Since chapter 16 we have been working towards the newness of life, from the cleanness of being in this world (and being sanctified by the Spirit) to being completely sanctified in New Creation (with new bodies). It is a strong reminder that Israel, then, could not have been the chosen race because of their merit – it was something they looked forward to. Canaan, to them, was a temporary place – representative of the renewed creation of New Jerusalem.
The previous two chapters referred to the importance of the Jewish feasts on an annual basis, and the next two work towards building up on this picture of holistic living, as a preparation for true kingdom living in new creation; as well as incorporated temporarily the aspects of looking forward to new creation where this forward-looking hope is erased in Zion when all things are fulfilled (Hebrews 11).
1. The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)
2. Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)
1. The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)
Lev 24:10-23 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, (11) and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. (12) And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them. (13) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, (14) “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. (15) And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. (16) Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
When we first read these verses, it is easy to skim over and conclude that they relate to blasphemy. In one sense, it is right to read it as such – but given today’s climate and interpretation of the word ‘blasphemy’, it is perhaps better to understand the actual Hebrew which seems to give it a much stronger tone (qalal – קלל – which literally means ‘to make lightly of’, but the figurative use of the Hebrew term is to despite and to curse). Given the context and the choice of the English translation, it seems to be inclined to the Hebrew figurative. This Egyptian-Israelite son is a blasphemer, a despiser, of the Name.
Before we move on to look at what this “Name” is, it is interesting to note the little detail about the child’s heritage. He is of Egyptian-Israelite heritage: there can be many implications made about this mixed heritage. Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry simply state the fundamental spiritual problem represented by the mixed heritage. Henry goes on to say that the incorporation of the Egyptians into Israel during the Exodus is a cause of much strife since Exodus 12:38.
However, I think Calvin marks the message best. We know from Genesis 12 that the LORD does not have essential problems against mixed-heritage marriage, so long as both are spiritual Israelites – so long as both are heart-circumcised. Indeed, a command to marry only Israelites, and not outsiders, is more a proclamation of singleness of identity and loyalty to the LORD – the very name “Israelite” is the same as saying, “I am a citizen of those whose God fights for them”. How can an outsider, a Canaanite, or Amorite, or Ninevite say the same thing? Their national identity preaches other truths (“Canaan” means humilitated).
Which is why the treatment of this Egyptian-Israelite child should not be different from anyone else. v.16 explains it well: whoever blasphemes the name; the sojourner as well as the native. The LORD does not actually differentiate between nations. He is not making a statement against Egyptians. He is saying that anyone who appears to be in the physical church will still be destroyed if they do not partake of the fruit of faith. Only the spiritual church will be taken up to the Holy of Holies, and the physical church like the rest of the world remain reprobate and judged.
On another level, his treatment of the Egyptian child is also a mark of the LORD’s acceptance of Egyptians fully into Israel and his expectation of the child to obey the laws of the land be he Israelite or not. Thus, physical lineage does not give us the privilege in itself; it is the national citizenry which we join as born-again Israelites and Gentiles which establishes that privilege. The LORD here is destroying he who took pride in the Exodus which the child clearly did not remember nor took seriously. His faith in Jesus was never true.
What is “the Name”? Let’s work backwards in the NT. Revelation 16:9 and 19:13 reveal that the blasphemy of this “name” will lead to people’s death. This “name” is revealed as the Word of God, as explained in John 1 as Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:13 is especially important:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
The Christians did not have a generic understanding of “the Name”, as if it referred to some monotheistic God of divine essence. The Christians viewed faith as a firm belief in the name of the SON of God, that you may know you have eternal life. 1 Peter 4:14 states that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God rests upon you which corresponds directly to James 5:10 who tells the Greek and Jewish NT readers to look at the OT Scripture and the OT saints who spoke in the name of the LORD. Which LORD was James speaking of? What name was James speaking of? Given Peter’s explanation that our persecutions are a result of bearing not just any “name”, but the name of CHRIST, the Son, James’ reference to the LORD is synonymous to that of Christ as well. Hebrews 1:4 – “the name” of Christ, generated from the Father, establishing his identity as far superior to that of angels. 2 Thess 1:12:
so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul had clear Trinitarian worship in 2 Thess 1:12. He refers that in his name we are glorified, according to the grace of our God (meaning the Father), and the Son. He understood that it is by the grace of the Father, and in Christ, that we are glorified through Christ (c.f. Ephesians 5:20). Philippians 2:10 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. One might ask – why would people profess another name in the OT, and why would God work under a different economy in the OT, if he intended to have people acknowledge the name of Christ in heaven, on earth, and under the earth? If God himself has such a Christological focus of the entire creation, even in heaven and under the earth beyond what we see, perceive and understand? The presupposition of exegesis, as we investigate the NT, shows that it must be Christological. That it MUST presume Christ as the focus of every Israelite’s faith in the OT, before proven otherwise (c.f. Romans 9:17; 10:13).
The Council of Jerusalem shows exactly the contention shown – the Jews had no idea who this “Name” is, and that is exactly the tension between them and the circumcised Christians who understand that salvation must come through a Trinitarian understanding, by calling on the Christ, and saved and glorified by the grace of the Father:
Act 5:40-42 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (41) Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (42) And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Note, however, that v.42 implies that the some in Israel understood the name as synonymous with the Christ. Many may not have understood the Christ to have come as God-man, but many did consider the Anointed One, the Seed, as the name on which they called.
Therefore, bringing us back to the Egyptian child – for him to blaspheme the Name is to blaspheme the very identity of the church of Christ. He is directly blaspheming, cursing, despising, the only mediator who should be acknowledged in the heavens, earth and under the earth.
(17) “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. (18 ) Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. (19) If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, (20) fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. (21) Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. (22) You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.” (23) So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
It may sound completely ironic that after the stoning and death of the Egyptian child, v. 17-22 is preached. However, remember that these passages relate to a tit-for-tat attitude of sin. A sin shall be repaid – a life for a life. However, what of the inevitable death of tens of thousands of billions of men and women who have died as a result of Adam’s inherited sin? That must be repaid by a mediator who is more than man – a mediator who is fully man and fully God. That is the cost of Christ’s death, and how absolutely wonderful and glorious it is! How little of the impact of the cross we know of! Thus, the proportionality of the punishment is reflected in the stoning prior to this commandment. It is as if Christ is saying that the stoning is completely appropriate and proportional to the blaspheming of the Name, and so it is, for who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who brings us the eyes of our hearts to Christ who not be saved (Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2).
2. Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)
Lev 25:1-55 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, (2) “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3) For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, (4) but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. (5) You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. (6) The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you, (7) and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.
Again, the very first command is not to sacrifice to the LORD; it is not to do ‘good works’. It is to simply keep a Sabbath to the LORD. But note the important distinction: the LAND shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. The model of work for six, then rest on seventh. Six days, seventh day rest. Six years, seventh year rest. We understand that this model of Sabbath is a continual reminder of the rest that we look forward to, that in new creation we will not work and toil in the same way as we do now. But this commandment relates to the LAND: for the LAND is also looking forward to its own redemption as symbolised through the Sabbath (Romans 8:18-25).
(8 ) “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. (9) Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. (10) And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. (11) That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. (12) For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you…
While we have looked at the theology of numerology to some extent by looking at the significance of the numbers 1-7 (according to the significance shown on day 1-6 of creation, day 7 of Sabbath rest and divinity, day 8 of new creation and first day of new week, number 12 as representative of governmental perfection (c.f. the 144,000 in the new city of Jerusalem = multiple of 12, perfection of Christian political order; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles). Here, the Israelites are asked to wait 49 years (7 x 7 years), the fullness of the Sabbath multiplied! The food is provided without any further need to work after the consecration of the 50th year. This is not the first time we consider the number 50 – the last time we saw this number is the commandment of the festival of Pentecost (23:15-22), simultaneous to the festival of harvest and as we know, the giving of the Spirit to both Jew and Gentile alike. The festival was also a time of communion and unity through harvest-sharing (23:22).
We understand that the trumpet points towards the victory of Christ, but why is it on the 10th of Tishri instead of 1st of Tishri? When the trumpet is normally blared on the 1st day of the Jewish civil year, it is a forward-looking action towards new creation. However, the 50th year, the year of the jubilee, marks the actual joining of the victory of Christ to the Day of Atonement. This is very important: if the trumpet signifies victory won, and the Day of Atonement signifies ascension, then the commandment to preach the victory won must be part and parcel with the ascension. The Jewish understanding of the Day of Atonement, again, must not be tied to an actual trust in the goat sacrifice; it is symbolic of Christ’s work! And, just as sure as Genesis 3:15 is preached, so the victory of Christ is something they look forward to but the LORD wants the Israelites to consider it as a victory already achieved.
There are a few things to note under this chapter:
(a) Redemption of the Land from the lessees to God
Lev 25:13-18 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. (14) And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. (15) You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. (16) If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. (17) You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God. (18 ) “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.
The verses state that for 49 years, the land may be leased to a fellow Israelite or sojourner, but it is freed in the 50th year to the owner. The next few verses continues on this theme of freedom:
Lev 25:25-28 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. (26) If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, (27) let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. (28 ) But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.
This theme is again shown in v.25-28, that even if the redeemer has insufficient means to recover the land, the buyer shall hold the consideration until the year of the jubilee where a return of the property will happen, regardless of the redeemer’s capability!
Lev 25:29-34 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. (30) If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. (31) But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. (32) As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. (33) And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. (34) But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.
The only difference shown here is a dwelling house in a walled city: with a right of redemption within a year of its sale, and shall keep forever it if it is not redeemed within a year. But every other land outside of the walled city is considered as “fields of the land” (v.31).
Contrarily, the priestly Levites have the privilege of redeeming the houses in the cities they possess at any time. These houses are their possession among the people of Israel; but the fields are their possession forever.
Some important things should be stated here – as we understand Canaan as representative of the spiritual Israel, the walled city is akin to the walled city of Revelation 21:12-19. Therefore, anything within the walled city can be kept forever if not redeemed. This perhaps implies an eschatological significance of the people of Israel no longer living in “the land” in tents, but living in walled cities built by the hands of God. The ownership in the walled city belongs to us and to Christ. This is why there is much privilege in being a Levite during the Mosaic law period, because of their typological significance as being like Christ. The Levites have the power of redeeming the houses in the city, and the fields that they own are in their possession forever.
The picture here is quite important: for every non-Israelite, there is much ‘exchanging’, from lessee back to owner. It is a picture of the land being redeemed to God, who is the true owner of the entire creation. But this picture is even clearer when we look at the Levites – only they can own the land forever. Only they can redeem the houses within the walled city at any time. This teaches us that for everyone who is a doulos, a slave, who is redeemed into Christ, is truly and forever owned by Christ. Only Christ can redeem us whenever and wherever, and when Christ redeems us, we are kept forever by his work on the cross (c.f. Romans 8:38 ). It is a picture of salvation from the LORD and kept by the LORD. True freedom is marked here by being joined to Christ; to follow Christ, who set us free to bear the cross — that is to gain true Christian freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).
(b) Debt management & slavery
Lev 25:35-55 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. (36) Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. (37) You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. (38 ) I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
This is a perfect picture of kingdom living: v. 38 is the justifying verse of the behaviour of v. 36-37. This is the type of holistic Christological lifestyle that should be conducting the actions of the Israelites and us Christians today. Why do we love our neighbours? Why do we love our brothers? Why do we love our enemies? It stems from the justification of v.38 – because He is faithful. Because he brought the detestable and complaining Israelites out of Egypt. The LORD did not ask anything from us as a contribution to salvation; so why would you ask your brother who becomes poor to return money at an interest? As this holistic living is built upon salvation already won, it is not holistic living to gain the LORD’s approval. It is how the LORD wants us to live by pondering our salvation in hindsight, and not to fight for our own salvation.
(39) “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: (40) he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. (41) Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. (42) For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. (43) You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. (44) As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. (45) You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. (46) You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly. (47) “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, (48 ) then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, (49) or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. (50) He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired servant. (51) If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. (52) If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. (53) He shall treat him as a servant hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. (54) And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. (55) For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Again, v. 55 is the justifying verse for the jubilee redemption of the slaves and servants. They are to look back on the Exodus as their salvation gained, so they can live holistically. There is a refrain in this part of chapter 25: The Israelite “shall not rule over (the servant/slave) ruthlessly” – the reason being v.55. The servant/slave shall serve the Israelite until the year of jubilee. Because of v. 55 – because we are the redeemed slaves of God – we are the LORD’s servant. Paul’s statement is clear in Galatians 1:10 – doulos, literally meaning slave, of Christ. v.47-55 sees the LORD maintaining national purity and integrity, requiring the relative of a slave to redeem him/her if the slave is subjected to a “stranger’s clan”. These verses show the importance of familial redemption, and again, these verses find their meaning in v.55, and the year of the jubilee is the year of full redemption, whether the money is paid for the slave or not.
However, what of a pagan slave? He will surely be ‘released’ back to his pagan owner! It is not clearly stated here, but Deuteronomy 23:15-16 implies that refuge is not found in his pagan master! Rather, refuge is found within the land of Israel, and the pagan slave shall find his identity within Israel. The year of the jubilee therefore is a year where he is free, and will enjoy his freedom in attachment to the LORD who set him free. The 7th years described in Exodus 21:1-4, and the jubilees, are all indicative of this inevitable redemption which is all justified from the great Exodus. The book of Leviticus is not one of holistic living in a vacuum; and these chapters display that the work of the Exodus is not isolated either: it is tied very much to the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the new kingdom living as a result of salvation won. The jubilee is merely a mock-representation of the great future Jubilee starting from the true Day of Atonement, the spiritual 10th of Tishri that we are all looking forward to. However, are we merely going to wait for it, and not bring the reality of this new kingdom living now, by the power of the Spirit? Let us continue to live as the Redeemed, and bring more strange clans and outsiders into the spiritual church of Israel so they, too, and live as the Redeemed and fight the slavery outside of Christ, for Christ alone gives us freedom in our slavery to His Name.