Thoughts on the Meal Offering
Denis MacKinnon, N'dola, Zambia
LEVITICUS 2. 1-16; 6. 14-23; 7. 9-10
In our Authorised Version we read of the "meat offering" in Leviticus 2. "Meat" is the old English word for food of any kind, and it should not be interpreted according to modern usage; it was certainly not a "meat offering" in that sense. We shall term it "meal offering", with the Revisers.
A meal offering was offered each time a burnt offering, whether statutory or voluntary, or a peace offering was offered (a drink offering was also offered on such occasions), Num. 15. 1-10; Exod. 29. 38-42; see also, e.g., Lev. 14.10; Num. 7. 87; 1 Kings 8. 64, etc. Thus it was a necessary appendage to every sweet-savour blood offering. It is suggested by some that an independent offering is in view in Leviticus 2, but the following points should be borne in mind:
1. Only once do we read of a meal offering being offered apart from a sweet-savour blood offering, and that is in the peculiar case of the "jealousy offering" of Numbers 5. 11-31; in this case there was no oil or frankincense poured upon the barley meal. In fact, this offering stands in marked contrast to that in Leviticus 2, since the offering in Numbers 5 is to bring iniquity to remembrance.
2. In type it is absolutely impossible to have either a burnt offering or a meal offering independent of the other. As far as the work of the offerer was concerned, he had two things to do:
1. He had to prepare his offering at home. It was impossible for him to go and stand before the Lord without preparation. How essential preparation is before any man ever stands in the presence of the Lord!
2. He had to present his offering to the priest, Lev. 2. 2, 8. The offerer's work was then finished, and the priest took over. He did three things:
1. He presented the offering to the Lord, Lev. 6. 14.
2. He took out the "memorial handful", Lev. 2. 2, 9; 6. 15.
3. He burned (as incense) the "memorial handful" with all the frankincense on the altar. Lev. 2. 2, 9, 16; 6. 15.
God's portion of the offering was the "memorial handful" with all the frankincense, Lev. 2. 2, 16; 6. 15; except in the case of the priest's offering detailed in Leviticus 6. 19-23, when the offering was "wholly burnt" to Jehovah.
Once he had burned the "memorial handful", the priest received all the remainder as his food, Lev. 2. 3, 10; 6. 16. It is clear from Leviticus 7. 9-10 that some offerings were for the officiating priest alone, whilst others were shared by all the sons of Aaron. That which had been the "food of God" now became the food of the priest. He appreciated and appropriated to himself that which God had appreciated and appropriated to Himself. In type, the priest fed on that which spoke of Christ. The priest's portion had to be eaten un leavened and in a holy place. Divine things could not be appreciated if mingled with that which spoke of evil, nor if the priest was in the wrong place. There had to be a correct condition and a correct position if the meal-offering was to be fully appreciated.
Although the offerer received nothing from this offering, it nevertheless held a deep significance for him. Note that the offering could be offered in any of the following ways:
1. Parched corn, Lev. 2. 14-16.
2. Pure flour -made into a sort of dough, 2. 1-3.
3. Bread (or, bread cakes), 2. 4-10.
Other essential ingredients of the offering were oil, frankincense and salt, 2. 1, 13, 15. Expressly prohibited were leaven and honey, 2. 11.
But whichever form the offering took, it was still essentially the food of the Israelite; moreover, it was the best of his food. He did not offer to God that which cost him nothing, nor the mere last end of his produce. Only the best was good enough for God. For example, the "fine flour" used in this offering had to be made from wheat, Exod. 29. 2, and wheaten flour was twice the value of the more common barley flour, 2 Kings 7. 1. And if, as in Leviticus 2. 14, the Israelite offered com as his meal offering, he did not offer any inferior portion of his harvest - it was the first-fruits that he gave to God. Thus, the Israelite offered the very best to God, the significance of this being that he gave a portion back to God as an acknowledgement that, in reality, he owed all his sustenance to God. God had given him much, and he wished to acknowledge this by giving something back to God.
Also inherent in the meal offering is the thought of remembrance (note the phrase "the memorial thereof" in Leviticus 2. 2, 9, 16). From this some deduce that the offerer brought his meal offering to God and then, when the "memorial handful" was burned on the altar, it commended to God the remembrance of the offerer. But it should be noted that the "memorial handful" was God's portion. And is it not rather the offerer's remembrance of God that is in view? He appreciated that God afforded him sustenance and that all he had he owed to God, so he showed, through this offering, that his delight was to remember the God who had so blessed him. Surely there is a lesson here for us. God is still the God who feeds us; more, He fills our souls with Him of whom this offering speaks - Christ. Do we return to God in worship a portion of that with which He has fed us, or are our hearts so cold that we fail to remember Him?
The typical teaching in this offering is immense, and we can but touch on one or two points here. In the burnt offering, Christ is viewed as exhibiting absolute devotedness even unto death for the glory of God the Father. We see there Golgotha viewed as the ultimate in obedience of a Man wholly for God. We see One who fully met the claims of the first table of the decalogue. But in the meal offering we see Christ's perfect life portrayed. There is no thought of death here - it is His life that is in view. In the association of the burnt offering and the meal offering, we see the devotedness of Christ to God in both life and death displayed. And what a life! What it must have meant to God to have, after thousands of years of failure, a Man here below who completely satisfied Him! It was a life lived in the service of man, and in that sense He met the claims of the second table, but its Object was God. He loved and served men because He loved and served God. The meal offering, then, portrays to us the life of Christ, a life in which He was despised and left alone of men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering - and suffering of the deepest possible character.
In closing, we shall look briefly at the typical teaching in just one verse in connection with this section of Scripture so full of truth concerning Christ - Leviticus 2. 4.
"And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven". The "oven" spoken of here was a portable pot, open at the top. The dough was placed inside, the opening covered, and the bread allowed to bake, away from the eyes of men. This speaks so clearly of the sufferings of Christ (in His life) which were secret, hidden away from men's eyes, as in His spirit. How He suffered thus! Who can weigh the force of words such as, "Jesus ... was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled", and "Jesus was troubled in spirit", John 11. 33; 13. 21 j.n.d.? He suffered as none other ever did in His spirit.
(Note: In Leviticus 2. 5 we read of the "pan" or the "flat plate", and this would speak to us of the more evident sufferings of Christ, such as those that He knew in His body. For example, He knew weariness, John 4. 6, hunger, Luke 4. 2, pain, Matt. 26. 67, and a number of similar physical sufferings. And in Leviticus 2. 7 the "frying-pan" or "boiling-pot" would speak to us of the sufferings of Christ in His soul. The word translated "frying pan" is derived from a root meaning "to boil or bubble up", as in Psalm 45. 1 marg., "My heart boileth". And Christ did suffer in His soul. He said, for example, "Now is my soul troubled . . .", John 12. 27; and "My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death", Matt. 26. 38 j.n.d.)
"it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour". The "fine flour" speaks to us of the humanity of Christ. He was the bread of God that came down from heaven, John 6. 33. And the fact that it was unleavened, leaven always standing in Scripture for that which is evil, would remind us that it is a sinless humanity, absolutely incapable of sin. But the word "cakes" is also interesting. It is derived from a root meaning "to dig; perforate; pierce; wound", and would remind us that His was a life of affliction, in which He was wounded at every turn by the hatred of His enemies.
"mingled with oil". The "oil" is typical of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the "mingling" with oil would remind us of the uniqueness of Christ's humanity. His very conception was of the Holy Spirit, and thus different from that of every other man. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee", said Gabriel to Mary, "and power of the Highest overshadow thee: wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God", Luke 1. 35 j.n.d. He is essentially holy as to His humanity:
Without a trace of Adam's sin, As Man unique in origin, All fair without, all pure within, Our Blessed Lord!
"or unleavened wafers". The word "wafers" comes from a root meaning "empty". His was a sinless humanity, and marked by humility. And what humility! He "emptied Himself" in taking His place in the likeness of men, Phil. 2. 7, and from the manger to the cross He was marked by a humility the like of which the world had never otherwise known.
"anointed with oil". "Anointing" is different from "mingling". This teaches us that not only did the Spirit rest in Him, but that He also rested on Him. In Luke 3. 22 we see the Lord Jesus anointed with the Spirit of God at the very commencement of His public ministry. Blessed thought! that the Holy Spirit could rest in undisturbed delight on that blessed Man who satisfied the Father's heart in the very scene of sin!
We are now able to resume publication of the series "The Parables in their Setting". Some readers may notice a somewhat different approach in places, distinct from the more traditional and well-known approach, so the paper merits careful consideration.