2: The Miscellaneous Laws of Leviticus 19
have chosen this particular chapter because they are ‘extension laws'
to the covenant, given after Sinai but nevertheless are a miscellanea
of laws that help bring order and stability to this embryonic nation.
These laws will make Israel
stand out in the world, as a people who live according to God's design
for humanity, and as such they are to be a light to the rest of the
about Relationship with God
LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel
and say to them: `Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
The initial call is to be like God,
a call to closeness of relationship.
of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my
Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God,”
Echoes of the fifth and fourth commandments
Relationship is at the heart of community
– of life with others.
The family is the basic building block
of society and a respect for God built into community life is the
umbrella over it all.
not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am
the LORD your God.”
This echoes the second commandment (Ex
20:4,5). Hold fast to the One True God!
you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the LORD, sacrifice it in such
a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. It shall be eaten on
the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until
the third day must be burned up. If any of it is eaten on the third
day, it is impure and will not be accepted. Whoever eats it will be
held responsible because he has desecrated what is holy to the LORD;
that person must be cut off from his people.”
If you want fellowship with the Lord
then make sure that when you bring your fellowship offerings you do
it in the prescribed way. Fellowship with God is not to be equated
Thus, as with the Ten Commandments,
the initial commands are about relationship with the Lord.
If we get that right, then there is
hope for everything else to follow and fall into place.
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about concern for the poor, weak & vulnerable
you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of
your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over
your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.
Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”
Instructions that were meant to bless
Thus the ‘leftovers' of harvest are
to be accessible
and available to the poor, as an additional form of God's provision
God's concern for the poor and needy
also comes a few verses later:
not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but fear your God. I am the LORD,”
This is an obvious protection for the
The verses that follow are a mixture
of laws about property and ownership, and truthfulness in life.
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of property and ownership
not steal” is a repeat
of the eighth commandment (Ex 20:15
not defraud your neighbor or rob him,” (v.13a)
A general instruction to let there be
right dealings in society,
not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight,”
Takes the right dealing into the work
place so that employers do not hold back what they owe employees.
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of truthfulness & justice
A simple and straight forward call for
truthfulness to always be yours, followed by,
not deceive one another,”
Takes truthfulness into behaviour as
well as speech.
not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God.
I am the LORD.”
Indeed part of that deception may include
making false oaths, and so they are forbidden:
i.e. don't try to use God's name to
bolster up your wrong doings. He is holy and so if you invoke His
name in such dealings you will be in serious trouble!
not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism
to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
Again, let honesty prevail in society.
not go about spreading slander among your people.”
Again, more on truthfulness.
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expressing concern for well-being in society
not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the LORD,”
but it is not only actions but attitudes:
not hate your brother in your heart.”
It is not only negative or passive,
it is also positive and active:
your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.”
i.e. if you see your neighbour moving
into wrong, do something about it, go to him and talk to him. Wow,
that is community care!
Positive heart attitudes will have strong
effects in society:
not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but
love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
Again and again where we have that final
reminder, “I am the Lord”
we are being reminded that this is to be a holy people, a people who
are distinguished from the self-centred, ungodly, sinful nations of
the world – or at least, that is how it was supposed to be if Israel
had heeded these laws.
What a wonderful society it could have
been but, tragically, so often it wasn't as they ignored or forgot
about these guidelines from the Designer on how to create a good,
secure and caring society.
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mid-way call to remember these are God's Laws
my decrees….. Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them.
I am the LORD.
Note again that they are God's decrees,
the things He has established, orders that He has put in place because
they conform to how He has designed the human race, and therefore
He speaks against those things that would harm this human race.
Bear in mind throughout, that God's
intention is the well-being of His people.
The first instructions, in the next
verses we consider, confuse some people but, I suggest, simply say,
“Respect God's order and God's design and recognise the distinctive
nature of things that He has established.
not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with
two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
These may or may not have scientific
reasons behind them, or they may be simply what I've suggested already,
a call to be distinctive and by conforming to these rules will constantly
act as a reminder that God is Creator and He has made things differently.
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calling for protection of a slave girl
a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another
man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must
be due punishment.
This is to be clearly identified as
they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed.
Note is to be taken of her position.
As a slave she is vulnerable
man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting
for a guilt offering to the LORD.
The man is to take responsibility and
face up to his wrong in taking advantage of her.
the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for
him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will
This is a form of confession and repentance
and acknowledgement of sin
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you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit
as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it
must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy,
an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat
its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the LORD
Give a tree sufficient time to grow
before you take its fruit and, when it matures in the fourth year,
give its fruit to the Lord as a means of honouring the Creator and
Provider of all good things.
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of Distinction & Relationship with God
“Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it .”
There was to be a constant reminder
that life was important and blood was seen as the sign of life in
a body, therefore it was not to be drunk.
“Do not practice divination or sorcery”
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled
by them. I am the LORD your God.”
In Deuteronomy Moses stated, “The
nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or
divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you
to do so.” (Deut 18:14)
Occult activity is about seeking out
hidden powers, powers that can be controlled without God and as such
“Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges
of your beard. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks
on yourselves. I am the LORD.”
The reference to hair referred to the
pagan practice of shaping the hair as part of mourning practices,
and the disfiguring of the body and tattooing were similarly performed
in such pagan rights.
Anything that was associated with the
pagan practices of the former inhabitants of the land were to be shunned.
may well be that the following injunction was similarly linked to
the practices of the land but generally it provides for the care and
protection of girls:
not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land
will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.”
Turning to prostitution suggests a failure
in respect of God's design for marriage and is therefore spoken against.
“Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the
A call for reverence for the Lord
A reminder that constantly needs to
In the midst of the laws, don't lose
sight of the fact that they are all to do with a special people, God's
people, and His relationship with them is to be constantly remembered,
for it is the foundation of all else.
“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and
revere your God. I am the LORD.”
Note yet again the use of the authority
for this law: “I am the Lord”
which emphasizes the importance of it.
Honouring people is a key thing that
comes up often in Scripture, recognizing their worth.
If for nothing else, honour the aged
for having gone before and survived.
They should have wisdom and experience
that outweighs that of a younger generation and, as such, should be
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The
alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.
Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt
I am the LORD your God.”
There should also be care for the foreigner
now living in the land
This injunction is a call not to look
down on aliens, for Israel
had once been an alien people in Egypt
“Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.
Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest
hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt
Finally there is a call for honest in
Again it is a call for honesty to be
the currency of the community, together with a reminder that they
are the Lord's people and (implied) they should stand distinct from
nations round about who were not honest. In the same way as some nations
have a bad reputation for requiring bribes at every turn, Israel
was to have a reputation for
honesty in dealing.
remind ourselves just once more, the purpose of these laws was to
be a distinctive nation, a nation that was to be looked up to for
they could be trusted for the standards they held. These standards
are to make them distinct from other nations by the way they cared
for one another and created a secure community.