Thursday, September 13, 2007

Deuteronomy 15:19–23

Deuteronomy 15:19–23: The Firstborn Animals


This is a short passage, in which Moses reiterates (or hands down) rules for firstborn animals.

All firstborn animals from the Israelites’ flocks and herds are to be set aside for the LORD, and are not to be put to work. (Sheep are not to be sheared, either.) Each year, the Israelites are to go to the Tabernacle/Temple, and eat these animals in the presence of the LORD.

If any of the firstborn animals have some kind of a defect—e.g. the animal is blind, or lame—the Israelites are not to bring them to the Tabernacle/Temple; instead, they are to eat the animal in their own towns. I’m inferring, from this, that the animals are still not to be put to work, but the text doesn’t specifically say that. In this case, if the Israelites are eating a firstborn animal which has a defect, anyone can eat it, regardless of whether they’re ceremonially clean or unclean. (Which reminds me that the Israelites who eat the “non-defective” firstborn animals, at the Temple/Tabernacle, do have to be ceremonially clean. It’s not stated in this passage, but it’s part of the law that has already been handed down to the Israelites.)

The passage ends with the now-familiar command that the Israelites are not to eat the blood of the animals; it is to be poured out on the ground.


I don’t know anything about farming, or raising livestock, so I’m not sure how many firstborn animals an average Israelite family would have, over the course of a year. I find myself wondering how big of a sacrifice—and subsequent feast—they’d be having every year, when they went to the Tabernacle/Temple with these animals.

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