ONGOING ACCESS TO A HOLY GOD FOR FELLOWSHIP AND WORSHIP PROMPTS BURNT OFFERINGS REFLECTING SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT AND TOTAL SURRENDER
Constable: The Hebrew word qorban, translated “offering,” comes from the verb that means “to bring near.” It literally means “that which one brings near to God.”
God designed these offerings to teach the Israelites, as well as to enable them to worship Him; thus they had both a revelatory and a regulatory purpose. They taught the people what was necessary to maintain and restore the believers’ communion with God in view of their sin and defilement.
Ross: Sacrifice is at the heart of all true worship. It serves as the consecrating ritual for participation in the holy rites, it forms the appropriate tribute due to the LORD, and it represents the proper spiritual attitude of the worshiper.
Wenham: The burnt offering was the commonest of all the OT sacrifices. Its main function was to atone for man’s sin by propitiating God’s wrath. In the immolation [burning] of the animal, most commonly a lamb, God’s judgment against human sin was symbolized and the animal suffered in man’s place. The worshiper acknowledged his guilt and responsibility for his sins by pressing his hand on the animal’s head and confessing his sin. The lamb was accepted as the ransom price for the guilty man [cf. Mark 10:45; Eph. 2:5; Heb. 7:27; 1 Pet. 1:18-19]. The daily use of the sacrifice in the worship of the temple and tabernacle was a constant reminder of man’s sinfulness and God’s holiness. So were its occasional usages after sickness, childbirth, and vows. In bringing a sacrifice a man acknowledged his sinfulness and guilt. He also publicly confessed his faith in the Lord, his thankfulness for past blessing, and his resolve to live according to God’s holy will all the days of his life.
Jacob Milgrom: The ritual procedure with the burnt offering can be reconstructed as follows: After the offerer has performed the hand-leaning rite and slaughtered his animal, the officiating priest dashes the animal’s blood—collected by his fellow priest(s)—upon all the sides of the altar, while the offerer skins and quarters the animal and washes its entrails and skins. Once the priests have stoked the altar fire, laid new wood upon it, and then laid the animal parts, the officiating priest supervises the incineration of the sacrifice.
Peter Pett: The whole burnt offering could be of a bull-ox, of sheep or goat, or of specific birds depending on the wealth and occupation of the offerer. These animals and birds were of especial value to a man as they would otherwise be eaten by him, or would provide clothing and milk for him. Thus they were sacrifices in more ways than one because the sacrificer was sacrificing the opportunity of he and his family eating them, and of them providing his family with clothing, and there was therefore a cost to offerings and sacrifices, especially those that were wholly consumed in the offering. And for a poor man to offer a bird may well have been far more costly to him than for a rich man when he offered a bullock. For him food was in short supply. Our first lesson is thus that what we give to God must not be without cost, for otherwise it will mean nothing to us, but that He does not demand from us what we cannot afford to provide. He does not demand too much.
John Schultz: The regulations in this chapter pertain to three different offerings of the same category: Verses 3 – 10 concern a head of cattle; vs. 11 – 13 concern a ram or a male goat and vs. 14- 17 concern a pair of doves or turtle doves. Except for these three distinctions there is no real difference in the sacrifices.
Mark Rooker: the type of sacrifice presented would correspond to the donor’s ability and resources. The Israelite of some means would offer a bull (1:3-5), the Israelite of average means would offer a sheep (1:10), while the poor would offer a bird (1:14). . .
Since the burnt offering was the most common sacrifice in Israelite worship, offered not only on a daily basis but also in conjunction with other festivals (Num 28), it was a daily reminder that believers must continually confess their sins to God (1 John 1:9). Moreover, the sacrifice was made wholly to God and thus was an expression of total obedience. Many commentators believe that Paul’s admonition for believers to present themselves as a living sacrifice in Rom 12:1, 2 is an allusion to the presentation of the whole burnt offering.
Kenneth Mathews: The Lord required the Israelite worshipper to bring the proper gift to the proper place and to worship him by the proper presentation of the offering. We will discover that the demands made of the ancient Hebrews were perfectly performed on our behalf through Jesus Christ who himself was the proper gift and the proper place and fulfilled the proper presentation of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. By his perfect obedience, we as Christians can worship with the perfect assurance that our worship is accepted by the Father.
Warren Wiersbe: The significance of the offering is seen in the repetition of the phrases “before the Lord” and “unto the Lord,” which are found seven times in this first chapter of Leviticus (vv. 2-3, 5, 9, 13-14, 17). The transaction at the altar wasn’t between the offerer and his conscience, or the offerer and the nation, or even the offerer and the priest; it was between the offerer and the Lord.
(:1) PROLOGUE – FELLOWSHIP OF DIVINE ACCESS AND COMMUNICATION
“Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,”
MacArthur: Leviticus begins where Exodus left off. No sooner did the glory cloud come down to rest on the tabernacle in the concluding verses of Exodus, than God instructed Moses with the content in Leviticus.
Constable: This section of Leviticus, and the whole book, opens with the statement “the LORD called to Moses” (v. 1). This is the third time that we read of the LORD calling to Moses in this way: in addition to the burning bush incident (Exod. 3:4), and on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:3). Having taken possession of the tabernacle, God now gave orders to His servant from that audience chamber. Previously, God had spoken to the Israelites publicly from Mt. Sinai, and to Moses privately on that mountain, but now that the tabernacle was complete, God spoke to Moses in an audible voice from above the mercy seat. All of the revelations that follow these announcements are very significant.
Baxter: Before this, a distant God has spoken from “the mount that burned with fire”; but now – as we see at the end of Exodus – the Tabernacle is erected “according to the pattern showed in the mount,” and a God who dwells among his people in fellowship with them speaks “out of the Tabernacle.” The people, therefore, are not addressed as sinners distanced from God, like those of other nations, but as being already brought into a new relationship, even that of fellowship, on the ground of a blood-sealed covenant.
Kenneth Mathews: Before the people departed for their promised homeland in Palestine (ancient Canaan), the Lord spoke from the tent. The book of Leviticus is essentially the message that God spoke to his people at that time in preparation for their departure. The teaching of Leviticus was both revelatory and regulatory. This message revealed more about their God and also regulated the relationship that he had established with them at the exodus. Repeatedly in Leviticus we are told that the Lord “spoke to [Moses]” (1:1). Moses was the mediator of God’s word to his people. Unlike any other person, the Lord met with Moses: “With [Moses] I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:8). At Sinai the mount was enveloped by a cloud that was identified as “the glory of the Lord” from which the Lord spoke to Moses.
Mark Rooker: The importance of the Tent in Israel’s covenant relationship with God is twofold: (1) the tent was the place of God’s revelation, where he communicated his word, and (2) the tent served as the place of worship, where God was approached through sacrifices.15 In Jesus Christ the presence of God would be incarnated in a human being, the divine God-Man. Jesus is not only the revelation of God but the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system that foreshadowed his sacrifice that would remove sins once and for all. The apostle John specifically alludes to this connection in stating that Jesus “tabernacled,” among us (John 1:14). The tabernacle as the special place of God’s presence is a type of the incarnation of Christ, who “made his dwelling” (tabernacled) among us.
I. (:2-9) BURNT OFFERING OF CATTLE
A. (:2-3) Presentation of Offering Based on Selection Criteria
1. (:2-3a) Selection Criteria
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them,
‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD,
you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.
If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it,
a male without defect;’”
David Guzik: In the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, there were three major parts. The covenant included the law Israel had to obey, sacrifice to provide for breaking the law, and the choice of blessing or curse that would become Israel’s destiny throughout history.
i. The sacrificial system was an essential element of the Mosaic covenant because it was impossible to live up to the requirements of the law. No one could perfectly obey the law, and sin had to be dealt with through sacrifice. Each commanded sacrifice was significant, and they all pointed toward the perfect sacrifice Jesus would offer by His crucifixion (Hebrews 7:27, 9:11-28).
ii. This was not the beginning of God’s sacrificial system. Adam knew of sacrifice (Genesis 3:21), as did Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-4), and Noah (Genesis 8:20-21). Israel offered sacrifice at the Passover (Exodus 12). Job 1:5 and Exodus 10:25 also mention burnt sacrifices before the book of Leviticus.
R. K. Harrison: For the burnt offering only domesticated animals, indicating a developed stage of agricultural life, were to be presented, since wild species did not cost the donor anything. In addition, wild animals had not received the labour and care that had been expended on herds and flocks.
Perry Yoder: The distinguishing characteristic of the whole burnt offering is that it is wholly given over to God and, except for the hide, is entirely burned on the altar. The priest retains the hide. The worshiper gains nothing from the sacrifice.
Maclaren: “burnt offering” — Its name literally means ‘that which ascends,’ and refers, no doubt, to the ascent of the transformed substance of the sacrifice in fire and smoke, as to God. The central idea of this sacrifice, then, as gathered from its name and confirmed by its manner, is that of the yielding of the whole being in self-surrender, and borne up by the flame of intense consecration to God.
Robert Vasholz: The Lord’s call to Moses begins with instructions for Moses to teach Israel the proper way to present the so-called burnt offering. Instructions for other offerings will shortly follow. The word translated ‘burnt offering’ derives from the verb that means to ascend. It could be dubbed the ascent offering, though it is not the only offering that ascends in smoke. However, it is the only sacrifice where the whole sacrifice ascends in smoke. All but the skins of the burnt offerings are offered up on the altar. It is fitting that the details of the burnt offering are the first presented by Moses to the people. The burnt offering is referred to more times in the Old Testament than any other sacrifice. Subsequently, all public events in Israel will be celebrated with burnt offerings.
