Red Cord, Blue Threads – 1

Hope and Holiness

A Structural Analysis of Numbers 15:37-41

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

The passage in Numbers 15 concerning Israel’s tasseled robes contains all the matrix elements, but it has taken a few days to crack what’s going on structurally (although it’s more like cutting a diamond). The first difficulty is that English translations swap words around, so the text below sticks to the Hebrew word order. Secondly, a number of the stanzas leave out lines, or “matrix threads,” to make a point. The only way to identify these is to parse the entire passage. If you finish the puzzle with the pieces you have, you can see where the holes are!

The richness of the Biblical mode of expression is entirely beyond compare. God makes as much of a point by what He doesn’t say as by what He actually says.

Creation – Initiation – Sabbath – Light – Ark

The first stanza initiates the Covenant process. The five-fold stanza is a microcosm of the seven-fold poem. This is because the command at the center will be opened into three steps (Law given / Law opened / Law received), which is Covenant Head, Covenant Fire, Covenant Body.

Spoke the Lord  (Transcendence – Who’s the boss?)
… Moses, saying,  (Hierarchy – Who’s in charge?)
……….“Speak  (Ethics – What are the rules?)
… the sons  (Sanctions – What do I get?)
of Israel  (Succession – What’s next?)

“Sons”  appears at Sanctions because this step concerns “holy” mediators. In the seven-fold “opened” pattern, this is Day 6 (sacrificial animals and the sacrificial man). What is amazing is that this single line of text not only echoes the events in Genesis, it is a microcosm of all of Israel’s history. This ended in AD70 when the Old Covenant administrators handed the baton over to the Church. The “nation” became a priesthood of “all nations.” Are you amazed? I am.

Division – Delegation – Passover – Waters – Veil

The second stanza is a delegation of authority. Just as God stretched out the heavens, and Moses parted the waters, Jacob gave Joseph a robe.

and tell them (Initiation)
… make tassels (Delegation)
……….on the corners [wings] (Presentation/Purification/Transformation)
…..of their garments. (Vindication)

The stanza begins with a command for the mouth of Moses as mediator. The tassels are a delegated authority. The corners are the unopened Law, the trinity of Bronze Altar, Lampstand Fire, and Incense Altar Smoke. The word literally means “wings.”Because of the three-level “Altar” combination (heaven and earth with fire in between) we would expect horns. But it’s wings. This is because delegation is carried by the Spirit, the dove “vibrating” over the deep, the holy fire mediating between heaven and earth. It is also why God refers to carrying Israel out of Egypt on eagle’s wings: Exodus is step 2.

“Garments” appears at Sanctions. This is the point in Adam’s Testing at which he and his wife would have received robes of righteousness had they been faithful. Tassels (authority) and garments (office) are matched chiastically, and what is it that unites them or divides them in the literary structure? Obedience to the Triune Law: Death – Spirit – Resurrection. Have you ever seen so much packed into so few words? Fractals in nature make living structures extremely efficient. In the Bible, they mean that every passage is a commentary on every other passage. [1]

Notice that the final line is missing. There is no rest for Israel in mere delegation. It will only come after the purifying fire has done its work. Only then can Israel truly represent God. In the big picture, this little stanza alone wipes the floor with dispensationalism. Since Pentecost, it is the Church, not Israel, which represents God on earth.

ETHICS 1 – Leviticus
Ascension – Presentation – Firstfruits – Land, Grain & Fruit – Bronze Altar & Table of Showbread

Here is why the last line was missing. Israel is not yet pure. This third stanza puts Israel’s “generations,” her obedient Firstfruits on the altar, and waits for fire from heaven. We see this fulfilled finally in Christ’s ascension and Pentecost, but in the big Bible picture, Israel’s history from Moses to Christ was “Ascension,” flesh set apart (sanctified through circumcision – Abraham) and placed on the Altar awaiting fire – Moses/Joshua.

Their generations (Initiation)
…..shall put the tassel (Delegation)
……….on the corner (Presentation)

ETHICS 2 – Numbers
Testing – Purification – Pentecost – Ruling Lights – Lampstand

The second step of the “opening” of the scroll exposes Israel to the eyes of God, or in this case, God’s Law to the eyes of Israel. It was at this exact point in the structure of the Testing of Adam and Eve, and the Testing of the couple on the Emmaus Road, that their eyes were opened. In the first case, their eyes were opened to their nakedness, but here God uses clothing to open eyes.

A cord of blue (the one)
…..shall become a tassel (the many)
……….to look and remember (the seven eyes of the Law)
…..all the commandments (the Law repeated)
of the Lord (the One and Many)

It’s interesting that “a cord of blue” is placed at Transcendence. The Hebrew includes the word “become” which seems to get ignored in the English because they aren’t looking for any minute structure or process. A cord is not a tassel. A cord is singular but a tassel is plural. The One yet Triune God becomes The Many in Israel through the delegation of His authority.

ETHICS 3 – Deuteronomy
Maturity – Transformation – Trumpets – Swarms – Incense Altar

The Law has been given (Altar), opened (Fire) and is now received (Smoke). The one body of the sacrifice is a cloud, a swarm, a “many.” The Adamic Body has been cut and a Bridal Body has been formed.

To do
…..and not follow
……….after the heart
……………after the eyes
……….which you played [the harlot] after

Not one word is idle. The mention of harlotry is significant to this stanza. The tassel is “Deuteronomic,” or a repetition of the Law. As the blood on the four horns of the Incense Altar was a memorial of the blood shed at the Bronze Altar, so God reminds the sons of Israel of the consequences of their Adamic eyes. This step concerns the results of obedience or disobedience, the multiplied plunder or multiplied plagues. Again, there is a step missing, in fact, two. Stanza 5 has five lines. If Israel disobeys, she is slain, burned with fire, and her future goes up in smoke “forever and ever” as a memorial to her harlotry (Rev. 18:9, 18; 19:3). The whore in Revelation is Israel post-Pentecost. Instead of a sweet-smelling fragrance, she was a stench in Jesus’ nostrils, unclean as a corpse. Not so the new Body, the Church.

Conquest – Vindication – Atonement – Mediators – Sacrifices and High Priest

Here is where naked Adam was clothed in bloody animal skins. Here is where the High Priest does not wear his glorious robe but a linen “skin” to be stained with blood, spotted by the flesh. Israel’s robe is the robe with which the High Priest was reinvested when he emerged from the Most Holy Place (we see the same process in Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet). It is the robe Jesus wore when He left the linen in the tomb. Israel, as Greater Eve, wore robes of holiness because sin was atoned for.

So remember you may (Transcendence – Command)
… do (Obedient Delegates)
……….all my commandments (Ethics – All the Law)
…..and be holy (Sanctions – No Curses, only Blessing)
to your God (Succession – Gathered to their Faithful Fathers)

Glorification – Representation – Booths – Rest – Shekinah

God was the final line, the “destination” of some of the previous stanzas. So now He is the “destination,” the final home, of a holy people. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I am the Lord your God, (Transcendence)
…..who brought you out (Hierarchy)
……….of the land of Egypt, (Ethics)
… be your God: (Oath/Sanctions)
I am the Lord your God.” (Succession)

Notice that “Egypt” is Testing, just as it was in Genesis 15. Israel came out as a swarm, after atoning plagues and with great plunder. In Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Joshua, Israel moved from Canaan to Canaan, from promise to possession. God Himself is the Promised Land in this stanza.

In part 2, we will contrast this blue tassel with the red cord in Rahab’s window.

[1] See Cross-eyed Exegesis.

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