Daily Bible: Leviticus 11-12

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted my daily Bible log. Time to re-engage. Ready for Leviticus 11-12.

Lev. 11:44-45, For I am Adonai your God; therefore, consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy; and do not defile yourselves with any kind of swarming creature that moves along the ground. For I am Adonai, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.

Leviticus 11 and 12 are concerned with matters of ritual purity and cleanliness. The undergirding theological premise of these mitzvot concerns the holiness of God. Israel is commanded to observe these commands as a response to the transcendent “otherness” of YHWH. God desires that his holy character be transmitted to his chosen people.

There are three points I want to make in light of this reading. First, it is God’s prerogative to determine what is clean and unclean. Not only are the reasons never given for each animal’s designation as either clean or unclean, the text gives no indication that such a question is even important. In a relationship of covenantal faithfulness, Israel receives this word as a divine pronouncement.

In addition, the minutiae of this reading serves to heighten our awareness to the ubiquitous toxicity of the world in which we live. Lest we are lulled into believing the active agents in our world are benign, a careful reading of Leviticus forces us to consider the alternatives.

Finally, Leviticus seems rather clear on this point: “uncleanness” spreads — in the camp, in the water, and especially in humanity. The mitzvot of God should be understood as the divine “line of defense” against the further spread of the contagion that mars God’s originally good creation. By abiding to God’s holiness code, Israel participates in “putting the world to rights” (to borrow from N.T. Wright), ushering in the world to come.

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