Bible Query from
Q: In Lev, why is this book called Leviticus in English?
A: The English name comes from the Latin for "relating to Levites". The Hebrew name is taken from the first sentence "And He [God] called"
Q: In Lev, what is the main point of having this book in the Bible today?
A: Since Jesus and the early church all accepted Leviticus as God's word, we should treasure this book of the Torah as scripture regardless of whether we see the point or not.
Actually, there are so many lessons on holiness one can get from studying Leviticus, and you could almost rename it "pictorial lessons in holiness."
Q: In Lev, what are various ways to understand the book?
A: There are at least five levels one can view the Book of Leviticus.
A mystery: God is most gracious and understanding, but some try to see God as only grace, without an understanding of why God's grace is needed. God is holy, and without us having holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Without understanding this key aspect of the character of God, and the character we have, Leviticus will remain a "closed book" with few clues as to why it is there.
Rules to please God: At a basic level, some see only a set of ceremonial and personal rules the Israelites were to follow. It is that, and God was serious about those rules, but it is also much more.
Ancient wisdom for living: People have looked at Leviticus and seen great wisdom for keeping healthy, especially in an unsanitary environment without much water for cleaning. Many times animals and people get whatever parasites were in any uncooked meat they ate. Generally, animals that ate dead things, bugs, and other animals were forbidden. While Egyptian rulers sometimes married their sisters, intermarriage in the immediate family was specifically forbidden in Leviticus. Specific regulations about skin diseases were not only wise, but extremely important with a lot of people together in a climate with little water to wash. However, for other rules we do not see any practical, earthly reason. There might not have been one. Perhaps they only reason was a reminder to the people that they too were to be set apart, and holy to God. Leviticus is a wise book, but it is less a book about healthful practices than a book illustrating holiness.
General Lessons on holiness, whether God's holiness, or our life of holiness are not an easy to grasp; perhaps that is why God took an entire book to explain. The Israelites coming out of Egypt came out of a culture that had less reverence for their idols than most. When Egyptians prayed to their statues for help, if the help did not come, they would occasionally whip the statue. But Leviticus shows that the true God has a "separateness" from the commonness of life. They could not just give sacrifices to God, they could only do them in the prescribed way. As for childbirth, eating, and religious ceremonies there was only one way that was God's way. Leviticus 22 is an entire chapter showing how someone could give up something to make an offering or sacrifice, and it be unacceptable. Today when we want to serve God in our way, subject to our conditions, we should be careful that even though we might make sacrifices, our efforts might not be acceptable, if we have no concept of holiness. We are individually called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16-17) and we are called to be a holy people (1 Peter 2:9). As we live holy lives reflecting the holiness of God, we ourselves can be lessons on holiness (2 Corinthians 1:12), letters from Christ written with the Holy Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 2:3).
Specific motivations and patterns in our Service to God: The Bible has so much wisdom that mature Christians need to be concerned about balance: do we focus on one aspect of knowing, loving, and serving God to the neglect of other aspects? Leviticus illuminates a number of different ways of serving God, and a growing Christian can appreciate, be nourished by, and learn to praise God through them all.
Q: In Lev, what is an outline of the book?
A: Leviticus is the middle book of the Pentateuch, and it can be organized as five parts.
I. Five Kinds of Offerings to God (Lev 1-7)
A. Burnt Offering ('Olah) - Commitment of Total Surrender (Lev 1:1-17)
1. A young bull (Lev 1:1-9)
2. Male sheep or goat (Lev 1:10-13)
3. Pigeon or dove (Lev 1:14-17)
B. Grain Offering (Minchah) - Memorial Praising God (Lev 2:1-16)
1. Unbaked flour, oil, and incense (Lev 2:1-3)
2. Baked flour with oil (Lev 2:4-10)
Note: No yeast, but salt (Lev 2:11-13)
3. Firstfruits of crushed grain, oil, and incense (Lev 2:14-16)
C. Peace/Fellowship Offering (Zebach Shalamim) - Thankfulness, vows, and Freewill (Lev 3:1-16)
1. Male or female cow (Lev 3:1-5)
2. Male or female lamb or goat (Lev 3:6-16)
a. Lamb (Lev 3:6-11)
b. Goat (Lev 3:12-16)
Note: at all times, never eat fat or blood (Lev 3:17)
D. Sin Offering (Chattat) - Confession and Atonement (Lev 4:1-5:13)
1. Sin of an anointed priest: young bull (Lev 4:1-12)
2. Sin of the community: young bull (Lev 4:13-21)
3. Sin of a leader: male goat (Lev 4:22-26)
4. Individual sins unintentionally: female goat or lamb (Lev 4:27-35)
5. Not speaking up, touching uncleanness, thoughtless oaths: female lamb or goat (Lev 5:1-6)
6. Considerations for the poor: two doves, pigeons, or flour (Lev 4:7-13)
E. Guilt Offering ('Asham) - Forgiveness for Sins Against Holiness: Ram (Lev 5:14-6:7)
1. Unintentional sins against God's holy things (Lev 5:14-16)
2. Unintentional sin against God's commands (Lev 5:17-19)
3. Deceiving a neighbor and +1/5 restitution (Lev 6:1-7)
II. On Being a Priest (Lev 8-10)
A. Consecration of priests (Lev 8)
1. Preparation for consecration (Lev 8:1-13)
2. The bull offering (Lev 8:14-17)
3. The first ram offering (Lev 8:18-21)
4. The second ram offering (Lev 8:22-30)
5. The food and the wait (Lev 8:31-36)
B. Ministry of priests (Lev 9)
1. Private instructions (Lev 9:1-4)
2. Public service (Lev 9:5-22)
3. God's pleasure (Lev 9:23-24)
C. Failings of priests (Lev 10)
1. Willfully serving your own way (Lev 10:1-3)
2. Going forward after others fail (Lev 10:4-15)
3. Attitude for unintentional failing (Lev 10:16-20)
III. Holy Laws for Individuals (Lev 11-20)
A. Our Physical Diet (Lev 11)
1. Land animals (Lev :11:1-8)
2. Seafood (Lev :11:9-12)
3. Flying creatures (Lev :11:13-23)
4. Unclean animals (Lev 11:24-44)
B. Childbirth (Lev 12)
C. Skin diseases and Mildew (Lev 13-14)
1. Skin diseases (Lev 13:1-46)
2. Mildew (Lev 13:47-59)
3. Cleansing from skin disease (Lev 14:1-32)
4. Cleansing from mildew (Lev 14:34-54)
D. Discharges (Lev 15)
E. Yom Kippor (Day of Atonement) (Lev 16)
F. Eating Blood is Forbidden (Lev 17)
G. Unlawful Sexual Relations (Lev 18)
1. Unlawful sexual relations (Lev 18:1-20)
2. No child sacrifices to Molech (Lev 18:21)
3. No homosexuality (Lev 18:22)
4. No animal relations (Lev 18:23)
5. Don't be like peoples around you (Lev 18:23)
H. Laws with Others (Lev 19)
I. Molech, Spiritism, and immorality (Lev 20)
1. No child sacrifice to Molech (Lev 20:1-5)
2. Don't be a medium but he holy (Lev 20:6-9)
3. Not cursing parents (Lev 20:10)
4. Adultery with in-laws (Lev 20:11-12)
5. No homosexuality (Lev 20:13)
6. Unlawful sexual relations (Lev 20:14-21)
a. No animal relations (Lev 20:15-16)
7. Blessings and curses (Lev 20:22-26)
8. Execute mediums (Lev 20:27)
IV. Holy Laws for the priests (Lev 21-22)
1. Priests and their families (Lev 21)
2. Unacceptable in priests and people (Lev 22)
V. Holiness is Corporate Too (Lev 23-27)
A. Feasts and Holy Days to the Lord (Lev 23)
1. The Sabbath (Lev 23:3)
2. Passover and unleavened bread (Lev 23:4-8)
3. Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:9-14)
4. Feast of Weeks (Lev 23:15-22)
5. Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25)
6. Day of Atonement (Lev 23:26-32)
7. Feast of Booths (Lev 23:33-44)
B. Our Continual Holiness (Lev 24:1-9)
C. Stoning for Blasphemy (Lev 24:10-23)
D. Special Sabbath and Jubilee Years (Lev 25)
1. Sabbath year (Lev 25:1-7)
2. Jubilee on the 50th year (Lev 25:8-17)
3. Abundance by itself on Sabbath years (Lev 25:18-23)
4. Redemption in Jubilee years (Lev 25:24-54)
E. Consequences of the Law (Lev 26)
1. Reward for obedience (Lev 26:1-13)
2. Punishment for disobedience (Lev 26:14-39)
3. Accepting their repentance (Lev 26:40-46)
F. Dedication and Redemption to the Lord (Lev 27)
Q: In Lev 1, what can we learn today from the burnt offering?
