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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 7

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 8-38

6. Instructions for the priests concerning the offerings 6:8-7:38

"The five basic sacrifices are . . . introduced twice, each sacrifice being treated both in the main section addressed to the people [Leviticus 1:1 to Leviticus 6:7] and in the supplementary section addressed to the priests [Leviticus 6:8 to Leviticus 7:38]." [Note: Lindsey, p. 172.]

The main theme of this section is who may eat what parts of the offerings and where. Generally only the priests could eat the sacrifices, but the offerers could eat part of the peace offering. In this section frequency of offering determines the order of the material. The regular daily burnt and meal sacrifices come first, then the less frequent sin (purification) offering, then the occasional trespass (reparation) offering, and finally the optional peace (fellowship) offering.

"To lead the congregation in corporate worship is both a great privilege and an enormous responsibility. In the following passages something of the responsibility concerning the ritual is laid out for the priests." [Note: Ross, p. 155.]

"To bring a person closer to God is the highest service that one person can render another." [Note: J. S. Stewart, quoted by D. Tidball, Discovering Leviticus, p. 49.]

Verses 1-10

The law of the trespass (reparation) offering for the priests 7:1-10

Here we have more detail concerning the ritual involved in this offering than we read formerly (ch. 5). The procedures for slaughtering the trespass offering and sprinkling its blood were the same as for the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:5). The priests burned only the fatty parts on the altar (cf. Leviticus 3:9; Leviticus 4:8). They were to eat the flesh of this offering (cf. Leviticus 6:22).

"Ministers must assure repentant worshipers of their restitution when they seek forgiveness based on the atoning blood and show repentance by their desire to make things right." [Note: Ibid., p. 177.]

Verses 11-36

The law of the peace (fellowship) offering for the priests 7:11-36

This is the only offering that ordinary Israelites could eat, but the priests also ate a part. This pericope clarifies who could eat what and when. For many Israelites eating the peace offering was probably the main, and perhaps the only, time they ate meat. Consequently this pericope also contains general regulations governing the consumption of meat (Leviticus 7:22-27).

"The thanksgiving . . . gift [Leviticus 7:12] represented the donor’s acknowledgement of God’s mercies to him, while the votive . . . [Leviticus 7:16] comprised an offering in fulfillment of a vow. The freewill . . . offering [Leviticus 7:16] consisted of an act of homage and obedience to the Lord where no vow had been made, and with the other categories of well-being sacrifices lent substance to the conviction in Israel that God valued a tangible response to His blessings more than a mere verbal profession of gratitude, which might or might not be sincere." [Note: Harrison, p. 79.]

One writer summarized the lessons of Leviticus 7:11-21 as follows.

"I. Believers are to celebrate their peace with God (Leviticus 7:11).

II. Those at peace with God should express material and public gratitude for divine assistance (Leviticus 7:12-15).

A. Gratitude demands a generous material response (Leviticus 7:12-13).

B. Gratitude must be directed to God (Leviticus 7:14).

C. Gratitude needs to be expressed in a group (Leviticus 7:15).

III. Those at peace with God may obligate themselves to undertake acts of tribute to God (Leviticus 7:16 a).

IV. Those at peace with God want to perform free acts of homage in appreciation to God (Leviticus 7:16-18).

V. Maintaining peace with God is to be taken very seriously (Leviticus 7:19-21)." [Note: Brian Rosner, "The Ritual of the Peace Offering: Leviticus 7:11-21," Exegesis and Exposition 2:1 (Summer 1987):85-90.]

"Celebration of being at peace with God requires the generosity and purity of those who share the common meal." [Note: Ross, p. 184.]

The seriousness of eating while unclean is clear from the penalty imposed (Leviticus 7:20-21), which was direct divine judgment, usually death. [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 125. See my note on Genesis 17:4.] The phrase "cut off from his people" sometimes refers to death and other times refers to excommunication or the termination of one’s line, depending on the context. [Note: Harris, p. 558; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus, p. 100; and Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, pp. 457-60.] God also prescribed this penalty for anyone who ate the fat (God’s portion, Leviticus 7:25) or meat from which the blood had not been drained (Leviticus 7:27; 1 Samuel 14:33). The "fat" apparently refers to the best portions of the healthiest animals, not just to what we consider the actual fat (cf. Genesis 4:4). [Note: Ross, p. 186.] Blood represented life that was the medium of atonement for humankind and as such is inappropriate for human consumption (cf. Leviticus 17:10-14; Genesis 9:4; Acts 15:29). God claimed the lives and best of His people. There may have been a hygienic reason for God prohibiting the eating of animal fat too.

"Animal fats eaten consistently in significant amounts over a lengthy period of time can raise the cholesterol level already present in the blood and, especially in conjunction with hypertension, can result in such conditions as arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, both of which cause circulatory accidents. Had the eating of animal fat and suet [the hard, white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle, sheep, and other animals] been permitted, such an imbalance of cholesterol might well have been precipitated among the Hebrews, since they were already ingesting such saturated fats as butter (i.e. curds) and cheese. But by restricting the intake of potentially damaging fats, the circulatory system would be enabled to maintain a reasonable blood-cholesterol level, and allow the factor known as high-density lipoprotein to protect the arteries and the heart against disease. Some modern cancer researchers also maintain that a diet high in saturated fats can lead to mammary gland and colon cancer in those who are constitutionally (i.e. genetically) predisposed." [Note: Harrison, p. 58.]

Jesus Christ terminated the Mosaic Law, including its dietary restrictions, by declaring all foods clean (Mark 7:19). He meant that from then on diet would have nothing to do with one’s relationship with God, as it did under the Law. He did not mean that the potentially harmful results of eating certain foods would cease. As Christians, our relationship with God is unaffected by the foods we choose to eat. However, God’s dietary guidelines for the Israelites help us identify foods that it may be wise to avoid for physical reasons. Some of the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law expressed God’s concern for His people’s physical welfare as well as for their spiritual welfare.

The wave offering (Leviticus 7:30-34) describes one way in which the priest and the offerer presented the offerings of consecration.

". . . the priest laid the object to be waved upon the hands of the offerer, and then placed his own hands underneath, and moved the hands of the offerer backwards and forwards in a horizontal direction, to indicate by the movement forwards, i.e., in the direction towards the altar, the presentation of the sacrifice, or the symbolical transference of it to God, and by the movement backwards, the reception of it back again, as a present which God handed over to His servants the priests." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:328.]

"According to traditional Jewish exegesis ’contribution’ (or heaving) was effected by a vertical, up-and-down action, whereas ’dedication’ (waving) was done with a sideways action." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 126.]

"In our obligations to give our best to God, we must recognize that a portion of our giving belongs to those who minister." [Note: Ross, p. 193.]

Verses 37-38

Summary of the laws of the offerings for the priests 7:37-38

This section closes with a summary. This is a common feature of Leviticus (cf. Leviticus 11:46-47; Leviticus 13:59; Leviticus 14:54-57; Leviticus 15:32-33).

"The sacrificial law, therefore, with the five species of sacrifices which it enjoins, embraces every aspect in which Israel was to manifest its true relation to the Lord its God. Whilst the sanctification of the whole man in self-surrender to the Lord was shadowed forth in the burnt-offerings, the fruits of the sanctification in the meat-offerings, and the blessedness of the possession and enjoyment of saving grace in the peace-offerings, the expiatory sacrifices furnished the means of removing the barrier which sins and trespasses had set up between the sinner and the holy God, and procured the forgiveness of sin and guilt, so that the sinner could attain once more to the unrestricted enjoyment of the covenant grace." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:331-32.]

"Jesus said that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. And it has become commonplace to contrast spirit and form as if they were incompatible in worship. ’The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life’ is a text that out of context (2 Corinthians 3:6) can be used to justify slapdash leading of services and other Christian activities. Spontaneity and lack of preparation is equated with spirituality. Leviticus 6-7 denies this: care and attention to detail are indispensable to the conduct of divine worship. God is more important, more distinguished, worthy of more respect than any man; therefore we should follow his injunctions to the letter, if we respect him." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 128.]

The New Testament later revealed that all the Israelite sacrifices and priesthood pointed to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood (Hebrews 5-10). Worthy subjects of further study in connection with the five offerings are (1) how Jesus Christ fulfilled each one and (2) what we can learn about our worship of God from these offerings. See the cross references on the pages of these notes dealing with chapters 1-7 for a start.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/leviticus-7.html. 2012.
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