Bible study 117 – Leviticus 27

And that was basically the end of Leviticus; this chapter is probably a later addition. It concerns how much money you have to pay the priests to avoid various things being sacrificed, including firstborn animals and children. (Children, of course, wouldn’t actually be sacrificed either way, but you were still supposed to pay up.) Working-age males are most expensive, while infant females are only about one-seventh as much worth.

Leviticus 27:7
And if the person is sixty years or over, then the equivalent for a male is fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.

Full text.


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.

Bible study 115 – Leviticus 25

Every seventh year is a “sabbath of complete rest for the land”, and everyone has to live on the previous year’s harvest until the next year.

Then, for every fiftieth year, there is a tradition I’ve never heard of: the jubilee. The jubilee basically resets Israelite society: Everyone returns to their ancestral lands, all land returns to their original owners, and all Israelite servants are freed from their contracts (as opposed to every seventh year, which was actually ordered in Exodus 21). In effect, you can only lease land (or slaves) for maximum 50 years. I thought this was a really nifty innovation. It should be a stabilizing and equalizing force in society and though it probably has lots of pitfalls, I would love to see how it turned out in practice. Unfortunately, the Oxford Bible notes inform me that there is no historical evidence of the jubilee actually having been practiced.

Everyone are also strongly encouraged not to sell (or in effect, rent out) land except in desperate circumstances, and to take it back at the first possible opportunity without waiting for the jubilee; and to help any relatives with the same.

Unfortunately, foreign slaves are not part of this jubilee tradition.

Leviticus 25:46
You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.

Full text.

Bible study 114 – Leviticus 24

Aaron is instructed to keep a light burning in the tabernacle every night, and bread is to be brought to the priests in the tabernacle to eat.

Two guys in the crowd start a fight, ending with one of the guys cursing using God’s name. This has been prohibited several times, however the punishment for it hasn’t been spelled out yet. But considering stoning is the penalty for cursing your parents, the punishment for cursing God can hardly be any less strict, and the blasphemer is quickly stoned to death by the crowd on God’s orders.

God also uses the occasion to remind everyone of the “tooth for a tooth” rules; anyone who kills a human must die, and anyone who kills someone else’s animal must pay the victim an animal.

Leviticus 24:13-14
The Lord said to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him.

Full text.

Bible study 113 – Leviticus 23

Description of the various festivals the Israelites should celebrate.

The sabbath; passover and the following festival of the unleavened bread; offering of first fruit from the harvest; Shavuot (unnamed in the text); the trumpet blasting festival; the sabbath of sabbaths (also in chapter 16); and the festival of booths.

Leviticus 23:19
You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of well-being.

Full text.

Bible study 112 – Leviticus 22

Mostly a repetition of earlier rules for what priests can and cannot eat, and what can and cannot be sacrificed. The only new is that bound servants of priests can’t eat sacred food donations, while their chattel slaves can. Also their daughters can, unless they are married.

Leviticus 22:23
An ox or a lamb that has a limb too long or too short you may present for a freewill offering; but it will not be accepted for a vow.

Full text.

Bible study 111 – Leviticus 21

The following rules are mainly meant for priests: don’t touch dead relatives unless they are really close family and not your wife; don’t get tattoos or weird beard- or hair styles; don’t profane God’s name; don’t marry a prostitute or divorcee or someone who is not a virgin; and don’t have disheveled hair or torn clothes. Also, male descendants of Aaron with bodily defects cannot become proper priests, and daughters of priests must be stoned to death if they become prostitutes.

Leviticus 21:18-20
For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.

Full text.