A: The burnt offering was a total sacrifice: nobody could eat or otherwise use any part of it. But could someone barter with God?
Let's say a young bull weighed 1,000 pounds. One could try to reason that since every part of the animal was an aroma pleasing to God, someone could just eat the bull and give God 1,000 pounds of tails from other bulls. But that is not what God required. He required the entire animal, not just the leftovers. Today some are happy to serve God with their "leftovers". Their excess money, undeveloped talents, leftover time when they have nothing better to do. But that is not what God requires. God requires total commitment.
Let's say someone really wanted to impress God, so that they ate the tougher parts of some bulls, and gave God 1,000 pounds of the best parts of five bulls. But that is not what God required either. He did not require you to work yourself to death to buy five bulls, but he required all of one bull. In fact, some parts of our service that we might think less valuable, but yet we are the most reluctant to give up, might be the parts God holds most precious. God only required one animal, but he required all of one animal. Today there might be other people with more gifts, talents, and money, and God does not require us to devote to him what others have and we do not. But our Lord does require us to give Him all our lives.
As Christians we do not sacrifices bulls, sheep, goats, or birds today. Instead of giving dead sacrifices Romans 12:1 says we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. There is no bartering with God. But why should we want to do so? God in His grace has given us so much, both in this life and eternally, giving Him everything we have is actually infinitesimal compared to what He has promised us.
Q: In Lev 1-7, does all these detailed offerings show that this was written in the 5th century B.C., since they would have had time to develop the temple worship and come up with all this, as Julius Wellhausen declared?
A: Not at all. Wellhausen's assertion assumes people were not smart enough or could not have sophisticated offering systems prior to this time. But in the 15th century B.C., the Ugaritic Ras Shamra Tablets have terms like "offering made by fire", "peace offering", "sin offering", trespass offering", and possibly even a "heave offering". It also mentions boiling a goat kid in its mother's milk. See A Survey of Old Testament Introduction p.179 for more info.
Q: In Lev 1:3,5,10; 5:15; 22:19, why were male and not female animals required for a burnt sacrifice?
A: Scripture only says that is what God wanted. A male or female was fine for offerings in Leviticus 3:1 and 27:3-4, and only a female lamb was suitable in Leviticus 4:32. As a side note, the word atonement, kipper, is used almost 50 times in Leviticus, and about 50 more times in the rest of the Old Testament according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.538.
Q: In Lev 1:11, why couldn't any offerings have leaven (yeast) or honey?
A: Scripture does not say. However, when I was a budding twelve-year old chemist, I learned how bad burning sugars smell, and honey is mainly sugar. In the Bible, yeast often represents things that grow, like tradition and the Pharisee's teaching.
Q: In Lev 1:14, why not specify just male birds?
A: Scripture does not say. One possible reason is that it is difficult to easily tell the gender of many wild birds.
Q: In Lev 1:17 and Lev 5:9, why can't the priest cut the bird in half?
A: Scripture only says that God wants it this way. In Genesis 15:10, Abraham was not supposed to cut the birds in two in his sacrifice either.
Q: In Lev 2:13, why put salt on the offerings?
A: Scripture only says that is what God wanted. Here are some possible reasons, though.
1. Salt was a valuable commodity in the ancient world.
2. The priests and Levites ate some offerings, and they needed salt, too. (Leviticus 6:16-18,26; 7:6-9)
Q: In Lev 2:14, Lev 23:14, Dt 11:14, Dt 12:17, Dt 14:23, Dt 16:9, Dt 18:4, Dt 23:25, and Ru 2:2 (KJV), why does the Bible mention corn and full ears, since corn (maize) was not known in the Old World until Columbus discovered America?
A: Over 400 years ago, when the King James Bible was translated, the word "corn" commonly meant "grain".
Q: In Lev 3:2, was blood from the offering sprinkled on the altar, or poured out as in Dt 12:27?
A: There are two views.
Poured vs. poured out: The first view, to which Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.219-220 and When Critics Ask p.89 credit the Middle Age Jewish scholar Maimonides, notes that the verbs are "poured/sprinkled" vs. "poured out". Thus a little bit of the blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the rest was poured out on the ground.
A later time: Three points to consider
Leviticus 3:2 specifically mentions offerings slaughtered at the tent of meeting, which was only used before they entered the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 12:1,18,27 explicitly mentions sacrifice at the chosen place after they entered the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 12:8 specifically states that some of the sacrificial regulations will change when they entered Canaan.
Why? Scripture does not say why God wanted this changed, but we can speculate. All were to sacrifice their food animals at the Tent of Meeting, which was on open ground. Pouring all the blood there might cause logistical problems. Later, Deuteronomy 12:21-22 gives permission to slaughter animals away from the center of worship, after they entered Canaan. With fewer animals being slaughtered, and probable provision being made for the blood in the permanent place, the blood could be poured out now.
Q: In Lev 4, since Jesus had to die to atone for our sins, what of the sin offering that atoned for sins in the Old Testament?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
1. The Old Testament sacrifices only covered over the sin, did not take away the sin.
2. The Old Testament sin offerings were only for unintentional and thoughtless sinful acts and an unclean state. There was no offering for willful sin. (Numbers 15:22-30; 35:31)
Q: In Lev 4:13, how can a just God hold people guilty of unintentional sin?
A: Scripture gives us three points about unintentional sin.
1. When somebody commits a sin unintentionally, that does not mean he or she was innocent, either. It could be that when a person found out they sinned, he or she was glad they did it. To show that is not the case, the person offered a sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)
2. Both the Bible and modern law recognize that some unintentional is still criminal. Manslaughter, and risking the lives of others recklessly deserve punishment, even if the murderer did not desire the death of the victim (Numbers 35:22-28). The penalty for manslaughter was being forced to stay in a city of refuge until the current high priest died.
3. Regardless of whether the action was intentional or not, if the person committing the sin had no opportunity to know it was evil, Romans 4:15 and 5:13 say that unintentional sin is still sin, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
Q: In Lev 4:14, was the congregation to offer just a young bull for a sin offering, or both a young bull and a young goat in Num 15:24?
A: The context of both is the whole community, but
a) Leviticus 4:14 is during the time of the Exodus
b) Numbers 15:24 is from that time to all generations to come.
There is a lesson we can see here about God's gracious dealings with people. The lesser sacrifice in Leviticus was the Law, which was still relatively new to them, and the greater sacrifice in Numbers was after they should have already learned. Apparently God not only distinguishes between if someone did wrong intentionally or unintentionally, but for unintentional sins, God distinguishes between the amount of time someone had to learn what was right.
When Critics Ask p.105 and Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.242 give a somewhat different answer. Leviticus 4:14 is specifically for "doing" wrong, or sins of "commission". Numbers 15:24 is specifically for failing to keep a command, or sins of "omission".
Q: What does Lev 5:1 mean?
A: When there is a public call for witnesses, and a person is silent about what they have seen, that is sin. The next sentence, saying that they will be held responsible can be severe. If an innocent person is wrongly executed because a witness failed to speak up, then the witness is presumably guilty of murder.
Q: In Lev 5:13, Lev 9:7, Lev 16:16,24,32-33, and Lev 17:11; 23:28, did the priest make atonement for the people, or did Christ do that in Heb 10:1-4?
A: The Old Testament sacrifices atoned for sins in the sense that they covered over the sin, but did not take it away. Hebrews 9:9-10 says these external things did not internally cleanse the conscience of the worshipper. They were only in effect until Christ came.
For those who disagree, remember that in John 1:29-31, John the Baptist said in the presence of Jesus "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Jesus did not correct John. Peter said similar in 1 Peter 1:19 One of the three must be true. Either:
1. John was wrong to say this
2. John was correct
3. John was correct, but the meaning was different, or
4. John's Gospel was corrupted on this key point.
If 1, then Jesus was remiss not to correct Him, and God was remiss not to correct John, Jesus Apostle.
If 2, then we should believe what it says
If 3, then it sounds like a deliberate falsehood (lie), because for 1400 years the Israelites knew exactly what was meant by a sacrificial lamb of God.
If 4, then it must have unknown to the early Christians, because none of them said it was. It could not have been corrupted after 150-200 A.D. because we have many manuscripts containing John 1, the earliest one still existing being the Bodmer II Papyrii, dated 150-200 A.D. We also have the text of this verse recorded by Origen (225-254 A.D.) and Chrysostom (c407 A.D.). If it was corrupted, then God must have desired or at least allowed all of His followers to be fooled for all this time.
Q: In Lev 5:15, was the sacrifice brought to God, or to the priests as Lev 5:18 says?
A: Since the Israelites could not enter Heaven themselves, and since the priests represented God, bringing it directly to the priests was the means God set up for presenting sacrifices to Him. Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.245 simply says the priest acted as God's deputy. See When Critics Ask p.89 for essentially the same answer.
Q: In Lev 5:16, when someone sinned unintentionally in regard to sacrifices, why add a "fifth part" as a punishment?
A: Scripture does not actually say. The person's wrong was not intentional, but the person should have known the Law better. A fifth part was also added as restitution if someone got property by lying or cheating in Leviticus 6:5.
Q: In Lev 6:13, why should the fire never go out?
A: Scripture does not say. However, it could symbolize both the need for a continual sacrifice and the availability of being able to sacrifice to God at any time.
Q: In Lev 7:1-2 and Lev 8:17, why were the animals killed outside the camp, or the ashes carried outside the camp in Lev 6:11?
A: Scripture does not say. However, the bodies and ashes were taken away from where people ate, slept, and lived. In Hebrews 13:11-13, mentions that Jesus was crucified outside the city gate (and disrespectfully) just as the bodies of the animals were burned outside of the camp.
Q: In Lev 7:15, must all of the sacrifice of the peace offering be eaten on the same day, or could some of it be eaten on the following day too, as Lev 7:16-17 and Lev 19:6 says?
A: Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Leviticus 7:16 distinguishes between two kinds of peace offerings, the offerings for thanksgiving, and voluntary ones of their own free will.
2. The sacrifice of the peace offering for thanksgiving must all be eaten on the same day as Leviticus 7:15 says.
3. The sacrifice of the peace offering that is voluntary or of his own free will can also be eaten on the next day as both Leviticus 7:16-19 and Leviticus 19:6 say.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.148-149 for more info.
Q: In Lev 7:23-25, why couldn't they eat the fat in meat and what about undetectable bits of fat in meat?
A: Scripture does not say why God commanded that. However, we know today that large amounts of fat, especially saturated fat in red meat, is not healthy for people. While some fat is unavoidable, eating microscopic portions is far different than eating pure lard.
Q: In Lev 7:26-27 and Lev 17:10-14, why couldn't the Israelites eat blood?
A: Actually this was first commanded in Genesis 9:4, not for the Israelites, but for everyone. Also, in Acts 15:20, the early church commanded everyone not to eat blood.
The answer is in Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11,14. The life is in the blood, and it is through blood that atonement is made for us. In Old Testament times, blood covered over people's sins (Hebrews 9:22), until Christ's blood was shed for us.
Q: In Lev 7:30-31, Lev 8:16,20, and Lev 16:25 why were they to burn the fat?
A: Scripture says that it was a sweet aroma in Leviticus 8:28. Just as fat dripping in a barbecue pit has a good smell, and makes smoke, burning the fat in the sacrifices probably had a similar effect.
Q: In Lev 7:36 and Lev 16:31,34, since the statutes on sacrifice were forever for the Israelites, why did Jewish Christians stop in Acts 15:1-29?
A: Actually, the sacrifices were offered to God not by the people, by the priest. Today it is the same. We need a sacrifice that is offered to God by our priest. He have that in our High Priest, Christ Jesus, as John 1:29 implies and Hebrews 8-10 and 1 John 2:2 shows.
Q: In Lev 8:8, Dt 33:8, Ezra 2:63, and Neh 7:65, what were the Urim and Thummim?
A: Purpose: At this time, the Urim and Thummim were a means of the high priest determining God's will on a matter. (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21). God was sometimes silent through the Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 28:6).
Description: It was a breastplate with twelve stones in it, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
How It Worked: It had no intrinsic power of its own, but it only worked because God chose to use it to communicate. How did it work? We do not know. The Jewish rabbi Josephus, writing (c.93-94 A.D.), thought that God caused the stones to light up as appropriate.
Q: In Lev 8:13 (KJV), why were Aaron's sons wearing girdles and bonnets?
A: These were the King James English words to translate what we would call the breastplate and turban. In Leviticus 8:13, the Hebrew word for "turban/bonnet" is different than the Hebrew word in Leviticus 8:9; 16:4.
Q: In Lev 9:12-13, how could they kill and put the burnt offering on the altar, since it was already burnt?
A: Burnt offerings are cattle, sheep, or goats that are going to be killed and burned, even before they are burned.
Q: In Lev 10:1-2 and Num 3:4, why did God kill Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu, who offered unauthorized fire to God?
A: God takes the worship of Himself very seriously. For them to have the audacity to reject God's exact way of worshipping and knowingly do what they were not authorized to do was punished as an example to others. Hebrews 12:18-23 tells us things are different now. While they worshipped at a mountain where there was burning fire, since the resurrection of Jesus, today we come with confidence to a joyful assembly. See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.65-66 for more info.
Q: In Lev 10:6, why couldn't Aaron mourn for his own children?
A: Leviticus 21:1-4 says that priests could become unclean for their own children. However, Leviticus 21:10-12 says that a high priest could not become unclean at all, even for the death of his own father and mother.
Q: In Lev 10:9, should it say "strong drink" (KJV) or "fermented drink" (NIV)?
A: To modern readers, strong drink implies distilled alcohol, and they did not have distilled alcohol in ancient times, so their "strongest drinks" were not strong drink in the modern sense. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.568 for more info.
Q: In Lev 10:16-20, why was Moses angry with Aaron, and why did Moses become content?
A: Given that God killed two of Aaron's sons for improper sacrifices, Moses was likely both angry with Aaron and afraid that he might share the same fate. However, when it became clear to Moses that Aaron's mistake was accidental and that Aaron was sorry for that, Moses, who knew God's heart, was not worried.
Q: In Lev 11 and Dt 14, what is a summary of the dietary laws?
A: Here is a brief summary.
No fat - Leviticus 7:23-25
No blood - Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26-27; 17:10-14; 19:26
Some plant-eating animals with parted hooves, cloven feet, and chew cud are OK. Camel, hyrax, rabbit, and pigs are not. - Leviticus 11:3-8; Deuteronomy 14:6-8. As a side note, pigs carry tapeworms, trichinosis, erysipelas, and typhoid.
Only fish, no seafood, unless it has both fins and scales. No crab, lobster, shrimp, eel, shark, or dolphin (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9-10). As a side note, the prohibited animals were generally scavengers.
No eagles, hawks vultures, kites, owls, cormorants, swans, pelicans, stork, or bat (Leviticus 11:13-19; Deuteronomy 14:11-18). As a side note, many of these birds were scavengers, and the birds that were not fed off of rats, mice, and other scavengers.
Few bugs, only some locusts, grasshoppers, and beetles. No chocolate-covered ants or roaches (Leviticus 11:20-23; Deuteronomy 14:19). So you can tell you wife you'll skip the roaches for dinner tonight. ;-)
Miscellaneous: no rat, weasel, tortoise, lizard, snails, or moles (Leviticus 11:26-31).
Q: In Lev 11 and Dt 14, could Moses have learned his health principles from the Egyptians?
A: Not a chance. The Egyptian health practices were well-documented and preserved today. There are the numerous references to the healing powers of worm blood, magic water, fly excrement, and manure, but they are (thankfully) absent in the Old Testament. There is no mention in Egyptian texts of the sanitary practices of the Old Testament. See Evidence for Faith p.140-142 for more info.
The Egyptians had some sophisticated knowledge though, with 48 types of surgery, according to the Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology p.370. There is no evidence of this in the Bible either.
See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.66 for more info.
Q: In Lev 11 and Dt 14, were Jews then and today allowed to hunt animals?
A: Some Jews today think not. Their reasoning is that hunting animals you do not eat is cruel, and Jews should not eat even kosher hunted animals, because their blood was not drained properly.
However, that is not what God's word says. There is no prohibition against hunting for food or sport. In the Mosaic Law, Leviticus 17:13 says that you can hunt for animals and birds, just be sure to drain the blood. Now draining the blood of an animal in the field is not as thorough as the kosher process of Jews today, but draining as a hunter would drain it is all that God required.
Q: In Lev 11 and Dt 14, how come they could eat birds that fly? Birds that fly have only dark meat, which is caused by a higher percentage of blood in the meat.
A: The point of the command against blood was to "drain the blood", i.e. the blood that flowed out of the body. It was not to remove all microscopic traces of blood.
Q: In Lev 11:3-8 and Dt 14, why couldn't they eat animals that chewed the cud?
