Biblical Cleanliness Laws

I’ve been thinking about the laws of the Torah. Cleanliness is the motive for many of the laws. Is the focus on cleanliness something Moses learned about in Egypt with Pharaoh? Think about it. The Egyptians were around ruling a large empire for a long time. Could they have not done it with out cleanliness and the resulting lack of disease? Moses might have learned from them and modified his knowledge for the people that God would lead out of bondage (picture Carleton Heston, “Out of bondage”).

Another alternative is that, even before the modern understanding of germs and the necessity for cleanliness to diminish their numbers was made known, God used these previously unknown facts to keep the Israelites living in the desert when they were in close quarters. God was with them on their journey to the “promised land”.

Circumcision helped the people multiply to keep their population strong. Not eating pigs kept down disease. Making sure dairy and meat were eaten separately ensured that the cooks knew were the germs (or evil things) were. Stoning let people be killed without touching them and contacting whatever disease they had. Staying away from foreigners kept their diseases from infecting them (unlike the Native Americans interacting with the European colonists which almost wiped the former out due to new disease transmission with the latter).

Again, all this is just speculation, and since we’ll never be in the past empirical domain, we’ll never really know the answer with 100% certainty.

There is a caveat of the above thought pattern. Perhaps, in Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the law, He is able to excuse us from following some of the Mosaic laws, including the cleanliness laws (just as Jesus said that Moses made up the divorce law “due to the harness of your hearts”, but God didn’t make it so). Perhaps Jesus knew that Moses inserted some of the cleanliness laws into the laws given by God found in the Torah. I don’t know, maybe I’m just way off base.

What do you think?

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