Did you know? Kedoshim



Did you know? Kedoshim

HOLINESS. This entry surveys the subject of “holiness” as it presented in the Hebrew Bible

Old Testament

In the OT, holiness is a positive cultic or moral condition of God, people, things, places, and time. It may be an inherent condition or achieved through ritual means. It is defined on the one hand as that which is consistent with God and his character, and on the other as that which is threatened by impurity. See D.1. and UNCLEAN AND CLEAN (OT). In the Hebrew Bible, the most extensive material about holiness is in the Priestly writings (= P) of the Pentateuch. Hence the discussion below will focus on this corpus, though non-P evidence will be discussed more completely when possible.

A. Terminology

B. Major Loci and Degrees of Holiness

1. Divine Beings

2. Humans

3. Objects

4. Places

5. Time

6. Miscellaneous

C. Methods of Sanctification and Desanctification

1. Legitimate Sanctification and Desanctification

2. Unintentional or Illegitimate Sanctification and Desanctification

D. Theoretical Concerns

1. Relationship of Holy, Profane, Pure, Impure

2. Sanctification Rituals and Ritual Time

3. Ritual Place

A. Terminology

The main Hebrew root denoting holiness is qdš, “to be holy; sanctify,” which appears as a verb, noun, and adjective over 850 times (with cognates in Akk, Ar, Aram, Eth, Phoen, Punic, Syr). Other roughly synonymous Heb roots include bdl, “to divide” (Hipʿil verb); ḥnk, “to dedicate” (Qal verb and noun); ḥrm, “severely dedicate; put under ban” (Hipʿil verb and noun); rwm, “contribute, devote” (Hipʿil verb and noun); nzr, “separate, consecrate” (verbs and nouns); ʿbr, “devote” (Hipʿil verb). The main Heb antonym is ḥll, “profane, desecrate” (verbs, nouns, and adjectives; cognates in Akk, Ar, Aram, and Syr) with the approximate synonyms gʾl, “desecrate” (verbs); mʿl, “betray; commit sacrilege” (Qal verb and noun); and the noun piggûl, “desecration.” See below for discussion of verbs and nouns from these roots. See also UNCLEAN AND CLEAN (OT) for a treatment of terms relating to purity and impurity; Milgrom 1970: 23–24, n. 78; 1976: 16–21, 35–44, 86–89 (and word indexes under the foregoing roots); Haran (1978) under his word index; and Bettenzoli 1979.

B. Major Loci and Degrees of Holiness

We will first review the major loci or bearers of holiness as represented mainly in P and secondarily in other OT literature. This review when possible will discuss gradations of holiness which has been a recurring concern of some recent scholarship (e.g., Haran 1978; Milgrom 1970; 1976; 1983b). Miscellaneous carriers of holiness will be discussed in B.6 below.

1. Divine Beings. a. God. The P and non-P writings both consider God the ideal manifestation, indeed the source, of holiness. Holiness is not inherent in creation but comes by God’s dictates. He sanctifies or sets apart the Sabbath (Gen 2:3; Exod 20:11), Israel and its priests (Exod 29:44; 31:13; Lev 21:8, 15; 22:9, 16; Ezek 20:12; 37:28; cf. also Exod 29:43), classes of creation like the firstborn (Num 3:13; 8:17; cf. also Exod 29:43), and sanctuaries (Exod 29:44; 1 Kgs 9:3, 7; 2 Chr 7:16, 20; 30:8; 36:14). But if he is the source of holiness for creation, creation—specifically his people—must maintain God’s holiness and his name’s holiness which, in this context, are nearly synonymous with his honor, reputation, and glory. This is mainly a duty of the people’s leaders (Lev 10:3; 22:32; Num 20:12–13; 27:14; Deut 32:51). Should the people sin, God or his name becomes desecrated (see sec. C. 2. b.) and his holy spirit, an aspect of his character, is grieved and may abandon them (Isa 63:10, 11; Ps 51:13). In addition to obedience, people bless, sanctify, and rejoice in God and his name (Isa 29:23; Ps 30:5; 97:12; 99:3, 5, 9; 103:1; 105:3; 106:47; 145:21; 1 Chr 16:10, 35; cf. Ps 22:4; 29:2; 96:9; 1 Chr 16:29; 29:16; 2 Chr 20:21; even divine beings: Isa 6:3). The people, too, are charged to emulate God’s holiness by keeping the commandments (Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:26; cf. 20:26). Inscriptions may declare and recall his sacred character (Exod 28:36; 39:30; Zech 14:20). For his own part God sustains and displays his sanctity through miraculous acts and punishments (Isa 5:16; Ezek 20:41; 28:22, 25; 36:23; 38:16, 23; 39:7, 25–27; Hab 3:3; Ps 111.9; cf. God’s “holy arm” in Isa 52:10; Ps 98:1). God, as holy, is above any competitors and is eternal (Exod 15:11; 1 Sam 2:2; Isa 40:25; 57:15; Hos 11:9; Hab 1:12) and is to be the sole object of Israel’s devotion (Isa 8:13–14; Ps 33:21; cf. Ezek 11:16; Hos 12:1; Job 6:10; Prov 9:10; 30:3). The title “Holy One of Israel” reflects this supremacy (Isa 1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 31:1; 37:23 [= 2 Kgs 19:22]; Isa 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14; Jer 50:29; 51:5; Ps 71:22; 78:41; 89:19; cf. Isa 10:17; 29:23; 40:25; 43:15; Ezek 39:7). Paradoxically, this high holiness may make it difficult for people to worship him (Josh 24:19; cf. 1 Sam 6:20). On the holiness of God’s word or promise, see Jer 23:9; Ps 105:42.

b. Lesser Divine Beings. Subordinate divine beings are also described as holy (Zech 14:5; Ps 16:3; 89:6, 8; Job 5:1; 15:15; Dan 4:10, 14, 20; 8:13; cf. Deut 33:2; some read this as a place-name). From the point of view of Nebuchadnezzar, the spirit of the “holy gods” is in Daniel (Dan 4:5, 6, 15; 5:11; some take this as a plural of majesty for Israel’s God).

2. Humans. Not discussed here are so-called cultic prostitutes whose Hebrew designation is formed from the root qdš (cf. Gen 38:21, 22; Deut 23:18; 1 Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 22:47; 2 Kgs 23:7; Hos 4:14; Job 36:14).

a. Priests. In P, there are two classes of priests, high and undistinguished. Several points indicate the high priest has a higher degree of holiness than undistinguished priests. First, he is called a high priest (Lev 21:10; Num 35:25, 28). Second, there is only one high priest at a time. Third, the high priest has a more elaborate consecration ritual (Exod 29:5–8, 20–21; Lev 8:7–9, 12, 23–24, 30; see also Exod 28:41; 30:30; 40:13–15; Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15; 21:10, 12; Num 35:25; Ps 133:2 and see sec. D. 2.). Fourth, each high priest is newly consecrated (Exod 29:29; Lev 6:15; 16:32; 21:10, 12; Num 35:25; cf. Num 20:25–28) while the undistinguished priests apparently are not, the initial consecration of Aaron’s sons sufficing for all generations to come (Exod 40:15). Fifth, only the high priest can enter the adytum (the most holy place) of the tabernacle (Lev 16:3–4, 11–16) and is designated to perform the regular (Heb tāmı̂d) rites within the shrine (the holy place; Exod 27:20–21; 30:7–8; Lev 24:1–4, 5–8; Num 8:1–3; cf. also Exod 25:37; 30:10; Lev 4:3–12 and 13–21; 16:1–28). Ordinary priests generally officiate in the court at the altar outside the tent sanctuary (cf. Leviticus 1–7, passim) and enter the shrine only to aid the high priest in his duties or to perform other auxiliary work (cf. Exod 27:21; 28:43; 30:19–20; 40:31–32; Lev 10:9; 16:17; Num 4:5–20; see Haran 1978: 205–29). Finally, the high priest has more severe marriage, purity, and mourning restrictions than other priests (Lev 21:1–15; cf. Ezek 44:22).

A less holy class of priests among the descendants of Aaron are those with physical defects. While they are still holy enough to eat most holy offerings, they are prohibited from serving at the altar or in the tent (Lev 21:16–23).

Non-P literature distinguishes between high and undistinguished priests (2 Kgs 22:4, 8; 25:18; Hag 1:1, 12, 14; Zech 3:1, 8; Ezra 7:5; Neh 3:1, 20; 1 Chr 9:11; 2 Chr 19:11; 24:11; 34:9, 14; etc.; cf. Ps 106:16). It also mentions deputy priests (2 Kgs 25:18; Jer 52:24) and elders of the priests (2 Kgs 19:2; Isa 37:2; Jer 19:1) which may, but not certainly, indicate further distinctions in holiness. The Chronicles designate Aaron and his sons as “most holy” (1 Chr 23:13), in apparent contrast to the Levites whom it calls “holy” (2 Chr 23:6; 35:3; see sec. B. 2. d.). The priests’ holiness allows them access to the temple, to offer incense, and to attend to and guard the sanctums (1 Sam 7:1; Ezra 8:28; 1 Chr 23:13; 2 Chr 23:6; 26:18). See sec. B. 4. a. and LEVITES AND PRIESTS.

b. Israelites. In P, lay Israelites do not share the same holy status as priests. The story of the Korah’s rebellion emphasizes this point (cf. Num 16:3, 5, 7). Yet though they are denied priestly holiness attained through inaugural rites and genealogical right, they are charged to achieve another type of holiness: that which comes by obedience. This obligation is the result of Yahweh’s separating them from the other nations and redeeming them from Egypt whereby he became their God. As their God, he enjoins them to be holy as he is holy (Lev 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7–8, 24–26; 22:32–33; Num 15:40–41; cf. Exod 31:13; Ezek 20:12).

While in P holiness is a responsibility ensuing from God choosing Israel, in Deuteronomy it is the resultant state of God’s choosing the Israelites which they must attain. Deuteronomy calls the people holy in the present tense (Deut 7:6; 14:2, 21). In the related P passages only God is called holy in the present, not the people (Lev 11:41, 45; 19:2; 20:26). Deut 26:19 and 28:9 (apparently referring back to JE’s statement in Exod 19:6) do not necessarily contradict this. As in P, holiness is connected with observing dietary laws (Deut 14:21; cf. Lev 11:44–45 and [JE’s] Exod 22:30). Other passages reflect a notion similar to Deuteronomy’s (Isa 63:18; Jer 2:3; Ps 34:10; Ezra 9:2). Those who suffer or survive punishment or have been redeemed are often called holy (Isa 4:3; 6:13; 62:12; Obad 17; Dan 7:18, 21–22, 25, 27; 8:24; 12:7). The people’s holiness can also derive from the presence of the sanctuary among them (Ezek 37:28; see also Deut 33:3; Isa 43:28).

c. Nazirites. Though, according to P, laypersons cannot share in priestly holiness, they could for a period of time imitate it by taking upon themselves the vow of a Nazirite (Num 6:1–21). Literature outside P describes lifelong Nazirites; presumably a condition of sacredness attached to them, but perhaps not as high (Judg 13:5, 7; 16:17; cf. Amos 2:11–12). By taking this vow, the person (Num 6:8) or specifically the head, is consecrated (vv 5, 11). The Nazirite, like a high priest, is restricted from all corpses (Num 6:7–8; cf. Lev 21:10–12; note the similarity between Num 6:7 and Lev 21:12). Like priests on duty, the Nazirite is not to drink wine or other strong drink (Num 6:3; Judg 13:4–5; 1 Sam 1:11 [LXX]; Amos 2:12; cf. Lev 10:9–10; Ezek 44:21). The mother of the Nazirite Samson was to avoid unclean food like priests (Judg 13:4, 7, 14; cf. Lev 22:8; Ezek 44:31). See sec. D. 2.

d. Levites and Firstborn Humans. Firstborn humans are holy: God dedicated them to himself in Egypt (Num 3:13; 8:17; cf. Exod 13:2) and they must be redeemed as is required with other holy items (Num 18:15–16; cf. 3:44–51). From this, one would expect the Levites, the cultic substitutes for the firstborn (Num 3:44–51), to be holy. But P never calls them such, even in the long prescription for their installation (Num 8:5–22; on the elevation rites, see C. 1. a. [1]). That they are restricted from the sanctums shows they have not risen in holiness much above the status of lay Israelites (Num 4:4–20; 18:2–4). If one grants them some degree of holiness, it must be strictly distinguished from that of the priests (cf. Milgrom 1970: 29, n. 103).

In contrast to P, the Chronicler designates the Levites as holy (2 Chr 23:6; 35:3; Milgrom 1970: 71, n. 257). For a possible similar perception of Levites in Ezekiel, see Milgrom 1981: 291–94. In other passages, all firstborn are described as belonging or being devoted to God, which intimates they are holy (Exod 13:12–13; 22:29; 34:19–20; see sec. C. 1. b. [1]).

e. Prophets. Only non-P literature speaks of the holiness of prophets, and what it says is meager: Elisha is called a “holy man of God” (2 Kgs 4:9) and God set Jeremiah apart as a prophet (Jer 1:5). The anointing of prophets, understood literally or figuratively, may also imply holiness (1 Kgs 19:16; Isa 61:1; cf. Ps 105:15 = 1 Chr 16:22).

3. Objects. a. Offerings. Offerings fall into two main groups, most holy and lesser. Those called most holy (Heb qōdeš [haq]qŏdāšı̂m) are the sin or purgation offering, the reparation offering, and the cereal offering, which includes the bread of presence in the tabernacle (Lev 2:3, 10; 6:10, 18, 22; 7:1, 6; 10:12, 17; 14:13; 21:22; 24:9; Num 18:9). A mark of most holy offerings is that only the priests may eat them (see foregoing references and Lev 6:11) and then only in the sanctuary court (called a “holy place” or the “place of the sanctuary”: Lev 6:9, 19; 7:6; 10:13, 17; 24:9; Num 18:10 appears to refer to eating in a state of most holiness). The burnt offering, though not called most holy, must be included in this class by analogy (cf. Lev 14:13; cf. the hint in Num 18:9 with the Heb preposition min, “from/of”). The priestly consecration offering was probably also considered most holy since priests were to eat it in the sanctuary court (Exod 29:31–34; Lev 8:31–32).

Lesser holy offerings include well-being offerings (Lev 3:1–17; 7:11–36); firstborn of clean animals (Num 18:15–18); the Passover (Exod 12:3–11, 43, 50); the produce tithe (see below; Lev 27:30–31; Num 18:25–32); the animal tithe (Lev 27:32–33); items put under “severe dedication” (Heb ḥērem; Lev 27:28; Num 18:14); first-ripe produce (Lev 19:24; 23:10–11; Num 18:13); and first-processed products (Lev 2:12; 23:17–20; Num 15:20–21; 18:12). Some passages technically distinguish these from most holy offerings by calling them simply “holy offerings” (Heb qŏdāšı̂m: Lev 21:22; Num 18:9, 11, 19; note the contrast in Lev 10:12–16). Other passages use this term without contrast (Lev 22:2–4, 6–7, 12, 15–16; Num 18:32) as well as the singular Heb qōdeš (Lev 12:4; 22:10, 14; 23:20; Num 18:17). But qōdeš and qŏdāšı̂m can include most holy offerings (Exod 28:38; Lev 5:15–16; 23:20; Num 5:9–10; 18:8, 10). The related noun miqdāš infrequently refers to lesser holy offerings (cf. Num 18:29). Apart from terminology, the fact that these offerings may be eaten by nonpriests outside the sanctuary precincts shows their distinction from most holy offerings. In connection with this, the designation of things under Heb ḥērem as most holy (Lev 27:28) is probably to emphasize their irredeemable nature and not to characterize them technically as most holy. That nonpriests may eat or use ḥērem shows its lesser holy character (Num 18:14 and context).

A main subdivision of the holiness of lesser holy offerings is perceptible. The Israelites eat only the well-being sacrifice (excluding portions given the priests) and the Passover (Exod 12:1–14; Lev 7:15–18; 19:5–8; 22:29–30). Because of their restriction to the priests’ households, there priests and their households (Lev 22:10–13; Num 18:11, 13, 19) are entitled to the breast and right thigh from the well-being offerings (Exod 29:26–28; Lev 7:31–36; 10:14–15; Num 18:11) and all of the other offerings listed above. The portions of the priests’ households presumably are more holy than the Israelites’ portions. The prohibition that laypersons not eat the priestly portions supports such a valuation (Lev 22:10–16). A subdivision of the holiness of the well-being offering is detectable also. One type, brought for a vow or a freewill offering, may be eaten over two days and the leftover meat destroyed on the third (Lev 7:16–17; 19:6). Another type, the thank offering, may only be eaten on one day (7:15; 22:30). The shorter period for eating suggests a slightly higher degree of holiness for the latter type (note that most holy offerings can only be eaten for one day; cf. Exod 29:34; Lev 8:32; 10:16–20; see Wright 1987: 139). The Passover offering which can only be eaten for one day may have had a degree of holiness similar to that of the thank offering (Exod 12:10; Num 9:12).

Ezekiel labels the cereal, purgation, and reparation offerings most holy (42:13; cf. Ezra 2:63; Neh 7:65; 2 Chr 31:14). The term qŏdāšı̂m, introduced above, is used for offerings that are lesser holy in P (Deut 12:26; 2 Chr 29:33; 31:6, 12; 35:13; and perhaps Ezek 36:38; 1 Chr 26:20), but it is also used for all offerings (Ezek 20:40; 22:8; 26; Neh 10:34; 1 Chr 28:12) and Ezek 44:13 uses this term to refer to most holy offerings. The singular qōdeš, “holy thing(s),” may be used of lesser holy offerings as well (Deut 26:13; 1 Chr 23:28; 2 Chr 30:19; cf. Jer 2:3). Sacrificial meat can be called Heb bĕśar qōdeš, “holy flesh” (Jer 11:15). In Hag 2:12 it refers to meat of offerings that P calls most holy. The bread of presence at the sanctuary of Nob, which in P is most holy, is called Heb leḥem qōdeš, “holy bread,” or simply qōdeš, “a holy thing” (1 Sam 21:5, 7).

A way to distinguish relative degrees of holiness of offerings outside P may be to determine who received them. For example, in Deuteronomy, officiating priests receive the shoulder, cheeks, and stomach from the “sacrifice” (Heb zebaḥ; equivalent to the well-being offering in P; 18:3) and the gifts of agricultural produce and wool (18:4; 26:2–11). Lay Israelites, their households, and nonofficiating Levites receive other portions of zebaḥ offerings, the firstborn animal, Passover, tithes, and various contributions at the sanctuary (12:6–7, 11–12, 17–18, 26; 14:22–27; 15:19–20; 16:2–7; cf. 16:10–17). The fatherless, widows, resident aliens, and nonofficating Levites receive the third-year tithe in the Israelite towns (14:28–29; 26:12–15; called qōdeš in 26:13). However, exegetical problems cloud the conclusiveness of these observations.

b. Sanctuary Furniture. Six pieces of cultic furniture are designated most holy: the ark, the incense altar, lamp stand (or menorah), bread table, the outer or burnt-offering altar, and laver (Exod 29:37; 30:10, 26–29; 40:10; Num 4:4, 19). The base of the laver and the utensils listed for some of these items may also be most holy, like the main furniture pieces (see Exod 30:26–29; but cf. Exod 40:9–11). The furniture may simply be labeled qōdeš (Exod 40:9; Num 3:28, 31, 32; 4:15, 16, 20; 7:9; 18:3, 5) or miqdāš (Lev 21:23; Num 10:21; 18:1; perhaps included in 3:38), both meaning “holy object(s); sanctums.” An auxiliary to the outer altar is the cover made from the censers of Korah and his rebels (17:2–5—Eng 16:37–40).

