Tag Archives: Leviticus 26

Re the Daily Office Readings May 20 Anno Domini 2020

The Readings: Leviticus 26:27-42; Ephesians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:41-46

(From today until Pentecost—except Ascension and Sunday—the Lectionary offers a largely course reading of Ephesians. Ephesus, on the west coast of modern Turkey, was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and among the largest cities in the Empire.)

In Lev. 26:34-35 the importance of the plural “sabbaths” (v.2) becomes clear, specifically the 7th year sabbath. That sabbath is not simply about human concerns, but also (equally?) about the land’s needs and integrity. Recalling the early chapters of Genesis (again!) Ellen Davis argues persuasively that the end of Gen. 2:15 (“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” NRSV) might better translated with something like “to serve and to watch it,” explaining:

 “We must serve (ˁavad) the land, not worshipping it but showing it reverence as God’s own creation, respecting it as one whose needs take priority over our immediate desires. We must watch it and watch over it (shamar) as one who has something to teach us and yet at the same time needs our vigilant care” (Getting Involved with God).

The 7th year sabbath is a part of how Israel is to relate to her land, and it turns out to be like the canary in the coal mine. So (vv.34-35) the land also must receive its due. And today? At the national/international level, Creation Care is a useful starting-point. At the local level, the “Grounds” tab in the St. Dunstan’s (Madison, Wisconsin) website is an example of developing responses.

The final verses, vv.40-48, address what Israel should do after everything goes south. It is one of a cluster of Old Testament responses to the question, differing in the weight given to divine and human initiatives, differing in what the human initiatives should look like. As such, an opportunity to wonder about how we understand divine and human initiatives to interact. The cluster itself: the stage on which John the Baptist and Jesus chart their path, typically in contrast with the other paths on offer (the Pharisees, the Zealots, etc.). How can Israel’s exile be brought to a clear end?

Re the Daily Office Readings May 19 Anno Domini 2020

The Readings: Leviticus 26:1-20; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; Matthew 13:18-23

Lev. 26:1-2 looks like a very condensed summary of the covenant: don’t do that (v.1); do this (v.2). We might wonder: why summarize the covenant this way? (How else could it have been summarized?)

What, for that matter, is wrong with idols, images, etc.? The answer is clear if the image is intended to point to any god except the LORD. By our numbering that’s covered in the first commandment; images per se, a separate issue (the second commandment). Different texts may point to different answers. I wonder if it doesn’t go back to Gen 1:26-27. If you want an image of God, pay attention to human beings; experience suggests that any other image leads to human beings being treated in inhuman ways.

“You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.” The one organizes time (every 7th day, every 7th year, every 7x 7th year—recall Lev. 25); the other organizes space (the tabernacle/temple itself, the land of Israel, other lands; different gifts flow in different directions). How do we Christians understand the New Covenant to organize our time, our space?

Lev. 26:3-39 describes the blessings obedience brings and the curses disobedience brings, a standard element in the ancient near eastern treaties that served as a rough template for the Mosaic covenant. Among the many things we might wonder about, here are two. In vv.3-13 economic prosperity and national security are byproducts of the nation’s conduct before God. We tend to treat them as goods to be pursued directly.

Second, the whole obedience-brings-blessing-disobedience-brings-curse paradigm. On the one hand, does any part of the Bible remain intact if the paradigm is discarded? On the other hand, multiple voices within the OT warn us to use it with extreme caution. In 2 Kings righteous king Josiah dies young and wicked king Manasseh lives to a ripe old age. Job exhibits at length the disastrous results of using the paradigm diagnostically (Job is suffering, so Job is a sinner). What do we do with it?