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Numbers 15:38-41


Intro: By way of introduction, please turn to Matthew 9:20-22 and Matthew 14:36. In both of these passages we are told of people being healed by touching the “hem” of our Lord’s garment. When we think of the kind of clothing worn by men in those days, we know that men wore long, flowing robes. We think of the “hem” as being the very bottom portion of the robe; the part nearest the ground. We get the picture of the woman with the issue of blood stooping down to the ground, and touching the very bottom of His robe. I would like to challenge that image just a little today.

      The word “hem” means “fringe, tassel, or the border of a garment”. Now, you will notice back in Numbers 15:38, they are told to “make fringes in the borders of their garments.” The word “fringe” means the same things as the word “hem” in Matthew. It is the word “Tzitzit” and it speaks of a “tassel”.

      In ancient times, a man’s clothing was essentially a long, rectangular cloth that draped down over the body. It had four corners at the bottom. The Israelites were to attach tassels to the four corners of their garments and hem the garment in blue.

      Over time, clothing styles changed, and robes became more rounded at the bottom. They no longer had four corners, so the Israelites developed something called the “Tallit”. I have one with me today, so you can see what I am talking about. This is a Jewish prayer shawl.

      You will notice that this cloth has four corners and a long tassel hanging down from each. This “tallit” is similar to that which Jewish people have used for thousands of years. From reading the Gospels, it seems clear that Jesus wore a “tallit”, as did all orthodox Jews in His day. So, when the woman touched the “hem” of His garment, what she touched was one of the four “tassels”.

      A person uses the prayer shawl by reading an inscription that is embroidered into the garment. He is to kiss the first word of the inscription, kiss the last word of the inscription and then he places the shawl over his head for a moment of reflection. Then, the cloth is placed on the shoulders. During times of deep prayer, the head is wrapped in the “tallit” to shut off the worshiper from the word. Many commentators believe this is what Jesus had in mind in Matt, 6:6 when He told His followers to enter into their closets to pray.

      The “tallit” can be found throughout the Old Testament. 

·         When David cut off the bottom of Saul’s garment, he cut off the “tzitzit” or tassel, 1 Sam. 24:1-22. Saul’s garment was seen as a symbol of his authority to reign as king. “Skirt” is the same word as the word “borders”.

·         When Samuel rebuked Saul for failing to kill all the Amalekites, their king and their cattle, Samuel turned to go and Saul reached out to stop him. In doing so, he ripped the tassel from Samuel’s garment. Samuel used this as a picture of what God was going to do with the kingdom of Israel. It was to be ripped out of Saul’s grip, 1 Sam. 15:1-31. Again, “skirt” is the same word that is translated “borders” in our text.

·         When Elijah was taken up in to Heaven, Elisha was given Elijah’s mantel. This was probably his “tallit”.

·         Malachi said that “the Sun of righteousness” would “arise with healing in his wings”, Mal. 4:2. The word “wings” is the same as the word “borders” in Num. 15:38.

      The significance of the prayer shawl was not in the cloth, but in the tassels themselves. If you will bear with me for a few moments, I would like to share some fascinating truths about the “tallit” and the “tzitzits”, or tassels.

·         They are formed from four strands of thread, which are doubled making eight strands. One of the strings, usually a blue string, is much longer than the others. (Note: Since the shellfish from which the dye used to prepare the blue cord is extinct, most Jews use all white strings. Some use black, however, as a symbol of mourning over the destruction of the Temple.)

·         These strands are tied in a series of five knots, with a certain number of windings from the longer string, between each knot.

·         The five knots represent the Torah, or the five books of the Law. The Torah is identical to the first five books of our English Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

·         Between the five knots there are four windings. In the first, the string is wound around seven times. In the second, it is wound around eight times. In the third, it is wound around eleven times. In the fourth, it is wound around thirteen times. These windings are very significant to the Jews.

Ψ      Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. The first three windings (7+8+11) equal twenty-six and this number is equal to the Hebrew value for the Name of God. This Name is YHWH and is called the “Tetragrammon”.  It is the word we know as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”. Thirteen can refer to the attributes of God that the Jews believed He possessed.

Ψ      Another interpretation is that if you add the five knots with eight strands you get the number thirteen. The numerical value of the word for tassel (Tzitzit) is 600. Add these numbers together and you get 613. This is the number of laws that are found in the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible. There are 365 “thou shalt nots” and 248 “thou shalts”. As our text says, “that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD”.

·         The tassels on the border of a man’s garments were there to be a constant reminded of his relationship to God and to God’s Law. Since they were to be on the four corners of the garments, no matter which way he turned, he would be reminded of the Law and of his responsibility to the Law.

      These verses reveal some important facts about the “tallit”. They can help us to understand what was so special about the “hem of His garment”. I want to show you why God told the Israelites to wear the “tallit”. I would like for us to see that we need some reminders from time to time too! Let’s take some time today to look at The Hem Of His Garment. Here is what the “hem” or “tassels” of His garment was for.


The “prayer shawl” with its “tassels” was a reminder of:

I.  v. 40b-41          THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD

A. The Jews are to wear the tassels on their garments as a constant reminder of their relationship to the Lord. The word “your” in these verses signifies a personal relationship. God purchased them unto Himself; we will say more about that in a few moments. They were always to remember who they were, Who’s they where and what was expected of them.

      Their garments were a constant reminder that they were a “kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”, Ex. 19:6. They were to remember that they were like no other group of people in the world. They were in a faith relationship with the Jehovah God, and they were to constantly remind themselves of this truth. The blue in the garment was the color of heaven. It was there to remind them of their high, heavenly calling among all the nations of the world.

            The Jews came to believe that they were saved by keeping the Law. In fact, the Hebrew inscription around the neck of the Tallit (Prayer Shawl) reads, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, Who makes us holy with commandments, and has commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tzitzit.”

B.  We need this reminder too!  Salvation is not about what you do, it is about Who you know. We are not made holy by the commandments, but by the blood of Jesus, Eph. 1:7.  Salvation is about being in a personal, faith relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ill. John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Acts 16:31; 1 John 5:12.) Salvation is not keeping rules; salvation rests on grace and faith alone, Eph. 2:8-9.



A.  The tassels on the four corners of their garments reminded the ancient Jews that they were required to obey the Lord of God. No matter which way they turned, they would see the tassels and be instantly reminded of their obligation to keep the Lord’s commandments.

      When we think of the commandments, we always think there are only ten. The Jewish rabbis identified 613 commandments in the Torah. There were 365 “Thou shalt nots” and 248 “Thou shalts”.  The tassels on the borders of their garments were a constant reminder of their responsibility to keep the Law.

B.  We need to be reminded too!  While we are not saved by keeping the commandments, we prove our love for God by keeping the commandments, John 14:15, 21. We do not need a prayer shawl or tassels on our clothes to remind us that we are to do right and live right. When a person receives Jesus, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. When He enters a life, He changes that life, 2 Cor. 5:17, and He leads that person into an ever deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, John 16:13-15.

      The redeemed child of God will not be perfect, but he will be different and he will have a desire to live right and to get closer to the Lord Who saved him. The lack of such a change and desire indicates a lack of salvation, 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 5:2-3.  (Ill. Psalm 19:7-11)



A.  The Jews were also reminded that they had an obligation to separate themselves from evil and to walk in the ways of the Lord. The idea of keeping the commandments speaks to external obedience. The idea expressed in this verse is of internal obedience. The Jews were to conform to the will of God and the ways of God both internally and externally. They were to obey on the outside and on the inside. They were to do their will of God from the heart.

