Showing posts with label Leviticus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leviticus. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Levitical Interlude #3: The Israelite Woman’s Son

The warden in the movie The Shawshank Redemption greets every new arrival with the words “Rule number one: No blasphemy. I will not have the Lord’s name taken in vain in my prison.”

Now, Shawshank is set in 1947 — not that long ago, all things considered — yet modern movie critics find the warden’s priorities perplexing.

“Ahead of murder?” inquires one.

Yes, even ahead of murder.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Levitical Interlude #1: Nadab and Abihu

The first historical interlude in the book of Leviticus is the longest of the three and culminates in the judgment-by-incineration of Nadab and Abihu, the elder two sons of Aaron, high priest of Israel.

This is neither the first nor the last time in scripture that God has introduced something new to human society only to have mankind promptly make a shambles of it.

Making a Shambles of It

We do not know the time interval between creation and the Fall, but it is not unreasonable to assume it was a comparatively short period. Man’s first mistake occurred at the first possible opportunity. The first murder occurred in the very first generation after the establishment of the new order brought on by Adam’s transgression. And when God rebooted the world with a global flood, Noah promptly got drunk and ended up cursing his own grandson.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Levitical Interlude #2: Day of Atonement

There are individual sins and there are corporate sins. A woman who has an abortion commits the former; a nation that enshrines her right to do so in its law commits the latter. I leave it to you to weigh which is the greater offense.

From Sinai onward, upon becoming conscious of having personally violated God’s laws, individual Israelites could bring their offerings to the tabernacle or temple all year round to have their transgressions covered over. But Israel’s corporate transgressions also needed a way of being covered over, being arguably more offensive to God than sins any lone Israelite might commit, and therefore more likely to be the source of an outbreak of divine wrath against the entire nation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Structure of Leviticus

Leviticus is a Latin word derived from the Greek Leuītikos, meaning “levitical”, or “having to do with Levites”. The third book of the Old Testament is not the only place we find the Law of Moses laid out in detail for us: Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy preserve laws as well, but they are primarily historical books. Leviticus is unusual in that it contains almost nothing else but law after law after law.

There are three notable exceptions. We will definitely get to those.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pagans and Presbyterians

An abomination is no big deal.

So says Presbyterian gay rights enthusiast Linda Malcor, who has taken on the unenviable task of trying to prove it.

Malcor’s effort is herculean: she lists every reference to the word “abomination” (Hebrew to'ebah) in six different English translations and even provides a search tool so you can duplicate her results yourself if you wish.

Unfortunately I’m at a loss what Malcor expects Christians to do with her conclusions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Giant Reset Button

Photo: Flattop341
Baruch Davidson notes that the Jubilee year is not observed or commemorated in modern Israel.

Before the Assyrian conquest of the northern portion of the divided kingdom in the sixth century BC, Davidson says, the Jubilee was regularly celebrated. But a dispute over the interpretation of the words “all who live on it” in Leviticus 25:10 has led many Jews to conclude that the festive year of freedom may only be celebrated when all twelve tribes are living in the Promised Land. So until the return of the ten “lost” tribes, the Jubilee is on hold.

That may not seem a big deal today. It would have been a huge deal to an Israelite in the years before the Assyrian captivity.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (3)

Greg at Holey Books complains that the Levitical law is sexist:

Women Are Worth Less (Lev. 27:1-4). This is one of those passages that really, really should make believers — especially women — question just how much of the Old Testament we can take seriously. According to Leviticus, a man’s worth — in “dedicating a person to the LORD” — is 50 shekels. A woman, however, is only worth 30. (NB: the ratio here is strangely reminiscent of the U.S. Constitution’s provision that a slave was only worth 3/5 of a white man. There must be like the “golden mean” of massive inequalities.) It is difficult to explain this away without logically also concluding that part of scripture was a historical artifact of its time that we should not take seriously. Unless, of course, you actually hold that men and women aren’t equal or shouldn’t be equal. Which would, obviously, be absurd.”

Notice that Greg is reacting as if Leviticus declares that the intrinsic value of a woman before God is only 60% of a man’s value, as if the Law somehow diminishes her personhood. He finds such an idea offensive to the core and “absurd”.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (2)

As a teenager I spent a fair bit of time at the home of a friend whose father grew up in WW2 England.

Back in 1940, the Germans did their best to cut off the English food supply. Submarines patrolled the English Channel and the Atlantic, sinking boats destined for the U.K. Less than a quarter of the millions of tons of food usually imported into England actually made it to its destination.

