I continued to plough my way through Leviticus. Not easy reading. Much of it seemed random. There are whole lists of laws, many of which are repeated, with no real explanation as to why they are laws. There may, originally, have been documents that explained them, but they have since been lost so we can only guess. Some of the laws are to do with being separate – the Israelites were called to be different to the surrounding tribes, and this was underlined by not mixing other things. No garments made from mixed fabrics, no sowing of mixed seeds in fields, no mixing of different types of body fluids.
One thing I discovered while researching Leviticus, was that the people were not monotheistic – they did not believe there was one God, they believed there were several, but they were only to worship one. This explains the “No gods before me” rules. I was a bit shocked by this, it was something we skipped in Sunday School. Is it okay to believe there are other gods, as long as we only worship God? If so, how do you know which God you are worshipping? Could the gods of Hinduism actually be the God of Christianity under a different name? Is Allah the same deity as Jehovah?
In the early books of the Bible, there seem to be different names for God. There is the name Jahweh (or Yahweh – which is usually written without vowels : JHWH) This comes from the Hebrew for “to be” – which is what God told Moses to call him in the burning bush. I think I read somewhere that Jahweh is translated into the English Bible as LORD (all in capitals). Have a look at your Bible – is it written in capitals? But when I went back to check that, I couldn’t find it again (the joys of internet research).
There is also the name Elohim, which comes from the Semitic root “el” which means “god” and is found in names like “Beth – el” (which means “House of God”). It is also the root of “Allah” (the name for the Islam God). This name was later perverted into “Ba’al” – which became an idol.
The name Adonai, meaning Lord, or master, is also used.
In Genesis the name Elohim is used, which is unusual as it is plural, while being used to describe a single deity.
Then there are the terms of address which are more descriptive : Mighty, Counsellor, Father, and so on. When Christians pray, most have their own term of address, sometimes the one they used when taught to pray as a child.
I’m not sure of the significance of all this. I absolutely believe that God is real. I am also increasingly aware that I know very little about him in terms of knowledge, though as life goes on I am learning more and more about the character of God. I can tell you that he is holy, is worthy of our worship; he loves us, supports us, wants us to acknowledge him. As to which name he should be called by, or whether he would prefer we ate beef and not lobster – this I cannot say.
Next week I’ll let you know how I get on in Numbers.
Thank you for reading.