As a first step in answering this puzzling question, we must understand that all of God’s commandments were given for the good of mankind! King David extolled God and continually praised Him for His Way: “…For all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172).
Very specifically, God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for a unique relationship with Him. Note what He offered to Israel:
“‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…’” (Exodus 19:5-6).
As a part of the covenants (binding agreements) God made with His nation Israel, He included the laws written in the Ten Commandments along with other statutes and judgments by which to administer His government. Some of these had a very specific application for the time and especially for the conduct of the “holy nation” of Israel, even though their overall application was not limited to ancient times.
Let’s consider the sin of adultery as a case in point. One of the overarching commandments of God as found in the Ten Commandments is, “‘You shall not commit adultery’” (Exodus 20:14). The penalty for such a transgression was for the offenders to be put to death (Compare Leviticus 20:10). In establishing the way to administer this law in Israel, God showed that this kind of immoral act was to be dealt with very severely, and He explained the reason: “‘…So you shall put away the evil from among you’” (Compare Deuteronomy 22:21, 22, 24).
Laws concerning agriculture, health practices, public policies and much more were to be administered by the leaders of Israel under God’s direct guidance. Among these is the law concerning mixed fabrics. Here is what is stated:
“‘You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you’” (Leviticus 19:19).
“You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together’” (Deuteronomy 22:11).
In the context of these statutes, we see from Leviticus 19:19 that God very specifically drew lines of separation—i.e., for livestock, for planting and for garments—clothing made, in this case, from an animal by-product and that made from plant derivatives. Also, in the context of Deuteronomy 22, verses 9 and 10 further elaborate the command by God to keep like things together.
In His recreation of life on the earth, God established plants and animals of tremendous variety, and of these, the Word of God states that each was to reproduce “‘according to its kind’” (Compare Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25).
To quote from our booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”:
“Let us briefly review a few examples of Old Testament laws, which are clearly still binding today, as neither the letter, nor spiritual principles of the New Testament, nor any ritual character of such laws would indicate otherwise.
“For instance, Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits cross-dressing. A man is not to wear women’s clothes and vice versa. This law deals with transvestism.
“Deuteronomy 22:9 forbids sowing a vineyard with different kinds of seed. The principle is to plant seeds together that will each continue to reproduce after its own kind, in order to avoid substandard products or hybrids. There is nothing wrong, then, with planting peas or beans among corn, or planting two pasture grasses together. On the other hand, cucumbers should not be planted with watermelons because they will cross and produce a perversion. Likewise, various members of the muskmelon and cantaloupe family should not be planted near pumpkins or certain types of squash, as they will mix.
“Finally, Deuteronomy 22:11 prohibits, correctly translated, the wearing of a garment ‘of different sorts, wool and linen mixed together.’ [The words, ‘such as’ have been added and do not appear in the original Hebrew.] Leviticus 19:19 contains the same prohibition. Wool is an animal product, while linen is a plant product. Such products should not be combined, as an improper blend, as they produce clothes of lesser quality.”
From the standpoint of practicality, mixing wool and linen together for the purpose of clothing degrades the quality. [From a spiritual or symbolic standpoint, wool is very warm on our bodies, but linen is cold. A combination of the two would result in wearing something which gives a “luke-warm” effect, compare Revelation 3:15-16].
Wool and linen both have unique characteristics in clothing and can each be crafted into garments of extremely high quality. As we consider this statute from God, let us also remember that He created the sheep and the flax plant with the knowledge that they would serve as a source of clothing. What He stipulates in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy is the proper use.
At the time of Israel’s emergence as God’s nation, cloth was made from raw materials that were spun into threads and woven on looms. Historical references cite silk, hemp, camel hair and goat hair, while cotton seemed less of a commodity in that part of the world. Animal skins were also commonly processed for clothing. With all of these choices available, God specifically limited the co-mingling of the threads of wool and linen to create garments worn by the people of Israel.
However, we also see that God commanded that special holy garments be made for Aaron and his sons “‘…for glory and for beauty’” (Compare Exodus 28:1-4). This priestly clothing was made according to God’s instructions:
“‘They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and the fine linen, and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked’” (Exodus 28:5-6). NOTE: The italicized word thread is also rendered as material by the NASB and yarns by the TANAKH.
