Blenkinsopp, Joseph, The Sacrificial Life and Death of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12): VT 66, 2016, 1-14.
Published abstract: The argument presented in this article is that the term ‘asham’ in Isa 53:10 refers to the sacrificial ritual of the guilt offering, that this reference is supported by indications throughout Isaiah 53, and that therefore the suffering and death of this Servant of the lord is to be understood as sacrificial by analogy with the ritual of the guilt or reparation offering in the book of Leviticus. This conclusion, much contested in contemporary scholarship, is supported by a survey of the reception of this text in the period prior to early Christianity.
Assessment: Although many of B.’s observations are helpful and plausible, the overall thesis suffers from the problem that the final condition of the Servant makes him not acceptable as an offering: The Servant bears infirmities and diseases, is full of bruises (Isa 53:3-5), and an animal in such a condition is not eligible for an offering or sacrifice (see Lev 22:17-25). Hence it is necessary to underscore the metaphorical language of the Fourth Servant Song: It gleans some aspects from cultic language and sacrificial concepts, including the ‘asham’ offering from Lev 5:14-19 and 7:1-6, but it does not entirely take over the ‘asham’ as a priestly concept for cultic atonement. The Fourth Servant Song rather mixes bits and pieces from various sources in order to create a new idea of atonement by human suffering (of a group, i.e., Israel, rather than an individual). Here one finds a close relationship with the Prayer of Azariah (Dan 3), as B. also points out. But the Prayer of Azariah rather draws heavily upon Leviticus and the sacrificial logic than on the Fourth Servant Song. See Hieke, Thomas, Atonement in the Prayer of Azariah (Dan 3:40), in: Xeravits, Géza G.; Zsengellér, József (eds.), Deuterocanonical Additions to the Old Testament Books. Selected Studies (Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies 5), Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2010, 43–59.
Nolland, John, Does the Cultic אשׁם Make Reparation to God?: Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 91, 2015, 87–110.
Despite the present popularity of the view, the אשׁם offering is not recompense to God. אשׁם became the name of a cultic offering as a “recompense offering” in the special sense of a cultic offering associated with recompense to a wronged person (Lev 5,2–26; cf. Num 5,5–8). The range then expanded in stages to cover offences that had some kind of similarity to the offences already associated with an אשׁם. At some point the specific reason for the name may have been lost sight of, and further expansion unconstrained by the original connection became possible. For many of the אשׁם offerings an alternative development is, however, more likely, a parallel to that which produced the חטאת offering. In relation to this development the choice of אשׁם for the name of the offering simply marks a fit between offence and offering, but with no suggestion that this fit takes the form of offence and compensation. This is simply God’s provision for making retrieval possible.
Nolland, John, Sin, Purity and the חטּאת Offering, in: Vetus Testamentum 65, 2015, 606–620.
The case against חטּאת and the piel of חטא referring to a sin offering does not make purification offering the necessary alternative. When sin is being addressed by the חטּאת, it connects with moral impurity only in the exceptional case of the Day of Atonement. Not impurity but defect/deficiency provides the right level of generality for making sense of the whole range of texts. Unless the view in Ezek 43:26 is an unstated assumption of all the Pentateuchal cultic texts, it seems likely that the חטּאת can deal with a deficiency that is neither of impurity nor sin. Despite the mt exclusive focus of non-cultic uses of חטּאת on sin, the wider uses of the חטא root opens up a place for a cultic use where blame is not necessarily involved.
Vis, Joshua M., The Purgation of Persons through the Purification Offering, in: Wiley, Henrietta L.; Eberhart, Christian A. (eds.), Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement in Early Judaism and Christianity. Constituents and Critique (Resources for Biblical Study 85), Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017, 33–57.
Watts, James W., The Historical and Literary Context of the Sin and Guilt Offerings, in: Landy, Francis; Trevaskis, Leigh M.; Bibb, Bryan D. (Hg.), Text, Time, and Temple. Literary, Historical and Ritual Studies in Leviticus (Hebrew Bible Monographs 64), Sheffield 2015, 85–93.
Abstract from OTA: In this reprint of a section of his 2013 HCOT commentary on Leviticus 1-10, W. turns to the laws on „sin“ and „guilt“ offerings in Leviticus 4-5, analyzing the historical and literary context of these rituals in order to explain the significance and meaning of their names. From a historical point of view, W. argues that sin and guilt offerings were priestly innovations during the 8th to 6th cents. B.C.E. that were developed in response to changing political and economic realities. These offerings increased the prominence and wealth of the priestly class even as the political fortunes of Judah’s royalty declined. However, foreign invasions and the ultimate destruction of Israel and Judah called into question the effectiveness of Temple worship, a concern perhaps addressed by Leviticus 4 in its emphasis on unintentional sins. The priests could not reasonably claim to effect atonement for intentional sins, given the catastrophic punishment their nations underwent. By emphasizing unintentional sins instead, the priests could still play an indispensable role in a skeptical community. Furthermore, these offerings created a role for confession and restitution, which anticipates the hope for the survival of the covenant in Lev 26:42-45. From a literary point of view, W. argues that internal references in Leviticus 4-5 to the words of Moses connect the above offerings to the larger rhetorical context of the Torah. When the Torah was assembled in the Second Temple period, these traditions addressed the people’s ritual need for atonement, riot only ritually but also textually. They invite readers to identify themselves as the „Israelites“ in the narrative and take seriously the reality of human sin. Thus the terms „sin“ and „guilt“ have resonated with the ritual and emotional needs of worshipers for thousands of years—even after the cessation of Temple worship. [Adapted from published abstract—C.T.B.]