Sunday, February 28, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 23-27

Chapter 23

God lays out the holiday calendar. Passover begins the fourteenth day of the first month, the feast of unleavened bread on the fifteenth. Daily sacrifices must be made. When they finally inherit Canaan, they are to make a wave offering of their first harvest. Jews out there will be happy to know that according to Jerry Falwell, the wave offering involved making the sign of the cross.

At the same time as they wave the grain in the shape of a cross, the Israelites are to sacrifice a lamb along with some bread and wine. They can't eat anything that day until they do this. This is a law unto eternity.

Fifty days later, they have to make another offering, this time of bread, lambs, bullocks and rams, followed by a kid goat and two more lambs. No work that day. This is also supposed to be eternal.

Next is the feast of trumpets, also known as Rosh Hoshannah, which happens on the first day of the seventh month. This coincides with the harvest. They are to have a memorial blowing of trumpets (v. 24) and a convocation and not do any work.

The tenth day is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which also involves sacrifices and no work. Anyone who does work is banished. This is also in perpetuity.

The fifteenth day will be Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, when they have to build a hut of boughs or palm fronds and live in them for seven days. This is also to be done forever, and is to remind them of their rescue from Egypt.

Mind you, contemporary Christians don't have to do any of these feasts, because either Jesus' death negated them (Passover, Unleavened bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost) or we won't celebrate them again until the rapture. Except for the Christians who do celebrate Pentecost or Whitsuntide, which would be most of Europe. Of course they do it because of Acts, which I haven't go to yet. I can't wait until Relevations, one because it will be the end of this project, and two because that's when Jerry will no doubt endorse the Left Behind series.

Chapter 24

God commands Aaron to keep the lamps lit inside the temple at night. Then he tells him to bake 12 loaves of bread every sabbath and put them on the table, and only he and his sons can eat it.

Then a half-Israelite curses god in the middle of a fight. This stops everyone dead in their tracks. They take him to Moses, who puts him in jail while he consults with god. Sensing an opportunity to put the fear of god into his people by example, he returns a verdict of death by stoning. So they do, and then god reminds them of the whole 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' routine. See Monty Python's take on this chapter.

Chapter 25

Every seven years, the Israelites are to let their land lie fallow. God promises good harvests in the sixth year. Yeah, that'll work.

God also turns everybody into long-term leaseholders rather than property owners. On the fiftieth year, they have to set slaves free and return property to its owner, who of course is god. What do you want to bet Moses and Aaron are his 'realtors'? You also have to return anything you bought to its rightful owner. This rule does not apply to houses in walled cities, unless it was bought from a Levite, in which case it reverts back to him in the jubilee, thus preventing agricultural land barons from cropping up and trying to take power away from the priestly ruling class. Apparently, there is only one record of this in Israelite history, in 587 BCE, and then they realized what a stupid idea it was and went back to holding permanent title to their land.

If your brother becomes poor, you should let him live with you and not charge him interest on his rent or food. You can't enslave him, you have to hire him, and he can leave at the jubilee.

No, slaves must be from the heathens around the Israelites, and you don't have to set them or their children free. They or their family members can buy their freedom, and then pay you from the year you bought him to the jubilee year. In the time you have him, you may treat him with rigour. So what about Leviticus 24:22, which says Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country. For I am the LORD your God? Is this universal brotherhood, or a tribal society that divides the world into Us and Them? If in doubt, see Exodus 12: 29-36, the death of the first born sons.

Chapter 26

Apparently, this chapter, which contains the rewards and punishments for breaking the various laws, was typical of the area and era. Of course, Jerry can't go further and draw the conclusion that this book is just like all the rest, an iron age legal text that whose proper place is as a world history document like the others.

First, no idol worship, and keep the sabbath. The rewards: timely rain, good harvests, safety from predators, peace, victory over enemies, to the point where five Israelites can beat 100 enemies, and a hundred will triumph over 10 000. Actually, according to an excellent essay in The New Yorker, this should have been possible, as long as they didn't follow the conventional rules. Other rewards: children, good food stores, the tabernacle, and god will walk among them.

But because curses are so much more fun than blessings, there are many more of them: plagues, child cannibalism by strangers, whom you will then be killed in front of, bad harvests, child-eating predators, sick livestock, no trade, raiders, hunger pangs, cannibalism of your own children, killing you and throwing your bodies on false idols, non-acceptance of sacrifices, destruction of crops and cities, people will be so fearful they'll drop dead at the sight of a fallen leaf, which will render them unable to face their enemies, death among the heathens, wasting disease.

But there is hope! Confession and humbleness, followed by punishment will lead to redemption and restoration.

Chapter 27

Finally, how to buy your stuff back from the temple, and the various fees incurred. Why end here? Why not put it before the punishments, which would lead to a nice, dramatic finish?

First, how much you have to pay to free a person who has been promised to the temple. Males of working age: 50 shekels. Women: 30. Adolescent males: 20, females: 10. Boys from 1 month to 5 years: 5, girls: 3. Men over 60: 15, women: 10. Note that babies under 1 month are not mentioned. So far, I have not seen much evidence that the bible is anti-abortion.

Beasts brought before the priests to be offered as sacrifices cannot be altered. Unclean animals cannot be sacrificed, and if you want to buy it back, you have to pay 20 per cent extra. Apparently priests could charge interest, just not you.

If you promise your house, the priest gives a price estimate. If you decide to buy it back, 20 percent. Fields are to be estimated by crop yields and the amount of time before the next jubilee. Change your mind? 20 percent 'administration fee.'

No buying back firstlings of the flock, they're god's. Unclean beasts are to be bought back at 20 percent. No holy thing can be bought back. Tithing is mandatory, and the collection fee for non-tithers is 20 percent.

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