Episode 22: In the gospel story of the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, she is healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. By touching Jesus’ fringe, the woman was acting upon the prophetic nature of an important biblical commandment. Episode twenty-two will introduce the commandment in Numbers for Jewish men to put fringes on the corners of their garments to remind them of God’s instructions. Viewers will then see how this all ties into the prophetic words of Zechariah about ten men from the nations grabbing a hold of the fringe of a Jew.
The Lesson: The Mystery of Fringes of the Garment
This is a particular mystery I originally thought I had a pretty good handle on and one that traditional Christians would generally find missing in their educational database. What First Fruits of Zion teachers Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby presented was at least a little different from I expected. Parts of the lesson were considerably different.
But first things first.
Today’s “Biblical mystery” originates in the following text:
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
-Matthew 9:20-22 (ESV)
Toby used the English Standard Version of the Bible for his reading. While I tend to prefer the New American Standard Version, after comparing the two translations of this scripture side-by-side, I understood why he made the selection he did (besides the fact that FFOZ defaults to the ESV translation as a matter of course). I also realized why Toby didn’t use the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels for the reading, since it would have given away too much too fast.
Why did the woman with the “discharge of blood” seek healing specifically by touching “the fringe of his (Jesus’) garment?” What made her think that would stop years of bleeding? Was it just some sort of anomalous or random choice on her part? As it turns out, she wasn’t the only one to believe that touching “fringes” would produce a healing result:
And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
-Mark 6:56 (ESV)
As it turns out, a lot of Jewish people believed that touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment would heal them. I’d completely missed this on my numerous read-throughs of the Bible and am grateful to Toby for pointing this out.
But most Christians wouldn’t understand the significance of the “fringes” of the clothing of a Jewish man in the late Second Temple era (or today, for that matter). “Fringes” makes it sound like people were touching a hem or edge of whatever Jesus was wearing. Why would that heal?
This is where even a little understanding of the Law of Moses comes in handy.
Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations. And they shall place upon the tzitzis of each corner a threat of turquoise wool. It shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray. So that you may remember and perform all My commandments and be holy to your God.
-Numbers 15:38-40 (Stone Edition Tanakh)
While Toby continued to use the ESV translation, I’m using a much more Jewish source for this scripture. The original Hebrew word for what we read translated in the New Testament as “fringes” is “tzitzit” (“tzitzis” in the Ashkenazi pronunciation). When we get to Aaron Eby’s portion of the program, we’ll learn what tzitzit are, but at this point in the show, Toby tells us that these “fringes” were a response to the commandment in Numbers 15 and that being on a Jewish man’s garment did two things:
- The fringes served as a reminder to the Jewish wearer of all of the commandments of God.
- The fringes served as a reminder to anyone seeing the wearer that this person was a Jew who was obedience to the God of Israel, since no other people were given the commandment of tzitzit or the Torah of Moses.
And lest you think that the fringes on Jesus’ garments weren’t really tzitzit because that commandment wasn’t being observed by Jewish men in that age, consider this:
For they widen their tefillin and lengthen their tzitziyot.
-Matthew 23:5 (DHE Gospels)
“Tzitziyot” is the plural of “tzitzit” in Hebrew, and here we see Jesus criticizing some of the Pharisees for dramatically displaying the length of their fringes as well as the straps of their tefillin or phylacteries (the wearing of tzitzit and tefillin is still practiced by observant Jewish men today).
This brings us to our first clue in solving today’s Biblical mystery:
Clue 1: Jesus had fringes on the corners of his garment in obedience to the Numbers 15 commandment.
Now the scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel for a brief Hebrew language lesson on the Hebrew words for “fringe” and “corner.”
As I mentioned above, the word translated as “fringe” or “tassel” in some English Bibles is actually the Hebrew word “tzitzit” (plural: “tzitziyot”, although as Aaron says, English speakers use “tzitzit” often for both singular and plural).