Kenneth Mathews: In the presentation of the burnt offering, the layperson and the officiating priest each played vital roles. Both were essential to the success of the ritual. Their respective parts in the ritual alternated between layperson and officiating priest. There was a symbiotic harmony between the worshipper and the officiating priest.
John Hartley: The first ritual is fuller than the other two. There are two reasons for this. First, details from the first ritual are assumed to be carried over to the ritual for a member of the flock. Second, some information, such as that for preparing the fire, is mentioned only here because it is assumed that a whole offering is to be the first sacrifice offered at the newly established Tent of Meeting.
2. (:3b) Sacred Objective
“he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.”
Constable: The reasons for listing this offering first, include that it was the most common, and therefore the most important one, in this sense, and because it belonged completely to God. The priests offered a burnt offering every morning and every evening, and more frequently on holy days, as a public offering.
Ross: The LORD accepts with pleasure whoever comes into his presence by substitutionary atonement through the shedding of blood.
B. (:4) Identification with the Offering
“And he shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering,
that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.”
MacArthur: This symbolic gesture pictured the transfer of the sacrificer’s sin to the sacrificial animal and was likely done with a prayer of repentance and request for forgiveness (cf. Ps 51:18, 19). . . This was a substitutionary sacrifice that prefigured the ultimate substitute – Jesus Christ.
F. Duane Lindsey: Like all Levitical sacrifices, the underlying purpose of the burnt offering was to secure atonement for sins (1:4; cf. Num. 15:24-25), though its more immediate purposes was to express total dedication to the Lord. . .
The related Hebrew word koper, “ransom,” supports the conclusion of Morris that in ritual usage kipper acquired the technical meaning – “to accomplish reconciliation between God and man” (p. 148), particularly through offering as a ransom price a substitute for the object of divine wrath (p. 152). In Old Testament usage it is apparent that the atonement or reconciliation involved not only expiation of the sin but also propitiation of the divine Lawgiver. Though the offense had to be expiated, more significantly the sacrifice was required because the personal relationship between God and man had been disrupted. So expiation had the effect of making propitiation – turning away divine wrath by a satisfactory, substitutionary sacrifice.
David Guzik: “to make atonement” — The idea behind the Hebrew word for atonement (kophar) is to cover. The idea was that an individual’s sin and guilt were covered over by the blood of the sacrificial victim.
i. Leviticus is a book all about atonement. “The word kipper (“to make atonement”) is used almost fifty times in Leviticus…. It is used about fifty times more in the rest of the OT.” (Harris)
ii. But there is a difference between the Old Testament idea of atonement and the New Testament idea. In the Old Testament, sin is “covered over” until redemption was completed by Jesus on the cross. In the New Testament, sin is done away with – and a true “at-one-ment” was accomplished by Jesus’ sacrifice. The believer is therefore right with God on the basis of what Jesus has done at the cross, not on the basis of what the believer does. “There are two ruling religions around us at this day, and they mainly differ in tense. The general religion of mankind is ‘Do,’ but the religion of a true Christian is ‘Done.’” (Spurgeon)
C. (:5-9) Sacrifice of the Offering
1. (:5) Killing the Animal and Processing the Blood
“And he shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”
Constable: Whereas both the offerer and the priest could slaughter the animal sacrifice (vv. 5, 14-15), only the priest could sprinkle its blood. The method of slaughtering was by slitting the throat.
David Guzik: Of course, the priest would assist as necessary, and the priests would do the heavy work of skinning and cutting the animal up. But the one who brought the offering delivered the deathblow. The individual Israelite cut the jugular vein of the bull, in the presence of the priests at the tabernacle of meeting. This was a solemn testimony to the need for sacrifice, a confession of the fact, I need atonement for my sin.
2. (:6) Skinning the Animal and Dissecting It
“He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.”
Constable: Cutting the sacrificial animal in “pieces” (vv. 6, 8) made it appear as though it was part of a family meal. The animal was thus like “a meal” presented to God.
3. (:7-8) Arranging on the Altar
“And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.”
Constable: The animal perished completely, consumed in the “fire” on “the altar” (“all of it … a burnt offering”; v. 9), except for the skin, which went to the priest (v. 6; 7:8). This symbolized the comprehensive nature of the offerer’s consecration to God—his or her total subjection to the Lord, “the extinction of the offerer’s worldly values”. Perhaps God excluded the skin to focus attention on the internal elements, the real person. God deserves the surrender of the entire person, not just a part.
4. (:9a) Cleansing Entrails and Legs
“Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water.”
