Q. I teach a bible study class and we are presently in the Book of Leviticus. As I taught thru Chapter 19 I was thinking OK…don’t practice sorcery, pierce or cut yourself, let your daughter become a prostitute, all of the things I understood. In chapter 19 verse 27 it said, “Don’t clip the hair at the sides of your head or clip the edges of your beard.” Why is that not practiced in the church today?
Let me begin by reminding you that NOTHING contained in the Law of Moses was ever intended as “law” for the Christian today.
The Old Testament law was given to a specific group of people, the Jews, and was never said to have been given to anyone else, Christians included.
27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”
The “children of Israel” were “to observe the sabbath throughout their generations” as a sign between “me (God) and the children of Israel forever” (Ex. 31:16-17). God made the Mosaic covenant with the Jews of Moses’ day, not with others (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; Nehemiah 9:13-14)
1* Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.
2 “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.
3 “The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
The Old Testament law was only temporary and was, consequently, to come to an end. Jeremiah foretold this fact and the Hebrew writer declared its fulfillment (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13).
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy is seen in Hebrews chapter eight:
6* But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
8 For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;
9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.
10 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”
13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
The Old Testament law was nailed to the cross of Christ and thereby was brought to an end as a law to guide God’s people. Paul declared that Christians are “dead to the law by the body of Christ” and that this law was the law which said, “Thou shalt not covet”, i.e. the ten commandments law (Romans 7:4,7). Elsewhere, Paul indicated that the veil which was “untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament . . . is done away in Christ,” the reason being it was “done away” (2 Corinthians 3:14,11). Christ “abolished in his flesh . . . the law of commandments by the cross” (Ephesains 2:15-16). In fact he was said to have removed the “handwriting of ordinances by nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14).
The result is, then, that the Old Testament as a law for God’s people was removed by the death of Christ. Christians, therefore, are not to observe the Old Testament as the law for God’s service today.
If you look at the immediate context of the verses you cite:
Lev. 19:26-28 NAS’95
26 ‘You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying.
27 ‘You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.
28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.
These verses have reference to the worship of idols and the custom among the pagan nations to pierce themselves, or tattoo themselves when a member of the family died. Such tattooing or piercing was an effort to appease the Idols they worshiped into accepting their departed relative. For an Israelite to pierce himself or tattoo himself was a sign that he was influenced by Idolatry. This was a serious sin. The pagan priests cut their hair by rounding off the side-growth (i.e. putting a bowl over the head before cutting) and they also trimmed their beards in a way that identified them as pagan priests. It was not permissible for a Jew to look like a pagan priest.
This verse, however, cannot be applied to the kinds of tattoos or piercing or hair cuts that are associated with our culture except among the pagan worshipers.
“then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”
“then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.”
In Old Testament times tattoos and piercing were used in a way similar to the way we “brand” cattle today. It demonstrated ownership. Slaves were “marked” indicating that they were an indentured servant to another. These verses would not find application to the current situation of tattoos and piercing.
In the New Testament there are no prohibitions against tattoos or piercing. Some would say that the “mark” in the book of Revelation indicates God’s displeasure with tattoos. This cannot be demonstrated by the context of the book of Revelation. In Revelation the “mark” on the hands and the forehead are representative of what a person does with his hands and his head. God is concerned about the things that we do with our hands (whether good or evil). He is concerned with the way we use our minds (whether for good or evil). The “mark” in Revelation has absolutely nothing to do with a literal mark.