|Messianic Education Trust|
Vayikra/Leviticus 14:32 This is the law of him in whom is a mark of tzara'at whose hand cannot reach to his purification.
View whole verse and interlinear translation ...
HaShem has spent the chapter so far outlining the procedures for the eighth day tzara'at purification rites for the rich - or at least those who are not in poverty - (vv. 10-20) and the poor (vv. 21-32). This verse concludes that section before HaShem goes on to speak to both Moshe and Aharon his brother about tzara'at in houses. There is some justification, although the word is almost always translated 'law', to take - the feminine singular noun, here in construct form with a replacing the normal at the end of the word, from the root verb , to throw, cast, sprinkle, teach, instruct - as 'rule' or even 'procedure' at this point: "This is the rule for one ...". The two words , a sign, mark or spot of tzara'at - the vaguely leprous-like skin disease - refer to a skin blemish described in minute detail in chapter 13 that the ancient rabbis connected with hidden sins, in particular lashon hara, the evil tongue of gossip or slander.
The phrase is tightly coupled by the trope marks - a mercha followed by a tipcha. , his hand, is the object of the verb; is the Hif'il prefix 3fs form of the root , almost always used in the Hif'il stem, meaning "to reach, attain, acquire, obtain" (Davidson). Here, with the negative particle , it is a common expression of poverty: his hand cannot reach the full cost of purification, "two male lambs without defect, and a yearling ewe lamb without defect, and three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil" (v. 14:10, NASB). So, as if the case with the other types of sacrifice, the offering is scaled back to what a poor man can afford: "one male lamb ... one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil ... and a log of oil, and two turtledoves or two young pigeons" (v. 21-22, NASB). In the full offering, one male lamb is a guilt offering, the other a sin offering and the ewe lamb a burnt offering; in the reduced offering, the guilt offering remains the same, while the turtledoves cover the sin and burnt offerings. This is nevertheless still quite a significant cost;Hirsch points out that, "The guilt offering for the poor man remains exactly the same. The duty of social justness is the same for rich and poor and the social position does not enter into the judgement of those sins against brotherhood and justness for which the guilt offering of tzara'at is designed to atone." Gossip and slander do the same damage to the victim, regardless of the wealth or poverty of the offender.
Who is this poor man whose means cannot run to the full ritual cost? The Torah tells us that "he is poor, and his means are insufficient" (v. 21, NASB) and uses the word - an adjective from the root , "to hang down; to be languid, weakened, feeble" (Davidson) - meaning "low, weak or poor".Ibn Ezra comments that this word "can mean not only one who does not have sufficient money (as it does here) but also one who is doing 'poorly' from a physical perspective", and points to the way the word is used elsewhere: to describe the second set of cows in Pharaoh's dream, "scrawny, ill-formed and emaciated" (B'resheet 41:19, JPS); by the Psalmist, "Happy is he who is thoughtful of the wretched" (Psalm 41:2, JPS); of David's son Amnon, "Why are you so dejected, O prince, morning after morning?" (2 Samuel 13:4, JPS). As well as, now, afflicted with tzara'at, the man may be depressed, haggard, wretched or dejected, or poor physical appearance and condition; not only may he have no financial means, he may have no spiritual or emotional means either! He is to be helped in the cost of purification so that at least he can be re-admitted into the camp and allowed to fellowship with other people. Society needs to make some investment in his life to rescue and rehabilitate him.
Investment in the poor is a kingdom value and priority. The Psalmist tells us that HaShem is actively involved in this process: "He raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the refuse heap" (Psalm 113:7, NASB). Prophecies of Messiah say that He will have an active interest in seeing justice afforded to the poor: "He shall judge the poor with equity and decide with justice for the lowly of the land" (Isaiah 11:4, JPS). Isaiah goes further and provides specific words to be used by HaShem's anointed servant: "The Spirit of the L-rd G-d is upon Me, because the L-RD has anointed Me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the L-RD, and the day of vengeance of our G-d; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the L-RD, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:1-3, NASB). Notice that this translation uses the word 'afflicted', the Hebrew word , also translated 'poor' by CJB, ESV and NIV, but 'oppressed' by NRSV. TheSeptuagint - which is followed by the Greek Scriptures - uses , 'poor'. Good News is to be brought or announced to the poor. Good news of healing, liberty, freedom, G-d's favour, comfort; all these and more are part of the Good News.
Yeshua read from this passage in the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue one Shabbat in Nazareth. He read, The Spirit of the L-rd is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19, NASB). Now that's a manifesto worth reading! Although the people didn't receive this too well on the day, Yeshua set about demonstrating His calling and ministry by doing exactly that: healing the sick, giving sight to the blind; the gospels are full of the accounts of the miracles that He performed for people in the Galil and Judea during His ministry years. He put it into practice because talk is cheap; there had been other messiah figures who had talked a lot, raised bands of armed men ready to fight and then been struck down with their men - not a miracle between them. But Yeshua was different; He delivered the goods, on the nail. So much so that when His cousin John sent word from prison to confirm who Yeshua was, Yeshua told John's disciples, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:4-5, NASB). Seeing is believing and Yeshua pointed John's messengers to the facts on the ground, to the ex-blind, the ex-lame, the ex-lepers, the ex-deaf and so on. "There is the evidence," He said to them, "right in front of your eyes."
But, and this keeps us on topic for this text, alongside the miracles was the essential component: the poor are hearing the Good News. "Now, just hang on a minute," you may say, "this is before the Cross - Yeshua hasn't yet been crucified, the curtain hasn't been torn in two, the Resurrection hasn't happened, the sins of the world are still here, so what can the Good News be?" That's because the Good News isn't actually about the Cross. The Cross is, of course, a critical and vital component of the package and the Good News would not be the Good News without the Cross, but the Good News is both simpler and larger than the Cross. The Good News is about relationship with G-d. The Good News is about life today in relationship with G-d, being a part of His kingdom right here and now, on this earth, in this life. The Good News was - and still is - that G-d wants relationship with people; He wants to give them hope and a future, right now, not just a "Get out of Jail Free" card to keep in their wallets until they die, not just a visa for heaven in our passports. The poor did not have this; they had no relationship with G-d, they were disenfranchised from society and religious practice because of their sins, because of their lifestyles, because of their physical and mental conditions. To those very people, Yeshua preached the Good News about G-d's breaking into this world, about G-d's offer of reconciliation and about getting right with G-d. The miracles were a visible proof that He spoke the truth and that G-d was indeed near. Yeshua said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32, ESV). Never mind all the religious stuff; the Good News is that G-d is right here for you, now - all you have to do is reach out and engage with Him. This the rule for the poor!
Further Study: 1 Samuel 2:7-10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Application: Have you heard the Good News and engaged with what G-d has to offer? Have you taken advantage of His generosity in Messiah Yeshua to cry out and join His kingdom? It's a simple thing to do: just ask and there it is!
© Jonathan Allen, 2015
|Messianic Trust Home Page||Join Weekly Email||More Weekly Drashot|
Support the work of producing this weekly commentary
|Last Year - 5774||Scripture Index||Next Year - 5776|
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.