Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grounded Scriptures: Leviticus rediscovered

I commend to you a little reading in Leviticus.
Nobody commends Leviticus. That’s the backwardest part of the Bible. When my youth group performed the “Bible in 15 minutes” we summarized Leviticus as:
Don’t have sex with your daughter.
Don’t have sex with your sister-in-law.
Don’t have sex with your great-aunt.
If you have an oozy skin discharge, OR if you touch a corpse…
And in the interest of fitting the rest of the Bible into 15 minutes, the whole cast yelled “ew gross!” and ousted Leviticus from the stage.
Today, I commend to you a few verses from Leviticus. Specifically, from the collection known as the “Holiness Code” (chs 17-26). You can skip the parts about whom not to have sex with (just do it with someone you love and aren't related to, ok?), and go on to chapter 19.

Now you need a little Hebrew, but I’ll provide it. NOTICE how people, creatures, and land are all treated similarly, even with the same words: you shall not reap the edge (pe’a) of your field (19:9) nor will you shave the edge (pe’a) of your beard (19:27). NOTICE that your fruit trees are to remain uncircumcised (‘arelim 19:23) for three years, whereupon its first “cutting” or harvest of fruit is dedicated to the Lord. If that’s not telling us “treat your trees like people,” I don’t know what it is. NOTICE that the land doesn’t just take male metaphors, it’s female too: “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, that the land not become prostituted and full of depravity” (19:29).
This is the same great chapter that tells us “love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18) and even “you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (19:34)… and I wonder. Hidden under this code, are we actually being told…
*to tenderly care for our fields as we do our own bodies?
*to protect our land as fiercely as we protect our daughters?
*to honor and celebrate the fruit of a tree the same way we would celebrate the life of a baby boy?

I commend to you a little reading in Leviticus 19. Enjoy.


Nancy said...

very nice. Leviticus isn't simply a bunch of rules,there is an ethic, a way to live in the world- culturally conditioned for sure- for those who are willing to read prayerfully and carefully. Thanks

presbybug said...

thanks =) yes, and a worldview to embrace - some of which we can surely skip over but SOME of which is a valuable treasure not to be passed over! sometimes it's easier to throw the whole thing out than to say we can use part of it.