Leviticus Fr Jerry
The Law Codes in the Pentateuch
We can distinguish several law codes embedded in the books of the Pentateuch and in this chapter we see all the main biblical law codes in the Pentateuch as a prelude to a detailed study of the biblical books later. The law codes in the Bible have been influenced by the non-biblical law codes of the Ancient Near East
to varying degrees. Some of the biblical law codes are composed and presented on the model of the Hittite
Assyrian vassal treaties. Hence we shall try to get some idea about them in this chapter.
Law Codes in the Pentateuch Non-Biblical Law Codes
- Covenant Code - The Sumerian Code of Ur
(Ex 20, 22 – 23, 19) Nammu (2112-2095 BC)
- Holiness Code (Lev 17 – 26) - Bilalama (Eshnunna) Code (1930 BC)
- Deuteronomic Law Code - Lipit-Ishtar Code (1864-1854 BC)
(Deut 12 – 26)
- Priestly Code
- The Code of Hammurabi
Ex 12: 1-27; 13: 1-16;
18 – 19; 27 – 30; 35 – 36 (1728-1686 BC)
- Ethical Decalogue - Hittite Laws (1400-1200 BC)
(Ex 20 & Deut 5)
- Ritual Decalogue (Ex 34) - Middle Assyrian Laws (1114-1076 BC)
- Levitical Decalogue (Lev 19) - Neo-Babylonian Laws (626-539 BC)
1.Non-Biblical Law Codes
Here we look at the various non-biblical law codes of the Ancient Near East. A comparative study will bring to light many biblical laws that are similar to the laws in these non-Israelite law codes. These have influenced the biblical law codes.
1.1. The Sumerian Code of UrNammu
Ur Nammu (2112-2095 BC) was the founding ruler of the 3rd of Ur in Mesopotamia. Many of the literary compositions of this period have not come to us except copies of the same produced in scribal schools centuries later. The laws of UrNammu have been translated and are published in the ANET pp. 523-528.
1.2 Bilalama Code /Laws of Eshnunna
It is known in both names and the laws are now available to us in the ANET pp. 161-163. Among the 59 laws in this code that are legible, some of them are noteworthy and interesting. A few examples:
Law 11: “The wages of a hired man are 1 shekel of silver; his provender (food) is 1 pan of barley. He shall work for one month.”
Law 59: “If a man divorces his wife after having made her bear children and takes another wife, he shall be driven from his house and from whatever he owns and he may go after him who will accept him.”
This last law seems a strict one discouraging divorces. As a whole this law code contains rules and regulations regarding wages, slaves, loans, marriage and other sex relations, causing damages, etc. Some of the laws in it seem to have had influence on the laws that existed among the Israelites.
1.3 Lipit-Ishtar Code
It consists of 3 main sections: a prologue, the code of laws, and the epilogue. 'I'he text is corrupt in some places and hence the whole text is incomprehensible. King Lipit-Ishtar was the 5th ruler of the Dynasty of Isin and it is said in the prologue that he established justice in Sumer and Akkad and freed the sons and daughters of Sumer and Akkad from slavery. The first part of the legal code is almost lost and in its second part we see laws regarding hiring of boats (laws 7-11); slaves and servants (laws 12-17); defaulting of taxes (laws 18-19); inheritance and marriage (laws 20-33); rented oxen (laws 34-37). The text of the epilogue also is corrupt and hence it is not fully readable. The law on taking a second wife seems to be lighter in this code. For example, law 28 says, “If a man has turned his face away from his first-wife ... (but) she has not gone out of the (house), his wife whom he married as hisfavourite is a second wife; he shall continue to support his firstwife.”
1.4 The Code of Hammurabi
King Hammurabi (1728-1686 BC: different scholars give different dates) was the 6th of the eleven rulers of the old Babylonian dynasty and he ruled for 43 years. It seems that the code known in his name was promulgated in the beginning of his reign. It is presented as if Hammurabi is writing the law code at the behest of the god of justice, the sun-god Shamash. The code of Hammurabi is a treatise on legal theory, political science and social organisation. King Hammurabi promulgated this legal code enunciating the moral values which his government would insist on. An ancient copy of this code was discovered by French archaeologists at Susa (on the border between Iraq and Iran). The text was inscribed in cuneiform on an eight foot pillar of black rock and this precious piece of legal document is now kept in the LouvreMuseum in Paris. This Code has 282 case laws and each case law has two parts: a dependent clause introduced by the conjunction “if”; and a main clause introduced by the adverb “then” which imposes a punishment.
The Decalogue and the precepts of the Code of the Covenant are not something original to be found only in the Bible. There were other forms of law codes in the Ancient Near East. The most famous of them all is the Code of Hammurabi. Parallels to the Code of Hammurabi in the Bible are
- the Covenant Code (Ex 20 – 23),
- the Holiness Code (Lev 17 – 26)
- and the Deuteronomic Code (Deut 12 – 26).
The Code of Hammurabi is probably the most ancient law code that has come down to us in good shape and it seems that this code has influenced the biblical law codes.
The Code of Hammurabi with Biblical Parallels
Art. 1: If one citizen charges another with murder, but has no evidence, then the sentence is death.
Ex 23, 1-3; Deut 19, 16-19
Art 3: If a citizen commits perjury before the city assembly in a case involving the death penalty, then the sentence is death.
Deut 9, 18b-19
Art. 5: If a judge accepts a bribe to render and seal a decision, then the judge is fined 12 times the settlement ordered in the decision, is expelled from the bench, and cannot serve as a judge again.
Ex 23, 6-8; Lev 19, 15; Deut 16, 19
Art 14: If a citizen kidnaps and sells a member of another citizen’s household into slavery, then sentence is death.
Ex 21, 16; Deut 24, 7
Art 21: If one citizen tunnels through the wall of another’s house and robs it, then the citizen is sentenced to death. The execution shall take place outside the tunnel, and the body used to fill in the tunnel.
Ex 22, 2a
Art 24: If a murderer is not caught, then a fine of 18 ounces of silver is paid to the household of the victim.
Deut 21, 1-9
Art 195: If a citizen strikes his father, then his hand is to be cut off.
Ex 21, 15
Art 196: If a citizen blinds an eye of an official, then his eye is to be blinded.
