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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 1

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-17

Analysis and Annotations


1. The Burnt Offering


1. The bullock (Leviticus 1:1-9 )

2. The sheep or the goat (Leviticus 1:10-13 )

3. The doves or pigeons (Leviticus 1:14-17 )

Jehovah spoke out of the tabernacle which had been set up and upon which the cloud descended, filling the Holy of Holies with the glory of the Lord. Thus Leviticus is closely linked with the ending of the book of Exodus. Out of that glory, from between the cherubim, the same Person spoke to Moses, who had spoken to him out of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai. The first three chapters with which Leviticus opens form one utterance of Jehovah. The second utterance begins with chapter 4:1. This first utterance of Jehovah is concerning three offerings: the burnt offering, the meat offering, and the peace offering. They are distinguished from the other two offerings by being called “a sweet savour (or odor) to Him.” This tells of the value and acceptability of these offerings. No direct reference to sin is made in connection with the “sweet savour” offerings. For Israel these three offerings were the divinely appointed means to approach Him, who dwelt in the Sanctuary. The sin and trespass offerings had more specially to do with their sins and were the means of restoring communion with God. The burnt offering stands first among the offerings because it foreshadows in a most precious and simple way the perfect work of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God. This offering was wholly consumed, and was therefore also called “whole burnt offering” (Deuteronomy 33:10 ; Psalms 51:19 ). It was a holocaust. It went up entirely to God; the priests could not eat of it. The altar upon which it was brought was called the altar of burnt offering, while the fire upon that altar was never permitted to go out. Every part of it typifies Christ offering Himself completely to God; the sweet odor is unto God and it is for the believer’s acceptance in Him. A few hints on this offering and the other offerings will be sufficient to show their typical meaning.

First the bullock is mentioned. The ox gives us the highest type of Christ offering Himself. Like the sheep and goats used in the burnt offering, the ox was easily gotten. He needed not to be hunted or be gotten by man’s efforts; the ox and the other domestic animals used were, so to speak, ready and willing. Led from the green pastures to be killed before the Lord, the ox is the type of Christ, who left the Father’s glory and presence to do His will and give Himself as the willing sacrifice (Psalms 40:6-8 ; Hebrews 10:1-6 ). But the ox is also the type of the servant, and reminds us of Christ, the obedient servant, who came not to be ministered to, but to minister and give His life as a ransom for many. There was to be no blemish whatever in the animal. Even so Christ was without blemish, holy and undefiled. The type was to be without blemish, Christ is without blemish, and the Church which He loved and for which He gave Himself will be through His gracious work without blemish, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27 ).

The offerer had to offer it of his own voluntary will. The correct rendering is (verse 3) “for his acceptance.” This reveals the great purpose of the burnt offering. Through Christ as the sin offering, as we shall see later, the believer knows that all sins are paid for and put away. The burnt offering leads us higher. The spotless One offered Himself unto God and we are accepted in Him. The believer is therefore completely identified with the perfect obedience and devotion of the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted as His willing sacrifice was accepted by God and a sweet odor unto Him.

The offerer had to put his hand on the head of the sacrifice. This simple act identified the offerer with the offering. It also stands for faith, for the hand is for taking hold. Thus faith must lay hold in faith on Christ and become identified with Him. God and the believing soul meet in the One, who offered Himself. In connection with the command to put the hand on the head of the sacrifice we find the statement: “it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” While we saw before the believer’s acceptance in Christ, here the fact is made known that the sacrifice is accepted in the offerer’s place and that the burnt offering makes atonement. And because “without shedding of blood is no remission of sins” the ox had to be killed. The Hebrew word “killing” has a sacrificial meaning. The offerer had to slay the victim himself to indicate that he deserved the death which the animal suffered in his place. The next thing done was the sprinkling of the blood by the priests round upon the altar by the door of the tabernacle. Thus He who knew no sin was made sin for us; and His blood has made atonement. And how blessed it is to see it was done “before the LORD” (verse 5). How exceedingly precious and of inestimable value the devotedness of Christ, His obedience unto the death of the cross, and the shedding of His blood must be in God’s holy sight! Thus everything in the burnt offering foreshadows the blessed truth--”Christ hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2 ).

The victim was flayed, cut into pieces. His inwards and his legs were washed with water. The head and the fat, as well as the other parts including the inwards and the legs, were put in order on the wood upon the altar. It was then completely consumed by fire and rose up a sweet savour unto the Lord. All has its typical meaning. All is exposed to the Divine gaze and all witnesses to the perfection and excellencies of Him who gave Himself. The fat is typical of His internal excellencies. The inwards and the legs washed in water apply to Christ’s holy character in His affections and in His walk in perfect accord with the Word (the water). The wood tells of His humanity which He took on for the suffering of death. The fire was the fire from heaven. It is not, as often taken here, the symbol of Divine wrath consuming the sacrifice, but it has another meaning. It is the figure of God’s perfect delight in the devotion of His ever blessed Son. God rested in Christ and found His fullest satisfaction in Him. The Hebrew has different words for burning. The one that is used here is the same as used for the burning of incense. This in itself shows that it has no connection with wrath. The continual fire upon the altar in connection with this greatest of all the offerings, tells us of God’s perpetual delight in the work of Christ, what He is and what He has done.

What became of the skin of the ox? Chapter 7:8 gives the answer. It belonged to the priest. And thus the burnt offering aspect of the death of Christ covers and hides all, who trust in Him.

Next we find that sheep and goats could also be brought as a burnt offering. The highest grade was the ox and the grades which followed, the sheep and the goat. This was in case the offerer was poor and could not bring the more costly ox. It also represents the faith of the offerer. A lower faith and estimate of Christ which does not reach up to the highest conception, however, does not affect the acceptance of the offerer. The inferior offerings typified Christ and were therefore a sweet savour unto God, who beheld in all the same perfect sacrifice. Our faith should rest completely upon God’s estimate of Christ and His work. The sheep is the type of Christ in His devoted self-surrender, unresisting and silent (Isaiah 53:7 ). The goat offering clearly typifies the substitutionary character of the work of the Lamb of God on the cross. The goat is more linked with the sin offering aspect of the death of Christ. Here also the fact is made known that the lamb and goat offering is to be brought on the side of the altar northward before the Lord (verse 11). It stands typically for distance and not the same nearness is recognized as in the first grade offering.

Turtle-doves and pigeons are the lowest grade of burnt offerings. These were for the poorest of the people and they express typically the weakest faith in Christ and the lowest estimate of His work. But here also we read that it was accepted as an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. These birds speak of Christ as do the ox and the lamb. The dove is the bird of peace, love and sorrow. The dove pictures Him as holy and undefiled, filled with tenderness and love. The bird was put to death by “wringing off its head,” the type of the violence done to Him, who was so tender and loving. The crop and the feathers (correct meaning, “filth”) were cast away. As those were unclean they had to be thrown away so as to make the type correspond to Him, who is undefiled and holy.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Leviticus 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/leviticus-1.html. 1913-1922.
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