The Literary Structure of Leviticus
Another possibility again [for explaining the source of Leviticus] is suggested by the studied elegance and powerfully contrived structure. A literary composition that is so impressive could suggest that writing a theological treatise was the full achievement. The skeptical likelihood that the book is a beautiful fantasy, a vision of a life that never was, hangs heavily over the interpretation.
Like an anthropologist cutting through the bush to discover a lost civilization, Mary Douglas has opened up a new path for Biblical research, through the jungle of source criticism. In the first four chapters of Leviticus as Literature she demonstrates that "Bible students have to choose between accepting the muddle made by imposing a Western linear reading upon an archaic text, or trying to read the book through its own literary conventions.”  She argues for an "analogical" reading of Leviticus most convincingly, displaying an extraordinarily far-reaching scholarship. Doubtless, such a reading will lead to places yet to be explored and theories that will conflict with the currently accepted "muddle".
In the last three chapters of Leviticus as Literature (10-12), Douglas offers her own analogical overview of the whole of Leviticus, comparing it to the structure of the Tabernacle. Intuitively, the imagery fits. The redactor of Leviticus could not have found a more appropriate structural analogy than the Tabernacle. This compelling analogy invites further exploration of the structure of Leviticus. Douglas herself has stated the ground rule for structural analysis: "Everything depends on how clearly the units of structure are identified." She explains the importance of clearly defined units in her book on Numbers: "If the analyst can manage not to take responsibility either for selecting the units of structure, or for the principles of relationship between the units of the text, the analysis of the structure will be more secure. The safeguard is to have some principle of selection that makes the interpretation a work of discovery, not of creation." In this paper, I will attempt to expand Douglas' argument with a clear definition of the units of structure that make the interpretation of Leviticus a work of discovery. Based on these units, I will offer a modification of her analogical reading.
Leviticus contains twenty-two well-defined literary units, whereas printed Bibles divide the book into twenty-seven chapters. To avoid confusion, I will refer to my units as Units and mark them with Roman numerals. Nearly all of the discrepancies are found in the first ten chapters, which reduce to four Units. Unit I includes chapters 1-3, II includes 4-5, III spans 6-7, and IV covers 8-10. The first three Units describe different aspects of the sacrificial system. The fourth contains an extended narrative described by Milgrom as "the inauguration of the cult.” Another place where the division by chapters must be modified is chapter 22. I read this chapter as two Units, consisting of verses 1-25 and 26-33, respectively. This division is based on the subject matter of the two Units. Once we have identified 22:26-33 as a separate Unit, its similarity to chapter 12 becomes apparent. Both consist of just eight verses, containing birth, seven days after birth, the eighth day, and sacrifice. The similarity between these two Units will play an important role in identifying the overall structure. A minor adjustment has to be made between chapters 13 and 14. While they remain two literary Units, the end of chapter 13, verses 47-59 are properly part of the Unit that includes chapter 14.
As recommended by Douglas, the identification of the literary Units is based upon “some principle of selection that makes the interpretation a work of discovery, not of creation.” The principle of selection that I have employed to identify the Units is itself a discovery. Each of the Units has its own well-defined structure. I have defined each Unit as such, only after first identifying its internal structure. At this point, it may sound as if we are looking at a potential regressio ad infinitum. I have proposed identifying the structure of Leviticus by identifying its Units. Now I claim that each of these Units has its own structure. Moreover, I will further state that the structure of each Unit is defined in turn by the structure of its components! In order to avoid the regression, I will introduce a form of “literary calculus.”
Leviticus displays level upon level of organization in a “powerfully contrived structure.” Therefore, it is not composed of a single set of units, but rather a set of sets. Each level of organization is based upon its own set of units. In order to speak about “the structure of Leviticus,” we must have an understanding of several levels of order and the set of units associated with each level. Once we have established the levels of organization, we can apply the “literary calculus” to define the most useful set of parameters for describing the overall structure of Leviticus.
As I have mentioned, on one level Leviticus divides into twenty-two structurally similar Units. I will refer to the internal organization of these Units as the microstructures of Leviticus, and the arrangement of the Units together as the macrostructure. The key to applying Douglas’ “discovery” method to Leviticus appeared when I discovered that the macrostructure employs the same rules of organization as the microstructures. The development of a common set of rules for these two levels of structure is the result of an analytic process that I have playfully termed “literary calculus.” The similarity to the true calculus is found in the need to postulate a smallest quantum, or in textual terms, “the prime pericope.” This is the smallest block of text which is structurally significant. Like a prime number, it can not be divided into factors. I will explain now in basic outline just how these prime pericopes are organized in six levels of ascending complexity. For consistency with later sections of this article, I will refer to some groups of textual elements as “rows” and “tables”. I will explain the significance of these terms after I present all six levels of order.
a. Prime Pericope
b. Row of Prime Pericopes (dyads or triads)
c. Table of Prime Pericopes: Unit
The first three levels of order are illustrated above, beginning with the prime pericope (a). The second level of organization (b) connects two or three prime pericopes in a set, or row. All of the prime pericopes combine with one or two other consecutive pericopes to form either a dyad or a triad. The next level of order (c) combines consecutive rows of pericopes in tables. This is the level which I have termed Units. Each Unit is made up of dyad-rows or triad-rows. Of the twenty-two Units, only two combine both dyads and triads within the same Unit. The other twenty are all homogenous, eleven containing only triads and nine only dyads. The arrangement of the different types of Units is one of the objective criteria for defining the structure. For example, the first three Units all consist exclusively of triads, while the next three consist exclusively of dyads. We will now see how the macrostructure, the arrangement of Units, reflects the microstructure, the structure of a single Unit.
d. Row of Units
e. Table of Units
The Units are to the macrostructure as the “prime pericopes” are to the microstructure. Just as the prime pericopes (a) of the microstructure form rows (b), so too do the Units (c) combine to form rows of Units (d) in the macrostructure. One difference between the rows of consecutive prime pericopes (b) and the rows of consecutive Units (d) is that the Unit-rows are all triads, while the pericope-rows are divided between triads and dyads. For clarity, I will refer to the Unit-rows as Unit-triads. The Unit-triad (d) combines with two more Unit-triads to create a table of Unit-triads containing three Unit-triads (e).
We can now see that the organization of the macrostructure in levels c-e precisely reflects the organization of the microstructure in levels a-c. There is one more level of order (f) to take into account in order to grasp the overall plan of Leviticus. The largest structure in the book is based on two nine Unit tables. The two tables form an introversion around chapter 19, as the following diagram illustrates:
f. The nineteen-Unit introversion
This structure accounts for nineteen of the twenty-two Units. The three remaining Units are not part of the introversion. Interestingly, the three “superfluous” Units all deal exclusively with impurities. It is as if the redactor had stated that the symmetrical structure is pure, and that the asymmetry created by the addition of the Units on impurities makes the structure itself impure. The reader, like the priest, must remove the impure from the camp (structure) in order maintain its purity. I will develop this point towards the end of this article when discussing my analogical reading of Leviticus.
We have now completed the preliminary survey of the six levels of order that are utilized to create the structure of Leviticus. Altogether, each prime pericope combines with other pericopes to form five additional levels of order (b-f). Each level of order creates a new context within which a given pericope has to be understood. It follows, that the redactor formulated and honed each pericope to function within multiple structural contexts. Any given term within the pericope can serve to connect the pericope with other pericopes on any of the levels of order; multiple levels of organization create multiple contexts. Douglas’ was quite accurate in describing Leviticus as having a “powerfully contrived structure.” I will explain now two more structural contexts in the tables of levels (c) and (e).
The Units of the microstructure (c) and the tables of the macrostructure (e) share a formal similarity; they can both be read as tables. I will illustrate this point by means of the following diagram.
Table 1. Literary Table
א L (1)
א M (2)
א R (3)
ב L (4)
ב M (5)
ב R (6)
ג L (7)
ג M (8)
ג R (9)
The rows of the above table represent consecutive blocks of text (as indicated by the numbers in parentheses) and are marked by consecutive letters, א-ג. The columns are marked as L(eft) M(iddle) and R(ight). When the text is arranged in this format, consistencies appear in the columns as well as in the rows. The content of each prime pericope in a Unit (c), as well as the content of each Unit in a table of Units (e), is a function of the intersection of two planning lines, its row and column. The compound labels, such as אL, indicate that the specific element, prime pericope or Unit, is a compound composed of the “א” concept which includes אL, אM and אR, and the “L” concept, which includes אL, בL and גL. In this manner, the tables can be seen as “conceptual space”, Cartesian coordinate systems in which each point (element of a table) is a function of the intersection of two concepts, its column and row.
The columns of the Units (c) and the columns of the tables of Units (e) thus create two more structural contexts. This brings the total number of structural contexts to seven: levels (b)-(f) plus the columns of the two levels of tables. The rows of the tables are levels (b) and (d). A full analysis of the structure of Leviticus should include a reading of each of the twenty-two Units as a table. However, due to constraints of space, I will discuss only the tables of level (e).
Catalog of Units
In order to facilitate the discussion of the overall structure of Leviticus, I will first present a brief catalog of the twenty-two Units. I have indicated in the catalog that all of the Units except XIII form Unit-triads (level d) and have marked these triads A-G in order to make it easier to follow the next sections of this article. The catalog consists of a structural outline of each of the twenty-two Units indicating the verses of each prime pericope, a brief heading to each Unit, and a short descriptions of each pericope-row. I tried to follow Milgrom’s section headings as far as possible. Where I changed his heading or added a description, I indicated this by brackets. These outlines should prove useful for anyone desiring to investigate the Units as self-contained textual elements. The complete formatted Hebrew text can be downloaded at http://chaver.com/Torah/StructuredLeviticus.htm.
Unit-triad A: The Sacrificial System - all pericope rows triads
I (1-3) Three Spontaneously Motivated Private Sacrifices
the burnt offering [entirely for the altar]
the cereal offering [primarily for the priest]
the well-being offering [primarily for the devotee]
II (4-5) Sacrifices Required for Expiation
purification offering [classified by sinners]
graduated purification offering [classified by object offered]
reparation offering [classified by sins]
III (6-7) Administrative Order
[offerings of expiation]
Unit-triad B – all pericope rows dyads
IV (8-10) Inauguration of the Cult and Aftermath
consecration and inaugural service
[death for improper entry to the Tent of Meeting]
eating of priestly portion
V (11) Diet Laws
VI (12) Childbirth
[length of impurity]
Unit-triad C: Impurities and Purification
VII (13:1-46) [Impurity from] Scale Disease
[“When a person has…it shall be reported”]
[“The skin of one’s body”]
[“If a man or a woman”]
VIII (13:47 - 14:57) Purification
IX (15) Genital Discharges
Unit-triad D – all pericope rows triads
X (16) Day of Purgation
XI (17) The Slaughter and Consumption of Meat
XII (18) Illicit Sexual Practices
XIII (19) Holiness
This Unit has a unique structure, which mirrors the structure of the whole book. It is divided into two blocks, of four pairs and three pairs respectively, by a unique triad (19:19b-25). This mirrors the division of the book into seven Unit-triads, divided into blocks of four Unit-triads (A-D) and three Unit-triads (E-G) by the unique Unit XIII. This Unit is the subject of an article which can be seen in draft at The Stone Tablets of Leviticus 19.
