Leviticus

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Leviticus

LEV 1-9

Leviticus has almost no action, and is nearly entirely dictated by God to Moses in the Meeting Tent, or Tabernacle, which was set up outside the camp of the Israelites. Jewish tradition holds that it was written in a single month.

The procedure for making a sin offering was to bring a young bull without blemish to the altar in front of the tabernacle, allow it to be inspected by the priest, then put his hand on the head of the bullock. His sin would transfer to the animal. Then he had to kill it. The priests (Aaron's sons) would take the blood and sprinkle it around the altar. The sinner had to flay the offering and cut it into pieces. Then the priests had to arrange the head and the fat upon the burning wood on the altar, but the guts and legs were to be washed in water before they were burned.

Similar procedures were given for sacrificing sheep and goats. For turtledoves or pigeons, the priest had to twist off the head of the bird before he burned it. The feathers were cast on the east side of the altar.

Unleavened bread offerings were also burnt, but part of the bread was given to Aaron and his sons to eat. They had to be fried with oil, had to contain salt, but they could contain no honey.

Firstfruits from the grain harvest were offered to the LORD, but they were not burnt. But all of these offerings were made in the compound of the Tabernacle, which was replaced by Solomon's temple, and later the Second Temple of Nehemiah's day. After that temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, there no longer remained to the Jews a temple nor a tabernacle for these sacrifices to be made.

Jews continue to copy these laws faithfully from generation to generation, but without a temple the practical application of these passages in Leviticus are quite limited. Traditionally, for Christians, they are viewed as foreshadowing the sacrifices of Christ for the sin of all mankind. They also serve as a model for the elaborate rituals of the Catholic Mass which memorialize and make present in all times and places that eternal moment of Christ's death.

We get the first of the food laws in Leviticus: "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood." The penalty for eating the fat or blood of any beast is death.

If anyone commits a sin inadvertently, he is supposed to bring a young bull to the LORD for a sin offering. If he becomes unclean, he is supposed to bring a female lamb or a kid from the goats to offer, but if he is unable to offer them he can bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering.

If he commits tresspass (ie. violates the holy things of God such as ripping the veil in the tabernacle) then he needs to sacrifice a ram, plus bring money to fix the holy item he damaged.

Fraud is listed as a sin, along with failing to report that one has found lost property. Aside from the usual tresspass offering of animals, the monetary damages is principal plus 20% interest.

The fire is to burn on the altar forever, and never go out. None of these rituals were really unique, all the people in the surrounding areas perfomed like service for their gods, as late as the Roman Empire. It provides a snapshot into a kind of religion that appears utterly alien to modern eyes.

Moses followed precise instructions from God to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests, in the presence of all the people. After the elaborate ritual, which involved animal sacrifices and again serves as a model for the rituals involved with Catholic Holy Orders today, Aaron and his sons were to remain inside the Meeting Tent for seven days. On the eighth day "Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them", making the first annual sin offering for all the people in his new office as the high priest.

And the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

LEV 10-18

Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu ad-libbed the procedure and lit incense without strictly following the rules. Hence it was "strange fire" and God burned them up for doing it. Aaron was forbidden by Moses from even showing signs of grief for his lost sons, because the wrath of God would afflict the whole House of Israel.

Apparently the defective ritual occurred because Aaron's boys were drunk, because right after that, God told Aaron directly: "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations."

Aaron had two sons that were still alive, but they were still new at this game too. They pissed Moses off by failing to eat all of the sin offering in the compound of the Tabernacle. At least it didn't rise to the level of a capital offense, but they had to have been thinking, with two dead brothers now, that this priestcraft they had bitten off was more than they could chew.

Now the food laws came fast and furious. The Israelites could not eat camels, rabbits, pigs, nor anything that went on four paws. They could eat fish with fins and scales, but things with neither fins nor scales, such as squid, they could not eat.