Ex 21, 23-25
Art 197: If a citizen breaks a bone of another, then his own bone is to be broken.
Ex 21, 23-25
Art 198: If a citizen blinds the eye or breaks the bone of someone who is not a citizen, the fine is 18 ounces of silver.
Ex 21, 26-27
Art 199: If one citizen blinds the eye or breaks the bone of another citizen's slave, the fine is one-half the price of the slave.
Ex 21, 26; Lev 24, 19-20; Deut 19, 21
Art 266: If an act of God occurs in a sheepfold or a lion makes a kill, then the shepherd must take an oath of innocence before his divine patron, and turn the remains of the animal over to its owner.
Gen 31, 39; Ex 22, 10-13
As Christians took the Decalogue as the basis for their moral instruction, the Jews slowly reduced giving prominence to it. When they gave shape to their vast legal system in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, only minimal importance was given to the Decalogue. It is clear from the fact that Mishnah
refers to it only twice. They gave importance to the 613 Jewish Commandments (cf. below).
Two tablets of the ancient Hittite laws have come down to us and it is believed that there was possibly a third one existing. The 2 tablets contain 100 laws each and no prologue or epilogue is added to them. Some examples of Hittite laws:
Law 1: “If anyone kills a man or woman in a quarrel, he shall be declared liable for him/her. He shall give four persons, man or woman, and pledge his estate as security.”
Law 188: “If a man does evil with a sheep, it is a capital crime...”
We have similar laws in Lev 18, 23 and 20, 15-16.
Law 189: “If a man violates his mother, it is capital crime. If a man violates his daughter, it is a capital crime...”
There are very similar laws in the Bible (cf. Lev 18, 6-20; 20, 10-21).
Law 193: “If a man has a wife and then the man dies, his brother shall take his wife, then his father shall take her. If in turn also his father dies, one of his brother’s sons shall take the wife whom he had. There shall be no punishment.”
We have almost the same law in Deut 25, 5-l0 and it is known as the Levirate law.
Many of the laws are about harm inflicted on others and the compensation or punishment for the same. There are also several laws regarding slaves, their possession, escape and return, marriage, etc. A number of laws are about stealing and punishment for the same.
1.6 Neo-Babylonian Laws
Ancient Babylonian laws from the Neo-Babylonian period have come down to us on a tablet and now it is preserved in the British Museum. This tablet originally had contained 19 laws, but only nine of them have been preserved. Many of the laws that are preserved are regulations regarding marriage customs (ANET pp. 197-198).
Before we discuss God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai let us have a look into the other forms of ancient treaties. Mainly there were two types of covenants: parity and vassal treaty. We see these forms of covenants among Hittites and Assyrians.
2. Ancient Covenants and Treaties
Mainly there were 2 covenant forms among the peoples of the Ancient Near East. They entered into two kinds of treaties in general: parity treaties and vassal treaties. Parity treaties were between equals while vassal treaties were between vassals and overlords.
2.1 Parity and Vassal (= dependent landholder in feudal society) Treaties
-neither can enforce the other to carry out obligations
-overlord will protect his vassal
-a series of demands that the the vassal had to fulfil
2.2 Hittite and Assyrian Treaties
Among the ancient vassal treaties of the Ancient Near East we find two prominent ones: the Hittite (ANET pp. 531-541) and the Assyrian treaties. We shall see now the main features of the Hittite and Assyrian vassal treaty forms.
Features of the early Hittite forms of vassal treaty:
i. Preamble (name and title of the overlord)
ii. Historical Prologue (reasons why the vassal should obey his overlord: past good acts of the overlord towards the vassal)
iii. Stipulations and demands (which were binding on the vassal)
iv. Public reading of the treaty at a set time and depositing it in a temple
v. List of witnesses (usually gods)
vi. Curses and blessings: blessings were promised if the the vassal fulfilled his obligations and curses if he failed.
Features of the Assyrian vassal treaty (7th century BC)
i. It is similar in many ways to the Hittite treaties.
ii. It lacks elaborate preamble and prologue.
iii. It has longer lists of curses and exotic punishments.
3. Law Codes in the Pentateuch
3.1 Covenant Code (Ex 20, 22 -23, 19)
This law code is also known as the Book of the Covenant. It is a collection of biblical laws found in chs 20 - 23 of the book of Exodus. There is some difference of opinion among scholars regarding the extent of this code. Some fix it as Ex 20, 22 - 23, 19 whereas others take it to be Ex 20, 22 - 23, 33. According to the former, the covenant code ends with the instruction in 23, 19 which says, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” The next verse (v. 22) is about God sending an angel to them in order to guard them on the way and hence it is not part of the covenant code. The ritual Decalogue in Ex 34 also ends with the same instruction (cf. 34, 26b).
It is accepted among scholars today that the Covenant Code was not part of the Sinai tradition. Scholars divide the Covenant Code into four parts:
Prologue (Ex 20, 22-26);
Part I (Ex 21, 1 - 22, 17);
Part II (Ex 22, 18 - 23, 9);
Epilogue (Ex 23, 10-19).
It contains 54 laws according to the rabbinic tradition.
The Prologue (Ex 20, 22-26) contains four cultic laws:
1) Do not make idols of silver and gold (Ex 20, 23).
2) Make an altar of earth and offer sacrifices on it (20, 24).
3) An altar of stone is permitted if it is not made of hewn stone (20, 25).
4) Do not go up to the altar by steps (20, 26).
Part I (Ex 21, 1 - 22, 17) has 22 laws in it which are mostly casuistic, i.e. case laws or conditional laws. Casuistic laws are those that use the words “when” and “if”. These laws are not regarding cultic matters but are civil and secular in content. In these laws there is no voice of Yahweh. It is most probable that these laws were not formulated by cultic priests but rather by civic leaders and lawyers. We may mention below the 22 laws in this section:
1) Buying a Hebrew slave and his/her freedom in the 7th year (Ex 21, 2-6).
2) Selling a daughter as slave (21, 7-11).
3) Capital punishment for pre-meditated murder (21, 12-14).
4) Capital punishment to those who strike their parents (21, 15). Not casuistic but apodictic (cf. below).
5) Capital punishment for kidnapper (21, 16). Apodictic.
6) Capital punishment for those who curse their parents (21, 17).
