THE PENTATEUCH PART III: LEVITICUS
Lesson 13: Chapter 26
The Covenant Blessings for Obedience and Warnings of Judgments for Disobedience in the Epilogue of the Holiness Code
Almighty God and Father,
You promised the Israelites that You would give them divine protection in fruitful harvests and protection from their enemies if they were obedient to the commands and prohibitions of the covenant treaty at Sinai. But if they rejected Your divine protection by failing to live according to Your holy Law, then they must suffer the same afflictions experienced by other nations in a sinful world. In the New Covenant our blessings are far more valuable than temporal blessings. Jesus did not promise we would exempt from suffering in this world. Instead, He challenged us to take up our crosses of suffering and to take His Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth. He also promised that the reward for faithful obedience is an eternal blessing that surpasses anything the material world could offer. Beloved Holy Spirit, give us the will and determination to live out our mission as Christ’s emissaries and guide us in our study of the final chapters of the divine commands God the Father gave His Old Covenant people. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
This is the blood
of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these
Look, I am now
making a covenant: I shall work such wonders at the head of your whole people
as have never been worked in any other country or nation, and all the people
around you will see what Yahweh can do, for what I shall do through you will be
Yahweh then said
to Moses, ‘Put these words in writing, for they are the terms of the covenant
which I have made with you and with Israel.’
Leviticus Chapter 26 begins with a summary of Israel’s covenant obligations in verses 1-2 and is followed by the Epilogue of the Holiness Code. The Epilogue in Leviticus 26:3-46 is an expansion of the Covenant Treaty Sanctions from the Book of the Covenant (Ex 23:20-33). Secular ancient Near Eastern alliance treaties included stipulations for maintaining the covenant treaty that detailed the binding covenant obligations of the vassal state in obedience to the great king. The covenant treaty at Sinai followed the same form as secular covenant treaties of the time. God announced the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 (which were the beginning of the stipulations section of the treaty), and then during the ritual of blood sacrifice at the formal covenant ratification Yahweh told the people: This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these stipulations (Ex 24:8). Those stipulations were continued in the expanded commands and prohibitions in the book of Leviticus.
In ancient covenant treaties the “Stipulations” section of the treaty was followed by the “Sanctions”—the section of the treaty that articulated what the great king promised as conditional blessings for obedience and what measures the great king was ready to take if his vassals fail to keep their obligations under the stipulations of the treaty. In these ancient documents the sanctions for failure to keep the covenant treaty were articulated in the Execration—the curses/judgments for disobedience that the great king was ready to impose on his rebellious vassals. The Execration often employed the same terms and idioms of the blessings but stated in the reverse. The covenant treaty at Sinai also contained a “Sanctions” section that enumerated God the Great King’s blessings for obedience and redemptive judgments if Israel failed to keep the binding laws of the covenant agreement. Like the secular covenant treaties, Yahweh’s blessings and judgments in the Sinai Covenant are temporal and not eternal.
Israel’s obedience to the Law of the Sinai Covenant promised God’s protection in fruitful harvests, health, living in peace and protection from invasion by their neighboring states. Jesus Christ does not promise His believers the worldly peace and security that obedience to the Old Law promised (Mt 10:34-36; Lk 12:51-53); instead He promises the “peace that surpasses all understanding”(Phil 4:7)—the peace that comes from being filled God as the ultimate desire of the righteous above all earthly desires—“fear God and you will fear nothing else” (Augustine) because nothing corporal can touch you and the sword that destroys our enemies is the Living Word.
Please read Leviticus 26:1-2: A Summary of Covenant Obligations
1 ‘“You will not make idols for yourselves; you will not erect statues or cultic stones, or erect carved stones in your country, for you to worship; for I, Yahweh, am your God. 2 You will keep my Sabbaths and revere my sanctuary. I am Yahweh.
The word “covenant” appears ten times in Leviticus (Lev 2:13; 24:8; 26:9, 15, 25, 42 three times, 44 and 45). The eight time repetition of the word “covenant” in Chapter 26 identifies this chapter as a summary of the Law given in the reinstatement of the broken covenant after the sin of the Golden Calf (Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 364). In the text of Chapter 26 the word “covenant” will be underlined for emphasis.
Question: The summary of the Law is prefaced by recalling to Israel what two principle laws of the covenant that serve as the introduction to this section?
The summary of covenant obligations in this final section of the Holiness Code begins with a restatement of the first part of the Decalogue (Ex 20:4-5, 8-11; Dt 5:8-9, 12-15) from the section of the Ten Commandments that addresses Israel’s relationship with God. Like the entire Law and the blessings and judgments that will follow in this chapter, the summary commandments are both positive (Sabbath obligation) and negative (prohibition against idol worship/false gods) statements. Success in maintaining the covenant will be based upon following both the positive and negative divine instructions Yahweh gave the people through His covenant mediator, Moses.
Question: How are these two laws central to the covenant formation that was broken in the incident of the Golden Calf and God’s graciousness in reinstating the broken covenant? See Exodus 23:20; 31:12-18; 32:1-6, 19-29; 34:14; 35:1-5
Answer: When Moses ascended the mountain the first time, just prior to signing the stone tablets of the first covenant documents that were the Ten Commandments/Decalogue, God gave the Sabbath obligation as a covenant “sign” between Yahweh and His people (Ex 31:12-18). After the rebellion of the Golden Calf, which broke the covenant command not to make and worship idols, Moses returned to the mountain and God renewed the covenant by signing two new stone tablets. In the covenant renewal the first command to Moses and the Israelites began with a restatement of prohibition against idols (Ex 34:13-16) and ended with a restatement of the Sabbath obligation (35:1-3).
The Ten Covenant Beatitudes
The Epilogue of the Holiness Code is the only part of the Book of Leviticus that does not address either legal or ritual commands or prohibitions. The Epilogue can be divided into three parts:
The Holiness Code Epilogue is similar to other ancient Near Eastern covenant treaties and religious documents like the Code of Hammurabi, which also concludes with an Execration (including a list of imaginative curses to be placed on boundary stones), and the Egyptian “Execration Texts,” so called because they contain curses that were appropriate for pronouncing over towns and provinces that failed in their duty to pay tribute to the Egyptian Pharaohs, were disloyal, or failed in other ways to meet their obligations to the great king (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pages 326ff). It was accepted in the ancient world that one cannot be punished without first being admonished for misdeeds or obligation failures. All three of the Law Codes in the Pentateuch end with blessings for obedience and warnings for covenant failures:
Please read Leviticus 26:3-13: Ten Promised Blessings for Covenant Obedience
3 If you live [walk]
according to my laws, if you keep my commandments and put them into practice, 4 I shall give you the rain you need at the
right time; the soil will yield its produce and the trees of the countryside
their fruit; 5 you will thresh
until vintage time and gather grapes until sowing time. You will eat your fill
of bread and live secure in your land. 6 I
shall give peace in the land, and you will go to sleep with no one to frighten
you. I shall rid the land of beasts of prey. The sword will not pass through
your land. 7 You will pursue your
enemies and they will fall before your sword; 8 five of you pursuing a hundred of them, one hundred pursuing ten
thousand; and your enemies will fall before your sword. 9 I shall turn towards you, I shall make you
fertile and make your numbers grow, and I shall uphold my covenant with
you. 10 Having eaten all you need
of last year’s harvest, you will throw out the old to make room for the new. 11 I shall fix my home [dwelling/tabernacle] among
you and never reject you. 12 I
shall live [walk] among you; I shall be your god and you will be my people, 13 I, Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you should be their slaves no longer, and who broke the bonds of your yoke
and made you walk with head held high.
[..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 332-333).
Verses 3-13 are a general statement of purpose for Yahweh’s covenant obligations. These verses list the ten ways God promises His divine protection for Israel when they take possession of the Holy Land of Canaan, if the covenant people will live in obedience to Yahweh’s Law, the body of which is found in the ten commandments of the Decalogue:
As previously stated, the laws enumerated in the Covenant Treaty of Sinai comprised the “Stipulations” section of the covenant treaty between Yahweh the Great King and Israel His vassal people. The blessings and judgments in this section are an expansion of Part IV of the covenant treaty and are known as the “Sanctions.” The conditions and obligations of the treaty have to be maintained by both parties in order to keep the covenant relationship in tact. The blessings are Yahweh’s vow to do His part to uphold the covenant treaty with Israel. The promises to maintain peace and security is typical of a secular king’s commitment to a vassal state—however there are other promises that only a divine king can make.
Leviticus 26:3: If you live [walk] according to my laws, if you keep my commandments and put them into practice …
The Hebrew idiom that literally reads “if you walk in My laws” (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 332) presents God’s laws and commandments as the right “path/way of life,” a prevalent theme in Scripture that Jesus will also emphasize in His Last Supper homily recorded in St. John’s Gospel, when, as the fulfillment of the Law, Jesus announces that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
if you keep my commandments and put them into practice…
Literally “if you observe and do my commandments” (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 332). The two verbs put the emphasis on the conditional nature of the blessings that are dependant on Israel fulfilling her covenant obligations. The JPS Commentary notes that the use of the two verbs reinforces the sense of “through-going observance” (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 182).
Leviticus 24:4: I shall give you the rain you need at the right time; the soil will yield its produce and the trees of the countryside their fruit …
Rainfall is limited to fixed seasons in the Holy Land. Then, as today, the land of Israel (and the other areas of the Levant) has to depend on the rains coming at certain seasons of the year for planting, growing and harvesting the crops. Since there is no rain for several months during the year, when the rains do come it is necessary that there is enough rain at the expected season for the crops to thrive (see the chart on “Israel’s Liturgical and Civil Calendar”). God’s providence will provide the right amount of rain at the proper time for the growing season. (1)
Leviticus 26:5: you will thresh until vintage time and gather grapes until sowing time. You will eat your fill of bread and live secure in your land.
Question: What is the extent of God’s promise in this verse? See the chart on “Israel’s Liturgical and Civil Calendar”.
Answer: God’s promise is that there will be so much grain harvested to thresh that they will not finish the threshing until late in the summer when the first of the grapes are ready to be picked. Then, there will be so many grapes that the fruit harvest will continue into the late fall that is the first planting season
You will eat your fill of bread and live secure in your land.
The blessing of abundant harvests linked to peace and security is the most common blessing. See Leviticus 25:18-19 where the same blessing is promised for the faithful observance of the Sabbatical years (also see Is 1:19, Ez 34:26-27 and Amos 9:12).
Leviticus 26:6: I shall give peace in the land, and you will go to sleep with no one to frighten you. I shall rid the land of beasts of prey.
The promise for fruitful harvests and peace in the land in Leviticus 26:4-6 repeats a similar promise in Chapter 25 that is based on the stipulation: Hence, you will put my laws and customs into practice; you will keep them and put them into practice, and you will live securely in the country. The land will give it fruit, and you will eat your fill and live in security (Lev 25:18-19). The “peace” God promised on the condition of covenant faithfulness was the worldly peace His divine protection offered Israel in safely from the harassment of neighboring states. St. Caesarius wrote of God’s promise of “peace” to Israel that was made complete in Christ Jesus: Then follow the words “and I will establish peace in your lands.” What peace does God give? The peace which the world possesses? Christ says he does not give that kind of peace, for he declares, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as this world gives peace do I give it to you.” Therefore he denies that he will give the peace of the world to his disciples. Do you want to see then what peace God gives in our land? If the land is good so that it produces fruit a hundredfold, sixtyfold, or thirtyfold, it will receive from God that peace which the apostle describes: “May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts” (Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (470-543), Sermon 105.5, quoting Lev 26:6; Jn 14:27 and Phil 4:7).
I shall rid the land of beasts of prey.
