Leviticus Chapters 16 through 27

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.

Leviticus Chapters 12 through 15

Chapter 12

This chapter is about the purification of women after childbirth. If a women bears a male child, she is unclean for seven days (on the eighth, the boy gets the snip-snip) and her blood purification takes thirty-three days where she can’t touch anything holy or go into the sanctuary. Oh, double all of that if she has a girl because…of course.

After the purification, then she has to bring a lamb and pigeon to the tabernacle. The lamb is for a burnt offering and the pigeon is for a sin offering. Is that a sin offering because she is a woman or because she gave birth? My guess is the latter since it was in Genesis that God made childbirth a punishment.

Chapter 13

What’s that? You want to know everything about leprosy? You’ve come to the right chapter.

I am not going to go over everything in here because this is a long chapter and there is a lot of repetition. This chapter is regarding diseases of the skin and not just leprosy, but it’s all collected under the same banner. The priest examines the skin and makes his determination whether the person is clean or unclean and might require confinement. If it is determined to be leprosy, then that person’s clothing is burned. Of course, if the disease didn’t spread further, then only the section of cloth that touched the diseased tissue will be cut out.

I understand that people in those days had very little knowledge of diseases such as these, but the way this is written, it could have simply been a chart. I’m sure the cleansing process in the next chapter with be totally scientific.

Chapter 14

It’s not. Not. At. All.

The cleansing ritual is for a person who has apparently recovered will be sprinkled with bird blood. That doesn’t seem sanitary at all. I am not going to go through this chapter. It’s a lot of sprinkling of blood with cedarwood, red yarn, and hyssop. Also, tearing down houses if it’s believed that the disease is still in there.

I feel like it’s these previous two chapters that results in people believing that illness is a result of moral failure rather than a virus, bacteria, or genetics. There’s a lot of “guilt offering” or “sin offering” after a person recovers from a disease in these chapters. No, disease is not the result of sin.

Chapter 15

This whole chapter talks about bodily discharges including blood (for women), semen, and other discharges that sound like gonorrhea. Essentially, everything that people touch, sit on, or  wear during this time is unclean and they must be purified.

Naturally, the once the person is no longer having the discharge, then they have to burn animals, cut open birds, and pray at the tabernacle because they’re filthy sinners or something. They also have to bathe and wash their clothes.

Honestly, these past few chapters have been hard to read because of all of the repetition. Not only repetition within the chapters, but between the chapters. I mean, why couldn’t God make a chart? Put the animals and birds on one axis, the reason for the sacrifice on the other axis and then just put an X in the square. That would be a lot easier.

I feel like I could write this book better. Also, I don’t think anyone wants pictures for the last three chapters.

Leviticus Chapters 1 through 9

God tells Moses to tell the people…and what follows is a litany of instructions about how to properly make offerings to God. I suppose if I titled my posts creatively I would call this one, “There’s more than one way to skin a sacrificial animal.” The instructions include how to dispatch the animal on the altar, how to spread its blood, what to do with the freshly killed carcass, and so on and so forth. Admittedly, I did not read each chapter fully and merely skimmed slowly over them.

All fat is the LORD’s. 17It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements: you must not eat any fat or any blood.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 221). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

So much for that rare steak with the thin ring of fat around it. Fat is flavor, my friends.

God also tells Moses to tell the people that grain offerings that are baked must not be leavened. So does that mean that God is gluten-free? Leaven and honey should not be turned into smoke.

Reading through these rules, even atonement for property fraud and theft is accompanied by animal sacrifice. Either they had an overpopulation of animals and they were just multiplying daily, or the people were starving because their finest animals were burnt on the altar.

Anyone who consumes any blood will be cut off from their kin. Well, again, I guess that means no rare steaks.

Ordination of priests carries with it an animal sacrifice as well. Question for the pastor that follows my blog, when you were installed as the pastor of the church, did the congregation make a burnt offering? If not, why not? If they didn’t, then you missed out on having blood applied to your earlobe, thumb, and big toe.

OK, that tent must have been pretty rank after a short time. Blood was spattered on the altar from all directions. Animals were carved up and their entrails burned.

Part of the ordination has the new priest’s vestments being sprinkled with anointing oil and blood. Do you know how hard it is to get those two stains out of fabric? They had better pre-treat those vestments for at least a couple days prior to washing. They had to stay in the tent of meeting all week. Those stains are going to set in and they will be impossible to get out.

Exodus Chapters 21 & 22

Chapter 21

There’s still more rules before Moses comes down the mountain. These laws are concerning slaves, violence, and property. Are these commandments? Were these written on the first set of stone tablets that Moses brought down? I’m assuming they were. Although, these laws are pretty disgusting if you ask me.

Hebrew male slaves are free to go after they’ve served six years, if he was married when he came in, his wife will leave with him. However, if his master gives him a wife, she and any children she has will remain with the master. The male slave can declare his love for his master and wife and stay on as a slave for the rest of his life. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a moral guide for all time? Yeah, I don’t think so. Oh, then we get to the part about selling daughters into slavery.

Daughters sold as slaves are basically “wives” for their masters. Female slaves are sold for life, and not for six years like male slaves. This is likely because she has to stick around and take care of  any children she might have had with the master. If he takes another wife, the first wife will not be deprived of food, clothing, or marital rights. Should the master fail in this, she will be set free.

The section on violence starts off pretty normal for the bible, if a person kills another person, the killer will be put to death. If it wasn’t premeditated, then the killer will be allowed to flee to a predetermined location. There’s a lot of death penalty offenses for striking a parent, kidnapping anyone, or cursing a parent. If a person strikes another who is then laid up for a few days and needs a cane to walk, the striker will be free of liability and will only have to pay for the victim’s time off.

