Why Leviticus?

When she heard we had been questioned about our choice of books for translation, a friend wrote about her own experience:

Last year, my son, feeling perhaps  revengeful because of the extra Japanese homework I had given him, suddenly said to me, “I dare you to read Leviticus—in Japanese! Wahahaahahaha!!”  Purely to meet my son’s challenge, I set out to –gulp–get through the book of Leviticus in Japanese. I didn’t expect much from it, but ended up with a treasure.  Here’s what I picked up.

1. Details MATTER

Details matter to God.  Leviticus is almost painfully detailed. There’s always temptations to do less than the best when, if we meticulously do our best, people might not even notice or care.  But in Leviticus I get the picture of God with a magnifying glass inspecting our lives up close, and labeling what he finds for three categories:  a)dirty  b) clean / common , and c) HOLY.  I don’t want to fudge on any work done for God–he asks for my best.

2. Domestic life matters hugely

Domestic details matter to God. I did not calculate exact distribution, but of all the regulations in Leviticus, it seems to me  that a majority of the book is directly concerned with domestic life:  Keeping the body clean and disease-free, and the food clean, and the house clean —  why, not only does God notice all the monotonous, repetitive, neverending tasks of keeping bodies, house, and food clean, he really cares about these details or he would not have devoted so much of the torah to it. Wait, if details + domestic life matters so much to God, why that means —

3. Women’s work matters to God!

Domestic life is often women’s work–certainly this woman’s work.
As a housewife I was going through a “nothing I do matters” phase, and “even if I clean it well, it’ll soon be dirty again” complaints. It dawned on me half way through Leviticus that God was totally interested in all this unseen, forgetable, repetitive work I do to keep us clean and healthy.  He himself ordered such meticulous work!  Because people matter, and people’s well being matters. And God says through this book that my family is worth all this extra care. Even if no one thanks me, I can know that this stuff is important to God.  I had not expected to feel so validated by the book of Leviticus!

(Am I correct in my impression that Leviticus speaks more of what’s going on inside the house than outside? other than temple instructions maybe.)

oops, I’m falling asleep at the computer, so I leave more un-expounded upon for now. Until I can steal a moment again to finish this email, just be encouraged because Leviticus is full of blessing.

Love, A.


About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
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