Monday, May 23, 2011

From Genesis to Leviticus

Leviticus 8

 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2"Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting." 4And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
 5And Moses said to the congregation, "This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done." 6And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water... 21He washed the entrails and the legs with water...
 10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. 12And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.
33And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded." 36And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.
There are some subtle and not so subtle parallels between Lev 8 and Gen 1:1-2:3:

i) In both cases you have a “container” (the world, the tabernacle) which is furnished with various objects.

ii) In both cases you have divine commands which instigate corresponding events.

iii) In both cases you have a water-motif.

iv) In both cases you have a Spirit-motif.

(As commentators like Wenham and Ross have pointed out, the anointing oil in Lev 8 symbolizes the presence of the Spirit.)

v) In both cases you have the diurnal-motif.

vi) In both cases you have the septunarian motif.

So it seems as though the ordination ceremony in Lev 8 was modeled, in part, on the creation account in Gen 1:1-2:3.

(There are, of course, differences. These are different events. Likewise, Gen 1 is prelapsarian whereas Lev 8 is postlapsarian. Hence the atonement ritual in Lev 8.)

If, to some extent we should interpret the ordination ceremony in light of the creation account, does that also work in reverse? Would an ancient Jew, reading Lev 8, with its literary allusions, view the creation account as being, in some respects, analogous to the ordination ceremony?

The cosmos is the archetypal tabernacle, which God consecrates by water and Spirit, in a seven-day ceremony.


  1. What would be the ramifications of the parallel for us?

  2. It is an interesting observation. I agree with Jonathan W that unpacking some of the significance of the parallel for its ramifications would be good.

  3. Among other things, it involves a theophanic or hierophanic reading. Instead of viewing the universe as a machine, the universe is a token of God's emblematic presence.

    This stands in contrast to secular science. And it also stands in contrast to monastic, world-denying pieties which view the physical world as distraction or a snare, rather than a revelation of God's goodness.