20When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Please, tell me again how slavery in the Bible is kinder and gentler. It goes on to say that if the slaveowner takes the eye or tooth of a male or female slave, the slave will be freed to compensate for the eye or tooth. That’s so kind and gentle sending a slave who has nothing out into the world. Who is going to hire those slaves? What happens to them?

Apparently the life of an unborn child is not that important. The penalty for injuring a pregnant woman to the point of miscarriage is a fine. If there’s any harm after that point, then it’s eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc.Property laws are mainly about oxen acting violently. Was this a big problem back in those days? If an ox gores anyone to death, the ox will be stoned to death, but not eaten. If the ox has been known to gore in the past and the owner doesn’t restrain it and it gores someone to death, then both the ox and the owner will be put to death. If the ox gores a slave, then the owner will pay the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver and the ox will be stoned. The rest of the chapter is about paying for the deaths of animals.

Chapter 22

This is getting ridiculous. Another chapter of laws. Either there were a lot of stone tablets, or the text was so tiny that nobody could read it. I am not going to write about every law since much of it seems really uninteresting. The first section can be summed up as, “It you stole somebody crap and you get caught, you pay double.” The curious thing I find is that if the thief isn’t caught, then the owner stands before God to see if he’s running a con.

2If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; 3but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 172). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The Oxford Commentary is no help here simply stating that time of day might have been taken into account. I am still trying to think of a reason that makes this make sense. I’ll get back to you.

The rest of this section refers to money, property, and livestock. Livestock seems to be dealt with the most harshly because it was most likely a person’s source of livelihood.

Next we come to social and religious laws, and another addition to the Biblical Marriage list. If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, then the man has to pay the bride-price and take her as a wife. If the father refuses to hand her over, then the man will pay the virgin bride-price.

There is no rhyme or reason to this list of laws. One would think that God would be more organized in his lawgiving. Instead, it looks like a brainstorming session for a bunch of ancient people trying to think up laws. The next three laws are as follows:

18You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
19Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
20Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 173). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is a group of guys sitting around the fire and thinking of things off the tops of their heads. I don’t want to know why that second item was put in there, but at least one person around that fire was disappointed.

The next part of the chapter is about being a good neighbor, like not oppressing resident aliens (I think some people need to reread this), not abusing widows and orphans (lest ye wives and children be made likewise). Don’t charge interest on money lent or take items in pawn. These are just laws that make for good neighbors.

The final few laws are about respecting God and leaders, making timely sacrifices including crops, livestock, and children. Also, don’t eat the meat of any animal that has been killed by animals.

Genesis Chapters 20, 21, & 22

Chapter 20

We come back to Abraham and Sarah as they enter Gerar. Once again, he says that Sarah is his sister and the king takes her as one of his wives. Is this a kink? More likely, this is a retelling of the earlier story that took place in Egypt. This idea comes from the Oxford Bible Commentary.

This version of the story has a different twist since God appears to King Abimelech in a dream and threatens him. Abimelech points out that Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister, but because Abraham is God’s special little guy, he won’t be punished.

But wait, it turns out that Abraham did not tell a lie…

It turns out that Sarah is his sister from another mother. So Abimelech gave Abraham livestock and male and female slaves and told him to settle anywhere on his land. He also gave him a thousand piece of silver. God healed Abimelech and the womenfolk so that they would bear children because he caused them not to be able to bear children in the first place. Once again, God, the great judge of character.

Chapter 21

And God allowed Sarah to conceive and give birth to Isaac. Abraham cut off his naughty bits at eight days old because…reasons, and we are reminded that these two are old.

Of course, there’s the tiny matter of the other woman and Abraham’s other son, Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah didn’t want the son of a slave to inherit anything along with her precious angel. So God allowed it and Abraham sent them on their way because, of course.

Once again, because Hagar is either a woman, a slave, or Egyptian, or all of the above, God does not talk to her directly, but only through an angel. The angel tells her that Ishmael will be a great nation. He would learn to use a bow and marry an Egyptian woman of his mother’s choosing.

In a bit of a weird scene, Abraham and Abimelech agree to be besties, but Abraham complains about a well seized by Abimelech’s men, but he knew nothing about it. Abraham gave him sheep and oxen, but held seven ewes back so Abimelech would hang out while Abraham digs a well. They call the place Beer-Sheba (mmm, beer) because it means Well of the Oath. Abraham planted a tree and hung out in the land of the Philistines.

The last two sections apparently overlap since Hagar went into Beer-Sheba, but that land isn’t named until the following scene. It’s a bit confusing to read and I needed to refer to the Oxford Bible Commentary.

Chapter 22

This is the worst story in Genesis. God sends Abraham to Moriah to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice and all Abraham can do is gather up the supplies and his servants and set out on the road. God gives no reason for his request and God forbid he question God (oh, right). I don’t know who said it originally, but I am reminded of a quote, “Any god who demands to be worshiped is unworthy of it. Any god worthy of worship would not demand it.”

Anyway, Abraham and Isaac make their way to the site, most likely with the kid doing most of the heavy lifting, and they build the altar. Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice is and dear ol’ dad tells him that the Lord will provide one. Abraham tied Isaac up, placed him on the altar, and pulled out the knife and prepared to cut the kid’s throat. An angel of God came down and stopped him, telling him that he passed God’s test.

Passed? PASSED?! No, he failed miserably. He was “just following orders” I guess. I would certainly hope that if I was tested in this way by the voices in my head, I would have sense enough to question them. Even if I was convinced that it was a real god, even the God of the Bible, I still hope that I would question his motives. Once again, God proves that he is a horrible judge of character and misses another psycho.

The rest of this chapter is God praising this sicko and then we get another genealogy. Oh, and spare me the apologetics about this story. I can read it and understand it with my own brain.