Sunday, 18 September 2016
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 1 - Laws About Burnt Offerings
And so, after all of the excitement of Exodus, we now move on to Leviticus. Leviticus is heavy going. It is lots of instructions about how to worship God. That's about it really. Exodus is the story of why God is God. Leviticus starts the serious business of constructing a religion to worship him. Leviticus is about rules and laws. Leviticus is where we start getting heavy about sex. There was plenty of this stuff in Exodus - lots of instructions about how to build the Tabernacle, how to decorate it and the like. Leviticus has lots more of it. Lots more.
These days modern Christians and Muslims and Jews are very disparaging and condescending about the heathen practices of Pagans. Yet the roots of their religions are right here in Leviticus and they are all about rites, about animal sacrifice. What's the difference? Answer: there is no difference. This was this tribe of goat herders concocting a new religion and imagining it superior to the religions they were supplanting.
So God called on Moses and gave him a set of instructions. Yet more instructions. He's very prescriptive about how he wants to be worshipped is God. And he issues an awful lot of instructions.
Now to be fair this wasn't necessarily God demanding animal sacrifices. This was a tribe of ignorant goat and animal herders and they were accustomed to making animal sacrifices. This was just the creators of this new religion going with the flow and adding a few new rituals to distinguish themselves from the other religions. Presumably the people wouldn't have been impressed by this new religion if it hadn't involved lots of elaborate rituals and animal sacrifice.
So we get instructions about how all of this is to be done. Animals have to be killed and then arranged in specified ways and all of this has to be done of course by the sons of Aaron the priest. One family has a monopoly on the priesthood. It's not hard to imagine why. Leviticus is all about entrenching power and wealth.
We even get a hierarchy of animal sacrifices. God would prefer his animal sacrifices to be an unblemished male sheep or goat. But if the donors of these sacrifices couldn't afford such largesse, then they could instead give a dove or a pigeon. It's not hard to imagine there being a great deal of competition in this society as to who gave the best and most frequent sacrifices to their imaginary friend in his Tabernacle. The priests would have been rubbing their hands with glee. After they had wiped the blood off of course.