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Old Testament sacrifice without priests

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posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 05:01 PM
“The Levitical priests, and only the priests, are the people who offer sacrifice.”
That’s our normal understanding of the religion of the Old Testament.
But the rule is not true- at least, not in the early days.

Cain and Abel both offered sacrifice to the Lord.
Doing it themselves, presumably, since there was no-one else.
This represents the time when any householder could be his own priest.

Noah built an altar and offered sacrifice.
Abraham built altars and offered sacrifice.
Jacob built altars and offered sacrifice.

It might be said “These are patriarchs, and privileged, and in any case the Law of Moses had not yet been published”.

All right then, some examples from the time of Judges;
Gideon was instructed by the Lord to build an altar and sacrifice on it his father’s second-best bull. Ch6 vv25-27
Samson’s father Manoah was also instructed to offer a burnt offering. Ch13 vv15-20
An enterprising man called Micah set up his own shrine with a graven image, made an ephod and installed one of his own sons as priest.
Admittedly he thought that his set-up was improved when he found a genuine Levite.
Indeed this episode comes with a disapproving editorial note; “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes”. Ch17 vv4-13

Yet the kings themselves also sacrificed.
In the early days of Saul’s kingship, there was a rendezvous at Gilgal for the army to gather and prepare to meet the Philistines.
Samuel was late, the people were beginning to disperse, and Saul was afraid that the Philistines might attack before he had sought the Lord’s help.
So he ordered the burnt offering and peace offerings to be brought out and began to offer them himself. He was in the middle of this (he had just finished offering the burnt offering) when Samuel arrived.
Samuel condemned him for acting against God’s command. 1 Samuel ch13 vv8-13
The common explanation is that Saul’s fault was sacrificing without being a priest.
However, it cannot be shown that Saul was being blamed for ignoring a general prohibition.
The command which he disobeyed was the more specific instruction that he should wait until Samuel came.
(The command is in ch9 v8, though the connection is obscured by the arrangement of the material.)
For that matter, Samuel himself was not a Levite. He was an Ephraimite by birth.
If he had any particular authority to make the intended sacrifice, it must have been as a prophet, rather than as a Levitical priest.
Therefore this passage does not genuinely support the doctrine that sacrifice belongs to the priests alone.

When the time came to fight the Philistines, the people were faint with hunger, because Saul had instructed them to fight fasting.
They won the battle, but then “the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood”.
In order to stop this happening, Saul built an altar in the spot so that the men themselves could sacrifice the animals properly, giving the due portions to the Lord, before eating them.
“It was the first altar that he built to the Lord” (which implies that there were more). 1 Samuel ch14 vv31-35.

When David brought the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem, he celebrated by offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, and he also blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. 2 Samuel ch6 vv17-19
At a later time, when plague approached Jerusalem, he bought the threshing-floor of Araunah.
In that place he built an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 2 Samuel ch24 vv24-25

At the inauguration of the new Temple, Solomon prayed in front of the altar, and gave a blessing to the whole company of Israel.
He then “offered as peace offering to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep”. Given the numbers, we might want to take this as “caused to be offered”.
Yet we’re also told that he “consecrated the middle of the court…for there he offered the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings”. 1 Kings ch8 vv62-64

When Jeroboam established a new kingdom in the north, he both sacrificed and offered incense at his shrine in Bethel.
This may have been the beginning of a tradition. At least we don’t know when the kings of Israel stopped sacrificing at the altar, or if they ever did stop.
Bethel was being called a “royal” shrine in the time of Amos.
Nor, for that matter, do we know exactly when the kings of Judah stopped sacrificing.
I think an important turning-point could have been the usurpation of Athaliah, when the priests were bringing up the child Josiah, hidden in the Temple, and could teach him anything they liked about the relation between kings and priests.
We only know that Uzziah got himself into trouble when he tried to offer incense, so the custom must have fallen into disuse by that point.

What comes out of this survey is that the priestly monopoly attached to the tribe of Levi is a comparatively late development.
Even ordinary people, let alone kings, were deemed capable of offering their own sacrifices for a long stretch of Israel’s early history.
As for the laws in Leviticus, where the exclusive rights of the priesthood are taken for granted, modern scholarship is inclined to regard these too as a later development than the time of Moses.
At the time of the Exile in Babylon, the priestly community were collecting and preserving the religious traditions, making it possible that the principle “only priests can sacrifice” was inserted into the Laws of Moses retrospectively.
There may be good reason to see the growth of the priestly monopoly as a gradual encroachment, not necessarily required as part of God’s real plans.
Though it does provide, for the New Testament, an important metaphor which can be applied to the function of Christ.

In the New Testament period, the offering of sacrifice has come to an end, for both Jews and Christians.
The Christians no longer have the need (see Hebrews) and the Jews no longer have the opportunity.
So we are now living in the period after the priestly monopoly in this field.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 05:09 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Why would the jews not have the opportunity?

And it can be clearly shown that Paul still sacrificed after the execution of Jesus... Thus for a time early Christians still sacrificed in the old way... at least those who followed Paul did

Acts 21:26

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 05:13 PM
a reply to: Akragon
Because the Temple has been destroyed.
Once they set up the rule that sacrifices could only be held in the Temple in Jerusalem, the end of the Temple of Jerusalem meant the end of sacrifice.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 05:18 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Ah I see what you're getting at... Still, that didn't mean the end of sacrifice

They would just do it like they did in older times... build their own alter...

