I didn’t do too much playing in the mud when I was a kid. I avoided finger painting. Eating messy foods with my fingers? No thanks. I avoid water rides at amusement parks because I hate walking around wet. But I don’t patrol the house with a bottle 409 every day either (or any day, really). I don’t wince when I shake someone’s hand, worried about where it’s been. I do appreciate a clean kitchen and bathroom, however, in part because of what’s involved when I’m in there. This makes sense.
For these reasons I appreciated all the thought that went into the rules that dictate the Israelite’s ideas about cleanliness and uncleanliness in Genesis through Deuteronomy. Some go a little overboard (as I’ve previously mentioned in other posts), but, given the sanitary conditions of society in general, I would have been just as vigilant back then too.
But some of the rules in Deuteronomy backtrack on this commitment to cleanliness
The Israelites are told to pour the blood of animals on the ground (12:16, 15:23). It’s hard not to envision the parallel between this practice and the one gangster rappers used, spilling their 40s on the sidewalk for their dead hommies. But here, I was worried about how sanitary this practice was. For people obsessed with cleanliness, this seems like a really bad idea. (Actually it seems like a bad idea in ANY context.) If you’re going to break one of God’s rules, this seems like the one. Elsewhere, there is discussion of how to clean unclean things—women menstruating, semen stained clothing—yet here there is no mention of how to handle the blood once it’s on the floor. Leave it there? Wait an hour and mop it up?
The ideas and details in the rest of Deuteronomy make more sense, however. For example, an enviable concern for neighbors (15:8), the caring of slaves on the run (23:15-16), as well as with those less fortunate, with the practice of the “Sabbath year.” This rule mandates that every seven years debts are to be forgiven, slaves to be freed (unless, of course, said slave is happy and has no interest in being freed—15:14). In addition, if you are forced to loan money to someone, you may not take as collateral something that would compromise that person’s ability to earn a living. Other specific instructions on looking out for the poor abound (24:10-22).
Nature lovers will also appreciate how rules in place in Deuteronomy call for the protection of fruit producing trees. Sure, the point is that they provide necessary food; still, the fact that they have the forethought to pay attention to nature is impressive.
Out of all of this interesting thought, one minor point managed to stand about the rest: the rise of the transvestite. Mentioned quickly, a law prohibited this practice (22:5). Maybe some guys wanted an ancient form of high heels to wear so that they could avoid all the animal blood on the ground?