Unit-triad E – all pericope rows triads
XIV (20) Penalties for Molek Worship, Necromancy, and Sexual Offenses
opening exhortation including penalties for Molek worship and necromancy
penalties for sexual offenses
XV (21) Instructions for the Priests
the High Priest
XVI (22:1-25) [Sanctified Objects]
Unit-triad F – all pericope rows dyads
XVII (22:26-33) [Animal Birth]
XVIII (23) The Holiday Calendar
first barley and wheat offerings
alarm blasts and purgation
the festival of Booths
XIX (24) Tabernacle Oil and Bread; The Case of Blasphemy
oil and bread: [the permanent display in the Tent of Meeting]
the case of the blasphemer and talion laws
Unit-triad G: Redemption
XX (25) Jubilee
XXI (26) Blessings Curses and the Recall of the Covenant
[Israel’s commitment to God ]
[interaction between God and Israel, blessings and curses]
[God’s commitment to redeem Israel]
XXII (27) Consecrations and their Redemption
[requiring priestly judgment]
[not requiring priestly judgment]
The sizes of pericope-rows (b) used in the Unit-triads create a recurring pattern. Unit-triad A contains only triads in its pericope-rows; Unit-triad B contains only dyad pericope-rows; and Unit-triad C contains both dyad and triad pericope-rows. This pattern is repeated in Unit-triads E-G: E contains only triads, F only dyads and G both types of pericope-rows.
The Holy Puzzle
Once the Units have been identified, Leviticus looks like a puzzle spread out on the table waiting to be put together. It has well defined parts that seem to lack a thematic or narrative thread. Still, it is not totally lacking in structural hints. The division of the first seven chapters as the appear in the opening Unit-triad (A) is generally accepted. The closing Unit-triad (G) has already been identified by others, including Douglas and Milgrom, “whereas Lev 25 and 27 speak of Israel’s redemptive responsibility, Lev 26 focuses on YHWH’s responsibility, by virtue of the covenant, to redeem Israel.” Surely there must be a correlation between XII (18) and XIV (20), both of which contain extensive lists of forbidden sexual relations. Also, the similarities in VI (12) and XVII (22:26-33) could point to a structural link between them. So too, we can expect there to be a formal connection between the two narratives, IV and XIX.
This concludes the introduction. The remainder of this article has three parts. First, I will outline the structure of the book of Leviticus based on the twenty-two Units. Afterwards I will outline the process of solving the puzzle, the process that leads to the discovery of Leviticus' formal structure. Finally, I will briefly consider the analogical reading inherent in the structure. I will begin now with an outline of the structure that will be developed during the analysis.
Table 2. Structural Outline of Leviticus
The outline above shows how the Units group into seven triads and one singular Unit, XIII. The analogical structure does not include Unit-triad (C), which contains only material on impurities. The six remaining Unit-triads compose the two tables of Units in level (e) and combine to form the level (f) inversion. The two dimensional nature of the tables is based on a consistent relationship between the Units of each Unit-triad. In A, B, and D, the first Unit of each Unit-triad can be described as “oriented” towards God, as opposed to the third Unit which is oriented towards people. The middle Unit of these Unit-triads contains material indicating an interaction between God and people. For example, in Unit-triad A, Unit I is God-oriented, using the phrase “to the Lord” over twenty times. Unit III, on the other hand, is people oriented, focusing on priestly prebends. The middle Unit, II, demonstrates the connection between people who sin and God who provides the means for expiation. The consistency of this three-part arrangement leads to reading Unit-triads A, B, and D as a table in which the columns have the values marked in the following illustration.
Table 3. The Orientation of the Units in the First Unit-Table
Connecting God and People
The Units in Unit-triads E-F have a similar relationship, but the order is reversed.
Table 4. The Orientation of the Units in the Second Unit-Table
Connecting God and People
The reversed orientation in the second Unit-table is one of the reasons that I refer to the structure that combines the two tables as an “inversion”. The other components of the inversion are inverted content parallels, chiasms, between Unit-triads A and G, B and F, and D and E. Each of these pairs of Unit-triads creates a structural element that I will call an “array”. The two Unit-triads of each array are chiastic. The array is yet another structural context, making a total of eight with the five hierarchical levels (b-f) and the columns of the two levels of tables (c and e). The following table demonstrates how the Unit-triads will be connected in the analogical reading.
