Today’s reading begins with a listing of blessings that result from obedience to the LORD’s commands and concludes with instructions on how to redeem various tithes.
The two topics that stand out to me in reading today’s passage are the lengthy lists of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience that the LORD gives to Moses. It’s appropriate that as the book of Leviticus closes God chooses to make clear the consequences of what He has laid out over the course of the previous two books–Exodus and Leviticus.
The list of blessings are as follows: seasonal rains, prosperous crop yields that will result in extensive harvest times because of the quantities of produce, plenty of food to eat, secure and peaceful living, dangerous animals will be absent from the land, a lack of violence, victory over enemies, enemies will be in grave fear of even a handful of men, families will have many children, and God will dwell among the people of Israel.
The list of curses that the Israelites will bring upon themselves is even more lengthy: panic, diseases and fevers that are exhausting, crops will produce but the produce will be consumed by Israel’s enemies, defeat in battles, enemy nations will rule over Israel, people will run away in fear even when no one is giving chase, famine. At this point, the LORD pauses and adds that if Israel continues to rebel and disobey that He will strike them even harder. After this brief pause, God continues to list curses for disobedience: punishment that is multiplied, wild beasts will roam freely in the land and attack the people and kill the children and destroy the livestock, increased warfare and defeat, pestilence in the cities, starvation. Again God pauses and tells Israel that even after all of this, if they still insist on disobedience that He will continue their punishment: dire famine to the point of the people turning to cannibalism, dead bodies will litter the places of worship, attempts at worship and offerings will be ignored by God.
The destruction that God will bring upon Israel for their disobedience will be so terrible that when enemy people groups takeover the land that God has given to the Israelites that they will be appalled at what they find when the come in to the land. In addition, God says He will scatter the Israelites, destroy their land, and lay waste to their cities. At this point, God reiterates the importance of the Sabbath day rest and rest that the Israelites were to give to the land every seven years. It appears that the disobedience of the Hebrew people is somewhat related to their ignorance of the rest that God commands, because God makes reference to the fact that when He has laid waste the land that the land will at last have the Sabbath rest that it needs and He has commanded.
The final toll of disobedience will be absolute fear and confusion striking the hearts of the Israelites. The people will be absolutely helpless against their enemies and the land of their enemies will consume them.
The glimmer of hope that God gives to the people is this: if they will confess their sins and those of their fathers that He will relent from His judgments against them. In addition, God will not ignore them, but instead will remember his covenant with their fathers and spare them from complete annihilation.
It seems like this should be an open and shut case. Simply obey and life will be great. Based on what I know of my own life and what you know of yours, disobedience is the choice that is made more often than not. How can these two lists be ignored? Based on what is contained in later passages, it’s evident that Israel chooses disobedience and God exacts the punishments he describes here on them to hundreds of years. Why won’t they just obey? Why won’t we just obey?
Today’s reading begins with the listing of festivals and concludes with the procedure for redeeming a poor member of the people of Israel from indentured servitude.
Although today’s reading covers a number of different topics, I wanted to focus on just one. The year of Jubilee was a very unique aspect of Hebrew culture. The year of Jubilee occurred once every 50 years and it was the year in which those who were indentured were freed from their servitude and land that had been sold was returned to its owner.
The year of Jubilee speaks to God’s desire for His people to be free and that what He has given them should always belong to them. God was leading His people to a land that He had promised them and made it a point to ensure that they would always have the land and that it wouldn’t be slowly sold away to the surrounding people groups. For a person who didn’t have the means to support themselves or had fallen on hard times, the Jubilee represented God’s perpetual blessing that would return in time.
In the United States, citizens have the right of personal property ownership, but this ownership is conditional on their ability to keep up with their financial obligations and pay any requisite taxes assessed against the property. If a property owner isn’t able to afford to keep the land, the land can be sold. Once sold, however, there is no guarantee that the land will ever return to its previous owner.
