Day 49 (Feb. 18): More instructions for guilty offering, peace offering, blood and fat is forbidden, priests’ portions, priests’ ordination

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Leviticus 7-8

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 7:23-27): Why the strict requirements for blood and fat?  Those are two laws I would have no problem following.

A. There are two separate reasons for the restrictions.  The fat was used as fuel for the altar, and at least in the fellowship offering, the section in question, the fat was the portion that belonged to the Lord.  There is some debate as to whether this was a universal restriction, or only in the instance of this offering.  I couldn’t find a definitive answer.

The blood is a different matter, and there are a couple of reasons for not ingesting it.  First, blood sacrifice was a huge part of the pagan rituals in the Middle East at this time, so this was another example of the people being called to be set apart by not doing something their neighbors would have commonly done — drink blood from sacrifices- including human sacrifice.  But there’s more to it than that: One of the things that God instructs the people is that they are forbidden to drink blood because the blood is the life of the creature in question (Lev 17:11).  The blood belonged to God as the Creator of the being, and it appears God did not want the life of these creatures to be “taken” into His people.  Incidentally, this verse and concept are a big part of the reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses consider blood transfusions to be forbidden: you are, in their eyes, taking life from someone and giving it to someone else — an act they consider God to forbid.  While I think that blood transfusions were not what God had in mind, and I therefore reject that position for JWs, I think that this is a neat concept worth considering.

Q. From reading all of this, I can picture the priests eating a lot of sacrificial meat.  With all the thousands of people of Israel offering sacrifices, I would think that the altars would have been going 24/7, especially with all of the requirements for each sacrifice.  How could the priests keep up?

A. We don’t have any information about how much there were animal sacrifices in the wilderness, but according to what the ancient rabbis wrote about the Temple (where the sacrifice system will move after Israel settles in the Promised Land), the ritual system was a 24-hour a day process.  So yes, there would have been a lot of meat.  I suspect most of it was burned up to prevent it from rotting, but from this we can see that certain portions of the offered sacrifices could be taken home to feed the priests’ family.

Q. (8:14, 18, 22): What’s the reason for the priests putting their hands on the sacrificial animals’ heads?

A. The ritual of sacrifice for sin was a three-step system: offering, transference, and slaughter.  The person who made the offering — the priest in this case — would offer up an animal that would serve to pay the penalty (death) for the sin of the person.  The person would lay hands on the head of the animal, to symbolize the transference of the sin, and also to provide the person in question the clear understanding of what was happening.  The laying on hands was a way to honor this animal that would bear the penalty for the person’s sin, and then the animal would die in a fairly humane manner — if you can believe it — to this day that is a major emphasis of kosher butchering.  God wanted the sinner to be perfectly clear about the cost of sin.  And though the gore of such effort would surely have been nearly unbearable, I wonder if we are always better off by being sheltered from the true and ultimate cost of the sin that Jesus bore in our place.

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