Leviticus 27 – Reading Note (and Commentary on the Worth of Women)

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First, I have a confession to make. I finished reading this chapter last Sunday but couldn’t write my reading note then because I had a problem – the first four verses. See, it talks about the money to be paid by people who made vows to dedicate themselves to God. Apparently, they would give the money to the priests in place of themselves. The problem – and I think it is easy to spot once you’ve read the text – is that the price for women was less than that of men (!).

Now, I don’t fancy myself a feminist, but I am pessimistic. So whenever I read the Bible, I find it very easy to spot all the things that could be wrong. Anything that suggests that women might be less valuable to God or less of human beings or persons, are red flags for me because I’ve been reading about women in the Bible for a while and can’t get the issue out of my head (and also because I know it is simply untrue). My study has not led me to think less of God, (or the Bible) – on the contrary. Yet, when I see things like that, the warning flags in my head go off. I imagine some skeptic leaning over my shoulder and saying ‘So, the Bible says that women are less valuable than men…’

Actually, the text never says that. It simply requires less money to be paid if a woman is vowed to the Lord than a man. It does not give reason for that so the skeptic’s conclusion would be unwarranted. To be prepared for such an eventuality, however, and to set my mind at rest by finding an answer to the ‘why’ question, I went to find some commentaries.

According to the two of them (and one was extremely liberal), the money paid was the equivalent price of the work the individual would have been able to perform in the sanctuary. If this work was tedious, men would be better able to perform it than women. This also explains why children and old people were to pay even less – not because they were less valuable or less of human beings or persons, but because they could do less work; a simple explanation for a simple statement.

But what a scare! Now I can get on with my life and the rest of this note:

  • Once again, God demonstrates his kindness by providing allowance for people who wanted to serve make such vows to him, but were too poor to provide the required money (27: 8).
  • I find it interesting that if an animal was vowed to God, the owner could not substitute a good one for it if it was bad. He could buy it back if it was ceremonially unclean (by paying the priests 20% more than it was worth), but he could not substitute another one for it (27: 9 – 13). By contrast, the tithe of animals given to God as tithes could not be bought back (redeemed) even if the animal was bad (27: 32, 33). I wonder what the reason for this was. Does anyone have any ideas?

Leviticus 26 – Reading Note

  • God’s blessing on the Israelites was conditional. He would bless them abundantly, as long as they kept his laws.
  • If, however, they did not keep his laws, he would punish them with increasing intensity until he finally sent them from the land of Canaan into the land of their enemies.
  • Yet, he would never completely destroy them (26: 44, 45) because of his covenant with their ancestors. I think that is good. After all, he did promise to make Abraham into a great nation and Abraham was faithful. And God keeps his promises.

Leviticus 25 – Reading Note

  • The law about the Sabbath year would have required the people to trust God. They would have had to trust that he would provide food for them for those years in which they were not allowed to plant.
  • I love 25:23. It makes the point that all of the earth belongs to God and we are his tenants, so we don’t actually own any land. We are not just his tenants, but we are also aliens, living in a land that is not our own. The statement identified the Israelites with the foreigners who would later live among them. It would also give clarity to the idea that he took the land from the Canaanites and gave it to the Israelites.
  • God encouraged the people to care for foreigners in a lot of ways, but he encouraged them to care for their fellow Hebrews too. If a man sold his land because he was poor, one of his relatives was to buy it back for him (25: 25 – 28)
  • God told the Hebrews to care for one of their poor brethren like they would a foreigner. (25: 35 – 37)

Leviticus 23 & 24 – Reading Note

  • God actually commanded the Israelites to throw parties and celebrate.
  • Once again, God showed his kindness towards the needy by providing for them and towards everyone else by teaching them to give and think of others (23:22)
  • Although the sacrifice of bread made each morning was for God, the priests were the ones who ate it, not God, just like most of the other sacrifices (24:5-9).
  • God’s name was to be taken very seriously. The punishment for blasphemy was death (24:16). Everyone was to participate in executing the person. This was a very string denouncement as it should. Showing contempt for God is rebellion and nothing short of treason. No one is above God and for their own sake, no one should think that they are.
  • Anyone who murdered someone was to be killed regardless of whether the victim was a foreigner or an Israelite (24: 17 – 22). The manner in which the command was worded (if anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death) implies that even murder of a slave earned the death penalty. However, killing an animal only required the person to make restitution to the animal’s owner.

Leviticus 21 & 22 – Reading Note

  • The priests were Holy to God and so, were to live in special ways. Perhaps this ties in with the Israelites being Holy to God and so being asked to live differently from other peoples.
  • All the sacrifices made to God were holy, and thus to be treated specially (18: 1- 16)
  • The sacrifices were called the food of God even though he never actually ate them (21:6, 21, 22; 22:25.

Leviticus 19 – Reading Note- God Cares for the Weak

  • God cared for the poor, and provided a way for them to find food. (19:9, 10)
  • The commands not to steal, lie or deceive were not qualified. God did not mention any occasion in which it is okay to steal, lie, or deceive someone. He simply said, “Do not lie”. Period. Reading it as it is written, one would have to avoid those things in all circumstances.(19:11)
  • God also cared for hired laborers and demanded that they be paid speedily. (19:13)
  • He also watched over the deaf and blind. No one was to curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind. It didn’t seem to matter that the deaf couldn’t hear the curses anyway. (19:14)
  • In the same vein, the poor were not to be denied justice. No favoritism. (19:15)
  • Jesus didn’t really bring a new command when he commanded us not to hate each other. God had already forbidden it in 19:17. Jesus just added that nugget that if you hated someone, you had murdered them in your heart. 19:17 does say something about sharing your neighbor’s guilt if he did something to you and you did not ‘rebuke him frankly’.
  • And they were not supposed to bear grudges or seek revenge. (19:18)
  • If man slept with a betrothed slave girl (consensual sex), only the man was commanded to make a guilt offering. He was the one who had to make it right, not her. (19: 20 -22)
  • God protected girls from their father’s by commanding fathers not to make their daughters prostitutes (19:29)
  • Aleins were to be treated like other Israelites (19:33). To what extent? Did the laws for freeing Hebrew slaves apply to them? I know that some laws did not.

Leviticus 18 – Reading Note – Who should we have sex with?

 

  • Most of the laws in chapter 18 are rules forbidding sex with people closely related to you (incest) but there are also laws forbidding sex with in-laws, who are not related to you by blood.
  • The command that a man was not to have sex with his sister was given twice, although using different words. (18: 9, 11). I wonder if this law applied to adopted siblings.
  • There was a law not to marry your wife’s sister while your wife was still alive. This would condemn Jacob who married both Rachel and Leah. (18:18).
  • And adultery was forbidden, of course. (18:20)
  • 18:22 is the verse prohibiting homosexuality, calling it “detestable”. But this was for men. Women were not mentioned.
  • The command not to sacrifice children to Molech was given, arguably to protect children, but also because such an action would profane God’s name. (18:21)
  • As far as the documentary hypothesis is concerned, the God is referred to in chapter 18 as “Yahweh, your Elohim”, and sometimes as either “your Elohim” or “Yahweh”.  The combination of the two names seems to suggest “Elohim” to be a general name for deities and “Yahweh” as a special name for Israel’s deity.
  • God forbade sex with animals, not just for men, but for women too. It was the first command in the chapter that seemed to reference women. The command was that a man must not have sex with an animal, and a woman was not to present herself to an animal to have sexual relations. Women appear to be seen as passive recipients in this process. That would explain why the commands against unlawful sexual relations target the men, not the women. (18:23)
  • God stressed that he was driving out the Canaanites because they did all the things he had just warned them against (Adultery, Incest, Homosexuality, Sex with animals, child sacrifice, etc.) Man, those were rotten people! (18: 24 – 28)
  • God said that the actions of the Canaanites had defiled themselves and the land. So he punished the land for its sin and the land vomited the inhabitants out. That is a strange way of putting it. It deserves a trip to the library.