Jeremy Schipper, Jeffrey Stackert

Blemishes, Camouflage, and Sanctuary Service: The Priestly Deity and His Attendants

Volume 2 () / Issue 4, pp. 458-478 (21)

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Leviticus 21:16–24 enumerate twelve blemishes that disqualify a priest from altar service. We argue that the Holiness Legislation's laws against physically blemished priests serving in the sanctuary are fundamentally related to the Priestly myth's larger characterization of the Israelite god as a superhuman king, its corresponding understanding of the cult, and, in particular, its views of divine perception. YHWH, whose great powers can effect both good and ill, must be attended by servants whose ministrations are as unobtrusive as possible. It is the inconspicuous quality of priestly officiation that protects these servants as they venture into close proximity with the deity. In the case of the priest without a blemish, the cultic vestments that are required during altar service successfully mitigate the deity's gaze, functioning as a sort of camouflage for him. Yet these vestments do not sufficiently camouflage a priest with a blemish, and this priest's physical defect attracts excessive and potentially dangerous divine attention. H's prohibition against sanctuary service by blemished priests, like the requirement that the priests wear the prescribed, sacred vestments, is thus both concerned to maintain the deity's royal expectations and preferences – what we will term here his »divine repose« – and to protect the priests who serve the divine sovereign.

Jeremy Schipper No current data available.

Jeffrey Stackert Born 1977; 2006 PhD in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (Bible and Ancient Near East) from Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts); Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago.