COVENANT AND THE ELECTION OF ISRAEL
Marriage, enslavement (= vassal relationship) and adoption representing not the relationship between God and Israel which was formalized by Covenant and . We further learn about the nature of God's love for Israel, described also in particularly to those that formalize a relationship of mutual benefit. This partnership began when God delegated to Adam the right to name the based upon a formalized relationship between man and God until God covenanted.
The story about their journey to the Promised Land resumes only in the latter half of Numbers. There are a few chapters containing narrative of events, but it has no continuous story line. The Exodus to the Monarchy fire of Yhwh consumed their offerings 9. Within the latter is found the only remaining narrative, a description of a situation when someone blasphemed the name of Yhwh.
The book concludes with a discourse on religious vows The early chapters of Numbers detail the organization of the Israelite camp. A test for female marital faithfulness was established 5 and regulations for Nazirite vows given 6. The tabernacle was dedicated 7the Levites were purified for tabernacle duty 8and the Passover was celebrated 9. The Israelites packed up and left Mount Sinai to resume their travels When they complained about their diet, God sent quail When Miriam complained about Moses, she was infected with leprosy After more laws of sacrifice 15Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled and were executed Israel resumed its journey by avoiding Edom but destroyed many other opponents Then some Israelites slept with cult prostitutes 25and this was not a good thing.
Yet a little bit of it will enable us to appreciate its level of specificity and the basic concerns of the Levitical laws. This is basic to kosher food laws. Numbers resumes the narrative of events. Here you will also find one of the most unbelievable stories in the Bible, the tale of Balaam and his talking donkey.
There are two general concerns in these episodes. The first is resolving the structures of leadership, especially which tribe has charge of sacred matters, which clan and family of that tribe has the most sacred responsibilities, and which person would lead them on their journey.
The second is the issue of survival in the wilderness. How do the people manage under difficult conditions, what would they learn from their experience, and what does it tell them about their God? As you read the story, note which episodes fall into which of these general categories.
Most of Leviticus is devoted to ritual legislation and cultic rules. Most readers think it is boring; after all, it deals with rules for sacrifices, worship, priests, and purity. Most of these rules are not followed today by any religious community, Jewish or Christian, so what could be less interesting or relevant? Leviticus deals with a fundamental human question: Put another way, how can an infinitely superior being come to be near seriously flawed people? But given the highly detailed and, to our minds, monotonous nature of the priestly legislation, it is easy to get lost in minutiae.
An overall framework would be useful for comprehending the meaning of the purity and holiness laws. In this view, Leviticus, along with the rest of the Priestly Code, employs a distinctive way of looking at the world in relation to God. Deviations from normalcy were classified as unclean. Rituals provided the means to move from abnormality to normality. Everything in the world is graded in holiness in relation to Yhwh. The result is that everything has a set place in the divine order, and everything derives its meaning from its relationship to God.
The dilemma facing the Israelites was how a perfectly holy and righteous deity could be in direct contact with sinful people. In essence, the solution is that the Israelites must become a holy people, sometimes also called a holy nation.
The terms that are critical to this worldview and that need explanation are holy and cleanand their opposites, profane and unclean. According to Leviticus Holy and holiness are notions that apply first of all to deity because deity is inherently and naturally different from humanity; in other words, deity is totally other.
Because deity is so different from humanity, especially in regard to power and wholeness, humans need to respect divine otherness and live in awe of God.
Although the analogy is woefully inadequate, the awesomeness of God is like the awe ordinary citizens might feel in the presence of a president or prime minister, or more likely, a sports superstar, renowned actor, or famed musician. On the other hand, profane related to the word profanity applies to a behavior that treats holy things in a disrespectful or shameful manner.
Profane is a verb, and its opposite is sanctify in Hebrew, sanctify, holy, and holiness all come from the same root word. For the Israelites, to become holy they needed to refrain from sin and stay away from uncleanness.
In the priestly worldview, sin was closely associated with uncleanness. Genesis anticipates this special bond between God and Israel with the divine promises made to the patriarchs.
These promises move to their dramatic fulfillment with the exodus from Egypt and the encampment at Sinai, where God enters into a solemn covenant Writ with the people and provides them with instructions, statutes, and judgments.
Deuteronomy spells out the implications of the covenant for future generations; and finally, Joshua marks the fulfillment of the promise to Israel 's ancestors and the renewal of the covenant in the Promised Land.
Chapter 4. Leviticus and Numbers
Of all the peoples in the ancient Near East, only Israel seems to have viewed its relationship with a deity as covenanted. Since covenants generally played an important role in the political and social life of the ancient world, this may appear surprising.
A covenant might serve as a treaty between nations, such as that between Israel and the Gibeonites Josh. It could assume the form of a land grant, as in the patriarchal stories e.
A covenant could also define relationships that were not primarily legal, such as the friendship of David and Jonathan 1 Sam. In such cases, it formalized the relationship, lending it an enduring quality and adding a sense of commitment and obligation that had not been there before.
Generally, a covenant clarified a relationship, spelled out the nature of the obligations that flowed from it, and sealed it with a religious rite or symbolic affirmation at a shrine e. Law codes sanctified by a covenant between a god and a "chosen" king existed in the earlier Sumerian and Old Babylonian traditions.
What was new at Sinai was not the linkage of covenant with law giving, but the entry of disparate clans into a covenant with God, which welded them into a people united by a system of laws. Israel 's God transcended the forces of nature and thus had no need for worshipers to wait in attendance or assist in preserving the order of a world constantly threatened by the forces of chaos.
The function of the covenant, then, was to define the people's exclusive relationship to God and to institutionalize the paramount nature of God's rule. This is given expression in the first two statements of the Decalogue, which also define the relationship as personal, one in which God has a special interest. The Decalogue's use of the term "kana," which literally means "jealous," is an instructive characterization of God.
The term clearly intends to convey that God considers it a personal betrayal for Israel to turn to other gods. The Sinai covenant did not follow either the model of the Hittite treaties of the 14th century B. It did not contain the language of the land grants associated with the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants, because it was not a land grant. The covenant was unique: It called for a response from the people, who were to be "a kingdom of priests," "a holy nation" Exod.
They accepted God's charge, participating in an elaborate rite to seal their agreement Exod. God undertook to dwell among them and to give them the land promised to their ancestors, providing that they carried out their part of the agreement.
This differed from the covenant entered into with Abraham Gen. The most detailed presentation of the covenant between God and Israel is found in the Book of Deuteronomy, which almost precisely follows the form of neo-Assyrian vassal treaties, such as the one of Esarhaddon B. Presumably, the authors of Deuteronomy spelled out God's original covenant with Israel in the explicit, carefully structured form devised by the Assyrians to emphasize that God-not the Assyrian king-is sovereign over IsraeL The early belief that God had entered into a covenant with the Israelites' ancestors did not allow the establishment of the monarchy in the 11th century B.
The people ultimately did accept the notion of a covenant between God and the house of David, but this covenant was limited by the requirements of the divine law cf. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the actions of the prophets.
Samuel is depicted as remonstrating with Saul, the first king of Israel: Prophets, viewed as the messengers of God, did not hesitate to speak the truth to reigning monarchs, who accepted their harsh pronouncements.
This is indicated by the messages of doom pronounced against David by Nathan in the wake of the Bathsheba outrage 2 Sam. The prophets, however, did more than take kings and princes to task for violating the law of God. They insisted that the covenant was binding both on the people as a whole and on each individual Israelite as a responsible member of the community. Each of them shared equally in both the obligations and the privileges of the b'rit.
This is stated dramatically in Deuteronomy 5: