That the Tabernacle and the cult are the central most important concerns to the Priestly writers is incontrovertible. Yet within this body of literature itself, there seems to be two different traditions about what transpires on the day that the Tabernacle is established.
As previously noted, there is also a chronological discrepancy within the Priestly source (#170). Exodus 40:1, 40:17, Leviticus 1:1, and Numbers 7:1 indicate that all of the action from Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 happened on the 1st day of the 1st month of the 2nd year (i.e., 1/1/2). But already at Numbers 1:1 it was noted that the Israelites have past a second month and that it was now 2/1/2. It would seem therefore that Numbers 7 was a once separate tradition about 1/1/2. It recounts how “on the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle and he anointed it” (1/1/2), each tribe brought forth their dedication offerings to Yahweh—one per day for 12 days (see #126).
However, contrary to the Numbers 7 tradition, the tradition preserved in Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8-9 recounts that after Moses erected the Tent of Meeting and its Tabernacle, and anointed it, he then proceeds to anoint Aaron and his sons, whereupon they must remain in the Tent of Meeting for 7 whole days uninterrupted and on the 8th day come out of the Tent of Meeting and perform sin-offerings for himself and the people. Then Yahweh’s glory appears. But on the 8th day of the Number’s account it is just the tribe of Manasseh’s dedication offering. They are completely two different traditions.
Our second contradiction is the more interesting because, like so many others we’ve previously examined, it displays well the different and competing ideologies that the various biblical authors had and how these competing ideological worldviews shaped the historical narratives they wrote. So, for instance, the Priestly literature does not narrate a theophany at Sinai. Rather that theophany comes at the Tent of Meeting—in other words, at Yahweh’s Tabernacle and Altar.
Recall that the Pentateuch preserves varying ancient traditions about Sinai (#129-132, #134-135). The Elohist source, which never calls the mountain of revelation Sinai but instead Horeb (#86), narrates a theophany (Ex 19), the giving of the Ten Commandments and Case Laws (Ex 20-23), and the binding of people, god, and text through a covenant sacrificial ceremony (Ex 24:3-8)
The Yahwist source narrates more or less the same, but only the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai, and a different set of Ten Commandments at that (#134-135). These two traditions were stitched together by a later redactor, who then used—or composed—the Golden Calf narrative, which was created as a polemic against Jeroboam’s calf altars (see #157), to create a new narrative—the giving, breaking, and re-giving of the covenant (#162).
So in both J and E, Yahweh appears to the people in a fiery theophany, speaks to them through Moses, and establishes a covenant between himself and the people via the commandments given at Horeb/Sinai. Yet the later Priestly addition speaks nothing about these events!
Rather in P (Ex 25-31 & 35-40), Moses ascends Sinai and receives the detailed instructions for building Yahweh’s Tabernacle, altar, the Tent of Meeting, and the consecration of Aaron and his sons to minister before Yahweh forever. So in the Priestly narrative, while the tradition at Sinai is adopted, in the hands of the Aaronid priests it merely becomes the vehicle to announce the importance and centrality of the cultic institution. It is only after the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle are established, anointed with Aaron and his sons, and the first sacrifices to atone for sins are performed that Yahweh’s glory then appears to the people. According to the Priestly writer, the theophany—and only ever of Yahweh’s glory—occurs at the Tent of Meeting, not Sinai. There is not only a conscious transference from Sinai to the Tent of Meeting, but more so from law and covenant to the cult! Everything is subordinated to the cult in P.
It is only now, after the establishment of the cultic institutions, their atonement, the anointing of Aaron, the first sacrifices, etc., that the Priestly narrative then commences the giving of the law code (Lev 11). And these are radically different laws than we saw from the Elohist in Exodus 21-23, and conversely from those of the Deuteronomist in Deuteronomy 12-26, as we shall see.