Saturday, April 4, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 29 & 30

Chapter 29
Summary:God describes to Moses the ceremony for the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests:
  • Bring the following to the entrance of the tabernacle:
    • A young bull without defects
    • Two rams without defects
    • Bread made without yeast
    • Thin sheets of sweetened bread coated with oil
    • Unleavened wafers with oil poured over them
  • Bathe Aaron and his sons at the entrance.
  • Put Aaron's robe, tunic, ephod, chestpiece and sash on him. Place on his head the turban with the golden plate.
  • Annoint Aaron's head with oil.
  • Dress Aaron's sons in their robes with their woven sashes, and place caps on their heads.
  • Bring the young bull to the entrance of the tabernacle and have Aaron and his sons place their hands upon its head.
  • Kill the bull before God at the entrance of the tabernacle.
  • Place its blood upon the horns of the altar, having Moses smearing it on with with his finger. Pour the rest of the blood at the base of the altar.
  • Take the fat covering the innards, along with the gall bladder and the kidneys and burn them upon the altar.
  • Take the body, including the skin and dung, outside and burn it as a sin offering.
  • Have Aaron and his sons place their hands upon one of the rams as it is killed.
  • Collect the blood and sprinkle it upon the altar.
  • Cut up the ram and wash off the entrails and the legs. Place them with the head and other pieces of the body upon the altar and burn it. This is a burnt offering to God, and is very pleasant to him.
  • Have Aaron and his sons place their hands upon the second ram as it is killed.
  • Collect the blood from the second ram and place some of it upon the tip of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, as well as their right thumbs and the big toes of their right feet.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the blood over the altar.
  • Scrape some of the blood from the altar and mix it with some of the anointing oil.
  • Sprinkle the mixture of blood and oil upon Aaron and his sons, and their clothes, and they will be sanctified to God.
  • Take the fat of the ram, the gall bladder, kidneys, a loaf of bread, a cake of shortening bread, and one wafer of unleavened bread. Place these in the hands of Aaron and his sons to wave them in the air as a gesture of offering to God. Afterwards this to be burned upon the altar as a fragrant burnt offering.
  • Take the breast of the ordination ram and wave it before God in a gesture of offering. Afterward, Moses is to keep it for himself.
  • Give the breast and thigh of the consecration ram to Aaron and his sons.
  • The sacred garments of Aaron shall be preserved for the consecration of his son who succeeds him, from generation to generation. Whoever is the next High Priest after Aaron shall wear these clothes for seven days before beginning to minister in the tabernacle.
  • Take the ram of consecration and boil its meat in a scared area. Aaron and his sons shall eat the meat, along with the bread, at the entrance to the tabernacle. They alone shall eat those items used in their atonement, ordinary people are not allowed to eat them, as they are considered holy.
  • If any meat or bread remains, it is to be burned.
  • This ordination shall go on for seven days. Every day you shall sacrifice a young bull as a sin offering, and afterwards purge the altar by pouring olive oil upon it to sanctify it.
  • Each day offer two yearling lambs upon the altar, one in the morning, one in the evening. The morning lamb shall be offered with finely ground flour mixed with oil, and also with wine, as a libation.
  • The evening lamb shall be offered along with the flour and wine for a fragrant burnt offering.
  • The lambs shall be a perpetual daily offering at the door of the tabernacle where God will meet and speak with you.
Thoughts:God loves his animal sacrifices, so much so that three animals per day are to be killed for God's elaborate consecration ritual. It's really difficult to understand why God needs some elaborate and gruesome ritual to ordain a couple of priests and what smearing animal blood all over an altar accomplishes.

What we're actually dealing with here is not anything "magical" or "miraculous", but rather is just brutal and senseless superstition derived from primitive religions pre-dating Judeo-Christianity. While ritualistic animal sacrifice is virtually non-existent in modern practitioners of Christianity, it was common place in the bronze age when the bible was written. When developing a new religion it's easiest to adopt already known practices or rituals in order to ease conversion, and hence what is happening here.

The significance of all these complex steps and specific detailed instructions is baffling as to its purpose and intent. When it is stated that the punishment for messing up these instructions is death, it further emphasizes the contradiction in God's "love" and "compassion".
Chapter 30
Summary:God continues telling Moses what to make for the tabernacle, specifying that he is to construct a small altar for burning incense. He gives Moses the dimensions and specifics, and finishes by telling him that the altar is to be placed just outside of the veil in the tabernacle that conceals the ark of the covenant.

God then tells Moses to have Aaron burn incense every morning and every evening on the altar, and that the priests who succeed him must carry on this duty generation after generation, adding that the altar will also have to be sanctified once a year with animal blood.

God now tells Moses that whenever he takes a census of the people, each man will have to "pay a ransom" for "his soul" to ensure that God won't have to send a plague amongst them. He continues telling Moses that all the men over the age of twenty will have to pay half a shekel, which is to be used to maintain the tabernacle.

God now tells Moses that he also has to make a brass basin for Aaron and his sons to wash their feet in, adding that they will have to wash their hands and feet before appearing before him in the tabernacle - or they will die. This too is to be upheld by future generations of priests.

God instructs Moses to make a "holy anointing oil" out of myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, and olive oil. This is to be used to anoint the tabernacle, the ark, the table and all its instruments upon it, the altar, and the wash basin. It is also to be used to anoint Aaron and his sons, but must never be used on an "ordinary person", adding that anyone who does so, or takes some oil for his own personal use will be excommunicated.

Finally God instructs Moses what to use in making the incense: stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense - of equal amounts, and seasoned with salt. Again, God commands that the incense is never to be made for personal use, and that anyone who does so will be excommunicated.
Thoughts:This chapter mainly concerns the duties that Aaron and his sons will have serving as priests in the tabernacle. Of interesting note is that the penalty for not washing their hands and feet is death, while fooling around with the "holy" incense and anointing oil is merely excommunication.

Also mentioned is God's first "collection plate", demanding half a shekel from every male over the age of twenty to pay for the tabernacle's maintenance, under the guise of a "ransom" to protect them from God sending a plague upon them.

It's amazing to me the severity of God's threats towards his own "chosen people" and how sharply this contrasts with his professed love and compassion for them. Extorting people into obeying by using death threats is not an attribute by any stretch of the meaning of the words "compassion" or "love".

Excommunication seems a bit more in line with fairness, however, this punishment is doled out only to those priests who *intentionally* misappropriate the "holy" oils and incense, as opposed to the death sentence given for not washing your hands and feet, which could possibly be a case of accidental forgetfulness.

God claims in Exodus: Chapter 22 that he is compassionate, but shows here (and elsewhere) that he is anything but.



    Tabernacle with gorgeous photos!

  2. Thanks, Juhani. The photos (and the models themselves) are quite nice.