What is the Bible by Rob Bell – Part 7
Part 7: The Revolutionary Nature of the Book of Leviticus
Isn’t Leviticus a prime example of why the Old Testament is so archaic and irrelevant? Who in their right mind puts Leviticus and revolutionary in the same sentence?
Now, on to it.
Leviticus begins with extensive (be honest: boring) instructions on how to offer 5 different sacrifices-the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. Burnt, sin, guilt-is that a party waiting to happen or what?
To add to that, there’s verse after verse of instructions on what to do with the fat (of the animal you’re offering), the loins (of said animal), the long lob of the liver (of the person-I’m just messing with you…), and the blood. Of the animal. Lots and lots of blood.
Two notes about the text:
First, the book begins with the LORD (this name for God is intimately connected with the God who rescues people from whatever they’re enslaved to…) telling Moses to tell the people
When you bring an offering to the LORD…
The word for offering here in the Hebrew language is the word corban and it means to draw near.
The gods at that time were understood to be distant, detached, demanding, and constantly needing to be appeased. You never knew where you stood with the gods…
But this God-you can draw near to this god? You can? That was a new idea.
A pause to reflect. We are one verse in and minds are being blown. People didn’t talk about the gods like this. People didn’t conceive of the gods like this.
This God is different.
You can come near to this God.
You can relate to this God.
Which leads to a second observation about the text: One of the offerings is called the peace offering. It’s an offering that you give because you have peace with God. One of the instructions in chapter 7 regarding this peace offering is that the meat that you offered
must be eaten on the day it is offered.
What’s it called when you eat something?(Not a trick question.)
It’s called a meal.
You come near to this God and then you have a meal celebrating the peace that you have with this God.
In other words, you can know where you stand with this God. But what if you suddenly realize that you did something wrong several days ago-how do you make things right? There was an offering for that. What if you did something unintentional that ended up harming someone but you only just now found out about it? There was an offering for that. What if you had a deep sense of anxiety in your conscience from something you felt guilty about? There was an app-haha-there was an offering for that as well.
Now, I’m guessing you’re about to get your modern on, saying something like but why is it all so primitive and bloody?
Yes, of course it was, it was a really, really long time ago.
But why all the endless details?
The belief of that era was that the gods could smite you at any moment for an improper gesture or a sacrifice offered carelessly. That’s how people saw the gods. One screw up and you’re done. The details would have had a significant calming effect, reassuring you that you’re doing it correctly and not bringing unnecessary wrath on yourself.
Why all the repetition that makes it so hard to read through the book without dozing off?
Good point. Why didn’t they just refer to their iPads? Actually, the answer is in the question: culture was primarily oral at this point. The repetition made it easier to memorize and then hand down to the next generation.
Why didn’t they just skip the whole sacrificial system all together?
That would have been amazing. Just scrap the whole thing. Announce that the final sacrifice has been offered and there’s no more need to do such things. Declare that the temple is going to be torn down. Proclaim that it is finished. Oh wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? (Please tell me you enjoyed that last paragraph).
So why didn’t they skip it?
Well, how do you change things? How do you change an entire consciousness? How do you change an entire way of conceiving things that people had held on to for as long as they could remember? Do you just announce that one era is over and another has begun? Or do you meet people where they’re at, in the language they speak, in the forms they’re accustomed to, but then gradually introduce new ideas that help them make changes step by step by step.
So Leviticus is a step?
It was a revolutionary step forward in human consciousness at that time, inviting people to consider a whole new conception of the divine.
Is that what Saint Paul meant when he said the law (Leviticus, et. al.) was a tutor?
Now we’re cookin’! A tutor comes along and meets you where you’re at and helps guide you to the next place. The tutor is necessary for a season, but then you evolve, you grow, you adapt, you gain maturity, only to discover that you no longer need what you once needed.
Now that we’re 7 parts in to this series, it feels like there’s a growing thread to all these stories, as if what ties them all together is that each story-or book in this case-reflects a growing, expanding, enlightening perspective of God.
Is that the question? Because this thread is a big one, and when you get your hands on it, it can change the whole way you see everything. For that, we’ll need another section.
Next – What did Jesus write on the ground when the crowd wanted to stone that woman?