ONGOING ACCESS TO A HOLY GOD FOR FELLOWSHIP AND WORSHIP PROMPTS PEACE OFFERINGS REFLECTING THE BENEFITS OF OUR RECONCILED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND OTHER BELIEVERS
Constable: The “peace (fellowship [NIV], well-being [NRSV]) offering” is the third voluntary sacrifice of worship. It represented the personal fellowship between God and each Israelite person, and between believing Israelites, that resulted from the relationship that God had established with the redeemed individual (cf. Rom. 5:1). Peace and fellowship resulted from redemption, and this act of worship highlighted and celebrated those blessings from God. It did not obtain them. . .
The Israelites could present this offering for any of three possible reasons: as a thanksgiving offering, as a freewill offering, or to fulfill a vow (i.e., a votive offering; cf. 7:12-16).
David Thompson: . . . when one is becoming whole and sound and complete in one’s relationship with God and when one is living in true harmony with God, that one will be continually and willingly going to the place of worship and offering up sacrifices to God for all of the blessings He has given.
Bush: In the Hebrew the import of prosperity, of welfare, is prominent to the enjoyment of the petition of which this offering was especially appointed. The idea of grateful acknowledgment therefore is the leading idea which it is calculated to suggest.
Gordon Wenham: The traditional rendering “peace offering” connects shelāmîm with Heb. shālôm, “peace.” Peace in Hebrew means more than the absence of war. True peace means health, prosperity, and peace with God, i.e., salvation. This understanding of the peace offering, accepted by a number of ancient and modern writers, seems to do most justice to the OT evidence.
Jacob Milgrom: The well-being offering is, at its core, an offering of thankfulness. Although it takes on three unique forms, discussed below, its overarching purpose is to provide a ritual by which the Israelites could acknowledge the miracles of their lives and express gratitude for them. . .
The main function of all the well-being offerings is to provide meat for the table. Except for kings and aristocrats, meat was eaten only on rare occasions, usually surrounding a celebration. Because a whole animal was probably too much for the nuclear family, it had to be a household or clan celebration. All joyous celebrations would have been marked by a well-being offering, the joyous sacrifice par excellence.
R. K. Harrison: The sacrifice (zebaḥ) of well-being indicates conscious social communion, in which what is deficient in the offerer will be remedied as he comes in faith and penitence to God, the healer and restorer (cf. Exod. 15:26; Ps. 103:3). The ritual follows closely the pattern of the burnt offering.
Allen Ross: The peace offering was a shared meal in which the offerer celebrated with those assembled in the sanctuary the benefits of a peaceful relationship with God. It was a joyous time of feasting in the presence of God, made possible by blood atonement and occasioned by blessings from God.
This sacrifice was probably one of the most anticipated occasions of all the rituals because of its nature as a communal meal—it was a great feast. After performing the required ritual, the offering was apportioned as follows: the fat and the inner parts went to God to be burned on the altar, the right shoulder and the right thigh were given to the priest, and the rest was eaten by everyone present in the courtyard. This ritual was unique in that the people received part of this sacrifice as a communal meal. . .
Those who surrender their hearts to God and come before him on the basis of the shed blood of the sacrifice may celebrate being at peace with God (in a communal meal).
I. (:1-5) PEACE OFFERING OF CATTLE
A. (:1) Presentation of Offering Based on Selection Criteria
“Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings,
if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female,
he shall offer it without defect before the LORD.”
Gordon Wenham: Female as well as male animals could be used in the peace offering. For the burnt offering only males were acceptable. The use of female animals in the peace offering shows that this was regarded as a less important sacrifice than the burnt offering.
B. (:2) Sacrifice of the Offering and Sprinkling of Blood
“And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting,
and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar.”
F. Duane Lindsey: In the case of the fellowship offering the laying on of his hand probably included the worshiper’s explanation of why he was bringing the offering, whether an acknowledgment of declarative praise in answer to prayer, or the testimony of the fulfillment of a vow, or a freewill thanksgiving at harvest time, and so on.
C. (:3-4) Guts of the Offering
“And from the sacrifice of the peace offerings, he shall present an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.”
Jacob Milgrom: “Suet” refers to the layers of fat beneath the surface of the animal’s skin and around its organs that can be peeled off, in contrast to the fat that is inextricably entwined in the musculature. It was the exclusive reserve for the Deity and was forbidden for private use. That it was considered the choicest of the animal’s portions is demonstrated by its metaphoric use; for example, “the suet [erroneously ‘fat’] of the land” (Gen 45:18*), “the suet of wheat” (Deut 32:14*), where it denotes “the best.”
