My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.



Thursday, March 31, 2005

Numbers 18

What belongs to the priests

Summary:
Aaron and his sons are responsible for all things in the sanctuary and the priesthood. Priests should be descendants of Aaron.

Aaron and his sons get the most holy offerings, the wave offerings, what is given as firstfruits, anything that is devoted to God, including the firstborn. They will have no inheritance of land.

The Levites will get the tithe, but they must give a tenth of that tithe to God. The Lord's portion goes to Aaron

Key verse:
22. From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die.

My thoughts:
The priests need an income, and they get it from the offering given to God. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that sacrifices are required to 'feed' God as in other primitive religions. It is an offering, a sacrifice to show your appreciation of God, but the actual physical matter generally is burnt or goes to the priests.

People must respect God's holiness by keeping away from the tent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Numbers 17

God decides to settle it

Summary:
God gets fed up with all the complaining about Moses' and Aaron's authority and calls for twelve staffs to be made, each with the name of a leader of a tribe of Israel inscribed on it. Aaron's name is written on the Levite staff. The staff which buds is God's chosen leader.

The staffs are then put into the tent of meeting. The next day, Aaron's staff had not only budded, but flowered and produced nuts too.

The staff was kept as a reminder to the rebellious, and the people feared God.

Key verse:
8. [The staff] had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.

My thoughts:
It is interesting that God does not provide reasons for his choice of Moses and Aaron as leaders. When this leadership is challenged, God does not justify his decision, he simply confirms it. God is justice, and when he decides something, it doesn't need to be further justified. The fact that it was God's decision is enough justification. The ancient Israelites definitely knew this.

So, the issue is not whether God decision is right, but whether it is actually God's decision rather than someone's imagination.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Numbers 16

Groundular Burnination

Summary:
Some guys, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, plus 250 others, came to Moses complaining that Moses and Aaron should not be the only people set apart for God. Moses then rants about how the Levites should be happy with what they've got.

Moses told all the 250 plus the three to come tomorrow with censers of incense and they will let God decide who he has chosen. Dathan and Abiram refuse to come, and Moses tells God not to accept their offering.

So the big meet up happens the next morning, and God tells Moses and Aaron that he's gonna get rid of the whole assembly. Moses and Aaron plead that he doesn't kill everyone. So God tells the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Then the ground opened up and swallowed them, their households, possessions, and Korah's men. Then a fire from God burnt up the 250.

The people complained about the death, and God sent a plague, which killed many people until Aaron made an urgent atonement. 14,700 people died in the plague.

Key verse:
7. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy

My thoughts:
God is finding it quite hard not to kill all of the Israelites. He knew that if he went with them, he would be tempted to kill them, but through Moses' begging, God decided to go with his people. We can see that God was not kidding when he said he might kill everyone if he goes with them.

It must be noted that Moses and Aaron were chosen by God. They weren't self-appointed. However, some people disagreed with the power they alone had, and rebelled against it, not fully understanding how God had appointed Moses and Aaron. For their pride in trying to claim Moses' and Aaron's calls, God gave them the supreme punishment.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Numbers 15

Extra offerings, unintentional sins, and tassels

Summary:
Whenever an offering is made with fire, an extra grain offering and an extra drink offering are to be given as well. They are to be of differing amounts depending on the animal. The same rules apply for the Israelites and any foreigners living among them.

A portion of the food is to be given to God.

If a community sins unintentionally, they are to offer a bull and a young male goat and be forgiven.

If one person sins unintentionally, he is to offer a female goat and be forgiven.

If anyone sins intentionally, they are to be cut off from Israel.

One man was caught working on the Sabbath. He was stoned at God's command.

Clothing is to have tassels on the corners, to serve as a reminder that they are a chosen people under the law.

Key verse:
15. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you

My thoughts:
True, intentional sin cannot be tolerated in God's chosen people.

God gives a good basical principle under which relationships with foreigners should operate. Even in this day and age, people struggle to follow such a principle.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Numbers 14

Things get messy again

Summary:
The people get upset and rebelious because they hear that the land they're going to is full of strong men. They say they'd rather've stayed in Egypt. So Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, come before the people and try to reassure them. Then God turns up.

He says he'll destroy them all, but Moses convinces him not to, saying that that would just give the Egyptians something to boast. So God instead decides that he will forgive them, but that none of them, except Caleb and Joshua, will see the promised land for themselves. They will die in the desert over the next forty years.

The ten doubting scouts die in a plague.

Some people get fed up and leave the rest of the camp, where they are destined to stay for the next forty years, and they attempt to go take the land themselves. They get thrashed.

Key verse:
19. In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people

My thoughts:
This chapter is another messy chapter like Exodus 32. Things always seem to get messy when the people turn away from God. What I learn from this is not to turn from God. It's never works. If you go off and do your own thing, ultimatelyy you'll end up like the people who though they could take Canaan by themselves - on the retreat. Let God do his thang.

It only takes a wee while to go from Egypt to Palestine, but the reason it took forty years is because the people rebelled, and so God kept them in the desert whilst an entire generation died off, and brought failure to those who tried to jump ahead.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Numbers 13

Scouting what's to come

Summary:
Moses sent twelve men, a leader from each tribe, to go ahead and scout out Canaan. The men included Joshua and Caleb, and a bunch of randoms.

They came back saying that the land was very fertile and amazing, but that it was inhabited by very powerful peoples. Caleb (and presumably Joshua) reckons they can do it, but the others are disheartened and want to give up.

Key verse:
30. We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.

My thoughts:
I remember a talk from Louie Giglio when he read out a list of ten Biblical names, and asked if we knew any of them, and we didn't know any. Then he said two more names, Caleb and Joshua. We recognised them. The ten names had been the other ten people who were scouting. He noted how those who were pessimistic and doubting of God's promise have been forgotten in history, but the ones who were bold and confident in God's ability were remembered.

I think this chapter (and the next) shows us how much God appreciates faith, even when the goal seems unreachable. We need to do things that would simply fail if God didn't get involved. Again, we need to be trusting of God.

My Bit:
I found this today. Makes you think.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Numbers 12

Aaron and Miriam get jealous

Summary:
Aaron and Miriam complain about Moses' Cushite wife, and claim that God speaks through them, not only through Moses. This annoyed God, and he got the three of them together, and declared that he spoke clearly to Moses, not in riddles or dreams. Then God left, and Miriam was leprous. Moses prayed that she be spared, and God said to send her out of the camp for seven days, after which she'd be healed.

Key verse:
3. Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

My thoughts:
Now, if Moses had directly written this book, as tradition holds, then the key verse would be a very interesting thing for him to write. It's the type of thing I'd write about myself as a joke.

Aaron and Miriam were annoyed at Moses' Cushite wife, because they were jealous of the power her and her side of the family got over them, and also because she was non-Jewish. However, God clearly shows he's on Moses' side. For me, this shows God's at least circumstancial openness to all peoples from all nations even before Jesus.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Numbers 11

Fire, birds, and the Spirit

Summary:
The people start complaining, and God sent fire to shut them up. The people appealled to Moses, and God stopped the fire.

Then the people start moaning about how boring their food is. God gets angry, and Moses gets upset, saying he can't manage on his own. So God tells Moses to get 70 elders to help him, and he promises to send so much meat (in quail form) that the people become sick. Moses doubts God's ability to get so much meat so quickly. What an idiot.

So Moses gets the elders together, and the Spirit falls on them and they start to prophesy. Even the two which hadn't made it to the meeting started prophesying in the camp. Joshua tell Moses to make them stop, but Moses disagrees.

Then the quail comes, and a plague comes with the quail.

Key verses:
23. Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.
29. I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!

My thoughts:
This is a cool wee chapter with quite a bit of interesting stuff in there.

Firstly, we are all often prone to doubt God. We doubt his ability to provide for us. Moses here does the same thing. With his human mind, he cannot see how God can do what he plans to do. But in this chapter, and throughout the Bible we are simply told to trust God. God is not incompetent, and if he chooses to do something, he'll do it. We have to trust him. He looks after the birds, and we are worth more than the birds.

Secondly, here we see a real intention of God to pour his Spirit out on the people. This desire is not truly fulfilled until the first Christian Pentecost over a thousand years later. People are complaining about the 'reckless' use to prophesy by so many people, but Moses, God's instrument, makes it clear that we should not restrict what the Spirit is doing.

Thirdly, God here exacts an interesting form of punishment. He answers the people's prayers (for meat). This reminds me of Bruce Almighty where Jim Carrey has to learn that people don't really know what they want, and to answer their prayers is sometimes not in their best interest. Here God answers their prayer as punishment for their complaining.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Numbers 10

Setting out

Summary:
Two silver trumpets are to be made, and they are to be blasted once to call together the leaders, and twice to call together all of the community. When they are leaving an area, each trumpet blast signals one group of tribes to start leaving. The Priests are in charge of the trumpeting.

In the second year, the Israelites followed God out of the desert of Sinai. and went to the desert of Paran. The camp of Judah went first, with the Gershonites and Merarites, followed by the camp of Reuben with the Kohathites. Then came the camp of Ephraim, and finally followed by the camp of Dan.

Moses convinced his father-in-law Hobeb (aka Jethro) to come with them. The ark went before them, and Moses had a little chant for whenever the ark departed or stopped.

Key verse:
29. We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said, 'I will give it to you.'

My thoughts:
Moses knew that Jethro knew the desert better than him, and so Moses wanted Jethro to be his advisor on where they should camp etc.

After an extended stay at Sinai, the place where Moses received most of the law, the Israelites moved out on the beginning of their journey towards the place God promised. It's still early days though. It's year 2 out of 40.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Numbers 9

The Passover and the Cloud

Summary:
God tells the people to celebrate Passover, but some people can't because they're unclean from touching a dead body. They ask if this should really stop them from celebrating passover, and Moses consults God. God says they are to celebrate passover a month later, but if any clean person fails to celebrate passover then they are to be cut off from the people.

The Israelites followed the cloud on the tabernacle wherever it went. They stopped when it stopped, whether it was for a day or a year.

Key verse:
23. At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out.

My thoughts:
God saw the passover as a priority over ritual uncleanliness. The formation of the nation and the covenant, celebrated at Passover, was the centre of God's plan for his people, and ultimately the world. Comparatively, cleanliness was triviality, though God did not throw away his commands of cleanliness, and still said that they should celebrate the Passover at a different date.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Numbers 8

Lamps and Levites

Summary:
Aaron sets up the lamps so that they faced forward.

The Levites are to be purified so that they can work with the temple. This is to be done by sprinkling water, and being shaved completely, and by washing clothes. Then they are to offer two bulls. One as a burnt offering, and one as a sin offering.

God reminds them that the firstborn (with the Levites as the firstborn's representatives) belong to him, because he spared them in Egypt.

So Aaron purifies and cleanses all the Levites.

The Levites were to work with the temple between the ages of 25 and 50.

Key verse:
14. In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

My thoughts:
Purity was hugely important in Jewish culture. The Pharisees and Essenes (two expressions of Judaism) particularly were very focussed on purity at the time of Jesus. God is a pure and holy God, and those who approach him were to be purified and cleansed.

As the Levites worked with the temple, they particularly needed to be purified.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Numbers 7

The leaders gifts

Summary:
Once the tabernacle was set up, anointed and consecrated, the leaders of each of the tribes came forth, one each day and made offering to God. The Levites did the work receiving the offerings.

Each leader offered a silver bowl, a silver plate, a gold dish, one bull, two oxen, six male lambs, six rams, and six male goats for various types of offerings.

When Moses when into the tabernacle, he heard God's voice from between the cherubim on the ark.

Key verse:
2. Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings.

My thoughts:
I always liked the Contemporary English Version of this passage. It summarises 71 verses into the equivalent of about three of four. Now that's what I call paraphrasing!

