Our studies of Leviticus have come to a close. Rules and regulations can reveal a lot about an authority figure, so let us review what we have learned in this book of God's laws.
God According to Leviticus
The book of Leviticus is more about God's rules and regulations than any length of narrative story. So what do the laws of Leviticus cover? What do we learn from this book?
God loves barbecue, and prefers His meat really, really well done. Burnt to a crisp, actually. God demanded the burnt sacrifice of animals as part of the atonement process. Atonement came in a two-part process: first, blood was put on the altar, and second, God enjoyed the smell of the burnt flesh. Remarkably, neither of these events are repeated in the story of Jesus. So much for foreshadowing.
Not all of the offerings God required were to be cremated. Instead, God set aside some of the best cuts of meat and finest grains for the priests for the majority of the regulated sacrifices. The priests ate well. The people received true forgiveness from God (without Jesus). It was a win-win situation.
Speaking of forgiveness and sacrifice, it is worth noting that God created a gradation schedule for atonement offerings. The atonement for the head priest and the community elders ranked the highest value, demanding a blemish-free male bull. Meanwhile, the common man had the lowest value offering, a female goat or lamb.
In a very brief bit of actual storyline, we found a repulsive tale where two of Aaron's sons made an offering of “unauthorized fire” to God. God promptly burnt the two sons to death and then forbid Aaron and his remaining sons from mourning the loss of his sons/their brothers. If they did mourn, then God would kill them and become angry with all of the Israelites.
After killing the two men, God moved on to making more laws; defining clean and unclean animals. Of course, this late definition makes you wonder how Noah was supposed to know which animals were clean or unclean when God told him to collect seven pairs of the clean ones way back in Genesis 7:1-4. You know, back when everyone was a vegetarian (Genesis 9:2-3).
Through more of God's laws, we discovered that baby girls are twice as unclean as baby boys, requiring twice the purification time, and that the act of childbirth somehow obligates a sin offering.
Later, through prescribed shaman-istic cleansing and atonement rituals, we learned that it is God who makes people sick as a punishment for their sins. God also is responsible for spreading mildew too. And here, all this time, you thought that when you left your laundry in the washer too long it was just natural to develop mildew. Nope. You were visited by God!
God established Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to forgive the Israelites of their various sins throughout the year. After donning special clothes and making special sacrifices, the High Priest could then conduct the atonement ritual without God killing him. That ritual consisted of one goat which was killed, with its blood used to purify the Holy places and the Altar; one goat which became unclean by having the sins of the nation put on its head, and was then removed from Jerusalem and released alive in the wilderness (the scapegoat), and one ram used as a burnt offering which finally provided atonement with God for their sins. Do you remember when Jesus was released in the wilderness with the sins of mankind put on His head? Do you remember when Jesus became a burnt offering? Neither do I.
God went on to prohibit the eating of blood, because the life of a creature was in the blood. Thus, the inspiration for a vampire legend was born.
About two-thirds of the way through Leviticus God revealed what would become known as the second greatest commandment, thanks to Jesus; love your neighbor as yourself. However, its context defined your neighbor as your fellow Israelite, as opposed to how Jesus defined it in the Good Samaritan parable. While Jesus thought it was of primary importance, God buried this law with no particular emphasis after over a hundred other laws were already given, and it was not included in either set of the Ten Commandments.
Through several more laws, God declared that He dislikes animal crossbreeds, fields planted with mixed produce, blended fabrics, well-groomed men who trim their beards and hair on the sides of their heads, and tattoos.
Through even more laws, God declared that the death penalty should be used against people for sins they have committed, ranging from child sacrifice for a foreign god known as Molech to having sex with a woman while she is on her period. A couple of these laws seemed to contradict other laws.
God defined that there were some limitations on priests, the costs of priesthood. They could not mourn for the death of anyone other than immediate family members, not including married sisters. The High Priest could not even opening mourn his mother or father. They had to marry virgins and burn to death any daughter who became a prostitute. If some male member of the priesthood was born with or began having defects, which ranged from blindness to damaged testicles, he could not make an offering to God.
It was not enough simply to be in the service of God to ensure His favor. God dictated that if His priests were unclean when conducting their duties, they would incur guilt and die (be killed by God).
In another brief story, a half-breed blasphemed God, and so God was consulted for guidance on how to punish him. God declared that anyone who blasphemes God should be stoned to death, and then went on to say that sins should be paid back in like fashion; take a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This is in great contrast to what God just previously commanded, the killing of a mere blasphemer.
At the end of the list of laws, God laid out the blessings for obeying these laws, and the curses for disobeying them as part of the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, this is actually a whole new covenant, an alteration of God's promise, because the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had no such terms or conditions.
But wait! That was not all of the laws. The final chapter of Leviticus provided more regulations, laws which provided more money for God (or at least His priests). There God defined the value of a man, 50 shekels; and the value of a woman, 30 shekels. God also clarified that anything which was irrevocably given to God, such as men, animals, or land, can not be bought back. And to be sure of a residual income, God defined an obligatory tithe on all produce and livestock.
What We've Learned
God loves the smell of burnt flesh, and considers burnt sacrifice a critical component in atonement. Even on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which required the sacrifice of one goat for purifying the sanctuary and the release of the scapegoat to physically remove the sins from the nation, forgiveness was not granted until the burning of a ram.
God considers your importance to the community in determining what is necessary to provide atonement. It is not a one-size-fits-all atonement.
God seems as interested in providing for the financial well being of His priests as He seems anxious to kill them if they make any mistakes. And you should not mourn for anyone who was killed by God.
God not only considers women twice as unclean as men, but also holds women as less valuable than men; assigning no more than two-thirds the value of a man to a woman.
Despite creating all animals, there are some animals which God considers to be unclean and abominations to eat.
God put the life of every creature into its blood.
God does not want anyone altering what He has made, such as by blending two different things or trimming your beard or applying tattoos.
If you are sick or have mildew in your house, it is because God is punishing you.
God is superficial, not wanting anyone with any defects providing offerings to Him. While not explicitly said, perhaps this is because such defects were curses from God, just like sickness and mildew.
God believes that you should love your neighbor, meaning someone who lives in your own country, but did not consider this law important enough to give it any significant prominence in the Old Testament.
For human-to-human transgressions, God prescribes that you pay back in kind: take a life for a life, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. However, the slightest transgression against God is worthy of a death sentence.
God will change His promises at His will, adding terms and conditions to relieve Him of the responsibility to fulfill the promises and punish those who do not measure up to the new terms and conditions.
In short: God is a sexist, shallow, cruel, psychotically bloodthirsty, hypocritical, promise twisting deity who forgives most completely when imbibing smoke.
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