Lesson 5: Chapters 9-11
The Liturgy of Worship in the Desert Sanctuary and
The Rules Concerning the Clean and Unclean Animals

Mighty Lord,
At Sinai Your holy fire consumed the sacrifices on the Altar of Burnt Offerings in the assembly of Your people as a sign of both the acceptance of their sacrifice and Your presence among them. At Pentecost, having received the acceptable sacrifice of Your Son, You lit the fire of the Holy Spirit in every New Covenant member praying in the Upper Room. Stir the fire of Your Spirit in each of us, Lord, so that our lives and our confession of Christ as Savior may illuminate the world with the Gospel message-the sign of Your presence among the men and women of Your new creation and Your gift of salvation through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Well is the Church named ecclesia ["assembly"], because it calls forth and assembles all men, as the Lord says in Leviticus: "Then assemble the whole community at the entrance of the meeting tent." It is worthy of note that this word assemble is used in the Scriptures for the first time in the passage when the Lord established Aaron in the high priesthood. In Deuteronomy God says to Moses, "Assemble the people for me; I will have them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me." He mentions the name of the Church again when he says of the tablets: "and on them were inscribed all the words that the Lord spoke to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly"; as if he would say more plainly, "on the day on which you were called and gathered together." And the psalmist says, "I will give you thanks in a great Church [ecclesia], in the mighty throng I will praise you."
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (c. 315-386 AD), Catechetical Lecture, 18.24

In Greek the word ekklesia (church) is found in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament for the first time in Leviticus 8:3 (ecclesia in Latin). In the quotation St. Cyril also refers to Dt 4:10; 9:10 and Ps 35:18.

The Hebrew word translated "church" in English occurs for the first time in Scripture in the instructions to gather together the entire community of believers to witness the ordination rite for Yahweh's ministers of the earthly Sanctuary (Lev 8:3). In that sacred ceremony Moses washed and then anointed the priesthood of the Sinai Covenant. Those liturgical actions prefigured both baptism and confirmation, as St. Cyril instructed the faithful in the fourth century AD: You must know that this chrism [chrismation] is prefigured in the Old Testament. When Moses, conferring on his brother the divine appointment, was ordering him high priest, he anointed him after he had bathed in water, and thenceforward he was called "Christ" ["anointed"], clearly after the figurative Chrism (St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 3.6).

Time line:

According to Exodus 40:1 the dedication of the Sanctuary and the ordination of Aaron and his sons took place on the first of Nisan, in the early spring, almost a year after the Israelites had departed from Goshen in Egypt. They left Egypt on the morning after the tenth plague and the first sacred meal of the Passover victim the night before. It was on the fifteenth day of Nisan that they began their journey into salvation and nationhood. A few days shy of a year later, from the first to the seventh of Nisan, Aaron and his sons participated the consecration of the Sanctuary, its altar and its Tabernacle and in the ordination rites that established the Old Covenant ministerial priesthood and an eternal covenant between God, Aaron and the men who were the descendants of Aaron (Ex 40:15; Num 8:19; Sir 45:7, 19; Jer 33:21).(1) Then, on the eighth day after the investiture ceremony and the dedication of the Tabernacle, on the eighth of Abib, Aaron, the High Priest, and his sons, the ministerial priests of the Sinai Covenant, assumed their liturgical duties as ministers of the earthly Sanctuary (Lev ch9).

The number eight is significant in Scripture:

Please read Leviticus 9:1-7: The Octave of the Ordination
9:1On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel; 2he said to Aaron, 'Take a calf to offer a sacrifice for sin, and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and bring them before Yahweh. 3Then say to the Israelites, "Take a goat to be offered as a sacrifice for sin, a calf and a lamb one year old (both without blemish) for a burnt offering, 4a bull and a ram for communion sacrifices to be slaughtered before Yahweh, and a cereal offering mixed with oil. For Yahweh will appear to you today."' 5They brought what Moses had ordered in front of the Tent of Meeting; then the whole community approached and stood before Yahweh. 6Moses then said, 'This is what Yahweh has ordered you to do, so that his glory may be visible to you.' 7Moses then addressed Aaron, 'Go to the altar and offer your sacrifice for sin and your burnt offering, and so perform the rite of expiation for yourself and your family. Then present the people's offering and perform the rite of expiation for them, as Yahweh has ordered.'

For the first time since man was expelled from the earthly Sanctuary that was the garden in Eden there is again one earthly Sanctuary where man can serve God, offer acceptable worship and have fellowship with God.

Question: On what day did the public liturgy of worship begin in the desert Sanctuary?

Answer: On the eighth day after the Sanctuary dedication and the priest's ordination ceremony; this was the eighth day of the first month of Abib.

Question: What group was present representing the covenant people? This same group of men was first introduced in Exodus under what circumstances? See Ex 24:1, 9-11.

Answer: These are the elders of the twelve tribes of Israel. They were presumably the same seventy elders, together with Moses, Aaron and Aaron's two eldest sons who experienced the sacred communion meal in the presence of God in the covenant ratification ceremony at Mt. Sinai.

Question: What animals did Moses command the priests to bring forward for sacrifice and for what specific blood rituals? What animal sacrifices was the community to offer and for what specific rituals? Also see Lev 9:15-21 and Ex 29:38-42.


Sacrifices of the Priests Sacrifices of the Community
1. An unblemished bull calf as a sin sacrifice 1. An unblemished goat as a sin sacrifice
2. An unblemished ram as a burnt offering 2. An unblemished calf as a burnt offering
  3. An unblemished lamb as a burnt offering*
  4. A bull for a communion sacrifice
  5. A ram for a communion sacrifice
  6. A grain offering mixed with oil

* this is the Tamid morning sacrifice; the grain offering was to accompany the Tamid sacrifice (Ex 29:38-42; Lev 9:15)

Question: Review the hatta't sin sacrifices that were acceptable. In what case was an unblemished goat offered as a sin sacrifice and why did Yahweh designate a goat as a sin sacrifice for the community? See Lev 4:2-3, 13-14, 22-23, 27-28; 5:7, 11.

Answer: A bull calf was the acceptable sin sacrifice for the entire community (Lev 4:13-14). The he-goat was the sin sacrifice for a leader of the community. Apparently God did not require a sin sacrifice for the whole community but required expiation for the elders who were the leaders of the community for whom the goat was offered as a sin sacrifice.

Evidence that the goat was a sin sacrifice for the elders within the community and not as a sin sacrifice for the entire community is found in Leviticus 10:16-18 where it was intended that Aaron and his sons eat the sacrifice. This was not the ritual for a communal sin sacrifice where the blood of the victim was taken into the Tabernacle and the body of the animal was burned outside the camp (see Lev 4:13-21 compared to 6:17-23/24-30).

The high priest, the chief priests, the lesser ministers of the Levites, the elders and the laymen and women were all sinners before God. The universal condition of sin provided common ground between the ministerial priesthood and the people in the Old Covenant Church just as in the New Covenant Church (Heb 5:2). This common bond should make the priesthood (then and now) more sympathetic to the struggle with sin every man and woman faces in their faith journeys.

Question: What then, is our common ground with Jesus Christ, the sinless High Priest of the New and everlasting Covenant?

Answer: In Christ, our sinless High Priest, it is His humanity and the suffering He endured in His Passion that provides the common ground with His people.

Question: Why is the Biblical text careful to designate the sin (hatta't) and whole burnt offerings ('olah) for the priests and the sin (hatta't) and whole burnt offerings ('olah) for the community as "unblemished" but does not designate that the communion sacrifices had to be unblemished? Where was the communion meal to be cooked and eaten? See Lev 3:1; Lev 22:21-23, and the handout from the previous lesson on the different forms of the communion sacrifices.

