8 [6.1]Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 9 [6.2]“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, this is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth of the altar all night until morning, and the fire shall be kept burning on it. 10 [6.3]The priest will put on his linen garment and will put his linen undergarment on his body and will take up the ashes from the fire that consumed the burnt offering on the altar and will put them beside the altar. 11 [6.4]Then he will take off his garments and will put on other garments and will carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 [6.5]And the fire on the altar will be kept burning and will not go out. The priest will burn wood every morning, and will lay out the burnt offering on it, and will send up in smoke on it the fat portions of the peace offering. 13 [6.6]The fire will continually kept burning on the altar; it will not go out.
14 [6.7]Now this is the law of the cereal offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD before the altar. 15 [6.8]And one shall take from it a handful of fine flour of the cereal offering and the oil and all the frankincense that is on it the cereal offering, and will send it up in smoke on the altar as a memorial portion—it is a soothing aroma to the LORD. 16 [6.9]And the remainder Aaron and his sons will eat. It shall be eaten unleavened in a holy place; in the court of the tent of appointment it shall be eaten. 17 [6.10]It will not be baked with leaven. I have given it as a portion of My food offering; it is a most holy thing, like the sin offering and the reparation offering. 18 [6.11]All males of the sons of Aaron may eat it, as decreed forever throughout the generations, from the LORD’s food offerings. All who touch it will be holy.
19 [6.12]The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 20 [6.13]“This is the offering of Aaron and his sons, which they will offer to the LORD in the day he is anointed: the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a regular cereal offering, half in the morning and half in the evening. 21 [6.14]In a frying pan it shall be made with oil, and when baked, you will bring it in, and the broken pieces of the cereal offering you will offer for a soothing aroma to the LORD. 22 [6.15]And the priest of the sons who is anointed in his stead will offer it: it is a statute forever to the LORD—it shall be wholly burned. 23 [6.16]For every cereal offering for the priest will be burned, and will not be eaten.”
24 [6.17]Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 25 [6.18]“Speak to Aaron and his sons and say, this is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD; it is a most holy thing. 26 [6.19]The priest who offers it for sin will eat it; in the most holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of appointment. 27 [6.20]And whatsoever touches the flesh shall be holy, and when any of its blood is spattered on a garment you will wash that which was spattered thereon in the holy place. 28 [6.21]And the earthen vessel in which it was boiled will be broken, but if it is boiled in a bronze pot it will be scoured and rinsed with water. 29 [6.22]Every male from among the priests may eat it; it is a most holy thing. 30 [6.23]But no reparation offering shall be eaten from which any blood has been brought into the tabernacle of appointment to atone in the holy place. It shall be burned with fire.
7 1This is the law of the reparation offering: it is a most holy thing. 2In the place where they killed the burnt offering they will kill the reparation offering, and its blood will be sprinkled on the sides of the altar. 3And all its fat will be offered from its fat tail, and the fat that covers the entrails, 4and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of liver that he will remove with the kidneys. 5And the priest will send them up in smoke on the altar to the LORD; it is a reparation offering. 6Every male from among the priests may eat of it; it will be eaten in the holy place. It is a most holy thing. 7The reparation offering is like the purification offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it to himself. 8And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering that he offered to himself. 9And every cereal offering that is baked in an oven or made in a pan or griddle shall belong to the priest who offered it. 10And every cereal offering mixed with oil or dry shall be shared equally among the sons of Aaron.
11Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may bring to the LORD: 12If he offers it for a thanksgiving, he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well-mixed with oil. 13With his sacrifice of peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring an offering with leavened loaves of bread. 14And he shall offer from it one from each offering as a contribution to the LORD, and the priest who sprinkled the blood of the peace offering shall have it. 15And the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten in that day; he will leave none of it until morning. 16But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it will be eaten in the day that he offers his sacrifice. And the remainder will be eaten on the next day. 17But what remains of the flesh of his sacrifice on the third day will be burned with fire. 18If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who eats it will not be accepted; nor will it be reckoned, for it has become tainted, and the soul who eats of it will bear guilt. 19Flesh that touches any unclean thing must not be eaten, but will be burned with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh. 20But the living soul who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offering while an uncleanness is upon him shall be cut off from his people. 21And if any living soul touches any unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean animal or an unclean detestable thing, then eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offering, that living soul will be cut off from his people.” 22Then the LORD spoke to Moses and said, 23“Speak to the sons of Israel and say: You will not eat any of the fat of the bull, sheep, or goat. 24The fat of the animal that dies or the fat of the animal that is torn may be put to other use, but on no account are you to eat it. 25For everyone who eats the fat of an animal that may be offered as a food offering to the LORD will be cut off from his people. 26Moreover, you are not to eat the blood whatsoever in your houses—whether bird or animal. 27Any living soul who eats blood will be cut off from his people. 28Then the LORD spoke to Moses and said, 29“Speak to the sons of Israel and say: he who offers the sacrifice of his peace offering to the LORD will bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30His own hands will bring the LORD’s food offerings. He will bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering to the LORD. 31The priest will send the fat up in smoke on the altar, but the breast will belong to Aaron and his sons. 32And the right thigh you will give as a contribution to the priest from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33Whoever from among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat will have the right thigh as his portion. 34For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from among the sons of Israel out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and his sons as a decree forever, due from the sons of Israel. 35This is the allotment of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were brought to serve as priests before the LORD. 36The LORD commanded that this be given to them in the day they were anointed from among the sons of Israel by perpetual decree, throughout the generations.” 37This is the law of the burnt offering, the cereal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the ordination offering, and the sacrifice of peace offering 38which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai in the day that He commanded the sons of Israel to bring their offerings in the wilderness of Sinai.
At first glance, you might wonder why this section exists; after all, you’re certain you’ve heard of these offerings before. Why are they being repeated in excruciating detail? You’re not crazy; you HAVE seen these before. The burnt offering, the cereal offering, the purification offering, the reparation offering and the peace offering have all been covered in the prior five chapters. This section is devoted to the priests where these same offerings are concerned. We will note, for example, that 6:23 teaches us that the priest must not eat of the sacrifice that is offered on his own behalf. He eats of the others; why not this one? Most likely because it would have been morally repugnant for him to benefit from his own sin. The worship leader had the potential of polluting the entire congregation; ergo, it made sense for there to be a special means of handling his own sacrifices.
In the Hebrew text, chapter 5 continues through the first seven verses of the chapter 6 that exists in English. Hence, there are two notations for verse reference. In my translation, the first number corresponds with the Hebrew Masoretic text. The bracketed number will refer to the English translation.
Leviticus 7:9, 12,and 13 show that the fire is to be kept burning perpetually. We recall, from Exodus 19, the scene on Mount Sinai in which the people of God witnessed an awe-inspiring manifestation of God’s presence with fire. The wilderness tabernacle symbolized God’s presence with the menorah, the lampstand that stood on the south side of the holy place. In short, perpetual fire reminded the people of their constant access to God. It also reminded them of the availability of atonement. We will note from this passage, once again, that God commanded His people to support the worship leaders. He did not demand that the people support HIM—that was a pagan idea. Pagans offered sacrifices to their gods as a means of feeding them. God had need of nothing from His people. He used the sacrificial system to teach the people about sin, holiness, atonement, reconciliation—and to support the worship apparatus in the community.
Mosely tells us that “when God told His people not to worship after touching something profane, God was giving a physical, visible illustration to teach us to avoid sin and embrace holiness.” It was the “thing” that defiled, but rather the disobedience to God. Keeping away from uncleanness was important, as well; it was an outward demonstration of the One to Whom you belonged.
The sacrifice of peace offerings (ֶ֣בַח הַשְּׁלָמִ֑ים) is also seen as the “well-being” offering, since “shalom”
(שְּׁלָמִ֑) has much to do with the status of all being well. There were three kinds of these offerings, according to Hartley: the praise offering glorified God and expressed the worshiper’s love and appreciation for God’s presence in his life. The votive offering was made in response to the promises the worshiper made at the taking of a vow. The freewill offering was offered spontaneously and joyfully in order that a family would be able to celebrate a feast before YHWH.
Lev. 7:11-21 demonstrates that the peace offering is the only offering in which lay people are allowed to eat (Wenham). Verses 15-18 shows that a lay person who brings an offering of peace (or “well-being”) receives a majority of the meat for a meal with the family. With respect to the praise offering, it is completely eaten on the day it’s received. With the votive or freewill offering, it must be eaten on the first or second day, but not the third. After that, it is unclean—possibly rancid. A person who disobeys this missive is “cut off” from his people. There are two schools of thought regarding the meaning of “cut off” in this context. One view is that this means execution, and it has significant adherents (Wenham is one). Another view is that it doesn’t always mean that. Hartley points out that Num. 19:13 shows the possibility of “cut off” person becoming ritually unclean. How would this be possible if he had been executed? This phrase could simply mean separated from the family of God—an Old Testament equivalent of excommunication.
A bird’s-eye view of this section of Levitical literature shows us a few things overall that are quite applicable to the New Testament world. First, he who gives his life to the ministry may accept the gifts of Go’s people gratefully and honorably (Hartley). But we might well note that the priest was not allowed to accumulate. He was always to trust God for his daily provision. It is on this tradition that the Lord Jesus Christ teaches His disciples to trust God for daily bread (Matt. 6:11). We also note that the holiness of offerings has to be preserved in the handling and disposal of them. YHWH is a holy God, a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). Worship is to be done with careful preparation so that there was a dignity to the service—and YHWH is thereby honored. There is to be order, rather than confusion, to Christian worship (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26-40). The highest moment of Christian worship is the Eucharistic celebration—what we Protestants call “communion.” Paul was quite concerned with the manner in which the bread and the cup were received (1 Cor. 11:27-34). The details of the offerings themselves are also analogous to the coming Gospel, which also reminds us that God is always teaching His people:
- The burnt offering was completely burned on the altar. Jesus emptied Himself on the cross for us (Phil. 2:7-8).
- The cereal offering was about the process of thanksgiving and dedication to God in worship. Jesus expressed thanksgiving and dedication to God, as well, and modeled this behavior for us.
- The sin offering reminded the people that God took sin seriously and dealt with it accordingly. He judges sin and His penalty is death. Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God on the cross, so that we don’t have to.
It is helpful to remember that God never intended for this system to be permanent; it existed to prepare for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and to explain and interpret it for His people (Mosely). In living out His destiny, Jesus was no human priest, moreover: he was God the Son offering His own blood in the place of His people.
These overall observations provide a means for us to apply what we’ve learned from this section to our own worship today. First, we are often guilty of trying to do God’s work in our own way. Think back to the level of detail in these offerings; it is evident that God had a certain way He wanted things to be done, and expected His people to be deliberate and diligent in their preparation for worship. When we come before God in worship, do we do so on our own terms, or on His?
As in the case with the other offerings, the text also reminds us that God has set aside provision for those who serve God’s people in worship. This should be an easy one to apply: we bring our best to God, and He keeps our doors open and provides for our leaders as well.
We may also be reminded of the perpetual availability of God. The ancient Hebrews had the perpetual fire burning day and night. Our direct access to the throne room of God has not stopped us from having moments in which we feel that God isn’t listening to us or responding to us. But He is perpetually available; His forgiveness is perpetually available. He is our “ever-present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1).
The perpetually burning fire can also be a reminder to us of our own determination to follow Him in worship. It took a regular routine of work to keep that fire burning, so that God might be worshiped correctly. What do we do to keep our fires burning, so to speak? We Pentecostals often speak pejoratively of “ritual” and “routine,” but this close study of worship shows us that it is precisely a means of carefully approaching God. How can we be deliberate and diligent in this?