Showing posts with label Leviticus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leviticus. Show all posts

Friday, August 2, 2013

Leviticus 19 - 27


The opening statement by God for chapter 19 is, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’”

Few Basic Rules
We have seen many of these laws already:
- Respect your mother and father.
- Observe the Sabbaths.
- Do not turn to those idols.

Fellowship offerings were to be sacrificed in such a way that they would be accepted by the LORD:
- Do not harvest all of your land. Leave few bits and pieces at the edges for people passing through.
- Do not pick up all those grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.

Social Rules
Next, we see a set of rules essential for a decent social behavior, spelled out clearly:
- Don't steal.
- Don't lie.
- Don't deceive one another.
- Do not swear falsely by God's name.
- Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.
- Pay your workers on time.
- Do not curse the deaf or make the blind fall down.
- Do not pervert justice; no partiality to rich or poor; judge your neighbor fairly.
- Do not slander.
- Do not endanger your neighbor.
- Do not hate a fellow Israelite. Instead rebuke your neighbor frankly.
- Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone; love your neighbor as yourself.
- Keep God's decrees.

Keep it Separate
The next set of rules seem to emphasis separation of unlike things, to an almost autistic extent.
- Don't mate different kinds of animals.
- Don't plant two kinds of crops in the same field
- Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
- If a man has sex with somebody's female slave, do certain sacrifices (no death penalty in this case).
- In a new land, the fruits are forbidden for first three years; the fruits are for sacrifice the fourth year; You may harvest and eat them the fifth year.
- Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.
- Do not practice black magic.
- Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard (see additional info)
- Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.
- Do not encourage your daughter to be a prostitute.
- Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for God's sanctuary.
- Do not consult sorcerers

Good Behavior
- Show respect to elders; stand up in the presence of elders.
- Treat foreigners or immigrants the same way as residents.
- Do not scam with dishonest measurement standards. Use honest scales and practices.
- Follow God's decrees and all His laws.

Punishments for Sin
This is the summary of chapter 20.
Sacrificing a child to Molech (Molek) = death by stoning..
Consulting black magicians = exile.
Cursing your mother and your father = death penalty.
Adultery = death penalty for both involved.
Sex with your mother or step-mother = death penalty for both involved.
Sex with your daughter-in-law = death penalty for both of you.
Male homosexual intercourse = death penalty for both.
Marrying both of a mother-daughter combo = death by fire for all three.
Sex with an animal = death for both the human and the animal.
Sex with your sister or half-sister = exile for both of you.
Sex while a woman is menstruating = exile for both parties.
Sex with an aunt or sister in law = will die childless.
Marrying brother's wife = act of impurity; will die childless.
Don’t live according to Canaanites; they did all these things.
Make distinction between clean and unclean birds & animals.
Any man or woman practicing black magic = death by stoning.

Rules for Priests
Priests were to be holy. Being 'holy' is different from being 'sinless'. Being sinless is the foundation for being holy, but for the priests, being holy meant other rules, in addition to those rules about sin. They had to stay sinless, and had to do other things as well, to set themselves apart for God.

Priests
- A priest was not to make himself ceremonially unclean when one of his relatives died.
- He was to be very careful about touching the dead body, which would make him unclean.
- The priest was allowed to make exceptions, however, for close relatives such as parents, children, brother, sister (if unmarried)
- The priest was not allowed to make exceptions for people he was only related to by marriage.
- He was not to let his hair become 'unkempt and was not allowed to 'uncover his head', or tear his clothes (to show grief).
- Priests could not shave their heads or trim their beards; not to cut their bodies.
- Priests were not allowed to marry prostitutes of divorced women.
- If a priest’s daughter became a prostitute, she was to be executed by burning.
- A Levite with a “defect” was not allowed to offer sacrifices for the LORD or approach the altar.
- Defects were blindness, lameness, disfigurement or deformity, crippled feet or hands, hunchbacks or dwarfs, eye defects, festering or running sores, damaged testicles.

High Priests
- All rules applicable for priest plus:
- The High Priest was not allowed to make any exceptions, even for close relatives like his mother or father died.
- The High Priest, in addition, was also not allowed to marry a widow. He had to marry a virgin.

Respect sacred offerings
The priests were to:
- Treat sacred offerings to the LORD with respect.
- Come near the offerings while he was ceremonially clean
- Eat sacred food only when they had no infectious skin diseases or bodily discharges
- Remain unclean (if unclean) and was not allowed to eat sacred food until he had bathed with water. 
- Not eat anything found dead, or torn by wild animals.
- Not offer sacred food to people outside his family. 20% fine was imposed on such offense. 

Unacceptable Sacrifices
When it came to offering to the LORD, you offered the best.
Few rules:
- Any animal presented to the LORD was to be male, and without defect.
- Examples of defects were being: blind, injured or maimed, had warts, or festering or running sores, or had injured testicles.
- If an Israelite was offering a “freewill offering,” he could offer an ox or sheep that was stunted or deformed—he just couldn't offer those animals for the fulfillment of vows.
- A newborn calf, lamb, or goat was to remain with its mother for at least seven days. It wouldn't be acceptable as an offering until the eighth day.
- A cow or sheep was not to be offered on the same day as its own young.

The Appointed Festivals
There are few assemblies and festivals God wants Israelites to proclaim sacred.
Yet again God reaffirms the importance of the Sabbath - simple; work six days and rest on the seventh. (See Notes below)
Apart from Sabbath, below are the days:
- The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread,
- Feast of First-fruits,
- The Feast of Weeks,
- The Festival of Trumpets,
- The Day of Atonement,
- The Festival of Tabernacles.

There are also some instructions about what to do at each feast.

Olive Oil and Bread Set Before the Lord
The lamp of the Tabernacle always needs to be tended, full of olive oil, and burning, and that bread should always be laid out on the Tabernacle table, for God - but to be eaten by the priests.

Twelve loaves of bread are to be baked and set on the gold table in the Holy Place. They are to be placed in two rows - six loaves per row.

A Blasphemer Put to Death
A man with an Israelite mother and Egyptian father gets into a fight, and during the fight, he blasphemes the LORD’s name - with a curse.

The Israelites don’t know what to do about it, and hence seek Moses' advice - to inquire about the LORD’s will. The LORD commands that the man must be taken outside of the camp, and stoned. And then He outlines some general rules:
- Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.
- Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name of Lord, they are to be put to death.
- Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.
- Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life.
- Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner:
-fracture for fracture,
-eye for eye,
-tooth for tooth.
- The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.
- Whoever kills an animal must make restitution,
- Whoever kills a human being is to be put to death.

The man is taken outside the camp and stoned to death.

The Sabbath Year
Every seventh year was to be a “year of rest” for the land.
For six years they would cultivate and tend the land, growing and reaping their crops
But on the seventh year, they were not to sow their fields, or prune their vineyards.

The Year of Jubilee
Jubilee year came after every seventh Sabbath year; i.e. every fiftieth year (50th year). It is another Sabbath year, but God asks Moses not to worry about going two years without planting; God will make the year before the seventh Sabbath year so fruitful, that they will be able to put aside three years worth of food.