Yea, this passage is only 89 verses because of it's extreme repetition.

The point is, the leaders gave a lot, with no exceptions. Aren't they good.

It also shows the unity of all the tribes, as they all give equal offerings to the same God at the same tabernacle.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Numbers 6

The Nazarite

Summary:
If someone decided to make a special vow as a Nazarite, so that he's set apart for God, he's not to drink any alcohol or consume grapevine products. He's not to cut his hair, or go near dead bodies whilst he's set apart. If he accidentally goes near a dead body, then his vow is over, and he must be cleansed.

When the period of the vow is over, then the Nazarite is to bring a sin, burnt, and a fellowship offering, as well a drink and grain offerings. His head is then shaved, and his hair burnt.

God told Aaron and Moses to bless the Israelites with a blessing which basically said "May God be good to you!"

Key verse:
27. So [Moses and Aaron] will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

My thoughts:
God encouraged people to make a special effort to dedicate themselves towards Him. Being a Nazarite was one of the ways to do this. Notable biblical characters who were Nazarites are John the Baptist, and Samson (any others anyone?). However, in this passage it seems to be a temporary vow, whereas in other examples it seems to be an entire life thing.

My Bit:
This one's early cos I'm off on a tramp tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Numbers 5

Suspicions

Summary:
Anyone with an infectious disease, or anyone ceremonially unclean is to be taken outside of the camp.

If someone wrongs someone else, they are to pay restitution equally the appropriate value plus a fifth.

If a man suspects that his wife has not been faithful, he can take her to the priest. The priest will give her bitter water to drink, making her agree that if she has been unfaithful, the water will curse her. If she hasn't the water will do nothing. A grain offering is also made. So whether she has been unfaithful is determined by whether she gets cursed.

Key verse:
7. [He] must confess the sin he has committed

My thoughts:
Infidelity was a equally major sin for either a husband or a wife, however for some reason only men can put their spouses forward for this test. It's hard to explain why this is, but here's one possibility. God knew that the Israelites were a male dominant society, and therefore knew that any attempt by a woman to accuse her husband of infidelity would usually not end up beneficial for the woman. God still wants people to be made to admit that they were innocent, but understood that, unfortunately women could not make their husbands do it in this society.

Interestingly, having your thighs waste away is seen as a terrible curse. Quite different from now when many girls wish they had no thighs.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Numbers 4

The jobs for the Levitical clans

Summary:
The Kohathites were to look after the holy things. When the camp is moving, Aaron and his sons were to wrap all the holy objects (eg. the altars, lampstand, ark, tables) in different coloured cloth, and then in the hide of sea cows. Then the Kohathites are to carry them to the next place. They aren't to touch the holy objects directly, or even look at them. They had 2,750 men aged 30-50.

The Gershonites carried the curtains and the tent and some ropes, under the instruction of the priests. They had 2,630 men aged 30-50.

The Merarites carried the frames, crossbars, posts and bases and things. They had 3,200 men aged 30-50.

That's a total of 8,580 men. Wow

Key verse:
20. the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.

My thoughts:
Sucks to be them!

I guess someone had to do it.

I wonder why men under 30 weren't seen as fit to carry stuff.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Numbers 3

The Levites

Summary:
The Levites were to help the priests (Aaron and his sons), and to look after the tabernacle and tent of meeting.

They are to be dedicated to God as the firstborn of Israel, in memory of when God spared the Israelite's firstborn in Egypt.

The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And so the Levites were split into the Gershonite clans, the Kohathite clans, and the Merarite clans. Their numbers and jobs were as such:

Gershonite clans 7,500 looked after the curtains, tent, and ropes
Kohathite clans 8,600 looked after the altars, the table, the lampstand and the ark
Merarite clans 6,200 looked after the frames, posts, bases, and crossbars

The tabernacle faced east.

Total Levites = 22,000
Total firstborn in Israel = 22,273

So there was a difference of 273, which was paid for by five shekels for each of the 273 person difference, totally 1,365 shekels.

Key verse:
12.
I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine

My thoughts:
The tribe of Levi were set apart for God from the very beginning. Managing the temple/tabernacle was a huge job, and so an entire tribe was devoted to it. The Levites were God's, as the firstborn of Israel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Numbers 2

Tribe arrangement

Summary:
This chapter can be summarised with this picture, showing where the different tribes camped. The Levites camped with the tent of meeting. When marching, the east tribes left first, then the south, then the tent of meeting with its Levites, then the west, and finally the north.



Each tribe had its own leader.

If you cannot see the picture, look here

Key verse:
2.
The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family.

My thoughts:
Ancient Israelites were very focussed on family and ancestry, and where they lived within the encampment was very orientated on this. Each person was under the banne
r of their family.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Numbers 1

The census

Summary:
God told Moses to take a census of all the men over twenty fit for fighting. Moses had twelve helpers, one from each tribe, to help him do the census. These were the men in each tribe:

Reuben 46,500
Simeon 59,300
Gad 45,650
Judah 74,600
Issachar 54,400
Zebulun 57,400
Ephraim 40,500
Manasseh 32,200
Benjamin 35,400
Dan 62,700
Asher 41,500
Naphtali 53,400

And the total was 603,550

The Levites weren't counted because they were to set apart for temple service.

Key verse:
2. Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.

My thoughts:
When King David took as census, it was a sin, as he was taking it to boost up his pride. Here it is a command from God. Obedience in the circumstance is important.

Considering the 70 people who entered Egypt with Jacob only 430 years ago, this number seems huge. 603,500 adult men assumes about 1.4 million people all together. Either the Israelite were hugely blessed in Egypt (not impossible), or this number is exagerrated. Having done the math, I go with the former, because it is not totally unfeasable.

My Bit:
Now that I use the internet (www.biblegateway.com) as my Bible, I didn't even realise that I had finished Leviticus yesterday. So anyway, three books down, only 63 to go. Leviticus is all over. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Leviticus 27

Redeeming payments

Summary:
If someone wants to dedicate a person to God, by paying an equivalent amount, the amount to be paid depends on the person's age and gender, and the wealth of the person making the payment.

If they want to dedicate an animal, they can replace it with an equal animal or redeem it by paying it's value plus a fifth.

House's value are judged by the priest, and can be redeemed by paying it's value plus a fifth.

For dedicating land, the cost is to be worked out depending on the amount of seed on the field, and the amount of time til the Jubilee. Redemption comes at the value plus a fifth.

A tenth of everything is holy to God.

Key verse:
34. These are the commands the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.

My thoughts:
Redeeming something that is dedicated to the Lord is useful when you don't want the object/person to be forced to be used for God's ministry. For example, if a person is to be dedicated, they are to work in (temple?) ministry for their lives, or theoretically be sacrificed (of course God despises human sacrifice), or they are to be redeemed. So redemption was often the best option. I mean, who wants to work in the ministry.

That's how I understand it anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Leviticus 26

Rewards and punishments

Summary:
If the people keep the covenant, then they can enjoy abundant harvests, and peace, and victory, and God will be with them.

If the people reject the covenant, then God will send disease and will make the land barren. If the people stay bad, then God will increase the punishment seven-fold, and neighbouring countries will attack them, and there'll be barely enough food. If the people still reject God, he'll increase the punishment again. He'll make them eat each other, and destroy their cities, and scatter the people, and destroy the nation of Israel. Then the land will get the rest it needed. Those who are left will live in fear and under oppression.

But if the people turn from their sins, then God will remember his covenant. Even when they are scattered throughout the world, God will still remember them.

Key verse:
44. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely

My thoughts:
Though this chapter may seem somewhat condemning, in it we can see God willing to stick with his people even if they reject him. Most of the curses in this chapter are later fulfilled, even the one about them eating each other (it's in 2 Kings somewhere), and the Jewish people definitely become scattered.

It's really quite simple. Do what I say, and I'll look out for you. Don't do what I say, and I won't.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Leviticus 25

Jubilee!

Summary:
Every seventh year is a sabbath year, and the land is to be rested.

