#311. Was the regular burnt-offering (tamid) performed at Sinai OR not? (Num 28:6 vs Ex 24:3-7, 32:5-6; Lev 8-9)


Numbers 28-29 outlines the schedule of public sacrifices performed in the cult during the calendar year. The schedule complements P’s list of public festivals or holy assemblies enumerated in Leviticus 23 (see Festival Calendars for an overview). It is one of five different sacrificial or festival calendars in the Torah, whose contradictions and historical developments we’ve already discussed:

There are two sacrifices listed in Numbers 28-29 not mentioned in Leviticus 23—the burnt-offering performed every Sabbath and the 2 regular or continual burnt-offerings (tamid) of year-old lambs performed every day, in the morning and in the evening, in essence “Yahweh’s food” (Num 28:2).

Concerning the continual burnt-offering or tamid, Numbers 28:6 claims that this is “the continual burnt offering that was performed at Mount Sinai.” However, there is no record of this in the Torah! And it would seem that our 6th century Priestly writer is attempting to establish the authenticity of this sacrifice by claiming that it had been established and performed at Sinai.

Indeed, there were burnt-offerings performed at Sinai, but none of these are the tamid discussed here in Numbers 28:3-8.

  1. There are the burnt-offerings of Exodus 24:3-7, but these function as a blood rite binding the people to the covenant law code of Exodus 21-23.
  2. There are the burnt-offerings sacrificed “to Yahweh” during the Golden Calf celebration (Ex 32:5-6). For more see #157.
  3. And finally there are the burnt-offerings offered up to Yahweh on the 1st and 8th days of the erection of the Tabernacle and its and the Aaronid priesthood’s anointing or atonement (Lev 8:18-21; 9:1-3, 24). For an alternative version of this atonement ceremony see #221.

The absence of the tamid in these last burnt-offerings (#3) is what is curious—indeed the absence of the mention of the tamid in the whole book of Leviticus!

What is curious is the fact that this 7-day atonement ceremony was already spoken of back in Exodus 29—from the Priestly pen as well. During the seven days that Aaron is to make atonement, verses 38-42 seem to suggest that the continual (tamid) burnt-offering is to be performed “on the altar.” But when this seven-day atonement ceremony is described in Leviticus 8-9 nothing is mentioned of the tamid, while there is mention of other sacrifices, such as the bull sin-offering.

The fact that the book of Leviticus as a whole, and chapter 23 specifically, do not mention the tamid, has led scholars to see the sacrificial rites enumerated in Numbers 28-29, and especially the tamid, as later Priestly innovations. Some have even suggested that the instructions for the tamid mentioned in Exodus 29:38-42 were added later to buttress the claims made in Numbers 28. In this line of reasoning, the atonement ceremony in Leviticus 8-9 does not mention the tamid because it wasn’t instituted yet! The text of Exodus 29:38-46 was added later, mirroring the claim in Numbers 28:6. Another possibility, more plausible to me now as I reread this passage, is that Exodus 29:38-46 was not intended to be read as what was to happen as part of the 7-day atonement ceremony mentioned in verses 35-37, but was intended as a general instruction (torah) for “what you shall do on the altar.”

Finally, we have already seen that other traditions now preserved in the Bible fiercely contended against the Priestly writer’s insistence that sacrifices were an intrinsic part of the wilderness period. See #155. Does Yahweh command sacrifices during the wilderness period OR not?

10 thoughts on “#311. Was the regular burnt-offering (tamid) performed at Sinai OR not? (Num 28:6 vs Ex 24:3-7, 32:5-6; Lev 8-9)

  1. Seedy3, you may also be interested in Thom Stark’s article here: http://religionatthemargins.com/2011/06/putting-an-end-to-the-battle-richard-hess-and-2-kings-327/
    I alerted Stark to an article by Baruch Margalit which includes a prayer to Baal that is similar to Mesha’s call to Chemosh in 2 Kings 3:27. Stark concludes his article by quoting 1 Samuel 7:9-10 alongside 2 Kings 3:27, and the connection is obvious:

    So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt-offering to Yahweh; Samuel cried out to Yahweh for Israel, and Yahweh answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but Yahweh thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. (1 Sam 7:9-10)

    Then he [Mesha] took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt-offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land. (2 Kings 3:27)

  2. 2 Kings 3:27 is fascinating, it truly shows that Israel did know of other gods (according to the ancient that would intervene for their followers. Most of the time when I have a discussion about the history of the Jewish beliefs and that they were not always monotheistic, people tell me that these gods spoken of in the bible are just false/not real gods. But here in this scripture you have one of these gods other then YHVH intervening against Israel.

  3. Other verses which establish that there are gods other than Yahweh: 1 Kings 11:7, 33; 2 Kings 3:27; Jeremiah 48:7; Deuteronomy 32:43, Micah 4:5, and of course the famous Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (LXX/DSS version). I recently discussed 2 Kings 3:27 with one of the NIV’s translators, David Instone-Brewer. You can read the exchange here, http://tinyurl.com/2kings327 (there is intervening discussion of other passages), and I discuss some of the other texts here, http://bcharchive.org/2/thearchives/showthread92a1.html.

    Regarding the amount of time that the Israelites were in Egypt or were oppressed in Egypt, you may be interested in the posts of “Leolaia” and me in this thread:
    http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/194288/length-israelites-egyptian-sojourn-unsolvable-bible-error?page=1 Between us, we cover a lot of information. This is perhaps my favorite Bible contradiction, and what’s particularly striking is that not only can modern apologists (and Josephus, see my post#90 in this thread, http://bcharchive.org/2/thearchives/showthread3206.html?t=200947&page=9, as well as “Leolaia’s comments in the JW thread) not agree on the proper “solution”–using the long-sojourn or short-sojourn models–St. Paul and St. Stephen don’t even agree. Paul says in Galatians 3:16-17 says that the law came 430 years after Abraham, which seems to harmonize with the SP/LXX reading of Exodus 12:40, splitting 430 years between Canaan and Egypt. However, in his speech in Acts 7, Stephen references Genesis 15:13 (in 7:6), which speaks of 400 years of oppression in Egypt, something incompatible with Paul’s statement.

    1. John,

      Thanks for these additional resources. I will look into them. Since the aim here is to try to be exhaustive, all of this type of material is beneficial.

  4. More so, thank you for the Psalm reference. Ever since Yahweh sat down and ate a meal with Abraham in Genesis 18 I’ve been looking for biblical passages that express—contradictorily—that Yahweh does not eat or need food.

    You’re welcome. Although the following passages don’t say that God doesn’t require sacrifice, an inference can be made that since with an improper attitude or sin the sacrifices are unwanted, God doesn’t have to have the sacrifice: Isaiah 1:11, Hosea 6:6, Psalm 51:16-17.

  5. At present, my list for the contradictions in Genesis have added about a half dozen or more contradictions between Genesis and the New Testament that I never had the chance to post here—many are quite nice.

    Care to post them? Maybe readers could add to them.

    1. I could. . . and just number them for example 34b. But I was also thinking that these might make for incentives to buy this book — when I get on it. Some of these are just drafts now and need to be finished. Anyway, here are some of the ones I’ve added—nothing here that you’re not already familiar with I imagine. And I will have to now add the Yahweh’s food contradiction. So my list now starts with these:

      #1. Was the world created from preexistent matter OR nothing? (Gen 1:1-2; Is 45:18 vs Heb 11:3)

      #2. Was the world created by or through Jesus Christ OR by Yahweh alone? (Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2 vs Gen 1:1, 2:4; Is 37:16, 44:24, 45:18; Jer 10:12, 51:15; Pv 3:19; Neh 9:6)

      #3. Was eternal life promised before the world was created OR not?– Tit 1:2; 1 Jn 1:1-2, 2:24-25; 2 Tim 1:9

      I’ll make some enemies with those for sure, but historically we should be speaking about changing religious beliefs, and Fundamentalists should start realizing that as a collection of literature spanning 1,000 years, the Bible bears witness to these changing beliefs and worldviews.

      #8. Are there other gods besides Yahweh OR are there none besides him? (Gen 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Ex 12:11, 15:11, 18:11, 20:3-5, 22:20, 23:13, 23:24, 23:32; Num 33:4; Deut 6:14-15, 10:17; Judg 11:24; 1 Sam 5:3; 1 Kgs 22:19; Jer 1:16, 10:1125:6, 43:13; Zeph 2:11; 2 Chr 2:5; Dan 2:47, 11:36; Job 1:6, 2:1; Ps 29:1-2, 82:6, 86:8, 89:6-7, 96:-5, 135:5, 136:2 vs Deut 4:35, 4:39, 6:4, 32:39; 2 Kgs 19:15, 19:19; Is 37:16, 43:10, 44:6, 44:8, 45:6, 45:21, 46:9; Ps 86:10; Mk 12:29, 12:32; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 1:2)

      This one I’ve been enjoying writing up. As you know many of these contradictions I use as a pretext to discuss certain aspects and developments in Israelite religion or textual developments. It’s surprising that I missed this one along the way since it’s quite a popular contradiction on your standard atheist site. This entry is rather lengthy and allows me to talk about Yahweh/EL and his sons, the divine council, other Near Eastern gods, Yahweh, Chemosh, Dagan, and Marduk being portrayed in the same manner, the changes seen in Deuteronomy and second-Isaiah to redefine Yahweh as God period, and all other gods as false or unreal. These are really the contexts of Isaiah’s “I Yahweh created the earth alone.”

      Let’s see, there’s…

      #35. Why do Abraham and Lot separate: the land was unable to bear them OR their herders had a quarrel? (Gen 13:6 [P] vs Gen 13:7 [J])

      #36. Were the Amalekites engendered before Abraham’s time OR after? (Gen 14:7 vs Gen 36:12; 1 Chr 1:36)

      #37. Was Dan named before Abraham’s time OR long afterward? (Gen 14:14 vs Josh 19:47; Judg 18:27-29)

      Some have been extended thanks to the comments left by my readers here—not least of all yours. Thanks John. So I now have this:

      #34. 400 years of enslavement in Egypt OR 430 years OR 350 years OR 359 years OR a mere generation? (Gen 15:13 [J]; Acts 7:6 vs Ex 12:40 [P] vs Gen 46:11 [P]; Ex 6:18-21, 7:7 [P] vs Gen 41:46-47, 50:22 vs Ex 1:8, 7:7)

      Added a few more circumcision entries:

      #45. Is circumcision of the flesh OR not (Gen 17:11-13 vs Rom 2:28, 9:8)

      #42. Is the sign of circumcision that identifies an individual as a Jew of Yahweh or not? (Gen 17; Lev vs Rom 2:26-29)
      Or, Is circumcision from God or men !!!

      #44. Is the promise to Abraham’s seed keep through the covenant of circumcision or faith? (Gen 17:7-14 vs Rom 3:28-29, 4:9-16, 9:8; 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 3:8, 3:18, 3:24-29; Heb 6:12, etc.)

      I will add many to Leviticus too, especially since by New Testament times the pure-impure worldview is discarded.

      Hmmm… now I’m thinking I should create a post where readers can add onto an ever growing list of contradictions, for the moment between the Torah and any and all other books of the Bible. I’m sure you’ve got a few in mind that I haven’t labeled. You’ve also noticed that I bypass many of the “juvenile” contradictions I sometimes see, like: Did Adam and Eve die on the day they ate the fruit or not? Since my work is largely of a source-critical and historical-critical nature, I tend to focus on those types of contradictions. Anyway, cheers.

  6. This entry ties in nicely with contradiction #126, “Did the Israelites have meat to eat in the wilderness OR not?” Even if the NRSV’s translation, which says that the tamid was “ordained at Mount Sinai,” is correct, contradiction #311 stands and contradiction #126 is buttressed, since a “continual burnt offering” obviously necessitated even more animals.

    The current contradiction also mentions that the sacrifice is “in essence ‘Yahweh’s food.'” This text and others make clear that at least once conception of sacrifice is that it indeed was for Yahweh’s benefit:

    Numbers 28:2, 24a:
    2Command the Israelites, and say to them: My offering, the food for my offerings by fire, my pleasing odour, you shall take care to offer to me at its appointed time…24In the same way you shall offer daily, for seven days, the food of an offering by fire, a pleasing odour to Yahweh

    Leviticus 1:9b, 13b, 17b; 2:2; 3:11, 16; 21:6,8a,17b; 22:25
    Then the priest shall turn the whole into smoke on the altar as a burnt-offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odour to Yahweh…Then the priest shall offer the whole and turn it into smoke on the altar; it is a burnt-offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odour to Yahweh…it is a burnt-offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odour to Yahweh… 2:22…and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. After taking from it a handful of the choice flour and oil, with all its frankincense, the priest shall turn this token portion into smoke on the altar, an offering by fire of pleasing odour to Yahweh…3:11 11Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food-offering by fire to Yahweh… 16Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food-offering by fire for a pleasing odour. All fat is Yahweh’s…21:6They shall be holy to their God, and not profane the name of their God; for they offer Yahweh’s offerings by fire, the food of their God; therefore they shall be holy…8and you shall treat them as holy, since they offer the food of your God…No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God…22:25nor shall you accept any such animals from a foreigner to offer as food to your God; since they are mutilated, with a blemish in them, they shall not be accepted in your behalf.

    True, Psalm 50:12-13 claims that Yahweh has no need to eat flesh or drink blood, but this just another contradiction. As The Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 5, page 872 says, “While one can point to a few isolated poetic texts that speak of YHWH’s freedom from human needs such as food, one must dismiss dozens of other texts from a variety of genres as unrepresentative, or as relics from an archaic past.” The article goes on to mention that the late Assyrian reworking of The Epic of Gilgamesh shows a tendency to downplay or eliminate references to the gods’ need for food–a parallel to what we see in the Hebrew Bible.

    1. John,

      That’s a nice comment. Levine in his commentary discusses at length the rabbinic tradition that led to translating the Hebrew ‘asah in the passive participial form by “ordained” or “instituted”—a verb which usually means “to do” or “to make,” or in our case “perform.” Levine notes the two-edged problem here: 1) the translation “ordained” or “instituted” makes sense especially if one has in mind Ex 29:38-42 which is a passage that does speak of the tamid‘s institution; however, 2) this translation is not attested in other uses of the verb where it most usually connotes “performance” but then the problem becomes as discussed above, the tamid was not performed at Sinai. Here, I may be guilty of opting for the latter in order to bring out the contradiction, which later tradition resolved by the translation “ordained.” Levine also opts for “instituted” here.

      More so, thank you for the Psalm reference. Ever since Yahweh sat down and ate a meal with Abraham in Genesis 18 I’ve been looking for biblical passages that express—contradictorily—that Yahweh does not eat or need food. I knew they were there, but couldn’t remember. In fact, one of the reasons that I’ve been slow at putting out the book version of this site’s contradictions in the Torah is that I want to reread the whole Bible again so that I don’t miss these little tidbits. At present, my list for the contradictions in Genesis have added about a half dozen or more contradictions between Genesis and the New Testament that I never had the chance to post here—many are quite nice. So thanks again for bringing this reference to my attention. It will make a nice contradiction. And as you note, it makes sense to see later traditions disagreeing with and rewriting earlier concepts of Yahweh. In the Priestly literature the consumption by the fire of the whole animal, thus whole burnt-offering, was figuratively (?) seen as Yahweh consuming his food.

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