Sunday, 5 February 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Leviticus - Chapter 19: God's Prurient Commandments
It's fair to say that if God has ever gone to a party he almost certainly spent his entire time in the kitchen muttering to himself about the depravities going on in the living room. God is not much fun. He does like to lay down the law about what people should and should not do. Some of it is all very fine and equitable and upstanding. A lot of it isn't. You might almost imagine it is written, not by God, but by people who you might find in the kitchen at parties, wearing hair shirts and praying for fire and brimstone.
So Chapter 19 is where God lays down yet more rules. We've had the commandments of course. Then some more commandments, then lots of rules about worshipping God in his tent.
Now God told the Israelites, apropos of their being his chosen people and thus expected to have higher moral standards, what he was expecting of them. The chosen people must have often wondered what they did to deserve all of this. There they had been minding their own business in Egypt and then this God came along with his friend Moses and rescued them and ever since he had been demanding sacrifices and gold and more sacrifices and telling them what to do if they got a spot or indulged in a bit of harmless masturbation. He even required them to cut a part of their penis off.
Now he handed out yet more rules for them. It was all rules rules rules with this God. Why? Well because they had to be holy because he was God. Which as circular reasoning goes is worthy of the priests themselves.
Bear with me here because there is a bit of repetition. God does like the sound of his own voice and does like to say the same thing over and over again.
So God reiterated the need to honour your parents. And the Sabbath. He is the Lord your God after all, which is all the reason he needs.
There were to be no more other gods or molten idols because he is the God, the Lord your God.
If you make a burnt sacrifice then it has to be because you wanted to do it and not because you were made to do it. This is odd given all that stuff about sin and being burnt if you don't do as you're told. And burnt offerings were to be eaten with 2 days or chucked away. Good food hygiene there from God before he got around to inventing fridges, freezers and tupperware.
Then we get to some nice stuff for a change. Don't take all of the grapes off your vines. Leave some for the poor and for passing strangers.
No stealing or lying or dealing falsely with one another.
No taking the Lord's name in vain, not even when your team misses a penalty in the cup final or even if you are an England fan when they will do this and fail to get out of the knockout stage.
No defrauding of your neighbour, no robbing him. Don't exploit the poor or the weak. Don't rig the laws for the priests. Be nice to people who do not believe in God, even if God will later contradict this particular law many many times.
Don't bear grudges and love thy neighbour.
Don't let animals interbreed, sow seeds from other crops and don't wear cotton with wool. No, really.
Stick to your agreements.
If a man has sex with a betrothed slave woman then she is to be cast out and scourged. This seems fair doesn't it. After all she belongs to another. But the man who does it? Well he's okay.
Tattoos are banned. Do you hear that? Banned. On this me and the Lord are in agreement.
No psychics or fortune tellers. No listening to the words of the dead. No reverence for dead people in general in preference to the word of God.
When an Israelite plants a tree then it has to be left uncircumcised for three years before its fruit can be eaten. On the 4th year the fruit is God's. Only in the fifth year can you get to eating.