In 722 BC the Assyrians conquered the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom. The conquerors deported the people of the ten tribes out of the land of Israel and resettled them in Assyrian lands to the east; you may recall that movement “to the east” is to move away from God (Gen 4:16; 14:11). The immigrant population relocated by the Assyrians on Israel’s ancestral lands complained that lions were in the land, killing their animals and people. That there were wild beasts in the land threatening the people is a reversal of the blessing in Leviticus 26:6 and a covenant judgment against an apostate people living in God’s holy land. (3)
Leviticus 26:7-8: You will pursue your enemies and they will fall before your sword; 8 five of you pursuing a hundred of them, one hundred pursuing then thousand; and your enemies will fall before your sword. These numbers are symbolic but the promise is meant to be literal. In Scripture five is the number of grace and power, while multiples of ten represent an abundance of divine order. St. Caesarius Bishop of Arles explained his interpretation of the numbers: Now here a hundred unfaithful souls are put to flight by five wise men. Again, a hundred just men, who are so designated because of their perfection rather than their number, pursue many thousands of unbelievers. Indeed, devout teachers drive away countless demons, so they will not deceive the souls of believers with their old deceits (Sermon 105.10). God’s divine intervention to protect His faithful people when they are greatly outnumbered will also be promised in Deuteronomy 32:29. That God kept this promise is the testimony of Joshua in his last discourse after leading the armies of Israel to victory in the conquest of Canaan. Joshua praised God and warned to the people to remain faithful: Yahweh has dispossessed great and powerful nations before you, and no one so far has been able to resist you. One man of you was able to rout a thousand of them since Yahweh your God was himself fighting for you, as he had promised you. Be very careful, as you value your life, to love Yahweh your God (Josh 23:9-10).
Leviticus 26:9: I shall turn towards you, I shall make you fertile and make your numbers grow, and I shall uphold my covenant with you.
Question: This covenant blessing is the repeat of what blessing in Genesis? List the seven passages if you can find them.
When God “turns toward” His people they receive His gracious blessings, but when His people fail to live in holiness and when sin consumes them, He lifts His hand of protection and turns away from them in His desire to bring them to redemptive judgment and repentance (see Lev 26:17).
and I shall uphold my covenant with you. Obedience to the covenant and fulfilling covenant obligations is the major theme of this last part of the Holiness Code. The Israelites can trust God to fulfill His covenant obligations to Israel as He fulfilled His covenant obligations to the Patriarchs.
Leviticus 26:10: Having eaten all you need of last year’s harvest, you will throw out the old to make room for the new. The Lord promised His people that their harvests will be so abundant that they will not have finished eating the old grain before the new harvest is brought into the storehouses. They will have to discard the old grain to have enough space to store the grain from the new harvest. Bede the Venerable (c. 672-735) compared the old grain of the Old Law that is no longer necessary for nourishment with the vital new grain that is the New Covenant in Christ: And we cast away the old [to make room] for the new that is coming on when we cease to keep the typic statutes of the Mosaic Law according to the letter but keep these same statutes quite gladly as they are understood through the Spirit. Our hearts [are] being renewed in the hope of the heavenly kingdom in accordance with that [saying] of the apostle: “If then anyone is in Christ a new creature, the old things have passed away; behold, thing have been made new,” and [with that saying] in the Apocalypse: “And he that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (On the Tabernacle 1.9).
Leviticus 26:11-12: I shall fix my home [dwelling/tabernacle] among you and never reject you. 12 I shall live [walk] among you; I shall be your god and you will be my people. These verses are reminiscent of the wording in ancient Near Eastern marriage and adoption contracts found in excavated documents and serve as the legal terms of God’s adoption of Israel (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 184).
Yahweh will make a similar statement of adoption to King David when He establishes an eternal covenant with David and his descendants: I shall be a father to him and he a son to me (2 Sam 7:14a). This statement of adoption is followed by a warning for David’s descendants: if he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives (2 Sam 7:14b), which is followed by the assurance of God’s continuing love: But my faithful love will never be withdrawn from him … (2 Sam 7:15a). However, when Israel fails to keep her covenant obligations, God will reverse His pledge of adoption: For you are not my people, and I will not be your God (Hos 1:9; Interlineal Bible translation). God’s repudiation of Israel in the Book of Hosea is similar to the warning that completes the verse of God’s pledge of adoption to David’s descendants in 2 Samuel 7:14b. And, like God’s pledge of faithful love to David’s descendants, God also offers hope for Israel’s repentance and restoration, in which case God will fulfill the promised that He made to the Patriarchs: But the Israelites will become numerous as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. In the very place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be told they are ‘Children of the living God’ (Hos 2:1-2/1:10-11).
In verses 3 and 12 the word translated “live” in the literal Hebrew text is the word “walk.” The blessings that began with the statement: If you live [walk] according to my laws, if you keep my commandments and put them into practice… end with the promise
12 I shall live [walk] among you; I shall be your god and you will be my people.
Question: The promise that God will “walk” among His people is reminiscent of what similar statements in Genesis concerning God’s relationship with individuals? See Genesis 3:8; 5:22, 24; 6:9; 17:1; 24:40; and 48:15 (in each passage the literal translation is “walk” not “live”).
Answer: The men who Scripture records “walked” with God in Genesis included Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac.
Question: What does the same expression used for God’s relationship with Israel suggest? What does this have to do with blessings and judgments?
Answer: Yahweh’s covenant relationship with Israel is a corporate relationship in which Israel is a unity of one in covenant with Yahweh. This is why the sin of one member becomes the sin of the whole community (Lev 24:14) and why blessings for obedience and judgments for sins impact the entire covenant people.
It is God’s intention, however, to maintain the same close relationship with Israel as a covenant people that He had with Adam and with the Patriarchs.
Recalling the events in the Book of Genesis has been a major theme in the book of Leviticus. God’s divine protection for Israel living in the Holy Land will be a barrier against the naturally hazardous conditions that exist in the sinful world.
Question: What do God’s blessings of living in a land with all the food the Israelites will need (26:4-5), living at peace without fear of the wild animals in the land (26:6), and with God walking among them (26:12) recall from Genesis?
Answer: God’s promised protection for Israel from the sufferings that are part of a sinful world recall the conditions of divine protection Adam and Eve experienced in Eden.
