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Debates Over Centralizing Sacrificial Worship and Eating Non-Sacrificial Meat

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Debates Over Centralizing Sacrificial Worship and Eating Non-Sacrificial Meat

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Debates Over Centralizing Sacrificial Worship and Eating Non-Sacrificial Meat

Moses’ first set of laws in Deuteronomy (11:31–12:28) requires the Israelites to destroy Canaanite sites of worship and to centralize sacrifice for Yahweh at the site of His choosing. It also allows them to eat meat without sacrificing the animal, under particular conditions. A close look at the terms of Moses’ speech shows that the text has been supplemented no less than three times.[1]

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Debates Over Centralizing Sacrificial Worship and Eating Non-Sacrificial Meat

The altar in the temple court, Jerusalem. Publisher: Wachsmuth, F. E., Leipzig 1911.

Introduction

Moses Reveals Instructions he Received Forty Years Earlier

Parashat Re’eh (Deut 11:26-16:17) belongs to a large unit of text, at Deut 4:45–28:69. The unit consists entirely of a speech by Moses instructing the Israelites with Yahweh’s commandments, framed by the narrator’s introduction (4:45–5:1) and conclusion (28:69).[2]

At the beginning of the speech, Moses reports that when Israel had stood at Mount Horeb, Yahweh had given him instructions for life in Canaan (5:1–3).[3] Now that Israel stands at Moab ready to enter Canaan, it is time to pass the instructions on (5:28–6:3).

An Amended Law

After speaking about the instructions as a group, how important it is to keep them and how to ensure the conditions for keeping them (6:4–11:30), Moses opens with a set of instructions about restricting all sacrificial worship to the precincts of a single site, which Yahweh will designate in the future (11:31-12:28).[4] The speech, though, is highly repetitious, has problematic syntax, proceeds illogically, and seems to contradict itself. A careful analysis can distinguish a base-text and a succession of additions, each of which was intended to qualify the text and all of which now stand in a complicated, counter-intuitive order.[5]

Part One

Centralization of Worship (Two Stages)

The Base Text: The Inversion of Canaanite Worship, to Be Effected Immediately

The base-text is Deut 11:31–12:7, in which Moses teaches the foundational principle that sacrificial worship for Yahweh must be centralized, namely, it must be restricted to a single site, one that Yahweh will choose:

Introduction to the instructions

דברים יא:לא כִּי אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן לָבֹא לָרֶשֶׁת אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם נֹתֵן לָכֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֹתָהּ וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ. יא:לבוּשְׁמַרְתֶּם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם.יב:א אֵלֶּה הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ כָּל הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם חַיִּים עַל הָאֲדָמָה.
Deut 11:31 When you cross the Jordan to go possess the land that Yahweh your god is giving you, and you possess it and settle in it, 11:32 you must be careful to do all the laws and statutes that I am giving you today. 12:1These are the laws and statutes that you must be careful to do in the land that Yahweh the god of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days you live upon the earth.[6]

Destroy all Canaanite sites and objects of worship

דברים יב:ב אַבֵּד תְּאַבְּדוּן אֶת כָּל הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר עָבְדוּ שָׁם הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם יֹרְשִׁים אֹתָם אֶת אֱלֹהֵיהֶם עַל הֶהָרִים הָרָמִים וְעַל הַגְּבָעוֹת וְתַחַת כָּל עֵץ רַעֲנָן.יב:ג  וְנִתַּצְתֶּם אֶת מִזְבּחֹתָם וְשִׁבַּרְתֶּם אֶת מַצֵּבֹתָם וַאֲשֵׁרֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ וּפְסִילֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם תְּגַדֵּעוּן וְאִבַּדְתֶּם אֶת שְׁמָם מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא.
Deut 12:2 Destroy all the sites where the peoples whom you are dispossessing worshipped their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every verdant tree; 12:3 you must demolish their altars and you must smash their monuments; their poles you shall incinerate, and the statues of their gods you shall hack to bits; you shall eradicate their name from that site.

Offer all sacrifices at one centralized site chosen by Yahweh

יב:ד לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כֵּן לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. יב:הכִּי אִם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מִכָּל שִׁבְטֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם אֶת שְׁמוֹ שָׁם לְשִׁכְנוֹ תִדְרְשׁוּ וּבָאתָ שָׁמָּה. יב:ו וַהֲבֵאתֶם שָׁמָּה עֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם וְאֵת מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וְאֵת תְּרוּמַת יֶדְכֶם וְנִדְרֵיכֶם וְנִדְבֹתֵיכֶם וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקַרְכֶם וְצֹאנְכֶם. יב:זוַאֲכַלְתֶּם שָׁם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יֶדְכֶם אַתֶּם וּבָתֵּיכֶם אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ חַיִּים.
12:4 You shall not act this way for Yahweh your god (i.e., worship at many sites). 12:5 Rather, to the site that Yahweh your god will choose from all your tribes to set his name there to establish it (or: to his dwelling) shall you look (i.e. for him), and you shall go there12:6And you shall bring there your whole-burnt offerings and your consumable offerings, your tithes and your tributes, and your pledges, presents, and firstborn cattle and sheep; 12:7 and you shall eat there before Yahweh your god, and you shall rejoice with all the produce — you and your households — with which Yahweh your god has blessed you.

The context established for the instruction to centralize worship for Yahweh is Canaanite forms of worship. They worshipped their many gods in many places; Israel must worship its one God in one place. There can be no middle ground: worshiping Yahweh alone in many places amounts to the worship of many gods.[7] And Israel must implement this mode of worship immediately upon entering the land. No contingencies may delay it. Moses lays this principle down as a matter of truth and falsehood, of absolutes. Regarding the eradication of Canaan’s many deities and their sites, he expresses himself with a stream of urgent verb-forms expressing violent actions:

  • Destroy (אַבֵּד תְּאַבְּדוּן) all the sites…
  • you must demolish (וְנִתַּצְתֶּם) their altars
  • you must smash (וְשִׁבַּרְתֶּם) their monuments;
  • their poles you shall incinerate (תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ),
  • and the statues of their gods you shall hack to bits (תְּגַדֵּעוּן);
  • you shall eradicate (וְאִבַּדְתֶּם) their name from that site.

Regarding Yahweh’s single site, he begins with a pointed contrast, first prohibiting: “You shall not act this way for Yahweh your god,” then specifying: “Rather, to the site that Yahweh your god will choose…shall you look (i.e. for him).” Then he emphasizes the point through repetition:

  • And you shall go there.
  • And you shall bring there your whole-burnt offerings…
  • And you shall eat there before Yahweh your god…

The Second Iteration: The Refinement of Israelite Worship, to Be Effected when Feasible

The continuation, at vv. 8–12, offers a second iteration of the speech, which both repeats the first and also diverges from it. This second iteration does not acknowledge the duplication or attempt to coordinate the differences, indicating that this is a separate composition from what precedes:

דברים יב:ח לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אֲנַחְנוּ עֹשִׂים פֹּה הַיּוֹם אִישׁ כָּל הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו. יב:ט כִּי לֹא בָּאתֶם עַד עָתָּה אֶל הַמְּנוּחָה וְאֶל הַנַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ. יב:י וַעֲבַרְתֶּם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מַנְחִיל אֶתְכֶם וְהֵנִיחַ לָכֶם מִכָּל אֹיְבֵיכֶם מִסָּבִיב וִישַׁבְתֶּם בֶּטַח.  יב:יא וְהָיָה הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בּוֹ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם שָׁמָּה תָבִיאוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם עוֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וּתְרֻמַת יֶדְכֶם וְכֹל מִבְחַר נִדְרֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר תִּדְּרוּ לַיהוָה. יב:יבוּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אַתֶּם וּבְנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם וְעַבְדֵיכֶם וְאַמְהֹתֵיכֶם וְהַלֵּוִי אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁעֲרֵיכֶם כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה אִתְּכֶם.
Deut 12:8 You shall not do like anything that we do here today — each one as he sees fit — 12:9 (only) because you have not yet come to the secure estate that Yahweh your god is giving you. 12:10Rather, when you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that Yahweh your god is bequeathing you and he gives you security from all the enemies around you so that you dwell securely,12:11 then the site that Yahweh your god will choose there to establish his name — there shall your bring all that I am commanding you, your whole-burnt offerings and consumable offerings, your tithes and tributes, and the entire array of pledges that you will pledge to Yahweh, 12:12 and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your god, you and your sons and your daughters and your slaves and your maidservants, together with the Levite in your towns because he has no parcel or estate with you.

In this iteration, Moses describes the restriction of worship in internal terms, with no reference to Canaanites or their practices, and the timeline depends on Israel’s circumstances. Nationwide pilgrimage to a single site exposes the land to attack; therefore restricting worship must wait for Israel to achieve complete security.[8]

Without the Canaanite “other,” this iteration of Moses’ speech offers no rationale for the restriction of worship; it simply takes it for granted. The idea that in the meantime people worship as they see fit, namely, at multiple sites that they choose, is not ideal, but it is not a type of idolatry or otherwise considered absolutely illegitimate.[9]

In the base-text, the formulation that expressed urgency matched the absolute nature of the principle to destroy the mutiple sites of worship (of Canaanite gods) and replace them with a single site (for Yahweh). In this iteration, the qualified view that multiple sites for Yahweh is allowed provisionally is expressed through conditional language, which explains the present situation and highlights the gradual nature of centralizing worship:

“You shall not do like anything that we do here today — each as he sees fit — (only) because you have not yet come to the secure estate that Yahweh your god is giving you. Rather, when you cross the Jordan and you settle in the land that Yahweh your god is bequeathing you, and he gives you security from all the enemies around you such that you dwell securely, then the place that Yahweh your god will choose there to establish his name — there shall you bring all that I am instructing you.”