      It was possible for a person to keep the letter of the Law and violate the spirit of the Law. They might do everything the Law said, but hate every minute of it. They might manifest complete external obedience to the Law of God, and all the while break the law with the attitudes and affections of the heart. This problem was addressed by Jesus in the Sermon On The Mount, Matt. 5:27-48. (Ill. Adultery, oaths, vengeance, and forgiveness)

B.  We need this reminder too! Many people seem to think that since they have prayed a prayer and joined a church, they are free to do as they please and live as they want. Not so! The Lord expects His people to live separated, holy lives; both internally and externally!

      We seem to think that there is some disconnect between what we think and what we do. We seem to think that we are all right as long as we do not actually commit a physical act of sin. We seem to think that if we think and don’t do it, then everything is fine. That is not what Jesus thinks!

      We seem to think that some sins are not as devastating as other sins. We think we can hold a grudge; talk about people; complain; be slack in our giving and our church attendance; but as long as we don’t cuss, steal, commit murder or adultery, then we are doing great. That is not what Jesus thinks!

C.  Jesus thinks that what we do on the outside always begins on the inside, Mark 7:1-23. Every sin you commit on the outside, begins in the inside. So, how many sins do you commit in your heart? Jesus is looking for total obedience; not just outward obedience.

            He knows that of the heart is right the outside will be right too. He also knows that the outside can look fine, while the inside can be filthy. This is called “hypocrisy”. This word refers to “an actor, an imposter; a pretender.” God desires that the people who call themselves by His name be the real deal, both internally and externally!


IV.  v. 41               THEIR REDEMPTION BY GOD

A. The tassels on their garments were there to remind them that they were a special people. They had been purchased to the Lord by the blood of thousands of lambs, Ex. 12. They had been redeemed from their bondage and released from their slavery and they were never to forget what the Lord has done for them in Egypt. The tassels reminded them that God has been faithful to them. He had led them, fed them and blessed them above all nations. They were to remember that He had brought them out in order to bring them in, Deut. 6:23.  The tassels reminded them that they were part of God’s eternal plan. The tassels on their garments were a reminder that they were the people of the Lord, and they were to never forget that fact!

B.  We need this reminder today! We must never forget the terrible price that was paid to redeem us. We must never forget that God robed Himself in humanity, dwelled among men and died on a cross to secure our redemption, Isa. 53:4-6. We must never forget that He rose from the dead on the third day, ascended back to Heaven and sits there as our Intercessor today. We must never forget that He is coming back to get us some day to take us home to be with Him in Heaven, John 14:1-3. May we never forget who we are; what we are; why He saved us and where He is taking us!


Conc: When the woman with the issue of blood came up behind Jesus and touched the tassels of His garment, she was touching more than a prayer shawl! She was embracing the promise of Malachi 4:2. She was looking for healing in His “wings” or “border”. She looked upon Jesus and she believed that He was Who He claimed to be. She saw Him as the Messiah and like Ruth, she was asking the heavenly Boaz to spread His “skirt” over her, Ruth 3:9. The word “skirt” is the same word that is translated “border” in Num. 15:38. She was doing what the Psalmist did in Psalm 91:1-7. She was asking to come under the shelter of the “wings” of God, v. 4. The word “wings” is the same word translated “border” in Num. 15:38.

      Do you get the picture? When she touched the tassel, or the hem of His garment, it was the same as touching Him! She looked to Him by faith and when her faith touched His grace she was healed! She was claiming her right as a daughter of Abraham. She was looking to her Messiah and trusting Him to deliver her from her situation. She was claiming the promises of the Word of God and resting in the grace of God. She came to the right Person in the right manner and she got what she needed!

      Do you need to touch Him today? Has He spoken to your heart through this message? Here is the invitation:

Ψ      If you are lost and would like to come under the shelter of His wings, so you can enjoy His salvation, you come. Touch the hem of His garment today!

Ψ      If you are not walking in humble obedience, whether it is externally or internally, you come. Touch the hem of His garment today!

Ψ      If there are problems and burdens in your life and you know you need help, you come. Touch the hem of His garment today!

      We do not need a tallit to get what we need from God. All we need is what the woman who touched Him had: faith. Come to Him, come today and get the help you need!

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