Every fiftieth year is a year of jubilee. On this year everyone reverts to their family land, regardless of whether they've bought or sold it, and again the land is rested. So when land is sold and bought, it should be done in terms of how long away the jubilee is.

On the years when the land is not being worked, God will provide enough food from the previous years to sustain the people.

Houses in walled cities are not returned on the jubilee, except the levites have the right to return to their houses in levitical towns.

The poor guy is to be looked out for by others.

Israelite slaves can be redeemed at any time, but if they aren't then they are to be freed on the year of jubilee anyway.

Key verse:
23. The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.

My thoughts:
This is a revolutionary way of thinking about property ownership and debts. The ideal of this system was to eliminate the difference between rich and poor. People would not get caught into poverty cycles, because everyone returns to equal every fifty years.

When the people come into Canaan, they are all allotted land, in reasonably equal amounts. So, they all started on at the same level, and God planned to keep it that way. God makes it clear that all the land is God's anyway, and that people's internal dealings are only temporary compared to the property allocations that God had originally set out.

You can imagine the different, healthier mindset people would have about possessions if they knew that ultimately their possessions would be equalled out every fifty years.

Obviously, the Israelites weren't very good at all at keeping the jubilee.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Leviticus 24

Bread and death

Summary:
The tabernacle lamps to be kept burning continually with clear oil offered by the people. It is to be constantly attended to.

Each sabbath twelves loaves of bread are to be put on the tabernacle table for God. They are to be Aaron and his sons.

A man who was only half Israelite in origin got into a fight with someone, and blasphemed during the fight. He was brought to Moses and God said that he was to be stoned. So he was.

Everyone must make equal restitution for what they have wronged.

Key verse:
15. If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible

My thoughts:
God stating that certain sins are to be punished by death was not an idle threat. It was the standard expected by God. Sin was not tolerated in God's kingdom. This passage is clearly put in the Torah to indicate that the penalties within it were not just threats.

The person stoned would've been despised by the people anyway for being half-caste.

It would be hard to justify a human deciding to perform such an execution on another human being. God, however, has full right to destroy what he has made - if he doesn't do it now he will just do it later.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Leviticus 23

Festivals and holy days

Summary:
Every seventh day is a sabbath, not to be worked on.

Passover starts halfway through the first month, directly followed by the seven day feast of unleavened bread, with a sacred assembly to start and finish it. No bread with yeast is to be eaten during the feast.

When the harvest begins, the firstfruits happens. The first sheaf of grain is to be brought to God, with a burnt offering, a grain offering, and a drink offering.

Seven weeks after that, the feast of weeks happens, when the harvest is in full swing. On the fiftieth day, after the seventh sabbath, then offerings all pretty much all types (wave, grain, drink, burnt, sin, fellowship) are to be brought. Have a sacred assembly and do no work on that day. Leave the edges of your crop for the poor.

At the start of the seventh month, a feast of trumpets is to be followed.

The day of atonement happens later in the seventh month, with a sacred assembly. All people are to deny themselves on that day.

The feast of tabernacles starts five days later, with a sacred assembly. It last seven days, and there are to be offerings each day. There are two days of rest, and during the seven days, the people are to live in tents, in remembrance of their time in the desert.

Key verse:
22. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien.

My thoughts:
Like all countries, Israel had it's state holidays and festivals. All of them were somewhat religious, and most of them are connected to the agricultural cycle, reflecting the rural nature of Israel's people.

Many of these festivals were still practised in the time of Jesus, and people would tent around the temple during the feast of tabernacles. Many are still practised today by some Jews.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Leviticus 22

More rules (surprise!!)

Summary:
People shouldn't approach God unclean by any of the ways described in previous chapters. Only people in priestly families can eat the sacred food. If they do by accident, then they are to make restitution plus a fifth.

