Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LEVITICUS: Chapter 23

Chapter 23
Summary:God speaks to Moses, with laws for the people of Israel concerning his "holy feasts".

God begins by restating the sabbath again - that six days of work are to be done, and that the seventh is a day of rest in which no work is to be done. He follows this up with listing some "holy feasts" that are to be observed each year.

  • Passover - Celebrated on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month*.

  • Festival of Unleavened Bread - Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month (the following day after "Passover"). For the following seven days unleavened bread must be eaten. The first day will be a day of "holy convocation" and no servile work shall be done. For the following days the people must make sacrifices by fire. The seventh day will be another day of "holy convocation" and again no servile work shall be done.

  • Festival of First Fruits - When the people of Israel arrive in the "promised land", they will have to bring the first sheaf of fruit that they harvest to a priest at the tabernacle on the first day after the sabbath. The priest will wave it in the air and it will be accepted by God as a gift. The same day the person will have to sacrifice a yearling lamb (without blemish) for a "burnt offering" as well. A "grain offering" will also have to accompany the animal sacrifice, consisting of two tenth deals (a fifth of a bushel) of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, to be offered by fire to God - this will be a "sweet savor" to God. Also, God needs some wine to go with his burnt lamb and flour, so bring a fourth of a hin (approximately three pints) of wine along with the lamb and flour. The people of Israel are not to eat any bread, corn, or green ears until they have made this sacrifice to God. This is a permanent statute wherever the people may live.

  • Festival of Pentecost - 50 days after the "Festival of First Fruits" (after seven sabbaths have passed) the people of Israel will have to bring a sample of their newly harvested grains for another "grain sacrifice". This shall consist of two loaves of bread, made from fine flour and made with yeast. Along with the bread, God wants you to sacrifice seven* yearling lambs (without blemish), one young bull, and two rams, for a massive "burnt offering" - along with the bread and some more wine. God notes that this sacrifice by fire is a "sweet savor" to him. In addition to the ten animals you need to sacrifice for the "festival", you'll also need to offer a male goat - for a "sin offering" - and two male yearling lambs for a "peace offering". The priest will have to wave these offerings around in the air, along with the bread. They are considered "holy" to God and therefore the priests will get to eat these foods. The day will become a "holy convocation" for the person making theses sacrifices, and they shall do no servile work that day. This shall be a permanent statute for all further generations. God repeats his law from Chapter 19 - that when the people harvest their crops, they are not to reap the corners of their fields or pick up any stray crops; they are to be left for the poor and for travelers.

  • Festival of Trumpets - On the first day of the seventh month* the people are to observe a "holy" memorial sabbath with the blowing of trumpets. No work is to be done on this day, but everyone will need to make a sacrifice by fire.

  • Day of Atonement - The tenth day of the seventh month (9 days after the "Festival of Trumpets") shall be a day of atonement which the people will have to offer another sacrifice by fire. No work shall be done on this day for it is a day to make atonement to God. Whomever does not repent that day will be excommunicated for their people, and whomever does any work that day God will destroy them. No manner of work is to be done on this day, it is a statute binding forever throughout future generations. It is a sabbath of rest that begins on the evening of the ninth day of the month until the evening of the tenth day.

  • Festival of Tabernacles - On the fifteenth day of the seventh month* (five days after the "Day of Atonement") is the seven day feast - "Festival of the Tabernacles". On the first day shall be a "holy convocation" and no servile work is to be done. On each of the seven days a sacrifice by fire is to be made. On the eighth day another "holy convocation" is to be observed, and another sacrifice by fire is to be made. It is to be a solemn assembly and no servile work is to be done.
These are God's feasts which are to be observed as "holy convocations", and are required for the people of Israel to make sacrifices by fire, "burnt offerings", "grain offerings", animal sacrifices, and "drink offerings" upon these days - in addition to the regular observance of the sabbath, gifts of animal sacrifices, vows, and offerings made by freewill.

Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month *, when the people are done harvesting the fruit of the land, the people must keep God's feast for seven days - on the first and eighth days, there shall be an observed sabbath. On the first day the people are to take boughs of fruit trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and the people shall rejoice before God for seven days. This seven day annual event is a permanent statute to be followed forever through future generations in the seventh month (meaning September, in our modern calendar).

