Alrighty, soooo … Leviticus, huh? I just finished it last weekend. God had mercy on me and made it shorter than Genesis and Exodus; thank you Lord. So let’s get right to it.
First off, what is Leviticus about? Well for the most part, it consists of more of God’s commandments, rules and regulations that he gives to Moses to give to the people of Israel. Exodus ends with the tabernacle being built for God, as requested by God himself. Then Leviticus starts with God appearing in the tabernacle to Moses, to start giving him
more commandments and laws. Other than this, there is some slight movement forward in the plot, in the form of Aaron and his sons being ordained as priests, and then God kills a couple of them, naturally. We’ll get to the details of that in a bit. But for the most part, that sums up Leviticus. Not too much else happens other than all the commandments.
For Leviticus I will not only split this review into the “Good Stuff” and “Bad Stuff” sections, but this time I’ll also add another section for “General Observations”, because there’s a few other tidbits in here that I find interesting, but they don’t really fall into a “good” or “bad” category.
Well, with most of this book consisting of more commandments and laws from God, there are a few of them in here that are clearly logical and helpful to society, and they teach us important life lessons about how to be “good people” as well. Here are some examples:
- There are laws here about how to deal with a situation where someone steals from their neighbor, or somehow destroys or pawns off something of their neighbor’s that was entrusted to their care. The person guilty of this crime must pay their neighbor back in full, plus an extra fifth of that for restitution. Then he has to do a guilt offering to the the priest/God, which I’m not a huge fan of to say the least, but we’ll get into the details of that stuff in the next section. God does forgive the guilty person after the guilt offering though, which is good.
- There are a couple similar verses to this one in Exodus, but Leviticus mentions several rules about how to tend to your crops so that the poor can actually eat from them too. Like this one: 19:10 “And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
- 19:14 “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind …” FYI there are also some other highly questionable passages about dealing with handicapped folks in other chapters, but we’ll get to that later. At least this verse is a good one.
- 19:16 “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people …” Lol! Don’t gossip and spread rumors.
- Don’t do anything that endangers other people.
- Do not “hate your brother in your heart.”
- 19:18 “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” A great one, though I wish God followed this one himself (the “avenge” part in particular). :-\
- Show respect for your elders.
- Do not mistreat foreigners/aliens, love them as you love yourself.
- “35. Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephahd and an honest hin.” In other words, be honest and do not try to cheat others.
- So, there’s a chapter in here about the year of the “Jubilee”, which is supposed to happen like 50 years after the Israelites move into their new homeland. There are a bunch of rules around what is supposed to happen in this Jubilee year, and frankly I find most of them to be confusing and somewhat illogical. BUT there are a few of them that seem to be good ones. Like these:
- “25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” Does that include slaves though? Because if not, then it’s kind of a cop-out. I am unclear on this.
- “25:17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God:for I am the LORD your God.” Again, does that include keeping slaves?
- “25:39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee ; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: 40. But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile. 41. And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.” At a basic level this is good, although we quickly find out that this only applies to Israelites, not anyone of any other nationality.
So, the good news is, out of the three books I’ve read so far, this one definitely has the longest list in the “Good Stuff” section. So I mean … it has that going for it.
Leviticus is usually used as an example of one of the crazier books in the Bible. And it certainly is crazy, believe me – the majority of the commandments are pretty bonkers. But I am still surprised at how Genesis and Exodus were SO insane that it almost makes Leviticus seem like a walk in the park – albeit a very crazy schizophrenic dangerous park. Here’s some highlights of the bad stuff:
Leviticus devotes chapter after chapter after chapter to minute details of how to ritually kill animals for God, and on exactly what occasions to do so. If you want to praise God? Kill an animal. You’ve sinned? No worries, just kill an animal. Do you want to have fellowship? Kill a FEW animals!! Is it Tuesday? Did you wash your hair today? Did you breathe today? Kill some freaking animals!! Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are all focused
on the gory details of how to do it. Then the next couple chapters after that are when they get to actually doing it, starting with Aaron and sons being ordained as priests. If you think about ALL the Israelites in existence at the time and how many times each person/family would sin or make a regular burnt offering on a regular basis, the sheer number of slaughtered animals each day must have been staggering. How did this many animals even EXIST?? And WHAT the hell is the point of it all!?
