It’s 2 am, and I cannot sleep, so I’ll toss up some thoughts about a passage that has been on my mind: Leviticus 18. Now these days, people tend to think that verse 22 is the only verse in the passage, but I’ve been actually thinking of the broader chapter. Allow me to outline it briefly to illustrate why it’s been troubling me:
Lev. 18:1-3 opens up with a command: “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes” (18:3).
The idea here is that Israel is in between geographic locations (in a transitional stage). God is about to bring them into a new one where they’re not to live according to the code of conduct that they knew or that they’re going to encounter.
Lev. 18:4-5 then transitions to a new command: “You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God” (18:5).
Israel is going to get a new code of conduct, direct from Yahweh, and it’s a matter of life and death (18:5).
Lev. 18:6-23 contains a code of conduct that is sexual in nature; it opens with uncovering a family member’s nakedness and closes with bestial relations.
It’s essentially a downward spiral of wicked behaviour. The majority of the section contains prohibitions about uncovering nakedness (18:6-19) and then accelerates rapidly into prohibiting adultery (18:20), the murder of children (18:21), homosexuality (18:22), and finally bestiality (18:23). Given the light of the past 75 years or so, that progression seems like a step-by-step description of what has (so far) been the downward spiral experienced by Canada and the US.
Then, the chapter closes off with a rather chilling warning that expands on the warning given in 18:5. Here’s the passage in its entirety:
24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
Now, consider what is said:
18:24 says that “by all these” the nations in Canaan have become unclean, but 18:25 also says that the land became unclean.
What was the result of that?
18:25 says that the result was the Lord punishing the land (not the people) and the land vomiting out the people who lived on it. That’s a rather graphic and disgusting image. The people who lived in Canaan were so wicked that the land itself couldn’t stand their ‘moral flavor’ and so it vomited those people out.
Following that, there’s a warning within the warning. 18:26-28 warns Israel to keep the Lords commands and not perform the wicked sexual acts of the nations that came before them. The reason for that warning is given in 18:28: “lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.
Call me crazy, but that seems like universal language. 18:29 seems to talk in universal language too: “For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people.“
18:28-29 don’t contain an unconditional promise as much as it is it is a universal principle. Remember that Canaan didn’t have the law of God before; this whole passage is recorded in the law that God was in the process of delivering to Israel. The Canaanites had God’s moral law written on their hearts, in the rough form of their consciences, but those conscience had been turned to scar tissue long ago. Since they weren’t going to clean up their practice, the land was going to have to clean up their presence.
18:30 then gives the logical conclusion to this whole passage: Don’t do these things. God also seals the deal with the phrase: “I am the Lord your God.” In other words, you Israelites are getting a little special insight into these matters from the one person who knows what’s really going on in Canaan.
I think you now may understand why this section of Scripture has been on my mind. There’re two common ideas in North America:
1. God will forgive anything because he’s loving at the expense of all his other attributes combined.
2. God has a special relationship with America.
Given what Leviticus 18 says, even if both were true (and they’re not), it wouldn’t matter. The whole equation in Leviticus 18 is that sexually immoral practice defiles the land, and the land will take action on behalf of God, regardless of who’s living on it. Even though Israel was God’s chosen people, when it comes to the practices listed in Leviticus 18, Israel and Canaan were identical; the land was no respecter of persons.
Now for clarity, I’m not saying that the land is somehow actually conscious or physically dishing out justice on its own in some utterly ridiculous way.
The whole passage is a metaphor illustrating the sheer depth of moral confusion associated with these sins. What that means is that people who perform these actions are, morally speaking, dumber than dirt…but there’s also something else. When any nation sinks to the level of the practices of Canaan, God delivers mass judgment in the form of some sort of national punishment using the land.
I could get into all the various things that such a curse would look like (i.e. famine, disease, etc.) but that’s a whole other post in and of itself.
But consider this: both Canada and the US are one step away from the bottom of that list. Once either nation descends the final rung on the ladder, all bets are off. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but looking at what eventually happened to Canaan and Israel, I’d say it’s going to be a “mass graves” kind of bad.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Now I’ll Never Get To Sleep!” Unger