« NRA President Unwittingly Supports Gun Ban | Main | Books, A Year in Review - 2012, Part II »

Friday Bible Blogging - Leviticus 1 to Leviticus 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleLeviticus continues on with the story of Moses and the Israelites. However, it focuses more on rules than the narrative, dealing with quite a few that have to do with animal sacrifice.

Leviticus, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 started right off with describing animal sacrifices. To give a taste of how these sacrifices worked, I'll quote the entire set of instructions for one particular type of sacrifice.

3 If the offering is a burnt-offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the Lord. 4 You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. 5 The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron's sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6 The burnt-offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. 7 The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the parts, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs shall be washed with water. Then the priest shall turn the whole into smoke on the altar as a burnt-offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odour to the Lord.

The chapter went on to describe burnt-offerings from the flock, and burnt-offerings of birds. The bird offering included a couple grisly details. The priest was to wring off its head by hand. And in verse 17, he's directed to "tear it open by its wings without severing it."

Leviticus, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 covered grain offerings, including those "baked in the oven", "prepared on a griddle", or "prepared in a pan". These offerings were to be unleavened. Although a portion of the offering was to be burned, the remainder went to feeding the priests. Interestingly, for an offering intended to be burnt up, "You shall not omit from your grain-offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt." Apparently, the Lord doesn't like bland grain smoke. The end of the chapter covered grain offerings of "first fruits".

Leviticus, Chapter 3

This chapter was back to animal sacrifice with sacrifices of well-being. It covered offerings from the herd, offerings from the flock, and offerings of goats. It contained details on what to do with livers and kidneys, along with entrails and other parts of the animals. As elsewhere in the Bible, it prohibited the Hebrews from eating fat or blood.

Leviticus, Chapter 4

Chapter 4 discussed sin offerings for people who have sinned unintentionally. The specifics of the sacrifice were different depending on who had committed the sin. The first was for an anointed priest. This continued the theme of people being guilty for other people's actions, "If it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull of the herd without blemish as a sin-offering to the Lord." The other categories included the whole congregation of Israel - requiring a bull, a ruler - requiring a male goat without blemish, or an ordinary person - requiring a female goat or sheep without blemish.

Leviticus, Chapter 5

The first set of sacrifices presented in this chapter covered a variety of sins, from failing to testify when you know something, to touching unclean things, unclean people, or uttering rash oaths. The preferred sacrifice for these case was a sheep or goat following the procedures from the previous chapter. However, if people couldn't afford a sheep, they had the alternative of offering two turtle doves or pigeons - one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. If they couldn't afford even that, they had the option of giving an ephah of choice flour as a sin offering.

The closing verses covered unintentional sins again, but apparently a different class of sins, though it's not entirely clear how they're different. Or maybe these are sacrifices in addition to those already described. At any rate, these require guilt-offerings of a ram without blemish, "convertible into silver by the sanctuary shekel" in one case.

Leviticus, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 started with robberies, frauds, or other deceptions. First, the guilty party was to add one fifth to the cost and pay it to the victim. Then they were to offer a ram as a guilt-offering, after which they were forgiven. It's interesting to note how quickly one was forgiven of their crime - no jail time or even community service. In fact, those types of punishments don't appear at all in this book.

Next, God gave Moses specific instructions for Aaron and his sons on how to perform rituals, including burnt-offerings, grain-offerings, sin-offerings, and the offering for the day that Aaron was anointed. These were supplemental to the rules already given, covering the undergarments and vestments the priests should wear, how and where to eat their portion of the sacrifices, and other details. It seems a bit odd that these supplemental rules would be given removed from the other rules pertaining to those rituals. Perhaps this is another relict of this book being compiled from various sources.

Leviticus, Chapter 7

This chapter contained more details on sacrifices and offerings, some of it supplemental to information already given, some of it new. It started with guilt-offerings and sin-offerings. It then moved on to offerings of well-being. These could be for a variety of purposes, from thanks-offerings to votive offerings or freewill-offerings. They were to include different kinds of cakes of leavened or unleavened bread, sometimes mixed with oil. Depending on the purpose of the sacrifice, there were different rules on how and when the priests could eat their portion.

There was a brief digression into dietary regulations prohibiting the consumption of fat, blood, or flesh that had touched an unclean thing, or from eating of the sacrifice of well-being while unclean. The punishment was severe - being cut off from your kin.

Then it was back to more details on the sacrifice of well-being, and how to divvy out the portions, along with a description of an elevation-offering.

Leviticus, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 moved back into telling the narrative, describing the anointing of the tabernacle and tent of meeting. It was largely repetitious of previous passages that had described what was to be done, but now describing it as it was done. This included Moses washing Aaron and his sons, then Aaron putting on his priestly garb, then anointing the tabernacle, tent, and accessories with oil, then anointing Aaron with oil, then Aaron's sons putting on their garb, then a bull as a sin-offering, a ram as a burnt-offering, a second ram as the ram of ordination, some grain offerings, more sprinkling of oil and blood, and finally cooking and eating their portions of the offerings. Verse 24 caught my eye, "After Aaron's sons were brought forward, Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet; and Moses dashed the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar." At the end of the chapter, the Lord told Aaron and his sons to "remain at the entrance of the tent of meeting day and night for seven days, keeping the Lord's charge so that you do not die..." Like I've written before, it seems that being a priest back then was much more dangerous than today.

Leviticus, Chapter 9

It was now the eighth day, and there were more sacrifices - "a bull calf for a sin-offering and a ram for a burnt-offering", "a male goat for a sin-offering; a calf and a lamb, yearlings without blemish, for a burnt-offering; 4and an ox and a ram for an offering of well-being to sacrifice before the Lord; and a grain-offering mixed with oil." There were several verses detailing those sacrifices. And then, at the end of the chapter, the Lord finally revealed himself to the Israelites, "23 Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt-offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces."

Leviticus, Chapter 10

This chapter started with a bit of excitement. Two of Aaron's sons decided to present their own offering of fire to the Lord, but this wasn't one of the offerings that God had prescribed. So, "fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord." Their bodies were carried away, and Aaron and his sons were instructed not to mourn nor leave the tent, lest they be killed, too.

Then it was back to normal instructions and actions. The priests were told not to drink wine or strong drink when entering the tent of meeting, and to teach all future generations the Lord's statutes. Then were a few more offerings.

Moses discovered that the priests had not eaten the goat of the sin-offering, and was upset with them for not following the Lord's instructions. Aaron responded, "See, today they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Lord; and yet such things as these have befallen me! If I had eaten the sin-offering today, would it have been agreeable to the Lord?" to which Moses agreed.


If you put yourself in the mindset of the ancient Hebrews, these chapters don't seem so strange. Their conception of God was different from what most people think of today. The sacrifices weren't merely symbolic. God lived in the tabernacle, and he was literally consuming the sacrifices. The smoke from burnt-offerings would float upwards to God in Heaven.

But with how most people conceive of God in this day and age, these types of sacrifices make no sense. There can be nothing that an omnipotent god would gain from the offerings. I could perhaps understand some symbolism behind the offerings, giving up what is precious to the offeror, but there's nothing in these verses to indicate that these offerings are symbolic. And it's especially immoral to kill animals, and then waste portions by burning them. I know that we still kill animals for many purposes in the modern age, but at least we do our best to use every portion of the animal, to make it go as far as possible, reducing waste and hence the number of animals that must be killed. The type of waste prescribed in the Bible guarantees the slaughter of more animals.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Post a comment


TrackBack URL for this entry:


Selling Out