At the heart of the Pentateuch sits the wilderness, where Israel takes its first steps as the people of God. Leviticus and Numbers tell the story of these first steps. On the one hand, there are the steps as outlined by God. On the other hand, there are the steps that the people of Israel actually take. Stories of the people’s resentments, doubts, and fears unfold into a narrative of rebellion and death—and another chance at life.
The wilderness is indeed a “roundabout” way toward freedom and new life (Exod 13:18). The steps, alternately outlined by God and taken by the people of Israel, chart a story of recovery. Through these steps, Israel changes and grows. By interpreting this story alongside two other traditions of recovery, the Desert Tradition of early Christianity and the Twelve-step Program of today, this commentary invites readers to discover among the abstruse and archaic elements of Leviticus and Numbers a font of practical instruction and experience.
Jonathan Kruschwitz brings his characteristic sensitivity and elegance of expression to bear on the interpretation of two biblical books that many find daunting. He proposes that they can be read as the record of and invitation to a process of recovery, with analogies to the Twelve-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. This book is a fine example of how acute scholarship can be presented in a way that persuades modern readers of the enduring value of these texts, not as rigid rulebooks, but as tools, tailored for the particular needs of the Israelite communities they address, but open to us to apply in our own circumstances.
—Hugh S. Pyper
Emeritus Professor of Biblical Interpretation
Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies
University of Sheffield
Kruschwitz has brought a close textual reading of Leviticus and Numbers into dialogue with the modern Twelve-step recovery tradition in a commentary that has permanently changed how I now relate to both. In Leviticus and Numbers, the formerly enslaved Hebrews meet a God of the wilderness, where natural consequences are often immediate and harsh, but also where the journey of recovery and transformation can take place. Kruschwitz’s work is scholarly yet accessible to wide audiences, and his use of a hermeneutic of recovery to explore these biblical texts is brilliant and convincing.
—Rabbi Maurice D. Harris
Author of Leviticus: You Have No Idea