The Hebrew word for “corner” in the context of a garment, is “kanaf.” Tzitzit are cords of wool (usually). The string of blue colored thread (sometimes translated as “turquoise”) was made from a very specific process that is thought by most observant Jews to be lost (which is why most tzitzit today are completely white), although some Jewish people think it has recently been rediscovered.
In ancient times, a man’s garment would be like a sort of “poncho” and had four actual corners on the bottom. On each corner, tzitzit would be tied. Today, men’s garments lack this structure, so most Jewish men wear what Christians call a “prayer shawl” and what Jews call a Tallit Gadol (large tallit). Most, if not all, observant Orthodox Jews will wear an undergarment throughout the day called a Tallit Katan (small tallit) in addition to donning a Tallit Gadol during worship and prayer in order to be obedient to the Numbers 15 commandment and for the same reasons I listed above.
Aaron said that according to Deuteronomy 22:12, the tzitzit must be on the corners of the garment. No other location on a Jewish man’s clothing is in obedience to the commandment of God. Thus, some non-Jewish men in certain areas of the Hebrew or Jewish Roots movement who choose to tie tzitzit on their belt loops are actually in scriptural error (not to mention that the commandment was specifically given to the Israelites and their modern-day descendants, the Jewish people).
What was more interesting to me was Aaron’s explanation of the word “Kanaf.” It can mean both “corner” as in the corner of a man’s garment, or “wings”.
He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
-Ruth 3:9 (ESV)
Since Boaz didn’t likely have actual bird’s wings, Ruth was more likely asking (assuming she was being literal) that Boaz spread some portion of his cloak over her, protecting her from sight (though it could also be understood in a more general sense as a request for protection since she referred to him as “redeemer”).
Aaron said that Kanaf could be understood not only as the corner of a cloak or other garment, but specifically the attachment point of the tzitzit and the garment’s corner. This leads to the idiomatic meaning of “touching the corner” (kanaf) as “touching the tzitzit,” which is probably what the woman in Matthew 9:20-22 was actually doing.
Back in the studio, Toby provides the next clue:
Clue 2: Fringes are called tzitzit and the Hebrew word for corner is kanaf.
But we still have our mystery. Why would anyone believe that touching the tzitzit on Jesus’ garment would cause healing to occur?
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
-Malachi 4:2 (ESV)
That’s “sun” s-u-n, not “son” s-o-n, and yet this prophesy about the coming Messianic age is really discussing the Messiah. There are other portions of scripture that refer to the Messiah with the term “Sun” including Revelation 1:16, and Malachi specifically states that Messiah shall rise with healing in its (his) wings.”
Toby concludes that when the woman with the issue of blood and all the others touched the Master’s tzitzit and expected to be healed, they were considering the prophesy of Malachi 4:2 and displaying their faith in Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus told the woman who had moments before stopped bleeding, that her faith had healed her, in this interpretation, he wasn’t referring to her faith in God as such, but her specific faith in him, in Jesus as the Messiah.
Toby went on to reference another important Messianic scripture:
Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”
-Zechariah 8:22-23 (ESV)
Toby should have made this part of a fourth clue, since it doesn’t directly reference the theme of the other three (and I don’t mind departing from the format of three clues per mystery from time to time), and it says something very important. In fact, in order to teach this part of the lesson, Toby twice had to say that it was a specific belief and teaching of the First Fruits of Zion ministry, so a viewpoint that might not be found in general Christian doctrine or even in other expressions of Messianic Judaism.
Toby said that the ten men of the nations specifically represented believers from all the (non-Jewish) nations of the earth, “the Church,” (this point is important and I’ll explain it further in a minute), grasping (metaphorically) the tzitzit, not just of any Jewish man, but of one specific Jewish man, Messiah. The number of men is also significant since, in Judaism, ten men (almost always ten Jewish men) form a minyan or a quorum. A minyan must be present for any group to engage in davening during the set times of prayer or for the ark to be opened and the Torah to be carried out for reading during a Shabbat service.
Here, Toby tells us that this is a prophesy and a sign of Christian belief and faith in the God of Israel and a desire to become a part of the Messianic Kingdom.
What Did I Learn?
Actually, I learned the most from Toby’s “fourth clue.” I had always understood the passage from Zechariah as a prophesy that the people of the nations (not necessarily Christians, but unbelievers who were coming to faith) would turn to Jewish people for an understanding of God and to come to faith in the Messianic Age, going up to Jerusalem to pay homage to King Messiah, to Jesus. The scripture specifically mentions “ten men from the nations,” which indicates only Gentiles and no Jews, but Toby said that the prophesy references “the Church” turning to the Jewish Messiah.
My Pastor defines “the Church” as the Gentile and Jewish people who have come to faith in Jesus, so logically, Toby can’t be correct in equating “the Church” with only Gentile Christians, that is, unless he is saying that he (and First Fruits of Zion) defines the Church as only Gentile Christians, and Jews in Messiah, Messianic Jews, as another entity, more a Judaism than a Christianity.
I know that Messianic Judaism does typically support distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah, but the Body must still be unified in Messiah. Toby’s brief statement is pregnant with implications, and some of them rather daunting, that FFOZ may consider Messianic Judaism as completely detached from Gentile Christianity.
I find this difficult to believe, since I’ve heard FFOZ President and Founder Boaz Michael speak at length about the Jewish and Gentile unity in the Body of Messiah, and maybe I’m reading far more into Toby’s statement than I should. Maybe he misspoke himself when he said “the Church” and he meant “Gentile Christians.” I don’t know. I know that whenever I post a link to one of my FFOZ TV reviews on Facebook, Toby “likes” it, but I don’t know if he ever reads my reviews. If he does, I would hope he’d chime in on some social networking venue and correct any misunderstanding I may have about what he was teaching.
One way I could interpret this part of his teaching is that Toby was trying to say that by having ten men from the nations (Gentile Christians) grasping the tzitzit of Messiah, we Christians would be making a fundamental paradigm shift from traditional Church theology and doctrine, to one more in line with a Messianic Jewish perspective, looking through a Jewish lens in order to read the Bible and to see Messiah for who he really is: the Jewish Messiah King.
Although I rarely mention it in my reviews, during each episode of this series, there is a segment promoting First Fruits of Zion’s FFOZ Friends program, a series of support channels anyone can sign up for to provide a specific level of contribution to the ministry in exchange for access to hardcopy and online learning resources.
This time, I listened to this part of the program with rapt attention, especially the words (I’m paraphrasing):
Teachings that have been lost since the time of the apostles.
That’s part of how FFOZ promotes its educational materials and its general understanding and perspective on the Bible. That connects back to what I said above about Zechariah 8 and the sign that in the Messianic Era, Christianity would experience a significant shift in perspective from its current theological and doctrinal positions to one more aligned with Messianic Judaism.
If all this is true, then FFOZ is gently trying to promote the beginnings of such a shift in the Church now through its FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come television program. I know from my own experiences in my local church, that such an effort is easier said than done and truly may require the Messiah’s second coming to accomplish.
One thing Toby might have missed in his Malachi reference is that the “healing” we’ll experience as “the Church” in the Messianic Age may be the nearly two-thousand years of enmity and schism between Christianity and Judaism. I think Toby was a little quick to jump from the single verse in Malachi 4:2 and assign it a specific meaning in the late Second Temple period, since it seems to mean so much more. I know that prophesy can be applied to more than one event, but the link from Malachi to Matthew and Mark was pretty abrupt and I would have preferred a longer trail and more explanation supporting that link.
I take more from Toby’s “fourth clue” that someday, “the Church,” or rather, the Gentiles therein (and the “gentilized” Hebrew Christians who are missing out on the blessings of Torah observance), will have their eyes opened and realize that their faith in Jesus is actually the devotion of the people of the nations to the God of Israel and the Jewish King who will one day rule forever in Jerusalem. We will gather on that day, we, the people of the nations who are called by His Name, alongside God’s treasured and splendorous people, the Jewish people, bend our knee to the King, and worship Israel’s God in spirit and in truth.