A: Scripture only says that is what God commanded. God not only specifically described animals they knew, but He provided general rules for animals with which they might not yet be familiar.
Q: In Lev 11:6 and Dt 14:7, why does it say coneys (hyraxes) and hares (rabbits) chew their cud, since zoologists know for certain that they do not?
A: The Hebrew word is consistent with the ancient classifications of animals, not modern ones. The English term "chewing the cud" refers to animals called ruminants, with multiple stomachs for digesting plants. One stomach starts the digestion, and then the food is partly regurgitated and sent to another stomach. An animal cannot chew the cud if its digestive system does not support it. Four points to consider in the answer.
Not ruminants: Coneys and rabbits do not have a digestive system that supports what we today term chewing the cud.
Appear like ruminants: Since coneys and rabbits move their jaws sideways like ruminants, and they eat the same food, they give the appearance of chewing the cud. Even the naturalist Linnaeus at first thought they were ruminants.
God communicates understandably: God's purpose was to communicate to the Israelites practical rules to follow in words and concepts they could understand, and the Israelites classified the coney and rabbit as those that "raise up what has been swallowed."
Using their own terms: God used their own language, terms, and descriptions to communicate with them. Any Hebrew living before modern times would understand animals that "chew the cud" to include rabbits and coneys. To apply a different and modern classification system to Moses' writing anachronistically is forcing a modern meaning on ancient words.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.90, When Critics Ask p.89-90, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.158-160, Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.89-90, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.126, and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.78 for all basically the same answer.
Q: In Lev 11:9-10,31, why could they eat fish with fins and scales, and not other fish, squid, and shrimp?
A: Scripture does not say, but one reason might be that God did not want them to get diseases by improperly cooking bottom-feeding fish. The fact that the Mosaic Law prohibited bottom-feeding fish was noticed as far back as 100 A.D in the Epistle of Barnabas ch.10 p.143-144.
Q: In Lev 11:11 and Ex 35:7, since dolphin carcasses were an abomination, was did God command the Tabernacle to be covered with them?
A: The Bible never said dolphins were abominable animals of themselves. It only said that eating dolphins was abominable and using their skins for common use was an abomination.
This was not a commonly used Hebrew word, so there is some uncertainty here. The common dolphin lived in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.97 says the animal here was the dugong (or sea cow). Dugongs sometimes swam along the shores of the dead sea. The NIV translates this as sea cows, and Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? p.31 also adds that dugongs are abundant in this area, and Arabs make sandals out of their skins today. Ezekiel 16:10 uses the same Hebrew word in mentioning sandal "leather".
Q: In Lev 11:13-19, how come twenty birds are mentioned, since Dt 14:11-18 mentions twenty-one birds?
A: The two lists contain the same birds, with the following exceptions:
Leviticus 11:13-19 Deuteronomy 14:11-18
Any kind of black kite Black kite
Any kind of falcon
Both lists say any kind of hawk. While modern zoologists classify falcons as a type of hawk, technically speaking, that is irrelevant, as you cannot impose modern classifications on ancient lists in another language and culture. The key point is that the ancient Hebrews apparently viewed falcons as a type of hawk, too.
A second answer, given by Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.391, is that the "falcon" is an extraneous scribal error. He says this because in Hebrew "vulture/falcon" (daah) is only one letter different from "glede" (raah), and "vulture" is absent in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, and many Hebrew manuscripts.
Q: In Lev 11:18 (KJV) should this word be "swan"?
A: No, it is actually a white owl in the NKJV, NIV, uNASB, and NET Bible. The NRSV translates this as "water hen". Green's literal translation says "barn owl".
Q: In Lev 11:20-21 (NASB, NKJV, NIV), is this word "insect" or is it more generic such as "swarming thing" or "bug"?
A: According to both Jay P. Green's literal translation and Strong's Concordance, the definition is broader than insect. However, this is not really relevant to the next question.
Q: In Lev 11:20-21, is it wrong to say there are four-footed insects (an atheist and a Muslim both asked this)?
A: The Hebrew idiom, "on fours" means it does not walk upright. Thus a dog with a leg cut off still goes "on fours." The Hebrews apparently did not have the word parallel. Come to think of it, even in English or Chinese, how would you briefly explain to someone how four-, six-, and many-legged animals all walk in common without using the word parallel?
Q: In Lev 12:1-8, why are women [allegedly] sinful after childbirth? (A Muslim asked this.)
A: Scripture does not say sinful, only unclean. When someone in a Levite's family died, God commanded them to bury the body, and they would be unclean until evening. Becoming unclean is different from being sinful, as proved by God commanding them to become unclean in certain situations.
Q: In Lev 12:1-5, why is a mother unclean after having children?
A: Scripture does not say. However, being unclean would relieve her from the chores of daily life, and the restful time would be good for her.
Q: In Lev 12:1-5, why is a new mother unclean for 7 days for a son, and 14 days for a daughter?
A: Scripture does not say. However, unclean does not mean sinful. One likely reason is that baby boys were circumcised on the eighth day, and by shortening the time for boys, the mother could be present at the circumcision ceremony.
Q: In Lev 12:5-7 why did new mothers bring a burnt offering and a sin offering for having children, since Ps 128:3 says motherhood is a blessing?
A: Motherhood is a blessing. However, like nearly everything else we do, it is also tainted by sin. Even the children born have a sinful nature. See When Critics Ask p.90-91 and Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.230 for more info.
Q: In Lev 13, why did the symptoms of leprosy back then not have the same characteristics we know of as leprosy?
A: The Hebrew word meant a wide variety of skin diseases, and not just what we call leprosy, or Hansen's disease.
As a side note, imagine just how important skin hygiene would be in the ancient world, when people were not able to bathe often.
Q: In Lev 13, which diseases back then might be considered as leprosy?
A: The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.462 gives the following list:
True leprosy (Hansen's disease), Syphilis, Smallpox, Scabies, Favus, Tinea of the scalp, Systemic fungus infections, Boils and furuncles, Pemphigus, Dermatitis herpetiformis, and Cancer of the skin. This list came from the paper "Leprosy in Ancient Hebraic Times" by Harold M. Spinka, M.D. It was in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, March 1959.
Q: In Lev 13:32, what is fretting leprosy?
A: Many skin diseases back then were eradicated by modern times. The Hebrew term apparently means a type of serious skin disease we are not familiar with today.
Q: In Lev 13:54-59 and Lev 13:54-59, how can clothing and houses "get sick" and have leprosy?
A: Clothing can spread skin disease. Fungus and mold can grow on both clothes and people, and clothing can be a carrier of disease too. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.126-127 for more info.
Q: In Lev 14:12, why did someone have to give a trespass and sin offering when they were healed of a disease?
A: Scripture does not explicitly say, but
1. A sacrifice was always involved with a ceremonial cleansing.
2. There is no mention that the person was "guilty" or "more sinful" than others were because he or she had this disease.
There is a spiritual application we can learn here. In addition to the fact that God forgives believers of all their sins, we still need cleansing as well for our sinful nature.
Q: In Lev 14:14,17, why put blood and oil on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe?
A: Scripture did not specifically say, but this probably is to identify the one making the offering with the offering. Other examples of using the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe are Leviticus 8:23-24 and Exodus 29:20.
Q: In Lev 15:2-3 (KJV), what is a running issue?
A: It is the pus, often contagious, that seeps out of a sore or wound.
Q: In Lev 15:16, Lev 22:6, and Dt 28:67 (KJV), what does "until the even" mean?
A: The King James Version phrase means until evening.
Q: In Lev 15:16, since people were unclean after sex until evening, does that mean sex within marriage is in any way sinful?
A: No. Uncleanness does not mean disobedience to God, but greater care due to sanitary risk. For example, when a close relative died, you were supposed to bury the relative, and (without being disobedient) you were unclean until evening. Laws on cleanliness were very important in a desert culture with little water.
An example of a priest becoming unclean because he was obeying God's will is in Numbers 19:8.
Q: In Lev 15:19-30,33, why are women [allegedly] sinful during their menstruation? (A Muslim asserted this.)
A: They are not sinful, only unclean. When someone in a Levite's family died, God commanded them to bury the body, and they would be unclean until evening. Becoming unclean is different from being sinful, as proved by God commanding them to become unclean in certain situations.
Since this was a concern to this Muslim, perhaps he would care to comment on these things: from the Sharia. Blowing your nose and menstruating are acts of Satan Ibn-i-Majah vol.2 no.969 p.87.
He should ask Muslim scholars why Muslim women are forbidden to pray during their time of month. Here are some sources from the Sharia he can use to ask them.
A black dog or a woman, or a dog and menstruating woman cut off prayer. Abu Dawud vol.1 no.702,703 p.181; Ibn-i-Majah vol.2 no.949-953 p.78-80
A menstruating woman is not allowed to recite the Qur'an. Abu Dawud vol.1 footnote 111 p.56
Q: In Lev 16:1-2, why did God give Aaron a little slack, since God did not give Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, any mercy?
A: The context shows that Aaron made his mistake out of ignorance, and Romans 4:15 and Romans 5:13 demonstrate that God does not count sins we commit out of innocent ignorance as transgression.
Q: In Lev 16:8, who is Azazel, and what relationship does he have with the scapegoat?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.158-159 claims that this was evidence of a prior, more primitive Jewish mythology. Three points for a Christian response.
1. No, there is no evidence at all for his invention of a mythical Jewish mythology. The evidence we have of idolatrous Israelite practice is consistent with all being borrowed from surrounding peoples.
2. Christians freely admit that from the earliest times many Israelites had idolatrous, mythological practices. One needs only read of the golden calf at Mount Sinai, or the constant exhortations against idol worship, to see that the Old Testament candidly admits this wickedness, though the Bible does not go into too many details.
3. Asimov's claim has the presupposition that the Old Testament rituals could not have been given by a transcendent God. Rather, Asimov assumes the source must have been idolatrous practices, and by using circular reasoning, he uses the example of Azazel to prove his point. Asimov's flaw is that while he uses the comparison of Azazel with a hypothetical idolatrous Israelite practice to show this ritual was not given by a transcendent God, there is no evidence of idolatrous Israelites having a practice similar to Azazel.
Q: In Lev 16:10,22,26, why did God introduce the concept of a scapegoat?
A: The Biblical concept of a scapegoat is different from the modern term. The modern term means one who is blamed for something for which they were not responsible.
In the Bible, the scapegoat was released to go live in the wilderness, and the goat symbolically had all the guilt laid upon him. In the Biblical sense, Jesus is our scapegoat.
The idea of a scapegoat being a symbol for Satan was a Jewish tradition that sprung up much later. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.159-160, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.127-128 and When Critics Ask p.92 for more info.
Q: In Lev 16:12,15 and Isa 3:23 (KJV), what is a "vail"?
A: This is not a valley, but rather a "veil" in modern spelling.
Q: In Lev 17:3-4,9, could people kill any animal without it being a sacrifice?
A: At the time of the Exodus, no. The reason for this was because God not only wants us to worship Him, He wants us to worship Him alone, and not to worship or sacrifice to any other gods, as Leviticus 17:7 shows.
However, Deuteronomy 12:20-23 expressly states that this would change when they entered Canaan.
Q: In Lev 17:7, were the demons here (sairrim), wild goat gods, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.159 claims?
A: According to Green's Literal translation, the Hebrew here means "sacrifices to goats". Thus, they were tempted to make sacrifices to goat-gods, as Asimov puts it.
Q: Should Lev 17:7 (RSV) say "satyrs" or demons?
A: As the previous question shows the Hebrew here is "goats". The NIV translates this as "goat idols". The NKJV says "demons" with a footnote saying "having the form of a goat or satyr". The KJV says "devils", the NRSV says "goat-demons" and the NASB says "goat demons".
Q: In Lev 17:13, was the blood drained and covered with earth, or was the blood poured out like water as Dt 12:24 says?
A: Both are correct. There are three points to consider in the answer.
1. Blood being poured and drained are essentially the same thing.
2. The context of Deuteronomy is eating meat in general, especially at their home, where people will keep their house clean. Thus no detail was given on how to dispose of the blood in a manner to keep their house clean.
3. Leviticus specifically mentions hunting in the field. While a hunter might be tempted to just leave the blood on the ground, Leviticus 17:13 specifically adds that the hunter must "clean up after himself" and cover the blood with dirt.
See When Critics Ask p.121 for more info.
Q: In Lev 18:1-17 and 20:12,14, what is a summary of the Levitical marriage laws?
A: From the Holiness Code of Leviticus 17-25, here are the restrictions on marriage.
Man's viewpoint Woman's viewpoint
Daughter (close relation) Son (close relation)
Mother (close relation) Father (close relation)
Parent's sister Sibling's son
Father brother's wife Husband brother's son
Brother's wife Husband's brother
Living wife's sister Living sister's husband
Sibling's daughter Parent's brother
Wife brother's daughter Father sister's husband
Mother brother's wife Sister's son
Parent brother's daughter Parent brother's son
Brother's daughter Father's brother
Mother brother's wife Husband sister's son
Asymmetry: The restrictions are "asymmetrical" with respect to the following. A woman can marry her sister's son but not her brother's son. A man can marry his mother's brother's [former] wife but not his father's brother's [former] wife.
Q: In Lev 18:5, can people be saved by keeping the law, since the New Testament teaches that only Christ can save us?
A: The truth in Leviticus 18:5 is just one piece of the mosaic of God's law, mercy, and grace. Here are some of the other pieces that fit together with Leviticus 18:5.
1. Hypothetically, a person would not need God's mercy if they kept the Law perfectly.
2. They (and us) should try to live a sinless life, and obey God perfectly.
3. However, we are not able to do so. No one is without sin (Proverbs 20:9, Psalm 14:2-3; 19:12).
4. Once we realize this, we should turn to God and appreciate His mercy and grace.
5. God promised the people who followed Him in the Old Testament that (somehow) if they committed themselves to God and His law, they would be saved. Many other verses in addition to Leviticus 18:5 show this.
6. God revealed the one and only means He chose for forgiving both their sins and ours in Jesus Christ.
7. Even though we live after Christ's resurrection, Leviticus 18:5 is applicable to us in a secondary sense today. God commands all men to believe and obey Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8). If someone believes and obeys God, they will have eternal life.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.160-161 and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.67 for a different answer.
Q: In Lev 18:16 and Lev 20:21, why was a man forbidden to marry his brother's wife, since Dt 25:5-10 commanded him to marry his brother's wife?
A: Leviticus 18:16-18 says not to marry your brother's wife, during his lifetime. The command to marry your brother's wife in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 is for the purpose of carrying on his name after your brother has died. See Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.292 for more info.
Q: In Lev 18:8-18; 20:11-14; 17-21, why is incest discussed in the Bible? (a Muslim brought this up)
A: Why is incest not discussed in the Qur'an? This unpleasant topic needed discussing; Egyptian royalty and later Persians practiced incest regularly. The Qur'an does not forbid incest, and Muslims regularly break the Levitical rules on incest when they marry cousins.
Q: In Lev 18:19 and Lev 20:18, should husbands and wives have intercourse while the wife is having her monthly period?
A: This verse shows that under the Mosaic Law they should not.
Q: In Lev 18:21 and Lev 20:2 (KJV), what does "giving your seed to Molech" mean?
A: This means the abominable practice of sacrificing your little children to the idolatrous god Molech. Molech is also mentioned in Leviticus 20:3,4,5b; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35.
Q: In Lev 18:22,24 and Lev 20:13, is homosexuality still wrong, or is it something that changed, like eating pork or something unchanged, like no infant sacrifice?
A: No. Not only doe we have New Testament silence on any changing of this, we have confirmation from Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 that this is still sinful.
Leviticus 18:22 is right after a verse forbidding infant sacrifice and before the verse forbidding bestiality, so God perhaps views the three similarly. Leviticus 20:13 is two verses before two verses forbidding bestiality. See also the discussion on Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. See When Critics Ask p.92 and When Cultists Ask p.40 for more info.
Q: In Lev 18:22-24 and Lev 20:13, were homosexuality and bestiality condemned solely because no children could be produced?
A: No, that was not the reason God gave. The reason is clearly spelled out in Leviticus 18:22-23. Just as sex with an animal is perversion, sex with two men is detestable to God and in those times was punishable by death. See When Critics Ask p.93 for more info.
Q: In Lev 19:18, who is the neighbor the Jews were to love?
A: Leviticus 19:18 says it included any of their own people. Presumably, it also included sojourners (travelers and temporary residents) in the land, but not the Canaanites.
Q: In Lev 19:20, why punish a female slave who engaged in sex?
A: The Mosaic Law did not punish any woman, slave or free, who was raped. But if a woman was not raped, or she was in a town and did not cry out, a free woman would be killed. A slave woman, given her circumstances, was not killed. See the previous question for her punishment.
This is in sharp contrast to later Roman law, where a slave girl could be punished by cutting off her nose for the "crime" of modestly covering herself up in front of her master. The Mosaic Law is also in sharp contrast with Islamic Law, where sex with female slaves and captives was allowed and nowhere even discouraged. They were called "women whom our right hands possess". For documentation on this in Sunni Islamic Law, read the Bukhari Hadith vol.3 book 34 ch.113 after no.436 p.239-240.
Q: In Lev 19:20 (KJV), since a man lies with a slave girl betrothed to another, why is only the woman scourged and the man has to bring a ram?
A: Three points to consider in the answer.
Monetary fine: The man was also punished monetarily and publicly, by having to bring a ram.
Both physically punished: While only the man paid a fine, both were still punished. The Hebrew does not specify that only the woman was scourged. It is only the King James Version that limits the scourging to the woman.
Type of punishment uncertain: The Hebrew word might be "inquest/punishment" instead of "scourged". See the next question for more detail.
Q: In Lev 19:20, was the woman scourged?
A: There is uncertainty in the Hebrew word. Here are some of the translations.
King James Version: "she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death...",
New King James Version: "for this there shall be scourging; but they shall not be put to death...".
NIV: "there must be due punishment. Yet there are not to be put to death..."
NASB: "there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death..."
Jay P. Green's Interlinear Bible: "there shall be an inquest; they shall not be put to death..."
The translations fall into two groups, either the Hebrew word is scourging or it is inquest/punishment. Obviously the woman received some kind of punishment. However, it is only the 400 year old King James Version that says only the woman was scourged.
Q: In Lev 19:26,31; 20:6,27, why were enchantment, magic, and mediums forbidden?
A: These scriptures mention that
A. If you turn to a medium, you will be defiled by a medium (Leviticus 19:31)
B. If you turn to them you are (spiritually) prostituting yourself to them. (Leviticus 20:6)
Other reasons why they are wrong are:
1. People seek their wisdom instead of God's
2. People trust in their power instead of God
3. People are devoted to magic and mediums instead of God.
4. People sometimes venerate and worship these things instead of God.
Even if you do not do all four of these things, even doing one of them would mean that A and B apply to you. Christians should not go to fortune tellers of any kind, even for fun at the fair.
Q: In Lev 19:27, why was God concerned about hairstyles?
A: Scripture does not say. Hair is conspicuous, and not cutting the hair at the corners here would be one way to identify Jewish men. Note that in this culture, even non-Nazirites could have long hair. See also the discussion on 1 Corinthians 11:14.
Q: In Lev 19:28, does this mean a person should not get a tattoo?
A: This is a part of the Mosaic Law. However, the New Testament says we are God's Temple, and we do not want to put graffiti on the wall of God's Temple. Revelation 13:16-18 says most people, except believers, will have a mark on their right hand or forehead representing 666, the number of the beast. The only case that can be made for having tattoos is that in Egypt today some Coptic people tattoo a cross prominently on their newborn children. This is because otherwise Muslim fundamentalists are prone to steal their children and raise them as Muslims.
Q: In Lev 20, why were so many crimes punished with the death penalty?
A: Apparently these things were serious enough to merit execution in God's eyes. Instead of trying to fit God into our own preconceived notions, let us learn what God taught, and then look for reasons for this. Crimes meriting the death penalty fall into three categories:
Taking human life: intentional murder and unintentional murder if they do not flee to a city of refuge. An important difference between the Old Testament Law and other laws is that it did not matter if the victim was slave or free. A person being executed for taking human life is fitting punishment for taking human life.
Sexual sins: Most sexual sins, adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, are punished with death. Many sexual sins are addictive, and they try to entangle others in their sin. For the good of the community at that time, they were executed.
Open defiance: Worshipping other gods, fortune telling, etc. is defiance against God for God's chosen people, the Jews. Of course a Jew could leave the people, assimilate in another country, and do what they wished. But for Jews living as the chosen people, God did not tolerate defiance against Himself. He also did not tolerate defiance against parents, such as openly cursing them. (Leviticus 20:9).
735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.67-68 points out that the Old Testament had fewer crimes punished by the death penalty than other law codes. Many other law codes would kill thieves.
As a contrast to the Old Testament Law, the Islamic Sharia Law is different. If a freeman and a slave kill a slave together, the slave is executed and the freeman only has to pay half the blood money. Here is the quote: "Malik said about an adult and a child when they murder a man together. 'The adult is killed and the child pays half the full blood-money.' Malik said, 'It is like that with a freeman and a slave when they murder a slave. The slave is killed and the freeman pays half of his value.'" Muwatta Malik 43.3.3
Q: In Lev 20:2, does "Molech" really refer to "melech" (king), and is this a prohibition against the god of the people, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.162 claims?
A: No. The name Molech might have been derived from the word for king. However, this was a specific idol the Ammonites worshipped. There is evidence a god with the name Muluk was known in the city-state of Mari c.1700 B.C. according to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.705.
Q: In Lev 21:1-4, why could a priest only mourn for parents, brothers, and sisters living at home, but not others?
A: Apparently the importance of a priest being ceremoniously clean for his duties was considered more important than becoming ceremonially unclean for any but his closest family.
Q: In Lev 21:11, why could the high priest not become ceremonially unclean for even His own parent's funeral?
A: The importance of the High Priest's office apparently precluded this.
Q: In Lev 21:18-23, why does God appear to dislike the less-abled, and forbid those with a physical handicap from becoming a high priest?
A: If God wanted, God was free to choose only short people, tall people, black-haired people, left-handed people, or any kind of people He wanted. If God choose people who did not have physical defects, and did not see a need to tell us His reasons, that is God's prerogative.
We can speculate that the reason might be related to the priest acting as a "model" for the people in offering the sacrifices. Of course, the animal sacrifice had to be free from defects, too, as Leviticus 22:20-25 shows.
Q: In Lev 22:11 (KJV), how can a priest eat "a soul that he has"?
A: The original Hebrew meaning for this unusual King James translation is that all in a priest's household, even slaves, can eat of the sacrifices.
Q: In Lev 22:27 (KJV), what does "under dam" mean?
A: A dam here is a female or mother. The calf was to remain with its mother for seven days.
Q: In Lev 22:27, why couldn't they kill the mother and child animals for a sacrifice on the same day?
A: Scripture does not say. Perhaps it is related to Exodus 23:19, "do not boil a kid in its mother's milk". See the discussion on that verse for more info.
Q: In Lev 23:6, Is it true that "Undoubtedly the use of unleavened bread in ritual is extremely ancient, dating back to long before the Exodus" as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.156 claims?
A: We have no record of this being performed prior to the Exodus. If Asimov thinks it significant that we have no record of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kipper) prior to the Exile (see the discussion on Lev 23:26-32), why does he think the use of unleavened bread was very ancient?
Someone else could argue (with just as little support) the opposite, that the Day of Atonement was before the Exodus, and using unleavened bread was after the Exile. Of course all the scriptures that mention unleavened bread could be dismissed as "additions apparently written after the exile, since unleavened bread indicates a late date."
I am guessing Asimov got this from the Anchor Bible Dictionary volume 6 p.756 and especially p.759-760 under "Theories of Origin". However, this liberal book provides no evidence of this being celebrated outside of the Bible. Apparently this theory started with Julius Wellhausen in the 19th century.
As for me, since the only evidence shows the Israelites practicing both here, I choose to go with the evidence.
Q: In Lev 23:26-32, Lev 16:1-34, and Num 29:7-11, Is it true that there is no record of the Day of Atonement being observed until post-Exilic times, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.158 claims?
A: Asimov provides no record of it being observed in Old Testament Post-Exilic times either, but that is beside the point. One would not expect many records of temple rituals that say "we performed it like we were supposed to do." Similarly, one does not have historical records of wood being gathered for the Temple, but we do know that Gibeonites, who were the wood gatherers, performed their function both before and after the exile. Likewise, we do not have pre-Exilic records of any Temple ritual, besides what is already written in the Bible.
On the Year of Jubilee, a trumpet was sounded on the Day of Atonement according to Leviticus 25:8-9. Thus, celebration of the year of Jubilee includes celebration of the Day of Atonement.
It would seem strange that Moses would have written down the rituals for the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:1-34; 32:26-32; and Numbers 29:7-11, and then immediately not follow it.
Q: In Lev 23:29,32 and Num 29:7 (KJV), why did God give the Sabbath to "afflict their souls"?
A: This King James expression is a literal translation of a Hebrew word that can also mean to fast, or to exercise or practice this command.
Q: In Lev 23:32, was the feast of the Day of Atonement on the ninth day, or the tenth day as Lev 16:29 [allegedly] says?
A: It was the ninth day. Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Leviticus 23:32 says precisely that the time was from the evening of the ninth day to the evening of the tenth day.
2. People generally did not do any work after dark.
3. Leviticus 16:29 only says not to do any work on the tenth day.
See also When Critics Ask p.94 for more info.
Q: In Lev 23:42-43, did the Israelites coming out of Egypt live in booths, or tents as Ex 16:16; 33:8; and Num 11:10 say?
A: One answer is that the Hebrew word for booth, cukkah, is a general word that can mean hut or tent. However, that probably is not the correct answer, as there is a more reasonable explanation.
Here are the points of the answer.
1. In the wilderness, the Israelites lived over 40 years in durable tents, not just hastily-constructed huts, as Exodus 16:16; 33:8, and Numbers 11:10 prove, and Joshua 7:22 shows.
2. Back in Egypt, Exodus 12:7,22-23 proves they lived in houses (huts), because during the Passover they all had to put the blood on the doorframes of their houses.
3. The Israelites had only one day to pack and be ready in Exodus 11:4-12:14. Exodus 12:11 is a reminder that their leaving was done in great haste.
4. Therefore, while they constructed tents in the wilderness, they did not have the tents when they first left Egypt.
5. Note that Leviticus 23:42-43 does not commemorate the Israelites living in booths for over 40 years, but living in booths at the time they were brought out of Egypt.
6. It would be easy for someone to miss this distinction between living in tents for over 40 years and living in booths at first, unless they were writing about what they had experienced firsthand.
See also When Critics Ask p.94 for more info.
Q: In Lev 24:3, why would God want a lamp with olive oil to burn continually day and night, even when no people would see it?
A: People would still know it never went out. Perhaps this was to symbolize that God never sleeps, He never ceases to watch the world, and He never ceases to watch over us.
Q: In Lev 24:10-22, was stoning a blaspheming son to death extreme?
A: No. This was not just foul language, but blaspheming the holy name of God with a curse. This was more than even taking God's name in vain, but defiance of God's law under the theocratic government. Of course we do not live under that government today, and if someone were to do that we should not try to harm him.
See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.68 for more info.
Q: In Lev 25:35, and Ex 22:25, why could they not charge interest to their own people, since they could charge interest to foreigners in Dt 23:20?
A: Deuteronomy 23:20 shows that charging interest to foreigners is OK for commercial reasons. However, a godly person still would not charge excessive interest according to Proverbs 28:8 and Ezekiel 18:8. Nevertheless, helping a friend or fellow Israelite should not be for commercial reasons. They were commanded to give to the poor Israelites, and not dodge their responsibilities by making money on loans to the poor instead. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.151-152 and When Critics Ask p.128-129 for more info.
Q: In Lev 25:35 and Ex 22:25, since they could charge interest to foreigners but not their own people, does this violate many verses which say certain laws were to be the same for the Israelite and the foreigner?
A: The verses below show that much of the religious and civil law was the same for both the native-born and non-Israelite. However, no verse says the laws needed to be the same on lending money. Here are all the relevant verses.
Exodus 12:49 and Numbers 9:14 speak of the Passover laws for non-Israelites who voluntarily wish to keep the Passover.
Leviticus 24:22 and Numbers 15:29-30 say the laws are the same for ceremonial sins and blasphemy.
Leviticus 16:29 refers to the Sabbath laws. It would leave the Israelites at a marketing disadvantage if the foreigners could sell on the Sabbath and godly Israelites did not.
Leviticus 19:33 says they must not mistreat non-Israelite strangers in their land.
Leviticus 24:22 says the laws of murder and injury are to be the same for native-born and foreigner.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.152-152 for more info.
Q: Why do Lev 25:46; Ex 21:2-21 and Ex 32:1-6 condone slavery?
A: Slavery in the Bible was similar to indentured servants. All Hebrew slaves were to be freed every seventh year in Exodus 21:2-5. When the slave was freed, the ex-master was to furnish him or her liberally out of what the master had, according to Deuteronomy 15:13-15. The only exception to freeing a Hebrew slave was if the slave loved the master enough to choose to be a slave for life in Exodus 21:5-6. However, the Hebrews did not always free their slaves, as Jeremiah 34:8-22 shows; God rebuked them for that. The following became slaves:
Thieves who could not pay people back (Exodus 22:3)
Women sold by parents as concubines (Exodus 21:7-11)
People sold themselves as slaves if they were starving
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.149-150 for more info.
Q: In Lev 26:16 (KJV), what is "consumption and burning ague"?
A: The NASB and NRSV say "consumption and fever". The NIV and NKJV translate this "wasting disease and fever".
Q: In Lev 26:30 did God abhor Israel, or were they the apple of His eye in Zech 2:8 and not abhor them in Lev 26:44?
A: God viewed the elect Israelites as precious in His sight, as the apple of His eye. God viewed the disobedient Israelites who rejected God's law as abhorrent and worthless (Jeremiah 2:5; 12:8). In a similar manner, Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for the whole world (1 John 2:2), but to those who reject Christ, God is not shy about telling us the extent of His wrath. See When Critics Ask p.94 for more explanation of the same answer.
Q: Does Lev 27:1-8 show that males are more valuable than females?
A: No. Genesis 1:27 shows that both male and female are created in the image of God, Galatians 3:26-28 shows that males and females, Jews, and non-Jews, are all equally valuable as sons of God. But Leviticus 27:1-8 shows that in that time men had a higher economic cost than women or children.
Leviticus 27:1-8 refers to vowing the monetary equivalent of something to the Lord. So for example, the value of a 60+ year old male was less than for a female younger than sixty years.
Q: In Lev 27:28-29, does devoting people to the Lord for destruction sanction human sacrifice?
A: No, because execution is not human sacrifice. Killing of murderers and other criminals was done because God commanded it for order. The context of Leviticus 23-27 deals with laws, and has nothing to do with any animal sacrifice, much less human sacrifice. The Bible never sanctions anything resembling sacrifice of humans, with two exceptions. God tested Abraham to see if He would offer up Isaac, though no human sacrifice occurred, and Jesus voluntarily died for us.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.149-153 for more info.
Q: In Lev 27:30-33, Num 18:21-32; Dt 12:5-14; 14:22-29; 26:12-15, and Mal 3:10, are Christians supposed tithe today?
A: No. We are still to give materially for God's work today (2 Corinthians 8-9). However, it is not an exact tithe, because Romans 7:6 says, "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (NIV)
Our entire lives should be dedicated to God, so that we can give more than a tithe. But since the Old Testament specified a tithe, and we have a higher standard than the Old Testament, tithing can be said to define the limit of generosity. But 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that we should give cheerfully, not under compulsion.
See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.68-69 for more info.
Q: In Lev, how do we know that what we have is what was originally written from Philo the Jew?
A: As Christians we trust that the Old Testament that Christ validated is the Old Testament that we should have. For that matter, for Muslims their Qur'an says that Jesus was given the Torah in Sura 5:46. We have early manuscripts from the time of Christ, which the next question addresses. However, there is an additional line of evidence. Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish scholar who lived from 15/20 B.C. to 50 A.D. He wrote in Greek, but it is curious that his Greek quotes of the Old Testament agree more closely with the Hebrew Masoretic text than the Greek Septuagint. He went into great detail into what different verses mean. Here are verses he referred to in Leviticus.
1:3,9,13; 2:1,11,13; 3:12,16,17; 4:22,31; 5:2,4,5,20,21; 6:9,13,20; 7:5,34; 8:29-36; 9:1-14,24; 10:1-3,6,8,9,16; 11:3,4,9,10,20-22,42,43; 13:3,11,12,14; 14:35,36; 15:31; 16:7,10,17,20; 17:11; 18:1,6,7; 19:13,4,9,11,13,14,16,23-25,32,35,36; 20:18; 21:11,17; 22:4,6,10,12; 23:1,2,10,27; 24:2,15; 25:4,8,9,10,23,31; 26:3,8,10,12,36; 27:3,32,33; 35:5
See The Works of Philo : Complete and Unabridged new updated version for more info.
Q: Which early writers referred to Leviticus?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who quoted or alluded to verses in Leviticus are:
Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.)
Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.)
Meleto/Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) listed Leviticus among the books of the Old Testament in his letter to Onesimus. It is unusual that he switches the order of Numbers and Leviticus. On Pascha p.72. This is preserved in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 4.26.
Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.) quoted half a verse
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.)
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) "...when the sacerdotal law was being drawn up, through Moses, in Leviticus, we find it prescribed..." An Answer to the Jews ch.5 p.156
Origen (225-254 A.D.)
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.)
Anatolius of Alexandria (270-280 A.D.)
Victorinus of Petau (martyred 204 A.D.)
