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I. Laws and Ordinances Determining the Covenant Fellowship Between the Lord and Israel - Leviticus 1-16
The Laws of Sacrifice - Leviticus 1-7
When the glory of the Lord had entered the tabernacle in a cloud, God revealed Himself to Moses from this place of His gracious presence, according to His promise in Exodus 25:22, to make known His sacred will through him to the people (Leviticus 1:1). The first of these revelations related to the sacrifices, in which the Israelites were to draw near to Him, that they might become partakers of His grace.
(Note: Works relating to the sacrifices: Guil. Outram de sacrificiis libri duo, Amst. 1688; Bähr, Symbolik des mos. Cultus ii. pp. 189ff.; Kurtz on the Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament (Clark, 1863); and Oehler, in Herzog's Cyclopaedia. The rabbinical traditions are to be found in the two talmudical tractates Sebachim and Menachoth, and a brief summary of them is given in Otho lex. rabbin. philol. pp. 631ff.)
The patriarchs, when sojourning in Canaan, had already worshipped the God who revealed Himself to them, with both burnt-offerings and slain-offerings. Whether their descendants, the children of Israel, had offered sacrifices to the God of their fathers during their stay in the foreign land of Egypt, we cannot tell, as there is no allusion whatever to the subject in the short account of these 430 years. So much, however, is certain, that they had not forgotten to regard the sacrifices as a leading part of the worship of God, and were ready to follow Moses into the desert, to serve the God of their fathers there by a solemn act of sacrificial worship (Exodus 5:1-3, compared with Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 8:4, etc.); and also, that after the exodus from Egypt, not only did Jethro offer burnt-offerings and slain-offerings to God in the camp of the Israelites, and prepare a sacrificial meal in which the elders of Israel took part along with Moses and Aaron (Exodus 18:12), but young men offered burnt-offerings and slain-offerings by the command of Moses at the conclusion of the covenant (Exodus 24:5). Consequently the sacrificial laws of these chapters presuppose the presentation of burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and slain-offerings as a custom well known to the people, and a necessity demanded by their religious feelings (Leviticus 1:2-3, Leviticus 1:10, Leviticus 1:14; Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:4-5, Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 3:1, Leviticus 3:6, Leviticus 3:11). They were not introduced among the Israelites for the first time by Moses, as Knobel affirms, who also maintains that the feast of the Passover was the first animal sacrifice, and in fact a very imperfect one. Even animal sacrifices date from the earliest period of our race. Not only did Noah offer burnt-offerings of all clean animals and birds (Genesis 8:20), but Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock an offering to the Lord (Genesis 4:4).
(Note: When Knobel, in his Commentary on Leviticus (p. 347), endeavours to set aside the validity of these proofs, by affirming that sacrificial worship in the earliest times is merely a fancy of the Jehovist; apart altogether from the untenable character of the Elohistic and Jehovistic hypothesis, there is a sufficient proof that this subterfuge is worthless, in the fact that the so-called Elohist, instead of pronouncing Moses the originator of the sacrificial worship of the Hebrews, introduces his laws of sacrifice with this formula, “If any man of you bring an offering of cattle unto the Lord,” and thus stamps the presentation of animal sacrifice as a traditional custom. Knobel cannot adduce any historical testimony in support of his assertion, that, according to the opinion of the ancients, there were no animal sacrifices offered to the gods in the earliest times, but only meal, honey, vegetables, and flowers, roots, leaves, and fruit; all that he does is to quote a few passages from Plato, Plutarch, and Porphyry, in which these philosophers, who were much too young to answer the question, express their ideas and conjectures respecting the rise and progress of sacrificial worship among the nations.)
The object of the sacrificial laws in this book was neither to enforce sacrificial worship upon the Israelites, nor to apply “a theory concerning the Hebrew sacrifices” ( Knobel), but simply to organize and expand the sacrificial worship of the Israelites into an institution in harmony with the covenant between the Lord and His people, and adapted to promote the end for which it was established.
But although sacrifice in general reaches up to the earliest times of man's history, and is met with in every nation, it was not enjoined upon the human race by any positive command of God, but sprang out of a religious necessity for fellowship with God, the author, protector, and preserver of life, which was as innate in man as the consciousness of God itself, though it assumed very different forms in different tribes and nations, in consequence of their estrangement from God, and their growing loss of all true knowledge of Him, inasmuch as their ideas of the Divine Being so completely regulated the nature, object, and signification of the sacrifices they offered, that they were quite as subservient to the worship of idols as to that of the one true God. To discover the fundamental idea, which was common to all the sacrifices, we must bear in mind, on the one hand, that the first sacrifices were presented after the fall, and on the other hand, that we never meet with any allusion to expiation in the pre-Mosaic sacrifices of the Old Testament. Before the fall, man lived in blessed unity with God. This unity was destroyed by sin, and the fellowship between God and man was disturbed, though not entirely abolished. In the punishment which God inflicted upon the sinners, He did not withdraw His mercy from men; and before driving them out of paradise, He gave them clothes to cover the nakedness of their shame, by which they had first of all become conscious of their sin. Even after their expulsion He still manifested Himself to them, so that they were able once more to draw near to Him and enter into fellowship with Him. This fellowship they sought through the medium of sacrifices, in which they gave a visible expression not only to their gratitude towards God for His blessing and His grace, but also to their supplication for the further continuance of His divine favour. It was in this sense that both Cain and Abel offered sacrifice, though not with the same motives, or in the same state of heart towards God. In this sense Noah also offered sacrifice after his deliverance from the flood; the only apparent difference being this, that the sons of Adam offered their sacrifices to God from the fruit of their labour, in the tilling of the ground and the keeping of sheep, whereas Noah presented his burnt-offerings from the clean cattle and birds that had been shut up with him in the ark, i.e., from those animals which at any rate from that time forward were assigned to man as food (Genesis 9:3). Noah was probably led to make this selection by the command of God to take with him into the ark not one or more pairs, but seven of every kind of clean beasts, as he may have discerned in this an indication of the divine will, that the seventh animal of every description of clean beast and bird should be offered in sacrifice to the Lord, for His gracious protection from destruction by the flood. Moses also received a still further intimation as to the meaning of the animal sacrifices, in the prohibition which God appended to the permission to make use of animals as well as green herbs for food; viz., “flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (Genesis 9:4-5), that is to say, flesh which still contained the blood as the animal's soul. In this there was already an intimation, that in the bleeding sacrifice the soul of the animals was given up to God with the blood; and therefore, that by virtue of its blood, as the vehicle of the soul, animal sacrifice was the most fitting means of representing the surrender of the human soul to God. This truth may possibly have been only dimly surmised by Noah and his sons; but it must have been clearly revealed to the patriarch Abraham, when God demanded the sacrifice of his only son, with whom his whole heart was bound up, as a proof of his obedience of faith, and then, after he had attested his faith in his readiness to offer this sacrifice, supplied him with a ram to offer as a burnt-offering instead of his son (Gen 22). In this the truth was practically revealed to him, that the true God did not require human sacrifice from His worshippers, but the surrender of the heart and the denial of the natural life, even though it should amount to a submission to death itself, and also that this act of surrender was to be perfected in the animal sacrifice; and that it was only when presented with these motives that sacrifice could be well-pleasing to God. Even before this, however, God had given His sanction to the choice of clean or edible beasts and birds for sacrifice, in the command to Abram to offer such animals, as the sacrificial substratum for the covenant to be concluded with him (Gen 15).