Next we see some additional rules, about the redemption of property, and Israelites who fell into hard times, and couldn't support themselves:
- If an Israelite became poor, and had to sell some of his property, his nearest relative was to buy it back (redeem), for him.
- Houses within walled cities were treated differently than other land; they were not to be returned, at the Year of Jubilee.
- Levites’ land was also treated differently.
- If an Israelite became poor, and was unable to support himself, the other Israelites were to help him.
- If such a person sold himself to a fellow Israelite, he was not to be treated as a slave, but as a hired worker.
- If a non-Israelite a “temporary resident” or an “alien” bought a poor Israelite as a slave, that Israelite was to retain the right of redemption. He could be redeemed by a relative, or if he prospered, redeem himself.

Reward for Obedience
God outlines what will happen to the Israelites if they obey those rules, and what will happen if they don’t. This is true for every Christian as well.

During introduction, he says two things:
1. No idols or idol worship.
2. Observe Sabbath and have reverence for the Sanctuary.

For those Israelites who carefully follow His decrees:
  • He will send rain in its season,
  • The ground will yield its crops, and trees will bear fruit,
  • Their threshing will continue until the grape harvest, 
  • The grape harvest will continue until planting,
  • The Israelites will have all the food they want,
  • They will live in their land in safety,
  • There will be peace in the land,
  • God will remove “savage beasts” from the land,
  • The sword will not pass through their country,
  • When the Israelites pursue their enemies, the enemies will fall by the sword before them,
  • They will have enormous power over their enemies,
  • The LORD will be favorable toward the Israelites,
  • They will be fruitful, and increase their numbers,
  • He will keep His covenant with them. 

Punishment for Disobedience
This section, I am going to quote verbatim and not watering down. It is better if you read it yourself, since it was the covenant agreed upon between God and Israelites at Mount Sinai.

14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands,

15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant,

16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it.

17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.

19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze.

20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.

21 “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.

22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.

23 “‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me,

24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over.

25 And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands.

26 When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.

27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me,

28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.

29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.

30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you.

31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.

32 I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.

33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.

34 Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths.

35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them.

37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies.

38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you.

39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.

40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me,

41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin,

42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees.

44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God.

45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’”

46 These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.

Redeeming What Is the Lord’s
Some Israelites made vows to God about dedicating a person to the LORD by giving equivalent value. The firstborn could not be dedicated as it already belonged to God.

Males between 20 - 60, valued at 0.6 kilograms of silver
Females between 20 - 60, valued at 0.3 kilograms of silver
Males from 5 - 20, valued at 0.2 kilograms of silver
Females from 5 - 20, valued at 110 grams of silver
Males from one month to 5 years, valued at 55 grams of silver
Females from one month to 5 years, valued at 35 grams of silver
Males over 60 years, valued at 170 grams of silver
Females over 60 years, valued at 100 grams of silver
Couldn't afford the specified value? Meet the priest, who would determine a value, based on what the person could afford.

There were rules of dedication regarding animals, house, family land, field, etc., after the priest made an examination and was in good shape and quality.

Anything that was devoted to Lord may not be sold or redeemed, as devoted items were considered most holy to the LORD.

A tithe (tenth) of everthing from the land belonged to the LORD. Whoever redeemed the tithe added 20% to it.

Reading Assignment
Leviticus 19
Leviticus 20
Leviticus 21
Leviticus 22
Leviticus 23
Leviticus 24
Leviticus 25
Leviticus 26
Leviticus 27

With today's reading we have completed the Book of Leviticus.
Here is how we can look at it:
- We're a whopping 60% through the Pentateuch!
- 1/13 of our way through the Old Testament.
- Around 10% our way through the Bible by page count.
- 23 Days since we started our guided tour.
- And I was able to post before 6:00 AM today :-)

----------------------Note: Change in Schedule
We actually wrapped up Leviticus. It is easy to read those laws, but quite hard to follow them. Some may tell you, "Oh, this is just Old Testament. You don't need to pay attention to those or follow them. We now follow the New Testament since Jesus Christ came." Anytime you hear this argument, ask yourself, "Who is out there, trying very hard to make me break the laws of God?"

We've been told by God, over and over about Sabbath, and I am thinking let's shut down the tour during Sabbath days. I will work six days and take rest from tour on the seventh day - let's say, on Sunday, and there won't be any postings on Sunday.

This will mean that we will have to re-schedule all future readings to skip Sundays and create a brand new schedule - let's do it.

By the way, you readers are free to read postings (on Sunday), but I am preventing myself from working on that day.

-----------------------Additional Info 1
Hair and Beard
This is in connection with idol worship. Leviticus 19: 26 to 31 should be read together as one, to understand about idol worship.

26 “‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.

“‘Do not practice divination or seek omens.

27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

29 “‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.

30 “‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD.

31 “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

Without going into much detail, those idol worshipers use to cut their hair very short on the sides, maintaining a tuft on top of their head. Then they used to clip their beard in a particular fashion, thus distinguishing themselves as idol worshipers. Further, they used to cut their bodies during idol worship rituals and make tattoos of idols on their skin. It is in this regard God is saying not to offer your daughter as prostitutes for these ceremonies, do not hold those ceremonies on Sabbath, certainly such ceremonies not to be held in His sanctuary.  Not to seek black magicians for these purposes as well.





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Leviticus 13 - 18


We are at a point where it examines about infectious skin diseases and mildew. It spans two chapters and almost four pages in the Bible. Skin disease used to be a big deal and it was the responsibility of the priest to quarantine such patients.

If anyone is following the King James Version, you may read the word 'leprosy' in these chapters. Bear in mind that the Hebrew translation did not cover other diseases. For the sake of our tour, we will use the phrase "infectious skin disease."

In these two chapters, descriptions of various skin conditions are provided, with instructions for each as to whether an unclean state is indicated. A leper not only caused hatred and disgust, he was also defiled in all his acts. If he drank out of a vessel, the vessel was defiled. If he lay upon a bed, the bed became unclean, and whosoever sat upon the bed afterwards became unclean too.

Examination and Quarantine
The priest used examine the patient, keep them under observation, pronounce 'clean' or 'unclean'. Unclean members were put in isolation. This was true for boil, burns, sore, etc. Those unclean had to uncover their head, cover the lower part of their face and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” As long as they had the infectious skin disease, they were to live alone, outside the camp.

Few other examination methods are mentioned in the Bible, for the reader to explore.

Ceremonially Clean
Examination centers were set up outside the camp. If it was determined that the person was healed, the priest was to have two live, clean birds, some cedar wood, some scarlet yarn, and some hyssop brought to the person who was being cleansed.

One of the birds was to be killed over a clay pot, holding fresh water. The priest would then dip the live bird, the wood, the yarn, and the hyssop in the blood of the killed bird. He was then to sprinkle the person being cleansed seven times, and pronounce him clean. The live bird was then released in the open fields. Next, he was to wash his clothes, shave off all of his hair, and bathe with water. At this point, he would be considered ceremonially clean.

He would be allowed back into the camp, at this point, but he still wasn't allowed to enter his tent, for seven days. On the seventh day, he was to shave off all of his hair - all of it, including his beard, his eyebrows, and everything else - and wash his clothes and bathe himself with water again.

On the eighth day he was to bring offerings for grain offering. The priest was to present the man and his offerings before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Some of the blood from guilt offering was put upon this person. Then the sin and grain offering were performed.

Mildew Infection
In case of Mildew, God takes responsibility for spreading it in the land. The priest would put the patient under examination, examine the clothing to see if it has spread or not. If spread, the garment was to be burned; else washed and used.