Among the birds the Israelites could not eat eagles, ospreys, vultures, kites, ravens, hawks, owls, swans, pelicans, herons, and storks. Among the insects they could eat locusts and beetles and grasshoppers, but every other insect was abomination. Neither could they eat weaels, mice, turtles, ferrets, chameleons, lizards, snakes, snails or moles. The blood of all beasts was forbidden because it was essentially the life principle of all flesh, God reserved blood for making atonement for sin on the altar.

The rule of circumcising every male child on their eighth day is enshrined into the Law officially here in Leviticus. If a woman has a female child she must undergo rituals of purification which take twice as long as for a male child, because girls were double yucky to the Patriarchy.

There are detailed rules for dealing with lepers that fill fifty-nine verses in chapter 13 and fifty-seven verses in chapter 14. Jesus considered these laws to still be in force when he was healing lepers. He commanded them to seek out a priest for their follow-up care. In the 21st Century the disease is easily treated, and seems to mostly affect places like rural India where it is difficult to obtain access to modern treatments. In the US in 2002, there were only 92 cases.

In Leviticus 16 God revealed the everlasting ordinance for making annual atonement for the sins of all Israel.

1. Use a young bullock and two goats for a sin offering. 2. Use a ram for a burnt offering. 3. Put on the holy garments. 4. Cast lots, and assign one goat to the LORD and one as the scapegoat. 5. Offer the LORD's goat as a sin offering. 6. Use the bullock to make atonement for the high priest and his family. 7. Bring incense into the tent with the Ark of the covenant, so that the smoke will keep the Ark from killing the high priest. 8. Use a finger to paint the bullock's blood on the mercy seat of the Ark with seven dabs, all pointing east. 9. Kill the goat of the sin offering, and bring his blood through the veil, dab it seven times, and then sprinkle it on and around the mercy seat. 10. Sprinkle blood on the altar outside of the tent. 11. Lay both hands on the head of the live goat, confess all the sins of the House of Israel to put them on the head of the goat, then send the goat away into an uninhabited wilderness. 12. Clean up the whole mess.

The Book of Leviticus is much longer than it has to be, because for many of the sins it lists, it also spells out the specific procedure for atoning for it, what animal must be killed, how to burn it, where the blood must be sprinkled, etc.

Leviticus 18 is comprised of all the laws governing sexual relations and they were largely targeted at males. First of all, incest was forbidden. One may not have sex with one's mother, the wife of one's father, or one's sister whether she was raised at home or abroad. Sex with a granddaughter, a half-sister, or a step-sister was forbidden as well.

Sex with an aunt, the wife of an uncle, a sister-in-law or a daughter-in-law was not allowed. A three-way with a woman and her daughter was right out. Sex with a woman having her period, or sex with another man's wife was unlawful.

Leviticus did not say that it was forbidden to have sex with the daughter of one's father's sister or brother. So it was lawful to marry a first cousin. It also did not forbid visiting a harlot but it did forbid the practice of sacricing to devils after visiting a harlot (presumably to ward off venereal disease). Neither did Leviticus ever say that sex outside of marriage was forbidden.

But male homosexuality was explicitly forbidden: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." The corollary, that womankind shall not like with womankind as with mankind, was not mentioned. The men of that tribal society probably had no clue that lesbianism existed. Sex with animals was forbidden for both men and women, however.

LEV 19-27

God made a law that farmers were not to harvest every square foot of their land but leave some food for the poor and strangers to pick. Assuming that Leviticus really was given to Moses and not something cooked up by the priests in the 500's BCE, this law was in anticipation, because when the law was given, the Israelites were in the middle of the desert on the Sinai peninsula eating manna.

God told the people not to lie to each other, or joke around by swearing at deaf people or laying obstacles for blind people. Laborers were to be paid at the end of the shift, and not to be made waiting all night for their salary. Judges were not to be biased toward the poor nor toward the rich but judge justly.

God forbade the people from having hatred for one another, and even made the first statement of the Golden Rule in the Bible to love one's neighbor as another 'I'.

God had a problem with mixing things. He didn't want to see different kinds of cattle bred together, or different kinds of seed sown in one field, or clothing with linen and wool mixed together.

