2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

Chapter 28

The civil unrest in Israel is summed up in the words of prophet Oded – “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.  And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves.  Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God?  Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” (v.9-11; and see v.19).  Ahaz the son of Jotham walked “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (v.2) – yet, the LORD used Israel to enact judgment on Judah (v.5-8).  It is therefore clear that the covenant made with the house of David, leading Judah, means that the Davidic lineage is held to a higher responsibility for upholding the promise of the Messiah – especially in the actions of the king.  It does not matter in the same way that Israel is making metal images for the Baals; making offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burning one’s sons as an offering; for it is the house of David which should define the whole of Israel.  If the king of Israel falls, the king of Judah should uphold the Christ-like example.  This is why the level of civil unrest in this chapter outweighs all that had gone before it.

In response to Oded’s proclamation, Azariah (whom Jehovah helps), Berechiah (blessed by Jehovah), Jehizkiah (Jehovah strengthens) and Amasa (burden) complied with the words of the prophet (v.12-15), and grace was bestowed on the people of Israel, that they were brought to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees.  What shame, that the house of David forgot the Wisdom by Whom Solomon walked (Proverbs 8), He who upholds the true king of Israel; instead, the chiefs of Ephraim reminded Judah of this fundamental truth.  Neither the king of Israel, nor the king of Judah, are the focus of this chapter – but the followers of Christ, the chiefs and the prophet and those who remember the grace of God. Even Ahaz’s petition to the king of Assyria for help has turned into an opportunity for Tiglath-pileser to exploit Judah’s predicament – all within the LORD’s allowance (v.19), to humble Judah, even so far as to remind Ahaz that he is but a shadow of the Elected King Jesus, and that the house of the LORD (v.21) is also but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling, its portion bearing no significance if even the kings of Judah / Israel have forsaken its significance.

Yet, the LORD’s methods of humbling Ahaz have not been received with a circumcised heart, and Ahaz’s idolatry deepens as he sacrifices to the gods of the neighbouring nations – a king who does not even deserve to be buried in the tombs of the kings of Israel (v.27).

Chapter 29

Yet, Hezekiah turned the tide back to Christ (v.2), following Christ the way his forefather David did.  While Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the temple, shutting the doors of the temple and making himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem (chapter 28:22-24) – in blasphemy to the temple’s true purpose, Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them (v.3).  He also re-initiated the Levitical order (v.4-11), re-confirming the role of the king of Judah in keeping this covenant with the LORD, whose steadfast love endures forever.  The very fact that he prioritizes the reparation of the temple and the utter importance of the priests are both indicators that Hezekiah understands fully what Israel, as a nation, is in God’s eye – and their purpose as priesthood to other nations (Exodus 19:6), a role sorely forgotten time and time again.  What the priests have done in v.12-19 are a renewal of what Ahaz the Christless king has done; just as Christ will renew our bodies, the temples of the LORD (1 Corinthians 6:19) through the renewal and resurrection of his own (John 2:21).  The raping of Judah by its own and by the various nations (Edomites, Philistines, Assyrians, etc) is but a shadow of the crucifixion of Christ, before His glorious resurrection and renewal of His body in Hezekiah’s reformation.  The sons of the anointed Kohathites, Merarites, Gershonites and the sons of Elizaphan (whom God protects), and of the sons of Asaph (collector), all special clans of the Levites (c.f. their roles in Numbers).  These chosen Levites therefore cleaned the temple, and taking all uncleanness to the brook Kidron (v.16), the symbolic place of David’s flight (2 Samuel 15:23) and also the place of testing as Christ walked to the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1) – it is here that Christ was truly tested and made his decision to walk in accordance with the Father’s will, where our uncleanness was forever removed.

The beauty continues, as the temple restoration could not be complete without making a sevenfold sin offering for the kingdom, sanctuary and for Judah (v.21); the blood of the bulls, rams, lambs thrown against the altar (v.22) with the goats being the sin offering (in the manner of Leviticus 16:21 – the Day of Atonement).  With sacrifice, comes worship – our first response to Christ’s work on the cross, not being one of working to gain his trust or to gain his love, but a response of His service towards us, His love for us.  Worship (v.25-30) – to sing praises with gladness, the whole assembly worshipping (v.28) until the burnt offering was finished – the entire act edified as the kingdom truly rejoiced despite Ahaz’s idolatry in chapter 28.  This worship in conjunction with the national burnt offering, the effective Day of Atonement, was immediately followed by thank offerings (v.31-36), so much that like the day of Solomon, overflowed beyond all expectations (c.f. 2 Chronicles 7:7).

Chapter 30

Despite Manasseh’s attempt to unite Israel (v.1-9, 12) under the Passover, taking people back to the basics, back to the day when Israel could be called a large nomadic tribe (c.f. Exodus) no longer under the yoke of the Egyptians but now bondservants of the LORD, the invitation to unite was met with scorn (v.10).  However, some humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (v.11).

Because of the suddenness of the reformation of Hezekiah (chapter 29:36), the priests and the Levites were ashamed at the speed of which the humbled Christians acted (v.15, v.17; c.f. chapter 29:34).  Yet, their consecration was set aside, for many had not cleansed themselves but rushed to be united with the house of David (v.18-19), rushed to set his heart to seek God (v.19).  The people were thus healed (v.20), after a sequence of renewing the temple, of renewing the sacrifice, of renewing the worship, of uniting the circumcised in the heart under the banner of the Passover Lamb – all but a shadow of the unity and renewal we will receive on the day of the Wedding Supper (Revelation 19:6-9).  Such rejoicing, that it extended beyond the 7 days for another 7 days (v.23), such unprecedented worship and healing – an indication of the everlasting healing by the leaves of the tree of life (Revelation 22:2) and such glorious everlasting Sabbath rest, for the first time typified from the time of Solomon (v.26), ending on the positive note:

Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.(v.27)

 

2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

2 Kings 15-16: Conspiring against Jesus

II Kings 15:

1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.

3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.

4 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.

5 And the LORD touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.

6 Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

7 And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned in his place.

In continuation of these chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah, we now come to king of Judah Azariah the son of Amaziah, whose mother’s name was the LORD’s power of Jerusalem (Jecoliah), doing what was right in accordance with his father’s name.  Yet, he became a leper thorugh his own arrogance, fully described in 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.  Although defeating the Philistines by seeking the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:6-15), given much strength and wisdom, his pride preceded him and led him to inappropriately burn incense on the altar of incense – forgetting that despite his righteous acts, he – like us – are born as sinful men.  Only the sons of Aaron are consecrated to do the job of burning incense; only the Messiah, the Priest-King, can do this.  Thus he decided his own future as the leper king:

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor,

18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”

19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.