The variety of materials used in preparation for the Tabernacle and for the clothing to be worn by Aaron and his sons is also described in Exodus 35, verses 20 to 29. Additionally, in Exodus 39, further description of the materials is given. Please note that gold was also woven into these priestly garments as stated in verse 3.
While the exact appearance is not known, copies have been constructed in modern times—especially by organizations in Israel who seek to re-establish Temple worship. From these we see that both animal and plant materials were used for these garments that were only to be made for or worn by the priests of God. It is evident that the construction involved layers of clothing and unique appliqués.
Today, we might consider the wearing of a wool suit coat over a cotton shirt adorned by a silk tie as an example of wearing diverse clothing that each are made of pure materials BUT NOT MIXED TOGETHER IN THEIR FABRICATION. As we saw from the accounts in Exodus, though, the interweaving of some materials—such as gold—was allowed.
In recent times different materials have been developed for making clothing.
Nylon, Polyester, Spandex, and Acrylic are examples of petroleum-based synthetic materials that now make up some of our apparel; also, Rayon (or Viscose) is a cellulose-based semi-synthetic fiber made from wood pulp. Oftentimes these may be used with natural fibers—either as blends or as supporting parts.
As we are not to mix together animal and plant products, it would appear that linen (a plant product) should not be mixed together with an animal product. However, this prohibition does not apply to artificial products, so that combinations such as linen or wool with synthetic and semi-synthetic materials would not be problematic.
How then do we actually apply the restrictions in our apparel as commanded by God? Let’s consider the context of these rules. Understand that these statutes were given to the NATION of Israel that had the totally unique relationship of God’s direct rule through His appointed servants. However, God rejected both Israel and Judah because of their rebellion and their refusal to live by His laws.
When Jesus came as representative of God’s Kingdom and its future establishment on the earth, His disciples wanted to know if He would “‘…at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6).
That did not nor has it yet happened!
Consider the example of the woman caught in adultery. When the scribes and Pharisees brought her before Jesus, they said, “‘Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’” (John 8:5).When the accusers left without condemning her, Jesus said, “‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (John 8:11).
At that time, Jesus did not enforce the PENALTY of God’s laws as given to the nation of Israel; However, He did UPHOLD THE LAW by admonishing the woman not to sin—which is the breaking of God’s law (Compare 1 John 3:4).
In the future, when God’s Kingdom is established on the earth, God’s laws will be used to govern the earth. Penalties will be exacted (Compare Zechariah 13:3).
In addition, we find that priestly clothing is again specified for the future in the restored Temple of God:
“‘And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house. They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat. When they go out to the outer court, to the outer court to the people, they shall take off their garments in which they have ministered, leave them in the holy chambers, and put on other garments; and in their holy garments they shall not sanctify the people’” (Ezekiel 44:17-19).
We see then, that God’s statutes, as well as its penalties, will be used to govern His future Kingdom, but how are we Christians to look upon the administration of God’s government NOW?
Christians are to abide by the laws of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, unless the New Testament shows clearly, by letter or in the spirit, that certain Old Testament laws are no longer binding. For example, the New Testament shows that physical circumcision is no longer necessary.
We find an example in the issue of circumcision that arose as uncircumcised Gentiles were being converted to Christianity. Circumcision was strictly enforced among the Israelites; however, note how James and the other elders responded to the Gentile converts:
“‘They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”–to whom we gave no such commandment–it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell’” (Acts 15:23-29).
Paul further shows the application of God’s laws in the deeper, spiritual sense. Using the principle of Deuteronomy 22:10 as a basis, he taught the Church of God, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Christians today are not to carry out the physical penalties of the Old Testament (such as stoning) against others.
On the other hand, no New Testament passage indicates that those Old Testament laws, as set forth in Leviticus 19:19 or Deuteronomy 22:11, are no longer binding.
We should all make diligent effort to apply the spirit of the administrative statutes and judgments given to the nation of Israel. We need to take steps to avoid the inferior quality of blended fabrics used for clothing—including that of wool mixed with linen.
Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link