Chapter 17 (Forbidden Mixtures) pages 278-292
North deals with Lev 19:19 at this point and, though there’s a parallel passage in Deut 22:9-11, the information there supplied concerning the mixing of seed has chosen to be ignored even though reference is made to the passage.
We must begin by looking at one of North’s passages that occurs shortly before the conclusion to his chapter. Although longer than anything we’ve quoted previously, it’s necessary to understand the fulness of North’s arguments here instead of trying to use sentences that are scattered throughout the three paragraphs.
Pages 290-1 (all italics as the book), therefore, under the heading ‘The Question of Jurisdiction’ reads, concerning Lev 19:19
‘Was this a civil law or an ecclesiastical law? To identify it as a civil law, we should be able to specify appropriate civil sanctions. The text mentions none. The civil magistrate might have confiscated the progeny of the interbreeding activities, but then what? Sell the animals? Export them? Kill them and sell the meat? These were possible sanctions, but the text is silent. What about mingled seed? Was the entire crop to be confiscated by the State? Could it lawfully be sold? Was it unclean? The text is silent. This silence establishes a prima facie case for the law as ecclesiastical.
‘The mixed clothing law refers to a fact of covenantal separation: a nation of priests. The Israelites were not to wear clothing made of linen and wool [this is actually only mentioned in the Deuteronomy passage not in the Levitical one - but see below for the error of translation in the version that North here uses]. This symbolic mixing testified to the legitimacy of mixing a nation of priests and a common nation. This is why wearing such mixed cloth was prohibited. This aspect of the case law’s meaning was primarily priestly. Again, the Prima facie case is that this was an ecclesiastical law and therefore enforced by the priesthood.
‘The maximum ecclesiastical sanction was excommunication. This would have marked the law-breaker as being outside the civil covenant. He faced the loss of his citizenship as well as the disinheritance of his sons unless they broke with him publicly. Instead of a mere economic loss, he faced a far greater penalty. This penalty was consistent with the status of this law as a seed law. The prohibition of mixed seeds was an affirmation of tribal separation until Shiloh came. An attack on tribal separation was an attack on Jacob’s messianic prophecy. The appropriate penalty was ecclesiastical: removal from both inheritance and citizenship within the tribe’
Notice the first paragraph. North states here that the text is silent as regards any sanctions that may have been laid upon the transgressor and that, therefore, it immediately gives us the indication that we should take the legislation as ecclesiastical and not civil.
His hermeneutic here is problematical for, in the previous chapter while discussing Lev 19:18, he regarded the legislation there as civil when no sanctions were mentioned as being imposable upon the transgressor. Why, then, should silence be regarded as indicative of an ecclesiastical law rather than that of a civil one? By the same exposition, many of the laws that we’ve so far come to discuss should be treated as ecclesiastical because they don’t mention any specific sanction as applying to the person who was to transgress the commandment.
Silence, therefore, is a bad indication that the text is ecclesiastical.
But the main objection to his argument is that sanctions are mentioned in the parallel passage of Deut 22:9-11 where, concerning the mixing of seed within a field (in this case the example given is of a vineyard that’s also used to grow a different crop in), we read
‘You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited to the sanctuary, the crop which you have sown and the yield of the vineyard’
It’s going too far to draw the parallel that, for instance, garments made of two types of fabric must also be forfeited to the sanctuary (that is, they become holy and set apart for the Lord’s use - which would, effectively, mean for the use of the priests and Levites) but the sanction remains in force here for the mixing of seed within one field unit - confiscation of the yield of that field for the Lord’s use. It is, therefore, a civil law, even though the penalty is ecclesiastical.
Blinded to this Scripture (or choosing to ignore it), North goes on to propose in his third paragraph that the sanction applicable was excommunication and that there was no economic loss that was to be imposed upon the transgressor. On both these counts he’s wrong with regard to the mixed seeds.
The offender is told that the yield must be given over to the Lord’s use and, as there’s no mention of disinheritance, it must be presumed that the person’s place within the nation of Israel is secure.
