I am still reading Leviticus as I write this, because this will be my last post on it. Leviticus is the laws given to Moses to give to the people. Biblical literalists claim that every word in this book (the whole Bible, not just Leviticus) must be taken literally. Of course, these people only say this so that they can cite Leviticus 20:13 and claim the moral high ground instead of letting people be people as they are. What about all of the other laws and rules put in place in this book? Do these people set fire to their leftovers if they’ve been in the fridge for more than two days? (Lev. 19:6)
I follow a Rabbi on Twitter and subscribe to her newsletter, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, and I have learned that the Torah (Pentateuch) cannot be read as is, but requires Rabbinical study and knowledge of Hebrew. The translation gets the basic point across, but in order to fully understand it requires knowledge of the Talmud. This is where Christian literalists are clueless. Going back to the first paragraph, the verse as it is written in the NRSV is:
13If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 256). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
A quick Google search to a Jewish website explains something that isn’t quite obvious on the surface. First of all, other translations, including the NIV, do not translate this verse correctly according to the original Hebrew. Look at the first two nouns, “man” and “male”. According the Jewish Standard (website) the original Hebrew uses two different words, one for man and the other for male. Hmm, could there be a reason for this. Here is the article that I found, and there are plenty of other articles on this same subject. My advice is to stay away from Christian sources when looking for information on the first five books. They were written in Hebrew and Jewish scholars know way more about that than Christian amusement park owners.
Throughout this book, God seems to really picky about the animals that are burned for him. They must not have a blemish upon them, as if all animals don’t look the same after they’ve been barbecued. These sacrifices are not voluntary according to the reading. Moses and his people do not appear to be giving of themselves because they want to, but because of fear of reprisal if they don’t. However, reading further, it looks more like Moses and his priests are making this stuff up as they go along in order to get the best food for themselves. The people are instructed to bring the first fruits of the harvest and the best lamb to the priests as an offering. A burnt offering is to be eaten by the priests within the same day. I get it now, it’s a racket.
17Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death. 18Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, life for life. 19Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return: 20fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered. 21 One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it; but one who kills a human being shall be put to death. 22You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the LORD your God. 23Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; and they took the blasphemer outside the camp, and stoned him to death. The people of Israel did as the LORD had commanded Moses.Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 265). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Prior to this passage, Moses handed down the law that blasphemers will be stoned to death. It’s good to know that blasphemy laws have been overruled by civil law. However, that’s not why I point this passage out. Biblical literalists tend to ignore verse 22. They treat their own in one way while expressing a desire to trample the rights of outsiders. Everyone should be treated equally regardless of their status.
It goes on in chapter 25 to be very specific that the laws stated here are for the Levites. A lot of monetary policy here along with directions of not charging interest to kin. It goes on about supporting kin and not charging them for food at a profit.
The book goes on about rewards for obeying the laws and punishments for disobeying. Obedience begets rains in the growing season, plentiful harvest, good luck in war, etc. Disobedience begets pain, pestilence, war, and death. So make sure that fatted lamb is cooked to absolute perfection…or else. It’s telling that the section on obedience is a couple paragraphs, but the section on disobedience goes on for pages and pages, as if God really likes talking about how he is going to hurt people who don’t follow every jot and tittle of the law. Chapter 26 is nothing more than torture porn in the highest degree.
Chapter 27 discusses votive offerings. If you pray for a man, it’ll cost the most and a female alien costs the least. If a person can’t afford the set cost of an offering, the priest will determine what they can afford. Also, God is the only one who can charge interest.
Leviticus is definitely not for modern times, at least not how it is presented here. It is a mixed bag of laws that have very little relevance to today and are already overruled by modern civil laws and statutes. Fully understanding the law written in this book requires knowledge only available to scholars of the Torah.
I hope I didn’t bore you too much with this post. I will now be moving onto Numbers, but I have a feeling it will be more of the same.