Bible study 116 – Leviticus 26

In the first paragraph, God promises the Israelites abundant harvests and “peace in the land” as long as they keep their promises to God (in other words, follow all the incredibly intricate and at times contradictory rules God has laid out at length in Exodus and Leviticus).

The rest of the chapter is spent describing what will happen if the Israelites do not keep their promises. In great detail. The essence is that he will destroy their crops, make their enemies stronger, give them all sorts of weird psychological illusions (“you shall flee though no one pursues you”, “though you eat, you shall not be satisfied”, “They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues”), and somehow force them to eat their children. Finally, he will completely destroy their land, and scatter them “among the nations”.

I would love to call this last part an eerily accurate prediction; but a more likely explanation is that this part of Leviticus (chapters 17-26) was written after the Babylonian conquest of Judeah and subsequent exile of many Jews (so sometime after 586 BC). The writer likely blamed their expulsion from God’s promised land on the Jewish people’s insolence towards God. Still, this exile only lasted for about 50 years; and yet being scattered among nations has been a pretty persistent aspect of being a Jew for the last two thousand years, since they were largely expelled from their lands by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries AD.

For these post-Roman exile Jews, God’s promise to Jews who confess and make amends for their treachery must have been something to look forward to. He promises that he will “remember the covenant”, presumably meaning they can return to their lands. This promise was eventually fulfilled last century by a different power (the UN). Too bad the “peace in the land” part hasn’t been fulfilled yet.

Leviticus 26:38
You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you.

Full text.


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