Peace Offerings and Summary - Part 3
In our previous chapter, I explained that Leviticus is a book of instruction about the Jewish sacrificial system providing information for both the one offering the sacrifice and the one presenting the sacrifice which would be the priests. When explaining the responsibilities from the one offering, the sacrifices are listed in the following order:
- Burnt offerings
- Grain offerings
- Peace offerings
- Sin offerings
- Guilt offerings
However, when Moses, the inspired writer of Leviticus, explains the presenter or priestly responsibilities and manner in presenting the sacrifice to God, the list of the types of sacrifice is listed in a different order:
- Grain offerings
- Sin offerings
- Guilt offerings
- Burnt offerings
- Peace offerings
No reason for this change is given.
In this chapter we will look at the instructions for the priests concerning the peace offering and then review a summary of all the offerings to familiarize ourselves with these sacrifices which were the key elements of Jewish worship.
I. Peace Offering – Priestly Responsibility – Leviticus 7:11-36
'Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord.'
- Leviticus 7:11
As we read on, we will see that the rules here mostly have to do with what part of the sacrifice the priest could keep and eat or not eat, as well as who else could share this food.
12If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. 13With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. 14Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the Lord; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offerings. 15'Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning. 16But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten; 17but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire. 18So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings is ever eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, and it will not be credited to him. It will be an unclean thing, and the person who eats it shall bear his punishment.
- Leviticus 7:12-18
The rules were very specific.
In this passage the reader learns for the first time that the peace offering could be used for three purposes:
- As a Thank offering expressing a gratitude for deliverance (from illness, enemies, adversity, etc.), blessings granted, or prayers answered.
- As a Votive offering – when a blessing had been granted or deliverance given in response to a vow made in connection with the answered prayer (i.e. I'll do this, God, if you do that…).
- As a Freewill offering – simply to express one's joy and gratitude towards God with no specific reason or occasion – spontaneous joy (i.e. I want to do something!).
Therefore, the instructions for peace offerings were tied to the type of peace offering that was being made:
1. Thank Offering
The animal was presented, accompanied with a grain offering done in one of several ways.
- Worshipper could present unleavened cakes or wafers (thin cakes – like thin crust pizza) which were made with fine flour, spread with olive oil.
- The presenter could also bring regular cakes made with leaven.
- Part of every element offered (i.e. animal, various grain products) were given to the priest.
- "Heave" offerings were the parts that were ceremonially offered up to God (by lifting the sacrifice up towards God in the air as a symbolic offering but which were kept for the priest's personal use). These were left for the priests as opposed to the portions left for the one offering the sacrifice.
- The part of the animal left after the sacrifice had been made, had to be eaten on the same day the animal was sacrificed.
This was to encourage fellowship and sharing as family, friends, and the poor were invited to attend the sacrificial ritual and share in the meal afterwards. It is a joyful event meant to be shared – meant to be a blessing.
2. Votive and Freewill Offerings
These followed the same procedures except for one exception.
A. The food belonging to the offeror had to e eaten on the same day or the following day, but not on the third day.
- If food was eaten on the third day, the benefit of the sacrifice was annulled and became a sin.
- An extra day was given since votive and freewill sacrifices were more personal in nature and a smaller number of people accompanied the one offering the sacrifice thus more time to eat and reflect.
19'Also the flesh that touches anything unclean shall not be eaten; it shall be burned with fire. As for other flesh, anyone who is clean may eat such flesh. 20But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the Lord, when he is unclean, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21When anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the Lord, that person shall be cut off from his people.'"
- Leviticus 7:19-21
Here we have negative rules concerning the eating of the meat from the animal that had been sacrificed as a peace offering. There were general rules about clean and unclean:
- Meat/flesh that had touched anything unclean were not to be eaten. This is because by touching something unclean, the meat being offered also became unclean and then eating that meat would make the person unclean. That unclean meat was to be burned with fire.
- A person who was unclean for whatever reason could not eat the meat from the Peace offering no matter the reason it was offered.
- The reason for these prohibitions was that the animal in question, along with the person offering it, were devoting something to the Lord, as they and what they offered had to be holy – as the Law defined holiness. Remember, the sacrificial system was designed to create "holiness" in God's people and the rules were there to help them separate themselves from the world, what was holy from unholy, and what was clean from unclean – according to God.
- Anyone who violated these rules knowingly were to be cut off from their people. What did that mean? There is much speculation about the exact meaning of this term:
- Ostracized by the people (Israelites);
- Capital punishment;
- God sending premature death;
- God would exterminate the person's lineage (for example the linage would not be included in the genealogical record).
Consensus and context fits the first view best.
22Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall not eat any fat from an ox, a sheep, or a goat. 24Also the fat of an animal which dies and the fat of an animal torn by animals may be put to any other use, but you certainly are not to eat it. 25For whoever eats the fat of the animal from which an offering by fire is offered to the Lord, the person who eats it shall also be cut off from his people. 26And you are not to eat any blood, either of bird or animal, in any of your dwellings. 27Any person who eats any blood, that person shall also be cut off from his people.'"
- Leviticus 7:22-27
There were prohibitions regarding fat and blood, not only in the context of the following, but also in the regular management of livestock, and handling various animals and birds.
A. They were not to eat the fat of animals whether they were slaughtered for food or died in some other way. When animals were sacrificed, and meat was left to eat (as in the Peace offering) the fat was not to be eaten under the punishment of being cut off from the people. If you are cut off from God's people, you no longer belong to God and enjoy the blessings and protection that come with that relationship.
B. They were not allowed to eat the blood of the animal.
- This law had originally been given to Noah – Genesis 9:24.
- This rule also held for private consumption or eating the blood of an animal sacrificed.
- The "life" was in the blood and so by sprinkling some upon the altar where the sacrifice was burned and at times (sin offering) sprinkling blood before the veil of the Holy of Holies – the blood was used to signify that a life was being both offered in death and specifically offered to God.
- To eat the fat was presumptuous in that it was taking God's portion for oneself; to eat the blood was sacrilegious because it contained the essence of life which could only be offered to God – it was a spiritual matter.
- A reminder that one who had violated these rules unintentionally could offer sin and guilt sacrifices to be restored.
28Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 29"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'He who offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the Lord shall bring his offering to the Lord from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30His own hands are to bring offerings by fire to the Lord. He shall bring the fat with the breast, so that the breast may be presented as a wave offering before the Lord. 31And the priest shall offer up the fat in smoke on the altar, but the breast shall belong to Aaron and to his sons. 32And you shall give the right thigh to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. 33The one among the sons of Aaron who offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat, the right thigh shall be his as his portion. 34For I have taken from the sons of Israel the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution from the sacrifices of their peace offerings and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons as their allotted portion forever from the sons of Israel.
35'This is that which is consecrated to Aaron and that which is consecrated to his sons from the offerings by fire to the Lord, in that day when he presented them to serve as priests to the Lord. 36These the Lord had commanded to be given them from the sons of Israel in the day that He anointed them. It is their due forever throughout their generations.'"
- Leviticus 7:28-36
There were also positive provisions for the priests, not only negative prohibitions.
A. The breast of the animal sacrificed as a Peace offering belonged to the priest. It was lifted up (wave offering) as a way to present it to the Lord (since the sacrifice was His), but not on the altar, instead kept for the priest as God's representative. The fat of the animal, however, was burned on the altar.
B. In addition, the right thigh (where the meat was) was also given to the priest. It was stipulated that the breast and the right thigh of the Peace offerings were to be their provision forever, along with the major portion of all grain offerings.
- Sin, guilt, and burnt offerings left no portions for the priests since the entire animal was burned to ashes.
- Priests were due their portions from the day they were ordained.
- They were to receive these forever, meaning as long as the Law of Moses was in effect and practiced, or for the rest of the age.
- The priests shared these provisions among themselves so there was to be no hoarding or priests in need.
Every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall belong to all the sons of Aaron, to all alike.
- Leviticus 7:10
37This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering, and the ordination offering and the sacrifice of peace offerings, 38which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai on the day that He commanded the sons of Israel to present their offerings to the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai.
- Leviticus 7:37-38
This summary statement concludes the instructions for the sacrificial system to be practiced by God's people. God names each sacrifice and adds the "ordination offering" which may refer to the grain offerings made by and for the High Priest on the day he was anointed or consecrated.
Moses also states when these were given by God – Mt. Sinai, and when the people began to offer them – while they wandered in the wilderness. He emphasizes that the practice of the sacrificial system was not a suggestion or optional – it was a command of God, and we know that there were consequences.
II. Summary and Review – Sacrificial System
We have looked at the sacrificial system given as the core element of Jewish worship. It was an all inclusive religious and spiritual system that consumed time, a person's wealth, and careful observance in order to comply. However, when fulfilled:
- It created a truly distinct religious experience unlike anything practiced by surrounding nations.
- It brought the individual before God and interacted with Him in a sure (the worshipper knew what to do and why to do it) method – he had no doubt that what he did was what God wanted and the way He wanted it.
- The worshipper had concrete blessings as the result of his worship – forgiveness, peace of mind, satisfaction, joy, and hope.
No other religion provided these features because no other system or religion provided holiness as its goal (gratification, awe, fear, relief, mystery, celebration – yes) but holiness and nearness to the true and living God – No!
Since these sacrifices were at the heart of Jewish worship and a preview of the ultimate sacrifice and salvation to come, I'd like to finish out this chapter with a brief review and summary of each sacrifice/offering in the system before we move on to other features of the Jewish religion, including the priests, their garments, the place of worship and various festivals, observances, as well as rules of conduct for the people.
Review and Summary of the Various Offerings/Sacrifices:
The Jews did not begin offering sacrifices at this time, they had been building altars and offering sacrifices since the time of Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-8). God provided the instructions about sacrifices to instruct how the people were to offer sacrifices in the Tabernacle, which they had recently built, and the role of the priests, which He had just anointed (Exodus chapters 25-40).
As I have said there were five major kinds of offerings:
1. Burnt Offerings (Leviticus 1:1-17; 6:8-13)
An animal was offered (bull, sheep, birds) and the one offering would lay hands on the animal's head, thus identifying with it. The worshipper would slaughter the animal (except birds offered by the poor, which the priest would kill) after which the priest would place the animal on the altar and burn it completely to ashes. The burning of the complete animal signified an offering totally consecrated to the Lord and by virtue of bringing the animal and laying hands on its head, the worshipper was also signifying his complete devotion to the Lord. The burnt offering was a way the worshipper expressed his desire to be wholly devoted in every way to God. A great act of piety.
2. Grain Offerings – Leviticus 2:1-16; 6:14-23
Grain or cereal offerings consisted of:
- Fine flour with oil or frankincense (offered this way).
- Or baked into bread or cakes or wafers also offered with oil or frankincense.
- Only a small portion put on the altar, the balance given to the priests.
- Most offerings were made without leaven, but seasoned with salt as a reminder of the covenant they had made with God.
- Grain offerings, usually given along with animal sacrifices, were offered as burnt or peace offerings.
3. Peace Offerings – Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-36
- The word for peace offering is related to the Hebrew word "Shalom" – peace, well-being.
- This sacrifice was shared by the Lord, the worshipper, and the priest in that each received part of the animal. Fat, liver, kidneys – Lord
- Breast, right thigh – priest
- The rest of the animal was given to the worshipper.
- The nature of sharing in this sacrifice was to celebrate and maintain peace between God and man, as well as peace between man and man.
Three types of Peace offerings:
- Thanksgiving – express general gratitude
- Votive – related to the completion of a vow.
- Freewill – celebrate and thanks for fellowship with other believers.
A unique feature of the Peace offering was that the worshipper had to eat his portion on the day or the day after the sacrifice was made. This led to the Peace offering becoming an occasion for a fellowship meal with the worshipper along with family and friends.
4. Sin Offering – Leviticus 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30
The sin offering was made for the following reasons:
- If the anointed priest sins.
- If the whole congregation sins.
- If a leader of the people sins.
- If one of the common people sins.
Some elements of the sacrifice remained the same no matter who was making a sin offering:
- The sin was done in ignorance or unintentionally. There was no sacrifice for sins done in defiance or rebellion. These sinners were cut off from the people (Numbers 15:30).
- An animal without defect was sacrificed. The poor could offer birds instead of animals.
- If the sacrifice was done correctly, the atonement was made and the sin forgiven.
5. Guilt Offerings – Leviticus 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7
Guilt offering is also called the trespass offering (KJV) or the reparation offering (REB; NJB). It was similar to the sin offering in that it was for unintentional sin and the procedure for offering was similar. The main difference was that restitution of some kind was added to the sacrifice – this suggests that the sin offerings were for offenses against God and His holy things and guilt offerings were for offenses against other people or their possessions.
It seems like the first three kinds of offerings (Burnt, Grain and Peace) were voluntary, but the sin and guilt offerings were required to atone and receive forgiveness for sins against God and other people.
III. Our Offerings Today
16Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day— 17things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
- Colossians 2:16-17
Paul is denouncing false teachers who were trying to impose various observances of the Law on Christians. He says that the things of the Law (including the sacrificial system we are studying) were merely a shadow – a preview of what we would have in Christ.
1. Sacrifice – not animals, but the Son of God sacrificed His perfect human body (blood) to pay for the sins of everyone once for all time.
26For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; 27who has no daily need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all time when He offered up Himself.
- Hebrews 7:26-27
2. Offerings – Christians now offer themselves as living sacrifices through holy living and Christian service.
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:1-2
3. Incense – Our prayers go up before God as the sweet aroma.
When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
- Revelation 5:8
4. Sacrifices of Praise – The singing of the saints in worship.
Through Him then, let's continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name.
- Hebrews 13:15
5. Sacrifice of Service – The good deeds done in the name of Christ rise up to God as an acceptable and pleasing offerings.
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
- Hebrews 13:16
6. Giving Money – This, if done sacrificially and cheerfully, are like a fragrant aroma.
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
- Philippians 4:18
7. Self-Sacrifice – There was no provision for this in the Law or sacrificial system, but today with Christ's sacrifice as an example, Christians can be called upon to lay down their lives in martyrdom for the faith, the church, their brethren, and their Lord.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters.
- I John 3:16
Today, unlike the past, we can be like Jesus our Lord, and be both the one who offers the sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice being offered like Peter, Paul, and countless other martyrs throughout history.
I quote the conclusion by Coy Roper – the author of my resource commentary.
To be God's holy people, the Israelites had to separate themselves from the world and dedicate themselves to God, and so do we. They had to remove uncleanliness from the camp, and we must abstain from sins of the world. They were called to become a community that was centered on worship of the Lord God and so are we. Further, they were to become a people who gave to God by presenting sacrifices to Him. So must we! We don't offer animals and grain – we offer our bodies, voices, deeds, money, and at times, our lives!