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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Leviticus 3

 

 

Verses 1-17

C.—PEACE-OFFERINGS

Leviticus 3:1-17

1And if his oblation [offering[FN1]] be a sacrifice of peace-offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord 2 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the [om. the[FN2]] congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about 3 And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace-offering an offering made by fire unto the Lord; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, 4and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with [on[FN3]] the kidneys, it shall he take away 5 And Aaron’s sons[FN4] shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt-sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

6And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace-offering unto the Lord be of the flock; male or female, he shall offer it without blemish 7 If he offer a lamb [sheep[FN5]] for his offering, then shall he offer it before the Lord 8 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it before[FN6] the tabernacle of the [om. the2] congregation: and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle the blood thereof round about upon the altar 9 And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace-offering an offering made by fire unto the Lord; the fat thereof, and the whole rump [fat tail[FN7]], it shall he take off hard by the back-bone: and the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, 10and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with [on3] the kidneys, it shall he take away 11 And the priest shall burn it upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire[FN8] unto the Lord.

12, And if his offering be a goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord 13 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of it, and kill it before the tabernacle of the [om. the2] congregation: and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle the blood thereof upon the altar round about 14 And he shall offer thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, 15and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with [on3] the kidneys, it shall he take away 16 And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord’s [as food of an offering made by fire for a sweet savour, shall all the fat be the Lord’s[FN9]]. 17It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Leviticus 3:1. קָרְבָּן=offering, as in Leviticus 2.

Leviticus 3:2. See on Leviticus 1:3, Text. Note3.

Leviticus 3:4. ַעל must here be translated on, not with, since the kidneys have just been mentioned.

Leviticus 3:5. The Sam, LXX. and one MS. add the priests. So also the LXX. and one MS. in Leviticus 3:8, and the Sam. and LXX. in Leviticus 3:13.

Leviticus 3:7. כֶּבֶשׂ=כֶּשֶׂב, according to Bochart (Hieroz. I:33), a sheep of intermediate age between the טָלֶה=lamb and the אִַיִל of three years old. It Isaiah, however, often applied to the sheep of one year in which case the age is mentioned, as Leviticus 14:10; Numbers 7:15; Numbers 7:17; Numbers 7:21, etc. In Proverbs 27:26 it is described as yielding wool. In the A. V. the form כֶּבֶשׂ is uniformly rendered lamb, except in Exodus 12:5, while the other form is translated sheep nine times, and lamb four times. There is no ground for this distinction.

Leviticus 3:8. The locality for killing the victim is made more definite by the insertion in one MS. and in the Syr.: “before the Lord at the door of.” The LXX. makes the same insertion in Leviticus 3:13.

Leviticus 3:9. אַלְיָה, according to all interpreters the fat tail of the ovis laticaudata, a variety common in Arabia and Syria, but in modern Palestine said to be the only variety. The tail is described as of rich marrowy fat, of the width of the hind quarters, and often trailing on the ground. The word occurs only in this connection ( Exodus 29:22; Leviticus 7:3; Leviticus 8:25; Leviticus 9:19), and is rendered by all the ancient versions, except the LXX. (ὀσφύς), tail. So also Jos. Ant. iii9, 2.

Leviticus 3:11. The sense is expressed by the addition in 2 MSS. and in the LXX. of the words from Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17, רֵיחַ־נִחוֹחַ (=a sweet-smelling savor.)

Leviticus 3:16. The A. V. seems unnecessarily complicated, as there are but two clauses in this verse. After “savour” the Sam, LXX, and some MSS. add “to the Lord.”

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The peace-offering, like the offerings of the preceding chapters, is spoken of as already in common use, and the law is given for its proper regulation. The offerings of this, as of the previous chapters, were voluntary. The peace-offering differed from the oblation in being animal, and from the burnt-offering in not being wholly consumed, but after a small portion had been burned, and a portion given to the priest, the remainder reverted to the offerer for a sacrificial meal ( Leviticus 7:11-21); a further difference is in that the burnt-offerings were only male, the peace-offerings either male or female; and still further, doves were not allowed in the peace-offerings, because they were too small for the necessary division, and for the sacrificial feast.

