Altar of Burnt Offering, illustration for Cassell’s Illustrated Family Bible Superior Edition published by Cassell, Petter and Galpin, circa 1880.

As Chapter 28 begins, God has decided to have Moses remind the Israelites regarding the guidelines for the different types of offerings they should make to Him. It makes sense, because these are the Israelites we’re talking about, and even if they’re God’s Chosen People, they do tend to forget about His miracles and requirements fairly regularly. On the other hand, if one is reading the Bible, and every few chapter’s we’re getting another run-down of rules and regs, it can get rather tedious.

Nonetheless, the Israelites are reminded (this continues into Chapter 29):

  • Daily offerings: food offerings include defect-free lambs, one in the morning and one at night; also grain offerings with olive oil; and include a fermented drink with the evening lamb
  • Sabbath offerings: the same as the daily offering, except X 2
  • Monthly offerings: on the first of each month have a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs – all defect-free – with grain offerings included with each animal; the fermented beverage is also to be given with each of the animals as well; AND a male goat presented as a sin offering (remember those?)
  • Passover offerings: to be held on the 14th day of the first month, and on the 15th day a festival; for seven days they should all eat unleavened bread; they should also do the same as with the monthly offerings above, in addition to the usual daily offering; on the seventh day of the festival, do no work
  • Festival of Weeks: on the day of Firstfruits have a grain offering as part of a sacred assembly and do no work; also have the same as the monthly offerings above, and include a male goat for atonement
  • Festival of Trumpets: on the first day of the seventh month have a sacred assembly and do no work; do the monthly offering as above, including again a male goat for a sin offering
  • Day of Atonement: pretty much the same as for the Festival of Trumpets
  • Festival of Tabernacles: aha! Finally something new. On the 15th day of the seventh month have a sacred assembly and do no work AND have a burnt offering of 13 young bulls, two rams and 14 male lambs, each with a grain offering, and also a male goat for a sin offering; on the next day, repeat that process; on the third day, only 11 young bulls, but also two rams and fourteen male lambs with their associated grain offerings as well and a sin offering male goat; on the seventh day, do the offering with seven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs – again with all the grain offerings and the male goat for the sin offering; they should do all these in addition to the regular daily offerings. Whew!

Things They Don’t Talk About in Sunday School: I may be getting ahead of myself with the Jews history-wise, but I just read an article about ancient Jerusalem that is pertinent here, so I’m bringing it up. According to archaeologists, ritual animal sacrifices became so prevalent in ancient Jerusalem – because of the large number of required offerings, not only the ones listed above – that within the centuries that Jerusalem existed before and after the exile, the acts powered a majority of the city’s total economy. Recent analysis of an ancient bone dump indicates that Jerusalem itself was land-locked and far from most major trade routes, yet many bones were from animals that had been brought from far-off regions. Jerusalem was essentially operating on a pilgrimage economy, supported by great numbers of travelers who visited primarily for the purpose of bringing animals for religious sacrifice. Representatives from distant Jewish communities would collect money to buy the required livestock and pay their expenses, and then they’d travel to the temple in Jerusalem to do the sacrifice. Jerusalem’s merchants and other tradesmen would benefit from the steady influx of visitors, and they could often consume the parts of the animals that weren’t part of the rituals.

In Chapter 30, Moses explains God’s new requirements regarding vows:

  • Any man who makes a vow to God, or obligates himself by any pledge, must not break his word
  • If a young woman makes a vow or pledge and her father disagrees, her vow or pledge is considered null and void
  • If a married woman makes a vow or pledge and her husband disagrees, her vow or pledge is considered null and void
  • If a widow or divorced woman makes a vow or pledge faces the same conditions that a man would face
  • If a married woman makes a vow or pledge, and at first the husband is OK with it but later changes his mind and disagrees, he is responsible for the consequences

Wait, What? Unexplained Questions of the Bible: so, really, this section is more about rules for women’s vows than men’s vows. Men have one rule (honor your vows), but women also have to have back-up from a responsible man in order to make a proper vow or pledge – and, if the responsible man doesn’t like their vow, it doesn’t stand. In her interesting article, ‘Why Can Women’s Vows Be Vetoed?’ in TheTorah.com, Dr. Shawna Dolansky examines the reasoning. On the surface, the ancient logic was economic: a woman making a pledge doesn’t really own anything (it’s all her father’s or husband’s), so she has nothing tangible to gain or lose by keeping or not keeping her vow. Dr. Dolansky goes further, though, showing how the vows don’t only concern property issues, but also those of mental ability and bodily autonomy. The fact that the rules separate out differences for dependent women vs. widows and divorcees points out that it’s all about status, and when a woman can be declared dependent vs. independent. Dr. Dolansky states that, as we tend to think that ancient Israel was solidly patriarchal, the fact that there were at least a couple of independent categories of women proves that their society had more subtle social interactions than we may think.

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