“Here is how you are to cleanse them: sprinkle the purification water on them, have them shave their whole body with a razor, and have them wash their clothes and cleanse themselves.“-Numbers 8:7
We are in the midst of studying the initiation rites for the Levites that once completed will signify they are officially ready to begin service to God.
In verse 7 we are told the Levites have to “shave their whole body with a razor“.
Okay, so right off the bat here, we encounter a phrase that has led to an abundance of misinterpretations.
First, understand that this instruction only applies to the guys since only male Levites are permitted to be in service to HASHEM.
Second, the word “shaving” doesn’t really mean “shaving” as we understand it (like what dudes do in the morning).
It just means “cutting“.
Remember shaving to the point where only the skin is showing wasn’t a Hebrew custom.
Third, the phrase “take a razor to the whole body” is another one of those Hebrew idioms that if taken literally will give you an entirely wrong idea of what it really means.
“Take a razor to the body” simply means to cut one’s hair from one’s head only.
The reason it says take a razor to the “whole body” is because since the head sits firmly on top of the whole body, in that sense it represents the whole body.
Concerning the instruction that the Levites are to “wash their clothing“, understand that they are also to take a full bath as that was also an inseparable part of the purification procedures.
This brings us to our next encounter of nonsense teaching one will often find in the gentile church.
I’m sure you’ve heard the argument concerning baptism whether just sprinkling is acceptable as opposed to full immersion.
Well, this whole ridiculous debate stems from verse 7 here in Numbers 8 where we’re told the Levites are to be “sprinkled“.
As all of you reading this should be quite astute Torah students by this time, you should know by now that “sprinkling” was simply one of the standard rituals used to apply the “water of purification“.
And what is the “water of purification“?
We just learned this yesterday.
It is a mixture of living or holy water with the ashes from a red heifer sacrifice.
My whole point is we’re talking about apples and oranges here.
Ritual sprinkling was NEVER intended as a substitute for ritual bathing.
Let me say that again.
Ritual sprinkling was NEVER intended as a substitute for ritual bathing!
Ritual sprinkling is necessary when one has fallen into an extreme UNCLEAN state (like if somebody touched a corpse for example).
Ritual immersion in a MIKVAH or river on the other hand is the last step one undertakes to transition from an UNCLEAN to a CLEAN state.
A full immersion ritual bath symbolized the complete restoration and renewal from a state of UNCLEANNESS, an idea which had nothing to do with the ritual sprinkling with the holy water and ashes mixture.
Is my point getting across here?
These are entirely two different rituals for two different purposes.
So the whole debate about whether baptism should be full immersion or sprinkling has no grounds whatsoever.
It is founded on exactly nothing.