20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him.”

 

Thus the king’s son Jotham, perfection of the LORD, reigned in Uzziah / Azariah’s place.

8 In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months.

9 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place.

11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

12 (This was the promise of the LORD that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it came to pass.)

Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, walked in the sins of Jeroboam (in similar fashion to the kings of Israel), ending the bloodline of Jehu on the throne of Israel.  This is in fulfillment of the prophecy to king Jehu, the ancestor of Zechariah (2 Kings 10:30), whose kingdom shall not reign forever due to his sins at Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), unlike the Messianic kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13).  The bloody coups of these kings of Israel, the supposed priesthood to all nations, is now becoming more often – such conspiracies repeating itself time and time again (v.10; v.14).  The violence also knows no bound – the conspirator against the conspirator, ripping open all the women in it who were pregnant because of Tiphsah’s refusal to open to the dictatorial king of Israel (v.16):

13 Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned one month in Samaria.

14 Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place.

15 Now the rest of the deeds of Shallum, and the conspiracy that he made, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

16 At that time Menahem sacked Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on, because they did not open it to him. Therefore he sacked it, and he ripped open all the women in it who were pregnant.

17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and he reigned ten years in Samaria.

18 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

19 Pul the king of Assyria came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold on the royal power.

20 Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back and did not stay there in the land.

21 Now the rest of the deeds of Menahem and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

22 And Menahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahiah his son reigned in his place.

Menahem was not a king who followed Christ; he was a king who followed his flesh, securing his royal power through ungodly alliances with the king of Assyria, exacting the money from his body, his people (v.18-20).  Unsurprisingly, Pekahiah (“eyes opened by the LORD” walked in the same sins:

23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years.

24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

25 And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king’s house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place.

26 Now the rest of the deeds of Pekahiah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Irony that the son of the conspirator (Menahem) against the conspirator (Shallum) is now in turn conspired against by Pekah, the son of Remaliah – Pekahiah’s captain!  Such is the failed ungodly leadership that conspiracies and falsehood reign more than the kingdom of heaven on earth.  The open-eyed one, destroyed the one whose eyes were opened by the LORD – irony upon irony.  Yet, the pattern of these kings is that though they walk in the sins of Jeroboam, they still seek the LORD’s blessings through their names.  Yet, it is Immanuel who will bear the true Name that brings blessings upon Israel, granting peace with neighbours (Exodus 23:21).  The conspiracies (fourth one this chapter) thus continue through Hoshea, son of Elah (v.30):

27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years.

28 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

30 Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.

31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

In a fresh change of perspective, we turn back to the kings of Judah – free of conspiracies now, Jotham the son of Uzziah and Jerusha (daughter of righteousness, Zadok, the LORD’s possession) walks with Christ, his life described more fully in 2 Chronicles 27.  Yet, although Jotham walked ever so briefly in the LORD’s presence, Judah is now subject to what would soon become the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity of the chosen nation – subject of much of the prophetic books in the remainder of the Old Testament:

32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign.

33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok.

34 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done.

35 Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD.

36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

37 In those days the LORD began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah.

38 Jotham slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.

II Kings 16:

1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done,

3 but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

4 And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

Note that “walking in the way of the kings of Israel” is already a proverb in itself, the kings of Judah distinguishing themselves by doing what is right in the LORD’s eyes – walking in the way of David the type of Christ.  Such is the king of Israel, the false leader who would burn his son as an offering (c.f. Leviticus 18:21; 20:2) according to the despicable practices of the Christ-less neighbours.  Thus, the king of Israel and the Syrians come to possess the land of Elath from the possessor Ahaz.  The work of Azariah is thus undone (2 Kings 14:22), for the LORD is not helping the kings of Judah as He did Azariah.  Yet, Israel’s union with Syria against Judah too is an act of disobedience despite God using them to humble Judah (2 Chronicles 28:8-15):

8 The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria.

9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.

10 And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God?

11 Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.”

12 Certain chiefs also of the men of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who were coming from the war

13 and said to them, “You shall not bring the captives in here, for you propose to bring upon us guilt against the LORD in addition to our present sins and guilt. For our guilt is already great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.”

14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly.

15 And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.

5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him.

6 At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day.

Yet, instead of turning back to Christ, Ahaz turns to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria.  What blasphemy and heresy!  “I am your servant and your son” – indeed, the follower of Satan is indeed his son (John 8:44)!  What is the LORD’s is now given to the king of Assyria!

7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”

8 Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.

9 And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.

The victory is thus not the LORD’s – but the victory is that of Tiglath-pileser, overcoming the king of Syria with the sword rather than the love of the Father poured out through Christ.  The treasures found in the house of the LORD (v.8) was exchanged for the model of the pagan altar, its pattern and details (v.10).  Christ worship is exchanged for Satan worship:

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details.

11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus.

12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it

13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.

14 And the bronze altar that was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar.

15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.”

16 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.

The offerings were thus made on the altar of Damascus, the bronze altar of the Temple of the LORD removed from the front of the house and instead was placed on the north side of this false altar (v.14), quietly ignored.  It was thus removed from the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where Jesus stood (2 Samuel 24).  See the extent of his idolatry in 2 Chronicles 28:

22 In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD—this same King Ahaz.

23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.

24 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem.

25 In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the LORD, the God of his fathers.

26 Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

27 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal.

18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

 

Because of the king of Assyria, he modified the temple structure and closed the way to the Holy Place, forcing idol worship in the heart of Jerusalem.  Note Matthew Henry’s view of Ahaz’ acts of degradation:

He removed the covert for the sabbath, erected either in honour of the sabbath or for the conveniency of the priests, when, on the sabbath, they officiated in greater numbers than on other days. Whatever it was, it should seem that in removing it he intended to put a contempt upon the sabbath, and so to open as wide an inlet as any to all manner of impiety. 3. The king’s entry, which led to the house of the Lord, for the convenience of the royal family (perhaps that ascent which Solomon had made, and which the queen of Sheba admired, 1 Kings x. 5), he turned another way, to show that he did not intend to frequent the house of the Lord any more. This he did for the king of Assyria, to oblige him, who perhaps returned his visit, and found fault with this entry, as an inconvenience and disparagement to his palace. When those that have had a ready passage to the house of the Lord, to please their neighbours, turn it another way, they are going down the hill apace towards their ruin.

Israel is, indeed, entering its darkest time.

2 Kings 15-16: Conspiring against Jesus

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

The last four chapters 16-20 spoke of the holy priesthood.  What of the priests?  What about their “lifestyle”?  What about what they eat?  Who can also eat?  What about what is offered by the people?  Leviticus 21-22 seeks to answer these questions, moving from the nation of priests to the true priests themselves and the pattern of our lifestyle.. in New Creation.

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

Matthew Henry points out the distinctions in Leviticus 21:

This chapter might borrow its title from Mal_2:1, “And now, O you priests, this commandment is for you.” It is a law obliging priests with the utmost care and jealousy to preserve the dignity of their priesthood.  I. The inferior priests are here charged both concerning their mourning and concerning their marriages and their children (Lev_21:1-9).  II. The high priest is restrained more than any of them (Lev_21:10-15).  III. Neither the one nor the other must have any blemish (Lev_21:16, etc.).

Note that while the priests themselves are ‘lower’ than the high priest, the priest witnesses to the high priest, just as the high priest witnesses directly to Christ.  However, note that there is no partiality in terms of blemish: both must be without blemish, whether high priest or not.  Let’s understand Jesus better by looking at the meanings of God’s establishment of holiness on these priests.

Lev 21:1-24  And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people,  (2)  except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother,  (3)  or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).  (4)  He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself.

The meanings of these verses display the complete dedication of the priests to their duty, to the point where they have no ‘liberty’ to weep for peopl besides the immediate family.  This may sound harsh, but it reflects much about Christ’s work.  Christ indeed wept for people during his 30-year ministry on earth:

Joh 11:32-35  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (33)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  (34)  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  (35)  Jesus wept.

Who was this dead man? Lazarus: yet, did Jesus know him intimately?  No.  In fact, if we were to read Leviticus 21:1-4 correctly, it appears that the only people Christ would have wept for is Mary, Joseph, and James, depending on whether you see him as Christ’s blood brother or spiritual brother (I vouch the former, for not many other Christians in the New Testament were referred to specifically as the LORD’s brother).  However, Jesus’ weeping for Lazarus means something incredibly profound: that he would consider us so dear to him like the “closest relatives” (Leviticus 21:2), before Lazarus even rose from the dead!  That is the significance of Christ’s love for us, before we even loved Him; his faithfulness to us, before we even try to be faithful (Romans 3:4).

(5)  They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.  (6)  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  (7)  They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.  (8 )  You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.  (9)  And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.  (10)  “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.  (11)  He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother.  (12)  He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD.  (13)  And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  (14)  A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people,  (15)  that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

There is much to be said about v.5-15, but it would be entirely appropriate to classify these verses under the priest’s sexual purity.  v.5-6 speaks of holiness manifested through the priests’ obedience in not making marks on their bodies, most likely reflecting the pagan cultures surrounding them – and again, it is re-emphasised that they are not merely called to be clean – but to be holy (v.6).  Therefore, their purity is maintained by not marrying a prostitute, or a woman divorced from her husband – thus, a virgin (v.7-9, 13-15).  This is entirely significant, and follows on from the imagery of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  God created both in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and both revered God as to embody the picture of Adam’s headship over Eve’s submission, which manifestly displays Christ’s love for the church which submits (Ephesians 5:22-33).  However, where is this picture shown when the priest, or High Priest, ‘goes into’ or ‘knows’ (both terms relating to sexual intercourse) or ‘marries’ a prostitute or a divorced person?  The reason simply given in Leviticus 21:7 is “for the priest is holy to his God“.  Holiness is readily defined time and time again throughout Leviticus, which ultimately speaks of God’s personality.  Leviticus is God’s biography – and he is manifestly telling us that Christ is not going to marry a corrupt, ungodly church.  That is the picture of adultery, when Israel has been constantly referred to as idolatrous and adulterous because of her unfaithfulness (c.f. books of Hosea and Ezekiel).  Thus, for a priest to marry a prostitute is akin to Christ marrying, for example, a Canaanite who still offers herself to other gods and idols. That is why in v.14 it says that he shall take a virgin from his own people – for Christ marries none other than his own.  What kind of gospel are we preaching when we, as Christians and as priests of God, date or marry a non-Christian?  It is a ‘gospel’ of universalism and open theism.  Let us not be false teachers people, and learn to devote ourselves to Christ in our relational life.

But why marginalise the ‘prostitues’, ‘divorced’ and ‘widowed’, over the ‘virgin’?  This is speaking about the purity of the person coming before the priest; the purity of the person coming before Christ.  The definition of ‘purity’ and ‘without blemish’ will come more into play in the later verses, but it is important to note that this seeming partiality towards the divorced and the prostitute is extremely important in our eschatological theology.  What the LORD is essentially telling us, is that in new Jerusalem, where we have our wedding feast with Christ – only there will we be officially married to Christ.  It is most important to remember however that before we can even stand before Christ in new creation, we must be in our wedding garbs of righteousness (Isaiah 61).  What this means is mani-fold, but just to pick out two: it means that we are completely righteous before Christ and the Father, as if we are Christ himself (since we are in Christ now).  Remember however that Christ is a virgin – that he never knew a person during his lifetime on earth.  This, along with other reasons why he remains celibate, completely contradicts the “Brownian effect” (a term I coin for Dan Brown’s ludicrous theology), and is just merely an expression of someone who simply did not understand Christ’s ministry on earth.

If we are in Christ, and we are presented to the Father as if we were Christ himself, that means we inherit his body, his resurrection, his ascension, his righteousness… and undoubtedly, his virginity.  Therefore, it is most important that the wife is a virgin – to emulate the virginity of Christ, as the church takes on Christ’s very being.

(16)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (17)  “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.  (18 )  For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long,  (19)  or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand,  (20)  or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.  (21)  No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.  (22)  He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things,  (23)  but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”  (24)  So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

People may read v.16-21 and say that it is harsh.  Remember however, that this priesthood was not ‘gained’ by Aaron and his sons, because of their faithfulness.  It has always been God’s pattern to gift us with ministries and salvation (Genesis chapters 12, 15; Romans 9:6).  If we continually look at the priests Christologically, we are learning something valuable about the comparison of the human priests to our God-King-Priest Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus.  Because, the human priest is after all weak, and will succumb to God’s sovereignty over their birth defect, or defect eventually gained in their life (v. 18 ).  But the fully divine AND human priest is sinless, and without blemish.  The LORD, through the expression of these verses, is solidifying his holiness over man’s incapability of remaining holy without the LORD’s permission or sovereignty over even his own birth.  One cannot help but read these verses and completely kneel and give oneself to the living God’s interaction with us, and ability to humble us so we do not misappropriate the true role of priesthood in our own hands, when we have been given this privilege through Christ alone, who is our only sinless High Priest without blemish (Hebrews 4:15).  Without a High Priest without blemish, he would not be capable of representing the assembly of Israel to take the blood of the sacrifice before the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies (v.21 and 23).