There are seven points of comparison:
|Blessings for Obedience to the Sinai Covenant||God’s Original Blessings in Genesis|
|1. I shall give you the rain you need at the right time (Lev 26:4a)||… water flowed out of the ground and watered all the surface of the soil (Gen 2:6)|
|2. … the soil will yield its produce and the trees of the countryside their fruit (Lev 26:4)||From the soil, Yahweh God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat … (Gen 2:9)|
|3. You will eat your fill of bread and live secure in your land (Lev 26:5b).||Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food (Gen 1:29). Then Yahweh God gave man this command, ‘You are free to eat of all the trees in the garden. But the tree of knowledge of good and veil you are not to eat … (Gen 2:16-17).|
|4. I shall give you peace in the land … I shall rid the land of savage beasts of prey (Lev 26:6).||… and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground (Gen 1:26).|
|5. … I shall make you fertile and make your numbers grow… (Lev 26:9).||God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:28).|
|6. I will fix my home [dwelling] among you and never reject you (Lev 26:11).||God planted a garden in Eden … and there he put the man he had fashioned (Gen 2:8).|
|7. I shall live [walk] among you; I shall be your God and you will be my people … (Lev 26:12).||The man and his wife heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden … (Gen 3:8).|
|M. Hunt © copyright 2010|
Question: In addition to the original blessings in Eden, what other blessings did God promise to Israel when they took possession of the Promised Land if they continued to be obedient to His covenant?
Answer: He promised protection from their enemies, victory in war, and that God will not only dwell among His people but the assurance that He will never reject them.
Leviticus 26:13: I, Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you should be their slaves no longer, and who broke the bonds of your yoke and made you walk with head held high.
Question: How does God complete the enumeration of promised blessings for obedience?
Answer: The series of promised blessings for obedience are followed by the reminder of the blessings Israel has already received from God in the Exodus experience.
God identifies Himself as the God who redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt ten times in Leviticus and over one hundred times in the Old Testament (Vasholtz, Leviticus, page 335). The reference to breaking the “yoke” is an allusion to how the Israelites were treated like beasts of burden by the Egyptians—in liberating the people God broke the “yoke” that bound them in slavery and set them free. When an animal or a human was yoked, the wooden yoke was tied to the neck of the animal or person by leather thongs. The Book of Jeremiah provides a graphic description of a yoke on a human being. God told Jeremiah to perform a prophetic act by wearing a yoke as a prophetic demonstration of the covenant people and the people of the region who will fall under the “yoke” of the Babylonians (Jer 27:1-8; 28:10-13). The metaphor for liberation is apt since a person bound by a yoke has to walk bent over with his head down, but once the yoke is broken he can stand and walk upright with his “head held high.”
The Execration: The Five Curses/Judgments
Leviticus 26:14-40 contains a list of five warnings that are increasingly severe redemptive judgments against an apostate people who reject God by breaking His holy covenant. The essence of a covenant is loyalty—the loyalty of the great king to his vassal and the loyalty of the vassal to the great king. In the covenant between Yahweh and Israel, deliberate covenant failure is tantamount to treason and represents Israel’s rejection of God’s authority over the people.
Leviticus 26:14 begins the first in the series of what is traditionally listed as five covenant “woes” (Lev 26:14, 18, 21, 23, and 27). Notice that the ten blessings out-number the woes by two to one. In the covenant judgments God is not so much threatening His people as warning them for their own good that if they are not obedient to His Law and turn away from Him that He will withdraw His divine protection and they will be on their own to face a hostile world. In His desire for His people understand that they can repent and turn back to Him when they fall into sin, God describes a series of increasingly severe redemptive judgments a symbolic five times. The symbolic number five in this context represents God’s divine mercy and grace and His desire to call everyone to salvation: … he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).
The intention of God’s punishments is always remedial. It is His desire that the people will repent their sins, return to Him, and be restored to His intended blessings. The repetition of the phrase “if you will not listen to me” or “if you walk against me” at the beginning of each of the five “woes” in Leviticus 26 in verses 18, 21, 23, 27 (woe #5 combines the two phrases) points to God’s patience in calling a disobedient people to repentance. It is similar to God’s warning of impending judgment that the Prophet Amos was instructed to deliver to an apostate Israel prior to the Assyrian conquest. In a series of five “woes” Amos enumerated God’s increasingly harsh judgments that were intended to cause the people to turn away from sin and rebellion, to turn back to Him, and to again willingly take up their covenant obligations—judgments that did not bring the people to repentance because of the hardness of their hearts. Amos delivered his final warning in a covenant lawsuit during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (783-743 BC). (4) The repeated refrain in Amos’ five “woes” indicates that the sufferings of the people were intended to be lessons God allowed them to endure, just as a father punishes his child to bring him to repentance and back to right behavior in his relationship with his father (2 Sam 7:14). Amos delivers the five “woes” with the repeated refrain: … and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh.
Please read Amos 4:6-11: The Five Woes Yahweh Laid on Israel to Bring the People to Repentance (emphasis mine)
Woe #1: 6 I even gave you clean teeth* in all your towns and a shortage of food in all your villages and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh. [* metaphor for famine]
Woe #2: 7 I even withheld the rain from you a full three months before harvest-time; I caused rain to fall in one town and caused no rain to fall in another; one field was rained on and the next for want of rain dried up; 8 two towns, three towns went tottering to one town for water to drink but went unsatisfied, and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh.
Woe #3: 9 I struck you with blight and mildew, I dried up your gardens and vineyards; the locust devoured your fig trees and olive trees and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh.
Woe #4: 10 I sent plague on you like Egypt’s plague, I slaughtered your young men with the sword and at the same time your horses were captured; I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh.
Woe #5: 11 I overturned you as God overturned Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand snatched from the blaze and still you would not come back to me—declares Yahweh.
Conclusion: 12 So this, Israel is what I plan to do to you. Because I am going to do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God!
Compare the five increasingly severe woes of Amos to the five increasingly severe woes in Leviticus 26:14-40. (5)
Please read Leviticus 26:14-17: Judgments for Covenant
Disobedience that are meant to bring Israel to Repentance and Redemption
Woe #1: 14 “But if you will not listen to me and do not put all these commandments into practice, 15 if you reject my laws and detest my customs, and you break my covenant by not putting all my commandments into practice, 16 this is how I shall treat you: “I shall subject you to terror, consumption and fever, making you dim of sight and short of breath. You will sow your seed in vain, for your enemies will eat it. 17 I shall turn against you and you will be defeated by your enemies. Your foes will have the mastery over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.
Question: What afflictions will the Israelites suffer if they are reject God’s laws and covenant obligations?
Answer: Sickness, foreign invasion, destruction of crops by the invaders, foreign domination, and constant fear.
The expression “subject you to terror,” refers to a sickness that strikes without warning causing high fever, blurred vision, and shortness of breath. It is unknown what particular disease it is, but it was probably an affliction common to the region.
Please read Leviticus 26:18-20: Hardness of Hearts Leads to Further Judgments
Woe #2: 18 “And if, in spite of this, you will not listen to me, I shall punish you seven times over for your sins. 19 I shall break your proud strength. I shall make the sky like iron for you, and your soil like bronze. 20 You will wear out your strength in vain, your land will not yield its produce, nor the trees of the country their fruit.
Question: What is this judgment?
Answer: This “woe” is a famine judgment.
Famines occurred all to frequently in the ancient world ( Gen 12:10; 26:1; 41:27; 42:5; 43:1; 45:7; 47:13; Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam 21:1; 24:13; 1 Kng 8:37; 18:2; 2 Kng 6:25; 7:4; 8:1; 25:3; etc.). Instead of God’s divine protection in preventing a famine, the judgment is that God will withdraw His protection and Israel will suffer like her neighbors when famine sweeps the region.
The “seven times” punishment indicates punishment to the fullest extent (Gen 4:15, 24). In His mercy God also promises seven times protection and blessings to those who are in communion with Him: Six times he will deliver you from sorrow, and the seventh time, evil will not touch you. In time of famine, he will save your from death, and in wartime from the stroke of the sword (Job 5:19-20). The “seven times” punishments in the woes of Leviticus Chapter 26 are repeated four times (Lev 26:18, 21, 24, and 28).
Question: In the New Testament Jesus will contrast the judgment of a seven times punishment for the unrepentant with His command to forgive seven times when someone who repents (Lk 17:4). Such forgiveness is consistent with the Old Covenant law in Exodus 21:2-one does not continue to hold a “brother” in servitude either physically or emotionally. But, what was the requirement for St. Peter when he asked Jesus if he was also to forgive seven times, and why was Jesus’ answer to Peter different? See Matthew 16:18-19; Isaiah 22:22 and Matthew 18:21-22.
Answer: The requirement for St. Peter as leader of the Apostles is not to forgive seven times but seventy-seven times. At a time prior to Peter’s question, he professed his belief in Jesus as the promised Redeemer-Messiah. Because of Simon’s profession of faith, which Jesus said was a divine revelation, Jesus changed the Apostle’s name to Kepha/Rock and gave him authority over Jesus’ earthly kingdom—the “keys of the kingdom” of heaven on earth (Mt 16:18-19). In that pronouncement Jesus elevated Peter to the position of His Vicar, the administrator of the kingdom who also served as the ruler of the kingdom in the king’s absence. As the Church’s leader, Peter must typify the Church’s mission to forgive and restore the repentant sinner in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; therefore, he is held to a higher standard.
Leviticus 26:19: I shall break your proud strength.
Question: What would pride in their strength indicate about Israel?
Answer: Pride in their strength would indicate that the Israelites believed that the success and wealth of their nation was due to their own efforts and not to God’s divine intervention.
When that happens, God will remove His protection. The reality of the struggle to survive in a hostile world should break their false pride when they realize the rains will not always come at the right time, the land will not produce abundant crops, and they are not immune from the devastation of famine in the land.
Please read Leviticus 26:21-22: A Continued Failure to
Woe #3: 21 And if you go [walk] against me and will not listen to me, I shall heap seven times more plagues on you for your sins. 22 I shall send wild animals to attack you and rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and reduce your numbers until your roads are deserted.
[..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 334).
Question: What does it mean to “walk against” God?
Answer: To “walk” against God is opposed to walking in fellowship with Him. It is an act of deliberate rebellion.
Question: What is the judgment in this “woe”?
Answer: Attacks by wild beasts that decimates the population. The deserted roads probably also refers the lack of commerce.
When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and turned it into a vassal state, they deported the Israelites living in Gilead and the Galilee, which included the whole territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. The Assyrians reduced the Kingdom of Israel to the status of a vassal state (732 BC; 2 Kng 15:29-30). (2) In 722 BC King Hoshea of Israel decided not to pay the Assyrian tribute and attempted to form an alliance with Egypt (2 Kng 17:1-4). As a result of this treachery, the Assyrians invaded Israel. They exiled the remaining population of the ten Northern tribes eastward into Assyrian provinces (2 Kng 17:6) and imported five different groups of pagan people into what had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kng 17:24).
Question: What problem did the immigrants encounter when they settled the land of Israel? See 1 Kings 17:25-26.
Answer: The land was full of wild beasts that attacked the people.
When God instructed His prophet Jeremiah to deliver His message to the nations of the region that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was going conquer the region as His agent of judgment, He also told Jeremiah to inform them: I have even put the wild animals at his service (Jer 27:6b). God controlled nature to protect His faithful people, but in a time of judgment even nature turned against an apostate people.
Please read Leviticus 26:23-26: Additional Judgments if Israel Failed to Repent
Woe #4: 23 And if that does not reform you, and you still go [walk] against me, 24 then I shall go against you and punish you another seven times over for your sins. 25 I shall bring the sword on you, which will avenge the covenant [executing the vengeance of the covenant], and when you huddle inside your towns, I shall send pestilence among you, and you will fall into the enemy’s clutches. 26 When I take away the bread which supports you [when I break the staff of bread to you], ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven and will then dole your bread out by weight; you will eat but not be satisfied.
[..] = literal translation (The Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 334).
Leviticus 26:26: When I take away the bread which supports you is literally translated “When I break the staff of bread to you.” It is a figure of speech referring to famine that is also found in Psalm 105:16 where the passage reads: He called down famine on the land, he took away their food supply [he broke the staff of bread]… the literally translation is very similar to the phrase in Leviticus 26:26 (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I page 334 and vol. III page 1489). The result of the redemptive judgment is that there will be so little grain that each woman will only have a very small loaf of bread to bake for her family so that ten women can bake in one over (ten is the number symbolizing divine order). Bread will be so costly that it will be sold in little cakes by weight.
Please read Leviticus 26:27-40: Yahweh’s Ultimate
Judgment if Israel Continues to Fail to Repent
Woe #5: 27 And if, in spite of this, you will not listen to me but go [walk] against me, 28 I shall go against you in fury and punish you seven times over for your sins. 29 You will eat the flesh of your own sons, you will eat the flesh of your own daughters. 30 I shall destroy your high places and smash your incense-altars; I shall pile your corpses on the corpses of your foul idols and shall reject you. 31 I shall reduce your cities to ruins; I shall lay waste to your sanctuary and refuse to inhale from your smells intended to please. 32 I shall make such a desolation of the country that your enemies who come to live there will be appalled by it. 33 And I shall scatter you among the nations. I shall unsheathe the sword against you, reducing your country to desert and your towns to ruins. Then the country will indeed observe its Sabbaths, all the while it lies deserted, while you are in the country of your enemies. 34 Then indeed the country will rest and observe its Sabbaths. 35 And as it lies deserted it will rest, as it never did on your Sabbaths when you were living there. 36 I shall strike such fear into the hearts of those of you who survive in the countries of their enemies that the sound of a falling leaf will set them fleeing; they will flee as though fleeing from the sword, and fall when no one is pursuing. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing before the sword, then no one is pursuing. You will be powerless to stand up to your enemies; you will perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies will swallow you up. 39 Those of you who survive will pine away in their guilt in the countries of their enemies and, bearing the guilt of their ancestors too, will pine away like them. 40 Then they shall admit their guilt and that of their ancestors and their infidelities against me, and further, their setting themselves against me.
The fifth woe combines the repeated phrases that began the other “woes.” These judgments are the sum of what was stated in the conclusion to the Amos passage: if the people fail to repent and the judgment comes to this—they will meet God in the fullness of His wrathful judgment.
Question: What are the afflictions in the fifth woe?
All of the judgments listed in the fifth woe were historically fulfilled. Wars and famines ravaged the covenant people when they continued to violate the covenant with Yahweh. At one point during siege of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, the famine was so severe that women ate their children (2 King 6:24-31), as God warned in the covenant judgments: You will eat the flesh of your own sons, you will eat the flesh of your own daughters (Lev 26:29; also see Dt 28:53).
Leviticus 26:33: And I shall scatter you among the nations. I shall unsheathe the sword against you, reducing your country to desert and your towns to ruins. After centuries of covenant apostasy in worshiping idols, in rejecting Yahweh’s one altar and Sanctuary, and in committing other vile sins that were as bad as the sins of the Canaanites, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was first conquered and later destroyed by the Assyrians. In two deportations, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were dispossessed of the holy land and scattered among the pagan nations to the east—never to return (2 Kng 15:29-30; 17:5-6). The crimes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah were just as bad as the Northern Kingdom, but for the sake of God’s love for David and because some of his descendants like King Hezekiah and King Josiah brought about religious reforms and called the people to repentance, God accepted Judah’s repentance. However, eventually Judah’s sins grew too great to tolerate and God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Judah.
Leviticus 26:31, 33b-35: I shall lay waste to your sanctuary and refuse to inhale from your smells intended to please. No amount of animal sacrifices could appease God when the sacrifices offered by individuals or communal sacrifices were offered by a community that was unrepentant for their many sins, including the sacrifice of children to Molech. Even a Davidic king, Manasseh of Judah, in his wickedness offered his own child in sacrifice to Molech (2 Kng 23:10; 24:1-4; Jer 32:35) and brought an end to the Old Testament theocracy (Vasholtz, Leviticus, page 339). The Babylonians conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah (605 BC), made Judah a vassal state and began removing the people from the land (Dan 1:1-7; 2 King 24:10-17). In 587 BC King Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. In retaliation for the vassal state’s rebellion, the army of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah (Jer 52:1-4). He sacked Jerusalem; he desecrated Yahweh’s Temple and carried away the sacred furniture. Then the Babylonians destroyed Yahweh’s Temple with fire, executed the sons of the king of Judah, and deported the people who survived the destruction to Babylon (Jer 52:8-27; 2 Kng 25:1-21; 2 Chr 36:17-20).
The numbers of the Judeans deported are recorded in the Book of Jeremiah (Jer 52:28-30):
The total number of surviving people deported was four thousand six hundred persons.
Leviticus 26:34: Then the country will indeed
observe its Sabbaths, all the while it lies deserted, while you are in the
country of your enemies. Then
indeed the country will rest and observe its Sabbaths.
In addition to committing all the vile sins of the Canaanites, the covenant people neglected the holy Sabbatical and Jubilee years, the promised judgment for which was exile.
Leviticus 26:35: And as it lies deserted it will rest, as it never did on your Sabbaths when you were living there.
In payment for the 490 years that Judah failed to observe Yahweh’s Sabbatical years and Jubilee years, God enforce the Sabbatical “rest” for the land by requiring seventy years of exile: Until the country had paid off its Sabbaths, it will lie fallow for all the days of its desolation—until the seventy years are complete (Jer 25:10-11; 2 Chr 36:21). A remnant of Judeans remained in the land until the assassination of the Babylonian governor. Fearing retaliation by the Babylonians, and despite the urging of the Prophet Jeremiah for them to stay in the land, the remnant fled to Egypt, leaving the land completely unoccupied to begin its seventy year “rest” (Jer 41:2-3; 43:4-7; 2 Kng 25:22-26; 2 Chr 36:17-20).
Question: Where in the Leviticus Holiness Code did God warn Israel that exile from the Promised Land would be their judgment if they didn’t live in holiness in His Holy Land?
Answer: God warned the Israelites in Leviticus 18:26-30 if they behaved like the Canaanites, practicing their vile sins, He would dispossess them of the land in the same why He dispossessed the Canaanites.
