Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapters 11 & 12

Chapter 11
Summary:God now tells Aaron and Moses that the people of Israel may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud, and gives them a list of animals that may not be eaten:
  • Camels: Although it chews the cud, it does not have cloven hooves.
  • Coney: The coney (or rock badger) chews the cud*, it does not have cloven hooves.
  • Hares: The hare chews the cud*, but does not have cloven hooves.
  • Swine: Although they have cloven hooves, it does not chew the cud.
God declares that the people of Israel are not to eat their meat, or to even touch their dead bodies, as they are forbidden foods.

As for fish, God proclaims that anything with fins and scales, whether coming from rivers or the sea, are fine to eat, but that anything else in the water is an abomination. You mustn't eat the meat or touch the carcass of any water creature without fins and scales, they are abominations.

As for birds that God doesn't want eaten (as they are abominations too):
  • the eagle
  • the metire
  • the osprey
  • the falcon
  • the vulture
  • the kite
  • the raven
  • the ostrich
  • the nighthawk
  • the seagull
  • the hawk
  • the owl
  • the cormorant
  • the ibis
  • the marsh hen
  • the pelican
  • the stork
  • the heron
  • the hoopoe
  • the swan
  • the bat*
Flying insects with four legs are abominations and must not be eaten, with the exception of those that jump. Locusts of all varieties - ordinary locusts, bald locusts, crickets, and grasshopers - may be eaten. All other flying creeping things, which have four feet, are an abomination. Anyone who touches their dead bodies shall be defiled until the evening and must wash their clothes immediately.

God also considers a person defiled who has touched the carcass of any animal with semi-parted hooves, or any animal that does not chew the cud. Any animal that walks on paws is forbidden as food, and will also defile anyone (until the evening) who touches their dead bodies. Again, the person must also wash their clothes immediately as they are considered unclean.

Also forbidden and unclean are small animals which creep along the ground:
  • the mole
  • the rat
  • the mouse
  • the lizard
  • the gecko
  • the chameleon
  • the snail
Anyone touching their dead bodies will be considered defiled until the evening. Anything upon which the carcass may fall upon - any article of wood, clothing, rugs, or a sack - must be put into water to be cleansed as it will be considered unclean until the evening.

If an unclean animal carcass comes into contact with a pottery bowl, anything in the bowl is defiled and the bowl itself must be smashed. If the water used to cleanse a defiled and unclean item touches any food or drink, all of it is considered defiled, unclean, and contaminated. If the carcass of an unclean animal touches any clay oven, it is defiled and must be smashed.

However, if the carcass of an unclean animal falls into a spring or cistern where there is water, the water is not considered to be defiled - but anyone who pulls out the carcass is defiled. If the unclean carcass touches grain that is to be sowed in the field, it is not contaminated; but if the seeds are wet and the unclean carcass falls upon it, then the seed has been defiled.

If any animal which is permitted to be eaten dies (presumably by natural cause or disease) anyone who touches the carcass will also be unclean until the evening. Anyone eating the meat of such an animal, or carrying away its carcass must wash their clothes and is considered defiled and unclean until the evening.

Every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth is an abomination and must not be eaten. Animals that crawl their bellies, creep along an all four, or has many feet shall not be eaten, as they are abominations. Any person who touches such an abomination will become an abomination themselves, and will be considered defiled and unclean.

God reminds the people of Israel that it was he who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and therefore they must remain "holy", as God himself is "holy"; therefore they are not to defile themselves by touching any of these animals that creep along the earth. God says that these are his distinctions between the clean and the unclean, and the beasts that may or may not be eaten.
Notes:1.) Neither the coney (rock badger) or the hare are ruminants ("cud chewing animals"), they don't have a fore-stomach to produce cud.
2.) The bat is misclassified here as a bird, when it is instead a mammal.
Thoughts:God begins listing off animals that are not allowed to be eaten. Bothersome is the fact that he misclassifies both the coney (or rock badger) and the hare as ruminants (those animals which have fore-stomachs and produce cud) as his reasoning for being prohibited for food. Both animals would be prohibited for food by God's other stipulations (the both for not having cloven hooves), but very strangely, the supposed creator of these animals clearly classifies these animals as ruminants when neither of them are.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a ruminant is defined as:
1 adj. (1): chewing the cud
(2): characterized by chewing again what has been swallowed b: of or relating to two suborders (Ruminantia and Tylopoda) of herbivorous even-toed hoofed mammals (as sheep, oxen, deer, and camels) that chew the cud and have a complex 3- or 4-chambered stomach.
Although the "rock badger" and the hare are both herbivores, they do not have the complex stomach systems that produce cud and it seems very suspicious that the apparent creator of the universe would be somehow unaware of this, specifically labeling both animals as ruminants when they very clearly are not. It seems far more likely that primitive bronze age men who actually wrote the bible probably mistakenly assumed that both the rock badger and the hare were ruminants due to their herbivore diets.

