Forgiveness Without Sacrifice – Part 03

Forgiveness Without Sacrifice – Part 03

Lamb of God

Lamb of God

As a follow-up to our discussion on Numbers 16:41-50, we looked at Norman K. Gottwald’s book, “The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction.” His contention is that from the way a Biblical passage is written it can be dated and placed in a reference source. He also believes that the Torah is a compilation of various writers and not all the writings of Moses.

That may be true, but we personally don’t fully agree with his contentions, for one could also get the same results through a series of editing, particularly if a “school” was reconstructing the sacred literature after the destruction of the temple, which the priest in the time of Ezra did (circa 400 BCE).

The curious thing to me is that Gottwald ascribes this Numbers 16:35-50 passage entirely to the Priestly (P) writers as he does all the animal sacrifice passages at the beginning of Leviticus, 1:1-7:38. This further compounds the problem of understanding how in similar cases, atonement could be achieved by either the shedding of blood or by incense, and of understanding why the incense was not continued without the shedding of blood.

Could the problem be that the human animal is so innately evil, that he has to justify his “superiority” by killing a “lesser” animal, and then try to transfer his own guilt upon the innocent animal’s soul, as a way of trying to appease God?

And, could it be that God only accepted such an offering because He smelled the true repentance rising up in the smoke?

Note what we are told in Genesis 8:15-21, and particularly verse 21.

15. Then God spoke to Noah, saying,

16. “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.

17. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

18. So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.

19. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.

20. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

God never asked for any sacrifice, in fact, He told Noah exactly the opposite. He told him to bring out all the animals so that they could multiply. Noah had brought the evil of the pre-flood along with him.

This might help explain the reason for God’s concession to eat flesh in Genesis 9:1-4, if Noah and his family also desired to eat the flesh of the sacrificed clean animals. This would also explain the comments in Isaiah 1, and the reason he and God refer to those who sacrifice in an unrepentant manner as “murderers” (v. 21).

Go on to Forgiveness Without Sacrifice – Part 04

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2 Responses to Forgiveness Without Sacrifice – Part 03

  1. avatar
    Daniel Salomon February 3, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    My mother sent me a quote from Father Henri Nouwen which shows why the fashionable metaphor of “sacrofice” is ultimately life-denying and provides a Christian alternative to atonoment which is based in sound Christian doctrine and is pastorally and psychologically tenable. Nouwen provides a metaphor for redemption which we as animal rights activists can all relate too.

    “We need silence in our lives. We even desire it. But when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing “noises” present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger or many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face.”

    “What are we to do? Jesus says, “Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). Sacrifice here means “offering up,” “cutting out,” “burning away,” or “killing.” We shouldn’t do that with our lust and anger. It simply won’t work. But we can be merciful toward our own noisy selves and turn these enemies into friends.”

    In other words, God wants mercy not sacrofice. In an animal rights context, this means that “right relationships” with animals means neither using animals or ourselves as a “means to an end” but being non-judgemental and accepting of the God-created natures of All Creatures, including ourselves. It means letting animals be their God-created selves like Jesus did when He was in the wilderness with wild animals. Letting God’s animals be the creatures God created them to be, letting go of our need to control, dominate, use, munipulate, manage, domesticate or scapegoat them and letting go of our need to repress our own animality which connects our human natures to the other animal natures.

    Then redemption begins to make more sense. Redemption is God no-longer being judgemental of our sinful nature and having mercy on our own humanity and animality, giving us the love, grace, healing, safety and social justice we need and deserve. Redemption means God letting go of rightous His anger and empathizing with our human and nonhuman predictiments. Redemption is nothing less than a display of God’s uncondtional love for All Creation.

    Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ©1997 HarperSanFrancisco. All Scripture from The Jerusalem Bible ©1966, 1967, and 1968 Darton, Longman & Todd and Doubleday & Co. Inc. Photo by V. Dobson.

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