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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 2

 

 

Verse 1

THE MEAT OFFERING.

1. Meat offering — Our word meat has undergone a contraction in its meaning. It once signified food of any kind; but now its popular use is restricted to flesh. On account of this mutability in words, so beautifully portrayed by Horace in his Art of Poetry, every version of the Bible, after a few generations, needs a revision. The American Bible Union and Professor Murphy have adopted the oblation as a translation of the mincha, the food offering — a general term applied to a particular offering, and always needing explanation. Let us go back to the original intent of our English translators and call it food offering, or more exactly, bread offering, since it was made of bread or breadstuff.

Fine flour — This was produced from wheat ground in hand mills and sifted. Only the wealthy could afford to make it a constant article of diet. The quantity is not here specified. In the case of individuals the quantity may have been left for the offerer to determine, as an exercise of his benevolent feelings. When the feast of firstfruits was celebrated, the quantity of fine flour was prescribed — “two tenth deals of flour,” Leviticus 23:13, equal to about six and a half quarts.

Shall pour oil upon it — This is the oil of pressed olives. Animal oil was forbidden for food. Leviticus 7:23. Olive oil is much used in the preparation of food in Palestine. It takes the place of butter and lard in the diet and cookery of the western nations. Bread baked in oil is reputed to be particularly sustaining. Wheat boiled and eggs fried in oil are common dishes for all classes in Syria. Since oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual lesson conveyed by this ingredient is, that all the offerings of our hearts to God must be through the unction of the Holy Ghost, and all our devotional exercises must be inspired by him, whether of prayer, (Judges 1:20,) or song, (1 Corinthians 14:15,) or speaking, (Acts 2:4.)

Frankincense — This is a vegetable resin, brittle, bitter, glittering, and white when obtained from the first incision of the tree, the arbor thuris. It is produced in Arabia, (Isaiah 60:6,) especially in Sheba. The statement that it is still uncertain by what tree it is produced, is not complimentary to botanical science. The disagreement of modern writers is as great as that of ancient authors. Professor Murphy asserts that the Boswellia thurifera, or libanus, of the natural order Burseraceae, a tree of India and Arabia, produces this gum. Frankincense is chiefly used for sacrificial fumigation. The incongruity of putting this inedible substance upon the bread offering is explained in the next verse, in which the priest is directed to take all the incense and a handful of the flour and oil and burn it upon the altar.


Verse 2

2. The memorial — This is a sacrificial term peculiar to the bread offering. It is descriptive of either that which brings the offerer to the remembrance of God, or of that which brings God to the grateful recollection of the sacrificer. In the New Testament it is used in the former sense. See Matthew 26:13; Acts 10:4, notes. The same term is applied to the pure incense (in vases) set out with the showbread, (Leviticus 24:7,) and which, according to Josephus, was also burnt upon the altar.


Verse 3

3. The remnant… shall be Aaron’s — Abundant provision was made for the support of the priesthood out of the tithes and offerings. St. Paul insists that Christianity is not surpassed by Judaism in this particular. 1 Corinthians 9:13-14. Hence, when, through the decline of piety and the growth of avarice, the offerings are withheld, the service of God’s house languishes, and the ministers at the altar are driven to secular employments. Nehemiah 13:10.

A thing most holy — Everything offered to Jehovah was holy, but the portion reserved for his representatives, the priests, was most holy, and it must not be burnt, (Leviticus 10:17,) but eaten either in the holy place by the priests alone, or in a clean place by their families. Leviticus 6:25, note; Leviticus 10:14. Eating by the priests symbolizes the complete acceptance of any thing on the part of Jehovah. Consuming by the altar-fire, is another mode of acceptance.

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Verse 4

4. Oblation — The Hebrew korban. It is a general term for offering, and is so translated in Leviticus 1:2.

Baken in the oven — There is no in in the original. Hence we infer that the oven was of the kind used by the Arabs, a great stone pitcher heated by a fire within it. To the exterior of this, thin cakes or wafers are applied, which are instantly baked.

Unleavened cakes — Leaven is expressly forbidden in the bread offering.

See Leviticus 2:11. The ground of this prohibition is, that the fermentation of the leaven is incipient decay, and the bread is rendered impure. This is the testimony of modern chemistry and hygiene, which has led to the attempt to substitute aerated and salt-raised bread for that corrupted by leaven. Our Lord Jesus and St. Paul always regarded leaven as a symbol of moral putrefaction. Matthew 16:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. Thus, according to St. Paul, unleavened cakes are emblematical of “sincerity (pureness) and truth.” Leaven in food was not forbidden except in the passover week. Because the bread of the peace offering was eaten and not burned, (Leviticus 2:11,) leaven was permitted in that peace offering. Leviticus 7:14.


