Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Leviticus 9-15: Clean and Unclean

Well, it's been a while, but I'm going to do a big chunk (maybe two chunks) today so I can keep moving.

This part is all about what makes something ceremonially unclean, and what you're supposed to do when something (or, yes, someone) becomes unclean. It's pretty weird, but sort of neat. Some thoughts:

Chapter 9
(This is about Aaron offering sacrifices before God, after all the preceding chapters about how to do so)

  • I wonder sometimes why Aaron was chosen to be the high priest instead of Moses, and why there's not much in the Bible about him if he was so important. I suppose Moses was too busy to be the high priest. Still, I find it interesting.
  • There's a lot of instructions about how to present an offering to God. Why was the method - or formula, we could say - so important? If there was nothing inherently special, spiritual, or magical about the animals (or their various body parts), why did it matter what the priest did with which parts? I really don't know.
  • In verse 24, when Aaron offers the sacrifice, fire shoots out and burns up all the stuff on the altar, and the people freak out and fall down. I love that. They've already seen God do a bunch of awesome stuff, but it never gets old.
Chapter 10

  • Right at the beginning of this chapter, Aaron has two sons named Nadab and Abihu who put some weird incense that wasn't God-approved on the altar, and they die because of it. This is what I wrote in my notes when I read that: Harsh! What did they do that for? They knew the rules, and God made a really big deal about following them - like, the last NINE LONG CHAPTERS that have taken me forever to get through were all about how to do a sacrifice and how important it was and what it meant and all that. How could they just blow all that off? No wonder God was mad at them. I'm mad at them. That's likw how I feel when people post things on the board that I've expressly said "Do NOT do this!" Still, I'm sad that they died. That seems really rough.
  • In verse 6, Israel mourns the deaths of Aaron' sons, even though Moses doesn't let the mourn. That must have been really hard on them, since obviously they're the ones who would be the most sad over it. But I am glad that they didn't prohibit everyone from mourning. In fact, Moses said that the whole house of Israel would "beail the burning which the LORD has brought about."
  • I don't understand what happens in verses 16-20. Moses goes looking for the goat of a sin offering that they just offered, but it had been all burned up, so Moses goes to Aaron's sons (the ones who are still alive) and asks them why they didn't eat it, and Aaron says it's because his sons were burned up and it wouldn't have been good in the eyes of the LORD for him and his sons to eat the sin offering today. And Moses goes "oh, okay," and that's the end of the chapter. I don't get it. There must be some significance to all this stuff that I'm missing.
Chapter 11
(This part is about clean and unclean animals)
  • It's really weird to me that animals which have split hooves and chew the cud are clean. I mean, it's not a random selection of different animals, or even based so much on what they eat or anything. I suppose God could have made "clean" animals that didn't have cloven hooves, but he gave all the animals he wanted the Israelites to eat those two things in common. How funny. I mean, with the fish it makes more sense: scales and fins. That's pretty general. Hooves and digestive process just seems so weird to me.
  • We all know that the pig is considered an abomination to the Jews (as well as to Muslims and Hindus). But it's not the only animal that was unclean. I wonder why it became the sort of poster child of unclean animals.
  • I also think it's weird that God never says why certain animals were unclean. Today we think it's because of sanitation and preventing disease and whatnot. But God doesn't tell the Israelites that, and I'm sure they didn't know about bacteria and all that to figure it out. But then again, maybe it wouldn't have done much good to tell them why because they didn't know anything about that stuff. So maybe sometimes God doesn't answer our "why" questions because the answers would be more confusing than the questions.

Chapter 12 (it's okay, this one is really short)
  • Now, this chapter is really funny to me. It's about how when a woman has a baby, she becomes unclean for a certain amount of time. If it's a boy, she's unclean for a week, and on the eighth day when the boy is circumcised, that's when she enters a purification period of 33 . But if it's a girl, she's unclean for two weeks and has a purification period of 66 days. Why? I'd also like to know what the practical implications of this whole unclean period are. Is that kind of like maternity leave? Or is it a purely ceremonial thing that has no connection to "practical" matters like the unclean animals do?
  • What I do like about this chapter is that it tells what sacrifice to bring to the Lord when your kid is born. You're supposed to bring a lamb, but if you're too poor for that you bring a pair of turtledoves or pigeons. I think it's neat that God has different requirements like that. And notice, He doesn't just make it so that -everyone- has to bring birds. If you can afford a lamb, that's what you should bring.
Chapter 13-14
(These two are about leprosy, or icky skin diseases, and what to do about them)
  • The closest Israel got to having doctors was priests. They had to be able to tell what was just a scab and what was a serious disease, and they had to tell people how to treat each. Nasty job if you ask me. What really sucks is, there wasn't any treatment for disease, whether it was leprosy or just a burn. Pretty much you just wrap it up and try to stay away from people so you don't infect them. I wonder why God didn't give them more information about medical treatments? Lots of other ancient people groups had herbal remedies for all kinds of things (don't know about leprosy though). Well, maybe Hebrews did use herbs for things too, and we just don't know about it. But this leprosy stuff was apparently highly contagious, so people really had to stay away for their own good. I wonder if it was risky for the priests to be looking at their sores and stuff.
  • All of chapter 14 is about cleansing a leper and his house and stuff, so apparently people did recover from it. That's really encouraging. But not everybody did.
Chapter 15
(This chapter is just weird. It's about, um, bodily discharge)
  • Okay, first of all, why is this chapter in the Bible? This is like TMI to the nth degree for me! Now, it is my opinion that some books have a sort of personality, as though they were almost people themselves, separate from their authors (if you are an author, or if you have listened to one talk about their books, you understand how this is possible). And the Bible is called a "living book" so I think I can say it has more personality than other books, and its personality is totally candid. It is not at all apologetic when it talks about nasty stuff, or about deep stuff, or hard-to-believe stuff, or stuff that you just wish wasn't in there. It puts all its cards on the table, face-up, as it were. This chapter is an example of that. Now, I really don't know why this was so super-important to God or to Israel, but it apparently was worth writing 33 verses about (the baby chapter only has 8 verses), so we mustn't overlook it.
  • What I do find interesting here (yes, I said interesting) is that no matter what kind of discharge a person has, at the end of it they have to bring birds for a sin offering and for a burnt offering. Now, the text doesn't treat any of these things like sins. The people don't get punished for them, and generally it's something that the person can't help (like menstruation). But you have to offer a sin offering anyway, and I wonder why that is.
So that was a lot of really weird stuff in those chapters. Burning, dying, eating, scabbing, birthing, discharging, sacrificing stuff. All I can say is, no wonder Hebrews says that the Law is only a shadow of the things to come.