Wednesday, April 8, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1
Summary:God now spoke to Moses from the tabernacle and gave him more instructions on how to conduct animal sacrifices. When sacrificing an animal, the people of Israel have to sacrifice an animal from within their own herds and flocks. If the animal is an ox to be given as a burnt offering, then it must be a bull with no physical defects.

The animal is to be brought to the entrance of the tabernacle where the priests will accept their "gift" for God. The person who brings the animal is to place their hand upon the animal's head and it then will serve as a substitute: the animal's death will be accepted by God as a substitute for the life of the man who brought it as the penalty for his sins. The man shall then kill the animal before God, the priests, and will present the blood to God, sprinkling the blood about the altar. The priests will then skin the animal, quarter it, and build a wood fire upon the altar. The animal's sections, its head, and fat shall be placed upon the wood. The internal organs and the legs are to be washed, and then the priests shall burn them upon the altar. This will then be an acceptable burnt offering that will please God.

If the animal used for a burnt offering is a sheep or a goat, it too must be a male without defects. The man who brings it shall kill it before God on the north side of the altar, and the priests shall sprinkle its blood back and forth upon the altar. The man will then quarter it, and the priests will then lay the pieces with the head and the fat on top of the wood on the altar. The internal organs and the legs shall first be washed with water. The priests shall then burn it all upon the altar, as burnt offerings give God much pleasure.

If a bird is to be used as a burnt offering, either a turtle dove or a young pigeon may be used. A priest will take the bird to the altar and rip off its head, while the blood shall be drained at the side of the altar. The the priest will remove the crop and feathers and throw them on the east side of the altar with the ashes. Then grasping it by the wings, the bird shall be torn apart - but not completely - and then be burnt upon the altar. God will have pleasure in this sacrifice.
Thoughts:There's really not much to say about our first step into the book of Leviticus other than point out the gruesomeness along with the complete disregard for the pain and suffering of the animals involved. I find it rather disturbing that each description of ritual animal sacrifice has to be accentuated by the announcement of God's "pleasure" in it.
Chapter 2
Summary:God now tells Moses about how to sacrifice grains, stating that one who chooses such is to bring fine flour and pour olive oil and incense upon it. Then the man is to take a handful of the grain (which will symbolically represent the full amount) to one of the priests to burn upon the altar, and this will fully please God. The remainder is to be given to Aaron and his sons as their food, but all if it is considered to be a burnt offering to God.

If baked bread is to be given as an offering, it must be made with finely ground flour, baked with olive oil, but without yeast. Wafers made without yeast and spread with olive oil may also be used as an offering. If the offering is something made off of a griddle or a pan, it too must be made of finely ground flour without yeast, mingled with olive oil. The food is to be broken into pieces and oil is to be poured upon it. However it is prepared, it shall be given to a priest and he will present it to God. As like a grain offering, the priests are to burn a small portion and to keep the rest as their own food, however, symbolically the entire offering will be counted by God.

Yeast and honey are not permitted in burnt offerings to God; these ingredients may be used in harvest time offerings, but never in burnt offerings. Every offering must also be seasoned with salt, as salt is symbolically a reminder of God's covenant.

If you are offering from the first of your harvest, remove the kernels from a fresh ear, crush and roast them, then offer them to God. The priests again will burn a small part mixed with oil and incense as a symbolic representative portion to God.
Thoughts:While there's obviously nothing sadistic and inhumane about this chapter compared to the previous, it still comes off as rather puzzling as to why God "is pleased" by things being set on fire so much.

God also makes it clear that he doesn't like yeast or honey in his food products, and also curiously demands salt in his food as well - for some reason, salt reminds him of his covenant with the people (perhaps from having Moses part the Red Sea?).

The priests however, whom are apparently too busy burning things and splattering animal blood around all day to do any real work, get the benefit of chowing down on all these foods that they get to set on fire. The one big perk of being a priest it seems, is that God shares his meals with you.

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