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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 29

Name- מות אחרי (After the Death)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 16.1-18.30
Torah Portion- Leviticus 16.1-18.30

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 12.13-16.

13Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like, 14but only in the place which the LORD will choose in one of your tribal territories. There you shall sacrifice your burnt offerings and there you shall observe all that I enjoin upon you. 15But whenever you desire, you may slaughter and eat meat in any of your settlements, according to the blessing which the LORD your God has granted you. The unclean and the clean alike may partake of it, as of the gazelle and the deer. 16But you must not partake of the blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.

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This Essay is part 1 of 2 discussing Deuteronomy 12.13-16, this part focuses on verses 13-14.

This Essay continues my commentary on this section of Moses’ presentation to Israel, which began back with Deuteronomy 12.2. See my Year 2 Essays 26, 27, and 28 for my comments on those verses.

In previous Essays, I have established that I interpret Moses as presenting these things to Israel from his own individual, personal, volitional perspective.

Because of that, I do not necessarily interpret Moses as presenting any new concepts to Israel, but instead, as preaching and exhorting the Nation of Israel to do as they have been instructed by Jehovah.

Therefore, I believe that Moses is referencing his experiences with Jehovah, and Moses is referencing his experiences with Israel, which means that I interpret the bulk of Deuteronomy as Moses referencing those experiences as found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, which means that I interpret the bulk of Deuteronomy as Moses presenting his final sermon(s) to Israel, where Moses has expectations that Israel will present themselves, both collectively and individually, faithful to Jehovah by being faithful to the covenant that Jehovah entered into with the Nation of Israel at Sinai.

Therefore, I do not interpret Deuteronomy as a second law, and I do not interpret Deuteronomy as a second covenant, and I do not interpret Deuteronomy as a retelling of the law.

Consequently, I interpret Deuteronomy as the Hebrew title begins: the words, referring to the words of Moses (cf. Deut. 1.1), which is an expression that conveys the sayings, which is another way to express the “sermons” of Moses.

That means that Deuteronomy has a completely different means of conveying information than what is found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

Because of that thought process, I cannot interpret Moses as changing the worship structure of Israel. Here’s what I mean.

Regarding the passage Deuteronomy 12.13-14, one commentary states:
The first distinction is between sacrificial worship any place…, which is here [in vv. 12.13-14] rejected as illegitimate, and [that] legitimate sacrifice [is] performed at a single sanctuary, the place that the LORD will choose (v. 14). The prohibition of sacrifice at multiple sites marks a dramatic contrast with the nation’s pervious norms. It was formerly common to [build] altars and sacrifice to God throughout the land (Gen. 12.7; 35.1-7; 1 Sam. 7.17; 1 Kings 18.20-46); indeed, earlier biblical law assures God’s blessing at multiple sacrificial altars: “in every place” (Exod. 20.21).[1]

Personally, while that seems to be the typical interpretation of Deuteronomy 12.13-14, I am not convinced that Moses is conveying that the Nation of Israel was ever permitted to have multiple worship locations.

It is accurate to state that Abraham built altars (Genesis 12.7) as did Jacob (Genesis 35.1-7), but those altar builds occurred prior to the Nation of Israel existing. Abraham is not an Israelite, Abraham physically cannot be an Israelite, because Israelites come from Israel, who was Jacob, where Jacob (also known as Israel) was Abraham’s grandson.

To make Abraham and Israel (Jacob) Israelites is an asynchronous error. Abraham and Israel (Jacob) do not exist at the same time as the nation of Israel. Abraham and Jacob (Israel) exist prior to the Nation of Israel. However, the Nation of Israel did grow in number while in Egypt, but was not recognized as an independent nation until the exodus.

Therefore, when Abraham and/or Jacob make altars, they constructed those altars under a different auspice than an Israelite who received instructions from Jehovah through Moses.

Therefore to presume that Moses was bringing to an end what the Nation of Israel had been permitted to do is also an error of conflation, combining the ideas of Abraham and Jacob into the Nation of Israel.

Therefore asynchronous and conflation errors give eisegesis errors, where there is reading into the text something that is not actually there, where reading into the text introduces personal presuppositions and/or preferences into the text.

An example of eisegesis is the commentary referring to Exodus 20.21 and the phrase “in every place”.

That phrase is found in Exodus 20.19-23. The JPS translates that passage as:
19The LORD said to Moses:
Thus shall you say to the Israelites: You yourselves saw that I spoke to you from the very heavens: 20With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold. 21Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you. 22And if you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it of hewn stones; for by wielding your tool upon them you have profaned them. 23Do not ascend My altar by steps, that you nakedness may not be exposed upon it.

There is a tremendous amount going on in that Exodus passage, I will identify only a few.

Firstly, it is vital to see that this passage is directly attributed to Jehovah, not Moses (Exodus 20.19a).

That attribution to Jehovah stands in contrast with the discussion I am currently having about Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy attributes the dialogue directly to Moses (Deut. 5.1). The Deuteronomy narrative makes Moses the person who is doing the speaking.

That can be found in several passages, where the Deuteronomy narrative has Moses use the first personal pronoun (e.g. “I” – Deut. 5.1, 8.1, 11.26), which conveys that Moses himself is speaking, which itself conveys that Moses is not speaking on behalf of Jehovah, even though Moses does speak on behalf of Jehovah in Exodus 20.19.

Secondly, in Exodus 20.19, through Moses, Jehovah said that Israel experienced Jehovah’s voice and because of that experience at Sinai the Nation of Israel is prohibited from having gods (idols) of silver and gold (20.20).

Because of that, through Moses, Jehovah informs Israel what type of altar is accepted, unhewn stones, which means rocks retaining their natural contours and shapes are to be used as a place for burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Third, the question is: in Exodus 20.19-23, through Moses, did Jehovah convey that the Nation of Israel could construct altars “in every place”?

The answer is yes, but also no.

The issue is the phrase that immediately follows “in every place” which serves as a mechanism to clarify the meaning of “in every place”.

The modifying phrase? “where I cause My name to be mentioned”.

Taken together, they read “in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned“.

Therefore “in every place” is only “every place” when “every place” is “where I cause My name to be mentioned”.

That means that Jehovah does not accept sacrifice in every place, because Jehovah only accepts sacrifice “in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned”.

Anything else is an eisegetical read of the text, where one reads into the text permissions because they prefer to have the ability to worship “in every place” they want, which is NOT what is communicated in this Exodus passage.

Importantly, Deuteronomy 12.13-14 does support the concept found in Exodus 20.19-23 .

Deuteronomy 12.14a states “only in the place which the LORD will choose in one of your tribal territories.”

Admittedly, the Deuteronomy passage conveys more directly the concept found in the Exodus passage “in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned”.

While the wording is different, the concepts are the same.

That means the concept given in Deuteronomy 12.13-14 was sourced in a previous exchange between Jehovah and Moses, perhaps Exodus 20.19-23.

But in Deuteronomy, Moses is not speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

Instead, Moses is simply preaching what Jehovah had already established and made known.

But Moses was able to preach and present without having the pressure and need to refer to “book, chapter and verse” to establish his point, because the then audience already believed that when Moses spoke Moses spoke with integrity about the things of Jehovah.

So what was permitted with the burnt offerings?

Exodus 20.21a gives some insight: “burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen”.

That correlates to Deuteronomy 12.14b “sacrifice your burnt offerings”.

From there, Leviticus 1.1-3 establishes sacrificial location:

1The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: 2Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them:

When any of you presents an offering of cattle to the LORD, he shall choose his offering from the herd or from the flock.

3If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall make his offering a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for acceptance in his behalf before the LORD.

From that, it can be established that Leviticus 1.1ff is directly attributed to Jehovah, not Moses.

Therefore in Deuteronomy, Moses draws upon his experience, part of which is Leviticus 1.1-3 and Exodus 20.19-23.

From those experiences, Moses makes his presentation in Deuteronomy 12.13-16.

Therefore, in Deuteronomy 12.13-16, Moses is not presenting new concepts, just presenting those previous concepts in a sermon, a sermon to exhort and encourage Israel to specific action.

So whether Exodus, or Leviticus, or Deuteronomy, where is Israel to sacrifice?

The place where Jehovah chose to make habitation is where Jehovah would fulfill the statement “in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned” (Exodus 20.21), which is the same as Moses’ statement “to the site where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name (Deut. 12.11)”, which would have been where the Tent of Meeting (also referred to as the Tabernacle) came to be established.

Yes, there was a place where Jehovah met with Moses, but that meeting location did not have the equipment necessary for making the sacrifices.

Therefore the Tent of Meeting in Leviticus has to be the Tabernacle, because of statements like Leviticus 1.5 “The bull shall be slaughtered before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar which is at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.”

From all of the passages, it can be concluded that Jehovah was certainly having the Nation of Israel rethink sacrificial worship, which was essential.

The people who were the previous inhabitants of the land worshipped wherever they wanted, as referenced in Deuteronomy 12.2-3, and the Nation of Israel was not permitted to worship in that manner.

Additionally, the Israelite people most likely experienced multiple sacrificial locations while living in Egypt.

However, that changed as Jehovah led them out of Egypt and had the Tabernacle constructed, to where Jehovah was moving Israel from multi-worship centers to a singular-worship center.

Where was that one worship center?

As discussed in Year 2 Essay 27, wherever the Tabernacle was located.

 
Endnotes:
[1] Commentary Deuteronomy 12.13-14; The Jewish Study Bible, JPS Tanakh; p.392; ISBN: 0-19-529751-2.

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