Good morning! We close out Leviticus today in chapters 26-27 with an extended discussion of the consequences for following or breaking the covenant, then an encore discussion of offerings.
Many ancient covenants ended with a section of blessings and curses for what would happen if the covenant was followed or broken. While earlier, simpler covenants in Genesis didn’t always have this section (or at least not the curses part), both parts make up the bulk of chapter 26. The blessings for following God’s covenant are laid out first, and Leviticus paints a picture of abundant life where everything proceeds perfectly under God’s protection. This is a lovely image of the best that God wills for humanity (at least by the measures of their time). I breathe a restful sigh just reading it. But then penalties for disobedience follow afterward. The punishments seem so fierce that it’s a wonder anyone wouldn’t follow. (The ecological consequences sound like something out of our climate change scenarios today.) This chapter reveals a theology which says everything happens at God’s command. Therefore, we know the bad things are from God, and we have to figure out what we’ve done wrong. While there’s a lot here in the way of tit-for-tat vengeance—God vs rebellious humans—the chapter ends with God’s unilateral promise to not forget. “I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt”. God’s long memory is the final guarantor of the covenant.
Suddenly in Leviticus 27 we return to a discussion of various kinds of offerings, as though the preceding three chapters hadn’t been there. The opening verses literally put a price on the heads of different kinds of people. I don’t fully understand the distinctions here between what is “redeemable” from its dedication to God, and what is not. It seems to stem from an earlier command that the firstborn of people and animals belongs to God, but may be redeemed. Those multi-talented priests have a role in levying assessments. It sounds like someone could dedicate their property/animals to God and it would become a “set aside” under the supervision/control of the priests. This presumes such highly developed temple and priestly culture that I have to believe it’s from a much later time. This chapter is an unsettled place to finish the book of Leviticus, and I wonder if it was supposed to be somewhere else. That said, we can still turn the page on Leviticus after today and start a new book. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Numbers 1-2. Thanks for reading!