Did you know you that your toilet brush is holy? I know mine is! I don’t use mine for anything but…well… cleaning the toilet. It is completely set aside for one and only one purpose: the toilet. I don’t use it for cleaning the floors, dishes, clothes, the dog. I don’t use it in the kitchen, the garage, or the
bedroom. I definitely don’t use it for my teeth or my hair. Nope. I use it exclusively for cleaning the toilet!
Now, you might agree that it is set apart, but holy? That is something that is reserved for, angels, saints, etc., right? Actually, there are many things in our homes that are holy in their function. My dishwasher is holy unto washing the dishes (I never put clothes in it). My lawnmower is set part, holy unto mowing the lawn. My pajamas are holy unto sleeping – I never go to the store in my P.J.’s. My coffee maker is holy unto making coffee. The list could go on and on of things that are holy in my house and yours too.
Our goal in this study is to see how “holy” is an amoral designation and only means set apart regardless of the purpose. This is important to see how the word is being used in Scripture especially when it comes to the designation of who are the “saints”.
If you are surprised that our toilet brushes and so many things are holy it is because we have been taught the wrong definition. There are a lot of things in your house that are just as holy as your toilet brush. I am guessing that your tooth brush is also holy because you have set it aside for just one usage: your teeth. If it gets too old or falls in the toilet, or licked by the dog, then you will consider it profaned, unclean, and unholy. It isn’t that your tooth brush is morally stained. No, it is just no longer fit for the purpose for which it was designed. It is no longer set apart.
The trouble with the word “holy” is that we have probably only been exposed to the modern usage. According to Webster’s it means: “perfect in goodness and righteousness.” We hear so much about “holy days,” and “holy men,” (also referred to as “saints”) and a “holy God,” and we sing about holiness in our songs – all of these uses seemingly as some kind of nearly unattainable quality. The Bible, however, actually offers us a different, more down to earth meaning so that even things like, toilet brushes, toothbrushes and lawnmowers are holy.
The Hebrew root of “holy” is “קדשׁ” (kadash) and it simply means set apart. The moral status of the person or object is completely absent. Consider the scenario where Judah visited a supposed harlot (who was actually his daughter-in-law Timnah). The word “harlot” in Hebrew is “Kedesha” which is the same root as “holy” (“קדשׁ” kadash) as in “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.” But wait. How can the word for harlot and the word for “holy” be the same? It is because it means “set apart” and nothing more.
There are in fact many examples which demonstrate that the biblical definition is not “perfect in goodness and righteousness,” according to Webster’s, but rather simply: “set apart ” to be set apart” (c.f. Brown Drivers Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon). Let’s look at some of the usages from Scripture prove this point.
First of all, we see that things, animals, clothes, etc. can be holy; they are NOT morally pure nor are they morally stained. They are amoral in every sense of the word. Hence, holy garments, food, altars, etc. are merely set apart (“קדשׁ” kadash) for a particular purpose. Consider the following:
In this case Aaron’s garments are set apart or holy:
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. (Exod 28:2)
Food can also be set apart:
And when the sun goes down he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat the holy offerings, because it is his food. (Lev 22:7)
Men and women who are set apart for sexual pagan temple rituals are also “holy” (same root word קדשׁ kadash) or set apart. They are not morally pure but just like the garments and food, they are set apart for a special function.
There shall be no ritual harlot [kedesha קְדֵשָׁ֖ה] of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted [Kadesh קָדֵ֖שׁ] one of the sons of Israel. (Deut 23:17)
This passage from 1Kings 14:24 is especially telling because the translation “perverted persons” is in fact “Kadesh” which is “holy” meaning that they were performing sexual pagan temple rites – something God forbid them doing. Thus we see that they were “holy” but moral-abominations in God’s eyes.
And there were also perverted persons [Kadesh קָדֵ֖שׁ] in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. (1Kgs 14:24)
We see that King Josiah of Judah got rid of the perverted things, which were “holy” (hakedeshim הַקְּדֵשִׁ֔ים) things that were in the Temple.
Then he tore down the ritual booths of the perverted persons [hakedeshim הַקְּדֵשִׁ֔ים] that were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the wooden image. (2Kgs 23:7)
In light of the multiple uses of the root “kadash” we must therefore conclude that something that is holy only means set apart and has no bearing whatsoever on its morality. Therefore holiness refers only to the status of being set apart for a special purpose which may be good or evil.
It is my hope that now armed with the more precise biblical definition, you will be able to plug it in when you come across the words “holy”, “hallowed”, “saints”, or “sanctified”, and you will discern that the true definition which is merely set apart for a special purpose…just like your toilet brush. It is not synonymous with “saved”, “Christian”, “born again”, or the like. Furthermore, with your more precise definition, the Bible will become easier to understand.