Now, though nothing has been handed down concerning the sacrifices of the patriarchs, with the exception of Genesis 46:1., there can be no doubt that they offered burnt-offerings upon the altars which they built to the Lord, who appeared to them in different places in Canaan (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:4, Genesis 13:18; Genesis 26:25; Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:1-7), and embodied in these their solemn invocation of the name of God in prayer; since the close connection between sacrifice and prayer is clearly proved by such passages as Hosea 14:3; Hebrews 13:15, and is universally admitted.
(Note: Outram ( l. c. p. 213) draws the following conclusion from Hosea 14:3: “Prayer was a certain kind of sacrifice, and sacrifice a certain kind of prayer. Prayers were, so to speak, spiritual sacrifices, and sacrifices symbolical prayers.”)
To the burnt-offering there was added, in the course of time, the slain-offering, which is mentioned for the first time in Genesis 31:54, where Jacob seals the covenant, which has been concluded with Laban and sworn to by God, with a covenant meal. Whilst the burnt-offering, which was given wholly up to God and entirely consumed upon the altar, and which ascended to heaven in the smoke, set forth the self-surrender of man to God, the slain-offering, which culminated in the sacrificial meal, served as a seal of the covenant fellowship, and represented the living fellowship of man with God. Thus, when Jacob-Israel went down with his house to Egypt, he sacrificed at Beersheba, on the border of the promised land, to the God of his father Isaac, not burnt-offerings, but slain-offerings (Genesis 46:1), through which he presented his prayer to the Lord for preservation in covenant fellowship even in a foreign land, and in consequence of which he received the promise from God in a nocturnal vision, that He, the God of his father, would go with him to Egypt and bring him up again to Canaan, and so maintain the covenant which He had made with his fathers, and assuredly fulfil it in due time. The expiatory offerings, properly so called, viz., the sin and trespass-offerings, were altogether unknown before the economy of the Sinaitic law; and even if an expiatory element was included in the burnt-offerings, so far as they embodied self-surrender to God, and thus involved the need of union and reconciliation with Him, so little prominence is given to this in the pre-Mosaic sacrifices, that, as we have already stated, no reference is made to expiation in connection with them.
(Note: The notion, which is still very widely spread, that the burnt-offerings of Abel, Noah, and the patriarchs were expiatory sacrifices, in which the slaying of the sacrificial animals set forth the fact, that the sinner was deserving of death in the presence of the holy God, not only cannot be proved from the Scriptures, but is irreconcilable with the attitude of a Noah, an Abraham and other patriarchs, towards the Lord God. And even Kahnis's explanation, “The man felt that his own ipse must die, before it could enter into union with the Holy One, but he had also his surmises, that another life might possibly bear this death for him, and in this obscure feeling he took away the life of an animal that was physically clean,” is only true and to the point so far as the deeper forms of the development of the heathen consciousness of God are concerned, and not in the sphere of revealed religion, in which the expiatory sacrifices did not originate in any dim consciousness on the part of the sinner that he was deserving of death, but were appointed for the first time by God at Sinai, for the purpose of awakening and sharpening this feeling. There is no historical foundation for the arguments adduced by Hoffmann in support of the opinion, that there were sin-offerings before the Mosaic law; and the assertion, that sin-offerings and trespass-offerings were not really introduced by the law, but were presupposed as already well known, just as much as the burnt-offerings and thank-offerings, is obviously at variance with Lev 4 and 5.)
The reason for this striking fact is to be found in the circumstance, that godly men of the primeval age offered their sacrifices to a God who had drawn near to them in revelations of love. It is true that in former times God had made known His holy justice in the destruction of the wicked and the deliverance of the righteous (Genesis 6:13., Leviticus 18:16.), and had commanded Abraham to walk blamelessly before Him (Genesis 17:1); but He had only manifested Himself to the patriarchs in His condescending love and mercy, whereas He had made known His holiness in His very first revelation to Moses in the words, “Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes,” etc. (Exodus 3:5), and unfolded it more and more in all subsequent revelations, especially at Sinai. After Jehovah had there declared to the people of Israel, whom He had redeemed out of Egypt, that they were to be a holy nation to Him (Exodus 19:6), He appeared upon the mountain in the terrible glory of His holy nature, to conclude His covenant of grace with them by the blood of burnt-offerings and slain-offerings, so that the people trembled and were afraid of death if the Lord should speak to them any more (Exodus 20:18.). These facts preceded the laws of sacrifice, and not only prepared the way for them, but furnished the key to their true interpretation, by showing that it was only by sacrifice that the sinful nation could enter into fellowship with the holy God.
The laws of sacrifice in ch. 1-7 are divisible into two groups. The first (ch. 1-5) contains the general instructions, which were applicable both to the community as a whole and also the individual Israelites. Ch. 1-3 contain an account of the animals and vegetables which could be used for the three kinds of offerings that were already common among them, viz., the burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and slain-offerings; and precise rules are laid down for the mode in which they were to be offered. In ch. 4 and 5 the occasions are described on which sin-offerings and trespass-offerings were to be presented; and directions are given as to the sacrifices to be offered, and the mode of presentation on each separate occasion. The second group (ch. 6 and 7) contains special rules for the priests, with reference to their duties in connection with the different sacrifices, and the portions they were to receive; together with several supplementary laws, for example, with regard to the meat-offering of the priests, and the various kinds of slain or peace-offering. All these laws relate exclusively to the sacrifices to be offered spontaneously, either by individuals or by the whole community, the consciousness and confession of sin or debt being presupposed, even in the case of the sin and trespass-offerings, and their presentation being made to depend upon the free-will of those who had sinned. This is a sufficient explanation of the fact, that they contain no rules respecting either the time for presenting them, or the order in which they were to follow one another, when two or more were offered together. At the same time, the different rules laid down with regard to the ritual to be observed, applied not only to the private sacrifices, but also to those of the congregation, which were prescribed by special laws for every day, and for the annual festivals, as well as to the sacrifices of purification and consecration, for which no separate ritual is enjoined.
1. General Rules for the Sacrifices - Leviticus 1-5
The common term for sacrifices of every kind was Corban (presentation; see at Leviticus 1:2). It is not only applied to the burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and slain or peace-offerings, in Leviticus 1:2-3, Leviticus 1:10, Leviticus 1:14; Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:4., Leviticus 3:1-6, etc., but also to the sin-offerings and trespass-offerings in Leviticus 4:23, Leviticus 4:28, Leviticus 4:32; Leviticus 5:11; Numbers 5:15, etc., as being holy gifts (Exodus 28:38 cf. Numbers 18:9) with which Israel was to appear before the face of the Lord (Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16-17). These sacrificial gifts consisted partly of clean tame animals and birds, and partly of vegetable productions; and hence the division into the two classes of bleeding and bloodless (bloody and unbloody) sacrifices. The animals prescribed in the law are those of the herd, and the flock, the latter including both sheep and goats (Leviticus 1:2-3, Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 22:21; Numbers 15:3), two collective terms, for which ox and sheep, or goat (ox, sheep and goat) were the nomina usitatis (Leviticus 7:23; Leviticus 17:3; Leviticus 22:19, Leviticus 22:27; Numbers 15:11; Deuteronomy 14:4), that is to say, none but tame animals whose flesh was eaten (Leviticus 11:3; Deuteronomy 14:4); whereas unclean animals, though tame, such as asses, camels, and swine, were inadmissible; and game, though edible, e.g., the hare, the stag, the roebuck, and gazelle (Deuteronomy 14:5). Both male and female were offered in sacrifice, from the herd as well as the flock (Leviticus 3:1), and young as well as old, though not under eighty days old (Leviticus 22:27; Exodus 22:29); so that the ox was offered either as calf (Leviticus 9:2; Genesis 15:9; 1 Samuel 16:2) or as bullock, i.e., as young steer or heifer (Leviticus 4:3), or as full-grown cattle. Every sacrificial animal was to be without blemish, i.e., free from bodily faults (Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 22:19.). The only birds that were offered were turtle-doves and young pigeons (Leviticus 1:14), which were presented either by poor people as burnt-offerings, and as a substitute for the larger animals ordinarily required as sin-offerings and trespass-offerings (Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:22, Leviticus 14:31), or as sin and burnt-offerings, for defilements of a less serious kind (Leviticus 12:6-7; Leviticus 15:14, Leviticus 15:29-30; Numbers 6:10-11). The vegetable sacrifices consisted of meal, for the most part of fine flour (Leviticus 2:1), of cakes of different kinds (Leviticus 2:4-7), and of toasted ears or grains of corn (Leviticus 2:14), to which there were generally added oil and incense, but never leaven or honey (Leviticus 2:11); and also of wine for a drink-offering (Numbers 15:5.).
The bleeding sacrifices were divided into four classes: viz., (1) burnt-offerings (Lev 1), for which a male animal or pigeon only was admissible; (2) peace-offerings (slain-offerings of peace, Lev 3), which were divisible again into praise-offerings, vow-offerings, and freewill-offerings (Leviticus 7:12, Leviticus 7:16), and consisted of both male and female animals, but never of pigeons; (3) sin-offerings (Lev 4:1-5:13); and (4) trespass-offerings (Leviticus 5:14-19). Both male and female animals might be taken for the sin-offerings; and doves also could be used, sometimes independently, sometimes as substitutes for larger animals; and in cases of extreme poverty meal alone might be used (Leviticus 5:11). But for the trespass-offerings either a ram (Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:18; Leviticus 19:21) or a lamb had to be sacrificed (Leviticus 14:12; Numbers 6:12). All the sacrificial animals were to be brought “before Jehovah,” i.e., before the altar of burnt-offering, in the court of the tabernacle (Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 3:1, Leviticus 3:7, Leviticus 3:12; Leviticus 4:4). There the offerer was to rest his hand upon the head of the animal (Leviticus 1:4), and then to slaughter it, flay it, cut it in pieces, and prepare it for a sacrificial offering; after which the priest would attend to the sprinkling of the blood and the burning upon the altar fire (Leviticus 1:5-9; Leviticus 6:2., Leviticus 21:6). In the case of the burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, and trespass-offerings, the blood was swung all round against the walls of the altar (Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13; Leviticus 7:2); in that of the sin-offerings a portion was placed upon the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, and in certain circumstances it was smeared upon the horns of the altar of incense, or sprinkled upon the ark of the covenant in the most holy place, and the remainder poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering (Leviticus 4:5-7, Leviticus 4:16-18, Leviticus 4:25, Leviticus 4:30). In the case of the burnt-offering, the flesh was all burned upon the altar, together with the head and entrails, the latter having been previously cleansed (Leviticus 1:8, Leviticus 1:13); in that of the peace-offerings, sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings, the fat portions only were burned upon the altar, viz., the larger and smaller caul, the fat upon the entrails and inner muscles of the loins, and the kidneys with their fat (Leviticus 3:9-11, Leviticus 3:14-16; Leviticus 4:8-10, Leviticus 4:19, Leviticus 4:26, Leviticus 4:31, Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 7:3-5). When a peace-offering was presented, the breast piece and right leg were given to Jehovah for the priests, and the rest of the flesh was used and consumed by the offerer in a sacrificial meal (Leviticus 7:15-17, Leviticus 7:30-34). But the flesh of the trespass-offerings and sin-offerings of the laity was boiled and eaten by the priests in a holy place, i.e., in the court of the tabernacle (Leviticus 6:19, Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 7:6). In the sin-offerings presented for the high priest and the whole congregation the animal was all burnt in a clean place outside the camp, including even the skin, the entrails, and the ordure (Leviticus 4:11-12, Leviticus 4:21). When the sacrifice consisted of pigeons, the priest let the blood flow down the wall of the altar, or sprinkled it against it; and then, if the pigeon was brought as a burnt-offering, he burnt it upon the altar after taking away the crop and faeces; but if it was brought for a sin-offering, he probably followed the rule laid down in Leviticus 1:15 and Leviticus 5:8.
The bloodless gifts were employed as meat and drink-offerings. The meat-offering ( minchah ) was presented sometimes by itself, at other times in connection with burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. The independence of the meat-offering, which has been denied by Bähr and Kurtz on insufficient grounds, is placed beyond all doubt, not only by the meat-offering of the priests (Leviticus 6:13.) and the so-called jealousy-offering (Numbers 5:15.), but also by the position in which it is placed in the laws of sacrifice, between the burnt and peace-offerings. From the instructions in Num 15:1-16, to offer a meat-offering mixed with oil and a drink-offering of wine with every burnt-offering and peace-offering, the quantity to be regulated by the size of the animal, it by no means follows that all the meat-offerings were simply accompaniments to the bleeding sacrifices, and were only to be offered in connection with them. On the contrary, inasmuch as these very instructions prescribe only a meat-offering of meal with oil, together with a drink-offering of wine, as the accompaniment to the burnt and peace-offerings, without mentioning incense at all, they rather prove that the meat-offerings mentioned in Lev 2, which might consist not only of meal and oil, with which incense had to be used, but also of cakes of different kinds and roasted corn, are to be distinguished from the mere accompaniments mentioned in Num 15. In addition to this, it is to be observed that pastry, in the form of cakes of different kinds, was offered with the praise-offerings, according to Leviticus 7:12., and probably with the two other species of peace-offerings as well; so that we should introduce an irreconcilable discrepancy between Num 15 and Lev 2, if we were to restrict all the meat-offerings to the accompaniments mentioned in Num 15, or reduce them to merely dependent additions to the burnt and peace-offerings. Only a portion of the independent meat-offerings was burnt by the priest upon the altar (Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 2:9, Leviticus 2:16); the rest was to be baked without leaven, and eaten by the priests in the court, as being most holy (Leviticus 6:8-11): it was only the meat-offering of the priests that was all burned upon the altar (Leviticus 6:16). - The law contains no directions as to what was to be done with the drink-offering; but the wine was no doubt poured round the foot of the altar (Ecclus. l. 15. Josephus, Ant. iii. 9, 4).
The great importance of the sacrifices prescribed by the law may be inferred to a great extent, apart from the fact that sacrifice in general was founded upon the dependence of man upon God, and his desire for the restoration of that living fellowship with Him which had been disturbed by sin, from the circumstantiality and care with which both the choice of the sacrifices and the mode of presenting them are most minutely prescribed. But their special meaning and importance in relation to the economy of the Old Covenant are placed beyond all question by the position they assumed in the ritual of the Israelites, forming as they did the centre of all their worship, so that scarcely any sacred action was performed without sacrifice, whilst they were also the medium through which forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with the Lord were obtained, either by each individual Israelite, or by the congregation as a whole. This significance, which was deeply rooted in the spiritual life of Israel, is entirely destroyed by those who lay exclusive stress upon the notion of presentation or gift, and can see nothing more in the sacrifices than a “renunciation of one's own property,” for the purpose of “expressing reverence and devotion, love and gratitude to God by such a surrender, and at the same time of earning and securing His favour.”
