Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

Originally Posted on My Facebook Status on Feb 28, 2016
I am so blessed to have a community of such brave and passionate friends. Last night, our Kehilah (congregation) service was so packed that we didn't get our normal seats. Instead, we sat in the very last row in the back, where I had a view of everyone (on that side) who was there. I looked at the audience and saw men and women, young and old, who had all made tremendous sacrifices to walk with their Messiah.

At shabbat dinner the night before, I learned the testimony of one who wrestled with betraying his people by receiving Jesus, until Christians began sharing about the Jewish Messiah, YESHUA, while he was working at a Dead Sea booth, in a mall, in a different country. Another brave young women told me of her decision to train as an officer in the IDF. As a new immigrant, she gave up an easier life in the US and has taken on the responsibilities required by this nation, and now she's moving above and beyond. Yet another friend is preparing to leave Israel to serve the Lord in an unreached nation.

 I looked at all the people worshiping the Lord in front of me. I counted young people in or recently out of the IDF, and realized that 5 of them came from 1 mother, who still has children at home! Oh how she prays! I saw another young woman who grew up in the south under the pressures of constant missile fire. I saw families who had overcome weaknesses of the body, paralysis... cancer... Others who I know road bikes or walked more than an hour to be part of corporate worship, and to sit under sound biblical teaching, when it would have been easier to stay home -- some of these Israeli citizens and some, volunteers from the nations.

What I was seeing before me was a small glimpse at the great cloud of witnesses. I was seeing overcomers with hands lifted in praise, fighting the good fight -- not allowing the circumstances of this fallen world to harden their hearts, praising the risen King, no matter what.

I left encouraged to press on toward the goal and to pick up my cross daily as more than a conqueror through Messiah Yeshua, Jesus my savior.

When you go to church, I'd like to encourage you do the same. Look at the people the Lord has called you into fellowship with. Remember their stories, if you don't know it, ask. In courage, share your own testimony. Its God's story that He wrote through you. Let iron sharpen iron and be blessed by His hands and feet, in the form of your friends!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Was Paul an Intactivist?

This is yet another post where my love for Israel, and Gods word collides with my mom heart.  This is a parenting topic, but it certainly expounds on Jewish roots themes!

Circumcision is a loaded parenting topic for our generation.  If you are unfamiliar to this issue, a political and parenting movement has formed called "intactivism" - combining the words "intact" and "activism,"  which is exactly as is sounds, activism against circumcision, in favor of leaving the foreskin intact.

Can a parent choose to not have an infant son circumcised and not be an intactivist?  Certainly.

The personal and individual parenting choice is not what I'm concerned about,  rather this discussion is related to the movement seeking to ban circumcision options.

This is a study on Paul's position on the issue of circumcision, and why I do not believe intactivism as an ideology is supported by scripture.  This is not a discussion of whether or not parents should circumcise their sons. 

In a previous post, Intactivism, Anti-Semitism, Bullying and a Loving GodI share a some general theological concerns that I have about the intactivist position,  which I believe to be in opposition to a biblical world view.  The harsh stance involved with intactivism comes against something God commanded the nation of Israel,  and calls good in His word.  Also this movement has a strong foundation in antisemitism, which runs counter to scripture.  What I didn't delve into in depth was the New Testament perspective on this issue and seek to do so in this post. 


It is not uncommon within the intactivist movement to see the argument, "Paul was an intactivist."  But is that true according to God's word? 

First, let's understand where this view of Paul as the intactivist comes from.  

In Galatians Chapter 2, Paul describes a scenario in which he needs to address a problem regarding coerced circumcisions of new gentile believers.  Paul states clearly that Titus is not forced to be circumcised through his instruction (v. 3):

Paul continues on in that chapter and upon noticing that Peter, "who used to eat with the gentiles" changed and  "began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision" (v. 12) offers Peter a public rebukes:
“If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (v.14).
Later Chapter 5 brings his teaching to its thesis:  
5 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
If we were to let this passage stand along, v. 2 above causes this passage to sound as an eradication of the practice of circumcision, and keeping any measure of the law.  In sound bible study practice, however, we want to look at the whole of scripture to understand the Lord's heart on an issue, and when we place this particular issue within the whole of scripture, a more clear truth emerges. 

Was Paul the first intactivist? 

I can confidently and firmly give you a clear "no" which we will look at in God's word as it relates to 1) Paul's actual practice regarding circumcision,  then we will 2) evaluate Paul's ideology as compared to the intactivist both in terms of a) procedure and purpose, and b) Paul's view of the natural world.     

1) Paul's Actual Practice Regarding Circumcision

After Paul gave the the teaching to the church of Galatians that is used by the intactivist movement to support their perspective, with the example that he instructed Titus to not be circumcised, he actually circumcises Timothy with his own hands.  See Acts 16:1-3:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
It is taking strong liberties with God's word to taunt the teaching that Paul was an intactivist, based alone on this decision to circumcise Timothy.  And, to view the Galatians passage as support for intactivism as an ideology presents Paul as making contradictory or hypocritical decision between how he related to Titus and Timothy.  This is where (and why) we need to be honest to the spirit of God's word presented in these passages.  An incomplete presentation of the text gives a wrong presentation of the spirit behind the text, and the greater principle the Lord wants us to see, which we'll address in the next section.

No matter what your personal parenting choice might be, or your position on this issue as a healthcare provider, anyone who professes Christ needs to show integrity (like how I did that?) to rightly divide God's word. Its important to be honest that Paul did not eradicate circumcision in one breath, and then break his own law by circumcising Timothy in the next. 

2) Evaluating Ideologies

The next issue to evaluate in understanding that Paul was not an in activist is that of ideology.  Paul held to a biblical world view and his reasons for presenting teachings on circumcision different from the intactivists in a) procedure and purpose, or b) how he views the natural world. 

a) Procedure and Purpose

Intactivism is a movement founded on the principles of keeping genital integrity,  for the sake children's rights, parent's rights (as they relate to hospital policy), sexual pleasure,  and the risks associated with a procedure they believe to be only cosmetic, both physical and psychological.   The extreme end of of this movement believes circumcision to be genital mutilation and an abusive practice and even advocates for legislation banning this procedure.  In all, the intactivist position takes strong offense at the procedure of circumcision.  

As an ideological issue, Paul does not address any of these concerns.  No where in the bible does Paul discuss the procedure, which he would have been trained in performing as a Pharisee.   And while the bible, at large, does have various passages that discuss the actual procedure,  it is never presented in a negative light, throughout the whole of God's word.  No where in the bible, including the Paul's specific teachings, is there ever any offense at the procedure of circumcision. 

In the case of his teachings on circumcision, Paul was only concerned about the purpose behind the decision, however, not as it related to health care, but solely as it related to the gospel! 

In context, we need to look at what is happening with the early church as revealed both in how he related to the issue of circumcision regarding Titus, and then his decision to circumcise Timothy.  

Galatians 2 opens by telling us that Paul returned to Jerusalem after an interval of 14 years, because of a revelation he had received in which he needed to go and explain what he had been preaching to the gentiles. 

In the time that he was away, we learn that a confusion was present:
 "because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage."  v. 4
The "false brethern" were either non-believers posing as "brothers" in the faith, or those who had fallen into a wrong teaching.  Either way, they brought a false message:   
"Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)
The idea was that the gentiles must first become Jews in order to receive the Jewish Messiah, which was a distortion of the truth.  We are saved by grace through faith, and the false brothers were bringing a false teaching that said justification was found in keeping the law, hence his charge in Galatians 5, about falling from grace by coming under this false teaching.  

In fact, this false teaching was not even biblical truth prior to Yeshua's death and resurrection.  In Romans 4,  inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us this about Abraham: 

For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”  How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.  Romans 4:9-12
Circumcision was never God's plan for salvation.  Abraham was credited or as some versions say, justified, by faith and faith alone.  Circumcision was an act of obedience for the Jewish people, but even under the law, it was not a precursor for being saved.  

The teaching presented by the "false brothers" was well beyond the truth of scripture, and the circumcisions taking place were coerced as noted by the language in Galatians 2. Yet, Titus was not compelled or forced by the false teaching to be circumcised through the instructions of Paul (v.3).  He nor Paul submitted to this teaching,  and this was for the full purpose "that the truth of the gospel would remain with you." (v.5).  In the case of Titus, it was for the sake of the gospel that he was not circumcised. 
Obviously, the teaching being pushed by the false brothers stirred up a great deal of trouble in the early church.  This resulted in "The Counsel of Jerusalem" in which the elders determined by way of the Holy Spirit that the gentile believers needed only to 1)
abstain from things contaminated by idols  2) abstain from fornication 3) abstain from what is strangled 4) abstain from blood (Acts 15:19-21).

Those points are the only measure of the law that the gentiles were to be held in account, so clearly,  it is not commanded for Gentiles to keep the law of circumcision, clarifying the distortion presented by the false brothers.  The elders did not, however, prevent the willful choosing of joining in with their Jewish brothers in Yeshua by keeping any further measure of the Law that helped to grow their faith in the Messiah, or aid in spreading the gospel.  

Paul's decision to circumcise Timothy, after The Counsel of Jerusalem, is indication of this.  

Ultimately, his choice to do so was inspired by the same spirit that led him to instruct Titus to abstain.  Titus was Greek by birth, through both of his parents, and to be circumcised  would have presented a confusion to the gospel, particularly in light of the false teaching in circulation.  Timothy, on the other hand, had a Greek father, but was Jewish through his mother's lineage.  Even though she raised him as Jewish, he had not been circumcised, which Paul presumed to be a possible stumbling block for the non-believing Jews with whom they would interact on their travels. 

Often when relating to the non-believing Jews, Paul took a more conservative approach to the law in order to show, as a living example, that the New Covenant in Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ, did not contradict the Torah or Tanach, the Law and the Prophets.  In the case of Timothy, it was for the sake of the Gospel that he was circumcised.

Also, what I find significant is that this measure brought Timothy fully into Paul's life as a "spiritual son."  According to the Torah, the command to circumcise was one the Lord gave for parents to provide for their sons.  If a Jewish man was uncircumcised it was through the disobedience of his parents. (Visit the link on Intactivism in the intro of this post for a fuller discussion on this as it relates to Moses).  In the New Testament, we have examples of both Mary and Joseph living in obedience to this command by circumcising Yeshua, Jesus, in Luke 2: 21-39, and Elizabeth and Zechariah circumcising John in Luke 1:59-66.  Paul carried out an act of a very Jewish life by circumcising Timothy. 

In terms of ideology, 
Paul was not offended by the procedure of circumcision. He was solely concerned about the truth of the Gospel, and moved in that spirit of freedom and truth, both in his instruction for Titus to remain uncircumcised, and for Timothy to become circumcised.  The heart of the matter was the same in both contexts.  Therefore, Paul did not share the ideology of an intactivist in terms of the circumcision procedure.   

 b) Paul's view the natural world. 

Within Natural and Attachment parenting and the birth choice movement comes the basic idea, in an un-nuanced form that natural = good and unnatural = bad.  This concept is only accurate to a point, which as believers we should understand.  The bible does not support the idea that the natural world is intrinsically good at present.  Rather, we learn in Gen 3: 17-18 that because of Adam's sin: 

Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
What was good at creation was marred by sin and no longer in perfect conditions.   This applies to all creation, our bodies and all that grows and lives on the earth.  We are in a position that is broken and imperfect, until the time of Messiah Yeshua's return when He will make all things new.  Meanwhile, we have been charged with the creative commission, to be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the  earth, learning and using the Lord's natural systems to their greatest potential, and using our creativity to innovate.  (Gen 1:28).  That charge was given before the fall, and labors of the our efforts intensified afterward, but also our acts of innovation can be an expression of grace in best using a broken system.

When the Lord gave the law, He did so through the prophet Moses, admonishing His people: 
40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” (bold emphasis mine)  Deut 4:40
The Law was part of the means the Lord granted to the nation of Israel to subdue the earth and bring order to the Land that He had promised the decedents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

If I could interject this teaching on Paul for a moment to share my own opinion, I believe that the command to circumcise was part of this plan for subduing the earth, both in a natural and super natural sense.  Its very presence in scripture is the essence of critique on the notions of the natural ideal, indicating that we are more than flesh, more than mammals, but unique in all creation.  

The Lord created the male body from the dust of the earth.  He blew His own breath into that body for life.  Yet in Genesis 17 He commanded that something natural, the foreskin, be removed as a sign of His covenant, in order to set apart a people who with birth His son, who would, through his shed blood, fulfill the command to subdue the earth by redeeming us from sin - an intervention on the natural progression of creation - a plan formed before the foundation of the world.   That the Creator God would command a natural part of the body, that He created, to be removed is offensive if our view of the natural world is out order.  Perhaps, though, that is exactly why He purposed that flesh: to be removed, unveiling a plan to set apart a people to birth His son.   

Besides the spiritual implications, in preparing a people to birth His son, the Messiah, there are natural implications as well. 

The Lord knew about that natural body and He knew how to protect it from disease.  The command to circumcise is the oldest command given the nation of Israel, granted *before* the Lord brought forth Isaac from the womb.  Just four generations later, they fled to Egypt during a famine where they grew into a large and numerous people over a span of 400 years.  For 400 years, they circumcised their sons, they grew into a nation, and then they were granted the full portion of the law. 

To restate from the previous section:  Even under the Law, they were not saved through the law,  or by being circumcised.  It was through faith in God that Abraham was justified, and then his circumcision followed.  The flesh was not removed before his justification, but after.  (See Romans 4) (This does not mean the Jewish people are saved today through faith that does not recognize Yeshua's work on the cross - another discussion for another time).  The Torah practice of circumcision does not contradict any of the words Paul spoke to the Galatians in the 5th Chapter.  Again, In no time in history was circumcision ever a means of salvation, yet the Creator God commanded thus forth.

If this practice was as harmful, risky, and dangerous as the intactivist proponents claim, then why would a loving God command His chosen people to do something that was harmful?  And why did they thrive?  Especially in conditions that were far less sanitary that we have today.  If natural is better, thus an uncircumcised penis is better, then why did a God who desired that it may go well with you and with your children command his people to remove the foreskin?  Does He not know what is best for the bodies that He made?  All of this is not to say that every parent should circumcise their sons, but do you see how this idea moves away from a biblical world view, in how it speaks of something the Lord our God commanded? 

Paul does not discuss the law as a means of health and wellness, but he does speak forth:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  2 Tim 3:16-17
And this, he spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit before the New Testament was canonized. In context, this passage is speaking of the Old Testament.  Here, Paul upholds the law as purposeful even within the new covenant. 

Likewise, Paul upholds the understanding granted in Genesis, affirming this in Romans 8:19-22:
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, [i]in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
That natural is not intrinsically better than the unnatural, post the fall of man, the present era in which we dwell.  All creation waits in corruption to be freed from sin and restored to its original state.   And Paul also admonishes that it is not to be worshiped: 
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (bold emphasis mine)  Romans 1:20-25
Paul is essentially explaining here that when human kind neglected to see God through creation, and filled their understanding with their own false speculations, this led to the worship of nature - this is the birth of animism, paganism, new paganism, pantheism, etc.  The resultant curse is that their bodies would be dishonored among them.   This perspective relates directly to the curses for disobedience found in Deut 28, of which I explain in my Placentophagy post. 

It is critical for believers in Yeshua, Jesus, to keep creation and our ideals about the natural world in their appropriate place as it relates to God, and always...  ALWAYS...  worship the creator, and not the creation. 

This perspective on the brokenness of the natural, again, is a biblical world view held by Paul, an ideology not shared within the intactivist movement. 

Where Does This Leave Us? 

The intention of this post was not to determine pros and cons of circumcision, or to make a statement as to what choice parents should make.  You have to decide that on your own.  When looking at the word of God on this matter, its evident that we have freedom to choose.  Even as the mother of a circumcised son, I believe with my whole heart that the Lord can be glorified through either decision, just as He was gloried through both Titus and Timothy.  We are free to leave our sons with their foreskins, and we are free to have them circumcised.  The only place of problem would be for a parent who believes circumcision = salvation.

When it comes to adopting the intactivist perspective, however, I do think its clear that this does not align with a biblical world view.  While Paul's teachings, as well as the decision at the Jerusalem Counsel, certainly grant freedom to remain uncircumcised, one can not use the teachings of Paul to justify an intactivist perspective on this issue any more than one can use the teachings of Paul to say that every baby boy should be circumcised.  In doing so, it is not taking the whole of scripture into consideration, and imposing a concern on the scenarios in scripture that doesn't exist, thus presenting a false teaching. 

Can you have an uncircumcised son or husband and not be an intactivist?  Absolutely. 

Where it veers off into a difference of ideology is a slippery slope, but I would charge that you can ask the Lord to show you if your opinion is appropriately submitted to His word, or if you have allowed another world view to shape your perspective.  He will speak to you.   

The danger of holding a wrong world view on this topic is that it can allow for, or indicate, a distortion in an understanding of scripture, an understanding of the character of God, and it has had a history of inflaming anti-semitism.  Likewise, to hold the intactivist perspective means that one is likely infringing on the biblically granted freedom of others to make a wise and prayful choice of their own.  What I've experienced is that often those who hold this view speaking out in a way that is abusive and coercive to those who hold a different position or made a different choice (its happened to me).   Unfortunately some even end up manipulating God's word in order for it to fit this perspective rather than allowing scripture to stand alone.  In that case, the intactivist is operating out of the same spirit that Paul rejected in the "false brethern" from Galatians -- the ones who were coercing circumcision.  Think that through a little.  

Whatever your personal choice is on this issue, it is imperative to let God's word stand alone. 

