Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Leviticus 4-6 The Devil is in the Details

I have to admit that I have a grudging respect for the insane amount of detail in the laws. 

God/Moses made sure all the T's were crossed, all the i's were dotted and all the throats were slit. 

I'm curious about making substitutions for sacrifices based on an individuals ability to pay (Leviticus 5:7). Yet all had to pay one shekel to the tabernacle, rich and poor. 


  1. It seems pretty clear to me that at the very least this Temple Instruction law must date from the days of the 1st Temple. It seems to be a working document. The slightly pathetic "If you can't even afford some turtle doves, you can just sacrifice FLOUR" rule sounds like actual law developed from working in an economically stratified city.

    I notice that in this law there is only reference to the "Tent of the Presence"- never the Tabernacle. In the more narrative portion, and the building instructions, there was reference to both.

    In E the Tent of the Presence exists as a less developed concept. (No Tabernacle.)

    If the priests who wrote P believed in centrality of worship, they would have to deal with how the Israelites worshipped before the temple was built. Perhaps they developed a tradition that E's "Tent of the Presence" was a precursor to the Temple.

    That raises the question of what exactly E's Tent of the Presence was. None of the E law mentions it. It's built in Exodus 33. It's initial description does seem to be utterly unlike the Tabernacle. It's described just as a "tent", and Moses would go there and and talk, face to face, with the Smoke Monster from Lost.

    Sounds kind of like a description of an oracle. Israel had plenty of these. One at Bethel is mentioned in Judges, but never fully described.

    P, writing hundreds of years after E, after Israel fell, probably had no idea what tradition E was actually referring to.


    Oh! Remember back to the story of the manna and the quails, in Exodus 16? This was when the Israelites were being whiny bitches. We get a J story about water, and then a J story about bread (manna). Then we get an E story about water. And then... we have to wait until Numbers to get E's manna/quail story. Why?


    It was moved because the E story contains the Tent of the Presence, which did not exist yet in Exodus 16. The story was moved to a later period of wandering.

    Okay, this makes sense, until you realize that the Tent of the Presence is clearly introduced in Exodus 33:7-11. In other mentions, including Numbers 11, it's taken for granted. If the Numbers 11 story was originally near Exodus 16, Exodus 33:7-11 is out of place as well.

    It's worth noting that 33:7-11 is rather devoid of context and could be placed pretty much anywhere in Moses's story. (It begins "Moses would take the tent and pitch it...". The tent? What tent?) Honestly, I don't think it fits where it is, or seems to be complete. It could easily have originally been earlier in the story.

    But why would it have been moved? I... am now too tired to care. Sorry for the digression.

  2. @ Abbie...

    Now that you have had time to rest..I am curious to understand your digression...

    Your question:
    But why would it have been moved? I... am now too tired to care. Sorry for the digression.

    Can you define "it" (I know it should be a safe assumption but just for fun) and define the source or Bible verse which proves that "it" was moved.

    I want to understand where you are coming from but am having some minor issues following you.

    On a very light side note:


    It rains water, bread, and fire...plenty of daylight...Jesus even mentions the season of fall in one of His NT parables.

    I guess its one of those things like how the cat is the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible.

  3. @Diomedes Anaxagoras:

    If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago.

    In your comment to me back in January you are sadly mistaken...in fact that is why I am commenting on this King and I blog.

  4. @Tom
    2Sa 23:20 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.

  5. @Tom
    Job 9:30;24:19;37:6; Snow water
    Psalms 147:16 giveth snow like wool
    Proverbs 25:13 cold of snow in the time of harvest
    Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven

  6. Just a few thoughts.
    Unintentional sins still require an atonement.

    Since it is possible to sin unintentionally, the tendency to sin must be a part of human nature.

    Bloody sacrifices are to point out that sin brings death.

    These sacrifices as atonement for sins foreshadow the Atonement accomplished by Christ.

  7. By "it" I meant Exodus 33:7-11, the apparent introduction to the Tent of the Presence.

    Okay, I originally went on and explained my big elaborate theory in detail, but the more I thought, I might be changing my mind.

    I realized that in the original JE, the two manna/quail accounts are not actually separated by very much material- simply the Covenant Code and J's Sinai narrative, which is rather short. Perhaps E simply originally placed his manna story after Mt. Horeb. Why? For balance? It is weird there is Israelite Whining stories both before and after Horeb. Was he making a point with that?

    Honestly, in Exodus E reads really disjointed. I'm not convinced everything we have is in its original order.

    One thing to note is that Exodus 33:7-11 DOES pre-date the building of the Tabernacle. But it's given in a subjunctive mood: "Moses would..." I think to remove the contradiction. This could be a grammar change made by the editor that combined JE and P.

    But I think overall its thought that the editor kept both JE and P intact. I would need strong evidence to assert that he messed with the order of JE to fix a contradiction. Since E placing his manna story post-Horeb is entirely possible (if not really explicable) I retract my theory pending further ponderin'.

  8. @Euslyss,

    "Bloody sacrifices are to point out that sin brings death."

    Is there a specific reference for this by this point in the Bible or is that later? I think I might be lulled by so many repeated "pleasing aroma to the Lord."


    LEV 4:10 "(just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings)"

    At least the writer sometimes notices they're being repetitive!

  9. @Chasia
    "Bloody sacrifices are to point out that sin brings death. Is there a specific reference for this...?"

    No, it is an inference drawn from the command to offer the sacrifices for sin. Notice in the laws the specific punishments of stoning for certain crimes or the vague 'cut off from his people' which sometimes seem to be the death penalty and sometimes seem to be exile. Later, in the NT, it is very specific: "Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" Also very specific is Rom 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

  10. So I have a question for those more knowledgeable than myself (cough. . . Abbie. . . cough). At the time this part of P was written, was the constant sacrifice still the primary part of Israelite religious ritual? Or are they talking about rites of the past? I just can't seem to get over how it's all bloody sacrifice all the time!

  11. At the time this part of P was written, was the constant sacrifice still the primary part of Israelite religious ritual? Or are they talking about rites of the past

    I'm pretty sure they're describing contemporary practises. P was written either during the time of the 1st Temple, sometime after the fall of Israel (early 8th century BCE) or shortly after the 2nd Temple was built (early 6th century BCE) I don't know when they stopped sacrificing at the Temple; maybe not until it was desecrated in the intertestamental period. I'm pretty sure it was going on in the times P was possibly written.

    (When and why it actually died out would be good to know. Would modern Othodox Jews revive the practice if they built a new Temple?)

  12. @Euslyss,

    Thanks. It's good to have the 10,000 foot view on what's going on.


    "I just can't seem to get over how it's all bloody sacrifice all the time!"

    Agreed. The temple/tent must of smelled like a meat processing plant with the fat burning and the blood splashing. And the flies and maggots it must of attracted.

    Maybe the common priest didn't go in there not because of God but because of the smell?

  13. I'm not really up on my temple layout, but the burning altar was situated outside of the temple (otherwise they would all asphixiate). The whole offerings were allowed to burn up completely, so they wouldn't be too messy. The shared offerings were eaten, so that's no worse than standard BBQ.

    Looks like the blood-letting was done around the altar and at the entrance to the temple. (Not in the Holy of Holies.) Still, with daily sacrifice, there's no way that blood didn't stink up the joint.

    Was the Temple built downwind?

  14. @ Abbie
    That annotated bible seems to be a real chronological chaos. The first temple was built by Solomon c. 900 BC; the second temple was built c. 500 BC; Herod the Great began 'remodeling' it c. 20 BC and this was still going on at the time of Jesus. The sacrifices continued until the temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD.

  15. @ Abbie
    Sorry, I reread your post and realized I misread what you were saying about 1st and 2nd temples. We are dating things similarly.

  16. Perhaps the prescribed attention to detail was shrewd marketing on the Lord's part. Or so it would seem in light of a recent episode of the radio show Age of Persuasion. With special attention to the part about Van Halen.