(Note: This is the view expressed by Knobel in his Commentary on Leviticus, p. 346, where the idea is carried out in the following manner: in the dedication of animals they preferred to give the offering the form of a meal, which was provided for God, and of which flesh formed the principal part, though bread and wine could not be omitted. These meals of animal food were prepared every day in the daily burnt-offerings, just as the more respectable classes in the East eat animal food every day, and give the preference to food of this kind; and the daily offering of incense corresponded to the oriental custom of fumigating rooms, and burning perfumes in honour of a guest. At the same time Knobel also explains, that the Hebrews hardly attributed any wants of a sensual kind of Jehovah; or, at any rate, that the educated did not look upon the sacrifice as food for Jehovah, or regard the festal sacrifices as festal meals for Him, but may simply have thought of the fact that Jehovah was to be worshipped at all times, and more especially at the feasts, and that in this the prevailing and traditional custom was to be observed.)
The true significance of the legal sacrifices cannot be correctly and fully deduced from the term corban, which was common to them all, or from such names as were used to denote the different varieties of sacrifice, or even from the materials employed and the ritual observed, but only from all these combined, and from an examination of them in connection with the nature and design of the Old Testament economy.
Regarded as offerings or gifts, the sacrifices were only means by which Israel was to seek and sustain communion with its God. These gifts were to be brought by the Israelites from the blessing which God had bestowed upon the labour of their hands (Deuteronomy 16:17), that is to say, from the fruit of their regular occupations, viz., agriculture and the rearing of cattle; in other words, from the cattle they had reared, or the produce of the land they had cultivated, which constituted their principal articles of food (viz., edible animals and pigeons, corn, oil, and wine), in order that in these sacrificial gifts they might consecrate to the Lord their God, not only their property and food, but also the fruit of their ordinary avocations. In this light the sacrifices are frequently called “food (bread) of firing for Jehovah” (Leviticus 3:11, Leviticus 3:16) and “bread of God” (Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8, Leviticus 21:17); by which we are not to suppose that food offered to God for His own nourishment is intended, but food produced by the labour of man, and then caused to ascend as a firing to his God, for an odour of satisfaction (vid., Leviticus 3:11).
In the clean animals, which he had obtained by his own training and care, and which constituted his ordinary live-stock, and in the produce obtained through the labour of his hands in the field and vineyard, from which he derived his ordinary support, the Israelite offered not his victus as a symbolum vitae , but the food which he procured in the exercise of his God-appointed calling, as a symbol of the spiritual food which endureth unto everlasting life (John 6:27, cf. Leviticus 4:34), and which nourishes both soul and body for imperishable life in fellowship with God, that in these sacrificial gifts he might give up to the Lord, who had adopted him as His own possession, not so much the substance of his life, or that which sustained and preserved it, as the agens of his life, or his labour and toil, and all the powers he possessed, and might receive sanctification from the Lord in return. In this way the sacrificial gifts acquire a representative character, and denote the self-surrender of a man, with all his labour and productions, to God. But the idea of representation received a distinct form and sacrificial character for the first time in the animal sacrifice, which was raised by the covenant revelation and the giving of the law into the very centre and soul of the whole institution of sacrifice, and primarily by the simple fact, that in the animal a life, a “living soul,” was given up to death and offered to God, to be the medium of vital fellowship to the man who had been made a “living soul” by the inspiration of the breath of God; but still more by the fact, that God had appointed the blood of the sacrificial animal, as the vehicle of its soul, to be the medium of expiation for the souls of men (Leviticus 17:11).
The verb “ to expiate ” ( כּפּר , from כּפר to cover, construed with על htiw d objecti ; see Leviticus 1:4) “does not signify to cause a sin not to have occurred, for that is impossible, nor to represent it as not existing, for that would be opposed to the stringency of the law, nor to pay or make compensation for it through the performance of any action; but to cover it over before God, i.e., to take away its power of coming in between God and ourselves” ( Kahnis, Dogmatik, i. p. 271). But whilst this is perfectly true, the object primarily expiated, or to be expiated, according to the laws of sacrifice, is not the sin, but rather the man, or the soul of the offerer. God gave the Israelites the blood of the sacrifices upon the altar to cover their souls (Leviticus 17:11) The end it answered was “to cover him” (the offerer, Leviticus 1:4); and even in the case of the sin-offering the only object was to cover him who had sinned, as concerning his sin (Leviticus 4:26, Leviticus 4:35, etc.). But the offerer of the sacrifice was covered, on account of his unholiness, from before the holy God, or, speaking more precisely, from the wrath of God and the manifestation of that wrath; that is to say, from the punishment which his sin had deserved, as we may clearly see from Genesis 32:20, and still more clearly from Exodus 32:30. In the former case Jacob's object is to reconcile ( כּפּר ) the face of his brother Esau by means of a present, that is to say, to modify the wrath of his brother, which he has drawn upon himself by taking away the blessing of the first-born. In the latter, Moses endeavours by means of his intercession to expiate the sin of the people, over whom the wrath of God is about to burn to destroy them (Exodus 32:9-10); in other words, to protect the people from the destruction which threatens them in consequence of the wrath of God (see also Numbers 17:11-12; Numbers 25:11-13). The power to make expiation, i.e., to cover an unholy man from before the holy God, or to cover the sinner from the wrath of God, is attributed to the blood of the sacrificial animal, only so far as the soul lives in the blood, and the soul of the animal when sacrificed takes the place of the human soul. This substitution is no doubt incongruous, since the animal and man differ essentially the one from the other; inasmuch as the animal follows an involuntary instinct, and its soul being constrained by the necessities of its nature is not accountable, and it is only in this respect that it can be regarded as sinless; whilst man, on the contrary, is endowed with freedom of will, and his soul, by virtue of the indwelling of his spirit, is not only capable of accountability, but can contract both sin and guilt. When God, therefore, said, “I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Leviticus 17:11), and thus attributed to the blood of the sacrificial animals a significance which it could not naturally possess; this was done in anticipation of the true and perfect sacrifice which Christ, the Son of man and God, would offer in the fulness of time through the holy and eternal Spirit, for the reconciliation of the whole world (Hebrews 9:14). This secret of the unfathomable love of the triune God was hidden from the Israelites in the law, but it formed the real background for the divine sanction of the animal sacrifices, whereby they acquired a typical signification, so that they set forth in shadow that reconciliation, which God from all eternity had determined to effect by giving up His only-begotten Son to death, as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world.
