Seminary

Leviticus, it’s Different, but so is Our God

Leviticus is commonly misunderstood and presumed to be of lesser importance to other biblical texts. However, from an anthropologist perspective, Leviticus fits Israelite culture. This perspective fits the mold of a religion concentrated on humility and love for Gods house by bringing people closer to Him, one another, and His whole creation.

The author builds his argument on practices the Israelite community followed and contrasts them with other religions existing in corresponding times. Semitic people in ancient times were unique in being monotheistic, not focused on kingship, and removing interceding elements from their religion. Believing in a loving, present and justice seeking God whom makes covenants with His people synchronizes the book of Leviticus with the rest of the bible and sets Judaism apart from other religions in ancient history.

An Anthropologist evaluation of Judaism of Leviticus compares and contrasts the Israelites religion with other religious communities. The religion of the Pentateuch claims to have nothing in common with its neighboring religions. All others were polytheistic, kingship and kingly practices were held in high regard, and communication with the dead was prominent. Also separating the Leviticus religion apart was Gods justice, Gods series of covenants with the ancestors passed on through their generations, and the mark of circumcision as the sign of the covenant. Therefore, vast separation exits between the religion of Leviticus and the Bible, with the rest of the ancient world.

Engaging Leviticus with the rest of the Pentateuch is from a context of rewritings associated with the political instability of losing their tribes to war and the necessity to rebuild harmony within their communities after the Babylonian exile. With other scattered civilizations each having unique gods and a king to establish unity, the Semitic relationship of worshiping one God whose interest was justice for all mankind, established unity by God, through His people.

In Leviticus, the removal of having to fear demons from the Semitic religion is also important. In societies where demonic agencies were explained for misfortune, removing this fear creates a significant transition and is in accord with that of the Christian faith. Leviticus creates rituals for removing impurities through sacrifice and thus protection from impurities. This predominant theme eradicates demonic fears with the love of God, enabling Jews to remove their focus from demonic agents to God.

This brings into question how any part of Gods blessed and good creation can become impure or unclean. The idea that holy things can become unclean seems unresolved. However, when recognizing that not just Gods creation, but Scriptures can make the hands that touch them unclean, emphasizes the importance purifying ourselves, and protection from profanities of the natural world.

Bringing Leviticus back into the fold of the Pentateuch as an important book in understanding the ancient religion is a helpful approach to further understanding God and how His Holiness can consume impurities. The assumption that I question is that we cannot blame all of our misfortunes on demons. Where freewill exists, can we become impure by a combination of our own sinful thinking and a demonic force leading us past temptation into sin? If impurities exist, and demons are not always their cause, what else causes impurity? If by “declaring that the Holy Scriptures make the hands unclean,” what force or entity causes such uncleanliness or impurity? Would these impurities be within us as we approach and contact Holy Scriptures, regardless of rituals practiced before this encounter?

Citation

Douglas, Mary (1999). Leviticus as Literature: Ch. 1 The Ancient Religion. Oxford: University Press. 1-12.

2 Comments

  • Andy Brown

    Did the non existance of demons come up in the materials you were reading? Not sure Jesus could have extracted them and put them in the swine if they did not exist.

  • Jesse Brown

    Thanks for the feedback Andy, as I was editing and removing stuff to get it close to 500 words, I removed that their was a transition in thinking during Leviticus that there should be a non-existent fear of demons if purification and sacrificial rituals were kept. Pretty big details. It should be edited now.

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