Location, materials, lethality, and the cultic importance of the pieces suggest a gradation of holiness, with the ark being the highest, the outer altar and laver being the lowest. The ark is located in the adytum; the table, lamp stand, and incense altar in the shrine; and the burnt-offering altar and laver in the court. The ark, table, lamp stand, and incense altar are all made of pure gold, while the burnt-offering altar and laver are made of copper (Exod 25:11, 17, 24, 31, 36, 39; 27:2; 30:3; 37:2, 6, 11, 17, 22, 23, 24, 26; 38:2, 30). When transported the ark is wrapped in the tabernacle veil, a skin cover, then a completely blue cloth; the table is wrapped in a regular blue cloth, a scarlet cloth, then a skin cover; the lamp and incense altar are wrapped in a regular blue cloth and a skin cover; and the outer altar in a purple cloth, then a skin cover (Num 4:5–14). The gold furniture is lethal by sight to nonpriests (Num 4:18–20) but the copper pieces are not (they are on public display). Lastly, the ark is the most important piece of furniture: it is the place where God manifests himself (Exod 25:22; 30:36; Num 7:89; cf. Exod 29:42) and it may be the sole piece of sanctum which was not to be seen at all (cf. Lev 16:2, 12–13). The holy vessels taken into battle in Num 31:6 probably include the ark and the Urim and Thummim, which again shows the ark’s importance.

This furniture appears to be more holy relative to the tent structure’s planks, columns, bars, footings, lower cover (Heb miškān), and entrance hanging, which are also most holy (cf. Exod 30:26–29). The pieces of furniture are made of or covered with pure gold (see above), while the planks, columns, and bars are covered with plain gold (Exod 26:29, 32, 37; 36:34, 36, 38). The furniture pieces are prohibited to the touch and sight of the Levites on the pain of death; they are carefully wrapped by the priests, while the planks, columns, bars, footings, cover, and entrance hanging are not so lethal, nor are they covered (Num 4:4–20 versus vv 24–28, 31–33). The furniture pieces are carried on the Levites’ shoulders while the planks, covers, and other items are transported in wagons (Num 7:7–9).

Outside of P, the ark and other holy furniture are brought to Solomon’s new temple (1 Kgs 8:4; 1 Chr 22:19; 2 Chr 5:5; see sec. B. 4. a.). As in P, these articles are guarded and carried by priests and Levites (Ezra 8:24–29; 1 Chr 9:29; 23:32; 2 Chr 35:3). Deutero-Zechariah (Zechariah 9–14) hoped for the time that every vessel in the temple, Jerusalem, and Judah would increase in holiness (14:20–21). In addition to these articles, independent altars, pillars (Heb maṣṣēbôt), and other legitimate cult objects would be considered holy.

c. Priestly Clothing. All priestly clothing is holy, but that of the high priest has an elevated degree of holiness. First of all, it is more elaborate. Priests wear a fine linen tunic, waistband, headdress, and breeches (Exod 28:40, 42–43; 39:27–28). The high priest wears linen breeches, a tunic with a fancier weave (28:4, 39); a waistband of colored wool and fine linen (28:4, 39; 39:29); a headdress which is designated differently than the regular priest’s (Heb miṣnepet versus Heb [paʾărê ham]migbaʿōt; 28:4, 39; 39:28) and to which was attached an inscribed golden plate (28:36–38; 39:30–31); a robe worn over these items made out of blue wool with golden bells and pomegranates made of colored wool and fine linen (28:4, 31–35; 39:22–26; cf. Haran 1978: 169, n. 44); and on top of all this the ephod made of colored wool, fine linen, and strips of gold, all woven together, with two framed stones inscribed with the names of the Israelite tribes attached to shoulder straps and a pouch—also with stones with the tribal names inscribed—fastened to the ephod and hanging over the chest (28:4, 6–13, 15–30; 39:2–21). The high priest’s clothing is also holier because it consisted of a mixture of wool and linen, a holy mixture (see sec. B. 3. f below). It may be considered holier, too, since it is specifically required for working in the shrine (Exod 28:29, 30, 35, 38). Finally, only the high priest’s clothing is called Heb bigdê(haq)qōdeš, “holy clothing” (Exod 28:2, 4; 29:29; 31:10; 35:19 [cf. v 21]; 39:1 [cf. vv 27–29]; 41; 40:13; the golden plate is called holy in Exod 29:6; Lev 8:9). Aaron’s sons’ clothing is only categorized thus once (Exod 28:4), but the context shows that the high priest’s clothing is mainly in mind.

Two other sets of priestly clothing are prescribed in P. When removing ashes from the burnt-offering altar a priest is to dress in a plain linen robe and plain linen breeches (Lev 6:3–4). These may be utilitarian to prevent soiling of regular priestly clothing while at the same time to befit the holiness of the altar. After the work at the altar the priest puts on other, perhaps profane, clothing to take the ashes to the ash dump. When performing the blood rites in the adytum, shrine, and court on the Day of Atonement the high priest wears a plain linen tunic, breeches, waistband, and headdress (Lev 16:4, 32; called holy). The reason for the simpler plain linen clothing may also have been utilitarian, to prevent the soiling of the regular high priestly clothing with blood, which is sprinkled in abundance in this ceremony.

Ezekiel has the most extensive information about priestly clothing but only speaks, it appears, of that of regular priests. It is completely linen, including a headdress, breeches, and, implicitly, a waistband (44:17–18). A tunic is necessarily included. Hence Ezekiel’s clothing is exactly like that of regular priests in P. But in contrast to P, Ezekiel calls this clothing holy (42:14). This designation reflects a conception about the clothing not found in P: it has the power to render laypersons who touch it holy (42:14; 44:19). The only piece of high priestly clothing mentioned outside of P is the ephod. While it sometimes appears to be a garment, it often has a character different than P’s ephod (Judg 8:27; 17:5; 18:14–20; 1 Sam 2:18, 28; 14:3; 21:10; 22:18; 23:6, 9; 30:7; 2 Sam 6:14; Hos 3:4; 1 Chr 15:27).

d. Real Estate. People may dedicate their houses or inherited land (Lev 27:14–25). Doing so makes them “holy to the Lord,” i.e., the property of the sanctuary and priests (v 14). Inherited land which is not redeemed and is sold to another becomes “holy to the Lord” in the jubilee year (v 21). It is then like a field dedicated as Heb ḥērem and becomes a priestly holding (cf. v 28).

e. Money and Precious Metals and Stones. Money used to redeem land in the foregoing cases is “holy to the Lord” (Lev 27:23). Analogically, all money or precious metals given to the sanctuary would be holy (Exod 25:3; 30:11–16; 35:5, 22, 24; 38:24–26; Lev 5:15, 18; 27:2–8, 12–13, 27, 31; Num 3:44–51; 7:1–88; 18:15–16; 31:48–53). If not used for constructing the tabernacle, these metals would have been kept in the sanctuary and used for maintaining the structure and supporting the priests (cf. Exod 30:16; Num 3:51, 5:4).

The holiness of dedicated money and booty is well attested outside of P. These items were put into sanctuary treasuries (Josh 6:17, 19, 24; 2 Sam 8:10–12; 1 Kgs 7:51; 15:15; 2 Kgs 12:5–17; 1 Chr 18:9–11; 2 Chr 5:1; 15:18; 2 Chr 24:5–14; cf. Ezra 8:24–29). The accumulated wealth became vast and was a source for maintenance of the temple and priests (2 Kgs 22:3–7; 1 Chr 26:26–28; 2 Chr 34:8–11; cf. Isa 23:18), paying tribute to invaders or allies (1 Kgs 15:17–22; 2 Kgs 12:19; 2 Chr 16:1–6), or spoil for the enemy (1 Kgs 14:25–28; 2 Kgs 14:11–14; 24:13; Jer 15:13; 17:3; Dan 1:2; 2 Chr 12:2–12; 36:18). Cf. Judg 17:3.

Precious stones were also dedicated to the temple treasury (cf. 1 Chr 29:8; 2 Chr 32:27). Perhaps Lam 4:1 has such stones in mind. Also recall that the high priest’s clothing incorporated precious stones.

f. Mixtures. Certain mixtures are prohibited: cross-breeding animals, plowing with an ox and ass together, sowing a field or vineyard with two different types of seeds, and making or wearing a Heb šaʿaṭnēz garment, i.e., one made of wool and linen (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9–11). The reason seems to be that mixtures are holy (Deut 22:9). This explains in part the holiness of the high priest’s clothing and of the fabric wall and hangings of the tabernacle which employ a mixture of wool and linen. Israelites are allowed to use mixtures in one case. They are to wear fringes on the edges or corners of their clothing, normally made of linen, and with a thread of blue, implicitly of wool, attached (Num 15:37–41; Deut 22:12; see Milgrom 1983a; 1983c).

g. Oil. Oil used for anointing priests, the tabernacle, and its furniture had a special and restricted composition and was holy (Exod 30:22–33; 37:29; Num 35:25). One would expect this oil to be most holy since it confers a status of most holiness on the sanctuary furniture (cf. the incense below). Oil used on cereal offerings would be most holy as part of the offering (Lev 2:1, 4, 6–7; etc.). The elevated and sprinkled oil in the ritual for purification from Heb ṣāraʿat (so-called leprosy) would be holy, but not most holy (Lev 14:12, 15–18, 24–29; see sec. C. 1. a. [1]). The beaten pure oil for the tabernacle lamp may have had a lesser holy status as a dedicated item (Exod 27:20; Lev 24:2). Outside of P, holy oil is used to anoint kings (1 Kgs 1:39; figuratively, Ps 89:21; see sec. C. 1. a. [1]).

h. Incense. Like anointing oil, incense (Heb qĕṭōret hassamîm) used on the incense altar and on the Day of Atonement has a unique restricted formula (Exod 30:34–38; cf. Lev 16:12–13). The text calls it “holy” (Exod 30:35, 37), but once calls it “most holy” which is technically more correct (v 36). Relatively less holy, but still most holy, would be the frankincense (Heb lĕbōnâ) used on cereal offerings (Lev 2:1–2, 15, etc.). The degree of holiness of plain incense (Heb qĕṭōret) offered in censers by priests is unclear (this offering implied in Lev 10:1; Num 7:14, 20, etc.; 16:7, 17–18, 35; 17:5, 11–12—Eng 16:40, 46–47).

i. Water. Holy water is mentioned in the ordeal for a woman suspected of committing adultery (Num 5:17; probably taken from the laver). Water libations (1 Sam 7:6; cf. 2 Sam 23:16) and the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek 47:12; cf. Joel 4:18; Zech 14:8) may be considered holy. Spring water for certain rituals (Lev 14:5–6, 50–52; 15:13; Num 19:17) and that of the Jordan (as in 2 Kgs 5:10–14) are probably not to be considered holy.

4. Places. a. Sanctuaries. P’s wilderness tabernacle is marked off by a linen fence 100 by 50 cubits which forms a court whose entrance faces eastward. In the front half of the court is the open-air altar for burnt offerings. In the back half of the court is the tent structure—30 cubits long, about 10 wide, and 10 high—which is divided into two rooms: a foreroom, the shrine; and a back room, the adytum.

Terminology shows a gradation of different parts of the tabernacle. Technically the adytum is called Heb qōdeš haqqŏdāšı̂m, “the most holy place” and the shrine simply Heb haqqōdeš, “the holy place” (Exod 26:33–34; 1 Chr 6:34; cf. Heb miqdāš haqqōdeš of the adytum in Lev 16:33). But the entire tent structure could be called “most holy” which indicates its collective holiness is greater than the rest of the sanctuary area (Exod 30:26, 29). Less technically, both rooms could be called haqqōdeš, “the holy place” (the adytum: Lev 4:6 [unless this refers to both rooms]; 16:2–3, 16–17, 20, 23, 27; the shrine: 28:29, 35; 29:30; 31:11; Lev 6:23; 10:18 [first occurrence]; Num 4:12; both rooms together: Exod 38:24, 27). The sanctuary area in general or the court could be called haqqōdeš, “the holy place” (Exod 28:43; 35:19; 36:1, 3, 4, 6; 39:1, 41; Lev 10:4, 18 [2d occurrence]; Num 8:19; 28:7; see Haran 1978: 171–73; cf. Heb mĕqôm haqqōdeš, “place of the sanctuary” Lev 10:17; 14:13; Heb šeqel haqqōdeš, “sanctuary shekel” Exod 30:13, 24; etc.), Heb (ham)miqdāš, “(the) holy place/area” (Exod 25:8; Lev 12:4; 19:30; 20:3; 21:12; 26:2; Num 3:38; 19:20; plural in Lev 26:31; cf. Milgrom 1970: 23–24, n. 78), and Heb māqôm qādôš, “holy place” (Exod 29:31; Lev 6:9, 19, 20; 7:6; 10:13; 16:24; 24:9; Wright 1987: 232–35).

The distribution of furniture, the extent of access to the different parts of the sanctuary, the materials used in the tabernacle, and anointing rites also display the structure’s graded holiness. The ark, the most important piece of furniture, is in the adytum; the incense altar, lamp stand, and bread table are in the shrine; and the burnt-offering altar and laver, the least holy of the most holy furniture, are in the court. Similarly, only the high priest, the holiest of the Israelites, is allowed in the adytum; the high priest aided by regular priests performs daily and weekly rites in the shrine; and the Levites and Israelites, both profane, have access only to the court. Some argue the Israelites were even restricted to the area between the burnt-offering altar and the entrance, which would indicate a subdivision in the court’s holiness (Haran 1978: 187–87; Milgrom 1970: 17–18). As for materials, the wall planks of the tabernacle and the columns supporting the veil and the entrance hanging are overlaid or covered with gold (Exod 26:29, 32, 37; 36:24, 36, 38) while the columns holding up the fence of the court and the hanging to the court entrance are covered with silver (27:10–11, 17; 38:10–12, 17, 19). The footings for the planks of the tabernacle and for the columns of the veil are made of silver (26:19, 21, 25, 32; 36:24, 26, 30, 36; 38:27) while those for the columns of the tent entrance, of the sanctuary entrance, and of the perimeter of the court are copper (26:37; 27:10–11, 17; 36:38; 38:10–11, 17, 19, 30–31). The tent structure itself is made of four layers: an elaborate underlayer of costly materials (the Heb miškān, “tabernacle”; 26:1–6; 36:8–13), another layer made of simple goat hair (Heb ʾōhel, “tent”; 26:7–13; 36:14–18), and a top cover of tanned ram skins, and then one of Heb tĕḥāšı̂m skins (26:14; 36:19; 39:34). The veil and bottom layer of the tabernacle is made of blue, purple, and scarlet wool, and fine linen, with cherubim designs (26:1, 31; 36:8, 35; the listing of materials for the bottom layer may indicate it has more linen than the veil), while the hangings to the entrances of the tabernacle and court have blue, purple, and scarlet wool, fine linen, and carry designs but not cherubim (26:36; 27:16; 36:37; 38:18). The fence surrounding the entire court is of fine linen (Exod 27:9, 18; 38:9, 16). The clasps holding the two sections of the bottom layer of the tabernacle together are gold (26:6; 36:13), while those of the overlying goat-hair layer are copper (26:11; 36:18). Finally, when the sanctuary is dedicated only the tent structure, the burnt-offering altar, and the laver are anointed; the court itself is not.

Non-P literature mentions cult places and sanctuaries in towns such as Beer-sheba, Bethel, Gibeon, Gilgal, Hebron, Mizpah (of Benjamin), Nob, Ophrah (of Abiezer), Ramah (Ramathaim), Shechem, Shiloh, as well as in undefined places. These cult places would have been considered holy—if not by a particular biblical book or tradition, which may treat them as illegitimate, at least by worshipers there. Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s temples, whose descriptions are more complete, exhibit degrees of holiness like those of P’s tabernacle. The entire area of Solomon’s temple, including courts, was called a Heb miqdāš, “holy/sanctuary area” (clearly, Ezek 9:6; 23:39; see also Isa 63:18; Jer 17:12; Ezek 5:11; 8:6; 23:38; 24:21; 25:3; Ps 74:7; 78:69; Lam 1:10; 2:7, 20; 1 Chr 22:19; 2 Chr 20:8; 26:18; 29:21; 30:8; perhaps 1 Chr 28:10; cf. Heb. bêt miqdāš in 2 Chr 36:17; for the Second Temple: Isa 60:13; Dan 8:11; 9:17; 11:31; Neh 10:40; of other sanctuaries: Exod 15:17; Josh 24:26; Amos 7:9, 13; Ps 96:6). The plural in Jer 51:51 probably refers to sacred areas of the temple (cf. Ezek 7:24; 21:7; Ps 68:36; 73:17). The entire area was also called a Heb qōdeš, “holy place” (Ps 74:3; 1 Chr 24:5; 2 Chr 29:5, 7; 35:5; cf. Ps 20:3; 60:8; 63:3; 68:25; 108:8; 134:2; cf. Isa 64:10; Ps 24:3; 1 Chr 29:3; Heb har haqqōdeš, “holy mountain” and variants: Isa 56:7; Ezek 20:40; Ps 3:5; 15:1; 43:3; 99:9; cf. Isa 27:13; 65:11; qōdeš for the Second Temple: Dan 8:13, 14; 9:26; cf. Isa 62:9). The temple building itself had two main rooms, but with a vestibule added in front. The adytum can be called the “most holy place” (1 Kgs 6:16; 7:50; 8:6; 2 Chr 3:8, 10; 4:22; 5:7; cf. Ps 28:2; Second Temple: Dan 9:24). The shrine can be called the qōdeš, “holy place” (1 Kgs 8:8, 10; 2 Chr 5:11). The adytum, overlaid with gold, contains the ark underneath the wings of gold-covered cherubim (1 Kgs 6:20, 27–28, 31–32; 8:6–9); the shrine, also overlaid with gold, contains a gold incense altar, a gold bread table, and gold lamp stands (1 Kgs 6:21–22, 30, 33–35; 7:48–50); and the court contains a copper altar, a large copper laver, and ten smaller copper lavers (1 Kgs 7:27–39, 43–45; 8:64; on Ahaz’s altar: 2 Kgs 16:10–16). The two pillars standing in front of the temple were of copper (1 Kgs 7:13–22). Only priests, not Levites (2 Chr 29:16) nor laypersons (2 Chr 26:16–21), had access to the building (cf. 1 Kgs 8:6, 10–11; see also Ps 93:5; Eccl 8:10; 2 Chr 2:3).

Ezekiel’s visionary temple, described in Ezekiel 40–48 (cf. Ezek 20:40; 37:26–28), has a walled-off area 500 cubits square. This entire area is called a miqdāš, “holy area” (37:26, 28; 43:21; 44:1, 5, 7–9, 11; 45:3–4; 47:12; 48:8, 10, 21) and a qōdeš, “holy place” (45:2). In a relative sense the sanctuary area is holy (qōdeš) while the area outside of it is profane (Heb ḥōl; see Ezek 42:20). Calling the sanctuary area “most holy” vis-à-vis the rest of the land also reflects its holier status (Ezek 43:12; cf. 45:3). The sanctuary area has an outer and inner court. The latter is called qōdeš, “holy place” (Ezek 42:14; 44:27) and perhaps also miqdāš, “holy place” (44:15–16; 45:18–19). The inner court contains the burnt-offering altar and the temple building. The temple building has two main rooms: the adytum or most holy place (41:4; simply qōdeš, “holy place” in 41:21, 23), and the shrine. It also has a vestibule at the front. The inner court has an implicit higher holiness. Only priests have access to it (44:15–19, 27; cf. 40:44–46; 42:13–14; 46:19–20). Not even the civic leader, the “prince” (Heb nāśı̂ʾ), can enter (46:1–3, 8, 12). The Levites have access only to the outer court and gates of the inner court (44:10–14; cf. 40:38–43). Israelites are restricted to the outer court. Uncircumcised foreigners are restricted from the sanctuary area altogether (44:9). Priests, furthermore, are not to wear their official robes in the outer court (42:14; 44:17–19). Most holy offerings are to be eaten in holy chambers adjoining the inner court (42:13; 46:20), while lesser holy offerings are cooked in the outer court (46:21–24). See D. 3.

