JEPD Evidence & Arad

George Athas gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
Sun Dec 19 16:21:05 EST 1999


> Leviticus 17 prohibits profane slaughter in general and allows it only
> in the case of game animals; all other animals must be brought to tha
> altar for slaughter. This presupposes a situation in which altars are
> conveniently available to all; i. e., before centralization of cult.

Or, it could simply have been written for a small audience, perhaps only those in
Jerusalem and its immediate environs, or perhaps only priestly classes. How many people in
antiquity had a copy of Leviticus at home that they could pull off the shelf along with
their cook books? Was it meant for everyone to read?

But, the setting of Leviticus actually implies the existence of a centralised cult -
specifically the Pavilion-shrine religion of the wandering Israelites after the Exodus.
The implication of sacrificing elsewhere seems not to be that the people had access to
other non-centralised altars, but that they could offer their sacrifices to other gods.
The point of bringing the animal to the altar is to offer it to Yahweh alone in his
dwelling place.

There is a bit of interpretative reworking of the tradition here that leads one to posit a
non-centralised cult here in Leviticus 17. It might be a correct hypothesis, but there are
many loose threads.

> Deuteronomy 12 allows profane slaughter for the saking of broiling a
> steak or whatever in any place; only those animals specifically
> designated as sacrifices need be brought to the central altar.
> Deuteronomy says, regarding profane slaughter, that anyone may eat them,
> whether he is ritually pure or impure, just like game animals.
> One conlcudes that Deuteronomy is specifically referring to the
> injunctions of Leviticus 17 and nullifying them. In other words,
> Deuteronomy 12, which reflects the demand for centralization of the
> cult, is later than Leviticus 17, which precedes it (Yehezkel Kaufman)

Or, it could reflect a different cult altogether as a result of a changing of the guard.
Or, again, it could be addressing only a very small group of people. The assumption behind
these conclusions is that Leviticus and Deuteronomy were necessarily widely circulating
documents after their first printing run. Is there any evidence of this? To what period
can we assign that first printing run?

> According to 2 Kings, centralization of the cult was attempted by
> Hezekiah and successfully accomplished by Josiah, Ezekiel, writing in
> Babylon during the Exile, writes in Chap. 44 that only the Zadokite
> priests will be allowed to sacrifice in the new temple. The other
> Levites - those who were priests in the now-defunct bamot - will not.
> So Ezekiel's writings postdate and reflect centralization of cult.

Did centralisation occur only once? Is the centralisation referred to in Ezekiel the same
as that implied by Deuteronomy?

> Didn't the excavations at Tel Arad point to the conclusion that the
> altar there had been destroyed in Hezekiah"s time? I may be using
> outdated info. But if I'm not, then there's external evidence for
> centralization of cult in Hezekiah's time and for the claim that
> Leviticus 17 is pre-exilic and pre-Josianic, at least.

There is another theory that it might have been destroyed by Edomites, or may have been in
Edomite hands when the altar was destroyed. Hezekiah lost control over most of Judah when
Sennacherib came along. Certainly the Negev was not in Hezekiah's hands after 701 BCE. At
this time, the Edomites were well and truly in the Negev and desert to the south (as Tel
Malhata attests). The stratigraphy of Arad is still debated, as is the efficacy or locus
of Hezekiah's reforms. Arad was most probably a Judahite or Kenite shrine, but just how
that shrine was destroyed is debatable. Arad VII is completely different to Arad VIII (the
stratum with the altar in question). It seems like a wholesale abandonment of the site or
foreign takeover occured between the two strata.

Best regards,
George Athas
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
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