Leviticus 19

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Tell all the people of Israel that they must be holy, set apart for me because I, the LORD your God, am holy, set apart from all other gods. 3Each of you must respect your parents and keep my sabbaths, for I am the LORD your God. 4Do not honor idols or make idols to worship, for I am the LORD your God.

5“Whenever you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, follow my instructions so it will be acceptable. 6Eat it the same day you offer it or the next day, but on the third day what remains must be burned. 7It is not acceptable to eat any of it on the third day, 8and whoever does so must be cast out of the community because that is unacceptable behavior; they have cheapened what is sacred to the LORD.

9“When you gather the crops in your land, don’t gather to the very edge of the field or keep all the harvest for yourself. 10Don’t harvest your crops completely. Leave some grapes in your vineyards for the poor and those who may be passing through. I am the LORD your God.

11“You must not take what belongs to others. You must not offer shady deals. You must not lie to each other, 12and never use my name insincerely, for that will cheapen my name. I am the LORD.

13“Do not cheat or steal from your neighbor, and don’t withhold the wages of someone your hire until the next day. 14Don’t insult the deaf. Don’t trip up the blind. Fear your God. I am the LORD.

15“Do not judge unfairly. Do not be partial to a neighbor because they are poor, nor show favoritism because they are important, but judge fairly. 16Don’t go around slandering people, and don’t profit by injuring a neighbor. I am the LORD.

17“Do not hold a grudge against any of your relatives but correct your neighbor lest you be thought guilty yourself. 18Don’t try to get revenge or hold a grudge against your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

19“Obey my rules. Don’t let one of your animals breed with a different kind. Don’t plant two different crops in your field. Don’t wear clothes made with two different kinds of cloth.

20“If a man has sex with a slave girl who is betrothed to another man but has not been given her freedom, there must be an inquiry. Don’t put them to death since she has not been given her freedom, 21but the man must bring a ram as a guilt offering to the entrance of the meeting tent, 22and the priest will offer the lamb on his behalf and he shall be forgiven his sin.

23“When you enter the land and plant trees for food, it is forbidden for you to eat the fruit for three years after the planting. 24In the fourth year all the fruit must be offered in praise to the LORD. 25In the fifth year the fruit may be eaten, and in this way the yield will be improved. I am the LORD.

26“Do not eat bloody meat. Do not practice witchcraft or engage in prognosticating. 27Don’t cut the hair beside your head or clip the edges of your beard. 28Don’t cut yourself to mourn the dead, and don’t tattoo yourself. I am the LORD.

29“Don’t prostitute your daughter. It will open the door to wickedness throughout the land. 30Keep my sabbaths and respect my sanctuary. I am the LORD.

31“Don’t seek advice from mediums or soothsayers, or they will corrupt you. I am the LORD your God.

32“Stand up in the presence of the elderly. Show respect for them and that will be counted as reverence for your God. I am the LORD.

33“When foreigners live near you, do not mistreat them, 34but treat them as you would treat one of your own. Love them as you love yourself; remember that you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

35“Don’t use dishonest weights and measures, 36but be honest in your dealings, for I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.

37“Observe all my rules and laws, for I am the LORD your God.”

Commentary

1-4: Leviticus 19 continues the Holiness Code (chapters 17-26). Many of the provisions in this chapter form the basis for some of our own laws. Of course, the first three provisions, reverence for parents, keeping the Sabbath, and not turning to other gods are no longer considered the proper subjects for modern legislative prohibitions, but are still essential to the worshiping community that wants to depend on God’s blessings.

5-8: Sacrifices must be treated reverentially according to the prescribed procedures. Doing otherwise makes a person unsuitable to continue living in community with God’s people. Verse 7 offers a definition of “abomination:” it means “unacceptable” to God and to God’s people.

9-10: Leave some of your crops for poor people to gather.

11-12: Don’t steal. Don’t cheat. Don’t lie – especially don’t bring God into it if you do.

13-14: Ditto on the stealing and cheating. Also, don’t hold on to your employees’ wages, and don’t put down deaf and blind people.

15-16: Don’t judge unfairly. Don’t be partial to anyone based on the size of their bank account. Don’t tell tales about people and don’t try to make a profit from somebody’s death.

17-18: Don’t hate your fellow citizens or hold a grudge against them. If you see somebody doing wrong, point it out to them.

19: Don’t interbreed your animals, or mingle your crops, or tack your clothes together willy-nilly. You’re somebody; act like you know how God wants things to be.

20-22: Just because a woman is a slave doesn’t mean you’re free to have sex with her.

23-25: Fruit and nut trees are to be left alone for three years. The fourth year’s harvest is for praising God. After that you can do as you like with it.

26-28: Don’t act like or try to look like the people of the land who are not God’s people.

29-30: Don’t prostitute your daughter. And, by the way, KEEP THE SABBATH!

31: God doesn’t call people to be mediums or wizards. Don’t go to such for advice or help.

32: Respect the elderly.

33-34: Love your neighbors, even if they’re different.

35-37: Don’t use loaded weights and scales or short yardsticks like they did to you down in Egypt. Remember that you are God’s people.

Takeaway

Over the course of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy these and other rules will be drummed into us again and again. By the time the Israelites cross the Jordan into the Promised Land they should be well educated in how God wants them to live with one another and with their neighbors. Of course, knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different things, and the Israelites (and us) will often fall short of their calling to be God’s people.