Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
If you think Leviticus is hard to understand, you're not alone. Some of the core terms in Leviticus are so old that even scholars aren't sure what they meant. For example, the Hebrew words commonly translated as clean, unclean, sin, abomination, redemption, and atonement have been responsible for the death of countless trees. Other hard to understand words are more technical but no less important. After all, how are you going to know which bugs, rodents, and reptiles not to eat if it's not clear what a creeping thing is?
The medieval rabbinical scholar Maimonides counted 613 different laws in the first five books of the Bible. Leviticus has 246. Your assignment for tonight is to double-check his work. (Source.)
Unlike the other books in the Torah, Leviticus has only two stories, and these narratives are relatively short: the deaths of Aaron's older sons, Nadab and Abihu, and the stoning of an unnamed man for cursing God.
Shelomith, the mother of the man stoned for cursing God, is the only woman mentioned by name in the entire book of Leviticus.
Tent meetings have been a thing in evangelical Christian circles since the 19th century. Could they be a subconscious riff on the tent of meeting, or do some people just really like camping?
Does Leviticus prove that the Bible makes mistakes, at least when it's talking about science? For example, Chapter 11 says that the children of Israel cannot eat rabbit or a furry little Middle Eastern animal called a hyrax because they are cud-chewing ruminants that do not have split hooves. However, neither the rabbit nor the hyrax is a ruminant; we now know that they just chew their food with a side-to-side motion that makes it look like their chewing their cud. Oops.
The Hebrew words for tattoo in Leviticus 19:28, ketovet ka'aka, appear nowhere else in the entire Bible. In context, the phrase probably doesn't refer to tattoos as they are now, but skin cutting for the dead or marks for slaves. Some people think it's cool to get a 19:28 tattoo, but the extra clever get ketovet ka'aka inked in Hebrew. (Source.)
Genetic testing shows that many people with the last name Cohen share DNA not commonly found in other Jewish families. The Hebrew word for priest is Kohen, from which we get the common Jewish family name Cohen. Could this prove that Israel's priests really are descendants of Aaron and the tribe of Levi? (Source.)
Scientists do know their Leviticus. Inspired by the story of the founding of the priesthood in chapters 8-10, they call the Cohens' most recent common ancestor Y-chromosomal Aaron. Unlike his ancestor Mitochondrial Eve, however, this does not mean that he's half Cylon.
"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and unto all the inhabitants thereof LEV XXV v 10" is on infinite loop around the top of the Liberty Bell. Who put it there? Not the American revolutionaries, but loyal colonists celebrating freedom under British rule in the early 1750s. Maybe that's the real reason the bell cracked.
The blessings and curses at the end of Leviticus and Deuteronomy may sound super-religious today, but they are a normal part of treaties in the ancient Near East. (Source.)
According to some young earth creationists, Leviticus 18:23 isn't about having sex with today's animals, but with dinosaurs. Supposedly some of the kosher laws are actually about dinosaurs, too. (Source.)