Answer: It was only the todah communion sacrifice of thanksgiving and the neder vow offerings that had to be unblemished. The communion sacrifices of the bull and the ram did not have to be unblemished because they were apparently voluntary/free-will offerings which did not have to be "perfect" animals from the herd or flock (Lev 22:23). Apparently only the seventy elders were going to take part in the communion meal as the people's representative, and it is possible that it was intended that the voluntary free-will communion offering (nedavah) could be eaten by the elders within the camp of God and shared with their families over a two day period; the priests, however, had to eat their portion within the Sanctuary.

Please read Leviticus 9:8-14: The Aaron and his Sons assume their Duties and Present their Priestly Offerings in the Morning Worship Service
9:8Aaron went to the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sacrifice for his own sin. 9Aaron's sons then presented the blood to him; he dipped his finger in it and put some on the horns of the altar, and then poured the rest of the blood at the front of the altar. 10The fat of the sacrifice for sin and the kidneys and the mass of fat over the liver he burned on the altar, as Yahweh had ordered Moses, 11and the meat and the skin he burned outside the camp. 12He then slaughtered the burnt offering; Aaron's sons then handed him the blood, which he poured [splashed = zarak] all around the altar. 13They then handed him the quartered victim and the head, and he burned these on the altar. 14He then washed the entrails and shins and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.
[..] = literal translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 280).

Notice that even for the priests the blood of atonement was necessary before acceptable service could be offered in the Sanctuary. Also notice that the ritual of the sin sacrifice in verses 8-11 followed God's instructions to Moses for a priest's sin sacrifice in Leviticus 4:3-12 except with the addition that Aaron's sons brought the blood to him (verses 9 and 12). This detail is missing in the previous instructions but it was necessary for another priest to assist the officiating priest. In the Mishnah it is explained that a second priest held the collected sacrificial blood in a chalice and later on in the ritual handed it back to the officiating priest (Mishnah: Yoma 4:3, 5:3).

Please read Leviticus 9:15-24: Aaron and his Sons Present the People's Offerings
15 He then presented the people's offering. He took the goat for the people's sacrifice for sin, slaughtered it, and made a sacrifice for sin with it in the same way as with the first. 16 He then had the burnt offering ['olah] brought forward and proceeded according to the ritual. 17 He then had the cereal offering brought forward, took a handful of it and burned it on the altar in addition to the morning burnt offering ['olah ha-boker]. 18 Then he slaughtered the bull and the ram as a communion sacrifice for the people. Aaron's sons handed him the blood and he poured [splashed = zakar] it all around the altar. 19 The fat of the bull and the ram, the tail, the covering fat, the kidneys, the mass of fat over the liver, 20 he placed on the ribs and then burned on the altar. 21 With the ribs and the right thigh Aaron made the gesture of offering as Yahweh had ordered Moses.

Question: What was the order for each set of offerings for the priests and for the people? What is significant about the order of offerings? The morning burnt offering is the community's perpetual (tamid) whole burnt offering commanded in Exodus 29:36-42.


  1. The bull calf sin offering for Aaron, the High Priest (9:8)
  2. The ram whole burnt offering for the priests (9:12)
  3. The community leaders' he-goat sin offering (9:15)
  4. The Tamid lamb morning burnt offering with the grain offering (9:17)*
  5. The bull and ram communion offerings (9:18-20)

*The term "the morning burnt offering" ['olah ha-boker] is found several times in the Bible (2 Kng 16:15; Num 28:23; Ez 46:15). In all cases the term refers to the communal daily burnt offering of the morning Tamid lamb.

Aaron and his sons brought the sin offering and made the ritual of the blood followed by the priestly burnt offering and the blood ritual. This was followed by the offerings for the congregation in the same order: the ritual of the sin offering followed by the ritual for the morning Tamid whole burnt offering and finally the communion offering and blood ritual. The sin offering had priority in the order of sacrifices for the inaugural worship service.

Sin had to be expiated and forgiven before God could accept the other sacrifices. This is the first liturgical ritual of worship and the first use of the sacred altar for a communal sacrifice. In this first service of sacrifice and worship the high priest's sin sacrifice, the priests' whole burnt, and the people's sin sacrifices preceded the Tamid.(4) This was the exception-in the future the Tamid will precede all other sacrifices (Num 28:15, 23, 31, 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 33, 34, 38; also see Mishnah: Tamid), but an individual's sin sacrifice must always precede his communion sacrifice. A covenant member had to be reconciled to God and to his fellow covenant members (in a state of grace) to offer the zevah ha-shelamim (sacred peace sacrifices) and to eat the sacred communion meal that was the sign of "peace" with God. According to the instructions for the rituals of sacrifice in the Second Temple period, the morning Tamid was sacrificed at about 9 AM-the third hour Hebrew time (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108).

Question: In this inaugural worship service at the Sanctuary, for the first time the community was introduced to the different classes of sacrifices divinely appointed by God for the covenant people. What was the only class of sacrifice that was missing from the sacrifices offered?

Answer: Only the 'asham, sacrifice of trespass/reparation was missing.

The reason this particular sacrifice was not represented at the first liturgical service may be because more was necessary than the offerer bringing the animal for the sin sacrifice of reparation. In most cases the priests, acting as judges, had to hear the case and determine the amount of fair reparation to which 20% was added as a guilt payment (see Lev 5:14-26/6:7.(3)

Please read Leviticus 9:22-24: The Concluding Rites of the Morning Service
22Aaron then raised his hands towards the people and blessed them. Having thus performed the sacrifice for sin, the burnt offering and the communion sacrifice, he came down 23and entered the Tent of Meeting with Moses. Then they came out together to bless the people and the glory of Yahweh appeared to the entire people: 24 a flame leapt out from Yahweh's presence and consumed the burnt offering and fat on the altar. At this sight the entire people shouted for joy and fell on their faces.

Question: After Aaron completed the ritual of sacrifice what did he do in verse 22 to complete the liturgical service? Read Num 6:22-27 for God's words that the priest must use to complete each worship service.

Answer: He completed the liturgical service by giving the people his priestly blessing-the benediction closing the morning liturgical service.

Actually, Aaron gave two blessings: the first blessing was while he was still standing on the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard when he raised his hands and blessed the congregation's sacrifices in the presence of the people (Lev 9:22). The altar was about four and a half feet high and there was a ramp up to the top of the altar and a ledge where the priest could stand around the top of the altar (Ex 27:5). After the first blessing Aaron and Moses entered the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. It was part of the ritual of worship for the morning and afternoon services to attend to the lamp-stand and to burn incense on the golden Altar of Incense that stood in front of the curtain that covered the opening to the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resided above the Mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant.The incense was burned on the golden Altar of Incense with fire from live coals taken from the fire of the sacrificial altar in the courtyard (Lev 16:12). The rising smoke from the incense represented the prayers of the people rising up to heaven to the heavenly Sanctuary: On it Aaron will burn fragrant incense each morning; when he trims the lamps, he will burn incense on it; and when Aaron puts back the lamps at twilight [between the twilights], he will burn incense on it, incense perpetually before Yahweh for all your generations to come (Ex 30:7-8; also see Lev 24:3-4).(5)

After Aaron emerged from the Tabernacle with Moses, he re-entered the courtyard to bless the people with the priestly benediction. It may be that the first blessing of the people's sacrifice was also intended to include the people. King Solomon will give two blessings at the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kng 8:14, 54-55), but it is more likely that it was the sacrifice that was blessed the first time, similar to when Samuel blessed the people's sacrifice in 1 Sam 9:13 (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 114).

