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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 7

Verses 1-38


The Law Of Sacrifice

What is recorded here is not the institution of the rite of sacrifice, which is assumed to be already in existence (see Leviticus 1:2), but its regulation in matters of detail. It did not originate among the Israelites; it is a primitive and universal custom, based apparently upon a natural instinct, and found in one form or other in all parts of the world. Sacrifice is an act of worship, whereby the offerer either expresses his sense of the harmony and communion existing between himself and his god, or endeavours to restore these when by any means they have been destroyed. In all probability the former idea is the earlier, and the origin of sacrifice is to be found in the conception that the god of a tribe stands in a very close relationship to it, and in some respects has a common life and interests with it. In primitive times the god was conceived in a crude and material form. He was supposed to require food and drink (see on Leviticus 3:11). And, as eating and drinking together is a common token of good relationship, it may well be that sacrifice in its primitive form was regarded as a common meal partaken of by the Deity and his worshippers in good fellowship. Part of the offering was eaten by the latter, and the portion for the god was laid out, and left for him, in some place where he was supposed to dwell. As the god came to be regarded as a more or less ethereal being, means were taken to send his portion to him, as it were, by converting the solid parts into smoke by burning and pouring out the liquids, wine, blood of the sacrificial victim, etc., and letting them sink into the earth. Traces of this primitive idea of sacrifice, as a feast or common meal partaken of by the god and his worshippers, may be discovered among the Israelites in Bible times: e.g. in the sacrificial feast which followed the making of the covenant between Jehovah and His people in Exodus 24 (see on Exodus 24:9-11), and in the feast at the ’high place’ to which Saul went (1 Samuel 9:13) See also the note on the Shewbread (Leviticus 24:5-9) and on the Peace Offering (Leviticus 3); and see for a protest against this materialistic conception of God Psalms 50:8-15.

Alongside of this idea, and perhaps growing out of it, is that which regards the sacrifice as a gift made to the god to procure his favour or appease his vengeance. The worshipper makes his offering as before, by burning or by libation; but hopes, in consideration of its value, to procure protection from danger, deliverance from calamity, or success in enterprise. This was probably the meaning of the Burnt Offering in Leviticus 1, and of such human sacrifices as are referred to in Leviticus 18:21 (see note there and references).

It is probably not the earliest but the latest view of sacrifice which sees in it a means of expiating the sins of the offerer. When God has come to be regarded as a holy Being to whom all sin is offensive, the sinner feels himself to lie under His wrath and curse. He is conscious that the good relationship that ought to exist between himself and the Deity has been interrupted by his transgression, and seeks a means of restoring harmony. He finds this in the offering of sacrifice, which is said to have a ’covering’ efficacy: see on Leviticus 1:4. Wherein this atoning efficacy lay is not certain. Some have found it in the idea of substitution. The offerer feels that his life is forfeited by his sins, but believes that he is graciously permitted to substitute a victim, to which his sins are in some way transferred, and which dies in his stead: see on Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 16:8, Leviticus 16:20-22, and cp. Leviticus 17:11. Others have held that the efficacy of the atoning sacrifice consists in its being an expression of the offerer’s feelings and desires, his penitence, humility, and prayer for forgiveness, and that it is the latter that procures the remission of his sins. In the Levitical system the idea of expiation and atonement is specially emphasised in the Sin Offering and Guilt Offering (see Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 6:7 and notes there, and cp. what is said on the ritual of the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16).

In considering the various forms of sacrifice prescribed in Leviticus, it must be borne in mind that the book is a collection or codification of the law of ritual, and contains therefore regulations dating from different times. Of the five main types specified (see Intro. § 1, and the notes prefixed to Leviticus 1-4), the first three, the Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1), the Meal Offering (Leviticus 2), and the Peace Offering (Leviticus 3) are, generally speaking, sacrifices expressive of harmony between the worshipper and God; they are sacrifices of joy, of wholehearted devotion, of thanksgiving. The other forms of sacrifice, the Sin and Guilt Offerings (Leviticus 4 - Leviticus 6:7), are expressive of the sense of interrupted communion; they are sacrifices of atonement and expiation. In them the sense of sin comes more into prominence.