Offerings should be without defects, but they may have minor defects if they're simply a freewill offering. Animals aren't to be sacrificed with their parents or in their first seven days of life

Key verse:
32. I am the Lord, who makes you holy

My thoughts:
A lot of levitical laws are to do with purity. People could only minister at the temple if they were pure. Purity was the Pharisee's main concern, and there are many cisterns for ritual cleansing found in ancient Jewish ruins. The Pharisees saw all people as to be priestly, and their rules and regulations strove to maintain priestly purity, even though they may not be ministering in the temple. Their life-styles were seen as part of temple worship. This concept was important when the Jews were forced to divorce with their temple worship when the temple was destroyed in 70AD.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Leviticus 21

Rules for priests

Summary:
A priest is never to touch a dead body, except of very close relatives. They can't shave the sides of their beard or their heads. They are only to marry virgins. If one of their daughter's becomes a prostitute, then it sucks to be her (v.9).

The high priest isn't to go anywhere near a dead body, even if it is a relative.

People with defects cannot be priests nor come near to God.

Key verse:
13. The woman he marries must be a virgin

My thoughts:
It's a bit of a weird verse for me to pick, but there's three things about marriage I want to draw from it.

Firstly, this shows that it is God's ideal that people should enter marriage with no previous sexual relations.

Secondly, it implys monogamy in a polygamist culture.

Thirdly, it shows that priests were not expected to be celibate to be able to perform ministry. That was never a biblical expectation.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Leviticus 20

Punishments

Summary:
The follows acts were punishable by death:-
sacrificing children
cursing your parents
adultery
sleeping with your step-mum/daughter-in-law
sleeping with someone of the same gender
sleeping with a woman and her mother
sleeping with animals
consulting a medium

The following acts were punishable with exclusion:-
marrying your sister
sleeping with a woman during her period

Sleeping with your aunt or sister-in-law will render you childless

Key verse:
16. their blood will be on their own heads

My thoughts:
The death penalty was obviously a large part of the ancient Jewish judiciary system. God's people were to be holy, as God was, and any sin whatsoever could not be tolerated. Sins such as these were not seen as able to be atoned, and the wages of sin have always been death, either spiritually, or in this case physically. There was not seen to be any different.

Executing people was seen as different to murder, because murder was forbidden. In execution, their blood was on their own heads.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Leviticus 19

Various laws

Summary:
Respect your parents and keep the Sabbath. Don't make idols, and do sacrifices properly. Leave some of the harvest for the poor. Don't lie or steal or do wrong to people. Don't blaspheme. Don't show favouritism and don't slander. Don't make clothes of different fabrics, or fields of different seed. Don't practice sorcery of get tattoos. Treat foreigners as yourself, and use honest scales.

Key verse:
2. Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

My thoughts:
Most of these laws are commonsense. Exceptions may be rulings not to make clothes out of different fabrics etc. and tattoos being forbidden.

Both of these are forbidden because there were religious/superstitious activities practised by neighbouring countries, which weren't compatible with God and his people.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Leviticus 18

Let's talk about sex, baby!

Summary:
Unlike the neighbouring countries, the forbidden sexual practices for the Jews were:
close relatives (through blood or through marriage)
close relatives of people who you have slept with previously
somebody else's spouse
unclean people
people of the same gender
animals

Also, don't sacrifice your children to Molech for fertility. That's just wrong.

Key verse:
24. Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.

My thoughts:
God created sex, and sex is a good thing to be enjoyed and used within your life with God. But God asks us to practice safe sex. Modern safe sex teaching focusses only on physical safety, whereas these laws cover physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. Sexual sin has been a stumbling block for many through the years, and God makes his view of holiness in terms of sex clear. God even says that the Canaanites were defiled because of their sexual sin.

Some of the reasons why some practices are forbidden are obvious. Incest is harmful; adultery hurts people. Others are less obvious. Either they cause an invisible spiritual harm, or they are more similar to the forbidden foods laws, where seemingly arbitary laws are set to distinguish Israel from neighbouring nations as holy and simply obedient to God.

Obviously the issue of same-gender sex is a very controversial topic at the moment within the church. Whether or not we may see God's exact reasoning in forbidding it, God clearly states here that same-gender sex is sinful. Therefore, from this I conclude that if you are a follower of the Jewish faith, and therefore believe the Torah as God's word, you should see homosexual relations as a sinful practice.

