Monday, February 15, 2010


Leviticus 19-21

Leviticus 19 contains instructions from the LORD to the Israelites, through Moses, on a variety of topics. Many of these instructions are either reiterations of, or expansions and commentaries upon, the Ten Commandments. There are admonitions to honor parents, observe the sabbath, abhor idols and false gods, not to lie or steal or swear falsely or defraud or pervert justice, and to honor the LORD and follow his commands. There are instructions to leave the edges and corners of the harvest and the vineyard for the poor and the alien. Verse 27 contains the admonition not to "cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard," which results in the distinctive look of the orthodox.

In chapter 20, the LORD follows the behavioral instructions with appropriate punishments. For many of the sexual sins outlined in chapter 18, the specified punishment is death. The methods specified include stoning and burning. Chapter 21 contains rules intended specifically for the priests who, even more than the community as a whole, "must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the LORD by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy." The priests had to marry virgins, not divorced or widowed or "defiled by prostitution," they couldn't shave their hair or beards, and they musth not be "blind or lame, disfigured or deformed."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • There are a great many different topics touched upon in chapter 19, and they are all aimed at one goal, as stated in verse 2 - "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Indeed, that is the underlying theme of the entire book thus far. It's a book of instructions for God's people to follow in being an example for all others. Jesus' said the same thing to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, that they were to be salt and light for the world.
  • We certainly live in a society which could fairly be characterized as sinful. But if we were to have a tendency to think of it as uniquely corrupt in human history, we ought to resist. Go back to Leviticus and consider the things that God finds it necessary to specifically outlaw. There's nothing whatsoever unique about the sinful nature of our society but the new technologies with which we distribute it.
  • I've mentioned this before, but again, anyone who uses the sixth Commandment to argue that God told men not to use capital punishment is misinformed or dishonest. God endorsed capital punishment, in many cases.

Psalms 14

"God is present in the company of the righteous." The psalmist here praises those who live in, and depend upon, the LORD. By contrast, those who do not follow the LORD "are corrupt, their deeds are vile." But he doesn't let himself off the hook, saying that "all have turned aside...there is no one who does good, not even one." And again, the prayer ends with praises and protestations of faith, as "the LORD is their refuge...when the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!"

Psalm 14
For the director of music. Of David.
1 The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.

3 All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

4 Will evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people as men eat bread
and who do not call on the LORD ?

5 There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.

6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is their refuge.

7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

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