This contradiction should have been added to the previous one, #212, since it goes with it. It deals with the fate of an unredeemed firstling ass.
Reiterating the sacrificial theology of all firstborns—humans and animals—found in all of the sources of the Pentateuch, I reproduce again Exodus 13:2.
“Consecrate every firstborn for me [Yahweh]. The first birth of every womb of the children of Israel, of a human and of an animal, is mine!” (Ex 13:2)
The same pronouncement can be found in Exodus 13:11-16, 34:19-20; Leviticus 27:26-27; Numbers 3:12-13, 3:40-59, 8:16-18, 18:15-18; and Deuteronomy 15:19.
Leaving aside the offering of the firstfruits, which also must be dedicated to Yahweh, the sacrificial offering or consecration of firstborn males, humans and animals, can be broken into 3 categories:
- Hebrew firstborns, which instead of being consecrated to Yahweh, i.e., sacrificed as whole burnt-offerings, they are redeemed through the fact that the Levites now sacrificially stand in for them and thus become Yahweh’s (Num 3:11-13, 3:40-51, 8:14-18; see #145). When we get to the New Testament I will argue that Paul creates the same theology of sacrificial substitution vis-à-vis Jesus.
- Pure firstborn animals. These are the animals ritually belonging to Yahweh’s sacrifices—ox, sheep, goat (Lev 7:23, 17:3, 27:26; see #187). These animals are not redeemable; there is no redemption for these animals! That is to say, if you have a male firstborn ox, sheep, or, goat on your farm, it inherently is Yahweh’s. It is already inherently deemed consecrated and holy unto Yahweh, and as such must be offered up on the altar. Period, no exceptions. Side note: In making Jesus the pascal lamb, the author of the gospel of John is extending this sacrificial theology, as well as the broader sacrificial theology inherent in the Passover rite, onto Jesus, consecrated unto Yahweh like a lamb!
- Impure firstborn animals are all other animals.
- In the earliest sources, only the ass is mentioned as eligible for redemption and this might logically be due to its domestic role as a beast of burden. Thus, if a farmer wished to keep his firstborn male ass, then he would have to redeem it by instead substituting a lamb from his flock. Or he shall have to “break its neck” (Ex 13:13, 34:20).
- In the later sources, D and P, all firstborn male impure animals, thus including asses, are eligible for redemption. This may also be due to the fact that later on other animals became valuable as domestic animals. However, contradictory to the earlier sources (see #212) the ass can only now be redeemed through a purchase price set by the Aaronid priests.
This leads us to the cases of the unredeemed ass.
As we already noted above, according to the earlier sources if a farmer did not wish to redeem his firstling ass via the sacrificial substitution of a lamb, then he was to break its neck—no exceptions.
In the Priestly source of Leviticus 27, however, now the farmer had the option of selling his firstling ass if he did not wish to redeem it via the monetary price set by the Aaronid priest. Thus, in effect, there are 3 options for the ass per our later Priestly sources.
The farmer could:
- devote his firstling ass as a sacrifice to Yahweh, in fulfillment of the commandment that all firstborns are Yahweh’s
- redeem it, i.e., keep it for himself, by handing over to the priest the value of the ass, plus one fifth, as appraised by the priest himself
- or sell it at the valuation appraised by the priest
So in the earlier law codes, the farmer has the choice of redeeming his ass with a lamb or killing it, but in the later law codes he can choose to redeem it by “buying it,” i.e., paying for its valuation, or selling it.
I must confess, for the latter choice here, selling it, it’s unclear who is doing the selling and you keeps the money from the sale: the farmer or the priesthood? My guess would be that since the priesthood loses out on the money that the farmer would give it in order to redeem his ass, that the money for the sale of the ass goes to the priesthood. Obviously, what is different from our earlier sources as well is the emergence of a burgeoning economically profitable priesthood!
Finally, when these older Pentateuchal sources (Elohist and Yahwist) are redacted together with the later sources (Priestly and Deuteronomic), the newly created combined narrative has Yahweh commanding one thing and then literally commanding its opposite within a period of a few months! In other words, the Elohist and Yahwist sources are preserved as part of the Sinai revelation in Exodus. When the later Priestly writer sought to authenticate his laws, he too retrojected their giving into the archaic past as part of the Sinai narrative. However, according to the chronology imposed by the Priestly writer only 9 months have elapsed between the giving of the laws at Sinai—the Elohist (Ex 20-23) and the Yahwist (Ex 34)—and the giving of the sacrificial legislation penned by the Aaronid priesthood itself (the book of Leviticus). The former took place in the 3rd month of the first year after the Exodus (Ex 19:1), while the latter commandment took place sometime during the 1st month of the second year (Lev 1:1; cf. Num 1:1)—the Priestly chronology. I’m thinking of doing a separate post on this.