7) Paying remuneration to the one on whom some injury is inflicted (21, 18-19).
8) Punishment for the immediate murder of a slave (21, 20-21).
9) Fine for causing miscarriage (21, 22). “Lex talionis” or the law of retaliation (21, 23-24). Also Lev 24, 20; Deut 19, 21.
10) The slaves cannot make use of the law of retaliation; instead they will be given freedom as a result of losing an eye or a tooth (21, 26-27).
11) An ox killing a free person will be stoned to death. The owner of the ox would be guilty and put to death only if he was already warned about his dangerous ox (21, 28-32). But if an ox kills a slave, then the punishment to its owner is only a fine of 30 shekels to the master of the slave.
12) Remuneration for an animal killed falling into a pit kept open (21, 33-34).
13) Remuneration for an ox killing another (21, 35-36).
14) Punishment for stealing an ox or a sheep (22, 1-2).
15) No bloodguilt for killing a thief at night (22, 2b).
16) Restitution for one’s animals eating up another's crops (22, 5).
17) Restitution for causing damage or loss by fire (22, 6).
18) Action to be taken when a thing given for safe keeping is stolen or has disappeared (22, 7-8).
19) Deciding the disputed ownership (22, 9).
20) Restitution for the loss of animals given for safe keeping (22, 10-13).
21) Restitution for the loss of a borrowed animal (22, 14).
22) Dealing with the cases of seducing virgins (22, 16-17).
Part II (Ex 22, 18 - 23, 9) contains 20 laws in it. They are apodictic or unconditional laws and there is no use of “when” or “if” in these laws. Several of them are presented as words of God. There are also words of moral encouragement added to the apodictic laws. The twenty apodictic laws in this section are:
1) Punishment of death to sorceresses (Ex 22, 18).
2) Capital punishment to those who have sexual relationship with beasts (22, 19).
3) Punishment of destruction to Israelites who offer sacrifices to other gods (22, 20).
4) Do not oppress a stranger (22, 21).
5) Do no afflict a widow or an orphan (22, 22-24).
6) Do not take interest on money lent to the poor (22, 25).
7) Restore a garment taken in pledge (22, 26-27).
8) Do not revile God or a ruler (22, 28).
9) Do not delay the offerings from your harvest to the Lord (22, 29a).
10) The first-born of their sons, oxen and sheep are offered to the Lord (22, 29b-30).
11) Do not eat any flesh torn by beasts (22, 31).
12) Do not give false report or malicious witness (23, 1).
13) Do not pervert justice siding with a multitude and do not be partial in a lawsuit (23, 2-3).
14) Bring to your enemy his ox or donkey that you find as gone astray (23, 4).
15) Help the one who hates you to lift up his ass lying under its burden (23, 5).
16) Do not pervert justice to the poor in their lawsuit (23, 6).
17) Keep away from false charges (23, 7a).
18) Do not slay the innocent and righteous (23, 7b).
19) Do not take any bribe (23,
20) Do not oppress a stranger (23, 9).
The Epilogue (Ex 23, l0-19) has 8 laws:
1) Do not cultivate the land every 7th year leaving it free for the poor and the beasts (Ex 23, 10-11).
2) Observe the Sabbath Day (23, 12).
3) Do not invoke the names of other gods (23, 13).
4) Observe the three pilgrimage feasts: the feast of unleavened bread; the feast of harvest; and the feast of ingathering (23, 14-16).
5) All males should appear before the Lord 3 times a year, i.e. during the pilgrimage feasts (23, 17).
6) Do not offer blood with leavened bread (23, 18).
7) Bring the first fruits into the house of the Lord (23, 19a).
8) Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (23, 19b).
3.2 Holiness Code (Lev 17 - 26)
According to many scholars, probably this section once existed independently as a law code. There is no agreement among scholars regarding the origin of this code. Some scholars argue for its exilic origin while others argue for a preexilic origin, probably during Josiah’s time. The name ‘Holiness Code’ was given to chs 17 - 26 of Leviticus by August Klosterman in 1877 and Julius Wellhausen supported it maintaining that Lev 17 - 26 occupied a unique position in the whole P document.
The name ‘Holiness Code’ was given to this section because of its invitation to imitate the holiness of God: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19, 2; 20, 26). This invitation to imitate the holiness of Yahweh is not unique to chs 17-26. It is already found in Lev 11, 44-45. Hence the argument based on Lev 19, 2; 20, 26 may not be fully convincing. There is a list of 161 individual laws in the Holiness Code.
3.3 Deuteronomic Law Code (Deut 12 - 26)
It is believed that this code or its earlier form before its enlargement was the scroll that was found in the treasury of the temple in 622 BC during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22, 8-l0). It was read before the king and hearing its words he rent his clothes. It produced a profound change in the king and it gave rise to the Deuteronomistic reform movement (2 Kings 23). The Deuteronomic Law Code was probably the product of the Deuteronomic circle and that which we have today is the enlarged and edited version of an originally smaller code. In the Deuteronomic Code Moses is often the speaker and God is quoted a few times. This code insists on the centralisation of the worship of Yahweh in one place (Deut 12, 5-7.11-14.18.26). It is against the regulation in the Covenant Code which allowed multiple altars and worshipping places (Ex 20, 24). Similarly the Deuteronomic Code permits secular slaughter anywhere in Israel (Deut 12, 15. 20-22) while the Holiness Code bans all secular slaughters (Lev 17).
There is difference of opinion with regard to the laws in this code. According to the Jewish tradition, there are 174 laws in this code while according to Christian commentators there are 78 or 127. Although the name ‘Deuteronomy’ means ‘second law’, this code repeats only 19 laws from the Covenant Code.
Scholars highlight some special features of the Deuteronomic Code. They are: emphasis on the centralisation of the worship of Yahweh in one place (Deut 12, 5-7; 16, 2.11.15); hortatory (= strongly advising a course of action to somebody) additions explaining the reason for the law and encouraging its observance – for example, to encourage the release of the slaves in the sabbatical year the Deuteronomic Code gives a horatatory addition in 15, 18; rules of holy war (Deut 20, 1-20; 23, 9-14), etc.
