Anonymous said: I've been an Adventist for years, but I've still had many questions. Like, why are the Levitical laws so violent, sexist, and just wrong? People being murdered for some sins, but rapists only being required to purchase the girl they've raped, etc. It's just all so twisted. Why is it even in the Bible?

Hello Anon,

Sorry it’s taken us so long, but we’ve really been pondering over this question. It’s a hard one, I must admit.

Talking to a few seminarians and theology students at Andrews, they’ve come up with different reasons, but there was one idea that was prevalent: the Levitical laws were made to protect the people and to train them. Before they came out of Egypt, they lived without much moral rule or order, so laws had to be harsh to show the harshness of the sin and to keep people in line. One person compared it to when one is raising children; you sometimes need to spank them or put them under house arrest when they are learning first off. 

Others, as far as I can tell, was for the protection of victims. For instance, the one you referred to as purchasing a raped girl, we looked throughout Leviticus and could not find it. The closest one we could find was Leviticus 19:20-22, where it says if a slave woman and a man have sex, he has to pay compensation to her owner. I don’t believe this is in the concept of rape because of a law said in Deuteronomy 22:25-29. It actually mentions rape or the concept of force in the Deuteronomy law, but that law in Leviticus doesn’t mention any hint of force. Nevertheless, let’s tackle that law in Deuteronomy as an example. 

It says, in regards to women that have been raped that if she is engaged the man is to be put to death but if she is not, he would need to pay her dowry (in the amount of 50 shekels) and marry her, never to divorce her. The latter was made for her protection. You see, in those times a woman had to depend on a male figure in her family, whether it was her father, brother, or husband, to take care of her, work, make purchases, etc. One of the main things looked for when picking a wife was virginity. Rape would have ruined the chances of a woman getting married, unless there was a very exceptional man out there. Also, I think this would make a man think twice about trying to get a quick and easy lay. That being said, I haven’t found any example of rape or its precautions in Leviticus.

Getting back to Leviticus, many of the laws were for protection and keeping people safe and healthy. For instance, most of the clean and unclean laws have health correlations, such as eating meat with blood in it or touching an unclean thing like a dead body. Others were extreme to show how wicked a certain act was, such as bestiality or cursing one’s parents (as in damning to death or severe suffering). Reading through Leviticus, it is evident that every law was made for a reason and that the punishments fit the crime in the time in which they lived.

As to why it’s in the Bible, it was written for the Israelites, but it also shows the standard that God wanted His people to live by. What else, being that the consequence for some of the laws were stoning (death), it doesn’t count as murder but rather capital punishment. The lesson isn’t in the punishments, but the moral standard, impact, and significance that it leaves. There is still more that can be explored in Leviticus, but God had His reason for all that was written in it. I hope that this helps you have a better understanding of Leviticus.

God bless,

~Yvonne