I'll comment on homosexuality within the Christian context in Romans 1. Which is years away. Or you could ask me my opinion in the comments, and I'll tell you now.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Leviticus 17

Blood and sacrifice

Summary:
No sacrifices are to be made outside of the tabernacle/temple. All sacrifices are to be bought to the tabernacle and be sacrificed by the priest there.

No blood is to be eaten, because it's the life of the animal.

Key verse:
11. it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.

My thoughts:
From the beginning God chose to symbolise life in a creature's blood. If we realise the Jewish concept of 'life for life', then we can see that if sin causes death (loss of life), then it is the blood which makes atonement for sin. In the old testament, this is the blood of animals (interestingly, the scapegoat sheds no blood), but in the new covenant atonement is made through the blood of Jesus. That is why Jesus had to die for our atonement, and why we remember that by drinking wine representing his blood.

From now on the temple/tabernacle is the centre of Jewish worship. Whenever there is no temple, the Jews do not have a place to worship. The fact that there is no temple anymore is a major contributing factor as to why Jews no longer perform sacrifices. The command to restrict sacrifices to the temple assures that sacrifices are done properly according to God's law, and makes it harder for people to sacrifice to other gods.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Leviticus 16

The day of atonement

Summary:
After his sons' deaths, Aaron is told not to enter the most holy place whenever he wants. He's only to do it once a year on the day of atonement - a special sabbath.

Before he goes in, he is to wash himself and wear the priestly clothes. He is to sacrifice one bull for the sins of him and his family, and he is to take two goats for all of Israel. One is to be sacrificed, the other is a scapegoat. Aaron will place the sins of all Israel on the scapegoat, and then it's to be led into the wilderness by someone. Aaron is to take burning incense behind the curtain, so that the place gets covered up with smoke. He is to sprinkle around the blood of the sacrifices.

Aaron then should change into normal clothes and burn two rams as burnt offerings - one for him, and one for Israel.

This is to be done every year.

Key verse:
34. Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites

My thoughts:
This day was truly significant on the Jewish spiritual calendar. It was a practice followed right up until Herod's temple's final destruction in 70AD, with breaks when there was no temple.

The most holy place (holy of holies) was entered once a year by one person. It was very holy - it was where God dwelt. Meeting God in his dwelling place always faced the risk of death. When Pompey conquered Judaea in 63BC, he went into the most holy place. Understanding the significance of the holy of holies shows us how much of a travesty it would have been for a heathen Roman to enter it. The most holy place was closed off to the world, but the moment when Jesus died, it is said that the curtain to the most holy place supernaturally ripped apart, symbolising the access the world now has to God's dwelling place.

Ever since the fall, the problem with the human condition has been sin. We are sinners, and God cannot tolerate that, because he is perfect. This day of atonement was the way of dealing with that problem in the Old Testament. It has many parallels with Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. Christians believe that this human condition is dealt with by that one sacrifice. I find it interesting that the goat which carries the sin of Israel is not killed, but is just put into the desert. Maybe this is symbolic of the fact that without Jesus, sin was not irradicated, but rather displaced.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Leviticus 15

Icky stuff

Summary:
If a man has a discharge (but not a 'happy' discharge), then he is unclean for a week, and anything he touches will also be temporarily unclean. After the week, he washes, and presents two birds to be offered as a sin offering and a burnt offering.

If he has a 'happy' discharge, then he's unclean until the evening.

A woman is unclean during her monthly week of womanly things. Anything she touches is also unclean. If it lasts longer than a week, or she has a different discharge for some reason, then she says unclean until it stops.

She's also to bring two birds so that seh can be cleansed.

Key verse:
31. You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place

My thoughts:
Um yea... Discharges aren't particularly clean anyway. These rules are probably largely for health reasons. I don't think pads and things existed back then.

I'm now learning Hebrew, so before long, I might start doing these posts in Hebrew to widen my potential audience base.