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

This week- Section 34

Title- במדבר (In the Dessert) (In the Wilderness)
Parashah- B’midbar 1.1-4.20
Torah Portion- Numbers 1.1-4.20

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 12.26-27.

26But such sacred and votive donations as you may have shall be taken by you to the site that the LORD will choose. 27You shall offer your burnt offerings, both the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and of your other sacrifices, the blood shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the flesh.

– – – – –

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, beginning with Essay 26 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.

I recommend my reader to read Year 2 Essay 29, which includes some explanation of why I hold that view.

 
Before I move into my discussion about verses 12.26-27, I want to discuss 12.28.

Stylistically, the JPS translation places Deuteronomy 12.28 with Deuteronomy 12.1-27.

However, after my reading of the JPS English translation, I am thinking that 12.28 does not functionally close 12.1-27.

Instead, I think that 12.28 opens a new section. Consider the phraseology of 12.1 against the phraseology of 12.28.

Deuteronomy 12.1 JPS
These are the laws and rules which you must carefully observe in the land that the LORD, God of your fathers, is giving you to possess, as long as you live on earth.

Deuteronomy 12.28 JPS
Be careful to heed all these commandments which I enjoin upon you; thus it will go well with you and with your descendants after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

It could be argued that 12.1 and 12.28 work within the chiastic nature and structure found in 12.2-27. Personally, I can see the validity of that argument and how that would make 12.28 part of the 12.1-28 section. Stylistically, that makes literary sense.

However, as I am reading it, in a literary sense, it seems plausible that both 12.1 and 12.28 function as transitionary statements, where 12.1 and 12.28 make an introduction to the information that follows each verse.

In that line of thought, I interpret 12.1 functioning as a transtionary statement, introducing the thoughts found from 12.2-27.

That means I interpret 12.28 also functioning as a transtionary statement, introducing a new section of information which begins with 12.29.

Since, I interpret 12.29 in that fashion, then I will address 12.29 when I begin discussing that section of Deuteronomy.

 
I now move into my discussion about verses 12.26-27.

Deuteronomy 12.26 reveals Moses reiterating to Israel that they are to take specific items (sacred and votive donations) to the site that Jehovah would choose.

With that then, Moses is bringing additional focus to the importance of Israel being prohibited from sacrificing anything to Jehovah in any place other than the specific location that Jehovah specified.

As for the application of the phrase “the site that the LORD will choose”, I discuss that concept in Year 2, Essay 27.

For this Essay, I want to focus on the importance of 12.27 and how it stands in contrast to the injunction that Israel is not permitted to partake of blood.

For my discussion about Israel not being permitted to consume blood, see Year 2, Essay 30 (discussing Deuteronomy 12.15-16) and Year 2, Essay 33 (discussing Deuteronomy 12.20-25).

In Year 2, Essay 33, I discuss how the life of the animal was in the blood, and therefore conveyed that when an animal was slaughtered a type of ‘sacredness’ was ‘sacrificed’ all in order for humans to consume the meat of the animal, which stands in contrast to the dietary injunction given to Adam and Eve at the garden to eat from seed bearing plants and seed bearing trees.

From that then, what is being discussed in Deuteronomy 12.20-27 is not solely the sacrifices that belong to Jehovah, but that Israel is not permitted to consume the animals in the manner that Jehovah consumes the animals.

Deuteronomy 12.27 has Moses continuing to reveal the contrast between what Israel does for Jehovah versus what Israel does for itself.

Deuteronomy 12.27 states:
27You shall offer your burnt offerings, both the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and of your other sacrifices, the blood shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the flesh.

On the surface of the text, that surely is an injunction regarding how Israel is to do things regarding sacrifice, which is certainly true.

But 12.27 stands in contrast to 12.15-16 and 12.20-25.

Through all of these passages, it can be seen that both Jehovah and Israel consume parts of the animal.

Yet, there is an important contrast.

When the animal is burnt for Jehovah, Jehovah consumes the animal’s blood through the altar, and Jehovah consumes the animal’s ‘flesh’ through the fire, prohibiting Israel from partaking of the animal’s flesh.

When the animal is for other purposes (not burnt) for Jehovah, Israel is required to pour out the animal’s blood on the altar, where Jehovah consumes the animal’s blood through the altar, but Israel is permitted to partake of the animal’s flesh.

Why the difference?

In part, the answer is seen through the concept of Israel consuming the animal for dietary needs.

When Israel is consuming the animal for dietary needs, the animal is not being ‘sacrificed’ (slaughtered) to be provide expiation (Leviticus 17.11 JPS).

As such, when Israel ‘sacrifices’ (slaughters) the animal’s life for their dietary needs, the animal’s blood is poured out on the ground, through which the animal’s life returns to the place of its origin (Genesis 1.24-25).

However, when Israel ‘slaughters’ (sacrifices) the animal’s life for their expiation (atonement) needs, the animal’s blood is poured out on the altar, through which the animals life is not returning to its place of origin (earth, Genesis 1.24-25), instead the blood is going to Jehovah (who resides in an ethereal place).

That reveals an important contrast.

When Israel utilizes the animal for expiatory needs, the animal’s life goes to the ethereal.

Whereas when Israel utilizes the animal for dietary needs, the animal’s life returns to the earth.

That contrast reveals the distinction of divine consumption versus human consumption.

That contrast reveals why Israel is not permitted to consume the animal’s blood.

Why?

Because when the animal’s blood is given to Jehovah, the blood is for an ethereal non-earthly purpose, and because the animal’s blood can be used for that ethereal purpose, Jehovah prohibits Israel from consuming the animal’s blood, which means Jehovah prohibits Israel from interpreting themselves as capable of doing that which Jehovah does.

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