This is not like my typical blog, but just the notes I used this last weekend for a discussion about the bible as a source of law. Enjoy.
Why should Christians care about Leviticus? First it’s necessary if they want to claim that the Bible is a source for modern Law. But also they claim that Jesus was, well, Christ. And he said in Matthew 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Luke 16:17 and 1 John 3:6-9 agree with this sentiment that anyone claiming to be of God must also be following the Law.
The first few chapters go through all the detail of how to perform sacrifices. Claims are made that sacrifices aren’t needed anymore because we had ourselves some human sacrifice (which seems in contradiction of Leviticus 20) and now sins can be forgiven. But that is only one of the types of sacrifice described.
Ch 1) Note that initially this covers any offerings, declaring they must be from the flock or herd, then it details what to do if these offering are to be burnt, nothing is allowed from any other source, nor is it discussed what to do if you don’t offer them burnt. Then, in verse 14, birds are discussed, despite verse 2 disallowing them.
2. When you bring an offering to the Lord, bring as you offering an animal from either the herd or flock.
3. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male…
10. If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from …, he is to offer a male…
14. “If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds…” (who cares, you said this wasn’t allowed).
Ch2. As if birds weren’t far enough away from the initial requirement, grains are now accepted. Further, the part of the grain that isn’t really an offering is the most holy part of any burnt offering.
1. “When someone brings a grain offering to the Lord, his offering is to be of fine flour.” (Great way to be sure the priest has quality food.)
2. “The priest shall take a hand full of the fine flour [and oil and incense] and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar.”
3. “The rest of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the offerings made [by fire].” (yeah, feeding those priests is really important.)
Ch 3) More ritualistic sacrifice, now in the name of “fellowship” (may be “peace”). This is already reading like the satanic cult movies of the 1980’s. There are lots of details of gutting the animals and more sprinkling of blood. Each offering so far has included that the burning tripe (or grain mash or manhandled bird) provides and “aroma pleasing to the Lord”. I would like to think we demand more of our cult leaders these days.
Chapter 3 basically goes back through the offerings of cattle, sheep and goats in Chapter 1, but leaves out the birds and grain offerings of chapter 2. Does this mean to say that grain and birds cannot be used as fellowship offerings? Also, now you can use either male or female animals.
Of special note: in the fellowship offerings, you are basically taking all the fat and kidneys and liver and “burn them on the altar as food” such that “all the fat is the Lord’s.” So, you’re taking your livestock in to the temple to have it slaughtered and cooking up the giblets with butcher/priest as thanks.
Ch 4) More ritualistic sacrifice with sprinkling the blood of goats and oxen, but this time it’s cover sin. More specifically, verse 2: “When anyone sins unintentionally”, then you can use these offerings. This time through the ritual details, the only mention of an “aroma pleasing to the Lord” is when a member of the community offers a goat as sacrifice and they burn the innards and fats. It may also be of note that the sex of the animal needed here is dependent on who you are: if you are a priest or community at large: you need to sacrifice a bull (male), if you are a leader: you need to sacrifice a goat (male), but if you are a community member: you need to sacrifice a goat (female) or a lamb (female).
Ch 5) This starts by listing some bad things someone might do:
1) If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.
2) Or if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean… even [if] he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.
3) Or if he touches human uncleanness… even [if] he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty.
4) Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything [in a flippant manner] even [if] he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.
Verses 1 and 4 are actually interesting. They are tenants to do more than just not falsely accuse your neighbor (a really weak commandment), but to testify truthfully whenever needed and to be sure that your word means something. Too bad they are put in with vague barbaric concepts of un-cleanliness.
Basic idea is to bring in another female goat or lamb for slaughter. But this time there is an out:
7) If he cannot afford a lamb, he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons… OR
11) If however he cannot afford two doves or tow young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering.
At verse 14 there is a discussion on how to pay recompense if any holy thing is damaged (basically pay the cost + 20% to the priests).
Then we jump back to more sacrifices if the person has broken a commandment, he “is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of proper value” – though we don’t know what the proper value is.
Ch 6) If a person “[deceives] his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it [etc.]” then he must return the property, or make restitution plus pay 20% the value extra and give a guilt offering.
The rest of Ch 6 deals with how the priest handles the guilt offerings.
Ch 7) This is all details of how much of the sacrificed animals can be eaten, and which portion goes to the priests for each the guilt offering and the fellowship offering. There is also a segregation of the fellowship offering into a thanks offering and a freewill offering.
Of more interest in this chapter, verses 22 – 27 explain that it is forbidden to eat the fat or blood of any animal, and if you do, you will be cut off from your people.
Ch 8) How Moses and his priests dressed to ordain themselves (not clear if this how all future priests are to be ordained) and yes, there is more sacrifice here.
Ch 9) More stories about the first priests.
Ch 10) The stories of the priests continue, assuming that this is relevant to all priests there are a few points to take: first there is only certain fire allow at the burnt offerings (1: “… they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them”). From this we can also learn that God is a dick to his own too.
Second, priests are to remain put together even during mourning: verse 6: “… Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die…”
Third, priests can’t have alcohol while in the “Tent of Meeting”.
Ch 11) Finally something useful:
- You can eat animals that have cloven hooves AND (not or) chew their cud. No eating from the OR bucket of animals (I won’t get into the errors of which animals chew their cud).
- You can eat aquatic life as long as it has fins AND scales. No examples here, but I guess shark is off the menu.
- Now, for the birds, don’t eat: … there is a list of specific ones you are to detest. (Now, since you detest them, I would think you can’t keep them either. In the list: ravens, owls, and hawks… all useful animals to keep.)
- You can eat insects, but only if they “walk on all fours” (I think God meant six) and fly and have jointed legs. (It doesn’t mention spiders though.)
- Off the menu: any animal with a partially split hoof, or that does not chew the cud, or any animal that walks on paws
- There is a list of lizards not to eat.
- Don’t eat any animal that has died (this seems to mean any animal that was not slaughtered by people).
- Don’t eat any ground movers (insects, snakes, salamanders, etc. though it’s a bit vague).
There is also a bit of discussion on how to clean anything that came in contact with something unclean.
Ch 12) A woman who has recently given birth will be unclean, and must make atonement after the proper waiting period.
Ch 13 & 14 &15) The priests play doctor. This was fine in the Bronze Age, but it’s not worth much now. Of note though: when discussing rashes and such, if the hair that grows from it is white this is a problem. I guess not many people lived long enough that all their hair was white.
Ch 16) Instructions for the priest entering to where the ark is… this is not relevant since there is no ark.
Ch 17) Now we learn that all the slaughter of animals must be done at the “Tent of Meeting” and are reminded not to eat any blood. That tent of meeting place is going to be nasty. All the blood is drained there, and all the fats are burned… can we not have one of those in the middle of town?
Ch 18) All the rules of sex laid out! Basically don’t have sex with your immediate family, and family through marriage is family. The only ones we talk about though are verses 22 and 23: two guys having sex is bad, and bestiality is bad. Two women though are evidently OK.
Of note: there are many laws in Leviticus that people claim to only apply to the Israelites in that time. If anywhere that should be the case, it’s with these rules on sex since it specifically says “you must not do as they do in Egypt… and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan”. If we are to filter out unnecessary laws, perhaps start with the ones that admit to be culturally dependent.
Ch 19) More laws! Actually this is list of laws that makes some sense, though we should point out a few that we don’t hold to:
- Do not mate different kinds of animals (like a donkey & horse to get a mule)
- Do not plant your field with different kinds of seed (like what any home gardener does, or what was a key part of the agricultural revolution)
- Do not wear clothing woven of two different kinds of material (like most clothes we buy)
- Don’t sleep with your slave if you promised her to someone else (this one is more of a WTF?)
- Do not eat meat with blood still in it (no more hamburger for you!)
- Do not cut your hair at the sides of your head or clip the edges of your beard (any one not a Hasidic Jew is guilty)
- Don’t make your daughter a prostitute (this one still holds, but I wanted to point out that there is no rule against prostitution, just forcing it on her)
- Observe my Sabbaths (more than one? We work on Saturday, if that’s what is meant, we are screwed)
- Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists (many despise this, but it’s not illegal)
- Respect the elderly (again, nice thing to do, but not law)
- When an alien lives in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself… (this one clearly lays out how to treat immigrants, legal or illegal)
Nothing here suggests that these laws can be ignored.
Ch 20) The chapter starts by condemning sacrifices to “Molech” and particularly human sacrifices. Then it goes through the punishments for a few of the rules. The punishments vary from death to being childless (this seems unlikely).
Ch 21) It starts with rules for priests, but at verse 18 we see that no crippled, disabled, blind, or hunchbacked or wounded person and no dwarf nor eunuch can come near to make offerings. They can eat of the offerings, but not on location.
Ch 22) Again through the list of what makes you unclean, added to this list this time is the vague “he will also be unclean if he touches something defiled… by anyone who has an emission of semen”. I think this means if your teenage son uses a sock for…, and you gather his laundry, you are unclean.
Then there is a reminder that God only likes animals without defect for offerings. And (verse 28) “Do not slaughter a cow or a sheep and its young on the same day.”
Ch 23) We learn a bit about the Sabbath in verse 3: “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly.”
4-8: Passover, eat some unleavened bread.
There is a bit about harvest celebrations. This is both at the start of harvest and 50 days later. The one at the end of harvest sounds like a fun time (this would also match up well with other cultures harvest celebrations).
Verse 22: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien.”
Verse 24 and 27 lay out that the first and tenth of July are awesome days where we should all take a day off.
Ch 24) More punishments: Blasphemy or murder = death. Kill an animal, pay restitution. Any injury must be paid in kind: “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. The same law applies for natives and aliens.
Ch 25) Verses 1-7: Give your land a year off, ever 7 years. But it’s contradictory: “Do no reap what grows of itself.” And then “Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you”.
Also, every 50 years, you are to have a party… Except it isn’t 50 years, it’s 49… oh well, it’s a party.
Fun detail: the Sabbath year is all at the same time, so it’s not crop rotation. So, what do you eat that year? Verse 21: “I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the lad will yield enough for three years.” Great, unless there is a drought or other famine.
Also, the property that you have cannot be sold, if it is sold, then on the 50th year (party time), you can go back and reclaim it. Also if you sell yourself as an indentured servant, you are released on the 50th year.
Ch 26) If you obey all the laws, the land will take care of you and you will be magically happy. If you do not… lots of bad stuff.
Ch 27) This is the oddest chapter as it requires specific knowledge of how they worked to make any sense. But basically, it sets an exchange rate between people and animals and money and land when giving things to priests. There is also a mention of a tithe, but this may refer to payment made by a conquered people.