In Leviticus 17, we find:

17 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

And yet we find in the book of 1 Samuel Chapter 7, Samuel making a sacrifice:

9 And Samuel took one sucking lamb and offered it up as a burnt offering, entirely to the Lord, and Samuel cried out to the Lord on behalf of Israel, and the Lord answered him. ט וַיִּקַּ֣ח שְׁמוּאֵ֗ל טְלֵ֚ה חָלָב֙ אֶחָ֔ד וַיַּעֲלֵ֧הוּ (כתיב וַיַּעֲלֵ֧הֻ) עוֹלָ֛ה כָּלִ֖יל לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה וַיִּזְעַ֨ק שְׁמוּאֵ֚ל אֶל־יְהֹוָה֙ בְּעַ֣ד יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַֽיַּעֲנֵ֖הוּ יְהֹוָֽה:

10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near for war against Israel, and the Lord thundered with a loud noise on that day, upon the Philistines, and threw them into a panic, and they were beaten before Israel. י וַיְהִ֚י שְׁמוּאֵל֙ מַעֲלֶ֣ה הָעוֹלָ֔ה וּפְלִשְׁתִּ֣ים נִגְּשׁ֔וּ לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיַּרְעֵ֣ם יְהֹוָ֣ה | בְּקוֹל־גָּ֠דוֹל בַּיּ֨וֹם הַה֚וּא עַל־פְּלִשְׁתִּים֙ וַיְהֻמֵּ֔ם וַיִּנָּגְפ֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

Rashi's commentary is very peculiar. He says:

and offered it up as a burnt offering: The kethiv is ‘vayaaleha’ fem. gender, because it was a female. Hence, our Rabbis deduced that a female animal is acceptable for a burnt offering in a private high place, in Tractate Abodah Zarah.

This seems totally unnecessary since in a different place (I forget where) Rashi says such things were done because Shiloh had been destroyed. It also opens up a whole can of worms because in Leviticus there are several areas where female animals are specifically mentioned, as needing to be brought to the Kohanim.

  • The Peace Offering may be either Male or Female. (Leviticus 3:1, 6)
  • The Sin Offering would be male for a ruler but female for a for a common person (Leviticus 4:27-28)
  • The Trespass Offering is to be female (Leviticus 5:6)

Thus it would seem that both male and female sacrifices are contemplated by Leviticus 17!

So my question is, in view of such a major prohibition, how do we see the book of Samuel describing people doing this in 1 Samuel Chapter 7? In the 17th verse Samuel builds an altar in Ramah. Presumably, Samuel would have done it also with King Saul if he had waited for him.

And my other question is, how come Rashi comments that the rabbis deduce this about female sacrifices, when there are other sacrifices elsewhere, there is no need to talk about female sacrifices, and Leviticus clearly enumerates female sacrifices among the Shlomim and others?

1 Answer 1


This episode took place after the destruction of Shiloh (as you mentioned in your question) but before the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon. During this period, there was a central, national sanctuary first in Nob and then in Gibeon (see Rambam Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 1:2).

The Rabbis understood that the prohibition mentioned in Vayikra 17 of sacrificing outside of the sanctuary applied during the time of the mishkan in the desert, while the mishkan stood in Shiloh, and then once the Temple was built in Jerusalem the prohibition lasted forever.

As we see in Zevachim 14:7:

באו לנוב ולגבעון התרו הבמות

Once they came to Nob and Gibeon, private altars were permitted.

Thus, there was no issue for Samuel to sacrifice at a private altar, away from the main sanctuary in Nob.

As for your question on Rashi, note that Samuel is here described as offering a lamb as an Olah, or burnt offering.

If we look at Vayikra 1:10 we read:

וְאִם מִן הַצֹּאן קָרְבָּנוֹ מִן הַכְּשָׂבִים אוֹ מִן הָעִזִּים לְעֹלָה זָכָר תָּמִים יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ

And if his offering is from the flock, from the sheep or the goats, as a burnt offering, he shall offer an unblemished male.

The point that Rashi is making is that this requirement that a burnt offering must be male only applies at the central sanctuary, not at a private altar, which is why Samuel could offer a female burnt offering here. The fact that other types of sacrifices (such as peace offerings or sin offerings) offered at the central sanctuary were in fact female is not really relevant.

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