Leviticus

Leviticus is in the middle of the five books making up “the Law,” the heart of the Old Testament. It gets its name from the fact that it focuses especially in the ministry of the Levite priests, and the core of the book is the law of holiness. This tells us what God demands of the people who are privileged to belong to him, both in terms of their worship and of their daily lives.

This is enough for us to situate the book. We will better understand these laws and liturgical regulations, which are characteristic of ancient times, if we are willing to remember that holiness—in the biblical sense, is just as real for us now. Holiness is one of the keys to knowing God and it helps us to understand our special vocation as a holy people. We can never overstate the fact that God embraces all of creation in his love, that God is present in it and in the lives of peoples, that God is very close to us “in secret” (Mt 6:6). Neither should we forget that God is “holy,” that is to say, totally distinct from creation and that his mysterious personality is incredibly beyond anything we can imagine. If God has called us to believe in his Only Son, our mission cannot be confused with any of the paths of wisdom that humankind has ever known: God has chosen us for his own “amazing and mysterious” work. Today though we are no longer bound by the countless liturgical or sociological precepts of the Law, these pages tell us again that we have been set apart in order to serve as leaven.

The spirit of the Law never changed after the revelation made to Moses, and became its foundation. However, many developments and adaptations did take place. The “Mosaic books,” as they are called, reach us in the state in which they were fixed by the Jewish priests of the fifth century before Jesus, at the time of the return from the Exile.

Previously, the influence of the prophets made itself felt. They were asking for a more dynamic faith, an awareness of the demands of justice inscribed in the Covenant and a struggle against alienating foreign influences. They were also speaking about preparing the future. But after the Babylonian captivity, Israel’s need to affirm its identity in order to face up to the trials of the nation, brought about a conservative trend that would become increasingly stronger in the course of time. Thus, many Jews went back to a religious conservatism made of rituals and traditions that Jesus would severely condemn (Mt 23).

These laws form part of the Scriptures and therefore they are the word of God. But they are words of God addressed to a people who had not yet received Christ. If we receive these words, it does not mean we should put them into practice just as they are since we have passed the first stage of human and religious formation of the Old Testament. In his letters, Paul attacks those who did not want to go beyond the customs and feasts of the Jews (Col 2:16), as well as those who primarily saw God’s word as laws to be observed (Gal 3:1-7). On the other hand, Jesus invites us not to lose anything of the spirit that inspired these laws (Mt 5:17-19).

Burnt offering

1

•1Yahweh called Moses, and from the Tent of Meeting addressed him, saying,

2“Speak to the people of Israel; say to them: When anyone brings an offering of an animal to Yahweh it can be from either his cattle or sheep and goats.

3If the offering is a burnt offering of one of his cattle, he is to offer a bull without any defect. He shall offer it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, so that his offering may be accepted before Yahweh. 4He is to lay his hand on the bull’s head, and it shall be accepted as a sacrifice to take away his sins. 5Then he shall kill the bull before Yahweh, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall offer the blood. They will pour it out on the sides of the altar which stands at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 6Then he shall skin the victim and quarter it. 7The sons of Aaron, the priests, must put fire on the altar and arrange wood on this fire. 8Then the sons of Aaron, the priests, are to put the pieces, the head and the fat on the wood on the altar fire. 9The man shall wash the internal organs and legs in water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. This will be a burnt offering and its sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh.

10If his offering is an animal out of the flock, a lamb or a goat offered as a burnt offering, he is to offer a male without any defect. 11He shall kill it on the north side of the altar before Yahweh, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall pour out the blood on the sides of the altar. 12Then he is to quarter it, and the priest is to arrange the quarters, as well as the head and the fat on the wood on the altar fire. 13The man shall wash the internal organs and legs in water, and the priest shall burn all of it on the altar. This will be a burnt offering and its sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh.

14If the man is offering a bird as a burnt offering, he is to offer a turtledove or a young pigeon. 15The priest shall offer it at the altar and wring off its head, which he is to burn on the altar; then its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar. 16Then he shall remove the crop and the feathers: these he is to throw on the eastern side of the altar, where the ashes from the fat are placed. 17He is to divide it in two halves with a wing on each side, but without separating the two parts. Then the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. This will be a burnt offering and its sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh.

The grain offering

2

1If anyone offers Yahweh a grain offering, his offering is to be fine flour on which he is to pour oil and put incense. 2He shall bring it to the sons of Aaron, the priests; he is to take a handful of the fine flour and oil and all the incense, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as a memorial, a burnt offering whose sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh. 3The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; this is a most holy share for it comes from the burnt offerings of Yahweh.

4When you are going to offer a grain offering of bread baked in the oven, the fine flour is to be prepared either in the form of unleavened cakes mixed with oil, or in the form of unleavened wafers spread with oil.

5If your offering is a grain offering fried on the griddle, the fine flour mixed with oil is to have no leavening. 6You must break it in pieces and pour oil over it. It is a grain offering. 7If your offering is a grain offering cooked in the pan, the fine flour is to be prepared in oil. 8You must bring to Yahweh the grain offering that has been thus prepared, presenting it to the priest, who is to bring it to the altar. 9The priest shall take part of this offering and burn it on the altar to recall before Yahweh the person who is offering it. And it will be an offering whose sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh. 10The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; this is a most holy share of Yahweh’s burnt offering.

11None of the grain offering that you offer to Yahweh is to be prepared with yeast for you must never burn yeast or honey as a burnt offering for Yahweh. 12You may offer them up to Yahweh, as an offering of first fruits, but they must not go up as a sweet-smelling odor to please Yahweh. 13You must salt every grain offering that you offer, and you must never fail to put on your grain offering the salt of the Covenant with your God: to every offering you are to join an offering of salt to Yahweh your God. 14If you offer Yahweh a grain offering of first fruits, it may be from either roasted corn or bread made from ground corn. 15You are to add oil to it and put incense on it; it is a grain offering 16and the priest is to burn part of the bread and oil (together with all the incense) as a burnt offering for Yahweh.

The peace offering

3

1If anyone offers a peace sacrifice, offering from his cattle, male or female, whatever he offers before Yahweh must be without any defect. 2He is to lay his hand on the victim’s head and kill it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Then the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall pour out the blood on the sides of the altar. 3Then he is to offer the following as a burnt offering for Yahweh: the fat that covers the internal organs, all the fat that is on the internal organs, 4the two kidneys, the fat on them and on the loins, the best part which he is to remove from the liver and kidneys. 5The sons of Aaron shall burn all this on the altar along with the burnt offering, on the wood on the fire. It will be a burnt offering and its sweet-smelling odor will please Yahweh.

6If he offers a sheep or goat as a peace offering for Yahweh, he is to offer a male or female without any defect. 7If he offers a sheep, he is to offer it before Yahweh; 8he is to lay his hand on the sheep’s head and kill it in front of the Tent of Meeting; then the sons of Aaron shall pour out its blood on the sides of the altar. 9Of the peace offering he is to offer the following as a burnt offering for Yahweh: the fat, all the tail taken off near the backbone, the fat that covers the internal organs, all the fat that is on the internal organs, 10the two kidneys, the fat that is on them and on the loins, the best part which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 11The priest shall burn this part on the altar as food, as a burnt offering for Yahweh.

12If his offering is a goat, he is to offer it before Yahweh: 13he is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and kill it in front of the Tent of Meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall pour out its blood on the sides of the altar. 14Then he is to offer the following as a burnt offering for Yahweh: the fat that covers the internal organs, all the fat that is on the internal organs, 15the two kidneys, the fat that is on them and on the loins, the best part which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 16The priest shall burn these pieces on the altar as food, as a burnt offering for Yahweh.

17All the fat belongs to Yahweh. This is a law forever for all your descendants, wherever they may live: never eat either fat or blood.”

Offering for an unintentional sin

4

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 2“Speak to the people of Israel and say: Anyone may sin without intending to do so against any of the commandments of Yahweh and do one of the forbidden things; in such a case:

3If the one who sins is the anointed priest, his sin defiles the people. Then, for the sin which he has committed, he is to offer to Yahweh a young bull, an animal from the herd without any defect, as a sacrifice for sin. 4He is to bring the bull before Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and lay his hand on its head and kill it before Yahweh. 5Then the anointed priest shall take a little of the blood of the bull and take it into the Tent of Meeting. 6He shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it over the veil of the Sanctuary seven times, before Yahweh. 7Then the priest shall put a little of the blood of the bull on the corners of the altar of incense that sends up smoke before Yahweh in the Tent of Meeting and he is to pour all the rest of the bull’s blood at the foot of the altar for burnt offerings that is at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

8From this bull offered as a sacrifice for sin, the priest will remove all the fat: the fat that covers the internal organs, all the fat that is on the internal organs, 9the two kidneys, the fat that is on them and on the loins, the best part which he will remove from the liver and kidneys, 10exactly as was done with what was set apart in the peace offering, and the priest shall burn these on the altar for burnt offerings.

11The bull’s skin, all its flesh, its head, legs, internal organs and intestines, 12the whole of the bull, must be carried outside the camp to a place that is clean, the place where the ashes from the fat are thrown away, and the bull must be burnt there.

13If the whole community of Israel has sinned without intending to do so, and, without being aware of it, has done something that is forbidden by the commandments of Yahweh, 14the community is to offer a young bull as sacrifice for sin, an animal of the herd without any defect, as soon as the sin of which they have been guilty is discovered. The animal must be brought before the Tent of Meeting; 15the elders of the community shall lay their hands on the bull’s head before Yahweh, and it must be killed before Yahweh.

16Then the anointed priest is to carry a little of the blood of the bull into the Tent of Meeting. 17He is to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it on the veil before Yahweh seven times. 18Then he shall put a little of the blood on the corners of the altar that stands before Yahweh inside the Tent of Meeting, and pour out all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar for burnt offerings at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

19Then the priest shall remove all the fat from the animal and burn it on the altar. 20He shall do the same thing with this bull as he did with the bull for the sacrifice of sin. When the priest has performed the sacrifice for the people’s sin, they will be forgiven. 21The priest must have the bull taken out of the camp and burn it as he burned the first one. This is the sacrifice for the sin of the community.

22When a leader sins and without intending to do so does one of the things forbidden by the commandments of Yahweh his God, thus becoming guilty, 23and after that he recalls it, or anyone calls his attention to the sin thus committed, he is to bring a goat as an offering, a male without any defect. 24He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and kill it in the place where the animals for the burnt offerings are killed. This is a sacrifice for sin: 25the priest shall take a little of the goat’s blood on his finger and put it on the corners of the altar for burnt offerings. Then he shall pour out its blood at the foot of the altar for burnt offering 26and burn all the fat on the altar, as with the fat in the peace offering. This is how the priest is to offer the sacrifice for the sin of this leader to free him from his sin, and he will be forgiven.

27If one of the people sins without intending to do so and makes himself guilty by doing something forbidden by the commandments of Yahweh, 28and after that he recalls it or anyone calls his attention to the sin he has committed, he is to bring a goat as an offering, a female without any defect. 29He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and kill it in the place where the animals for the burnt offerings are killed. 30The priest shall take a little of the goat’s blood on his finger and put it on the corners of the altar for burnt offerings. Then he shall pour out all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. 31He shall remove all the fat, as the fat was removed for the peace offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as a sweet-smelling sacrifice pleasing to Yahweh. This is how the priest is to offer the sacrifice for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.

32If anyone wishes to bring a lamb as an offering for this kind of sacrifice, he is to bring a female without any defect. 33He is to lay his hand on the lamb’s head and kill it as a sacrifice for sin in the place where the animals for the burnt offerings are killed. 34The priest shall take a little of the blood of this sacrifice on his finger and put it on the corners of the altar for burnt offerings. Then he shall pour out all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. 35He shall remove its fat as was done for the sheep in the peace offering, and the priest shall burn it all on the altar, in addition to the burnt offering for Yahweh. This is how the priest is to offer the sacrifice for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.

Some cases requiring sacrifice for sin

5

1Sacrifice for sin is required in the following cases:

A man should have come forward to give evidence in court when officially summoned; but he did not speak and give information about something he had seen or heard; and so he is guilty.

2Or else he accidentally touches something unclean, whatever it may be—the dead body of an unclean animal, wild or tame; or the dead body of one of the unclean beings that swarm—and so without realizing it, he becomes unclean, and guilty.

3Or else he accidentally touches some human uncleanness, whatever it may be, and contact with it makes him unclean; so he becomes guilty as soon as he realizes what he has done.

4Or else a man makes a careless vow to do either evil or good in any of those matters on which a man may swear unthinkingly; he does not notice it, then, but when he realizes it later, he becomes guilty.

5He who is guilty in any of these cases, shall confess the sin committed, 6and bring to Yahweh as a sacrifice for the sin committed a female of the flock (sheep or goat); and the priest shall offer the sacrifice for the man’s sin to free him from his sin.

7If a man cannot afford a sheep or a goat, he shall offer to Yahweh, as payment for the sin he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sacrifice for sin and the other for a burnt offering. 8He will bring them to the priest who is to offer first the one intended for the sacrifice for sin. The priest shall wring its neck, without removing the head. 9He shall sprinkle the side of the altar with the victim’s blood, and then drain out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. This is a sacrifice for sin. 10Of the other bird he is to make a burnt offering according to the regulations. When the priest offers the sacrifice for the man’s sin, he will be forgiven.

11If this man cannot afford two turtledoves or two young pigeons, he is to bring two pounds of flour as an offering for the sin committed; but he shall not mix oil with it or put incense on it, for it is a sacrifice for sin. 12He is to bring it to the priest, who is to take a handful of it to be put on the burnt offering for Yahweh in order to recall this man to Yahweh. This is a sacrifice for sin. 13This is how the priest is to offer the sacrifice for the sin the man committed in any of these cases, and he will be forgiven. In this case, as in the case of a grain offering, the rest of the flour belongs to the priest.”

14Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

15“If anyone is guilty of unintentionally cheating by failing to hand over the payments that are sacred to Yahweh, he is to bring to Yahweh as a sacrifice of payment a ram with no defects. This ram is to be valued according to the official standard. This is a sacrifice of repayment. 16He must make the payments he has failed to hand over, pay an extra fifth as well, and give it to the priest. The priest shall offer the ram as a sacrifice for the man’s sin and he will be forgiven.

17If anyone sins and does one of the things forbidden by the commandments of Yahweh without realizing it, he is guilty and must pay the penalty for his fault. 18As a sacrifice of repayment he is to bring to the priest a ram without any defect. Its value will be according to the official standard. The priest shall offer the sacrifice for the sin he has committed without realizing it and he will be forgiven. 19This is a sacrifice of repayment for the man was guilty in the eyes of Yahweh.”

Sacrifices for evildoing

20Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

21“This refers to the man who sins against Yahweh by not returning to his neighbor a deposit or a security, or withholding something due to him or cheating him; 22and also to the one who finds lost property and swears he has not found it; and also to the man who swears falsely in one of the cases in which people usually swear. 23In all these cases the man who sins and becomes guilty is to give back what he has taken or demanded that does not belong to him: the deposit entrusted to him, the lost property that he found, 24or any object about which he has sworn untruthfully. He must repay the owner in full and give an extra fifth as well on the day when he is found guilty. 25Then he is to bring a ram without any defect to Yahweh as a sacrifice of repayment. 26The priest shall offer the sacrifice for the man’s sin and he will be forgiven, whatever the act of which he became guilty.”

Priesthood and sacrifice

6

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 2“Give these regulations to Aaron and his sons. This is the regulation for burnt offerings: the burnt offering shall stay on the altar all night until morning and the fire is to be kept burning.

3The priest is to put on his linen shirt and his linen drawers. Then he must remove the greasy ashes of the sacrifice consumed by the altar fire and place them at the side of the altar. 4Then he is to change his clothes and carry the ashes to some place that is clean, outside the camp.

5The fire that consumes the burnt offering on the altar must not be allowed to go out. Every morning the priest must put firewood on it, arrange the burnt offering on it and burn the fat from the peace offerings. 6An undying fire is always to burn on the altar; it must not go out.

7This is the regulation for the grain offering: One of the priests, a son of Aaron, is to bring it into the presence of Yahweh in front of the altar; 8he is to take a handful of the fine flour (with the oil and incense which have been added to it) and burn it on the altar as a memorial, to recall to Yahweh the person making the offering so that it becomes a sweet-smelling odor pleasing to Yahweh. 9After that, the remainder is to be given to Aaron and his sons; they shall eat it in the form of unleavened loaves. They are to eat it in a sacred place within the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. 10The share I give them of my burnt offering must not be baked with yeast. It is most holy, like the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice of repayment. 11All the males of Aaron’s family may eat this part of Yahweh’s burnt offering—this is a law forever for all your descendants. Everything that touches the offering becomes consecrated as well.”

12Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

13“This is the offering that Aaron and his sons are to make to Yahweh on the day of their anointing as priests: two pounds of flour as a daily offering, half in the morning and half in the evening. 14It must be fried on the griddle and mixed with oil; you must bring the paste as a grain offering in several pieces, offering them as a sweet-smelling odor pleasing to Yahweh. 15Every descendant of Aaron who succeeds him as high priest shall do the same. This is a law forever. This grain offering shall be completely burned as a sacrifice for Yahweh. 16Every grain offering made by a priest must be a total sacrifice; none of it is to be eaten.”

17Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said, 18“Say to Aaron and his sons: This is the regulation for the sacrifice for sin:

The victim for the sacrifice is to be killed before Yahweh in the place where the animals for the burnt offerings are killed. It is a most holy offering. 19The priest who offers this sacrifice is to eat it. It must be eaten in a holy place within the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. 20Everything that touches the flesh of this animal will become consecrated; if any of the blood splashes on clothing, the stain must be cleaned in some holy place. 21The clay pot in which the meat is cooked must be broken; if a bronze pot has been used for the cooking, it must be scrubbed and thoroughly rinsed with water. 22Any male who is a priest may eat the meat. It is a most holy thing. 23But no one may eat any part of the animals offered for sin, whenever any of the blood is brought into the Tent and used in the sacrifice to take away sin. The meat must be thrown on the fire.

The sacrifice of repayment

7

1This is the regulation for the sacrifice of repayment:

2It is a most holy offering. The animal for this offering is to be killed in the place where the animals for the burnt offerings are killed, and the priest must pour out the blood on the sides of the altar. 3Then he is to offer all the fat: the tail, the fat that covers the internal organs, 4the two kidneys, the fat that is on them and on the loins, and the best part which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 5The priest must burn these pieces on the altar as a burnt offering for Yahweh. This is a sacrifice of repayment. 6Any male who is a priest may eat it, but it must be eaten in a holy place because it is a most holy thing.

7As with the sacrifice for sin, so with the sacrifice of repayment; the regulation is the same for both. The offering which he has used in the sacrifice for sin belongs to the priest. 8The skin of the animal presented by a man to the priest to be offered as a burnt offering belongs to the priest. 9Every grain offering baked in the oven, every grain offering fried in the pan or on the griddle shall belong to the priest who offered it. 10Every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, is to belong to all the sons of Aaron equally.

The peace offering

11This is the regulation for the peace offering presented to Yahweh:

12If it is offered as a thanksgiving offering, there must be added to it an offering of unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and fine flour in the form of cakes mixed with oil. 13This offering, then, must be added to the loaves of leavened bread and to the thanksgiving offering. 14One of the cakes of this offering is to be presented as an offering to Yahweh; it shall belong to the priest who pours out the blood of the peace offering. 15The flesh of the animal must be eaten on the day when the offering is made; nothing must remain until the next morning.

16If the animal is presented before Yahweh as a sacrifice freely offered, it is to be eaten on the day it is offered and also on the following day; 17but on the third day whatever remains of the animal’s flesh must be thrown on the fire. 18If the meat offered as a peace offering is eaten on the third day, the man who has offered it shall not be accepted nor receive credit for it, for it is defiled meat, and the man who eats it should suffer the penalty of his fault.

19If this meat has touched anything unclean, it cannot be eaten; and must be thrown on the fire.

20Anyone who is clean may eat meat of the peace offering, but whoever eats the meat of a peace offering presented to Yahweh even though he is unclean shall be cut off from his people. 21If anyone touches anything unclean, whether human or animal, or any crawling creature, and then eats the meat of a peace offering presented to Yahweh, this man shall be cut off from his people.

22Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said, 23“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them:

You must not eat the fat of ox, sheep or goat. 24The fat of an animal that has died a natural death or been killed by a wild animal may be used for any other purpose, but you must not eat it. 25Anyone who eats the fat of an animal offered as a burnt offering to Yahweh shall be cut off from his people.

26Wherever you live, you must not eat blood, whether it be of bird or animal. 27Anyone who eats blood, whoever he may be, shall be cut off from his people.”

The priests’ share

28Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said, 29“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them:

Anyone who offers a peace offering to Yahweh is to bring himself the part of his sacrifice that is offered to Yahweh. 30He is to bring Yahweh’s burnt offering, that is, the fat that is near the breast and also the breast, with his own hands. Then he will make the gesture of offering before Yahweh. 31The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, and the breast shall belong to Aaron and his sons. 32You must set aside and give to the priest the right hind leg from your peace offering. 33The right hind leg shall be the share of the son of Aaron who offers the blood and fat of the peace offering. 34Thus, I keep back this breast and hind leg out of every peace offering presented by the sons of Israel, and give these to Aaron the priest and to his sons: this is a law for the sons of Israel forever.”

35This is the share of Aaron and his sons in Yahweh’s burnt offerings since the day he called them to be his priests. 36This is what Yahweh commands the sons of Israel to give them from the day they are ordained as priests: this is a law for all their descendants for all time to come.

37Such is the regulation for burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices for sin, sacrifices of repayment, ordination and peace offerings. 38This is what Yahweh commanded Moses on Mount Sinai when he told the people of Israel to make their offerings to Yahweh in the wilderness of Sinai.

Ordination ceremonies

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•1Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 2“Take Aaron, his sons with him, and the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull for the sacrifice for sin, the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3Then call the whole community together at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.”

4Moses did as Yahweh commanded; the community gathered at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, 5and Moses said to them, “This is what Yahweh has commanded.”

6He made Aaron and his sons come forward, and washed them with water. 7He put the shirt on Aaron, passed the sash around his waist, dressed him in the robe and put the Ephod on him. Then he tied around his waist the woven band of the Ephod with which he clothed him. 8He put the embroidered linen breastpiece on him, and placed the Urim and Thummim in it. 9He put the turban on his head, with the golden ornament on the front; this is the sacred sign of dedication as Yahweh commanded Moses to do.

10Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the Holy Tent and everything in it, to consecrate them. 11He sprinkled the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and its furnishings, the basin and its stand, to dedicate them all to Yahweh. 12Then he ordained Aaron by pouring the anointing oil on his head.

13Then Moses made Aaron’s sons come forward; he put the shirts on them, tied the sashes around their waists and put on their headdresses, as Yahweh had commanded him to do.

14Then he had the bull for the sacrifice for sin brought forward. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the bull’s head 15and Moses slaughtered it. Then he took the blood and with his finger put some of it on the corners around the altar, to take away its sin. Then he poured out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar, which he dedicated to Yahweh by performing the atonement over it. 16Then he took all the fat that covers the internal organs, the best part of the liver, the two kidneys and their fat; and he burned them all on the altar. 17After that he burned outside the camp the bull’s skin, its flesh and its intestines as Yahweh had commanded him to do.

18Then he had the ram for the burnt offering brought forward. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head 19and Moses slaughtered it. He poured its blood out on the sides of the altar. 20Then he quartered the ram and burned the head, the pieces and the fat. 21He washed the internal organs and legs, and burned the whole ram on the altar. This was a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling offering to Yahweh, a burnt offering by fire for Yahweh, as Yahweh had commanded Moses.

22Then he had the other ram brought forward, for the sacrifice of ordination of priests. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head 23and Moses slaughtered it. He took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot. 24Then he made the sons of Aaron come forward and he put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, the thumbs of their right hands and the big toes of their right feet. Next Moses poured the rest of the blood on the sides of the altar. 25Then he took the fat: the tail, all the fat that is on the internal organs, the best part of the liver, the two kidneys and their fat, and the right hind leg. 26From the basket of unleavened bread placed before Yahweh, he took an unleavened cake, a loaf of bread made with oil, and a wafer; he placed these on the fat and the right hind leg, 27put it all into Aaron’s hands and those of his sons, who waved them before Yahweh. 28Then Moses took them back and burned them on the altar in addition to the burnt offering. This was the sacrifice for ordination of priests, a sweet-smelling offering to Yahweh, an offering by fire to Yahweh. 29Then Moses took the breast and made the gesture of offering before Yahweh. This was the share of the ram of ordination for Moses, as Yahweh had commanded.

30Then Moses took the anointing oil and the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled Aaron and his vestments with it, and his sons and their vestments. In this way he consecrated Aaron and his vestments, and his sons and their vestments to Yahweh.

31Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Cook the meat at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and eat it there, and also the bread for the sacrifice of priestly ordination that is in the basket, as I commanded, when I said: Aaron and his sons are to eat it. 32What remains of the meat and bread you will burn. 33For seven days you must not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, until the time of your ordination is over, for your hands will be consecrated for seven days. 34All that we have done today is the rite of atonement for you as Yahweh has commanded us to do 35and for seven days, day and night, you must remain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, doing what Yahweh has commanded, lest you die. For this is the commandment I received.” 36And Aaron and his sons did everything that Yahweh had commanded through Moses.

The priests offer sacrifices

9

1On the eighth day Moses called 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 any defect, and bring them before Yahweh. 3Then say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a goat to be offered as a sacrifice for sin, and as burnt offering a calf and a lamb both one year old and without any defect, 4and for peace offering an ox and a ram to be slaughtered before Yahweh; and finally a grain offering mixed with oil. For Yahweh will appear to you today.’”

