Bible Readings for April 23rd
In context, the final chapter of Leviticus is a bit of a puzzle. Leviticus 26, yesterday’s reading, seems like a perfectly fitting close to a single book, with an overarching summary of the blessings and curses that Yahweh would give for obedience or for disobedience, respectively. Wouldn’t these laws about vows, then, fit better earlier in Leviticus?1 So, why would Yahweh inspire this material for the concluding chapter of Leviticus?
The first thing we should keep in mind is that Leviticus is not one isolated book. In fact, the entire content of Leviticus takes place while Israel is camped at Mount Sinai to receive the law from Yahweh, a continuation of the narrative that began in Exodus 19 and continues until Israel leaves Mount Sinai in Numbers 10. Seen in this broader context, we can view this chapter as one more piece of the entire law that Yahweh gave his people.
Second, the themes of Leviticus 27—vows, the dedication of property to Yahweh, and the redemption of that property under specific circumstances—matches the larger context of the story of Yahweh’s bringing his people out of Egypt into their inheritance in the Promised Land. So, just as Yahweh redeemed (i.e., purchased back) his own people out of Egypt, now Yahweh provides guidelines as to the types of property that his people may redeem (at a 20 percent higher purchase price) for themselves.
Then, Yahweh specifies types of property that may neither be sold nor redeemed because of the fact that they belong to Yahweh in a special way. For example, the firstborn of animals may not be dedicated (Lev. 27:26) because Yahweh purchased every firstborn on the night of the Passover (Ex. 13:2). So, part of what is happening in this chapter is a reaffirmation of what Yahweh possesses and what he gives to his people by grace.
This, then, is probably the key to understanding the unique role of Leviticus 27 as the concluding chapter of the book. Allen Ross summarizes the theme of the chapter this way: “Since the LORD is faithful to his word and keeps his promises, then his people must also be true to their word.”2
Although so much of Leviticus focuses on what Israel must do in order to maintain their holiness and their cleanness so that they may dwell in the presence of Yahweh, it is important to remember that Yahweh’s presence is not an imposition but an act of extraordinary faithfulness. Yahweh was faithful to redeem his people out of Egypt so that he might dwell with them, and so he calls his people to be holy, as he is holy.
This principle holds true today: if Yahweh was faithful to keep his promises even by sending his own Son to die for us, then shouldn’t we reflect his faithfulness by keeping the vows we make to other people and to him?
2 Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 495.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.