Methodius of Olympus and Patara (270-311/312 A.D.)
After Nicea other writers referred to Leviticus too.
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Q: In Lev, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea Scrolls: (250 B.C. and onward) 13 copies according to The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.30. and The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls vol.1 p.488. The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd ed. records at least 12 originals. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438 says there are 8 copies. According to The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd ed. p.474, fragment 4Q17 containing Exodus 38 through Leviticus 2 is dated from 250 B.C. Its contents are nearly identical with the Masoretic text. The copies are referred to as
1Q3 contains 21 fragments, which are from 3 or 4 original manuscripts.
2Q5 (Leviticus 11:22-29 in palaeo-Hebrew)
4Q23 Leviticus 26:2-16 in Greek. (150-1 B.C. due to early Hasmonean formal hand) (15 textual differences from the Septuagint)
4Q24 contains 30 fragments, but they are all likely from the same original. 1st century B.C.
4Q25 only 6 or 9 fragments preserved from chapters 1, 3-5, 8.
4Q26 has four fragments (30 B.C. to 20 A.D. early Herodian script
4Q26a nine fragments from chapters 3, 19-22
4Q26b one fragment from Leviticus 7:19-26
6Q2 (Leviticus 8)
11Q2 has two fragments that were likely from the same original. (fragments from chapters 7-10, 14-15, 25 (ca. 50 A.D. because of a "late Herodian hand")
Dead Sea Scrolls Septuagint: The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438 says the oldest known existing copy of the Septuagint is a text of Leviticus from cave 4 of the Dead Sea scrolls; it is dated 100 B.C.
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls are the following verses from Leviticus: 1:1-17; 2:1-16; 3:1-14,16-17; 4:1-8,12-14,18-19,23-28,30; 5:6,8-10,12-13,16-20-24; 6:none; 7:19-26; 8:12-13,26-28,31,33-34; 9:1-10,12-13,15,22-24; 10:1-2,9-20; 11:1-40: 12:none; 13:3-9,32-33,39-43,58-59; 14:16-34,40-57; 15:1-5,10-11,19-24; 16:1-15,15-29,34; 17:1-11; 18:16-21,27-30; 19:1-8,30-37; 20:1-6,20-24,27; 21:1-4,6-12,17-24; 22:1-33; 23:1-8,10-29,40; 24:2-23; 25:28-36,45-49,51-52; 26:2-33; 27:5-22,30-31? See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls p.423 for more details.
Masada had two preserved copies of Leviticus:
Mas1a (Leviticus 4:3-9) (50-1 B.C.)
Mas1b 45 fragments of Leviticus 8:31-11:40 (25-75 A.D.) (identical to the Masoretic text.
See Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls vol.2 p.615 and The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for more info.
Aramaic translations, called targums, have been found of Leviticus among the Dead Sea Scrolls as 4Q156. Two small Aramaic fragments are from the 2nd century B.C. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.32-33 and The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd edition.
Greek manuscripts include Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) (all of Leviticus), Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) (all of Leviticus) See General Introduction to the Bible p.391-394.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) contains Leviticus 20:27-22:30.
Samaritans made their own copy of the Torah in the second century B.C., though the earliest surviving Samaritan copies are from the Middle Ages. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.125-126.
A Syriac translation of the Septuagint was made by Bishop Paul of Tella (616-617 A.D.), which we still have today, according to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.35 (footnote).
Early church writers recognized Leviticus as a part of the Bible.
Q: In Lev, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: Here are a few of them, but first, here are some general language translation issues.
Hebrew Masoretic text Greek Septuagint
tabernacle of the congregation tabernacle of witness
burnt offering whole-burnt offering
impurity of uncleanness separation for uncleanness
detestable an abomination
disgusting acts abominations
Leviticus has a total of 859 verses. Below are a few of the fragments of verses with manuscript variations. The first phrase is the Masoretic text, and the second is the Septuagint, unless stated otherwise. This does not go through all of Leviticus, but it is focused primarily on chapters 16-18. Except where noted the first phrase is the Masoretic text (MT) and the second the Septuagint (LXX).
Lev 1:16 crop and its "*". Unclear if "*" is "contents", "feathers", or another word.
Lev 3:1-11 appear to be absent in 4Q24
Lev 4:7 "will pour" vs. "will pour" misspelled in the Masada txt Mas1a
Lev 4:19 "the broad tail, and that which covers, and the kidneys" vs. "the broad tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat on them" (NRSV footnote)
Lev 7:21 "detestable thing" vs. "swarming thing"
Lev 7:29-38 is not in the Septuagint.
Lev 9:19 "the broad tail, and that which covers, and the kidneys" vs. "them" (Septuagint)
Lev 11:13-19, vulture" (21 birds) vs. absent (20 birds) Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch
Lev 11:26 "is hooves and does not chew the cud" vs. "it hooves and chews its cud" (Septuagint, 2Q5)
Lev 14:24 the original scribe omitted this verse, and it was added above the line in 4Q23.
Lev 14:45 the original scribe omitted this verse, and it was added above the line in 4Q23.
Lev 14:31 "such as the person can" vs. "which a person can afford, one" in the Septuagint and Syriac translations. (NRSV footnote)
Lev 15:31 "separate the sons / children of Israel from their uncleanness" vs. "cause the children / sons of Israel to beware of their uncleannesses"
Lev 16:1 Septuagint adds after died, "in bringing strange fire"
Lev 16:10 2 times "scapegoat" vs. "complete-removal"
Lev 16:12 "incense" vs. "fragrant incense"
Lev 16:13 "the testimony" vs. "the tables of testimony"
Lev 16:20 "when he having finished" vs. "he shall finish"
Lev 16:25 "he shall burn as incense the fat of the sin offering" vs. "he shall offer the fat for the sin-offering"
Lev 16:34 "And he did as Jehovah had commanded Moses" vs. "as the Lord commanded Moses"
Lev 17:2 "To Aaron and to his sons and to..." (MT, Samaritan Pentateuch) vs. "To Aaron and to..." (11Q2)
Lev 17:3 "of Israel" vs. "of Israel or of the strangers/sojourners sojourns/abiding among you"
Lev 17:3 absent (MT) vs. "sojourns/abiding in Israel" (4Q26) vs. "sojourns/abiding among you" (Septuagint)
Lev 17:4 "as an offering to Jehovah, before the tabernacle of Jehovah" vs. "so as to offer it as a gift to the Lord (kuriou) before the tabernacle of the Lord"
Lev 17:6 "Burn the fat as incense for a sweet-smelling fragrance" vs. "offer the fat for a sweet-smelling savour"
Lev 17:7 "sacrifice their sacrifices any to goats" vs. "sacrifices to vain [gods]"
Lev 17:8 "aliens who sojourn in your midst" vs. "sons of the proselytes abiding among you"
Lev 18:5 "I am Jehovah" vs. "I am the Lord (Kuriou) your God"
Lev 18:11 "daughter of your father's wife, begotten by your father, she [is] your sister" vs. "daughter of thy father's wife; she is thy sister by the same father"
Lev 18:14 "she is your aunt" vs. "she is your relation"
Lev 18:17 "are flesh" vs. "are your flesh" (Septuagint)
Lev 18:21 "pour over them to Molech" vs. "serve a ruler" [perhaps the Septuagint translators did not know how to render the idol 'Molech' in Greek]
Lev 18:21 "pollute the name of your God " vs." profane my holy name"
Lev 18:21 2 times "animal" vs. "quadruped"
Lev 18:21 "shameful mixing" vs. "an abomination"
Lev 18:25 "I will visit its iniquity on it and the land is vomiting out its inhabitants" vs. "I have recompensed their iniquity to them because of it, and the land is aggrieved with them that dwell upon it."
Lev 18:27 "The people of the land committed" (MT, Samaritan Pentateuch) vs. "You, the people of the land, committed [and he was disgusted with them and said to you y] shall inherit their la'n'." (11Q2)
Lev 18:28 "vomit" vs. "aggrieved"
Lev 19:2 "You are holy" vs. "Be holy"
Lev 19:36 "from the ears of the righteous stones of righteousness" (MT, Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch) vs. "stones of righteousness" 4Q26a
Lev 22:9 "guilt for it and die in it" vs. "guilt and die in the sanctuary" (Vulgate)
Lev 22:22 "Either a wart or eczema or a moist skin eruption" (MT, Samaritan Pentateuch) vs. "Either a moist skin eruption or eczema or a wart" (11Q2)
Lev 26:31 "your sanctuary" vs. "your sanctuaries" (Samaritan Pentateuch) (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5)
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5, and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
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