As part of cleansing a house,
- The priest examines a house
- If infected, the house was closed for 7 days
- The priest would reexamine the house on day 8
- He would suggest tearing down the house or declares fit for living.

Next for the ceremonies, the priest was to get two birds, some cedar wood, some scarlet yarn, and some hyssop. He would kill one of the birds over a clay pot, with some water in it, and then dip the live bird in the blood. He would then sprinkle the house seven times, purifying the house with the blood, water, wood, yarn, and hyssop. Next, the bird was released in the open fields outside of the Israelites’ camp.

Discharges Causing Uncleanness
At first, when someone reads this chapter and reads about "bodily discharge", they think it is referring to semen. But semen is specifically mentioned in verses 16 - 18. Here, discharges are any 'yellowish greenish pus' oozing from any or all parts of the body including genital sores and is considered unclean. Anyone who touches this 'oozing patient', or his bed, or sits in the chair where he sat is also considered unclean. Any wood he touches has to be scrubbed; any pottery he touches has to be broken. Once he stops oozing, he has to wait seven days, do some serious bathing, and then take a couple of doves or pigeons to the priest for sacrifice - as we saw above.

Semen is less of an issue. When emitted, the parties involved are merely unclean until evening. They just need to wash themselves with water and anything the semen got on - which is always a good idea anyway. Note that no sacrifices or ceremonies are mentioned in this case - just bathing was sufficient, which makes perfect sense.

When a woman had her periods,
- she was unclean for seven days.
- anyone who touched her during this time would also become unclean, but unclean only until that evening.
- anything she laid down on or sat on during her period would become unclean.
- anyone who touched her bed, or anything she sat on, would become unclean, and have to bathe with water, but the person would only remain unclean until evening.
- if a man has sexual relations with her, and her monthly flow touched him, he was unclean for seven days, and any bed he lies on would also become unclean.
- on the eighth day she should take two doves or two young pigeons to the priest - one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.

When women had other bodily discharges, they were treated same as men.

Day of Atonement
On the tenth day of the seventh month was the Day of Atonement - known as Yom Kippur. This is the holiest day of the year for children of Israel, held only once a year. Sacrifices are offered for any sins they might have missed. In this way, they “made atonement” for the Most Holy Place, so that the LORD would continue to dwell there.

We are back at the Tabernacle. Most of the activities and sacrifices took place in the outer court. In order to keep the lampstand and the incense going, the priests had to enter the Holy Place on a regular basis. But the Most Holy Place was almost completely off limits. Nobody was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place except for the High Priest, and even he was only allowed to enter once a year - this was during the Day of Atonement.

Aaron was told that he should not go to the Most Holy Place behind the curtain, in front of the Ark of the Covenant whenever he chooses. This chapter outlines the procedure for entering the Most Holy Place.

- Priest wear his sacred robes, after cleansing himself.
- he brings a bull for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering;
- the Israelite community were to provide him with two male goats, for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
- the bull was to be offered to atone for the High Priest’s sin, and the sin of anyone in his household.
- He was then to “cast lots” for the two goats (by "casting lot" meant that God would choose which goat to be chosen for sacrifice. It was believed that God would control the outcome of the lot.)
- one of the goats would be offered to the LORD
- the other would be the scapegoat.

The High Priest would slaughter the bull,
- take a censor full of burning coals from the altar, and two handfuls of incense,
- take them 'behind the curtain' - into the Most Holy Place.
- once he entered the Most Holy Place, he would put the incense on the coals, so that the smoke from the incense would conceal the atonement cover. This was done so that the High Priest wouldn't die, from looking at it.
- He would then take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle some of it on the atonement cover.
- then sprinkle some more of the blood seven times before the atonement cover.
- repeat the same thing with the goat that had been brought for the Israelites’ sin offering; slaughter it, and bring some of its blood into the Most Holy Place, to sprinkle on and before the atonement cover.

This is the chapter that introduces the "scapegoat." The scapegoat is a sacrificial goat that the priest ceremonially burdens with all of the sins of the community, after which it is led out into the desert and released. Procedures are detailed in chapter 16.

Eating Blood is Forbidden
Israelites were encouraged to be holy and holiness was to be manifested. They were not supposed to eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood. This is recorded in strong language.

God wants sacrifices under strict control of the priests and wants all of them to bring their sacrifices to the Tabernacle. Some of these people were offering sacrifices in open fields to Egyptian 'goat gods.' At the temple of Mendes in Egypt, during ceremonies, women had sexual intercourse with male goats and men had intercourse with female goats as part of their goat worship. God was making mention about those following such practices and holding rituals outside the camp in wilderness.

Unlawful Sexual Relations
The reader reading chapter 18 may feel most of it as common sense - but it was not so, when this law was written. Sex was so common and was carried out with anyone - just like animals. Especially with those idol worship rituals, sex became so licensed and common. 

To summarize, 
- don't have sex with your mom.
- don't have sex with any of your father's wives.
- don't have sex with your sister or your half-sister either. 
- don't have sex with your granddaughter.
- don't have sex with your aunt on your father's or mother's side.
- don't have sex with your daughter-in-law.
- don't have sex with your sister-in-law.
- don't have sex with both a woman and her daughter. 
- don't have sex with both a woman and her granddaughter.
- don't have sex with your wife's sister.
- don't have sex with a woman during her period.
- don't have sex with your neighbor's wife.
- don't give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech (Molek).
- don't 'lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.'
- don't have sex with an animal - applies to men and women. 

All of the above applies to alien residents as well as full Israelites.

Note: 
We just completed chapter 18. 

Reading Assignment:


------------------------------------------Additional Info 1
The Goat of Mendes
Goats were considered sacred by Egyptians and hence they would not sacrifice goats. Holy goats were held in goat temples just like temple prostitutes. The male goats were held with more respect, than the female, giving the goatherds of the males especial honor. Further, the male goat is known to have a voracious sexual appetite and it's sexual organ is very amorous. Early travelers to Egypt have recorded sexual intercourse between humans and goats as part of fertility rites, and even women having sex with male goat in public places. After their death the 'holy goats' were embalmed and buried.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Leviticus 6 - 12

Moses consecrates Aaron and sons

When we are in Leviticus, one thing to remember is that Satan has been trying from the very beginning to convince humans to overthrow God's law. He succeeded at the Garden of Eden. He again won victory in cajoling the Israelites into idol worship by making it attractive. He is continuously working to line up people to rebel against God's laws. When God created man, He designed him in such a way that no temptation or trial is permitted to come to him which he is unable to resist. God says, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." This is the recurring theme we see in this book. 

While in chapter 6, we will read about deceiving neighbor, and instructions for priests towards burnt offering, grain offering, and sin offerings. It begins with those reparations when someone is dishonest, including stealing. The later part of this chapter addresses those rules for the priests, about various types of offerings. 

Dishonesty:
- If someone stole something, it must be returned to the owner. 
- If anyone was dishonest, repay it with 20% fine on the day of guilt offering. 

Next we see how the priests were to make these offerings - Burnt, Grain and Sin. 

The Burnt Offering
- They are to remain on the altar all night, with the fire burning
- In the morning, the priest is to put on his linen clothes, remove the ashes, and place them beside the altar. 
- He is then to put on regular clothes, and dispose the ashes at a 'ceremonially clean' location. 
- The fire on the altar is never to go out. 
- Every morning the priest is to add firewood, and arrange the burnt offering—and fat from any fellowship offerings—in order to keep it going.