Leviticus 26:39-40: Those of you who survive will pine away in their guilt in the countries of their enemies and, bearing the guilt of their ancestors too, will pine away like them. 40 Then they shall admit their guild and that of their ancestors and their infidelities against me, and further, their setting themselves against me. A remnant of Judah struggled to survive captivity in Babylon, repenting the sins of their countrymen and remembering Yahweh’s promise that if they would repent, He would remember them and bring them back (the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Daniel).
Please read Leviticus 26:41-46: Summary and Conclusion
41 I in my turn will go against them and bring them into the land of their enemies. Then their uncircumcised hearts will grow humble and then they will accept the punishment for their guilt. 42 I shall remember my covenant with Jacob, I shall remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham; and I shall remember the country too. 43 Abandoned, the country will keep its Sabbaths, as it lies deserted in their absence, and they will have to accept the punishment for their guilt, since they detested my customs and rejected my laws. 44 Yet, in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I shall not so utterly reject or detest them as to destroy them completely and break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh their God. 45 For their sake I shall remember the covenant I made with those first generations that I brought out of Egypt while other nations watched, so that I should be their God, I, Yahweh.”’ 46 Such were the decrees, customs and laws which Yahweh established between himself and the Israelites on Mount Sinai through Moses.
Question: What is Yahweh’s gracious promise in the Summary and Conclusion of the woes?
Leviticus 26:41: I in my turn will go against them and bring them into the land of their enemies. Then their uncircumcised hearts will grow humble and then they will accept the punishment for their guilt. This passage affirms that God’s judgments are meant to be redemptive—He will punish the Israelites for covenant disobedience until their “circumcised” hearts are humbled and they repent their sins. The image of circumcised hearts is repeated in Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 9:25, and Ezekiel 44:7. Hearts that are uncircumcised are thick, unfeeling, and incapable of repentance (Is 6:10). The suffering of the people, exiled from the Promised Land and into the land of their enemies, will cause them to recall their sins and submit to God. It is a theme repeated in the book of Ezekiel to the prophet who accompanied the people into exile in Babylon: There you will remember your past behavior and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the wrongs which you have committed. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I treat you as respect for my own name requires, and not as your wicked behavior and corrupt actions deserve, House of Israel—declares the Lord Yahweh (Ez 20:43-44). (6)
Leviticus 26:42: I shall remember my covenant with Jacob, I shall remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham; and I shall remember the country too. Promises to Patriarchs were not annulled by Israel’s failure. As St. Paul wrote: To put it in human terms, my brothers: even when a will is only a human one, once it has been ratified nobody can cancel it or add more provisions to it. Now the promises were addressed to Abraham and to his progeny. The words were not and to his progenies in the plural, but in the singular; and to your progeny, which means Christ. What I am saying is this: once a will had been long ago ratified by God, the Law, coming four hundred and thirty years later, could not abolish it and so nullify its promise. You see, if the inheritance comes by the Law, it no longer comes through a promise; but it was a promise that God made his gift to Abraham (Gal 3:15-18).
Leviticus 26:43: Abandoned, the country will keep its Sabbaths, as it lies deserted in their absence, and they will have to accept the punishment for their guilt, since they detested my customs and rejected my laws.
The people will offer atonement for their sins in their exile while the land is cleansed of their sins in its Sabbath rest.
Leviticus 26:44: Yet, in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I shall not so utterly reject or detest them as to destroy them completely and break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh their God.
Yet, in spite of this … these are the first words of hope—in spite of their iniquities, in spite of their rebellion—God will not abandon His people any more than He abandoned Adam and Eve after their sin or humanity as a whole in the judgment of the Great Flood.
Leviticus 26:45: For their sake I shall remember the covenant I made with those first generations that I brought out of Egypt while other nations watched, so that I should be their God, I, Yahweh.”’
The Israelites, as the people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were the trustees of the promise God made to the Patriarchs. As the other nations of the earth watched, God called the children of Israel out of Egypt to prepare for the day when God would fulfill His three covenant promised to Abraham in establishing a kingdom, descendants too numerous to count and a world-wide blessing (Gen 12:1-3). The Israelites were the vehicle by which God would select the promised “Woman” of Genesis 3:15 and send her son, the Redeemer-Messiah born from a daughter of Israel, to gather children of God through Christian baptism into the unity of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth—the Universal Church.
New Covenant believers are all Abraham’s spiritual children (Gal 3:29). Those children include the Jewish Apostles and disciples of Jesus who were the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant Church. Also included are all the Israelites scattered and absorbed by the Gentile nations in eighth century BC Assyrian exile, the sixth century Babylonian exile (only a faithful remnant returned), and the Roman exile in the first century AD. All the descendants of those Israelites were who lost to the covenant people were to be brought back into the New Covenant along with the Gentiles converts who were grafted on to the root of the Old Covenant people to become the Universal Church of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:17-24). The Kingdom of the Universal Church fulfills the promise that makes Abraham “the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17:5), and through his descendant, Jesus Christ, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3): And it was because scripture foresaw that God would give saving justice to the Gentiles through faith, that it announced the future Gospel to Abraham in the words: All nations will be blessed in you (Gal 3:8). Also see CCC 59-60.
The Catechism affirms that God kept His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob despite Israel’s failures: Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself, in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised holy Spirit … [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (CCC 706; quoting and referencing Gen 12:3; 18:1-15; 22:17-19; Lk 1:26-38, 55-56, 73; Jn 1:12-13; 3:16; 11:52; Rom 4:16-21; 8:32; Gal 3:4, 16; Eph 1:13-14).
|The Fulfillment of the Five Woes of Leviticus 26 Biblically and Historically|
The Five Woes of
|The Covenant Judgments of Leviticus 26 Fulfilled||Jesus’ Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Prophecy Fulfilled in 70 AD|
Disease, raids by the enemy, war
War with Philistines
(1 Sam 4);
civil war (1 Kng 12);
(1 Kng 14:25-26);
Moabite war (1 Kng 3:4-27);
(2 Kng 6-13)
|Mt 24:6: You will hear of wars and rumours of wars… For nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.|
No rain, no crops, famine
Famine, no rain or crops
(Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam 21:1;
1 Kng 17:1, 18:2;
2 Kng 6:25-7:20; 8:1;
Amos 8:11; etc.)
|Mt 24:7: There will be famines …|
Wild beasts in the land, no trade
Wild beasts in Israel
(1 Kng 17:25-26;
War, pestilence, conquest
Assyrian wars of conquest; Israel becomes a vassal state
(2 Kng 15:29-31)
Jews massacred in Caesarea and Alexandria;
Jewish revolt against Rome begins in 66 AD
-Enemies living in your country will be appalled
-Sanctuary destroyed, conquest by another nation,
-The people exiled and scattered among the nations of the earth
-The country will rest
-Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722 BC
-Immigrants came to inhabit Israel (1 Kng 17:24)
- Cannibalism during the siege of Samaria
(2 Kng 6:26-30)
The “yoke” of Babylonian conquest (Jer 27:6-11)
-Temple destroyed 9th of Ab 587/6 BC by Babylonians
-The people of Israel scattered among the nations; Judah exiled to Babylon
-No Judeans or immigrants inhabited Judah after the Babylonian conquest; land at rest
(Jer 43:4-7; 52:28-30;
2 Chr 36:21)
Mt 24:6-7; Mk 7-8, 13:12-13 (wars)
-Romans sent four legions against Judea 68-70 AD
-People ate their children during the siege of Jerusalem in the spring of 70 AD (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.3.4).
-Mt 24:2; Mk 13:2; Temple destroyed 9th of Ab, 70 AD
-Romans enslaved Jews and sent them into the nations of the Roman Empire (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3 )
The promise of restoration
All blessings and judgments in Lev 26 are temporal
-No restoration of Northern Israel; Judah restored when Cyrus of Persia allowed the exiles to return to their ancestral lands in 538 BC
(2 Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4)
-The United Nations recreated the secular nation of Israel in 1947; Jews scattered across the earth begin migrating to the modern state of Israel.
|The spiritual restoration of the new Israel is the (universal) Catholic Church in which Jews and Gentiles become one people in Christ (the progeny of Abraham) in the New Covenant based on eternal blessings and eternal judgments.|
|M. Hunt © copyright 2010|
Leviticus 26:46: 46 Such were the decrees, customs and laws which Yahweh established between himself and the Israelites on Mount Sinai through Moses. This statement concludes the commands and prohibitions of the Holiness Code and affirms that everything commanded in Leviticus Chapters 17-26 comes directly from Yahweh on Mt. Sinai as transmitted through His covenant mediator Moses.
The promised blessings of Leviticus 26:3-13 and judgments for covenant rebellion in 26:14-45 will be expanded in Moses’ final homily a little more than thirty-eight years later. In his final homily Moses will prepare the covenant people, who will be led by his assistant Joshua, to begin the conquest of Canaan (Dt 28:1-68). The covenant blessings and woes make it clear that the rejection of God’s laws is a rejection of His divine protection. God will not force Himself on human beings. Their interaction with Him must be strictly voluntary and if they decide to follow other gods or to act as their own gods, relying completely on their own initiatives apart from Him, Yahweh will honor that decision.
The problem for Israel was that the covenant was corporate as well as personal, and it was Israel as a unified people who either accepted or rejected the protection of Yahweh’s covenant relationship. Individuals of the faithful remnant who were caught within the scope of the corporate judgment were (and are) especially dear to God. In their innocent suffering they become herem, a total consecration to God, like a whole burnt offering was completely consecrated to God on the altar of sacrifice. His promise to the faithful remnant in every generation is the glory of a future redemption and the assurance that their sufferings will count toward their ultimate salvation.
What was promised to the Old Covenant people corporeally in blessings and judgments is fulfilled spiritually by Jesus Christ for the New Covenant people of God. The Old Covenant is the storehouse of the words of Moses and the prophets while the New Covenant is the living and active Gospel of salvation (Origen). Jesus contrasted the Old and New Covenants using the analogy of old and new wineskins. New wine cannot be poured into old wineskins because the expanding gases in the fermenting process of the new wine will burst the old skins that were expanded to capacity (Mt 9:17; Mk 2:22; Lk 5:37-38). Old Covenant Law is the old wineskins that have to be set aside because they cannot contain the vital new wine of the New Covenant that fills to overflowing the wineskins of the New Covenant law fulfilled in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
Questions for group discussion:
Answer: Yes, there are Jesus’ seven or eight (depending on how you count them) spiritual blessings known as the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12). There are also seven woes/judgments that Jesus pronounced against the Old Covenant hierarchy (Mt 23:13-32), Jesus’ prophecy of the coming judgment on Judea and Jerusalem (Mt 23:33-24:44) within His generation (Mt 23:36; 24:34), and the Last Judgment at the end of time (Mt 25:31-46).
Question: How are Jesus’ blessings in Matthew 5:1-12 different from the covenant blessings in Leviticus 26:1-13? How is Jesus’ description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 different from the covenant judgments in Leviticus 26:14-46?
Answer: The blessings and the judgments in Leviticus are all temporal, but the blessings and the judgments in the Beatitudes and in Matthew 25:31-46 are eternal.
Question: Look up the definition of the word “church” in the Catholic Dictionary and in the Catechism (CCC 751-52). When the Old Covenant Church fell into sin and turned away from the obligations to live as a holy people of a holy God, Yahweh removed His divine protection and allowed the people to suffer redemptive judgments to bring them to repentance. Is the New Covenant Church immune from such redemptive judgments? As a covenant people have we always been faithful to the New Covenant law of Jesus Christ? Have we faced redemptive judgments in the past? What redemptive judgments might we expect to face in the future and what does it mean to be a part of the “faithful remnant” in the midst of trial and suffering?
Question: Christians in the first centuries of the Catholic Church used to say: “The world was created for the sake of the Church” (Paster Hermae, Vision 2.4.1; St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), Apologiae 2.7; Tertullian (c. 155-225), Apologeticus 31.3; 32.1). St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) wrote: Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church” (Paedagogus, 1.6.27). What did the Church Fathers mean by those statements?
M. Hunt © copyright 2010
Catechism references for this lesson:
CCC 59-60, 706
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.