5They brought what Moses had commanded in front of the Tent of Meeting; then the whole community gathered and stood before Yahweh. 6Moses said, “This is what Yahweh has commanded to be done, so that his glory may appear to you.” 7Moses then said to Aaron, “Go to the altar and offer your sacrifice for sin and your burnt offering to take away your sins. Then present the people’s offering to take away their sins as Yahweh has commanded.”

8Aaron went to the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sacrifice for his own sin. 9Then the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him; he dipped his finger in it and put some on the corners of the altar, and then poured out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. 10The fat of the sacrifice for sin and the kidneys and the best part of the liver, he burned on the altar, as Yahweh had commanded Moses; 11the flesh and the skin he burned outside the camp.

12Next Aaron slaughtered the animal which was for his own burnt offering; his sons handed him the blood and he poured it on the sides of the altar. 13Then they handed him the quartered animal and its head too, and he burned these on the altar. 14He washed the internal organs and legs and burned them on the altar in addition to the burnt offering.

15He then presented the people’s offering. He took the goat for the people’s sacrifice for sin, killed it and offered it as a sacrifice for sin in the same way as the first. 16Then he had the animal for the burnt offering brought forward and offered it according to the regulations. 17Next he had the grain offering brought forward, took a handful of it and burned it on the altar in addition to the morning burnt offering.

18Finally, he slaughtered the ox and the ram as a peace offering for the people. Aaron’s sons handed him the blood and he poured it out on the sides of the altar. 19The fat of the ox and of the ram—the tail, the fatty covering, the kidneys, the best part of the liver—20all of this he laid on the breasts and burned it all on the altar. 21With the breasts and the right hind leg Aaron made the gesture of offering by waving them as Yahweh had commanded.

22Then Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them. Having thus performed the sacrifice for sin, the burnt offering and the peace offering, 23he came down and entered the Tent of Meeting with Moses. Then they came out together to bless the people and the Glory of Yahweh appeared to the whole people—24a flame leaped forth from before Yahweh and consumed the burnt offering and the fat that was on the altar. At this sight the people shouted for joy and fell on their faces.

The story of Nadab and Abihu

10

•1Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, each took his censer, put fire in it and incense on the fire, and presented unlawful fire before Yahweh, fire which he had not commanded them to present. 2Then from Yahweh’s presence a flame leaped out and burned them to death in the presence of Yahweh. 3And Moses said to Aaron, “That is what Yahweh meant when he said:

‘I will show my holiness through those who approach me, and before all the people I will show my glory.’”

And Aaron had to remain silent.

4Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come and take the corpses of your brothers far away from the Sanctuary, out of the camp.” 5They came and carried them away, still in their shirts, out of the camp as Moses had commanded.

6Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not leave your hair uncombed nor tear your clothes to show that you are mourning; lest you die and the punishment extend to the whole community. All the people of Israel shall mourn the death of your brothers, who died because of Yahweh’s fire. 7But you shall not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, lest you die; for the anointing oil of Yahweh is on you.” And they obeyed Moses.

8Yahweh spoke to Aaron; he said:

9“Before coming to the Tent of Meeting, you and your sons with you, do not drink wine or strong drink; lest you die. This is a law for all your descendants for all time to come, 10so that you may be able to recognize the difference between what belongs to God and what is for general use, between what is clean and what is unclean. 11For you must teach the people of Israel all the laws that Yahweh has given for them through Moses.”

12Moses said to Aaron and his two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from Yahweh’s burnt offering, and eat it without leaven beside the altar, because it is a most holy thing. 13Eat it in a holy place for it is the share of Yahweh’s burnt offering which belongs to you and your sons. This is what Yahweh commanded me.

14The breast that was offered up and the hind leg that was set aside you will eat in some place that is clean, you and your sons and your daughters with you; this is the share of the peace offerings of the people of Israel that belongs to you and your sons. 15The hind leg that was set aside and the breast that was offered up, when the fat was burned, belong to you, to you and your sons with you, after they have been presented before Yahweh by the gesture of offering, because Yahweh has commanded this forever.”

16Then Moses inquired about the goat offered as a sacrifice for sin, and found that they had burned it. He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s two remaining sons. 17“Why,” he asked, “did you not eat this goat in the holy place? For it is a most holy thing given to you to bear and take away the fault of the community. 18Since its blood was not taken inside the Sanctuary, you should have eaten its flesh there, as I commanded you.” 19Aaron said to Moses, “They have offered their sacrifice for sin and their burnt offering before Yahweh on this day of mourning. If I had eaten the goat offered in sacrifice for sin today, would that have seemed good to Yahweh?” 20And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

Clean and unclean animals

11

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron and said to them, 2“Speak to the people of Israel and say:

‘Of all the animals on the earth these are the animals you may eat. 3You may eat any animal that has divided hoofs, divided into two parts, and that also chews the cud. 4You may not eat: the camel, because though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; 5the rabbit, because though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; 6the hare, as well; 7the pig, because though it has divided hoofs, it does not chew the cud. 8You must not eat the meat of such animals nor their dead bodies; they are unclean for you.

9Of all that lives in water you may eat anything that has fins and scales, and lives in sea or river. 10But anything living in sea or river that does not have both fins and scales must not be eaten. 11They are unclean for you; you shall not eat their flesh nor even touch their dead bodies. 12Anything that lives in water, but does not have fins and scales, is unclean for you.

13Among the birds, here are those you must consider unclean and not eat:

14the vulture, the eagle, the osprey, the hawk, the several kinds of buzzards, 15all kinds of ravens, 16the ostrich, the screech owl, the seagull, 17the horned owl, the night owl, the seabird, the barn owl, 18the ibis, the pelican, the white vulture, 19the stork, the several kinds of heron, and the bat.

20All winged insects that move on four feet shall be unclean for you. 21Of all the winged insects you may eat only the following: those that have legs above their feet so that they can leap over the ground. 22These are the ones you may eat: the several kinds of locusts, crickets and grasshoppers. 23But all other winged insects that have four legs you are to consider unclean. 24Anyone who touches 25or picks up the dead bodies of one of these animals will be unclean until evening. 26The same with animals that have hoofs, unless their hoofs are divided and they chew the cud; 27and also four-footed animals which walk on the flat of their feet. 28Anyone who picks up their dead bodies must wash his clothing and will be unclean until evening.

29These are the small animals crawling on the ground that shall be unclean for you: rats, mice and several kinds of lizards: 30the gecko, the chameleon, the agama, the skink and the mole. 31Anyone who touches them when they are dead will be unclean until evening.

32Anything on which the dead body of any of these creatures falls becomes unclean: wooden utensil, clothing, skin, sackcloth—any utensil at all. It must be dipped in water and will remain unclean until evening: then it will be clean. 33If the creature falls into a clay pot, the pot must be broken; whatever the pot contains is unclean. 34Any food on which water from such a pot has poured will be unclean. 35Anything on which the dead body of such a creature may fall will be unclean: if it is a clay stove or oven, this must be broken; for they are unclean and you must treat them as unclean. 36A spring or cistern for collecting water remains clean; but whoever touches the dead body becomes unclean. 37If one of their dead bodies falls on any seed whatever, the seed will remain clean; 38but if the seed has been wet, and such a dead body falls on it, then you must consider it unclean.

39If one of the animals that you use as food dies, then anyone who touches the dead body will be unclean until evening; 40anyone who eats the meat of the dead animal must wash his clothing and will be unclean until the evening. And anyone who picks up the dead body will also be unclean until the evening and has to wash his clothing.

41All the creatures that swarm on the ground are unclean and may not be eaten. 42Everything that crawls on its belly or goes on four legs, or has many legs, may not be eaten. 43Do not defile yourselves with any swarming creature that might defile you, 44for I am Yahweh your God. Take the way of holiness and be holy, for I am holy.

Do not make yourselves unclean with any of the creatures that swarm on the ground, 45for I am Yahweh who brought you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Be holy because I am holy.

46This is the law for animals and birds and for every living creature that moves in the water or that crawls on the ground. 47Let everyone distinguish between the clean and the unclean, between creatures that may be eaten and creatures that may not.”

Purification of a woman after childbirth

12

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses: 2“Say to the Israelites: when a woman gives birth to a male child, she shall be unclean for seven days as in the days of her monthly period. 3On the eighth day the child is to be circumcised; 4then she shall wait for thirty-three days to be purified of her bleeding. She shall not touch anything that is consecrated nor enter the Sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed.

5If she gives birth to a daughter she shall be unclean for two weeks as in her menstruation; then she shall wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

6And when the days of her purification are completed whether for a son or daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the Tent of Meeting, a lamb born that year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. 7The priest shall then offer it to Yahweh to make atonement for her and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood.

This is the law for the woman who gives birth to a child, male or female. 8But if she cannot offer a lamb, she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering, the other for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement for her and she will be purified.”

A regulation for lepers

13

•1Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, 2“If someone has a boil, an inflammation or a sore on his skin which could develop into leprosy, he must be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests, his descendants. 3The priest shall examine him and if the hair on the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be deeper than the surrounding skin, then it is indeed the sore of leprosy. When the priest sees this, he shall declare that person unclean.

4But if the sore is white and does not appear to be deeper than the skin around it and the hairs have not turned white, the priest is to isolate the sick person for seven days. 5On the seventh day the priest shall again examine him. If he sees that the sore looks the same and has not spread on the skin, he shall isolate the sick person for another seven days and once more examine him on the seventh day. 6If the sore has faded and has not spread on the skin, the priest shall declare that person clean: it was only eczema. Let him wash his clothes and he will be clean.

7But if the sore spreads over the skin after the sick person has been examined by the priest and declared clean, then he must present himself again to the priest. 8After examining him and finding that the sore has spread over the skin, the priest must declare him unclean: it is leprosy.

9When a leprous disease strikes a man, he must be taken to the priest, 10who must examine him, and if he finds on the skin a whitish swelling which turns the hairs white and an ulcer is forming, 11then it is leprosy in the skin and the priest must declare him unclean. It is useless to isolate him for a time; he is unclean.

12But if the leprosy spreads all through the skin, if it covers him entirely from head to foot so far as the priest can see, 13then the priest must examine the sick person and, if he finds that the leprosy covers his whole body, declare the sick person clean. Since it has all turned white, he is clean. 14But as soon as an open sore appears on him, he will be unclean. 15After examining the sore, the priest is to declare him unclean: the open sore is leprous. 16But if the sore becomes white again, the man must go to the priest. 17The priest shall examine him and if he finds that the disease has turned white, he shall declare the sick person clean: he is clean.

18When an ulcer appears on a person’s skin, which, after healing, 19leaves a whitish swelling or a shiny spot of reddish white, that person must show himself to the priest. 20The priest shall examine him, and if he finds a spot deeper than the surrounding skin and the hairs in it have turned white he shall declare him unclean: it is a case of leprosy that has broken out in a boil. 21But if on examination the priest finds neither white hair in it nor a deep spot on the skin, but it is lighter in color, he shall isolate the sick person for seven days. 22If the disease has indeed spread over the skin, he shall declare him unclean: it is a case of leprosy. 23But if the shiny spot remains unchanged and has not spread, then it is only the scar of a boil and the priest is to declare the man clean.

24If someone has had a burn, and on the burn an ulcer forms, a shiny spot reddish white or whitish in color, 25then the priest must examine it. If he finds that the hairs in that spot have turned white and it seems to be deeper than the surrounding skin, this means that leprosy has broken out in the burn. The priest shall declare the man unclean: it is a case of leprosy. 26If on the other hand the priest on examination does not find white hair on the mark and it is not deeper than the surrounding skin, but is light in color, then the priest shall isolate him for seven days. 27On the seventh day he shall examine him, and if the disease has spread on the skin, he shall declare him unclean: it is a case of leprosy. 28If the mark is still unchanged and has not spread over the skin, but instead is light in color, this means that it is only a swelling due to the burn. The priest shall declare the man clean: it is merely a burn scar.

29If a man or woman has a sore on the head or chin, 30the priest must examine this sore; and if it seems to be deeper than the surrounding skin, with the hair on it yellow and thin, he must declare the sick person unclean. It is a dreaded skin disease, that is to say, leprosy of the head or chin. 31If on examining this case the priest finds no spot which seems deeper than the surrounding skin, and no yellow hair, he shall isolate the person for seven days. 32He shall examine the infected part on the seventh day, and if he finds that the disease has not spread, that the hair on it is not yellow, and that there is no spot which seems deeper than the surrounding skin, 33the sick person will shave his hair, all except the part affected with the disease, and the priest is to isolate him again for seven days. 34He must examine the infected part on the seventh day, and if he finds that it has not spread over the skin, and that there is no spot which seems deeper than the surrounding skin, the priest shall declare the sick person clean. After washing his clothes he will be clean. 35But if after this purification the disease does spread over the skin, 36the priest must examine him; if he finds that it has indeed spread over the skin, this means that the sick person is unclean, and there is no need to look and see whether the hair is yellow. 37Whereas if, so far as he can see, the disease has not spread and dark hair is beginning to grow on it, this means that the sick person is cured. He is clean, and the priest is to declare him clean.

