Like any modern-day agreement between two parties, God’s covenant with Israel involved certain conditions. There were blessings for those who kept the covenant (26:1–13) and punishment for those who broke it (26:14–46).
Listen for the trumpet! Once every 50 years, the Israelites were to observe the Year of Jubilee. They would know it was time for the special year to begin when they heard the sound of a trumpet (25:9). The Hebrew word for Jubilee is related to a term that means “ram’s horn.”
An eye for an eye? This law (24:19–20) was not meant to encourage personal revenge. Rather, it set a limit to the penalties in cases of personal injury. In other words, “let the punishment fit the crime.”
The eating of holy things. Only priests and their families were allowed to eat the meat from sacrifices. Servants who were members of the household could also partake of the offerings, but hired laborers could not do so.
Private sin, public action. Though sexual immorality is often considered a private matter, it was not dealt with privately in ancient Israel. The Israelites understood that people’s religious and moral behavior affected the lives and well-being of their families and neighbors. Therefore, the community as a whole was responsible for carrying out the punishment for sexual sin.
Beards. Art from Bible times often shows Israelite men with full, rounded beards. This set them apart from the Egyptians and Romans, who were generally clean-shaven. Other peoples living in Palestine would cut or clip their beards. The Israelites were forbidden to do so, perhaps to show their commitment to God in a pagan culture (19:27).