But however firmly the truth is established that the blood of the sacrifice intervened as a third object between the sinful man and the holy God, it was not the blood of the animal in itself which actually took the place of the man, nor was it the shedding of the blood in itself which was able to make expiation for the sinful man, in such a sense that the slaying of the animal had a judicial and penal character and the offering of sacrifice was an act of judgment instead of an ordinance of grace, as the juridical theory maintains. It was simply the blood as the vehicle of the soul, when sprinkled or poured out upon the altar, that is to say, it was the surrender of an innocent life to death, and through death to God, that was the medium of expiation. Even in the sacrifice of Christ it was not by the shedding of blood, or simply by the act of dying, that His death effected reconciliation, but by the surrender of His life to death, in which He not only shed His blood for us, but His body also was broken for us, to redeem us from sin and reconcile us to God. And even the suffering and death of Christ effect our reconciliation not simply by themselves, but as the completion of His sinless, holy life, in which, through doing and suffering, He was obedient even to the death of the cross, and through that obedience fulfilled the law as the holy will of God for us, and bore and suffered the punishment of our transgression. Through His obedientia activa et passiva in life and death Christ rendered to the holy justice of God that satisfactio et poena vicaria , by virtue of which we receive forgiveness of sin, righteousness before God, reconciliation, grace, salvation, and eternal life. But these blessings of grace and salvation, which we owe to the sacrificial death of Christ, do not really become ours through the simple fact that Christ has procured them for man. We have still to appropriate them in faith, by dying spiritually with Christ, and rising with Him to a new life in God. This was also the case with the sacrifices of the Old Testament. They too only answered their end, when the Israelites, relying upon the word and promise of God, grasped and employed by faith the means of grace afforded them in the animal sacrifices; i.e., when in these sacrifices they offered themselves, or their personal life, as a sacrifice well-pleasing to God. The symbolical meaning of the sacrifices, which is involved in this, is not excluded or destroyed by the idea of representation, or representative mediation between sinful man and the holy God, which was essential to them. It is rather demanded as their complement, inasmuch as, without this, the sacrificial worship would degenerate into a soulless opus operatum , and would even lose its typical character. This symbolical significance is strikingly expressed in the instructions relating to the nature of the sacrificial gifts, and the ritual connected with their presentation; and in the law it comes into the foreground just in proportion as the typical character of the sacrifices was concealed at the time in the wise economy of God, and was only unfolded to the spiritual vision of the prophets (Isa 43) with the progressive unfolding of the divine plan of salvation.
The leading features of the symbolical and typical meaning of the sacrifices are in their general outline the following. Every animal offered in sacrifice was to be תּמים , ἄμωμος , free from faults; not merely on the ground that only a faultless and perfect gift could be an offering fit for the Holy and Perfect One, but chiefly because moral faults were reflected in those of the body, and to prefigure the sinlessness and holiness of the true sacrifice, and warn the offerer that the sanctification of all his members was indispensable to a self-surrender to God, the Holy One, and to life in fellowship with Him. In connection with the act of sacrifice, it was required that the offerer should bring to the tabernacle the animal appointed for sacrifice, and there present it before Jehovah (Leviticus 1:3), because it was there that Jehovah dwelt among His people, and it was from His holy dwelling that He would reveal Himself to His people as their God. There the offerer was to lay his hand upon the head of the animal, that the sacrifice might be acceptable for him, to make expiation for him (Leviticus 1:4), and then to slay the animal and prepare it for a sacrificial gift. By the laying on of his hand he not only set apart the sacrificial animal for the purpose for which he had come to the sanctuary, but transferred the feelings of his heart, which impelled him to offer the sacrifice, or the intention with which he brought the gift, to the sacrificial animal, so that his own head passed, as it were, to the head of the animal, and the latter became his substitute (see my Archäologie i. 206; Oehler, p. 267; Kahnis, i. p. 270). By the slaughter of the animal he gave it up to death, not merely for the double purpose of procuring the blood, in which was the life of the animal, as an expiation for his own soul, and its flesh as fire-food for Jehovah, - for if the act of dying was profoundly significant in the case of the perfect sacrifice, it cannot have been without symbolical significance in the case of the typical sacrifice, - but to devote his own life to God in the death of the sacrificial animal which was appointed as his substitute, and to set forth not only his willingness to die, but the necessity for the old man to die, that he might attain to life in fellowship with God. After this self-surrender the priestly mediation commenced, the priest sprinkling the blood upon the altar, or its horns, and in one instance before Jehovah's throne of grace, and then burning the flesh or fat of the sacrifice upon the altar. The altar was the spot where God had promised to meet with His people (Exodus 29:42), to reconcile them to Himself, and bestow His grace upon them. Through this act of sprinkling the blood of the animal that had been given up to death upon the altar, the soul of the offerer was covered over before the holy God; and by virtue of this covering it was placed within the sphere of divine grace, which forgave the sin and filled the soul with power for new life. Fire was constantly burning upon the altar, which was prepared and kept up by the priest (Leviticus 6:5). Fire, from its inherent power to annihilate what is perishable, ignoble, and corrupt, is a symbol in the Scriptures, sometimes of purification, and sometimes of torment and destruction. That which has an imperishable kernel within it is purified by the fire, the perishable materials which have adhered to it or penetrated within it being burned out and destroyed, and the imperishable and nobler substance being thereby purified from all dross; whilst, on the other hand, in cases where the imperishable is completely swallowed up in the perishable, no purification ensues, but total destruction by the fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). Hence fire is employed as a symbol and vehicle of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4), and the fire burning upon the altar was a symbolical representation of the working of the purifying Spirit of God; so that the burning of the flesh of the sacrifice upon the altar “represented the purification of the man, who had been reconciled to God, through the fire of the Holy Spirit, which consumes what is flesh, to pervade what is spirit with light and life, and thus to transmute it into the blessedness of fellowship with God” ( Kahnis, p. 272).
It follows from this, that the relation which the sprinkling of the blood and the burning of the flesh of the sacrifice upon the altar bore to one another was that of justification and sanctification, those two indispensable conditions, without which sinful man could not attain to reconciliation with God and life in God. But as the sinner could neither justify himself before God nor sanctify himself by his own power, the sprinkling of blood and the burning of the portions of the sacrifice upon the altar were to be effected, not by the offerer himself, but only by the priest, as the mediator whom God had chosen and sanctified, not only that the soul which had been covered by the sacrificial blood might thereby be brought to God and received into His favour, but also that the bodily members, of which the flesh of the sacrifice was a symbol, might be given up to the fire of the Holy Spirit, to be purified and sanctified from the dross of sin, and raised in a glorified state to God; just as the sacrificial gift was consumed in the altar fire, so that, whilst its earthly perishable elements were turned into ashes and left behind, its true essence ascended towards heaven, where God is enthroned, in the most ethereal and glorified of material forms, as a sweet-smelling savour, i.e., as an acceptable offering. These two priestly acts, however, were variously modified according to the different objects of the several kinds of sacrifice. In the sin-offering the expiation of the sinner is brought into the greatest prominence; in the burnt-offering this falls into the background behind the idea of the self-surrender of a man to God for the sanctification of all his members, through the grace of God; and lastly, the peace-offering culminated in the peace of living communion with the Lord. (See the explanation of the several laws.)
The materials and ritual of the bloodless sacrifices, and also their meaning and purpose, are much more simple. The meat and drink-offerings were not means of expiation, nor did they include the idea of representation. They were simply gifts, in which the Israelites offered bread, oil, and wine, as fruits of the labour of their hands in the field and vineyard of the inheritance they had received from the Lord, and embodied in these earthly gifts the fruits of their spiritual labour in the kingdom of God (see at Lev 2).
