The book of Exodus, like Genesis, ended on a forward-looking hope. Genesis ended with the people of Israel, the 12 sons of Jacob, looking forward to the Exodus despite their stay in Egypt. Jacob re-stated the importance of his burial in Israel, where his forefather Abraham was also buried. Exodus ended with the Shekinah glory of the Angel of the LORD dwelling in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle, and the people of Israel were standing around the tabernacle in awe.
Like the first few chapters of Exodus, which continues the story of Genesis, Leviticus begins immediately after the Angel fills the Holy of Holies. It is now that the Angel called to Moses from within the tent and gives him the commandments of sacrifices, holy days, festivals and priestly ordinations.
Paul Blackham states that the ancient Hebrew title of the book was Wayyiqra (“and He called”). This, being the first word in Hebrew, shows how the book follows right after Exodus. The Greek translation of the Hebrew title gave the new name “Leviticus”, undoubtedly because the book concerned much of the behaviour of the Levites.
Genesis laid the back-bone for the history, and the story of what the Bible is expecting. Exodus is the back-bone with flesh, fleshing out the theology of what Genesis had looked towards. Leviticus is a further fleshing out, with the laws explained and detailed painstakingly (to the point where some people find it a bit too detailed, and perhaps even trivial). I have heard many say that Leviticus as a boring book, because it doesn’t literally spell out the gospel story as clearly as the other four books of the Pentateuch (and Numbers comes in second, seeing that it seems to cover the numbers of Israelites and their genealogy). This is a lack of foresight, and we continue to maintain the Christological interpretation which Christ himself offered (John 5:39; 1 Timothy 2:5) when we read the Old Testament. Here is an example of a 18th-19th C preacher Charles Simeon, whose conversion was triggered by the Book of Leviticus:
In Passion Week [the week up to and including Easter], as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect—“That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.” The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 4, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord’s Table in our Chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Saviour.” (H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon, London: InterVarsity, 1948, p. 25f.)
Remember that the people of Israel are sitting around the tabernacle as they listen to the Angel explain the law to Moses. The significance of the tabernacle has already been considered when we looked at Exodus: that it represents the very format of Heaven (Third Heaven – Most Holy Place) and the Church on Earth (Holy Place), and the rest of the people on Earth who are not part of the Church (the Courtyard).
Unlike the book of Genesis and Exodus, it serves to separate the study of Leviticus into their separate categories.
1. Burnt Offering (1:3-17; 6:8-13)
2. Grain Offering (2:1-16; 6:14-18 )
Introduction to Sacrifices (pt.1)
The best way to introduce the view of the Sacrifices is follow the theology laid down in Hebrews 10:1-16
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
Keep in mind these sacrifices, therefore, point only to CHRIST. Christ is not the definitive revelation of these sacrifices; he is not the final and “best” meaning of the sacrifices – he is the only meaning, from beginning to end (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the God whom these sacrifices have always pointed towards. Hence, the biggest focus of the sacrifices is the “blood”, which is the life of the creature (Genesis 9:4) – which just makes Jesus’ death even more profound as he pours on us his blood of eternal life.
Here is a table from Dr. Blackham’s Book-by-book on Leviticus which may help you look at the offerings in general:
|Burnt offering/food offering||Propitiation; sweet aroma||Bearing the anger of God for us||Bull, sheep, goat, doves or pigeons||All meat for the LORD; skin left for priests|
|Grain offering||Dedication; sweet aroma||Perfectly dedicated to His Father||Grain or flour, oil and incense||Portion burned; priest ate the left-overs.|
|Sin offering||Cleansing||His blood cleanses us||Bull, goat, doves, pigeons or flour||All fat for the LORD.|
|Guilt offering||Repayment||He pays our debt to God||Ram||
Fat for the LORD.Other parts for the priest.
|Fellowship offering||Fellowship; sweet aroma||In Him we have the fellowship of the Spirit||Bull, sheep or goat||
Fat for the LORD.Portion for the priest; portions for worshipper
To begin with, the first two verses of Leviticus start at the tent of meeting. This is interesting: this tent of meeting should not be confused with the tabernacle. In Exodus 33, Moses had pitched a tent of meeting outside of the camp, and the Son would speak to him face to face there. The same is happening here: there is every reason why the Angel does not meet him in the Most Holy Place, for Moses is not the High Priest – Aaron is. Yet, the focus here is that the Angel can easily meet where he wants: the tabernacle is not made to contain Him. The tabernacle is made to portray an aspect of the gospel that needs to be preached: the unity of heaven and earth by the tearing of the veil between the two rooms of the tabernacle. The previous meeting at the tent of meeting in Exodus 33 is very significant: for Jesus is not asking us to go to where he dwells to receive the Word; he is coming outside (symbolically) of the rightful place where he should be (the Most Holy Place), and decides to go outside the camp, where the lepers and the outcasts are placed, to give Moses the law. Jesus is speaking to Moses face to face in a place which is not privileged, nor special: it shows Jesus’ humanity, the suffering that he will face as an outcast, and the significance of the sacrificial laws in displaying the wrath of God, and Jesus being ostracized from the camp of society by fulfilling the meaning of these very laws.
But now, the tables are turned: Jesus speaks from the throne room of the new Tent of Meeting: he is providing not the structure for the tabernacle, but he is providing the meaning and the functions of the tabernacle. Although Jesus temporarily dwelled with them as an Angel, his presence in the Tent of Meeting displays his divinity just as well; and now that the tabernacle is built, it is most fitting to display his divinity by giving commands from within, rather than remain as the Sent One when he rightfully belongs to the right hand of the Father.
1. Burnt Offering (1:3-17; 6:8-13)
I’ve listed the commands in chapter 1, the types of burnt offerings:
(a) Male from the herd without blemish – brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting; hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him (v.3-4).Then, kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. The offering should then be flayed and cut into pieces (v.6), and the priests shall put fire on the altar, and arrange wood on the fire. The pieces, the head, the fat and the wood on the fire on the altar shall be arranged accordingly by the priest (v.7-8 ). However, its entrails and legs shall be washed with water; the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar as a burnt/food offering with a pleasing aroma (v.9).
(b) Male without blemish from the flock, sheep, or goats – he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and the priests shall throw its blood against the side of the altar. Again, the animal shall be cut into pieces, with its head/fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; entrails and legs washed with water. Again, this is a type of burnt/food offering (v.10-13).
(c) Birds: turtledoves or pigeons – priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. The blood is then drained out on the side of the altar; the crop with its contents/feathers shall be removed and cast beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. It shall be torn open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. Again, the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood on the fire: a burnt/food offering.
The immediate thing to note is the common refrain for the three types of burnt offerings: they are all required, unsurprisingly, to be burnt, on wood, over fire (i.e. the animal is completely consumed by the fire). They are all male without blemish. For the offering from the herd (bull), or a sheep/goat, the offering is cut into pieces, arranged on the wood, and the insides and legs washed with water. Finally, as it says in Leviticus 1:5 – each person had to kill the sacrifice himself. This bloody method of burnt offering is not impersonally or ‘professionally’ done by the priests: it is very personal, and the cost of sin is graphically shown to the person who needs to be atoned for.
The only difference for the sheep or goats is that the blood is killed on the north side of the altar before the LORD.
On the contrary, the burnt offering of birds is different: the head is wringed off and then burnt on the altar. The crop with its feathers removed and cast on the east side, where it is the place for ashes. The bird is torn by its wings, but not severed completely.
Before going into detail about each burnt offering, there are some general comments we can make.
Burnt offering has not only been introduced in Leviticus. If anything, Abraham, Noah, and Abel all had firm understanding of the burnt offering (Genesis 22, 8:19-21, 4:4). This is because the prototype of the offering has been introduced to Adam and Eve when animal skin was provided for them: the first death of life in the history of man (Genesis 3:21) for the protection of man, itself a prototype of the clothing of righteousness which God will provide for man at the cost of the Passover Lamb (Isaiah 61). You can say the burnt offering therefore is the most fundamental of all offerings: which explains why the first offering mentioned is this burnt offering. It is used primarily as a propitiation for sins (the word used in the ESV and older translations like KJV) – c.f. Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2. Romans 3, if exposed, correctly, tells us that everyone has sinned and fallen short of His glory: this is a serious statement of extremity. We aren’t merely ‘fallen’, our ‘natural powers wounded’ (quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church). The glory of God is not an idealistic perfection – it is something we can never attain because of how corrupt we really are (Romans 1). Our image of God is not found in ourselves, but found in Christ, the true image of God (Colossians 1:15). For us to restore that image, that ‘natural power’, then we can only find it if we unite ourselves under the banner of Christ – in Christ alone. This is what the burnt offering essentially means: we are uniting under the banner of the burnt offering which propitiates (literally meaning directs away, or leads away) the wrath of God. Jesus propitiates, and leads that wrath away from us, onto Himself.
BURNT OFFERING: HERD – BULL
Exodus 32; Psalm 69:30-33; Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 39:17-19; Jeremiah 52:19-21; Revelation 4:7
The significance of bulls and oxen has not been short throughout the OT. We have considered a few of the possibilities when we looked at the reason why the Israelites would make a golden calf of all things: because Ezekiel saw that the face of a cherub is akin to the face of a bull. In addition, Ezekiel 39 suggests that there is a wide provision of not only bulls, but other animals (who are included as suitable sacrificial offerings) in the land of Bashan (meaning “light soil” or “fruitful”) – as part of the great sacrificial feast of the fat beasts there. Not only that, but Jeremiah 52 suggests that there is some significance behind the 12 bronze bulls which Solomon made for the Temple of the LORD. Why 12 bronze bulls? Perhaps its significance is aligned to that of the 12 tribes of Israel; along with the Psalmist’s call to the Father in Psalm 69 that our faithfulness shall exceed that of bulls and oxen with horns and hooves, this suggests a few things about their views of bulls in the OT. Firstly, they resemble angelic creatures; secondly, they are fat, fulsome and pleasing creatures in terms of sacrifice; thirdly, they are humble before the LORD. These definitely embody the characteristics of the Saviour who is both strong, full of pleasure to the father, humble and above all the “one sent” from the Father (hence angelic) to only fulfill the Father’s will (John 6:38 ).
So what of the significance of the little details? First and foremost, the consumption by fire to make atonement (Leviticus 1:4). This is extremely important, because fire has already been seen as a tool through which God demands his judgment, simultaneously displaying his majesty. The fire barrier between Garden of Eden and the East of Eden (Genesis 3); the fire of God (Exodus 3); and of course, the ultimate lake of fire which these things point towards (Revelation 21). This is as if the animal enters the fire and thus pays the price of the sin: the animal being consumed by the barrier which stands between heaven and earth in the tabernacle (again, remember that the Angel is speaking from the tabernacle!), the veil with cherubim worked into it, reminding them of the barrier of fire. Because the animal is consumed by the barrier, the barrier is, under the Levitical law, temporarily open to the High Priest. But when the true Passover Lamb, Christ, is consumed by the fire of the barrier between heaven and earth, there need no longer be further propitiations for the schoolteacher of the law has served its purpose to point everyone to the fulfillment (NOT revelation) as the everlasting propitiation (Hebrews 10:12-14). The very fact that the people had to regularly propitiate reminded them that these are only signs and shadows; that they cannot be saved by their own works of propitiation, just as the people today cannot be saved by the continual repetition of the transubstantiation of the Holy Eucharist.
Arrangement on the wood
This arrangement on the wood is akin to that in Genesis 22: yes, I am aware that the traditional manner of burning is wood and fire combined. But note the irregularity: the way the altar is made is so that the fire is under the wood, not over. Note that the wood is not the source of the fire: the fire comes from under the wood! The wood therefore makes no contribution to the fires of punishment. Then what is the significance of the wood? Again, this is a fleshing out of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, his firstborn, on a piece of wood: as it inevitably foreshadows the story of God’s sacrifice of Jesus, his firstborn, on a piece of wood. If the Passover Lamb is THE meaning of these sacrifices, then there being sacrificed on wood over the fire which consumes both wood and flesh, is meant to signify the importance of the latching of the flesh to the food; the arrangement of the flesh to the food.
Some Jews (e.g. Messianic Jew Joseph Steinberg, ex-director of the Jews for Jesus in England) have interestingly noted that the arrangement of the wood is cross-shaped, and the meat is accordingly pitched in the same shape. If that is true, I need not say more of this prototypical view of the cross of Christ.
Cut into pieces
The fact that our Christ will be cut on the cross, his flesh cut, has been prophesied by the message of circumcision in Genesis 17. Our Christ has been so severely punished; so severely mocked by the majority before and during the bearing of his cross at Golgotha. Indeed, Christ has been cut into pieces, his soul, his spirit, and his body. It is easy to say that the burning of the flesh is made easy if the meat is cut into pieces, but let’s not forget the arrangement of the pieces over the wood which we have just considered. Such small detail need not be recorded, if they speak not of Christ: and a Christological reading affords the significance of our Christ being cut, in the shape of a cross over the wood of the cross.
Insides cleansed with water, washed entrails and legs and male without blemish
Yet, our Christ the male was born with the water of the Spirit, and further anointed by John the Baptist for his work as High Priest. He is clean, he is sinless, yet he was made to bear the punishment of others. This is meant to focus on the cleanness of the offering, as opposed to the sin of the person who lays hands on the offering.
Psalm 147:7-11; Songs of Solomon 5:14-16; Ezekiel 1:6-8; John 19:32-34; Revelation 10:1-3
There is much significance behind legs: you may find it odd to read Psalm 147 and ask yourself why the LORD would even adore ‘our legs’. The terminology seems to find its meaning in the other verses: the “legs” are what carries us from one location to another; they find their purpose in upholding the body, the temple, and hence they are the columns mentioned in Songs of Solomon. The legs and the inner parts were washed with water prior to the burning of the sacrifice, a mark of Jesus’ legs not being broken like the other prisoners on the cross (John 19) – and the allusion to the legs being the supporting columns is shown again in Revelation 10, with the angel’s legs being seen as ‘mighty fiery pillars’.
I find it odd that both the inner parts/entrails, and the legs are taken out to be washed prior to the burning of the sacrifice. Why both at the same time? My best guess is that the legs, being the external cornerstone and pillars of the body concords to the inner cornerstone of the body: the inner parts. Without the inner parts, the body cannot internally heal and regulate the consumed food and drink to make a person grow healthily; without the outer part, the column of the body (the legs), the body cannot go anywhere and will find no support. The significance of the washing of the two can very much point to the significance of the legs and the entrails in supporting our physical body as two fundamental cornerstones, reminding the priest or the person who is sacrificing the animal that the spiritual and the physical message of the sacrifice is equally important, for we will inherit new bodies, and not go to a generic spiritual ‘heaven’, with a generic spiritual ‘body’.
Blood thrown onto the sides of the altar
Perhaps to show how the blood covers every corner of the altar, not only the top of the altar on which the sacrifice lay, but also the sides – very much alike the robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61) which cover our bodies in entirety and not only in part, as if we have to compensate to attain the LORD’s favour.
Pleasing aroma to the LORD
Ezekiel 20:41; 2 Corinthians 2:15
For we shall be a pleasing aroma among those who are saved and among those who are perishing: that is the witness of the pleasing aroma offered to God, and staunchly noticeable to both the elect and reprobate.
BURNT OFFERING: FLOCK – SHEEP or GOATS
We have covered the main similarities between this burnt offering and the burnt offering of the bulls, so we need not cover them again. Let’s look at the main differences.
Killed on the north side
Job 26:6-8; Job 37:21-23; Psalm 48:1-3; Isaiah 14:22-24
The far north is significantly pointing to the splendour of God; even Satan wanted to imitate the LORD who resides in the far north. But the significance of ‘north’ is different when it comes to the ‘north wind’ and the ‘northern kingdoms’ spoken of in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, for both bring rain, punishment and judgment.Perhaps, like fire, the meaning of ‘north’ can have synonymous connotations – good if you are looking at the north in remembrance of the throne of God; bad if you are looking at the north but simply laughing at the face of God’s inevitable verdict on the fallen people.
BURNT OFFERING: BIRDS – TURTLEDOVES and PIGEONS
We have covered the main similarities between this burnt offering and the burnt offering of the bulls, so we need not cover them again. Let’s look at the main differences.
Genesis 1:20-22; Genesis 1:25-29; Exodus 25:20; Job 12:6-8; Job 28:20-22; Job 35:10-12; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4; Psalm 148:9-10; Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 29:4-6; Ezekiel 31:5-7; Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:32; Romans 1:22-24; Revelation 19:17-21
Birds and animals and creeping things were always seen as different from fish. The creatures in the heavens and on earth have the capability of worshipping the LORD (Psalm 148 ) where fish is absent; and this is focused again in Ezekiel 29 where the fish is fed to the birds and animals. Hence, Romans 1’s mystery: why are birds, animals, creepy things made as idols – but not fish or sea creatures?
Because these birds and animals resemble spiritual things. We have considered that oxen/bull are like cherubim; and birds are no different, for they are winged creatures in the heavens. They, too, resemble a character of the angelic creatures – and it is the birds which devour the flesh of the kings, captains, mighty men, horse and riders, flesh of all men, slave and free.
Principally, it appears that the birds are very similar to angels in that they take solace on the branches of trees, and yet, at the command and sovereignty of God, devour the seed on the path (e.g. seed which does not grow). Like the angels who will be reaping on the Day of Judgment, the seed which does not grow will be devoured by them; yet, even the angels have to nest themselves on the branch of Christ, the vine, the very Tree of Life.
Wringing off the head, burning the head on the side of the altar
Like the burnt offering where the blood is spilt on the side of the altar, the head is now burnt on the side of the altar as well. 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 speaks very clearly about ‘headship’, and if Christ, the chief commander of all the angels which the birds symbolize, is manifested in this prototypical imagery of birds as sacrifices – then the burning of his head on the side of the altar can mean a number of things. Given that the blood is on the side of the altar, then sacrificing the head on the side of the altar perhaps symbolizes the joining of the headship and the blood as part and parcel?
Blood drained out on the side of the altar
I imagine there is much to be said about the blood being drained rather than being thrown onto the side of the altar. What say you? (Psalm 75:8; Revelation 16:19) – Perhaps it is a picture of the blood of the wine being poured out from the cup of wrath onto Christ. Is this prophesying to the very cup which Christ wished not to drink from when he struggled in the Garden (of Gethsemane)?
Removal of crop and its contents/feathers and cast to the east side of the altar
The east side has always had negative connotations: namely one of exile. And yet, the Garden had an exit and entrance only on the east side. Adam’s exile from the Garden is a prophetic image of Christ’s exile from Gethsemane – though with different implications. The former exited having lost the battle by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, though the war has already been won for him through Christ. The latter, however, is the victor himself – the battles and wars are all won by him alone.
If we follow the possible explanation of birds as representative of angels, and Christ being the chief uncreated and only divine angel, his “feathers” and “contents” which display his glory are thrown to the east side. Christ is undignified, he is unrecognized, and he is spat upon. So the bird without contents/feathers is without dignity, and is stripped bare naked. This, along with the tearing of the wings (as we now come to) very much preaches the ostracism which our LORD and all his saints would experience and have experienced (Hebrews 11).
Torn open by wings, but not severed completely
Wings represent shelter, and yet this bird which can shelter us is torn open by its wings, the very symbolism of protection. But the wings are not severed completely, meaning that our Christ is not severed from his Father’s love – he returns to the rightful place next to the Unseen God on the throne with a temporarily bruised heel, but not enough to kill the Son permanently (imagine the implications if the wings were severed completely!).
THE PRIESTS and the BURNT OFFERINGS (Leviticus 6:8-13)
Besides the key features of the wood being burnt every morning, the most important thing to note is the fire Between v. 8-13, the word ‘burn’ or ‘burning’ is repeated 5 times, not including the word ‘Burnt Offering’! This suggests the utter necessity and significance of the fire continually burning. This is the furnace in which Daniel was refined alongside the son of man Christ (Daniel 3, esp. v. 25; Revelation 1:15). This refiner’s fire, representing the Spirit and also the oncoming judgment, will keep burning. This is akin to the emphasis on the golden lampstand being continually lit. In any case, the detailed account of priestly activities in chapter 6 very clearly shows the dedication and the intricacies of the priests’ work in ensuring that the image of the Father is portrayed through these visible images, which are only shadows of the true image of God found in Christ alone. which continues to burn.
2. Grain Offering (2:1-16; 6:14-18 )
This grain offering is offered alongside the burnt offering. The burnt offering and grain offering were both offered in the morning and the evening at the tabernacle. This, unlike the burnt offering, is not clearly defined in its purpose. The feast of firstfruits in Deuteronomy 26:8-11 provides some insight:
8And(A) the LORD brought us out of Egypt(B) with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror,[a] with signs and wonders. 9And he brought us into this place and gave us this land,(C) a land flowing with milk and honey. 10And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. 11And(D) you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.
Leviticus 2:13; Genesis 19:26; Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:45; Psalm 137:34; Jeremiah 17:5-6; Zephaniah 2:9; Jeremiah 48:9
Salt is therefore simultaneous in its meaning like fire: it is a refiner’s fire, tongues of fire and it is a punishment of the lake of fire for those standing outside of Christ. Thus, the salt is both a symbol of covenant faithfulness as well as judgment on all those standing outside of the covenant. Thus, when we are called to be salt and light the meaning is two-fold: salt and light are both positive and negative, both positively shining light into the darkness of hearts and providing the covenant faithfulness to the Christians through Christ. At the same time, salt and light is an annoyance to all those standing outside of Christ – those hearts which remain in the dark despite the light shining into them (John 1:1-18 – the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it) and the salt alluding to the predicament of Lot’s wife.
Thus, the grain offering is mixed with salt to show the dedication and gratitude to the LORD as essential.Thus, the burnt offering shows the seriousness about sin with the blood; and the grain offering makes the same two-fold point with salt. Unlike the burnt offering which deals directly with the seriousness of sin, the grain offering is about both commitment and gratitude to our own exodus from judgment. However, the grain offering is very much connected to redemption, because of the exemption of salt from yeast and honey.
Yeast and Honey
Exodus 12:39 – the dough was without yeast because they have been driven out of Egypt, and had no time to prepare food for themselves. If one had to wait for their bread to rise during the night of Exodus in Exodus 12, then it displayed their commitment to Egypt. This is the same as Lot’s wife’s yearning for her home in Sodom and Gomorrah, rather than look to the Angel of God – a sign of worldliness. The yeast-free bread is a sign of being ready to move at the LORD’s will; the readiness of redemption by the LORD, rather than redemption by self.
Honey, contrarily, is a foretaste of heaven. Like the heavenly manna (meaning “What is this?”) which tastes like honey, the promised land also is a land flowing with milk and honey (Ezekiel 20:14-16). Hence, the usage of honey and yeasts in celebrations is meant to point towards new life, where we can fully enjoy the eternal Sabbath in new Jerusalem, the time when we are fully redeemed (not just with the firstfruits/deposit of the Holy Spirit).
Thus, the final element of the grain offering, being oil, is referent to the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13). We have explained this when we looked at the golden lampstand of the Spirit in the tabernacle series in my Exodus commentary, and the oil which is used represents the filling of the Holy Spirit.
THE PRIESTS and the GRAIN OFFERINGS (Leviticus 6:14-18 )
The elements necessary for the priestly actions is covered for the grain offering in the sub-section above (oil, unleavened bread, etc).
Conclusion: Burnt and Grain Offering
Thus, the Christian in the Old Testament prior to the law of Sinai being fulfilled at the advent of Christ, would offer the burnt offering as an atonement for sin, displayed by the seriousness of how and why certain animals were burnt and killed in particular ways. This is immediately followed by the grain offering which re-affirms their need for redemption, signified by the salt, the lack of yeast and honey, and the oil of the Spirit always present in our life. This two-fold step is reminiscent of our two-fold step in our faith: initial redemption, and life as an outcast in this world by the power of the Spirit. The truth of these sacrifices shed light on issues of whether the practice is barbaric, or a mere copycat of the sacrificial rituals worldwide, or even animal rights issues. Just a few comments on that now.
Firstly, the view of animal rights and barbaric practices are human made: in one sense, yes – it is definitely barbaric to sacrifice animals for the sake of the LORD. The LORD has planned for man and beast to co-exist peacefully in new creation (Isaiah 11:6-9). In another sense, it is even more barbaric that the Son of God is killed for our sins. Yet, the LORD chose to use this method to display this self-sacrificial love for us: that indeed, we should realize how utterly ridiculous, dirty, and barbaric this method of salvation is – the death of God for the unlimited (but not universal) atonement of all. But this also concentrates on how divine, instead of how human this method of salvation is. It is not clean; it is not compartmentalized; it is not convenient. It is everything but. A sacrifice of life for another life is a truth which we partake in everyday when we consume food, and (possibly seed-bearing) plants in our meals – yet, somehow we think there is nothing barbaric with that. We should remember that any element of barbarism is but a shadow of the true barbarism against the Son of God.
Secondly, it is a chronological fallacy to say that the rituals worldwide are copied by the Mosaic covenant: it is the other-way-around. Firstly, a majority of sacrificial non-Christian offerings were made between 1-3 thousand years prior to Christ’s incarnation (that is not to include the number of sacrificial offerings of cults today). The Mosaic covenant was established between 1 to 2 thousand years prior to Christ’s incarnation as Messiah; and the sacrifices of burnt offering has begun since the time of Adam and Eve, ranging between 3 to 5 thousand years prior to Christ on the cross. That is not to say that non-Christian offerings have not occurred during this time (if anything, they seem to overlap); but like every worship of pagan gods especially during the time of the Pharoah, they are false representations of true God of Israel, the God of the world and universe. They may display some vague hints at the prototype of the burnt offering, but they know not the significance of the offering. The worship of stars, the worship of idols, the sacrifices of their own sons and daughters as a sign of reverence to their self-made gods are all false representations of the true law laid down in Leviticus. Chronologically speaking, however, the earliest burnt offering (recorded in Scripture) being at the time of Abel means that the allegation of Old Testament Christianity ‘copy-catting’ other religions is unfounded, since Abel is Adam and Eve’s first son alongside Cain.
This is but a display of what happens to man when we fail to look at things Christologically – we think the action itself as barbaric; or we think the action itself as our works of salvation. Put Christ in the picture, and the action itself points to the true pain of Christ on the cross; put Christ in the picture, and it is Christ’s work of salvation which is gifted to us, not our work of salvation. Our mind should begin and end with Christ now that we are saved by the power of the Spirit: let us learn to look at the rest of Leviticus with Christological lenses as redeemed people of Christ.