To paraphrase the Grinch this book is all the law, law, law. Its a bit of a slog because of that but lucky for you I’ll try to sum it up briefly.
The first seven chapters of this book are about different types of offerings, when they should be used and how they should be presented. Lets just say for most of them its not a good day for bulls and goats. Most of the offerings are ways of making things right with God. The main idea being humans will mess up and we needed a way of making right. Because the people presented with this law were most shepherds it stands to reason that animals are precious to them.
Using animals as burnt offerings to deter sins and keep them vigilant is all in all a good idea. Being inspired by God or simply a man-made incarnation I see the logic and find it sound. I see parallels with how we use fines today.
Aaron and his sons
Once the different types of offerings are established Moses uses this to consecrate Aaron and his sons as the first priests. This set them apart and made them holy in a way to be able to lead and direct the flow of events at the Tabernacle.
Aaron’s sons though did not perform the rituals correctly. The wrong incense was used in the censer and were consumed by God’s fire. Aaron was upset at this, but Moses told him that he should not grieve. He also banned Aaron and his sons from drinking fermented beverages in the performance of their duties. Its not explicitly stated, but the implication does seem to be there that Nadab and Abihu’s error may have been because they were drunk. Seems a bit harsh to me.
The next bunch of chapters are more law. A lot of it revolves around when a person is “clean” and when they are “unclean”. Also if they are “unclean” what process they can use to become “clean” again. Cleanliness in this area is truly next to godliness since you are not able to perform holy duties or take part in holy practices unless you are clean.
At a high level here are some of the topics discussed in this section.
- What animals you can and cannot eat
- Establishment of circumcision and restitution of a woman’s cleanliness after giving birth
- Dealing with skin disease
- Becoming clean after ejaculating or having your period (yep women on their period are considered unclean)
- Establishment of The Day of Atonement
- Forbidding eating of blood
- Outlaw of incest
- Keep the sabbath
- Dont curse your parents
- Ways a priest may marry
Violation of these laws largely result in either being “cut off” (exile) or death depending. Some of the lesser forms require one of the burnt offerings detailed at the beginning of the book.
Celebrations and Feasts
The following festivals and feasts are established in Chapter 23.
- Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
- Offering of the Firstfruits
- The Festival of Weeks
- The Festival of Trumpets
- The Day of Atonement
- The Festival of Tabernacles
They go into details of how, when and what but I’ll leave that for you to read if you wish.
Blasphemer put to death
After this a story is told of the son of an Israelite mother and Egyptian father that blasphemed the lord during a fight. The response was arrest and to be brought before Moses. Upon council with God the judgement is passed that he should be taken out of the camp and stoned to death. The ones that are responsible for enacting this punishment are those that witnessed the crime
In the same breath this is where passage about eye or an eye and tooth for a tooth comes from which is a bit of a non sequitur but I think is added to enforce that justice should be uniform, swift and equitable in a very ruthless way.
After this there are some final pieces put together and rules established. The importance of the number seven is increased to the point where it will effect farming as well. Every seven years no planting should be done and every 50 years (why its not 49 so it matches up with 7 I dont know) a year of Jubilee is established.
Jubilee is an interesting concept. It reults in the returning of property, freeing of slaves and charity of those less fortunate. Again it also means that no planning should be done and it be a focus time of celebration.
The book ends basically saying if they keep the covenant with God they will be rewarded and reach the promised land. If however they do not God will consider them “hostile” to him and that they have turned against him. He will remove his favors and likely they will be crushed by outsiders.
- Offerings established
- Aaron and his son established and priests
- Sons were killed for not performing duties correctly
- Laws established. A lot of them
- Festivals and Feasts established
- Blasphemer stoned
- Jubilee established
- Rewards and punishments for keeping the covenant
I mean what can I say? I would hope that most people see Mosaic law as outdated and barbaric today. Leviticus details how and when to keep slaves, how to use and in some cases abuse women, and kills a guy for picking up sticks on the sabbath.
I understand from a societal perspective why this law existed and why it was so strict, but it’s another one of those situations where you have to ask yourself why is God beholden to the mores of the time? Could he not have established a more just law from the start if he truly is all powerful and loving?
This is also the first time that the term “lord” for God was put in a different perspective for me. I always saw lord as a synonym for God and just another way of saying the same thing, but that’s not the case is it? Lord means just that; a ruler you are supposed to obey unquestionably. Now whether or not he has the right to command that is under question, but dont misunderstand thats what is happening.
I find it interesting the contrast between this vision of God and the one I grew up with. I bought into the relationship aspect of God growing up and saw him as a parent or something akin to a spouse. This is very different. This is king and vassel. This is literally obey me or die.
Feels weird ending there, but I’m not sure what else to say.