The Burnt-Offering. - Leviticus 1:2. “ If any one of you present an offering to Jehovah of cattle, ye shall present your offering from the herd and from the flock.” קרבּן ( Corban, from הקריב to cause to draw near, to bring near, or present, an offering) is applied not only to the sacrifices, which were burned either in whole or in part upon the altar (Leviticus 7:38; Numbers 18:9; Numbers 28:2, etc.), but to the first-fruits (Leviticus 2:12), and dedicatory offerings, which were presented to the Lord for His sanctuary and His service without being laid upon the altar (Numbers 7:3, Numbers 7:10., Numbers 31:50). The word is only used in Leviticus and Numbers, and two passages in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:28; Ezekiel 40:43), where it is taken from the books of Moses, and is invariably rendered δῶρον in the lxx (cf. Mark 7:11 “ Corban, that is to say a gift ”). הבּהמה מן ( from the cattle) belongs to the first clause, though it is separated from it by the Athnach; and the apodosis begins with הבּקר מן ( from the herd). The actual antithesis to “the cattle” is “the fowl” in Leviticus 1:14; though grammatically the latter is connected with Leviticus 1:10, rather than Leviticus 1:2. The fowls (pigeons) cannot be included in the behemah , for this is used to denote, not domesticated animals generally, but the larger domesticated quadrupeds, or tame cattle (cf. Genesis 1:25).
Ceremonial connected with the offering of an ox as a burnt-offering. עלה (vid., Genesis 8:20) is generally rendered by the lxx ὁλοκαύτωμα or ὁλοκαύτωσις , sometimes ὁλοκάρπωμα or ὁλοκάρπωσις , in the Vulgate holocaustum , because the animal was all consumed upon the altar. The ox was to be a male without blemish ( ἄμωμος , integer ; i.e., free from bodily faults, see Leviticus 22:19-25), and to be presented “ at the door of the tabernacle, ” - i.e., near to the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 40:6), where all the offerings were to be presented (Leviticus 17:8-9), - “ for good pleasure for him (the offerer) before Jehovah, ” i.e., that the sacrifice might secure to him the good pleasure of God (Exodus 28:38).
“ he (the offerer) shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering.” The laying on of hands, by which, to judge from the verb סמך to lean upon, we are to understand a forcible pressure of the hand upon the head of the victim, took place in connection with all the slain-offerings (the offering of pigeons perhaps excepted), and is expressly enjoined in the laws for the burnt-offerings, the peace-offerings (Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:7, Leviticus 3:13), and the sin-offerings (Leviticus 4:4, Leviticus 4:15, Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:29, Leviticus 4:33), that is to say, in every case in which the details of the ceremonial are minutely described. But if the description is condensed, then no allusion is made to it: e.g., in the burnt-offering of sheep and goats (Leviticus 1:11), the sin-offering (Leviticus 5:6), and the trespass-offering (Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:18, 25). This ceremony was not a sign of the removal of something from his own power and possession, or the surrender and dedication of it to God, as Rosenmüller and Knobel
(Note: Hence Knobel's assertion (at Leviticus 7:2), that the laying on of the hand upon the head of the animal, which is prescribed in the case of all the other sacrifices, was omitted in that of the trespass-offering alone, needs correction, and there is no foundation for the conclusion, that it did not take place in connection with the trespass-offering.)
affirm; nor an indication of ownership and of a readiness to give up his own to Jehovah, as Bähr maintains; nor a symbol of the imputation of sin, as Kurtz supposes:
(Note: This was the view held by some of the Rabbins and of the earlier theologians, e.g., Calovius, bibl. ill. ad Lev. i. 4, Lundius and others, but by no means by “most of the Rabbins, some of the fathers, and most of the earlier archaeologists and doctrinal writers,” as is affirmed by Bähr (ii. p. 336), who supports his assertion by passages from Outram, which refer to the sin-offering only, but which Bähr transfers without reserve to all the bleeding sacrifices, thus confounding substitution with the imputation of sin, in his antipathy to the orthodox doctrine of satisfaction. Outram's general view of this ceremony is expressed clearly enough in the following passages: “ ritus erat ea notandi ac designandi, quae vel morti devota erant, vel Dei gratiae commendata, vel denique gravi alicui muneri usuique sacro destinata. Eique ritui semper adhiberi solebant verba aliqua explicata, quae rei susceptae rationi maxime congruere viderentur ” ( l.c. 8 and 9). With reference to the words which explained the imposition of hands he observes: “ ita ut sacris piacularibus culparum potissimum confessiones cum poenae deprecatione junctas, voluntariis bonorum precationes, eucharisticus autem et votivis post res prosperas impetratas periculave depulsa factis laudes et gratiarum actiones, omnique denique victimarum generi ejusmodi preces adjunctas putem, quae cuique maxime conveniebant ” (c. 9).)
but the symbol of a transfer of the feelings and intentions by which the offerer was actuated in presenting his sacrifice, whereby he set apart the animal as a sacrifice, representing his own person in one particular aspect. Now, so far as the burnt-offering expressed the intention of the offerer to consecrate his life and labour to the Lord, and his desire to obtain the expiation of the sin which still clung to all his works and desires, in order that they might become well-pleasing to God, he transferred the consciousness of his sinfulness to the victim by the laying on of hands, even in the case of the burnt-offering. But this was not all: he also transferred the desire to walk before God in holiness and righteousness, which he could not do without the grace of God. This, and no more than this, is contained in the words, “that it may become well-pleasing to him, to make atonement for him.” כּפּר with Seghol ( Ges. §52), to expiate (from the Kal כּפר , which is not met with in Hebrew, the word in Genesis 6:14 being merely a denom. verb, but which signifies texit in Arabic), is generally construed with על like verbs of covering, and in the laws of sacrifice with the person as the object (“for him,” Leviticus 4:26, Leviticus 4:31, Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 5:6, Leviticus 5:10., Leviticus 14:20, Leviticus 14:29, etc.; “for them,” Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 10:17; “for her,” Leviticus 12:7; for a soul, Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 30:15, cf. Numbers 8:12), and in the case of the sin-offerings with a second object governed either by על or מן ( חטּאתו על עליו Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 5:13, Leviticus 5:18, or מחטּאתו עליו Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 5:6, etc., to expiate him over or on account of his sin); also, though not so frequently, with בּעד pers., ἐξιλάζεσθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ (Leviticus 16:6, Leviticus 16:24; 2 Chronicles 30:18), and חטּאת בּעד , ἐξιλάζεσθαι περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας (Exodus 32:30), and with ל pers., to permit expiation to be made (Deuteronomy 21:8; Ezekiel 16:63); also with the accusative of the object, though in prose only in connection with the expiation of inanimate objects defiled by sin (Leviticus 16:33).
The expiation was always made or completed by the priest, as the sanctified mediator between Jehovah and the people, or, previous to the institution of the Aaronic priesthood, by Moses, the chosen mediator of the covenant, not by “Jehovah from whom the expiation proceeded,” as Bähr supposes. For although all expiation has its ultimate foundation in the grace of God, which desires not the death of the sinner, but his redemption and salvation, and to this end has opened a way of salvation, and sanctified sacrifice as the means of expiation and mercy; it is not Jehovah who makes the expiation, but this is invariably the office or work of a mediator, who intervenes between the holy God and sinful man, and by means of expiation averts the wrath of God from the sinner, and brings the grace of God to bear upon him. It is only in cases where the word is used in the secondary sense of pardoning sin, or showing mercy, that God is mentioned as the subject (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:8; Psalms 65:4; Psalms 78:38; Jeremiah 17:23).
(Note: The meaning “to make atonement” lies at the foundation in every passage in which the word is used metaphorically, such as Genesis 32:21, where Jacob seeks to expiate the face of his angry brother, i.e., to appease his wrath, with a present; or Proverbs 16:14, “the wrath of a king is as messengers of death, but a wise man expiates it, i.e., softens, pacifies it;” Isaiah 47:11, “Mischief (destruction) will fall upon thee, thou will not be able to expiate it,” that is to say, to avert the wrath of God, which has burst upon thee in the calamity, by means of an expiatory sacrifice. Even in Isaiah 28:18, “and your covenant with death is disannulled” (annihilated) ( וכפּר ), the use of the word כפר is to be explained from the fact that the guilt, which brought the judgment in its train, could be cancelled by a sacrificial expiation (cf. Isaiah 6:7 and Isaiah 22:14); so that there is no necessity to resort to a meaning which is altogether foreign to the word, viz., that of covering up by blotting over. When Hoffmann therefore maintains that there is no other way of explaining the use of the word in these passages, than by the supposition that, in addition to the verb כפר to cover, there was another denominative verb, founded upon the word כּפר a covering, or payment, the stumblingblock in the use of the word lies simply this, that Hoffmann has taken a one-sided view of the idea of expiation, through overlooking the fact, that the expiation had reference to the wrath of God which hung over the sinner and had to be averted from him by means of expiation, as is clearly proved by Exodus 32:30 as compared with Exodus 32:10 and Exodus 32:22. The meaning of expiation which properly belongs to the verb כּפּר is not only retained in the nouns cippurim and capporeth , but lies at the root of the word copher , which is formed from the Kal, as we may clearly see from Exodus 30:12-16, where the Israelites are ordered to pay a copher at the census, to expiate their souls, i.e., to cover their souls from the death which threatens the unholy, when he draws near without expiation to a holy God. Vid., Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.)
The medium of expiation in the case of the sacrifice was chiefly the blood of the sacrificial animal that was sprinkled upon the altar (Leviticus 17:11); in addition to which, the eating of the flesh of the sin-offering by the priests is also called bearing the iniquity of the congregation to make atonement for them (Leviticus 10:17). In other cases it was the intercession of Moses (Exodus 32:30); also the fumigation with holy incense, which was a symbol of priestly intercession (Numbers 17:11). On one occasion it was the zeal of Phinehas, when he stabbed the Israelite with a spear for committing fornication with a Midianite (Numbers 25:8, Numbers 25:13). In the case of a murder committed by an unknown hand, it was the slaying of an animal in the place of the murderer who remained undiscovered (Deuteronomy 21:1-9); whereas in other cases blood-guiltiness (murder) could not be expiated in any other way than by the blood of the person by whom it had been shed (Numbers 35:33). In Isaiah 27:9, a divine judgment, by which the nation was punished, is so described, as serving to avert the complete destruction which threatened it. And lastly, it was in some cases a כּפר , such, for example, as the atonement-money paid at the numbering of the people (Exodus 30:12.), and the payment made in the case referred to in Exodus 21:30.
If, therefore, the idea of satisfaction unquestionably lay at the foundation of the atonement that was made, in all those cases in which it was effected by a penal judgment, or judicial poena ; the intercession of the priest, or the fumigation which embodied it, cannot possibly be regarded as a satisfaction rendered to the justice of God, so that we cannot attribute the idea of satisfaction to every kind of sacrificial expiation. Still less can it be discerned in the slaying of the animal, when simply regarded as the shedding of blood. To this we may add, that in the laws for the sin-offering there is no reference at all to expiation; and in the case of the burnt-offering, the laying on of hands is described as the act by which it was to become well-pleasing to God, and to expiate the offerer. Now, if the laying on of hands was accompanied with a prayer, as the Jewish tradition affirms, and as we may most certainly infer from Deuteronomy 26:13, apart altogether from Leviticus 16:21, although no prayer is expressly enjoined; then in the case of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, it is in this prayer, or the imposition of hands which symbolized it, and by which the offerer substituted the sacrifice for himself and penetrated it with his spirit, that we must seek for the condition upon which the well-pleased acceptance of the sacrifice on the part of Fog depended, and in consequence of which it became an atonement for him; in other words, was fitted to cover him in the presence of the holiness of God.
The laying on of hands was followed by the slaughtering ( שׁחט , never המית to put to death), which was performed by the offerer himself in the case of the private sacrifices, and by the priests and Levites in that of the national and festal offerings (2 Chronicles 29:22, 2 Chronicles 29:24, 2 Chronicles 29:34). The slaughtering took place “ before Jehovah ” (see Leviticus 1:3), or, according to the more precise account in Leviticus 1:11, on the side of the altar northward, for which the expression “before the door of the tabernacle” is sometimes used (Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13, etc.). בּקר בּן (a young ox) is applied to a calf ( עגל ) in Leviticus 9:2, and a mature young bull ( פּר ) in Leviticus 4:3, Leviticus 4:14. But the animal of one year old is called עגל in Leviticus 9:2, and the mature ox of seven years old is called פּר in Judges 6:25. At the slaughtering the blood was caught by the priests (2 Chronicles 29:22), and sprinkled upon the altar. When the sacrifices were very numerous, as at the yearly feasts, the Levites helped to catch the blood (2 Chronicles 30:16); but the sprinkling upon the altar was always performed by the priests alone. In the case of the burnt-offerings, the blood was swung “against the altar round about,” i.e., against all four sides (walls) of the altar (not “over the surface of the altar”); i.e., it was poured out of the vessel against the walls of the altar with a swinging motion. This was also done when peace-offerings (Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13; Leviticus 9:18) and trespass-offerings (Leviticus 7:2) were sacrificed; but it was not so with the sin-offering (see at Leviticus 4:5).
The offerer was then to flay the slaughtered animal, to cut it ( נתּח generally rendered μελίζειν in the lxx) into its pieces, - i.e., to cut it up into the different pieces, into which an animal that has been killed is generally divided, namely, according to the separate joints, or “according to the bones” (Judges 19:29), - that he might boil its flesh in pots (Ezekiel 24:4, Ezekiel 24:6). He was also to wash its intestines and the lower part of its legs (Leviticus 1:9). קרב , the inner part of the body, or the contents of the inner part of the body, signifies the viscera; not including those of the breast, however, such as the lungs, heart, and liver, to which the term is also applied in other cases (for in the case of the peace-offerings, when the fat which envelopes the intestines, the kidneys, and the liver-lobes was to be placed upon the altar, there is no washing spoken of), but the intestines of the abdomen or belly, such as the stomach and bowels, which would necessarily have to be thoroughly cleansed, even when they were about to be used as food. כּרעים , which is only found in the dual, and always in connection either with oxen and sheep, or with the springing legs of locusts (Leviticus 11:21), denotes the shin, or calf below the knee, or the leg from the knee down to the foot.