Question: What was the climax of the morning worship service and what was the significance of this sign?

Answer: God showed both His acceptance of the sacrifice and the manner in which it was offered by consuming the altar sacrifices with holy fire.

The miracle of the holy fire probably came from the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle where God's presence resided in the midst of His people (see verse 24). Scripture confirms that the glory of the Lord is a consuming fire: Ex 24:17; Lev 9:23-24; Dt 4:24, 36; 2 Sam 22:9; Ps 18:8; Is 30:27, 30; 33:14; Heb 12:29. Fire had been a sign of God's involvement with the children of Israel since the covenant formation with Abraham (Gen 15:17-18) and fire was the sign of the Divine presence when Moses first encountered the God of his ancestors in the event of the burning bush/tree that was not consumed by its flames (Ex 3:2). In the New Testament fire is a sign of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit ( Lk 1:17; 3:16; 12:49; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Thes 5:19; CCC 696. 718).

Question: God used fire as a sign of the confirmation of His presence, His divine protection, and/or His approval; He also used fire as a sign of judgment. What positive signs of God's holy fire can you find in the books of the Old and New Testaments?


  1. God's fiery presence in the faming torch and firepot in the covenant ratification ritual with Abraham (Gen 15:17-21).
  2. The miracle of Moses' vision of the bush/tree that was not consumed by its fire (Ex 3:2).
  3. The Pillar of Fire that was Israel's guide and protector (i.e., Ex 13:21-22).
  4. The fire that announced the presence of God in His Theophany at the summit of Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:18).
  5. Moses' ascent to Mt. Sinai when he entered the presence of the glory of God by passing through what appeared to the Israelites as a devouring fire (Ex 24:17-18).
  6. God's fiery glory appeared to the people as holy fire and consumed the altar sacrifices in the Sanctuary's first liturgical service (Lev 9:24).
  7. Fire from a rock consumed the offerings of Gideon and confirmed his mission (Judg 6:19-24).
  8. Divine fire consumed the offering of Manoah and his wife, Samson's future parents (Judg 13:20).
  9. Fire from heaven consumed the offerings on David's altar at Mt. Moriah, confirming the site of the future Temple (1 Chr 21:26).
  10. God's fire consumed the acceptable offerings of the prophet Elijah in his duel with the prophets of Baal (1 Kng 18:36-40).
  11. Fire from heaven consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices at the dedication of Solomon's Temple (2 Chr 7:1).
  12. On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit filled and indwelled the New Covenant people of God in the form of tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-3).

The people responded by shouting for joy and prostrated themselves in adoration of the God of Abraham who was their God, King, and Divine protector. This action will become a part of the liturgy of worship. The Mishnah records that the High Priest (or his representative selected to burn the incense) collected live coals from the sacrificial altar in a golden censer and then entered the Holy Place of the Temple to burn the incense that carried the prayers of the people to the heavenly Sanctuary. As soon as he entered the Holy Place a gong sounded; those assembled in the courtyard turned away from the altar of sacrifice, turned to the west toward the Holy Place, and fell on their faces (Mishnah:Tamid 5:1-6:3, 7:3P; Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 127-28).

After Aaron's benediction and God's miracle of the holy fire, the morning liturgy was concluded. The afternoon liturgy would begin at high noon.

Please read Leviticus 10:1-11: Tragedy Strikes the Afternoon Service
10:1Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu each took his censer, put fire in it and incense on the fire, and presented unauthorized fire before Yahweh, which was not in accordance with his orders. 2At this flame leapt out from Yahweh's presence and swallowed them up, and they perished before Yahweh. 2Moses said to Aaron, 'That is what Yahweh meant when he said: In those who are close to me I show my holiness, and before all the people I show my glory.' Aaron remained silent. 2Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and said to them, 'Come here and take your brothers away from the sanctuary, out of the camp.' 2They came and carried them away, still in their tunics, out of the camp, as Moses had said. 2Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, 'Do not disorder your hair or tear your clothes; or you may incur death and his retribution may overtake the whole community. No, it is for the entire House of Israel to lament your brothers who have been the victims of Yahweh's fire. 2To avoid incurring death, do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for Yahweh's anointing oil is on you.' And they did as Moses said. 2Yahweh spoke to Aaron and said: 2'When you come to the Tent of Meeting, you and your sons with you, you may not drink wine or any other fermented liquor, to avoid incurring death. This is a perpetual law for all your descendants. 10And so shall it be also when you separate the sacred from the profane, the unclean from the clean, 11 and when you teach the Israelites any of the decrees that Yahweh has pronounced for them through Moses.'

The afternoon service began with the Tamid lamb being led out to the altar at noon-between the twilights of dawn and dusk (Ex 29:41; Mishnah: Tamid 4:1). The first century AD Jewish priest turned historian, Flavius Josephus, recorded that the afternoon Tamid was slain at about the ninth hour, or three PM modern time (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3).

The offering of the holy incense was the height of the afternoon service. The officiating priests approached the Altar of Burnt-offerings and one filled a golden vessel with burning coals from the altar while the other filled a golden censer with holy incense, mixed according to the instructions in Exodus 30:34-37. In the time of the Second Temple two priests, whose names had been selected by lot from among their brother priests serving that week in the Temple, entered the Holy Place where one spread the live coals on the golden Altar of Incense and withdrew from the Holy Place while the incensing priest arranged the incense upon the live coals (Mishnah: Tamid 5:2, 5:4, 6:1-7:2). In St. Luke's Gospel it was the priest Zechariah who had the honor of burning the incense on the golden Altar of Incense in front of the Holy of Holies when the angel Gabriel stepped out from behind the curtain to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist (Lk 1:8-11). However, at this time it was apparently Aaron's duty as the High Priest to receive the censer and the live coals from his sons who were assisting him. But what had proceeded without incident in the morning service now took a disastrous turn.

Question: What happened to the two sons of Aaron in charge of preparing the coals and the incense?

Answer: They were struck down by divine fire for having offered the incense improperly by using "strange fire."

As welcomed as the appearance of holy fire was at the conclusion of the morning service, this next appearance of holy fire must have been devastating to all who witnessed the death of Aaron's heir and second son in the afternoon liturgy.

Question: What were the liturgical instructions God gave Moses for offering incense on the golden Altar of Incense? See Ex 30:1, 9.

Answer: The liturgical instructions God gave Moses for offering the incense were these: You will make an altar on which to burn incense; [..]. You will not offer unauthorized incense, or burnt offering, or cereal offering on it, and you will not pour any libation over it (Ex 30:1, 9).

In Scripture fire appears as a sign of God's approval but also as a sign of disapproval or judgment. In his warning to the Church to be vigilant in faithfulness for the final day of judgment was coming, St. Peter wrote: The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up (2 Pt 3:10). But he also wrote just before that verse: The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance (2 Pt 3:9). The Lord God is calling everyone to salvation-eternal salvation is the destiny for which God created humans, but not everyone will be willing to fulfill that destiny and like the rebellious sons of Aaron, they will decide what is right for them aside from the commandments and the will of God for their lives (also see 2 Tim 2:3-4).

Question: Give some examples of when is fire used as a sign of God's disapproval and His divine judgment in Scripture?

