Leviticus 5-8: More rules for animal sacrifices

If someone fails to report a crime, touches an unclean thing and forgets to cleanse himself, or forgets to fulfill an oath, he shall confess his sin and offer a female sheep/goat as a purification offering.  If he can’t afford this, he can offer two turtledoves/pigeons. If he can’t afford even this, he can offer 1/10 ephah of choice flour.  When someone loses a sacred object or defrauds a fellow, he shall bring a ram for sacrifice and make restitution for an object, plus 1/5 of the value as a penalty. To the priests: burnt offerings must remain on the altar all night, and the altar’s fire must never go out.  For meal offerings, only a portion shall be burnt; the rest can be eaten by the priests in the sacred precinct.  For purification offerings, anything that touches the flesh shall become holy; if the blood splatters on a garment, it must be washed in the sacred precinct.

For guilt offerings, the animal’s fat shall be burnt and only males in the priestly line can eat the meat.  Thanksgiving offerings shall be made with cakes and wafers; the priest can eat one of each, and he may only eat the meat on that day.  Anyone who eats sacrificed flesh while unclean (ex. by touching an unclean animal), or who eats fat/blood will be cut off from their kin.  In well-being offerings, the offerer should elevate the fat and the breast; the priest gets the right thigh and breast as his portion.  In chapter 8, Moses ordains Aaron and his sons as priests, following God’s instructions in Exodus 29.

Commentary:

  • Holiness is contagious.  Since the flesh of a sacrificed animal is holy, whatever touches it also becomes holy (6:20).
  • Similarly, uncleaniless (better translated as “ritual impurity”) is also contagious.  This is why whoever touches an unclean thing–such as the carcass of an unclean beast or creeping thing–becomes unclean (5:2).
  • Purification offerings probably take away impurity by absorbing it.  This is why if the blood of a purification offering splatters on a garment, it must be washed.  Earthen vessels where it was boiled must be shattered, and copper vessels must be rinsed (6:21-22).
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