A Kingdom of Priests and its Earthen Altars in Exodus 19-24

In: Vetus Testamentum
Simeon Chavel University of Chicago Divinity School

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This study analyzes the altar law in Exodus 20, the statement that frames it in Exodus 19, and its application in Exodus 24 as a single narrative that denies the professional configuration of sacrifice as essential to religion and divine blessing. It puts the gift-blessing exchange into the hands of every family, and reverses the basic trope of hosting-visiting and the social poetics that govern hierarchical religion: rather than host at his palace through mediating attendants, Yahweh visits wherever he is invited. The study argues that the narrative attacks an Israelian and Judean ideology in which royal success defines territorial extent, shapes the polity, enshrines divine power in temples, and controls divine blessing. It reconfigures the elements such that territory and nationhood are defined by the divine king, who roams freely throughout the land to bless each of his subjects, so long as they invite him to receive a gift.

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