If a man lay with a betrothed woman she was whipped, but all the man had to do was bring a burnt offering to the LORD. Enchantment and fortunetelling was forbidden, as was getting tattoos. Men were commanded not to put their daughters into the sex care provider industry. In the marketplace, just weights and measures were commanded.

The death penalty was assigned for the various sexual sins mentioned in chapter eighteen, even for lying with a woman having her period. God gives the reason for all these things: He has taken the Israelites out of all other nations to be a holy people unto him, set aside for God, just as the Tabernacle was set aside from the camp of the people. Moral excellence was only an incidental feature of holiness. The primary meaning of holiness is "set aside for God".

Priests were forbidden to marry hookers or divorced women. If the daughter of a priest becomes a hooker, she is to be burnt with fire. Priests were required to marry virgins.

Men who had imperfections such as blemishes, blindness, lameness, flat noses, hunchbacks, dwarfism, scabs, or broken balls could not approach the altar of the LORD. If a descendant of Aaron was imperfect in the same way, he could not offer sacrifices to the LORD, but he could still eat the holy bread.

Strangers could not eat the holy bread unless they were slaves owned by the priests. Anyone who came near the holy things of God in an unclean state was to be put to death.

If a cow or a ewe were being prepared for sacrifice, it was forbidden to kill both her and her young on the same day.

The 14th day of the 1st month at sundown was Passover. This was the same time when Jesus ate the Last Supper, then was betrayed, and crucified the next morning. At sundown began the feast of unleavened bread, and the first day of that was a no-work day. That was why Jesus was hastily buried and then left in the tomb until the day after that.

Fifty days later was the feast of Seven Weeks, or the feast of Weeks, which came to be known as Pentecost. It was a thanksgiving feast for the grain harvest, and among Christians it marks the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came to animate the disciples and turn them into Apostles.

The 1st day of the 7th month was the feast of Trumpets, which is known as Rosh Hoshanah. The use of a trumpet blast to announce the day lends some Christians to believe that whatever year the Rapture comes, it will have to happen on this day of that year, with a last trump.

The 10th day of the 7th month was the Day of Atonement, when the high priest made a sin offering on behalf of all Israel. Everyone was required to rest from labor and fast on this day, mourning their sin.

The 15th day of the 7th month was the beginning of the week-long feast of Booths, when the people left their homes and camped on their roof or in their front yard in booths (or huts) made from tree branches to memorialize the hardships of the people when they wandered in the Sinai desert. Except that when the feast was first implemented, the people really were wandering in the Sinai desert camping in booths. This betrays the late invention of the feast.

Leviticus then outlines the law of retaliation: Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. It also commands that there is one law, for both the Israelites and the strangers who live with them.

A man with an Israelite mother from the tribe of Dan and an Egyptian father got in a quarrel with an Israelite and cursed the LORD's name. Moses announced the penalty for blasphemy, then had the Israelites carry it out. The man was stoned to death.

Leviticus then goes on to announce a policy of sabbath YEARS during which the land was supposed to lie fallow. There is no record of this law ever being put into practice.

The Sabbath tradition did not exist until the Exile, when the Jews picked up ideas from Babylon of the Shabbattu, the "full moon" which was the 15th day of the lunar cycle. They had four "evil days" on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth day of the month when the Babylonians did certain types of fasting. The captives reversed the meaning of these evil days and made them their own holy days. This new tradition was read back into the Torah when it was redacted from various existing documents.

If the Israelites kept God's commandments, he promised certain things:

I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.

Ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.

Five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

Ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.

But if the Israelites did not keep God's commandments, he threatened certain things:

I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.

Your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.

I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate.

I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

Ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.

I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.

I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.

During the exile the priests needed a reason to blame the people for their sorry state, so they read the sabbath back into history by a year-day principle and said the Lord would let the Holy Land lie fallow until all the missed sabbath-years were caught up. Then they would return. So the only time it was actually put into effect was when the Jews were all captive in another land and couldn't work the land anyway. The priests wrote this up and put it in the mouth of Moses retroactively, claiming that he knew all along that it would turn out exactly like that.

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