The Levitical Offerings
T. Ernest Wilson, USA
Introduction. Leviticus is the handbook and manual of the priest. It is the central book of the Pentateuch. Its subject is "worship", whilst in Genesis it is "election", and in Exodus it is "redemption". In the first section of Leviticus, we are given detailed instructions as to how a redeemed people must approach a holy God through blood sacrifice. A keyword is "qodesk" and its derivatives, translated "holiness" or "holy" more than 150 times in the book. The terms "clean" and "unclean" also occur about 160 times. Holiness of life is essential for acceptable worship. The five offerings of chapters 1-7 introduce us to a fresh revelation of typical truth concerning the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to compare the Paschal Lamb of Exodus 12 with the sacrifices of Leviticus 1-7. In the Passover, we have salvation through the blood of the Lamb, but in the offerings we are introduced to the worship of the redeemed. In the Passover, we have the truth enfolded, but in Leviticus, it is unfolded in considerable detail. The Passover has been compared to a closed hand holding much precious truth, but in Leviticus, the palm is open, the five fingers displaying the five offerings.
THE OFFERINGS, CHAPTERS 1-7
The offerings are divided into two categories: The sweet savour offerings: the burnt, meal and peace offerings. The non-sweet savour offerings: the sin and trespass offerings.
Two distinct words for "burning" of the sacrifices are used. One means to ascend as a pleasing perfume like incense. This is the word used in the first category of offerings. The other word means "to reduce to ashes", and it is used in the second category, the sin and trespass offerings. The sweet savour offerings speak on the one hand of Christ Himself in the burnt and meal offerings, Eph. 5. 2, and on the other hand of His people in relation to Him in the peace offering. But in the sin and trespass offerings, man's sinful condition and the sacrificial suffering and death of the Saviour to atone for it are the subjects. The people's sweet savour offerings were entirely voluntary, the offerers responding to God as they realize who He is and what He has done for them. Conversely, the sin and trespass offerings were obligatory, the sinner confessing his guilt and the need for a blood atonement. In the trespass offering, there had to be restitution for sin against one's neighbour.
(1) THE BURNT OFFERING (Heb. 'Olah), LEVITICUS 1
The Highest Offering. One of the distinguishing features of the burnt offering was that, in contrast with the other offerings, the whole of the victim (with the exception only of the skin, 7. 8) was offered upon the altar. The sacrifice was literally "all on the altar", 1. 9; cf. 1. 13.
Basically, it typifies the perfect devotion and dedication of Christ to His Father's will, both in His service and in His atoning death upon the cross. As the perfect Servant of Jehovah, He could say, "my meat and my drink is to do my Father's will", "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work". In Gethsemane in anticipation of the cross, He cried, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt", Mark 14. 36. The burnt offering gives us a glimpse into that complete devotion to His Father's will.
There were three grades of sacrificial burnt offerings, depending on the capability of the offerer.
The bullock(son of the herd), This was the most costly offering. The firstborn of the herd was never used for anything else. The first and the best was to be all for God.
The sheep or goat. These were less costly but equally acceptable.
Doves or young pigeons.This was the poor man's offering: cf. Luke 2. 24.
The three classes of burnt offerings are mentioned on a descending scale. The rich man might bring his bullock, the man of medium substance his sheep, the poor man his young pigeon. Yet each of the three was a burnt offering, and in each case the offerer was accepted before God. What we see typified in these variations is not a greater or lesser acceptance but a greater or lesser apprehension on the part of the offerer,, To put it in another way: every believer stands accepted before God in the perfection and fragrance of the sacrifice of Christ which never varies and is the same for all. What does vary is the measure in which we appreciate the value of His work. The offerer brought his offering to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. If it were a bullock, it was to be a male without blemish, indicating its perfection. In verse 3 of the A. V. we have the words "he shall offer it of his own voluntary will", but in Darby's New Translation it is rendered "present it for his acceptance", with which the R. V. agrees. The thought evidently was that the offerer was to stand before God in all the acceptance of the unblemished offering that he brought. Hence the putting of his hand on the head of the offering, of which the next verse speaks, signified that he identified himself with his offering, "and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him". Christ, in His devotion to the Father and in His sacrificial death on the cross, was the essence of perfection, but the offerer realizes his deep need and the atonement is for him. The offerer kills the offering but the priest pours the blood round about upon the altar. The offerer flays (skins) the animal and cuts it into its pieces, but the priest retains the skin. Then the whole animal is laid by the sons of Aaron on the altar and is consumed by the fire. It is a sweet savour unto the Lord. There are slight differences in minor details in the other two grades of offerings, in the sheep and goats and the birds, but the main outline is the same. The blood was to be sprinkled on the altar and in each case neither the offerer nor the priests had any part reserved for them. All was burned on the altar. Three times in chapter 1 we find the words, "it is a sweet savour unto the Lord".
As well as the burnt offering which could be offered at any time by the exercised individual Israelite, there was the continual burnt offering which was offered daily at the tabernacle and later at the temple, Exod. 29. 3842; Num. 28. 3-10. It consisted of two lambs, one offered in the morning and the other in the evening, with an accompanying meal offering and a drink offering. How vividly all this reminds us of the crucifixion. Mark 15. 25 tells us that our Lord was crucified at the third hour (9 a.m., the time of the morning sacrifice). All three Synoptic Gospels tell us that He died at the ninth hour (3 p.m., the time of the evening sacrifice), Matt. 27. 45; Mark 15. 33; Luke 23. 44.
The burnt offering, in both applications, first in relation to our blessed Lord, unique in His perfect devotion, dedication, and submission to His Father's will in His spotless life and sacrificial death on the cross; and then its application to His people in their life and testimony, has many precious and practical lessons to teach us.
(2) THE MEAL OFFERING (Heb. Minchah), LEVITICUS 2
This was always linked with the burnt offering and was its complement. It stands for the Person, character, perfection and sinlessness of the Saviour, His moral glory. It is who and what He is that gives value to His work on the cross. As there were three grades of burnt offering, so there are:
Three Kinds of Meal Offering. Flour, oil, salt, etc., Christ in His life, vv. 1-3.
The cooked Minchah, Christ in His death, vv. 4-11. There were three different ways in which the Minchah was exposed to the fire. It could be
Baked in an oven, suggesting the hidden divine suffering, not seen by man.
Cooked on a flat plate and as such open and seen by all. This represents those sufferings at the judicial trials and the cross.
Heated in a frying pan or cauldron, in which it was partly hidden and partly open. Here the agony at Gethsemane is anticipated.
(3) The Firstfruits, Christ in Resurrection, w. 12-16. For this, parched corn was called for, 2. 14-16. It consisted of fresh ears of corn "bruised" (i.e., crushed) and roasted. Oil and frankincense were added. Christ is here set forth as the Firstfruits, pledge of the coming "harvest" in resurrection; cf. 1 Cor. 15. 20, 23.
In the first kind of meal offering, there were four ingredients and two prohibitions, each one of which pointed to Christ.
The Four Ingredients. Fine flour. There was nothing rough, coarse, uncouth about Him. His life was perfect courtesy and love.
Oil,It was poured, v. 1; mingled, v. 4; used to anoint, v. 4; and to saturate (lit.), v. 7. All of these relate to the Holy Spirit's ministry in the life of our Lord. In Scripture, oil is the recognized type of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The first four chapters of Luke's Gospel emphasize the relation of the Holy Spirit to our Lord in His early life and ministry. The mingling of the oil with the fine flour is typical of the Holy Spirit's activity at His incarnation, Luke 1. 34. The pouring on, or effusion, of the oil finds its counterpart in the descent of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, 3. 22. The saturating with oil finds a fulfilment when He was "full of the Spirit", 4. 1. The anointing of the unleavened wafers calls to mind our Lord's reading of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth and His applying the prophetic words to Himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor", 4. 18-21; cf. Acts 10. 38.
Salt.This is described as "the salt of the covenant of thy God", Lev. 2. 13. Whilst it pervades the meal, it has the opposite tendency to leaven: it preserves. If the fine flour points to the grace of Christ, salt represents the truth, the faithful ministry of Christ; cf. Col. 4. 6.
Frankincense.This is the product of a tree growing among limestone rocks in Saudi Arabia and Somaliland. It is obtained by incising the bark and collecting the semi-transparent tear-drops which exude from it. When it solidifies, it is readily pulverized, and is one of the ingredients of the sweet incense, Exod. 30. 34. It was never eaten, but always burnt on the altar; it had a fragrant odour.
The Two Prohibitions. There was to be no leaven. Leaven in Scripture is always typical of evil, whether in doctrine or morals, the result of that proud, puffed-up nature of the flesh. It permeates, inflates and works in the dark. Its action can be arrested by salt and by fire.
There was to be no honey. Honey is good in its proper place, but it is a perfect medium for the encouragement of leaven. It was forbidden on the altar. Human sweetness is simply not acceptable to God.
To Summarize:The four ingredients and the two prohibitions in the meal offering all speak of the perfection and moral glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fine flour speaks of His love and gentleness; the oil of the Holy Spirit in His life and ministry; the salt of His faithfulness in dealing with sin and hypocrisy; and the frankincense of the fragrance of His words and walk. As for the prohibitions, the absence of leaven would speak of His sinlessness and holiness, and the exclusion of honey would indicate that He never used flattery or insincerity in dealing with mankind.
The Memorial on the Altar,2. 2, 16. A handful of the fine flour, with oil and all the frankincense was burned upon the altar as a memorial. Also a part of the beaten grain, a part of the oil and all the frankincense on the firstfruits were burned as a memorial on the altar. All the remainder of the meal offerings was for the sons of Aaron, the priests. In the law of the offerings, 6. 13, we note that the Lord has placed between the burnt and the meal offerings this pregnant statement, "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out". The memorial of that precious Person in all His preciousness to God and to us, 1 Pet. 2. 4-7, shall ever be offered to God by those to whom "he is precious.
(3) THE PEACE OFFERING (Heb. Shelem), LEVITICUS 3; 7. 11-34
This is the central offering in which God and men meet. It is the great symbol of absolute reconciliation, and of that fellowship and communion expressing it. Here only is there a sacred meal where God, the priest and the offerer each had a portion. There are two great ideas. Firstly, there is peace with God. Then, secondly, there is fellowship with God and His people. This provides the grand climax to the sweet savour offerings.
We need to consider both the Peace offering and its law, chs. 3 and 7. Only the offering is described in chapter 3. Here it is God's part. The fat and the blood are emphasized; the fat 16 times and the blood 4 times. The fat, the kidneys and the blood of the sacrifice are all for God. In chapter 7 the sacred meal is described. The officiating priest receives the right shoulder of the sacrificial animal, and Aaron and his sons the wave breast, whilst all the rest was the portion of the offerer.
The Three Sacrificial Animals. Like the burnt offering, it could be an ox, a sheep or goat without blemish, but here a female is permitted, suggesting the weakness of comprehension of the offerer. In each case, the offerer lays his hand on the head of the sacrifice and kills it at the door of the tabernacle, and the priest sprinkles the blood round about upon the altar. The fat and the two kidneys are burnt upon the altar. Here is the basis and foundation of peace with God, the blood of the cross, Col. 1. 20.
There is one unusual feature at the thanksgiving meal of the peace offering. Leavened bread was to be offered, 7. 13. Here is a deep mystery, for God had said that no leaven was to be burned on the altar in any offering, 2. 11. The answer is that the leavened cakes were not offered on the altar, but were eaten by the offerer. It is a recognition of the sinful nature of every human participant in the worship of God.
Typical Significance of the Peace Offering.The cross of Christ is viewed as making reconciliation between God and man, and making it possible for believers to have fellowship with God and with fellow-believers, Rom, 5.1, 10, 11; Eph. 2. 11-13; Col. 1. 19-22. Our God is the Great Initiator in all this: He is the God of Peace.