Lessons from Leviticus?

December 30, 2011

In his preface to his commentary on Leviticus in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Gordon Wenham wrote,

Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue.  In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously (vii).

The first time I read that statement I did a double-take. Studying Leviticus first in synagogue? What did they see back then that might be overlooked today?

In my lecture at Florida College (entitled “Trusting in gods that Cannot Save,” 2010) I made reference to the above quote and then observed,

The real heart of Leviticus is contained in verses such as 20:26: “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Everything about how to approach God in worship, what to eat, wear, plant, along with all the other laws, had to do with that one principle: by all of these things God was teaching them that they were different from the world; they were His special people; they were to partake of His holiness.  Do you agree that this is not a bad idea, to teach a child from infancy that he is special to the Lord; that we are different from the world; that our concern is to be seeking and doing God’s will? (p.76).

The book of Leviticus was not just for the priests. In the opening verses, God said,

Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock (Lev. 1:2, NASB).

The instructions are to the sons of Israel. Re: “Any man of you” the NET notes,

It is the Heb “a man, human being” (‘adam), which in this case refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female, since women could also bring such offerings.

So here is a book that was for everyone during that dispensation, whether priests or other Israelites, men or women.

We are not contending that we are under the specific legislation of that time, but Romans 15:4 teaches,

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (ESV).

Perhaps you would like a brief outline and chapter content for the book of Leviticus:

Leviticus Outline and Chapter Content

I.          LAWS OF SACRIFICE 1-7

II.        HISTORICAL 8-10

III.       LAWS OF PURITY 11-15

IV.       ANNUAL DAY OF ATONEMENT

V.        HOLINESS OF PEOPLE 17-20

VI.       HOLINESS OF PRIESTS & LAWS RE: SACRIFICES 21-22

VII.     LAWS CONCERNING FEASTS 23-25

VIII.    PROMISES & WARNINGS 26

IX.       LAWS CONCERNING VOWS 27

1. Burnt offering

2. Meal offering

3. Peace offering

4. Sin offering

5. Trespass offering

6-7 Laws of Sacrifice given to priests

8. Consecration of priests

9. Priests begin to serve

10. Death of Nadab & Abihu

11. Clean & unclean foods

12. Purification after childbirth

13-14. Laws concerning Leprosy

15. Laws concerning normal & abnormal issues

16. Day of Atonement

17. Eating of blood forbidden

18. Laws of moral purity

19. Miscellaneous laws

20. Punishment for disobedience

21-22. Laws of holiness for priests; laws re: sacrifices

23. Sabbath, 3 annual feasts, day of atonement

24. Lamps, showbread; punishment for blasphemy

25. Year of Jubilee

26. Blessings of obedience; consequences of disobedience

27. Laws concerning vows


Rosh HaNiqra, cont’d.

December 23, 2011

Our previous post was on Rosh HaNiqra, biblical Misrephoth Maim, which is only mentioned twice in scripture, Joshua 11:8; 13:6 (context: Israel’s Conquest of Canaan). It is always helpful to see a site’s location on a map.

Misrephoth Maim, or Rosh HaNiqra. Map by BibleAtlas.org.

Notice on the map the term Ladder of Tyre which is a reference to this portion of the coastal area south of Tyre. Rosh HaNiqra means “head of the ladder.”

I was impressed with the area’s natural beauty, including the white chalk cliffs.

Rosh HaNiqra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is a good view of Israel’s northern coast looking southward from this location.

Israel's coast looking south from Rosh HaNiqra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In yesterday’s post I shared a view from the cable car. While at Rosh HaNiqra in Sept., I asked one of the workers if I could take her photo.

Worker at cable car at Rosh HaNiqra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I find it interesting and helpful to not only become familiar with the more well-known biblical sites, but also those Bible places mentioned fewer times, even just once. If it’s part of the biblical record, I have an interest in it!

Click on images for larger view.


Misrephoth Maim (Rosh-HaNiqra), Israel’s Northern Border

December 22, 2011

Misrephoth-maim is mentioned twice in the biblical text.The first occurrence is in Joshua 11:8, which records the third phase of the Conquest, that of the north, and specifically that of Hazor, which formerly was the head of all those kingdoms (v.10). The text records the flight of the defeated Canaanites,

The LORD handed them over to Israel and they struck them down and chased them all the way to Greater Sidon, Misrephoth Maim, and the Mizpah Valley to the east. They struck them down until no survivors remained (Josh 11:8, NET).

With the initial Conquest accomplished, the Lord told Joshua,

I will drive out before the Israelites all who live in the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, all the Sidonians; you be sure to parcel it out to Israel as I instructed you (Joshua 13:6, NET).

We had the opportunity in September to see this interesting biblical site. Misrephoth Maim is identified with Rosh-HaNiqra, and is situated just below Israel’s border with Lebanon on the coast.

Rosh HaNiqra. Looking north to Lebanon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Alexander the Great tunneled through the cliffs here to bring his army from Tyre down to Israel.

Rosh HaNiqra. Alexander the Great tunneled through the mountain here. Facing north. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We had the occasion to go inside the tunnel.

Rosh HaNiqra inside tunnel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a view from the cable car:

Rosh HaNiqra. View from Cable Car. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia has this info:

The Book of Joshua mentions ‘Misraphot Mayim’ as a place south of Rosh HaNikra that was the border of the Israelite tribes of the time (13:6). Jewish sages referred to the cliff as “The Ladder of Tyre’ (Hebrew: sullam Tzor‎).The site was later renamed A-Nawakir (“the grottos”) after an Arab conquest. The present name, Rosh HaNikra, is Hebrew for the later Arabic name ‘Ras-an-Nakura.’

Throughout human history, Rosh HaNikra served as a passage point for trade caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Africa. The British blasted a railway tunnel through the nearby rocks for trains running along the Cairo-Istanbul line. A bridge was destroyed by Jewish underground fighters prior to 1948 during the operation Night of the bridges.

Rosh Hanikra was the site where Israeli and Lebanese officials negotiated and concluded an armistice in 1949 which ended the Lebanese-Israeli component of the 1948 War of Israeli Independence.

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Traditional Site of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem

December 18, 2011

Justin Martyr (c.103-165 AD), wrote in Dialogue with the Jew Trypho:

But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger . . . (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I, p. 237).

The Church of the Nativity was built by Helena, Constantine’s mother in 339 AD. It was built above the traditional cave which is associated with Jesus’ birth. This photo shows the approach to the church.

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a close-up of the entrance to the church.

Church of Nativity Entrance. Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The above photo is a scanned slide I took in 1999.

Inside you can see the cave, the traditional place of Jesus’ birth.

Star Marking the Place of Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Other early evidence pointing to this spot as the location of Jesus’ birth includes that of Origen and Jerome.

For some thoughts on the useful purpose of shrines in this context, see Ferrell Jenkin’s post here.

Click on images for larger view.


Humble Birth: the Manger

December 17, 2011

This time of year the word manger is at the top of the list of search words that brings folks to this site. Here is a manger we photographed in Jericho back in November, 2005. This was among other artifacts visitors could see; there was no info available as to where the manger was actually discovered, whether near Jericho or elsewhere.

Manger at Jericho. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Other posts on Jesus’ becoming flesh and being placed in a manger may be seen here and here. I continue to stand amazed at the thought of our eternal Creator becoming flesh, and having a feeding trough as a bassinet! It thrills my soul to think of God becoming flesh!

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (NASB).

Note the rendering of the CSB: Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough– because there was no room for them at the inn.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NASB).

It was necessary in God’s Redemptive Plan that the Eternal Word should become flesh, that he might defeat Satan, and become the propitiation for our sins.

It is also helpful to remember that when the Apostle John saw the resurrected Christ, the Son of God in His present glory, he did not see a baby in a manger. At Patmos, John wrote, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades'” (Rev. 1:17-18, NASB).

Likewise we would do well not to limit our thoughts of Jesus to a baby in a manger, but see Him also as the Lord of lords and King of kings, the One before Whom all shall give account on the last day.

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Ancient Street in Tarsus

December 16, 2011

As we further explore what can be seen of ancient Tarsus, one important archaeological point of interest is a street built during the late Hellenistic period, thus predating the Apostle Paul.

Tarsus, Ancient Street. Dates back to the time of Paul. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The discovery of this street, along with the ancient shops and houses that have been unearthed, is a story that has been often repeated. Work was being initiated for an underground parking deck when this discovery was made. So frequently it is the case that it is in connection with various construction projects that such discoveries are made (see here for “rolling stone tomb” in Israel).

Behind and to our right of our position in the above photo you can get a glimpse of how much silt has built up above street level: 23 feet at this point.

23 feet of silt accumulated above Tarsus Street of Paul's Day. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This allows you to see the location of the modern city in relation to the ancient ruins below.

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Cleopatra’s Gate in Tarsus

December 15, 2011

In our last post we mentioned that the Apostle Paul was in Tarsus from the point of Acts 9:30 until going to Antioch at the invitation of Barnabas in Acts 11:25.

One attraction in Tarsus is “Cleopatra’s Gate,” also called the “Sea Gate,” as well as “St. Paul’s Gate.

Cleopatra's Gate in Tarsus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Biblical Archaeological Society info re: this site included in The Biblical World in Pictures states:

This stone gateway is the only one of Tarsus’s three Roman city gates that has survived and is one of the few remnants of the city Paul knew that has not been destroyed or buried under the modern city of Turkish Tersous. Tarsus was connected by the Cydnus River to the Mediterranean; this was the gate that led into the city from the river. It is called Cleopatra’s Gate, commemorating a state visit that Queen Cleopatra made to Tarsus on her royal barge while Marc Antony was there in 38 B.C.E.

Others suggest that while the gate would mark the location of the Roman Gate, that the better evidence is that the structure that is visible is Byzantine.

Click image for larger view.