We have now finished examining the contradictions in the Sinai traditions (#129-132, #134-135), and the Elohist’s law code (#137-138, #139-140, #141, #142, etc.) found in the book of Exodus. With the exception of JE material in Exodus 32-34, the remainder of the book of Exodus is from the Priestly source. And the book of Leviticus, our next stop, is also all from the pen of P.
What we have seen thus far is that according to the Elohist, Yahweh gave both the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) and case laws (Ex 21-23) to the people at Horeb. Furthermore, a covenantal blood ritual has bound the people to the law (24:3-7). Later, however, we will see that the Deuteronomist, when he has Moses retell this event, has Moses claim that Yahweh only gave the Ten Commandments at Horeb and no other laws! Why the Deuteronomist has Moses falsify this early tradition will be discussed then. But the Priestly writer also felt obliged to change the Sinai revelation, or add to it.
In fact, in P there is no law code given at Sinai! Rather, Moses receives lengthy details for the construction of the Tabernacle, altar, and its equipment (Ex 25-31). Furthermore, the only covenant given at Sinai in the Priestly literature is the covenant of the Sabbath! (Ex 31)—recall the Priestly creation account. The Priestly law code, centered around the issues of purity, are given by Yahweh at the Tent of Meeting, where Yahweh now dwells. This cultic legislation is the core of the book of Leviticus.
Throughout the contradictions in the book of Exodus, one thread that we have been charting closely is Aaron’s status and how the Priestly writer interjects Aaron into the older JE material. On numerous occasions we saw that one of the Priestly writer’s agenda in rewriting Israel’s past was to present Aaron in a superior role to Moses, and conversely when possible to even denigrate Moses (#91, #93, #95, #105). We are now at a position to fully understand why the Priestly writer was doing this.
Exodus 28-29, 39-40, Leviticus 1-10, 17, 21-22, and Numbers 17 and 25—all from the pen of P—explicitly proclaim from Yahweh’s mouth that only Aaron and his seed can minister before Yahweh, can enter the Holy of Holies, and can perform sacrifices and expiate the people’s sins. Furthermore, there can be, nor is there in the Priestly literature, no sacrifices before the alter is constructed and consecrated (Ex 40), and the Aaronid priesthood is consecrated (Lev 8)—i.e., sanctified as Yahweh’s. The Aaronid priests are literally Yahweh’s anointed or messiahs!
Thus Moses’ erection of an earthen altar at the base of Sinai in Exodus 24:4—in accord with E (Ex 20:24)—and his sacrificial offerings to Yahweh in Exodus 24:5 would have been viewed as anathema to the Priestly writers. That is why we note it as a contradiction here. This is completely contradictory to the cultic institution that is being established immediately on the tail of this passage. According to Exodus 25-31 and 35-40—all from P—Yahweh only has one altar where sacrifices are to be made and that is not of earth but of acacia wood platted with bronze (see #137-138), and only one priestly family that officiates his sacrifices, the Aaronids.
The narrative and theological tension created when P (Ex 25-31 & 35-40) was assembled with the JE material (Ex 24 & 32-34) becomes even more apparent when, as we shall see, Aaron is depicted on the one hand as the artificer of Israel’s greatest sin, the Golden Calf (E), while on the other hand and in the same narrative time frame, Aaron is chosen by Yahweh as his sole officiating priest (P)! These two events now happen concurrently in the combined PJE document. There are some other interesting, and humorous, anomalies now in the redacted PJE text as it has come down to us. We will look at these before we move into the book of Leviticus.