38If shiny spots break out on the skin of a man or woman, and if these spots are white, 39the priest must examine them. If he finds them to be a dull white, it is a rash that has broken out on the skin: the sick person is clean.

40If a man loses the hair on top of his head, this is baldness of the scalp but the man is clean. 41If he loses his hair from the front of the head, this is baldness of the forehead but the man is clean. 42If, however, a reddish white sore appears on the top of his head or forehead, this means that leprosy has broken out. 43The priest must examine it, and if he finds a reddish white swelling on the head or forehead, which looks like leprosy of the skin, 44this means that the man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest shall declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head.

45A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” 46As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live away from others: he must live outside the camp.

“Leprosy” (mildew) on clothing

47When a mark of mildew appears on a piece of clothing—woolen or linen clothing, 48linen or woolen textile material or covering, leather or leatherwork—49and if this clothing, textile material, covering, leather or leather-work appears greenish or reddish, it is a spreading mildew to be shown to the priest. 50The priest must examine it and put the object away for seven days. 51If on the seventh day he observes that the mildew has spread on the garment, textile material, covering, leather or leatherwork, whatever it may be, it is a case of spreading mildew and the object is unclean. 52The priest will burn this clothing, textile material, linen or woolen covering, leather article of any kind, on which the mildew has spread and which must be destroyed by fire.

53But if on examination the priest finds that the mildew has not spread on the clothing, textile material, covering or leather object whatever it may be, 54he is to order the object to be washed and is to isolate it again for a period of seven days. 55After the cleansing he must examine it again and if he finds that the mildew has not changed color, even though it has not spread, the article is unclean. It must be destroyed by fire.

56But if on examination the priest finds that the mildew has faded after washing, he is to cut it out of the clothing, leather, textile material or covering. 57But if the mildew reappears on the same clothing, textile material, covering or leather article whatever it may be, this means that the mildew is spreading again and the owner must destroy the article by fire. 58The clothing, textile material, covering or leather article whatever it may be, from which the mildew disappears after washing, is to be clean after it has been washed a second time.

59Such is the law for a case of leprosy in a linen or woolen garment, in textile material, in clothing or in anything of skin —for judging whether it is clean or unclean.”

Purification from leprosy

14

1Yahweh spoke to Moses: 2“This shall be the law for the leper on the day of his purification.

He shall be brought to the priest 3and the priest shall take him outside the camp and examine him. And if the person has been healed from leprosy, 4the priest shall order two live, clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. 5The priest shall also give orders that one of the birds be slain on an earthenware pot over fresh water. 6He shall take the live bird and also the cedar wood, the crimson yarn and the hyssop, and he will plunge them together, including the live bird, in the blood of the bird that was slain over fresh water. 7Then he will sprinkle the one to be purified seven times. After that he shall declare him clean and he shall let the live bird go free over the open fields.

8The person to be purified must wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water; then he will be clean. After this he may enter the camp but he must stay outside his tent for seven days. 9On the seventh day he shall shave off all the hair on his head, chin and eyebrows. He shall wash his clothes, bathe himself in water and then he will be clean.

10On the eighth day he is to take two lambs and a yearling ewe lamb, all without defect, and three-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering and a log of oil. 11The priest who declares him clean shall present the man to be purified and his offerings before Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 12The priest will then take the first lamb and present it as a guilt offering together with the log of oil. He shall wave them before Yahweh. 13He shall slaughter the male lamb in the place where they slaughter the sin offering and the burnt offering—the holy place. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

14The priest shall then take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be purified, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15The priest shall take the log of oil and pour it on the palm of his own left hand.

16Then, dipping his right forefinger in it, he shall sprinkle it seven times before Yahweh.

17Then he is to take a little of the oil that remains in the palm of his hand and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the man who is being purified, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, over the blood of the sacrifice of reparation. 18The rest of the oil which is in his palm, he shall put on the head of the man who is being purified. In this way he shall perform over him the rite of atonement before Yahweh.

19Then the priest shall offer the sacrifice for sin, and perform the rite of atonement for the man who is being purified. After this he must slaughter the animal for the burnt offering 20and offer it with the grain offering on the altar. When the priest has performed the rite of atonement over him in this way, the man will be clean.

21If the leper is poor and cannot afford all this, he shall take only one lamb for the guilt offering to be offered with the gesture of offering in the rite of atonement. And for the grain offering he will bring only one tenth of wheaten flour mixed with oil, and the log of oil, 22and finally two turtledoves or two young pigeons—if he can afford them—one to be used as a sacrifice for sin and the other for the burnt offering. 23On the eighth day he must bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before Yahweh, for his purification. 24The priest is to take the lamb for the guilt offering and the log of oil, and present them before Yahweh with the gesture of offering. 25Then he must slaughter the lamb for the guilt offering, take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the man who is being purified, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 26He is to pour the oil into the palm of his left hand, 27and with this oil he must make seven sprinklings with his finger before Yahweh. 28He is to put some of it on the lobe of the right ear of the man who is being purified, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot as he did with the blood of the guilt offering. 29The remainder of the oil in the palm of his hand he must put on the head of the man who is being purified, performing the rite of atonement over him before Yahweh. 30Of the two turtledoves or two young pigeons—if he can afford them—he is to offer 31a sacrifice for sin with one, and with the other a burnt offering together with a grain offering—if he can afford them. In this way the priest will have performed before Yahweh the rite of atonement over the person who is being purified.

32Such is the law concerning a person afflicted by leprosy who cannot afford the means for his purification.”

“Leprosy” in houses

33Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron; he said:

34“When you reach the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your inheritance, if I strike a house with mildew in the land you are to possess, 35the owner must come and warn the priest; he must say, ‘I have seen something like mildew in the house.’ 36The priest is to give orders for the house to be emptied before he goes to examine the infection; thus nothing in the house will be declared unclean. Then the priest must go and look at the house; 37and if on examination he finds reddish or greenish spots that appear to be eating into the wall, 38the priest is to go out of the house, to the door, and shut it up for seven days. 39On the seventh day he shall go back again and if on examination he finds that the infection has spread over the walls of the house, 40he shall give orders for the affected stones to be removed and thrown into some unclean place outside the town. 41Then he shall have all the inside of the house scraped, and the plaster that comes off must be emptied out into an unclean place outside the town. 42The stones must be replaced by new ones and the house given a new coat of plaster.

43If the infection spreads again after the stones have been removed and the house scraped and re-plastered, 44the priest is to come and examine it. If he finds that the infection has spread, this means that mildew is affecting the house: it is unclean. 45It must be pulled down and the stones, woodwork and all the plaster be taken to an unclean place outside the town.

46Anyone who enters the house while it is closed will be unclean until evening. 47Anyone who sleeps there must wash his clothing. 48But if the priest finds, when he comes to examine the infection, that it has not spread in the house since it was plastered, he is to declare the house clean, for the infection is cured.

49As a sacrifice for the sin of the house, he is to take two birds, cedar wood, red cord and a sprig of hyssop. 50He shall slaughter one of the birds in an earthenware pot over running water. 51Then he shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the red cord and the live bird, and dip them into the blood of the bird that was slaughtered and into the running water. 52He shall sprinkle the house seven times; and after having offered a sacrifice for the sin of the house with the blood of the bird, the running water, the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop and the red cord 53he shall set the live bird free to fly out of the town into the open country. When the rite of atonement has been performed over the house in this way it will be clean.

54Such is the law for all cases 55of dreaded skin diseases, mildew of clothing and houses, 56swellings, scabs and shiny spots. It defines the cases when things are unclean and when they are clean. 57Such is the law on leprosy.”

Sexual impurities

15

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron; he said,

2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them:

3When a man has a discharge from his body, that discharge makes him unclean. The rules about his uncleanness are:

Whether his body allows the discharge to flow or whether it retains it, he is unclean. 4Any bed the man lies on and any seat he sits on shall be unclean. 5Anyone who touches his bed must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening.

6Anyone who sits on a seat where the man has sat must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening. 7Anyone who touches the body of a man so affected must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening. 8If the sick man spits on someone who is clean, that person must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening.

9Any saddle the sick man travels on will be unclean. 10All those who touch any object that may be under him will be unclean until evening. Anyone who picks up such an object must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening.

11All those whom the sick man touches without washing his hands must wash their clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening. 12Any clay pot the sick man touches must be broken and any wooden utensil must be rinsed.

13When the man suffering from a discharge is cured, he must allow seven days for his purification. He must wash his clothing and take a bath in running water and he will be clean. 14On the eighth day he must take two turtledoves or two young pigeons and come before Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and give them to the priest. 15The priest is to offer a sacrifice for sin with one of them, and with the other a burnt offering. So the priest will perform the rite of atonement before Yahweh for the man’s discharge.

16When a man has a seminal discharge, he must bathe his whole body with water and he shall be unclean until evening. 17Any clothing or leather touched by a seminal discharge must be washed and it will be unclean until evening. 18When a woman has slept with a man, both of them must take a bath and they will be unclean until evening.

19When a woman has a discharge of blood, and blood flows from her body, this uncleanness of her monthly periods shall last for seven days. Anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening. 20Any bed she lies on will be unclean; any seat she sits on will be unclean.

21Anyone who touches her bed must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening. 22Anyone who touches any seat she has sat on must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening. 23If there is anything on the bed or the chair on which she sat, anyone who touches it will be unclean until evening.

24If a man sleeps with a woman who is unclean because of her monthly period, he shall be unclean for seven days. Any bed he lies on will be unclean.

25If a woman has a flow of blood for several days outside her period, or if her period is prolonged, during the time this flow lasts she shall be unclean as during her monthly periods. 26Any bed she lies on during the time this flow lasts will be unclean as during her monthly period. Any seat she sits on will be unclean; as it would be during her monthly periods. 27Anyone who touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothing and take a bath and will be unclean until evening.

28When she is cured of her flow, she will let seven days pass; then she will be clean. 29On the eighth day she is to take two turtledoves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 30With one of them the priest is to offer a sacrifice for sin and with the other a burnt offering. This is the way in which the priest will perform the rite of atonement over her before Yahweh for the flow that made her unclean.

31Make the sons of Israel aware of everything unclean, lest they die because of defiling the Tent of my presence among them.

32Such is the law concerning a man with a discharge, anyone made unclean by a seminal discharge, 33a woman unclean because of her monthly periods, a man or a woman with discharge, a man who sleeps with an unclean woman.”

The great day of atonement

16

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the presence of Yahweh.

2Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell your brother, Aaron, not to enter at any time he pleases the Most Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the Ark, lest he die, for I appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

3This is how Aaron will enter the Holy Place with a bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He is to put on the sacred linen tunic and linen undergarments next to his body; he is to have the linen sash around him and wear the linen turban. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe in water before he puts them on.

5The assembly of the Israelites has to give him two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. 6Then Aaron shall offer the bullock for a sin offering for himself to make atonement for himself and for his household. 7He shall take the two male goats and present them to Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 8He is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Yahweh and one lot for Azazel. 9Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot fell for Yahweh as a sin offering. 10But the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel will be placed alive before Yahweh to make atonement by being sent into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

11Aaron will then bring the bullock as a sin offering for himself to make atonement for himself and his household and he shall slaughter the bullock for the sin offering which is for himself. 12Then he shall take a censer full of coals from the fire above the altar before Yahweh and two handfuls of powdered, fragrant incense and take them inside the veil. 13He shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh and the cloud of incense will cover the mercy seat that is on the Ark of the Covenant, so that he will not die. 14He will take the blood of the bullock and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat to the east and also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle blood seven times. 15Then he shall slay the goat for the sin offering of the people and take its blood inside the veil and do with its blood what he did with the blood of the bullock. He shall sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of it. 16In this way he shall make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the Israelites and because of all their sins. And he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting which stands among them in the midst of all their uncleanness.

17No one shall be in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes to make atonement until he comes out. After he has made atonement for himself, for his household and for the whole assembly of Israel, 18he shall go out to the altar before Yahweh and make atonement for it. Then he shall take some of the bullock’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. 19He shall sprinkle it with blood seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

20When he has finished making atonement for the Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He shall lay his hands on the head of the goat and confess over it all the wickedness of the sons of Israel and all the sins they have committed against me. So he will charge them on the head of the goat and send it away to the wilderness by the hand of an assistant. 22So the goat will carry away all their wickedness to an arid land, when the man releases it in the wilderness.

23Then Aaron is to go into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen garments he had put on before he entered the sacred place. He shall leave them there, 24bathe himself with water in a sacred place and put on his clothes. After that he will come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people to make atonement for himself and the people. 25The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar.