Verse 5

5. Baken in a pan — This was a flat iron plate or griddle. It is still used by the Arabs.


Verse 6

6. Part it in pieces — This was for the convenience of the priest, who was to cast one piece well oiled upon the altar fires, and to eat the rest himself, or to share it with his colleagues.


Verse 7

7. Fryingpan — The Hebrew word is found in only one other place in the Bible, Leviticus 7:9. Gesenius and Furst define it as a kettle for boiling. Others think that it is still to be found among the Bedouins in the form of a shallow earthen vessel called a tajen, a word which sounds much like the τηγανον of the Seventy, the pan of Leviticus 2:5. Maimonides suggests that the translation of these two utensils in Leviticus 2:7; Leviticus 2:5 should be reversed.


Verse 8

8. Thou shalt bring… unto the Lord — The entire preparation of the offering was to be made by the offerer. This variety in form not only suited the convenience of the people, but it afforded some change to the priests who were to eat the oblation. There were five forms in which it might be brought: fine flour unbaked, to be cooked by the priest, baked on a plate, in a fryingpan, in an oven, and made into wafers. In every case oil is to be added. The frankincense is mentioned only with the first. It was probably an accompaniment of all the other forms.


Verse 11

11. Burn no leaven — See note on Leviticus 2:4.

Nor any honey — This prohibition is surprising. There must be a good reason. We cannot accept that assigned by Fairbairn, that it was “to indicate that what is peculiarly pleasing to the flesh is distasteful to God, and must be renounced by his faithful servants.” This contains the essence of all asceticism — abstinence from a harmless thing simply because it is pleasing. A sufficient ground for excluding honey from the altar is suggested by its mention with leaven. It is capable of fermentation, turning sour, and even forming vinegar. Hence the active principle of corruption is in its very nature. It was also a wild product, and did not involve the notion of property which was requisite to sacrifices. As an article of food it was lawful, but it does not suit every one’s taste, nor conduce to the health of all persons. This may be another reason why it was prohibited. The priest should be required to eat only perfectly healthful food.


Verse 12

12. Firstfruits — This oblation was to be made publicly by the nation at the three great annual festivals, but individuals could make it at any time. On the morrow after the passover sabbath a sheaf, usually of barley, was waved before the altar. Before this no harvesting could be begun. Fifty days afterwards, as the word pentecost implies, two loaves made from the new flour were to be waved in like manner. The feast of ingathering, or the feast of tabernacles, was itself an acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness. Individuals brought the first dough for a heave offering, and a basket of firstfruits, and set it down by the altar and repeated the story of Israel in Egypt. Though the law required the offering of the firstfruits of all the harvests, only seven kinds of produce in their natural state were by usage liable to oblation — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The minimum oblation fixed by custom was one sixtieth part, aside from the tithes, and the corners or borders of the field left for the poor. Seven sorts of firstfruits, prepared for uses, were not required to be taken to Jerusalem, but probably to designated depositories — wine, wool, bread, oil, date-honey, and preparations of onions and of cucumbers, from a fortieth to a sixtieth of the whole product. The offerings, not only those at the altar, but those laid up elsewhere, were perquisites of the priests. Jews in foreign lands sent their firstfruits to the Holy City.


Verse 13

13. Season with salt — Salt, from its antiseptic quality, is suggestive of that moral purity and fidelity required of all true worshippers. It was applied to the bread offering for another reason — because it symbolized the existence of an inviolable friendship between the host and the guest. It was to the Hebrew a perpetual memorial of the bond of union between Jehovah and Israel. Numbers 18:19. Hence the injunction, “Thou shalt not suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking.”

With all… offerings… offer salt — The typology of this requirement is explained by our Lord Jesus: “For every one shall be salted (purified or punished) with fire, (God’s holiness,) as every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” See Mark 9:49, note.


Verse 14

14. Green ears of corn — This refers chiefly to wheat and barley, the heads of which are called ears. Indian corn was unknown.

Dried by the fire — In order to be broken into groats by grinding, as the Seventy have rendered it, the green grain first harvested for the oblation must be dried. Says Adam Clarke: “As God is represented as keeping a table among his people, so he represents himself as partaking with them of all the ailments that were in use, even sitting down with the poor to a repast on parched corn!”

Corn beaten out — The scorched grains or grits were to be separated from the straw. The bread offering, as a whole, is a type of the Son of God, who is the bread of life, to be appropriated by all who have first been cleansed from the guilt of sin by the blood of sprinkling shed by our great Sin Offering. The risen Jesus is our Bread of Life. Because he lives and sends up the incense of his prayers, and sends down the oil of gladness, the Anointing Spirit, we live also.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/leviticus-2.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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