The Exodus and Conquest

[Exodus - Joshua]

Israel’s Laws


The five main offerings

[Lev 1-7] The Israelites have now been at Sinai for about a year. Israel is to be the earthly representation of God’s kingdom and as such must be holy (set apart) in all that she does. From the newly constructed Tabernacle of the Congregation, God gives Moses His laws governing the administration of their lives, which are to be so regulated as to establish Israel as God’s holy people and to instruct her in holiness. As part of their religious ritual, there are to be five main offerings. These are specified and regulations concerning them given. They are: Burnt Offering - Voluntary, atonement for unintentional  sin in general Grain Offering - Voluntary, recognition of God’s goodness and provision Fellowship Offering - Voluntary, thanksgiving and fellowship Sin Offering - Mandatory, atonement for specific unintentional sin Guilt Offering - Mandatory, atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution

The priesthood

[Lev 8-10] As instructed by God, Moses ordains Aaron and his sons as priests. The ordination process involves a sin offering, a burnt offering and a ram offering for ordination, followed by a period of seven days in which they are to stay at the entrance of the tabernacle. After seven days their ministry begins with a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement for themselves and for all the people. The rules concerning priesthood are very strict, and when two of Aaron’s sons break the rules they are executed by God. They are taken outside the camp to be mourned by their relatives, but Aaron and his remaining two sons are not permitted to leave the tabernacle. A stark lesson for the priests.

Ceremonial laws

[Lev 11-17] To keep Israel pure as the representation of God’s kingdom, laws for cleanliness are given. They are concerning: clean and unclean food; purification after childbirth; regulations about infectious skin diseases and mildew; cleansing from infectious skin diseases and mildew; and discharges causing uncleanness. Aaron is instructed in the procedure for the Day of Atonement, which is to become an annual holy day for the Jews – Yom Kippur. This involves a bull offering for himself, the priest and his household, and two goats, one as a sin offering for all the people and the other as a scapegoat. Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, representing the transfer of all the sins of Israel to the goat; then the goat is led out of the camp and released into the wilderness, taking Israel’s sins with it. Moses is instructed to give the law  concerning blood to Aaron, his sons and all the people. No one other than a priest is permitted to make a blood sacrifice in the tabernacle, and no one is permitted to consume blood. Blood of any animal is to be drained before the animal is eaten.

Moral laws

[Lev 18-20] Laws are given concerning all manner of sexual relations (Ch 18) as well as a few various moral laws (Ch 19) and punishments for sin (Ch 20).

Regulations for priests, offerings and feasts

[Lev 21:1-24:9] Rules are given that are applicable only to priests, as well as rules concerning unacceptable sacrifices. Rules are also given concerning observance of appointed feasts: Sabbath, Passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The rules are then given for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before God.)

More civil laws

[Lev 24:10-23] Punishments are given for blasphemy, murder, and killing of a neighbour’s animal. The level of punishments in general is to be appropriate for the offence: “an eye for an eye”.

Sabbath and Jubilee years

[Lev 25] The laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years are given. The Sabbath year is every seventh year when the land is to be rested from farming, but the Israelites can feed from crops that naturally grow on the land. The Jubilee year is every fiftieth year when all land is returned to its owner and all Israelite slaves freed. Consequently, land is bought and sold on the basis of how many years are left before the Jubilee year. God says, ‘The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.’ Provision is also to be made for redemption of the land when an owner has had to sell but later has the means to redeem it, either of himself or by a kinsman redeemer.

Blessings and curses

[Lev 26] The people are told that if they observe God’s Sabbaths, respect His sanctuary and obey His commandments, then their crops will be abundant and they will live without fear and in peace. But if they do not do these things, then the consequences will be terrible and increase all the time they do not repent, until they are eventually taken captive by their enemies. Yet He will not forget them in the land of their enemies, and will wait for their repentance to honour His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Offerings vowed to the Lord

[Lev 27] Rules are given for things vowed to the Lord in kind. A value is put on them, whether they be people, animals or houses, and provision is made for their redemption should circumstances deem it necessary.
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