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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 6

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) And the Lord spake.—Like Leviticus 5:14, which begins with the same introductory formula, this is a further communication made to the lawgiver wherein other instances are specified which require a trespass offering. It is repeatedly stated, in some of our best commentaries, that Leviticus 6:1-7 form part of Leviticus 5:0 in the Hebrew Bible, and that our translators unfortunately adopted the division of the Septuagint, instead of following the Hebrew. Nothing can be more erroneous than this statement. The Hebrew Scriptures in manuscript have no division into chapters at all. The text is divided into sections, of which there are no less than 669 in the Pentateuch. The book of Leviticus has ninety-eight of these sections, while in our Authorised Version it has only twenty-seven chapters. The divisions into chapters, now to be found in the Hebrew Bibles, were adopted in the fourteenth century by the Jews from the Christians for polemical purposes, and the figures attached to each verse are of a still later period.

Verse 2

(2) And commit a trespass against the Lord.—It will be seen that the trespass against God is, strictly speaking, a violation of the rights of a neighbour’s property. As fraud and plunder are most subversive of social life, a crime of this sort is described as an insult to God, who is the founder and sovereign ruler of his people.

In that which was delivered him to keep.—To deposit valuable property with a neighbour was, and still is, a common practice in the East where no responsible establishments exist for the reception of private treasure. Hence, when a man went on a journey, he concealed his precious things underground. This was connected with the danger of forgetting the spot where they were hidden, when search and digging had to be resorted to. This not only accounts for the fact that treasure is called in Hebrew by a name which denotes hidden, or things which men are in the habit of hiding underground, but explains such allusions as “hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3), “and searchest for her as for hid treasure” (Proverbs 2:4), “dig for it more than for hid treasure” (Job 3:21). To avoid this danger, men entrusted their treasure to the custody of a neighbour. It is to this practice which the text before us refers, and it is from this practice that the apostle took the expression when he declares, “I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12; see also Leviticus 6:14, and 1 Timothy 6:20).

Or in fellowship.—Literally, or in something that is placed in the hand; that is, put in his hand, a deposit. It is similar in nature to the trust mentioned in the preceding clause, for which reason it is not repeated in the general recapitulation of the offences in Leviticus 6:4-5.

Or in a thing taken away in violence.—Having specified two cases of embezzlement in connection with things voluntarily handed over to the defrauder, two other frauds are adduced, in which the offender possessed himself of his neighbour’s property by violence and extortion.

Verse 3

(3) Or have found.—The fifth instance adduced is of property which was neither entrusted nor exacted but accidentally found. For the law on lost property, see Exodus 23:4; Deuteronomy 22:1-3.

And sweareth falsely.—This refers to all the five instances specified—that is, if he denies with an oath that property had been entrusted to him, that he had robbed, or exacted, or found anything.

Verse 4

(4) Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty.—Better, And it shall come to pass, token he hath so sinned, and acknowledged his guilt. (See Leviticus 4:22.) That is, when he has committed any of the aforementioned offences, and denied the sin with an oath, but afterwards voluntarily acknowledges his guilt without having been found out.

That he shall restore that . . . which he hath deceitfully gotten.—Better, then he shall restore, &c.

Verse 5

(5) And shall add the fifth part more thereto.—The first thing the offender must do, when he realises and confesses his guilt, is to make restitution of the property which he had embezzled, if he still has it, or if that be impossible, he is to pay the value of it as estimated by the authorised tribunal. Besides this, the offender is to add a fifth part of the principal, to compensate for the loss which the owner sustained during the interval. It will be seen that in Exodus 22:1-9, when a person was guilty of any of the offences here specified, the offender was condemned to make a four fold restitution, whilst in the passage before us the mulct is reduced to the restitution of the principal with the addition of a fifth part. The reason of this difference is that the law in Exodus deals with a culprit who is convicted of his crime in a court of justice by means of witnesses, whilst the law before us deals with an offender who, through compunction of mind, voluntarily confesses his offence, and to whom, without this voluntary confession, the offence could not be brought home. It is this difference which constitutes it a case for a trespass offering. (Comp. Numbers 5:7.)

In the day of his trespass offering.—Better, on the day of his guilt. That is, as soon as he acknowledges his guilt, and brings the sacrifice for his offence, he is to make the requisite restitution.

Verse 6

(6) With thy estimation.—That is, according to the official valuation; the ram is to be so grown up as to be worth two shekels. (See Leviticus 5:15.)

Verse 8

(8) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying.—This is the fourth instance in which this formula is used (see Leviticus 4:1; Leviticus 5:14; Leviticus 6:1) in Leviticus, and, as in the former passages, introduces a further communication to the Lawgiver. Hitherto the law pointed out to the people under what circumstances and how they are to bring their sacred oblations, now directions are given to the priests how to conduct the sacrificial service of the people.

