Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Punctuation

This has nothing to do with the Bible; it’s just related to the way I write this blog.

On my personal blog—and in email, on chat, and in other contexts—I’ve gotten into the habit of writing quotations marks in the hacker writing style, instead of following American English standards for quotation marks.

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses, much to the dismay of American editors. Thus, if “Jim is going” is a phrase, and so are “Bill runs” and “Spock groks”, then hackers generally prefer to write: “Jim is going”, “Bill runs”, and “Spock groks”. This is incorrect according to standard American usage (which would put the continuation commas and the final period inside the string quotes); however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings with characters that don’t belong in them. Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussions of programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading. When communicating command lines or small pieces of code, extra characters can be a real pain in the neck.

The article quoted goes on to mention that the hacker style of writing quotes is now preferred practice in Great Britain—however, in Britain, single quotes and double quotes are used in reverse to how they are used in America. e.g. in America you would write

Said John, “He said ‘I’m going to the mall,’ but I didn’t believe him.”

Whereas in Britain you would write

Said John, ‘He said “I’m going to the mall”, but I didn’t believe him.’

Canadians, who are neither British nor American—but almost both—tend to use American-style quotations. I, on the other hand, have picked up a mish-mash of both; I use double and single quotes where Americans would, but punctuate around the quotes like the hacker style above.

I have decided, however, to try and write this blog, from now on, using American-style punctuation around my quotation marks. I say “try” because the hacker style of writing has become very ingrained; I often find myself, in my professional writing career, having to go back and “correct” my punctuation using the American style.

My reason for doing so here is that I’m afraid some Biblical scholar will find my blog via Google some day, pop in, and start harassing me about my punctuation not being grammatical. Priests and Reverends and Pastors (and whatever other titles you can think of) love education, and it’s exactly the type of thing that I can see them being overly worried about.

Leviticus 13

Leviticus 13: Rules for infectious skin diseases, and mildew

Synopsis

Continuing with rules about uncleanness, this chapter examines infectious skin diseases and mildew. It’s a fairly long chapter, and seems even longer than it is—you can only read about infectious skin diseases for so long, before you get a bit bored…

Before we even start, I would bring attention to the phrase “infectious skin disease” used in this chapter; in previous versions of the Bible, such as the King James Version (KJV), this was translated as “leprosy,” but the footnote for verse 2, in the NIV indicates that “the Hebrew word was used for various diseases affecting the skin—not necessarily leprosy.” So if you have a different version of the Bible, and keep seeing the word “leprosy,” just keep in mind that this is a bad translation of the Hebrew, and mentally substitute the phrase “infectious skin disease.”

  • When someone had symptoms that might have indicated an infectious skin disease—“a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin” (verse 2)—he was to be brought to one of the priests, for examination.
  • When the priest examined him, he was to see if the sore was more than skin deep, or if the hair on the skin had turned white. If so, he was to deem it an infectious skin disease, and pronounce the person ceremonially unclean.
  • If the spot did not appear to be more than skin deep, and the hair hadn’t turned white, the priest was to put the person in isolation for seven days, and reexamine him on the seventh day.
    • If the sore was unchanged, the person was to be put in isolation for another seven days.
    • The priest was to examine the man again on the seventh day, and see if the sore had faded. If so, the man was to be pronounced clean; the man was to wash his clothes, and then he would be clean.
  • If, after the man was pronounced clean, the rash reappeared, he was to appear before the priest again, who would pronounce him unclean.
It’s not explicitly stated, but I assume that the priest could pronounce the man clean at any of these examinations, if the rash had faded.

  • Anyone with an infectious skin disease was to be brought to the priest, for examination. The priest was to look for “a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white” and “raw flesh in the swelling” (verse 10). If these conditions were found, the priest would deem it a chronic skin disease, and pronounce the person unclean.
  • In this case, the man was not to be put in isolation, “because he [was] already unclean” (verse 11).
In this case, the person is unclean, and the skin disease is chronic, so there was no point in putting him in isolation—however, I’m not sure what the person was supposed to do. However, as the next set of rules show, all was not necessarily lost…

  • When an infectious skin disease spread over the entire body, turning the person’s skin all white, the priest was to pronounce the person clean.
  • If raw flesh ever appeared, the person would be declared unclean again, but if the raw flesh changed and turned white again, the priest would pronounce him clean again.
I don’t know much about infectious skin diseases—or rather, I don’t know anything about infectious skin diseases—so I don’t know the significance of these rules.

  • If someone had a boil, which healed, and in its place a white swelling or reddish spot appeared, the priest was to examine him.
    • If the spot appeared to be more than skin deep and the hair had turned white, the person would be declared unclean, as the spot would be deemed to be an infectious skin disease.
    • If there was no white hair, and the spot didn’t appear to be more than skin deep, the person was to be put in isolation for seven days. After the seven days, if the spot was spreading, the priest would deem it to be an infectious skin disease, and pronounce the person unclean, but if it was not spreading, it would be deemed to just be a scar from the boil, and the priest was to pronounce the person clean.
  • If someone was burned, and a reddish-white or white spot appeared in the raw flesh of the burn, the priest was to examine him.
    • If the hair had turned white, and the spot appeared to be more than skin deep, he would deem it to be an infectious skin disease, and pronounce him unclean.
    • If there was no white hair, and it didn’t appear to be more than skin deep, the person was to be put in isolation for seven days, and then reexamined. If the spot was spreading, it would be deemed to be an infectious skin disease, and the person would be unclean; otherwise, it would simply be deemed to be a scar or swelling from the burn, and the person would be declared clean.
  • If a person had a sore on their head or on the chin, the priest was to examine the spot, and see if the spot looked more than skin deep, and if the hair in it was yellow and thin. If so, it would be deemed to be an infectious skin disease, and the person would be declared unclean.
    • If it was not more than skin deep, and the hair looked normal, the person would be put in isolation for seven days, and then reexamined.
    • After the seven days, if it was unchanged, the person was to be shaved, except for the diseased area, and put back in isolation for another seven days.
    • After that seven days, if the spot still hadn’t spread, and didn’t look more than skin deep, the person would wash his or her clothes, and be pronounced clean.
    • After the person was pronounced clean, if the spot began to spread, the priest was to reexamine them. If the itch had spread, the priest didn’t need to look for yellow hair—he would simply deem the person unclean. However, if, in his judgement, the spot looked unchanged, and black hair had grown in it, the itch would be deemed to be healed, and pronounced clean.
Again, not knowing anything about infectious skin diseases, I don’t know what to make of these rules. I assume there are hygienic reasons for doing things this way.

  • If someone had white spots on their skin, the priest was to examine them. If the spots were dull white, it would be deemed to be a harmless rash, and the person would be declared clean.
I don’t really have anything to say here.

  • When a man lost his hair, and became bald, he would be clean.
  • However, if there was a reddish-white sore on his bald head or forehead, it would be deemed to be an infectious skin disease; the priest was to examine him, and pronounce him unclean.
  • In this case, the person was to wear torn clothes, let his hair be “unkempt”—or uncover his head, depending on how you translate the Hebrew—and cover the lower part of his face and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” As long as he had the infectious skin disease, he was to live alone, outside the camp.
This is an interesting one, as it’s the first instance of an infectious skin disease which caused a person to have to perform these measures. I’m not sure if the disease indicated by these symptoms was more serious than the other diseases in this chapter.

  • If “any woolen or linen clothing, any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather” (verse 47–48) was contaminated with mildew, and the mildew was greenish or reddish, the priest was to examine it.
  • He was to isolate the item for seven days, and then reexamine it; if the mildew had spread, the article was to be deemed unclean, and burned.
  • However, if, after the seven days, the mildew had not spread, the priest was to order the item to be washed, and then put it back in isolation for another seven days. After that seven days, if the mildew looked the same—even if it hadn’t spread—it was to be deemed unclean, and burned. But if the mildew had faded, the priest would tear the contaminated part out, and the rest would be deemed clean.
  • If the mildew ever reappeared in the item, it was to be deemed unclean, and burned.

Thoughts

Phew. There are a lot of rules in this chapter about “infectious skin diseases.” It’s not the most interesting read; especially when you don’t know much about such diseases in the first place, and can’t really understand the importance of the rules.

In the next chapter, these rules will be continued; there will be rules for cleansing from infectious skin diseases and mildew.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Leviticus 12

Leviticus 12: Rules for “purification” after childbirth

Synopsis

I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t understand the rules in this chapter at all. So I’m just going to present it as-is. (Well, that’s what I always try to do; but in this case, I have even less opinion than usual, getting in the way of reporting what the text says.)

  • When a woman gave birth to a son, she was to be considered ceremonially unclean for seven days.
    • It says that she was unclean “just as she [was] unclean during her monthly period” (verse 2), which means that there will probably be rules later on for uncleanness during a woman’s period.
    • On the eighth day, the boy was to be circumcised.
    • The woman was to then wait 33 days to be purified for her bleeding; she wasn’t to touch anything sacred, or go to the sanctuary, until the 33 days were up.
  • If the woman gave birth to a daughter, the rules were similar, but doubled: She was to be considered unclean for 14 days, instead of 7, and had to wait 66 days to be purified from her bleeding, instead of 33.
  • Son or daughter, when the days of her purification were over, she was to bring a year-old lamb to the priest, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for a sin offering, as well as a pigeon or dove for a sin offering.
    • If she couldn’t afford a lamb, she was to bring two doves or pigeons; one would be offered for the burnt offering, and the other for the sin offering.
    • The priest would then offer them for her “to make atonement for her”, and then she would be “ceremonially clean from her flow of blood” (verse 7).

Thoughts

My first thought, when reading this, was similar to something I mentioned in the last chapter: When the Old Testament is talking about “uncleanness”, it’s not the same as “sin”—just because you’re unclean, it doesn’t mean you have sinned. So when I read about a woman being unclean after childbirth, I figured “well, okay, so she’s unclean—she’s not able to worship in the same ways, and can’t touch holy things, etc.—but it doesn’t mean she sinned.” But then I read about her having to bring a “sin offering” after the childbirth. So what’s going on? Am I wrong about this—is uncleanness really sin?

