Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Aaron’s use of incense in Numbers 17 is anomalous in the HB in that Aaron brings it to the people, running into their midst and “standing between life and death.” Except for the High Priest’s ritual in Lev 16:12-13, no biblical descriptions of atonement rites mention incense. Typically incense is prescribed or portrayed in routine offerings at the Tent of Meeting and Temple, as in Exod 30:7-8. Milgrom argues that its use here stems from the literary context, observing, “The same incense that causes destruction when used by unauthorized persons [in Num 16] averts destruction when used by authorized persons.”[footnote: Milgrom, Numbers, 141. Incense must be used only by those authorized or the penalties are extreme (cf. the rebels in Numbers 16, and possibly Nadab and Abihu who are punished for their use of “strange fire” in Lev 10:1).]—Forestalling Doom page 200

<idle musing>
Bad pun alert: Incense to calm an incensed deity...
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