Friday, March 16, 2007

Did God ever want sacrifices?

Its amazing what you notice when you read a different translation of something for a change.

I have read the (whole) bible several times through, but most of this has been using the New International Version (NIV). So probably every time I have read Jeremiah 7v22 before, I'd have read these words:
For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, [23] but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.
However, I read that verse in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) today and it says:
For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. [23] But this thing I commanded them, saying, Hearken unto my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.
What? The apparent meaning is totally different! The NIV translation implies that God gave the Israelites the command to obey Him AND instructions about sacrifices, while the RSV clearly states that God did NOT give instructions about sacrifices, but only gave the command to listen and obey ('hearken').

So I had a look at several other translations (NASB, NKJV, ESB, NLT, ASV,... isn't the internet really useful sometimes?). Almost all of them agree with the RSV; God did not give instructions or commands about sacrifices ('in the day [that they came] out of Egypt').

I know that it is a joke that 'NIV' stands for 'Nearly Infallible Version' but I had always been lead to believe that it was a good translation.

Anyway, all this by means of introduction...

While all the translations (except NIV) say that God did not give instructions about sacrifice 'in the day', it seems to me (from context) that the meaning of the prophecy of Jeremiah here is that God never gave any instructions about sacrifice to the Israelites - because God doesn't want sacrifice! (see also 1 Samuel 15v22, Psalm 40v6, Psalm 51v16, Hosea 6v6).

But if God doesn't want sacrifice and He never gave instructions or commands about sacrifice, then who on earth wrote all the stuff in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deutoronomy?!


Anonymous said...



Ricky Carvel said...

Good point. I really shouldn't have asked who wrote it, I should have asked who issued the commandments and devised the sacrifice system...


Chris HH said...

The NIV is a good translation, but in applying its dynamic equivalence (thought for thought) approach rather than a more literal approach (word for word). It does sometimes take a liberty with the text.

Have you tried the ESV? It is a modern translation based upon the RSV and preserves both literal accuracy and excellent readability. I switched to it (from the NIV) a couple of years ago, and haven't looked back.

Regarding this particular passage, context is important. Jeremiah is prophesying to those who think they can worship other gods, and then come into the temple of the Lord, offer the prescribed sacrifices and be acceptable before God:

Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jer 7:8-10)

Jeremiah is thus not offering an alternate history to the Exodus account where the Levitical law did not get given. But pointing out that the purpose in the Exodus was not to institute a sacrificial system, but rather to "Let my people go... that they might worship me."

God never wanted sacrifices, in as much as they were never intended to be an ends in themselves, but only as a means by which sinful man might live with a Holy God in their midst. A means which ultimately serves to foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice in Christ.

You could thus also ask did God ever want to see his beloved only-begotten Son die a horrific death on the cross? What you want and what is necessary are not always one and the same.

Josh McDowell said...

This is an interesting blog entry, I discovered it in a quick search today for various verses that tell us that God doesn't want sacrifice.

A verse that you may want to think about as you consider this passage is 1 Samuel 8:8. Have you ever considered that maybe a lot of history between Exodus and Kings is tainting by the fact that the Children of Israel were following other gods during those days?

Brendan Picone said...

This is an interesting question with an interesting answer. You see many of the scriptures,of today were written and rewritten over time, and changed by selfish scribes which wanted the scriptures to serve their own purpose. So these little tid bits that exist today are called Phariseeisms and show that we should use the lessons given in the book of Job to find the truth that was hidden long long ago.

In God explains that he DOES NOT cause evil things to happen, he simply turns his face and allows Satan to do his job. If we apply this lesson to the old and new testaments we see a vast differance in the scriptures. Thjng God isn't this scary monster but a disappionted father who protects his children. There are many keys hidden in the scriptures which unlock who we are and why we are here. Another one is in the book of acts when Peter tells Paul that WE are not to eat flesh sacrificed to a false think about this if God our father never asked us to sacrifice animals doesn't it stand to reason that anything that is made from the flesh of a dead animal is a sacrifice to a false god