Psalm 100: Translation and Comments

This Spring Quarter, I am taking a Hebrew Reading course on the book of Psalms. Each week, we are required to translate one, pre-selected Psalm. This post contains a small snippet from my observations, notes, and translation of Psalm 100.


  • 1a: A Song for Thanksgiving
  • 1b: Raise a shout to Yahweh, all the land!
    • 2a: Serve Yahweh in joy
      • 2b: Come before him in exultation.
        • 3a: Know that he is Yahweh // he is God
          • 3b: He created us.
        • 3c: And, indeed, we are his people // the sheep of his pasturage
      • 4a: Come to its gates in thanksgiving, its courts in praise
    • 4b: Laud praise to him
  • 4c: Bless his name.
  • 5: For
    • 5a(1): Yahweh is good
    • 5b(1): From Prehistory is his devotion
    • 5a(2): generation unto generation
    • 5b(2): and his steadfastness.

In following paragraphs, I will briefly attempt to make one point about the Psalm. Unlike what modern reading tend to draw from a Psalm such as this, ancient readings likely understood this Psalm within a temple context. Words in a Psalm like this were not mere spiritual ideals and feelings; rather, the words reflect a culture in which bloody sacrifice took place within a temple. People approached altars and offered incense. It is in this context that this Psalm was composed. By recognizing this, we can begin to appreciate the art of the Psalm at a new, deeper level.


Image from Wikipedia; #TheSheepOfHisPasturage

The Title: A Song for Thanksgiving

The first thing in Psalm 100 is a title: A Song for Thanksgiving. The title merits some discussion. Often times, when we see words like ‘thanksgiving’, the imagery is simply that of offering a thanks through some sort of statement. In Psalm 100, this idea of ‘thanksigiving’ is true; however, the meaning of thanksgiving goes much deeper. In a West Semitic context, namely where this Psalm was likely composed, the idea of thanksgiving related to temple and cultic worship. So, giving thanks is not merely a vocal, interpersonal statement. Giving thanks involved liturgy and offerings. Offerings could include burning grain, incense, or something similar. Offerings could also include the bloody sacrifice of goat, ram, bird, or something similar.

For the original context and audience, then, the title A Song for Thanksgiving carries notions which involved all the senses. A sacrifice or offering of thanksgiving would involve physically approaching an altar, seeing the altar, smelling the offering, feeling the heat from the fire, and much more. In short, the language which this Psalm uses expresses a physical experience, not just an emotional, spiritual experience with the deity.

The Imperatives of the Psalm

With awareness of the aforementioned materiality represented through the Psalm, we can better appreciate the Psalm as a whole. So, in the following discussion, I will use some of the language within the Psalm in order to help draw out the world of the Psalm.

The Psalm consistently uses imperatives (italics=imperative). An imperative means that the form of the verb used is commanding a group of people: “You do this!” Within this Psalm, the first three commands are to raise a shout, serve Yahweh, and come before Yahweh. The first command carries a sense of exultation. Just as people raise a shout when President Obama speaks at events, the actors in Psalm 100 are to raise a shout of exultation for Yahweh.

The second imperative is to serve. Concepts of “serving” in a West Semitic context was not like modern notions. To serve, one was not an usher at a church, or a deacon. Rather, people served within a temple to the deity. And a temple was the house of the deity. Therefore, one served in the house of a deity, quite literally. With this understanding, we begin to see how grounded in reality Psalm 100 is. It isn’t commanding the audience to serve Yahweh by going to the nations and being a deacon; rather, it is commanding the audience to serve in a physical temple. The temple, of course, is the abode of Yahweh.

The third imperative is to come. In order to come, though, it must be to something physical. So, the text specifically commands one to come before Yahweh, before his face. Within a West Semitic context, this may mean coming before the altar of the deity. So, the Psalm is, again, very grounded in the reality of temple worship. Modern notions of coming before God are about gathering together and performing liturgy. Ancient notions of coming before a deity were about coming before some true, physical representation of the deity.

Unfortunately, due to the amount of time not available to me, I can’t write much more than this at the moment. Though, I hope that this brief, not-so-thorough discussion of the Psalm may help you to better appreciate the historical context of Psalm 100, and perhaps all of the Psalms.



Readings On Leviticus

This post contains thoughts, reactions, objections, etc. to my assigned reading. Tomorrow I plan on reading through Leviticus and *offering* my notes. Don’t worry. I won’t offer my notes on an altar.

The Jewish Study Bible: Leviticus (introduction to Leviticus by Baruch J. Schwartz)

  • Leviticus is part of a long narrative, not short, boring book about [imagined] ancient Israelite ritual practice. Too often we read Leviticus as a weird text, or we just skip over it.
  • “In P’s view [P is the Priestly source], only the events recounted by the Tabernacle narrative took place. The centrality of the Tabernacle narrative is therefore far more pronounced in P than in the redacted Torah, since, in P, only in connection with the arrival of the divine Presence to dwell among the Israelites was a code of law given and the social structures established” (Jewish Study Bible, 204).
  • Two narratives interrupt the series of laws
    • Crime of Nadab and Abihu
      • Narrative for proper disposal of sacrificial offering
      • eye-for-eye principle
  • According to the author, Leviticus “came into existence” in the last centuries of the Judean kingdom. “Came into existence” a broad term, for it could refer to composition, creation, redaction, or any other number of things.
  • Because Temple ritual is envisioned in Leviticus, the book remained central to Jewish life after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. In essence, Leviticus offered Jews a way to continue practicing the purity, purity which honored God, through actions which served to sanctify his name.

The Jewish Study Bible: Concepts of Purity in the Bible (by Jonathan Klawans)

  • Important consideration of purity: “What is pure is not necessarily holy, nor is the common necessarily impure” (2041).
  • James Frazer, who wrote The Golden Bough and understood Leviticus ritual “as if [it] were a random collection of primitive taboos” (2041), was a major influence for Joseph Campbell. While the contributions of Frazer cannot be denied, those who are completely okay with Frazer as a major influence of Campbell must willingly critique Frazer. By not doing so, we are unable to realize how outdated Joseph Campbell truly is. Freud, another influence for Campbell, understood “primitive” religion similarly.
  • There is a dissertation completed within the last few years which argues that P is, in fact, not anti-women. This is to support Klawans’ statement that some scholars viewed Leviticus as a way of subordinating Israelites and, in particular, women.
  • It is not a sin to contract ritual impurities, according to Leviticus.
  • “There is… no direct association between health and purity, or between disease and defilement” (2043).
  • “If the rules [of Leviticus] were meant to exclude women, one should wonder why rituals of purification serve to bring women into the sanctuary” (2044).
  • Common denominators of ritual defilement are death and sex.
  • Leviticus is meant to keep God’s santicity: “Because God is eternal, God does not die. because God has no consort, God does not have sex” (2044).
    • There is evidence, though, of a consort of Yahweh in archaeological and textual evidence. How does one deal with the lack therein within the Priestly account? Maybe is says something about the redaction process of the Pentateuch?
  • Two sides of the spectrum:
    • Absence of impurity can be considered pure (tahor)
    • Absence of holiness can be considered common (hol).
  • Moral versus ritual impurity:
    • Ritual impurity is not sinful, moral is considered so.
    • Moral impurity threatens the land, ritual only threatens the Temple.
    • Ritual is considered with physical contact with impurity, moral is no.
    • Ritual is temporary defilement, while moral tends to be long lasting.
    • Ritual can be purified, while moral cannot be purified.
    • Moral impurity does not cause exclusion from temple, while ritual defilement does.
  • Great conclusion: “The purity rules are often disparaged as blunt instruments of social control, put in place by the priestly few to enforce their hegemony over laypersons and women. Alternatively, some still see purity rules as vestiges from primitive times. The challenge is to recognize purity rules… as meaningful and yet nuanced ways of highlighting issues of social and theological significance” (2047).

Jacob Milgrom, “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly ‘Picture of Dorian Gray,’” in Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology, 75-84.

  • Milgrom understands biblical impurity as a dynamic and malefic force (75).
  • This article focuses on the nature of biblical impurity in relation to hatta’t, which is a purification offering: whom or what does it purge?
  • The hatta’t blood is applied to the horns of the altar (Lev. 8:15) but never people. Thus, it seems to cleanse the altar.
  • The kipper rite is always used on the floor or room with a prepositions such as ‘al, which means ‘on.’ Whenever kipper is used in relation to a person, it uses prepositions indicating “on behalf of,” meaning the hatta’t is carried out on behalf of the offerer.
  • Priest performs rites for (1) forgiveness of sins) and (2) for cleansing an impure person.
  • This approach to hatta’t as a purgative for the sanctuary, not the individual, echoes ancient Near Eastern cults.
    • “for both Israel and her neighbors impurity was a phsycial substance, an aerial miasma which possessed magnetic attraction for the realm of the sacred” (77).
    • This magnetic attraction was modified for a monotheistic context.
  • Gradation of sins and impurities relates to the physical space of the Temple.
    • “Inadvertencies of the individual” are purified with the hatta’t on the altar, thereby purifying the alter.
    • The next level of holiness in the tabernacle, the shrine, is affected b y communal inadvertencies.
    • Finally, the wanton sins, deliberate and unprovoked, affect the adytum, or holiest place of the tabernacle. This portion of the tabernacle, though, may only be purified on Yom Kippur (Levitucs 16).
  • Milgrom argues against Levine. Milgrom responds to Levine’s argument, that the hatta’t blood is an issue of apotropaic protection, by claiming that the hatta’t blood is not sprinkled at entrances. The entrances is where demons would enter. While I see his reasoning, it raises the question of genre. To what extent does Leviticus represent practice ritual? Perhaps Leviticus is practiced in someways, yet also idealized in others?
  • Milgrom creates too much of a distinction between “judicial” and “magical”: “Its function, moreover, is judicial not magical” (80). We must consider the reality of magic in the ancient Near East, Mediterranean, and Levant.
  • The hatta’t purification as it relates to people, which purifies something on behalf of the people, demonstrates focus of P on Israelit as a holy, sanctified people (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:26).
  • For Milgrom, the absence of demonas means humans are now the ones who contaminate the sanctuary and force God out.
  • Priests understood God as the one who acted in retribution because the people’s actions sanctified him or defamed him. I should note, though, that Milgrom argues for the omnipotence of God based on this. Would an omnipotent God, in the mind of the Priestly author, be concerned with his fame? I think of Primeval history  (Genesis 1-11) and how the P source represent Yahweh as needing reminders for himself, not for others. With this, Yahweh is more of a human figure than in other sources. Perhaps, then, this need to be considered in tandem with Milgrom’s argument for God’s omnipotence in the mind of the Priestly author.