Answer: For example:

  1. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24).
  2. The seventh plague where fire was mingled with hail (Ex 9:23-24).
  3. Aaron's two eldest sons were consumed by fire when they deliberately disobeyed the ritual of worship (Lev 10:1-3).
  4. At Taberah where God punished the disobedient Israelites with fire (Num 11:1-3)
  5. The fire that consumed the rebels in the rebellion of Korah (Num 16:35).
  6. The fire from God that consumed Elijah's enemies (2 Kng 1:9-14).
  7. Fire is a sign of God's divine judgment in the Old Testament Books of the Prophets: i.e., Is 10:16-19; 66:15-16; Lam 2:4; Mi 1:7; Nah 1:6; Zeph 1:18; Mal 3:2-3.
  8. In the New Testament fire is a sign of prophecies of judgment and Christ's Second Advent: i.e., Mt 3:10-12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:42; 18:8-9; 25:41; Mk 9:22, 43-49; Lk 3:17; 12:49; 17:29-30; Jn 15:6; 1 Cor 3:13-15; 2 Thes 1:7-9; 2 Pt 3:7, 10, 12; Rev 1:14; 2:18; 3:18 (see 1 Cor 3:12-15); 19:20; 20:9, 14-15; 21:8 (bold = Jesus' statements).

Some scholars have suggested that the two elder sons of Aaron were not yet anointed and therefore were not qualified to handle the incense, but this interpretation does not agree with Numbers 3:3-4: Such were the names of Aaron's sons: Nadab he eldest, then Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Such were the names of Aaron's sons, priests anointed and invested with the powers of the priesthood. It is not clear exactly what occurred to cause the death of the priestly elder sons of Aaron other than that they deliberately, and not inadvertently, disobeyed Yahweh's commands concerning the proper offering of the incense. We know from Leviticus 16:12 and from the Mishnah: Tamid 5:5 that fire for the censer was to come from the live coals of the Altar of Burnt Offerings; therefore, the "strange fire" may have been fire from another source. The same judgment and divine punishment by fire for offering holy incense improperly, but by unauthorized persons, will be repeated in Numbers 16:35 and a different judgment will befall King Uzziah of Judah who attempted to take on the priestly prerogative of offering incense in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle (2 Chr 26:16-18).

Nadab and Abihu were guilty of the willful sins of rebellion and presumption; they decided for themselves the proper ritual of worship contrary to God's command. It is for this same kind of willful disobedience that Yahweh will reject King Saul. In 1 Samuel 15:19, 22-23 the prophet Samuel will tell Saul: Why then did you not obey Yahweh's voice? [..]. Is Yahweh pleased by burnt offerings and sacrifices or by obedience to Yahweh's voice? Truly, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness than the fat of rams. Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of idolatry!

It is also clear that they lacked respect for God in that they did not fear offending God.

Nadab and Abihu apparently forgot their experience of God at the summit of Mt. Sinai when He appeared before the people in His fiery glory. In that first experience of the presence of Yahweh at Sinai the people were terrified, but Moses told them: 'Do not be afraid; God has come to test you, so that your fear of him, being always in your mind, may keep you from sinning' (Ex 20:20) In his last homily to the covenant people before they began the conquest of the Promise Land, Moses will tell the people: Learn from this that Yahweh your God was training you as a man trains his child, and keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and so follow his ways and fear him (Dt 8:5-6). "Fear of God"-a deep respect for God's divine authority that inhibits disobedience-is a necessary attribute of the believer who has committed his life to God.

Question: We cannot know for certain, but what might the Biblical text suggest may have contributed Aaron's sons becoming so reckless as to disregard Yahweh's instructions for acceptable liturgical service?

Answer: The command to avoid strong drink in association with the narrative of the tragedy may suggest that Aaron's sons were inebriated and their intoxicated condition may have contributed to their boldness and lack of appreciation for the consequences of their disobedient actions.

The prohibition against strong drink in Leviticus 11:8-9 seems strangely out of place in the narrative of the inaugural liturgical ceremony. The Hebrew word for "strong drink" occurs six times in the Pentateuch (the Greek Septuagint defined "strong drink" by the Greek word shechar). St. Timothy condemned priests given to wine (1 Tim 3:3), and St. Jerome wrote: Those who serve the altar, we are told, must drink neither wine nor shechar. Now every intoxicating drink is in Hebrew called shechar, whether it is made of grain or of the juice of apples, whether you distil from the honeycomb a rude kind of mead or make a liquor by squeezing dates or strain a thick syrup from a decoction of grain. Whatever intoxicates and disturbs the balance of the mind avoid as you would wine (St. Jerome, Letter 52.11).

Aaron's cousins (the Hebrew text calls them "brothers" since all covenant kinsmen were "brothers"), themselves Levitical lesser ministers (but not yet ordained), were ordered to remove the bodies.(6)

Question: Why were Aaron's kinsmen ordered to remove the bodies and why were Aaron and his surviving sons forbidden to mourn openly? See Lev 19:11-13.

Answer: The priests, in the midst of their afternoon liturgical worship service, must not become ritually unclean and therefore unable to perform their liturgical duties on behalf of the covenant community by coming in contact with a dead body. An open display of mourning would suggest to the covenant people that Aaron and his surviving sons believed that Yahweh was somehow unjust in His verdict.

Question: What did Yahweh mean by the couplet Moses quoted in 10:3: Moses said to Aaron, 'That is what Yahweh meant when he said: In those who are close to me I show my holiness, and before all the people I show my glory' ? Since it is found no where else in Scripture it must have been a private teaching to Yahweh's priests.

Answer: The priests, those who are close to Yahweh because of their anointed status, have a share in His holiness beyond the glory that Yahweh reveals to the common people. This holiness sets them apart from the people and the secular world in their actions and reactions to life-even to include the normal inclination to morn a death.

Aaron remained silent; without protest he submitting the fate of his sons to God's divine judgment. That the tunics of the two elder sons were still intact indicates that the fire did not completely consume the two men (verse 5). Aaron and his two remaining sons were forbidden to publically morn the members of their family whose family lines will tragically be lost to Israel forever because they had produced no sons to carry on their names (Num 3:4). Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar must, for the people's sake, continue to celebrate Yahweh's liturgy of worship-worship that is meant to be joyful, and they must not show grief that could be interpreted as disapproval of God's judgment. They must not leave the Sanctuary before the afternoon ritual is completed least they too incur the wrath of God for rebellious disobedience.

Question: However, what did Yahweh promise Aaron and his two remaining sons? Why?

Answer: He promised them that all of their covenant "brothers" (the entire nation of Israel) will observe the proper public customs associated with mourning for the two lost sons/brothers, indicating that God had compassion for the grief Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar felt but could not display publically.

10 And so shall it be also when you separate the sacred from the profane, the unclean from the clean, 11 and when you teach the Israelites any of the decrees that Yahweh has pronounced for them through Moses.' The judgment on Aaron's sons was an object lesson for the priesthood and the people. The priests, who were responsible for teaching the people the Law, must themselves be righteous examples of living within the Law. Yahweh's priests are not part of the secular world and therefore their conduct was subject to a higher standard. It is an expectation that the Church still applies to the ministerial priesthood today.

The death of Nadab, Aaron's firstborn son who was destined to become the next high priest and his brother Abihu was a reminder for the covenant people that physical death is a condition of the power of sin-a condition that came into the world as a result of the rebellious sin of Adam and Eve who were exiled from the Edenic Sanctuary.(7) Blood and death in the natural world make one ritually unclean for Yahweh's holy Sanctuary in worship or service because the Sanctuary represents Eden before the Fall of mankind-the one earthly place where God and man kept company in fellowship. Therefore, the fallen world and the consequences of the Fall (with the exception of the ritual of blood sacrifice that atones for the sin of the Fall and restores man to God's image and likeness) cannot come into the new Eden of God's earthly Sanctuary. Sin and its consequence of physical death are not compatible with holiness and sanctification.

