Bible Review 8:4, August 1992

Seeing the Ethical Within the Ritual

Israel’s priests spoke in rituals, not in words. Their basic values are in the main ethical, and are ensconced in the rituals prescribed in the priestly texts of the Pentateuch.

By Jacob Milgrom

Bible Review

The intellectual and spiritual leadership of ancient Israel, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible, was divided into three groups: priests, prophets and wisdom teachers. Their pronouncements are, in the main, concentrated in the three sections of the Hebrew Bible respectively: the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings. Prophets, of course, contains the messages of, and stories about, the prophets; Writings includes the legacy of wisdom teachers (for example, Proverbs, Job, Koheleth [Ecclesiastes]). But where in the Pentateuch or for that matter anywhere in the Bible is there a single pronouncement attributed to a priest?

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