The names of the Biblical books are of interest. In the Hebrew bible, the first word of the book became the name. Genesis is “Beroshit” which means “In the beginning.” The English names for the first five books are derived from the Latin translation of the Bible.
Genesis is about Beginnings – the beginning of the Heavens and the Earth, of the human race, of sin and of the story of restoration as Abraham and Sarah are chosen.
Exodus is the story of the Children of Israel leaving the bondage in Egypt. It also contains many laws and the details of the place of worship.
Leviticus pertains the the concerns of the Levites and the priests who presided over the worship in the Tabernacle, so there are many details about sacrifices.
Numbers contains a lot of census information about the tribes of Israel, as well as several events during the wilderness wanderings.
Deuteronomy means “second law” because the Laws found in Exodus are restated for the generation that would enter the Promised Land after the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Here is the March 2008 Fresh Read Schelule.
Leviticus 19 contains variations of the phrase “I am the LORD” 16 times. R. K. Harrison divides the ethical teachings into 16 paragraphs based on that phrase. The first 4 (v 2-10) are primarily religious, the second 4 (v. 11-18) are about treating your neighbor rightly, and the third set of 8 (v. 19-37) are miscellaneous.
First observation is that there is some similarity with the 10 Commandments, though the order is not followed (See Exodus 20). Another is that these precepts are much like the 30 sayings of the Wise found in Proverbs 22:17-24:30.
but what is most interesting is that we find the Second Greatest Commandment (cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:34ff) here in Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
So love, an attitude and actions, for which neither is enough without the other, is commanded for the neighbor.
And should we think that our neighbor is only the person who is enough like me to live where I live, and not those others, glance down to Lev 19:34
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
So there is a command to love your neighbor, who is like you, as well as the Alien, those who have moved here from other places, as well as the Sojourner, that is the person who is passing through or taking refuge in your land.
Luke 11:25ff records a discussion between Jesus and an expert in the scriptures. As they discuss the question of “Who is my neighbor?” The expert would like that to be a limited category – the people like me. Jesus applied it to the Samaritan – and went further and showed that this foreigner was more abiding by the law, by showing mercy, than the expert in the law before him.
It raises a question for Christians about aliens, immigrants and illegals who live among us. Who are we to love? and How?
In most Read the Bible plans, the ship runs aground on the two books of Leviticus and Numbers.
Leviticus is a sort of worship manual for the Tabernacle. Our best advice is to read lightly – don’t get bogged down if you find that this is difficult. but do take note. Ask yourself why is this necessary? Why is there a “fellowship offering” that involves a sort of picnic? (ch 7) Why is the 2nd greatest commandment found here? (19:18) What is the point of the two goats on the Day of Atonement? (ch 16)
Numbers contains a lot of genealogy and census data. There are also some interesting stories: the talking donkey (ch 22), the bronze serpent (21), where worship lived among the people (2:17), and others.
So remember this is a “guilt free” reading. Skim or skip if you must, but do at leach touch on the text in these books.
Fresh Read ponders the significance of the cross here.
Reading Exodus brings you to the details of the Tabernacle, the place of Worship for Israel. One is struck by the elaborate details all through the reading. Great care is taken with the layout of the tabernacle, the various pieces of furniture placed in it, the robes and ornaments of the priests, the incense and so forth. To the 21st century reader it is nearly oppressive. You find yourself asking, “Is all this necessary?”
But notice the contrast between the worship that the people made up for themselves in Exodus 32. Moses was away on the Mountain and the people were restless. So Aaron asks for their gold jewelry, tosses it in the fire and out comes a golden calf. (or that is what he later tries to say to Moses). This is your god, he says, who brought you here. And the people are overjoyed to have a god they can see, so they rise up in celebration and in sensual enjoyment.
Then follows about 8 chapters of details on the tabernacle. God remains invisible, though there are symbols with meaning all around (light, bread, incense, gems, curtains, bells and so forth). Only the appointed priest can enter the place of God’s presence, and only with great preparations of sacrifice, washing and robing.
One lesson must be that our “spontaneous” worship lacks something. when we say, “I can worship God by taking a hike or paddling my canoe through nature, not when I go to church.” That is true to a degree, but do we learn something in church (confession, assurance, adoration, sermon, communion, prayer) that is lacking when we are left to our own?
Also, Aaron who made the golden calf is also the first priest. How could that happen? Perhaps the point of it all is mercy.