The Second Iteration Meant to Fit with the Narrative of Judges-Kings

The idea in the second iteration, that centralizing worship must wait for the right conditions, aligns with what is told in Judges–Kings. Centuries passed until Israel achieved security and Jerusalem emerged as Yahweh’s chosen site under David (2 Sam 6–7; 24), and the temple was first built by his son Solomon (1 Kgs 5–7). Before then the people had to have other access to Yahweh (see 1 Kgs 3:1–4).

This narrative diverges from the base-text of Moses’ speech, according to which centralization should have occurred immediately. It seems, therefore, that the second iteration of Moses’ speech was written to correspond to the history told in Judges–Kings and legitimate it.

The Second Iteration: An Alternative not a Supplement

In addition to contradicting the first iteration of Moses’ speech, the second iteration repeats some of its elements, those that make it a complete paragraph. It begins by repeating by the pivotal prohibition: “You shall not act like / do like” (-כ תעשון לא vv. 4, 8). It concludes with the same content, specific terminology, and sequence about bringing all the classes of sacred gifts to the place Yahweh will choose and celebrating there with one’s complete family (see vv. 5–7 and 11–12).

Base Passage (vv. 5-7) Second Iteration (vv. 11-12)
יב:ה כִּי אִם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מִכָּל שִׁבְטֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם אֶת שְׁמוֹ שָׁם לְשִׁכְנוֹ תִדְרְשׁוּ וּבָאתָ שָׁמָּה. יב:ו וַהֲבֵאתֶם שָׁמָּה עֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם וְאֵת מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וְאֵת תְּרוּמַת יֶדְכֶם וְנִדְרֵיכֶם וְנִדְבֹתֵיכֶם וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקַרְכֶם וְצֹאנְכֶם. יב:ז וַאֲכַלְתֶּם שָׁם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יֶדְכֶם אַתֶּם וּבָתֵּיכֶם אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ חַיִּים.
יב:יא וְהָיָה הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בּוֹ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם שָׁמָּה תָבִיאוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם עוֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וּתְרֻמַת יֶדְכֶם וְכֹל מִבְחַר נִדְרֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר תִּדְּרוּ לַיהוָה. יב:יב וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אַתֶּם וּבְנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם וְעַבְדֵיכֶם וְאַמְהֹתֵיכֶם וְהַלֵּוִי אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁעֲרֵיכֶם כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה אִתְּכֶם.
12:5 Rather, to the site that Yahweh your god will choose from all your tribes to set his name there — to establish it (or: to his dwelling) — shall you look (i.e. for him), and you shall go there. 12:6 And you shall bring there your whole-burnt offerings and your consumable offerings, your tithes and your tributes, and your pledges, presents, and firstborn cattle and sheep; 12:7and you shall eat there before Yahweh your god, and you shall rejoice with all the produce — you and your households — with which Yahweh your god has blessed you. 12:11 then the site that Yahweh your god will choose there to establish his name — there shall your bring all that I am commanding you, your whole-burnt offerings and consumable offerings, your tithes and tributes, and the entire array of pledges that you will pledge to Yahweh, 12:12 and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your god, you and your sons and your daughters and your slaves and your maidservants, together with the Levite in your towns because he has no parcel or estate with you.

The two features together — the contradictory principle and the repeated frame — strongly implies that the second iteration was written not to supplement the first, but as an alternative that would replace it. It should have come right after 11:31–12:1 The fact that the second iteration did not replace the original, but has been inserted after it suggests a complicated textual process that involved more than one person, an author with one idea and an editor or copyist who implemented differently.

Summary: Two Iterations of the Law to Centralize Sacrificial Worship

In the base-text, 11:31–12:7, Moses indicates that centralization should occur immediately because worship at multiple sites is antithetical to Yahweh. In the alternative version, 12:8–12, Moses says centralization should occur when it is feasible and until then the people can worship at multiple sites. Both agree, though: (1) an animal that may be sacrificed must be sacrificed if one wishes to eat it; (2) sacrifice requires sacred sites; and (3) once centralization occurs all sacrifice must take place at the one chosen site. The continuation of Moses’ speech, at 12:13–28, introduces a new idea, that sacrificeable animals may be eaten without taking them to a sacred site and making them a sacrifice.[10]

Part Two

The Laws of Non-Sacred Meat Consumption (Three Amendments)

The continuation of Moses’ speech includes three paragraphs that relieve the onus of centralization by allowing one to eat meat at home under certain conditions. Each one expands the region of permissibility further: first, anyone beyond Israel’s borders; then, anyone within Israel’s borders who lives far from Yahweh’s chosen site; finally, anyone simply outside the precincts of Yahweh’s chosen site. Oddly, the amendments were not inserted into the text in a logical order. Two were spliced together and added as one bloc (vv. 20–28), and the third was inserted right ahead of that bloc (vv. 13–19).

