A Jewish Bible Reading Technique You Should Know!
Pastor David Blease, from "Gateway Center for Israel," explains the concept of gezerah shavah, a method of biblical interpretation that compares different passages of scripture that use the same wording in order to gain a deeper understanding of what the Bible is saying.
Gezerah Shavah is a way of interpreting scripture that was used by Paul, Peter, and most importantly by Jesus. Gezerah Shavah is one of the seven laws of Hillel in early Jewish education. It literally means similar laws, similar verdicts, but has often been described as a verbal analogy or a verbal parallel. Here’s how it works. You open your Bible and you see a word or phrase in scripture. Then later you find the same word or phrase in another verse of scripture. Gezerah Shavah would be putting both of those scriptures together because they have the same word or phrase, and now you have a new or deeper understanding of God’s word. For example, Peter, in his Pentecost sermon practices Gezerah Shavah when he links two passages from the Psalms. In Acts 2:24, Peter is telling his audience that Jesus being killed was a part of God’s plan because God always intended on raising him from the dead.
Verse 24 says, “whom God raised up having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that he (Jesus) should be held by it.” For David says concerning Jesus, and now he quotes Psalm 16:8, “I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken.” Then he continues with the Psalm, “For you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will you allow your holy one to see corruption.” Peter reasons that David couldn’t be talking about himself because we know David is dead and buried right here. He is talking about Jesus who was raised from the grave, which means Jesus is the one at my right hand that Psalm 16 quotes. Now, Peter invokes Gezerah Shavah and quotes another Psalm that references at my right hand, Psalm 110:1, where David says, here is the Lord’s proclamation to my Lord, “sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” Again, Peter is driving home the point that David isn’t talking about himself, but Jesus his Lord. When the crowd heard him combine these scriptures using Gezerah Shavah, it says in Acts 2:37, “Now, when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'” Peter using Gezerah Shavah is understanding a deeper meaning in scripture that when we see at my right hand, we can no longer think David, it’s Jesus.
In Mark 16:19 it says, “So then after the Lord had spoken to them, Jesus was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” Jesus uses Gezerah Shavah when asked, what’s the greatest commandment? Jesus references two passages of scripture. Deuteronomy 6:4, “You shall love your God…”, and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor…” Why can he combine these two passages? Because they both use the phrase, “and you shall love.” The parallel statement connects these two seemingly disjointed passages leading Jesus to offer a new interpretation of the law or as often stated, a dual command.
But my favorite time that Gezerah Shavah is used in scripture isn’t when it’s being used by Jesus, Peter, or Paul. It’s when it’s used by the woman with the issue of blood. In Mark 5 and Luke 5, we see a story with a woman who has an issue of blood reaching out to touch the garment of Jesus. She in faith says, “If only I may touch his clothes, I shall be made well.”, Mark 5:28. Where did she get the notion that Jesus’s clothes would heal her? Well, she got it from Gezerah Shavah. I’m going to read you two scriptures and when rabbis read these two scriptures, they both have the word kanaph. This is numbers 15:38, and Malachi 4. Numbers 15 says, “Speak to the children of Israel. Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.” Malachi 4:2 says, but to you who fear my name, the Son of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings.” The word kanaph literally means corners or end. It’s translated as corners when talking about the garment, but it’s translated as wings when it’s talking about a bird. But Kanaph is in both scriptures, so early rabbis using Gezerah Shavah combined these scriptures and determined that this passage was Messianic and that the son of righteousness, the Messiah, will have healing in his wings, in his Kanaph. So therefore, the Son of righteousness, the Messiah, will have healing in the corners of his garment.
The woman with the issue of blood knew about this Gezerah Shavah, and knowing that Jesus was the son of righteousness, all she needed to do was touch the corner of his garment and she would be healed. This is why Jesus turns around and says to her in verse 34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” I wonder if after he said, you’ve been reading Malachi 4 and numbers 15, haven’t you?