I have a thought, on why this might be: During her uncleanness, the woman was not allowed to go to the sanctuary, or touch anything holy, or worship the LORD. So perhaps the sin offering she is offering is for any sins she committed during her purification period? I mean, she hasn’t been able to offer sacrifices during that time, so any sins she would have committed for that 33 or 66 days haven’t been atoned for.

The other thing I don’t understand, from this chapter, is why the period of uncleanness, and then the period of purification, were doubled when the woman gave birth to a daughter, instead of a son. I don’t have any theories on this.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Leviticus 11

Leviticus 11: Rules for clean and unclean food

Synopsis

This chapter gives some rules and regulations for creatures that were to be considered “clean” or “unclean”. I think the last verses of the chapter are a good way to start off this summary:

These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten. (verses 46–47)


The most important effect of rules about whether an animal was “clean” or “unclean” was whether or not the Israelites were allowed to eat those animals; if a rabbit is considered unclean, then they weren’t allowed to eat rabbit. But the rules go a little further than that; in numerous places, it is said that the Israelites were to “detest” unclean creatures. For example, in verse 11 it says “And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses.”

  • For animals which live on the land, the Israelites were allowed to eat any animal that has a spit hoof, completely divided, and that chews the cud. Other animals were to be considered unclean, and the Israelites were not to eat their meat, or touch their carcasses.
    • Some animals, such as the camel, the coney, and the rabbit, chew the cud but don’t have a split hoof, so therefore, they were ceremonially unclean
    • Similarly, the pig has a split hoof but doesn’t chew the cud, so it was unclean as well.
  • For creatures that live in water, the Israelites were allowed to eat any that had fins and scales. No examples are given in the text, but this rule would mean that things like shrimp, lobster, and crab would be considered unclean for the Israelites.
  • For birds, there is no general rule for the Israelites to follow, for which birds are clean and which are unclean. Instead, there is simply a list of the unclean birds:

    These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (verses 13–19)

    There is also a footnote, indicating that “[t]he precise identification of some of the birds, insects and animals in this chapter is uncertain.”
  • For insects, any insect that flies and “walks on all fours” were to be considered unclean. There is an exception, though: insects that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground, such as the locust, katydid, cricket, or grasshopper.
We’re all familiar with the rule that Jews aren’t allowed to eat pork; that is part of the rules outlined in this chapter. I don’t know if it’s as commonly known that things like shrimp, or owl, or many insects, or rabbit, would also be considered unclean.

  • If anyone touched the carcass of an unclean animal, he had to wash his clothes, and he would be unclean until evening.
Here’s where things get even more interesting. “Uncleanness” could spread; if you touched something that was unclean, you yourself would become unclean. You will notice, however, as the rules progress, that cleanness did not spread; if something clean touched something unclean, the unclean thing “contaminated” the clean thing; the clean thing wouldn’t make the unclean thing clean.

  • For animals that “move about on the ground”—I assume this means animals that crawl on their belly—there was a list of animals that were unclean: “the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon” (verses 29b–30).
    • As with the other unclean animals, if anyone touched one of these unclean animals, he was unclean until evening.
    • In addition, if one of these animals died, and fell on (or in) something, that article would also be unclean. For articles which could be washed, they were to be put in water, and would remain unclean until evening. Clay pots, on the other hand, were not to be washed, they were simply to be broken. Anything which was in the pot was also to be considered unclean, and, as with anything unclean, that uncleanness would spread. e.g. if there was water in the clay pot, and that water touched anything else, that thing would also become unclean.
      • There were exceptions to this rule, however: if one of these unclean animals fell into a spring or cistern, or onto seeds that had not yet been planted, it would not be considered unclean. (However, if water had been put on the seed and a carcass fell on it, it would be considered unclean.)
At this point, the rules about how uncleanness spreads are getting a bit more complex. At first, the rule about springs and cisterns not becoming unclean made sense, in my head, because if they were considered unclean when an animal fell into them, the Israelites would have nothing to drink—and I’m sure that it’s very common for lizards to die and fall into wells! But then the rules about seeds—especially planted vs. unplanted seeds—made things seem much more complex.

  • When a clean animal died—I assume this means dying on its own, rather than being slaughtered for food—anyone who touched the carcass would have to wash his clothes, and would be unclean until evening.
  • Anyone who ate some of the carcass would also be considered unclean, and had to wash his clothes, and would remain unclean until evening.
When it talks about eating some of the carcass, I assume this means even if it’s cooked. If someone went out into the field, and found a dead sheep, and slaughtered and cooked it, he would have to wash his clothes, and would be unclean until evening. But anyone in his family who ate the meat from the sheep would also be unclean, and would have to wash their clothes, and would remain unclean until evening.

  • Every creature that moves about on the ground was to be considered detestable. They were not to eat any animal that moves about on the ground—“whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is detestable” (verse 42b).
I’m very confused by this rule, because in the passage above, it talked about animals that move about on the ground, but had only a specific list of unclean animals. But in this passage, it says that all animals that move about on the ground are “detestable”. My first thought is that perhaps “detestable” is different than “unclean”, but the result seems to be the same: they were not to eat these animals.

And finally, another passage which sums up the reasons for these rules:

Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (verses 43–45)

Thoughts

I don’t know if any of the Old Testament rules have sparked more debate, through the centuries, than the rules about dietary restrictions. They were allowed to eat beef, but not pork; they were allowed to eat cod, but not shrimp; they were allowed to eat chicken, but not owl. Why did the LORD’s rules declare some animals clean, and some unclean?

The main theory, that I’ve seen floating around—with the usual caveat that I didn’t go to Bible school or anything, and haven’t studied such things at length—is that the main intent behind these rules was to set the Israelites apart from the nations around them. Some people go even further, and postulate that the animals listed here as “unclean” might have been animals which would routinely be used in worshipping other gods, by the nations around them; if Baal worship included sacrificing pigs, and the Israelites didn’t eat pig, it would further distinguish them from Baal worshippers. (I don’t know what Baal worship involved; I’m just using that as an example.) Some people feel that the rules, which seem arbitrary, really are arbitrary. That the point wasn’t whether or not a camel was unclean, but whether or not the Israelites would obey God’s rules, regardless of whether they understood them.

I don’t have an opinion on the reasons behind the rules. I’m just passing them on, as I read them.

Another thing to note, however, is that uncleanness is not sin, in and of itself; if you touched an unclean animal’s carcass, it made you unclean, but it wasn’t a sin, that you would have to atone for with a sacrifice. You’d simply wash your clothes, remain unclean until evening, and the next day you’d be clean again. (I believe there are certain forms of uncleanness that did have to be atoned for; if so, and I’m remembering that correctly, we’ll see those coming up in later chapters.) However, uncleanness did prevent the Israelites from worshipping the LORD. (Again, I can’t remember if we’ve seen examples of this yet, but there will be examples coming up.) Priests weren’t allowed to carry out their duties if they were unclean, for example. Whether or not it was sinful, becoming unclean made an Israelite “unholy”; verses 43–45, quoted above, indicate that God gave the Israelites these rules for them to try to be Holy, like Him.

With hindsight, and with the knowledge of all that Jesus did for us on the cross, we can better understand the Old Testament rules. The perfection that God demanded of the Israelites was total perfection—they had to keep all of the rules perfectly, and even above that, couldn’t even defile themselves by touching things that were considered unclean. We’ll see some rules, later on, that say that a Levite couldn’t serve as priest if he had any kind of physical defect—that is a kind of perfection the man wouldn’t even have control over! But that’s the point: The Israelites couldn’t follow the rules perfectly, nobody could, because we’re born sinful. That’s why Jesus had to come and die on the cross, to take the punishment for our sins. The rules in Leviticus do a very good job of pointing out to us how far we are off the mark from deserving to be in the presence of God; reading these rules and regulations should give us a better picture of how much Jesus has done for us.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Leviticus 10

Leviticus 10: Aaron’s sons are killed

Synopsis

In the last chapter, Aaron and his sons began their ministry as priests. Everything went very well; I get so used to reading, in the Old Testament, about the Israelites not following God properly, or almost following His commands but not quite, so it’s always a relief, to me, when I read that they’ve obeyed Him properly. But all that changes, in this chapter.

The chapter begins with Nadab and Abuhu, Aaron’s sons, putting some incense in their censors and offering “unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command” (verse 1). So, as punishment, fire comes out from the presence of the LORD, and burns them to death. Moses then talks to Aaron about it:

Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
I will show myself holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

(verse 3)


Moses then commands Mishael and Elzaphan—Nadab and Abihu’s cousins—to carry the dead men out of the camp, away from the sanctuary, which they do, with the dead men still in their priestly clothes. Unfortunately, Aaron has a hard instruction to follow: Moses tells Aaron and his two remaining sons—Eleazar and Ithamar—that they are not allowed to mourn for the two dead sons, or the LORD will become angry at the entire community. (According to their customs, they would have let their hair become “unkempt” and torn their clothes, which Moses specifically forbids them from doing.) However, the rest of their relatives—and, in fact, the rest of the community—are allowed to mourn for the men. But because the LORD’s anointing oil is on Aaron and his remaining sons, they are not to leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, else they die.

Moses then passes on some regulations, to Aaron, which seem, to me, to be unrelated: They are never to drink wine or other fermented drink when they go into the Tent of Meeting, else they die. They are to “distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (verse 10), and “teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses” (verse 11).

After this, Moses gets back to the present situation: he instructs Aaron and his remaining sons to eat the grain offering and the breast that was waved before the LORD. Basically, he is instructing them to get back to business as usual. He also reminds them of the portion of the sacrifices that are priests’ share from the offerings.

However, later on, Moses inquires about the goat of the sin offering, and finds out that it has been completely burned up—the priests have not eaten the part they were supposed to eat!

When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering and found that it had been burned up, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons, and asked, “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before the LORD. Since its blood was not taken into the Holy Place, you should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.”

Aaron replied to Moses, “Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the LORD have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?” When Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

(verses 16–20)

Thoughts

The first thing that strikes me about this chapter is the reason that Nadab and Abihu died: Not because they were worshipping other Gods, or because they had stolen something, or killed someone, but because they had worshipped the LORD in the wrong way. Their hearts were almost in the right place; they wanted to worship Him, they just didn’t do it properly. But it wasn’t enough just to worship Him, they had to do it properly. It reminds me of many modern-day “Christians”, who claim to know the LORD, and yet, because they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t actually know who the LORD is. You can’t claim to worship someone you don’t know. (I put the word “Christians” in quotes simply because there are many who claim to be, but aren’t.)