Amendments 1 & 2: Living Far from the Chosen Site

This part of Moses’ speech contains many redundancies and complications. It begins with two sentences each of which raises the condition of living far from Yahweh’s chosen site and allows one to eat at home. One specifies expanded borders, while the other mentions living “too far” in a general way.

דברים יב:כ כִּי יַרְחִיב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת גְּבוּלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר כִּי תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר.יב:כא כִּי יִרְחַק מִמְּךָ הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָשׂוּם שְׁמוֹ שָׁם וְזָבַחְתָּ מִבְּקָרְךָ וּמִצֹּאנְךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה לְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּכֹל אַוַּת נַפְשֶׁךָ.
Deut 12:20 Should Yahweh your god expand your border just as he had said to you,[11] and you say to yourself, “I would eat meat,” because your heart craves to eat meat, to all your heart’s desire may you eat meat. 12:21 Should the site Yahweh your god will choose there to put his name be too far from you, you may slaughter from your cattle and from your sheep that Yahweh has given you as I have instructed you and eat in your towns to all your heart’s desire.

The continuation describes the extent of the permission (people in a state of impurity may eat it, together with those who are pure, like permitted wild animals), and also its limitations (the animal must be drained of its blood, and the blood must be spilled on the ground[12]):

יב:כב אַךְ כַּאֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל אֶת הַצְּבִי וְאֶת הָאַיָּל כֵּן תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר יַחְדָּו יֹאכְלֶנּוּ. יב:כג רַק חֲזַק לְבִלְתִּי אֲכֹל הַדָּם כִּי הַדָּם הוּא הַנָּפֶשׁ וְלֹא תֹאכַל הַנֶּפֶשׁ עִם הַבָּשָׂר.יב:כד לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם.יב:כה לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.
12:22 Indeed, as the deer and the ram are eaten, so may you eat it; together may the impure and the pure eat it. 12:23However, hold fast against eating the blood, because the blood is the life-essence and you may not eat the life-essence with the meat. 12:24 Do not eat it! On the ground shall you dump it, like water. 12:25 Do not eat it! So that it will go well with you and with your children after you when you do what is right in the eyes of Yahweh.

The repeated prohibition (“Do not eat it!”), the motivation (“so that it go well with you…”), and the reference to following Yahweh’s will make up together a classic conclusion. But the passage continues, picking up again with what should be done in the case of proper offerings, and concludes a second time — with the very same terms:

יב:כו רַק קָדָשֶׁיךָ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ לְךָ וּנְדָרֶיךָ תִּשָּׂא וּבָאתָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה. יב:כז וְעָשִׂיתָ עֹלֹתֶיךָ הַבָּשָׂר וְהַדָּם עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְדַם זְבָחֶיךָ יִשָּׁפֵךְ עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַבָּשָׂר תֹּאכֵל. יב:כח שְׁמֹר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֵת כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.
12:26 However, the holy offerings that (still) will be upon you and your pledges you shall (still) carry and go to the place that Yahweh will choose, 12:27 and you shall do your whole-burnt offerings — the meat and the blood — upon the altar of Yahweh your god, whereas the blood of your consumable offerings shall be poured out by (or: on) the altar of Yahweh your god and you eat the meat. 12:28 Listen carefully to these things that I am commanding you, so that it will go well with you and with your children after you forever when you do what is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your god.

On one hand, the passage as a whole seems clear: Moses says that Yahweh allows Israelites to prepare and eat meat at home if they live far from his chosen place.[13] On the other hand, the passage is repetitious and confusing. Taken together, the doubled opening, the double conclusion, and the different points of emphasis in between suggest that, in fact, the speech at vv. 20–28 contains two different paragraphs that have been spliced together, each with its own conditional opening, major point, and conclusion: (1) vv. 20 + 22–25 and (2) vv. 21 + 26–28.

The First Amendment: Expanded Borders

The first amendment, at vv. 20 + 22–25, seems to respond directly to Moses’ original principle, at vv. 2–12, and takes it to mean that all meat suitable for sacrifice must be made a sacrifice at Yahweh’s designated site. It grants that such a concept is viable for the original boundaries of the Israelites, and treats the eventuality of expanded boundaries: “Should Yahweh expand your territory” (v. 20). Whoever lives in new territory, too far to come to the designated site each and every time they crave meat, may have a special dispensation to eat such meat at home, provided they drain it and treat it as unsanctified.

The emphasis put on draining the blood and treating the meat as unsanctified is appropriate if Moses is introducing the idea of such an allowance for the first time, especially since it puts the matter of sacrificial status entirely in the hand of the owner to determine.

