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Leviticus Laws and Rituals
Misnomer • Although Leviticus is named for the Levites, it has little to do with them • It concentrates on Aaron and his descendants with priestly functions.
Sacrificial Offerings • Guidelines for proper sacrifices of animals or grains • Instructions for high priests, the individual, and the community
Ceremonies to Install Priests • Aaronites (priests) • The priests’ world view saw mutually exclusive categories with boundaries that should never be crossed • Don’t mix things • Wool and linen • “clean” and “unclean”
taboos • Women’s biological functions considered “unclean” (not suitable to mix with other bodily fluids) • Strict rules about women after childbirth • Leviticus forbids a liaison with the wife of a brother (Deuteronomy says exactly the opposite)
Atonement • “scapegoat offering” • Two goats prepared for sacrifice • One killed, the other the ‘scapegoat’ and sent carrying the weight of sins into the desert • Azazel • Is Azazel the desert, a place? • Or is Azazel a demon of the desert that destroys the sinful goat?
Scapegoat • Any innocent person who suffers for the crimes of others • It is expressed also in Isaiah “On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed” By taking away the people’s collective offenses, the scapegoat ceremony places them “at one” with their God.
Holiness Code • Laws that Israel must observe to acquire a holiness appropriate to Yahweh’s people • Despite focus on animal sacrifice, the “P” authors believe sacrifice is no substitute for honorable behavior.
Passages of great ethical insight • Mixed in with detailed regulations • The only command in the Pentateuch to “love your neighbor” is in Leviticus “You must neither be partial to the little man, nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgment on your neighbor according to justice . . .”
Similarities with Prophets • Scholars note similar passages in Leviticus and in Ezekiel • Some date Leviticus to as late as the 5th or 6th century BCE • The Prophet Jeremiah said none of the sacrificial directives originated in the time of Moses