III. The Holiness Code. The chief product of the literary activity of the earlier part of the exile is the collection of laws found in the seventeenth to the twenty-sixth chapters of Leviticus. Because of its strong emphasis on the holiness of Jehovah and on the necessity that he be worshipped by a people both ceremonially and morally holy, it is now commonly designated as the Holiness Code. In theme, in point of view, in purpose, and in literary form it has many close points of contact with the writings of Ezekiel. In its original unity it evidently came from the period and circle of thought in which the great priest-prophet lived. His sermons, however, suggest that he was acquainted with its main teachings. In distinguishing sharply between the Jerusalem priests and the ministering Levites, and in prohibiting the marriage of a priest with a widow, Ezekiel shows that his work represented a slightly later stage in the development of Israel’s religious standards. The most probable date, therefore, for the Holiness Code is the decade between the first and second captivity (597-586 B.C.).
Like every ancient lawbook the Holiness Code contains many laws and regulations which evidently come from a much earlier period in Israel’s history. Some of its enactments are very similar to those of the primitive codes of Exodus 21-23. In spirit it is closely related to the book of Deuteronomy. It also reproduces many of the laws found in this earlier code. Both codes represent the fruitage of the teaching of the pre-exilic prophets and priests. Each contains ceremonial, civil, and moral laws; but the emphasis on the ritual is more pronounced in the Holiness Code. It consists of ten or eleven distinct groups of laws. In Leviticus 18 and 19 are found certain short decalogues. They probably represent the united efforts of the Judean prophets and priests during the Assyrian period to inculcate the true principles of justice, service, and worship in the minds of the people. Some of the laws in these earlier decalogues are the noblest examples of Old Testament legislation:
[Sidenote: Kindness to the needy]
I. Thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy fields.
II. Thou shalt not gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
III. Thou shalt not glean thy vineyard.
IV. Thou shalt not gather the fallen fruit of thy vineyard.
V. Thou shalt leave them for the poor and the resident alien.
[Sidenote: Honesty in business relations]
vi. Ye shall not steal.
VII. Ye shall do no injustice, in measures of length, weight or of
VIII. Ye shall not deal falsely with one another.
IX. Ye shall not lie to one another.
X. Ye shall not swear falsely by my name.
[Sidenote: Toward dependents]
I. Thou shalt not oppress thy neighbor.
II. Thou shalt not rob thy neighbor.
III. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with thee all night
until the morning.
IV. Thou shalt not curse the deaf.
V. Thou shalt not put a stumbling-block before the blind.