All of the people who are native Israelis are to live in "booths" (tents, or simple shelters) for these seven days. God claims that this will serve as a reminder to the people of Israel of how God brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt and made them live in "booths". And so Moses announced these festivals - God's feasts - to the people of Israel.
Notes:1.) Approximately late March in our current calendar.
2.) Another example of the mystical significance of the number 7 in the bible.
3.) Approximately mid-September in our current calendar.
4.) Approximately September 30th in our current calendar.
Thoughts:God now gives Moses a list of mandatory "festivals" for the people of Israel to "celebrate" - and if you guessed correctly, God's definition of "celebrate" in this sense calls for yet even more animal sacrificing.

Before God begins his list, he makes sure to restate yet again that the normal sabbaths are to be upheld weekly, and that absolutely no work is to be done on the seventh day - it is a day of rest.

He then begins to list his annual "festivals", beginning with restating the celebration of Passover, which he outlined in Exodus: Chapter 12.

He follows this up with restating the "Festival of Unleavened Bread", celebrated the day after Passover, in which the people have to eat bread made without yeast for the following seven days. The first and last days in this festival are sabbaths in which no work is to be done.

Next up is the "Festival of First Fruits" in which the people of Israel, after reaching the "promised land" must bring the first of the crops from their fruit trees and bring them to the tabernacle. The priests will wave the fruit in the air, thereby symbolically "giving them to God" as a gift. However, your first fruit crop is not enough, you must also bring God a yearling lamb for a "burnt offering", a tenth of a bushel of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, and three pints of wine(!) Setting all of this stuff on fire on the altar is a "sweet savor" to God. The people of Israel are not to eat any of their crops (apparently of any kind) until they've offered up this sacrifice to God. This is a permanent law to be followed by the people forever, and wherever they may reside.

Fifty days later the real fun begins with the "Festival of Pentecost". Not only will you have to bring a sample of your newly harvested grains and crops for God, you'll have to tack on two loaves of bread - made from fine flour and made with yeast, a total of ten sacrificial animals (including seven lambs, two rams, and a bull) for ten "burnt offerings", and another three pints of wine for God to wash everything down with. This sacrifice of ten animals, samples of your finest crops, two loaves of bread, and three pints of wine seems a bit suspect for God's appetite - but we're not done yet. In addition to all this food that God wants, he also wants you tack on a goat and two more lambs for mandatory "sin offerings" and "peace offerings". Not surprisingly the priests get to keep all these foods for themselves, making one wonder if at least these parts (if not all) of the book of Leviticus were written by some greedy priests.

Obviously, I don't believe the bible is the work of a supernatural being, and as it is obviously placing a lot of power and perks into the pockets of priests, it is reasonable to suspect that people seeking to govern a tribe of people - as priests - certainly have a strong motive to command these "permanent" festivals of massive amounts of animal meats, bread, crops, and wine going into the coffers of the priests working in the tabernacle. Even if we can get past the lack of evidence supporting the assertion that a magical diety wrote or inspired the bible and assume that it is a plausible assertation, what is to say that priests might not have tacked on some of their own additions to these "laws" to benefit themselves?

Continuing on with the "Festival of Pentecost", God tacks on that this "feast" (for the priest) will also be observed as another sabbath day - where no work is to be done. This is yet another permanent law to followed by all future generations. God also tacks on one of his "good laws" from Leviticus: Chapter 19 about leaving behind some of your crops for the poor and for those traveling through.

Next up is God's "Festival of Trumpets" in which the people are to observe a memorial day of sabbath - by means of blowing trumpets - in the middle of September. Again, no one is to do any work on this day, and they have to make another "sacrifice by fire".

Nine days later (in the evening and until the following evening), the next "festival" is the "Day of Atonement" calling for yet another "sacrifice by fire". Again, this is a sabbath, so no working for the people of Israel. This is backed by the threat of excommunication if someone doesn't atone themselves with a sacrifice, and the threat of death if they're caught working on this day. It is another permanent law.

Finally, five days after the "Day of Atonement", we have the "Festival of Tabernacles" where God makes the people of Israel live in tents for the next week - to remind them of their Exodus in the desert (which currently we're still reading about in the book of Leviticus - we have yet to reach the "promised land"). The first day and the eighth(?) day are again sabbath days, and during each of the seven days (as well as the mysterious eighth day) yet more sacrifices by fire are to be made.

All of these festivals are to be observed in addition to the regular sabbaths and animal sacrifices made either by freewill or by God's insistence for "sinning".

God interjects another rule about the first day of the "Festival of Tabernacles", that the people are to gather the boughs of their fruit trees, palm tree branches, boughs of thick trees, and willows, and rejoice before God for the following seven days. Again, this is another permanent law to be followed for all future generations.

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