The full form זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים used here, is nearly always employed in Leviticus; but the peace-offering is probably intended by the simple וֶכַח of Leviticus 23:37 ( Leviticus 7:16-17 does not, and Leviticus 17:8 may not mean peace-offering), and it certainly is by שְׁלָמִים in Leviticus 9:22. The latter, as the determining word, is frequently used elsewhere alone, as Exodus 20:24; Exodus 32:6; Deuteronomy 27:7; Joshua 8:31, etc. The word is variously derived, and has various shades of signification attached to it: (1) Thank-offering, Gesenius, Fürst, Luther, Rosenmüller, Winer, Bähr, etc,θυσία χαριστηρία, Jos. Ant. iii9, 2; (2) Meat-offering, Zunz; (3) Salvation-offering,σωτήριον, LXX. most frequently (i.e. in the Pent, Joshua,, Judges, Chron, Ezra, Amos), Philo; (4) Peace-offering,size:24 pt">εἰρηνικός, LXX. (in Samuel, Kings, Prov.), Aq, Sym, Theod, Vulg, A. V. The last two senses are very similar; the first seems less appropriate, partly because the strictly thank-offering appears as a special variety of this more general class ( Leviticus 7:11-12); partly because the שְׁלָמִים were offered not only in thanks for benefits received, but also in times of distress and in supplication for the divine help ( Judges 20:26; Judges 21:4; 1 Samuel 13:9; 2 Samuel 24:25). Outram says: Sacrificia salutaria in sacris literis shelamim dicta, ut quæ semper de rebus prosperis fieri solerent, impetratis utique aut impetrandis. Lange brings together the several meanings in the name Heilsopfer, salvation or saving offering “in the common sense of blessing or prosperity-offering.” In English the already accepted peace-offering seems to express sufficiently the same sense, and is therefore retained. The law ( Leviticus 7:12-16) distinguishes three kinds of peace-offerings—thanksgiving, vow and free-will offerings; the only difference in their ritual being in the length of time during which their flesh might be eaten.

The peace-offerings are not called “most holy” like the oblation, but only “holy,” and the priests’ portion might be eaten by their families in any “clean place” ( Leviticus 7:31 with Leviticus 10:14; Leviticus 23:20). The portion which reverted to the offerer to be eaten as a sacrificial feast might be partaken of only by those who were legally “clean” ( Leviticus 7:20-21). The peace-offerings were prescribed on a variety of occasions, and as they were the necessary offerings of sacrificial feasts, and hence of all solemn national rejoicings, they were the most common of all sacrifices. From Numbers 15 it appears that, like the burnt-offering, they were always accompanied by the meat and the drink-offering.—Lange: “The peace-offering refers to prosperity as Jehovah’s free gift in past, present, and future. As regards the past, it is a simple praise and thank-offering (an Eben Ezer, Amos 5:22). In reference to a happy present, it is a contentment, joy, or feast-offering. As it relates to a future to be realized, to an experience of salvation yet to come, to a deliverance or an exhibition of mercy that is prayed for with a vow, it is a votive offering. The prescriptions in regard to the various kinds are different. Here it is said, that the animal to be slain may be either male or female, only it must be without blemish. In Leviticus 7:15 sq. nothing of the praise-offering might be left over until the next day, whereas the vow, or free-will offering might be eaten also on the next day, but not on the third day.” Lange then points out that in the case of those vow, or free-will offerings which were to be burnt-offerings, a male was required, Leviticus 22:19, without blemish. “Even an abnormal formation of the victim, too long or too short legs of the animal [ Leviticus 7:22-23] was enough to make it unsuitable for the vow-offering, but still not for the free-will offering. So every kind of prosperity was to be hallowed to the Lord.”[FN10]

Sacrificial feasts were at least as old as the time of Jacob ( Genesis 31:54), and became common among all nations; but the distinctive name of peace-offering first appears when Moses came down with the law from Mt. Sinai ( Exodus 24:5). The thing signified, however, must have been already familiar to the people, for the word recurs in connection with the idolatrous sacrifice of Aaron when Moses had again gone up into the Mount ( Exodus 32:6).

