Sacrifices and other Old Testament Rituals

I’m reading through Leviticus right now and boy is it tough going. The entire Biblical narrative has come to a complete halt as rule after seemingly arbitrary rule is spelled out. And the killer is the repitition. Instead of lumping twenty offenses together and saying, for all of these the punishment is X, it lists the punishment each time for each specific offense!

I used to think that these rules were pretty arbitrary and marveled at just how detailed the regulations concerning their lives was. One thing I’ve always wondered about is what the point of it all was. Why did God have to have all these rituals – did He really need the Isrealites to kills goats, pigeons, and sheep? Couldn’t he just have told them to pray and He would answer their prayers?

I came up with the following hypothesis as to the reasoning behind all the rules. They mostly revolve more around God looking out for His people because I really don’t see why He would NEED these things. One theory is that these regulation allowed the Iraelites to have a healthier life without requiring them to learn all the things we know about modern medicine. For example, there were forbidden to touch carcassas. We know now that this can cause diseases, but they didn’t know that back then! Some have also pointed out that, overall, the diet prescribed to the Israelites by God is one of the healthiest diets a person can have. I’m not a nutrition expert, so I can’t comment on that too much.

Another reason I think the rituals were asked for is that God wanted the Isrealites to prove their devotion to Him as well as prove it to themselves. Thus, nearly everything requires a sacrafice of a sheep or goat. For the Isrealites, especially at this point in their history, these animals represented wealth. Not only that, but sheep could provide wool and goats could provide milk. So the animals could be retained while their products continued to enrich the owners. They couldn’t get rid of their sheep with bad wool when sacrificing to God because He demanded perfectly white sheep. So, to partake in the sacrifices was to give God your wealth and means of making wealth. I think this is definitely a sign of devotion.

Those are some of the ways in which the regulations helped the Israelites in their daily lives as well as showing their devotion to God. However, there is also the possiblity, which I have explored before in other blog posts here or in my first blog, whereby sin is something tangible. Rather than just being a word for disobediance to God or a metaphor for our spiritual distance from him, perhaps it is a thing which exists, but cannot be measured in our world. But maybe in the spiritual world, when sin occurs something binds to your soul which prevents it from proper communion with God. So it’s not just that God wants us to obey him as a sign of love and respect but because, we are accumulating “sin” which makes it impossible for our souls to rejoin with God.

Just some ideas on the reasons for the insane number of rituals governing Old Testament Israeli life.

Author: Eric Mesa

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