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D'varim/Deuteronomy 22:9 You shall not sow, in your vineyard, two distinct species, lest the fullness of the seed that you sow and the produce of the vineyard become consecrated.
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This verse starts a set of three verses (9 - 11) that are complementary to Vayikra 19:19 "You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material" (ESV). This verse extends the general principle of not sowing a field with two different species of seed to not planting them in a vineyard either. Gunter Plaut comments, "These verses reflect the biblical aversion to interfering with the established order of nature - in stark contrast with the objectives of modern technology". Jeffrey Tigay says that "Many commentators believe that their aim is to preserve the species distinction that G-d established at creation, as described in B'resheet 1:11-12,21,24-25."
The root , to sow or to plant, appears three times in this verse: twice as , the Qal prefix 2ms verb form, "you shall sow", and once as the noun , the seed. , a dual noun from the root , to confine or restrain - so "two confined or separated species" - appears only four times in the Hebrew Scriptures, three of them in the clearly connected verse Vayikra 19:19 and once here. The verb - the Qal 3fs prefix form of the root , to sanctify, consecrate or make holy - is here used in the sense of being prohibited. The Sages read as if it were , "she shall be sanctified with fire" (b. Kiddushin 56b), soSefer HaChinuch explains that "the whole yield must be burned". Targum Onkelos changes the Hebrew verb - "she will be sanctified/prohibited" to the Aramaic verb , "she will become impure or unfit". Saadia Gaon and the Rashbam explain that the product of such a planting is unfit for any use; it is forbidden.
The word is the subject of a masoretic note, that the word only occurs in this exact form twice in the Hebrew Scriptures, here and in Amos 2:13: "As a wagon is slowed when it is full of cut grain" (JPS). TheBaal HaTurim explains that this is why the Sages have said that the different species must be separated by "the full width of a team of oxen" (a span of four cubits, b. Bava Batra 83a). Moreover, in both verses, the Tur points out that the mem is soft - that is, without the expected dagesh - which points to the need to measure the four cubits softly (loosely or widely) (b. Eruvin 3b).
Asking the question as to what this verse adds to Vayikra 19:19, the Sages conclude that it is a question of intentionality: "Rabbi Josiah says: The law has not been broken until one sows wheat, barley and grape kernels with one throw" (b. Berachot 22a). This seems to suggest there is a difference between a deliberate planting, done by man, and an accidental planting, such as seeds blown on the wind. On the other hand, RabbiHirsch sees a deliberate connection to the vineyard and the use of wine for ritual activities: "Although Vayikra 19:19 already forbids the cultivation of two species of seeds in one row, here the Torah surrounds the cultivation of the vine - which produces wine for blessings and drink offerings - in the Jewish Land with a still greater level of holiness, only allowing the vine to be cultivated under quite special conditions of keeping afar any possibly mixture of species. This confirms that the Torah not only allows but sanctifies provided that this is controlled by its laws and does not exceed the limits drawn by the Torah for the Jewish 'species' of human beings."
What does this - a set of obscure agricultural rules from ancient Israel - have to do with us as believers in the current age who, if we are connected with agriculture at all today, farm according to modern scientific methods. Without setting aside the fundamental and absolute requirement for G-d's laws to be kept by those for whom it remains an obligation in the place where it still applies - Jewish farmers in the Land of Israel - what underlying principles can we glean to apply in our lives.
These verses come, as do the connected verses in Vayikra and elsewhere, as part of a general thread about mixtures. It seems that G-d is concerned about mixtures; He wants things to be distinct and identifiable. In a childrens' book about a farm where the hens have learnt to fly in order to defeat the local population of foxes1, one of the characters refers to "long-nosed chicken-lovers" and is rebuked by an old hen who tartly shrieks (in dialect), "Why don't you call them what they be - voxes!" In a post-modern society where nobody is wrong and everyone's rights, beliefs and decisions have to be respected, the existence of absolutes is denied and boundaries and distinctions are blurred. Words and names are changed to give the illusion of a large and seamless spectrum where every point is as valid as any other.
Mixtures may bring together things that are harmful. Plants may feed from the same nutrients, so may starve each other, or may produce toxins that cause damage to the other. In the Parable of the Sower, Yeshua talked about the seed that "fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain" (Mark 4:7, ESV); a mixture that clearly didn't work. Other mixtures - such as the tares sown among the wheat - may be hard to separate, but will be resolved in time: "The slaves said to [their master], 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather [the tares] up?' But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn"'" (Matthew 13:28-30, ESV). The Laodiceans (see Revelation 3:15-16) are described as lukewarm because "in contrast to Hierapolis with its medicinal hot springs or Colossae with its refreshing supply of cold water, Laodicea had to fetch its water through high-pressure stone pipes from hot springs at Denizli, some five miles away, and by the time it reached Laodicea the water was lukewarm ... it had to be left standing in stone jars until it was cool."2
Writing to the Corinthians Rav Sha'ul asks, "what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, NASB). Talking about mixtures between people, he goes on, "Can Christ agree with the devil? Can a believer share life with an unbeliever?" (v. 15, GWT). Then citing the prophet Isaiah, Sha'ul cuts down to the quick: "'Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the L-rd. 'And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the L-rd Almighty" (vv. 17-18, NASB). Unlike the seeds, where no sin is committed unless they are intentionally sown together, Sha'ul says that we must be intentional in separating ourselves from mixtures with sin in order to walk in the fullness of the relationship that G-d desires with us. That doesn't, of course, as Sha'ul himself says elsewhere, that we shouldn't associate with, speak to or know sinners, otherwise there would be no opportunities to share the gospel with anyone! But it does mean that we should avoid significant relationships with those who do not share our faith in Messiah Yeshua.
We need to examine our lives and our lifestyle choices to see if we are living a mixture. Rav Sha'ul tells us that, "the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of G-d" (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV). Many believers would easily cross off most of the early part of the list, but what about the second half? Do we go clubbing, get involved in arguments, take sides in office politics, have the odd spike of road-rage, struggle with sibling rivalry? If so, then we have a mixture in our lives and risk falling foul of Scripture's consequences: not inheriting the kingdom of G-d! We must be intentional to purge our lives of these things by bringing them to the cross and seeking G-d's forgiveness.
1. - Dick King-Smith, The Foxbusters, originally published in 1978
2. - F. F. Bruce, NICNT Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians, Eerdmans 1984, 0-8028-2401-3, page 15
Further Study: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Ephesians 5:6-11
Is there an area of mixture in your life? Are you holding on to behaviours,
habits or attitudes that prevent you from fully participating in the kingdom
of G-d? Now would be a good time to run your life through G-d's fine-meshed
filter and ask Him to sift out the mixtures so that you can be clear for Him.
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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© Jonathan Allen, 2013
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.