16 February 2010

Feb 16

How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me from their fierce attacks. Protect my life from these lions! Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. I will praise you before all the people. -- Psalm 35:17-18
Reference links:
Old Testament

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Leviticus:
Leviticus contains laws and priestly rituals, but in a wider sense is about the working out of God's covenant with Israel set out in Genesis and Exodus – what is seen in the Torah as the consequences of entering into a special relationship with God (specifically, Yahweh). These consequences are set out in terms of community relationships and behaviour.
It also notes that, like the other books of the Torah, tradition ascribes authorship to Moses but modern scholarship attributes the book to an unknown priest or priests. Overall, Leviticus defines what sets the Israelites apart as the people of God. This puts it in a peculiar relationship with Christian belief. Christians consider some of the laws in Leviticus to be explicitly cancelled by Jesus, some implicitly cancelled, and some to still be valid. Decisions about which laws belong in the second and third categories vary widely.  Oddly enough, in my observation, this variation seems to split along contentious contemporary issues.

The end of Exodus described the completion of the Tabernacle. The framing for Leviticus is that God continues to talk to Moses from the Tabernacle. He gives Moses more instructions about God's covenant with Israel.

Today's reading focuses on various types of offerings. Animals given for burnt offering must be males without defect and prepared properly. The smell of their burning pleases the Lord.

Birds presented as burnt offerings get the following treatment:
The priest will take the bird to the altar, wring off its head, and burn it on the altar. But first he must drain its blood against the side of the altar. The priest must also remove the crop and the feathers and throw them in the ashes on the east side of the altar. Then, grasping the bird by its wings, the priest will tear the bird open, but without tearing it apart.
Suppose you were to make a movie of a re-enactment of this scene. The priest, spattered with the blood of sacrificial animals, wrings the neck of a turtledove and tears it open, all with his bear hands. He then burns it, exclaiming upon how the scent is pleasing to his God. I wonder if most Christians would believe you if you told them this was part of their religious heritage.

God also accepts grain offerings. Whether raw, baked, or fried, God likes grain offerings to be presented with olive oil but no yeast or honey. The prohibition against yeast in offerings I can understand as hearkening back to the exodus from Egypt, but why no honey?

An animal sacrificed as a burnt offering has its whole body burned. An animal presented as a peace offering may be male or female, but still must have no defects. The priests only burn part of the animal on the altar. All animal sacrifices involve lots of spattering of blood on the altar. It was definitely not a sanitary affair.

Also, the Israelites are not allowed to eat any fat or blood. Is anyone reading knowledgeable enough about Jewish dietary law to provide more enlightenment about the prohibition against eating fat? Does it apply only to large, separable chunks of fat? Does it also apply to marbled fat?

New Testament

Jesus, James, and John visit the home of Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew. While there, Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law and many demon possessed people. Not surprisingly, since Mark is thought to be a source for Matthew, this is consistent with the story in Matthew. In fact, I have a feeling there is going to be a lot of redundancy as we go through the gospels.

It is interesting to compare stories across the gospels. In Matthew, the story of Jesus healing the leper was short (Matthew 8:1-4):
Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
In Mark, we get all that, but additionally learn that Jesus sternly warned the man not to tell and that the man went and told people anyway. This caused people to follow Jesus all over,
and he couldn't publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. 
We also get more details about the paralyzed man Jesus healed in Matthew 9:2-8. Jesus was being mobbed by a crowd at a home he was visiting. Some clever folks wanted to get a paralyzed man to him, so they lowered the man on a mat through a hole in the ceiling. That makes for a much better story.

Psalms and Proverbs

Apparently, Folly is also a woman. A brash woman.