Two kinds of victims were allowable: of the “herd,” or of the “flock.”

Leviticus 3:1-5. The peace-offering of the herd, i.e. a bullock or a cow.

Leviticus 3:1. The victim both in this and in the other kind ( Leviticus 3:6) might be of either sex. According to Herodotus, this was directly contrary to the Egyptian law, which forbade offering the female in sacrifice: θηλείας οὐ σφι ἔξεστι θύειν ( Leviticus 2:41). As in the case of other offerings, the victim must be “without blemish.” There was ordinarily no restriction of age, although in some special cases yearling lambs are mentioned ( Leviticus 23:19; Numbers 7:17).

Leviticus 3:2. The laying on of the offerer’s hand and the sprinkling of the blood by the priest are the same as in the case of the burnt-offering; hence no signification can be attached to these acts in the one case which will not apply in the other also, except of course in so far as an act of essentially the same meaning might be somewhat modified by its connections.

Leviticus 3:3-4. There were four parts to be burned upon the altar: (1) the fat that covereth the inwards,i.e. the large net, omentum, Joshua 3:9; Joshua 3:2, ἐπίπλους, caul, or adipose membrane found in mammals attached to the stomach and spreading over the bowels, and which in the ruminants abounds with fat; (2) all the fat which is upon the inwards,i.e. the fat attached to the intestines, and which could be peeled off; (3) the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, or loins, i.e. the kidneys and all the fat connected with them; the kidneys are the only thing to be burned except the fat; (4) the smaller net, omentum minus, or caul above the liver, which stretches on one side to the region of the kidneys, hence on the kidneys,עַל = by them, not with them, they having been just before mentioned. The word יֹתֶרֶת occurs only in Ex. (twice) and Lev. (nine times) always in connection with כָּבַד=the liver; it is described as above or upon the liver, and hence is not to be understood, as has often been done, of the liver itself, or of a part of it. These four include all the separable fat in the inside of the animal (and in addition to these was the fat tail in the case of the sheep), so that, Leviticus 3:16, they are called “all the fat,” so also Leviticus 4:8; Leviticus 4:19; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 4:35; Leviticus 7:3.

Leviticus 3:5. Aaron’s sons shall burn.—The burning on the altar, and the sprinkling of the blood ( Leviticus 3:2), being the acts by which the sacrifice was especially offered to God, were always and in all sacrifices the priestly function.

Upon the burnt sacrifice.—This rendering is quite correct, and is in accordance with the ancient versions. The sense given by Knobel “according to” or “in the manner of the burnt-offering” is inadmissible. על may sometimes bear this sense ( Exodus 12:51; Psalm 110:4); but it is rare, and not likely to be the meaning here. As a matter of fact, peace-offerings ordinarily followed especial burnt-offerings, and always the daily burnt-offering, which would so seldom have been entirely consumed when the peace-offering was offered, that the fat might naturally be described as placed upon it.

Leviticus 3:6-16. The peace-offerings of sheep or goats.

The ritual for the second kind of peace-offering is the same as for the first; it is repeated in case the victim should be a sheep ( Leviticus 3:6-11), and in case it should be a goat ( Leviticus 3:12-16). Only in the case of the sheep, on the principle of burning all the separable fat, the tail (see Textual, Leviticus 3:9) must also be laid upon the altar.

Leviticus 3:11. (Comp. Leviticus 3:16.) The food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord.—This is a common expression applied to sacrifices generally (“my bread,” Numbers 28:2; “Bread of God,” ch. Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 21:17; Leviticus 21:21-22; Leviticus 22:25); yet especially mentioned only in connection with the peace-offerings. It is used only of the portions of the victim burned upon the altar, and is expressly distinguished from the portion eaten by the priests ( Leviticus 21:22). By a natural figure, the whole victim being food, the part of it given to Jehovah by burning upon the altar is called the food of Jehovah, and shows the communion between Him and the worshipper brought about by the sacrifice. It is not necessary, however, to realize this figure by attributing to the Hebrews the thought—belonging to the later heathen—that God actually required food; such a notion was foreign to their whole theology.

