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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 3

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verses 1-5

The Peace-Offerings. - The third kind of sacrifice is called שׁלמים זבח , commonly rendered thank-offering, but more correctly a saving-offering ( Heilsopfer: Angl. peace-offering). Besides this fuller form, which is the one most commonly employed in Leviticus, we meet with the abbreviated forms זבחים and שׁלמים : e.g., זבח in Leviticus 7:16-17; Leviticus 23:37, more especially in combination with עלה , Leviticus 17:8 cf. Exodus 10:25; Exodus 18:12; Numbers 15:3, Numbers 15:5; Deuteronomy 12:27; Joshua 22:27; 1 Samuel 6:15; 1 Samuel 15:22; 2 Kings 5:17; 2 Kings 10:24; Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:21; Jeremiah 17:26, etc., - and שׁלמים in Leviticus 9:22; Exodus 20:24; Exodus 32:6; Deuteronomy 27:7; Joshua 8:31; Judges 20:26; Judges 21:4; 1 Samuel 13:9; 2 Samuel 6:17-18; 2 Samuel 24:25; 1 Kings 3:15, etc. זבח is derived from זבח , which is not applied to slaughtering generally ( שׁחט ), but, with the exception of Deuteronomy 12:15, where the use of זבח for slaughtering is occasioned by the retrospective reference to Leviticus 17:3-4, is always used for slaying as a sacrifice, or sacrificing; and even in 1 Samuel 28:24; Ezekiel 34:3 and Ezekiel 39:17, it is only used in a figurative sense. The real meaning, therefore, is sacrificial slaughtering, or slaughtered sacrifice. It is sometimes used in a wider sense, and applied to every kind of bleeding sacrifice (1 Samuel 1:21; 1 Samuel 2:19), especially in connection with minchah (1 Samuel 2:29; Psalms 40:7; Isaiah 19:21; Daniel 9:27, etc.); but it is mostly used in a more restricted sense, and applied to the peace-offerings, or slain offerings, which culminated in a sacrificial meal, as distinguished from the burnt and sin-offerings, in which case it is synonymous with שׁלמים or שׁלמים זבח . The word shelamim , the singular of which ( Shelem ) is only met with in Amos 5:22, is applied exclusively to these sacrifices, and is derived from שׁלם to be whole, uninjured. It does not mean “compensation or restitution,” for which we find the nouns שׁלּם (Deuteronomy 32:35), שׁלּוּם (Hosea 9:7), and שׁלּוּמה (Psalms 91:8), formed from the Piel שׁלּם , but integritas completa, pacifica, beata , answering to the Sept. rendering σωτήριον . The plural denotes the entire round of blessings and powers, by which the salvation or integrity of man in his relation to God is established and secured. The object of the shelamim was invariably salvation: sometimes they were offered as an embodiment of thanksgiving for salvation already received, sometimes as a prayer for the salvation desired; so that they embraced both supplicatory offerings and thank-offerings, and were offered even in times of misfortune, or on the day on which supplication was offered for the help of God (Judges 20:26; Judges 21:4; 1 Samuel 13:9; 2 Samuel 24:25).

(Note: Cf. Hengstenberg, Dissertations. Outram's explanation is quite correct: Sacrificia salutaria in sacris litteris shelamim dicta, ut quae semper de rebus prosperis fieri solerent, impetratis utique aut impetrandis .)

The law distinguishes three different kinds: praise-offerings, vow-offerings, and freewill-offerings (Leviticus 7:12, Leviticus 7:16). They were all restricted to oxen, sheep, and goats, either male or female, pigeons not being allowed, as they were always accompanied with a common sacrificial meal, for which a pair of pigeons did not suffice.

Leviticus 3:1-2

In the act of sacrificing, the presentation of the animal before Jehovah, the laying on of hands, the slaughtering, and the sprinkling of the blood were the same as in the case of the burnt-offering (Leviticus 1:3-5). It was in the application of the flesh that the difference first appeared.