God not only continues to list the animals that he doesn't want people eating, but goes one step further labeling such animals as abominations. Anyone who touches the carcasses of any said abominations is to be considered contaminated and unclean until the evening. Why everything resets itself at the evening is unclear and a bit puzzling, but this is apparently God's law. Also, unclean people who either touch or eat the carcasses of animals that are considered abominations to God have to wash their clothes immediately. Why one must wash their clothes for eating an "unclean" animal is a bit puzzling unless perhaps they're a sloppy eater.

God however does say it's perfectly okay to eat locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets if you're really hungry for them - as jumping insects are okay - but that any other insects with wings and/or four feet(?!) are abominations as well.

Seafood that has fins and/or scales are okay, but everything else that lives in the water are abominations as well. God also lists a rather extensive list of birds that are also considered abominations as well; humorously amongst his list of birds is the bat, which is probably misclassified simply due to the Hebrew language classifying any winged flying animal as a "bird".

If the carcass of an animal falls into your plates, bowls, dishes, or ovens, God says you'll have to destroy those items, but if it falls onto your rug, any wooden item, clothes, or even a sack you can toss the defiled item into the wash overnight to decontaminate and save the item. However, dead carcasses of animals considered to be abominations won't pollute your water supply or your grains, but might contaminate your grain seeds if they happen to be wet. Also fishing the dead carcass out of the spring will still contaminate you.

God finishes off his list with all the creepy crawlies such as reptiles and multi-legged creatures, declaring them to be abominations too.
Chapter 12
Summary:God gives Moses some more laws for the people of Israel, this time concerning childbirth. Whenever a baby boy is born, the mother shall be considered "ceremonially defiled" for seven days, and under the same "restrictions" as she would be during her monthly periods. On the eighth day, her son must be circumcised. For the following thirty three days she shall not touch anything "sacred", nor enter the tabernacle, until she is no longer "ceremonially impure".

When a baby girl is born, the mother's "ceremonial impurity" will last two weeks (instead of one as in the case of a baby boy). For the next sixty six days she will not be allowed to touch anything sacred, nor enter the tabernacle, until she is no longer "ceremonially impure".

After the mother's thirty three or sixty six days of "purification" she must bring a yearling lamb as a "burnt offering", and a young pigeon or turtledove as a "sin offering". She must take them to the door of the tabernacle where the priest will slaughter them before God in atonement for her "sin" of childbirth, then she will be "ceremonially clean" again.

If she is too poor to afford a lamb, the mother must bring either two turtledoves or two young pigeons for her "burnt offering" and "sin offering" instead. The priest will make atonement for her with these animal sacrifices so that she may be "ceremonially pure" again.
Thoughts:God packs a large dose of misogyny into a rather short chapter in the book of Leviticus. In this chapter God deems child birth as being sinful and unclean and lays down the law about how to punish new mothers.

Mothers giving birth to a male child are considered to be "unclean" for seven days and must be "purified" for the next thirty three days. During these forty days, she's not allowed to touch anything "sacred" nor is she allowed in the tabernacle.

God furthers his sexism by doubling the mother's punishment for giving birth to a female child - hence the mother is considered "unclean" for fourteen days and that she must be purified for the next sixty six days. During these eighty days, she's not allowed to touch anything "sacred" nor is she allowed in the tabernacle.

After her forty or eighty day punishment, she is then to take some animals to the tabernacle for some good old animal sacrificing to atone for the sin of giving birth to a child. Preferably God wants a bird (either a young pigeon or turtledove) and a lamb, but if the offending mother is too poor to buy a lamb, then two birds will do.

It's hard for me to fathom how anyone can justify the blatant misogyny and sexism laid out here in this chapter, how simply giving birth is considered sinful by any means, why giving birth to a female is more sinful than having a son, and why fathers are notably absent from punishment as they are the cause behind the mother's "sin". There just simply is no way to chalk this up to anything but rampant sexism by either God, or more aptly the human authors of the bible.

There is absolutely nothing "sinful" or bad about a woman giving birth, and moreover there isn't anything "worse" about having a daughter as opposed to having a son. Being concerned about a new mother touching something considered "sacred" or entering a tabernacle before her forty or eighty days are up is asinine - period.

There simply is no way to justify the sexism laid out here in the bible by any means.

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