God repeatedly refers to the animal and grain offerings (he likes bread and cakes too) as a “sweet savour unto the Lord.” Can God TASTE things?? I mean come on, really?? Why would God need to eat? It seems that he allows the priests’ families to eat from these animals, so that’s good (less wasteful), but it doesn’t seem like he lets anyone else eat from them, at least not from what I can tell. With all these animals being slaughtered on a regular basis, I seriously doubt the priests’ families could eat THAT much. The best explanation I can come up with as to the purpose of all this is that God is trying to make people work and pay for his “respect” and for freeing them from slavery and giving them the promised land, and the most valuable possessions these folks would have to give is their crops and animals. And then for the “sin” offerings, it’s a symbolic act of making someone pay for a person’s sins (poor innocent animals of course). To me it just seems absolutely absurd though. People in this day and age in first world countries who engage in ritualistic animal sacrifices such as the ones described every 5 seconds in the bible would generally be considered by most (including Christians) to be some sort of evil satanists or cultists or wacky voodoo priests. Seems a little hypocritical. Do modern Jews and Christians realize how much they’re disappointing God each day by NOT performing animal-killing rituals??
Onto the next freaky deaky thing in Leviticus – God’s obsession with things that make you “unclean”:
- This first one isn’t “bad” but just an example to start this off: If you touch an animal that is already dead, you are unclean (FYI there are rules around when/how you become “clean” again for many of these situations).
- You should never eat any of the following animals, because they are unclean and an abomination (these are just a few examples): animals that “chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof,” rabbits, pork, shellfish like shrimp and lobster and crabs, eagles, vultures, ravens, owls, bats, bugs and flies (except locusts, beetles and grasshoppers – you can eat those), “beasts” like lions and tigers and bears, rats and turtles, ferrets, lizards, snakes, etc etc. The reason I point this out in the “Bad Stuff” section is this – Every “good Christian” out there who claims that gay people are an abomination because Leviticus says so, are most likely going around eating pork, shrimp and lobster all the time with zero feelings of guilt at all. If everyone followed Leviticus to a T, we ALL would have been burned at the stake by now for one “sin” or another.
- Women are unclean for several weeks after CHILDBIRTH. That’s right, God himself designed everything in humanity, including our reproductive processes, and yet he still considers these processes that HE designed, to be UNCLEAN. Really?? How logical is that? And if you give birth to a GIRL baby, you are unclean for TWICE as long as if you have a boy baby. Because girls are worthless and lame. And at the end of the unclean period, you have to sacrifice a lamb, and a dove or pigeon to God to basically get him to FORGIVE you for doing something so terrible as giving birth!! Another case of logic prevailing in the bible.
- All of the above rules also apply to women on their period. When you’re on your period, you’re not only unclean for that week, but for the week AFTER too!! That
means that women spend literally HALF their lives being unclean. If a man even TOUCHES a woman or anything she SITS on during this time, he is unclean too. And when your period is over? You gotta kill more animals for God so he’ll forgive you.
- The above rules also apply to a man who ejaculates. A man is unclean for a certain period of time after this happens. Except I don’t think he has to sacrifice animals after that, because men are cooler than women.
- Leviticus describes in pretty gross detail all the health problems that will make you unclean too. Skin sores and oozing grossness and all kinds of fun stuff. It calls almost every skin issue “leprosy” too which is kinda funny. Now, believe me, as the queen of hypochondriacs, I GET the logic of avoiding the spread of diseases. Having rules around washing yourself and your clothes for this purpose is logical. The main reason I mention it though is that there are a couple rules in here that are harsh enough to almost be funny, such as: When a person has an infectious disease like leprosy, God says that you have to live away from your people, wear ratty clothes, not brush your hair, and shout “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” whenever you see anyone!! Ouch, heheh. And after you’re recovered and “cleansed” (if it’s a curable disease), you have to do ritually sacrifice a bunch of animals for sin offerings to God, of course. Because getting sick is a sin too.
- If you eat of burnt offerings while you are unclean, you must be cut off from your people.
Other things that you are NOT supposed to do:
- There’s lots of types of incest that you are supposed to avoid at all costs. I’m not listing this in the “Bad Stuff” section because I like incest, but because the Bible has already been FILLED with people engaging in incest up until now and not getting punished, lol. But actually it seems like marrying your cousins is not specifically banned, so that explains away a good amount of the incest thus far. But the kicker is that Aaron and Moses themselves are the products of a mother and father who were aunt and nephew!! That is definitely forbidden. And gross. Oh and the punishment for incest is DEATH. A tad harsh.
- Here we go, the favorite verses of hypocrites everywhere: “18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” And then: “20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an
abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
- If you commit adultery, or curse your parents, you should be put to DEATH.
- HAHA! If you commit beastiality, not only should you be put to death, but you have to put the ANIMAL to death too!! God … these poor poor animals in bible times.
- Again (this came up in Exodus too), witches and wizards should be put to death. And again it mentions that if you work on the Sabbath, God will kill you.
- If a priest’s daughter becomes a prostitute, she should be burned with fire.
- If you cut your hair or beard, or get tattoos, you have sinned. Kinda funny that tattoos and skin “cuttings” even get a mention in the bible … didn’t realize that was a “fad” back then.
Other generally terrible stuff:
- Chapters 8 and 9 involve Aaron and his sons being ordained as priests. Then promptly at the beginning of chapter 10, two of Aaron’s sons (Nadab and Abihu), make an “unapproved” incense offering to God in the tabernacle. So they’re
attempting to pay respect to God but they aren’t doing it correctly. So God then does the next logical thing and shoots fire at them and burns them up and kills them. Then on top of that, God says that the community can mourn for them, but Aaron and his last two remaining sons CANNOT mourn or cry/freak out about it, or God will kill them!!
- Chapter 24 tells the story of some half Israelite/half Egyptian dude getting in a fight with some other Israelite in the camp. The half Egyptian dude then has the nerve to curse the name of the Lord. Ouch, BAD move, dude. So the Lord commands the following to Moses: “24:14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 24:15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” Then the very NEXT verse says this: “24:17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.” HAHA! They forgot the “unless God/Moses tells you to” part.
- More “eye for an eye” crap: “24:19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; 24:20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”
- Israelites are never to be sold as slaves in general; only heathens who are foreigners from other nations should be bought and sold as slaves. I guess in the 1600s through 1800s in America, slave traders were just following God’s rules by getting the slaves from Africa.
- Chapter 26 is generally awesome/hilarious (in a bad way). It describes all the nice things God will give you if you follow his laws, and then all the bad things God will do to you if you refuse to follow his laws (to torture you until you cry uncle and start obeying him). Just a few examples: He will cause you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart. You’ll “sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.” Your enemies will slay and oppress you. Wild beasts will come in and eat all your children and cattle. Anyway this goes on and on but here’s the best part: If you keep on disobeying him after all this, he will cause you to EAT your sons and daughters. Cannibalism, nice.
- Out of all the killing and stoning and weird-ass laws in Leviticus, this one may actually be the MOST disturbing to me: “21:18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, 21:19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, 21:20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken [i.e. damaged testicles]; 21:21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. 21:22 He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. 21:23 Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.” Ummmm … wow. I’m speechless. So God CREATES people with “blemishes” and handicaps, and then considers them to not be GOOD enough for him?? REALLY?? What does Sarah Palin think about this???? Other than all the killing, this has to be the most UN-Christian sounding passage I’ve read in the Bible so far. Hard for any rational person to argue that this is not totally despicable.
- Exodus and Leviticus have both given disturbing hints at human sacrifice, without much explanation around them. Just a verse peppered here and there to make you go, “Huh??” Leviticus actually manages to END on this note, in the very last chapter, just to freak you out: “27:28 Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD. 27:29 None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.” You have to read the earlier verses and find out the meaning of “devoted” to understand it better, but I did some Googling on it to figure out what the heck it’s about. Not shockingly, different people interpret it in different ways. This website gives good background info on it though: http://www.crivoice.org/terms/t-herem.html That site is so detailed that I haven’t even read the whole thing, but from what I did read, it’s incredibly thorough and informative.
Other General Observations
Several of the rules and regulations that God doles out in Leviticus clearly come from a place of “common sense” … especially in the days before modern technologies and inventions. Here are a few examples:
- God says that you should NEVER eat an animal that was already dead when you found it. This is just plain sense – the carcass will probably already be starting to rot and grow bacteria, and may have died of some infectious disease in the first place.
- You can eat the flesh of a burnt sacrifice on the same day you kill it, and sometimes on the next day. But never into the third day or beyond that. Again this is common sense – the meat will spoil by then. Even in today’s world with refrigerators, I still never eat any leftovers that are more than a couple days old. 😉
- You’re not supposed to eat blood. Fine by me, it’s gross and seems like it could be unsafe germ-wise. Filipinos may disagree – Isn’t there some sort of Filipino dish that is basically “blood soup”? – but a lot of them are Catholic, so they’d better start repenting now, heh.
- I’m guessing that some of the animals listed as an “abomination” (i.e. don’t eat them) in chapter 11 were probably listed based on the likelihood of carrying diseases and making you sick. I don’t know for sure, but it seems logical.
- The commandments about the types of infectious diseases that make you “unclean” also fall into this category – clearly it’s meant to prevent the spread of disease.
I mainly point these examples out because it helps support the idea that a lot of this stuff was written as general societal laws and good practices … and attaching a diety to it and giving people the threat of awful punishments if they don’t follow it was probably a very effective way to make sure people stayed in line back in the day.
O.k. so I think I’ve covered all the highlights that I wanted to touch on for Leviticus. So now it’s time for a rating. Hmm, this one may be tough. I gave Genesis a 2, and Exodus a 1. Leviticus had a larger amount of helpful/respectable stuff than the previous two books, but with the “bad stuff” still being pretty terrible, though not quite as insane as Exodus. And the ratio of good to bad still weighed quite heavily on the bad side. I’m debating between a 2.5 or a 3. Let’s give it a …
I decided to err on the low side because I need to leave room for improvement in future books. Let’s hope they can capitalize on that!! Numbers is next.