R. K. Harrison: While the lay worshipper carries out certain duties such as killing the animal, it is the priest’s responsibility to dash the blood against the sacrificial altar. After this had been done, the animal was cut into pieces, some of which were offered subsequently on the altar. No mention is made of the skinning process, but this was evidently part of the ritual (cf. 1:6), since the regulations in 7:15–36 provided for peace offerings to be eaten by the worshippers, with certain portions being reserved for the priests. In this respect the well-being offering differed from the burnt offering, which was consumed completely on the altar.
Allen Ross: Why the viscera was burned on the altar is not explained in the text and so we can only suggest an explanation. Since the kidneys and other internal organs represented the seat of the emotions (i.e. the will and other related emotional instincts), by giving these internal parts of the sacrificial animal, offerers were in essence surrendering their own deepest emotions and intentions. This makes good sense because the peace offering came at very emotional times—praises, vows, and freewill offerings. In this part of the ritual, then, offerers were symbolically surrendering themselves—their innermost beings—to the LORD.
D. (:5) Effect of the Offering
“Then Aaron’s sons shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
Robert Vasholz: Moses states that the worshipper must bring his offering with his own hands (Lev. 7:30). While this applies to all offerings by fire, it is distinctly noted with the peace offering. It highlights the worshipper’s personal participation in the ritual. It is the only offering eaten, at least in part, by God, the priest and the worshipper. The worshipper must lean his hand on the head of the offering and kill the sacrifice at the doorway, just as he did with the burnt offering, to show his dependence on the sacrifice. The priest is commanded to sprinkle the blood around the altar and offer selected parts on the altar as a pleasing aroma. Only a priest is permitted to do so (Lev. 1:8, 9, 12, 13, 17; 2:1, 9, 10, 16).
Peter Pett: In the Law it is always made clear that the offerings, if eaten, are eaten either by the priests or the people. (Consider also the shewbread and see Exodus 24:9-11). God participates by receiving the ‘pleasing odour’. Thus does He fellowship with His people through the peace offering, fellowshipping with them in their meal but not eating of it, an indication of friendly intentions and love and yet of separateness and non-earthiness. As we have seen this is made clear by the inclusion of the inedible frankincense in the grain offering. It was the pleasing odour not the actual food that came up to Yahweh. The food was consumed by the fire and turned into a pleasing odour. (In other words God accepted it spiritually).
II. (:6-11) PEACE OFFERING OF SHEEP
A. (:6) Presentation of Offering Based on Selection Criteria
“But if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD is from the flock, he shall offer it, male or female, without defect.”
B. (:7-8) Sacrifice of the Offering and Sprinkling of Blood
“If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD, 8 and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and slay it before the tent of meeting;
and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.”
C. (:9-10) Guts of the Offering
“And from the sacrifice of peace offerings he shall bring as an offering by fire to the LORD, its fat, the entire fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 10 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.”
D. (:11) Effect of the Offering
“Then the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, as food, an offering by fire to the LORD.”
MacArthur: The sacrifice was intended to symbolize a meal between God and the one offering it, where peace and friendship were epitomized by sharing that meal together.
III. (:12-17) PEACE OFFERING OF GOATS
A. Presentation of Offering Based on Selection Criteria
[this part was skipped over – assumed from the earlier paragraphs]
Bush: Birds were not acceptable as peace offerings, however, perhaps because their smaller size was not conducive to dividing them among God, the priest, and the offerer; or that they did not have enough fat to burn on the altar.
B. (:12-13) Sacrifice of the Offering and Sprinkling of Blood
“Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD, 13 and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting;
and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.”
C. (:14-15) Guts of the Offering
“And from it he shall present his offering as an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.”
D. (:16a) Effect of the Offering
“And the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma;”
E. (:16b-17) Postscript Note
“all fat is the LORD’s.
It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.”
Robert Vasholz: Moses reminds Israel that these precepts are perpetual statutes (Lev. 3:17). That means they were to be practiced as long as the ancient nation of Israel was in a covenantal relationship with God constituted by Mosaic Law. The Book of Leviticus will announce ten additional perpetual statutes, the majority of which follow with throughout your generations. It signals the necessity of faithfully passing down the laws for future generations and the strongest motivation for writing them down and transmitting them faithfully.