דברים יב:כ כִּי יַרְחִיב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת גְּבוּלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר כִּי תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר. ‏יב:כב אַךְ כַּאֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל אֶת הַצְּבִי וְאֶת הָאַיָּל כֵּן תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר יַחְדָּו יֹאכְלֶנּוּ. יב:כג רַק חֲזַק לְבִלְתִּי אֲכֹל הַדָּם כִּי הַדָּם הוּא הַנָּפֶשׁ וְלֹא תֹאכַל הַנֶּפֶשׁ עִם הַבָּשָׂר.יב:כד לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם.יב:כה לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.
Deut 12:20 Should Yahweh your god expand your border just as he had said to you, and you say to yourself, “I would eat meat,” because your heart craves to eat meat, to all your heart’s desire may you eat meat. 12:22 Indeed, as the deer and the ram are eaten, so may you eat it; together may the impure and the pure eat it. 12:23However, hold fast against eating the blood, because the blood is the life-essence and you may not eat the life-essence with the meat.12:24 Do not eat it! On the ground shall you dump it, like water. 12:25 Do not eat it! So that it will go well with you and with your children after you when you do what is right in the eyes of Yahweh.

The Second Amendment: Living Too Far

The next amendment (vv. 21 + 26–28) responds to the idea raised in the first that distance from Yahweh’s chosen site should be a factor. It broadens the allowance more realistically, recognizing that within the original boundaries too most people will live too far to go sacrifice every time they would eat meat. This new focus helps explain the distinctive points of emphasis — not the allowance itself, which is no longer novel, but keeping categories of sacrifice and non-sacrifice separate, on account of the sloppiness and laziness that can creep into everyday life for, now, the majority of people.

דברים יב:כא כִּי יִרְחַק מִמְּךָ הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָשׂוּם שְׁמוֹ שָׁם וְזָבַחְתָּ מִבְּקָרְךָ וּמִצֹּאנְךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה לְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּכֹל אַוַּת נַפְשֶׁךָ. יב:כו רַק קָדָשֶׁיךָ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ לְךָ וּנְדָרֶיךָ תִּשָּׂא וּבָאתָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה. יב:כזוְעָשִׂיתָ עֹלֹתֶיךָ הַבָּשָׂר וְהַדָּם עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְדַם זְבָחֶיךָ יִשָּׁפֵךְ עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַבָּשָׂר תֹּאכֵל.יב:כח שְׁמֹר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֵת כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.
Deut 12:21 Should the site Yahweh your god will choose there to put his name be too far from you, you may slaughter from your cattle and from your sheep that Yahweh has given you as I have instructed you and eat in your towns to all your heart’s desire. 12:26 However, the holy offerings that (still) will be upon you and your pledges you shall (still) carry and go to the place that Yahweh will choose, 12:27 and you shall do your whole-burnt offerings — the meat and the blood — upon the altar of Yahweh your god, whereas the blood of your consumable offerings shall be poured out by (or: on) the altar of Yahweh your god and you eat the meat. 12:28 Listen carefully to these things that I am commanding you, so that it will go well with you and with your children after you forever when you do what is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your god.

The Combined Text

It is unclear why the two separate, sequential amendments have been spliced together this way, rather than placed one after the other, like the two iterations of Moses’ speech about centralization, at vv. 2–7, 8–12. Perhaps their deep similarity in spirit, idea, content, and style invited such splicing. In any case, the result is a single paragraph that allows animals suitable for sacrifice to be slaughtered and eaten at home provided the owner treats it thoroughly as unsanctified and is scrupulous about any animals designated for required and pledged sacrifices.

The Third Amendment: Anywhere Outside Yahweh’s Chosen Site

The remaining passage, at vv. 13-19, expands the permission to eat non-sacrificial meat even further, to anyone who wishes to do so regardless of where they live. Going beyond expanded borders and beyond living too far, Moses now refers to such permission “in any of your cities” (v. 15). The main requirement is to sharply distinguish between sacrificial and non-sacrificial meat.

