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Of the Herd
v. 1. And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, out of the midst of the cloud which enveloped his glory, Exodus 40:35, saying,
v. 2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, if any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd and of the flock. The sacrifices brought by individuals are described first, voluntary offerings, through which the worshiper intended to draw near to the Lord. The Hebrew word indicates the fact that sinful man, as such, does not dare to draw near to Jehovah. The sacrifice, therefore, is a symbol of his desire to enter into fellowship with Jehovah, and its value consisted in its foreshadowing the greater Sacrifice, through whom we have peace and access to the Father. The voluntary offering was regarded as a gift of the worshiper, no matter whether it was an actual sacrifice or a dedicatory offering. When the individual Israelite had determined to bring such a gift, the Lord's instructions as to the selection of the animal and as to the manner of offering were inclusive and exact.
v. 3. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish, a strong, healthy animal, with all its limbs and members intact; he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation before the Lord. The formal dedication of the sacrifice to the Lord took place at the great entrance of the court, or perhaps inside the court itself, where the altar of burnt offering stood. At a later period such a perfect system of offering sacrifices was put into operation that both the slaughtering of the animals and their dissecting was performed with the greatest possible speed, a row of pillars holding heavy beams with hooks being used to suspend the animals after their blood had been caught by the officiating priests.
v. 4. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, in token of the transfer of his sin to the animal as his substitute, as the victim destined to die in the worshiper's stead; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him, that his sins might be covered over before the face of the Lord. Note that here, as always, the acceptance of a substitute is in itself an act of grace and mercy on the part of the Lord.
v. 5. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord, each worshiper, in a case of this kind, performing the function of a priest of the Lord, as a member of the kingdom of priests, Exodus 19:6. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, as it was caught up in basins after the slaughter of the animal, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar, against its four sides, that is by the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The last was an exclusive priestly function, and even the catching of the blood was performed by the Levites only in cases of emergency.
v. 6. And he shall flay the burnt offering, this part of the work being done either by the offerer or by a Levite, and cut it into his pieces, dissect it according to the rule concerning the disposition of the various parts.
v. 7. And the sons of Aaron, the priest, shall put fire upon the altar of burnt offering, and lay the wood in order upon the fire, which was always kept burning;
v. 8. and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head and the fat, chiefly the loose fat of the abdominal and thoracic cavities, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar;
v. 9. but his inwards and his legs, the intestines, as the lower viscera, and the lower parts of the legs, especially beneath the knees, shall he wash in water, to remove any outward impurities that might be clinging to them; and the priests shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord. The animal, with its flesh and bones, was burned entire, for the offering signified that the worshiper dedicated himself to the Lord with all his heart and mind, with all the powers of his body and soul, and the rising of the smoke, as the animal was consumed, caused its essence to ascend as a pleasant, acceptable odor to the Lord. In other words, the Lord graciously accepted the worshiper and his service as a member of His Church on earth. God was well pleased with such sacrifices, if they were offered in faith.
Of the Flock
v. 10. And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice, the worshiper being too poor to afford a bullock, he shall bring it a male without blemish, a perfect animal in every respect.
v. 11. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward, the usual place for slaughtering sacrifices, before the Lord. The various parts of the court were soon used for special purposes, its eastern end being used for the ashes of the altar, and the place south and southwest of the great altar being devoted to the priests. On the south side of the altar was also the incline for the officiating priests. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar, in the act symbolizing the atonement of sins.
v. 12. And he shall cut it into his pieces, as the disposition of the parts required, with his head and his fat, these parts being severed from the carcass; and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar.
v. 13. But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water, as in the case of the bullock. And the priest shall bring it all and burn it upon the altar; it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.
v. 14. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, in the case of very poor people, then he shall bring his offering of turtle-doves or of young pigeons, either the mild or the tame species being acceptable for a gift-offering.
v. 15. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, separate his head from his body by pinching, and burn it on the altar, toss the head into the fire; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar, since there was hardly enough to be sprinkled or poured.
v. 16. And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, either the crop with the entire intestinal tract and its filth, or the entire intestinal tract while the dove was unplucked, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes, where all the refuse was heaped up.
v. 17. And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, split it open lengthwise, or make an incision at its wings, but shall not divide it asunder; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, up on the wood that is upon the fire; it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord. The sacrifice of the poor was just as acceptable to the Lord as the more costly sacrifice of the rich. The sacrificial worship was a shadow of things to come, in the person of the Messiah. In anticipation of the perfect sacrifice of Christ God accepted these figurative offerings as atonements for sin. But Christ is the only true Sacrifice, who bore the sins of all men in His body on the tree, burning under the wrath of the just God and dying as the Substitute for all men. In view of this sacrifice, whose blessings are ours through faith, we Christians are bound to offer ourselves to the Lord in daily obedience and service. Such sacrifice is a sweet savor to the Lord, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, Romans 12:1-2.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Leviticus 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany