Numbers 15:38

Hebrew Bible

36 So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 37 The Lord spoke to Moses: 38Speak to the Israelites and tell them to make tassels for themselves on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and put a blue thread on the tassel of the corners. 39 You must have this tassel so that you may look at it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and obey them and so that you do not follow after your own heart and your own eyes that lead you to unfaithfulness. 40 Thus you will remember and obey all my commandments and be holy to your God.

Matthew 23:5

New Testament

3 Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’

 Notes and References

"... Jesus, too, wore this fringed garment. Our English Bibles, however, don’t make this little detail particularly clear. Look, for example, at Matthew 9. The context of this chapter is striking, which we will discuss more in the next chapter. For now, let’s focus on verse 20. The woman with the problem of bleeding reaches out to Jesus and touches “the edge of his cloak.” Cloak? Is he Gandalf? What the Greek actually says is that she reaches out and touches the kraspedon (literally, tassels or fringes) of his garment. Ah, that’s interesting. Tassels. Just like the tassels commanded in Numbers 15. The same word is used in the parallel passage in Luke 8:44, as well as in Matthew 14:36 (and, parallel, Mark 6:56) where the sick are healed by touching the tassels on Jesus’ garment. In each of these instances, most English translations say “hem” or “edge” of his cloak or garment. However, when the same Greek word appears in Matthew 23:5 - where Jesus is censuring the Pharisees for their showiness - the word tassel is used. See what’s happening? Our English Bibles would have us believe that those hypocritical and “legalistic” Pharisees wear tassels, but Jesus Gandalf wears a cloak. What often gets missed is that this is the exact same word. This is merely one instance in which the English translation serves to obscure Jesus’ connection to Jewish practices and distance Jesus from the customs of the Pharisees. In reality, wearing tassels was (and is) common Jewish practice - that Jesus and the Pharisees both adhered to. As my friend Matthew Thiessen writes, Jesus was indeed “that Jewish” ..."

Rosner, Jennifer M. Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel (pp. 45-46) InterVarsity Press, 2022

 User Comments

Do you have questions or comments about these texts? Please submit them here.