Leviticus: An Economic Commentary
The Book of Leviticus is a foreboding book for most readers. The first seven chapters deal with five sacrifices, none of which survived beyond the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Why should the modern reader immerse himself in all that detail?
Other parts of the book are filled with laws of cleanliness. Then there are the incredibly detailed dietary laws. Are all these laws still binding or not? Most churches think not.
Then of what relevance is this difficult book? The church has long answered: "Not much." So, it has remained a closed book for most Christians.
This is a mistake. The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Pentateuch, the book of the moral law. It is also the book of the holy land, i.e., private property. The Book of Leviticus sets forth the fundamental economic principle of ownership: God first, then those to whom He has delegated subordinate ownership.
For example, consider Leviticus 19:15. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor." This verse provides God's people with two crucial principles, one economic and one judicial.
The economic principle affirms the legitimacy of inequality. The judicial principle affirms the local court system. These two principles-inequality and judicial locialism-are fundamental for the creation of a free society. Modern socialism and its supposed replacement, the much-heralded bureaucratic New World Order, are equally hostile to such a view of civil law.
Or consider the jubilee law (Lev. 25). All rural land was supposed to be returned to the original families twice each century. Does this law legitimize a system of government-mandated wealth redistribution? Liberation theologians say it does. Does it authorize a government-mandated debt repudiation law in order to head off another Great Depression? A lot of conservative Christians say it does. Are both sides rights? Or neither?
The economic law of Leviticus are neglected at our peril. But which ones? Not all of them are still in force. Leviticus: An Economic Commentary identifies which ones are, and provides a principle of biblical interpretation to prove it.
We cannot understand ancient Israel if we do not understand how the Book of Leviticus applied-or was supposed to apply-under the Mosaic economy. We cannot fully understand the inheritance God has provided the church (Matt. 21:43) if we do not understand Leviticus.
It is time for Christians to take Leviticus seriously. But they must understand it first. Leviticus: An Economic Commentary recovers may long-forgotten and long-ignored portions of this, the most closed book of the Bible.
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