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.

Day 48 (Feb. 17): Sin offering procedures, sins that require an offering, guilt offering procedures, sins that require a guilt offering, more burnt offering instructions, more grain offering instructions, procedures for ordination offering

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 4-6

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. Do the OT priests have any duties like the duties of the priests today?  All we know that they do is prepare and offer sacrifices.

A. As you can see from the shear number of instructions, the role of priest was a full time job for Aaron’s family.  They had an incredibly important job: to keep the people in good standing with God through the use of sacrifices.

The priesthood here is focused on a very different task from “our” priesthood (the Christian office of priest/pastor), and we will see other duties mentioned: Leviticus notes that it is the priest’s responsibly to declare people unclean so that they could seek purification, and to deliver the blessing of the priest, which comes from Numbers 6.  So while Christian priests do give blessings, I think that’s pretty much the end of the similiarity.

Q. (Leviticus 4:3-12) Here it says the High Priest prepares the young bull.  We can assume he has some help from the other priests or the Levites?  He couldn’t possibly handle one bull by himself.  These preparations sound arduous

A. I think we can assume he has help, but I would take the instruction to mean that the High Priest was in charge of the effort, and could not delegate it, since it was his sin involved.

Q. It’s interesting how all of these sin sacrifices say that if you don’t know you have sinned, you are still guilty.  When whomever sins becomes aware of it, they must make an offering.  It sounds like a lot of their sinning refers to touching things that are ceremonially unclean or others mentioned in Leviticus 5:1-4, so can we can apply this rule to today?  I know there are a lot of times when I don’t realize I have sinned until I have one of those quiet moments without little noisemakers around, that I realize I have done wrong.

A. There’s a principle of our modern law that is at work here: what is in Latin called Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of the law is no excuse).

I think that this reading points to a huge flaw in the system of the Law for these people.  The “solution” of the sacrificial system is that it is very legalistic: you have to be sure you are dotting every “I” and crossing every “t”, or the system doesn’t work, and your guilt and sin can affect the entire community – we will see instances of this at work in later books such as Joshua.  As Christians, we have moved beyond the elaborate demands of the Law into a better system of being declared right with God through our faith in Christ.  So even if we are not aware of our sins, we can still be “covered.”

One of the things that the NT describes as a crucial role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the believer of sin that they may not be aware of.  This is not so that our place in heaven can be assured (we’re not under that system), but rather so that we can remove the cancer of sin from our lives.  Sin, even unintentional sin, always has consequences, so it is in our interest in our walk with God if we seek His guidance about any sin that we might be missing or conveniently ignoring!  I knew a minister in my seminary who had a daily habit of praying Psalm 139:23-24, which asks God to search our heart in order to lead us in the right path.  I would say it’s a very good habit.

Q. (5:17) I notice that God differentiates violating one of God’s commands from other sins.  Are sins all equal or are some worse than others?

A. Actually, it appears to me that all of the sins and categories described in today’s reading had one thing in common: unintentional action.  The intentional violations of God’s Law — we will see some — had the same effect on the person: they were guilty of sin whether big or small, but in terms of “worse” consequences, there were some.  Intentional offenses carried the death penalty in some cases — though we don’t have much record of this actually being carried out — so I will leave it up to you to determine if that is “worse”.  In the grand scheme of things as it relates to God, it does not matter if we sin little — like gossip or lying — or big —murder or adultery.  The only two categories in the eyes of God are sinner or non-sinner.  This doesn’t mean that bigger sins don’t have larger consequences in the current life, but we should be aware that the “little” sins we have a habit of doing can be just as deadly to our soul if we don’t have faith in Christ.