Please read Leviticus 10:12-15: The Liturgy of Worship Continues for the Afternoon service
10:12Moses said to Aaron and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, 'Take the cereal offering left over from the food burnt of Yahweh. Eat the unleavened part of it beside the altar, since it is especially holy. 13Eat it in the holy place, since it is the portion of the food burnt for Yahweh that is prescribed for you and your sons; this is the order I have received. 14You, your sons and daughters with you, will eat in a clean place the forequarter offered and the thigh presented, for these have been given to you and your children as your due from the Israelites' communion sacrifices. 15The thigh presented and the forequarter offered, once the fat has been burnt, revert to you and your sons with you, after they have been presented before Yahweh with the gesture of offering, in virtue of a perpetual law as Yahweh has ordered.'

Eleazar was Aaron's third son, now in line to succeed Aaron as high priest (Ex 6:23), and the youngest son, Ithamar was previously entrusted by Moses to be in charge of keeping the accounts of the metal donated to build the Sanctuary (Ex 38:21).

In 10:12 Moses referred to the bread offerings that accompanied the communion sacrifices that reverted to the priests (Lev 7:11-15/7:1-5, 34/24). These are the grain offerings presented by the people as part of the dedication ceremony as stipulated in Leviticus 9:4 and 17. The bread had to be eaten in the Sanctuary (Lev 2:3; 6:7-11), but the meat portions that reverted to the priests could be given to the priests' family members to eat in a family meal within the camp of God (Lev 10:14).(8)

Please read Leviticus 10:16-20: An Inadvertent Failure in the Ritual
16Moses then enquired carefully about the goat offered as a sacrifice for sin, and found that they had burnt it. He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's surviving sons, and said, 17'Why did you not eat this victim for sin in the holy place, since it is especially holy and was given to you to take away the community's guilt, by performing the rite of expiation for them before Yahweh? 18Since its blood was not taken inside the sanctuary, you should have eaten its meat there, as I ordered you.' 19Aaron said to Moses, 'Look, today they offered their sacrifice for sin and their burnt offering before Yahweh, and these disasters have befallen me. If I had eaten the sin offering today, would this have met with Yahweh's approval?' 20And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

After the fat of the sin sacrifice was burned on the altar, the remaining meat was to be cooked in pots in the Sanctuary courtyard and eaten by the Aaronic priests in a sacred meal (Lev 6:17-21/24-28). Moses did not see evidence that the meat of the priest's portion of the goat sin-sacrifice (9:3, 15) was to being prepared for Aaron and his sons to eat in the prescribed sacred meal. He blamed Eleazar and Ithamar because it was apparently their duty of prepare the meat while Aaron was busy with his duties inside the Tabernacle. Apparently, in their distress over the sudden deaths of their elder brothers, they had burned the entire goat instead of only burning the fat.

Question: What regulation did Moses point out concerning what determined sin sacrifices that were to be eaten or burned entirely? See Lev 4:5, 11-12, 16-17, 23; 6:22-23/28-29.

Answer: He pointing out the regulation that only when the blood of a sin sacrifice is taken into the Holy Place is the priest forbidden to eat the meat of the sin sacrifice.

There were two levels upon which Aaron and his sons were to eat the hatta't sin sacrifice of the goat. There was the priestly portion representing the compensation due the priests for their services in securing expiation and for officiating in the acceptable cult of sacrifice, as God had promised to them in His obligation to provide food for His priests (Lev 6:17-23/24-30; 7:7/6:36; Ez 46:20). However, there was another dimension. It was the duty of the priests to eat their assigned portions of the hatta't sin offering for the sake of the people. Eating the hatta't was an indispensable part of the expiatory ritual. The JSP Commentary: Leviticus notes: ...although the blood rites incorporated in the offering of the hatta't constituted the primary means of expiation, the sacred meals of the priests were also essential (page 62). In burning the sin sacrifice like a whole burnt offering the ritual of symbolically "eating the sin" was no longer possible.

Question: Why didn't God strike down Aaron's two younger priestly sons for their failure as He struck down their brothers?

Answer: Only God can judge a human heart and apparently God judged their failure as unintentional whereas their brothers' failure must have been intentional rebellion in opposition to God's commands for acceptable sacrifice and worship.

This time Aaron did not remain silent. Aaron, in defense of his sons, offered that none of them could have eaten the sin sacrifice in the right state of mind and spirit after the deaths of their loved ones. Moses graciously accepted Aaron's excuse for his surviving sons' unintentional failure. Perhaps as a result of this incident Deuteronomy 26:14 infers that those who were in mourning after having sustained the loss of a family member were not allowed to eat a sacred meal.

Question: Why did God allow Moses to accept Aaron's excuse?

Answer: God's approval of Moses' acceptance of the failure of Aaron's two surviving priestly sons is an indication of God's loving kindness (hesed = "covenant love") and His willingness to be merciful in judging our human weaknesses that are not the result of intentional rebellion against His commands or in opposition of His will for our lives.

Question: Is there a remedy for their sin of inadvertence in failing to conduct the ritual of the sin sacrifice according to the Law? See Lev 5:15-16.

Answer: Eleazar and Ithamar will have to make an 'asham sacrifice of reparation under the classification of infringing Yahweh's sacred rights/holy things in not offering the sin sacrifice properly. After reparation is made their sin will be forgiven.

After their 'asham sacrifice of an unblemished ram was presented, and we can only assume that it was offered, every classification of altar sacrifice had been represented on the Sanctuary inauguration day.

Chapter 11: Rules Concerning Clean and Unclean

He himself says, "Be holy, for I am holy," that is to say, choose me and keep away from what displeases me. Do what I love; love what I do. If what I order seems difficult, come back to me who ordered it, so that from where the command was given help might be offered. I who furnished the desire will not refuse support. Fast from contradiction, abstain from opposition. Let me be your food and drink. None desire in vain what is mine, for those who stretch out toward me seek me because I first sought them.
Pope St. Leo the Great (reigned 440-461 AD), Sermon 94.2

Please read Leviticus 11:1-8: Clean and Unclean Animals of the Land
11:1Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron and said to them, 2'Speak to the Israelites and say: "Of all animals living on land these are the creatures you may eat: 3You may eat any animal that has a cloven hoof, divided into two parts, and that is a ruminant. 4The following, which either chew the cud or have a cloven hoof, are the ones that you may not eat: you will regard the camel as unclean, because though it is ruminant, it does not have a cloven hoof; 5you will regard the coney as unclean, because though it is ruminant, it does not have a cloven hoof; 6you will regard the hare as unclean, because though it is ruminant, it does not have a cloven hoof; 7you will regard the pig as unclean, because though it has a cloven hoof, divided into two parts, it is not a ruminant. 8You will not eat the meat of these or touch their dead bodies; you will regard them as unclean."

For the first time God addresses both Moses and Aaron with commands that are contained within the boundaries of the Law. Previously commands for Aaron were given through Moses, but now that Aaron has been ordained he is addressed directly (Lev 11:1; 13:1; 14:33; 15:1). All the animals listed as "clean" or "unclean" in Leviticus chapter eleven are listed for purposes of diet. For the most part this section of the Law addresses what the Israelites were "unclean" and forbidden to eat. The difference between "clean" and "unclean" animals was not new to the Israelites. Such restrictions had been part of the people's culture since ancient times with the designation "clean" and "unclean" identifying animals fit or unfit for sacrifice (Gen 7:2-3; 8:20). The designation of "clean" and "unclean" animals identified for eating is also found in other cultures of the region. An ancient prayer from Sumeria in Mesopotamia at about the time Abraham lived (c. 2000 BC) reads: What was forbidden by god, unwittingly I have eaten... forbidden things I have eaten, I know not (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 141 note 16).

