Leviticus 16-18: Atonement, blood and unlawful sexual relations.

August 10, 2015.

Daily Reading: Leviticus 16-18.

Background: Leviticus 13-15.

Concepts and Connections.

Chapter 16

The Day of Atonement: This chapter seems to chronologically fall just following Leviticus 10 where we find the story of the death of Nadab and Abihu after they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord. After the intermission of various laws and regulations, the story picks up here with the Lord speaking to Moses to tell Aaron not to come into the holy of holies until he had gone through the proper preparation (of washing and adorning of special clothing) to be able to stand before the presence of the Lord. In this chapter, the Lord gives Moses and Aaron the regulations for the day of Atonement, a day when the priest would offer a sin offering and a burnt offering for the congregation of the children of Israel that their sins might be carried away. The concept of a scapegoat is introduced here, as there are two goats that were to be brought for the sin offering, one to be sacrificed, and the other to be sent off into the wilderness to Azazel, a Hebrew term that is uncertain (it could be the name of a place or demon, though the latter would be difficult to harmonize with the condemnation of sacrificing to goat demons in the next chapter, 17:7). It is interesting that this is one of the few times that confession of sin is directly mentioned in the Law (the others being Leviticus 5:5, 26:40 and Numbers 5:7). After the sins were confessed over the goat, it was sent out into the wilderness, symbolically representing the carrying away of the sins of the children of Israel. The day of Atonement happened once a year, on the 10th day of the seventh month, and in this way the sins of the people were atoned for year after year. It is worth noting, however, that the blood of bulls and goats was never enough to actually forgiven the sins of the people, but rather atoned for them until the perfect sacrifice would come (see Hebrews 10:1-18).

Chapter 17

The place of sacrifice and the lifeblood: This chapter outlines two different concepts that are somewhat related, and that relation comes through the blood. The opening of this chapter gives the importance of bringing the sacrifices that the people make to a specific place at the entrance of the tent of meeting, so that they would have a designated place to offer sacrifices to the Lord and that they would no longer offer sacrifices to other gods that were not the Lord. This was to be a statue forever. The second half of this chapter deals with the importance of blood itself, and how it is the life of all flesh. This concept, that blood is vital to life, is thousands of years ahead of its time, as until relatively recently, it was still a common practice for doctors to “bleed” sick patients to remove the bad blood that they thought was causing them to be sick. Here the importance of blood is made clear, and the children of Israel were stickily forbidden from eating any blood (which could give some insight as to why the Lord sent the plague on the people who went out to eat the quail He gave them in Numbers 11:31-35). Whenever they killed an animal, they were to pour our the blood on the ground and cover it with dirt. Cleanliness is stressed here, as anyone who touches a dead animal that had died naturally or been torn by beasts, was to bathe and remain unclean until the evening. This shows the provision by God for the health of His people.

Chapter 18

Unlawful sexual relations: This chapter gives a thorough list of unlawful sexual relations that the children of Israel were to not partake it. Though this is part of the law for the children of Israel, it is important to note that all men were held to these regulations, not just God’s chosen people, as repeatedly in this chapter the Lord makes it clear that the Egyptians and the Canaanites were condemned for practicing these abominations and had been punished for their iniquities. This supports the idea that the list of unlawful sexual relations given in this chapter go beyond the Mosaic Law and apply to all men, everywhere. The list begins with sexual relations with close family members, such as a man with his mother, sister, daughter, half-sister, aunt, half-mother, daughter-in-law, brother’s wife, or grand-daughter. There were also regulations against taking a mother and her daughter, as well as taking a rival wife (two sisters) together. Men were not to approach when when they were going through menstruation, commit fornication with their neighbor’s wife nor offer their children as sacrifice to Molec, a false god of the peoples around them. Finally, homosexuality and beastiality are condemned. Though some of these regulations might sound strange (as in, why would this even need to be said), note that the inhabitants of the promised land, where the children of Israel would be, practiced all of these things. Thus, it was important for the Lord to make clear the abominations that the foreign peoples were committing and to warn His people of the punishment and destruction that would come from them.

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 84-86.

Find a thirst for the word.


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