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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-17

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

3. The peace offering ch. 3

The peace (fellowship) offering is the third sacrifice of worship. It represented the fellowship between God and man that resulted from the relationship that God had established with the redeemed individual. Peace and fellowship resulted from redemption, and this act of worship highlighted those blessings from God. This was an optional sacrifice; an Israelite could bring it if and when he desired. Thus it was not one of the offerings that the priests presented daily in the tabernacle, though God ordered its presentation at the feast of Pentecost (Harvest, Weeks; Leviticus 23:19). Because it was voluntary, its offering became a festive occasion.

There were three different kinds of peace offerings. One was a thanksgiving offering in which an Israelite expressed thanks for a particular blessing (Leviticus 7:12-15). Another was a votive offering that the Israelites could offer after an acute experience of distress or joy that had elicited a vow from him (cf. Jonah 2:9). The third was a freewill offering that the Israelite could offer as an expression of gratitude to God without reference to any particular blessing (Leviticus 7:16-18). [Note: Wolf, pp. 168-69.]

There were two major distinctives of this offering.

1. It was a soothing aroma (Leviticus 3:16).

2. All the participants fed together on this sacrifice: the offerer, the priest, and God (symbolically). Eating together had great significance in the ancient Near East. People who ate a ritual meal together often committed themselves to one another in a strong bond of loyalty (cf. 1 Samuel 9:22-24; John 13-16). Eating together also symbolized fellowship, as it still does today. In this sacrifice the offerer fed on the same offering he had made to God. In the burnt offering God got the whole sacrifice. In the meal offering God and the priest shared the sacrifice. However in the peace offering all three participants shared a part. Even the priest’s children ate of this offering, but they had to be ceremonially clean to participate (Leviticus 7:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:28).

"A libation [drink] offering (nesek) accompanied burnt and fellowship offerings. The priest’s portion of the fellowship offering was symbolically ’waved’ before the Lord as his portion and called the ’wave offering’ (tenupa). Certain portions of it (namely, one of the cakes and the right thigh) were given as a ’contribution’ from the offerer to the priests, the so-called ’heave offering’ (teruma)." [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, "Cain and His Offering," Westminster Theological Journal 48:2 (Fall 1986):366.]

The Israelites were not to eat the fat of this sacrifice but to offer it to God on the altar. This may have symbolized that God was worthy of the best since the ancients regarded the fat of an animal as its best part. Another explanation is that since the Old Testament used the kidneys and entrails to represent the seat of human emotions (cf. Job 19:27; Psalms 16:7; Jeremiah 4:14; Jeremiah 12:2), these parts represented the worshiper’s best and deepest emotions. This view finds support in the fact that Israelites offered the peace offering in intrinsically emotional situations, when they thanked God or requested from Him. [Note: See Wenham, pp. 80-81.]

"The slain-offering [peace offering], which culminated in the sacrificial meal, served as a seal of the covenant fellowship, and represented the living fellowship of man with God." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:268.]

These varieties are significant.

1. There were several grades of animals that God permitted. These were similar to the burnt offering but were fewer. Bullocks, lambs, and goats were acceptable. Female animals were also acceptable showing that there were more options than with the burnt offering.

2. The Israelites could present this offering for any of three possible reasons: as a thanksgiving offering, as a freewill offering, or to fulfill a vow (i.e., a votive offering; cf. Leviticus 7:12-16).

When the Israelites offered thousands of sacrifices at one time they were usually peace offerings. They ate only a part of what they offered on these occasions. [Note: R. Laird Harris, "Leviticus," in Genesis-Numbers, vol. 2 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 538.] There are many similarities between this offering and the Lord’s Supper. Both were celebrations that commemorated a covenant, both were occasions of rededication to God, and both involved blood.

"Those who surrender their hearts to God and come before him on the basis of the shed blood of the sacrifice may celebrate being at peace with God (in a communal meal)." [Note: Ross, p. 119.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/leviticus-3.html. 2012.
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