It was the duty of the sons of Aaron, i.e., of the priests, to offer the sacrifice upon the altar. To this end they were to “ put fire upon the altar ” (of course this only applies to the first burnt-offering presented after the erection of the altar, as the fire was to be constantly burning upon the altar after that, without being allowed to go out, Leviticus 6:6), and to lay “ wood in order upon the fire ” ( ערך to lay in regular order), and then to “ lay the parts, the head and the fat, in order upon the wood on the fire, ” and thus to cause the whole to ascend in smoke. פּדר , which is only used in connection with the burnt-offering (Leviticus 1:8, Leviticus 1:12, and Leviticus 8:20), signifies, according to the ancient versions (lxx στέαρ ) and the rabbinical writers, the fat, probably those portions of fat which were separated from the entrails and taken out to wash. Bochart's explanation is adeps a carne sejunctus . The head and fat are specially mentioned along with the pieces of flesh, partly because they are both separated from the flesh when animals are slaughtered, and partly also to point out distinctly that the whole of the animal (“ all,” Leviticus 1:9) was to be burned upon the altar, with the exception of the skin, which was given to the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:8), and the contents of the intestines. הקטיר , to cause to ascend in smoke and steam (Exodus 30:7), which is frequently construed with המּזבּחה towards the altar ( ה local, so used as to include position in a place; vid., Leviticus 1:13, Leviticus 1:15, Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 2:9, etc.), or with המּזבּח (Leviticus 6:8), or על־המּזבּח (Leviticus 9:13, Leviticus 9:17), was the technical expression for burning the sacrifice upon the altar, and showed that the intention was not simply to burn those portions of the sacrifice which were placed in the fire, i.e., to destroy, or turn them into ashes, but by this process of burning to cause the odour which was eliminated to ascend to heaven as the ethereal essence of the sacrifice, for a “ firing of a sweet savour unto Jehovah.” אשּׁה , firing (“an offering made by fire,” Eng. Ver.), is the general expression used to denote the sacrifices, which ascended in fire upon the altar, whether animal or vegetable (Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 2:11, Leviticus 2:16), and is also applied to the incense laid upon the shew-bread (Leviticus 24:7); and hence the shew-bread itself (Leviticus 24:7), and even those portions of the sacrifices which Jehovah assigned to the priests for them to eat (Deuteronomy 18:1 cf. Joshua 13:14), came also to be included in the firings for Jehovah. The word does not occur out of the Pentateuch, except in Joshua 13:14 and 1 Samuel 2:28. In the laws of sacrifice it is generally associated with the expression, “a sweet savour unto Jehovah” ( ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας : lxx): an anthropomorphic description of the divine satisfaction with the sacrifices offered, or the gracious acceptance of them on the part of God (see Genesis 8:21), which is used in connection with all the sacrifices, even the expiatory or sin-offerings (Leviticus 4:31), and with the drink-offering also (Numbers 15:7, Numbers 15:10).
With regard to the mode of sacrificing, the instructions already given for the oxen applied to the flock (i.e., to the sheep and goats) as well, so that the leading points are repeated here, together with a more precise description of the place for slaughtering, viz., “ by the side of the altar towards the north, ” i.e., on the north side of the altar. This was the rule with all the slain-offerings; although it is only in connection with the burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings (Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:29, Leviticus 4:33; Leviticus 6:18; Leviticus 7:2; Leviticus 14:13) that it is expressly mentioned, whilst the indefinite expression “ at the door (in front) of the tabernacle ” is applied to the peace-offerings in Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13, as it is to the trespass-offerings in Leviticus 4:4, from which the Rabbins have inferred, though hardly upon good ground, that the peace-offerings could be slaughtered in any part of the court. The northern side of the altar was appointed as the place of slaughtering, however, not from the idea that the Deity dwelt in the north ( Ewald), for such an idea is altogether foreign to Mosaism, but, as Knobel supposes, probably because the table of shew-bread, with the continual meat-offering, stood on the north side in the holy place. Moreover, the eastern side of the altar in the court was the place for the refuse, or heap of ashes (Leviticus 1:16); the ascent to the altar was probably on the south side, as Josephus affirms that it was in the second temple ( J. de bell. jud. v. 5, 6); and the western side, or the space between the altar and the entrance to the holy place, would unquestionably have been the most unsuitable of all for the slaughtering. In Leviticus 1:12 וגו ואת־ראשׁו is to be connected per zeugma with לנתחיו htiw amguez , “ let him cut it up according to its parts, and (sever) its head and its fat.”
The burnt-offering of fowls was to consist of turtle-doves or young pigeons. The Israelites have reared pigeons and kept dovecots from time immemorial (Isaiah 60:8, cf. 2 Kings 6:25); and the rearing of pigeons continued to be a favourite pursuit with the later Jews (Josephus, de bell. jud. v. 4, 4), so that they might very well be reckoned among the domesticated animals. There are also turtle-doves and wild pigeons in Palestine in such abundance, that they could easily furnish the ordinary animal food of the poorer classes, and serve as sacrifices in the place of the larger animals. The directions for sacrificing these, were that the priest was to bring the bird to the altar, to hip off its head, and cause it to ascend in smoke upon the altar. מלק , which only occurs in Leviticus 1:15 and Leviticus 5:8, signifies undoubtedly to pinch off, and not merely to pinch; for otherwise the words in Leviticus 5:8, “and shall not divide it asunder,” would be superfluous. We have therefore to think of it as a severance of the head, as the lxx ( α ̓ποκνίζειν ) and Rabbins have done, and not merely a wringing of the neck and incision in the skin by which the head was left hanging to the body; partly because the words, “and not divide it asunder,” are wanting here, and partly also because of the words, “and burn it upon the altar,” which immediately follow, and which must refer to the head, and can only mean that, after the head had been pinched off, it was to be put at once into the burning altar-fire. For it is obviously unnatural to regard these words as anticipatory, and refer them to the burning of the whole dove; not only from the construction itself, but still more on account of the clause which follows: “and the blood thereof shall be pressed out against the wall of the altar.” The small quantity that there was of the blood prevented it from being caught in a vessel, and swung from it against the altar.
He then took out בּנצתהּ את־מראתו , i.e., according to the probable explanation of these obscure words, “ its crop in (with) the foeces thereof, ”
(Note: This is the rendering adopted by Onkelos. The lxx, on the contrary, render it ἀφελεῖ τὸν πρόλοβον σὺν τοῖς πτεροῖς , and this rendering is followed by Luther (and the English Version, Tr.), “its crop with its feathers.” But the Hebrew for this would have been ונצתו . In Mishnah, Sebach. vi. 5, the instructions are the following: “ et removet ingluviem et pennas et viscera egredentia cum illa .” This interpretation may be substantially correct, although the reference of בנוצתה to the feathers of the pigeon cannot be sustained on the ground assigned. For if the bird's crop was taken out, the intestines with their contents would unquestionably come out along with it. The plucking off of the feathers, however, follows from the analogy of the flaying of the animal. Only, in the text neither intestines nor feathers are mentioned; they are passed over as subordinate matters, that could readily be understood from the analogy of the other instructions.)
and threw it “ at the side of the altar eastwards, ” i.e., on the eastern side of the altar, “ on the ash-place, ” where the ashes were thrown when taken from the altar (Leviticus 6:3). He then made an incision in the wings of the pigeon, but without severing them, and burned them on the altar-fire (Leviticus 1:17, cf. Leviticus 1:9).
The burnt-offerings all culminated in the presentation of the whole sacrifice upon the altar, that it might ascend to heaven, transformed into smoke and fragrance. Hence it is not only called עלה , the ascending (see Genesis 8:20), but כּליל , a whole-offering (Deuteronomy 33:10; Ps. 51:21; 1 Samuel 7:9). If the burning and sending up in the altar-fire shadowed forth the self-surrender of the offerer to the purifying fire of the Holy Ghost; the burnt-offering was an embodiment of the idea of the consecration and self-surrender of the whole man to the Lord, to be pervaded by the refining and sanctifying power of divine grace. This self-surrender was to be vigorous and energetic in its character; and this was embodied in the instructions to choose male animals for the burnt-offering, the male sex being stronger and more vigorous than the female. To render the self-sacrifice perfect, it was necessary that the offerer should spiritually die, and that through the mediator of his salvation he should put his soul into a living fellowship with the Lord by sinking it as it were into the death of the sacrifice that had died for him, and should also bring his bodily members within the operations of the gracious Spirit of God, that thus he might be renewed and sanctified both body and soul, and enter into union with God.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Leviticus 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany