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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Statute Forever' in the Bible

UPDATED THRU 11/17/2014

Many of the Torah  rituals, customs and taboos  (i.e see Yom Kippur, see Passover, menstrual taboo, dead uncleanliness taboo, see food taboos, see bitter waters,  incense, anointing oil, animal sacrifice, temple, priests, see circumcision...)  have parallels in the ancient near east and other cultures.

{ETA 3/3/2014  From Page 206-207 Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible by Kenton Sparks 2005 Regarding Leviticus 8-9,21,19,44  Priestly ordinations - these have similarities to Mesopotamian rituals and the rituals at Emar: Sacrifice, Water Washing, Oil anointing, Ritual meals, Ritual Periods of 7 days, Physical Perfection of Priests (Levit 21), Priest hair grooming (Levit 19 and 44). [see also The Bible - The Priest- The Female - The Disabled]}

 The Torah obsessively codifies numerous ancient near east parallel rituals, taboos, and customs. Some of the Torah’s may come with a condition - it shall be a statute forever or the death penalty / see being ‘cut off’/ 'die'   for their violation. 

All this strongly suggests the Torah was not making  mere accommodation to pagan rituals, customs and taboos. Rather these rituals, customs and taboos had significant importance in and of themselves to the Torah authors, and most likely for similar reasons they were important to other ancient cultures. 

 Sometimes the Torah’s given  reason parallel the reason other cultures had for it. Here are just three examples. Many of the Torah verses that discuss sacrifices or offering use the expression ‘a sweet savour’  unto the LORD.  Similarly in the Gilgamesh Epic, Utnapishtim brings an offering and incense to the gods who smelled the sweet savor. Yom Kippur rituals are stated in the Torah to cleanse pollution , defilement and  sin from the people and temple. This is the reason given for similar ancient near east rituals. See the blood taboo item 6 below for the third example. Also see the Red Cow ritual item 12  below. {ETA 6/9/2014 Also see Tabernacle in this post Explanations of pagan customs in the Bible Part 3}

This post will document some of the Torah’s rituals, customs and taboos that shall be 'forever' and sometimes provides parallels in other cultures. 

After going through this post, and the 'cut off' post (as well as others on my blog)  let the reader decide if the the Torah is indeed God given laws, rituals and customs, or rather authored by people believing in the ancient near east culture of magic, superstition and myth.  

1) Menorah lamp to burn continually - Page 6-8 The Mothers Volume III by Robert Briffault 1927 Regarding many cultures "Fire is everywhere accounted sacred." "Sacred fires, in ancient Greece were kept burning in the shrines of countless deities..." Examples can be multiplied.

{ETA 11/17/2014 On page 17 of Hidden Religion by Issitt and Main 2014 "The use of candelabra in ritual is not unique to Judaism. Many different types of candelabra have been used as ritual objects in faiths around the world. Historians believe that candelabra were used as symboliv vessels among many middle eastern tribes before the formation of the modern lineage of Judaism." }


Exodus 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.
21 In the tent of meeting, without the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall set it in order, to burn from evening to morning before the LORD; it shall be a statute for ever throughout their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel. 

2) Priest's breeches - interestingly they would 'die' if not worn in the holy place. 

Exodus 28:42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach.
43 And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they go in unto the tent of meeting, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die; it shall be a statute for ever unto him and unto his seed after him. 

3) Aaron's male descendants are to be priests forever

Exodus29: 7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.
8 And thou shalt bring his sons, and put tunics upon them.
9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and bind head-tires on them; and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute; and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. 

4) Aaron's  males descendants are to be priests for ever and receive various benefits of sacrifices from the Israelites forever

Exodus 29:27 And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave-offering, and the thigh of the heave-offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of consecration, even of that which is Aaron's, and of that which is his sons'.
28 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons as a due for ever from the children of Israel; for it is a heave-offering; and it shall be a heave-offering from the children of Israel of their sacrifices of peace-offerings, even their heave-offering unto the LORD. 

5) Aaron's  males descendants (the priests) - must wash before entering holy places or they will 'die'. {See Sparks above}

Exodus 30:17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
18 'Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and the base thereof of brass, whereat to wash; and thou shalt put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19 And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat;
20 when they go into the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to cause an offering made by fire to smoke unto the LORD;
21 so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not; and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.' 

6) Fat is the Lord's food. Israelites may not eat fat or blood forever.(JPS page 221 notes "The Israelite is commanded to 
abstain from the 'food' of the Lord even when no sacrifice is made".) [Levit 3-16 "...All Fat is the Lords".] (Here is an interesting parallel - "Some Indian tribes of North America, 'through a strong principle of religion abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the beast' ". Page 265 The Golden Bough by  James Frazer Volume I abridged edition 1922, 1979 - fifteenth printing.) 

Levit 17:4 For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. 

LEVIT 3:12 And if his offering be a goat, then he shall present it before the LORD.
13 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of it, and kill it before the tent of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall dash the blood thereof against the altar round about.
14 And he shall present thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD: the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
15 and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the loins, and the lobe above the liver, which he shall take away by the kidneys.
16 And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the LORD'S.
17 It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood. 

7) Flour Meal offering 

LEVIT 6:12 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
13 This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the LORD in the day when he is anointed: the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering perpetually, half of it in the morning, and half thereof in the evening.
14 On a griddle it shall be made with oil; when it is soaked, thou shalt bring it in; in broken pieces shalt thou offer the meal-offering for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
15 And the anointed priest that shall be in his stead from among his sons shall offer it, it is a due for ever; it shall be wholly made to smoke unto the LORD. 

8) Priests may not drink wine when going into holy place. They may die.

LEVIT 10:8 And the LORD spoke unto Aaron, saying:
9 'Drink no wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tent of meeting, that ye die not; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.

9) Yom Kippur purgation and atonement rituals; goat for Azazel : removes pollution, impurities, and carries away sins of Israel 

LEVIT .....16 :20 And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat.
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness.
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
23 And Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there.
24 And he shall bathe his flesh in water in a holy place and put on his other vestments, and come forth, and offer his burnt-offering and the burnt-offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people.
25 And the fat of the sin-offering shall he make smoke upon the altar.
26 And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
27 And the bullock of the sin-offering, and the goat of the sin-offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.
28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
29 And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you.
30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.
31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever.
32 And the priest, who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated to be priest in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments.
33 And he shall make atonement for the most holy place, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make atonement for the children of Israel because of all their sins once in the year.' And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. 

10)  First of the Harvest sacrifices; Sukkos (festival  of booths)

“In short, the autumnal festival in Israel, later called the feast of Tabernacles or Booths, was held at the turn of the year for much the same purposes as the corresponding festival in the agricultural ritual among Canaanites and elsewhere in western Asia.” P 152 The Ancient Gods E.O. James 1960. 

[I hope to write a post on Sukkos. It has numerous similarities to other ancient near east festivals.]

LEVIT  23: 9 And the LORD spoke unto Moses saying:
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest.
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 And in the day when ye wave the sheaf, ye shall offer a he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the LORD.
13 And the meal-offering thereof shall be two tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of a hin.
14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor fresh ears, until this selfsame day, until ye have brought the offering of your God; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.
17 Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD.
  18 And ye shall present with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams; they shall be a burnt-offering unto the LORD, with their meal-offering, and their drink-offerings, even an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
19 And ye shall offer one he-goat for a sin-offering, and two he-lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first-fruits for a wave-offering before the LORD, with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
  21 And ye shall make proclamation on the selfsame day; there shall be a holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

33 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.
35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work.
36 Seven days ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; it is a day of solemn assembly; ye shall do no manner of servile work.

39 Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths;
43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
44 And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the LORD. 

11) Menorah lamp to continuously burn. Special Sabbath sacrificial offering 

LEVIT 24:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
2 'Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.
3 Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aaron order it from evening to morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. 4 He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually. 
5 And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake.
6 And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before the LORD.
7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense with each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial-part, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
8 Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is from the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant.
9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, a perpetual due.

12) The Red Heifer ritual - Numbers 19:1 

"This rite certainly originated in pagan practices and it must have been originally a magic rite: many people regard red as protective colour to avert evil and to put demons to flight, and the ashes of animals are often used for lustrations, as running water is used to take away defilement."  Page 461 Ancient Israel by Roland de Vaux 1965 edition

JPS page 321 regarding Numbers 19:1-21 "...the types of procedures described here have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature, and may be understood using anthropological understandings of how rituals function....Essentially on the principle of sympathetic magic, the red-colored ash mixture absorbs the corpse pollution. Note also how blood functions as a type of 'ritual detergent' in Lev ch 16."

{ETA 3/8/2014 JPS-JM Page 440 "The association  of red with blood is widely attested in primitive cultures. Thus the red hide of the cow symbolically adds to the quantity of blood in the ash mixture (as does the crimson yarn and the (red) cedar ; v.7) and enhances it's potency" }

{ETA 9/28/2014 JPS-JM Page 159 - cedar wood, hyssop, crimson stuff were also used in purification rituals throughout the ancient near east." }

{ETA 9/28/2014 Page 124 of the Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 - Regarding Numbers 19:1-32 "The choice of a (brownish) red heifer (actually cow) perhaps symbolized blood/life (red animals were so used in the ancient near east)..."}

{ETA 9/28/2104 Page 92 sixth printing The Interpreters One Volume Commentary on the Bible. "The belief that pollution results from contact with a corpse is common in many cultures." }

NUMBERS 19:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:
2 This is the statute of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer, faultless, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.
3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, and she shall be brought forth without the camp, and she shall be slain before his face.
4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times.
5 And the heifer shall be burnt in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall be burnt.
6 And the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
8.  And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of sprinkling; it is a purification from sin.
10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even; and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
11 He that toucheth the dead, even any man's dead body, shall be unclean seven days;
12 the same shall purify himself therewith on the third day and on the seventh day, and he shall be clean; but if he purify not himself the third day and the seventh day, he shall not be clean.
13 Whosoever toucheth the dead, even the body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself--he hath defiled the tabernacle of the LORD--that soul shall be cut off from Israel; because the water of sprinkling was not dashed against him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
14 This is the law: when a man dieth in a tent, every one that cometh into the tent, and every thing that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering close-bound upon it, is unclean.
16 And whosoever in the open field toucheth one that is slain with a sword, or one that dieth of himself, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
17 And for the unclean they shall take of the ashes of the burning of the purification from sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel.
18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave.
19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him; and he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
20 But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water of sprinkling hath not been dashed against him: he is unclean.
21 And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them; and he that sprinkleth the water of sprinkling shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of sprinkling shall be unclean until even. 

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JPS - The Jewish Study Bible Berlin and Brettler 2004 

JPS-JM The Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary Numbers by Jacob Milgrom 1990












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