David P. Wright, “Holiness in Leviticus and Beyond: Differing Perspectives,” Interpretation 53 (1999): 351-364.

  • Holiness School (henceforth, HS; Leviticus 17-26) is similar with the Priestly Source; however, the HS has distinctive concerns.
  • P source focused on cultic manner.
  • HS has a central focus on how holiness relates to God, humans, object, places, and time.
  • HS and Persons
    • God
      • Certain behaviour desecrates his name
      • Divine name is crucial, as his reputation can be besmirched.
      • God is the model for Israel’s holiness
      • In both P source and HS, God is the ultimate source of purification and holiness
    • Israel
      • In contrast to P source, HS demands holiness through behaviour, not ritual.
      • People obtain and maintain holiness by observing commandments.
        • Perhaps the question of the HS helps explainthe JPS comments about Leviticus as the fundamental text in Jewish education, for it enables actions which sanctify God, not necessarily rituals.
      • HS has to a primary command with two major focuses: (1) Sabbath as sign to signal (2) holiness.
      • Wrights discussion of diet is, again, somewhat problematic. As I mentioned regarding Milgrom, we have to consider whether or not Leviticus was actually practiced or if it is merely an imagined cult. Perhaps it is both. That said, if Wright is going to claim that “diet thus encodes the social and political situation of Israel among the nations” (354), he should entertain the question as to whether or not this was historically a practice. If it was historically a practice, how long was it a practice?
    • Priests
      • HS and P source see holiness as bestowed externally.
      • HS focuses on the behaviours for priestly holiness.
      • Honor shown to the Priesthood, according to the HS, reflects the honor Israel showed to God because the Priesthood has external holiness, not just internal.
      • Stricter dietary restrictions for the HS.
    • Firstborn and Levites
      • God sanctified firstborns.
      • P source lacks discussion of the Levites.
      • HS never calls Levites holy.
  • Holiness of Places
    • Sanctuary in the Camp
      • P source and HS consider this holy; in P source it is in gradations of holiness.
      • HS systematizes and rationalizes P source holiness
        • HS claims that presence of deity has healing affect; yet, it makes sure not to take this idea too far.
    • The Land
      • For HS, sin infects the land.
      • HS claims that Day of Atonement is for pollutants like offering children to Molech or delaying purification for contamination
      • For HS, land becomes the locus for pollution, meaning that Yahweh will leave the land if he needs to.
  • Holiness of Objects
    • Sanctuary furniture
      • HS expands on Priestly source by offering more regulations surrounding interactions with furniture.
    • Offerings
      • HS expands on the gradation of holiness as it relates to offerings and eating.
      • By detialing the first and second Passovers, we see inner-biblical interpretation.
  • Holiness is Time
    • HS focuses on the holiness of Sabbath.
      • HS places sabbath on the same level as the sanctuary, as per Knohl.
    • HS seems to turn day of atonement into a yearly ritual.
    • HS also expands and restrictions for Sabbath.

Pseudepigrapha Saturday: The Sibylline Oracles

Introduction to the Text:

The Sibylline Oracles are a series of prophetic texts akin to those found in Roman and Grecian literature. Non-biblical literature Sibylline oracles were prophetic texts by a female prophetess that were either used in serious crises or as political propaganda. The Sibylline Oracles in the Pseudepigrapha consist of  eight books and were written between the mid-second century B.C.E. to the seventh century C.E. These oracles combined the Mediterranean medium of a prophetic Sibyl and and incorporated them into Jewish literature. J. J. Collins notes that “willingness to incorporate material from pagan oracles shows a significant readiness to build on the common human basis of Jews and gentiles” (OTP, vol. 1, 322). Even with the shared prophetic medium, prophecy still changed and developed, reflecting the time period in which the different books were written.

