Life was incredibly cheap in ancient times, and Near Eastern law codes reflected this fact. In Israel, however, murder was seen as an offense against God himself. Many of Israel’s uniquely humanitarian laws were based on the peculiar and supreme value that God placed on human life.
How did the laws of the Torah sound in the ancient world? What radical new ideas was God was teaching? These are some of the things I’m writing about right now for my next book, called Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. I gave a talk a few months ago on this in the Haverim […]
I used to struggle with why we have the stories we do in Genesis – about the sons of Jacob destroying the city of Shechem, or Reuben sleeping with his father’s servant girl. My expectation was that the Bible was a book of simple moral stories to teach me how to live. Actually, the point […]
To modern Christians, many Old Testament laws seem arbitrary. One in particular may strike you as odd — the commandment to wear tassels. In Numbers it says, Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels […]
Most Christians would agree — the levitical law that wins the prize for weird is Deuteronomy 22:11: “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.” Why on earth did God make such an odd prohibition? I used to roll my eyes at this one. In its ancient context, though, the law had a […]
One hazy late August morning a few years ago, I nearly lost my way in the desert. I was so dehydrated, deflated and defeated, that I nearly gave up the hike. For nearly a year I had been trekking through the Torah week by week for my morning Bible study, taking part in the centuries-old […]
Leviticus is a tough read for modern Christians. We groan at its restrictions and wince at its sacrifices. Many a preacher has used its lines to impress a congregation with how much they should celebrate their freedom from the unbearable Old Testament laws. But what if we turned back the clock to stand beside the […]
How Jewish ethics deals with smoking can teach us about following Christ.