The Grain Offering
- To be brought before the LORD by the priest, in front of the altar.
- The priest is to take a handful of the flour and oil and burn it on the altar.
- This part of the grain offering is called the “memorial portion”.
- The rest of the grain offering is to be eaten by the priests. 
- They are to eat it in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting, and it must be baked without yeast.
- This portion of the grain offering is “most holy”, and may be eaten by any male descendant of Aaron.
- Whatever touches these offerings will become holy. 
- Whoever touches them must also be holy. 

On the day Aaron and his sons are anointed, they were supposed to bring 2 liters of fine flour for their own grain offering. Instructions provided. 

The Sin Offering
- Slaughtered at the same place that the burnt offering is slaughtered.
- Offering priest eats it. 
- To be eaten in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting.
- Whatever touches these offerings will become holy. 
- Whoever touches them must also be holy. 
- If meat is cooked in a clay pot, the pot must be broken, after it’s used. 
- If the meat is cooked in a bronze pot, it must be scoured and rinsed with water.
- Any male member in the priest’s family may eat the meat from this offering.
- Any blood must not be eaten. It must be burned, instead.

The Priest's Share
Sin offerings and guilt offerings belonged to the priest who made atonement with them. 
He could keep the hide of the animal for himself.  
Grain offerings were equally divided between sons of Aaron. 
For fellowship offerings: 
- When given as thankfulness, cake of bread, wafers, cakes of flours etc could be given - no yeast. 
- When offering was part of a vow, meat was to be eaten on same day. In this case, leftover could be eaten next day also. Any left for third day was to be burned up. 
Any meat that touched ceremonially unclean was not to be eaten and burned instead. 
Anyone who was unclean ate meat of fellowship was to be cut off. 

Rules for Israelites
There were also rules for Israelites when it came to meat. 
- When any animal was found dead or killed by other wild animals, fat could be used for anything except eating. 
- Anyone eating fat of animal offered to LORD was to be cut off from people. 
- Anyone who consumed blood was to be cut off from people. 
- Fellowship offerings were to be brought with own hands - wave it in front of LORD as 'wave offering'. This meant that it was first presented to the LORD with gestures. 

The Ordination of Aaron and His Sons
Twelve months had passed by from the night Moses broke the chains of slavery in Egypt. On the first day in the month of Nissan of the second year (since the exodus from Egypt), the Holy Tabernacle was completed and erected. Moses arranged a seven-day period for the consecration of the sanctuary and installation of the priests in their holy offices. Elaborate planning for these days were carried out. All of Israelite community was there to witness the occasion. 

The first task was to set up the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy-seat which rested upon the Ark, the cherubim inside the veil, the candlestick and the table, in the holy place, Next, he set the bread in order, lighted the lamps, and offered incense on the golden altar. Special attention was paid while consecrating the altar, which he sprinkled with oil seven times.



The ordination ceremony for those priests was based on what was mentioned in Exodus 29. The priests were to stay inside the tabernacle for the full seven days without going to their tents till the consecration was complete. 

First, Moses washed Aaron with water - sort of moral cleansing. 
Then Moses put upon Aaron the coat of fine linen 
Then Moses put on Aaron the ephod, with all its memorial adjuncts of "glory and beauty"- the shoulder onyx stones and the breastplate, followed by the mitre and the holy crown of gold, engraved, "Holiness to the LORD."

The Sacrificial Blood
Sacrificial blood was applied to everything as well Aaron and his sons included. 

Moses presented the bull for the sin offering, and, since it was being sacrificed for their sins, Aaron and his sons placed their hands on its head. Moses then followed the ritual for the sin offering, slaughtering the bull, putting some of the blood on the horns of the altar, and pouring the rest out at the base. Moses then took the fat from the bull, and burned it on the altar, and then burned the rest of the bull outside the camp.

One of the rams was presented towards burnt offering, and again, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head. It was then slaughtered, and again, it's blood was sprinkled against all sides of the altar. The ram was then burned on the altar.

Another ram was presented for the ordination, and once gain, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on it's head. Moses slaughtered it, and put some of the blood on Aaron’s right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe. He repeated the process with Aaron’s sons. He then sprinkled more of the blood on the sides of the altar, before burning the fat on the altar, along with the bread. At this time, Aaron and his sons waved all of the fat and bread before the LORD, as a 'wave offering'. Moses then took the ram’s breast and waved it before the LORD as his 'wave offering'.

Aaron was not fully qualified to enter on the priest's office until he was also anointed with the holy oil, and sanctified by the blood of the sin-offering. 

Finally, Moses took some of the anointing oil, and some of the blood from the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, his sons, and their clothes. He then asked them to cook the meat at the entrance of the Tabernacle and eat it there, along with the bread from the basket. They were to burn up any meat or bread that remained. Aaron and his sons did all of it. 

The Priests Begin Their Ministry
After the consecration, on the eighth day, Moses came to get Aaron and his sons, to start their ministry.

Moses told Aaron and sons to bring the following: 
- a bull calf, for their sin offering, 
- a ram for their burnt offering, 

The Israelites were told to bring the following:
- a male goat, for a sin offering
- a year old calf, without defect, for a burnt offering
- a year old lamb, without defect, for a burnt offering
- an ox for a fellowship offering
- a ram for a fellowship offering
- a grain offering, mixed with oil

All of it was procured and the entire Israel community gathered at the Tabernacle. Moses led them through the ritual. 

Aaron sacrificed his (Aaron’s) sin offering and burnt offering. 
Next, he slaughtered the burnt offering.

Aaron next slaughtered the goat for the people’s sin offering, followed by burnt offering, and the grain offering. 

For the fellowship offering, the ox and the ram were brought, slaughtered, blood sprinkled on sides of altar and fat burned. The next was 'wave offering' waving breast and thigh before the LORD. Once all these were carried out, the Glory of LORD appeared to all the people. 


Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. When people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face-down.

The Death of Nadab and Abihu
The Israelites were excited and enjoyed the experience. Nadab and Abihu were the eldest sons of Aaron. Earlier, they had been honored by the Lord, having been permitted with the seventy elders to see the glory of His Footstool at Mount Sinai. There were twelve tribes, and six members from each tribe were selected to go up on Mount Sinai. While six from each twelve tribes constituted seventy two, only seventy were permitted. Hence, a lot was cast and two members were asked to stay back. Nadab and Ahibu were part of the 'lucky seventy' who were selected to go visit God. 

Each of the twelve tribes were bringing their offerings. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were excited and inspired in their new role as priests to God. On this occasion, they were intoxicated with wine and wanted do perform more than what God has asked for. Intoxicated, they went one step ahead and offered incense on the altar, burning it on unconsecrated fire. Suddenly, a flame of fire shot down from heaven, killing them both. The sanctity of the Tabernacle now became even more evident to people, than before.


Here we see God killing His own worshipers. God meant to teach the people that they must approach Him with reverence and awe, and in His own appointed manner. This should serve as a meaningful lesson and reminder for many including myself - that the most careful and solemn preparation is necessary before presenting ourselves in the sanctuary, where the Divine Presence is manifested. Failure to do so should disqualify us from being in His presence or service. 

Aaron was crushed with grief over the loss of his two eldest sons. He realized that it was a Divine punishment. When Moses spoke to Aaron, he kept silent. Moses asked their dead bodies to be removed from the Tabernacle and carried outside the camp. Their dead bodies were carried wearing the priest robes in which they sinned, to be buried. In those days, burial places were located outside the camp, where there were no inhabitants. Moses asked other sons of Aaron not to mourn, show signs of grief, or even go out of the Tabernacle since the Holy Oil was upon them. Their first and foremost responsibility was to preserve the holiness. 

God then spoke to Aaron, that he or his sons should never consume wine or other fermented drinks while they were approaching the Tabernacle, else it would result in death. This was to distinguish between Holy and common, clean and unclean. This was to serve as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. 

Moses asked Eleazar and Ithamar, other sons of Aaron, to take the place of Nadab and Abihu. They were told to eat the grain offering. Later, we see Moses getting angry because Eleazar and Ithamar because they did not eat the goat (sin offering) in the sanctuary area per earlier commands. Aaron told Moses that given the situation of losing two of his sons, and he being the high priest, errors happened on the part of younger brothers. Moses takes the situation into account and accepted what was going on. 

Clean and Unclean Food
The next part we read in chapter 11 is a direct message to God's children about what is food and what is not food. They just came out of Egypt after mixing and mingling with their culture, where they ate whatever tasted good without any knowledge of what was good for the human body and what was not. This is the very chapter where the 'Health and Dietary Rules' took root. 

One way of understanding this chapter is to look at God's conclusion regarding food first (verses 46 - 47). "These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten."

According to God, cud-chewing animals with split hooves can be eaten. Examples: cattle, sheep, goat, deer and gazelle families.

God lists animals such as camels, rabbits and pigs as being unclean, or unfit to eat 

He later listed creeping things unfit to eat - Examples: moles, mice and lizards as unfit to eat. 

Four-footed animals with paws were unfit to eat Example: cats, dogs, bears, lions, tigers, etc.

He tells us that salt and freshwater fish with fins and scales may be eaten.

Water creatures without fins and scales should not be eaten. Example: catfish, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, squid, octopus etc.

Among birds and flying creatures, God identifies carrion eaters and birds of prey as unclean. Example: ostriches, storks, herons and bats.

Birds such as chickens, turkeys and pheasants are not on the unclean list and therefore can be eaten. 

Insects, with the exception of locusts, crickets and grasshoppers, are listed as unclean 

Dietary Rules - Why?
Israelites were allowed to eat beef, but not pork; 
they were allowed to eat cod, but not shrimp; 
they were allowed to eat chicken, but not owl. 
Why did the LORD’s rules declare some animals clean, and some unclean?
Was it to find out those who will obey Him? 

There are several theories that try and explain why we should not eat certain things. Recall what happened at the Garden of Eden. 

Let's just focus on those food that should not be eaten. Forget the ones we are permitted to eat (already). This is just one reasoning I found appealing. 

God forbids the consumption of scavengers and carrion eaters, which devour other animals for their food. Animals such as pigs, bears, vultures and raptors eat and live on decaying flesh. 

Predatory animals such as wolves, lions, leopards and cheetahs most often prey on the weakest and at times the diseased animals in a herd. 

When it comes to sea creatures, lobsters and crabs are considered bottom dwellers, who scavenge for dead animals on the sea floor. Shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels similarly consume decaying organic matter that sinks to the sea floor, including sewage. 

A common denominator of many of those animals God designated as unclean is that they routinely eat flesh that would sicken or even kill human beings. 

Finally, beyond doubt, the One who created human beings, in His Infinite Wisdom, knows what is good for his creation to eat. 

Purification After Childbirth
When a woman gave birth to a son, she was to be considered ceremonially unclean for 7 days. 
This was similar to how she was considered unclean during her monthly period. This is coming up.
The boy should be circumcised on the eighth day.
The woman was to then wait 33 days to be purified for her bleeding; she wasn't allowed to touch anything sacred, or go to the sanctuary, until completion of those 33 days.
So, for a total of 40 days, mom is regarded unclean when it was a baby boy. 

When a woman gave birth to a daughter, similar rules applied, but the numbers doubled.
Mom was to be considered unclean for 14 days (instead of 7).
Mom also had to wait 66 days to be purified from her bleeding (instead of 33).
Total 80 days when it was a baby girl. 

Whenever mom's purification was complete, she was to bring to the priest: 
- A year-old lamb for burnt offering. couldn't afford a lamb? Bring two doves or pigeons.
- A pigeon or dove for a sin offering.

The priest would then offer them for her “to make atonement for her”, and then she would be “ceremonially clean from her flow of blood”.

The scripture attaches significance towards the number 40, and we saw it earlier. When the sacrament of circumcision takes place, the boy shares the uncleanliness of mom and thus it is only 40 days during the delivery of a baby boy. 

-----------
Reading Assignment:


I felt that today's post was bit long as it took me a while to complete it.

-----------------------------Additional Info 1
Clean and Unclean Foods



Recently at a dinner, I had to skip those jumbo sized shrimps after learning about this dietary principle and know exactly how some of you will feel too. Even Catfish and several 'exotic' foods belong to the 'not to eat' list. 

-----------------------Additional Info 2
Kosher Food
Food prepared according to Jewish Dietary Laws, which originated in the Bible in Leviticus 11 and in Deuteronomy 17. The ingredients and processing methods of most of the food we buy today, are often unclear. Kosher certification agencies examine the ingredients used to make the food, supervise the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspect the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained.

Kosher symbols not only ensure that the food is kosher, they also identify the kosher certifying organization that issued the certification.


Kosher Food Labels in America

------------------------------Additional Info 3
Circumcision on Day 8
I read an interesting scientific fact about the validity of circumcision being performed on Day 8. Vitamin K, specifically Prothrombin is a plasma protein involved in the blood clotting process. On Day 3, prothrombin levels in a male child goes down to approximately 40% and mysteriously, it spikes at 110% of normal levels on the eight day of life. Never again in the life will prothrombin levels be this high. Hence, the safest day to perform circumcision is on Day 8. Man did not figure this out scientifically until recently. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Leviticus 1 - 5



The book of Leviticus, for the most part, is a book of rules. There is not much action happening with regard to the children of Israel - they are still camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Besides those laws, there are just couple of incidents that take place.

Those interested in learning about idol worship please take time to read an earlier posting (click here). Many laws in Leviticus were framed to avoid such practices and we will hear the term 'idol worship' repeatedly throughout our guided tour.

Introduction
The book of Leviticus is useful and particularly of interest for those who want to learn and understand more about the character of God. Further, Leviticus describes those rituals required to make God's presence available.

In Leviticus, God has listed every possible law one can possibly think about (with reference to that time period). Imagine we were handed over an accident manual for a nuclear submarine. While at the leisure of our home, it will appear to be just another handout. However if we are in the midst of a crisis while on that nuclear submarine, this very piece of document turns out to be our lifesaver and we will cling on to it - Leviticus is such a manual.

For those who want to lead a life of purity and holiness, Leviticus has it all - on how to survive in this world in the midst of sin and corruption. When a baby is born in a family, parents jokingly say that the baby did not come with an instruction manual. Your perspective will change once you read Leviticus - it is essentially an instruction manual for every human being, authored by God. A theme we repeatedly come across in Leviticus is, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Hope you get the idea.

I would encourage the reader to get a Big Picture of this book and try to understand what God expects from us in terms of staying pure, towards becoming holy.

Those who are in the legal profession will absolutely love this book. It contains classic examples of The Supreme Wisdom of the Ultimate Judge. This book has served as the fundamental building block of every nation's Justice system.

Chapter 1 - summary
Chapter 1 talks about commandments for burnt offerings.
- Any time an Israelite brings an offering to the LORD, it must be an animal “from either the herd or the flock”. No wild animals please!
- Offerings from herd should be males without defect. Next it outlines the procedure to be followed.
- Offerings from flock should be males without defect. Procedures outlined.
- Purpose of animal from herd is for atonement.
- if it is a bird, a dove or a pigeon, instructions follow.

Chapter 2 - summary
Chapter 2 talks about rules for grain offerings
- Grain offerings to be of fine flour.
- A handful used to burn on altar; rest for the priest to live off it.
- Grain offerings may be prepared ahead of time, but not with yeast.
- A portion to be burnt and the rest for priest.
- Grain offerings never to contain yeast or honey.
- Yeast and honey can be first offerings, but not to be offered on altar.
- All grain offerings to be seasoned with salt.
- Portion for priest is considered 'most holy part'.

Chapter 3 - summary
Chapter 3 outlines 'Fellowship Offerings" to the LORD. A fellowship or peace offering was an offering made as a thanksgiving. This was not part of any sin. This was the only offering the the one who was offering could eat a part of. This was offered by thousands during three annual festivals. I am guessing this is similar to the food that is hosted at our church. Further, it seems like a dietary rule.
Offerings from the herd:
- Could be bulls/cows, without defect.
- Slaughter methods described.
- Fat that covers inner parts, kidneys with fat and covering of liver to be burnt.

Offerings from the flock:
- Males/females could be offered.
- Slaughtering methods detailed.
- For lambs, tail, its fat, all fat on inner parts both kidneys with fat and that covering liver to be burnt.
- For goats fat which coves inner part, pht kidneys with fat and fat covering liver to be burnt.

They were never to eat the fat or consume blood.

Chapter 4 - summary
Chapter 4 outlines rules for sin offering. When someone sins unintentionally this is the offering for such occasions. Let's say, somebody was not aware of a particular sin and committed it. Later, he came to realize that what he did earlier was considered a sin in the eyes of the LORD. This was to rectify such sins. More examples of unintentional sins follow in chapter 5.

There were different rules, depending on who committed it - the anointed priest, the entire community, a leader, a community member etc. The seriousness of a particular sin weighs differently in the eyes of God, depending on who did it, and whether he/she used his/her position or power to commit such sins.

Let's put it in perspective by tabulating the offering to be brought by each group:

Community member   - female goat or lamb
Community leader      - male goat
Entire community       - young bull
Anointed priest           - young bull

The severity of a sin committed by an anointed priest was equivalent to net sum of sins committed by the entire Israeli community of 2.5 million. This is because he was considered a spiritual leader and represented the entire nation in front of God.

Sacrificial details of offerings for each group is also listed in this chapter.

The take-away from this chapter is that when someone commits unintentional sins and does what is forbidden in LORD'S commands, he is guilty as listed in verses 13, 22 and 27.

Chapter 5 - summary
The first part of chapter 5 gives specific examples of unintentional sins. So, the usual excuse of, "Sorry, I was not aware of it at that time" does not fly well with God. He would instead say, "Okay, now that you are aware of it, go back and fix it accordingly." Remember that we are dealing with God here, and there are no loopholes or escape route whatsoever! In legal terms, one cannot plead ignorance of law as a ground of defense.

Few interesting points in this chapter:
- Truth was always to be held with the highest regard, especially during trials. To God, innocent people should not be punished and those guilty should be punished.
- If a person hears a public charge to testify about something he has seen or heard, and does not speak up, “he will be held responsible”
- when someone becomes aware of an earlier unaware sin, they should confess.
Few examples:
- Touching unclean things, such as the carcass of a wild, or other unclean, animal
- Touching “human uncleanness” - it is described in a later chapter
- Thoughtlessly swearing an oath whether good or evil
- bring a female lamb or goat as a sin offering.
- Cannot afford a goat? Bring two doves or two young pigeons instead.
- Cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons? Offer 2 liters of fine flour.

The next part of this chapter talks about the 'Guilt Offering'. They were unintentional sin related to LORD'S Holy things:
- A ram for a specific value.
- Destroyed something? Return with 20% extra.

Thank you for your patience. Please excuse me today as I am running out of time. We will include chapters 6 and 7 along with tomorrow's reading.


Reading Assignment:
Leviticus 1
Leviticus 2
Leviticus 3
Leviticus 4
Leviticus 5

Leviticus 1 - 7



The book of Leviticus, for the most part, is a book of rules. There is not much action happening with regard to the children of Israel - they are still camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Besides those laws, there are just couple of incidents that take place.

Introduction
The book of Leviticus is useful and particularly of interest for those who want to learn and understand more about the character of God. Further, Leviticus describes those rituals required to make God's presence available.

In Leviticus, God has listed every possible law one can possibly think about (with reference to that time period). Imagine we were handed over an accident manual for a nuclear submarine. While at the leisure of our home, it will appear to be just another handout. However if we are in the midst of a crisis while on that nuclear submarine, this very piece of document turns out to be our lifesaver and we will cling on to it - Leviticus is such a manual.

For those who want to lead a life of purity and holiness, Leviticus has it all - on how to survive in world in the midst of sin and corruption. When a baby is born in a family, parents jokingly say that the baby did not come with an instruction manual. Your perspective will change once you read Leviticus - it is essentially an instruction manual for every human being, authored by God. A theme we repeatedly come across in Leviticus is, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Hope you get the idea.

I would encourage the reader to get a Big Picture of this book and try to understand what God expects from us in terms of staying pure, towards becoming holy.

Those who are in the legal profession will absolutely love this book. It contains classic examples of The Supreme Wisdom of the Ultimate Judge. This book has served as the fundamental building block of every nation's Justice system.

Chapter 1 - summary
Chapter 1 talks about commandments for burnt offerings.
- Any time an Israelite brings an offering to the LORD, it must be an animal “from either the herd or the flock”. No wild animals please!
- Offerings from herd should be males without defect. Next it outlines the procedure to be followed.
- Offerings from flock should be males without defect. Procedures outlined.
- Purpose of animal from herd is for atonement.
- if it is a bird, a dove or a pigeon, instructions follow.

Chapter 2 - summary
Chapter 2 talks about rules for grain offerings
- Grain offerings to be of fine flour.
- A handful used to burn on altar; rest for the priest to live off it.
- Grain offerings may be prepared ahead of time, but not with yeast.
- A portion to be burnt and the rest for priest.
- Grain offerings never to contain yeast or honey.
- Yeast and honey can be first offerings, but not to be offered on altar.
- All grain offerings to be seasoned with salt.
- Portion for priest is considered 'most holy part'.

Chapter 3 - summary
Chapter 3 outlines 'Fellowship Offerings" to the LORD. A fellowship or peace offering was an offering made as a thanksgiving. This was not part of any sin. This was the only offering the the one who was offering could eat a part of. This was offered by thousands during three annual festivals. I am guessing this is similar to the food that is hosted at our church. Further, it seems like a dietary rule.
Offerings from the herd:
- Could be bulls/cows, without defect.
- Slaughter methods described.
- Fat that covers inner parts, kidneys with fat and covering of liver to be burnt.

Offerings from the flock:
- Males/females could be offered.
- Slaughtering methods detailed.
- For lambs, tail, its fat, all fat on inner parts both kidneys with fat and that covering liver to be burnt.
- For goats fat which coves inner part, pht kidneys with fat and fat covering liver to be burnt.

They were never to eat the fat or consume blood.

Chapter 4 - summary
Chapter 4 outlines rules for sin offering. When someone sins unintentionally this is the offering for such occasions. Let's say, somebody was not aware of a particular sin and committed it. Later, he came to realize that what he did earlier was considered a sin in the eyes of the LORD. This was to rectify such sins. More examples of unintentional sins follow in chapter 5.

There were different rules, depending on who committed it - the anointed priest, the entire community, a leader, a community member etc. The seriousness of a particular sin weighs differently in the eyes of God, depending on who did it, and whether he/she used his/her position or power to commit such sins.

Let's put it in perspective by tabulating the offering to be brought by each group:

Community member   - female goat or lamb
Community leader      - male goat
Entire community       - young bull
Anointed priest           - young bull

The severity of a sin committed by an anointed priest was equivalent to net sum of sins committed by the entire Israeli community of 2.5 million. This is because he was considered a spiritual leader and represented the entire nation in front of God.

Sacrificial details of offerings for each group is also listed in this chapter.

The take-away from this chapter is that when someone commits unintentional sins and does what is forbidden in LORD'S commands, he is guilty as listed in verses 13, 22 and 27.

Chapter 5 - summary
The first part of chapter 5 gives specific examples of unintentional sins. So, the usual excuse of, "Sorry, I was not aware of it at that time" does not fly well with God. He would instead say, "Okay, now that you are aware of it, go back and fix it accordingly." Remember that we are dealing with God here, and there are no loopholes or escape route whatsoever! In legal terms, one cannot plead ignorance of law as a ground of defense.

Few interesting points in this chapter:
- Truth was always to be held with the highest regard, especially during trials. To God, innocent people should not be punished and those guilty should be punished.
- If a person hears a public charge to testify about something he has seen or heard, and does not speak up, “he will be held responsible”
- when someone becomes aware of an earlier unaware sin, they should confess.
Few examples:
- Touching unclean things, such as the carcass of a wild, or other unclean, animal
- Touching “human uncleanness” - it is described in a later chapter
- Thoughtlessly swearing an oath whether good or evil
- bring a female lamb or goat as a sin offering.
- Cannot afford a goat? Bring two doves or two young pigeons instead.
- Cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons? Offer 2 liters of fine flour.

The next part of this chapter talks about the 'Guilt Offering'. They were unintentional sin related to LORD'S Holy things:
- A ram for a specific value.
- Destroyed something? Return with 20% extra.

Please excuse me today as I am running out of time. We will include chapters 6 and 7 along with tomorrow's reading.


Reading Assignment:
Leviticus 1
Leviticus 2
Leviticus 3
Leviticus 4
Leviticus 5
Leviticus 6
Leviticus 7







Idol Worship - An Overview



While we were on the last part of Exodus, we barely scratched the surface on idol worship in the previous post. My original thought was to cover the topic of idol worship just before we arrived at the books of Kings and Chronicles. However, for the sake of the reader for better understanding, let's look at what went on in ancient Egypt and Canaan when it came to idol worship.

As we read in the Ten Commandments, idol worship is an utmost serious sin - an ultimate expression of unfaithfulness towards God. But is it such a carnal sin to worship the image of an idol? There is more to it, which I will try and explain with my limited knowledge.

Those sons of Jacob (Israel) who migrated to Egypt along with Jacob, did not entirely give up worshiping God. When they came from Canaan, they were aware of what went on in Canaan and were slightly exposed to idol worship. Once in Egypt, after seeing the new style of life, they simply and conveniently added Baal to their list of gods - the True God served during times of crisis and other gods for everyday life.

At school, we learned much about Egyptian superiority when it came to Engineering and Medicine. Those pyramids and embalming of dead bodies still remain a mystery to modern man. At the same time, they were extremely religious - to the extent they would offer their own children as sacrifice to their gods during idol worship.

Three elements were present during an idol worship:
- Greed for money and status
- Worshiping idols
- Sexual Immorality

Greed for money and status
In olden days, rulers and religion were closely associated. The king was supposed to be taking care of his subjects and was considered as the 'provider'. By having idol worships, one was essentially worshiping the king as an intermediate person between people and gods. The temple priest would chant the name of this glorifying 'visible provider' along with the idol, during religious rituals and sacrifices.

Those men who worshiped the king or king's idol found special favor in his eyes. They were provided with attractive positions in the administration, elevated social status, lucrative business deals and fertile lands within the kingdom. The Pharaoh (or King) had power vested within him to grant or take away a certain piece of land from anyone within his kingdom, anytime.

The perceived so called 'status of a woman' was always attached to the status of her husband in the society. When treaties between nations were made (following a war), those agreements of nations were sealed "with a kiss" - by the exchange of appropriate amount of females. The king who emerged victorious during those treaties would take possession of these women.

For many, the greed for money, power and elevated status, combined with sexual pleasures was an offer they could not resist - all they had to do was to worship the idol officiated by the king and participate in such parties (fertility ceremonies). Therefore, it was in the joint interest of both men and women to secure wealth and status in the society through idol worship, thereby receiving 'favors'.

Worshiping idols
In religious circles, Baal was their prime god, and in the last post we read a bit about Baal - the god of rain, storm and fertility. Baal was the son of El and Asherah (Romans named her Venus). As time progressed (it is a long and complex story), there is fight in the kingdom of gods. Baal is murdered by Mot. Baal's sister Anath, takes revenge by killing Mot. Baal makes love with his sister and the two are together. To gain equal status with other gods, Baal now wants a palace without windows so that his daughters won't escape and also to protect them from his enemies. Baal approaches his mother, Asherah saying that he wants to stay at peace and provide abundant rain for earth. She is convinced after few gifts from Baal and she approaches El, her husband, to build a palace for Baal. The palace is commissioned. Baal makes love with his mother. Baal dies every summer under the scotching heat and drought.

Sexual and bloody rituals were required to bring Baal back to life and to please gods, thereby manipulating nature - particularly the fertilization of the earth (Asherah) by the rain (Baal). Baal worship was all about using rituals to control the forces of nature, bringing rain necessary to grow crops and making sure they had food to eat. As sea water is salty and cannot be used for agriculture, rains were the only means to grow crops. When rains were scarce, it was considered Baal was unhappy and more rituals had to be conducted to please him.

In another Egyptian myth (among others), Osiris, another god, was killed by his brother Seth who chopped his body and scattered all over Egypt. Isis was the wife-sister of Osiris. She, with the aid of other gods, searched for the body parts and pieced them together - except his penis, which was thrown into Nile. A fish had swallowed it earlier and could not be found. Hence, Isis made a penis out of clay (or wood) and became pregnant with it. Due to this reason, Egyptians would not eat fish! They also believed that Osiris transformed the land of the dead in an everlasting source of fertility. When Nile annually flooded its banks, it was believed to be the seeds and moisture of Osiris, which made the land fertile. Phallus played a prominent role in ancient Egypt.

In Egypt, both male and female reproductive organs were venerated and worshiped. When we arrive at Deuteronomy, we will see how highly the male reproductive organ was considered. The male reproductive organ was called 'staff' or 'pillar' while the female “the door of life'. While studying Egyptian hieroglyphics, one will come across the symbol of life - a cross inserted within a circle, called 'Ankh' almost everywhere. This symbolized the conjunction of the male and female reproductive organs.

Egyptian Ankh Cross

 Ankh held in hands

Processions of Gods with Ankhs in the Valley of the Kings

El, the father of Baal, was depicted with an enormous phallus, signifying his potency. His consort Asherah was depicted by a 'grove'. Their worship areas (altars) were set up on top of hills. Beside every altar at least one 'pillar' and a 'grove' was displayed in 'erect' position. Baal's popularity surpassed that of his father at some point in time. Phallic figurines of Baal, known by various names - 'lord of penetration', 'lord of hymen breaking' or 'master of the opening' were used by virgins for their first sexual act. Phallus' made of smooth stones were used throughout the land for sexual pleasure. 

Asherah was usually represented by a wooden pole, called the 'Asherah Pole' and was erected under green trees. A 'grove' represented the oval vulva with fan-shaped clitoris within its upper arched point. It was divided into seven spirals representing those seven days of menstruation. Around the edge of the vulva were thirteen bunches of the pubic hairs - symbolizing those thirteen periods of a woman within a year.

To insure fertility and everyday survival, religious hierarchy implemented various phallic rites and celebrations of vile nature. With these rituals, their god and goddess would continually perform their love making and thus pass on fertility onto everything else.

Idols were worshiped with great reverence. Every idol was different and demanded different sacrifices - some accepted child sacrifices promising better yields the following year. Molech (Molek) was one of those who accepted first born children. It was with regard to this sacrifice God commanded the firstborn of every womb to be given to Him instead. 

Sexual immorality
Sexuality, eroticism, and orgies during the Old Testament times is a subject for long debate and one cannot explain it; nor can one grasp it's depth. From the very beginning, human beings made every effort to beautify their body. A healthy, beautiful body attracted the attention of the opposite sex.

Even though sexual pleasure was a gratifying basic need, the Egyptians found extreme fulfillment in life during sexual rituals. During those sexual rites, they found experience of love, near death, and religion all blended into one.

Sex was just as normal as eating and drinking. Sexual activities took place with or without a marital relationship - heterosexual, transgender, sexual relation with corpses, sexual affinity for animals, and homosexual relationships were common. Sexual orgies and gross prostitution were held during those harvest and heathen festivals both to please the gods and the self.

Temple prostitutes, comprising of both men and women, resided in those 'houses of heaven' adjacent to those temples and were 'available'. There were three types of prostitutes:
(a) ordinary prostitutes, who were socially disadvantaged and required a fee for their service(s) - who also paid taxes for their service(s).
(b) partner prostitutes, those who were partners to men and would accompany them in public and would satisfy them sexually for financial rewards. These were typically educated women who were well versed in specific skills. These were the earlier versions of 'secretaries'.
(c) consecrated prostitutes, who were considered sacred. Consecrated men were called 'kadesh', while consecrated women were known as 'kedeshah'. Virgin girls were offered at the temple at a young age and were in demand. The revenue these prostitutes generated were passed on to the temple. We will meet them in the book of Deuteronomy and also along our way in the book of Ezekiel.

People were quixotic - full of surprises about the nature, as they were dependent on nature for their livelihood. Sometimes the rain came in the spring and sometimes it did not. None could predict when it would rain or when there would be a drought. During a sacred intercourse with the priest or priestess or even with these 'kadesh' or 'kedeshah', the forces of nature were reactivated. Ultimately, the desired fertility of soil, animals and man were secured or promised.

The priest, dressed appropriately would inflict wounds upon himself, creating a religious atmosphere, indicating respect and willingness towards sacrifice of gods. Women would dress in linen clothes, wearing ornaments. They would put on perfumes and ointments and in one hand they would carry a mirror, while in the other, a rattle with bells. Some also wore bags of myrrh between their breasts as amulets to attract men. Licentious dance was performed in an incense filled dance floor - specifically designed for all activities.

During those rituals, the sensual sensors of the body took complete possession of the ‘other’ - their eyes caressed the body, their ears caught up those whispers of their partner's breath and the surrounding music, their nose found delight in sexual fragrance and aroma of myrrh, their hands touched the curves of its form, and their mouth savored the pleasures of love potion.

The phrase ‘to play’ in Hebrew is an euphemism for sexual activities. Eating, drinking and sexual immorality went hand in hand during these parties or rather revelry. You probably did not pay much attention - while Moses was nowhere to be seen, during the adoration of the golden calf, along with those festivities, they indulged in sexual activities just as how they used to do back in Egypt. Let's replay the verse once again:

Exodus 32:6, NIV:
So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

Exodus 32:6, King James Version:
And they rose up early on the next day, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Few Israelites retained their original religion and allegiance towards God. Many had packed their idols and tucked them safely inside their baggage during their exodus from Egypt. The current group of people being led by Moses practiced gross idolatry (in Egypt) and were not willing to part with it so easily. Even after crossing the Red Sea and while at the base of Mount Sinai, their inclination towards Baal and fond memories of their party days came back to them. They absolutely loved the rituals of Baal and were eagerly looking at every opportunity to party. More than anything, they adored the genitals of these gods and goddesses.

As we move on to Leviticus, we will see God commanding Moses to speak to the Israelites in Leviticus chapter 18. A quick read will unveil the details of sexual relations they held back in Egypt and that was being practiced in Canaan. Once you hear God's own words, you would need no further explanation.

Here is Leviticus chapter 18:

1. The LORD said to Moses,

2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God.

3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.

5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.

6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.

7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.

8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

9 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.

10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.

11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.

12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.

13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.

14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.

15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.

16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.

17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.

18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

20 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.

21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

24 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.

25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.

26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things,

27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled.

28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

29 “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things - such persons must be cut off from their people.

30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.’”

Conclusion
The purpose of abandoning idol worship was to dictate whom they were to worship and serve. They were to know and to love the One True God who was the only cause of anything and everything that happens. God's concern is simply that we worship Him as He Truly Is - giving Him exclusive rights in love and obedience.

During our tour, we will see that the taste of idol worship stayed within Israelites community even after they reached the promised land. It was never stamped out completely and we will meet those worshipers along our tour. This is just the beginning - idol worship gets even worse down the road.

In New Testament, Paul calls idol worship "error and foolish effort" that is something we will come across at a later stage.


--------------------Additional Info 1
Women at home
Married women would usually stay at home as a wife. Within the walls of individual homes, competition existed among women for the rank of head-wife. Addition of women as wives into a family challenged the position of head wife and these new women immediately became a threat in winning their husband's affection. Bearing more children became the de-facto doctrine towards that goal. Slavery was an accepted practice and the status of slave women was an exception, who were treated with low dignity. Sexual exploitation of captives was regarded a routine practice.

--------------------Additional Info 2
Consecration of women
Apart from those temple prostitutes, every woman of the land, rich or poor, during the Babylonian era, had to have intercourse with at least one stranger. They were to go sit with crowns on their head, wearing ornaments and wait for strangers (men) to make their choice - without going home. She was not to reject the first stranger who approached her, and would go have intercourse outside the temple and then collect the fee paid by the man. After discharging her duty, and paying the fee to temple, she would go home 'consecrated'. Those beautiful women would find a man without much delay, while some lesser fortunate women had to wait for years to get a man to be 'consecrated'.