Verse 9

(9) It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar.—Better, This, the burnt offering, shall he upon the fire on the altar. That is, the continued burnt offering, with which the sacrifices here enumerated begin, is to remain burning upon the altar from the evening until the morning. (Comp. Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8).

Shall be burning in it.—Better, shall burn by it. That is, shall be fed and kept up by it. According to the practice which obtained during the second Temple, the fat pieces of the burnt offering began to be burned at midnight, thus feeding the fire till the break of day.

Verse 10

(10) And the priest shall put on his linen garment.—The officiating priest was to put on his sacerdotal garments, which consisted of four pieces—viz., (1) the tunic, which was a long close robe of fine linen, with sleeves but without folds, covering the whole body, and reaching down to the feet; (2) linen breeches—better, linen drawers—which, according to the authorities during the second Temple, reached to the knees and were fastened by ribbons above the flanks; (3) a linen girdle, which, according to the same authorities, was three fingers wide and thirty-two cubits. long, and, like the veil of the court and of the sanctuary, was embroidered with figures; and (4) a mitre, or better, turban, which was likewise of fine linen, and was fastened to the head by means of ribbons, to prevent its falling off (Exodus 28:4; Exodus 28:40; Exodus 29:5-10; Leviticus 8:13). Though the second and third only are here mentioned, there can hardly be any doubt that all the four garments were meant, and that the third and fourth are either omitted for the sake of brevity, or because they are included in the first term, which is the reason why some of the ancient versions have it in the plural.

Take up the ashes which the fire had consumed with the burnt offering.—Better, take up the ashes into which the fire had consumed the burnt offering. That is, the ashes into which the consuming fire had converted the victim.

He shall put them beside the altar.—During the second Temple, a priest was appointed by lot to take off from the altar every morning at least a shovelful of ashes and carry it without the camp, and when the ashes accumulated they were entirely removed to the same place.

Verse 11

(11) And he shall put off his garments.—That is, the priest shall change the sacred robes in which he ministered at the altar; for other garments, though less holy, were not common, since the removing of the ashes was still a sacerdotal function. The holy garments were deposited in the cells within the precincts of the sanctuary, till they were required again for the altar service (Ezekiel 44:19; Ezra 2:6; Ezra 2:9; Nehemiah 7:70). Great care was taken that the place to which the ashes were removed was well sheltered, so that the wind should not blow them about. The priest was not allowed to scatter them, but had to deposit them gently. No stranger was permitted to gather them, or to make profit by the ashes.

Verse 12

(12) And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it.—Better, and the fire upon the altar shall burn by it. This is almost a literal repetition of the last clause in Leviticus 6:9, and is here introduced to caution the priest whose function it is to remove the ashes. When engaged in this act, he is to take great care that in taking off the ashes from the altar, he does not knock away the fat pieces of the burnt offering, which constitute the fuel, from the fire, and thus cause it to go out, but let it burn by the fat all night.

And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning.—In the morning, however, the priest is to replenish the burning fuel on the altar with the wood provided at the expense of the congregation, and a store of which was kept in the precincts of the sanctuary. (See Leviticus 1:7.)

Verse 13

(13) The fire shall ever be burning.—This fire, which first came down from heaven (Leviticus 9:24), was to be continually fed with the fuel especially provided by the congregation, and with the daily burnt offerings. During the second Temple, this perpetual fire consisted of three parts or separate piles of wood on the same altar: on the largest one the daily sacrifice was burnt; the second, which was called the pile of incense, supplied the fire for the censers to burn the morning and evening incense; and the third was the perpetual fire from which the other two portions were fed. It never was quenched till the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, we are positively assured that the pious priests who were carried captives into Persia concealed it in a pit, where it remained till the time of Nehemiah, when it was restored to the altar (2Ma. 1:19-22). The authorities in the time of Christ, however, assure us that the perpetual fire was one of the five things wanting in the second Temple.

Verse 14

(14) And this is the law of the meat offering.In Leviticus 2:1-3, where this meat offering is spoken of, the people are told of what the mincha is to consist, and what portion of it was the perquisite of the officiating priest. In the section before us (Leviticus 6:14-18) additional directions are given to the priests about the eating of the portions which belong to them and about the treatment of the residue.

The sons of Aaron shall offer it.—Though in the chapter before us it literally means Aaron’s own sons, the phrase is intended to comprise his lineal descendants who succeeded to the priestly office. They, and they only, shall offer the sacrifices, but not a layman.

Before the altar.—Or, in or at the fore part of the altar. That is, at the south-easterly corner of the altar. (See Leviticus 2:8.)

Verse 15

(15) And he shall take of it.—That is, one of the sons of Aaron mentioned in the preceding verse, whose rotation it is to serve at the altar. For an explanation of these directions see Leviticus 2:2.

Verse 16

(16) With unleavened bread shall it be eaten.—Better, unleavened shall it be eaten. That is, the remainder of the meal is to be made into unleavened cakes, and thus be eaten. (See Leviticus 10:12.) By adding the word with, which is not in the original, the Authorised Version says that the priests are to eat the meat offering with the addition of unleavened cakes.

Verse 17

(17) I have given it unto them for their portion.—It was ordained that those who ministered at the altar should live of the altar; hence the priests had no portion or inheritance in the land.

Verse 18

(18) All the males among the children of Aaron.—The sin offerings, the trespass offerings, and the remainder of the peace offerings being most holy, could only be eaten by the male members of the families of the priests within the court of the sanctuary; whilst the offerings of tithes, fruit, the shoulder and breast of the people’s peace offerings, &c, being less holy, were not only eaten by the officiating priests in Jerusalem, but by their incapacitated sons, their daughters, &c, provided they were ritually clean. Any priest who ate the most holy things outside the wall of the courts, or the less holy things outside of the walls of Jerusalem, received forty stripes save one.

Every one that toucheth them shall be holy.—According to this rendering, which exhibits one of the views that obtained during the second Temple, the meaning is that any one who touches the sacrifices of the first order of holiness must not only be a descendant of Aaron and a male, but must have sanctified himself by undergoing the necessary ablutions. (See Leviticus 22:6-7.) There is, however, another view of the passage which is of equal, if not of anterior, date. That is, whoso or whatsoever toucheth them shall become holy. Any layman or any ordinary utensil, &c., becomes sacred by touching one of the higher order of sanctity. (See Exodus 29:37; Exodus 30:29; Ezekiel 44:19; Ezekiel 46:20; Haggai 2:12.)

Verse 19

(19) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—The new law, which is here introduced with this special formula (see Leviticus 6:8), gives directions about the meat offering which the high priest is to bring on his consecration to the pontifical office (Leviticus 6:19-23). It naturally follows the sacrificial instructions given for the priests in the preceding section.

Verse 20

(20) This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons.—This offering, which is called the oblation of initiation, was, according to the practice which obtained during the second Temple, the mincha “of Aaron and his sons,” as the text before us declares; that is, of the high priest and of every common priest. The ordinary priest, however, only offered it once on the day of his consecration, whilst the high priest was bound to offer it every day after the regular holocaust, with its meat offering and before the drink offering (Sir. 45:14, with Josephus, Antiq. III. 10 § 7). It is to this practice that the apostle refers when he says, “For such a high priest became us . . . who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins, &c.” (Hebrews 7:27).

In the day when he is anointed.—That is, when he is anointed (comp. Genesis 2:4) or when his anointing ceremony is completed, and he entered upon the duties of his office, which was on the eighth day. (See Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 9:1.)

A meat offering perpetual.—That is, in the case of the high priest this oblation is to be offered every day as long as he lived or held the pontifical office. This perpetual meat offering is to consist of a tenth part of an ephah, which is an omer, half of which he is to offer in the morning and half in the evening.

In a pan it shall be made.—Better, upon a flat plate. (See Leviticus 2:5.)

And when it is baken thou shalt bring it in.—Better, thou shalt bring it well soaked. That is, thoroughly saturated with oil.

And the baken pieces of the meat offering shalt thou offer.—That is, a meat offering consisted of small roasted cakes. After the flour was put into the pan, and was soaked in oil, it was divided into and baked in small pieces, apparently to represent the limbs into which the victim of the burnt offering was divided before it was burnt. (See Leviticus 1:8.) During the second Temple the following practice obtained. The high priest brought the whole tenth part of flour every morning. After sanctifying the whole, he divided it into halves with the measure kept in the sanctuary. He likewise brought three logs of oil, which he mingled with the flour, and kneaded six cakes of each half. After baking the cakes a little, he fried them upon the pan with some of the oil, taking care not to bake them too much, but that they should be between baked and raw, in accordance with the expression, tuphinei, which the authorities of those days explained in this manner but which is rendered here in the Authorised Version by baked, and by us roasted cakes. Hereupon the high priest divided the six cakes into twelve cakes being the same number as those of the shewbread, and offered six subdivided in two in the morning and six in the evening.

