Bible Study 22 – Leviticus and the Destruction of the Devoted

How (not) to make the Bible say the opposite of what it means.  Examples from Numbers on how to draw out Scripture’s deeper meaning.
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OT Bible Study #21: No Redemption? Plus the Spiritual Interpretations of Scripture

Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Answer the Question about Leviticus 27:29.

Furthermore, people devoted to the Lord shall not be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death. (Orthodox Study Bible!)

This has to be one of the very best examples of the need for context (or at least a different translation) I have ever seen (but see Luke 19:27 and Matthew 4:9b for a couple of NT examples). It looks like the Bible is saying that believers can not be saved, but have to be put to death (this is a paraphrase of the above).

Some fun with words (Greek; Septuagint). The Greek for “devoted to the Lord” is anathema. This is NOT a believer; it is something else. Ransomed is a better word than redeemed (because of the baggage). Put to death really is put to death.

Some fun with words (Hebrew). The Hebrew for the “devoted to the Lord” bit is cherem. This is a word that does indeed mean “devoted to the Lord”, but it has the negative connotation because evil or sacrilegious or idolatrous things (or people) must be “devoted” or given over to the Lord through the destruction of the person.

The Faithlife Study Bible has this footnote;

27:29 on “is devoted”. While the same Hebrew term used in v. 28 is used here, cherem, here it does not refer to a positive connotation of dedication, but instead to the idea of fulfilling the law. This law suggests that a person who has committed an injustice that would result in death (according to the law) must be put to death—they cannot be redeemed from that punishment.

This leads to this gentler translation from The Message (Eugene Peterson);

No human who has been devoted to destruction can be redeemed. He must be put to death.

Hebrews 9:6-12. And just so we don’t miss the main point…

The Holy Bible contains many commentaries on itself. The New Testament is especially good at helping us understand the Old Testament. In this verse of Hebrews, St. Paul is using what his audience knew about Jewish ritual to help them understand the role of Jesus Christ.

Numbers 7:89 (e.g.) A Nice Meditation on the Tent of Tabernacle: The Sacred and the Profane

What does it mean that Moses often enters the tabernacle and comes out, except that he, whose mind is raised up in contemplation, must go out to deal with the affairs of the weak? Inside he contemplates the mysteries of God. Outside he bears the burdens of carnal persons. And Moses, who always has recourse to the tabernacle in matters of doubt and consults the Lord in the ark of the covenant, undoubtedly offers an example to officeholders. When in their public lives they are unsure of what to decide, they should always ponder in their minds, as in the tabernacle. They would seek advice, as it were, at the ark of the covenant, if they study the pages of sacred Scripture in their hearts when they deal with a doubt. Truth himself, manifested to us by taking on our humanity, devoted himself to prayer on the mountain and performed miracles in the cities. Thus he showed good pastors a model to imitate. They should desire what is highest in contemplation but care for the needs of the weak by their compassion. Charity rises up to the heights in a marvelous way when it mercifully turns to the depths of the neighbor’s needs. When it descends in kindness to the lowest, it returns in vigor to the highest…
leave the crowds and return to the tabernacle means to leave the tumult of external things behind and enter the hidden places of the mind. For the Lord is consulted there, and one hears, silently and within, what should be done outside and publicly. Good pastors do this every day. When they do not know how to decide about doubtful matters, they return to the hidden place of the mind as if to some tabernacle. They ponder the divine law, as if they were seeking advice from the Lord at the ark of the covenant. What they first hear silently within, they later make known when they act publicly. To fulfill their external offices without blame, they have recourse unceasingly to the secret places of the heart, and thus they hear the voice of God through his hidden inspiration, as they withdraw from carnal sensations in spiritual meditation. St. Paterius; Exposition on … Numbers.

Numbers 8:7. Should Priests Shave? Only spiritually!

Hairs of the flesh mean whatever human corruption is left. Hairs of the flesh are the thoughts of the old life, which we so expel from our minds that no grief at their loss fatigues us. Levite means “one taken up.” So all Levites should shave the hairs of the flesh. For he who is taken up into divine service should appear before the eyes of God cleansed of all carnal thoughts. His mind should not bring forth illicit thoughts and deform the beautiful shape of his soul with unruly hair. But as much as the virtue of holy conversation draws a man up, as we said, he was still born into the old life, and he bears it with him. Thus the hairs of the Levites are to be shaved off, not pulled out. For when hairs have been shaved off the flesh the roots remain, and the hairs grow and are shaved off again. Vain thoughts should be cut off with great effort, but they can never be entirely rooted out. For the flesh always begets what is vain, and the spirit cuts it back with the knife of watchful concern. We see this happening in us more subtly when we reach the heights of contemplation. St. Paterius (ibid).

How the Jews Knew When and Where to Go

Numbers 9:15-23. The Cloud and the Fire. How do we know where we are supposed to go? Is our guidance as obvious as it was for the Jews in the wilderness? If not – why is that? If so – why do we sometimes feel lost or overwhelmed?

Next Week: The People are NOT HAPPY! (to include “family troubles”)

Bibliography

Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Le 27:29). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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