Lamb of the Free (10)

One of the key takeaways from Rillera is that kipper is about the individual doing their part to help decontaminate the holy place from contamination, not an animal substituting for the individual. We read as an analogy to a child taking care of a pet:

  • This is basically what is depicted in Levitical sacrificial system of decontamination . The children ( Israelites ) learn that they are responsible to remove their messes ( ritual impurities and / or sin – contaminations ) and that they are released from this obligation by bringing the decontamination supplies ( the haṭṭā ‘ t ) to their parents ( priests ) who physically carry out the process of removing the mess ( kipper ) from the public space ( the sanctuary ) on their behalf . Only sancta receive the action of kipper . Priests are engaging in this ritual process of contamination removal for those who contaminated it somehow ( through a major impurity or an inadvertent sin ) , but kipper is not happening ” to ” or ” on ” those people (123).

Blood here is not connected to death as per substitutionary logic, but life, and so blood purifies the sanctuary from the contamination of death. Rillera thus points out:

  • If a person cannot afford a lamb or goat , they can instead offer two birds , but if they cannot afford ( or catch ) the birds , they can instead simply offer flour as a ḥaṭṭā’t ( 5 : 11-13 ) .343 This proves that while the ideal ritual process of removing contaminations from the sancta would involve the symbol of pure life – blood – the process is more about individuals doing their part to maintain the sanctity of God’s dwelling place so that the mere gesture of handing a handful of their flour to the priest suffices . Another way of putting it : the fact that it is even conceivable for Leviticus to claim that an offering of grain can be a legitimate haṭṭā’t necessarily excludes the theory that the haṭṭā’t is a substitutionary death , symbolically spilling the blood of the offerer , because this offering is literally bloodless … The whole process depends on individual Israelites taking personal responsibility for their whole community’s well – being by cleaning up their own ” messes ” that would cause God to abandon a desecrated dwelling place if left untreated . This is why one’s own flour can substitute for animal blood … Surely if going about these blood rituals renders sacrifices as ” not shedding blood ” then it is illogical to suggest that the sacrifices is a substitution for shedding the offerer’s blood . What is more , neither ” ransom❞ nor ” atonement sacrifice ” can be made to substitute for someone who is worthy of death ( Num 35 : 31-34 ) . Therefore , the logic of decontaminating sacrifices is not ” something that bleeds needs to die , ” but rather ” we need a substance capable of purging the forces of death — we need pure life . ”(125-6).

Taking the life of an animal would normally be murder and hence eye for an eye would be in place, but in sacrifice the blood is put on the altar and so given back to God, removing the murder notion of sacrifice through ritual. The blood re-consecrates the holy place so God can dwell there.

Next time I will continue to study Rillera’s “Lamb of the Free” regarding the day of decontamination (atonement).