דברים יב:יג הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תַּעֲלֶה עֹלֹתֶיךָ בְּכָל מָקוֹם אֲשֶׁר תִּרְאֶה. יב:יד כִּי אִם בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה בְּאַחַד שְׁבָטֶיךָ שָׁם תַּעֲלֶה עֹלֹתֶיךָ וְשָׁם תַּעֲשֶׂה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ. יב:טורַק בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תִּזְבַּח וְאָכַלְתָּ בָשָׂר כְּבִרְכַּת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לְךָ בְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר יֹאכְלֶנּוּ כַּצְּבִי וְכָאַיָּל. יב:טז רַק הַדָּם לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם. יב:יז לֹא תוּכַל לֶאֱכֹל בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ מַעְשַׂר דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקָרְךָ וְצֹאנֶךָ וְכָל נְדָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּדֹּר וְנִדְבֹתֶיךָ וּתְרוּמַת יָדֶךָ. יב:יח כִּי אִם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְהַלֵּוִי אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ וְשָׂמַחְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ.יב:יט הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תַּעֲזֹב אֶת הַלֵּוִי כָּל יָמֶיךָ עַל אַדְמָתֶךָ.
Deut 12:13 Take care, lest you offer your whole-burnt offering wherever you look. 12:14 Instead, at the place that Yahweh will choose in one of your tribes there shall you offer your whole-burnt offerings and there shall you do all that I am instructing you. 12:15However, to your heart’s desire you may slaughter and eat meat — according to the blessing of Yahweh your god that he gave you — in all your towns. The impure and the pure may eat it, like the gazelle and the deer.12:16 But the blood you may not eat. On the ground must you dump it, like water. 12:17 You may not eat in your towns the tithe of your grain, wine and oil, or the firstborns of your cattle and sheep, or any of the pledges you may make, or your presents, or your tributes. 12:18 Rather, before Yahweh your god shall you eat it, in the place that Yahweh your god will choose — you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, and the Levite in your towns — and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your god with all your produce. 12:19 Take care, lest you abandon the Levite — all the days upon your land.

Although this final amendment extends the allowance established by the previous two amendments, it was inserted ahead of the paragraph containing them.[14] Its frame, the repeated warning “Take care, lest you…!” (vv. 13 and 19), suits its role as an insertion rather than an appended piece. Its ending (vv. 18-19) repeats the topic that closed the instructions about centralization in both the base-text (v. 7) and the second iteration (v. 12) — the joyful participation of the entire family (including women), the complete household (including the help), and the neighborhood needy, namely, the Levite. This repetition helps anchor the piece to the speech about centralization as Moses’ self-qualification.

To set up the expanded allowance, the amendment establishes a counterpoint, the wholly-burnt offering, which must only be offered at Yahweh’s one designated site (vv. 13–14); after the expansion, though, it repeats all the elements found in the conflated paragraph. Its tone is matter-of-fact, because none are new. For example, the remark that animals suitable for sacrifice may be eaten unsanctified at home so long as they are drained of the blood (compare vv. 15-16 and vv. 22–24) and the remark that required and pledged offerings must be brought to Yahweh’s designated site (compare v. 18 and v. 26).

In fact, the sequence follows the conflated paragraph item for item, which shows that it is not responding to the two paragraphs separately, but to their current conflated form. But the effect of its insertion ahead of the conflated paragraph transforms it from innovation to emphatic repetition.

The Redactional Sequence of the Amendments to the Law of Centralization

We can see the progression of the amendments as follows:

Amendment 1 – Limits the requirement in vv. 2–12 with a stipulation that if the borders are extended, people beyond the border may consume meat locally without sacrificing it at Yahweh’s chosen site. This amendment, now 12:20, 22–25, was originally appended after 12:8–12.

Amendment 2 – Extends the allowance to include any Israelite far from Yahweh’s chosen site, even within the original borders. This amendment, now 12:21, 26–28, was spliced into Amendment 1.

Amendment 3 – Extends the allowance to all Israelites, no matter where they live, and simply makes a sharp distinction between sacrificial and non-sacrificial meat. This amendment, 12:13–19, was placed in the text ahead of the combined amendments.

The Motivations of Redaction

The base text established centralization of sacrifice as a foundational principle. It contrasted it to the Canaanite practice of multiple sites of sacrificial worship, which it considered antithetical to Yahweh. Any Israelite worshipping Yahweh away from the one designated site would be engaging in Canaanite practices.

The second iteration modified the principle, omitting the contrast to Canaanites and replacing it with pragmatic conditions of safety and security. The toleration of multiple sites of worship until a single site can be designated and built aligns with the story in Judges-Kings. It also validates Israelites worshipping Yahweh away from the one site as not quite antithetical.

The first amendment created a new category of non-sacrificial slaughter of animals, but limited it geographically. It also now left it in the hands of the individual across the border to determine the status of a meal, whether it would be secular and eaten at home or sacred and taken to Yahweh’s chosen site. It is hard to know what triggered this far-reaching innovation.

The second amendment accepted all the premises of “secular” slaughter and expanded the allowance geographically. It is driven by practical logic. Distance from the chosen site determined the allowance in the first amendment, so it should it apply to all those who are distant. Borders are really immaterial.

The third amendment likewise accepted all the premises of “secular” slaughter and expanded the allowance maximally. It is driven by conceptual logic. If it is in the hands of the individual to decide whether an animal will be a secular meal or a sacred one, then distance is irrelevant.

We can see, then, how successive readers considered the implications of what they read and aimed to flesh them out by comparison with other texts and practices that they knew. Such textual intervention and varied hermeneutical motivations characterize passages throughout the Torah and other biblical literature. They complicate the approach that the Torah presents straight-forward ideas and commands. They complicate the view of ancient editorial work as corrosive rather than constructive. And they anticipate the systematic hermeneutics of Tannaitic and Amoraic literature.

