ONGOING ACCESS TO A HOLY GOD FOR FELLOWSHIP AND WORSHIP PROMPTS GRAIN OFFERINGS REFLECTING OUR TOTAL DEDICATION FOR HIS DAILY PROVISION
Peter Pett: We must not be too dogmatic about the differing significance of these sacrifices, as if we could limit them to one idea, for in all the animal sacrifices there was the presentation in one way or another of the blood to God, and the offering to Him of the fat along with the vital organs. The former sought atonement, the latter offered a pleasing odour to God. But we cannot doubt that each offering had its own special significance, and therefore its unique place within the system. And each presented an aspect of the greater offering, when our Lord Jesus Christ was offered up and sacrificed for us.
Allen Ross: The worshipers were instructed to offer a cooked or uncooked meal offering (which included only those ingredients representing the best of God’s lasting bounty and eliminated those representing corruption), in order to demonstrate their dedication to the LORD and find him pleased to accept them and their offerings. . .
The LORD expects his people to offer themselves and the best they have as a token of their dedication and gratitude.
Noordtzij: the burnt offering … speaks of complete self-surrender, and the grain offering … an acknowledgement of absolute dependence.
F. Duane Lindsey: Since the grain offering involved the Israelites’ normal food and cooking methods, it may have symbolized the dedication of everyday life to God and perhaps the recognition of God’s provision of daily needs. Especially in the form of a first-fruits offering, it constituted a recognition of God’s covenant mercies and an affirmation of loyalty to the Lord of the covenant who had brought Israel into their land (Deut. 26:9-10).
Gordon Wenham: The cereal offering is a kind of tribute from the faithful worshipper to his divine overlord. . . It was an act of dedication and consecration to God as Savior and covenant King. It expressed not only thankfulness but obedience and a willingness to keep the law. Like the burnt offering, the cereal offering was a sacrifice that was repeated often in a worshipper’s lifetime.
Jacob Milgrom: The cereal offering in Scripture is of two types. First, it is an accompaniment to animal sacrifices, the required auxiliary of the burnt offering and the well-being offering. “When the Hebrew ate flesh, he ate bread with it and drank wine, and when he offered flesh on the table of his God, it was natural that he should add to it the same concomitants which were necessary to make up a comfortable and generous meal.” [W. Robertson Smith]
The cereal offering could also be offered by itself, in which case, according to the priestly rules, it would be accompanied by oil and, if uncooked, by frankincense (2:1–3*, 14–16*). If it was cooked, the requirement of frankincense was waived (see at vv. 4–10*) as a special concession to the poor, for whom even a few grains of this precious spice would have strained their means.
Allen Ross: only a handful of this one was burned. The rest of it became food for the priests. Wenham (67) rightly points out that the way this sacrifice was used makes unlikely the rabbinic suggestion that the meal offering was a poor person’s burnt offering.
I. (:1-3) UNCOOKED MEAL OFFERING
A. (:1) God’s People Must Offer Tribute to God from Their Substance
“Now when anyone presents a grain offering as an offering to the LORD,
his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it
and put frankincense on it.”
Constable: A meal offering always followed the official daily burnt offerings (cf. Exod. 29:39-40; Num. 28:3-6), and it often accompanied a peace offering (cf. Num. 15:3-5; 2 Kings 16:13). It was only offered by itself on two occasions: as a priest’s offering (Lev. 7:12), and in the ritual used to determine a wife’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness to her husband (Num. 5:15). The meal offering was a type of “tribute” from a faithful worshiper to his divine overlord. The Hebrew word minha’, here translated “meal offering,” also means “tribute” (cf. Gen. 32:13; 1 Kings 10:25; 2 Kings 8:8). . .
The offering itself was the “fruit” (product, “first fruits,” “first ripened things”) of human labor. . . the contrast intended was primarily between the person of the offerer and his works. The animals offered in the burnt offering were God’s creations, but the cake or grain offered in the meal offering was the product of man’s labor.
God charged mankind with the responsibility of cultivating the earth (Gen. 1:29; cf. 9:4-6). Man cultivates the ground to provide for the needs of man—his own needs and the needs of other people. The grain or flour, from which the “staff of life” (bread or cake) comes, symbolized what God enabled man to produce. By offering this sacrifice, the offerer was saying that he viewed all the work that he did as “an offering to the Lord.”
Peter Pett: The primary significance is one of gratitude and love to Yahweh for His provision of grain and oil, a constant reminder of their dependence on Him for the rain, and of a dedication of all their abilities to Him. As far as the offerer was concerned it was a whole offering to God, even though most became available to the priest for his consumption in the tabernacle (Leviticus 6:16). It must be stressed again that there is never any suggestion that Yahweh partook of such offerings. They were quite openly said to be for the priest. Yahweh is simply revealed as pleased with the offering. The frankincense adds to the offering a further token of special gratitude and worship and love, and that is wholly offered to Yahweh (it was inedible). The grain offering was regularly offered with whole burnt offerings (it was part of the daily offerings morning and evening), and sometimes with peace offerings. In those cases no frankincense was required, because the pleasing odour came from the other offerings, demonstrating that the frankincense replaced the offered animal or bird. But it could equally be offered on its own, as could frankincense.
R. K. Harrison: Frankincense was symbolic of holiness and devotion (cf. Ps. 141:2), and was one of the gifts presented to the infant Jesus by the wise men (Matt. 2:11). Because the sacrificial offering was intended to secure goodwill, the frankincense had to be placed on the ground cereal, in contrast to the procedure required for a sin offering (5:11), where the use of frankincense was forbidden.
Warren Wiersbe: The offering had to be accompanied with oil (Lev. 2:1-2, 4, 6, 15), either poured on it or mingled with it, a picture of the Holy Spirit of God, who was given to Christ without measure (John 3:34).
B. (:2) God’s Priests Make Sure the Offering is Pleasing to God
1. Mediation by the Priests
“He shall then bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests;”
2. Measuring Out the Portion Dedicated to the Lord
“and shall take from it his handful of its fine flour
and of its oil with all of its frankincense.”
3. Memorial Portion Offered Up by Fire
“And the priest shall offer it up in smoke as its memorial portion on the altar, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
Robert Coleman: It was burned as a memorial – to put God in remembrance (cf. Acts 10:4).
C. (:3) God’s People Must Support God’s Full-Time Ministers
“And the remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons:
a thing most holy, of the offerings to the LORD by fire.”
Oswald T. Allis: the priest’s portion was to be eaten only by male members of his family and in a holy place, i.e. within the court of the Tabernacle (6:16; cf. 10:12f).
II. (:4-7) COOKING OPTIONS
A. (:4) Baked
“Now when you bring an offering of a grain offering baked in an oven,
it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil,
or unleavened wafers spread with oil.”
Peter Pett: The oven would be a deep earthenware vessel with a fire in the bottom. The flat cakes would adhere to the side so that the fire could cook them. The wafers would be extra thin, probably round, cakes, with oil spread on them. An alternative was to use a heated flat-plate, or a deep pan with a cover. The former would produce a large flat pancake which would be separated into pieces, with the oil poured on the pieces. The latter would have oil in it, with pieces of milled grain dough dropped in the oil in order to cook them.
R. K. Harrison: The previous section had dealt with an offering of uncooked grain, doubtless the most primitive kind of cereal offering, and thus placed appropriately in this chapter. Subsequent forms comprised dough flattened out by hand and then, either on a hot rock or on the inside of a previously heated stove or oven. The cooked resultant bread was an offering of flour baked in the manner familiar in Palestine from the Early Bronze Age, and still in use among Arab peasants. Once more, even the poorest of persons could offer a home-made flat cake or a wafer of bread as a sacrifice to God, and come to know him more fully in the breaking of bread (cf. Luke 24:35). The unleavened cakes would probably be thicker than the wafers, the latter perhaps corresponding to the unleavened bread used by modern Jews at the feast of the Passover.
B. (:5-6) Grilled
“And if your offering is a grain offering made on the griddle,
it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil;
you shall break it into bits, and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering.”
Constable: A “griddle” (v. 5) had no lid, whereas a “pan” (v. 7) did.
C. (:7) Fried
“Now if your offering is a grain offering made in a pan,
it shall be made of fine flour with oil.”
III. (:8-13) CRITICAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. (:8-10) Ritual Procedure
1. (:8) Presentation to the Priest
“When you bring in the grain offering which is made of these things to the LORD, it shall be presented to the priest and he shall bring it to the altar.”
Kenneth Mathews: The acceptance of the gift by the priest with its memorial portion burned on the sacred altar symbolized the acceptance of the offering by God.
2. (:9) Presentation by the Priest to the Lord
“The priest then shall take up from the grain offering its memorial portion, and shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
3. (:10) Portion Reserved for the Support of the Priests
“And the remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons: a thing most holy, of the offerings to the LORD by fire.”
Constable: Humankind, symbolized by the priest, derived most of the benefit of this offering. This was appropriate, since the offering represented man’s work for his fellow man. The offerer received none of this sacrifice for himself. This too was obviously appropriate.
B. (:11-12) Prohibition against Leavening Agents of Yeast or Honey
“No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD. As an offering of first fruits, you shall bring them to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar.”
Peter Pett: It is now pointed out that the Grain Offering must not contain anything that ferments, neither leaven nor honey. Rather it must positively be seasoned with salt as a preservative. The emphasis is on its unalloyed purity and its continual permanence in that state.
Kenneth Mathews: The prohibition against honey is not explained. Since the context refers to “first-fruits,” it was probably the sweet syrup coming from fruit. Bees’ honey, no doubt, would have been understood as included. It too could corrupt the dough because of its sweetness that leads to fermentation. Still others believe that since honey was a common feature in pagan offerings to the gods, it could lead to confusion with idolatrous offerings. The grain offerings of the Israelites were different in appearance and taste.
Robert Coleman: Only offerings given to the priests (7:13, 14) could contain leaven.
C. (:13) Requirement of Adding Salt – Signifying Eternal Covenant Relationship
“Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt,
so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
Constable: “Salt” symbolized a “covenant,” in that nothing in antiquity could destroy salt, including fire and time (cf. Num. 18:19). Salt was also a symbol of friendship.4 Adding “salt” to an offering reminded the worshiper that he was in an eternal covenant relationship with his God.
MacArthur: This was included in all of the offerings in 2:4-10, 14-16 since salt was emblematic of permanence of loyalty to the covenant.
IV. (:14-16) CEREAL OFFERING OF FIRST FRUITS
A. (:14) Apportioning Your First Fruits to the Lord
“Also if you bring a grain offering of early ripened things to the LORD, you shall bring fresh heads of grain roasted in the fire, grits of new growth, for the grain offering of your early ripened things.”
Peter Pett: Having forbidden the offering of leaven and honey on the altar, even though they can be offered as first-fruits, he now indicates what first-fruit can be offered on the altar. The early ears of grain, which being green and moist were parched with fire to make them more edible, and bruised by threshing/grinding to remove the chaff and prepare them for eating, were offerable, with oil put on them and frankincense laid on top. The emphasis is on the fact that these are the very earliest ears and they are roasted with fire and de-chaffed, and then offered with oil in an unfinalised but edible state together with the frankincense as an offerable first fruit.
B. (:15) Application of Oil and Incense
“You shall then put oil on it and lay incense on it; it is a grain offering.”
MacArthur: incense – A gum resin with a pungent, balsamic odor, used in the tabernacle sacrifices (cf. Ex 30:34).
C. (:16) Burning the Memorial Portion to the Lord
“And the priest shall offer up in smoke its memorial portion, part of its grits and its oil with all its incense as an offering by fire to the LORD.”
Perry Yoder: Although this offering is a food offering to God (Lev 2:16), there is no pleasing aroma for God’s pleasure. The reason is that while the previous grain offerings have been voluntary, the first-fruits offering is obligatory. For example, a first-fruits offering of the harvest is mandated in Exodus 23:16, 19; 34:22, 26. As we shall see in Leviticus 4, “pleasing God,” which occurs frequently with voluntary offerings, occurs only once with obligatory ones.