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:
- For the Passover see #194-197
- For the Festival of Weeks see #198-204
- For the Festival of Booths see #205-208
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.
- 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.
- There are the burnt-offerings sacrificed “to Yahweh” during the Golden Calf celebration (Ex 32:5-6). For more see #157.
- 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?