Leviticus was God’s contract with Israel. Like any other contract, Leviticus is boring. But it also has its moments. Some of the Old Testament Laws are quite bizarre. Here’s a top 10 list of the strangest.
We begin with two… uh, shall we say ballsy laws.
10. Keep your hands off the goods, ladies.
According to Deuteronomy 25:11-12, if two men were engaged in fisticuffs, their wives couldn’t come to their rescue by grabbing and twisting the other man’s private parts. If she did, her hand would have to be cut off. An episode with all that action would certainly boost the ratings of Real Housewives.
9. Sacrificing animals with damaged testicles is forbidden.
In Leviticus 22:24 it says, “You must not offer to the Lord an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut.” This kept the Israelites from attempting to offer animals that couldn’t reproduce, and thus were less valuable.
Next, we have a couple laws of the culinary variety.
8. Eating locusts: good. Drinking blood: bad.
Eating most bugs was forbidden, but insects with jointed legs for hopping were okay. This included locusts, crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers, Leviticus 11:21-22 says. However, drinking the blood of animals is an abomination, according to Leviticus 17:10-12. So all of you Twilight fans who were Team Edward, because he mercifully only drank the blood of animals, were wrong. I also shouldn’t have eaten all that blood sausage while I was visiting my sister in Ireland.
7. Your hamburgers must be plain.
In Exodus 23:19 it commands not to cook a goat in its mother’s milk. Some interpreters see this as a ban on mixing meat and cheese. Additionally, Leviticus 11:3 permits the eating of animals with divided hooves that chew the cud only. So you couldn’t eat horses, because even though they chewed the cud, they didn’t have a divided hoof. And even though pigs had divided hooves, they didn’t chew the cud. In that case, I guess the meaty, cheesey, bacony deliciousness that is the Baconator would have to be taken of the Wendy’s menu. Booo!
Now we move on to some simple laws that had drastic punishments.
6. Excommunication for not celebrating a national holiday.
Any Israelites who didn’t celebrate Passover were supposed to get kicked out of the camp forever in obedience to Numbers 9:13. Does this mean I was justified as a kid in egging my grumpy neighbors who didn’t hand out candy on Halloween?
5. Death for desecrating or working on a Sunday.
… Or Saturday, in the case of the Israelites, as prescribed in Exodus 31:14. Everyone needs a day off from time to time, so observing a Sabbath rest is actually an awesome law, but isn’t Sunday afternoon often the most convenient time to mow the lawn? If you got caught clipping the turf as an Israelite – BUSTED.
4. Death for rebelling against your parents.
Are you one of those teens who cussed their parents under their breath, or snuck out to a party without permission? In Exodus 21:17, a kid who cursed their parents was to be put to death, and in Deuteronomy 21:20-21, rebellious teens could be stoned by the townsfolk. As a youth pastor I’m really glad this law has passed away, or I might not have too many teens to hang out with.
Here’s a couple laws about sculpting your luscious locks.
3. Tell the barber to take it easy on the sides.
Not too many people prefer the reverse mohawk look, but apparently God does. In Leviticus 19:27 the prescribed holy haircut involved not cutting the hair on the sides of the head, or trimming the edge of the beard. This look would help the Israelites stand out from the people of the other nations.
2. Burn it with fire!
If an Israelite wanted to set themselves apart as especially holy to the LORD, he could take the vows of a Nazirite. The three vows included no eating grape products (wine, raisins, etc.), never cutting their hair, and no close contact with a dead body. But what if someone randomly died in your presence? Too bad. According to Numbers 6:9 and 18 you had to shave off your long hair and burn it in a fire, and you could never be a Nazirite again.
And now for one of the strangest passages in all of Scripture…
1. Dust bunnies: the first lie detectors.
According to Numbers 5:11-31, if a man suspected his wife was having an affair, but had no physical proof, he could take her to the priest. The priest would sweep some dust off the Tabernacle floor, and mix it into a vessel of water, and make the wife drink it. If the dusty water didn’t make the woman sick, then she was innocent, but if her belly swelled up with pain, then she was guilty. It’s even weirder if you read it straight from the Bible.
So there you have it, the ten weirdest laws in the Old Testament.
All joking aside, God gave the Israelites the Old Testament Law because he knew they wouldn’t be able to keep it. It would lead them to realize that they needed a Savior. At the perfect time, God sent his one and only beloved Son into the world, Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly according to the Law. At the end of Jesus’ life, God punished him for our sins, so that by faith in him, his perfection could be given to us, and we could be presented as blameless before God. Jesus saves us from God’s just anger for having broken God’s laws.
That’s the Good News of the New Testament.