Table 5. Overview of the Analogical Structure of Leviticus
1. The order of Units XIV-XXII within their respective Unit-triads is reversed.
2. Unit-triad C, containing Units VII-IX (13-15), has been removed.
The analogical structure consists of three concentric arrays. Each array includes two Unit-triads: A and G, B and F, D and E. (I will explain later why C is not included in the analogical structure.) The three arrays can be described by their relative positions as "outer," A and G, "middle," B and F, and "inner" D and E. These relative positions are comparable to the three divisions of the Tabernacle. The outer array is parallel to the court, the middle to the Holy Place, and the inner to the Holy of Holies. At the focus is XIII (19); it is parallel to the Ark of the Covenant. The first Unit of each array is connected to the part of the Tabernacle which is parallel to the position of the array. Unit I, the first Unit in the outer array, is made up of sacrifices at the altar in the courtyard. Unit IV, the first Unit of the middle array, includes the first entry into the Holy Place. Unit X, the first Unit of the inner array, details the entry into the Holy of Holies. These are the textual links connecting each of the arrays with a specific area of the Tabernacle. However, each array also has a broader concept associated with it which may shed light on the philosophical basis for the arrangement of the Tabernacle.
Each array has its own principle of organization. The outer array is discerned by its place markers: "Mt. Sinai" and "from the Tent of Meeting." The middle array is time oriented: five of its Units include references to seven and eight days. The inner array concerns persons. Five of its six units contain personal obligations or limitations determined by familial association. At the focus, in XIII (19) is an imperative for holiness which is also an imitatio deus, "You shall be holy, for I, YHWH your God, am holy." Taking the focal point as the divine source, we can view the movement outward (in both directions) as a series of Plotinus-like emanations: person (inner array), time (middle array) and place (outer array). This, in broad strokes, is the philosophical framework of the three-array structure that includes the Tabernacle structure as one of its parts. An investigation of the nature of the arrays and the relationships between their parts would thus lead to an understanding of Leviticus as a philosophical/ theological treatise. Such a view of Leviticus would justify Douglas' intimation, with which I opened this article, that "A literary composition that is so impressive could suggest that writing a theological treatise was the full achievement."
The organization of Leviticus in concentric arrays of inverse parallels is similar to the arrangement of Exodus and Numbers which divide into two inversely parallel sections. The first part of Exodus (ch. 1-24) and the second part of Numbers (ch. 10-35) contain the historical narrative. The second part of Exodus (ch. 25-40) and the first part of Numbers (ch. 1-9) contain Tabernacle related material. Therefore, we can see that organization in concentric blocks is a fundamental principle across the three central books of the Torah, and not just in Leviticus.
The divisions of Exodus and Numbers, taken together with those of Leviticus, create a structure analogous to the desert encampment. Leviticus, with its three-array structure is like the camp of the divine presence, containing the Tabernacle and its court. The second half of Exodus and the first part of Numbers, which deal with the mechanics of constructing the Tabernacle and the functions of the Levites, are parallel to the Levitical camp. The first part of Exodus and the second part of Numbers, containing the historical Israelite narrative, are parallel to the Israelite camp. So the three central books of the Torah can be seen as a complex set of concentric arrays similar to the desert encampment. I will illustrate this in the following table.
Table 6. Leviticus’ Contextual Arrays
Holy Core (See above, pp. 12-15)
Book Analogous to:
The table above demonstrates that the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers can be viewed as five concentric arrays around Lev 19 at the focus. The second row of the chart indicates the three large divisions of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers: the historical narrative, the Tabernacle narrative, and the holy core. The third row points to the encampment analogy, which is further detailed in the fourth row. Now I will demonstrate how the structure of Leviticus is discovered, as suggested by Douglas.
Part 2: Discovering the Structure
Unit-Triads A and G: The Framework
When the parts of a puzzle have been laid out for inspection, a person experienced with puzzles looks for the corners and edge pieces that determine the framework. This approach worked for the Leviticus puzzle as well. It, too, has four well-defined corners. The first seven chapters form a coherent block of text that contains two “corners” in the form of markers of physical location. The only two places in these chapters which refer to God speaking in a specific place are found at the beginning (1:1) and at the end (7:37-38). The section begins with God calling out from the Tent of Meeting: “The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting” (1:1). It ends with a reference to God addressing Moses at Mt. Sinai (7:37-38): “This is the ritual for the burnt offering, the cereal offering, the purification offering, the reparation offering, the ordination offering, and the sacrifice of well-being, which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, when he commanded the Israelites to present their offerings to the Lord, in the Wilderness of Sinai” (7:37-38). The seven chapters make up three literary Units, all of which describe details of sacrifices: chapters 1-3 describe freewill offerings; 4 and 5 link specific sins to sacrifices; 6 and 7 describe the priests’ shares of sacrifices. This gives us the upper border of the puzzle. If there is any doubt that we have found the upper border, it will be dispelled by the lower border.
It was not necessary to look beyond a section previously identified as a triad by Douglas and Milgrom, Lev 25-27, in order to determine the lower border of the puzzle. In this case, each chapter is a single Unit by my division. The three Units have “redemption” in common. The word itself, gaal, appears tens of times in chapters 25 and 27. It is the end, the final stage of divine history, in 26. Even if ch. 26 does not exactly lend itself to a “redemption” theme, it could certainly be included in a “reckoning” theme. All three units deal with reckoning payments, monetary payments in 25 and 27, and divine “payments” (rewards and punishments) in 26. This bottom row of the puzzle also has clearly identifiable place markers for corners. The section both begins and ends with references to God’s speech at Mt. Sinai: “YHWH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai” (25:1); “These are the commandments that YHWH commanded Moses for the Israelites on Mount Sinai” (27:34). These “corners” not only fix the limits of the closing section, they also verify the “corners” we found on the opening section. The redactor has linked the extremes by means of a literary device: the markers of physical location of divine speeches.
The fact that both the opening, I-III (1-7) and closing XX-XXII (25-27) sections consist of three Units, together with the parallel use of “corners”, suggest that we should compare the two triads. The comparison leads to the discovery that they form an inverted parallel, or chiasm.
Table 7. The Borders
1:1 The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting
7:38 which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, when he commanded the Israelites to present their offerings to the Lord, in the Wilderness of Sinai.
From man to God
Between God and man
4:2 When a person inadvertently does wrong in regard to any of the Lord's prohibitive commandments
From God to man
From God to man
25:23 Furthermore, the land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is mine; you are but resident aliens under my authority
Between God and man
26:3 If you follow my laws and keep my commandments and observe them, 4 I will grant you rains in their season, so that the earth will yield its produce …
From man to God
"For YHWH" appears 16 times
1 YHWH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai
34 These are the commandments that YHWH commanded Moses for the Israelites on Mount Sinai
The first Unit of the upper border, I (1-3), parallels the third Unit of the lower border, XXII (27). Both describe gifts given to God by a private individual. The phrase “for (to) God” appears over thirty times in the two. Similarly, the third Unit of the opening section, III (6-7), parallels the first Unit of the closing section, XX (25). Both refer to God’s gifts to men. In III (6-7) He gives the priests shares of His offerings. In XX (25) He gives land and freedom to the poor and indentured. The central Unit of the opening triad, II (4-5) details certain sins, their associated offerings, and divine forgiveness. The parallel central Unit in the closing section, XXI (26), details Israel’s rewards for observing God’s commandments and punishment for sins against God. The two triads demonstrate a common plan. Each contains a “man to God” vector (I and XXII), a “God to man” vector (III and XX), and a central Unit which points to an interaction between man and God (II and XXI). The clear chiastic parallels, together with the common use of “corners” assure us that we are facing a well-planned book, and a puzzle that can be solved.
Finally, we should note the “places” connected to the two Unit-triads (A and G) other than the places where God speaks. All of Unit-triad A is connected with the altar in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Unit triad G contains laws that apply in the land of Israel after the conquest and not the Tabernacle. The distinction between these two places will become significant in the analogical reading. We will see that the reader, like the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, begins by focusing inward towards the Tabernacle. Continuing the path followed by the High Priest, the reader turns around in the middle and faces outwards towards the waiting nation.
After laying out the upper and lower borders, we will continue by trying to fit the inner pieces to the framework. The method for finding where additional pieces fit, involves looking for matching shapes, as well as utilizing the parts of the emerging picture. Now that we have identified the chiastic border rows, we are drawn to compare the first pieces within the border, IV (8-10) on the top, and XIX (24) on the bottom. They have similar beginnings.
8:2 Take (kach) Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of purification offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread
24:2 Command the Israelites to bring (kach) you clear oil of beaten olives …
Both Units have commands to bring oil and bread near the beginning. These Units include the only narratives in Leviticus, the deaths of Aaron’s sons and the Egyptian’s son. Mary Douglas has identified these narratives as turning points or milestones within Leviticus since they mark the beginning and end of the material within the framework defined by the references to Sinai, our Unit-triads (A) and (G). The narratives create transition points to and from the framework, which is locked in place by the divine speech-place markers. Unit IV, containing the inaugural service, marks the first reference in Leviticus to priests entering the Tent of Meeting. Unit XIX, containing the description of the permanent display inside the Tent, marks the last reference in Leviticus to the interior of the Tent. The talion laws included in this Unit emphasize the movement away from the laws of holiness to social concerns. The transition points are associated with death; the death inside the Tent of Meeting of “those near to me” (10:3), Aaron’s sons, and the death outside the camp of God’s enemy, the Egyptian’s son, for blasphemy.
For the moment we will skip the next Units in each direction, V and XVIII, to consider two Units that, as we have already noted, bear a striking similarity, VI (12) and XVII (22:26-33). They both speak of birth, reinforcing the “transitions” theme while balancing the death theme common to IV and XIX.
12:2 …when a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be impure for seven days; she shall be impure as duarray the period of her menstrual infirmity. 3 On the eighth day the foreskin of his member shall be circumcised…
22:27 Whenever an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it will be acceptable as a food-gift offering to YHWH.
These Units begin with a birth; continue with a seven-day hiatus, and then a detail of the eighth day and an offering. Another similarity between these two Units is their length. Both contain only eight verses, making them the smallest Units in Leviticus by a wide margin. It seems that the redactor has gone to great lengths to create the parallels in order to define another section of our puzzle/text. The emphasis on seven and eight returns us to Units IV (8-10) and XIX (24). The investment ritual in IV consists of a seven-day preparatory period before the appearance of the divine fire on the eighth day. In XIX, the showbread is left on the table in the sanctuary for seven days until it is eaten by the priests on the eighth day. The full significance of the use of “seven and eight” becomes clearer when we look at the current state of the puzzle.
Table 8. Place and Time
Just as the outer rows were locked in place by the place markers in the corners, the next rows are determined by the time markers of seven and eight days. As I have noted in the table, XXI (26) in the bottom row also includes a reference to Mt. Sinai, the only remaining reference to Sinai in Leviticus. Similarly, XVIII (23) contains a “seven and eight”: the seven-day festival of Tabernacles and the “eighth day of assembly”. Both arrays seem to have a piece missing at the same place, the middle of the top row.
Table 9. Anomalous Units
The outer array, the framework, has no place reference in II. Similarly, there is no "seven and eight" in V. These apparent "missing links" may be a hook created by the redactor in order to verify that the puzzle is being put together properly, since they are in the same place in both arrays, thereby testifying to the parallel construction of the arrays.
The relationships between both the border rows, A and G, and the penultimate rows, B and F, are based on inverted parallelism. We noted in the borders that the basis for the chiasm was the interplay between vectors of opposite directions: man to God, and God to man. The middle Unit of the Unit-triads seemed to combine the vectors of the extremes. The chiasm of the penultimate rows is even more pronounced. It is based on the parallels between the two narrative sections, which include deaths, IV and XIX, and the two births, VI and XVII. Let us see whether the vectors of the border rows are useful for understanding the next rows.
The narratives of the insiders, Aaron’s sons, and the outsider, the Egyptian’s son, both include the punishment of death for an offense against God. Both of these narratives are placed within Units that describe parts of the sacrificial system, so it would seem that they continue the man-to-God vector. The birth of new creatures, on the other hand, seems to continue the God to man vector, as God is considered the source of life. The central element of the second upper row (V) has two separate parts, dealing with animals from two different perspectives. One part lists the animals that are permitted to be eaten. The other part lists ways in which animals can be the source of ritual impurity. Food, coming from God, indicates the God to man vector. Ritual impurity indicates the man to God vector. So here too the middle Unit combines the vectors. Unit XVIII also mixes the vectors, as indicated by its theme: "YHWH spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: (As for) the fixed times of YHWH, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions, these are my fixed times.” (23:1-2) God gives His times to the Israelites (God to man) who then observe the times by offering sacrifices to God (man to God).
The picture is taking shape. We have two concentric arrays so far. The outer array is place-oriented and the next array is time oriented. Each consists of two Unit-triads. All the Unit-triads consist of a God-oriented Unit on one end and a human-oriented Unit on the other end. The Unit in the middle of each Unit-triad is a conceptual middle between the two poles of orientation. Thus, the relationship between man and God is the recurring theme that appears across the four Unit-triads we have placed.
Table 10. Orientation
The discovery of two chiastic arrays containing twelve of the twenty-two Units creates certain expectations regarding the remaining ten Units. If the remaining Units follow the pattern that has developed, they too should form concentric chiastic arrays. However, two more arrays like the two we have identified would require twelve Units and there remain only ten to arrange. One of the Units, XIII (19), is unique collection of laws unlike anything else in Leviticus. Since it can not be paired with another Unit, it could be the focus of the arrays and the literary center of Leviticus. A possible sign that it is the center is the extreme similarity of XII (18) and XIV (20), both of which have extensive lists of forbidden unions. Taking Lev 19 as the center divides the remaining pieces (Units) of the puzzle unequally. It leaves six Units unaccounted for before the middle, VII-XII (13-18), and three after it, XIV-XVI (20-22:25). This is a problem. If the structure is in fact symmetrical, as the chiasms and focal text seem to indicate, how can there be six more Units to place on one side of the center and only three on the other? Before we address this problem, let us have a closer look at the remaining pieces and their relationship to the two concentric arrays we have already determined.
Units XII (18) and XIV (20) are obvious candidates for part of a chiasm since they are so similar. Unit XII lists forbidden relationships and XIV lists the punishments for them. These two pieces must somehow fit together. If they are parts of an array of Unit-triads, similar to the two that we have already identified, the Units that complete the chiasm would be X-XI and XV-XVI:
Unit X (16) describes the ritual that the High Priest must perform when entering the Holy of Holies, in order to avoid death. The prospective chiastic-parallel Unit, XVI (22:1-25), warns the priests that their ritual responsibilities towards God and their fellow Israelites are life threatening. This makes a very good fit for the chiasm, in line with the opposite orientations we have already noted, namely the first Unit in Unit-triad D, X, and the last Unit in Unit-triad E, XVI, are both God oriented. Both X and XVI warn the priests that they could die if they do not perform their duties towards God properly: “The Lord said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover” (16:2); “They shall keep My charge, lest they incur guilt thereby and die for it, having committed profanation: I the Lord consecrate them (22:9).” Units XII and XIV are human oriented, limiting sexual unions.
Table 11. Chiasm in Units D and E
The Unit-triads are in fact chiastic, creating a third array. By comparing them to the chiastic arrays we have already identified, we can see the similarity between them. We have noted that each of the four previous Unit-triads contains divine orientation on one extreme and human orientation on the other. Both X and XVI discuss priestly functions vis-à-vis the sacrificial system. Units XII and XIV, on the other hand, deal with the sexual activities of private individuals. Again, we see an opposition based on "God oriented" as opposed to "people oriented." As in the previous two chiasms, the God-oriented Unit is on the left in the upper row and on the right in the lower row. We still need to verify that XI (17) and XV (21) are conceptual middles.
Unit XI (17) deals with slaughtering animals. It has two parts. The first part (vv. 1-12) has a ritual component missing in the second part, the altar. The blood or flesh of the animal can be offered at the altar. The second section (vv. 13-16) relates to the animal as food; it has no reference to the altar. Thus, the Unit combines the two orientations. Unit XV (21) is a collection of laws regulating the personal lives of the priests. As such, it is a conceptual middle between the secular laws of intimacy for individuals in XIV (20) and the laws concerning holy foods eaten by the priests and their households in XVI (22:1-25). We are now ready to see whether the third array continues the “missing-link” pattern we noted in the first two arrays.
Table 12. Common Elements in Arrays
If the third array continues the pattern established by the first two arrays, then we should find a common element in Units X, XII, and XIV-XVI. This element should be missing from Unit XI. At first glance, there appear to be two separate themes in the five Units that should have a common link: regulations concerning priests, and regulations limiting sexual intercourse. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the five Units all contain references to family relationships. This is obvious in XII, XIV, XV and XVI. It is less obvious in X, where the high priest’s household is mentioned in 16:6 and 17. His sons are mentioned in 16:1 and 32. Therefore, the third array also has a subject that appears in five of its six units, family. The anomalous Unit is in the same position as in the previous two arrays, in the middle of the first triad, Unit XI. The three arrays are locked together by the missing link that appears at the same place in each array.
The middle and inner arrays are more closely connected than the middle and outer arrays. The close connection can be seen in the following table.
Developing the Analogy: the Courtyard and the Tent
Table 13. Connections Between Inner Arrays
The two inner arrays are tightly linked by birth and death. Intercourse in the inner array, XII and XIV, is parallel to birth in the middle array, VI and XVII. A warning concerning death in the inner array, X and XVI, is parallel to an actual death in the middle array, IV and XIX. These connections lead to two observations. First, the inner arrays are linked like the chambers of the Tabernacle. The outer array is like the courtyard, which is open to the sky, while the two chambers of the inner arrays (Tabernacle) share a single tent. This strengthens the analogy between the structure of Leviticus and the Tabernacle. Second, the conceptual flow of the text is apparently from the middle outwards. Reading it this way, intercourse precedes birth and the warning against life-threatening acts precedes death. This substantiates our earlier observation that the arrays point to a Plotinus-like series of emanations from the divine core. Taken together, these observations indicate how different the non-linear reading of Leviticus is from a linear reading.
The Anomalous Units as a Key
The three anomalous Units, II, V, and XI, verify our observation concerning the close connection between the two inner arrays, as well as providing a key to the way the redactor viewed the arrays. These three Units have a common subject, animals. In the inner array, Unit XI focuses on the blood of slaughtered and hunted animals. In the middle array, Unit V is concerned with the flesh of animals. The close relationship between the inner and middle arrays appears in the connection between blood, inner array, and flesh, middle array. The outer array, Unit II, deals with the role of animals as offerings, which is a function of the specific misdeeds of the person offering the animal. Thus, the three Units point to the soul or life force (nefesh) in XI, body in V and function in II, supporting our view that the logical order of the arrays is from the inside out.
The insight provided by the three anomalous Units presents Leviticus in an entirely new light. It is not only a book about holiness and the divine service; it is a book of metaphysics. The core concepts are “innerness” and “outerness”, or perhaps immanent and transcendent. The metaphysical concepts are not part of an exegesis of the Tabernacle and its functions. The Tabernacle is an exemplification of the underlying metaphysics, an illustration of the nature of being. The structure that we have begun to discover according to the guidelines set by Mary Douglas should perforce lead to an entirely new exegesis of Leviticus.
The new exegesis will take into account the non-linear plan according to which Leviticus was constructed. We have begun to see how the non-linear structure is discovered. I will summarize now the most significant features of the three-array structure. We began our analysis by identifying the building blocks, the Units. They combine to form sub-structures on three levels. The primary substructure is the Unit-triad. The formal composition includes six Unit-triads. The second level of organization combines the Unit-triads in chiastic pairs, or arrays. The third level integrates the three pairs of chiastic Unit-triads into a coherent three-array structure. One more element of organization must be taken into account in the new exegesis.
Table 14. Two Unit-Tables
The six Unit-triads form two tables, x and y. A, B, and D are in x, E-G are in y. Each of these tables has two-dimensional sense. Both the rows and the columns represent rules of organization. The character of each Unit is determined by its place in the table; it is a function of the intersection of its row and its column. I will illustrate this last point in the following table.
Table 15. Intersecting Concepts
The above table demonstrates how the fabric of Leviticus is woven. Each Unit-triad, A, B, and D, has its own character, which is associated with its relative position, outside, middle and inside. Each column has its own orientation. The left column is God oriented and the right column is human oriented. The middle column is a conceptual middle between the left and right. Column M contains the three Units we marked as anomalous, each focusing on different aspects of animals. These three Units function as intermediaries between the orientations of the left and right elements in each row. Animals are used by the redactor as intermediaries between the God-oriented and the human-oriented, not just in the altar Unit-triad, A, but in Unit-triads B and D as well. A similar weave can be seen in triads E-G.
The fact that there is a chiastic relationship between the first set of three Unit-triads, table x, and the second set, table y, indicates that the redactor was working with at least three dimensions in weaving the Units of Leviticus into a macrostructure. Each individual Unit has three positional attributes that contribute to determining its content: its Unit-triad (row), its place within its Unit-triad (column), and its table.
We have discovered three concentric arrays focused on Lev 19 and the beginnings of an analogical reading. Where does that leave our puzzle? Three pieces do not seem to fit, Units VII-IX (13-15). We are like the mechanic who has rebuilt the motor only to find that he has parts left over. Where did he go wrong? How can he correct the situation? Will the motor run anyway? The motor does indeed run beautifully without the extra parts; so well, in fact, that one could easily conclude that Units VII-IX (13-15) are totally superfluous to the overall plan of Leviticus.
There are some indications that the redactor foresaw the predicament of a reader attempting to decipher the structure of Leviticus. One of them is the editorial comment at the beginning of Lev 16 (X): "after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they encroached upon the presence of the Lord." According to the three array structure that we have found, (without VII-IX), Unit X does in fact come "after the death of Aaron's two sons" in IV. However, I am using "after" in the sense of place rather than time. Unit X is placed directly after Unit IV in the three-array table. In fact, as we have seen, all three Units in triad D are closely linked to their parallels in triad B.
Table 18. Links Between Unit-Triads B and D
Once Unit X has clicked into place "after the death" in IV, the remaining Units of D also pair with Units in B. Both V and XI look at animals as food and as ritual objects. XII and VI are connected through their content, intercourse and birth. The relationship between the extremes is striking. Not only are IV and X connected by a relationship of before and after, so are XII and VI. While X comes after the death in IV, Unit XII, intercourse comes after the birth in VI. Unit-triads B and D are so closely knit that Unit-triad C has no place between them. The redactor has made it quite clear that Unit-triad C is to be seen as a part of the text that has to be ignored when studying the meticulously organized three-array structure.
Part 3: The Analogical Reading
The Reader as High Priest
We have finished discovering most of the formal structure of Leviticus. In order to explain the function of triad C, I will outline a possible analogical reading. The reading is based on the connection between the locations of the three arrays in the text and the location of the subjects of the first Unit of each array, I, IV and X, the court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
The three arrays are analogous to the three areas of the Tabernacle; the outer array to the courtyard, the middle array to the Holy Place, and the inner array to the Holy of Holies. The focus, chapter 19 is analogous to the Ark. The "movement" through a reading according to this structure is analogous to the movements of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. Only he may enter the Holy of Holies and stand before the divine presence. The text is formatted to replicate his movements inward in the first three Unit-triads and his movement outwards in the last three Unit-triads. According to this analogy, Unit-triad C would appear just before the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies. At that point, he is commanded to create a smoke screen that hides the innermost chamber. Triad C could then be seen as a literary smoke screen. Alternatively, it could be understood as the screen that must be lifted to enter the inner sanctum.
Positing that the structure of Leviticus is analogous to the movements of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement explains more than the anomalous Unit-triad C. It ads the component of directionality: inwards from A to D and outward from E to G. The High Priest turns inward, both physical and figuratively, to stand alone before God in the Holy of Holies. After experiencing the divine presence, he reverses his direction to move away from the intimacy with God towards his fellows, both priests and Israelites. This would explain the appearance of social legislation towards the end of Leviticus. This reading invites the reader to travel the path of God’s laws by turning inwards like the High Priest to the focal point to accept the yoke of holiness (Unit X, ch. 19). From this point he/she gradually returns to the community, ultimately to participate in the divine history of ch.26 by creating the just society portrayed in the laws of ch. 25.
Mary Douglas argues in Leviticus as Literature that "Bible students have to choose between accepting the muddle made by imposing a Western linear reading upon an archaic text, or trying to read the book through its own literary conventions.” She gives many examples of how to read a text “through its own literary conventions,” as well as a broad overview in the form of an analogical reading. In this paper, I substantiate Douglas’ approach by systematically defining the twenty-two literary units that compose Leviticus, as well as the larger structure that connects them. Each of the twenty-two units has a similar non-linear structure that can be viewed as a table. The inclusive structure of Leviticus is composed of three concentric arrays of units, with Lev 19 at the focus. Each array has a common organizing element. The outermost array is place-oriented; the middle array is time-oriented; the inner array is person-oriented. The focus, chapter 19, is holiness. The image created by this arrangement is a holy core that emanates outwards through successive arrays of person, time and place. This structure can be interpreted as an analogical representation of the Tabernacle with chapter 19 parallel to the Ark of the Covenant, the inner array the Holy of Holies, the middle array the Holy Place, and the outer array the courtyard. The experience of reading Leviticus, according to this analogy, places the reader in a position analogous to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. Like the High Priest, the reader follows the inner path to holiness at the center of the book, passing through the courtyard and the Holy Place to the Holy of Holies. This path is reversed in the second half as the reader-High Priest returns to society when exiting the Tabernacle.
 Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature, (Oxford: OUP, 1999), 7.
 ibid., 51.
 Mary Douglas, In The Wilderness (Oxford, OUP, 2001), Preface to the Paperback Edition, xxiii
 ibid, 94
 Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16 (New York, The Anchor Bible, 1991), 491
 Douglas, Leviticus, 7
 Douglas, Leviticus, 7
 Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27 (New York, The Anchor Bible, 2000), 2409
 Milgrom makes the point that “in the Wilderness of Sinai” refers to the Tent of Meeting, creating closure with 1:1. See Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 438.
 Douglas, Leviticus, 219; Milgrom Leviticus 23-27, 2409.
 Douglas, Leviticus, 218