Sunday, 30 October 2016
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 7: Laws About Food
So we're coming to the end of this long and tedious section about what the tribe of Israel had to do to appease their very needy and demanding God and how to make reparations if they broke his rules. Now we get to hear of what weird and inexplicable instructions he makes about what can and cannot be eaten. You ever wondered where all of that stuff comes from? Here is where it all starts.
So to recap then: we are going through the rules of how God wants his new religion ordered. This was all about ceremony in his big tent of slaughter, otherwise known as the Tabernacle. There were to be burnt offerings. This is is like a whole new Ten Commandments. Oddly these are commandments that nobody seems to worry too much about anymore. Funny that.
But here they are in black and white: The Burnt Offering; The Grain Offering; The Sin Offering; The Reparation Offering; The Peace Offering.
Later we get on to some other interesting commandments about food, giving birth and genital discharges. God is very detail obsessed.
This is all about priestly power of course. We'll see that in the next chapter when they have a big ceremony.
Chapter 7 though is just rounding off the rules on all of these offerings.
And of course there are rules about what can be eaten. Some of the offerings can be eaten and some cannot. If anyone eats what he shouldn't eat then he is cast out. What happens if there is confusion or animals are burnt on the wrong altar by mistake? After all administrative errors can be made and this would be a very busy and blood soaked tent. Anyway, God is adamant about all of this.
And there are rules about when the meat can be eaten. It has to be eaten straight away. No leaving meat hanging around. Any leftovers have to eaten before the third day. If not they have to be burnt. With fire. Quite what else they could be burnt by is left unsaid. Did they have lasers back then?
Anyway, suffice to say that God will allow you to eat some meat, but not others. That if you break the rules you will be cast out. Forever. For eating meat. Yet get something dishonestly and you can be forgiven simply by burning a goat. He's a God of strange priorities isn't he.
Oh and he also has arcane rules about which parts of animals can be eaten. You must not eat the fat or the blood. No explanation for this is given. God doesn't explain.
And you must not eat meat from animals that have died of natural causes or have been killed by other animals. God would have disapproved of roadkill.
Finally we get a couple more offerings. There is the wave offering in which someone cuts off the best bits from the animals and waves it around. Seriously.
There is also the part that is given to the priest, the sons of Aaron, for doing their priestly duty. This is the heave offering. Priests get to dine on the shoulder of the beast after giving the blood and fat to God.
All of this, said God, was a statute forever. It was given to the children of Israel from God via Moses there in the desert around Sinai. Those who quote bits of Leviticus approvingly conveniently forget this part of the same book.