This chapter took a little bit of getting through. First, as you’ll see form the Wall of Text below, there were a lot of words I didn’t know in the Japanese, and that took some time.
More than that, though, this chapter has a lot of unpleasantness. By the time God is promising that people will be eating their own children (v 29), it’s a little nauseating. This is supposed to be an enumeration of the blessings God will give for obedience and of the punishments for disobedience, and here God seems to definitely favor the rod over the carrot. The blessings go for 11 versus, then the curses for 26.
But around verse 33, something suddenly hit me: for the writers and editors of this chapter, this wasn’t a predictive passage. “I will scatter among the nations,” it reads, and then talks about them residing in foreign nations.
Well, that’s exactly what was going on when the Hebrew Bible was being compiled. They were in Babylon, in exile, hoping to go back home. This wasn’t a list of threats, this was a description of their reality, of their sense of having been rejected by God, of having lost their old connection with him, where he walked among them (v 12). And it gives a reason why: they turned away from God’s commands. If they’d properly held up their end of the covenant, this chapter argues, none of this would have happened.
More importantly, this chapter argues, there’s a way out. The land will lie desolate as a “sabbath,” set aside for a time to rest, and this will make up for all the sins everyone committed. Meanwhile, if they repent, God will remember the covenant and renew it and bring them back to their land.
“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.” (v 44-45)
That’s the real heart of this passage, and perhaps the entire reason for the book of Leviticus. It’s a recipe for how to go back home. This is what ritual must look like, this is what society must look like, this is how you must live. Maintain yourselves as a holy people amidst foreigners who don’t worship your God and don’t think much of your religion, and you’ll be let home, to a land that has been resting and waiting for your return.
The Japanese: jiki “season, seasons,” (v 4), akitariru “satisfactory” (v 5), obiyakasu “to threaten, to menace,” moujuu “wild animal,” issou suru “to sweep,” kouhai suru “to ruin” (v 6), kaerimiru “to reflect on, to look back” (v 9), shizokeru “to turn away, withdraw” (v 11), kubiki “yoke” (v 13), nozomu “to look out on, to deal with,” haibyou “lung disease,” shitsumei “loss of eyesight,” suijaku “weakness, debility,” kakaru “to suffer from (a disease)” (v 16), me ni au “to go through, to suffer,” korashimeru “to chaste, punish, discipline” (v 18), shakudou “gold-copper alloy” (v 19), kaidou “(pre-modern) highway,” arehateru “to fall into ruin, to be desolated” (v 22), ekibyou “plague,” hayaru “to spread widely” (v 25), haikyo “ruins” (v 31), senryou suru “to occupy, to capture” (v 32), obieru “to be sacred of” (v 36), yaseotoroeru “to grow thin and worn out” (v 39).
Tomorrow! I finish Leviticus tomorrow!