It also strikes me that Aaron, the High Priest, and his two remaining sons, the priests, were not allowed to mourn for the dead men. This must have been hard for them, and I was trying to figure out why. I think it was something along these lines, although I may not be explaining it very well: As the priests, the one thing they were to value more than anything else was holiness; we’ve seen, in the last few chapters, how important holiness is, and the priests’ job was to deal with holiness (or the lack thereof, when it came to things like sacrifices for sin). As both father and High Priest, Aaron would have mixed feelings: sadness and grief, for the loss of his sons, but also pleasure that the Holiness of the LORD was being displayed, and sin was being punished. (“Pleasure” isn’t the right word, but I couldn’t find a more accurate one.)

However, as we saw in the last verses quoted above, there was still recognition that something terrible had happened, that day, and Aaron wasn’t simply going to pretend that everything was normal. Based on the fact that Moses was mollified by this explanation, I’m assuming that the LORD agree with Aaron’s reasoning, as well, since Moses was the LORD’s direct messenger to the Israelites. Again, I don’t actually understand the nuance of what’s going on; just that the situation is being taken into account, in the performance of Aaron’s duties.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Leviticus 9

Leviticus 9: Aaron and his sons begin their ministry, and the Glory of the LORD appears

Synopsis

In the last chapter, Aaron and his sons were consecrated for service, and commanded to stay at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for seven days. In this chapter, the seven days are up, and Moses is coming to get Aaron and his sons, to have them start their ministry.

Moses tells them to bring a bull calf, for their sin offering, and a ram for their burnt offering, and tells them to tell the Israelites to bring:

  • a male goat, for a sin offering
  • a year old calf, without defect, for a burnt offering
  • a year old lamb, without defect, for a burnt offering
  • an ox for a fellowship offering
  • a ram for a fellowship offering
  • a grain offering, mixed with oil

They bring the offerings to the Tent of Meeting, and the entire community comes to stand before the LORD. Moses then leads them through the ritual.

He has Aaron sacrifice his [Aaron’s] sin offering and burnt offering, to make atonement for Aaron and for the people. Aaron slaughters it, and his sons bring him the blood, which he puts on the horns of the altar, before pouring the rest out at the base. He then burns the fat, as had previously been commanded, and burns up the flesh and the hide outside the camp.

Next, he slaughters the burnt offering; again, his sons bring him the blood, which he sprinkles against all sides of the altar. He then washes the inner parts and burns them on top of the burnt offering.

So far, this has just been the offerings Aaron and his sons were commanded to bring. Aaron now slaughters the goat for the people’s sin offering, as commanded, and then the burnt offering. And then the grain offering, and burns a handful of that on the altar, as commanded.

Next comes the ox and the ram, as fellowship offerings, which Aaron slaughters. Again, his sons bring him the blood, which he sprinkles against all sides of the altar. He then burns the fat on the altar, and wave the breasts and right thigh before the LORD as a wave offering.

Once all of this is done, the Glory of the LORD appears:

Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.

Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

(verses 22–24)

Thoughts

Much like the last chapter, I’m more concerned with the overall picture than with the details. Just as Aaron and his sons had to have their sins atoned for, before they could approach the LORD, the people have to have their sins atoned for, to become God’s people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Leviticus 8

Leviticus 8: Aaron and his sons are ordained

Synopsis

In this chapter, Moses performs the ordination ritual for Aaron and his sons. The LORD has Moses bring them to the Tent of Meeting, along with all of the necessary items: the priestly garments, the oil, a bull for the sin offering, two rams, and some bread. The rest of the Israelite community also come, to witness the ceremony.

Moses then washes Aaron and his sons with water, and Aaron and his sons put on the priestly garments. Moses anoints the tabernacle—and everything in it—with the oil, to consecrate them. (Remember that the word “consecrate” means to dedicate something for a specific purpose, or to declare holy.) Special attention is paid to the altar, which he sprinkles with oil seven times. Once everything in the tabernacle is consecrated, Moses then pours some of the oil on Aaron’s head, to consecrate him.

At this point, Moses presents the bull for the sin offering, and, since it is being sacrificed for their sins, Aaron and his sons place their hands on its head. Moses then follows the ritual for the sin offering, slaughtering the bull, putting some of the blood on the horns of the altar, and pouring the rest out at the base. Moses then takes the fat from the bull, and burns it on the altar, and then burns the rest of the bull outside the camp.

Moses then presents one of the rams for the burnt offering, and again, Aaron and his sons lay their hands on its head. It is then slaughtered, and again, its blood is sprinkled against all sides of the altar. The ram is then burned on the altar.

The other ram is now presented, for the ordination, and again, Aaron and his sons lay their hands on its head. Moses slaughters it, and puts some of the blood on Aaron’s right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe; when this is done, he repeats the process with Aaron’s sons. He then sprinkles more of the blood on the sides of the altar, before burning the fat on the altar, along with the bread. (Aaron and his sons wave all of the fat and bread before the LORD, first, as a wave offering.)

