Grounded Scriptures: Leviticus rediscovered

I commend to you a little reading in Leviticus.


Nobody commends Leviticus. That’s the backwardest part of the Bible. When my youth group performed the “Bible in 15 minutes” we summarized Leviticus as:

            Don’t have sex with your daughter.

            Don’t have sex with your sister-in-law.

            Don’t have sex with your great-aunt.

            If you have an oozy skin discharge, OR if you touch a corpse…

And in the interest of fitting the rest of the Bible into 15 minutes, the whole cast yelled “ew gross!” and ousted Leviticus from the stage.

Today, I commend to you a few verses from Leviticus. Specifically, from the collection known as the “Holiness Code” (chs 17-26). You can skip the parts about whom not to have sex with (common sense works there), and go on to chapter 19.


Now you need a little Hebrew, but I’ll provide it. NOTICE how people, creatures, and land are all treated similarly, even with the same words: you shall not reap the edge (pe’a) of your field (19:9) nor will you shave the edge (pe’a) of your beard (19:27). NOTICE that your fruit trees are to remain uncircumcised (‘arelim 19:23) for three years, whereupon its first “cutting” or harvest of fruit is dedicated to the Lord. If that’s not telling us “treat your trees like people,” I don’t know what it is. NOTICE that the land doesn’t just take male metaphors, it’s female too: “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, that the land not become prostituted and full of depravity” (19:29).

This is the same great chapter that tells us “love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18) and even “you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (19:34)… and I wonder. Hidden under this code, are we actually being told…

*to tenderly care for our fields as we do our own bodies?

*to protect our land as fiercely as we protect our daughters?

*to honor and celebrate the fruit of a tree the same way we would celebrate the life of a baby boy?


I commend to you a little reading in Leviticus 19. Enjoy.