But DO make a prayerful and informed decision.  I'd like to suggest that if you are unsure what to do, ask the Lord to show you if your family is to go in the way of Titus or the way of Timothy.  Study them in the word, see how the Lord speaks to you in scripture.  Also, look at evidence.  And what I mean by that is to make sure you are evaluating scholarly academic research studies that are credible, not just mom-blogs or websites that have "circumcision" in the URL.   

I do believe we are free to be uncircumcised, but I do not believe the intactivist position originates from a biblical world view whatsoever.  Because of that, I'd also like to suggest that parents issue discernment when evaluating material that comes from that movement.  If its root is anti-God, then its fruit will be deceptive.  Source check and weigh facts, and in the end, make a decision that you feel comfortable with all around.
Also, I would like to note that Christian and Jewish  sources that hold to an almost mystical understanding of health benefits should also be discerned properly.   The bible gives freedom to choose on this matter, and does so for a reason. 

I hope this has been helpful for you, in clearing out some confusion by looking at God's word.  In this lengthy study, I did not even breach the concept of "circumcision of the heart" which is a beautiful discussion worth blogging on another occasion! 

He admonishes Timothy, "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching…" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Likewise, to the Romans, he explains, “through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  (Romans 15:4) - See more at:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What does the Bible say about Eating Plancenta

For those of you stopping by to learn about Israel and the Jewish roots of your Christian faith, the title of this post might seem really strange!  I am a mom, however, and one who has a huge love of babies and birthing babies, so sometimes I like to share what I'm learning in this area.  When it comes to the particular topic of ingesting placenta, I can say that living in Israel and being passionate about the word of God has influenced my own personal choice on this issue.  If you are here to learn about Israel and Jewish roots, then you won't be disappointed if you keep reading! 

Growing in popularity within my generation, and the natural childbirth and natural parenting movement is the practice of placentophagy, or eating the placenta post childbirth.   Many women insist on its benefits of renewal after childbirth, but in all intellectual honesty, out side of anecdotal evidence - word of mouth from other women - this topic has not been examined in double-blind placebo controlled research studies to indicate whether its truly safe for mothers and their nursing babies, and the few studies available are not proving any real benefit.

Also, in my vast searching on the web, I have never come across any sort of scriptural study of this practice, so I did one of my own! 

As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ, I believe it is imperative to not only allow medical research and the experience of other inform my choices, but I also desire to make choices that are inline with a biblical world view.  

Often this submitting to God's word will involve making some spirit led deductions based on principles found in scripture.  Other times, commands are clearly stated.  In the case of placentophagy, you might be surprised to learn that this practice is actually clearly mentioned in scripture.  Its found within the context of moral code, but not with the regulations of a moral code. 

Another way of saying it is that the place where this occurs in God's word is a descriptive passage, not prescriptive, mandating a law in which to abide -- but it is located within the broader context of the Torah, which provides the prescribed law.

With that in mind, I will provide some teachings from scripture, and explain how they shaped my own decision.  I hope to bring about some biblical insight that can help women decided if placentophagy is compatible with their faith expression and relationship with the Lord.  I will tell you in advance that after studying, ingesting the placenta is not for me, nor do I believe it aligns with a biblical world view.  According to how I understand the whole of scripture, the biblical text does challenge this practice, and I want to be clear about that upfront, while noting that I understand that we all have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.   Pray through what the Holy Spirit has shown me, and have a clear and honest conscience before the Lord in your personal decision.    

Also, I am not a health care provider so I will not delve deeply into those arguments. I hope to rightly divide God's word, and clarify with honesty where the spirit is leading me as an individual, as opposed to what should be universal for all believers.  

Where is Placentophagy Found in Scripture?

The book of Deuteronomy, the second law giving text in the Torah, is described by my NASB study bible (which I will use unless otherwise noted), as "the constitution of theocracy in Israel."  The book recounts the telling of the wandering in the desert, and the giving of the law at Sinai.  It then specifies the law, for the second time in scripture, with the reminder: 

"So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."  Deut 4:40
Just before concluding, this book offers a description of the blessings for obedience, followed by the consequences, or as scripture says, the curses for disobedience in chapter 28. It is within this section of blessings and curses, that we find the practice of placentophagy located in scripture.

The Blessings and Curses of Deuteronomy 28

Over the past few years, I have learned to view Leviticus and Deuteronomy as the Lord's instructions for wellness.  This chapter begins with a detailed list of the blessings of wellness and prosperity on the nation of Israel, for keeping His commands.    The Lord describes the many ways the offspring of the body, the offspring of the beast, and the produce of the ground will be blessed (v. 11).  

Many charismatic believers often claim a popular verse from this passage: 
13 The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath...