The Sibylline Oracles and the Land:

Sibylline Oracles 3 contrasted to 5 demonstrates this historical development well. Collins, in fact, provides and excellent primer for what the following will explores. He says that “by contrast with Sibylline Oracles 3 , book 5 shows advanced alienation from all its gentile neighbors.”(OTP, vol. 1, 391). Both Oracles were written in Egypt; however, they were written in very different periods. Sibylline Oracles 3 was written between 163-145 B.C.E., while Sibylline Oracles 5 was written in the beginning of the 2nd century C.E. Both Sibylline Oracles differ in context. I will pick up on the contrasting nature of their uses of land.

The Sibylline Oracles 3 says the following:

“And then God will give great joy to men, / for earth and trees and countless flocks of sheep / will give to men the grue fruit / of wine, sweet honey and white milk / and corn, which is best of all for mortals” (619-623).

This sentiment is echoed later.

“For the all-bearing earth will give he most excellent unlimited fruit / to mortals, of grain, wine, and oil / and a delightful drink of sweet honey from heaven, / trees, fruit of the top branches, and rich flocks / and herds and lambs of sheeps and kids of goats. / And it will break forth sweet fountains of white milks” (SibOr 3.744-749).

Both of these words by the Sibyl demonstrate a theme for her, namely the importance of the promised land. Genesis to Joshua sometimes draw up imagery of the promised land flowing with milk and honey. The author applies the motif to the whole world, though. All people will have the opportunity to participate in the eschatological age in which Yahweh establishes a common Law for all people on the earth. “The Immortal in the starry heaven will put in effect a common law for men throughout the whole earth” (SibOr 3.757-758). While Yahweh will still judge those who do note adhere to the law, the Sibyl words her prophecy in such a way that encourages cohesion with fellow humans beings to a certain extent, so long as it is under the hegemony of Yahweh.

By contrast, Sibylline Oracles 5 “reflects the alienation of the Jewish community from its environment” (OTL, vol. 1, 392). With the political turmoil in Rome and Egypt, Siylline Oracles 5 clearly reflects a shift in thought. Again focusing on the promised land, the land of Israel, the prophets writes that “the holy land of the pious alone will bear all these things: / a honey-sweet stream from rock and spring, / and heavenly milk will flow for all the righteous” (SibOr 5.281-283). This shift in thought echoes the socio-political situation of Jews in Egypt. Whatever exactly happened to them is not the focus, but it is clear that whatever happened resulted in a new, more exclusive view of Yahweh’s covenant. The 2nd century C.E. viewpoint, unlike like the 1st century B.C.E. viewpoint, restricts the blessings of the promised land, land flowing with milk and honey, to the land of the pious alone. The earlier Sibylline Oracles 3 contrasts her view in that it applied the motif to the whole world.

These developments are important because they allow historians to better trace the trajectory and reception of motifs through history. In doing say, texts like the Sibylline Oracles provide insight to the environments in which the prophetic texts were written and also elucidate how certain elements of biblical literature were appropriates for other people’s uses. In this case, the promised land flowing with milk and honey was initially appropriated for the whole world. However, following the Jewish Revolt and other political turmoil, later appropriations of the same motif appropriate it not for inclusive purposes, but for exclusive purposes to clearly mark off who was the Other.


J. J. Collins “Sibylline Oracles”. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume I. Hendrickson Publishers, 1983: 317-472.



Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part VI)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

As noted in the pervious post, the trajectories go in different directions after Leviticus 8:36 and Exodus 29:37. Prior to these verses, aside from differences regarding when the altar is to be consecrated, they are quite similar. How, though, do the trajectories of the remainder of these sections relate to each other?

Milgrom notes an important relationship between Leviticus 8’s narrative and Exodus 29: “there is a good ancient Near Eastern precedent for the Israelite writer to have inserted his own choice of words and idioms when he described the fulfillment of a command. Indeed, were it not for the other deviations adduced here, which show that Lev 8 represents a viewpoint different from that of Exod 29, it would even be possible to argue… that Exod 29 and Lev 8 could have been written by the same author” (547-548). So just as Milgrom recognizes the nearness of the two portions of text, I do. And as he notes, they are from different perspectives.

While the narrative in Leviticus 9:1-24 and Exodus 29:38-46 are the paramount example of differing perspectives, they operate on parallel trajectories. First, both perspectives reflect cultic service after the consecration of the altar. Leviticus places the consecration in 8:15, and Exodus 29:36-37 makes official a consecrated altar. Second, both perspectives find their climax in Yahweh appearing to the people.

