#Leviticus 4:2

Here's the introduction to the second major category of sacrifices in Leviticus (and P), and where P goes off into its own little priestly world. Welcome to the involuntary sacrifices. Here we get what you have to offer when you screw up unintentionally.
"How do you screw up unintentionally," you might ask. Well, I'll tell you: when there's a divine commandment not to do something, and you do it without meaning to or without knowing that you did. So says Lev 4:2.

But, you say, give me an example so I know what you mean! Uh...
In pretty classic P style, we get here detailed instructions for a scenario that essentially doesn't exist in reality yet. Because while there have been lots of laws in E to this point, in P...not so much. YHWH hasn't actually given any prohibitions to violate yet.
Okay, maybe one: don't work on the Sabbath. (Though even that one is presented as a positive command: observe the Sabbath; Ex 31:13-14.) So okay, you go out to work, and then at some point you check your phone and realize, dammit it's Saturday. Unintentional sin!
And that's the scenario in which you have to bring the sacrifices that are detailed in the passage to come. Not when you do something wrong on purpose - that situation will be dealt with in a different way. You just screwed up - it happens to everyone. No big deal - just fix it.
We'll see next time just how this sacrifice works, both practically and conceptually. Teaser: it's not about repentance for your error. And we aren't going to call it a sin offering, either. Stay tuned...

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More from @JoelBaden

10 Jun
#Leviticus 4:3-35

The “sin” offering. But we’re not calling it that.

We know the malady: unintentional sin. Now we get the treatment. It comes in four flavors, but the underlying procedure and concept is the same. And it’s absolutely crucial to understanding P’s system.
I’m going to start with flavor 4: the normal person who commits an unintentional sin. Since, after all, most of us are normal people. And so were most of the Israelites, too. (Kingdom of priests my ass.)
First things first, you have to know you screwed up. Did you unwittingly violate the sabbath? The moment that you realize what day it is, you’re obligated. Or the moment someone yells out the window “Dude, it’s Saturday!” That’s when you’re on the hook.
Read 24 tweets
8 Jun
#Leviticus 4:1

At this juncture, it’s worth stepping back a second and talking about the major groups of sacrifices in Leviticus, since we’re transitioning from one to the other here.

(There’s obviously nothing worth saying about this actual verse.)
What we’re about to enter into are the sacrifices that are generally described as involuntary: they’re required in certain situations, and the text lays out what those situations are (at least in general terms and for the most part).
What we just read in Lev 1-3, then, is generally described as the voluntary offerings: ones you can bring whenever you like. And this is true! While the next ones tell us the conditions under which you must offer x, what we’ve read so far just says “if you want to offer x.”
Read 13 tweets
24 May
#Exodus 39:1-31

Making the priestly garments

This section is basically a near-verbatim fulfillment of the instructions from Exod 28, which isn’t so surprising. What’s interesting here is this repeated phrase, “as YHWH had commanded Moses,” which shows up seven times.
What makes this otherwise pretty standard phrase interesting here is that in all of the Tabernacle construction preceding this, that phrase had appeared only once - and that in the late section we just read, in the summary statement of 38:22.
Suddenly it appears after basically every subsection in this chapter - and seven times, which is a number that we’re trained as biblical readers to sit up and take notice of. (It doesn’t always mean something. But it is a semi-regular structuring device, as probably here.)
Read 5 tweets
23 May
In much of “Western” thought, it is standard, to the point of barely noticeable, to describe monotheism as an “advance” over polytheism - as “enlightened,” or “superior,” etc. As if the natural course of human development leads naturally to monotheism.

I think this is nonsense.
I saw it just the other day in a recent essay on the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, often considered the first monotheist: the author asks, “Was the king an enlightened religious leader?” as if monotheism is self-evidently enlightened.
It’s natural enough: we are monotheists, we are descended from monotheistic traditions, traditions that replaced polytheism with monotheism, so naturally we think ourselves to be enlightened, and monotheism to be the advanced state of being.
Read 12 tweets
22 May
#Exodus 38:21-31

A little accounting

It’s not that lists and numbers and adding are foreign to the priestly story - far from it - but this section seems, to my eye at least, patently a later insertion. It both interrupts and contradicts its context.
At the beginning of the construction section, the Israelites were to bring all of their materials to make all the Tabernacle stuff. But here we’re getting an accounting before they’re done - they haven’t made the priestly garments yet.
You might say, sure, but they’ve made all the stuff that uses the precious metals, so that’s why this is here. But they haven’t, actually: the priestly garments require gold too, plenty of it.
Read 8 tweets
21 May
#Exodus 37:1-38:20

Bezalel gets to work

Here we have the long description of everything that Bezalel, master craftsman, made for the Tabernacle. Which is to say, all the good stuff, basically in descending order of awesomeness. (Okay, holiness.)
He starts with the ark, which resides in the innermost sanctum; then the table and the menorah and the incense altar, which are in the chamber just outside the ark. All of these are made of gold, which signals their status and sanctity.
Then it's on to the copper stuff outside the sanctum, in the courtyard: the altar for burnt offerings and the wash basin. And here we encounter what is decidedly one of the weirdest details in the whole thing: the wash basin and its stand are made from...women's mirrors?
Read 5 tweets

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