Saturday, April 11, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5
Summary:God makes a few clarifications on matters that people are to be found guilty of sin:
  • Anyone who refuses to give testimony towards what he knows about a crime.
  • Anyone touching anything "ceremonially unclean" - such as the carcass of an animal forbidden as food, or the carcass of a "forbidden insect". He is guilty even if he unaware of having touched it.
  • Anyone touching human discharge of any kind becomes guilty as soon as he is aware that he has touched it.
  • Anyone who takes a rash vow, regardless of whether the vow is good or bad. When he realizes that the vow is foolish, he is guilty.
In any of those cases, he shall have to confess his sin and bring a female lamb or female goat for a "guilt offering" animal sacrifice. This will free him from his sin and in the case of a "foolish vow", absolve him from his vow.

If he is too poor to afford a lamb, then he can bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, with one bird being a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering. The priest shall sacrifice whichever bird is handed to him first as the sin offering - wringing its neck, but not severing its head from its body. The priest shall then sprinkle some of its blood upon the side of the altar and the rest will be drained out at the base of the altar. The second bird will be a burnt offering following "standard procedure".

If he is too poor to afford turtledoves or pigeons, then he must bring a tenth of a bushel of fine flour - the flour is not to be mixed with olive oil or incense. The priest is to take a handful as a representative portion and burn it on the altar. The rest of the flour shall belong to the priest, in the same manner that a grain offering is conducted.

If anyone sins by unintentionally defiling something that is holy, then he shall bring a ram for a "guilt offering" animal sacrifice. He will also have to make full restitution for the item he has defiled, plus a twenty percent penalty fee.

Anyone who disobeys some law of God without realizing it is guilty regardless, and must bring a sacrifice with a value determined by Moses. This sacrifice shall be a ram without defects, and must be given as a "guilt offering", for he is certainly guilty in God's eyes.
Thoughts:God lays down a few things that fall under his category of guilt, beginning with people who won't testify against a crime. Next, God marks the carcasses of animals that are not marked for food as "unclean" and that touching said carcass dooms you with guilt. This "sin" also applies to "forbidden insects" as well, whatever that means. Quite frankly, this "sin" is just downright silly, as anyone who has touched the dead body of a pet dog, cat, hamster, etc. is guilty of this "sin".

Next, God tells us that touching human discharge of any kind is also a sin. Parents who've changed messy diapers, people who've sneezed on themselves, and even those wet sloppy kisses you give to your grandkids - well, they're all sins, folks. However, unlike touching a dead animal carcass - where you're guilty whether you realize you've touched it or not - you're only guilty once you realize that you've touched human discharge, which I guess might be a comfort to people who might not be the best at wiping themselves in the bathroom and thoroughly wash their hands afterwards.

Curiously, the final example God gives is about making a rash vow - regardless of whether it's good or bad. I would suspect that people probably interpret this as a loophole for divorce, because as soon as you're forgiven for your "sin", you're absolved from having to abide by the vow.

Now God tells us that the proper way to absolve guilt is by slaughtering some female lambs and goats at church. If you can't afford either a lamb or a goat, a pair of turtledoves or pigeons will do. If you're really poor, then God will allow you to sacrifice a tenth of a bushel of fine flour instead. Graphically, God describes that priests are to wring the necks of the birds given, but to make sure that the head is at least still attached to the body.

Now if you have defiled anything God deems "holy", then that will cost you a ram, plus you'll have to reimburse the church for the full value of the item you defiled plus a 20% surcharge.

Regardless of whether you know what you've done or not, God says you're still guilty and that you must bring whatever sacrifice Moses decides upon, which apparently, Moses wants you slaughter rams. Perhaps he thought ram's meat was really tasty, or maybe he just enjoys seeing rams being slaughtered.
Chapter 6
Summary:God continues his laws to Moses, stating that anyone who refuses to return a deposit upon something borrowed or rented; by refusing to return something entrusted to him; by robbery or oppression; or by finding a lost item and lying about it, claiming he doesn't have it - on the day he is found guilty, he shall restore what he took, pay an additional twenty percent fine to the person he harmed, and shall bring a "guilt offering" animal sacrifice to the tabernacle. His "guilt offering" shall be a ram without defect, of any value that Moses demands.

God then said to Moses to give the following regulations to Aaron and his sons concerning sacrifices:
For burnt offerings:
  • The burnt offering shall be left upon the hearth of the altar all night, with the fire kept burning.
  • The following morning the priest shall put on his linen garments and clean out the ashes, putting them beside the altar.
  • After changing clothes, he shall carry the ashes outside the camp to a place that is "ceremonially clean".
  • The fire upon the altar must be kept burning continually, and must never go out.
  • The priest must put fresh wood on the fire each morning and lay a daily "burnt offering" animal sacrifice upon it.
For grain offerings:
  • Aaron's sons shall stand in front of the altar to offer the sacrifice to God.
  • The priest shall take out a handful of the finely ground flour mixed with olive oil and incense, to burn upon the altar as a representative portion to God.
  • After taking out this handful, the rest of the flour will belong to Aaron and his sons as their food. It shall be eaten without yeast in the courtyard of the tabernacle.
  • Although God is allowing the priests to eat this flour, it still technically belongs to God, so it must not be shared with anyone who is not a priest.
  • On the day of Aaron and his sons being anointed as priests, they are to offer to God a standard "grain offering", consisting of a tenth of a bushel of fine flour.
  • The flour that the Aaron and his sons are to give is to be offered half in the morning and half in the evening. It must be cooked on a griddle using olive oil.
  • As the sons of the priests replace their fathers, they shall be inducted into office by offering this same sacrifice on their day of anointing. This is a perpetual law.
  • These offerings are to be entirely burned up, and none is to be eaten.
For "sin offerings":
  • This animal sacrifice is considered most holy and shall be killed at the same place where the burnt offerings are killed.
  • The priest who performs this ceremony shall eat it in the courtyard of the tabernacle. Only priests are allowed to eat this meat.
  • If any blood gets onto a priest's clothing, it must be washed in a holy place. The clay pot in which the clothing is boiled shall be broken, and in the case of an iron pot, it must be cleaned thoroughly.
  • Every male amongst the priests may eat this offering, but only they, because it is deemed "holy".
  • No sin offering may be eaten if the animal's blood is taken into the tabernacle for atonement. That carcass must be completely burned with fire before God.
Thoughts:This chapter begins as more of a continuation of Chapter 5 before it gets to it's real point - how the priests are to administer grain and animal sacrifices. Initially we've opened up with God's thoughts about what people guilty of possessing something that doesn't truly belong to them need to do to repent - and of course, it's to bring a delicious ram to be brutally slaughtered - plus he's got to pay restitution to the person he harmed, plus 20% interest. Moses gets to choose how valuable a ram needs to be given to slaughter.

Now God gets to his real point of the chapter, how the priests are to administer grain and animal sacrifices. First up God gives his declarations for "burnt offerings", making sure that the priests keep the fire in the tabernacle burning continuously, and that they have at least two different outfits - one for cleaning out the ashes, and one for bringing the ashes to the outskirts of the camp.

His next set of rules concerns how grain sacrifices are to be carried out. God specifically tells the priests that while they're allowed to munch on the grain all they want, they're not allowed to share any of it with the "common folk", as it technically belongs to God, and he doesn't like sharing his "holy" grain with outsiders. "Holy" food can only be eaten by "holy" people, end of discussion. I'm wondering what would happen if stray animals came inside the tabernacle tend and found the "holy food", I'm guessing a stoning would be in order.

Next we move on to God's rules for the priests to carry out "sin offering" animal sacrifices. Like the grain offerings, only the priests may eat the cooked meat of the slaughtered animals, however, God goes out of his way to emphasize that only the males amongst the priests may eat it, due to the fact that it is "holy". This seems a bit redundant as so far, only the sons of Aaron and their descendants are to be ordained as priests. Why this sexist distinction is thrown in here is puzzling.

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