Sunday, 26 February 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Leviticus: Chapter 22 - The Rules About Food and Uncleanness
Priests are important. This is not just the opinion of the priests themselves. Priests are important to any religion because they are the people, usually men, who interpret and apply the rules. Let's face it they make up the rules too. That's what this section of Leviticus is all about. It's ostensibly about rules for priests. In reality its about making the priests distinct and different from the common man over whom they rule. For this purpose the notion of holiness was invented.
So there now follows a litany of stupid rules about holiness and priests based on superstition and ignorance. God has his priests who are supposed to be his spokesmen, his enforcers. So what they do matters. They have to be holy and to be careful about what they touch and who they touch and what they touch thereafter. To be fair this was before the invention of rubber gloves. You'd think that God would have thought of that though.
So here there is much mention of uncleanness. Don't touch my stuff, says God, if you have uncleanness on you. This can mean all manner of things to which we will come in a moment. But simply washing your hands or wearing a pair of Marigolds was not an option for this punctilious god.
There then follows a list of things that are unclean. Lepers for a start. God, as we have pointed out before, being apparently unaware of antibiotics. So lepers are unclean. They were generally avoided by most people, but should a priest touch them then God, who you might imagine was immune to such things, did not want his stuff in his big tent touched thereafter. If anyone had a running issue then this was also unclean. The dead were unclean. So was the seed that goeth from a man. This was before the invention of the tissue and condoms too of course.
Oh and creepy crawlies are unclean too. Apparently God is an arachnophobe, which is weird because he made them.
Anyone who had come into contact with this random list was unclean and could not eat holy food until sundown when he would be clean. And hungry.
Any animals that died naturally were unclean and must not be eaten by priests. Much better for them to sponge off other people.
And this holy food was only to be eaten by priests. Their servants were banned from eating such food. Why, incidentally, did priests need servants? Here's an interesting distinction though. The slaves of priests were allowed to eat this food and so were their families. So this food suddenly ceases being holy food, the animal sacrifices for God and becomes just food, so long, of course, as you are in with the in crowd.
Oh but if the priest's daughter married a stranger then she lost the right to eat the holy food.
And God was very picky about the food that his priests were allowed to eat whilst pretending that it was really for God. The slaughtered animals had to be perfect, without blemish. Perfectly symmetrical and with nothing missing or extra. But it did depend upon what the offering was. Peace offerings to God could have blemishes. But if it was for a vow then that had to be perfect.
And no animal sacrifices were to be accepted from strangers. No. They, the strangers, were corrupt and had blemishes and so their offerings were not to be accepted. A peculiar form of racism there from God.
Finally there were rules on when animals could be sacrificed. Of course there were. It was not allowed to sacrifice an animal on the same day as its offspring. You had to wait for the following day or any day thereafter. And if you had a newborn ox, sheep or goat you had to wait 8 days until it was an acceptable sacrifice. Perhaps God wanted a few days to admire his handiwork and how cute they were before his ever hungry priests were allowed to consume them.