But, one step further, we should note (not mentioned by North) that if this was, indeed, an abominable act worthy of excommunication from the congregation of YHWH, why wasn’t the produce of the mixed seed field also an abomination and, instead of being given to the sanctuary, given over to be totally destroyed as being unacceptable to God?
This points us towards the conclusion that the legislation, though civil, wasn’t outlining an inherently sinful agricultural or cultural practice but a restriction placed upon the nation. That is to say, if the mixed seed yield could be considered holy to God even though growing different crops together was forbidden in the Law, it would appear that, for whatever reason, transgression in this matter didn’t stand on equal terms as other infringements scattered throughout the Law.
Though a transgression had taken place, the result of that transgression was still acceptable to God.
We cannot, therefore, accept that the legislation both in Lev 19:19 and Deut 22:9-11 should be accepted as being the kind of sin that, in other places, meets with the severest of sanctions against the transgressor.
However, just why these laws were included within the Mosaic Law is difficult to determine and the consideration of them does have the commentators stumbling over words and trying to relate them into explanations that depend more on our modern day understanding of the problems that might be contained within the mixtures than any supposed insight the ancients might have had.
Before we go on to consider North’s text further, the ‘mixes’ as described in both passages can be listed as follows:
1. The mixing of the seed of two different ‘kinds’ - Lev 19:19
2. The mixing of seed within a single field - Lev 19:19, Deut 22:9
3. The mixing of two different fabrics within one garment - Lev 19:19, Deut 22:11
4. The mixing of work animals to perform a common task - Deut 22:10
North begins with the statement (page 278)
‘This case law establishes three boundaries, each referring to a specific economic activity’
Although the cross-breeding of different ‘kinds’ and the sowing of a field with different seeds could be considered to be economic activities, wearing a garment of mixed fabrics is not.
Admittedly, the production of such a garment would refer to an ‘industry’ but that’s not what’s being legislated against here - the concern of the statute is to make sure that no mixed fabric garment is ever to be worn by an Israelite. North shows that it’s the production that he has in mind (as opposed to the wearing of such a garment) at a later point (page 281) when he says
‘A law governing agriculture, animal husbandry, and textile production had to be taken very seriously...’
North’s statement (page 280 - my italics) that
‘...the church from the beginning has denied the legality of polygamy even though there is no explicit rejection of polygamy in the New Testament except for church officers...’
becomes a problem when a previous quote in the last chapter is included. Namely (page 272) that
‘…whatever is not prohibited by law is allowed’
and, further on, (page 289 note 14)
‘In biblical law, if something is not prohibited, it is allowed’
Even though North notes that the early church rejected the idea of polygamy as being justified before God because (page 280)
‘…from the beginning it was not so’
this criteria is seen to be irrelevant simply because his all-inclusive statement that it must be prohibited or else it’s allowed makes it be interpreted this way. As I said in the previous chapter, there’s something inherently wrong with North’s statement as it allows sexual union to occur between father and daughter.
North fortunately notes that Lev 19:19 is a unit and (page 281) that
‘If they are a unit, there has to be some underlying judicial principle common to all three. All three prohibitions deal with mixing’
Deut 22:10 will mention one further aspect of mixing - that of using two dissimilar work animals for the same job when they’re joined together in the same task. This really needs to be included here to get a fuller understanding of the type of mixing that’s in mind.
North then goes on to successfully identify (page 281) that
‘the fundamental judicial principle undergirding the passage is the requirement of separation’
but then takes the first two aspects to state (page 281) that they
‘...were agricultural applications of the mandatory segregation of the tribes inside Israel until a unique prophesied Seed would appear in history: the Messiah’
I’m not averse to seeing Christ in the Mosaic Law. Indeed, in my notes on Jubilee especially, I added a section to show the Scriptural foundation for understanding passages as being pointers towards and shadows of Jesus that would have testified to both His Person and His work when He arrived on the scene - my series of articles on the festivals of Jehovah are primarily based upon this interpretation.
But this assertion by North comes out of the blue with no foundation for the conclusion drawn. Why should the seed here be taken as referring to Christ? Or why should the tribes be taken as being representative of the different seeds?
Again, the final clause of Lev 19:19 is taken to mean (page 281)
‘...the separation of national Israel from other nations’
but, again, the assertion is made without any parallel passage showing us why mixed clothing should equal the separation of Israel within the nations.
There’s no doubt that, firstly, the Levitical passage deals with the mixing of two different substances and that, as a consequence, the concept of separation is at hand. But the separation here isn’t of one sinful product from a righteous one (Israel as a nation and the world’s nations do not, therefore, fit), but of two wholly pure substances that, when combined, are unacceptable to God.
Though North’s first assertion would fit this meaning, the second does not. But the principle remains that, even in the Deut 22:9-11 passage, we’re not talking of wicked substances being mixed with righteous ones, but two different ‘acceptable to God’ substances are combined to produce something (or to perform something) that’s unacceptable.
I don’t deny that these laws speak of separation, but just what these laws actually meant for the Israelite (if anything) isn’t proven by North’s statements.
Until it is, a lot of what he continues to write is on a very shaky foundation. If it were just a matter of allegorising the Scripture there could be no objection, but North here presents his teaching as fact. That some of what follows is quite correct is undeniable, but that it doesn’t come from the Scripture under consideration is equally so.
Writing concerning the first of the three clauses of Lev 19:19, North comments (page 285) that
‘The plain teaching of the passage indicates that the breeds of all domesticated animals that were common in the Promised Land at the time of the conquest were to be allowed to reproduce. The breeds had to be kept separate, however. There was to be no active breeding of new specialized breeds in order to produce animals that had different characteristics from the land’s original breeds. There was to be no man-directed genetic manipulation of animals in Mosaic Israel’
North has here changed the word for a ‘kind’ into the word ‘breed’. What he’s maintaining here is that, for instance, cattle within the same ‘modern’ species would have been forbidden to be bred together if their ‘breed’ was different. That is, two cows could not be crossbred even if they came from the same root stock.
But this isn’t the meaning of the passage.
The Biblical mention of a ‘kind’ was the first attempt (as far as I’m aware) at defining what a ‘species’ was by ancient men and women - though instituted by God. At the beginning of the world, God created all animals ‘according to their kinds’ (for instance, Gen 1:21,24) and so began a distinction within the Creation. What the ‘kind’ exactly means is difficult - if not impossible - to determine but it certainly didn’t mean that different breeds couldn’t reproduce together if they came from the same root stock. Animals within a kind were different breeds but not different kinds. Determining root stock, however, would surely have been difficult in a lot of cases but broad generalisations could be made.
Certainly, breeding ‘across the (present day) species’ would have been forbidden (pig with cow and so on) but not crossbreeding. Again, with regard to the unmixing of seed - different varieties of apple wouldn’t have been forbidden to have been grown together in the same field, but different crops ‘according to their kinds’ (apples and grain and so on) would have been.
This is primarily why bestiality is forbidden (Lev 18:23) because it mixes ‘kinds’ while union between, say, an African and Asian is permitted because it’s only mixing ‘breeds’ (for want of a better word and to keep the application straightforward).
North needs to show that the broad categories of ‘kinds’ is equal to the limited classification of ‘breeds’ before his point can be taken. When North states (page 286) that
‘...this law was really a prohibition against scientific breeding aimed at producing a new breed with unique characteristics’
the conclusion should rather be that it’s against any attempt (scientific or otherwise) that’s aimed at producing a new kind from the kinds already in existence. North believes, however (page 285), that this
‘...was a temporary law that illustrated an eschatological principle’
and so, by inference, he probably has no objections to present day genetic engineering on the basis of his argument.
North’s statements (page 286) concerning
‘...whatever common animals existed when they entered the land...’
‘...a breed already within the land when they invaded...’
need some clarification.
The Israelites were initially commanded to destroy every living thing (which would have included the livestock) in each and every city they were to come against within the Promised land (Deut 20:16-17) which we see outworked in Joshua 6:21 when the Israelites took Jericho. However, the Lord relented when the army came to Ai and allowed them to take the livestock as booty for themselves (Joshua 8:2).
The Deuteronomy passage appears unambiguous that livestock is meant to be included, so the instructions concerning Ai should be seen as a temporary provision for the Israelites. Therefore, when North talks about the livestock that the Israelites found within the cities they were about to come against, the normal occurrence would have been to destroy everything they found, thus largely removing the endemic population from Canaan.
There would have been livestock that would have escaped, I’m sure - just as there would have been animals that hadn’t been moved into the cities - but it needs to be noted that the majority of livestock would have been destroyed.
Concerning the second clause of Lev 19:19, North notes (page 287) that
‘An Israelite was not to apply his ingenuity to the creation of new species of plants’
Here North chooses the correct word ‘species’ but, unfortunately, adds to the text to see a prohibition concerning the production of new species of plants. The Law actually says that different seeds must not be sown together in fields - this may have resulted in hybrids which could have occurred quite naturally, but there’s no command here against selectively cross-pollinating plants within the same kind in order to produce a better and more fruitful variety.
Besides, as we now know, cross-pollination can occur even if plants are in different fields as spores are wind-borne in certain species and can travel great distances to fertilise another.
The prohibition here, then, concerns seed-mixing within one field rather than cross- or selective-breeding.
North notes (footnote 12 on page 288) that
‘Rabbinic opinion on [Lev 19:19] forbade grafting’
going on to cite a Rabbinic source that cites the Talmud.
The Mishnah doesn’t forbid grafting (Shebiith 2:6), only the grafting of kinds onto different kinds (Kilaim 1:7-8). Rabbinic opinion, therefore, in the earliest reference guide, allows grafting within the ‘kinds’.
Concerning the third clause of Lev 19:19, North begins with the conclusion (page 288) that
‘Mixed clothing made of linen and wool was under a different kind of prohibition’
The actual text doesn’t mention these two fabrics and it’s only by reference to Deut 22:11 that the statement can be justified. The Levitical passage refers to any mixing of fabrics, not just wool and linen.
North is correct when he says (page 289)
‘No other form of mixed-fiber clothing was prohibited by the Mosaic Law’
but incorrect to conclude through a question and answer format
‘Did this case law by implication or extension prohibit all mixed fibers? This seems doubtful. It would have been easy to specify the more general prohibition rather than single out these two fibers’
Two points need making here.
Firstly, the two fabrics are not singled out in the Levitical passage, only in the Deuteronomy passage. That indicates that, as it stands, all mixtures are forbidden.
Secondly, if the Deuteronomy passage is taken as the defining verse which restricts Lev 19:19’s intention, why doesn’t Deut 22:9 restrict the generalisation of the second clause of Lev 19:19?! If the first holds true then the second must also and therefore undermine North’s teaching on it.
North is here using a translation (the one that he appears to use throughout the book, to be fair) that mistranslates the text. There’s no mention made here of linen and wool but the generalisation is being made that all mixtures are prohibited in clothing.
He hasn’t provided good reason for refusing to accept the obvious implication of Lev 19:19 and neither explained why, should he be correct in his interpretation, he’s not applied it to the other, previously mentioned, case - it must be pointed out, however, that the reason for this neglect on North’s part is that he’s stuck to the translation of the Bible that obscures the meaning.
North will go on to see linen as the ‘priestly cloth’ and his exposition of this clause (if applied to Deut 22:11) is standard Bible teaching (generally speaking). North concludes that the legislation is obsolete because of a change in priesthood but the link is tenuous simply because all mixtures of fabrics are prohibited, not just linen and wool.
I commented on North’s section headed ‘The Question of Jurisdiction’ (pages 290-1) at the beginning of these notes seeing as the conclusion, in my opinion, needed to be dealt with first.
In his concluding statements, we need to note North’s assertion (page 292) that
‘...there is no application of this verse genetically. We are allowed to breed animals and plant various crops in the same field at the same time’
which needs some clarification by him. When North sees no genetic application in today’s society is he meaning for us to take the reference to genetic engineering as well where DNA strands are moved from one species and inserted into others? It would be good if North addressed this issue plainly, for his subsequent sentence reads as if he’s applying it only to agricultural practices.
North sees all three aspects as being non-binding on believers under the New Covenant but his understanding of what exactly it meant for the Jew is open to question as noted above.
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