The word for this chapter is “just”. They are to have a just society. Previous chapters could have the words “God fearing” “humble” “caring”.
This is about the refuges cities. We’ve heard of them before but the reason is drawn out more, that it is about stopping the shedding of innocent blood. The measures discourage escalation of revenge killings between tribes and families.
Then detailing that the legal system is to represent a genuine quest for truth, with multiple witnesses and thorough investigations of facts.
It’s so familiar these ancient texts. Despite lots that is culturally remote, the core of what we still regard as an ideal society is being laid out in God’s word here. No wonder there were times when Israel fell in love with the law.
There need be no poor/you will always have poor.
The lord loves us and provides enough for mankind. Society will always have inequality, but we are to actively minimise it.
Here are the rules by which all debts were to be cancelled every 7 years. God wanted all his people to do well, not a stratified society.
Beyond that, they are told to live by the spirit of being an open-handed and generous society. So to exploit the rules by being less generous because you know the 7th year approaches is a sin.
And servants are to be allowed the choice to be free. They are all descended from slaves, their society cannot support involuntary slavery. Think how that must have affected the life of servants every day, knowing that they could be free after 7 years.
God’s vision of society is just and generous. We were all slaves. All we have comes from him, we aren’t to hoard it or lord it.
This is the business end of numbers where God tells Moses what will be the borders of the promised land, and tribal representatives are appointed to go with Joshua, Moses’ replacement as leader, and the high priest to claim it and set the tribal boundaries.
Its sort of pragmatic and sort of weird. Moses converses with God. We’d possibly call him crazy today. They got to be a nation that didn’t have land – a slave nation within Egypt. Directed by God, they’ve arrived at this occupied, relatively random land, which they are to claim by driving out or killing everyone living there… complete annihilation of the existing culture and existence. I feel disloyal to God saying that, or should I say untrusting of his justice.
Its a formative moment in history – no land, no nation, no nation no messiah, no messiah no christianity. Love it or hate it, Christianity is the biggest religion, a third of the planet. Judasim not far behind. Its a big deal moment.
Speak to me, father.
The concept of leaving fields fallow one year in 7. Plus the concept of a jubilee year one year in 50.
These are both systems for breaking down the sense of entitlement that wealth brings over time.
The Lord promises extra harvest in year 6 to cover no harvest in year 7. Its described as a sabbath for the land. It lends spiritual significance to good agricultural practice.
This is a trust thing and an anti greed thing. Its acknowledging that it is the Lord who provides wealth, and trusting him to provide because of our obedience, not our efforts. A modern company would have the instinct to treat the extra yield in year 6 as a windfall, and year 7 as an opportunity for growth, but this philosophy is one of sufficiency and sharing, not exploitation of advantages to get ahead.
The Jubilee year has a detailed system that allows a reset of wealth and inequality. Wealth breeds a sense of entitlement over time, but God’s people are to understand that it comes from God. This rule breaks the tendency of inequality to increase and become entrenched over time.
I liked the reference by the Lord back to the slavery of Egypt. He’s not going to deliver them from slavery to slavery. Ingrained social inequality is a modern slavery.
Many rules in Leviticus seem primitive or harsh from the modern perspective. This flips that, we have no modern equivalent of the jubilee year to redistribute property every 50 years. Property belongs to God. Tell the landed gentry, the real estate investors that.
Thrown right into an example of why you would dread being king. David administers justice for the Gibeonites, a tenant of the original occupiers of the land, which means allowing them to kill 8 Israelites. He handles it and as fairly as he can, seeing that they get a proper burial and the families are looked after.
The story is framed a bit like an Aztec style human sacrifice. There is a famine in the land until it is done, and the doing of it brings prosperity again.
But I think it’s a lesson in justice, justice requires death. Jesus’ death could be viewed as a human sacrifice. The blood is not purchasing of some rain and blessing from God, it’s righting a wrong.
Then there is the story of the Israelites being the giants, relatives of Goliath. This is bridging the story of David round in a big loop from the first demonstration of his greatness, when he slew Goliath, to the decline of it. Israel is starting to slay their own giants without him.