Category Archives: Leviticus

Leviticus 27

This last chapter of Leviticus is about vows and economics. It doesn’t say why, but people at some point decide to vow to dedicate things to the Lord. These can be persons. or animals, or houses, or land, and some economic value must then be placed on what was dedicated. This dedication must have something to do with work because different values are placed on people according to their sex or age, with the stronger, adult men having the most value, and children and the elderly the least, men more than women, etc.

There is also redemption, where a person or house, etc., can be in effected purchased back, can be redeemed. So people are not selling themselves or others or their property into slavery, and the year of Jubilee is part of this as well, where property is to go back to its owner. Priests are mentioned as part of the process, so this whole vow and dedication process has to do with the sanctuary and the economics of running Israel’s place of worship. As I’ve said before, God is certainly practical, and his ministers need to make a living too.

Leviticus 26

This is a sobering chapter; God promised rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience. And the section on punishments is considerably longer. But God doesn’t just leave it at that. Even when Israel turns away, he always keeps open the option of repentance and forgiveness because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When you look at the radical nature of that covenant, especially in Genesis 15 where the animals are cut in two and the smoking fire pot passes between the pieces, it is clear God’s covenant will never fail, even given a sinful and rebellious people.

We know the reason ultimately is found in Christ. People on their own, even knowing all the rules and regulations, can never keep the demands of God’s perfect law. Even when we know the benefits! Even when obedient people tend to surface obedience, as we see the Pharisees in the NT, which of course then leads to pride and dependence on self. God’s concern has always been about the heart.

40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

When you think about the only person in the Bible of whom it is said that he was a man after God’s own heart, David, you realize it isn’t about perfection. It’s about trusting God’s mercy and grace, and as it says here, the covenant he made. And it’s actually a Trinitarian covenant, from the Father to the Son, the eternal love and giving in the Godhead because it was all planned out before anything material came to be. Very strange and incomprehensible to we finite creatures.

Hostility to God is the state of the lost, sinful human heart. As Paul says, we are at enmity with God, literally at war with him, and that made us, again as Paul says, by nature objects of God’s wrath. And wrath displayed by God is really not popular to modern man, but as I’ve said previously, anger toward evil is natural; there are certain evils we see in the world that elicit rage in the human heart. The recent beheadings of American journalists by Muslim sociopaths in the Middle East are just such evils. Even above it all liberals who would never use the word evil, called it evil and were angry. But there are no small sins to God; all of it to him is rebellion to his rightly rule, our pretension to autonomy is pure evil, and God knows all the inevitable consequences even if we can’t see them.

 

Leviticus 25

Sabbath is a very important concept in God’s economy, and we see it applied in this chapter to more than just a day of the week. Not only are people commanded and get to enjoy rest, but the people are commanded to give the land a rest as well, one out of every seven years. And as we know, land does indeed need rest to remain fertile; if it is not given rest all the nutrients are used up and it will at some point no longer be able to produce crops or grow much other than weeds.

Remember back in Genesis 3, one of the results of the fall was that the ground was cursed:

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

The ground itself experiences the effects of the fall, and we all understand “painful toil” even if we don’t work directly with the ground. So it too must be given rest.

God also gives the Israelites a Jubilee where they are to:

10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubileefor you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines.12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

I believe this is the only time this word translated into our word liberty is used in the Bible. Everywhere else in the Bible it’s translated as freedom. But what exactly is this liberty being proclaimed? What are they to be liberated from? From the context it seems they are to be liberated from dependence on the land to reflect on their dependence on God. As he says in verse 23, the land is his.

The Jubilee happens every fifty years, after seven sabbatical years the land is given an additional year of rest. This is proclaimed on the Day of Atonement because everything the Israelites do is about what God is doing and has done for them. I found this good concise explanation of Jubilee:

The Jubilee then came every fifty years.  When the trumpet sounded on the fiftieth year, and specifically on the Day of Atonement, liberty would be proclaimed “throughout the land to all its inhabitants” and then all of the property that had been taken by others for unpaid debts would have to be returned to the original families (clans).  On that year there would be no reaping or planting or gathering of the crops for it was to be “holy to” the nation Israel and everyone could “eat the produce of the field.” What a celebration that must have been.  Everyone that had been indebted was then released from that debt and able to start over again by having their land returned to them.

God is granting them liberty from the curse of the land that came about because of the fall. This is of course a temporary liberty; the permanent liberty came in Christ. It seems God was saying that by proclaiming liberty on the Day of Atonement, there is a liberty that can only be had in some ultimate sacrifice. We will be freed ultimately from the curse of the bondage of sin to a glorious liberty as children of the living God, our Father who art in heaven.

One thing that seems incongruous and that skeptics like to harp on, is that in this chapter while God is proclaiming liberty for the Israelites, he affirms slavery in general:

44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

How in the world can God affirm that one person can own another? See, the skeptics say, either your God is immoral, or he is just made up by men. But I think I see a possible rationale at the end of the chapter (this doesn’t take into account that slavery in ancient times was not the same institution as African chattel slavery as practiced in America even though people counted as property):

54 “‘Even if someone is not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, 55 for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

The Bible is the story of God’s plan of redemption, and he does everything for a reason. The Israelites are to be freed, are to enjoy liberty because God has freed them, they are his people, they belong to him. Everyone else, all the peoples that surround them, are not free, they are still in bondage to sin, thus they are in effect slaves, and God uses the human institution to show Israel, and us, that without him, without his initiative, his choosing, his working, his power, his will, we are slaves, slaves to sin and death. And from which we have been set free by the power of God in Christ.

Leviticus 24

Again we see the harsh nature of a holy God interacting with sinful people. We see a child, a son, of a mixed marriage, Israelite mother and Egyptian father (something the people of Israel were expressly commanded not to do, to intermarry with other peoples), get in a fight with another Israelite. During the fight he “blasphemed the name of the Lord with a curse.” They took the boy or the man (it doesn’t say how old he was) into custody to find out what the Lord would have them do. The verdict was stoning to death.

This does seem harsh to we moderns, but is it really? Given the context? Actually it really is not much different than a military deserter, or someone who commits treason. The penalty for these things can be death, and many times in history this judgment has been meted out. Is that harsh? Sure, but such punishments have a very specific purpose in the context of the mission of a military or the functioning of the state. Authority can be a fragile thing, especially for a new enterprise, such as Israel. George Washington had soldiers put to death for deserting during the Revolutionary War. Do skeptics look at George Washington like they do the God of the Old Testament. No, because they judge God by different standards. As if what he did in or for Israel, or had Israel do had no analogy in the rest of life humans experience. God could not let the people of Israel disrespect his authority; as he says yet again in this chapter, “I am the Lord your God.”

We also see God here give the famous, or infamous, injunction, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Anyone who kills someone else, they too must be killed. It seems odd to put this in the middle of the story of the blasphemer. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with God commanding the blasphemer to be stoned to death. But maybe God is indicating that he is a God of justice. As it says in v22:

You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God

Just as God is just in commanding the blaspheming man to die, or anyone who blasphemes, so when a wrong is done to someone, wrong should be done to the person who committed it.

Leviticus 23

The Lord gives Moses and the people of Israel an overview of all the appointed feasts, God’s feasts as he says, for the year, those that he commanded in detail in the preceding chapters. The first few are celebrated in the spring, the others in the fall:

  • The Sabbath – Once a week, every Saturday
  • The Passover – The fourteenth day of the first month
  • Firstfruits – Not a festival per se, but it is a celebration of God’s bounty. The people are commanded to bring a firstfruits of the harvest when they enter they land, along with an animal sacrifice
  • Feast of Weeks – This feast is not done on a specific date, but is related to the firstfruits offering. Fifty days after that, or seven weeks, they are to celebrate before the Lord. This would likely be late fall, early winter. This celebration includes sacrifice and a sacred assembly before the Lord.
  • Feast of Trumpets – First day of the seventh month they are to have a day of rest and a sacred assembly, including sacrifices, that is commemorated by trumpet blasts.
  • Day of Atonement – Which we’ve already learned about previously
  • Feast of Tabernacles -This is also called the Feast of Booths, to commemorate the Israelites living in booths in the wilderness.

All of these feasts ultimately point to Christ; they are a foreshadowing of what is to come. For the Israelites in their historical context the feasts kept them focused on who they were and to whom they belonged. God is their King, God is their Redeemer, God is their Savior.The feasts were a consistent reminder that they were different than the peoples and cultures around them, they were set apart to the one true God.

Leviticus 21 & 22

These two chapters are rules for priests because Israel’s holy God is very demanding about not desecrating his holiness. It gets easy to see how absolutely impossible it would be, and was, for a sinful people to consistently obey every jot and tittle of the God’s law and commands. But God’s holiness demands no less than perfection. As we now now, the impossibility of sinners having a relationship with a holy God was the point of it all. The end of chapter 22 encapsulates God’s rationale:

31 “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord. 32 Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the Lord, who made you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord.”

It is God himself who makes them holy, and who makes us holy. We cannot make ourselves holy, or set apart, even as we attempt to keep his commands and follow them. He rescued Israel out of bondage; he rescues us out of bondage. The former a temporal reality that pointed to the latter as an eternal reality.

Leviticus 20

Well, this is a harsh chapter. God outlines the punishments for certain sin, and mostly it’s either death or being cut off from their people. It is content like this in the Bible that gets skeptics all hot and bothered because for them it makes this God appear plain old mean. But they assume that their moral judgment is superior to God, that they know what true justice really is, and for modern people sex is purely an individual’s choice, and it’s nobody’s business but their own. There are issues other than sex addressed here, but it’s mostly about sex.

One of those other issues is pagan god Molech, the first of which is in chapter 18. Here the command is expanded. Molech was a god that required child sacrifice, by burning, which is about as disgusting as you can get. It’s hard to believe any Israelites would do such a thing, but such is the power of the a culture to get human beings to do the wrong things. Our gods are less gruesome, more sophisticated and sometimes fun, but they are no less worthy of God’s condemnation.

All of what God commands is for one reason we see in v. 26:

26 You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

This is no less true today and in the age of the Church. We are implored by the Apostles to be holy, to be set apart, to be and live differently than the nations. And it is not just our actions, how moral we are, but in every way, how we see things, think, our view of reality itself. But now we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus, so how much more should be we be holy and set apart, specifically by our love.