Reading through the Bible: day 48

Leviticus 19 – 21

There are a lot of Laws here, some are really good by modern standards, and some make no sense to us, like not allowing cattle to interbreed; sowing mixed seed and mixing textiles.

The three mentioned above could simply come down to identification of the Israelite’s separation for the cattle breeding; not sowing grains like wheat and barley together because of different harvest times (this is quite practical), and not mixing things like silk and linen since they are used in different settings, and you wouldn’t want silk in your farming garb. Linen mixed with your smart silks could detract from the purpose of looking good. Obviously I can’t be sure of these, but that’s how I viewed it on first reading. I certainly hope that planting a veggie garden is ok.

Most of the problems in these texts have been, or will be addressed elsewhere (as best I can). But there are some things which need another look.

Capital punishment

There’s a lot to be stoned for, and some stuff that burning people to death will do. So what is God’s response to capital punishment? I believe life is sacred and that we probably should not prescribe killing people as a remedy to problems, but (this is a big but) we’re looking at context. According to Romans, “the wages of sin is death…” so we can be sure that at some point those who do not follow Christ will meet a death that those who do won’t. In trying to keep His the society chosen to carry God’s promise of salvation, God may have decided: a) to set an example, and b) to preserve those people in His ways. Obviously we can see, that when God says the wages of sin is death, he’s not messing around. We can also see that the method of death is public and unhumane by human standards. By having punishments like this it is likely to have acted as a bit of a deterrent. Beyond the scope of this post (but I’ll mention it anyway) is that I really doubt that the modern death penalty found in western nations is a deterrent. But since Jesus (who was without sin) wouldn’t stone Mary Magdaline, but suggested anyone else without sin could, should act as an example to Christians when it comes to the death penalty.

God hates people

Ok, so I wasn’t being serious with this title, but think about it, re read Leviticus 20:23. At first this had me a bit confused, but, without looking it up, an answer came to me, if you have a better one, please comment below.

“And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.”

To be fair, it doesn’t actually say God hates people, it says He hates nations, so what is the difference? A nation is a group of people, but it is a group of people with shared customs and (often) a shared worldview. The customs (walk in the manner of) are mentioned, and this is what God seems to dislike. So while the nations consisted of people, it was how that collective chose to live that God abhorred, and the use of Hyperbole may simply have been to drive the point home.

Unclean or cut off

In Leviticus 15:24, it states that a man who lies with a woman who is menstruating would be unclean for seven days, but in todays reading (20:18) it states that he would be cut off from his people. I couldn’t find an answer to this without help, which I found here. We talk of people sleeping together as a euphemism for sex, and the Bible says something about “lying with a woman.” This doesn’t alter the fact that people can actually sleep together, and sleep as opposed to having sex. So here is Brucker’s answer:

“I read the verses again. And it hit me: read carefully “…lie with her at all…” vs. “lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness…”? The second verse uses two phrases that are both euphemisms for sex; why does a sentence need two euphemisms for the same thing?

I realized in this case, it is not the same thing. This is key. The little phrase “at all” is making it clear that we are not talking about a euphemism here. This is a case of a guy literally lying with his wife, and some of her menstrual blood happens to get on him in his sleep! No sex is involved, but he is still unclean. The latter case is a man who intentionally gets menstrual blood on him in an act of sex. It’s that intentionality that makes the difference; being unclean and being sinful are not the same thing. In the end, there is no contradiction, only confusion brought about by unfortunate use of euphemisms.”

So there is a reasonably good explanation here, if you pay careful attention to the text.

What are your thoughts?

Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.


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