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    Laws, Lawlessness and Leviticus

    It is probably safe to say Leviticus is not many people's favorite book of the Bible. Deuteronomy may not rate much higher than Leviticus.

     

    The reason is clear. It is a complicated listing of detailed laws, dos and do nots and instructions for worship for an ancient people of an ancient time pre-Jesus. We have lost the historical context and don't take the time to understand the significance of all that info to us in our day.

     

    Some may not even realize most of our moral standards come from these instructions and the dos and do nots many criticize. They quote the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth passage as evidence of a harsh archaic system. While some cultures did indeed take that literally, the biblical reference was intended not as a license for revenge but a symbolic standard that a punishment must be equal to the crime, not worse, not less.

     

    What may be even more surprising to some is that the proverb is not restricted to the Bible. Israeli archaeologists have discovered two Akkadian tablets near Hazor that contain law codes. The archaeologists say they are dated to the time of Abraham in the Middle Bronze Age in the 18th and 17th centuries BC (1800BC-1600BC). There are two things you should know about this discovery. The first pertains to the wording on the tablets and the second to the dating of the tablets. Let's start with the dating.

     

    The 18th and 17th centuries BC era is way too late for Abraham. The Exodus happened in 1446 BC. Abraham is dated to around 2200 BC. (Remember BC years move backwards like a countdown from big numbers to smaller ones.) Abraham's date is substantiated by the Bible and other archaeological finds. Our book on Abraham goes into detail about these discoveries both biblical and archaeological. So the non-evolutionary, pro-biblical worldview is the Akkadian tablets represent the time period after Abraham and Moses and Joshua. This is a significant point as many claim the Bible copied Hammurabi's laws, circa 1700 BC over two hundred years after the Exodus.

     

    But these Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian laws are skewed to favor the privileged. Compare a reading of them to the system of law in the Bible. You will find them inferior to the justice of the Israelites who were not allowed to take advantage of the poor, the slave or the foreigner. On the contrary, laws were made to protect them.

     

    Now to the other issue. The wording on the tablets include the words tooth and tooth and resemble Hammurabi's system of law which point to a general idea that law making is good and required for an orderly society. But where does this general knowledge come from? Experience with people and their behavior? Reaching back further, what forms the idea of good behavior versus bad?

     

    According to evolutionists, these concepts formed over time and are relative to the specific culture. But the Bible says God used the word good in Genesis 1. Adam heard about the opposite of good soon after and experienced it in Genesis 3. The biblical model has always been that God revealed this standard to man and man either abided by its standards or perverted it to his destruction or to the hurt of others. Man has the free will to make his choice in this.

     

    But most modern societies have framed their laws on the standards coming out of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which were truths re-revealed to men after years of corrupted living following the fall. It is interesting God used the cultural contexts of the time to insert what was good even though He never sanctioned some of the practices such as concubines or slavery.

     

    In the Bible lawlessness was never considered good. The book of Judges is a prime example of that. But God loves the freedom order provides. The detailed instructions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were needed because no one had the regenerated spirit of life Jesus won for us. When we are living born again and recreated through the love of Jesus, we are guided by a law that is written on our hearts. The success of a society depends on people's willingness to comply with this standard of love and obedience. There will always be those who chose to do evil/bad and thus the reason laws exist to maintain order not chaos.

     

    There is something else archaeology has uncovered that Leviticus and Deuteronomy were already evidence of: the capability for a complex system of religious practices and concepts. Skeptics considered all that detail we are not fond of reading was too involved for people living in the 1400s BC. The people were not sophisticated enough for that.

     

    But when archaeologists discovered the Hittite culture of Turkey, one they thought the Bible invented, they discovered the Boghaz-koy texts too. On these texts were lengthy, detailed instructions for priests and worshippers dating very early. The skeptic archaeologists had to eat slice after slice of humble pie as they investigated, deciphered and dated the texts and the existence of the Hittite Empire and their agreement with biblical history.

     

    In fact the discovery of the Hittite culture has done a lot to advance our understanding of Old Testament times and to validate the accuracy of the Bible. But then, we knew that would happen.

     

    Also, Leviticus and Deuteronomy reveal the system of laws and the morals they rested on in ancient Israel. These laws were nestled in to the instructions on how to worship God which is another revelation if modern truth seekers are willing to receive it. Law comes out of what you believe to be true about God, the world, and your relationship and responsibility to your God-given identity. We witness this in ancient cultures like the Hittite religious texts and Hammurabi's code. Values create societies.

     

    The lesson then is beliefs have consequences that impact not just individuals. Educators know this, and it is why the educational field is really a mission field of various religious beliefs, spanning Christian to atheist. Government is the fruit of a society's collective values. Beliefs begin with the person, extend to the family and ultimately government and society. The question for us to ask is are we building our beliefs on sand or on the Rock? 

     

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    Image by Wesley Tingey courtesy of Unsplash

     

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