Animals that were acceptable as animal offered for sacrifice were appropriate for eating, therefore, clean and unclean animals were tied to religious observances. The "unclean" animals are not only unfit for sacrifice but are inedible and are listed in many cases as "detestable" (Lev 11:11-13, 20, 23, 31, 41, 42-43); even touching the carcase made one ritually unclean, requiring hand and clothes washing and a ritually unclean state that lasted until the end of the day at sundown (Lev 11:8, 11, 24-26, 27, 31, 39-40). If an unclean animal or insect came in contact with a surface or with cooking pots it infected whatever it touched (Lev 11:32-38). Not being able to touch an "unclean" animal without becoming ritually defiled lessened the temptation to eat it.

Question: What was the requirement in determining "clean" land animals that are either domesticated or are wild game?

Answer: Israelites can only eat animals that have fully cloven (split) hooves and ruminants (chews cud).

Question: What are the four land animals that are identified as ritually "unclean" and cannot be eaten? Why?

Answer: These are animals that are unfit because they have one of the necessary characterizes but not the other:

Animal Cloven (split) hoof Chews cud+
1. camel No Yes
2. coney* No Yes
3. hare No Yes
4. pig Yes No

*a small badger-like mammal that lives among rocks, also called a daman. +An animal that chews cud is an animal that regurgitates its food from its intestines back into its mouth to grind and fragmentize it. This animal, known as a ruminant, has a stomach that has four compartments.

Neither the coney nor the hare are true ruminants, but they give the impression of being one: the coney because it has protrusions in its stomach and the hare because it chews its food so noticeably. The clean animas that have both split hooves and chew their cud are for the most part horned land animals. Contact with these "unclean" animals while living did not seem to be a problem, but touching the body of the dead animal rendered a covenant member ritually "unclean" (Lev 11:8, 11, 25, 27, 28, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40).

Please read Leviticus 11:9-12: Water Animals
9"Of all that lives in the water, these you may eat: Anything that has fins and scales, and lives in the water, whether in sea or river, you may eat. 10But anything in sea or river that does not have fins and scales, of all the small water-creatures and all living things found there, you will regard as detestable. 11You will regard them as detestable; you must not eat their meat and you will regard their carcasses as detestable. 12Anything that lives in water, but not having fins and scales, you will regard as detestable."

Only fish with fins and scales are "clean" and fit to eat.

Please read Leviticus 11:13-19: Winged Warm-blooded Creatures
13"Of the birds these are the ones that you will regard as detestable; they may not be eaten, they are detestable for eating: 14"The tawny vulture, the griffon, the osprey, the kite, the various kinds of buzzards, 15all kinds of raven, 16the ostrich, the screech owl, the seagull, the various kinds of hawk, 17horned owl, night owl, cormorant, barn owl, 18ibis, pelican, white vulture, 19stork, the various kinds of heron, the hoopoe and the bat."

The bat is, of course, not a bird. Most of the nineteen birds listed are scavengers or predators, have unclean habits, or have anomalous physical characteristics like an extra claw or crop. The list of birds will be repeated in the list of "clean" and "unclean" animals in Deuteronomy 14:3-21. The identification of the Hebrew names of the unclean birds is uncertain(9)

Please read Leviticus 11:20-23: Winged Insects
20"All winged insects moving on four feet you will regard as detestable for eating. 21Of all these winged insects you may eat only the following: those with the sort of legs above their feet which enable them to leap over the ground. 22These are the ones you may eat: the various kinds of migratory locust ['arbeh], the various kinds of solham locust, hargol locust and hagab locust. 23But all other winged insects on four feet you will regard as detestable for eating.

Only hopping insects with four jointed legs are permissible. Insects like bees and creeping insects are not acceptable. Four different varieties of locusts were edible. St. John the Baptist, who observed the dietary laws, ate locusts (Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). Notice that there are no restrictions involving the eating of fruits or vegetables.

Please read Leviticus 11:24-31: Contact with Unclean Animals
24"By the following you will be made unclean. Anyone who touches the carcase of one will be unclean until evening. 25Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash his clothing and will be unclean until evening. 26Animals that have hoofs, but not cloven, and that are not ruminant, you will regard as unclean; anyone who touches them will be unclean. 27Those four-footed animals which walk on the flat of their paws you will regard as unclean; anyone who touches their carcasses will be unclean until evening, 28and anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash his clothing and will be unclean until evening. You will regard them as unclean. 29Of the small creatures which crawl along the ground, these are the ones which you will regard as unclean: the mole, the rat, the various kinds of lizard: 30gecho, koah, letaah, cameleon and tinshamet. Of the small creatures, these are the animals which you must regard as disgusting. Anyone who touches them when they are dead will be unclean until evening.

27 Those four-footed animals which walk on the flat of their paws you will regard as unclean; anyone who touches their carcasses will be unclean until evening... Hebrew manuscripts from a synagogue in Cairo, dating to c. the fifth or sixth century AD have "belly" instead of "paws." This translation seems to fit the context of verses 29-30.

Question: What was the result of touching the dead bodies of any of the "unclean" animals?

Answer: A covenant member became ritually unclean and had to wash any clothing touched by the animal's body. The person would remain ritually unclean until sundown, which meant until he became ritual "clean" he could not participate in Sanctuary worship.

Please read Leviticus 11:32-40: Rules for Contact with Unclean Things
32"Any object on which one of these creatures falls when it is dead becomes unclean: wooden utensil, clothing, skin, sacking, any utensil whatever. It must be immersed in water and will remain unclean until evening: then it will be clean. 33If the creature falls into an earthenware vessel, the vessel must be broken; whatever the vessel contains is unclean. 34Any edible food will be unclean if the water touches it; any drinkable liquid will be unclean, no matter what its container. 35Anything on which the carcase of such a creature may fall will be unclean: be it oven or stove, it must be destroyed; for they are unclean and you will regard them as unclean 36(although springs, wells and stretches of water will remain clean); anyone who touches one of their carcases will be unclean. 37If one of their carcases falls on any kind of seed, the seed will remain clean; 38but if the seed has been moistened and one of their carcases falls on it, you will regard it as unclean. 39If one of the animals that you use as food dies, anyone who touches the carcase will be unclean until evening; 40anyone who eats any of the carcase must wash his clothing and will remain unclean until evening; anyone who picks up the carcase must wash his clothing and will remain unclean until evening."

Verses 32-38 deal with impurity resulting from different kinds of contact with "unclean" animals or their carcasses: touching, carrying, containing, and contact with foodstuffs or vessels, and verses 39-40 deal with impurity resulting from contact with the carcasses of pure land animals.

36 (although springs, wells and stretches of water will remain clean)... Water is always a symbol of purification and life.

The word for "oven" in verse 35 is a large ceramic oven whereas the Hebrew word translated as "stove" designates a grate for stovetop cooking in which fire is kindled and pots are placed. Ceramic vessels were porous and more susceptible to impurity. Metal vessels could be purified in fire and stone vessels were not susceptible to impurity and therefore were suitable for storing ritual "holy water (Num 31:22; Jn 2:6).

37 If one of their carcases falls on any kind of seed, the seed will remain clean; 38 but if the seed has been moistened and one of their carcases falls on it, you will regard it as unclean. A seed that has not germinated is protected by its seed coat, but moisture breaks the barrier and the seed begins to germinate in a contaminated condition.