Leviticus 3:3-4

The person presenting the sacrifice was to offer as a firing for Jehovah, first, “the fat which covered the entrails” (Leviticus 1:9), i.e., the large net which stretches from the stomach over the bowels and completely envelopes the latter, and which is only met with in the case of men and the mammalia generally, and in the ruminant animals abounds with fat; secondly, “all the fat on the entrails,” i.e., the fat attached to the intestines, which could easily be peeled off; thirdly, “the two kidneys, and the fat upon them (and) that upon the loins ( הכּסלים ), i.e., upon the inner muscles of the loins, or in the region of the kidneys; and fourthly, “the net upon the liver.” The net ( היּתרת ) upon ( על Leviticus 3:4, Leviticus 3:10, Leviticus 3:15; Leviticus 4:9; Leviticus 7:4; Exodus 29:13), or from ( מן Leviticus 9:10), or of the liver (Leviticus 8:16, Leviticus 8:25; Leviticus 9:19; Exodus 29:22), cannot be the large lobe of the liver, ὁ λοβὸς τοῦ ἥπατος (lxx), because this is part of the liver itself, and does not lie על־כּבד over (upon) the liver; nor is it simply a portion of fat, but the small net (omentum minus), the liver-net, or stomach-net ( recticulum jecoris; Vulg., Luth., De Wette, and Knobel), which commences at the division between the right and left lobes of the liver, and stretches on the one side across the stomach, and on the other to the region of the kidneys. Hence the clause, “on the kidneys (i.e., by them, as far as it reaches) shall he take it away.” This smaller net is delicate, but not so fat as the larger net; though it still forms part of the fat portions. The word יתרת , which only occurs in the passages quoted, is to be explained from the Arabic and Ethiopic (to stretch over, to stretch out), whence also the words יתר a cord (Judges 16:7; Psalms 11:2), and מיתר the bow-string (Psalms 21:13) or extended tent-ropes (Exodus 35:18), are derived. The four portions mentioned comprehended all the separable fat in the inside of the sacrificial animal. Hence they were also designated “all the fat” of the sacrifice (Leviticus 3:16; Leviticus 4:8, Leviticus 4:19, Leviticus 4:26, Leviticus 4:31, Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 7:3), or briefly “the fat” ( החלב Leviticus 3:9; Leviticus 7:33; Leviticus 16:25; Leviticus 17:6; Numbers 18:17), “the fat portions” ( החלבים Leviticus 6:5; Leviticus 8:26; Leviticus 9:19-20, Leviticus 9:24; Leviticus 10:15).

Leviticus 3:5

This fat the priests were to burn upon the altar, over the burnt sacrifice, on the pieces of wood upon the fire. על־העלה does not mean “in the manner or style of the burnt-offering” ( Knobel), but “upon (over) the burnt-offering.” For apart from the fact that על cannot be shown to have this meaning, the peace-offering was preceded as a rule by the burnt-offering. At any rate it was always preceded by the daily burnt-offering, which burned, if not all day, at all events the whole of the forenoon, until it was quite consumed; so that the fat portions of the peace-offerings were to be laid upon the burnt-offering which was burning already. That this is the meaning of על־העלה is placed beyond all doubt, both by Leviticus 6:5, where the priest is directed to burn wood every morning upon the fire of the altar, and then to place the burnt-offering upon it ( עליה ), and upon that to cause the fat portions of the peace-offerings to evaporate in smoke, and also by Leviticus 9:14, where Aaron is said first of all to have burned the flesh and head of the burnt-offering upon the altar, then to have washed the entrails and legs of the animal, and burned them on the altar, העלה על , i.e., upon (over) the portions of the burnt-offering that were burning already.

Verses 6-17

The same rules apply to the peace-offerings of sheep and goats, except that, in addition to the fat portions, which were to be burned upon the altar in the case of the oxen (Leviticus 3:3, Leviticus 3:4) and goats (Leviticus 3:14, Leviticus 3:15), the fat tail of the sheep was to be consumed as well. תמימה האליה : “ the fat tail whole ” (Leviticus 3:9), cauda ovilla vel arietina eaque crassa et adiposa; the same in Arabic ( Ges. thes. p. 102). The fat tails which the sheep have in Northern Africa and Egypt, also in Arabia, especially Southern Arabia, and Syria, often weigh 15 lbs. or more, and small carriages on wheels are sometimes placed under them to bear their weight (Sonnini, R. ii. p. 358; Bochart, Hieroz. i. pp. 556ff.). It consists of something between marrow and fat. Ordinary sheep are also found in Arabia and Syria; but in modern Palestine all the sheep are “of the broad-tailed species.” The broad part of the tail is an excresence of fat, from which the true tail hangs down (Robinson, Pal. ii. 166). “ Near the rump-bone shall he (the offerer) take it (the fat tail) away, ” i.e., separate it from the body. עצם , ἁπ. λεγ. , is, according to Saad., os caudae s. coccygis , i.e., the rump or tail-bone, which passes over into the vertebrae of the tail (cf. Bochart, i. pp. 560-1). In Leviticus 3:11 and Leviticus 3:16 the fat portions which were burned are called “food of the firing for Jehovah,” or “food of the firing for a sweet savour,” i.e., food which served as a firing for Jehovah, or reached Jehovah by being burned; cf. Numbers 28:24, “food of the firing of a sweet savour for Jehovah.” Hence not only are the daily burnt-offerings and the burnt and sin-offerings of the different feasts called “food of Jehovah” (“My bread,” Numbers 28:2); but the sacrifices generally are described as “the food of God” (“the bread of their God,” Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8, Leviticus 21:17, Leviticus 21:21-22, and Leviticus 22:25), as food, that is, which Israel produced and caused to ascend to its God in fire as a sweet smelling savour. - Nothing is determined here with regard to the appropriation of the flesh of the peace-offerings, as their destination for a sacrificial meal was already known from traditional custom. The more minute directions for the meal itself are given in Lev 7:11-36, where the meaning of these sacrifices is more fully explained. - In Leviticus 3:17 (Leviticus 3:16) the general rule is added, “ all fat belongs to Jehovah, ” and the law, “ eat neither fat nor blood, ” is enforced as “ an eternal statute ” for the generations of Israel (see at Exodus 12:14, Exodus 12:24) in all their dwelling-places (see Exodus 10:23 and Exodus 12:20).

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Leviticus 3". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/leviticus-3.html. 1854-1889.
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