Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bible Commentary - Leviticus 7

In this chapter, we are given a variety of new laws governing the various sacrifices, and this concludes the section on offerings.

In the first part of this chapter, we are told the regulations of the guilt offering, which were omitted back in chapter 5.  At the time, it was written that the guilt offering would be made in the same fashion as a sin offering, and this chapter confirms that (v. 7), but also explains all of the details (which match the specification of the sin offering from chapter 4); namely, all of the fat is to be burned and the rest of the animal is given to the priests.  In some situations the whole sin offering is supposed to be burned, and in some only the fat is burned and the rest is given to the priest.

Verse 7 also tells us that "the priest who makes atonement with it shall have it", so this is clearly intended as a form of salary or compensation for the work they do in the tabernacle.  Verse 8 confirms what I said before about the burnt offering, that while the priests do not eat any meat of the burnt offering, they receive the skin of the animal.

Everything up to verse 18 is basically just a recapitulation of things we have already been told, with maybe a few more details included.  Starting in verse 19, we are again told that (ceremonial) uncleanness is commutative, as anything that touches something unclean becomes unclean.  This section is very repetitive and clear-cut, so I don't have anything to add.

Note that all of these things are given only to the sons of Aaron, i.e. the priests.  What about the women, their wives and daughters (who, by law, cannot serve in the priesthood)?  Since they cannot eat the sacrifices of the tabernacle, and one presumes that the priests are too busy with sacrifices to also go out and farm or raise livestock to feed their female relatives, they have to be provided for some other way.  In this society, men were very much the providers of the family, so this is a real issue.  The answer will be found later, but to spoil the surprise, it's the national tithe.  I will explain when we get there.

Beginning in verse 22 we are told that the Israelites cannot eat fat or blood.  They cannot eat fat because the fat (as the best part) is given to God, while the blood contains the life of the animal and is therefore considered sacred.  As we have seen, the blood is always an important part of sacrifice rituals, because it is the sacrifice of blood that makes atonement for sin (cf. the Passover).

Verse 28 is again a restatement of what we have seen from the rituals of the peace offering, but focused in particular on what is given to the priest as his share.

And with that, we are DONE with the offerings (of Leviticus).  This is definitely the longest and most detailed set of instructions governing sacrifices in the whole bible.  Most of these details do not play an important part in the story, though obviously they played a big role in Israel's society at the time and up until the final temple was destroyed in 70 CE.  But really, unless one is specifically studying the role of sacrifices, I don't think it's important to know all of the details.  Just remember that there are five types of sacrifices and they use different sacrifices depending on the circumstances.  Guilt and sin offerings are to atone for guilt and sin, peace offerings are "eating a meal with God" and burnt offerings and grain offerings are very general and used in the broadest sense, to make an offering to God.  And with that, we will move on to the consecration of the priests ... though I could've sworn we had done this already back in Ex 40.

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