Plus as far as I remember the temple sacrifice was only required once a year

Im pretty sure the jews perform ritual sacrifice actually...

edit on 13-2-2015 by Akragon because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 05:22 PM
a reply to: Akragon
They could have done, but they didn't; so in practice, the Jews have been left without an opportunity to sacrifice.
Thanks to the efforts of the Jerusalem priesthood, they now had rules saying that these things had to be done in Jerusalem only.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 06:55 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Yes exactly. You should really read Margaret Barker if you haven't. She goes into the difference between the first temple cultus and that of the second temple with its Levite dominance. The first temple and all of the Patriarches operated under the priest-king types, of which Jesus was, the Order of Melchizedek over the order of Aaron the Levite.

Much of the confusion in the stories of the old testament come from the Levite insertion, and the Deuteronomist purge.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 07:04 PM
a reply to: zardust
Yes, my thinking is already going along those lines. I'm beginning to think that the rule of Athaliah was a key moment for setting things moving in that direction.
I intend to do a thread on the leper-king Uzziah, but apart from that I'll be returning to the topic at a later date.

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 08:55 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I feel like I've already told you this before, but you might also check out Alice Linsley's "just genesis" blog. She has the patriarchs as Horite priests, aka priest-kings, priests of Horus, the son, and of course his mother (the tabernacle) Hwt-Hor, Hathor. I discuss some of these concepts in my sig line thread. There are too many coincidences there to not be something.

Anyway, great thread

posted on Feb, 13 2015 @ 09:01 PM
But my thinking is that if God wants us to enter into a personal one-on-one style relationship with Him, then there woule be a lot of things that a person would be able to carry out for themselves that were and are traditionally thought of as reserved to priests.

This doesn't mean that priests are not necessary, far from it. It simply means that a priests role would be to safeguard and teach the laws and traditions so the when a person does carry out a ceremony by himself, he is doing it correctly and the true ways are not lost over time.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 01:36 AM
This is not intended to be rude but for some reason I dont get the point of alot of your threads Disreali
What is the relevance, I could say who cares but I know there is a reason, just wonder what it is
Care to elaborate on the relevance of the information for today
Thanks in expectation

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 02:15 AM
a reply to: borntowatch
When you say "a lot of your threads", do you really mean the Old Testament ones?
The reason for including those books is that the religion of old Israel is the foundation of the Christian faith. Jesus was completing it and bringing it to a climax, rather than introducing something completely new. So understanding what the Old Testament is truly saying to us is part of understanding the Christian God.

There is also an apologetic purpose, partly obscured by the fact that these threads are pieces in a jigsaw. The relevance of an individual piece is less obvious untl you can see the bigger picture.
You will have noticed, on ATS, how the critics of religion make a big deal out of attacking what they identify as the evils of the Old Testament.
In response to that line of attack, I'm building the case that the Old Testament is not "all from God" or "all from man", but a mixture of the two. God's purposes and the human contribution are all tangled together. My strategy is to gradually work to disentangle them. I tried to do that with the social laws, and another group of threads (which will be resumed later) are doing it with the sacrificial customs.

This thread is one of those threads which contribute to the disentangling by identifying an aspect of the human contribution.
In this case, the tendency of priests to develop a caste mentality and exaggerate their role.
There's also a very direct relevance to today, because priests developing a caste mentality and exaggerating their role has come up in the life of the church as well.
I am pointing out the lesson from the past, that this is one of the effects of human nature.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 02:21 AM
Well thanks for the reply, I had little doubt that there was a valid reason to your thread but I hadnt caught on to it.

Thanks for clarifying your point, as usual I find it very interesting and informative and relevant as well.

Looking forward to the rest.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 02:24 AM
a reply to: borntowatch
This thread will have a follow-up in the form of a thread looking at the case of the leper-king Uzziah, but after that I'll be moving back to the New Testament for a while.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 04:18 AM
a reply to: ketsuko
We could say that the priests had a useful and important function,but in time they were prone to develop a caste mentality, with the result that they began exaggerating their role and exploiting it.
It's possible to see parallels with the way that "priesthood" developed in the Christian church.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 05:08 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Yes exactly, that is why there are actually to be no priests now. That is the problem in the first place. "call no man father". "you are a nation of priests"

We are all priests as we are all the temple. There is no "going to church". How can you go to something that you are at all times. Yes we are to be jointly fitted together, but not with another man as our head, aka a priest. There is but one high priest, that is the head of the body. We together have the mind of christ.

You are also very correct about the bible being part man part God. The part that calls for sacrifices is from man. The mind of man believes God requires sacrifices, but his prophets reply over and over "sacrifice and burnt offerings I did not desire, nor did I ask for them".

The entire structure of religion is wrong. That is what Jesus was saying. They want the outward. The literal temples (that God did not ask for), the literal caste of priests separated from the people, the form and structure, they "believe in the bible" because they can hold it in their hands. But Jesus said "you search the scriptures daily because in them you think you will find eternal life". His message was different. "my kingdom is not of this world", he was not building the religion of christianity, nor fully endorsing the judaism of the past. "Greater things will you do", he said. When we stop trying to separate ourselves from God, by rituals and priests and start to see that the Logos became flesh and is dwelling in us. The kingdom of heaven is inside.

Just as Christ IS, so are you (all) in the world. The fullness of God dwelling in bodily form. We just can't see it yet. "and we all with unveiled faces are reflecting the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into the exact image". Now this is a corporate we, but not with the head of the body being a man. When you place another man over you that is just a layer of the veil, the religious mind. One more mediator between God and man. But there is only one. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of ALL, who is Over ALL, and In ALL, and Through All. Permeating us all. We have no need of outward ritual to gain access to God. Never have.

posted on Feb, 14 2015 @ 05:19 AM
a reply to: zardust
On the subject of Old Testament sacrifice; I'll be finishing off a series of threads on that theme later in the year, and addressing the same issue.
No, God did not want or need sacrifices, though he could accept and make a teaching use of their willingness to sacrifice.

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