Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Day Whatever - Exodus and Leviticus

Yeah - whatever. I know I'm way behind in reading, and even further behind in posting. Sue me.

I'll say this about Exodus: It is even more epic in scope than Genesis - for about 20 chapters. After the giving of the Ten Commandments, it's all downhill. Regulations, dimensions of the tabernacle, blueprints for the Ark of the Covenant, and on and on and on. Where were they getting all those skins of sea-cows (that is; dugongs) to cover everything with?
Since the story of the Exodus is probably one of the most well-known in all of history, I won't belabor the point with copious notes on what the plagues mean, or the story about Moses and Zipporah's wacky incident with their son's foreskin (see a pattern emerging here?). What I will say is this:
PRINCE OF EGYPT. Love it. You should watch it again.

Sooo - Leviticus.
Not much to say about Leviticus except this: God is thorough. Every legal eventuality is covered here. No Israelite could ever ask, "Yeah, but what if..." Nope. It's in there. Also - the rule about rules is that they probably wouldn't have to be made if somebody hadn't been guilty of whatever it is they are ruling against in the first place. In other words - chances are SOMEBODY in the camp was lying with man as one lies with a woman. SOMEBODY in the camp was offering their children to Molech (the god who causes children to pass through the fire). SOMEBODY was having sexual relations with an animal. And I'm sure everybody knew who it was, too. Well congratulations, buddy! You've got a verse in Leviticus with your name on it. You're practically famous... except it's for bestiality.

Anyway - the coolest thing ever about Leviticus is the Year of Jubilee. Every 50th year, all debts are forgiven, all slaves are freed, and all land that was bought or sold reverts back to its original owner. And do you know why? Because land belongs to the LORD, and you are just aliens and tenants in it, that's why, sucka.
There's also a thing called the sabbath YEAR. For six years you are to work the ground of your field, but in the seventh year you gotta leave it alone. No plowing, planting, or harvesting. God promises to give you enough in year six for three years - just in case. Even
the earth gets a sabbath! Preach!

Any reading of Jewish laws is bound to scandalize the aspiring feminist or abolitionist. But when studied in the historical context, these laws are often huge jumps in women's rights from the existing culture. For example - Israelites are instructed that anytime they rape a woman, or seduce a virgin, they must pay the "bride-price" for her, and bring her into their house. Of course, this isn't much of a curve, but it's an upward curve nonetheless in the treatment of women in ancient cultures. It's a curve that continues well into the New Testament, and, I would say, today. A similar curve exists, I think regarding slavery - although it is much slower than that regarding women. Others have pointed out that it seems like no such moral curve exists in scripture when it comes to sexuality.

Lastly- what the bleep is a "wave offering"? That's gotta be one of the most hilarious things I've ever read. Never heard of it before now. Thanks a lot preachers and seminary professors!


hello jamie: said...

so what is a wave offering? I've never heard that term.

Also, just out of completely random curiosity (and because I do not consider myself the absolute final authority in what does or does not qualify as "a sin")-- does the New Testament give similar rules re: homosexuality? If not, how come we hang on to that particular OT creed and not say, lying down with your wife during her "womanly time," or planting certain crops next to each other?

We certainly do like to make that Book say what we think we want it to say, don't we?

J.T. said...

I think a wave offering is exactly what it sounds like. You want to dedicate something to God without burning it up, so you just wave it at him from the altar.

Kind of like baby dedication in a Baptist Church.

And I think that the reason a lot of people focus on certain laws, and ignore others is frankly because they just don't know the Bible, the story or the context. They haven't bothered to actually read it, they only know what somebody else told them.

Also people tend to really want to enforce laws that they know they will never be guilty of breaking. For example - most of us will never engage in homosexual sex, so we feel like that's one we can really come down hard on other people about. It's sick, and self-righteous, really.