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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 2

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


This chapter provides instructions for the meat-offering, as it is called in this version, but “food-offering” is a better translation. The King James Bible, published in 1611, gave the rendition that is still followed in some versions, and, in those times, “meat-offering” meant exactly what “food-offering” means today. There has been, of course, a definite change in the meaning of some words, see John 4:33-34, where Jesus said, “My MEAT is to do the will of him that sent me,” with the clear meaning that, “My FOOD is to do the will of him that sent me.”

Despite the fact of there being no direct mention of it in this chapter, it appears to be almost certain that the FOOD-OFFERING or CEREAL-OFFERING “was usually accompanied by a burnt-offering or peace-offering.”(F1) All of the offerings mentioned in these chapters were ancient, already having been observed by people for centuries. It is believed that Melchizedek and even Cain offered the type of offering described in this chapter.(F2) In fact, the clue to what, exactly, was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice may lie right here. If indeed the food-offering was meant to be accompanied by a burnt-offering, the latter being an acknowledgment of sin and a plea of forgiveness, while the former was essentially an offering of thanksgiving, then Cain’s great error might well have consisted primarily in his omission of the sin-offering, or burnt-offering. There is powerful evidence of this very thing in Genesis 4:7, where the word for “sin” should more properly be rendered as “sin-offering” (as is the case in Hosea 4:8; 2 Cor. 9:21; and Hebrews 9:28).(F3) Adam Clarke affirmed that, “I have observed more than a hundred places in the O.T. where the word here (Genesis 4:7) is used for sin-offering.”(F4)

In any case, it is a sad commentary upon human nature that it should require the most detailed instructions for approaching God in the area of those two most vital needs of the race of men, namely, forgiveness of sins, and a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Verses 1-3

“And when anyone offereth an oblation of a meal-offering unto Jehovah, his oblation shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: and he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests; and he shall take thereout his handful of the fine flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, and with all the frankincense thereof. And the priest shall burn it as the memorial thereof upon the altar, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah: and that which is left of the meal-offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of Jehovah made by fire.

Note that the ASV here uses “meal-offering” instead of “meat-offering” as in the KJV, or cereal-offering as found in later versions. The context reveals that the offering was the product of some edible grain prepared for cooking. The procedure here was quite simple:

(1) The worshipper brought a container filled with fine flour, the minimum amount being three and one-half quarts.(F5) “There is only one word in the Hebrew text here rendered `fine flour’; and thus the rendition should be simply `flour’.”(F6)

(2) The worshipper poured oil upon the top of the flour,

(3) and then placed an appropriate amount of frankincense on the oil;

(4) next, the officiating priest took a handful of the oil and flour, being careful to lift all of the incense,

(5) and this whole handful of the offering was burnt upon the altar as a memorial or token of the entire offering as having been given to God.

The rest of the offering belonged to the priests, but the designation of it as “most holy” should be noted. “Food designated as most holy had to be eaten inside the sacred area by the priests; food that was holy in a lesser degree (Leviticus 7:11 ff) could be eaten outside the sacred precincts by priests and their families, as well as by lay persons who were properly purified.”(F7)

Verses 4-10

“And when thou offerest an oblation of a meal-offering baken in an oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. And if thy oblation be a meal-offering of the baking pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil. Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon; it shall be a meal-offering, And if thy oblation be a meal-offering of the frying pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. And thou shalt bring the meal-offering that is made of these things unto Jehovah: and it shall be presented unto the priest, and he shall bring it unto the altar. And the priest shall take up from the meal-offering the memorial thereof, and shall burn it upon the altar, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah. And that which shall be left of the meal-offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of Jehovah made by fire.”

Whereas the first paragraph described the food-offering as a batch of fine flour, this paragraph describes the offering as having been cooked by one of three different methods: (a) in the oven (Leviticus 2:4), (b) by the baking-pan (Leviticus 2:5), or in a frying-pan (Leviticus 2:7). Interesting as all these different methods of cooking most assuredly were, especially if we could know exactly how each was done, we shall simply pass over them here with the general observation that the meal-offering was also acceptable to God as an oblation when properly cooked. Notice, that despite leaven being often used in cooking, there was to be NO LEAVEN whatever used in connection with an oblation, whether cooked or uncooked. The reason for this lay in the use of leaven as a symbol of corruption or sin. Jesus spoke of the “leaven of the Pharisees,” meaning the “false teachings” of the Pharisees. This prohibition regarding leaven was so important that a special mention of it occurs in the very next word of instruction.

Verses 11-13

“No meal-offering which ye shall offer unto Jehovah, shall be made with leaven, nor any honey, as an offering made by fire unto Jehovah. As an oblation of first-fruits ye shall offer them unto Jehovah: but they shall not come up for a sweet savor on the altar. And every oblation of thy meal-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal-offering: with all thine oblations shalt thou offer salt.”

Much has been written about why God forbade some things, such as honey and leaven in this passage, as not acceptable upon God’s altar. We may not determine this with any degree of certainty. Some have supposed that the practice among the pagans of using leaven and honey in sacrifices to their false deities was behind the prohibition. The instability of these substances is cited by some as the reason; but to us, it appears merely as another example of the profound truth that God has regulated his worship, that some things are acceptable, and others are not acceptable. Does there really need to be any further reason than this?

The necessity of offering salt with all of these oblations emphasizes the covenantal relationship that all these things had with the great Covenant ratified by God with His people at Sinai. From the most ancient times, salt was a sign of covenant. “Those who shared salt together were considered to be in a special relationship to each other by the people of the Ancient Near East.”(F8)

Although honey and leaven were not acceptable in the oblations mentioned here, these materials could be given as first-fruits, but they could not be offered as a burnt-offering.

Verses 14-16

“And if thou offer a meal-offering of first fruits unto Jehovah, thou shalt offer for the meal-offering of thy first-fruits grain in the ear parched with fire, bruised grain of the fresh ear. And they shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon; it is a meal-offering. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the bruised grain thereof, and part of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof: it is an offering made by fire unto Jehovah.”

It is clear from this that the offering of parched (crushed) grain was to be handled exactly like the other meal-offerings, as far as circumstances permitted. Even the omission of the “most holy” instruction in Leviticus 2:16 may be viewed as due to the application of it being understood and therefore unnecessary to be repeated.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Leviticus 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/leviticus-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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