3.4 Priestly Code
Besides the Covenant Code, the Holiness Code and the Deuteronomic Code which form the various law codes of the Pentateuch, the Priestly Code is different from all the other codes precisely because the laws of this code are not found together in one place but are scattered throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers:
- 21 laws of the Priestly Code are found in Ex 12 -16 concerning the celebration of the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
- 19 laws are in chs 23 - 35 of Exodus deal with the construction of the tabernacle
- 71 laws are given in Lev 1 – 16 deal with sacrifices, ordination of priests, purity and dietary laws and observance of Yom Kippur
- 12 laws are found in ch. 27 (Lev) which deal with laws on vows, offerings and tithes
- 52 laws of the Priestly Code in the book of Numbers deal with Nazirites, Passover, Aaronide priesthood, inheritance, annual festivals, etc.
3.5 Ethical Decalogue (Ex 20 and Deut 5)
Scholars have tried to reconstruct the original form of the Ethical Decalogue. One of the suggestions of the original form is as follows:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image.
3. You shall not utter Yahweh’s name for wrong purposes.
4. Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
5. Honour your father and your mother.
6. Do not commit murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbour.
10. Do not covet your neighbour’s house.
3.6 Ritual Decalogue (Ex 34)
1. You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Ex 34, 14).
2. You shall make for yourself no molten gods (Ex 34, 17).
3. The feast of unleavened bread you shall keep (Ex 34, 18).
4. All that opens the womb is mine, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep (Ex 34, 19).
5. Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest (Ex 34, 21).
6. You shall observe the feast of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end (Ex 34, 22)
7. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel (Ex 34, 23).
8. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left until the morning (Ex 34, 25).
9. The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God (Ex 34, 26a).
10. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Ex 34, 26b).
3.7 Levitical Decalogue (Lev 19)
Leviticus 19 has a still different version of Decalogue: It may be summarised as follows:
1. You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19, 2)
2. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another (Lev 19, 11).
3. You shall not swear by my name falsely (Lev 19, 12).
4. You shall not oppress your neighbour or rob him (Lev 19, 13).
5. You shall do no injustice in judgement (Lev 19, 15).
6. You shall not hate your brother in your heart ...You shall not take vengeance ... but you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19, 17-18).
7. You shall keep my statutes: You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind (Lev 19, 19). You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it (Lev 19, 26).
8. You shall not practise augury or witchcraft (Lev 19, 26b).
9. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary (Lev 19, 30).
10. You shall rise up before the hoary (grey, old) head, and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God (Lev 19, 32).
4. The 613 Jewish Commandments
Although the Bible says that only 10 Commandments were given to Moses by God, the Jews have developed 613 commandments which are known by the Hebrew mnemonic (memorv help) – מצוות תריג - taryag mitzvot. The word – taryag makes 613 if the numerical value of its Hebrew letters are added (ת = 400; ר = 200; י = 10; ג = 3). Thus there are 613 precepts and prohibitions in the rabbinic tradition. According to the rabbis, the “613 commandments were revealed to Moses at Sinai, 365 being prohibitions equal in number to the solar days, and 248 being mandates corresponding in number to the limbs of the human body.”
The lists consist of positive and prohibitive precepts. The 613 Commandments can be arranged thematically: there are 248 Mandatory Commandments and 365 Prohibitions.
248 Mandatory Commandments
Precepts Theme Examples of Precepts
1-9 God The Jew is required to believe (1) that God exists and to acknowledge (2) Him: to love (3), fear (4) and serve (5) Him. He is also commanded to cleave (6) to Him. One must imitate (8) God and sanctify (9) His name.
10-19 Torah The Jew must recite (10) the Shema each morning and evening and study (11) the Torah and teach it to others. (Precepts 10-11).
20-38 Temple, The Jews should build (20) a Temple and respect (21) it. & the Priests It must be guarded at all times
39-91 Sacrifices The high priest must offer a meal-offering twice daily
92-95 Vows A Nazirite must let his hair grow during the period of separation (92)
96-113 Ritual purity Anyone who touches a carcass (96) becomes ritually unclean
114-133 Donations to
134-142 TheSabbatical In the 7th year everything that grows is ownerless (134) and available to all; the fields (135) must lie fallow and you may, not till the ground
143-153 Animals for When you slaughter an animal you must give (143) the Consumption priest his share as you must also give (144) him the
first of the fleece
154-170 Festivals You must rest on the Sabbath day and declare it holy
171-184 Community Every male should give half a shekel to the Temple annually
185-189 Idolatry Idolatry must be destroyed (185)
190-193 War The regulations for wars other than those commanded in the Torah are to be observed and a priest must be appointed for special duties in times of war (190-191)
194-208 Social Stolen property must be restored to its owner (194)
209-223 Family Respect the wise; honour and fear your parents (209- 211).
224-231 Judicial When required by the law you must administer the punishment of flogging and you must exile the unwitting homicide (224-225)
232-235 Slaves Hebrew slaves must be treated according to the special laws for them (232)
236-248 Torts The applicable law must be administered in the case of injury caused by a person, an animal or a pit (236-238)
The 365 Prohibitions
Prohibitions Themes Examples of Prohibitions
1-45 Idolatry and It is forbidden to believe in the
related existence of any but the One God
practices (Prohibition 1)
46-66 Prohibitions It is forbidden to return to (46)
resulting from Egypt to dwell there
67-88 Temple Be not lax in guarding the Temple (Prohibition 67)
89-157 Sacrifices It is forbidden to offer sacrifices (89) or slaughter consecrated animals (90) outside the Temple (Prohibitions 89-90)
158-171 Priests A priest may not marry a harlot (158), a woman who has been profaned (159) from the priesthood or a divorcee (l60) (Prohibitions 158-160)
172-201 Dietary Laws A Jew may not eat unclean cattle/fish/fowl (172-174)
202-209 Nazarites A Nazirite may not drink wine or any beverage made from grapes (Prohibition 202)
210-229 Agriculture It is forbidden to reap the whole of a field without leaving the corners for the poor (Prohibition 210)
230-272 Loan, Business, It is forbidden to demand repayment of a loan
Slaves after the 7th year; you may not, however, refuse to lend to the poor (Prohibitions 230-231)
273-329 Justice A judge must not perpetrate injustice, accept bribes or be partial or afraid (Prohibition 273-276)
330-361 Incest and It is forbidden to enter into an incestuous
other forbidden relationship with one’s mother, stepmother, practices sister, half-sister (Prohibitions 330-333).
