Monday, January 15, 2007

Leviticus 1

Leviticus 1: Rules for Burnt Offerings


The book of Leviticus is mostly a book of rules, regulations, and instructions for worship of the LORD. Chapter 1 starts straight away with commandments for burnt offerings.
  • Verse 2 says that any time an Israelite brings an offering to the LORD, it must be an animal “from either the herd or the flock”.
I assume the purpose of this rule is to stipulate that they are not to present wild animals to the LORD; they are only to present animals that cost them something. However, it might just be stipulating the type of animals that are acceptable for sacrifice.
  • Offerings from the herd are to be males, without defect.
    • The animal must first be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, to be acceptable for sacrifice.
    • The person offering the sacrifice is to lay his hand on the animal’s head, so that it can be accepted on his behalf, to make atonement for his sins.
    • After he has slaughtered the animal, Aaron’s sons are to bring the animal’s blood and sprinkle it against the altar. The man will then akin the animal, cut it into pieces, and wash the inner parts and the legs with water. Aaron’s sons will then burn the pieces on the altar.
  • Similarly, offerings from the flock—either sheep or goats—are also to be male, and without defect.
    • For offerings from the flock, it doesn’t mention anything about bringing the animal to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, or about the person offering the sacrifice laying his hands on the animal’s head.
    • After the man slaughters the animal, again, Aaron’s sons will sprinkle its blood on the altar. The man is to cut the animal into pieces, and wash the inner parts and the legs with water. The priests will then burn the pieces on the altar.
There seems to be a different purpose in offering an animal from “the herd” (which is for atonement), and an animal from “the flock” (the purpose of which is not stated here).
  • If the person is offering to the LORD a bird, it is to be a dove or a young pigeon.
    • The priest—not the person offering the sacrifice, in this case—is to take the bird to the altar, wring its head off, and drain its blood out on the side of the altar.
    • The priest is to remove “the crop with its contents” (verse 16; the footnote indicates that this might also be translated “the crop and the feathers”), and throw it to the East side of the altar, “where the ashes are”.
    • The priest is then to take the remainder, and tear it open by its wings—although not completely apart—and it is to be burned on the altar.
Again, I’m not sure what the purpose of this sacrifice is.


I don’t really have any thoughts on this chapter, except the usual, when it comes to rules and regulations about burnt offerings: Coming from a society and culture where sacrifices are not a normal part of life—or a part at all!—the rules about offerings and sacrifices always seem strange. I understand the offering of the bull, for atonement, at least; it’s to atone for a person’s sin. (Or at least, be a symbol of the person’s sin being atoned for.) But aside from that, it all seems very strange and foreign to me.

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