Many have assumed that ancient Israel’s priestly tradition (the Levites) is preoccupied with arcane ritual matters largely unrelated to our modern world. This is in fact false, because the main theme of Leviticus proclaims to all followers of Yahweh: “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (19:2). Leviticus describes to all how to be holy, and is addressed not only to the Levites but to “all the sons Israel” as well. Balentine excels in explaining God’s explicit prescriptions for holiness—conduct within the tabernacle to maintain a suitable dwelling place for God, and conduct in everyday life that nurtures, sustains, and maintains interpersonal relationships, as well as a divinely-inspired morality. This morality in turn supports a healthy and vibrant society.
Thousands of years ago, certain mechanisms for the “holy prescription” may have differed (e.g. burnt and peace offerings), but the divine command to separate from the secular world so that we may distinguish ourselves as a people devout to Christ still remains. A recurring theme is that “God’s creational order is generative of and sustained by human observance of an imaging ritual order” (pg. 4).
Further, as Balentine intelligently illustrates, throughout Leviticus, we find God “in the details” and are able to formalize a picture of how devout living is predicated upon ritualized practices: “Just as a person’s thoughts may be actualized in behavior that is destructive, so a person’s resolve to address that destruction must be actualized in behavior that concretizes action” (pg 56).
Personally, I found the author’s analysis of chapters 18 and 19 particularly interesting, as he emphasizes how we treat each other to stand on equal footing as how we treat God—unethical behavior can even be viewed as more serious than religious transgressions. What then follows is that to “love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18) implies both a mental attitude as well as action; and, since love is a proactive command, a decent and just society not only involves passive alienation but active engagement.
In sum, the book will entice you to realize that every area of life should be subjected to scrutiny in order to fall in line with God’s holy direction.
Let’s face facts: Leviticus purely as text is dry, is deficient in “thrills”, and lacks any significant colorful stories. Hence, this book is certainly not for the casual reader, and I would assume all interested parties are either clergy, or enrolled in a graduate level theology education program.