Rationing was introduced to make sure everyone got their share of what was available.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Happier in Exile

Tucked into a chapter of the Levitical law that gives detailed instructions about the limitations of the master/slave relationship, the sale and redemption of property, and borrowing and lending is a short statement of ownership given without amplification or explanation.

That statement explains, well, pretty much everything else.

And though these are instructions to Israel that have no force today for any number of theological and practical reasons, it’s pretty hard not to see the application to Christians.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Amping Up the Leafy Greens

In doing research for our “Wacky Old Testament” series (which exists to demonstrate that it isn’t wacky at all), I’ve already come across several different kinds of difficulties people run into when reflecting on the Old Testament laws.

You get people who claim to be Christian (or at least religious) and “just don’t get it”. You get people whose particular brand of systematic theology has confused them about the applicability of the Levitical law to Christians today. Their attempts to graft watered-down versions of God’s commands to Israel into a modern setting are labor-intensive, occasionally funny and more than a little sad.

Then you get people like Valerie Tarico.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (1)

Taken in isolation or viewed from a distance of several thousand years and from a completely different cultural background, almost any Bible instruction may initially seem a little alien.

People are generally uninterested in doing historical research or establishing cultural context before they start forming opinions. It’s a whole lot of work … and, let’s face it, it’s fun to mock things. It makes us feel intelligent or morally superior.

So taking a poke at certain of the Old Testament commands that God gave through Moses to the people of Israel as “weird” is becoming increasingly trendy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Communicable Defilement

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about the Levitical laws having to do with uncleanness and ritual defilement, and I applied them to the subject of mankind’s relationship to its Creator.

Since nothing happened to Israel in a vacuum and precious few of their laws are without some practical application to the Christian life, today I’d like to look at the issue of ongoing defilement and uncleanness in the era beyond the Law of Moses.

But before we do that, we need to take one last look back at Leviticus.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Twelve-Year Illustration

The first two gospels tell the story of an unnamed woman who suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years.

Believing even the briefest, most ephemeral contact with Jesus would heal her of her condition, she crept up behind the Lord to touch the fringe of his robe. And we all know the rest of the story, including the “your faith has made you well” part.

Mark records that the woman had “suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse”. Having spent some time in the care of doctors, I can relate. I can more or less imagine what that might have meant for her medically.

The part of the story I never really thought about before is what it meant for a Jewish woman socially and religiously to be declared ritually “unclean”.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Priests Are In The Pews

The concept of priesthood did not originate with the Bible. That may be where most of us first encounter priests, but priesthood has existed in many other cultures throughout history.

Canaanite culture, for instance.

Abram met Melchizedek, king of Salem (later called Jerusalem). Melchizedek was not only a priest; he was also likely a citizen of one of the nations that several hundred years later God would instruct Israel to exterminate from the face of the earth. That’s unless Chazalic literature is correct in asserting that Melchizedek was actually a nickname for Shem, son of Noah, who we know outlived Abram. We have no scriptural evidence Shem was Melchizedek, but his exceptional age would certainly explain the respect Abram extended to the “first priest”.

And this is the very first reference to a priest in scripture.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Almost Wish You’d Stop Posting Altogether

Complaints, complaints. You always get them, don’t you.

These are not complaints about Coming Untrue, I hasten to add (though we may be overdue for a few). No, I plucked them from the comments section of another evangelical blog where they were presumably destined to disappear quietly into the ether. The writer of the piece being critiqued prudently elected not to respond to his critic in kind.

But such sentiments are the sort of thing generally expressed by self-designated representatives of the status quo whenever anyone proposes a change to, well … anything at all.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

An Object Lesson Rejected: The Feast of Tabernacles

Illustration from Bible Pictures and
What They Teach Us
, Charles Foster, 1897
The Jewish historian Josephus referred to Tabernacles, or Sukkot, as “[a] feast very much observed among us”. From the time it was first instituted at Mount Sinai, this feast has held a unique place among the festivals of Israel. The details of its observance were given by God, its future significance was expounded by the prophets, and its spiritual substance was exemplified by Jesus during his brief life on earth.

Let’s consider the origins of the Feast of Tabernacles, its role in prophecy and finally its use by Christ as an object lesson to reveal to a darkened and spiritually thirsty nation the truth about himself.

Origins of the Feast

The Feast of Tabernacles was instituted by divine command, one of three major feasts in Israel’s annual cycle which required that every male in the nation appear before the Lord in Jerusalem. The last feast in the yearly series, it was held for seven days in the seventh month, from Tishri 15 to 21. This placed Sukkot in the pleasant weather of early autumn, after the completion of the harvest. Beginning with a day of rest, it was concluded by an eighth day, also a day of rest, featuring a closing assembly accompanied by the relevant sacrifices.