Friday, January 15, 2010

Be Clean, or Be Dead

Previously in Leviticus, we saw that God defined some rather-limited restrictions on the priesthood. Continuing on in our study of the book, we take a quick look at a potential hazard of the priesthood.

Be Clean, or Be Dead
It is not enough to demand devotion and love. Really, those are the minimum requirements. God also wants worship, but not just any worship. You have got to perform prescribed ceremonies exactly as given, or else God will kill you. You have got to wear special clothes to worship, or else God will kill you. Yet there is one more detail to cover; cleanliness for worship. Enter Leviticus 22.

In Leviticus 22:3, we discover that any priest who comes near the sacred offerings to God and yet is ceremonially unclean must be “cut off” from God's presence. As we discussed in the study on Leviticus 20, it appears that “cut off” is likely a euphemism for being killed.

In case you do not remember some of the many things which can make a person ceremonially unclean, Leviticus 22:4-8 provides some examples. These include having an infectious skin disease or a bodily discharge, touching something defiled by a corpse or defiled by a man who had ejaculated, or perhaps touching a “crawling thing” or eating food torn by wild animals. If he does any of these things, he must bath in water and then wait for the sun to go down before going near the sacred offerings.

Just to reiterate the sentiment of Leviticus 22:3 to “cut off” transgressors, Leviticus 22:9 goes on to say that if the priests do not keep these requirements, they will incur guilt and die. It does not say how they will die, but the inference is certainly that it will be an untimely death.

Let us take a moment consider why God is so anxious to kill His priests.

Many Christian commentators like to boil this down to there being a right way to worship (as defined by God) and a wrong way (anything else), and so worshiping the wrong way is a sign of rebellion or disrespect to God. It is a sin like any other, and as we know, the wages of sin is reportedly death. So they are deserving of death, right?

However, do not forget that God is our heavenly Father and the epitome of love. Such a condemnation does not seem fitting for those roles. For example, imagine telling your child draw a picture with a beach, and umbrella, and the sun. Imagine your child draws a picture of the beach with towels laid out on the sand and seagulls in the air with a red sun in the background. Would you rip up your child's picture in front of him and berate his inability to follow directions? Would you slay your child for not following directions? God, I hope not. Any God who would take such extreme measures is far from showing fatherly love.

So, if this is a false religion, why are there so many Biblical reasons to kill errant priests, and why God be portrayed as taking the initiative to kill errant priests?

One reason may be to discourage entrepreneurial people from setting up their own priesthoods, and thereby taking away market share. Who wants a job where one false move could bring your death, like being on a bomb squad?

Another reason may be that any number of claimed transgressions could be used to justify slaying a priest who threatened to reveal the dirty little secret that this was a false religion. You would not want all of the priests to be in on the secret due to the risk of that information leaking out. So those who discovered the secret would be dangerous, and would need to be taken care of one way or another.

A third reason may have just been to commiserate the priesthood with the laymen to reduce feelings of jealousy. Not many people want to be on a bomb squad, and not many people object to the wages that the bomb squad gets paid. Likewise, the laymen probably would not object to the priests wearing the finest clothes and eating the best food given that they are putting their lives on the line.

These reasons are just speculation. It may be that the laws which restrict, by penalty of death, the priests are actually the best evidence for these laws being from a real God. If so, that has some rather disturbing implications drawn from the other laws, as we have seen in the previous studies.

For extra reading, check out the remainder of the chapter, Leviticus 22:17-33. That you will find that God will not accept offerings with defects, especially testicular defects, as well as a few more regulations for offerings and a plea against blasphemy.

No comments:

Post a Comment