Moses then takes the ram’s breast—which verse 29 says is Moses’ share of the animal—and waves it before the LORD as a wave offering.

Finally, Moses takes some more of the oil, and some of the blood from the altar, and sprinkles it on Aaron, his sons, and their clothes. He commands them to cook the meat—at this point, I’ve lost track of which meat, from which of the sacrifices, they’re supposed to be cooking—at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. They are to eat it there, along with the bread from the basket of “ordination offerings”, and then burn up any meat or bread that remains. They are not to leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for seven days, “until the days of [their] ordination are completed” (verse 33).

The chapter ends with this:

“What has been done today was commanded by the LORD to make atonement for you. You must stay at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days and do what the LORD requires, so you will not die; for that is what I have been commanded.” So Aaron and his sons did everything the LORD commanded through Moses. (verses 34–36)

Thoughts

I may be repeating myself, but for this chapter, personally, I’m not paying too much attention to the details of it all. The significance of the one ram vs. the other; the significance of the bread. I’m just looking at the big picture: Aaron and his sons are going to take up religious leadership of the Israelites, and offer up sacrifices, on their behalf, to the LORD. But they have their own sin to deal with, which is what this chapter is concerned with.

Nobody can read this chapter, and come away thinking that worshipping the LORD is a trivial thing; He is a Holy God, and must be approached carefully—approaching Him carelessly leads to death, as we’ll see in an upcoming chapter, and elsewhere in the Bible. Really, I shouldn’t be allowed to approach Him at all, else I be killed—but in this instance, Jesus has already been killed for me. Because of Jesus’ death, I can actually approach the LORD any time I want, in prayer, to thank Him for what He has done for me, or to ask of Him additional requests.

But we must never think that the “approachable New Testament God” and the “Holy Old Testament God” are different Gods; it’s the same God. He is just as Holy as He always was. 21st Century Christians sometimes take for granted the fact that we can approach the LORD any time we want, without having to offer sacrifices, or otherwise atone for the sin that Jesus has already paid for. We can approach Him like that because Jesus has paid the price.

The Bible is very clear that we can only approach God the way that we do through faith in Christ; if we were to approach Him any other way, we’d be dealing with the same Holy LORD we see in Leviticus 8, and in danger of being destroyed for our sins.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:10–12)


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14–16)

It doesn’t mean that we need to change the way that we worship the LORD; Jesus Christ bought us a relationship with God that the Old Testament Israelites could never have dreamed of. But our relationship with Him will be much stronger if we remember who He is, and what He stands for. Loving, yet just; compassionate, yet holy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Leviticus 7

Leviticus 7: Rules for Guilt and Fellowship offerings; the eating of fat and blood forbidden; the priests’ share of offerings

Synopsis

This chapter continues on from Chapter 6, mostly focused on rules for the priests to follow, when offering sacrifices.

  • Guilt offerings were to be slaughtered in the same place where the burnt offering was slaughtered. The blood was to be sprinkled against all sides of the altar.
  • All of the fat from the animal was to be offered—“the fat tail and the fat that covers the inner parts, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which [was] to be removed with the kidneys” (verses 3b–4).
  • The priest was to burn all of this fat on the altar.
  • The rest of the meat was to be eaten by any male in the priest’s family—but it had to be eaten in a holy place, because it was holy.
So far, this is mostly a recap of rules already given.

  • Sin offerings and guilt offerings belonged to the priest who made atonement with them.
    • When a priest offered a burnt offering, he was allowed to keep its hide for himself.
  • I’m not sure about how the next two rules work together, so I’ll just quote them verbatim:

    Every grain offering baked in an oven or cooked in a pan or on a griddle belongs to the priest who offers it, and every grain offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, belongs equally to all the sons of Aaron. (verses 9–10)
I like that it’s explicitly stated that the priest was allowed to keep the hide from sin offerings. The priests needed to clothe their families too—it’s not just food that they needed. But for the grain offerings, I’m not sure how to differentiate what belonged to the priest who offered it, vs. what belonged equally to all priests. The two verses seem to be contradictory, as written, so I’m not sure what the rules are really supposed to be.

  • For Fellowship Offerings—also called “Peace Offerings”—there were different kinds that Israelites could present, and the rules were different for each.
    • When the offering was given as an expression of thankfulness, the person giving the offering was to offer cakes of bread, wafers, and cakes of fine flour—without yeast, of course, and mixed with oil—along with the actual offering itself. If I’m reading the verse correctly, one of each kind of “cake” was to be a contribution to the LORD, and the rest belonged to the priest. Any of the meat of the Fellowship Offering, in this case, was to be eaten the same day as it was offered.
    • When the offering was given as the result of a vow, or when it was a freewill offering, the meat was still to be eaten on the day of the offering, but if any was left over until the next day, it could still be eaten. Any which was left over until the third day was to be burned up; it would not be accepted, as part of the offering, and the one who ate it on the third day would be “held responsible” (verse 18).
Although I find these rules fascinating—which meat must be eaten on the same day, vs. meat that can be left until the next day, etc.—I’m also in way over my head, in trying to interpret why the rules are set up this way. What it is about an expression of thankfulness, that demands the meat be eaten the same day, vs. a vow or freewill offering, which can be left until the next day? Nothing springs to mind, that would account for the difference, to me.

