From Leviticus 19-21
In Leviticus many laws are nicely categorised. But there are some sections which are not. Today’s passage includes a whole series of seemingly unrelated rules and statutes for the Jews to live by.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
19 “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material. (Lev 19:19)
The passage starts with a command against mixing together different kinds of animals, crops and clothing. The hidden meaning behind these commands eludes me. It does make sense that many different kinds of animals cannot successfully breed together forming new species. Likewise it makes sense to make a distinction between different kinds of crops. I’m sure today we all wear clothing that is made up of different kinds of material (e.g. polyester).
20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed. (Lev 19:20-22)
The next set of commands seems unrelated to the first. The command envisions a man having sex with a slave who is ‘assigned’ (‘acquired’ NASB, ‘betrothed’ KJV , ‘promised’ NIV) to another man. The sex is condemned because she is assigned to another. Presumably if she wasnt it would be okay to lie sexually with her and it seems to allude this was regular practice. Because she was assigned to another man he has to make a guilt offering before the LORD to be forgiven for his sin.
23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:23-25)
This next section anticipates Israel’s entry into the promised land. When they come in they are to give the land rest by not eating its fruit. For a full three years. I can imagine this would be difficult after a lengthy campaign. The fourth year they are to give it all to the LORD. I suggest they were to do this for the good of the land.
How are you looking after the land around you?
In their case perhaps is was being mistreated by the existing owners who had taken too much from it without allowing it to grow back. The passage will touch upon the theme of land again.
26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:26-28)
The grouping of the commands here suggests they are all related to foreign worship at that time. Today many people craft and sculpt their hair in different ways. I can’t really understand why some would like to cut themselves unless they were a bit strange in the head. Otherwise the reference to banning tattoo’s may be an issue.
Do you have many friends with tattoos? What do you think?
29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. 31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:29-31)
The command prohibits forcing family members into prostitution. Their is a warning attached. If they do the problem will escalate and many will become prostitutes. Verse 31 warns against participating with divination. This again is related to foreign worship and superstition. Associating with these practices makes one unclean. Both commands here are connected by the commands to keep the sabbaths and revere the sanctuary. The LORD has brought them into the land and resides with them in the sanctuary. If they behave in these ways they make the land and themselves unclean. They cannot remain in the presence of the LORD and show no respect to him for bringing him there in the first place.
32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:32)
They are meant to respect their elders. I think we have trouble with this today. We value youth and beauty more. The ancient cultures respected their parents and looked up to their elders. They valued their opinions.
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:33-34)
When they see strangers in the land they are to make sure they are equally treated and cared for. The basis for this command is their own experience. They were once strangers in the land of Egypt. They were ruled over by others. Its true they were horribly mistreated.
What would their stay have looked like if they were loved by the Egyptians?
Israel is meant to learn from their experiences. Not to replicate bad ones but turn them around for good.
35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Lev 19:35-36)
In the marketplace the people were meant to treat one another honestly. The command is predicated on the LORD’s bringing them out of Egypt. They obey because he saved them.
37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.” (Lev 19:37)
Story of Israel
We saw in two section above Israel was meant to treat the land well and watch how they behaved in it. Today’s passage doesn’t mention it, but if they don’t treat the land as they ought they will be thrown out. In yesterdays section the warning is fairly strong.
24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 18:24–30)
It eventually happened anyhow. They were exiled because they defiled the land with their practices. Looking after the land is a command that dates back all the way to Genesis.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Gen 2:15)
But afterward the land was cursed when Adam and Eve sinned.
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:17–19)
Story of Jesus
At some point we have all sinned. Our sins have defiled the land. So even the land needs to be rescued. Fortunately the land will be renewed and this is linked to Jesus’ resurrection. Paul spoke about the renewal of creation and of the children of God.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18–25)
Creation will be set free from corruption just as God’s people will be. Jesus resurrection implies more than simply affirmation what his death has achieved. It means all creation will be renewed and restored to its former glory through the power of the Spirit.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.