Samuel the Non-Aaronite

Source: Jacob Lauterbach’s introduction in Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1933) xiii.

“Tradition reports such an activity of studying and interpreting the Torah and of diligently searching out its full meaning and all its implications, even in pre-exilic times. Thus, the prophet Samuel is supposed to have interpreted the passage in Lev. 1.3 as implying that the slaughter of the sacrificial animals may be performed by a layman, i.e., a non-priest.”

I remember reading Leviticus 1:3-5 for my daily quiet time, and I noticed it said that the worshipper is the one who slaughters the animal. I read a while back that this is one view in the Torah, since there are passages in which the priest kills it. But I don’t remember where I read that.

I wonder if the rabbi was trying to explain how a non-priest like Samuel could be offering sacrifices. I Chronicles 6 says that Samuel was descended from Kohath, which means he was a priest. But, as far as I know, the Kohathites were not the ones who actually sacrificed the animals, since Leviticus 1 presents the sons of Aaron doing that. Aaron was a descendant of Kohath, but Samuel was not from the line of Aaron. The Kohathites not from the line of Aaron were responsible for covering certain holy objects while moving them (Numbers 4). I’ve read commentators who contend that the Chronicler tried to tie Samuel to a priestly line to explain how he could be offering sacrifices. If that were its goal, why didn’t it tie Samuel to Aaron?

Also, while I’ve not read the rabbis’ argument, I find it somewhat weak. Sure, the worshipper killed the animal, but the Aaronite priests were the ones who offered it. The problem of Samuel the non-Aaronite priest doing so remains just that–a problem.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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