Verse 22

(22) And the priest of his sons.—That is, any one of his descendants who succeeds to the high priesthood is to do the same in all times to come, since it is a statute to last as long as the priesthood continues.

It shall be wholly burnt.—Unlike the ordinary meat offerings brought by the laity, which, with the exception of a handful, was the perquisite of the officiating priest (see Leviticus 2:2-3), the high priest could not eat of this mincha because he presented it himself, since it would be unseemly both to offer it to God and at the same time eat it himself. Nor was an ordinary priest allowed to eat it, because he was subordinate in rank to the officiating high priest.

Verse 23

(23) For every meat offering for the priest.—Better, and every meat offering of a priest This rule applies to every meat offering brought by the priests themselves for the same reason.

Verse 24

(24) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—As is indicated by the special formula, this introduces a new law, or rather a more expanded law than the one contained in Leviticus 4:1-5, giving more precise directions to the priests about the sin offering of the laity (Leviticus 6:24-30).

Verse 25

(25) In the place where the burnt offering is killed.—That is, the north side of the altar. (See Leviticus 1:11.)

It is most holy.—That is, the sin offering belongs to the class of sacrifices which is most holy. (See Leviticus 2:3.)

Verse 26

(26) The priest that offereth it for sin.—Rather, the priest that offereth it for expiation, or, the priest that expiateth sin by it. That is, who makes atonement by the blood thereof. (See Leviticus 9:15.)

Shall eat it.—God gave the sin offering as food for the priests to bear the iniquity of the congregation, and to make atonement for them (Leviticus 10:17). It constituted a part of their livelihood (Ezekiel 44:28-29). The officiating priest to whom fell this perquisite could invite not only his family but other priests and their sons to partake of it. Covetous priests abused this gift (Hosea 4:8).

In the holy place shall it be eaten.—That is, within the forecourt of the sanctuary. Eight of the offerings had to be eaten in the precincts of the sanctuary: (1) the flesh of the sin offering (Leviticus 4:26); (2); the flesh of the trespass offering (Leviticus 7:6); (3) the peace offering of the congregation (Leviticus 23:19-20); (4), the remainder of the omer (Leviticus 23:10-11); (5), of the meat offering of the Israelites (Leviticus 2:3-10); (6), the two loaves (Leviticus 23:20); (7), the shew-bread (Leviticus 24:9); and (8), the leper’s log of oil (Leviticus 14:10-13).

Verse 27

(27) Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof.—Better, every one that toucheth the flesh thereof, as the Authorised Version rightly renders this phrase in Leviticus 6:18 of this very chapter, where it is explained.

And when there is sprinkled . . . . —So peculiarly sacred was the sin offering, that when any of its blood chanced to spurt upon the garment of the officiating priest, or the one who brought the sacrifice, the spot which received the stain had to be washed in the room of the court provided for this purpose, wherein was a well which supplied the water for the sanctuary, thus preventing the blood from being profaned outside the holy place.

Thou shalt wash.—That is, Aaron, to whom the command was first given, and then his descendants, the priests, not the Israelite or layman.

Verse 28

(28) But the earthen vessel.—The earthen vessels need by the Hebrews were unglazed. The ordinary domestic vessels throughout the East are so to this day. From their porous character, therefore, they would absorb some of the fat juices of the flesh which was boiled in them for the priests to eat. And as the absorbed juices could not be washed out, the inexpensive earthenware was to be broken up. (See Leviticus 11:33; Leviticus 11:35). During the second Temple the fragments were carefully buried in the ground when there was a large accumulation of them.

And if it be sodden in a brasen pot.—Being a solid metal, no juices could sink into it, and any of the most holy flesh that might adhere to it could easily be removed by washing. During the second Temple the scouring was done with hot water, and the rinsing with cold.

Verse 29

(29) All the males among the priests.—Not only did the officiating priest, whose perquisite the flesh of the sin offering became, and his male children, partake of it, but he could invite any other priests and their sons to the meal. It is to this practice that the apostle refers when he says, “We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” (Hebrews 13:10).

Verse 30

(30) And no sin offering, whereof . . . —Better, but no sin offering, &c. The rule set forth in the preceding verse only applies to the sin offerings of the laity (Leviticus 4:22, &c.); their flesh fell to the share of the priests, but the flesh of the sin offerings, the blood of which was brought into the tabernacle, “to make atonement in the sanctuary,” was not to be eaten but to be burnt. Such were the sin offerings for the high priest (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:12), and the whole congregation (Leviticus 4:13-21), and the sin offering of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:27).

To reconcile withal.—Better, to make atonement for, as the Authorised Version renders it in Leviticus 1:4, and generally wherever it occurs.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Leviticus 6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/leviticus-6.html. 1905.
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