This morning I went on a great treasure hunt! Still groggy-eyed, I was about to settle into my favorite morning chair with a cup of coffee to read the Bible. I’m not a morning person. This means that I don’t want to be greeted before I’ve had at least one cup of coffee, I don’t want eye contact, and I find it especially annoying when perky people talk to me and I’m not awake yet. However, this morning, before I sat down with my mug, Herschel said, “Hey, I’ve got something interesting for you to look for this morning as you read the Bible. Do you know where in Scripture it says that the High Priest has a rope tied around his ankle when entering the Holy of Holies once a year?” For years we have heard pastors teach that on Yom Kippur the Jewish High Priest had a rope tied to his leg so that, if he died, he could be dragged out, since no one else could enter!
I remember hearing this taught several times through the years. In Torah, the book of Leviticus prescribes that once a year, there would be the Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the year for the Jewish people. The Jewish High Priest was to wear specific sacred garments and enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle to confess and make atonement for his sin and the sin of all the people. We see the utter Holiness of God in this passage as Moses records God’s explicit instructions for entering the Holy of Holies. Any person who would enter this Most Holy Place at an unauthorized time or manner would die. (read more in Lev. 16) This is where Herschel’s question came into play. I was certain that I could find the answer if I searched the Bible deeply enough.
I frantically searched through Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy looking for clues. My pulse raced. I get giddy with a challenge to find random facts or passages in the Bible.
After a search through Torah that was fruitless, I went to Google. It turns out that this idea is a myth. The legend of the rope tied to the High Priest’s ankle is not found in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the writings of Josephus, or the Midrashic commentaries of the rabbis.
I found that the myth originally came from a Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) commentary, but where it may have gained popularity is from evangelical commentator John Gill, who published it in one of his books, and it’s been told ever since. Interesting….
Here’s what I learned from this: Check my sources. The most well-meaning Bible teacher or pastor (or me!) may state something as fact that is not found in Scripture. It’s a fresh reminder to search and know God’s word well for myself. I am reminded that the Bible is the ultimate truth and my thoughts, beliefs, and actions need to be measured by it.
Proverbs 1 says: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
If you’re curious to check out more on this, see sources below.