26The man who releases the scapegoat to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe himself with water, after which he may re-enter the camp. 27The 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 brought outside the camp and they shall burn their hides, their flesh and their dung in the fire. 28The one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, after which he may re-enter the camp.

29This shall be a lasting ordinance for you: on the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and do no work—neither the native nor the stranger living among you—30for on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be cleansed of your sins before Yahweh. 31It is a sabbath of solemn rest when you must deny yourselves. It is a lasting ordinance. 32The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father will make atonement. He shall put on the linen garments, the holy garments, 33and will make atonement for the Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly. 34This shall be for you a lasting ordinance to make atonement for the people of Israel once a year, because of all their sins.”

And Moses did as Yahweh commanded him.

the law of holiness

17

•1Yahweh said to Moses, 2“Speak to Aaron, his sons and all the Israelites and say to them: This is what Yahweh has commanded: 3Any man from the house of Israel who kills an ox, or a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside the camp 4and does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to make an offering of it to Yahweh before the tabernacle of Yahweh—that man shall be considered guilty of bloodshed. He has shed blood and he shall be cut off from among his people.

5The reason for this ordinance is so that the sons of Israel may bring the sacrifices that they used to slay in the fields to Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, to the priests, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace to Yahweh.

6The priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and burn the fat as a sweet-smelling offering to Yahweh. 7This way they shall no longer slay their sacrifices for the goat idols to whom they prostituted themselves.

This is to be a lasting ordinance for them in the generations to come.

You shall not eat blood

8Then you shall give them this ordinance: Any man from the house of Israel or any alien living among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9and does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to sacrifice it to Yahweh, that man shall be cut off from his people.

10If any man from the house of Israel or any alien living among them eats blood, I will set my face against that person and I will cut him off from among his people. 11For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to rescue your life on the altar. Offered blood makes atonement because of the life within it. That is why I said to the sons of Israel: No one among you shall eat blood, nor may any alien who lives among you eat blood.

12If any Israelite or any alien living among you snares in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten, 13he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust. 14For the blood of every creature contains its life and I have therefore said to the people of Israel: You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is within its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.

15And every person who eats an animal that dies or that is torn by wild beasts, whether he be a native or an alien, shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and remain unclean until evening; then he will be purified. 16But if he does not wash his clothes or bathe his body, he shall carry his guilt.”

The law of holiness

18

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them: I am Yahweh, your God.

3You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you used to live, nor shall you do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not follow their practices. 4My practices instead you will follow, and you will carry out my ordinances; I am Yahweh your God. 5Keep my practices and ordinances, for whoever keeps them finds life; I am Yahweh.

6None of you shall have sexual intercourse with a blood relative; I am Yahweh.

7Do not have intercourse with your father or your mother; she is your mother, don’t have intercourse with her.

8Do not have intercourse with your father’s wife: Respect your father.

9Do not have intercourse with your sister or your stepsister, whether born in the same house or elsewhere. 10Do not have intercourse with your granddaughter; that would dishonor you.

11Do not have intercourse with a half sister; she, too, is your sister. 12Do not have intercourse with an aunt, whether she is your father’s sister 13or your mother’s sister.

14Do not have intercourse with your uncle’s wife; she, too, is your aunt.

15Do not have intercourse with your daughter-in-law 16or with your brother’s wife.

17Do not have intercourse with both a woman and her daughter or her granddaughter; they are blood relatives; that is wickedness.

18While your wife is living, do not take her sister as a wife so that you make her jealous.

19Do not have intercourse with a woman during her monthly period.

20Do not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.

21Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech and do not profane the name of your God; I am Yahweh.

22Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.

23Also do not have sexual relations with an animal; that is infamous.

24Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways for this is how the nations I am driving out before you, became defiled. 25As the land was defiled I came to punish it, and it has vomited out its inhabitants.

26You shall keep my practices and ordinances, and you shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native nor the alien living among you. 27Recall the people who did all these things before you in these lands and became defiled. 28If you defile the land it will vomit you out as it did the nations before you. 29The one who does any of these abominations shall be cut off from his people.

30Keep my laws and do not follow any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves by them; I am Yahweh, your God.”

19

1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 2“Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel and say to them: Be holy for I, Yahweh, your God, am holy. 3Each of you must revere his mother and father; and you shall keep my sabbaths; I am Yahweh, your God.

4Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am Yahweh, your God.

5When you offer a sacrifice of peace offering to Yahweh, sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 6It shall be eaten on the day you offer it or on the next day. And whatever remains shall be burned on the third day. 7If it is eaten on the third day it is unclean and will not be accepted. 8Whoever eats it will pay for his sin, for he has profaned a holy thing of Yahweh and this person shall be cut off from his people.

Love your neighbor as yourself

•9When you reap the harvest of your land do not reap to the extreme limits of your field or gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10Do not strip your vineyard bare and do not gather the grapes that have fallen; leave them for the needy and the stranger. I am Yahweh, your God.

11Do not steal or lie or deceive one another. 12Do not swear falsely by my name so as to profane the name of your God; I am Yahweh.

13Do not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. 14You shall not curse a deaf man nor put a stumbling block in the way of the blind; but you shall fear your God; I am Yahweh.

15Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor nor bow to the great; you are to judge your neighbor fairly so as not to share in his guilt. 16Do not go about as a slanderer of your people and do not seek the death of your neighbor; I am Yahweh.

17Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbor frankly so as not to share in his guilt. 18Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

•19Keep my practices. You shall not let your cattle breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed and you shall not wear clothing made of two different materials.

20If a man lies with a woman who is a slave promised to another man, and she has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there shall be punishment. They shall not be put to death because she was not free, 21but he shall bring a ram as a guilt offering to Yahweh for himself, to the door of the Tent of Meeting. 22The priest is to make atonement for him before Yahweh with the ram of the guilt offering, and the sin he has committed will be forgiven.

23When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, you shall count the fruit as unclean. For three years it shall be unclean for you and it must not be eaten. 24In the fourth year all the fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25But in the fifth year you may eat of the fruit, that its yield may increase for you. I am Yahweh, your God.

26Do not eat anything over the blood nor practice divination or astrology. 27Do not round off the side-growth of your heads or clip off the edges of your beard. 28Do not make cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or make tattoo marks on yourselves. I am Yahweh.

29You shall not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.

30Keep my sabbaths and revere my Sanctuary. I am Yahweh.

31Do not turn to mediums or spiritists for you will be defiled by them. I am Yahweh, your God.

32Rise in the presence of the aged and honor the elderly; in doing this you honor your God. I am Yahweh.

33When a stranger stays with you in your land, do him no wrong. 34He shall be to you as the native among you. Love him as yourself for you have been strangers in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh, your God.

35Do no wrong in judgment or in measure or weight or quantity. 36Use honest scales and honest weights and exact containers. I am Yahweh, your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

37You shall keep all my laws and all my practices and follow them. I am Yahweh.”

Some punishments

20

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses 2saying, “To the Israelites you shall say this:

Any man from the people of Israel or from among the aliens living in Israel who gives any of his children for the Molech sacrifice, shall be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him. 3I shall set my face against that man and cut him off from among his people, for by giving his children to Molech he has defiled my Sanctuary and profaned my holy name. 4And if the people of the land hide their eyes from what that man does and do not put him to death, 5then I will set my face against them and against their family and cut them off from their people. I will do the same to all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech.

6I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists and prostitutes himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.

7Take the way of holiness so that you be holy for I am Yahweh, your God. 8You shall keep my laws and practice them. I, Yahweh, your God am the one who makes you holy. 9The man who curses his father or mother shall be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother. He himself shall account for his blood.

10If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. 11If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father, both of them shall be put to death. They themselves shall account for their blood. 12If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death for they have committed incest. They themselves shall account for their blood.

13When a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both have committed a detestable act and they shall be put to death. They themselves shall account for their blood.

14It is wicked for a man to marry both a woman and her mother. He and they must be burned in the fire so that there may be no wickedness among you.

15A man who has sexual relations with an animal must be put to death and the animal killed. 16If a woman approaches an animal to mate with it, kill the woman and the animal. They shall be put to death. They themselves shall account for their blood.

17If a man takes his sister, the daughter of his father or his mother and they have sexual relations, it is a shameful thing and they shall be cut off before the eyes of their people. He has dishonored his sister and carries his guilt.

18A man who lies with a woman during her monthly period and has intercourse with her has exposed the source of her flow and she has uncovered it. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

19You shall not have intercourse with the sister of your father or mother, for that would dishonor a close relative. Both would be guilty. 20The man who lies with his aunt dishonors his uncle. They will be guilty and die childless. 21It is a wickedness for a man to take his brother’s wife. He has dishonored his brother and they will be childless.

22Keep, therefore, all my decrees and laws and act according to them so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out of it. 23You shall not follow the customs of the nations I shall drive out before you. I felt hatred for them for they did all these things. 24Because of this I said to you: You will possess their land and it is I who give it to you as your possession, a land flowing with milk and honey.

I, Yahweh, your God have set you apart from the nations. 25You must therefore set the clean beast apart from the unclean, and the clean bird apart from the unclean and you shall not defile yourselves by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps along the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.

26You are to be holy for me as I am holy, Yahweh, your God, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.

27Now a man or a woman who is a spiritist shall be put to death; he or she shall be stoned and they shall account for their own blood.”

21

1Yahweh said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, sons of Aaron and tell them that not one of them shall make himself unclean for a dead person among his people 2except for those relatives nearest to him, that is for his mother, father, son, daughter or brother, 3or for an unmarried sister who is dependent on him because she has had no husband. For her, he may make himself unclean. 4As a husband he must not make himself unclean for his family-in-law and so profane himself. 5They shall not make tonsures on their heads nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh. 6They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for it is they who present offerings by fire, the bread of their God, so they shall be holy. 7They must not marry women unclean by prostitution or a woman divorced by her husband, for the priest is holy to his God. 8You shall regard the priest as holy for he offers up the food of your God. Holy he shall be for you because I, Yahweh, am holy who makes you holy.

9If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she profanes her father and shall be burned in the fire.

10The high priest, the one among his brothers on whose head the anointing oil has been poured, and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head or tear his clothes. 11He shall not go near any dead person or defile himself either for his father or his mother. 12He shall not leave the Sanctuary nor profane the Sanctuary of his God for he has on him the consecration of the anointing oil of his God. I am Yahweh.

13The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14He shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin of his own people, 15that he may not defile his children among his people. I am Yahweh who makes him holy.”

16Yahweh said to Moses, 17“Say to Aaron: No man among your descendants in future generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the bread of his God. 18No man who has a defect may come near, no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed 19or who has a broken foot or hand, 20or is a hunchback or dwarf, or who has an eye defect or eczema or scabs or damaged testicles. 21The descendant of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall not approach to offer the burnt offering to Yahweh. He must not approach to offer the bread of his God because of the defect he has. 22He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy, 23but he may not go as far as the veil or advance towards the altar because he has a defect. Let him not defile my Sanctuary, for it is I, Yahweh, who make them holy.”

24Thus spoke Moses to Aaron and to his sons and to all Israel.

22

1Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 2“Tell Aaron and his sons when they have to abstain from the holy offerings of the people of Israel, lest they profane my holy name; for I am the one who makes them holy. I am Yahweh. 3Tell them this:

Anyone of your descendants, in any generation, who in a state of uncleanness approaches the holy offerings consecrated to Yahweh by the people of Israel, shall be outlawed from my presence. I am Yahweh.

4Anyone of Aaron’s line who is afflicted with leprosy or a discharge must not eat holy things until he is clean. Anyone who touches something made unclean by a dead body, or has a seminal discharge, 5or is made unclean by touching either some creeping thing or some man who has communicated to him his own uncleanness of whatever kind, 6in short, anyone who has had any such contact shall be unclean until evening, and must not eat holy things until he has taken a bath. 7At sunset he will be clean and may then eat holy things, for these are his food.

8He must not eat an animal that has died a natural death or been killed by wild animals; he would become unclean by doing this. I am Yahweh.

9Let them keep these rules and not burden themselves with sin lest they die because of having defiled this food. I am Yahweh who makes them holy.

10No layperson may eat any of the sacred offerings: neither the guest of a priest, nor his hired servant. 11But if the priest has acquired a slave by purchase, the slave may eat them. Likewise anyone born in the house may eat a share of the food.

12If a priest’s daughter marries someone who is not a priest, she must not eat the holy portion set aside; 13but if she is widowed or divorced and, being childless, has had to return to her father’s house as when she was young, she may eat her father’s food. No layperson may eat it; 14if someone does eat a holy thing unintentionally, he shall restore it to the priest with one-fifth added.

15They must not profane the holy offerings which the people of Israel have set aside for Yahweh. 16If they ate of them, they would have to pay a guilt offering. I am Yahweh, who have sanctified these offerings.”

17Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

18“Tell this to Aaron, to his sons, and to all the people of Israel:

19This rule refers to anyone of the Israelites or to any stranger living in Israel who brings anything for a burnt offering either in payment of a vow or as a voluntary gift. To be welcomed, he must offer a male ox, sheep or goat without any defect. 20You must not offer one that has defects; for it would not make you acceptable.

21If anyone offers to Yahweh a peace offering either to fulfill a vow or as a voluntary offering, the animal—from the herd or from the flock—will not please Yahweh unless it be without any defect. 22You must not offer to Yahweh an animal that is blind, lame, mutilated, ulcerous, or suffering from skin disease or a sore. No part of such an animal shall be laid on the altar as a burnt offering for Yahweh. 23As a voluntary offering, you may offer a bull or a lamb that is underdeveloped or deformed; but such will not be accepted in payment of a vow. 24Don’t offer to Yahweh an animal if its testicles have been bruised, crushed, removed or cut. This is not permitted in your land, 25and you are not to accept any such from the hands of a stranger, to offer as food for your God. Their deformity is a defect and they would not make you acceptable.”

26Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

27“A calf, lamb, or kid shall stay with its mother seven days after birth. From the eighth day it will be acceptable as a burnt offering to Yahweh. 28No animal, whether cow or ewe, shall be slaughtered on the same day as its young.

29If you offer Yahweh a sacrifice of thanksgiving, do it so that Yahweh may be pleased. 30You must eat it the same day, and nothing should be left till the morning. I am Yahweh.

Final exhortation

31You must keep my commands and put them into practice. I am Yahweh. 32You must not profane my holy name, so that I may be proclaimed holy among the people of Israel, I, Yahweh who sanctify you. 33I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God, I am Yahweh.”

The annual feasts

23

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: You proclaim holy assemblies on the appointed feasts of Yahweh, which are these:

3After six days in which work shall be done, there is a sabbath of complete rest on the seventh day, a holy assembly when no work shall be done; it is a sabbath to Yahweh in all your houses.

4Then there are the appointed feasts of Yahweh at the times fixed for them, when you are to proclaim holy assemblies.

5At twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month is Yahweh’s Passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of this month it is Yahweh’s feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. 7On the first day there will be a sacred assembly and no work of a worker shall be done. 8For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to Yahweh and on the seventh day you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no work of a worker.”

Offering of the first sheaf

•9Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 10“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land that I will give you and you reap its harvest, you will bring to the priest a sheaf, the first fruits of your harvest 11and he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

12The day when you wave the sheaf, you shall sacrifice a lamb without defect, born that year, as a burnt offering to Yahweh. 13And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to Yahweh, a sweet-smelling offering, with its drink offering of a quarter of a measure of wine.

14You shall eat neither bread nor grain, whether roasted or new, until the very day you bring the offering to your God. This is to be an everlasting ordinance for all generations throughout your residences.

15From the day after the sabbath, on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. 16The day after the seventh sabbath will be the fiftieth day and then you are to offer Yahweh a new offering. 17You must bring bread from your houses to present with the gesture of offering—two loaves, made of two tenths of wheaten flour baked with leaven; these are first fruits for Yahweh. 18In addition to the bread you must offer seven one-year-old lambs without any defect, a young bull and two rams, as a burnt offering to Yahweh together with a grain offering and drink offering, as a sweet-smelling offering to Yahweh.

19You are also to offer a goat as a sacrifice for sin, and two one-year-old lambs as a peace offering. 20The priest shall present them before Yahweh with the gesture of offering, in addition to the bread of the first fruits. These, and the two lambs, are holy things for Yahweh, and will belong to the priest.

21This same day you are to hold an assembly; this shall be a sacred assembly for you; you will do no work of a worker. This is a perpetual law for your descendants wherever you live.

22When you gather the harvest in your country, you are not to harvest to the very end of your field, and you are not to gather the gleanings of the harvest. You are to leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am Yahweh your God.”

23Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said:

24“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: The first day of the seventh month shall be a day of rest for you, a sacred assembly proclaimed with trumpet call. 25You must not do any work of a worker and you must offer a burnt offering to Yahweh.”

26Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 27“The tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to Yahweh. 28You are not to do any work that day, for it is the Day of Atonement, on which the rite of atonement will be performed over you before Yahweh your God. 29Indeed, anyone who fails to fast that day shall be outlawed from his people; 30anyone who works that day I will remove from his people. 31No work must be done—this is a perpetual law for your descendants wherever you live. 32This is to be a day of sabbath rest for you. You must fast; on the evening of the ninth day of the month, from this to the following evening, you must cease to work.”

33Yahweh spoke to Moses; he said: 34“Speak to the Israelites and say to them:

The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tents for Yahweh, lasting seven days. 35The first day you shall hold an assembly; you must do no work of a worker. 36For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to Yahweh. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly and you must offer a burnt offering to Yahweh. It is a day of solemn assembly in which you shall do no work of a worker.

37These are the appointed feasts of Yahweh in which you are to proclaim holy assemblies for the purpose of offering offerings by fire, burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings to Yahweh, according to the ritual of each day, 38besides the sabbaths of Yahweh and the presents, and the votive and voluntary gifts that you make to Yahweh.

39On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have harvested the produce of the land, you are to celebrate the feast of Yahweh for seven days. On the first and eighth days there shall be a complete rest. 40On the first day you shall take choice fruits, palm branches, boughs of leafy trees and willows from the riverbank, and for seven days you shall rejoice in the presence of Yahweh your God. 41You are to celebrate a feast for Yahweh in this way for seven days every year. This is a perpetual law for your descendants.

42You are to keep this feast in the seventh month. For seven days you are to live in tents and shelters: all natives of Israel must live in tents and shelters, 43so that your descendants may know that I made the Israelites live in tents when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.”

44These are the regulations that Moses gave to the sons of Israel regarding the feasts of Yahweh.

24

1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 2“Command the Israelites to bring you oil from pressed olives for the light, that a lamp may be kept burning continually. 3Aaron shall keep the flame in order from evening until morning in the Tent of Meeting, outside the veil of the Covenant. It shall be a lasting ordinance for all generations. 4He shall set the lamps on the pure gold lampstand to burn continually before Yahweh.

5Then you shall take fine flour and make twelve cakes, two-tenths of a measure in each cake. 6Place them in two rows, six in each, on the pure gold table before Yahweh. 7On each row put pure frankincense, so that the bread may be a memorial, as an offering by fire to Yahweh. 8Every sabbath Aaron shall set the bread in order before Yahweh on behalf of the Israelites as a lasting covenant. 9The bread will be for Aaron and his sons; they are to consider it as a most holy portion of the sacrifices by fire to Yahweh and they shall eat it in a holy place. This is a lasting law.”

The blasphemy

10The son of an Israelite woman, and whose husband was an Egyptian, quarreled with a man of Israel in the camp and 11the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the name of Yahweh with a curse, so they brought him to Moses. (His mother was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan). 12They put him under guard until a decision from Yahweh would be made known.

13Yahweh said to Moses, “Take the man who has cursed out of the camp. 14All who have heard him curse will lay their hands on his head and the entire assembly shall stone him to death. 15Then say this to the Israelites: The man who curses God shall pay for his sin 16and whoever blasphemes the name of Yahweh shall be put to death. The whole assembly shall stone him; the alien, like the native, shall be put to death when he blasphemes the Name.

The law of retaliation

•17Whoever kills a man shall be put to death.

18Whoever kills an animal shall replace the loss, life for life. 19If a man injures his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him. 20Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, just as he has injured another, so shall it be done to him. 21He who kills a beast shall make up for it, and he who kills a man shall be put to death.

22There shall be one law, the same for the alien and the native, for I am Yahweh, your God.”

23So Moses spoke to the Israelites and they brought the man who had cursed outside the camp and stoned him. In this way the Israelites did as Yahweh had commanded Moses.

The sabbatical year and jubilee

25

•1Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2“Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, let the land rest for Yahweh every seventh year. 3For six years you shall sow your field, prune your vineyard and harvest the produce, 4but in the seventh year the land shall have a rest, or sabbath, a sabbath for Yahweh. You shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard; 5you shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest nor gather the grapes of your uncultivated vines.

This shall be a year of rest for the land, 6but whatever it produces of itself will provide food for you, for your male and female slaves, for your hired servant and for the stranger who lives with you.

7Its produce will likewise provide food for your livestock and for the wild animals on your land.

8When seven sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. 9Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land. 10Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. 11In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. 12This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation.

13In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. 14When you sell something to your neighbor or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. 15According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbor and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you. 16When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. 17So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am Yahweh, your God.

18Carry out my precepts and obey my laws. In that way you will live securely in the land. 19The land will give its fruit so that you may have food in abundance and live securely.

20But if you ask: What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not sow or gather crops?; see that 21I will send you my blessing in the sixth year that it may produce enough for three years. 22So in the eighth year the remains of the old crop will provide you with what to sow and to eat until the harvest of the ninth year is ready.

23The land shall not be sold forever for the land is mine, where you are but strangers and guests of mine. 24In all the territory you occupy, the land is to be redeemed.

25When your brother becomes poor and sells his property, his nearest relative is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26If the man has no relatives to buy back his property, but later has sufficient means to redeem it, 27he will calculate the value based on the number of years since he sold it and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it and in that way he shall recover his property. 28But if he does not find the means to repay him, what has been sold shall remain with the buyer until the Jubilee year when it must be given back to its original owner.

29In the same way, if a man sells a house in a walled city, his right of redemption shall last until the end of a year from the time of its sale; his right of redemption lasts a whole year. 30If it is not redeemed by the end of a complete year, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the one who bought it and to his descendants, and it shall not be released in the Jubilee year.

31Houses in villages which have no surrounding wall are considered as fields; they have redemption rights and may be released in a Jubilee year.

32As for the towns of the Levites, their houses belong to the Levites and they have a permanent right to redeem what is bought from them. 33Any house in a town of the Levites can return to them at the time of the Jubilee, for the houses in the towns of the Levites are their possession among the Israelites. 34The field also belonging to their towns must not be sold forever; it is their permanent possession.

How to share with your neighbor

•35If your brother becomes poor and is unable to support himself, help him. Help this stranger or this guest that he may live with you. 36Do not take interest from him, but fear your God, so that your brother may live among you. 37Do not give him your silver at interest nor your food for gain.

38I am Yahweh, your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of the Canaanites and to be your God.

39If your brother becomes poor and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave, 40but let him remain with you as a hired servant and an alien until the year of Jubilee. 41He shall then leave you, he and his sons with him, and return to his own family and to the property of his fathers. 42For they are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt and they are not to be sold as slaves. 43Do not rule over them harshly, but fear your God.

44As for the male and female slaves, it is from the nations around you that you are to buy them. 45You may also buy from among the aliens who live with you and from their families, born in your land, and they may be your property. 46So you may leave them to your children as inherited possessions and make them slaves for life. But regarding your fellow Israelites, you must not rule over them harshly.

47If an alien or temporary resident becomes prosperous and one of your brothers becomes so poor as to sell himself to a stranger who is living with you or to a member of the stranger’s family, 48he shall have the right of redemption. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49or his uncle or the son of his uncle or a near relative may redeem him. 50If he becomes rich, let him redeem himself. He shall reckon with his buyer from the time he sold himself until the year of Jubilee and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. If many years remain, he shall be reckoned at the price of a hired servant, according to the number of years. 51If redeemed when many years remain, he shall refund out of the price paid for him, according to the remaining time. 52If only a few years remain until the Jubilee year, he will calculate and refund accordingly. 53He shall be with him as a servant hired year by year and he shall not be harshly dealt with.

54If he is redeemed in any of these ways, he shall be released in the Jubilee year, he and his sons with him.

55For it is to me that the Israelites are servants; they are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh, your God.

26

1You shall not make for yourselves idols or set up an image or pillar or carved stone in your land to bow before it for I am Yahweh, your God.

2You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my Sanctuary. I am Yahweh.

Promises of God

•3If you walk according to my precepts and obey my commandments, if you carry them out, 4I will give you rain in its season and the land will yield its produce, the trees in the field their fruit; 5the threshing time will last to vintage time and the vintage till sowing time. You will have food in abundance and you will live securely in your land.

6I will give you peace in your country and you will sleep without anyone disturbing you. I will banish the wild beast and keep the sword of war from passing through the land. 7You will rout your enemies and they will fall before your sword; 8five of you will pursue a hundred of them and a hundred of you ten thousand of them, and they will fall before you by the sword.

9I will turn towards you to make your families fruitful and your people numerous, and I will confirm my Covenant with you. 10When you are still eating from the old harvest you will have to discard what is stored to make place for the new. 11I will make my Dwelling among you and I will not reject you. 12I will walk among you; I will be your God and you will be my people. 13I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be their slaves no longer. I have broken the bars of your yoke letting you walk erect.

Curses

14But if you do not heed me and keep my commandments, 15if you reject my precepts and ignore my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and so break my covenant, 16I, in turn, will do this: I will bring upon you a terror, a tuberculosis and fever, weakening your eyes and draining your life. In vain will you sow, for your enemies will eat it. 17I will turn away from you until you are beaten by your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you and you shall flee when no one pursues you.