Please read Leviticus 11:41-47: Religious Defilement
41"Any creature that swarms on the ground is detestable for eating; it must not be eaten. 42Anything that moves on its belly, anything that moves on four legs or more-in short all the creatures that swarm on the ground-you will not eat, since they are detestable. 43Do not make yourselves detestable with all these swarming creatures; do not defile yourselves with them, do not be defiled by them. 44For it is I, Yahweh, who am your God. You have been sanctified and have become holy because I am holy: do not defile yourselves with all these creatures that swarm on the ground. 45Yes, it is I, Yahweh, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God: you must therefore be holy because I am holy." 46Such is the law concerning animals, birds, all living creatures that move in water and all creatures that swarm on the ground. 47Its purpose is to distinguish the clean from the unclean, the creatures that may be eaten from those that may not be eaten.

Eating or touching the dead bodies of any of the unclean animals was "detestable," a word found six times (Lev 11:13, 20, 23, 41, 42, 43). The same word is used for the Philistines by the prophet Zechariah (Zec 9:7).

Question: In Exodus Yahweh identifies Israel as "my people" at least sixteen times, but in Leviticus 11:44 How does Yahweh identify Himself to Israel?

Answer: He identifies Himself as I, Yahweh, who am your God.

Question: It has been suggested that the dietary rules were to ensure a healthy people, but why is it that this cannot be the reason for the dietary regulations? See Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; Mk 7:19; Acts 10:9-16; and Rom 14:20.

Answer: This cannot be the main reason since everything God created was "good" and in the New Testament formerly "unclean" foods were declared edible and no longer defiling.

Under the laws of the Sinai Covenant the animal kingdom was now divided into four parts of clean animals which could be eaten and unclean animals which were not edible. Animals suitable for both eating and sacrifice were designated as "clean" and had to be raised by Israelites. All "clean" animals could be eaten, but not all "clean" animals could be offered to Yahweh in sacrifice. Only five kinds of "clean" land animals were acceptable for sacrifice: cattle, sheep, goats, turtle doves and pigeons (see Gen 15:9-10). It was a religious duty to only eat "clean" animals. The Israelites were to identify themselves with the "clean" animals they raised and ate while the "unclean" animals, unfit for eating and unfit for sacrifice, came to symbolize their Gentile neighbors. Animals for sacrifice were designated by the Hebrew term korbanim (pl). All korbanim were primarily representatives of personal self-surrender of the offerer, but the sacrifices placed on the Altar of Burnt Offerings expressed the character of the offerer in a special and exclusive manner. The animal offered in sacrifice possessed the character/essence of the offerer and the vegetable offerings represented the performance of the offerer's vital powers.

Verses 44-47 provide the reason for this entire section of instruction-the Israelites are to be holy as God is holy. To live in holiness they must separate themselves from the profane by remaining ritually pure as a sign of their spiritual holiness in preparation to offer sacrifice and worship to the God of holiness. To accomplish this spiritual state they must be able "to distinguish the clean from the unclean" (Lev 11:47) just as they must distinguish righteousness from sinfulness. These verses are linked to God's declaration in Exodus 19:5-6 that it is Israel's destiny to be a holy nation. In order to be holy the people must emulate God (see Lev 19:2). In theology this doctrine is known as imitation dei, "the imitation of God."

A review of the four classes of "clean" and "unclean" animals:

  1. Land animals:
    1. Clean: animals which ruminate and have cloven hooves were classified as clean and edible. These animals included the ox, sheep, goats, deer, and gazelles/antelopes (all horned animals).
    2. Unclean: Camels, hares, coneys, and pigs.
  2. Sea/fresh water animals:
    1. Clean: fish with fins and scales.
    2. Unclean: shellfish and other sea creatures without fins and scales.
  3. Birds:
    1. Clean: turtle doves and pigeons.
    2. Unclean: nineteen kinds are named in Leviticus and twenty-one kinds are named in Deuteronomy.
  4. Insects
    1. Clean: four species of locusts.
    2. Unclean: all other insects.

God claimed sovereignty over all nations and all peoples of the earth, but Israel enjoyed a special status among those other nations (Lev 20:27). Only Israel is identified as "my people," the "personal possession" of Yahweh who is Israel's God (Ex 3:7; 5:1; 19:5; Lev 11:44; etc.)-in Leviticus 11:44 God emphatically declares: For it is I, Yahweh, who am your God. That the Israelites are Yahweh's people is a declaration that will be made repeatedly-thirty-nine times in Leviticus alone. It is God's holy covenant name, YHWH (Yahweh) that connects God with both the Patriarchs and Moses (Ex 6:2-3). Dr. Robert Vasholz notes that Exodus 6:2-3 should be translated: I am Yahweh. To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai; by my name, Yahweh, I indeed made myself known to them. His argument is that in English translations the particle that is translated as a negative should be translated as an emphatic particle (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 132, note 5). His argument makes sense in the context of Sacred Scripture since in Genesis chapter twelve, where God first called Abraham, the passage in Hebrew uses His covenant name: Yahweh said to Abram, 'Leave your country...' (Gen 12:1). God's covenant name is rendered LORD in many English translations, but the literally Hebrew text has the Tetragrammaton: YHWH. Later, prior to the covenant formation ritual, Abraham addressed God as "Lord Yahweh" in the Hebrew text (Gen 15:2), and Abraham named the site where God provided the substitute sacrifice of a ram for his son Isaac: "Yahweh provides" (Gen 22:14). The covenant name YHWH (usually translated Yahweh by 20th and 21st centaury scholars) is the most frequently used name for God in the Book of Genesis and it is, in fact, the most frequently used name for God in the Old Testament (about 6,800 times).

Israel enjoyed special status in her covenant relationship with God, and Israel's priests were God's anointed representatives, but that did not mean that Israel or her priests were exempt from God's righteous judgment. On the contrary, a higher standard of righteousness is expected from the people who are the possession of a holy God. If Israel and her priests were to be God's witnesses to the pagan peoples of the earth, they must display in their ordinary lives extraordinary holiness in obedience to Yahweh. If there was any intentional breach, whether from a lay person or especially from a priest who was responsible for teaching and setting the example of righteous behavior, that individual must be publically held accountable for his/her actions before the practice of sin made the whole people "unclean" and unfit for service, worship and sacrifice.

The judgment and death of Nadab and Abihu serves as a lesson both for the Old Covenant Church and for the New Covenant people of God (1 Cor 10:6, 11). Intolerance for sinful behavior within the covenant community was a divine command in the Old Covenant Church and continues to be the rule for the Universal Church today. Sinful behavior within the covenant community becomes a tool of Satan to damage the Church's mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the world and to derail God's plan for man's ultimate salvation. When the laypeople or the Church hierarchy dismisses or covers up sin within the covenant community they are undermining God's plan of salvation. Their fear is misplaced-they fear the judgment of the world if the sin is uncovered. Sadly, they lack "fear of God," but like the elder sons of Aaron, whose sinful actions resulted in God's wrathful judgment, they will ultimate face God's judgment for their lack of action in protecting the spotless garments of the Bride of Christ (CCC 1868).

