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Slaughterhouse Gospel

Why God dwelling with us meant gruesome rituals.
Slaughterhouse Gospel
Image: iStock

As we read the Old Testament it is easy to imagine ourselves awed by the great temple of Solomon and the tabernacle that proceeded it—God's dwelling place in the midst of Israel. One of the first things God commanded after the exodus from Egypt was the building of a tabernacle where God could dwell among his people as Israel made its way across the wilderness toward the Promised Land. Centuries later, Solomon would replace the tabernacle with the more permanent, stunningly beautiful temple.

In the final chapters of Exodus we read about the building of the tabernacle with its magnificent architecture, courtyards, lamp stands, adornments of jewels and precious metals, and beautiful woven curtains. God specified every detail of what must have been a truly majestic structure filled with works of art, craftsmanship, and beauty. Moses personally oversaw its construction.

But we rarely think about these places as slaughterhouses. Their overriding purpose was to be a place of carnage where animals were brutally and graphically sacrificed—thousands upon thousands of them, day after day and year after year.

If he presents a sheep as his offering, he must present it before the Lord. He must lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it before the Meeting Tent, and the sons of Aaron must splash its blood against the altar's sides. Then he must present a gift to the Lord from the peace offering sacrifice: He must remove all the fatty tail up to the end of the spine, the fat covering the entrails, and all the fat on the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver (which he is to remove along with the kidneys). Then the priest must offer it up in ...
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