads indicates that something foreign or strange has been added, marring it. eg:
This indicates they were mixing with the ungodly, which is forbidden. The ceremonial law of separation and uncleanness is seen in mixing wool and linen in clothing, plowing with a donkey and an ox yoked together, the eating of unclean fish and meats, and the sowing two different types of seed in one field. These were instituted to vividly paint a portrait to Israel of how they were not to mingle with the strange and different nations that were around them, and who were considered unclean. That is why the nation of Israel also looked upon the Heathen/Gentiles as dogs (), because they were outside of God's Covenant people and thus to be looked upon as unclean. God's people were to remain clean, unique, peculiar, pure and dedicated to Him alone. Today these laws may seem strange to some people, but they were God's way of illustrating they were not to be yoked together with the Gentile nations. The same for making a baldness between their eyes for the dead. It was all because God wanted Israel to be a separated people above all others.
- "And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel."
"Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing."
By keeping these ceremonial laws of purity, the Old Testament saints proved themselves a people committed to Jehovah God alone. That they would reject the vain fashions, tastes and plowings of the world for the distinction of being a special people that are chosen of God. By their obedience in carefully avoiding being woven into the fabric of the unclean world, they prove themselves distinct from it.
- "Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
- Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever."
This is the principle of not mixing clean with unclean and of being a distinct separate people. Even in not plowing unequally with donkey and Ox, or in eating what was deemed unclean, or in mixing threads in garments, God's children would show forth in these ordinances the glory of God in the peculiar distinctiveness that He requires. It is all to intimate how careful God's people were not to mingle themselves with the heathen to weave any of the fabric of the Gentiles into the fabric of Israel.
The Children of Israel in everything they did were to be a peculiar or special people set apart for the service of God. And this is what all these laws that people question today, signified. In this commanded behaviour, God is demonstrating that the mixing of these things would be a sign of a mingled people, the corruption of Israel. It all looked forward to the coming Messiah who would truly make them a peculiar or special people, called out and separated from the heathen unto the service of God.
- "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:"
God's people are to be regarded as a special or peculiar people that belong to the Lord Jesus, and that were not to in any wise be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It is the same call that God put forth in forbidding mingling of seeds in a field, they were to be different from the world, and not in friendship or affinity with them (), which is confusion and will bring God's wrath. There is a dissimilarity between believers and unbelievers as between righteousness and sin established in Christ, that makes it unlawful for them to mingle together as one. Any child of Israel was not to intermix with unbelievers, as that would be mixing righteousness and unrighteousness. And this is what the law of not mixing seeds of two sorts (Leviticus 19:19) signified.
- "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
May the Lord who is gracious above all, give us the wisdom to discern the truth of His most glorious word.
Copyright ©2011 Tony Warren
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