Bridal Mysticism in Leviticus

When one is doing a lectio continua of the scriptures it starts out being a literary pleasure — Genesis and and the first part of Exodus are as exciting as anything in ancient literature — but then one comes to the tabernacle descriptions in Exodus and then Leviticus. Leviticus! Surely one of the hardest bits of Scripture to plow through. Those long lists of ritual laws. One of the things that makes the laws so boring is that they seem so arbitrary. Why is suet fat never eaten, but always burned entirely? Leviticus doesn’t say. Of all the books of the Bible Leviticus is perhaps the last one that one would least think of reading as belles-lettres, but that is exactly what the anthropologist Mary Douglas does in her book Leviticus as Literature. Leviticus, Douglas argues, is not a random collection of arbitrary rules, but an intricately crafted work of analogical thinking. She shows how the body of the sacrificial animal is a kind of model or map of the tabernacle, each part of the dismembered animal corresponds to a part of the tabernacle, and the tabernacle is itself a model of Mount Sinai, which is a model of the universe. The sacrificial rites thus become an enactment of the cosmic order. So the suet over the entrails is sacred to God not because it corresponds to the curtain before the Holy of Holies. But what corresponds to the Holy of Holies itself. Well, that’s where the bridal symbolism comes in:


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