In context, this "blessing to be the head and not the tail" is contingent on obedience: 

... if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Even today, under the blood covenant of Messiah Yeshua, we can trust that there are always blessings for obedience, even if not immediately. 

The next section, beginning with v. 15, begins the consequences or curses for disobedience. 

This section basically inverts the beginning portion of this passage, illustrating curses on offspring, agriculture and produce.  The tone of the passages suggests a continual downward spiral, as the Lord hands the people over to their own sin.  Sin lends towards consequences and the consequences beget more sin, which follows more consequences, and so forth.   See verse 20: 

20 “The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.

The passage further describes this nation as taken again into slavery, and being struck with the diseases of Egypt, the place and position from which they had just been freed. 

As the people of Israel continue to degrade to utter desperation, they fall to the most vile and carnal practices of the surrounding pagan nations.   Once we reach v. 53, we find that Israel has begun engaging in the diabolic practice of child sacrifice and cannibalism, common in Molech and Baal worship of the time.  This was a practice that was punishable by death according to Lev 20: 1-5.  In the Deuteronomy passage, it might be said that the children are sacrificed on the alter of survival before being consumed as food. 

53 Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you. 54 The man who is refined and very delicate among you shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain, 55 so that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he will eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in all your towns.

In my own study, I was first brought to this passage once learning that the placenta actually has the same genomes, or DNA structure, of the baby.  This means the placenta is an organ belonging the the baby, or the flesh of the baby, which made this passage applicable; however,
I have not formed this teaching on placentophagy in the bible around on a interpretation alone.  This passage does not stop with eating the flesh of the children but the following is the only location the bible mentions eating the placenta.

56 The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter, 57 and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in your towns. (bold emphasis mine)

The Hebrew word for afterbirth in this passage is shilya, which also means placenta.  It is the only place in scripture that this specific word is found. 

When reading this passage through in my ESV bible, the margin notes reference passages Lev 26:29, Jer 19:9, Eze 5:10, with sub-references 2 Kings 6:28-29, and Lam 2:20, 4:10.  All of these passages convey the same sense of carnal degradation that has come though the pressures of being under siege.  The Lord has handed them over to the very demonic and defiling practices of idolatry from which they are commanded to abstain.  In some of these passages, the word "wrath" appears.  

Needless to say, the only time the idea of placentophagy occurs in scripture, it is in a highly negative context. The woman described is acting out in hostility toward, not only her husband and children, but also her placenta, by eating it.  This is not a picture of health and well being.  Rather it is at the very bottom of a downward spiral; one of fleshly pursuits, selfishness and utter desperation, causing the nation of Israel to engage in the most carnal of practices.  In “Notes on Placentophagy,” William Ober describes the course of events as if the Lord had reduced them to "the level of beasts" (souce). 

When reading this passage in isolation, I find it clear that it was not a biblically sanctioned practice to eat the placenta as part of post postpartum recovery.   I do think we can deduce, further more, from various passages that this certainly was not something ancient Israel participated in. 

To provide some fuller context, we need to consider Israel's relationship with Egypt. 

For four hundred years, the nation of Israel lived enslaved in Egypt, where they grew great in number.  In the opening chapter of Exodus, we learn that their strength became threatening to the ruling Pharaoh of the time, who issued a degree to kill all male babies upon their birth.  Through their "fear of God" (v. 17) the ancient Jewish midwives acted in great courage to defy the edict.  They spared the lives of many and were blessed with households of their own (v. 21). 

I often pause and contemplate the beauty of midwifery expounded upon in this passage as they are upheld with the calling to protect life.  Besides the mention of birthing stools,  little is given in scripture in terms of understanding their practice.  There is no indication as to how they might have treated and cared for the needs of a women through pregnancy birth and the postpartum period. 

This was pre-law.

During the time of slavery in Egypt, the only command given the nation of Israel was that of male circumcision.  The rest was prescribed during the time of wandering in the desert after the Exodus, granted through the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai.   

While it is known that Egyptians of the time certainly practiced placentophagy in relation to rituals of their polytheistic belief system, it is not known whether the Jewish midwives would have followed suite and served the placenta to their birthing mothers.  However,  knowing that the midwives had a "fear of God,"  I personally think it is possible that they might have abstained from including something associated with idolatry within their own practice.

Perhaps the nation of Israel abhorred this practice even while in Egypt.  Deuteronomy 28 was intended to convey a very strong and shocking message to the nation of Israel.  Its not by happen stance that the Lord chose the imagery of a women eating the placenta along with her children to be at the lowest point of degradation.

Israel was commanded to abandon all practices of Egypt at the point of the Exodus, explained once the Law is given, in Leviticus 18:

You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God. 

This indicates that even if eating the placenta occurred in Egypt, surrounded in pagan beliefs and idolatry, it was likely to have been abandoned once receiving the law.  The God of Israel is a jealous God and we are to have no other gods before Him. 

In my own curiosity, after reading the Deuteronomy 28 passage, I wondered what happened to the placenta, after birth.  I knew from previous studies that it was not mentioned in the Laws of Motherhood from Leviticus 12.

About ancient peoples across the world, William Ober suggests that women in patriarchal cultures would exclude men from the "mysteries" of childbirth, often leaving many archeological writings inaccurate.   In our case, we are speaking of  God-breathed scripture, not merely archeological writings.  The Lord did not have to ask women how these processes unfolded, because He created them!   Yet, in in His detailed law,  He did not specify instructions for the placenta.  In my opinion, I think it is because unlike pagen religions, the one true  God  who created the placenta knew good and well that it didn't have any mystical powers.  Instead, it was most likely treated as any other unclean thing and discarded outside of the camp.  

And being something unclean is one point we can be sure of. 

The Placenta as Unclean

Firstly, let's clarify the biblical position on eating human flesh, since we're dealing with the ingestion of a human organ.  It might be shocking to learn that Leviticus does not give a clear command against cannibalism.  My opinion it is because this is so obviously not the plan of God's heart, that it seemed almost outrageous to include. 

When looking at scripture, we know that man and woman is made in the image of God, thus set apart from all other creation.  Because of this, we should hold the sanctity of human life in very high regard. This reason we are given the command, Thou shalt not kill

In case our set apart purpose is not enough, we know that human flesh does not fit any of the categories of permissible food from Leviticus 11.  The human body is that of a mammal, and the only permissible mammals were those who had a divided hoof and chews the cud (v. 3).  Any mammal that did not fit that description was unclean. 

The eating of human flesh is also bound by the procedure involved in eating meat.  In order to be consumed as food, the animal must be killed, with its lifeblood poured out and buried (Lev 17: 10-13).  It was unlawful to eat the flesh of an animal, even a permissible animal, who had died of natural causes, or had been killed by another animal (v. 15).  It was unlawful to kill another human being, so one could not have eaten human flesh that was killed by another man, or flesh that was was found dead.  Even in the case of stoning, that person was considered unclean due to the nature of their crime.

In no case is it permissible to eat the flesh of another human being.

Human life was to be set apart, and the nation of Israel was to be set apart among the nations. 

Further indication could be derived from the Laws of Motherhood in Leviticus 12.  While this passage does not give us clear instructions on handling the placenta, upon reading, I think its clear that they also would have deemed a placenta unclean. 

After childbirth, a woman is unclean as in the days of her menstruation. As I wrote in Blessed Laws of Motherhood, from Leviticus 15, we learn that anything an unclean woman touches becomes unclean.  The placenta would have become unclean through the birthing processes, if it was not unclean in and of itself.  (Please see the above link for a fuller teaching as to the blessings of rest granted through this process). 

With this foundation from the Levitical Law in mind, even if the Jewish women would have joined in with their Egyptian neighbors in eating the placenta post birth, which I find doubtful based on the vile imagery from Deut 28, once the Lord brought them out of Egypt and gave the Law at Sinai, I don't think it is something that would have been permitted within their culture. 

The placenta is a human organ that basically died after childbirth, when it was no longer needed. It does not meet the requirements of a permissible meat, either in species, nor in procedure of death and preparation.  It is also an object that passes through a women giving birth.  In association with the blood of her purification, it would have become unclean.   Because of these passages, it would not have been lawful for the nation of Israel to eat the placenta.

The Lifeblood

There is a greater spiritual symbolism in why I don't believe the placenta would have been ingested in ancient Israeli culture, and this also moves into my own personal convictions on this issue as well, and that is the issue of the lifeblood from Leviticus 17

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ 12 Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.’ 13 So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
Levitcus 17:11 is one of the most important verses in the entire bible.  This truth of the lifeblood was to be taken seriously.
Ultimately, Messiah Yeshua, God in the flesh of a Jewish man, fulfilled this law when His blood was shed on the cross.  His lifeblood became our atoning sacrifice, once and for all, freeing us from sin and covering us from the wrath of God.  Fulfillment of this law did not do away with the law.  Rather, His shed blood elevated the importance, as in the way that Yeshua describes the sin of lust, something in the thought life, as adultery.  Even within the New Covenant, we are to yield to this law of the lifeblood as instructed to the gentile believers in Acts 15:19-21,  in which we are called to abstain from blood.  It is because He would shed His blood that ancient Israel was to abstain.  It is because He did shed His blood that believers today are to remember this law. 

