3.21 Connection Between Exodus and Leviticus

In Exodus we described 3 stages in the work God performed in bringing Israel to the Promised Land:  Deliverance, Identity, and Implementation.  Leviticus is the book of Identity, it is the internal crystallization of the community, the definition of the criteria of membership.   Exodus 20 was the foundation of this phase, and it was grounded in direct revelation on Sinai -- the finger of God on tablets of stone.  Leviticus is the elaboration of law and ritual, minus the thunder and smoke on the mountain.   In Leviticus, God speaks in a quieter voice "from the Tent of Meeting" (Lev 1:1).  Leviticus is to life as Hoyle's is to a game of hearts, and about as interesting.  It is "the rules of the game," necessary but dry.  Topics covered included different types of offerings, food regulations,  health practices, sexual sins, festivals.  In contrast to Genesis and Exodus, with their richness of material on the races of mankind and their relationships, there are no new major racial themes in Leviticus.

        

The keynote here is distinction.  The significance of the laws and rituals is that they set Israel apart from all other races and nations.  Israel's supremacy was ultimately not based on ethnicity, on common blood, but on behavior, on subjection to an all-pervading code of conduct.  To disobey the law was to risk being "cut off", no matter what one's biological pedigree.

        

The wall was set high, that is, the wall between Israel and foreigner.  It was not impassable, for the devout foreigner could join himself to Israel, so long as he was not of Canaanite origin.  But this was not sought by the Israelites themselves.  Israel was God's own people on earth.  They did not easily forge fraternal relationships with other societies, because that would have implied tolerance of those nations' false gods.  God intended that Israel should be a light, a beacon, a witness and a judgment on all the rest of mankind.