Friday, January 7, 2011

Leviticus 1-7: Everything you never needed to know about animal sacrifice

So this is Leviticus, the book with the reputation for being one of the most boring. Well, Exodus had 13 chapters on tabernacle building instructions, how bad could this be?

It seems to be a direct continuation of Exodus. As far as I can tell, the Israelites are still at Mt. Sinai listening to God lay down the law, much the same as the past 20 or so chapters.

Now it seems God has moved onto detailed instructions for how to sacrifice animals to himself. I'm not going to go into all the details, because frankly they are horribly tedious and (IMO) totally worthless knowledge.

In general, there are burnt offerings, grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. There is no mention of why there are so many kinds of sacrifice, or which one you are supposed to do in which scenario (except if you sin, you are supposed to do a sin and/or guilt offering). I guess it must be self-evident, if you happened to live in the middle east ~5000 years ago. But I sure don't get it.

Well, regardless of what all these different offerings are for, there are very detailed instructions for how to do them. And these are the tedious details I wasn't going to go into.

Generally, you are to have an animal "without defect." Male or female, depending on which offering you are doing. Then, depending on the offering you're doing, who sinned (for sin and guilt offerings) and what type of animal you have, it must be slaughtered in a certain way in a certain place, you have to splash blood in certain places and/or on certain people (seriously, as far as I can tell, there is blood everywhere), certain parts of the animal are supposed to be burned, washed, waved in the air, eaten by the priests, cut to pieces, ripped in half, thrown on the ground next to the alter, taken outside the camp and burned, or any combination of these.

Fun fact #1: generally, when a bird is sacrificed, the priest must rip it's head off with his bare hands.

Fun fact #2: it says repeatedly that God finds the smell of burnt animal flesh "pleasing."

Fun fact #3: the flesh of certain offerings is "holy," and whatever touches it will also be holy, but only males of the priest's family are allowed to eat it. That's convenient.

Fun fact #4: "This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood." OK then.

This is all just generally tedious and grisly. What I want to know is, who came up with this shit, and why did anyone ever care? Actually, I want to know why God would care. The possible reasons given for all this are:
  1. So people can be forgiven by God for their sins. Of course, that just raises another question... why does God almighty need an animal to die in order to forgive people? Couldn't he just do it?
  2. To give thanks to God. Just cause they wanna, in other words. OK, fine.
  3. Possibly, to appease God so he won't be mad at you. I don't think it ever came right out and said this, but it kind of hinted that God would be upset if you didn't sacrifice something to him every now and then. Again, why does God care (actually, see #4)??
  4. Possibly the most important... God finds the smell of burning animals "pleasing." Of course, that just makes me wonder why God doesn't just burn animals himself, or just make everything smell like that all the time. He could do it, being omnipotent. But no, he wants you to do it for him. Why? Who the fuck knows.
So, here's what I've learned about God today... he has a fetish for dead, burning animals and blood splattered all over the place, and for some stupid reason he demands that people make this happen for him, rather than simply doing it himself.

Or, the other option is that God, who is supposedly all-powerful, is incapable of forgiveness unless one of his beloved creations dies a horrible death and is then mutilated beyond all recognition by his devoted followers. I mean, if he is capable of forgiveness without all his blood and gore, why wouldn't he simply do it?

I'm not sure which is funnier.

Of course, the third option is that this is all bullshit, but I'm trying to be fair.

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