Leviticus and Rules

Summary: Rules about animal sacrifices. Two of Aaron’s sons get killed for offering a sacrifice God didn’t ask for. Rules about animals to eat and not eat. Rules about sex. Rules about being clean and unclean. Rules about holiness and worship.

My goal is to write 1000 words on every book of the Bible. That seemed easy, so I made some rules. I don’t get to mock the authors for not knowing things that we now take for granted (like how old the Earth is, or that we go around the sun and not vice versa). I don’t want to criticize the book for making assumptions that would have been perfectly reasonable 3000 years ago (so, for example, I assume that people would have known exactly what Esau was giving up when he ceded his rights as the first-born son in Genesis). And I don’t nitpick tiny unimportant things, because nobody really cares about my opinion of woman being made from a rib (Hint: my opinion is that this is stupid).

So, now that we’ve gone over some of the rules I set, it’s time to check out the rules in Leviticus. And aside from the two chapters where God kills Aaron’s sons to show just how totally serious this book is, Leviticus is entirely rules. And they are unbelievably boring. I took to making dumbass snarky comments when I was taking notes on what I could talk about (For example: “[Chapter] 19: God seems to say ‘I am the LORD’ an awful fucking lot.”).

In fact, at one point in Chapter 11, when God was saying what animals not to eat, I listed the ways in which Bear Grylls violates those rules on Man Vs Wild (From memory, I recall him eating rabbits, snakes, mosquitoes, lizards, scorpions, and those disgusting larvae that live in trees which he seems to indulge in during every episode. I figured they were close enough to moving on the ground that they counted. Also, even though I’ve never had venison, I was surprised to look it up on Wikipedia and find out that it is kosher).

But I guess the thing that struck me about Leviticus is that all the rules were exactly as important as each other. Maybe it’s just the way that you always hear about how it’s evil for a man to have sex with another man, but that was just one verse. Admittedly, it was a funny verse – in my translation, it says “No man is to have sexual relations with another man. God hates that,” which brings to mind a whiny teenager throwing a tantrum about something unbelievably stupid – but it doesn’t carry any more importance than “Don’t eat eagles” (or shrimp, for those of you looking for a simple “Gotcha!” that won’t actually get anyone) or “Eat an animal within two days of killing it.” (These are paraphrased, by the way. But eagles are in 11:13-19 and this one is 19:6 if you need citations). So I find it a little odd that the only part of Leviticus that evangelicals focus on is the stuff about gay dudes.

I mean, I know that some of these guys were taught from a young age to hate gay people and that the words in the Bible are just a thin justification, but aren’t there other things in the Bible to focus on? Not committing adultery is right in there in the Ten Commandments and much more prevalent in society than homosexuality, but to hear the religious nuts who are supposed to speak for the common American on CNN or Fox News, being gay is the single worst thing you can do to God. There’s also a commandment about not killing people, and one about not coveting your neighbor’s assets, but war and capitalism both seem to be pretty popular with the religious right in this country.

This last paragraph was horribly unoriginal in both ideas and the way I expressed them, wasn’t it? Sorry. Let’s (And by that I mean “I will”) talk about something else.

It always annoys me when someone gives out rules but not the reasons behind the rules. Like, if you hear “Wash your hands after you use the bathroom,” it’s a natural response to ask why. Knowing the reason makes people more likely to follow the rules, if they’re good rules, or question them, if they’re bad. But God never gives any reasons for his rules. Now I can see why; back 3000 years ago the men who wrote Leviticus didn’t have a great understanding of why meat went bad or how diseases were communicated between people, but they knew a few rules that helped the general health of the community. So they threw them in their holy book that everyone was supposed to follow and figured they did a good thing.

I have to say, that explanation makes a lot more sense than saying “These are God’s words and don’t question God and don’t question his words.” And that is the other option here, and I just can’t believe that it’s the case. There is no explanation as to the why of calling things clean or unclean. There is no explanation as to why these are God’s instructions. There is no explanation as to why any of this is important. And I hate that. I hate the mindset of simple obedience, and I hate the mindset of being unable to question the rules, and I hate the mindset of being okay with not knowing how the world works.

As much as these rules enforced the right behaviors, they instilled the absolute wrong ways of thinking. Yes, it was the ancient times and that’s just how it was: there’s a king and you have to obey him. But that doesn’t mean that it was a good thing, and it doesn’t mean that the practice of a sole unimpeachable authority figure was good for anyone except the guy at top. And remember, everyone below him suffered just for not being born as one of the very few in the world with any kind of power. And that makes me think, “That’s gotta be a really shitty all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful deity to allow some bullshit like that.”

But hey, I could be wrong. I mean, really, who am I to question God’s plan?

Published in: on August 24, 2008 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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