Notes on Leviticus 16-27

This is a continuation of my previous post, Notes on Leviticus. I used the Jewish Study Bible as a translation.

  • Leviticus 17:1-2 contains a somewhat unique formula: the Lord spoke to Moses, who is to speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelite people.
    • Unlike 1-16, Leviticus 17 begins with a new  arrangement, putting the Priesthood with the people.
    • Leviticus 17:1-7 centralizes cult sacrifice at the Tabernacle: all animals killed must be brought to it or else they have blood-guilt.
    • 17:8-9 comments the same of strangers or anyone in the house of Israel.
    • 17:10-12, 13-14 focus on strangers and Israel not partaking in blood. By doing so, they interfere with the ritual narrative for expiation upon the altar.
    • 17:15-16 claims that anyone he eats what has died in the wild is unclean.
  • Leviticus 18:2 shifts to speaking only towards the Israelite people. Aaron is not named as in 17:1-2.
    • 17:3-30 covers issues of sexuality morality.
      • 17:21 seems out of place because, while the rest of the context focuses on sexual relation, 21 bans offering offspring to Molech.
    • These actison defile the land and the land will spew out the people. In the Holiness School, land is given anthropomorphic characteristics.
  • 19:1-37 enumerates a series of moral laws.
    • Notably, the text acknowledges the existence of magic in the imagined/perceived history of ancient Israel: 19:26b, 31 (21:27).
    • The text also picks up on previous motifs, themes, and laws.
      • 19:13: “You shall not defrauud your fellow” (also 19:11, 12). Compare with Leviticus 5:20-26.
  • Lovin’ it.
    • 20:2-6 picks up on 17:21, more thoroughly detailing the ban against offering children to Molech.
    • 20:10-15, esp. 15, picks up on apodictic laws already expressed in Leviticus 18:23.
    • The same occurs with Leviticus 20:17-21, this time including the issue of blood flow.
  • Leviticus 21 focuses, again, on just Aaron and the priests.
    • Contains issues relevant to the purity of the Priesthood.
    • 21:16-24, which restricts those with any physical defect from serving at the altar, reflects well that much of the issue at hand was a social issue. The question of defects was not an issue of ontological impurity, at least from a historical perspective.
    • Leviticus 22 continues this trajectory. It touches upon many of the same things found in P material, pre-Chapter 17: nocturnal emissions, unclean things, etc.
    • 22:22 returns to the issue of defects: sacrifices may have no defects.
  • Leviticus 23 details the fixed times of the Lord.
    • 23:3 – Sabbath
    • 23:4-8 – Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread
    • 23:9-14 – First fruits
    • 23:15-21 – Shavuot
    • 23:22 – special mentioned of the law not to gather the gleanings of harvest, or reap the edges of the field. The leftovers is for the poor and stranger.
    • 23:23 -25 – Trumpets!
    • 23:26-32 – Day of Atonement (The culmination of ritual narrative in Leviticus 16).
    • 23:33-36 – Feast of Booths.
  • Leviticus 24:1-9 has more rituals for sabbath.
    • 24:10-23 – Law and Punishment.
    • Leviticus 25 contains laws for entering the land and working the crops.
  • Leviticus 26 discusses the issue of blessings and cursings for obedience and disobedience.
  • Leviticus 27 discusses the worth of human beings in terms of a vow to Yahweh. The “worth” in terms of money is one of equivalent, not actual worth.
  • Leviticus 27:24 wraps up the show: “These are the commandments that the LORD gave Moses for the Israelite people at Mount Sinai.”

Notes on Leviticus

This post contains my notes from my reading of Leviticus 1-16. I will post my notes on Leviticus 17-27 tomorrow (i.e. the Holiness School plus Leviticus 27).  I am using the Jewish Study Bible for my translation.