Homosexuality is forbidden, particularly with one’s father or uncle (Prohibitions 250-252)
362-365 Monarchy You may not elect as king anybody who is not of the seed of Israel. The king must not accumulate an excessive number of horses, wives, or wealth (Prohibitions 362-365).
THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS
0.1 The people of Israel became the People of God through the Covenant at Mt. Sinai. This we have seen in the Book of Exodus. In that election-covenant, Israel was called to a life of holiness. See Ex. 19:5-6. This call to HOLINESS is the theme of the Book of Leviticus.
0.2. Division of the Book of Leviticus: it has 6 major sections:
- The Law of Sacrifice (chs 1-7)
- The Cultic Priesthood (chs 8-10)
- The Purity Code or Purity according to the Law (Chs 11-15)
- The Day of Atonement (ch 16)
- The Holiness Code or the Law of Holiness (chs 17-26)
- The Redemption of votive offerings (ch 27)
To get an overall idea of the contents of the book:
- Read the opening words in 1:1 and the closing words in 27:34
- Note the five words that begin most of the chapters: “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying…”
`rmo*aLe hv,îmo-la, hw"ßhy> rBEïd;y>w:
- The book has legal instructions/passages.
0.3 The Book contains:
- laws that are followed by a pious Jew – but most of these laws are outdated for Christians because of the fullness of revelation that Jesus Christ has brought us
- Yet the Book contains a truth that is still fundamental to our Christian life.
We need to distinguish between:
- The principle : the fundamental call to holiness, which is THE truth of this Book, and
- The practice: the practical rules and laws by which the members of God’s People are to live in the world.
I. THE LAW OF SACRIFICE (chs.1-7)
This section has two segments:
- Types of sacrifices (chs.1-5)
- The priests and sacrifices (chs.6-7)
Types of sacrifices (chs.1-5)
Notice that the word “sacrifice” does not appear in this segment; instead the word is “offering”. In Hebrew “qurban” = that which one “brings near” to God.
Five types of offerings are mentioned in this segment:
Type Offering Significance
Burnt animals, birds Consecration
Cereal grain Service
Peace animals Fellowship
Sin animals, birds Reconciliation
Guilt animals, birds Atonement
1.1. Holocausts (1:1-17)
Verses: 1-2; 3-9; 10-13; 14-17
(a) Offering = animals and birds without blemish
· bovine (bulls, cows, calves) : vv. 3-9
· ovine (sheep, lambs, goats): vv.10-13
· birds (pigeons): vv.14-17
(b) six steps of the bloody ritual: presentation, slaughter, aspersion on the altar, skinning and dissection, washing of certain parts, burning of whole victim. Hence “holocaust”.
(c) Such burnt offering is “a pleasing odour to the Lord”
(vv.9.13.17) = divine acceptance.
(d) Significance: total surrender, commitment, belonging to God.
1.2. Cereal offerings (2:1-16)
Verses: 1-3; 4-13; 14-16.
· unleavened, unbaked wheat flour (1-3), unleavened baked bread (4-13)
· of first-fruits (14-16).
(b) Ritual: unbloody; partly burnt and partly consumed by priests.
(c) Significance: communion through service.
1.3. Peace offerings (3:1-17)
Verses: 1-5; 6-11; 12-17.
(a) Offering: animals: bovine (1-5), ovine (6-17).
(b) Ritual: bloody; partly burnt and partly consumed by the offerers or priests. Chapter 3 must be studied in conjunction with 7:11-38. The laws given there regulate consumption of the sacrificial food.
(c) Significance: the preservation of harmonious relations between the offerer and the Lord portrayed in the sharing of the offering. Hence, also called “communion” sacrifice.
1.4. Sin offerings (4:1-35)
Verses: 1-12 ; 13-21; 22-26; 27-35
(a) Offering: animals and birds.
(b) Only in those instances when the failure was inadvertent/unintentional. Could be offered for the high priest (4:1-12), for the entire community (4:13-21), for the prince (4:22-26), for individual persons (4:27-35).
(c) Significance: expiation/recompnse/compensation for sin; restoration of broken communion with the Lord.
1.5. Guilt offerings (5:1-26) vv. 20-26 are not in RSV Bible cf. NAB
Verses: 1-4; 5-6; 7-10; 11-13; 14-19.
(a) Offering: animals and birds.
The distinction between sin and guilt offerings is not clear. Whatever may have been the historical distinction between the two, it is obviously lost on the redactors of the Levitical ritual. The terms are even used interchangeably (5:6-7). Attempts to distinguish adequately between the two terms date at least to the time of Flavius Josephus.
(c) Significance: the dominant note is atonement and restitution, rather than ritual; an oblation to right a wrong or repair an injury.
1.6. The five offerings express a certain relationship to God on the part of the offerer. Of these five offerings:
The first three offerings express that the offerer wishes to live for God and grow in communion with him.
The last two offerings express that the offerer wishes to restore communion with God which has been broken.
(B) The priest and sacrifices (chs 6-7)
1.7 These chapters are a kind of doublet of the previous chapters, for the contents are more or less the same. In order to note the differences, compare chs 1-5 and chs 6-7:
(a) The laws concerning sacrifices are given to Moses
(1) In 1:1: Meeting tent; and (2) in 7:38: Mt. Sinai.
(b) Moses addressed his words:
(1) In 1:2; 4:1 to the people; and (2) in 6:8-9; 6:24 to Aaron and his sons.
1.8 Blood and fat prohibitions are found in 7:2-27.
(a) Blood was regarded as intimately connected with life and all life belonged to God. The law forbidding blood is stated three times elsewhere in Lev. (3:17; 17:10-14; 19:26)
(b) Like blood, under no circumstance were the fatty parts of animals to be eaten. Fat, too, was sacred to the Lord since it was considered to be linked with life.
II. THE CULTIC PRIESTHOOD (chs. 8-10)
2.1 In the OT priests were appointed to serve as mediators – to help maintain or restore fellowship and communion between the holy God and the sinful people (cf. 2: 2). It is not surprising, therefore, that 3 chapters of Leviticus are devoted to the consecration of the Levitical priests who were given this awesome responsibility.
