Leviticus: A Guide to the Israelites
The purpose of this paper is to examine Leviticus, the third book of the Torah. Leviticus is a book filled with mandates that the early Israelites were to uphold and live by. All of the regulations have a common goal. The goal is to unify the Israelites through God and to preserve the tribe.
The book of Leviticus is the third book of the Torah. Leviticus acts as a “how-to” guide for the early Israelites. It illustrates how to worship God and how the Israelites should live their lives. The book is very detailed and gives specific instructions to about many different aspects of life. The purpose of the instructions is to glorify God and unite his people. The main focus is how each individual can remain “clean” both physically and spiritually. A major concept of Leviticus is “cleanliness” of each individual leads to the over all betterment of God’s people. Thus Leviticus is written with and can be interpreted with a social psychological perspective.
The first seven chapters of Leviticus focus on how God should be worshiped by the Israelites. Several different types of offerings to God are described in great detail. They are instructed specifically what offerings would please God. Many different things could be offered such as, sheep, goats, bulls, doves, pigeons, or even uncooked or cooked grain. Instructions were also given about how to prepare the offerings so tht they would please God. The primary requirement for every offering was that it was to bee of the highest quality. One thing all offerings have in common is that they are to act as payments to God. The offerings were to atone for the sins (individually or as a group), guilt, or to pay god a tribute of thanks for all that God had done for them.
The social psychological view of the offerings would be that the offerings act to bring each individual closer to God. The people are then unified through their worship of God. A unified people are a stronger people, and thus the entire tribe benefits.
Another major theme of Leviticus is healthy or “clean” living. The instructions for living are mentioned throught out the book. However, they are the focus of chapters eleven through twenty. Chapter twenty also describes what punishments are applicable for breacking the decrees set for the Israelites by God. The rules given in chapters eleven through twenty can be farther broken down into two categories. The first categories is healthy living and the second is moral living. Both categories promote the unity and over all betterment of the tribe.
Chapter eleven instructs the Israelites what foods they are allowed to consume. Leviticus describes what can and can not bee eaten in great detail. There are also many examples given for each group of animals. One possible interpretation for the food regulations is that they function to keep the Israelites from ingesting food that could make them ill. Almost every one today knows that improperly handled pork can make a person very sick. This regulation is extremely relevant do the early Israelites due to the lack of refrigeration available during that time period.
Chapter twelve tells the Israelites how long a woman is “unclean” after childbirth. The regulations set forth in this chapter compliment current obstetric practices. These regulations are used to preserve the health of new mothers. The social psychological perspective can be applied to these laws as well. If the tribe has health child-bearing females, the tribe can increase its size. This ensures that the tribe will continue for generations to come.
Chapters thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen deal with infectious diseases and mildew. The goal of these chapters is to stop the spread of these diseases among the Israelites. Keeping the tribe healthy and preventing an epidemic from wiping the tribe out is vital to the survival of the Israelites. Another aspect that should be considered is the value of an ill person to the tribe as a whole.
Chapter seventeen deals with the ingestion of blood. On the surface this seems like just another mandate aimed at keeping the tribe healthy. However there are deeper implications to this mandate. Blood is seen as holy by the Israelites. This means it should only be handled by the priests. Blood should also never supersede God. If blood superseded God the Israelites would lose their unity through God and fall apart as a tribe. Another aspect that could explain this mandate against ingesting blood is uniqueness. The Israelites were different or at least strived to be different form the other people around during that time. Other people often ingested blood as part of their worship practices. By not participating in these activities the Israelites were unified and set apart form other people. This allowed the tribe to be closer and stronger through God.
Chapters eighteen and nineteen give moral instructions for the Israelites to live by. Chapter eighteen focuses on sexual morality. It tells the Israelites not to engage in sexual relations with their close relatives. This prevents the destruction of the tribe in two ways. First it prevents abnormal offspring due to in-breeding. Second it prevents the tribe from being destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities were destroyed in Genesis nineteen due to social and moral decay. Chapter nineteen is a retelling of the Ten Commandments that are found in Exodus twenty. This chapter also warns against tattoos and sorcery. There are also instructions for farming. These are all just formulated to keep the tribe unified and moral. The farming instructions are to insure that the tibe is well feed and nourished.
Chapter twenty tells us what the punishments are for breaking the regulations set forth in Leviticus. Two forms of punishment are given. For sever infractions. The punishment is death. The two types of death penalties given are either burning or stoning. The othe punishment described in this chapter is being cut off from the tribe. The penalties served to remove immoral influences from the tribe and to keep it whole and unified which is the objective for the entire book of Leviticus.