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Leviticus 24-25: Expectations & Appropriate Behavior

Original Publication Date
March 18, 2016
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 1:22 AM
Tags
LeviticusChapter StudyFeasts & Holy DaysBlasphemyLawServants and SlavesTemple
Bible References
Leviticus 24; 25
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on March 18, 2016 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

Chapter 24 talks about 2 things:

  1. Specific parts of worship rites that the priests were to carry out; and
  2. How to handle disobedience to God's law.

Leviticus 25 extends this discussion by informing us of God's expectations, such as the Year of Jubilee and the 7th Year Sabbath. People don't often worry about how they worship God today; many think as long as they worship Him in some form it's ok. However, God gives specific instruction as to how He expects us to behave and worship Him; we don't have to guess at what He likes or dislikes! Many of God's specifications not only reveal His desires, but also ensure we don't fall into idol worship. Jesus may have paid the price but that doesn't mean He wants us repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Below I discuss the topics brought up in these two chapters. God's instructions to the Israelites concerning the Temple seem unimportant to us today, but there are many ways these requirements relate to us today; remember each body that belongs to Christ, is a new temple in place of the old.

Oil For the Lamps

The Israelites are told that the lamp in the holy place (which symbolized God's presence) was to remain lit at all times. This command was first given in Exodus 27:20. Of course today there is no lamp to be lit, but we should remember God's presence constantly. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us our body has become the temple, and just like the lamp in the temple was never to go out, some thing inside us should always be a light for God.

Shewbread

The Israelites were to bake 12 cakes, known as shewbread, and sit them on the holy table in 2 rows of 6. Pure frankincense was to be poured atop the cakes. They were to set fresh shewbread before God ever Sabbath and the priests were to eat the cakes that were being replaced. These cakes were considered most holy offerings.

Shewbread is thought to mean "bread of presence", "bread of faces" or "bread of display" by different scholars.[1][2] Considered one of the most holy offerings, eating shewbread is thought to be like "seeing God's face" and served the purpose of providing a more intimate relationship with God.[3] If this is the case, it clearly ties in to Jesus coming as the Bread of Life and stating that the bread represented His body. Like the feast days, perhaps this tradition also pointed to coming of Jesus.

Punishment

Moses also recounts an issue with a young man who gets into a brawl ("strove with") an Israelite man. He is described as the son of an Israelite and an Egyptian. I'm not sure if the distinctions in these verses (Leviticus 24:10-14) are to highlight the leakage of idolatry in marriages outside of the Israelite nation or to suggest that the 1/2 Israelite 1/2 Egyptian man was not considered part of Israel. We are told that the mother is from the tribe of Dan, establishing a tribal affiliation, and we know that both Moses and Joseph took wives that were not Israelite. The latter leads me to doubt the emphasis is to shame the mixing of people, rather, it is meant to depict a case where intimacy with beliefs of other cultures may easily corrupt the Israelites. This young man commits the crime of blasphemy and curses the name of Godβ€”likely a holdover from the Egyptian tradition of cursing a god in certain circumstances.[4]

Following his misconduct, he is taken to Moses for judgment where the man is condemned to stoning outside of the camp. Those who bore witness to his blasphemy were to place their hands upon his head.

Before Jesus paid the price of our infractions, both major and minor, there were no second chances. Back then, you would have been raised to be careful about what you said, lest you make the mistake this man made when you became angry. Today, people don't think as much before they speak, because they are raised with the knowledge that all they need to do is seek forgiveness, and in some cases, with seemingly no consequences, they may not even realize what they're saying is bad. However, it is important to remember that while we may not have to die for these types of infractions today, they are still painful to Jesus, who died in our place. We should be mindful of what we say especially since we live in a world where we constantly absorb the traditions of many other religions and cultures.

Other Crimes & Punishment

In addition to being punished for cursing or otherwise blaspheming the name of God (regardless of whether you were Israelite or not), we are told other crimes and punishments as God demands. This portion of the law is essentially "an eye for an eye." We see that anyone who murders a person is to be put to death, anyone who killed an animal was to replace the animal.

God reminds the Israelites that they are to have one law for everyone in their nation, whether they are strangers or not. This included slaves and servants. One law for everyone ensured that the law of the land was God's law; there were no exceptions and no reason for the Israelites to be tempted to behave as the non-Israelites in the land. Today we call this a theocracy.

7th Year Sabbath

Just as God gives us a weekly Sabbath, He declares a sabbath year for the land. In the 7th year, the Israelites were not to sow or harvest the fields. Their animals would increase during this time, as promised by God. Although this is described as a sabbath to allow the land rest, it would also provide rest for the Israelites as they would neither sow nor harvest the fields that year.

The Year of Jubilee

After 7 of these 7th Year Sabbaths, came the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee was announced in the 49th year on the 10th day of the 7th month, by the blowing of a trumpet. In the 50th year, they would observe the Year of Jubilee. In addition to not sowing or harvesting the fields during this year, they were also to return possessions and release slaves during this year.

Leviticus 25:16 suggests that returned good were to account for inflation. We also see that God will provide for them during these types of Sabbaths.

Currently, practicing Jews do no celebrate or observe the Year of Jubilee. The reason given is that this year was to only be commemorated when all 12 tribes were living in Israel. The 10 lost tribes have been lost since the conquering of the North Kingdom. It is unknown if the year was celebrated between that time (150 years before the destruction of the 1st Temple) and the destruction of the 2nd Temple while there were fragments of the lost tribes in the land. However, after the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the disbanding of the Sanhedrin (supreme rabbinical court), they have ceased to observe this year.[5]

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Note, the Bible (or Torah) does not say anything about this observance only being relevant if Israel has all tribes present and accounted for…

The Year of Jubilee gave the Israelites a chance to start over and regain what they may have lost through debt. We see that God wanted to make sure people did not lose their inheritance forever because of bad fortune or one bad decision. While God clearly blessed many of His chosen people with wealth, He blessed those who were not wealthy by enforcing provisions for their benefit.

Possessions & Servitude

We also get a description of how the changing of hands regarding possessions should occur. The Israelites were not to sell land to strangers as the land belongs to God, not them. When the Israelites sold their possessions due to poorness, it was more of a loan and only lasted until the Year of Jubilee. Houses within a walled city could be redeemed within a year of selling, but would not revert back to the original owner during the year of Jubilee. Levites could redeem their property at anytime.

Strangers who fell on hard times were still to be taken care of, and the Israelites were forbidden from usury (high interest on loans). The same was true of servitude; Israelites who sold themselves into servitude were to be freed during the Year of Jubilee. Strangers who sold themselves into servitude could be enslaved indefinitely, however. (See the Jewish Virtual Library for more on strangers.) Israelites were to be redeemed from being bondservants to strangers. The rules concerning servitude reflect the fact that the Israelites belonged to God.

Similarly, today, anyone who is accepts Jesus as their Savior is a member of the body of Christ and a chosen one of God. We are to help each other out and provide for one another. God tells us not to deal harshly with each other. He reminds the Israelites that they were once slaves, perhaps a predecessor to Jesus' β€œdo unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

References and Footnotes

  1. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "Encyclopedia Judaica: Shewbread or Showbread".Β Jewish Virtual Library. 2016
  2. "Shewbread".Β Bible Hub. 2016
  3. Haskell, Stephen. "The Table of Shewbread".Β Amazing Discoveries. 2016
  4. "Leviticus 24 Commentary".Β Bible Study Tools. 2014
  5. Davidson, Baruch S. "When is the next Jubilee year?".Β Chabad. 2016

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