The placenta is a lifeblood factory.  It cleans the babies blood, enriching in with oxygen and nutrients, while separating it from the mother's blood.  In utero, it served a beautiful and important function in the early stages of the Lord knitting together the life of a new child, a new human person, made in His very image.    While ancient cultures did not have the scientific knowledge we have today, I think they understood profound nature of this organ, which led many gentile nations to worship the creation rather than the creator, and mystify the properties of the placenta.  The fledgling Jewish nation, however,  would have recognized visually that the placenta was both covered and filled with blood, subjecting it to the laws of motherhood, and  lifeblood laws. 

The New Covenant and Present Day Application

Those of us under the blood covenant of Messiah Yeshua, Jesus, are no longer bound to follow the letter of the Law.  However, all scripture is God breathed and suitable for instruction.  There is much we can glean from the passages above and use to make decisions based on revelation that will lend towards greater knowledge of God, and living in the abundant blessings of dwelling in His presence. 

Many moral truths from the Law still stand today.  The greatest of these commands,  being elevated within the New Covenant is that of God's holiness among all the nations.   The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end;  the God who was and is and is to come, His heart burns with an eternal jealous fire.  We are to love Him with our whole being, and have no other before Him. 

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Matt 22:37

This command is so strong, that even as the Yeshua declared all foods clean, the Holy Spirit still breathed through the leaders of the early church, to abstain from things polluted by idols (Acts 15:19-21)

19 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (bold emphasis mine)

Freedom and Sanctification for the Sake of the Gospel

In my own life, ultimately, it is the Deuteronomy 28 passage that feels as a double edged sword.  As I read, the stark imagery and the carnal degradation that fuels to the tone of the passage is enough for me to make my own decision on the matter.  In context this practice only happened under the wrath of God and only as a curse for sin. 

I live in the nation of Israel among the Jewish people and often feel called to a different external expression of being "set apart" than many believers in the nations.    However, the more I've studied this issue, the stronger it is in my own heart that I want to honor the Lord and my children, not just my Jewish neighbors, by not participating in the postpartum practice.

I will not willingly bring myself under a curse, or willingly participate in something portrayed as the consequences of disobedience when my freedom was bought and paid for by the blood of my savior.   And since this practice has been associated with idolatry through out the nations, I am laying it aside as a personal statement to the Lordship of Yeshua, Jesus Christ, in my life. 

This is something I personally feel very confident about, especially in considering that there is not medical research to support it as being healthy in the short or long term, and there are currently no studies to evaluate risks (see a few articles here here, and here all commentating on the same study)  

We do know that humans are subject to fatal diseases from eating human flesh.  After studying through Deut 28, seeing disease following sin and flesh and carnal practices, I have personal concerns about how our bodies (and souls) are truly responding to ingesting the placenta.  The Placenta is not sterile and we don't know if its harmful or not.  At present, it is not an evidence based decision, and that's simply being honest.  Since those questions aren't answered in medical research,  as of now,  I personally see wisdom in being cautious about this practice.  My biblical world view also tells me that in light of the negative description found in scripture, there is further reason to take caution. 

While I do not believe Placentophagy to be inline with a biblical world view,  I recognize where this could be an issue of liberty and prudence, from a theological standpoint, as it crosses over into some broader issues of bio-ethics as well.  Since this is not an evidence based decision, something has to influence every woman's choice on this matter.  For me, ultimately it has been a study through God's word.   Because of the freedom passages, in the likes of 1 Corinthians 10,  it is not my heart to tell you what to do.  Rather, my hope is that this post provided a greater understanding of the scriptural perspective, which does not support or encourage placentophagy.  I hope that readers will take away a sense that God does care about this specific choice, and  I do hope it will be helpful for others who desire to make an informed decision, even if that decision is different than my own. 

If you want more science, go here:
Placentophagy: A Pop-Culture Phenomenon or an Evidence Based Practice?
Placentophagia in Humas and Nonhuman Mammals:  Causes and Consequences (The section on Humans begins on p. 187 of the text/ p.12 of the pdf document)

After my post went live, I found this well done Biblical World View approach, holistically covering issues that I did not broach, as mine was just looking at scripture.  Go here:
Eating the Placenta, a Christian World View Approach

Related Posts:
Earth Worship and Child Sacrifice 
Pharisees in the Land:  A Look at Paul and the Law