2.2 This section can be divided into two parts:
(1) Priestly consecration (chs. 8-9), and
(2) Priestly cultic conduct (ch.10).
III THE PURITY CODE OR PURITY ACCORDING TO THE LAW (chs 11-15)
3.1 This section treats of the various ways in which a state of uncleanness could arise and the means of regaining the state of purity.
(a) Basically, the distinction between the clean and unclean related to cult, for it was in terms of service to Yahweh, either in active worship or simply in being his covenanted people, that integrity was demanded.
(b) To be unclean was to lack holiness, and such was viewed not as a moral condition but as a state of being, incompatible with the holiness of Yahweh, hence prohibitive of any contact with Him.
Cf. Parallel legislation on legal cleanness found in Deut 14:3-20.
3.2. The Purity Code treats four major categories:
(1) Uncleanness from eating unclean animals (ch.11)
(2) Uncleanness from childbirth (ch.12)
(3) Uncleanness from skin diseases and other agents (chs.13-14)
(4) Uncleanness from bodily discharges (ch.15)
3.3. Uncleanness from eating unclean animals (ch.11).
The basis of the distinction between clean and unclean is not clear. Was it a cultic basis? The animals immediately excluded from the Hebrew diet were those hallowed in pagan worship as playing a role in sacrifice, magic or superstitious practice:
the pig was used in sacrifice to the Babylonian god Tammuz
the snake played a cultic role in pagan fertility rites
3.4. Uncleanness from childbirth (ch.12)
The woman’s vitality, linked with her blood, was diminished by childbirth, and by that token she was objectively separated from Yahweh, the source of life, until her former integrity was restored. The first seven days the loss was more pronounced. The birth of the male resulted in “lesser uncleanness” probable because of the greater strength and vitality connected with the male.
3.5. Uncleanness from skin diseases and other agents (chs.13-14)
(a) The Hebrew “sara’at” is more extensive than leprosy (Hansen’s disease). This section is not concerned with Hansen’s disease but with temporary disorders, all of which (today) are curable.
(b) Primitive hygiene considered such afflictions highly contagious and demanded the stricken person’s isolation; in Leviticus it was also the lack of bodily integrity necessary for the worship of Yahweh that resulted in religious and social ostracism/separation/isolation.
(c) In humans (13:1-46):
* not all skin diseases made one unclean, but only those considered active and therefore infectious. Such malignancy manifested itself in different ways: through spreading sores which penetrated the skin with discolouring of the surrounding hair, and open sores.
* the determination of the active or inactive state of a disease belonged to the priest, who exercised his function not as a physician, but as a judge and interpreter of the law, whose favourable decision was required before purification rites could be initiated. For doubtful cases, a period of quarantine was necessary.
* During the time of his uncleanness: exclusion, display signs of his state: torn garments, long flowing hair, covered beard, and the cry “unclean!” was required.
(d) In clothing, textiles, and leather goods (13:47-59), and buildings (14:33-48):
* Corrupting agents present in these objects - e.g. mildew, mold and moss - because of their apparent likeness to skin diseases, likewise rendered such objects “leprous” and unclean. In all such cases, it was the presence of the evil force of corruption that demanded protective legislation.
(e) Purification ritual for an unclean person (14:1-32); purification ritual for an unclean building (14:49-53).
3.6. Uncleanness through bodily discharges (ch.15)
Loss of vitality, a diminution of the life principle, was also indicated in the loss of seed by a man or blood by a woman.
(a) uncleanness in men (15:2-17): loss of semen could occur in various ways.
(b) uncleanness in women: arose from either menstruation (15:19-24) or from an abnormal flow of blood outside the customary time or beyond the usual length of the period (15:25-30).
IV. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (ch.16)
4.1. The detailed treatment of Yom Kippur is appropriately situated after the sacrificial ritual and the code of legal purity, both of which serve as its background material.
* Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and that to, only once a year, during the feast of Yom Kippur.
* Since the Ark itself was never recovered after the exile, importance was given to the propitiatory (= designed to appease or win favour) which alone remained in the Holy of Holies. The propitiatory (kapporet) was the golden cover over the Ark (cf. Ex 25:17-22).
4.3. This annual observance so important in postexilic Israel, is never mentioned in the pre-exilic literature, and, as it is presented here, the ceremonies of the day represent a combination of distinct rites, brought together in a rather loosely edited chapter (note doublets: 6 & 11, 9b & 15, 4 & 32).
(1) The ritual (16:1-28)
(a) Sin offering of a bull for the priests’ transgressions and a goat for the people’s sins in the Holy of Holies (vv.1-4, 6, 11-15).
(b) Atonement for ritual transgressions that had affected the Lord’s dwelling itself (vv.16-19). Blood aspersions were done within the Holy of Holies and outside it.
(c) Another ancient rite (vv.5, 7-10, 20-26) was blended into the Atonement liturgy. It involved two male goats: one “for the Lord” was the people’s sin offering, the other goat was “for Azazel” (a devil whose customary haunt was the desert) and it was the bearer of the community’s guilt. The first goat was sacrificed, while on to the second goat was transferred the people’s sins. Carrying its evil burden, it was led off to a desert place; thus the evil was removed from the people’s midst.
(2) Directives on certain peripheral features of the feast:
e.g. fast and rest (16:29-34).
V. THE HOLINESS CODE (chs 17-26)
5.1. The name comes from the emphasis on holiness (19:2; 20:7-8, 26)
5.2. Basis of holiness:
The Code has its own literary unity, beginning with regulations regarding the sanctuary and sacrifice, and concluding with “blessings and curses”. But the collection itself is marked by an almost disconcerting diversity of material, its sole unifying feature being its emphasis on the holiness of Yahweh. This consideration serves as the springboard for its demand that the Israelites are to be holy as their Lord in every aspect of their lives.
5.3. The depth of holiness:
It must be noted, however, that the holiness asked for here exceeds mere legal purity and embraces moral rectitude as well, without which holiness is incomplete.
5.4. The scope of holiness:
All, people and priests, are called to holiness.
Note: (a) people are called to holiness: chs.19-20.
(b) priests are called to holiness: chs.21-22.
5.4.1. The slaughter of animals (17:1-9);
the sacredness of blood (17:10-16).
5.4.2. The sacredness of sex: laws which prohibit relations within determined degrees of consanguinity and affinity (18:6-17)
and outlaw certain other forms of aberrant behaviour (18:18-23).
5.4.3. Various rules of conduct (19:1-37):
(a) This miscellaneous collection of laws on worship, justice, charity, and chastity, with its clearly primitive character, is of particular interest as a mirror of pre-exilic cultic and social life. In its dependence on the Decalogue and its own subsequent influence on postexilic legislation, it serves as an important link between the earlier and later stages of Israelite law.
(b) The chapter forms a literary unit with its own introduction (vv.1-2) and conclusion (vv.36b-37), which anchor the diversified contents in respect for the holiness of Yahweh.
(c) Parents, Sabbath, idolatry (3-4); peace offerings (5-8); harvest (9-10); responsibility to practice justice and charity (11-18); cross-breeding and cross-semination (19); sexual relations with slaves (20-22); eating fruit (23-25); blood, witchcraft, mourning customs of the Canaanites - shaving of hair, body lacerations, tattooing - cult prostitution, Sabbath (26-31); charity and justice (32-36a).
5.4.4. Penalties (20:1-27): There is a marked affinity between chs.18 and 20: the core of the chapter (vv. 9-21) imposes sanctions for the sexual abuses of ch 18.
5.4.5. Priestly holiness (chs 21-22).
5.5. In chapter 19: Holiness is to be shown through:
(a) love of neighbour: 19:18, 34.
(b) justice and charity: 19:9-18; 19:32-36.
5.6. Lev ch. 23 treats of the major feasts in the Jewish liturgical year:
(a) In its most primitive form as part of the original code, this chapter treated solely of the three main annual pilgrimage (haj) feasts - Passover and Unleavened Bread (4-8), Pentecost (16-21), Booths (37-38), and had its own conclusion (37-38).
Later editors of the Holiness Code have added the Sabbath precept (3), the rubrics of vv.10-15, the Day of Acclamation (23-25), the Day of Atonement (26-32), the added directives for Booths (39-43), and a new conclusion (44).
(b) The Passover and Unleavened Bread (23:4-14): Spring
* The Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan (March- April), to commemorate the Exodus. Originally it was a distinct feast from the feast of Unleavened Bread, but was merged with it because they fell around the same time of the year and had the same spirit.
* The feast of U.B. commenced the day after the Passover and continued for seven days. It was an agricultural feast, likely taken over from the Canaanites by the Hebrews, to honour Yahweh, Lord of the harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest time.
* The bread was “unleavened,” i.e. without any mixture of remains from the previous year’s harvest. Thus, with bread made entirely from the fresh grain, the feast marked a new beginning.
(c) Pentecost (23:15-21): Spring
* Also known as the feast of Weeks, this feast was celebrated seven weeks after Unleavened Bread [seven full weeks from the day following the Sabbath on which the first barley sheaf was offered to God. Hence exactly fifty days later = Pentecost].
* Like all harvest feasts it was a joyful occasion. The ceremony consisted in offering two leavened loaves made fom the new wheaten flour. The use of unleavened bread at the beginning of the harvest, fifty days earlier, had marked a fresh start; but now that the harvest was over, normal customs were resumed. Thus, there was a sort of organic unity between the feast of Weeks and the earlier feast of U.B. and the Passover.
(d) Trumpets (23:23-25): Autumn
* In Num 29:1-6 this feast is called the Day of Acclamation or Trumpets. It fell in the seventh month of Tishri (Sept-Oct), which was an important month for feasts. It marked the solemn inauguration of the month.
(e) Day of Atonement (23:26-32): Autumn
* This feast was celebrated nine days after that of Trumpets.
* For further details see ch.16.
(f) Booths (23:33-36, 39-43): Autumn
* Also called Tabernacles, Tents, Huts, Ingathering, this was the last of the three major pilgrimage feasts. Though called the feast of Tents, it never called for the setting up of tents of any sort.
* It was an agricultural Feast of Canaanite origin, indeed the climax of the agricultural year. It marked the in gathering of all the produce of the fields, the products of the threshing floors and of the wine and oil presses. When the earth had yielded all its bounty for the current year and that bounty had been gathered and stored, the people gave joyful thanks to God. It was Thanksgiving Day: there was dancing, singing, and general merriment including a generous sampling of the new wine. Thus, the Israelites thankfully closed the grape and olive harvest on the 15th day of Tishri, five days after the Day of Atonement.
* Of the three annual pilgrimage feasts, this was the most important and the best attended. It is called “the feast of Yahweh” in 23:39 (see Num 29:12); and Ezek 45:25 calls it simply “the feast,” as does 1 Kgs 8:2, 65. It is also to be identified with “the yearly feast of Yahweh at Shiloh” (Judg 21:19). Zechariah, foretelling a worldwide annual pilgrimage of all nations to the Temple, chose this feast as the occasion of the pilgrimage (Zech 14:16). And Josephus referred to it as “the holiest and greatest of Hebrew feasts.”
* Why is it called “tents” or “huts”?
- The feast had its roots in a very common Palestinian custom: during the harvest time the people built shelters in the orchards and vineyards to provide them protection from the sun during periods of rest. Since the feast of the Ingathering was celebrated outdoors where these little huts were so much a part of the harvest scene, it is not difficult to see how it could come to be known as the feast of Huts (sukkot).
- While retaining the name and allowing the custom, Deut 16:13-15 insisted that the people go to Jerusalem for the sacrifices.
- Finally, the sukkot were set up in the HolyCity itself and became the permanent fixture of the ritual (Lev 23:42; Neh 8:16).
- Later the feast of Tents was given a deeper religious significance by being related to an event in the exodus. The sukkot were interpreted as a memorial of the sukkot in which the Israelites had lived after their liberation from Egypt (Lev 23:43).
5.7 The Holy Years (ch. 25)
(a) In addition to the rest for human and beast provided by the weekly Sabbath, the land itself was to have a year of reprieve/rest at stated intervals. Ancient oriental custom left the land uncultivated to assure its future fertility. In Israelite hands, the practice took on added meaning in focusing attention on the sole proprietorship of Yahweh, an idea central to the sabbatical and jubilee years.
(b) The Sabbatical Year (25:2-7) was kept every 7th year.
Cultivation of field and vineyard was to be terminated after the sixth year; they were to be left untouched for the following year.
(c) The Jubilee Year (25:8-55) was celebrated every 50th year.
5.8 Sanctions (ch. 26):
The Holiness Code ends with the promise of blessing for fidelity to its precepts (3- 13) and punishment for their disregard (14-39). In this respect the code (together with Ex 23:30-33 and Deut 28) follows the vassal treaty form of the 2nd millenium in which a superior political power concluded the terms of the written agreement with curses and blessings.
VI. REDEMPTION OF VOTIVE OFFERINGS (ch. 27)
6.1 This appendix modifies a number of its laws in the light of later practice. Any vow carried with it a solemn obligation of fulfilment (Num 30:2-3; Deut 23:22-24), but gradually in postexilic times the tendency grew to convert personal and real property commitments into their monetary equivalents. Regulations regarding such commutation are given detailed treatment here.
6.2. Objects of redemption:
(1) the firstborn;
(2) others vowed to the Lord;
As with all the other Hebrew titles for the books of the Torah, the title is the first word, “and he called”/“summoned” - wayyiqra. The reference is to the Lord’s summoning Moses to communicate laws about the liturgy. The English title comes from the Latin and Greek tradition that more or less identified levites and priests. But neither title is really satisfactory. Early in rabbinic tradition the book was called the “Law of the Priests,” which is far more adequate. But because deuteronomic theology spoke of “the levitical priests” (e.g., Deut 17:9), it appears that at some point priests and levites were identified, although this was not to last.
It is helpful to distinguish two main sections in the book: 1-16 and 17-27. While the whole is the work of the priestly writers, the first part deals especially with various rituals, and the second part has been called the “Holiness Code,” because of its strong emphasis on holiness (e.g., 19:2, “You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy”). While the work contains much ancient material (it should be recalled that this work is inserted into the Sinai context, and that the Priestly tradition constitutes most of the text from Exodus 19 to Numbers 10), it received its final form after the exile. It lays down the doctrine of holiness to guide the post-exilic community, and is interpreted as God-given law. Over thirty times in the book, one reads: “The Lord said to Moses....”
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 ANE: Lower Mesopotamia: Sumer, Akkad, Babylon; Upper Mesopotamia: Haran; Assyria = present day Iraq & Iran; Anatolia = present day Turkey; Levant: Palestine/Israel: Bethany (beyond the Jordan), Capernaum, Dan, Damascus, Gibeah, Gilgal, Jezreel, Kadesh Barnea, Micmash, Mount Gerizim, Mount Gilboa, Qumran; Canaan: Ai, Beersheba, Gath, Hazor, Hebron, Jericho, Jerusalem (Jebus), Megiddo, Shechem (= Sychar, Neapolis, Nablus), Nazareth, Tiberias; Nabataea: Petra; Philistia:Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza; Phoenicia: Sidon, Tyre; Egypt; Nubia = present day northern Sudan; Ethiopia; Cush/Kush = a large region covering northern Sudan, modern day southern Egypt, and parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia were known as Cush.
 For information on ‘Hittites’ cf. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, ed. Paul J. ACHTEMEIER, TPI, Bangalore, 1991, pp. 399-400 and on ‘cuneiform writing’ pp. 196-198.
 It contains a prologue and 22 laws in a fragmentary state; Cf. Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) ed. James B. PRITCHARD, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969, p. 525.
 It is from the Akkadian law code. It contains an introduction and 59 laws. For information on Akkad/Accad (modern day Baghdad?) cf. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, ed. Paul J. ACHTEMEIER, TPI, Bangalore, 1991, pp. 8-9.
 It comes from Sumeria. It has an introduction, 38 laws and a conclusion.
 It refers to the remaining legal prescriptions by P in the Pentateuch such as Ex 12: 1-27; 13: 1-16; 18 – 19; 27 – 30; 35-36.
 The Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, was found in Susa and it contains 282 laws engraved on a stone pillar. Many of the laws in it are similar to those in the Bible (ex. 195-197 = Ex 21: 15, 23-24). The biblical laws were harsher than those of the code of Hammuarabi, which concludes by saying that laws are given “in order that the strong might not oppress the weak and that justice might be dealt for the orphan and the widow”. Cf. Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) ed. James B. PRITCHARD, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969, p. 178. Also cf. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, ed. Paul J. ACHTEMEIER, TPI, Bangalore, 1991, pp. 370-371.
 It has 200 laws and has no prolgue nor epilogue.
 It contains 116 laws and no prologue nor epilogue.
 They are from Babylon and only 9 laws have survived from the original 13 and it has neither an introduction nor a conclusion.
 Mishnah : « to repeat and to study », a collection of rabbinic laws concerning agricultural tithes, public feasts, economic arrangements during marriages, sacrifices at he Temple, and ritual purity. Created about 200 AD in Palestine by Rabbi Judah the Prince.
 Neo-Babylonian Period: Nabopolassar 626 BC upto 539 BC when Cyrus conquered Babylonia.
 ...In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. -Leviticus 16: 29-30.
Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri. The holiday is instituted at Leviticus 23:26.
The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement.” It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.
Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.
As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labour begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so. People with other illnesses should consult a physician and a rabbi for advice.
Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning (8 or 9 AM) and continue until about 3 PM. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 or 6 PM for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. The services end at nightfall, with a long blast on the shofar.
It is customary to wear white on this day, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried.
 Josephus Flavius or Joseph ben Matthias, a Jewish historian in the early Roman period cf. in Harper’s Bible Dictionary, ed. ACHTEMEIER Paul, pp. 508-509.
 Cf. The Legal Codes of the Pentateuch, pp. 28-41, especially p. 36ff.
 Consanguinity = relationship by birth in the same family
Affinity = a close relationship between two people.
For Catholics Church law No. 1078.3 a marriage cannot be validly contracted between persons having a consanguineous relationship in the direct line or in the second degree of the collateral line.
 FEAST DATE (HEBREW MONTH) OUR MONTH
Sabbath Every week Saturday
Passover Nisan 14 Mar-Apr
Unleavened Bread Nisan 15-21 Mar-Apr
Pentecost Sivan May-June
Trumpets Tishri 1 Sept-Oct
Day of Atonement Tishri 10 Sept-Oct
Tabernacles (Booths) Tishri 15-21 Sept-Oct