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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 3

Introduction

CONCLUDING NOTE.

Physiologists allege, that the prohibition of fat is the re-enactment of that law of hygiene which demands abstinence from gross animal food on the part of dwellers in hot climates, while it permits the Esquimau to drink with impunity whale oil by the quart, and to feast to surfeiting upon the fat of the white bear. So great is the demand for carbon with which to warm his system, that he would soon die if required to keep this everlasting statute which promoted the health and long life of the Hebrew. Here we have an incidental proof that Judaism was never designed to be universal.

There are also intellectual and moral grounds for this statute. Fat tends to stupify the mind, and blood excites the malevolent propensities, and makes those who drink it fierce, savage, and bloodthirsty. For still higher grounds on which this prohibition rests, namely, on the typology of the fat, see note on Leviticus 3:3; and of the blood, see Introduction, (6.) That the blood of the sacrificial victim prefigured the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is too obvious to need proof. There is no doubt that the prohibition of blood as food has reference to this fact. The typical significance of the fat as representing Christ’s personal righteousness is a favourite theory with some. See Professor Murphy, quoted Leviticus 3:3. It is true that the work of mediation is twofold. Says Richard Watson, “For what Christ did in obedience to the precepts of the law, and what he suffered, constitute that mediatorial righteousness for the sake of which the Father is ever well pleased in him.” It is eminently appropriate that the former as well as the latter element of mediatorial righteousness should have its distinct type in the Levitical system. We find them both in the perpetually consumed fat, and in the blood sprinkled without cessation upon Jewish altars.

Verse 1

THE PEACE OFFERING.

1. Sacrifice of peace offering Although this is not spoken of till after the giving of the decalogue, Exodus 20:24, the manner of the mention then made implies that it was a customary offering. Hence we have styled it traditional. It is chiefly eucharistic, with the subordinate notion of propitiation, as will be seen in the laying of the hand upon the victim and in the sprinkling of the blood. Hence the Seventy render it θυσια σωτηριου , “a sacrifice of salvation,” implying that it restores peace. But since no distinct reference is made to sin or to its priestly atonement, as in the sin offering, (Leviticus 4:20,) we have called it a thanksgiving offering of one in the enjoyment of the peace afforded by a clear conscience. This is corroborated by the fact that it was to be eaten by the offerer and his friends in a festive banquet. It was the vehicle of communion with Jehovah and with those who feared his name.

Of the herd See note on Leviticus 1:2.

Male or female The whole burnt offering, the type of Christ, was a male victim.

Without blemish See note on Leviticus 1:3.

Verse 2

2. Hand… head This impressive ceremony links the victim to the offerer, and at the same time shows his relinquishment of all claim, and his devotion of the animal to Jehovah. See note on Leviticus 1:4. Blood upon the altar The sprinkling of blood seems to have been the very core of the sacrificial system. For the office of the blood, see Introduction, (6.)

Verse 3

3. The fat The suet or sweet fat is here described. The fat diffused through the flesh it was lawful to eat. The suet was forbidden food.

Leviticus 7:23. The burning of the suet is particularly specified in every kind of offering of a victim. Whatever was reserved for the priest, or to the offerer, the suet must always be burned. The reason may be, because this is the best portion. Murphy assigns another reason: “The fat is expressive of the holiness which pertains to the Substitute, as the blood is significant of the penal death which He has undertaken to suffer. The two go to make up what is called righteousness, or active and passive obedience to the law for the sinner.” We see no semblance between fat and holiness which can make one a fitting type of the other except their purity and unmingled nature. See Concluding Note.

Verse 4

4. The two kidneys Professor Bush suggests that the kidneys were burned because they are “the supposed seat of some of the strongest sensual propensities,” such as fornication and uncleanness. But we fail to see why the kidneys should be burned for this reason while the very organs of impurity are spared. The kidneys (reins) are, with the Scripture writers, the inmost seat of character. Their burning signifies the purgation, by the fire of the Holy Spirit, of the inscrutable depths of the spiritual nature and the cleansing of the heart from inbred sin. “God trieth the hearts and kidneys.” Psalms 7:9. “I try the kidneys.” Jeremiah 17:10. Outside of the Pentateuch the substitution of reins for kidneys occurs in the Authorized Version thirteen times in the Old Testament.

The caul above the liver These words are found together twice in Exodus, and quite often in the sacrificial ritual of Leviticus. In physiological terms it is “the small omentum which bounds part of the liver and the stomach, and comes into the region of the kidneys, and which is itself surrounded with the tunica adiposa a bed of fatty matter.”

Verse 9

9. The whole rump We know of no more unfortunate translation than this. Instead of rump, it should have been rendered fat tail. In the East there is a species of sheep whose tails are so large that they weigh from twelve to fourteen pounds, and the owners are obliged to fix a thin board or cart beneath the tail to ease the sheep, and to preserve the wool and fat from being torn among the bushes and stones. See Ludolph, History of Ethiopia, p. 53, and Dr. Russell, Natural History of Aleppo, p. 51. The cooks of Syria use this mass of fat instead of Arab butter.

Verse 11

11. The food of the offering Literally, this means the bread or sustenance of the altar-flame.

Unto the Lord Jehovah’s altar may be said to be the table which he spreads on the earth. Devout and willing souls bring provision to that table, and are graciously invited to sit down and share the gifts which their loyal hearts have brought, hallowed by his presence and sweetened by his blessing. Numbers 28:2. The flesh of the peace offering, of which no mention is made in this chapter, was to be eaten by the offerer and his friends on the same day or the day following. Leviticus 7:15-16.

Verse 17

17. A perpetual statute The Hebrew word olam, here translated perpetual, is sometimes used for future duration without end, as the eternal existence of God, (Genesis 21:33,) but it often signifies an indefinite future time, conditioned by the context or by the nature of the subject. Hence it may extend to only a few years, as the servant who refused to be made free, after his ear was bored with an awl became a servant, olam, forever. Therefore the modern Jew cannot logically allege that the perpetual statutes of the Levitical law bind him to the burdensome repetition of types long since done away by the presence of the glorious Antitype in his temple on Mount Moriah, and that the everlasting covenant compels him to feed his hungry soul with the shadows of good things yet to come centuries after the substance, the living Bread, has come down from heaven. The plain meaning of the perpetual statute is, that so long as the Jewish dispensation continues, and the ceremonial law retains its significance, the requirement shall stand.

Eat neither fat nor blood The prohibition extends only to the suet, and not to the fat diffused in small particles through the flesh, and to the blood in the larger veins and arteries which flows from the animal when the jugular vein is cut. The minute globules of blood in the small veins spreading through the flesh it would be impossible to remove. The prohibition does not extend to the eating of these, since it would have been a virtual interdict of the eating of any flesh. The law relates not only to all sacrifices, but also to all animals slain for food. See notes on Leviticus 7:23; Leviticus 7:25.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/leviticus-3.html. 1874-1909.