Things I need to pay attention to:

  1. The Holiness School material of Leviticus 17-26
  2. The nature of ritual
  3. The goal of ritual
  4. Magic and ritual (?)
  5. Structure of Leviticus
  • Leviticus 1:5 specified that a bull shall be slaughtered before the lord; 1:11, speaking of a sheep or goat sacrifices, specifies “It shall be slaughters before the LORD on the north side of the Altar“.
  • Leviticus  1 offers a general overview of how to do each animal sacrifice (bull, sheep, or bird) for a burnt offering.
  • For meal offerings in Leviticus 2, there is a certain amount of “meal” from the offering which is expected to be left over. This indicates that there is (was) a prescribed amount to be used for the meal offering. Remainder goes to Aaron and his sons.
  • Every meal offering seems to have (1) oil and (2) frankincense.
  • In Leviticus 1, the burnt offering specifies that “He shalllay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, that it may be acceptable in his behalf, in expiation for him” (1:4). 3:2, though, simply says that “he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering and slaughter it at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (3:2). There is, thus, a clear difference between one of well-being/peace offering and a burnt offering. The latter expiates something, while the former does something different.
    • Well-being/peace offerings focus more on the fat which is the LORD’s: the tail, fat of the entrails, kidneys, loins, protuberance on the liver, etc. These elements are not emphasizes, or even mentioned, in the burnt offering.
  • Is a priest incurs guilt unwittingly, he specifically must offer a bull. as an offering of purgation. Within this process, it seems to combine elements of the burnt offering (dashing blood on all sides of the altar) with that of the well-being/peace offering (presenting the fat to the LORD). Leviticus 4: 10 acknowledges this: “just as it [the fat] is removed from the ox of the sacrifice of well-being. The remainder of the ox, namely the hide, dung, entrails, heads, legs, are to be carried to a clean place outside the camp. They are to be burnt. (Leviticus 4:1-12)
  • If the community errs unwittingly, a bull is offered on behalf of the community. Unlike the burnt offerings and well-being offerings though, the elders lay there hands on the head of the bull. (Leviticus 4: 13-21
    • This suggests a hierarchy: Priest, elder, People, Individual. The remainder of Leviticus four supports this, as it is divided into these sections.
  • If a Chieftan incurs guilt unwittingly, he brings a male goat. The goat is offered as a burnt offering and is a sin offering. Like the sacrifice of well-being, the fat is for the LORD (Leviticus 4:22-26).
    • The text specifically notes that “the priest shall make expiation on his [the chief’s] behalf for his sin, and he shall be forgiven” (4:26b).
    • This demonstrates what what Wright and Milgrom argue for: a gradation of holiness. Ultimately, according to Leviticus, the holiness descends from the God, to priest, to chief, to community, to individual.
    • Note, though, that the issue of a Chief erring only occurs after the community erring, suggesting the priority of the communal image over the leader(s) of the community.
  • If a person incurs guilt unwittingly, he brings a female goat, lays his hand on its head, and it is slaughtered where burnt offerings occurs. Likewise, the fat is removed. And like the chief, “the priest shall make expiation for him, and he shall be forgiven” (Leviticus 4:31). (Leviticus 4:27-31).
    • There is a strange relationship between 4:27-31 and 4:32-35. They are parallel, yet the latter includes information not included in the former. The latter also seems to change the interpretation of some ritual actions.
      • 4:31b: “Thus the priest shall make expiation for him, and he shall be forgiven”.
      • 4:36b: “Thus the priest shall make expiation on his behalf for the sin of which he is guilty, and he shall be forgiven”.
      • Why does the latter text emphasize “the sin of which he is guilty, while the latter does not? Is 32-35 perhaps another gradation of holiness, and the social structure (perceived or real) therein?
  • SUMMARY: Up to this point, Levitcus 1-3 specified how to do burnt offerings, meal offerings, and well-being/peace offerings. Chapter 4, which speak of sins unwittingly performed, specifies the ritual involved in purgation of the sins, sin offerings. Rather than using one of the three types of offerings, it seems to combine the burnt offering and well-being/peace offering in order to construct a ritual geared toward purgation of sin.
  • Additionally, Leviticus 4 imagines/reflects some sort of social gradation of holiness: Priest, Community, Chief/Elder(?), Individual (1/2?), Individual (2/2?).
  • Leviticus 5 beings by listing causative laws. 5:1-6 – if somebody realizes they have sinned through incurring ritual impurity, they (1) confess and then (2) offer a sheep of goat as a sin offering.
    • Like a standard sin offering, “the priest shall make expiation on his behalf.
  • 5:7-10 offers an alternative: if the person cannot afford a sheep, he may offer a bird. This inclues a sin offering, again, and burnt offering of the bird. Because the entrails can’t be offered, though, there is no question of the fat for the LORD.
    • 5:10b uses the same languages 4:35b: “The priest shall make expiation on his behalf for the sin of which he is guilty, and he shall be forgiven”.
    • 5:6 does not specificy this. Therefore, it seems reasonable to suggest that the language choice of “sin of which he is guilty” may relate in some way to the perceived or imagined social structure of ancient Israel.
  • If he is unable to offer a bird, he may offer a meal offering, as outlined in Leviticus 3. This meal offering is the sin offering. (Leviticus 5:11-13).
  • The text shifts in 5:14: the LORD speaks to Moses again.
    • First, a person who trespasses against the LORD’s sacred things must offer a ram, or a comparable weight in silver, as a guilt offering, plus adding more to sacred things of the priests. In other words, he must provide more material that can be sacred.
    • Second, if a person sins regarding the lords command, he must do the same thing: bring a ram without blemish or comparable weight of silver.
      • This law is very vague and ambiguous, at least in the JPS translation: “sins in regard to any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done” (5:17).
  • Again, the text shifts and the LORD speaks to Moses: (Leviticus 5:20-26)
    • If a person sins against the LORD by dealing deceitfully with neighbors, and he realizes the guilt, he must restore the fraud or robber in the principle amount plus a fifth extra.
    • THEN he goes to make a guilt offering.
    • One of the most interesting things about this is how actions against humans are actions against God.
      • It echoes the theological concept within the P material of imago Dei.
  • Chapter 6 shifts to commanding Aaron and his sons. In other words, it is now the turn of the priesthood.
    • 6:1-11 detail what the priests are to do with the burnt offering(s), well-being offering(s), and meal offering(s).
      • The text distinguishes between the burnt offerings/well-being offerings and the meal offerings.
    • 6:12-16 speaks what the priests are to do when they are annointed as priests. Unlike the other meal offerings, which they offer, the priests do not keep the remnants of their offering to the LORD.
      • Perhaps this is because, while the Priests, who serve as the conduits for sanctifying the community, are able to eat the remnants of those offerings, their offering for anointment is different. Now, God is the one who serves as the conduit for sanctifying them; therefore, God alone is permitted to eat the remnants of the offering.
    • 6:17-23 shifts back to what the priests are to do with offerings, as in 6:1-11. 12-16 seems to interrupt the flow of the text. I wonder if this is a later addition or part of the Holiness School.
  • Leviticus 7:1-6 explicates the guilt offering discussed originally in Leviticus 4.
  • 7:7-10 ties together the roles of the priests in the guilt offering and sin offering.
  • 7:11-21 details the ritual of sacrifice for well-being:
    • It distinguishes between two types:
      • 1) Offering for thanksgiving with a meal offering.
      • 2) Votive or freewill offering
  • 7:19-21 is odd.
  • 7: 22-27 explains the importance of not eating the fat of ox or sheep. And, in particular, not eating the blood.
  • 7:28 begins details the role of Israelites in all of these rituals:
    • 7:28-34 details this.
  • SUMMARYish: 7:37-38 wraps up the whole previous section which detailed the rituals of offerings. It includes the offering of oridination (6:12-16). Even so, this still seems somewhat out of place.
  • Chapter 8 shifts to the anointing of the priesthood, which directly involves the community.
    • This entire ritual seems to use elements from all of what is detailed in 6:1-7:38. It is as if the author is writing a ritual narrative, not just rules for doing rituals.
  • Chapter 9 has a similar thing: each offering type is done in order to prepare for the presence of the LORD. In Leviticus 9:8, Aaron finally becomes the agent in acting as the high priest. Previously, it was Moses.
  • Only after the major acts of sanctification in Chapter 9, which include the purification of the Tabernacle, Priesthood, and Community, does the presence of God appear in 9:23. This seems to be the climax of the ritual narrative. Again, it points to the fact that ritual is more than mere “ritual”: ritual is a rich narrative which serves some end.
    • In my reading of the book of Leviticus, the most intriguing observation is that the ritual within the book is not a list of laws. It is enumeration of actions which lead up to an experience or an event.
  • SO, Leviticus 10:2 occurs because Nadab and Abihu break the commanded cycle/narrative of ritual offerings and actions.
    • Naturally, this causes an issue of impurity within the precincts of the Tabernacle.
  • Leviticus 10:20 offers a sort of flexibility to the ritual narrative.
  • GENERAL NOTE: My notes are not nearly as detailed at this point because I need to (1) move onto other work and (2) get home.
  • Leviticus 11 shifts from the ritual narrative to law code (I used the term “law” very generically). Below is an outline with notes.
    • Leviticus 11:1-47 discursively addresses the issue of diet, physical contact with impure animals, and material contact with impure animals.
      • Dietary restriction is justified by God: the LORD brought people out of Egypt to be their God, and they should be holy as he is holy.
    • Leviticus 12:1-8 covers issues of female purity in light of childbirth and menstruation.
      • This is typically deemed anti-women. In an conceptual environment where blood is of the utmost significance, though, it makes sense.
      • There is also nothing in the text which suggests that the author actually believes women are “gross” or that the author is attempting to restrict women from worship. As noted by JPS, it is contrary to that: the rituals serve to enable women to join in cult worship at the tabernacle.
    • Leviticus 13: 1-59 covers issues of rashes, inflammation, “leprosy”, cloth growth, etc.
    • Leviticus 14:1-33 issues the ritual for combating leprosy. Like the ordination of priests, the priest puts oil on the right ear of the one being cleanses, as well as the thumb and big toe for his right hand and foot. Echoes in specific applications oil suggest a similar approach/efficacy/goal/etc.
      • Going into greater detail, Leviticus 14:33-53 speaks of what may be mold.
    • Leviticus 15:1-32 focuses on discharges for men and women. It offers both the problems and the ritual solutions.
    • Leviticus 16 continues the ritual narrative which originally ended at the end of Leviticus 10.
      • It concerns purging the Shrine, more popularly known as the Holy of Holies, from impurities.
      • In 16:29, the ritual narrative for the purgation of the Shrine is turned into a holy day: “In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall 0practice self-denial…”. The text continues with more details about how it is a day for atonement of all sins and is a sabbath of rest.
      • In this day, the Day of Purgation, 16:32-33 emphasizes the priests role in the purgation for the people of the congregation.

 

 

 

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 IV)

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.

The follow compares Exodus 29:31-37 and Leviticus 8:31-36. All translations are from the NASB.

Exodus 29:31-32 31 “And you shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place.

32 “And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

 

Leviticus 8:31 31 Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons, “Boil the flesh at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and eat it there together with the bread which is in the basket of the ordination offering, just as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’

 

Exodus 29:33 33 “Thus they shall eat those things by which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration; but a layman shall not eat them, because they are holy.

 

N/A N/A
Exodus 29:34 34 “And if any of the flesh of ordination or any of the bread remains until morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire; it shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

 

Leviticus 8:32 32 “And the remainder of the flesh and of the bread you shall burn in the fire.

 

Exodus 29:35 35 “And thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days.

 

Leviticus 8:33 33 “And you shall not go outside the doorway of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the day that the period of your ordination is fulfilled; for he will ordain you through seven days.

 

N/A N/A Leviticus 8:34 34 “The LORD has commanded to do as has been done this day, to make atonement on your behalf.

 

Exodus 29:36 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.

 

N/A N/A
Exodus 29:37 37 “For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus 8:35 35 “At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the LORD, that you may not die, for so I have been commanded.”

 

N/A N/A Leviticus 8:36 36 Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses.

 

 

As this brief chart displays, these two passages are similar, although they do have distinct focuses. Exodus, first of all, is far more focused on issues of holiness. Verses 31, 33, 36, and 37 demonstrate a focus on the holiness, purity, and consecration of the altar. Unlike Leviticus, Exodus explicitly notes that non-Priests, laymen, are not to eat of the sacrifices. Leviticus is seemingly simpler and more focused on ensuring that Aaron and his sons did exactly what the LORD had commanded through Moses. In only 6 verses, there are two references confirming their obedience to commandments of the past, verse 34 and 36.

The parallels between the narrative and commands are intriguing for a variety of reasons. For the sake of this post’s length, I will focus on one, namely the rearrangement of Leviticus by the redactor. The difference between Leviticus and Exodus 29:36, especially with regard to the issue of holiness and consecration, may be due, in part, to the final editors movement of sacrificial terminology and practice to one which fit his own socio-historical context. Regardless of that, Yitzhaq Feder suggests that consecration of the altar in Leviticus 8:15 may have been originally more in line with Exodus 29:36 (See Yitzhaq Feder, 2011, pg. 50-51). With this is mind, these two portions of Leviticus and Exodus are even more similar than they seem to be within the redactors rearrangement.

The next post will take into consideration Yitzhaq Feder’s argument regarding the strata of Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8.

 

 

Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part III)

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, I traced the parallels between Leviticus 8:14-30 and Exodus 29:10-30. Click here to read the previous post and the first post. Here I will explore why, although these two portions of the Hebrew Bible are parallel, Leviticus has Aaron anoint himself and his sons and Exodus has discusses the future of the priesthood.

First, although both traditions (Lev 8:30; Exo 29:29-30) occur differently, they grow from the same foundation. As demonstrated previously, up till this point both texts parallel each other, indicating reliance upon each other to a certain extent. Both verses, primarily, focus on the consecration of the garments and the priest. Yet, while Exodus 29:29-30 focuses on the perpetuity of the priesthood by discussing the current and future status of the holy garments of Aaron and his anointing, Leviticus 8:30 merges the anointing of Aaron with that of his sons. Thus, rather than waiting until the future to anoint his sons in his High Priest garments, Leviticus records that action as taking place with Aaron in the present.

This may be explained by two possibilities. First, Leviticus and Exodus may have been composed through distinct priestly traditions, one focusing on a single High Priest and the perpetuity of the Priesthood, the other focusing on the Priesthood as a whole. This understanding complicates the compilation process of the Pentateuch and indicates more strata of the P source, a source already complicated with the presence of H. Secondly, the Redactor himself may have intentionally merged the future oriented Exodus into the present oriented Leviticus because of his own socio-political context. After all, there is no reason to assume that all Temple like structures were necessarily ordered in the exact same fashion. Just like churches in the 21st century, the hierarchy of leadership and structure of sociality may have varied greatly. Thus, the differences between Leviticus 8:30 and Exodus 29:29-30 may reflect the multiplicity of cultural variations with regard to cultic worship.

In my view, both options seem plausible and the redactor synchronized the two traditions into one parallel structure with recognition of the variety of traditions. The redactors, after all, make no attempt to hide textual contradictions. Thus the parallel verses, although approached and applied different, represent voices of past tradition, not contradiction of the Hebrew Bible.

The next post will continue by tracing the parallels between Exodus 29:31-37 and Leviticus 8:31-36.

*Please note that this analysis is ongoing and subject to change at anytime.


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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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Reading Leviticus 12: Impurity Post-Birth

Leviticus 12 denotes the requirements for women after they have given birth. In summary, a male child is unclean for seven days and circumcised on the 8th day. The woman is impure for thirty-three days. Female children are unclean for two weeks and the women for sixty-six days. Following each designated period of impurity, the same sacrifice is required for a male or female child and the mother. Based on the double time for uncleanliness on the part of women and female children, sixty-six days and two weeks, Leviticus 12 is controversial because it implicitly notes that women are more impure than men, a true assumption within the text. Patriarchal patterns should be expected, to a certain extent, in Leviticus considering its existence in a patriarchal society.

But to stop at this point is inadequate for proper exposition of the text. Leviticus is not oriented towards defining impurities and the time required to wait for sacrifice. Rather, Leviticus 12 is oriented towards the recovery from such impurities, recoveries which would permit the presence of God to permeate the community of Israel. Hence it is important to read Leviticus 12 in two parts: the first defines the impurities, and the second offers the expiatory solution.

First, Leviticus 12:1-5 discusses the nature of impurities for a mother and her children, whether male or female. It defines the time of separation for her from the Israelite camp. These details are very much culturally rooted in what ancient Israel considered to be taboo, to be disgust. Such disgust is present throughout the ancient Near East. Yitzhaq Feder explores a Hittite birth ritual, noting that the woman’s blood may potentially transfer sin, and hence punishment, to her child (2011, pg. 13). Presence of ritual for women giving birth within Hittite ritual indicates that issues about impurity upon birth were an important aspect of the cognitive environment in the ancient Near East. Leviticus 12:1-5 addresses this very taboo and notes the required response to the taboo of impurity via the lens of ancient Israel.

Following, Leviticus 12:6-8 demands sacrifice for expiation on her behalf. Within this section, two things are notable. First, circumcision is absent, suggesting that it is more universal focus on the issue of blood expiation following birth. Secondly, and consequently, male and female children, and the mother, are on the same plane. There is no extra sacrifice required for expiation. Thus the actual sacrifices, that which is the expiatory solution, are egalitarian within their context in which birth is an impurity.

In summary, my reading of Leviticus 12, while not denying the patriarchal tones of Leviticus, draws out the importance of the sacrifice for the impurities. Sacrifice, and hence worship, drew Israelites closer to the presence of God. Impurities from what 21st century readers consider “natural” were a functional aspect of the human relationship to the divine. And the sacrifice for recovery of the relational aspect in Leviticus 12 is equal for males, females, and mothers. Because the focus of Leviticus is upon the recovery of relationship via expiation, Leviticus 12 is not nearly as sexist as some may claim it to be.

Observations Relevant to Interpretation of Leviticus 10

In a previous post, I discussed the nature of the “strange fire” offered by Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, in Leviticus 10 (click here to read). My purpose of doing so was to offer an alternative explanation to the event of the fire consuming Aaron’s sons. My observations within this post are also intended to shed greater light on the issues of the consuming fire and, even more so, overall nature of the entire drama surrounding Aaron and his sons.

Primarily the presence of Aaron’s sons must be observed. As far as I am aware, and please correct me if I am wrong, the placement of Aaron’s sons has not been observed within scholarship. The phrase “Sons of Aaron” occurs 20 times within Leviticus. Sixteen occurrences reference all of Aaron’s sons (1:5, 7, 8, and 11, 2:2, 3:2, 5, 8, and 13, 6:7, 7:10, 8:13, 24, 9:9, 12, and 18). At the turning point of chapter 10, two occurrences solely reference Nadab and Abihu (10:1, 16:1). Eleazer and Ithamar as a pair of Aaron’s sons are referenced twice, once in the same narrative as Nadab and Abihu and once in the Holiness Code (Lev 17-26).

While these observation may carry implications for the overall structure and composition of Leviticus, they also carry implications as to what exactly Nadab and Abihu did incorrectly to be consumed by God’s fire. The text itself explains that “He had not commanded them”, a strong statement especially because the term for “command” is directly negated rather than the phrase as a whole. And when the actions of Aaron’s four sons are noted throughout the 1st part of Leviticus, a pattern becomes evidence: they are only to do as the cultic structure permits them.

Prior to the consuming fire, Aaron’s sons are commanded within the cultic system to act in three roles: to purify the altar by pouring the blood, to receive offerings as their livelihood, and to be consecrated. At the turn of events in chapter 10, the fire consumed the offerings and “the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people”. Based on roles of Aaron’s sons, the error of Nadab and Abihu becomes more clear with respect to each role.

First, they were responsible for handling the blood at the altar. Unclear to most readers from the 21st century, blood with ancient near eastern ritual systems played an essential role for the purification and expiatory natures of rituals. Yitzhaq Feder explores this extensively in his monograph “Blood Expiation in Hittite and Biblical Ritual” (2011). For Nadab and Abihu to step outside of their roles as priests who handled the blood at the altar, they potentially polluted themselves or simply disobeyed the order which God had established within the cultic system.

Second, they were responsible for receiving offerings as their livelihood. This command is clearly spoken towards Aaron and his sons. Because Aaron and his sons received the leftover grain offerings (Lev 2:3), it is possible that Nadab and Abihu were “recycling” the holy bread. Thus the offering was insincere and “strange”. This is supported by Leviticus 10:12, within the same narrative, in which Moses commands Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, to “eat [the grain offering] unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy”. Clearly there is an dimension of Leviticus 10:1 in which the issue with Nadab and Abihu was the selected food which they offered.

Third, Aaron’s sons, just as Aaron were responsible for becoming consecrated. Loosely connected to the first point, Nadab and Abihu’s actions following the presence of God in Leviticus 9:23-24 reflects that Nadab and Abihu may have approached God in a manner contrary to their previous consecration rituals. Though this point is quite shaky, it is a possibility that should be seriously considered.

As one observes the role of Aaron’s sons within the Leviticus narrative, the error of Nadab and Abihu may become more apparent. Exploration of the roles of Aaron’s sons may also contribute to a fuller understanding of the historical composition, theology or theologies, and “strange fire” occurrence of Leviticus.