However, do not be discouraged because you are born with, or you now have, a physical defect.  That is not God’s intention nor his expression in these verses: he is actually giving us a message of hope and humility to stand before him without arrogance, and trusting only in Christ.  Because Christ took on human flesh, he rose again in a renewed body.  In the same way, our Christ whose body was without blemish, who was a virgin, who ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God – WE also, will appropriate these things because of him.  Leviticus 21 is a picture of hope for us only if we stand by the unblemished High Priest, so we look forward to our new creation bodies without blemish.

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

If the holiness and unblemished character of the priests reflect that of Christ’s unblemished nature, what of the priestly food?

Lev 22:1-33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD.

The opening verses of chapter 22 follows on naturally from chapter 21 – firstly, if the priest is holy, so also the “things” are holy.

It is quite interesting as to why both priest and the offering are holy – for they speak of how Christ is both priest and sacrifice.  We play no role in creation nor redemption!  We are partakers, and taken up into that role of creation and redemption.  Here, we see a picture of God’s definition of redemption: that Christ the holy priest offers himself as holy offering.  Jurgen Moltmann in his “The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution of Messianic Ecclesiology”:

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father which includes the church”

It is therefore through Christ that we can even partake in God’s work.  God continually reminds the Aaronic priests that it is not them actually remitting the sins of Israel, for they are actually sinful!  This is explained in v.2 – that the Aaronic priests should abstain from the holy things while he has uncleanness as explained in v.3 onwards:

(3)  Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.  (4)  None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen,  (5)  and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be–  (6)  the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water.

This is actually a great verse, in exposing the truth of Genesis 3:22.  Here is the verse:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…

Now, some people think there is a defect in the translation – and I think there is.  But it is better interpreted as such in the context of Genesis 3.  Remember that man has eaten from the tree of good and evil, celebrating the seeming autonomy of man pitted against God.  Satan has effectively influenced man through the tree of the law – and man attempted to do the works of the law and fulfill the law in itself.  However, man can at any time take from the tree of life, having already sinned against God.  Can man just live forever and God will look away at man’s great offence against Him?  No – and that is why God bars the way to the tree of life.  We simply do not deserve it: and our sin must be dealt with.  To live forever as self-proclaimed and self-righteous and self-justifying “God-men” (in terms of judging what is good and evil for ourself) is simply heresy.

However, we can eat from this holy tree, if we are clean.  Adam and Eve solidified their uncleanness by eating of the tree of good and evil, thus God barred the way to the tree of life signified by the cherubim and the burning sword, manifested in the veil with the cherubim pattern.  The only way we can enjoy the food, the feast, is if there is blood to cleanse us so we have renewed bodies.  Only with a renewed body can we take food from the tree of life – any other attempt is futile and we will only be caught up in the veil-flame between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.  Revelation 2:7 and 22:14:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

and

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

And who can overcome?  Who can do his commandments?  Christ.  And in Christ, God looks at us as if we are Christ himself – and we stand as the righteous and blessed man, through His Son’s blood and water.

(7)  When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food.  (8 )  He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’  (9)  They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.  (10)  “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired servant shall eat of a holy thing,  (11)  but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food.  (12)  If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things.  (13)  But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it.  (14)  And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest.  (15)  They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD,  (16)  and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

v.16 – “For I am the LORD who sanctifies them”.  What of this seeming intolerance of “lay persons”?  Let’s go through verse by verse.  v.7-8 is a re-iteration of the law on eating, and the refrain again: “I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (v.9).  Then, v. 10: a lay person shall not eat a holy thing.  Therefore, the contrast is established: a holy unblemished priest can eat of holy things: but a lay person, who is merely clean cannot eat of holy things.  v.11 explains: a slave bought as the priests property for a price, can eat of it.

Let’s stop here for a bit: a doulos (greek for slave) who is bought at a price for his life?  1 Corinthians 7:22:

For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.

However, given the potential exegetical fallacy in comparing the NT greek for ‘doulos’ with the OT ‘ebed (עבד Hebrew for bond-servant), there is a high possibility that they convey subtle different meanings.  Indeed there is – the word doulos is in fact such a limited semantic choice the translators picked for the ESV.  Consider the LXX on v.11:  psyche (ψυχή), which actually means breath or spirit.  Thus, matching the LXX against the Hebrew, it can be re-translated as “but if a priest buys any soul as his property for money“.  The semantic range for “soul” (psyche in Greek, nephesh in Hebrew, נפשׁ ) is vast:  it can simply mean a breathing creature, a creature which has life or simply Spirit (though I think a living creature is more appropriate, since the Spirit is often referred to as wind, or ruah in Hebrew).

The Trinity in relation to those who take part in the House of the Priest

Let’s look at the first semantic choice: if a slave can now eat of the holy food as if he was actually born in the house of the priest (aka, becoming one of the priestly line), then he is adopted into the Holy family!  What a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity!  Matthew 11 is my proof text for comparison:

Mat 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  (26)  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  (27)  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses from Matthew reveals just how closely intertwined one’s salvation is to one’s knowledge of the Trinity: one simply cannot be saved without acknowledgment of the Trinity.  When we are adopted into the Holy Family of God, we are now seen as sons of God (meaning the Father: c.f. Romans 8:14, so we are not sons of Christ), like Christ, because we are joined to, and in Christ! We NOW partake in Christ’s sonship and directly capable of speaking to the Father by the power of the Spirit making all of this possible.  Without the Trinity, salvation simply does NOT make sense.  The implications of this are vast – or should I say explicit nature, rather than implicit nature.  If we follow after Abraham’s faith in Romans 4, and Hebrews 11 states very clearly that these Old Testament saints had the same faith which we now follow, then how is it possible that the Old Testament saints can even be saved without any saving knowledge of the Trinity?  Leviticus 21-22 is a lesson plan, teaching them about the Trinity in the context of New Creation!  For the people alive during Moses time who not only had the passages of Genesis and Exodus to read concerning the Angel of the LORD, the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, the Passover Lamb, the Three Tabernacle Furniture described BEFORE the Tabernacle itself, the Father who descended on Mt. Sinai on the Third Day – these are all profound and explicit pictures of not the multi, but tri-Personal nature of the Trinity.  Otherwise, there is profound difficulty in Jesus being the sacrifice to himself – when he is clearly bringing his blood to the Father, and not to himself!  What we may end up with is a modalistic nature of God who ‘acts’ as sacrifice, Son, Father, Spirit when he wishes, which is clearly impossible given the separate actions of each to fulfil the fulsome picture of a Holy Family who are separate in number and persons, but not separate in entity.

That, however, is merely the limited semantic concerning the English translation ‘slave’ or ‘bondservant’.  What of the specific usage of psyche and nephesh – the spirited creature?  I have investigated the claim concerning fish which are the only creatures without breath, without a soul (Genesis 1:30 implies that only the birds in heavens, beast of earth and everything that creeps on the ground has the breath of God sustaining them).  This in fact is a picture of salvation, coloured by the salvation of spirited beasts in Jonah (Jonah 3: 8 ) – which points again towards New Creation (Isaiah 11:6-10) where only the creatures with the Spirit sustaining them will co-exist with us there peacefully.  Thus, v.11 isn’t exclusive of the beasts who, throughout Scripture, are mentioned to be saved unto God to new Creation – and the semantic range of v.11 simply refers to the salvation of every creature (including man and beast) to New Creation, by adoption through Christ, the true priest!

A layman is simply ‘clean’ – and even God says that is not enough.  That is the explanation of the Ascension: if we are left with death and resurrection, then as Christians, we are left with a blank slate whenever we return to Christ.  He is like an eraser, who erases our sins.  But that is merely a burnt and a sin offering for cleansing.  What about our priestly ordination?  What about our ability to eat of the holy fruit: we must become holy; we must be sanctified.  This is why the ascension is CRUCIAL to the work of the cross: without it, we will not be sanctified and go with Christ through to the Holy of Holies.  We would forever remain as clean laypeople but barred from even going through the veil of fire.  What good would that be?  What kind of God ‘saves’ us, but leaves us stranded on the proverbial limbo?  Not the Jesus of the Bible: for he desires not only to cleanse us, but to impute to us HIS holiness, so WE as a body of Christians can commune with the Triune God manifested through food, as symbolised by the great wedding feast which is the first thing that awaits us in New Creation!  He is, as He repeatedly says, the LORD who sanctifies us – through Jesus Christ alone.

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

(17)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (18)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD,  (19)  if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats.  (20)  You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.  (21)  And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.  (22)  Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar.  (23)  You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.  (24)  Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land,  (25)  neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.”

Now, we turn to priestly sacrifices which are also seen as without blemish (v.20-21).  If our priests are without blemish, and that the food they (and the other priests, including slaves of priests and those who return to the house of the priest as wholly devoted, like the woman who has returned to singlehood and no longer bound to another, so she can devote herself fully to Jesus in spiritual marriage to Him) eat gives them life as classified as a holy thing, then HOW can we receive these things?  Through sacrifices without blemish.

You may wonder: what does this have to do with v.24-25 – the sacrifice’s ‘testicles’?  This is because this is where the seed comes from: the seed that gives life.  I have investigated the truths behind ‘semen’, behind ‘seed’ theology (Genesis 1:11), behind circumcision (Genesis 17) – and that they find their definitive meaning of renewed eternal life in the Seed of Genesis 3:15.  Therefore, to provide an animal with crushed testicles, then that is to preach that the animal is incapable of giving new life – that the animal is not an appropriate sacrifice which preaches Jesus’ ability to give new life, as symbolised by the renaming of Eve as the mother of all living, and through Mary the literal mother of the Son of True living.

(26)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day.  (29)  And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.  (30)  It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.  (31)  “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.  (32)  And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,  (33)  who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

Again, let’s not smoothe over the details of the birth of the ox or sheep, which awaits the 8th day of Christ’s resurrection after Sabbath to be seen as acceptable as food offering to the LORD.  It is a forward looking sacrifice to new creation of the 8th day.  The cutting of the flesh through which seed is borne in the male genitalia (Genesis 17) is directly analogised to the cutting of the flesh of the beast – and both are suitable examples of Christ’s work on the cross – he is the God, the man, and the Lamb.

v28 is interesting and is a humane presentation of God’s view to sacrifices – he is not bloodthirsty: but the sacrifices are still necessary.  Here is Matthew Henry’s take on the verse:

That the dam and her young should not both be killed in one day, whether in sacrifice or for common use, Lev_22:28. There is such a law as this concerning birds, Deu_22:6. This was forbidden, not as evil in itself, but because it looked barbarous and cruel to the brute creatures; like the tyranny of the king of Babylon, that slew Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then put out his eyes. It looked ill-natured towards the species to kill two generations at once, as if one designed the ruin of the kind.

And v.29-30 is again a re-establishment of the laws already taught in Leviticus 7:15; 19:6-7.

No Foreigners

v.10 and v.25 of chapter 22 speaks quite clearly against foreigners: this immediately symbolised the purity of Israel which we have already looked at.  It is a witness towards spiritual purity – and that the only acceptable person to eat of the Holy food, off the Tree of Life, is a Christian – not a ‘foreigner’ who confesses not Christ.  Secondly, the animal sacrifice shall be provided by a local, and not a foreigner – again to display the salvation of Christ through the Jews, explaining his incarnation as a Jew – to be part of their ethnic and spiritual identity.

Conclusion

The last two verses of chapter 22 summarise many of the truths spoken of since Exodus 20 to Leviticus 22: “I am the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD”.  Since Exodus 20, every statement has been a pattern of things to come – that even the 10 commandments are filled with “You shall” statement.  Statements of promise that we will do these things without blemish.  Similarly, v. 31 repeats it: “you SHALL keep my commandments” – not you must.  Remember this is no works-salvation: the Israelites are learning these commandments on the basis of having been already saved – the constant phrase of “I am the LORD who saved you out of the land of Egypt“.  A God who saves will not then require them to prove themselves as save-worthy – that would be akin to asking the Israelites to do as Nadab and Abihu did, and provide strange, additional hostile offering.  Rather, this is a God making promises: Here is a Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, authoritatively and confidently establishing what we will and we shall do eventually – in new creation.  Are you confident in your own ability to be the priest who provides an unblemished sacrifice of your own, whether in the form of your devotion in religion, the number of times you pray, or the number of pilgrimages and fasts you have committed yourself to?  Or are you confident in Christ’s ability to be the priest who provides himself (Genesis 22) as the unblemished sacrifice?

Let us inherit the hope of New Creation – looking forward to our own sanctification so we can finally eat of the Tree of Life which God had always intended for us to enjoy with us by His side.

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

Leviticus 1-2; 6:8-18 – The Sacrifices pt. 1

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:

Offering Purpose Jesus Animals Division
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

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 ).

Fire

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.

Birds

Why birds?

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.

Salt

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).

Oil

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.

Leviticus 1-2; 6:8-18 – The Sacrifices pt. 1

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

3.  Jacob’s dream: the stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

Here is a picture of an old Isaac with dim eyes.  God’s blessing on Jacob had been pronounced in Genesis 25:23; but it appears that this promise has been ignored by Isaac and Esau.  Isaac would rather rely on his own works to please Jacob.  He would cheat his way back into the birthright which he had despised by resorting to the one thing he knows – that is, to hunt game for Isaac.  Where is God in this picture?  No-where – though Jacob be a Schemer, at least he values the birthright.  Here, we see two people joining together to disobey God’s plan which had been announced two chapters ago.

Which is why Rebekah is especially quick to act when she hears Isaac and Esau speaking to one another.  What is Rebekah’s solution?  Take the place of Esau, by pretending to be Esau!

But there is something very apparent.  Jacob is a smooth man!  And Esau is hairy!  Such an important physical difference, let alone difference in personality should be enough to distant his father from his son.  Jacob is fearful of this, and wishes to stay away: “Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing”.

Indeed, such is the same fear when we present ourselves to our heavenly Father when he expects something but we present something entirely unacceptable.  Instead, Jacob is advised to wear the goat skin to be in the place of Esau.  And who is to receive the curse?  Rebekah.  Who appeased the father’s wrath?  Rebekah, essentially.  Yet, who does Isaac look favourably on?  Jacob, in the place of Esau.  Not only goat skin, but also Esau’s best garments.

Then, let’s look at the blessing:

“See,(B) the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
28May God give you of(C) the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and(D) plenty of grain and wine.
29Let peoples serve you,
and nations(E) bow down to you.
(F) Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
(G) Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

But let’s look at the blessing in detail.  Can this be a blessing strictly for Jacob the person?  No.  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.” – within his lifetime, at most, only one nation bowed down to Jacob and his immediate descendants, that being the Egyptians when Joseph had aided the Pharoah.  But that is far from saying nation”s”… Secondly, Jacob has no other brother beside Jacob.  But the refrain in v. 29 is “Be lord over your brother”s”… and may your mother’s son”s” bow down to you”.

If anything, there is something interesting at play here – it is an entirely prophetic blessing, peering into the future of the nation Israel, the name of which means “God fights”.  If anything, this blessing seems to work… only in the context of Jesus Christ.  So what does Isaac mean in v. 37, when he says he made Jacob lord over Esau, and “all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him”?

Let me work on the typologies first lest I be misunderstood:

1.  Isaac = the Father

2.  Jacob = a son (note… not the son)

3.  Rebekah = Mediator, though she proclaims that the curse be on her, she was never actually cursed.

4.  Esau = a potential son… though not from the chosen race, he was given an option to serve.

5.  Goat skin = Christ

For point 4, Isaac told Esau (v. 40) that “By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow resltess you shall break his yoke from your neck”. Thus, he is given an option to serve Jacob… but he refused.  If he had listened, then like Jacob, Esau could have become part of the covenant people; like Japheth the brother of Shem (representing the Gentiles), taking cover under Shem the covenant people.

So here, the Father loves Jacob, one of his sons clothed in animal skin and blesses him and his kingdom in Christ.  Esau came with the wrong dress (Matthew 22), and though he smelt like Esau, and provided game like Esau… Isaac still said: “Who are you?” (v. 32).  And in the same way, even though we cry Lord Lord, He will still tell us go to away… replying “I never knew you” (Matthew 7).

The animal skin points to Christ himself… and yet Rebekah plays the role of the Mediator.  The curse never actually falls on her – and I think this is significant.  This most likely points to the aspect of the mediatorial role offered by people like Job… and by people like Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel with their respective intercessory prayers (Exodus 9, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9).  Does this make Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel a representation of Christ?  Merely a type… but the true curse doesn’t fall on them.  They merely imitate the true Mediator, the true Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Rebekah intercedes for Jacob… but the one truly interceding is the goat skin which witnesses to Christ.

What think you?

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him finally, accepting God’s chosen one.  He finally gives him the same advice that Abraham gave him – to note marry a Canaanite women.  Rather, he tells Jacob to go back to the house where Rebekah was found – to take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his uncle (Rebekah’s brother).  Thus, Jacob goes to Paddan-aram. We’ve already established the significance of physically marrying someone from the same race – that it represents spiritual wholeness, like a Christian should marry a Christian out of obedience to display the picture of Christ marrying a Christian church, rather than Christ marrying a non-Christian.

But then Esau overhears the instructions given to Isaac, and attempts to imitate Isaac.  So Esau, after his marriage to the two Hittites, decides to marry another wife!  He completely misunderstands the instruction!  He just wants to appear like Jacob now.  Such is the problem of many “Christians” today.  They sing with their hands clapping, they lift their eyes to the ceiling as they sing, they jump up and down, or they bow down low… all of these are just external actions.  But their heart is not cured.  Their actions are misrepresented, while they compromise the other aspects of their life.  Esau still missed the point… and still refuses to serve Jacob.  Rather, he still wants to replace Jacob, given his actions in attempting still to please his father.

3.  Jacob’s dream:  The stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

Now we come to what Jesus was speaking of in John 1:51.  Here’s the verse 48-51 to refresh your memory:

48Nathanael said to him, “How(A) do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered him,(B) “Rabbi,(C) you are the Son of God! You are the(D) King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see(E) heaven opened, and(F) the angels of God ascending and descending on(G) the Son of Man.” (John 1:48-51)

And here in v.12-13

12And he(A) dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder[a] set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold,(B) the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold,(C) the LORD stood above it[b] and said,(D) “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.(E) The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.

Who is the LORD?  Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus in the book of John testifies to the Christophany of himself in Genesis 28:13.  But he doesn’t spend a long time explaining it.  He expects Nathanael to understand it.  So here, we see Jacob putting his head on the rock of oath, of Beersheba which Isaac had established with Abimelech.  And on this rock of oath does Jacob, just like Nathaneal, see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” – Christ himself.

Then, we see Jacob wake up in delirium, setting up a pillar and pouring oil on top of it, calling the place Bethel (house of God), though the city was named Luz.  Luz, being a Canaanite name, renamed as Bethel.  This re-confirms that “God is with him and will keep him in this way” (v.20).  Does Jacob really think that Bethel is the house of God?  No – he just made the point that God is with him.  Yet, this is a reminder, an establishment which he raised as a place of worship, an altar placed on the rock of oath.  This rock which shall be set up as a pillar.  A place where the worship takes the form of giving a full tenth back to the Angel of the LORD, reminiscent of Genesis 14:20 when Abraham gave a full tenth back to Melchizedek, establishing the connection between the Angel and Melchizedek.

However, we must distinguish something important.  Jacob is still Jacob – and has not been renamed Israel yet.  He is still the one who cheats – and here, he is offering God a conditional obedience in v.20-22.  He is not quite ready to be rid of his ways.  He is still trying to control the situation, and still, to many an extent, trying to control/manipulate his own obedience to God.

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

Jacob kissing Rachel.  Laban kissing Jacob.  I think we can guess that this kissing is quite innocent.  Probably more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 5:26.  Laban’s proclamation in v. 14 – “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” is a repeat of Adam’s statement to Eve – it is a statement of oneness, a statement that we are of one flesh within the same church, the body of Christ. Such is the joy when we meet Christians whom we barely know, if at all – the hospitality of knowing that someone is striving in the race of faith as you are, whose founder of faith is the Spirit himself.

Something theologically profound in Chapter 29v.20 – “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her”.  Amazing.  7 years is not exactly a short time – but, just as the Trinity is awaiting the day that we marry into Christ; just as creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).  But because Christ loves us, and strives for his Bride, the 7 years, let alone 7000 years are just like a few days. 2 Peter 3:8-13:

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and(N) a thousand years as one day. 9(O) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise(P) as some count slowness, but(Q) is patient toward you,[a](R) not wishing that any should perish, but(S) that all should reach repentance. 10But(T) the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then(U) the heavens will pass away with a roar, and(V) the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,(W) what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12(X) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and(Y) the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for(Z) new heavens and a new earth(AA) in which righteousness dwells.

But Jacob has now met someone equally cunning – his uncle!  Firstly he gets Leah as the bride, then he has to work an extra seven years for Rachel, the true bride he had sought for.  However, even after Jacob’s struggle, the birth of children is still out of his hands.  The LORD continued with his unconditional promise by fulfilling the blessing which Isaac gave to Jacob, but through Leah, the neglected wife.  Through Leah is Jacob given 4 of the 12 tribes of the future nation of Israel – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  Even this is out of his manipulative hands, and provides a leaping contrast between God’s faithfulness and unmoving promise; as opposed to Jacob and Laban’s trickeries and deceptions in order to struggle for what they both desire, even if it may not be pleasing to the LORD.

Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

So we see the difference between the conception of Ishmael vs. the conception of Isaac.  The former is a representation of human effort; the latter the representation of the grace of God.  This is further substantiated by Ishmael, laughing in mockery (this being in the ESV footnote of v. 9 – the Hebrew word is “tsachaq” which literally means to laugh outright in scorn).

This is no mere mockery.  This is a threat to the very gospel itself.

If Ishmael, the ‘firstborn’ gained by human effort were to supersede Isaac, the true firstborn given as a gift, then we have essentially preached that effort trumps grace.  God expresses these sentiments in v.12 : “…’Be not displeased because of the boy (Ishmael) and because of your slave woman (Hagar).  Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

So what happens here is a primary example of church ostracism – either you are for the gospel, or against it.  Remember that this incident began because Ishmael laughed with mockery against Isaac.  This is much like the jealousy portrayed by Cain in Genesis 4 against Abel.  What resulted is murder and deceit.  Cain was banished to the east of Eden.  Here, Ishmael and his mother Hagar, are sent away and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

However, like Cain, Ishmael was not abandoned completely.  When Hagar cried out, God heard the voice of the boy and “the angel of God” (again, one of Christ’s titles) called to Hagar from heaven and said to her that the Father has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  She then saw the ‘living water’, despite being in the wilderness.  Here, we see the work of the Trinity again.  Firstly, someone calls to God (the Father), and the Father sends his presence, his face, the visible of the invisible – his Son, to be the mediator between him and the person who cried to the Father.

There is small hope yet for Ishmael.  God had been with Ishmael in his youth, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.  Some things to say about Ishmael, his character, and the wilderness of Paran.

(a)  Expert with the bow – perhaps this is prophetic of the warring nature of the Ishmaelites.  If it so be true of the Muslims, then it concords well with the Islamic militaristic and political nature of their evangelism.

(b)  Wilderness of Paran – this is most likely where the Israelites had wandered for 40 years between the Exodus and arrival at Canaan.  And how painful a time that was – a time of thirst.  But when they call on the LORD, they received manna and water from the rock.  It is no different for Ishmael. But it still calls into the question of his character, being a militaristic person who also married an Egyptian woman.

(c)  Wife from the land of Egypt – as already mentioned, if God is with Ishmael, then it is likely that the gospel has gone out to Egypt in some respect. But the problem is, like Lot, he had sojourned and mingled with foreign people.  Like Lot’s daughters who were supposedly engaged to the Sodomites, here we have Ishmael married to an Egyptian.  God may have been with Ishmael, like Cain – but the blessing is merely physical (e.g. like Cain’s descendants), but they may not revere God persistently over the subsequent generations for their physical blessings.

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

(a)  Seven ewe lambs – it is interesting that Abraham uses 7 lambs to represent the “witness” of the covenant.  Why seven lambs?  Even Abimelech does not know; but Abraham clearly does.  Job 42:8 and 2 Chronicles 29:21 displays the significance of the number 7.  Why seven?  Because it is the day of the Sabbath, the day of completion. 2 Chronicles 29:20-22:

20Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats(A) for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. 22So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood(B) and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar.

(b)  Beersheba – this location will pop up again and again throughout Genesis.  Especially Genesis 26, when we see that Isaac and Rebekah commit the same sin as Abraham and Sarah.  It is clear that the sins of the father has passed down to Isaac; but Abimelech remembered the covenant between Abraham and him.  The relationship between the future nation of Israel and the Philistines could have boded well; but we can see that by the time of the Judges, it could not have been worse.

(c)  Tamarisk tree – this type of tree pops up again in 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13.  What is a tamarisk tree?  Here is a bit on the Tamarisk tree:

Tamarix can spread both vegetatively, by adventitious roots or submerged stems, and sexually, by seeds. Each flower can produce thousands of tiny (1 mm diameter) seeds that are contained in a small capsule usually adorned with a tuft of hair that aids in wind dispersal. Seeds can also be dispersed by water. Seedlings require extended periods of soil saturation for establishment. Tamarix species are fire-adapted, and have long tap roots that allow them to intercept deep water tables and exploit natural water resources. They are able to limit competition from other plants by taking up salt from deep ground water, accumulating it in their foliage, and from there depositing it in the surface soil where it builds up concentrations temporarily detrimental to some plants. The salt is washed away during heavy rains.

So what we have is a sturdy tree, built by a well.  The seed can spread over vast areas by wind dispersal, and water, and exploit the natural water resources.  This explains even more about the well.  We should expect that the Tamarisk tree planted there would later grow into more trees.

Any theology behind the seeds?  Surely so – Abraham had presented 7 ewe lambs; a well of water; and a seed-bearing plant.  Living Water, Living Lamb, Living Seed.

(d)  Philistines – coming from Casluhim (Genesis 10:13), a son of Ham.  As we have already established, all the sons of Ham have problems in the future.  But they could have taken part of the gospel truth; here, the Philistines understood the nature of Abraham’s God.  He is mighty, and He is with him.  Abimelech, much like the Pharoah in the time of Joseph, revered the same God.  But their descendants did not – and that is the prophetic curse when Ham had sinned against Noah.  However, this again displays the global nature of God – he is not only the God of Abraham, but this God of Abraham is also merciful towards Lot, Abimelech and Ishmael.

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

This is truly a striking story not merely of Abraham sacrificing his only son; but of the Father sacrificing his only Son on the cross.  Some things to note:

(a)  Moriah, third day, donkey, wood – Moriah is the region where the temple of Jerusalem would be built 100’s of years later and especially important – where Jesus is to be crucified!  (2 Chronicles 3:1).  Jesus was cruficied on the mount in Jerusalem, the same area of Moriah!

Then, it is on the third day that Isaac was to be sacrificed.

OK let’s recount the synoptic gospel story.  Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 on a donkey… this was seven days prior to his crucifixion on the wood in Moriah in Golgotha…

Far fetched?  Probably… not.  But why the differentiation between seven days and three days?  Let’s take a quick look.

Though in the gospel story, like the Passover lamb, Jesus enters Jerusalem 7 days before he is slaughtered, it is on the third day that he is resurrected.  Here, Abraham saw Moriah on the third day.  Day 3 is quite important as I’ve established in my Genesis 1, Day 3 post.  It is a representation of dry land, of hope, of new creation and of course of resurrection itself, after Day 2, with the waters of punishment.  Here, the slaughter of Isaac and his ‘resurrection’ per se happens immediately one after another.  This corresponds very much to Abraham’s quip to his men that he and Isaac would return.  Did he expect his men to wait there for “3 days”, as if Abraham would wait for Isaac to be resurrected on the third day?  No.  It is already the third day, and the resurrection would occur immediately.  Abraham already knew that Isaac, if he is to die that day, would be immediately resurrected.  Even better, Isaac wasn’t even sacrificed – because a ram was taken in his place.

(b)  The offering – one could say that the sacrifices so far in the book of Genesis has pointed towards this sacrifice.  The sacrifice of the only Son.  And so this is also a foundational chapter for all the law about sacrifice for the coming books.  How odd it is that God would test Abraham in such a way; why did he not test the subsequent Israelites similarly?  God is teaching us something about the offering here.  He is essentially saying that the lamb, the ram, the turtledove, the pigeon, the ox, the heifer… all those offerings pale in comparison to the true offering of one’s only Son.  However, it’s not about the ‘degree’ of sacrifice; rather, it’s about the very specific nature of the sacrifice.  It is not a self-sacrifice as God could have simply asked Abraham to sacrifice himself; it is a sacrifice of something EXTERNAL, but extremely dear to him.

So here, we have Jesus.. sorry, Isaac, bound to a piece of wood, undergoing the punishment of fire as symbolised in the burnt offering.  The interesting thing in God’s response is “you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me”.  What about Ishmael – isn’t he Abraham’s son as well?

This, again, is the gospel-driven focus that God views in sonship.  He is not speaking of mere physical heritage; he is speaking of spiritual heritage.  We are all sons of Abraham in a covenant sense.  But Ishmael had been outside of that covenant, because he laughed at Isaac.

(c)  The LORD will provide

Chapter 22v.5 is a big give-away.  “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”  Worship?!  And both will come again to his young men?  What is Abraham speaking of?  He is going there without the sacrificial animal when God had told him to take his only beloved son Isaac to offer as a burnt offering (Chapter 22v.2), and he describes this event as worshipful and he also expects to return to the men with his son?

This reveals Abraham’s mentality.  He had full assurance that God would either intervene or resurrect his son, having seen the miraculous conception of his son when he was already 100 years old (and Sarah 90 years old).  Then, unsurprisingly, we reach v. 12-13, when God tells Abraham to withhold the knife and God provides a ram.  But that is not the end of the offering.  Abraham knew that the ram merely symbolised the things to come – and this is revealed in the phrase “The LORD will provide” or in the ESV, “The LORD will see”.  The phrase then moves on in v. 14 to “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” or “he will be seen”.  Abraham was still waiting for the True Lamb who will really take away the people’s sins; not by the testimonial witness of the blood of this ram.

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

Another prophetic fulfillment of God’s provision.  We may have heard a lot about Lot and his disastrous family.  But here, we have Nahor, whose descendant Rebekah will be the future wife of Isaac.  Things are going smoothly in God’s divine plan.

I’ve provided a table which may help you see the extensions of the descendants mentioned thus far from the line of Terah, the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah.

This is quite a family – besides Rebekah, comes Elihu the only person in the book of Job who really understands the truth; then there is Laban who knows of God, despite his household idols (Genesis 31:19).

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

Here we see business practices of the day; but more importantly, we see Abraham buying a cave, a tomb, for Sarah in a small plot of land in Canaan.  He understands the promises made to him earlier on in Genesis 12 and 15; and here again, he looks forward to the day when his descendants will inherit the physical Canaan.  The field of Ephron was in Machpelah, the east of Mamre.  This tomb will not be forgotten – in Genesis 49:29 – Genesis 50:5, we see that Jacob speaks of Abraham and Sarah’s burial place.  They want to be buried in Canaan, not Egypt.  Why?  Because Canaan was the prophesied promised land.  The place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, Jacob… and future saints of the old were buried.  Did they have confidence in the land itself?  Of course not… the land could not even hold the ‘multitude’ of nations promised to Abraham.  Rather, this land is symbolic, and Abraham knew that the stars in heaven and dust of the earth were the true spiritual numbers of the descendants in Christ.  Now, it is just a bit of property – it is a firstfruit.  It is a temporary inheritance; and much like the Holy Spirit who is in us now as an inheritance (Ephesians 1), and our faith in Christ the firstborn of creation and the firstfruit of those with new creation bodies, we are awaiting the true total inheritance of the new Jerusalem, the complete filling of the Spirit and the new bodies with new names!

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus