Q&A: Which book of the Bible is the most repetitive?

Probably Leviticus: endless repetitions of the intricacies of ‘offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord’ of bullocks, sheep, goats, pigeons, etc.—with particular emphasis ‘on the fat thereof’, the kidneys, the rump, and various other choice parts of the carcass—and sprinkling of the blood on the altar.

Some of the meat was fully burnt— ‘for the Lord’—but, lest there be any confusion on the matter, ‘the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ (2:3).

The Levite priests, it seems, had a voracious appetite for barbecued meat of all kinds (Levit. 6:26–29):

The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.[…]
All the males among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy.

Very importantly: ‘every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt’ (2:13). Can’t have steak without salt…

Cooking instructions were helpfully provided: ‘And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil’ (2:4).

Or– ‘if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in a pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil.’ (2:5) They’re not fussed.

And not just steaks: the people were also asked to provide ‘unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried’ (2:4, 7:12), honey and firstfruits (2:11, 12), and ‘green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears’. (2:16).

Oh, and a nice bottle of Chianti, if you happened to have one…

Since there was no refrigeration in those days, sacrificial offerings were stipulated for innumerable reasons and pretexts, to ensure a steady supply throughout the year: to atone for sins, for trespassing, swearing, or hitting one’s neighbour; to mark Jewish festivals; to accompany a vow; to mark the birth of a child; to mark recovery from severe illness; as a gesture of peace; or just because it’s Wednesday…

And lest the people give them the sick or deformed animals from their flocks (the priests were wise to that), they were given strict instructions that the sacrificial animals must be ‘without blemish out of the flock.’

The sheer number of poor animals that were sacrificed in this way boggles the mind—it’s astonishing that any were left.

The abolition of burnt sacrifices after the destruction of the Second Temple was perhaps the best thing to happen to Judaism in its history. Good riddance.

As for the Levites—they’ve had to fend for themselves, ever since, like the rest of us, which is also a good thing.

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