5. (:9b) Burning the Offering
“And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
David Guzik: A sweet aroma to the LORD: This is stated for all aspects of the burnt sacrifice. The atoning for sin and the giving of all, in obedience to God’s instruction, pleased God as a sweet aroma pleases the senses. The Bible specifically tells us that Jesus Christ fulfilled this sacrifice with His own offering, perfectly pleasing God in laying down His life at the cross: As Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)
Kenneth Mathews: The Greek Old Testament’s translation of our phrase is important to us as Christian readers. It translated the Hebrew phrase as “sweet aroma,” which is the same language used by the Apostle Paul when describing the atoning sacrifice of Christ: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Unlike the animal slain on behalf of the worshipper in Leviticus, the sacrifice offered up by our Lord was wholly voluntary. He “gave himself up.” That the Father fully accepted the atonement of Jesus was proven by the resurrection of the Lord. We who have entrusted ourselves to Christ by faith can have the same assurance of acceptance with the Father.
II. (:10-13) BURNT OFFERING OF SHEEP OR GOATS
A. (:10) Presentation of Offering Based on Selection Criteria
“But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats,
for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect.”
B. (:11-13) Sacrifice of the Offering
1. (:11) Killing the Animal and Processing the Blood
“And he shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.”
2. (:12) Dissecting and Arranging on the Altar
“He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet,
and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.”
3. (:13a) Cleansing Entrails and Legs
“The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water.”
Constable: they washed the entrails and legs of the animals in water (vv. 9, 13). This washing probably symbolized the need for internal purity. They did not wash the birds, however. Perhaps they were regarded as already clean.
Robert Vasholz: It is hard to miss the point. Anything that smacks of defilement has no place in the Tent-Sanctuary, a principal theme in Leviticus. All dung, a symbol of defilement, must be removed (Deut. 23:14–15). The worshipper skins the animal and gives the inedible skin to the priest (cf. Lev. 7:8). It is not necessary to divide birds since they are small of size. The skin goes to those who minister at the altar as a kind of prebend, or honorarium, for his service. Cattle hides, in particular, are valuable.
4. (:13b) Burning the Offering
“And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
III. (:14-17) BURNT OFFERING OF BIRDS –
PROVISION FOR PARTICIPATION BY POOR PEOPLE
A. (:14) Presentation of the Offering Based on Selection Criteria
“But if his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons.”
R. K. Harrison: These verses deal with fowls as a burnt offering. There would be persons in Israel who could not afford to slaughter a prime animal, even if they possessed one. For such poor people the law permitted fowl to be presented, and relaxed the specifications for the offering to the extent of not stipulating that the bird must be male and unblemished (cf. 5:7; 12:8). The birds most suitable for such offerings were turtledoves or … young pigeons. The dove was one of the most commonly mentioned birds in the Bible. Ancient traditions maintained that the dove had no bile, and as a result it was considered to be clean, gentle and inoffensive. Although sometimes attacked by more aggressive birds the dove never retaliates, and for this reason has become a symbol of the Christian virtues. In Matthew 10:16 Christ used the dove as an exemplar of innocence. Its non-aggressive nature has enabled the dove to be employed as an international peace symbol. Isaiah 60:8 indicates that the dove had also been domesticated, although wild doves lived in caves throughout the hilly regions of Palestine, as did pigeons. Both types of birds continued to be sacrificed in New Testament times, and could be purchased in one of the temple courts (cf. Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14–16). At the time of Christ’s presentation in the temple (Luke 2:22–24), the sacrificial provisions of Leviticus 12:8 were cited to cover the impoverished conditions of Mary and Joseph. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ at his baptism was described in terms of dove imagery also (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32).
Jacob Milgrom: Built into the Israelite system of sacrifices is a mechanism to ensure that all Israelites, regardless of wealth, could communicate directly with God and participate in the spiritual life of their people.
B. (:15-17) Sacrifice of the Offering
1. (:15) Killing the Bird and Processing the Blood
“And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head,
and offer it up in smoke on the altar;
and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar.”
2. (:16) Defeathering the Bird
“He shall also take away its crop with its feathers,
and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes.”
3. (:17a) Tearing the Wings
“Then he shall tear it by its wings, but shall not sever it.”
4. (:17b) Burning the Offering
“And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
Constable: Generally, the higher the individual Israelite’s responsibility before God (e.g., priests, rulers, common people, etc.), the larger and more expensive was the animal that he had to offer. People with greater responsibility would also have had more money, and therefore more ability to bring the more expensive sacrifices. . .
In summary, the burnt offering was an act of worship in which the Israelite offered to God a whole animal. The fire on the altar completely consumed it (the offered animal) as a “substitute” for the offerer, and as a symbol of his total personal self-sacrifice to God. These sacrifices were voluntary on the Israelite’s part, as is “self-sacrifice” for the Christian (Rom. 6:12-13; 12:1-2; cf. Matt. 22:37; 1 Cor. 6:19).