Thoughts on Leviticus and Numbers - Day 5 Lent 2013

The 2013 Lenten Bible speed reading resumes after yesterday's feast day. Today's reading goes from Leviticus 16 to Numbers 13. It is a big chunk. My tactics include getting up when the alarm goes off and not hitting the snooze bar, waking up by showering, making my tea and sitting under the light with a paraphrased Bible. I use the Message. Then I read and skim when it's redundant or superfluous material, like some of the chapters today. It takes me about an hour every morning so far. This is today's good, bad and ugly chapter by chapter.

16 - Rules for the annual Day of Atonement, when Aaron gets to enter the Holy Place and make sacrifices. Among the multitude of sacrifices on this day is the weird one of killing one goat for God and releasing the other goat, the scapegoat, to Azazel, v. 10. The IVP Bible Background commentary distinguishes between God getting a sacrifice and Azazel getting a freed one. I don't know how this prefigures what Jesus did. On the other hand, the writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews points out that Jesus, unlike Aaron does not have to offer sacrifices for himself and the people over and over again. For Jesus, it's one and done. Hebrews 7:27.
17 - All sacrifices are supposed to happen in the tent of meeting, no longer in the fields, or to goat demons. Whoever Azazel is, he gets live ones, not dead ones, whatever that distinguishes. To me, the person giving the sacrificial goat is still out a goat, whether it's dead or alive.
Don't eat blood. Interestingly, Jesus says no one lives unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood, John 6:51-58.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
Jesus likes to shock his audience. Despite the cannibalism, designed to shock the crowd, he was also contrasting the new covenant with this previous one.
18 - Sex rules. I guess if he doesn't say it, then they'll feel free to do it. In violation of these rules though, Abraham married his half sister, and Moses' parents were aunt and nephew, Exodus 6:20. Good thing they did this before the law, because violators could only count on ex-communication or the death penalty, Lev. 18:29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.
19 - Ways to be holy, mostly great society ideas. Honor your parents. Take Saturdays off. Enjoy the peace offering barbecue. Leave food in your fields for the poor. Don't cheat others, especially your workers, or the disabled. Help those in need. Don't seek revenge. Don't kill the man slave paramores. (It's a more generous chapter.) Let your fruit trees grow for 5 years before you gather the first harvest. No tattoos. Don't prostitute your daughter. Be nice to old people and foreigners. This is all good stuff.
20 - All the ways you can earn a death penalty: sacrifice your children to idols, curse your parents, adulterate, breaking the sex rules of 18. A couple can be kicked out of the community if they have intercourse during her period. Earlier in the same book, Lev. 15:24, we were told he'd be unclean for a week like her, so that seems out of left field. According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary, this blood and emission thing was a common cultural milieu in the Ancient Near East.
21 - Special rules for priests. Disabled Levites are disqualified.
22 - More rules on priests and sacrifices. No disabled sacrifices either.
23 - Mandatory vacation time in the Jewish year.
24 - Keep the lights on in the worship center and make bread every week. A half Jewish kid cursed God while in the hat of the moment and has to be stoned to death. Yikes! A reiteration of the eye for eye thing without a counterexample as I mentioned before in Exodus 21.
25 - More mandatory vacation, one year off every 50 years.
26 - Impossible promises easily made. If the people don't screw up, their climate will only stay in the cycle that's good for food and crops. That was easy, since how can this possibly go wrong? They were making an idol right below the mountain God and Moses were chatting at. So the flip side of breaking faith with God is laid out, but he'll listen to them if they confess after they screw up.
27 - Pricing schemes for people and things dedicated to God, which his priests benefit from.
Numbers is quicker, because it's mostly counting, hence the name. This all happens a year after they left Egypt. How far have they gone? How much good land is there for a pastoral people between Egypt and Gaza?
1 - Numbers of fighting men in each tribe. Dont count the Levites. It sounds off to me by a factor of ten.
2 -  The order of the camps.
3 - Count the Levites.
4 - Levite jobs by clan.
5 - A goofy ritual to keep a jealous husband calm. Bring his wife to the priest, make her drink water mixed with dust and vow she's faithful.
6 - The Nazirite vows that Samson and John the Baptist kept.
The blessing the priests are supposed to use, which is very nice.
24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
7 - Each tribe sends a representative to bring the same offering to get the worship complex going.
8 - Blood and oil for purification of the priests and light for the altar.
9 - Passover rules. God as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
10 - Bugles for camp communication. The cloud moves so the people move.
11- People got sick of camping so God burned some of them. People got sick of manna. [This is where the Pentateuch seems like the gospels, one story but different authors. Why is manna explained again? We learned all about it in Exodus. It's as if the scroll of Exodus is not available to the Numbers audience, so the Numbers author has to provide background.] God seems mad again, that everyone is sick of his miraculous cooking, so he's gonna give them so much poultry they'll get sick of that too. Apparently, he sent them a huge flock of birds, which made the people sick with a plague. This is awkward. This is God's fault? Maybe the birds were already sick, and that's why they landed in a camp of thousands of people.
12 - More awkwardness. Moses' bro and sis think he's a little too full of himself, we're told Moses was the humblest man who ever lived in verse 4 which should have settled it right there, so God backs up Moses and gives his sister, Miriam, white skin. Perhaps God prefers order to chaos. And it was Aaron who had forged the golden calf a year or so earlier. But Miriam gets the consequences, she's turned into a white woman, which terrified everyone.
13 - A scouting party is sent to the promised land. Two guys come back talking about the opportunities, saying how awesome it is, and ten other guys talk about the obstacles to moving into the land, noting the giants and walled cities.

I admit, I'm an obstacle guy more often than an opportunity guy. I empathize with the wrong guys in this story.

I'm supposed to finish Numbers tomorrow.

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Barry K. Wilde said…
Interesting, that you would refer to John 6. Most Protestants don't take this literally.

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