Leviticus overview: impossible rules


I started with one anti-Leviticus bias and ended with another. When I was younger I found it the most boring book of the bible.  But this time I was confronted and disturbed by the things offensive to my 20th century sensibilities, and the overall impossibility of the Israelite religious and cultural system. I got quite despairing and questioning of God reading it.

Its God’s rule book for the Israelite religion and society.  When Moses got the 10 commandments, this was the other stuff, the fine print.

Jesus called it “the law”, the thing he came to fulfil and replace. It was the old wineskin which would be burst if his new wine, his message, was poured into it. We’re free from it. You gotta almost pity god’s “chosen” people, given this impossible system to fail against.

That said, there is much beauty in these rules, themes of grace and compassion, justice and fairness run deep and strong. It created social conditions that were far more progressive and fair than the surrounding countries.  Commentators said that Israel became a magnet for immigration among the oppressed, marginalised and poor – which is the background of the story of Ruth, part of the line of David and Jesus.

I took from it that sin matters.  God is very very holy. These impossible rules for a perfect life, adapted to that specific ancient time and place, still show us how impossible we look from God’s perspective: stained, dirty, ruined, failed and dead from the moment we are born.  It is indeed profoundly shocking.

Read Leviticus, if you can stand it, to treasure grace.  Your desperate need, its harsh cost.

Section 1: Types of sacrificial offerings

1 Low expectations: anticipating the bible’s most boring book.
2 Grain offerings. No particular comment
3 Meat offerings. Less nice than grain
4 the value of thinking of sins as bad things we do… means we consider the practical consequences of our actions
5 Sin requires death
6 In which I forgive God for Leviticus
7 Summary of six offering types: burnt, grain, sin, guilt, fellowship, and ordination. Clean is a strong metaphor for holy.

Section 2: Highs and lows – the sacrificial system put into action

8 Something happens: Aaron is made priest (profound forgiveness there)
9 It all comes together: first sacrifice with priest and tabernacle, joy!
10 It goes horribly wrong.  The harsh consequence of God’s holiness helps us understand the size of his love

Section 3: Rules for clean/holy living.  And rules. And rules

11 Dietary rules. Literally serving suggestion only, feel free to ignore.
12 Things that make you unclean = normal life. I fail to understand.
13 Practical rules about infectious skin diseases. Meh.
14 My theory that “unclean” is a metaphor for needing grace
15 Genital emissions, diseased and normal …well at least we’ve moved on from infectious skin diseases. More about grace.

Section 4: Rules for Israelite society – some for now, some forever

16 The scapegoat festival. So much about grace in a book of rules!
17 Kosher meat. I get that the whole system is actually about respecting the meat they are eating. Sacrificial system is not gruesome, its mindful. 
18 Distinctive sexual morality, in which I write and write in circles and give the last word to a transexual woman
19 In love with Leviticus, treatment of the poor and immigrants a picture of practical love that makes our society look primitive
20 Hate Leviticus – treatment of sinners, aka, everyone, brutal and cruel. Aaargh! Leviticus!

Section 5 Rules for priests

21 Rules for priests. This system is designed to fail. By this point, I’m losing it.
22 Contemplating that the levitical system is a form of heaven/garden of eden on earth, perfectionism. My birthday. Ask God to understand. 

Section 6 Festivals, the future, failure and forgiveness

23 Special days like sabbath, and festivals.  We’ve been created to love these!
24 The lamp of God’s presence and stoning blasphemers
25 Jubilee year and fallow fields… progressive approach to property
26 Long term consequences of obeying vs disobeying these rules
27 Redeeming vows… forgiveness and paying the price of failure other ways




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