Vayikra/Leviticus 10:16 And Moshe specifically enquired about the goat of the sin offering
Rashi tells us that three goats were offered on that day: the one for the inaugural offering, see chapter 9, verses 1-4; one that was part of the offering of "Nahshon the son of Amminadav,of the tribe of Judah" (B'Midbar 7:13 NASB), who was the first of the tribal leaders to bring identical offerings in the first twelve days of the tabernacle's operation; and since we know that this was the first day of the month of Nissan (B'Midbar 9:1, Shemot 40:17) there was also, "one male goat for a sin offering to the L-rd" (B'Midbar 28:15, NASB) for the Rosh Chodesh offerings. Which one was Moshe asking about - it must be the sin offering for the people (9:3), for the others are not mentioned explicitly in the text; this is the goat of the sin offering.
Moshe wants to know what has happened to the flesh of the goat; by regulation it should have been eaten by the priests in the holy place - has this happened, he wants to know; has everything been done properly? In fact, it had been burnt, the fall-back position for most holy things, because of Aharon's distress - the only evidence we have of it - over the death of his two sons Nadav and Avihu. The principle of the proper disposition of most holy things is taken up in theMishnah, where the rabbis debate whether the laws of sacrilege or the laws of remnant, refuse and uncleanness should apply to to the most holy things that have been handled incorrectly. Provided that the blood has been tossed upon the altar, then the sacrifice is considered valid and the atonement takes place, even of the flesh has not been eaten in the proper place or time, but the flesh must then be burnt upon the altar as well as the fat. Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva have an exchange (m. Meilah 1:2-3) about an animal that manages to escape from the sanctuary after it has been dedicated but before it can be sacrificed, or whose flesh was taken out of the sanctuary inadvertently after slaughter but before the blood had been tossed upon the altar - a discussion that remained open until the Talmud several hundred years later and even then, in some opinions, didn't get fully resolved.
Why was this so important? Why was Moshe so exercised that the text uses two adjacent forms of the same verb, "to enquire about, he enquired", a construction usually translated using the words 'certainly' or 'surely' to emphasis the action. The root, , has the meanings: to seek or to search for, to seek after, to enquire, to ask for or demand; and is commonly encountered in the Hebrew word used to describe such pieces as this - a drash! Moshe was not content simply to ask the question and receive a casual reply from someone who happened to have been there and might have seen what happened, he wanted to know exactly what had occurred so he went directly to the people involved - on this occasion Aharon and his sons - to find out for himself, because he was concerned that on the very first day that the tabernacle was officially "open for business" everything should be done in accordance with G-d's instructions.
On one of the occasions that Rav Sha'ul arrived in Ephesus, "he found a few talmidim. He asked them, 'Did you receive the Ruach HaKodesh when you came to trust?' 'No,' they said to him, 'we have never even heard that there is such a thing as the Ruach HaKodesh'" (Acts 19:1-2, CJB). These disciples knew about sin and repentance and were trying to follow G-d; they had ben baptised in line with John the Baptiser's ministry, but had not head the full gospel message of Yeshua, the One of whom John spoke. Sha'ul explained to them about Yeshua and they believed in Him, "and when Sha'ul placed his hands on them, the Ruach HaKodesh came upon them; so that they were speaking in tongues and prophesying" (v. 6, CJB). Although these disciples were intent on serving G-d, they only had half the picture and could not move forward without hearing the rest of the story; once they did, they entered fully into the kingdom. How important it was for them to know and understand fully what G-d was saying so that they could respond and enter into the truth.
A while earlier, on Rav Sha'ul's first journey into Greece, he and Silas entered the town of Berea; "As soon as they arrived, they went to the synagogue. Now the people here ... eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha'ul was saying were true. Many of them came to trust" (Acts 17:10-12, CJB). The men of Berea wanted to hear the message that Sha'ul brought and they liked what they heard, but they needed to be sure that it was the truth, so they spent the time to check up that all the references were correct, and that what Sha'ul said was consistent with what G-d had said before. Was Rav Sha'ul irritated that they didn't just believe him? On the contrary, the text praises the noble character of the Bereans for taking that time and trouble so that when they committed themselves to faith in Yeshua it would be whole-hearted, in full possession of the facts; they would be able to defend their position and not be shaken by those who disagreed with them. Like Moshe, they needed to know the facts, so they went to the source and checked up for themselves.
Luke begins his gospel account with an important statement: "since I have carefully investigated these things from the beginning, it seemed good to me that I should write you an accurate and ordered narrative, so that you might know how well-founded are the things about which you have been taught" (Luke 1:3-4, CJB). Luke knew how important it was that Theophilus should have a reliable reference for checking the facts of his faith in Yeshua. G-d wants us all so be well informed and certain about the facts of our faith. Like Moshe, He wants us to ask hard questions of the right people - Himself - and find satisfactory answers through the pages of the Bible, guided by the Holy Spirit and sound teachers who will explain the texts to us and encourage us in our faith.
Further Study: 2 Timothy 3:14-15; 1 Peter 1:10-12
Application: Are you asking the questions? Are you asking the right person? Now is the time to engage with G-d and make sure that you understand what He requires of you and what He is offering you! Stand firm in your relationship with G-d and make the time to know the facts straight from the Horse's mouth.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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