Appendix

The Text in Five Layers

דברים יא:לא כִּי אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן לָבֹא לָרֶשֶׁת אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם נֹתֵן לָכֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֹתָהּ וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ. יא:לב וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם. יב:א אֵלֶּה הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ כָּל הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם חַיִּים עַל הָאֲדָמָה. דברים יב:ב אַבֵּד תְּאַבְּדוּן אֶת כָּל הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר עָבְדוּ שָׁם הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם יֹרְשִׁים אֹתָם אֶת אֱלֹהֵיהֶם עַל הֶהָרִים הָרָמִים וְעַל הַגְּבָעוֹת וְתַחַת כָּל עֵץ רַעֲנָן. יב:ג  וְנִתַּצְתֶּם אֶת מִזְבּחֹתָם וְשִׁבַּרְתֶּם אֶת מַצֵּבֹתָם וַאֲשֵׁרֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ וּפְסִילֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם תְּגַדֵּעוּן וְאִבַּדְתֶּם אֶת שְׁמָם מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא. יב:ד לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כֵּן לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. יב:ה כִּי אִם אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מִכָּל שִׁבְטֵיכֶם לָשׂוּם אֶת שְׁמוֹ שָׁם לְשִׁכְנוֹ תִדְרְשׁוּ וּבָאתָ שָׁמָּה. יב:ווַהֲבֵאתֶם שָׁמָּה עֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם וְאֵת מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וְאֵת תְּרוּמַת יֶדְכֶם וְנִדְרֵיכֶם וְנִדְבֹתֵיכֶם וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקַרְכֶם וְצֹאנְכֶם. יב:ז וַאֲכַלְתֶּם שָׁם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יֶדְכֶם אַתֶּם וּבָתֵּיכֶם אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ חַיִּים.

יב:ח לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אֲנַחְנוּ עֹשִׂים פֹּה הַיּוֹם אִישׁ כָּל הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו. יב:ט כִּי לֹא בָּאתֶם עַד עָתָּה אֶל הַמְּנוּחָה וְאֶל הַנַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ. יב:יוַעֲבַרְתֶּם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מַנְחִיל אֶתְכֶם וְהֵנִיחַ לָכֶם מִכָּל אֹיְבֵיכֶם מִסָּבִיב וִישַׁבְתֶּם בֶּטַח.  יב:יא וְהָיָה הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בּוֹ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם שָׁמָּה תָבִיאוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם עוֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְזִבְחֵיכֶם מַעְשְׂרֹתֵיכֶם וּתְרֻמַת יֶדְכֶם וְכֹל מִבְחַר נִדְרֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר תִּדְּרוּ לַיהוָה. יב:יב וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אַתֶּם וּבְנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם וְעַבְדֵיכֶם וְאַמְהֹתֵיכֶם וְהַלֵּוִי אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁעֲרֵיכֶם כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה אִתְּכֶם.

 ב:יג הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תַּעֲלֶה עֹלֹתֶיךָ בְּכָל מָקוֹם אֲשֶׁר תִּרְאֶה. יב:ידכִּי אִם בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה בְּאַחַד שְׁבָטֶיךָ שָׁם תַּעֲלֶה עֹלֹתֶיךָ וְשָׁם תַּעֲשֶׂה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ. יב:טו רַק בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תִּזְבַּח וְאָכַלְתָּ בָשָׂר כְּבִרְכַּת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לְךָבְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר יֹאכְלֶנּוּ כַּצְּבִי וְכָאַיָּל. יב:טז רַק הַדָּם לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם. יב:יז לֹא תוּכַל לֶאֱכֹל בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ מַעְשַׂר דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקָרְךָ וְצֹאנֶךָ וְכָל נְדָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּדֹּר וְנִדְבֹתֶיךָ וּתְרוּמַת יָדֶךָ. יב:יח כִּי אִם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְהַלֵּוִי אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ וְשָׂמַחְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ. יב:יט הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תַּעֲזֹב אֶת הַלֵּוִי כָּל יָמֶיךָ עַל אַדְמָתֶךָ.

יב:כ כִּי יַרְחִיב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת גְּבוּלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר כִּי תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר בְּכָל אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר.

יב:כא כִּי יִרְחַק מִמְּךָ הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָשׂוּם שְׁמוֹ שָׁם וְזָבַחְתָּ מִבְּקָרְךָ וּמִצֹּאנְךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְהוָה לְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּכֹל אַוַּת נַפְשֶׁךָ.

יב:כב אַךְ כַּאֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל אֶת הַצְּבִי וְאֶת הָאַיָּל כֵּן תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר יַחְדָּו יֹאכְלֶנּוּ. יב:כג רַק חֲזַק לְבִלְתִּי אֲכֹל הַדָּם כִּי הַדָּם הוּא הַנָּפֶשׁ וְלֹא תֹאכַל הַנֶּפֶשׁ עִם הַבָּשָׂר. יב:כד לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם. יב:כה לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.

יב:כו רַק קָדָשֶׁיךָ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ לְךָ וּנְדָרֶיךָ תִּשָּׂא וּבָאתָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה. יב:כז וְעָשִׂיתָ עֹלֹתֶיךָ הַבָּשָׂר וְהַדָּם עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְדַם זְבָחֶיךָ יִשָּׁפֵךְ עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַבָּשָׂר תֹּאכֵל. יב:כח שְׁמֹר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֵת כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.

Deut 11:31 When you cross the Jordan to go possess the land that Yahweh your god is giving you, and you possess it and settle in it, 11:32 you must be careful to do all the laws and statutes that I am giving you today. 12:1 These are the laws and statutes that you must be careful to do in the land that Yahweh the god of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days you live upon the earth. Deut 12:2 Destroy all the sites where the peoples whom you are dispossessing worshipped their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every verdant tree;12:3 you must demolish their altars and you must smash their monuments; their poles you shall incinerate, and the statues of their gods you shall hack to bits; you shall eradicate their name from that site. 12:4 You shall not act this way for Yahweh your god (i.e., worship at many sites). 12:5 Rather, to the site that Yahweh your god will choose from all your tribes to set his name there — to establish it (or: to his dwelling) — shall you look (i.e. for him), and you shall go there12:6 And you shall bring there your whole-burnt offerings and your consumable offerings, your tithes and your tributes, and your pledges, presents, and firstborn cattle and sheep; 12:7 and you shall eat there before Yahweh your god, and you shall rejoice with all the produce — you and your households — with which Yahweh your god has blessed you.

12:8 You shall not do like anything that we do here today — each one as he sees fit — 12:9 (only) because you have not yet come to the secure estate that Yahweh your god is giving you. 12:10 Rather, when you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that Yahweh your god is bequeathing you and he gives you security from all the enemies around you so that you dwell securely, 12:11 then the site that Yahweh your god will choose there to establish his name — there shall your bring all that I am commanding you, your whole-burnt offerings and consumable offerings, your tithes and tributes, and the entire array of pledges that you will pledge to Yahweh, 12:12 and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your god, you and your sons and your daughters and your slaves and your maidservants, together with the Levite in your towns because he has no parcel or estate with you.

Deut 12:13 Take care, lest you offer your whole-burnt offering wherever you look. 12:14 Instead, at the place that Yahweh will choose in one of your tribes there shall you offer your whole-burnt offerings and there shall you do all that I am instructing you. 12:15 However, to your heart’s desire you may slaughter and eat meat — according to the blessing of Yahweh your god that he gave you — in all your towns. The impure and the pure may eat it, like the gazelle and the deer.12:16 But the blood you may not eat. On the ground must you dump it, like water. 12:17 You may not eat in your towns the tithe of your grain, wine and oil, or the firstborns of your cattle and sheep, or any of the pledges you may make, or your presents, or your tributes. 12:18 Rather, before Yahweh your god shall you eat it, in the place that Yahweh your god will choose — you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, and the Levite in your towns — and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your god with all your produce. 12:19 Take care, lest you abandon the Levite — all the days upon your land.

Deut 12:20 Should Yahweh your god expand your border just as he had said to you, and you say to yourself, “I would eat meat,” because your heart craves to eat meat, to all your heart’s desire may you eat meat.

12:21 Should the site Yahweh your god will choose there to put his name be too far from youyou may slaughter from your cattle and from your sheep that Yahweh has given you as I have instructed you and eat in your towns to all your heart’s desire.

12:22 Indeed, as the deer and the ram are eaten, so shall you eat it; together shall the impure and the pure eat it.12:23 However, hold fast against eating the blood, because the blood is the life-essence and you may not eat the life-essence with the meat. 12:24 Do not eat it! On the ground shall you dump it, like water. 12:25 Do not eat it! So that it will go well with you and with your children after you when you do what is right in the eyes of Yahweh.

12:26 However, the holy offerings that (still) will be upon you and your pledges you shall (still) carry and go to the place that Yahweh will choose, 12:27 and you shall do your whole-burnt offerings — the meat and the blood — upon the altar of Yahweh your god, whereas the blood of your consumable offerings shall be poured out by (or: on) the altar of Yahweh your god and you eat the meat. 12:28 Listen carefully to these things that I am commanding you, so that it will go well with you and with your children after you forever when you do what is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your god.

Published

January 9, 2016

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Last Updated

September 22, 2019

Footnotes

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Dr. Simeon Chavel is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Bible at The Hebrew University and is the author of Oracular Law and Priestly Historiography in the Torah.