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I am reading Leviticus, and am genuinely confused about the use of the phrase:

"I am the Lord [your God]".

This phrase is added to the end of various instructions, seemingly at random. Is there any explanation for this, or logic to it?

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My Father was born and raised in Tel Aviv Israel, so naturally I think of the Torah when you refer to the book of Leviticus. The Torah is the first 5 books of the bible.

The Torah is a special book because it was given by the Prophet Moses. Moses is the only Prophet in the bible who was allowed by GOD to announce the "law".

Not only did Moses announce the law, but he also warned in Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor should you take away from it. That you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

The pharisees in the New Testament got into a lot of trouble for adding to God's commands. (Mark 7:9 - 13).

Now think about an earthly king who tells his servant to distribute the law throughout his land.

The servant is not speaking of his own authority, but of the King who sent him. Therefore to make this clear to the people where this message comes from the servant says "This is the law - I am your king".

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  • You know, this is an insightful statement. It is unlikely that Moses received the entirety of the Law in a single sitting, and in ancient days the process of publishing text to the (relatively) far reaches of a land could take weeks and months (if not years). Given the reverence both ancient Hebrews and modern Jews have for the name of diety, each individual statement might include an authorizing seal that none would dare duplicate. Once gathered to gether into a single "book" (from our modern perspective), the (now lost reason for the) repetition would seem odd. – JBH Jun 2 '18 at 5:31
  • @JBH What you wrote about it being an added seal makes a lot of sense. To add more regarding this, the statement "I am" is the name God first gave Moses when Moses asked for His name at the burning bush. I'm translating this loosely from Hebrew text so don't take it completely literal, but yes the phrase "I AM THE LORD" contained a part of GODs name in Hebrew, which I assure you no true Jew would dare infringe on. – YAHsaves Jun 2 '18 at 7:46
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In the book of Leviticus (KJV translation), the declaration "I am the LORD your God" (occuring 21 times) or its short form "I am the LORD" (occuring an additional 24 times) is causally linked to the admonition to "be holy" (occuring 20 times). Please, refer to the graphs below to see the distribution of these phrases chapter by chapter throughout the book of Leviticus.

distribution of "I am the LORD" per chapter distribution of "Be holy" by chapter

The Leviticus occurances of these phrases are significantly disproportionate to their distribution across the rest of the Torah. Specifically, Leviticus contains 62% of the Torah's "I am the LORD" declarations and 67% of the its "be holy" admonitions.

The above graphs show that the "I am the Lord" declaration co-occurs with the "be holy" admonition throughout Leviticus (specifically chapters 11, 19-21, 23, and 25). However, that only suggest that there is a causal link between the two. The causal link is actually demonstrable by looking at specific passages. Leviticus 20:7-8 explicitly states "be holy" because "I am the LORD your God," and four other passages communicate the same idea: "He's your God who is holy, so be holy like Him" (11:44-45, 19:2, 20:24-26, and 21:6-8).

Thus, the repetition, "I am the LORD" is to give the reason for the command. It can be thought of as a shortened way of saying, "Doing this will make you holy, and you need to be holy because I am the LORD who is holy."

Please refer to the links below for the Leviticus and Torah corpora used in my analysis:

Leviticus corpus: Corpus of KJV translation of Leviticus segmented into chapters

Torah corpus: Corpus of the KJV translation of the Torah, not segmentated at all

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