Leviticus 3:16. All the fati.e, all that has been enumerated—all the separable fat of the victim.

Leviticus 3:17. Throughout all your dwellings.—This applies to the life in the wilderness when all sacrificial animals slain for food were required to be offered as peace-offerings before the Lord ( Leviticus 17:3-7); whether it applies also to the subsequent life in the land of promise, when this restriction was to be removed ( Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:22-23; Deuteronomy 15:22-23), has been much debated. In the passages removing that restriction, mention is made only of the blood which must be poured out, and in the Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 32:14), the “fat of lambs” is especially mentioned among the blessings to be enjoyed.

Ye shall eat neither fat nor blood.—The prohibition of the separable fat (חֶלֶב in contradistinction to the מִשְׁמָן or שֶׁמֶן the fat mixed with the flesh which might be eaten, Nehemiah 8:10) for food springs immediately from the fact that it was especially consecrated to God, and therefore not to be used by man. If we seek the reason of this consecration it is not to be sought on hygienic grounds (Rosenmüller), but rather in its connection with the animal economy. As blood is described as “the life” of the animal, so is the fat a stored-up source of life, drawn upon for sustaining life whenever, in deficiency of food or other exigency, it is required. It thus stands more nearly related in function to the blood, and became naturally the appropriate portion for the altar. Its proper development was also a mark of perfection in the animal. It is further to be borne in mind that the fat was considered the choice portion, and hence the word was figuratively used of excellence ( Genesis 27:28; Genesis 45:18, etc.) and thus the fat, as the best, was reserved for God’s portion. The prohibition is repeated with still stronger emphasis, Leviticus 7:23-25. but with the exception that the fat of animals dying of themselves may be applied to other uses ( Leviticus 3:24). It has always been understood by the Jews that the prohibition respects only the fat of animals that might be offered in sacrifice. Comp. Leviticus 7:23.

Nothing is here said of the disposal of the flesh of the victim, the law of this being given in detail, Leviticus 7:11-36.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

I. As all vegetable food was sanctified by the oblation, so all animal food was by the peace offering. In the wilderness this was literally carried out by the presenting of all animals fit for sacrifice as offerings, sprinkling their blood and burning their fat upon the altar; later, when in Palestine this became impossible on account of the distances, the idea was kept up in the prohibition of the blood for food. The general principle thus expressed for all time is that God’s gifts to man are to be acknowledged as from Him, and due return made to Him, or otherwise they are profaned.

II. In the expression “Food of the Lord,” although figurative, we recognize the idea of communion between God and Prayer of Manasseh, expressed by a part of the sacrifice burned on the altar, and called by this name, while another part was eaten by the offerer at the sacrificial feast. Similarly the Eucharist is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 10:21 as the “Lord’s table.” In this respect the peace-offering under the old dispensation signified the same thing as the Eucharist under the new—the communion of the devout worshipper with God. It was eminently a feast of love towards God and man; the worshipper communicated with God by feasting on the sacrifice offered to Him, and by the portion eaten by the priests as His representatives, and with man by feasting with his friends on the remainder. It is happily described by Wordsworth as “an Eucharist coupled with an offertory.”

III. All sacrifices were necessarily typical of Christ, and each of them had in this respect its peculiar significance; with the peace-offering He is especially connected by the prophecy of Isaiah ( Isaiah 53:5) “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him,” and by the frequent application of this word to Him and to His sacrifice in the New Testament, ( Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 1:20, etc.).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

“The Peace-offering is the expression of the feeling that man might receive or ask only a pure prosperity from God, and might offer it to Him again.” Lange. In this offering “God, the Master and Judges, was merged in God, the Benefactor and Rescuer” Kalisch. In the feasting of the offerer with his friends upon the flesh of the sacrifice was expressed clearly the idea of communion with God; yet even in this offering, the blood must be sprinkled upon the altar;—in the nearest approach of sinful man to God, there must still be propitiation.

In the peace-offering any sacrificial animal, of either sex, and of any age was allowable; God gives man the largest latitude of choice in the ways of expressing his gratitude. He also sanctifies as a means of communion with Him whatever He has appointed as the means of approaching Him in any way. The Christian may commune with God in work, in prayer, in sacraments, in study of His word.