…the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. – Lev 9:23b

“And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory.” – Exod 29:43



Establishing that the glory of Yahweh will appear as the two sections parallel each other raises an important question. How do the unique perspectives on the consecration of the Tent of Meeting actually parallel and interact with each other?

In the next post, I will analyze the two perspectives, how they are similar, and how they differ.

Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part V)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

In my previous post, I noted that one of the greatest distinctions between the narrative of Leviticus and Exodus rests in Leviticus 8:15 and Exodus 29:36. It is important to grasp why these two passages are different because it may shed light on the climactic event of Nadab and Abihu’s deaths.

36 “And each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it; and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. – Exodus 29:36

15 Next Moses slaughtered it and took the blood and with his finger put some of it around on the horns of the altar, and purified the altar. Then he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it, to make atonement for it. – Leviticus 8:15

The conflict between these two passage is, in short, the location of the purification of the altar. Leviticus places the purification prior to the consecration of the Tent of Meeting while Exodus places it following the rituals for consecration. Feder argues that the redactor of Leviticus removed anointing of the altar that consecrated from Exodus 29:36, likely the older of the two texts, and placed the consecration at the beginning of the consecration of the Tent of Meeting (See Feder, 2011, pg. 50-51).

In short, “Lev 8 reflects the view that the anointment of the altar is a prerequisite for its use in the cult; hence, the anointment takes place before the sacrifices” (Feder 2011, 51). Thus, for the redactor of Leviticus 8, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that, prior to use, the altar is anointed, thereby being consecrated.  This simultaneously marks a point wherein Leviticus 9 and the remainder of Exodus 29 diverge on distinct paths. The distinction of anointment and consecration prior for Leviticus and following for Exodus is the crux and turning point for both narratives.

At this point, Leviticus 9-10:3 expands on the idea from Exodus 29:37-46, and also Exodus 30:1-7. The relationship between these two will be explored further in the next few posts. The following posts will also take into consideration the significance of Leviticus’ value of anointment and consecration prior to sacrifice, in contrast to Exodus.


Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part II)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

In the previous post, after posing two basic assumption, I traced the parallel nature of Leviticus 8:1-13 and Exodus 29:1-9. I will now continue in tracing how they parallel each in Leviticus 8:14-30 and Exodus 29:10-30. The following chart summarizes the parallel nature of these portions of text:

Lev Leviticus Ex Exodus
8:14 Bull for sin offering before tent of meeting, Aaron and sons lay hands upon head of bull. 29:10 Bull before tent of meeting, Aaron and sons lay hands on head of bull.
8:15 Moses slaughters bull, puts blood on horns of altar and purifies altar, pours blood out at base of altar to consecrate and atone for it. 29:11-12 Slaughter bull before the LORD at tent of meeting, blood onto the horns of the altar with finger, and pour blood at base of altar.
8:16-17 Fat on the entrails, lobe of liver, two kidneys, and kidney fat are offered as smoke offering. Bull, hide, and flesh is burned outside camp, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:13-14 Fat that covers entrails, lobe of liver, two kidneys, and fat on kidneys offered up in smoke on altar. Bull’s flesh and hide burned outside the camp as a sin offering.
8:18-19 Ram of burn offering presented, Aaron and his sons lay hands on head of ram. Moses slaughters ram and sprinkles blood around altar. 29:15-16 A certain ram is taken, and Aaron and his sons lay hand on head of read. Moses slaughters ram and sprinkles blood around on the altar.
8:20-21 Ram cut into pieces and head/pieces/suet offered in smoke. Entrails and legs washed and offered in smoke. Burnt offering is a soothing Aroma and offering by fire to the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:17-18 Ram cut into pieces and head/pieces/legs/entrails washed. Offer up the whole ram on altar, a burnt offering to the LORD, a soothing aroma, an offering by fire.
8:22 Second ram of ordination, and Aaron and sons lay hands on head of ram. 29:19 Another ram, and Aaron and sons lay hands of head of ram.
8:23-24 Moses slaughters ram, puts some blood on lobe of Aaron’s right ear, thumb of right hand, and big toe of right foot. Moses puts blood on Aaron’s sons: lobe of right ear, thumb of right hand, and big toe of right foot. Sprinkle remaining blood around on altar. 29:20 Moses slaughters ram, takes blood and puts it on lobe of Aaron’s right ear and his sons’ right ears, thumbs of their right hands, and big toes of right feet. Sprinkle remaining blood around on altar.
29:21 Take blood and altar and anointing oil, sprinkle on Aaron and his garments, on sons and sons’ garments, so Aaron, his sons, and the garments are consecrated.
8:25-26 Moses takes fat, fat tail, and entrails fat, lobe of liver, two kidneys, fat on kidneys, right thigh, and places one unleavened cake and one cake of bread, mixed with oil and wafer, places them on portions of fat and the right thigh. 29:22-23 Moses takes fat from ram, fat tail, fat that covers entrails, lobe of the liver, two kidneys, kidney fat, and right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination). Also, one cake of bread, one cake of bread with oil, one wafer.
8:27 Moses places previous items in hands of Aaron and his sons as wave offering before the LORD. 29:24 Moses places previous items in hands of Aaron and his sons to wave as a wave offering before the LORD.
8:28 Moses takes wave offerings and offers them as smoke, an ordination offering and soothing aroma, and offering by fire to the LORD. 29:25 Moses takes wave offerings and offers them as smoke on the altar, a burnt offering and soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.
8:29 Moses takes breast of ram and presents it as wave offering, Moses’ portion of the ram ordination, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:26 Moses takes breast of Aaron’s ram of ordination, waves it as wave offering before the LORD as his portion.
8:30 Moses takes anointing oil and blood from altar, sprinkles on Aaron, his garments, his sons, their garments, and consecrates Aaron, his garments, his sons, and his sons’ garments.
29:27 It is made clear that Moses consecrated the breast of wave offering, thigh of heave offering, which was offered from ram of ordination, one for Aaron and the other for his sons. This verse is a description of what happened in 29:26.
29:28-30 This portion describes the future of the Aaronic priesthood and will be discussed in a latter blog post.

*In making this chart, I did consider the fact that , in Exodus, Moses is being commanded. In Leviticus, the narrative is actually occurring. That said, when reading this chart, please assume that the Exodus side of the chart, the right side, recognizes that God was commanding Moses.

In many places, the wording is different, yet the concepts remains consistent: consecration of Aaron and his sons. Aside from Exodus 29:28-30, a passage absent in Leviticus for good reason (this will be the subject of a later blog post), the only significant difference is the placement of Aaron and his son’s actual consecration. Leviticus places their consecration in 8:30, while Exodus does so in 29:21, the middle of the consecration ritual.

There are a few possible explanations for the differing locations of Aaron and his sons’ consecrations. First, it may simply be an issue of redaction. Perhaps the redactor failed to fully synchronize the P source and any contradictions within it. Second, it may be an intentional result to suggest that Moses intentionally consecrated them at a different time than God commanded. Third, perhaps the different is not significant because the consecration ritual was not as set in stone and people make it out to be. In other words, the ritual has a certain amount of flexibility to it because they are not directly interacting with God’s kabod.

The next post will discuss this difference further and explore why Exodus 29:28-30 is not included in Leviticus’ narrative.

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Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part I)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 should be read parallel to Exodus 29 – 30:10 because the two pericopes point toward a possible solution, or answer, for explaining Nadab and Abihu’s death. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, popular interpretations of Leviticus 10’s “unholy fire” often carry negative views of the value of cult worship. In response, I hope to demonstrate that the issue of “unholy fire”, or the improper actions of Nadab and Abihu, is not intended to emphasize the un-malleability of P’s law, but rather to draw focus on God’s kabod, his physicalized glory (Sommer 2015, 52).

In order to demonstrate this, two assumptions must be clarified. First, Lev 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 28 – 30:10 are both P material (Sommers 2015, 53). Having developed from the same theological traditions, these two pericopes are subject to parallel analysis. Second, the kabod, for P, “describes God’s body (the כָּבוֹד, or kabod) as consisting of a substance that looked like fire” (Sommers 2015, 53). This will be important later in analysis of the actual presence of fire-like kabod that represents God’s body.

Following is presentation of a portion of each pericope. Exodus 29:1-9 describes the necessary materials for sacrifice (vs. 1-2), coming to the doorway of the tent of meeting for washing (vs. 3), dressing Aaron in the High Priest garments (vs. 5-6), anointing Aaron (vs. 7), and dressing Nadab and Abihu in priests tunics (vs. 8), and binding sashes and caps on Aaron and his sons (vs. 9). Likewise, Leviticus 8:1-13 follows a similar narrative: proper sacrifice materials are brought (vs. 2), they meet at the doorway of the tent of meeting for washing (vs. 4, 6), Aaron is dressed in High Priest garments (vs. 7-9), Aaron is anointed (vs. 12), Nadab and Abihu receive priestly tunics (vs. 13), and Aaron and his sons are bound with caps and sashes (vs. 13). In essence, these two pericopes portray the same narrative trajectory with minor differences.

First, Leviticus details that “this is the thing which the LORD has commanded to do” (vs. 5). In essence, Leviticus 8:5 seems to refer back to Exodus 29:1-9 in that it seems to repeat, save for minor embellished details, exactly what God directly commanded Moses. Such repetition within P material is no surprise because other ancient Near Eastern materials operate similarly, employing tools like repetition within literary compositions. Secondly, Leviticus 8:8 specifies the Urim and Thummim on Aaron, while Exodus 29:5 does not discuss the Urim and Thummim. Third, Moses, in Leviticus 8:10-11, anoints the tabernacles, altar, utensils, basin, and stand prior to anointing Aaron in vs. 12. Exodus 29:7 contains solely a command to anoint Aaron. Fourth, Leviticus 8:1-13 notes repeatedly “just as the LORD had commanded Moses” (vs. 4, 5, 9, 13), while Exodus 29:1 abstains from such comment because it is only instruction.

In conclusion, a parallel comparison of Exodus 29:1-9 and Leviticus 8:1-13 demonstrates that both run parallel to each other, one as command and the other as past action. Leviticus 8:1-13 tends to use the waw-consecutive + imperfect to illustrate a continuous narrative of ritual, while Exodus 29:1-9 uses perfect Qal verbs to illustrate it as distant from the actual action. Thus, it is further reasonable to assume that these two passages are intended to be connected, one as the command and the other as action.

Next time, I will present the similarities and difference between Exodus 29:10-30 and Leviticus 8:14-30.

Sommer, Benjamin D. Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Traditions. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.

All biblical quotation taken from NASB.

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Clarifications and Conclusions of the Conflict Myth in Joshua (Part IV)

This is the final post of a short series examining the conflict myth in Joshua 6-7. If you have not read the first three posts, click here: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

This post will discussion clarifications of previously discussed information and conclusions of why acknowledgement of the conflict myth in Joshua is important for the modern reader.


Previously, I used the term “legitimize”, for which I now offer a definition of my usage: to justify a certain ideological stance in order to show people reason for the superiority of one ideology over another. As for the secondary application, it has less to do with aligning oneself to the victorious deity in the conflict myth. Rather, it has more to do with recognizing that people are victorious politically, or should be, because the deity defeated the alternate power structure which threatened some sort of order.

Additionally, in Part II, I noted that Psalm 106 has God act towards the Sea in a manner similar to the conflict myth. The emphasis of the Psalm is to legitimize God via the conflict myth. “Sea” is not intended to represent Pharaoh as the alternate power structure.


Now that I have briefly analyzed Joshua in the previous passages, I shall briefly conclude about the implications for the modern reader. As noted in Part I, readers often understand Joshua as genocide. Yet from the dimension of divine conflict, it is evident that the killing of people at, for example, Jericho was not an issue of God demanding blood. In fact it is likely that much of Joshua occurred significantly differently than written due to the historiographical nature of Joshua. Similarly, Ai was a failed invasion because of the denial of God’s rule, which is too a certain extent rooted in the conflict myth.

Thus ideological legitimization of the order which God oversees is the intention. In clearer terms, the conflict myth’s presence within Joshua is a sort of ancient propaganda. And within an ancient context, such warfare was not morally or ethically wrong. So to a certain extent, the ideology propagated and legitimized by the divine conflict myth in Joshua is akin to modern propaganda which does not consider warfare ethical or moral. Of course, many may not consider places which contain “propaganda” to be propaganda (cf. ABC, CNN, Fox News, and NBC).

In essence, because Joshua is very focused on ideological legitimization, with the conflict myth as a dimension of its strategy, one may appreciate Joshua in a new light.

Secondary Application of the Conflict Myth in Joshua 6-7 (Part III)

This is Part III of a series analyzing Joshua, especially chapters 6-7, and how the conflict myth in utilized. If you have not read the first posts, click here for Part I and Part II.

Having determined, in Part II, Gods power and strength to direct Israel into Canaan was proclaimed in Joshua 2 by Rahab, who references traditions of the exodus in the Psalms with a conflict myth spin, this particular post will explore how Israel is legitimized and the ideological implications.

The author does so via means of secondary application and legitimizes Israel within two contexts: literary and social. In other words, because God is legitimized to act as he is, Israelites in the book of Joshua are justified to hold such great confidence in God, one dimension of many. Additionally, because God is legitimized to act as he is, the author justifies political action within his own context. The following will go into greater detail as to how the two are active and utilize the conflict myth.

First, the literary context justifies Israel to take Jericho in Joshua 6. Because God is legitimized by the conflict myth, the power represented by God’s defeat of the Sea, the conflict myth proclaimed by Rahab, is applied to the Israelites. Israel in and of itself has no power apart from God, an idea also presented from the outlook of Joshua 1-2. Their power is explained, at least through Rahab, by God as their support, the one who defeated the Sea. The secondary application of the conflict myth enables and encourages Israelites to take Jericho in full confidence. Beyond Israel, secondary application shows the weakness deities foreign to Israel, hence showing the weakness of other gods and thereby those who worship them.

Second, the social context justifies Israel to fight against foreign political entities, though this is complicated. David Howard notes “that portions of the book were written in Joshua’s day and that it was substantially complete by the time of David at the latest” , with much other scholarship dating composition to the time of Josiah or later (1998, 30). Regardless of the specific date, it is clear that secondary application of the conflict motif to legitimize Israel would have provided confidence for the Judeans/Israelites of the historian’s social context. it is apparent that Joshua’s rhetoric legitimizes Israel’s actions and obedience to God’s commands via the application of the conflict motif to God.

At least in Joshua’s final composition, the conflict myth is utilized to legitimize Israel’s actions and the Torah commandments. This is important because the Torah, although multi-faceted, contains an ideology of obeying God. Thus the historian and compiler of Joshua, by legitimizing God, is able to legitimize Torah for his socio-political and literary context.

I suggest that this legitimization of God as the ruler explains why Israel was defeated at Ai and victorious at Jericho. While both draw emphasis towards obedience of God, the obedience and legitimization of the people via secondary application is rooted in the conflict myth presented by Rahab (Josh 2:10). The conflict myth is also utilized to show why Israel should create a memorial to God (Josh 4:23) and circumcise the new generation (5:1). When the people disobey God, as at Ai, they are opposing the god who defeated the Sea and established his kingdom. In contrast, when the people obey God, as at Jericho, they are supporting the god who defeated the Sea and established his kingdom.

Part IV will explore the implications of such a reading for the modern context.

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Evidence for the Conflict Myth in Joshua 6-7 (Part II)

This is Part II of a series about the presence of the conflict myth in Joshua 6-7. If you have not read the introductory post, click here to read.

Joshua 6-7 contains a few passages that seem to employ similar tactics to the conflict, albeit in a unique fashion. Unlike many of the texts which Debra Ballentine analyzes, texts which legitimize certain ideologies directly via allusion to conflict myth for primary or secondary application, the book of Joshua utilizes the conflict myth through two methods. First of all, there is an assumption that God is greater than the land, an idea clear throughout Joshua 1:2-9. Verses 1:2-3 and 1:5-9 assume God will give the land to Israel under the conditions that Israel obeys Torah. Such an assumption, though without use of the conflict myth, assumes that God is greater than the other nation’s deities. Hence Israel is presented with far more political prowess and power than nations across the Jordan.

The book of Joshua, rather, past actions to speak the deeds of God. Within the words of the foreigner, namely Rahab, the conflict myth is present. In Joshua 2:10, Rahab is the first to note a specific and unique element of the Exodus account:

For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt (Joshua 2:10, NASB).

Importantly, Rahab did not mention the death of Pharaoh’s army, although it is being alluded to. Her focus, rather, is on the act of God drying the sea. Exodus 14:21 says the strong east wind “turned the sea into dry land”. The interesting thing about Exodus 14:21 is that it does not relate the drying of the sea directly to God’s actions. And the Song of Moses, while referencing God as a divine warrior (15:3), an important part of the conflict myth, does show God acting against the waters. Yet Rahab directly connects the sea to God’s actions. This may be explained by Psalms 106:7-12, an example of the conflict myth within the exodus motif (Ballentine 2015, 94):

    7            Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;

They did not remember

Your abundant kindnesses,

But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

8            Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name,

That He might make His power known.

9            Thus He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up,

And He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness.

10            So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them,

And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11            The waters covered their adversaries;

Not one of them was left.

12            Then they believed His words;

They sang His praise.

(Psalm 106:7-12, NASB)

As Ballentine notes, “the way in which Yahweh rebukes and dries the sea indicates an adversarial manipulation and command of the sea/deep/waters. Such an adversarial relationship is consistent with instances of the conflict motif” (2015, 94). Because Exodus is not directly illustrating God’s power through the lens of the conflict motif, but Psalm 106:7-12 does so, Rahab’s reference, from a literary aspect, is more akin the exodus tradition as redacted through the Psalms than the book of Exodus. In effect, Rahab’s words conjure images of God as the divine warrior who defeats the sea. Rhetorically this establishes God as superior to the gods of her own people. Such a point is reinforced as well through Psalm 77:16, a Psalm placed in context of the exodus:

The waters saw You, O God;

The waters saw You, they writhed;

The deeps also trembled.

(Psalm 77:16)

Again the exodus motif in Psalm 77:16 is synchronized with the conflict motif to legitimize God’s rule (Ballentine 2015, 93). This is another example of the traditions of which Rahab, as a literary character, speaks. Both Psalm 77:16 and 106:7-12 illustrate the conflict motif. And Rahab’s reference to God drying up the water of the Red Sea indicates that the author is utilizing the conflict tradition to legitimize God’s ability and power to lead Israel to capture Jericho as a greater nation, an example of the secondary application of the conflict myth in Joshua.

The secondary application is the second method utilized by the author of the book of Joshua and will be explored further in Part III.