God's covenants are eternal, but that doesn't mean that individuals or a group of individuals cannot be excommunicated for violations against God's holy covenants which are the framework for His plan for salvation. However, excommunication, then as now, is intended to call the rebellious spirit of the sinner to repentance and restoration. God's judgment of death for sinners in the Old Covenant was not eternal separation. Aaron's elder sons still had the opportunity to accept the God's gift of salvation when Jesus Christ descended to the dead in Sheol to preach the Gospel of salvation (1 Pt 3:18-22; 6:32-33). It is a second opportunity not available to those of us in the Final Age of Man, living under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Those of us who have taken the baptismal vow to live imitation dei, "in the image of God" the Son (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49), are, like God's people Israel in the Old Covenant, also responsible for our witness to the other peoples of the earth in carrying out God's plan of salvation for mankind. However, in the New Covenant both the blessings for obedience in faithfully living the Law of love in accepting God's gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and the punishments for rejecting God's gift of salvation and in refusing to extend God's love to one's brothers and sisters in the human family are now choices that have eternal consequences (Mt 25:46; CCC 1023, 1026, 1033-38).

Question for group discussion: For the members of the Sinai Covenant all animals were divided into two categories: "clean" animals fit for eating (and some of which were fit for sacrifice), and "unclean" animals unfit for eating and unfit for sacrifice. The Israelite's restricted diet separated them from the other nations, identifying the Israelites as fit servants of God whose holiness made them fit to worship God as a liturgical people as opposed to the people of the pagan world who were a "non-people," unfit and separated from covenant union with Yahweh. In Acts 10:9-16, St. Peter received a vision of "unclean" animals and a command from heaven to "kill and eat." Why was Peter horrified by the command? What was the meaning of the vision and what impact did Peter's interpretation of the vision have on the New Covenant community? Read Lev 11:1-47; Acts 10:17-48; see Lev 1:3; 19:3; 22:19-27; Is 56:6-7; 1 Pt 2:4-10; Colossians 2:16-17; CCC 1141.

Possible answer: St. Peter was horrified by the command to eat ritually "unclean" animals because such an act would be a violation under the laws of the Sinai Covenant. His shocked response shows that he scrupulously obeyed the laws of ritual purity. Under the Old Covenant sacrificial system the unblemished "clean" animal victim of sacrifice and its ritually "clean" offerer were both acceptable to God. The prophet Isaiah prophesized that in the fullness of time when God's anointed Redeemer came to liberate those enslaved to sin, the sacrifices of the Gentile peoples who came to worship at God's altar would also be "acceptable" to God. Jesus was the unblemished Lamb of sacrifice acceptable to Yahweh and whoever claimed Him as Savior and Lord therefore became acceptable to God and worthy of baptism into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. It was for this reason that St. Peter baptized the Roman Gentile Cornelius and his entire family. For the first time Gentiles were welcomed into the covenant family without first having to convert to the old Sinai Covenant faith (Acts 10:34-35), the difference between Gentiles and Israelites (Jews) having been entirely removed. This change, brought about through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, is what prompted St. Paul to write to the Church at Colossus (a Christian community composed of Jews and Gentiles) apparently referring to the Jewish Christian's criticism of the "unclean" foods the Gentile Christians ate and the Gentile Christian's criticism that Jewish Christians continued to observe Old Covenant feasts: Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of annual festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ (Col 2:16-17).


1. According to the Mishnah and the Temple Scroll (a document discovered among the cash of documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls) the ordination ceremony for new priests occurred once a year in the Second Temple period (Mishnah: Sukkoth 43a; Yadin, Temple Scroll 1.76-79; Milgrom, Leviticus page 561).

2. The observance of these two feasts, falling on the "eighth" day-the day after the seventh day Old Covenant Sabbath, is no longer kept in Rabbinic Judaism where Firstfruits is now observed on the 16th of Nisan (contrary to Scripture) and Pentecost 50 days later-no longer always falling annually on a Sunday. Both Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 13.8.4 [252] and the Book of Jubilees 6:7 record that in the ancient observance these feasts always fell on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath-Sunday, the symbolically significant 8th day. At some point the traditional observances of these feasts was altered, probably because Jesus arose from the dead on the Sunday (the day after the Sabbath) on the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:5-11; Mt 28:1) and God the Holy Spirit came to indwell the Church on the Sunday observance of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Lev 23:15-15; Acts 2:1).

3. See a similar ritual of sacrifice for the consecration of the altar of the prophet Ezekiel's visionary Temple in Ez 43:18-27. Curiously Ezekiel's sacrifices are over a seven day period, but are not the same ordination sacrifices as the those sacrifices described in Lev chapter 8-a he-goat is offered on the second day, but Ezekiel's seven day sacrificial ceremony ends with the eighth day beginning public liturgy like Lev 9. The necessity for an 'asham reparation sacrifice will become apparent in the unfolding events in Lev. 10:16-20.

4. The Hebrew word tamid (meaning "standing" as in perpetual or continual) is used with the definite article "ha" to indicate the daily, morning and evening Tamid sacrifice, olat ha tamid, in Ex. 29:42; Num 28:6, 10, 15, 24, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38. Num. chapter 29 lists the sacrifices of other feasts but includes the command that the other sacrifices on feast days are offered in addition to the Tamid; also see ha-tamid used five times in the Book of Daniel: 8:11, 12, 13; 11:31; 12:11. The Tamid is mentioned as the "morning sacrifice" in Leviticus 9:17; 2 Kng 16:15 and as the "morning and evening sacrifices" in 1 Kgs 18:29, 36; 2 Kgs 16:15; 1 Ch 16:40; 2 Chr 2:4, 14; 13:11; 31:3; Ezr 3:3; Am 4:4; Ez 46:13-15; Dan 9:21 and an indirect reference in Sir 45:14/17.

5. The first lamb was brought out a dawn when the whole eastern horizon was light (Mishnah: Tamid 3:2-3:3) and the second lamb was brought out at high noon-"between the twilights" (Mishnah: Tamid 4:1); see Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 127. Also see 1 Chr 23:13; 2 Chr 2:4/4; 13:10-11; 26:16-18; Rev 4:8.

6. Please note that in the tragedy of Aaron's sons the literal Hebrew text refers to the kinship relation between Aaron's sons and Aaron's cousins as "brothers" just as the relationship between Aaron's sons and the community of Israel is expressed in the same word: "brothers." This expression of kinship relationships as "brothers" or "sisters" is also seen in the New Testament where Jesus' kinsmen are referred to as His "brothers" (Mt 12:46; 13:55) and the crowd of Jews, moved by St. Peter's Pentecost homily, calls the Apostles "brothers" (Acts 2:37). Also see Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; Lev 10:4; 1 Chr 23:22; Mt 23:8; Jn 20:17; Acts 1:14-16; 21:17, 20; 21:1; etc. for examples where the word "brothers" is used in the Hebrew and Greek texts of Sacred Scripture. In fact the Greek word adelphos, which means "brother from the womb," is the only word for "brothers" used in the New Testament Greek text, referring to literal "brothers" and kinsmen.

7. See Wis 1:12-15; 2:23-24; Rom 5:12; 6:23; CCC 413 and 1008.

8. In the period of the desert Sanctuary the sacred meals were eaten in the courtyard (Lev 6:9/16; 19/26), but when the Temple in Jerusalem was completed the meals were eaten in the northern and southern chambers to the sides of the Temple's inner court (Ez 42:13).

9. Vasholz suggests the English names for the birds are guesswork. Chickens are not mentioned because was a fowl first domesticated in Egypt and did not appear in Israel until King Solomon's day when he imported domestic chickens. It was permissible to eat the eggs of unclean birds (Vasholz, page 131).

M. Hunt copyright Good Friday 2010

Catechism references for this lesson:

Lev 9



413, 1008, 633, 1023, 1026, 1033-38


696, 718

Lev 11

1472-73, 2520, 2525-27

Michal Hunt, Copyright 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.