In this sacrifice the fat was burnt upon the altar, and certain choice parts given to the priests to be eaten with their families; so in our thanksgivings, first let the Giver of all good be recognized, and the best of all be given back to Him; and then let a portion be given also to those who maintain His service, that the main part which remains may be enjoyed by us with a holy joy.

The sacrifice for sin (see Leviticus 4) was limited to that which was prescribed, nothing more was allowed; the peace-offerings might be unlimited in number and in value: so man now may seek forgiveness only in the way God has provided,—he can add nothing to its efficacy; but to the expression of his thankfulness, and to his desire for communion with God, no bounds are set. He may go as far as he can, and his offerings will be looked upon with approbation as “a sweet savor unto the Lord.”

The feast upon the sacrifice of peace-offerings might include all the members of the offerer’s family. Thus was the joyous family feast, like every other human relation and condition, brought by the Levitical law into relation with duties to God, and sanctified by His blessing and by symbolical communion with Him.

A true sacrifice of praise is offered by those who glorify God in their lives. This constitutes the Christian peace-offering of communion with God in its highest form—that of thanksgiving for His inestimable benefits showed forth in a sincere obedience to His commands. Origen.


Footnotes:

FN#1 - Leviticus 3:1. קָרְבָּן=offering, as in Leviticus 2.

FN#2 - Leviticus 3:2. See on Leviticus 1:3, Text. Note3.

FN#3 - Leviticus 3:4. ַעל must here be translated on, not with, since the kidneys have just been mentioned.

FN#4 - Leviticus 3:5. The Sam, LXX. and one MS. add the priests. So also the LXX. and one MS. in Leviticus 3:8, and the Sam. and LXX. in Leviticus 3:13.

FN#5 - Leviticus 3:7. כֶּבֶשׂ=כֶּשֶׂב, according to Bochart (Hieroz. I:33), a sheep of intermediate age between the טָלֶה=lamb and the אִַיִל of three years old. It Isaiah, however, often applied to the sheep of one year in which case the age is mentioned, as Leviticus 14:10; Numbers 7:15; Numbers 7:17; Numbers 7:21, etc. In Proverbs 27:26 it is described as yielding wool. In the A. V. the form כֶּבֶשׂ is uniformly rendered lamb, except in Exodus 12:5, while the other form is translated sheep nine times, and lamb four times. There is no ground for this distinction.

FN#6 - Leviticus 3:8. The locality for killing the victim is made more definite by the insertion in one MS. and in the Syr.: “before the Lord at the door of.” The LXX. makes the same insertion in Leviticus 3:13.

FN#7 - Leviticus 3:9. אַלְיָה, according to all interpreters the fat tail of the ovis laticaudata, a variety common in Arabia and Syria, but in modern Palestine said to be the only variety. The tail is described as of rich marrowy fat, of the width of the hind quarters, and often trailing on the ground. The word occurs only in this connection ( Exodus 29:22; Leviticus 7:3; Leviticus 8:25; Leviticus 9:19), and is rendered by all the ancient versions, except the LXX. (ὀσφύς), tail. So also Jos. Ant. iii9, 2.

FN#8 - Leviticus 3:11. The sense is expressed by the addition in 2 MSS. and in the LXX. of the words from Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17, רֵיחַ־נִחוֹחַ (=a sweet-smelling savor.)

FN#9 - Leviticus 3:16. The A. V. seems unnecessarily complicated, as there are but two clauses in this verse. After “savour” the Sam, LXX, and some MSS. add “to the Lord.”

FN#10 - In regard to the question whether the peace-offering embraces also the supplicatory offering, Lange says: “It is understood that the vows themselves were supplications, from which the accompanying offering might also be called a supplicatory offering; but a peculiar supplicatory offering to strengthen the supplication would have been prejudicial to the freedom of the divine hearing. It shows a fine distinction that the free praise and thank-offerings (Thoda), which were preceded by no vows, were exalted above the vow-offerings and free-will offerings, inasmuch as these latter might be accompanied by a selfish feeling.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/leviticus-3.html. 1857-84.

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
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