Vayikra Twenty-Six: Promises and Curses

This chapter opens with two commandments from God. “You shall not make idols for yourselves, nor shall you set up a statue or a monument for yourselves. And in your land you shall not place a pavement stone on which to prostrate yourselves, for I am the Lord, your God. You shall keep My Sabbaths and fear My Sanctuary. I am the Lord (Leviticus 26:1-2).” These seem to be pretty straightforward, basic statements for the people to adhere to. However, these are followed by what seems to be a negotiation. If the people do what is asked of them, they will be rewarded with rain, agricultural success, and peace in the land. It seems odd for God, an all-powerful deity, to need to resort to bargaining and bribery in order to demand obedience from His people. However, one of the verses from these promises is one of my favorites: “And I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten; I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and no army will pass through your land; you will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you (Leviticus 26:6-7).”

Another verse in this chapter that fascinates me is, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people (Leviticus 26:12).” What does it mean for God to walk among us? Does this continue to happen today? Does it mean that He exists within us, and within the people and the land, or is it meant to signify that literal manifestations of God walk among us?

After the promises, we have the threats, just in case the people don’t follow the rules. God will curse the people with disease, depression, agricultural failure, and by setting enemies upon them. If all of this doesn’t serve to scare the people enough, it gets even worse. “You will eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters you will eat (Leviticus 26:29).” The cities will be destroyed, and, worst of all, we will be exiled from the land and scattered among the nations. “You will become lost among the nations, and the land of your enemies will consume you (Leviticus 26:38).” In this case, it’s clear that exile is the worst of the punishments. This is how the Jewish people lived for generations, and now, we have returned to the land, and to a state of dignity amongst the nations. It’s a blessing to live in this generation, one that I hope I never take for granted. We have seen the worst of these curses come to pass as a people, and now we are blessed once again.

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