18If after all this you do not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. 19I will break the pride of your power; I will make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. 20Your strength shall be spent in vain; your land will give no produce and the trees no fruit. 21If you defy me and are unwilling to obey me, I will bring seven times as many plagues on you for your sins. 22I will let loose the wild animals and they will rob you of your children and destroy your cattle and make you so few that your roads will be deserted.

23If, with all this, you do not repent but remain hostile towards me, 24then I will be hostile towards you and strike you seven times for your sins. 25The sword I will bring against you, and with the sword I will avenge my Covenant with you; and when you gather together in your cities I will send pestilence on you and you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26When I cut off your supply of bread and ten women bake bread in one oven and bring back rationed bread, you will eat and not be satisfied.

27But if with all that you do not obey me and remain defiant towards me, 28I will go against you in fury and punish you sevenfold for your sins. 29You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will cast your corpses on those of your idols and I shall hate you. 31I will lay waste your cities and make desolate your Sanctuaries and no longer shall I relish your sweet-smelling offerings. 32I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be astonished. 33I will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword behind you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities lie in ruins.

34Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies waste while you are in the land of your enemies; 35then the land will rest and observe its sabbaths. As long as the land lies desolate it shall have the sabbath rest that it did not have when you inhabited it.

36As for those of you who are left, I will make them faint-hearted in the land of their enemies. The sound of a wind-blown leaf will chase them and even when no one pursues them, 37they will flee as from the sword and will fall. They will stumble against each other as if running from the sword even when they are not pursued, and you will be unable to stand up before your enemies. 38You shall perish among the nations and die in the land of your enemies.

39Those among you who remain will rot away because of their wickedness in the land of your enemies and because of the wickedness of their fathers they will rot away with them. 40Then they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers. They will admit that their treacheries and their hostility towards me made me hostile towards them 41and caused me to bring them to the land of their enemies, and then their uncircumcised hearts may become humble and they will accept the punishment for their sin. 42Then I will remember my Covenant with Jacob and my Covenant with Isaac and my Covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.

43For the land will be abandoned by them and it shall observe its sabbath; it will be desolate without them, while they pay for their sin because they spurned my ordinances and ignored my statutes.

44Yet even so, when they are in the land of their enemies I will not reject them or ignore them to the point of destroying them and breaking my Covenant with them, for I am Yahweh, their God. 45For their sake I will remember my Covenant with their forefathers whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am Yahweh.”

46These are the statutes, the ordinances and the teachings of the Covenant Yahweh made with the Israelites, through Moses, on Mount Sinai.

Vows and promises

27

1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 2“Tell the Israelites about the fixed price for those who have to be ransomed because of a vow.

3A man between twenty and sixty years of age shall be valued at fifty pieces of silver—the official standard; 4a woman shall be valued at thirty silver coins; 5between five and twenty years, a boy shall be valued at twenty silver coins, a girl at ten silver coins; 6between one month and five years, a boy shall be valued at five silver coins, a girl at three silver coins; 7at sixty years and over, a man shall be valued at fifteen silver coins and a woman at ten silver coins. 8If the person who made the vow is too poor to pay the standard price, he must present the person concerned to the priest, and the priest shall set a value proportionate to the resources of the person who made the vow.

9As for an animal suitable for offering to Yahweh, any such animal given to Yahweh is holy. 10It cannot be exchanged or a substitute offered—good for bad, bad for good. If one animal is substituted for another, both of them shall belong to Yahweh. 11If it is an unclean animal, and not suitable for offering to Yahweh, whatever it may be it must be presented to the priest 12and he shall set a price for it, judging it good or bad. 13You must abide by his price. The person who wishes to buy it back must add one-fifth to the price set.

14If a man dedicates his house to Yahweh, the priest shall set a price for it, judging whether its value is great or little. You must abide by the priest’s price. 15If the man who has vowed his house wishes to buy it back, he must add one-fifth to the price and it shall be given back to him.

16If a man dedicates one of the fields of his patrimony to Yahweh, its value shall be calculated according to its productivity, at the rate of fifty silver coins to one bushel of barley.

17If he dedicates the field during the Jubilee year, he must stand by this price. 18But if he dedicates it after the Jubilee, the priest shall calculate the price on the basis of the number of years still to run until the next Jubilee and the price shall be reduced accordingly.

19If he wishes to buy back the field, he shall add one-fifth to the price, and the field shall be given back to him. 20If he does not buy it back but sells it to another, the right of redemption ceases; 21when the buyer has to give it up at the Jubilee year, it becomes a thing dedicated to Yahweh, the same as a field laid under the ban: the man’s property passes to the priest.

22If he dedicates to Yahweh a field which he has bought, but which is not part of his patrimony, 23the priest shall assess the price on the basis of the number of years still to run before the Jubilee year; and the man shall pay this sum the same day, as for a thing dedicated to Yahweh. 24In the Jubilee year, the field shall return to the seller, to the man to whose patrimony the land belongs. 25All prices must be made according to the official Sanctuary standards at the rate of twenty gerahs to one silver piece.

26No one may dedicate the firstborn of his cattle, for it belongs to Yahweh by right: whether ox or sheep, it belongs to Yahweh. 27But if it is an unclean animal it may be bought back at the price with one fifth added; if it is not bought back, the animal shall be sold at the price set.

28Nothing that is dedicated to Yahweh by anathema may be bought back; nothing whether a man, an animal, or a field of patrimony. What is dedicated by anathema becomes a most holy thing and belongs to Yahweh. 29A human being dedicated by anathema cannot be bought back, he must be put to death.

30One tenth of all the produce of the earth or the fruits of trees, belongs to Yahweh. 31If a man wishes to buy back part of his tithe, he must add one-fifth to its value.

32In all tithes of flock or herd, the tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff shall be a thing dedicated to Yahweh; 33there must be no picking out of good and bad, no substitution. If substitution takes place, both the animal and its substitute shall be things dedicated without possibility of buying them back.”

34These are the commandments that Yahweh laid down for Moses on Mount Sinai, for the people of Israel.

•  1.1 Yahweh spoke to Moses. Each law is introduced by this expression, giving the impression that Moses had dictated these laws which were actually introduced centuries later. Although the law was written long after Moses’ time, the authors of Leviticus used this literary form to convey that the law embodies the spirit of all that God taught Moses on Sinai.

The Hebrews practiced the rituals and customs of their ancestors. Since they were shepherds, they used to offer their animals in sacrifice. Later on, in Canaan, the Israelites found other sacrifices and customs among the pagan Canaanites and they adopted some of them. Yet, the revelation granted to Moses on Sinai provided them with criteria to judge new or old forms of worship:

– God is the only God, the Invisible One who needs nothing but asks that his followers serve him.

– Yahweh is the Holy God, totally different from every creature, and Israel, consecrated to God, must remain “holy” and apart from other nations.

– Yahweh demands justice; therefore, ritual “purity” must reflect interior sanctity.

At the time this book was written, the Jewish people had only one Sanctuary, the Temple of Jerusalem, and people came from everywhere to offer sacrifices there. The Temple, built by king Solomon (see 1 K 6), was not a very large building (some 25 meters in length by 15 in width) and only the priests went inside. The people used to gather in the paved patios. In the main patio was a large altar made of solid stones, the altar of holocausts, or of totally burned victims. On some occasions, part of the blood was poured on another, in a much smaller altar inside the Temple.

There were various types of sacrifices and for most of them, the priests used to receive part of the victim in payment; the other part would be eaten by the donors at a communion banquet. But, in the holocaust nothing was eaten because everything was offered to God as a sign of perfect submission.

Like other ancient people, the Israelites believed that the life of every being was in the blood (see Gen 9:5). Thus, the blood belonged to God and no one could eat or drink it. The life and the blood of the sacrificed animal represented the one who offered it: he was delivered from all in him that might be displeasing to God and lead to his death (Lev 17:11). Not without reason did Jesus wish to die by shedding his blood to express that he was giving his life to cleanse his people of their sins. From the Jewish sacrifices, the letter to the Hebrews draws the following lesson which was fulfilled in Jesus’ passion: “there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood” (Heb 9:22).

We should note the frequent use of the expression “without blemish.” The prophets would scold the people who did not observe this command (Mal 1:8-13). We oftentimes give God out of our surplus, and not the best of what we have.

•  4.1 Next come the sin offerings. It is not a question of real sin, the inner sin (Mt 5:22) coming from the person (Mk 7:20), but of faults against the laws regarding worship. In verses 22 and 27, we read: when a leader sins and without intending to do so. This constitutes another kind of fault, a matter of carelessness, 5:1-13.

But in 5:20-26 we deal with other faults which require an offering in reparation because they are real sins.

Paul tells us that the purpose of the Law is to make sin evident (Rom 4:15; 7:7). It is true that ancient texts rarely identify real sin: indifference towards God, or rebellion against his established order, errors or ignorance. It would take time to wait for enlightenment, but this fear of sin reminds us that the force of evil is at work in us, even when we are not conscious of it. The day we discover what the love of God is, and how he keeps waiting for us, we shall realize how deeply sinful we are.

The Tent of Meeting (5, 7, 16) is the temple.

• 6.1 Among so many laws dealing with cooking, note the following details:

Verse 5. The fire is never to be put out. A lamb is offered as a holocaust daily in the morning and in the afternoon.

Verse 20. What is offered to God belongs to him and becomes as if totally permeated by the Holiness of God.

Verses 22-23. In order for the sacrifice to be effective, the meat—which through the sacrifice is made holy—must be eaten. Part of it belongs to the priest: in this way he is assured of a livelihood.

•  8.1 With the detailed description of Aaron’s consecration by his brother Moses, Leviticus wants to teach the ceremony for consecration of the High Priest.

Vestments, ornaments and purifications ex-press the sacred character of the man “taken from among mortals to be their representative before God and to offer sacrifices for them” (Heb 5:1).

These rituals did not come down from heaven; rather, they reflect the religious mentality of the times. For those people, there were two kinds of people and things in the world: those belonging to God, that is, sacred and others not belonging to God, that is, profane. Some were considered clean, others unclean; some were said to be “holy,” and others to “carry a sin,” which simply meant they could not be used in worship.

God took into account the primitive mentality of the people of those times and educated them little by little. With time, they would discover that sin is not some external blemish, or defect, but human faults. The prophets first, and then the Gospels, would state that sin is what comes from the person.

Priests were consecrated through an anointing with oil. Kings would also be consecrated by an anointing. Priests and kings would thus be the anointed of God, expressed by the word Messiah in Hebrew, and Christ in Greek. The High Priest was called the Christ of God: this prefigured Jesus, priest of the New Covenant, as the Letter to the Hebrews will explain (5–8).

•  10.1 The story in this chapter (the death of Aaron’s sons) is a figurative way of presenting some of the duties of Israel’s priests.

•  11.1 The mission of an Israelite was to participate in public worship of the only God. Yet, in order to enter into the Temple to take part in a religious assembly, he had to perform various rituals which made him “pure,” as we remarked in commenting on chapter 8. Being pure or impure did not mean being guilty or not: it only signified readiness to approach the altar, or a lack of readiness.

These regulations helped Israel discover the road to genuine sanctity:

– Some animals honored by the pagans were declared unclean. They were to be avoided.

– Several laws or “taboos” (prohibitions of sacred origin) concerning sexuality helped engender respect for the sacred character of life. Spontaneously, among any primitive people, there are various rules about sex and birth, and so it was among the Jews (see 12:1-8 and chap. 15).

– Some regulations concerned standards of hygiene, though other reasons are given. For example, the prohibition against eating pork (v. 7) was wise considering that pigs are carriers of disease where cleanliness is lacking. It is the same with leprosy (chap. 13).

All religious or Christian life is impossible without human formation and without the stability of the family. Love does not suffice for the making of a home if strength of character is absent or if a person marries without having learned to fulfill obligations: hence the importance of education or formation in the family. The Law with its manifold precepts, many of which do no more than call for a basic dignity and humanity, prepares people to serve God in truth even if its instructions and its “exterior” rites (Rom 2:28) remain on the level of “the flesh” (Phil 3:3).

Many of the laws, whose purpose escapes us, served mainly to make God’s people different from others in terms of their meals, feasts and customs.

Israelites, who often settled in the midst of other people, were not to mix with their pagan neighbors: the Law, by regulating their lives in every detail, prevented them from adopting the customs of others and prevented them from adopting their thinking as well. Although it is the interior attitude which must differentiate the believer from others, external discipline helps one become aware of one’s own spirit. Old Testament laws addressed a people who had not yet come to religious maturity and for that reason, imposed on them a different way of life.

These laws began to be strictly observed from the time of Ezra and were followed by the Jewish community of the last centuries before Christ. Nehemiah 13 illustrates the danger they were exposed to in being separated from other people.

In Jesus’ time, the Jews clung excessively to these prescriptions which were originally only certain external requirements for those wishing to take part in religious acts. Jesus criticized this confusion of legal purity with purity of conscience (Mk 7:15).

Verses 5-6. The Bible is not a book that teaches science.

•  12.1 Primitive people often contrast the “pure” and noble blood of a male, shed in wars, to the “impure” flow of blood during a woman’s period. Therefore, childbirth and a woman’s periods preoccupy men (they are the ones who impose the rules and make the laws) and they require purification rituals.

In this we see how, although they are part of the word of God, the rules of the Old Testament were adapted to ancient times and to the criteria of the people of Israel. God’s people were aware of this, which they expressed in their own way by saying that the Law was planned by angels: Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2.

Jesus and his mother submitted themselves to these rituals (Lk 2:21).

•  13.1 In cases of leprosy, which was considered a contagious disease, the sick person was required to live apart from the community. A leper was considered “unclean,” meaning that he could not participate in public or religious life (see what is said in 8:1 and 11:1).

At a time when misfortunes were thought to be divine punishment, leprosy was seen as a sign of a divine curse. The people easily believed that the leper excluded from the community was actually unclean in God’s eyes.

Among their obligations, priests had to diagnose leprosy and prescribe the isolation of lepers. They were also responsible for verifying cures and for allowing lepers to return to their families. This is what Jesus recalled when he healed lepers (Mk 1:43).

Sacrifices for the purification of lepers were part of ancient folk ways. The mysterious “sin” which, according to them, had caused leprosy, was transferred to two birds (14:5). One of them was killed so that the sin would disappear with the bird. For more assurance, the other bird was released to take far away that same sin now dissolved in the dead bird’s blood (14: 6-7).

•  15.1 Among all primitive people we find a sacredness surrounding everything related to sex and birth. That is the origin, somehow, of these prescriptions about sexual purity and impurity. It would be wrong to interpret them as if sexual relations were impure in themselves; they are only so when the demands of genuine love are not respected.

The Canaanites, among whom the Israelites settled, yielded to the forces of nature which they thought to be divine, and sexual orgies accompanied all their religious feasts. For the Israelites, however, the many purifications concerning sexual life reminded them that sex was part of human nature as God created it and that its drives had to be subject to the Law of God. The baptized person is guided by other considerations: 1 Corinthians 6 and 7.

•  16.1 The ceremony for the feast of Atonement was very expressive: one of two he-goats was set aside to carry the punishment for sin and therefore had to die; the other was sent off toward Azazel. Symbolically the he-goat bore the sins of the people.

The Letter to the Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10, recalls these Jewish rituals when it mentions the forgiveness of sins that Christ won through his death and resurrection.

In verses 29-34 it is again said that these commands will be the everlasting law: how do we explain that the church canceled them when Christ came? Paul explains this in Galatians 3–5.

• 17.1 In this chapter, we have the beginning of the Law of Holiness, or, the law of a people consecrated to God.

The law about blood was a way of instructing about and instilling a sense of the sacred meaning of life. This is summarized in chapter 17.

Just as with most primitive people, the Hebrews believed that life was in the blood. Therefore, blood was sacred, even the blood of animals, and could only be offered to God (see Gen 9:5). If it was not offered on the altar, it must be poured on the ground, but must not be consumed.

Even at the time of Christ, the Jews felt such a repulsion for blood that, for some years, Christians from other nations observed that law in order not to scandalize their Jewish brothers (Acts 15).

Verse 11 explains why Christ chose a death in which he shed his blood. Whenever we read “Christ saved us through his blood,” we must understand “through the offering of his life.”

•  18.1 The Law of Holiness continues with more sexual prohibitions. These bans, now seen by many people as outdated prejudices, are, in fact, basic to human dignity in the sense that they submit whims to a law. They are also at the root of married fidelity and of mutual respect between members of the same family.

As was mentioned in chapter 15, the Canaanites did not know these bases of human culture (you shall not do what is done in the land of Canaan) and the Israelites saw in such rules a moral responsibility closely related to their Covenant with Yahweh which made them into a holy people different from all the other people.

The Israelites, comparing their history to that of Canaanites, already understood what Paul later would clearly say: “The person who sows for the benefit of his own flesh shall reap corruption and death from the flesh” (Gal 6:8). Sexual liberty is attractive as long as one does not notice the aging of his heart and the untruthfulness of his language. At the level of society, sexual liberty means the sterile couple, individuals unfit for strong commitment, and before long, the death of a people.

Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed (v. 21). This, too, was done in Canaan. Where instincts rule, there is no respect for life. It was among God’s people that the dignity of the human person was discovered. Cannibalism was practiced among the most refined groups of China. Among most ancient peoples, a father had the right to destroy a newborn child, not to mention the right to offer human sacrifice.

Lest the land vomit you (v. 28). In the Promised Land the Israelites have to live according to the laws of Yahweh; if they do not observe them, they will be exiled. This stay in the promised land is a sign in the Bible. See in particular Deuteronomy 8. Paul recalls this in Galatians 5:21.

•  19.9 Among so many laws which show the still primitive level of God’s people, we marvel to find some prescriptions that teach deeply human attitudes often lacking in us.

These prescriptions, addressed to a race of small farmers, must be interpreted in order to adapt them to the circumstances of our present lives.

They teach us that the “right of ownership” is not absolute and that it never justifies oppression of the poor, nor does it excuse us from helping them. We are ordered to care for our brothers and sisters to assure everyone what is necessary to live.

Do not seek revenge… but love your neighbor as yourself (v. 18). Here, neighbor means the brother of the same race. They must be loved and there must be solidarity with them because God embraces with the same love all those who belong to his people.

Such a solidarity with those of one’s own nation exists in all religions but there is as well the aggression or hostility towards the foreigner. When Jesus speaks to us of love which does not cease at the frontiers of a people (Lk 10:25; Mt 5:43), it will not be a simple extension of the term “neighbor”: it will be the discovery of another relation beyond the solidarity practiced naturally by humans as in the case with certain animals.

•  19. Various customs of pagan religions were also forbidden. Mediums and fortune-tellers were also forbidden just as in Deuteronomy 18:10.

The stranger shall be to you as the native among you (v. 34). You will note that the Bible, which forbids sharing with pagan foreigners, always insists on respecting the alien living in Israel. Along with widows and orphans, foreigners are the most defenseless and they must be protected.

•  20.1 This chapter lists penalties corresponding to the previously listed faults. In some cases, human justice punishes. In others, people are threatened with God’s curse.

Chapters 21 and 22 deal with the responsibilities and privileges of the priests. All these details may seem too external and foreign to the authentic sanctity which the priestly office requires. But, in those days, these prescriptions were valuable teaching and they still teach us about the sacredness of serving the Lord.

•  23.1 Here we are dealing with the feasts or “days” of Yahweh. God’s people gather not only to celebrate their joys and sorrows: God is the one who summons them for his feasts through those responsible for his church (do not forget that church means: assembly or congregation).

The weekly day of rest (in Hebrew, sabbath means rest) is the first of these sacred encounters with God (v. 3).

Then come the three great feasts of Israel:

– the week of unleavened bread, which began with the Passover and recalled the departure from Egypt (vv. 9-14);

– the feast of the seven weeks, or Pentecost (which means fiftieth day) which was connected with the remembrance of the Law given on Sinai (vv. 15-21);

– the feast of Tabernacles, or of booths, to recall the years in the desert (vv. 33-34).

The yearly day of Atonement to ask forgiveness for the people’s sins (vv. 26-32) was celebrated for a while along with the New Year, or during the feast of Tabernacles until it became fixed on a special day.

•  9. Below we single out the offering of the sheaf of the first fruits, during the feast of unleavened bread, marking the beginning of the harvest.

God does not need anything. If he does ask something from us it is because we need to give of ourselves to be truly human. There is no feast, no shared happiness, no soothed heart if something is not sacrificed.

Tithing or the tenth part of the fruits offered to God, which will serve to feed the Levites and the poor, becomes spiritual wealth for the people of the Bible.

In many churches or Christian groups, the members of the community give the tenth part of their revenue: no one, even in poor countries, has become poorer.

The first sheaf offered to God may also mean the first part of the workday given to God; the first contribution of the month given to assist a companion in need; the first moment of rest which spouses together offer to the Lord; it means each believer’s cooperation in the church affairs to make the church free before the powerful.

•  24.17 Eye for eye. In verse 19 we have the so-called “Law of Talion.” This law seems cruel. It appears to accept vengeance as normal. But, in fact, it was an attempt to limit violent impulses such as resentment or the desire for retaliation. This law establishes that an enemy should only be hurt in proportion to the harm suffered: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This was a way of civilizing people who were quite far from the Christian ideal. Forgiveness, as Christ preached it, is something radically new.

• 25.1 The land needs to be given a rest. We know how, in our own time, many fields have been exhausted by overuse.

The sabbatical year (or the year of rest) occurs every seven years. This custom in Leviticus has a precise meaning: people place their trust in God who will not allow them to die from hunger.

If this sabbatical year occurs in times of need, or after an invasion, we can see that it will be very difficult to observe this prescription (see 1 Mac 6:49). Yet, God himself promised to help those who faithfully observe it (v. 21), which is one of the issues in the book of Judith.

Every fifty years a Jubilee year is to be celebrated: its value is even more sacred. The word jubilee does not come from jubilation, but both words come from the Hebrew yobel or ram’s horn which was used to proclaim this holy year. That year, all slaves had to be liberated: all mortgaged fields and houses would return to their owners without payment involved.

You are but strangers and guests of mine (v. 23). In the long chapters of Deuteronomy and Joshua which relate the conquest of the Holy Land and its distribution, the land is always seen as inheritance. It is the inheritance that God gives to the tribes of his people. The land, then, belongs to each of the tribes, and so, along with private property, there are also lands belonging to the community, lands which are distributed periodically.

The year of the jubilee is, therefore, very holy because it intends to establish a perfect reconciliation, not only among Israelite brothers, but also with God. He is also invited to cancel the debts. The holy year celebrated by all the people maintains the hope of a holy year whose cost will be shouldered by God himself, on the way to salvation: see Isaiah 61:1, a text which Jesus applies to himself (Lk 4:19).

This guaranty given to the poor and the unfortunates of an inalienable heritage is expressed within the framework of a rural society, but the spirit that gives life to it is at the heart of the Bible: in front of God any right to property has limitations. How can we not think here of the ravages of liberalism which have only expanded in the course of the century? Powerful nations, which enjoy years of economic advancement over others, have preached and imposed on others the free-market. This allowed them to impose their products on others, while local production suffers and, with corruption, they became owners of the resources of the subsoil, of the markets of agricultural products, and finally, of real power itself. The past two centuries have justified the language of the prophets who do not speak of the rich and poor, but of poor and oppressors.

In the last century, the church has not ceased to denounce the evils of liberalism. It must be acknowledged that, by doing so, she did not always have a clear vision of what the modern world was and was frequently mistaken, opposing the wrong adversary. But the condemnation is still justified more than ever in this time when the religion of liberalism holds quasi-monopoly on the means of communication and meets only token opposition. We anticipate the moment when Christians will openly proclaim the demands of the Bible. Every people of every race and nation have their own heritage which is more valuable than the land itself. No one should have the power to make workers jobless by making their way of doing things obsolete; no one should be able to control prices of life’s necessities or hold a stranglehold on the economy or make excessive profits on goods, people need to survive.

•  35. These paragraphs are the work of Jewish priests animated by worthy zeal but in the context of a primitive economy that no longer exists. They have given rise to many scruples, many refusals from 13th to 15th centuries when the extension of commerce called for capital. Many Christians, because of these prohibitions, refused to take part in the system.

“Do not lend at interest.” Such is the law of solidarity and fraternal love. But the coming of big business and industry has raised another question: it became necessary to “interest” investors and encourage them to lend the necessary funds. Here, as in many other human realities, we see that every law is linked to a certain time and a certain way of life. Each generation has to invent its way of living, its fidelity to the Word of God. That is why, when we study in the Bible the laws relevant to a particular problem, we observe an evolution of one text to another, in fact of one epoch to another (cf. Ex 21:2-11; Lev 25:39-43; Dt 15:12-18).

•  26.3 The law of God is a law of life. When people do not follow it, they destroy themselves. Here God requires of his people justice, kindness and respect for life. He can exact it for facts will justify his words: he promises infallibly benefits or disasters.

The end of this chapter, written during the exile, describes the decadence of the Jewish people just before their exile. This destruction was, in some sense, “God’s punishment”: but it was also the consequence of their faults, because any society which disregards the foundations of moral life is digging its own grave.

This chapter presents as opposite poles: peace and fruitfulness on the one hand, and on the other, the insecurity, waste and division among people who do not listen to God:

– injustice breeds violence;

– sexual license weakens the sense of sacrifice;

– national resources are wasted on luxury and on repressive forces;

Such people come to the point of eating the flesh of their own children.