The Levitical system of sacrifice underlies the worship of the OT. Like all systems of rites and ceremonies it was liable to abuse. From the writings of the prophets we learn that a common fault of Israel was to place reliance on the performance of the outward ceremony, and to neglect the weightier matters of the law. It was not the least part of the work of the prophets to counteract the tendency to formalism, perfunctoriness, and externality, and to remind the people of Israel that ’to obey is better than sacrifice,’ that God ’desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,’ and that ’the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.’ At the same time, the entire nation could hardly ever be blind to the fact that ’gifts and sacrifices could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.’ OT. forms of expiation accordingly have an anticipatory function, and find their fulfilment in the NT., wherein we are taught that Christ shed Bus blood ’for the remission of sins,’ and that He ’put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.’ He is the ’Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ In His death the whole endeavour of God’s saving love, represented and illustrated in the OT. sacrifices, reaches its attainment, and other sacrifices are superseded. They are rendered needless because the goodwill of God to men is fully expressed in the incarnation, life, sufferings, and death of His only begotten Son, and because Christ has offered to God the only real sacrifice for the sins of humanity, in His life of perfect obedience, crowned by His death of free and absolute submission to the will of God.

Verses 1-38


Directions to the Priests (continued)

1-10. The Guilt Offering. Leviticus 7:8-10 refer to private offerings and the priest’s share in them.

11-21. The Peace Offering. Three kinds of peace offerings are distinguished here, viz. the thank offering (Leviticus 7:12), and the votive and free will offerings (Leviticus 7:16). The former, as its name implies, would be presented after a benefit had been received; the latter, while the benefit was still expected, as an accompaniment of supplication.

12. The animal sacrifice is accompanied with a meal offering of four kinds of cakes, one of which is leavened. Of each of these one cake is heaved before the Lord (see on Exodus 29:24) and appropriated by the priests, the others are eaten by the offerer along with his share of the peace offering: see intro. to Leviticus 3.

21. Shall be cut off] excommunicated: see on Exodus 12:15.

22-27. Prohibition to eat fat or blood. The fat is the internal fat: see on Leviticus 3:3.

28-34. The Priest’s share of the peace offerings. This consists of the choice portions, the breast and right thigh which are first heaved or waved before the Lord: see Exodus 29:24.

35. Portion of the anointing] RM ’Portion.’ Leviticus 7:35-38 form a conclusion to the first part of the book of Levitious, that dealing with Sacrifices.

Verses 1-38


Directions to the Priests (continued)

1-10. The Guilt Offering. Leviticus 7:8-10 refer to private offerings and the priest’s share in them.

11-21. The Peace Offering. Three kinds of peace offerings are distinguished here, viz. the thank offering (Leviticus 7:12), and the votive and free will offerings (Leviticus 7:16). The former, as its name implies, would be presented after a benefit had been received; the latter, while the benefit was still expected, as an accompaniment of supplication.

12. The animal sacrifice is accompanied with a meal offering of four kinds of cakes, one of which is leavened. Of each of these one cake is heaved before the Lord (see on Exodus 29:24) and appropriated by the priests, the others are eaten by the offerer along with his share of the peace offering: see intro. to Leviticus 3.

21. Shall be cut off] excommunicated: see on Exodus 12:15.

22-27. Prohibition to eat fat or blood. The fat is the internal fat: see on Leviticus 3:3.

28-34. The Priest’s share of the peace offerings. This consists of the choice portions, the breast and right thigh which are first heaved or waved before the Lord: see Exodus 29:24.

35. Portion of the anointing] RM ’Portion.’ Leviticus 7:35-38 form a conclusion to the first part of the book of Levitious, that dealing with Sacrifices.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 7". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/leviticus-7.html. 1909.