Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's a big challenge to write about the book of Leviticus.

The challenge is to write something positive about 27 chapters that I find so long-winded and unengaging. (sorry, that's just how I honestly feel)

But the BIG challenge is to write something positive about it because, more than any other book of the Bible, this one actually does claim to have been authored by God.

I haven't done the maths, but it seems like about 95% of Leviticus is Moses quoting what God said to him. We can argue over the collaborative God/human authorship of the rest of the Bible, but not so much with Leviticus.

It's mostly laws, about such culturally-specific subjects as animal sacrifices, what to do about mildew, and bodily... no, I'll just stop here.

An intriguing pattern throughout the Bible is one of God teaching mankind to tell right from wrong. Leviticus (the third book in) seems to be the start of God's curriculum in this. And as such at this early stage, he's keeping it simple. I could quote stuff, but if you dip into the book yourself almost anywhere, you'll find just how spelt-out it all is.

Some of it seems to make little sense – chapter 11 on clean and unclean food for example - but I really think that's because, from our perspective, it's over-simplistic.

When we look at unclean food today, we look at details like hygiene, nutrition, bacteria etc. Tough subjects to comprehend in lesson one.

To use an analogy, when we teach young kids about colour, we use toys with very simple colours – red, yellow, green, blue etc. We don't tell them about maroon, indigo, ocean grey and superviolet until later.

(I actually think that brightly coloured toys hold-back a child's development, because they distract them from recognising the subtle gradients in trees, stones, the sky etc., but that's just me)

Anyway, maybe Leviticus is God starting us off with simple stuff.

By the awful time of 2 Kings, people are just not following God's simple instructions, and everything's going the way of madness.

And then come the gospels, which feature Jesus repeatedly trying to make people think, using parables and metaphors to get people's brains slowly grinding away.

It all makes a mockery of our man-made 'law,' and of the popular paradigm that if something is true in one context, then it must always be true in all contexts.

Here, take a read of this:

GOD spoke to Moses: "Tell Aaron, None of your descendants, in any generation to come, who has a defect of any kind may present as an offering the food of his God. That means anyone who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed, crippled in foot or hand, hunchbacked or dwarfed, who has anything wrong with his eyes, who has running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to offer gifts to GOD; he has a defect and so must not offer the food of his God. He may eat the food of his God, both the most holy and the holy, but because of his defect he must not go near the curtain or approach the Altar. It would desecrate my Sanctuary. I am GOD who makes them holy."

- Leviticus 21:16-23 (Message)

Well, that doesn't sound very nice. Until you remember that Moses himself suffered from a speech impediment. Assuming that he still had it, then how, in light of the above, could he have spent so much time with God – enough to fill most of this book with quoting him?

I'm not telling you what I think, because my point here is precisely that the Bible often doesn't explain itself, precisely in order to make us think. (I think)

Here's what I do think God is constantly pointing us to though:

"Don't pervert justice. Don't show favoritism to either the poor or the great. Judge on the basis of what is right.

- Leviticus 19:15 (Message)

(I can't believe Moses spelt "favouritism" like that)

Finally, chapter 26 is awesome. God spells out the lengths to which he will go to turn someone away from their sins, and back to him. This time, I actually found the whole "hereditary sins" philosophy starting to make some sense to me. Just as kids inherit some disease, characteristics and talent from their folks, it's reasonable to question whether they might get some bad attitudes passed-down too.


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