  • Any meat that touched anything “ceremonially unclean” was not to be eaten. The Israelites were to burn it up. For the other meat, which did not become unclean, the people eating the meat also had to be “ceremonially clean” themselves.
  • If anyone who was unclean ate the meat from a Fellowship Offering, he was to be “cut off from his people” (verse 20, and verse 21).
  • Those rules were for priests, when it came to the meat of Fellowship Offerings, but there were also rules for the Israelites in general, when it came to meat: They were not to eat fat, and they were not to eat blood.
    • When an animal died on its own, such as if it was “found dead or torn by wild animals” (verse 24), the fat could be used for other purposes, but not for eating.
    • Anyone who ate the fat of an animal which was offered to the LORD by fire was to be cut off from his people.
    • Similarly, anyone who ate blood—period—was to be cut off from his people.
One question I have, from this passage: What about an animal which was slaughtered for food; were the Israelites allowed to use the fat for other purposes, other than eating? Or was it only animals that died on their own, that they were allowed to use the fat for other purposes?

  • Anyone who brought a Fellowship Offering to the LORD was to bring it with his own hands. He was to bring both the fat and the breast, and the breast was to be waved before the LORD as a “wave offering” (verse 30).
  • The fat was to be burned on the altar, but the breast belonged to the priests. The right thigh also belonged to the priest, although it wasn’t waved before the LORD.
  • Specifically, the priest who actually offered the blood of the sacrifice was to get the thigh, while the breast belonged to the priests in general.
In the case of the animal’s breast, which belonged to the priests in general, I’m not sure how that worked.

Thoughts

I think I mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I’m trying to remember to put all of these rules in the past tense, as they are not binding for Christians today. e.g. I am trying to remember to write “the priests were to burn the fat on the altar” instead of “the priests are to burn the fat on the altar”. I don’t know if I’ve been remembering to do that, lately; I got halfway through this chapter in the present tense, and had to go back and correct myself.

In these chapters, about rules and regulations for offerings and other worship rituals, I’m sometimes taking a bit of liberty with the terminology; any time a passage refers to the “sons of Aaron” or “Aaron’s sons” I’m usually just generalizing that to mean “the priests”. Once in a while, Aaron himself might actually be referred to, in which case I’m usually generalizing that to the “High Priest”. I’m doing this because these rules were meant to be followed as long as Israel was a nation, even after Aaron and his sons were dead, and it was their descendants who were serving as priests. Hopefully, in doing so, I haven’t lost any of the meaning, or misrepresented any of the rules.

This chapter mentions being “ceremonially clean” or “unclean” a couple of times. A later chapter will give rules for what made a person unclean, and instructions for dealing with uncleanness.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Leviticus 6

Leviticus 6: Rules about deception, and burnt, grain, and sin offerings

Synopsis

This chapter starts out with some rules about reparations that must be made, when someone is dishonest—which includes some forms of stealing—and then moves on to rules for the priests, about different types of offerings. Verses 1–7, on dishonesty, seem to be holdovers from Chapter 5—I just didn’t include that section when I covered Chapter 5.

  • When someone is dishonest, he must repay the wronged person in full, and add a fifth to it. e.g. if you steal a goat worth $500, you must return a goat or goats worth $600.
    • Verses 2–3 outline the type of “dishonesty” being referred to here; if someone is guilty of:

      …deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do…

      I think the “any such sin that people may do” is purposely left vague; it’s up to the priests to make judgement calls, from time to time.
  • In addition to paying back the wronged person, the guilty party must also present a guilt offering to the LORD; a ram, without defect, and of the proper value.
In other words, if you steal a goat worth $500—I have no idea how much a goat would be worth, I’m just using that number because it’s easily divided by 5—it’s going to cost you $1,200; $600 to pay back the person from which you stole, plus $600 for making atonement to the LORD for your guilt.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to rules for the priests, about how they’re to handle certain types of offerings.

  • The Burnt Offering
    • Burnt offerings are to remain on the altar all night, with the fire burning
    • In the morning, the priest is to put on his linen clothes, remove the ashes, and place them beside the altar. He is then to put on other clothes, and carry the ashes outside of the camp, to a place that is “ceremonially clean”.
    • The fire on the altar is never to go out; every morning the priest is to add firewood, and arrange the burnt offering—and fat from any fellowship offerings—in order to keep it going.
There’s nothing too exciting about this passage. It simply gives some extra detail to the priests, about how they are to maintain the altar, in preparation for offerings.

  • The Grain Offering
    • Grain offerings are to be brought before the LORD by the priest (“Aaron’s sons” (verse 14)), in front of the altar.
    • The priest is to take a handful of the flour and oil—as prescribed in an earlier chapter—and burn it on the altar.
      • This part of the grain offering is called the “memorial portion”.
    • The rest of the grain offering is to be eaten by the priests. They are to eat it in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting, and it must be baked without yeast.
    • This portion of the grain offering is “most holy”, and may be eaten by any male descendent of Aaron.
      • Verse 18b says that “[w]hatever touches them will become holy”, but the footnote says that this could also be translated “whoever touches them must be holy”.
  • On the day Aaron and his sons are anointed, they are to bring 2 litres of fine flour for their own grain offering. (They are to bring half in the morning, and half in the evening.)
    • It is to be prepared in a griddle, well mixed, and broken into pieces.
    • It is to be prepared by whichever son of Aaron’s will succeed him as High Priest.
    • This offering is to be burned completely—in fact, every grain offering which is offered by priests is to be burned completely. They are not to take a share from their own offerings.
In this case, because of the nature of the offering, it is stipulated that only the male descendants of Aaron—the priests—are to eat the priests’ share of the grain offerings. The priests’ share of other types of offerings, however, are meant for the priests’ entire families.

  • The Sin Offering
    • The Sin Offering is to be slaughtered in the same place that the burnt offering is slaughtered.
    • The priest who offers it is the one who is to eat it. It is to be eaten in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting.
    • Anything that touches the flesh of the offering will become holy—although, as with verse 18, this might also be translated that “whoever touches it must be holy”—and if any of the blood gets on the priest’s clothes, those clothes must be washed in a holy place.
    • If the meat is cooked in a clay pot, the pot must be broken, after it’s done being used. If the meat is cooked in a bronze pot, it must be scoured and rinsed with water.
    • Any male in the priest’s family may eat the meat from this offering.
    • If any of the blood from the offering is brought into the Tent of Meeting, to make atonement in the Holy Place, it must not be eaten. It must be burned, instead.
Again, because of the nature of the sacrifice, only the priests, who are ordained by God, are to eat the meat of this sacrifice—not the rest of their families.

Thoughts

As mentioned, future chapters will cover types of offerings in which the priest’s share of the offering can be shared with the entire family. For those offerings, the priest’s share is like his wages; because serving the LORD is how he makes his living, his share of the sacrifices are how he supports his family.

The sacrifices outlined here, however, are different in nature. The priest is not eating the meat for these sacrifices as a payment for his services; eating the meat is part of the worship ritual.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Leviticus 5

Leviticus 5: Examples of unintentional sins

Synopsis

In Chapter 4, we read the rules for sacrifices that were required for unintentional sins. In this chapter, we see some examples of that. I say “examples” because I don’t think this is meant to be an exhaustive list.

However, the first example given is actually an intentional sin:

  • If a person hears a public charge to testify about something he has seen or heard, and does not speak up, “he will be held responsible” (verse 1).
The Israelites were to hold truth in high regard, and this was especially important when it came to trials. God was very concerned that innocent people not be found guilty, and that guilty people not be let off for their crimes, in the justice system.

The next few examples, however, are for unintentional sins. Doing any of the following is an unintentional sin:

  • Touching anything ceremonially unclean, such as the carcass of a wild, or other unclean, animal
  • Touching “human uncleanness”—this will be outlined in later rules
  • Thoughtlessly taking an oath to do something, “whether good or evil—in any matter one might carelessly swear about” (verse 4)
  • If an Israelite does any of these things, even though he didn’t realize it at the time, he is guilty of sin, and is to bring a female lamb or goat as a sin offering.
I’m especially interested in the mention of “thoughtlessly taking an oath”. Someone says “I swear I’ll bring you back that book next week!” and then doesn’t do it; he then is guilty of sin, and has to offer a sacrifice for it.

But what if you commit a sin and don’t have, or can’t afford, a lamb or goat?

  • If you they couldn’t afford a lamb or goat, they were to bring two doves or two young pigeons instead—one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
    • For the sin offering, the priest would wring the bird’s neck—not severing it completely—and sprinkle some of the blood on the sides of the altar. The rest would be drained at the base.
    • The other bird would then be burned as a burnt offering, “and make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven” (verse 10).
  • If they couldn’t afford two doves or two pigeons, they were to bring 2 litres of fine flour.
    • In this case, the person offering the flour was not to put oil or incense on it, because it was a sin offering.
    • The priest was to take a handful of it and burn it on the altar, and “[i]n this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering” (verse 13).
What I find interesting here is that the grain for a sin offering is not to have oil or incense mixed with it. I have a theory about why that might be, but it is, if you will forgive the pun, half-baked. In the sacrifices where oil and incense were to be mixed with the grain, the Bible talks about a fragrance, pleasing to the LORD. However, for a sin offering, there is nothing to be pleased about; this is a sad occasion, where someone has fallen short of the Glory of the LORD, and is being reminded of the fact. So I’m wondering if they were to leave oil and incense out of their sin sacrifices simply to remind them that this was a serious sacrifice?

  • If a person commits an unintentional sin in relation to the LORD’s holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from his flock.
    • In this case, however, he is looking for a ram of a specific value. For whatever offense he committed, he is to make restitution, and add a fifth to it. So, if he, for example, breaks a dish from the Tent of Meeting, worth $5, then he is to find a ram worth $6.
I used an example of breaking something, but that’s not the only type of offense this rule is concerned with. It says in verse 16 that “[h]e must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven” (emphasis added). I’m just not sure, however, how they would assign values to some of the duties that might have been neglected.

The final verses in the chapter seem, to me, to be a summary:
If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD. (verses 17–19)

Thoughts

I don’t really have any general thoughts on this chapter; I’ve already mentioned the parts that I find interesting.