Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-16

[See the Chapter Comments for Leviticus Chapter 1 for introductory information]

2. The meal offering ch. 2

The meal (grain, cereal) offering was also an offering of worship that brought God pleasure. It evidently symbolized the sacrifice and commitment of one’s person and works to God as well as the worshiper’s willingness to keep the law (cf. Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-16). A meal offering always followed the official daily burnt offering (cf. Numbers 28), and it often accompanied a peace offering (cf. Numbers 15:3-5; 2 Kings 16:13). The meal offering was a type of tribute from a faithful worshiper to his divine overlord. The Hebrew word minhah, here translated "meal offering," also means "tribute."

"God having granted forgiveness of sins through the burnt offering, the worshiper responded by giving to God some of the produce of his hands in cereal offering." [Note: Wenham, p. 71.]

"The ’grain offering’ . . . generally accompanied a burnt or peace offering to supplement the meat with bread (the libation provided the drink; cf. Numbers 15:1-10), thus completing the food ’gift’ to the LORD. It made atonement . . . along with the burnt offering (e.g., Leviticus 14:20) or alone as a sin offering for the poor (Leviticus 5:11-13)." [Note: The NET Bible note on 2:1.]

This offering was distinctive from the others in the following respects.

1. It was a soothing aroma (Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 2:9). To God the meal offering was pleasing because it was an act of worship based on atonement for sin.

2. The offering itself was the fruit of human labor. A possible contrast between the burnt and meal offerings is that one represented what man owes God and the other what he owes his fellowman. [Note: Andrew Jukes, The Law of the Offerings, pp. 77-78.] However it seems more likely that the contrast intended was primarily between the person of the offerer and his works. The animals offered in the burnt offering were God’s creations, but the cake or grain offered in the meal offering was the product of man’s labor. God charged mankind with the responsibility of cultivating the earth (Genesis 1:29; cf. Genesis 9:4-6). Man cultivates the ground to provide for the needs of man-his own needs and the needs of other people. The grain or flour from which the "staff of life" comes symbolized what God enabled man to produce. By offering this sacrifice the offerer was saying that he viewed all the work that he did as an offering to the Lord.

The meal offering appears to have been acceptable only when offered with the burnt offering. This indicated that one’s works were acceptable to God only when they accompanied the offerer’s consecration of himself to God.

The materials used in this offering undoubtedly had significance to the Israelites. Fine flour (Leviticus 2:1) baked into bread represented then, as now, the staff of life. The fact that the offerer had ground the flour fine probably emphasized the human toil represented by the offering. The olive oil (Leviticus 2:1) was a symbol of God’s enabling Spirit that bound the flour of the offering into cake. [Note: See John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, pp. 21-22.] This consistency made it possible to offer the sacrifice as a finished "dish" rather than as a collection of ingredients. Frankincense (Leviticus 2:1) was a very fragrant spice, but its aroma did not become evident until someone subjected it to fire. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 196 ed., s.v. "Frankincense," by R. K. Harrison.] The oil and incense made the offering richer and more desirable, and therefore more pleasing to God. God also specified salt for this offering (Leviticus 2:13). Salt symbolized a covenant in that nothing in antiquity could destroy salt, including fire and time. [Note: Ibid., s.v. "salt," by R. K. Harrison.] Adding salt to an offering reminded the worshiper that he was in an eternal covenant relationship with his God. God specifically excluded honey and leaven from the recipe for the meal offering (Leviticus 2:11). Some writers have suggested that these ingredients represented natural sweetness and sin to the Israelites. [Note: Jukes, pp. 88, 90.] Most have felt they were unacceptable because they cause fermentation, and fermentation suggested corruption. [Note: E.g., Keil and Delitzsch, 2:295; and J. H. Hertz, Leviticus, p. 16.]

3. Another distinction was that the priest did not offer the whole meal offering on the altar. He placed only a handful of the uncooked grain or cooked cake on the brazen altar and burned it. The priest ate the rest (Leviticus 2:9-10). The offerer cooked the dough at home first and offered it as cake rather than batter (Leviticus 2:4-5; Leviticus 2:7). Humankind, symbolized by the priest, derived most of the benefit of this offering. This was appropriate since it represented man’s work for his fellowman. The offerer received none of this sacrifice for himself. This too was obviously appropriate.

"The idea of a memorial portion given to God goes beyond a simple reminding. The verb often carries the nuance of beginning to act on the basis of what is remembered. The ’memorial portion’ thus reminded or prompted worshipers to live according to the covenant obligations, that is, to live as if all they had truly came from the LORD; and it prompted or motivated the LORD to honor and bless those who offered this dedication." [Note: Ross, p. 107.]

4. Finally, the sacrifice was "to the Lord" (Leviticus 2:1). Though it fed the priests, the offerer did not offer it for the priests but to God (cf. Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23-24).

God permitted various kinds of meal offerings: baked (Leviticus 2:4), grilled (Leviticus 2:5), fried, (Leviticus 2:7), and roasted (Leviticus 2:14). These constituted the variations within this offering. If this offering was public, it usually took the form of firstfruits, but if it was private, an Israelite could bring it to the tabernacle whenever he desired to do so.

"The LORD expects his people to offer themselves and the best they have as a token of their dedication and gratitude." [Note: Ibid., p. 108.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.