Sunday, 26 March 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Leviticus: Chapter 26 - God's Promises and Threats
We have observed before that Leviticus's agenda is so obvious it might as well be lit up in ten foot high letters in neon. This is where they create a religion. The previous two books were about creating the myth of the Israelites and their God leading them to the promised land. Leviticus is about the rules for being a member of this exclusive club. If you are a red sea pedestrian then certain standards of decorum are expected of you, plus unbending allegiance to your vengeful and nasty God.
Now, as we come to the end of Leviticus, God starts to sum things up and repeat himself once again. So, said God, no graven images, no worshipping of other gods. They were to keep his Sabbaths just because he said so, because he is God.
In return however he was going to take them to their promised land where he would give them a life of plenty. Keep his statutes, he said, and he would make it rain in the rainy season and the land would produce food for them.
He would bring peace to the land and protect them from their enemies. No matter how mighty the armies of their enemies, five Israelites would see off a hundred of them. It's quite hard to reconcile any of this with the subsequent history of the Israelites isn't it.
God was saying though, in his less than subtle way, that he was a God of his word, something that previous and indeed subsequent events would suggest was not true. But he nevertheless gave his covenant of protecting his people from harm and of feeding them and making them multiply in number.
But, he said, if they didn't do what he had told them in this book, if they didn't keep his commandments then he would visit upon them terrible plagues and hunger, their enemies would prevail over them, their land would be ravaged and they would be enslaved again.
There is more and more of this, endless increasingly lyrical ways of describing how awful their lives would be if they didn't do as they were told and obey God's commandments. Hunger, barrenness, servitude and misery. See what I mean about this being about creating a religion? Do as we say, give us sacrifices, obey the priests and life will be good. Otherwise life is hell. This is all of course written for a bronze age ignorant people. Why anyone should heed any of it today is a mystery.
For, said God, he had led them from Egypt and saved them. He had made covenants with Abraham and with Jacob and with Isaac. He does like to remind them of that doesn't he. But again this is about creating a religion. The children of Israel and their children and their children's children were to be grateful for this forever. Even though none of it actually happened or was remotely true. They were just another Arab tribe in the desert.
These, said God, building up to a climax, are the statutes, judgements and laws of God given to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai delivered by Moses. Of course they are!