The freedom and blessings promised by God to His people were written into the social contract of the people of Israel. God’s ultimate desire for His people would be that they would be free and that they would be blessed. I think it speaks to the nature of the God who is often mischaracterized as vengeful and angry, rather than One who is loving and ultimately desires freedom and blessings for those who call on His name.
Today’s reading begins with how priests were to deal with the dead among them and concludes with a description of acceptable offerings.
The priests of Israel were prohibited from making themselves ceremonially unclean by touching the body of a dead person except for those who were related to them. They were not to go participate in some of the mourning practices of the people who they lived among including shaving their heads or beards; or making cuts to their bodies. The chief priest was prohibited from touching any dead person.
In addition to the requirements of dealing with the dead, this passage goes into much more detail about accepted and prohibited actions of those in the priestly service of the tabernacle.
The last portion of this passage deals with the requirements of acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. The animals to be sacrificed were to be without blemish or disease. The animals could not have cuts or have had portions of their bodies crushed. The sacrifices that were to be brought as an offering for any purpose were to be the very best of what a person owned.
How does that compare to today? I’m not completely certain given that offerings to the church are monetary and not from a person’s livestock, but certainly if God required the best of what his people had to offer then, He still requires the best from His people now. Maybe the best way to honor this requirement in modern times is the giving of the first of what one produces. Not giving God the leftover amounts of money in the bank account. Something to honor God and indicate to Him that the offerings given Him are worthy of a distinction from one’s ordinary day to day financial obligations.
Today’s reading begins with a description of the Day of Atonement for the nation of Israel and concludes with a reiteration of the holiness of God.
The Day of Atonement was an important yearly occurrence in the calendar of the Israelites. It was the day in which the priest made atonement for all of the sins of the nation of Israel. It involved sacrificing a bull and a ram and also two male goats and an additional ram. The bull was to be offered as a sacrifice for the priest himself, while a goat was offered on behalf of the people.
An interesting event on the day of atonement was the releasing of the scapegoat. The priest would place his hands on the head of the scapegoat and then confess all of the sins of the people over the live goat. The priest would then release the goat into the wilderness to bear the sins of the people away from the camp.
God is also very explicit in this passage about His stance against the people’s consumption of the blood of any living thing. The people groups among which the Israelites lived had made been in the habit of doing this, but God condemns this action. To God, the life of the flesh is in the blood and because of this, the flesh of living things was not to be consumed.
The next portion of the text deals with illicit sexual relations, and the punishment that each of the various activities would incur. I’m not going to beat anyone over the head with this passage. The reading and understanding of what this passage states has been clear for thousands of years and it’s understanding has only recently been questioned. I’ll leave my thoughts on Chapters 18-20 of Leviticus with a link to this excellent piece by Tim Keller at Redeemer. I can’t explain it any better and would fail if I tried:
Today’s reading begins with the cleansing ritual undertaken for those who have recovered from leprosy and concludes with the determination of who is clean or unclean based on discharges from their body.
In the conclusion to my previous post, I commented on how difficult it must have been for someone who had been diagnosed by the priest as having been infected with leprosy. Complete isolation from one’s family and friends with the only hope of return based solely in the hands of God for healing. The requirements for the offerings of those who had been afflicted with leprosy and had been healed were significant. First a sacrifice of two live clean birds, then after seven days the person was to shave all of his hair and bathe. On the eighth day, the person was required to take two unblemished male lambs and a third female lamb along with a grain offering and a portion of oil to the priest for making atonement. The requirements for those unable to afford this sacrifice were slightly less, but must have still been significant given that this person was attempting to return to society after having been absent for an extended period of time.
In addition to the regulations for making atonement for those who recovered from leprosy, there were requirements for the cleansing of a home the walls of which had been contaminated with a leprous disease. The requirements for the cleansing of a home were far less than those imposed on people, but if a leprous disease persisted in the structure of someone’s home, it was required that the dwelling be dismantled and essentially thrown away.
The final portion of today’s reading deals with discharges from both male and female sexual organs. Certainly a bit of a surprising topic, but it is discussed in some detail. To briefly summarize: discharges related to normal, healthy sexual function although they would render a person unclean until the evening were of little consequence; on the other hand, discharges that indicated some sort of disease were dealt with in a more extensive manner and required being ceremonially unclean for a period of seven days with an atoning sacrifice made on the eighth day after the discharge occurred.
The importance of these requirements is summarize in Leviticus 15:31: “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”
Today’s reading begins with the defining of clean and unclean animals and concludes with defining how clothing is determined to be contaminated with leprous disease.
The subject of clean and unclean animals is one that many people have heard of from the Bible. Most don’t know the full definition of what is and isn’t considered to be clean by Levitical standards, but know that the topic exists in the Bible. The animal that most people know of as being prohibited from consumption in the Bible is the pig. Just about everyone knows that the Israelites were prohibited from eating any pork products. The group of animals for which many know of an existing prohibition is shellfish such as lobster, crab, and shrimp. There were others that were unclean including camels, badgers, and many species of birds.
What I find to be somewhat surprising are the clean and unclean insects. I suppose being an American I tend to think of any insect as being detestable and unfit for consumption. In a time of less abundance, however, it was important for the Hebrew people to know what insects were and were not acceptable to consume. Among insects, those that were deemed to be clean and acceptable for consumption included locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. All other winged insects were considered unclean.
Another law of note in this section were the purification requirements for women who had recently given birth to children. Women having given birth to boys were considered ceremonially unclean for the first week of the child’s life and then for an additional 33 days. Women having given birth to girls were considered to be ceremonially unclean for two weeks after the birth of the child and then for an additional 66 days. At the conclusion of the period of her purification, the woman offer a burnt offering and a sin offering.
The remainder of the section for today’s reading focuses on the priestly determination of leprous infections in people and their belongings. Skin diseases must have been somewhat common as this section of the text lays out quite an extensive explanation of what was and was not considered to be leprous. The portion I considered to be a bit humorous was the discussion of men and hair loss:
“If a man’s hair falls out from his head, he is bald; he is clean. And if a man’s hair falls out from his forehead, he has baldness of the forehead; he is clean.” Leviticus 13:40-41
Good news for you bald guys out there. No sacrifices are necessary for your condition.
What a difficult life it must have been for those among the Israelites who had acquired leprosy. Banishment from their family and the subsequent loneliness that must have resulted from it.
Today’s reading begins with Aaron’s offering at the tabernacle and concludes with improper offering of Eleazar and Ithamar.
This reading today is somewhat brief and covers the first series of offerings made at the new tabernacle. What’s significant about this reading is the consuming of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu. There really isn’t a great deal of discussion regarding the cause of God’s anger with Nadab and Abihu other than this brief description:
“Now Nadah and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.” Leviticus 10:1-3
That’s it. Unauthorized fire. I wish that I knew more of the reason that God was so enraged with these two newly ordained priests of the Tabernacle. I’m not flush Bible commentaries, but the MacArthur Bible Commentary is also unclear as to the reason for the LORD’s fury other than the fire that was used by Nadab and Abihu didn’t comply with the ordinances just given to Moses. The commentary also states that based on the command to stay away from strong drink given in verses 8 and 9, that it may be implied that Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated at the time of their first offering. When God saw their disregard for His commands and that they disregarded the sense of reverence that the LORD deserved, that God decided to take their lives.
Possibly Leviticus 10:10 may sum it up well: “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…” God is to be treated as Holy–separate, above, other than, better than, unapproachable, pure, incomparable. As witnessed at the end of Chapter 9 “…fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering…and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” I’ve always envisioned the Holiness of God as this consuming fire and He is referenced as such elsewhere in the Bible.
God’s Holiness is that barrier, that separation, that special attribute of God that makes it impossible for us to approach Him except through the righteousness that can be had through Christ. In and of ourselves we are wholly unworthy to enter His presence. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. Absolutely separate. The fact that God has not consumed each and every one of us for not treating Him as such is a testament to his manifold, abounding mercy and grace. I hope that I can better live that reality.