For foreign sanctuaries, see Isa 16:12; Ezek 28:18. For a temple plan reflecting a more complicated gradation of holiness see the Temple Scroll (11QTemple; Yadin 1983). See also TABERNACLE; TEMPLE, JERUSALEM; TEMPLES AND SANCTUARIES.

b. Places of Theophany. Moses was told to remove his shoes on Sinai because the ground was holy (Exod 3:5; cf. Josh 5:15). The mountain’s hallowed state was due to God’s presence there (Exod 19:9–25; 24:16–17; Deut 4:10–5:29)—it was “God’s mountain” (1 Kgs 19:8; cf. vv 8–14). Rules that the people purify themselves for the theophany there (Exod 19:10, 14–15, 22) and not encroach on the mountain’s boundaries on the penalty of death (vv 12–13, 17, 21, 23–24) also evidence its sacred character. Milgrom (1970: 44–46) has argued that the mount had a tripartite gradation of holiness similar to that of the tabernacle: the summit where God’s presence was and to which only Moses has access, the area below the summit covered by a cloud, and the area below the cloud, the “bottom of the mountain,” where the altar was set up (Exod 24:4) and where the people gathered (cf. Ps 68:18).

Other places where God’s presence is manifested are implicitly holy, such as Israel’s war camp (Deut 23:10–15; cf. Num 5:2–3; 1 Sam 21:6) and the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8). Tyre, figuratively a man in Eden, lived on the “holy mountain of God” (Ezek 28:14). Places where God or angels appeared to the patriarchs and others, and where they, in consequence, set up altars or pillars, may be considered sacred (e.g., Shechem: Gen 12:6–7; Bethel: 28:10–22; 35:1–5, 9–15; Gideon in Ophrah: Judg 6:20–24).

c. Land of Israel and Jerusalem. Though some of the P laws perhaps hint that the land of Israel is holy (Lev 18:25–28; Num 35:33–34), only the non-P literature explicitly calls it or its cities such (Exod 15:13; Isa 64:9; Zech 2:16; Ps 78:54; cf. Zech 14:20–21; Ps 114:2; Ezra 9:8; perhaps Josh 5:15). The Heb term har haqqōdeš, “the holy mountain,” and its variations often refers to the entire land of Israel (Isa 11:9; 57:13; 65:25; Jer 31:23; Obad 16; Zeph 3:11; cf. Isa 27:13; Joel 2:1; Ps 87:1). Other passages imply the holiness of the land (Josh 22:19; 2 Kgs 5:17; Ezek 4:14; Hos 9:3–4; Amos 7:17; Ps 137:4; Ezra 6:21).

More specifically, the city of Jerusalem is called holy (Isa 48:2; 52:1; Ps 46:5; Dan 9:24; Neh 11:1, 18), and the term har haqqōdeš: “the holy mountain” (and variants) can refer particularly to it (Isa 66:20; Joel 4:17; Zech 8:3; Ps 2:6; 48:2; Dan 9:16, 20; 11:45; cf. Isa 27:13; 56:7; 65:11; Joel 2:1). Jeremiah speaks in detail of a promised increase of holiness to be experienced by the city (Jer 31:38–40; cf. Zech 14:20–21). Because of its holiness, the uncircumcised, foreigners, and the defiled would not be found in the city (Isa 52:1; Joel 4:17). On the dedication or sanctification of Jerusalem’s walls, see Neh 3:1; 12:27.

d. Ezekiel’s Teruma. Ezekiel’s future map (45:1–8; 48:8–22) has a section of land 25,000 cubits square called the tĕřmâ (“contributed portion,” 48:8, 12, 20–21). This tĕřmâ contains three horizontal strips for (1) the priests and sanctuary, (2) the Levites, and (3) the city (i.e., Jerusalem) and its outlying area. The northernmost strip, 25,000 by 10,000 cubits, apparently belongs to the Levites. It is called the Levites’ ʾăḥuzzâ, “possession” (45:5; 48:22). Adjoining on the south is an area of the same dimensions for the priests with the sanctuary at the center (45:3; 48:10, 21), called qōdeš qodāšı̂m, “most holy” (45:3; 48:12); a qōdeš, “holy portion” (45:4; cf. 45:1); a miqdāš, “holy area” (45:4); hamĕquddāš, “the dedicated portion” (48:11; but see commentaries), the tĕrūmiyyâ, “special contribution” (48:12); and probably tĕřmat haqqōdeš, “the holy contribution” (48:21b). The levitic and priestly areas together are called tĕrûmat haqqōdeš, “the holy contribution” (45:6–7; 48:10, 18, 20–21a); the “first fruit of the land” which is qōdeš lyhwh, “holy to Yahweh” (48:14); and, if emendations are followed, qōdeš, “holy portion” (45:1), and hattĕrûmâ … lyhwh, “the contribution … to Yahweh” (48:9). Bordering the priestly land on the south is the ʾăḥuzzat hāʿı̂r, “possession of the city” (45:6–7; 48:20–21) which is ḥōl, “profane” (48:15). Despite some overlap of terminology for the priestly area and the priestly and levitic areas combined, a configuration of degrees of holiness is found: the holiest land with the sanctuary and priests, the lesser holy land with the Levites, and the profane land with the city. That these degrees are not arranged more systematically, e.g., in a concentric order, may be due to geographic and historical realities influencing the vision. That the city lies in a profane area, separated from the sanctuary, is striking in view of other prophetic expectations that Jerusalem would be holy.

e. Heaven. As God’s dwelling on earth, namely the sanctuary, is holy, so his dwelling in heaven is holy. Various Heb terms are used: mĕʿôn qodšô/qodšĕkā, “his/your holy habitation” (Deut 26:15; Jer 25:30; Zech 2:17; Ps 68:6; 2 Chr 30:27); mĕrôm qodšô, “his holy height” (Ps 102:20; a Qumran text has mĕʿôn); šĕmê qodšô, “his holy heavens” (Ps 20:7); zĕbûl qodšĕkā, “your holy elevation” (Isa 63:15); and perhaps qodšô/qodšı̂/haqqōdeš, “his/my/the (heavenly) sanctuary” (Amos 4:2; Ps 60:8; 77:14; 89:36; 108:8; 150:1); miqdāš, “holy place” (Ps 68:36; 73:17); and some of the instances of hêkal qodšô, “his holy temple” (Jonah 2:5, 8; Mic 1:2; Hab 2:20; Ps 11:4; some refer clearly to the earthly temple: Ps 5:8; 79:1; 138:2; cf. 65:5). See also Isa 57:15, and for God’s throne, Ps 47:9.

5. Time. a. Sabbath. The OT generally calls the Sabbath sacred and describes or prescribes its sanctification by abstaining from work (Exod 16:23; 20:8; 31:14–15; 35:2; Deut 5:12; Isa 58:13–14; Jer 17:22, 24, 27; Ezek 20:20–21; 44:24; Neh 9:14; 13:22).

b. Holidays. P designates certain holidays as Heb miqrāʾ qōdeš, perhaps meaning “declaration of, call for, summoning to holiness” rather than “holy convocation” (cf. Lev 23:2, 4, 37). These days include the first and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12:16; Lev 23:7–8; Num 28:18, 25); the Feast of Weeks day (Lev 23:21; Num 28:26); the first day of the seventh month (Lev 23:24; Num 29:1); the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:27; Num 29:7); the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:35, 36; Num 29:12). The phrase miqrāʾ qōdeš is accompanied by a prohibition of work on these days which evidently serves as the means of hallowing these times (cf. the use of the phrase for the Sabbath in Lev 23:3). Observance of ritual requirements at the sanctuary would have also led to the days’ sanctification. Degrees of holiness are apparent: the Sabbath and Day of Atonement are the holiest since they require complete rest; other days, designated miqrāʾ qōdeš, are less holy since they require abstinence only from laborious work; and other special days, such as new moons (apart from that in the seventh month), are least holy since they require no abstention (see Milgrom 1970: 80–81, and n. 297). The differences in sacrificial requirements in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28–29 also imply more minute degrees of holiness.

Festivals were holy periods outside P, too (Ezra 3:5). A specific indication of this is the idiom of “sanctifying” a festival (Isa 30:29; a fast: Joel 1:14; 2:15; a festival for the god Baal: 2 Kgs 10:20). Holy days require abstention from work or unseemly behavior (Neh 8:9–11; Neh 10:32).

c. Jubilee and Sabbatical Year. The jubilee year is to be sanctified by not sowing or harvesting (Lev 25:10–12). The sabbatical year is not called holy but the requirement to not sow or harvest would indicate it has a holiness similar to the jubilee (Lev 25:2–7; note the terminology with šabbāt and šabbātôn; cf. Exod 23:10–11). The restrictions enforcing rest indicate that these periods of time are holy.

6. Miscellaneous. a. War. Several passages speak of “sanctifying” or inaugurating war (Jer 6:4; Joel 4:9; Mic 3:5). While the verb may simply mean to “prepare,” it may refer to performing preparatory rites, including purification (cf. Jer 22:7; 51:27–28). Like the holiness associated with theophany, it may be the divine presence that makes a war holy.

b. Covenant. A covenant can be called holy (Dan 11:28, 30; here meaning Israel’s religion) and can be desecrated (Mal 2:10; Ps 55:21; 89:35; Neh 13:29).

C. Methods of Sanctification and Desanctification

Since holiness is fraught with danger, the movement into or out of it is of great prescriptive concern. Such movement may be legitimate, or unplanned and illegitimate.

1. Legitimate Sanctification and Desanctification. a. Sanctification. Some beings, places, objects, or times are inherently holy (e.g., God, the firstborn) and others become such through the people’s proper behavior (e.g., the people through obedience, the Sabbath through cessation of work). Two other means of attaining a holy state require further elucidation: ritual procedures and theophany.

(1) Ritual Procedures. Persons or things made holy by special anointing oil (see sec. B. 3. g.) in P include high and common priests and their clothing (Exod 29:7, 21; Lev 8:12, 30) and the tabernacle and the most holy furniture (Exod 29:36; 30:26–29; 40:9–11; Lev 8:10–11; Num 7:1, 10–11, 84, 88). Pouring of oil on massēbôt, “pillars,” may have consecrated them (Gen 28:18; 31:13; 35:14). The anointing of prophets, if this was really done, may have imparted holiness (see sec. B. 2. e.). Anointing a person recovered from scale disease (Lev 14:10–29), kings (1 Kgs 1:39; cf. Ps 89:21), and shields (2 Sam 1:21; Isa 21:5) did not sanctify them (cf. Ps 110:3).

Offerings often accompany sanctuary dedications (e.g., Exodus 29; Leviticus 8–9; Numbers 7; 1 Kgs 8:5, 62–64; Ezek 43:18–27; 2 Chr 5:6; 7:1–10; 29:20–36). The purgation sacrifice in particular cleanses and sanctifies the outer altar, readying it for ensuing sacrificial activity (Exod 29:36–37; Lev 8:15; Ezek 43:18–22, 25–26) and is used in recurring purgation rites to maintain sanctity (Leviticus 16, esp. v 19 and Ezek 45:18–20). Consecration-offering blood is placed on the priests and sprinkled on them and on their clothing (Exod 29:21; Lev 8:30).

Priests at their consecration donned special clothing (Exod 28:3, 41; 29:1, 5–9; Lev 8:7–9, 13). When Eleazar became high priest, he was dressed in Aaron’s clothing (Num 20:25–28). For Ezekiel, the contagious character of priestly clothing may contribute to the priests’ holiness (42:14; 44:19; cf. the tassels in sec. B. 3. f.).

Objects may be dedicated by elevating them (literally or symbolically) in the sanctuary. Sanctification is specifically mentioned in the case of the shoulder of the Nazirite’s well-being offering with accompanying bread (Num 6:19–20), and the two well-being lambs and the two firstfruits loaves offered on the Feast of Weeks (Lev 23:17–20). Other cases where it is implicit are the breast of the well-being and priestly-consecration offerings (Exod 29:26–27; Lev 7:30, 34; 8:29; 9:21; 10:14–15; Num 6:20; 18:18), thigh and fat of the consecration offering with accompanying bread (Exod 29:22–24; Lev 8:25–27), the thigh of the well-being offering (Lev 9:21; 10:14–15), the reparation offering and log of oil for a recovered mĕṣōrāʿ (Lev 14:12, 24), the barley ʿōmer (Lev 23:11–15), the cereal offering of a suspected adulteress (Num 5:25), and gold and copper for the sanctuary (Exod 35:22; 38:24, 29). The Levites are “elevated” (Num 8:11, 13, 15, 21) but this does not necessarily make them holy (see sec. B. 2. d., and Milgrom 1983b: 139–70).

A substance presumably increases in holiness when brought in direct or indirect contact with a most holy sanctum. This is implicit in the cases of putting consecration-offering blood on the altar before sprinkling it on the priests and their clothing (Exod 29:21; Lev 8:30), sprinkling oil “before the Lord” before it is placed on a recovered mĕṣōrāʿ (Lev 14:16, 27), and sprinkling red cow blood toward the sanctuary (Num 19:4). It is also the case with the portions of most holy offerings, which can communicate holiness apparently only after their blood or initial portions have come in contact with the altar (Lev 6:11, 20; Milgrom 1981; see sec. C. 2. a.).

An offerer may verbally declare something holy or dedicate it by physically setting it apart. This dedication generally occurs outside the sanctuary precincts and includes sacrificial animals (Exod 28:38; Lev 22:2–3, 15; 27:9; cf. 2 Chr 30:24; 35:7–9; not the firstborn in P, Lev 27:26, but cf. Deut 15:19), firstfruits and first-processed materials (Num 15:20; 18:12–13), the tithe (Lev 27:32; cf. Num 18:24–32; Neh 12:47), a house or land (Lev 27:14–16, 18–19, 22), the half-shekel (Exod 30:13–15), building materials (Exod 25:2–3; 35:5, 21, 24; 36:3, 6), booty (Num 31:28–29, 41, 52), and oneself as a Nazirite (Num 6:2–21). See in general Lev 22:12, 15; Num 5:9; 18:8, 11, 19; Deut 12:6, 11, 17; Ezek 20:40; 44:30; 45:13, 16; Mal 3:8; Neh 10:38, 40; 12:44, 47; 13:5; 2 Chr 30:17; 31:10, 12, 14; figuratively, Jer 12:3. Verbal dedication or setting apart in the sanctuary precincts presumably occurs with the breads of the thank offering and the right thigh of the well-being offering (Lev 7:14 and Exod 29:27–28; Lev 7:32, 34; 10:14, 15; Num 6:20). Judg 17:3 and perhaps Prov 20:25 show how verbal dedications are made (see Milgrom 1983b: 159–72).

A special form of dedication is Heb ḥērem, “severe dedication; ban.” This is found mainly in contexts of war (Josh 6:17–21; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39, 40; 11:11, 12, 20, 21; etc.) but may apply to one’s own property (cf. Lev 27:28, “field of one’s inheritance”; cf. v 21). Things placed under ḥērem include persons, their buildings, animals, precious objects and metals, and land. Objects, animals, and land so dedicated would be destroyed or become sanctuary property to be used by the priests (Num 18:14; Josh 6:19, 24; Ezek 44:29). Humans would be put to death (Lev 27:29). As with regular dedication, ḥērem can take the form of an unconditional declaration or a vow (Num 21:2–3).

(2) Theophany. In addition to the cases discussed in sec. B. 4. b., stories about the major sanctuaries describe God’s manifestation at the time of dedication: the desert tabernacle (Exod 40:34–35; Num 9:15 and Lev 9:4, 6, 23–24); Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 8:10–11; 2 Chr 5:11–14; cf. the Chronicler’s addition in 7:1–3); Ezekiel’s temple (43:1–5; cf. 44:1–3; 46:1–3, 8, 12). These theophanies have not only a sanctifying effect but also show that God accepts the structures and their cult. God’s presence or appearance at a sanctuary at other times in its existence would have a continuing sanctifying effect.

b. Desanctification. The prevailing rule in most cases is: Whatever is not offerable on the altar may be desanctified (Milgrom 1976: 52–53). The two main methods are redemption and ritual. A unique example is in Ezra 2:61–63 (= Neh 7:63–65) where priests are “disqualified” (Heb wayĕgōʾălû; the verb carries “the notion of desanctification) and not allowed to eat the most holy offerings.

(1) Redemption. Money or, in some cases, another item of equal worth may be paid or given to redeem or purchase a sanctum. The sanctum loses its holiness while the money or other item becomes holy (cf. Lev 27:23). In P, the main method of desanctifying is paying the principal value of an item, assessed by a priest, plus one fifth. This is found in the case of a dedicated or vowed unclean sacrificial animal (Lev 27:11–13), a firstborn unclean animal (vv 26–27; cf. Num 18:15), produce tithe (Lev 27:30–31), a dedicated house (vv 14–15), and a dedicated field of one’s inheritance (vv 16–19). A dedicated field of one’s inheritance and unredeemed unclean firstborn may be sold at the assessed price, apparently without the added fifth (vv 20–21, 27). Firstborn humans were redeemed at first by being replaced by the Levites, and the extra Israelites and later firstborn were redeemed by paying five shekels (Num 3:44–51; 18:15–16). Outside of P, a firstborn ass, an unclean animal, may be redeemed by a sheep or goat (Exod 13:13; 34:20). Firstborn people must also be redeemed, but no means is prescribed (Exod 13:13; 34:20); perhaps a sacrificial redemption is intended. An object designated as ḥērem is not redeemable according to P (Lev 27:29). Jonathan’s redemption, if he was under ḥērem after eating honey in violation of Saul’s oath, could be legitimate since his violation was unintentional (1 Sam 14:24, 27, 45).

(2) Ritual Procedures. The removal of a holy portion from a batch desanctifies the rest. The tithe given to the Levites at first is holy (Num 18:32). When they give a tithe of the tithe to the priests, itself called holy (v 29), the remaining nine tenths becomes profane (cf. v 31). The same desanctification process may be seen in the selection of the animal tithe (Lev 27:32), the implicit donation of the fourth-year produce of a new tree to God before personal consumption can begin in the fifth (Lev 19:23–25; cf. Deut 20:6; 28:30; Jer 31:5), and the separation of firstfruits and first-produced materials from a large batch.

Some sanctums are unusable and cannot be redeemed. To prevent desecration they are disposed of or destroyed. The Nazirite’s hair and leftover portions of sacrifices are burned (Num 6:18–19 and Exod 12:10; 29:34; Lev 7:17; 10:16–20; 19:6; cf. Lev 7:19). Altar ashes and the crop and plumage of a burnt-offering bird are taken outside the camp to the ash dump (Lev 1:16; 6:3–4). Carcasses of inedible purgation sacrifices are also taken to the ash dump and burned (Exod 29:14; Lev 4:11–12, 21; 6:23; 8:17; 9:11; 16:27; cf. Ezek 43:21). The blood of purgation and other sacrifices is collected or poured at the base of the altar where it will sink into the ground (Exod 29:12; Lev 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; 5:9; 8:15; 9:9; cf. Exod 29:16, 20; Lev 1:5, 11: 3:2, 8, 13; 7:2; etc.). Outside of P, persons and things under ḥērem are killed and burned, or otherwise destroyed (Deut 13:17; Josh 6:24; 7:15, 25; 8:28; 11:11, 13). Necks of unredeemed firstborn of asses could be broken (Exod 13:13; 34:20; see Wright 1987: 129–59, 284–90).

At the successful completion of their vows Nazirites bring sacrifices which mark their departure from a holy status (Num 6:13–20; see sec. D. 2.). The high priest’s bathing in Lev 16:24 may be for desanctification after working in the most holy place of the sanctuary. The washing or disposal of pots in which purgations offerings were cooked may be due to impurity rather than for desanctification (Lev 6:20–21; Wright 1987: 93–113, 129–31).

2. Unintentional or Illegitimate Sanctification and Desanctification. a. Sanctification. Four times P says “anyone/thing that touches x becomes holy” (Exod 29:37; 30:29; Lev 6:11, 20). The sanctums specified in these verses are the Tent of Meeting, the six most holy pieces of furniture, and the portions of the cereal, reparation, and purgation sacrifices. Objects becoming holy in this way perhaps may be redeemable or become property of the sanctuary and priests. It is arguable whether people are included in this rule (Milgrom 1981; Haran 1978: 179). At any rate, the consequence for contact with the furniture for nonpriests is death (by divine agency; Num 4:15, 19–20; 18:3). The tent structure, however, is not lethal, at least for the Levites, who may touch it (Num 4:24–33). In Ezekiel the priestly clothing and most holy offerings can sanctify persons and objects (42:14; 44:19; 46:20). See also Hag 2:12; 2 Chr 8:11 and perhaps Isa 65:5 (reading a Piʿel).

Another form of unplanned and detrimental consecration is ḥērem contagion. If a person misappropriates a cult object that is under ḥērem, the person acquires that status (Deut 7:25; Josh 6:18; cf. Exod 22:19). A person having this status would be put to death (cf. Achan in Josh 7, esp. v 12; cf. 1 Kgs 20:42).

b. Desanctification. It is in the case of illicit desanctification—desecration—that the dramatic character of holiness appears. Such profanation rouses God’s destructive ire against malefactors and the community at large. Any impurity threatens the sanctity of any holy place, object, being, or occasion (e.g., Lev 7:19–21; 12:4; 21:1–4, 10–12; Num 6:9–12; 9:6–13). Desecration—making something profane but not necessarily impure—is often implied. It occurs when someone of a profane or even holy status infringes upon what is holy or misuses it. Sanctuaries or holy places are desecrated by encroachment of those unauthorized (Lev 16:2; 21:21, 23; Num 1:51; 3:10, 38; 16:1–35; 17:5—Eng 16:40; 18:7, 22; outside P: Exod 19:12–13, 16, 21–24; Ezek 44:7; 2 Chr 26:16–18 = 2 Kgs 15:5), priests’ misdeeds (Exod 28:35, 43; 30:20–21; 40:32; Lev 10:1–6, 9; 21:12; cf. Zeph 3:4); and enemy incursions (outside P: Ezek 7:22, 24; 24:21; 25:3; Ps 74:7; Dan 11:31). Sanctum desecration occurs by mishandling holy furniture (Num 4:15, 20; 18:3; outside P: 1 Sam 6:19; 2 Sam 6:6–7); eating a well-being offering outside its proper time (Lev 7:16–18; 19:7–8); mishandling the tithe (Num 18:32); a layperson eating sacrificial portions of the priestly households (Lev 22:14); substituting sacrificial animals (Lev 27:10, 33); eating sacrificial blood and fat (Lev 7:25–27; 17:10–14); and outside P, working a firstborn ox or shearing a firstborn sheep (Deut 15:19); misappropriating ḥērem (Josh 7:1; 22:20; 1 Chr 2:7); and using iron on an altar (Exod 20:25). Priests are profaned by illicit mourning rites and harlot daughters (Lev 21:6, 9), and a high priest’s lineage by marrying a prohibited woman (21:15). The people are profaned through harlotry (Lev 19:29), mixed marriages (outside P: Ezra 9:2, 4; 10:2, 6, 10, 19; Neh 13:27, 29; cf. Mal 2:10, 11), and enemy assault (outside P: Ezek 22:16). God or his name are desecrated by various sins: false swearing and breaking an oath (Lev 5:21–26; 19:12; Num 5:6; cf. 30:3; outside P: Ezek 17:20); idolatry and improper worship (Lev 18:21; 20:3; Num 31:16; cf. 25:1; outside P: Josh 22:16, 22, 31; Ezek 13:19; 20:39; Mal 1:7–12; 1 Chr 10:13; 2 Chr 28:2–4, 19, 22–24; 29:6, 19; 33:19); improper priestly impurity (Lev 21:6); not sanctifying God (outside P: Deut 32:51); misuse of sanctums (Lev 22:2; outside P: 2 Chr 26:16–18; cf. Ezek 43:7–8); enslaving freed slaves (non-P: Jer 34:16); sexual sins (non-P: Amos 2:7); general sins (Lev 22:32; 26:40; Num 5:6; outside P: Isa 48:11; Ezek 14:13; 15:8; 18:24; 20:27; 22:26; 39:23, 26; Dan 9:7; Neh 1:8; 1 Chr 9:1; 2 Chr 12:2; 30:7; 36:14); and God’s necessary punishment of his people (non-P: Ezek 20:9, 14; 36:20–23; 39:7). The land is profaned by idolatry and enemy attack (non-P: Jer 16:18 and Isa 47:6). Holy occasions are profaned by work (Exod 31:14; outside P: Isa 56:2, 6; Ezek 20:13, 16, 21, 24; 22:8; 23:38; Neh 13:18) and not observing prescriptions (cf. Exod 12:15, 19; Lev 23:29–30; Num 9:13). Covenants and commandments may be profaned by not abiding them (outside P: Mal 2:10; Ps 55:21; 89:32, 35; cf. Ezek 7:21; 28:18).

Desecration carries penalties (these have been fully discussed by Milgrom 1970; 1976). In P, inadvertent profanation, when one does not know of the desecration until after the fact, can be required by restoring the price of the sanctum plus one fifth, and bringing a reparation offering (Lev 5:16–18; cf. 5:20–26; 22:14; Num 5:5–8; Ezra 10:19). For suspected sanctum trespass a reparation offering is brought (Lev 5:17–19; cf. Num 6:12). Even if people do not intend desecration, but are conscious of their act, death may ensue (Num 4:15, 20; 18:3; 2 Sam 6:6–7). Intentional sacrilege is perilous. Only in the case of a false oath, where God’s name has been desecrated, does P prescribe rectification procedures (Lev 5:20–26; cf. Num 5:6–8). Death by deity, however, is the usual consequence (described with the Heb Qal form mût, “die”: Exod 28:43; 30:20–21; Lev 10:6, 9; 16:2, 13; 22:9; Num 4:15, 19–20; 17:28; 18:3, 22, 32; or with Heb kārēt, “be cut off”: Exod 12:15, 19; 31:14; Lev 7:18, 20–21, 25, 27; 17:4, 9–10, 14; 19:8; 20:2–5; 22:3; 23:29–30; Num 4:18; 9:13; 19:13, 20; see Wold 1979). Some cases of sanctum trespass involve execution after judgment or preemptory execution by sanctuary guards to prevent God’s fury from being poured out on the community (Exod 19:12–13; 31:14–15; 35:2; Lev 20:2; 24:16; Num 1:51; 3:10, 38; 15:35; 18:7; 2 Chr 23:6–7; cf. Judg 6:25–32; and see the passages in the previous paragraph). It is the danger inherent in the holy that lies behind fear of the divine presence (Gen 28:17; Exod 20:18–19; 24:11; 33:3, 5, 20; 34:30; Num 17:27–28—Eng 17:12–13; Deut 5:24–27; Judg 6:22–23; 13:22).

D. Theoretical Concerns

In addition to the foregoing observations about gradations of holiness, some additional general comments are in order. Much can be said about holiness from a more comprehensive theoretical perspective (see bibliography). Here we discuss the relationship of the conception of purity/impurity to holiness/profaneness and some recent contributions from anthropology and the theoretical study of religion to the understanding of sanctification rituals, sacred time, and ritual place.

1. Relationship of Holy, Profane, Pure, Impure. P and Ezekiel expressly view the states of holiness, profaneness, purity, and impurity in terms of two pairs of opposites: pure vs. impure and holy vs. profane (Lev 10:10; 11:47; Ezek 22:26; 42:20; 44:23; cf. 1 Sam 21:5). While it is true that impurity is a state opposed and detrimental to holiness, profaneness is its technical antonym. The presence or lack of a dynamic quality distinguishes the opposites from one another: profaneness is the lack of holiness; and purity is the lack of impurity. Any object, place, or person bears one state from each of the pairs at the same time (time is not called pure or impure). Four states, all of which are legitimate in certain contexts, are possible: profane and pure, profane and impure, holy and pure, and holy and impure. “Profane and pure” is a neutral and basic state since it lacks dynamic elements of holiness and impurity. Most laws that talk about becoming holy or impure assume a person or object starts with this combined state. Being profane and impure is the concern of most purity legislation. “Holy and pure” is the state of most persons, objects, and places considered holy. Only the last, ostensibly contradictory pairing of holiness and impurity demands attention. While this is not an expected or desired state, it is legitimate, even demanded, in cases of purgation offerings. A regular purgation offering removes impurity adhering to sanctums in the sanctuary. That it can pollute others after it is used for purification indicates it has become impure (Lev 16:27–28), but the requirement that it be eaten by the priests or be burned at the pure ash dump where other sanctuary materials are disposed indicates it is holy as well (Lev 6:19–23; see sec. C. 1. b. (2) on disposal). Similarly the scapegoat, part of a purgation offering complex (16:5), becomes impure when loaded with the community’s sins while apparently remaining holy (cf. v 26). And the red cow, also a purgation offering (Num 19:9), pollutes those who prepare it (vv 7–8, 10), yet it is still holy as suggested by the rule that the water made from the resulting ash can only be handled by a pure person (v 18).

J. Milgrom recognizes the two pairs of opposites above, but treats them in terms of their dynamic interactions and the consequences involved (1970: 1; Leviticus AB). He distinguishes between most and lesser holy, assumes that these holy states and the profane state are pure, eliminates the cases where same states would interact with one another, and treats the impure state without regard to whether it is in addition holy or profane. He then posits five interactions: (a) most holy with profane, (b) lesser holy with impure, (c) lesser holy with profane, (d) profane with impure, and (e) most holy with impure. One regularity Milgrom observes is that the interactions of (a), (b), and (e) are illicit and lead to dire consequences while those in (c) and (d) are not necessarily so. Profane Levites who touch, even look at most holy sanctums, are liable to death (Num 4:15, 19–20) and those who pollute a well-being offering (which is lesser holy) are liable to kārēt, “cutting off” (Lev 7:19–21), while the profane can legitimately contact what is lesser holy (but not misuse it), and the profane can generally contact what is impure (cf. sec. C. 2). If a spectrum of holiness and impurity strength be set up (most holy—lesser holy—profane—impure) only contact between noncontiguous categories poses a threat. This exhibits the systematic character of P’s rules about holiness and purity.

2. Sanctification Rituals and Ritual Time. The anthropologist Edmund Leach (1976: 77–93) has developed insights proposed by van Gennep (1960) and has applied them to the priestly consecration ritual in Leviticus 8–9. He argues that many rituals involve a movement in social status and often have a threefold division: (1) rites of separation where the subject is demarcated from his or her surroundings by actual removal or symbolic rites (disrobing-clothing; purification; etc.), (2) a marginal or liminal period—of “social timelessness”—of long or short duration which often continues the subject’s separation with prohibitions to be observed and which may be accompanied by rites, and (3) rites of aggregation or incorporation where persons return to their previous state or, at least, having a new social status, to a state of integration with society. To this scheme he adds a structuralist perspective that ritual is a type of language: not one which communicates in detail like speech, but which communicates more abstractly and generally like art and music. The parts of each ritual derive their meaning in relationship to one another, and a ritual complex derives its meaning in relationship to other complexes. Though not everything he says about the biblical material is acceptable, his approach generates many insights into biblical sanctification rituals. Following Leach’s leads, we can offer the following abbreviated analysis of the priestly consecration ceremony and the Nazirite vow and desanctification. These two rites which raise the status of persons are actually quite different and convey thereby different ritual messages.

In the priestly consecration ritual the rites of separation cover almost all of Leviticus 8. Aaron and his sons are brought forward from the congregation, a physical separation (v 6). Though all are washed at first, Aaron is treated differently: he is dressed first (vv 7–9) and uniquely anointed (v 12). Aaron’s special treatment, which continues throughout the rite, marks him as holier than his sons. After the sons are dressed and Moses offers sacrifices (vv 13–28), he places blood on Aaron’s extremities first, and then on those of his sons (vv 23–24). Later, anointing oil and consecration-offering blood from the altar is sprinkled upon Aaron’s clothes and perhaps Aaron, and then on his sons and their clothes (v 30). At this point the rite of separation has come to an end. The initiates now have a holy character (vv 12, 30). As vv 2–6 indicate the congregation has been present during this entire ritual segment. Their presence is not incidental but actually part of the ritual itself. The separation of the priests from the group and the latter’s observation signifies or communicates the advancement of the priests’ status. The period or rites of marginality or transition immediately ensue: the priests remain in the sanctuary area for seven days (vv 32–36; cf. Exod 29:35b–37). After this week of separation, rites of incorporation begin (Leviticus 9). On the eighth day offerings of the priests and the people are brought (vv 2–6). Though Moses instructs what is to be done, it is Aaron and his sons, not Moses, who now perform the sacrifices (7–20). Aaron, too, blesses the people (v 22). All this reveals the extent and nature of the priests’ reintegration. While they can deal again with society, they are not on the same level as they were before. They are now the community’s cultic representatives: they are holy. The appearance of God’s glory gives closure and sanction to the entire tripartite ritual (v 24; cf. vv 4, 6).

To be compared, and contrasted, is the Nazirite vow and desanctification. The Nazirite period is simply initiated by a vow, a statement of intent (cf. Num 6:2). The “rite” of separation if therefore quite simple in comparison with the priestly ritual. The marginal or transitional period is one of restrictions (vv 3–8). The rite of aggregation consists of bringing offerings (vv 13–20) and cutting the hair (v 18–19). After this the Nazirite “may drink wine” (v 20). The cutting of the hair is a reversal of the initiation of the rite. As opposed to the priestly rites, this brings the person back to the profane status where he or she began. The Nazirite ritual is also private: there is no assembly when the vow is made and apparently none when the offerings are brought at the end. This is one of the great differences between this and the priestly ritual. Though both of them increase the holiness of the subjects, only the sanctification of the priests has broad social significance and relevance.

Leach’s model is a temporal one. Ritual complexes such as those of the priests and Nazirite take place over and in time. As Leach notes, these rituals break up social time: they give meaning, direction, and order to an otherwise undifferentiated and homomorphous temporal continuum. There is thus a similarity between the rituals just discussed and the regular holy festival times of Israel. The regular recurrence of Sabbath and holidays also gives definition to Israelite time. These days punctuate it with focal points to which the group orients itself and works toward and from. Such orientation brings social unity and solidarity. Holy days, moreover, are periods of marginality or, better, timelessness, when the everyday is set aside for the unique; they are periods of restriction. If we had enough evidence we might find that these days or times were preceded by rites of separation or inauguration and rites of incorporation or termination which returned the people to regular time, as are found, for example, in postbiblical Judaism for the Sabbath (cf. Lev 25:9–10).

3. Ritual Place. Leach also offers a model for understanding ritual space (1976: 81–93). For the human mind, reality consists of the real world and another, metaphysical world where things are the reverse of the real world: gods live there, they are immortal, power which can ultimately be beneficial to humans exists there, etc. Sacred space is where these two worlds are brought into contact with one another through various rituals. Religious specialists, e.g., priests, serve as intermediaries between the two worlds in these places, and purity and other restrictions prevail. For the P material specifically, Leach sees the adytum as symbolic of the other world, the veil being what separates the real from the other world. Inside the rest of the sanctuary area are graded intermediate zones. His model includes the area outside the sanctuary: the camp is the area of “tame culture” and the area outside the camp is that of “wild nature.”

While Leach’s model explains why sacred space exists functionally, it does not explain why societies have different conceptions of sacred space. Scholars argue that specific ideas about ritual space derive in part from social structure and other social concerns. Recently J. Z. Smith (1987) has applied some of these ideas to the verbal maps of the temple and land in Ezekiel 40–44. He suggests that the social hierarchies of a particular society determine its gradation of ritual space and the access that groups have to its different parts. One may disagree with his interpretation of some of the verses (particularly with the view that the Levites had access to the inner court), but his theoretical ideas are worthy of consideration and development.

To review, in Ezekiel’s temple God’s residence is the adytum; undistinguished priests have access to the inner court; Levites have access only up to the gates of the inner court; the civil ruler is barred from the inner court but allowed to enter the hall of the east inner gate from the outside; and laypeople have access to the inner court. The supposition is that the more access one has, the higher is one’s social rank. This seems a fair supposition; Ezekiel’s style in particular substantiates it. The book’s gradation is not descriptive but prescriptive; yet not just prescriptive, but revisionist. It is a polemical reformulation of social and religious relationships. The Zadokite priests are exalted while the Levites are demoted and castigated. Civic leaders—kings—are criticized for their breach of purity rules and are restricted in the future from access much beyond laypersons and Levites. Compare the redefinitions in 43:7–9, 19; 44:1–16; 45:8–9; 46:16–18. By changing access to the temple, the prophet is changing the constitution and organization of society.

P’s access rules are similar to Ezekiel’s: God’s place is the adytum; the high priest has access to the adytum; the high priest aided by undistinguished priests has access to the shrine; the priests mainly work in the court and the Levites and people have access only to this area; more specifically, the people may be restricted to the area between the altar and the entrance to the court. (P does not clearly define how a civil ruler would fit in.) P’s rules are not polemic like Ezekiel’s, but the social tensions underlying them and in part giving rise and justification to them are visible in narratives about Levites vying for power (Numbers 16) or about priests committing sacrilege (Lev 10:1–5). The access laws in P and elsewhere do not just protect the sanctuary from encroachment and sacrilege, they sustain the borders between categories of persons in society. To carry it further, encroachment prohibitions (see C. 2. b.) do not just protect potential encroachers and the community from God’s wrath, they protect the group from the confusion of social boundaries and thereby from social dissolution.

Finally, a case of ritual redundancy. Within a ritual corpus, practices and rules often symbolically articulate the same or similar messages of other practices and rules. Such is found with Ezekiel’s Teruma (see B. 4. d.). The Teruma, we recall, consists of three portions: the holiest portion in the center where the sanctuary was and where the priests resided, a lesser holy section on the north for the Levites, and a southern profane section containing the city (i.e., Jerusalem). On the east and west of the Teruma was the land of the civic leader (Ezek 45:7–8; 48:21–22). This map repeats the same hierarchical relationships of the temple, with the priests at the top and with Levites and civic leader below them. One refinement is perhaps perceptible. In the temple map, it is difficult to determine whether the civic leader has a greater status than the Levites. If the Teruma is a deciding factor, the Levites seem to have a higher status since they are closer to the sanctuary. But this conclusion is confounded by the facts that the Levites are cultic officials and hence expected to have some proximity to the sanctuary and that the civic leader, though further from the sanctuary, is given more land.


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Eth Ethiopic

Phoen Phoenician

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LXX Septuagint

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zebaḥ Zebaḥim

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UCPNES University of California Publications in Near Eastern Studies

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  1. how beautiful it is…. that YHWH keeps the corners for Himself. The corners of the fields —- and the corners of our garments. He keeps for Himself the intersections, the most obvious places where interactions occur — an interaction between 2 or more pieces of cloth (woven to cover our shame) or between two or more fields (respecting boundaries, being honest; working to earn our bread) — this is in keeping with how He chose for Himself the firstborns (the first & most evident proof of an interaction between husband & wife), and the location of Israel (the place where 3 continents meet)…. He wants to be so involved with our lives, so much a part of every interaction, that all the places where there is a chance there will be a glimpse of Him. He is not an El who hides Himself: no, He holds out His hands and says “Here I am!”

    Oh that our interactions may always point to His complete rulership over all our doings. 🙂