“I will cut off your supply of bread, so that ten women will bake your bread in one oven and dole out your bread by weight, and you will eat but not be satisfied. And if, for all this, you still will not listen to me, but go against me; then I will go against you furiously, and I also will chastise you yet seven times more for your sins. You will eat the flesh of your own sons, you will eat the flesh of your own daughters.”-Leviticus 26:26-29
As part of the intensifying judgements Israel will experience for breaking YHWH’s covenant, verse 26 speaks of famine.
We are told of a scene where ten woman are baking bread using one oven and then doling out parts of the bread by weight.
This is a snapshot portrayal of what happens when severe starvation sets in.
But wait, we’re told things will get even worse.
As unbelievable as this may sound, we’re told that the hunger pangs will become so intense and violent that they will drive the women to begin eating their own children, literally.
God’s chosen people, who had for centuries carefully drained the blood of animals they had planned to meat and had only eaten meat offered at the bronze altar of the wilderness tabernacle, now have been brought to a level so low, they have resorted to eating the flesh of their own children to survive.
“Did this actually happen?!” you ask?
Yes, it actually happened.
When Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in the early 6th century, we’re told in the Book of Lamentations that Hebrew mothers killed, cooked and ate their own children!
Now understand that this portion of Leviticus 26 is speaking of the worst of the worst.
If you think death is the worse thing that can happen to a person, think again.
I’ll tell you what’s worse than death that can happen to a person.
Killing and eating your own children to stay alive is the worst thing that can happen to a person.
Next, let’s take a look at the verse that follows this unthinkable and horrid description of the abominations that will befall Israel due to their disobedience.
“I will destroy your high places, cut down your pillars for sun-worship, and throw your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols; and I will detest you.”-Leviticus 26:30
Ah-ha, now we see the cause for these horrific punishments Israel had to go through.
Ultimately, the reason was because of idol worship.
This should give us all serious pause for reflection.
Let’s take a look at the Hebrew for each of the words I bolded and underlined in this verse.
The Hebrew for the word “high places” is BAMAH.
While high places” is fine as far as the English translation goes, I think us moderns need a little more explanation.
When the Bible speaks of “high places” it is generally referring to a PAGAN altar of sacrifice or place of worship to false gods.
Now the reason I say generally is because in some places in the TANACH, BAMAH can in some instances be referring to altars of sacrifice to the God of Israel but more often than not BAMAH is referring to unauthorized altars.
The whole point is that the Israelites should NOT have built these high places.
BAMAH originally comes from the Ugaritic word BEMAT.
However, in Ugaritic BEMAT means “back” like the back of a person’s neck or the back of a horse for example.
The point is that it is a place HIGH UP on the anatomy of a given physical organism.
The Scriptures will also sometime use BAMAH to refer to the back of a mountain or the shoulder part of a hill referring to the UPPER PART of the slab of rock.
Okay, enough talk about BAMAH.
Let’s move on to the next phrase: pillars for sun worship
The Hebrew word being used here is CHAMMANIM.
The truth be told, this word does NOT literally indicate sun worship.
The only reason some Bibles render CHAMMANIM into “pillars for sun worship” is because sun worship was so common.
CHAMMANIM in a more literal sense refers to places where incense was burned to pagan deities.
Finally, the Hebrew for the last word that has been translated into “idols” is interesting.
The Hebrew word being used here is GILLULIM.
Now literally speaking, GILLULIM means “fetishes“.
The last part of verse 19 should be rendered “and throw your carcasses on the carcasses of your fetishes; and I will detest you.“
So what exactly is a fetish anyway?
It has a kind of erotic connotation, doesn’t it?
Let’s take a look at the dictionary definition
-a form of sexual desire in which gratification depends to an abnormal degree on some object or item of clothing or part of the body
-a charm superstitiously believed to embody magical powers
Now you know what, I believe BOTH of these meanings embody what the Hebrew word GILLULIM is all about.
What’s being spoken of here is something that goes far beyond what we normally think of when we think of an idol.
The normal image of an idol is a wooden, stone or clay statue of a god.
But here, God is speaking of those things in our lives that we place supreme importance on BUT WE SHOULDN’T.
We’re talking about things that people are attached to to an unhealthy degree above God and won’t let go no matter what.
I would say every type of addiction fits this description well, whether it’s addiction to money, alcohol, sex, drugs, food or whatever.
What’s being communicated in this verse is that as punishment for holding these worthless things above the living God, they will be killed and they will die while still grasping at these worthless, lifeless, useless things.
Everything they had counted on for security, or attached their self-worth or self-esteem to will have been completely for naught.
I think the takeaway here is quite obvious.
When we worship or attach ourselves to false idols, our destruction will be just as assurred as it was for our spiritual ancestors in ancient times.