And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
Verse 1. - And the LORD called unto Moses. The first word of the verse, in the original Vayikra, meaning "and called," has been taken as the designation of the book in the Hebrew Bible. The title Leviticon, or Leviticus, was first adopted by the LXX., to indicate that it had for its main subject the duties and functions appertaining to the chief house of the priestly tribe of Levi. The word "and" connects the third with the second book of the Pentateuch. God is spoken of in this and in the next book almost exclusively under the appellation of "the LORD" or "Jehovah," the word "Elohim" being, however, used sufficiently often to identify the two names. Cf. Leviticus 2:13, 19:12. And spake unto him. The manner in which God ordinarily communicated with a prophet was by "a vision" or "in a dream;" but this was not the case with Moses; "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently" (Numbers 12:8). The Levitical code of laws, therefore, was delivered to Moses in his ordinary mental state, not in trance, or dream, or ecstasy. Out of the tabernacle of the congregation. The tabernacle had just been set up by Moses (Exodus 40:16). It derives its name of the congregation, or rather of meeting, from being the place where God met the representatives of his people (see Numbers 16:42). Hitherto God had spoken from the mount, now he speaks from the mercy-seat of the ark in the tabernacle. He had symbolically drawn near to his people, and the sacrificial system is now instituted as the means by which they should draw nigh to him. All the laws in the Book of Leviticus, and in the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers, were given during the fifty days which intervened between the setting up of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the children of Israel from the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
Verse 2. - If any man of you bring. Sacrifices are not now being instituted for the first time. Burnt offerings at least, if not peace offerings, had existed since the time of the Fall. The Levitical law lays down regulations adapting an already existing practice for the use of the Israelitish nation; it begins, therefore, not with a command, "Thou shalt bring," but, if any man of you (according to custom) bring. Any member of the congregation might bring his voluntary offering when he would. The times at which the public offerings were to be made, and their number, are afterwards designated. An offering. This verse is introductory to the ensuing chapters, and speaks of "offerings" in general. "Kor-ban," which is the word here used for "offering," derived from karab, meaning "to draw near for the sake of presentation," is the generic name including all offerings and sacrifices. It is used in speaking of animal sacrifices of various kinds, including peace offerings and sin offerings (Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 4:23 and it is applied to vegetable offerings (Leviticus 2:1, 13) and to miscellaneous offerings for the service of the tabernacle, such as wagons and oxen, silver vessels for the altar, gold, jewels, etc. (Numbers 7:3, 10; Numbers 31:50). It is translated by the LXX. into Greek by the word δῶρον, equivalent to the Latin donum, and our "gift." These offerings are now distinguished into their different kinds.
If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
Verse 3. - If his offering be a burnt sacrifice. The Hebrew term for "burnt sacrifice" is olah, meaning "that which ascends;" sometimes kaleel "whole offering," is found (Deuteronomy 33:10); the LXX. use the word ὁλοκαύτωμα, "whole burnt offering." The conditions to be fulfilled by an Israelite who offered a burnt sacrifice were the following: -
1. He must offer either
(1) a young bull without blemish, or
(2) a young ram, or
(3) a young he-goat, or
(4) a turtle-dove, or
(5) a young pigeon. 2. In case it were a bull, ram, or goat, he must bring it to the door of the tabernacle, that is, the entrance of the court in front of the brazen altar and of the door of the holy place, and there after or present it.
3. In offering it he must place his hand firmly on its head, as a ceremonial act.
4. He must kill it, either himself or by the agency of a Levite.
5. He must flay it.
6. He must divide it into separate portions.
7. He must wash the intestines and legs. Meantime the priests had their parts to do; they had
1. To catch the blood, to carry it to the altar, and to strike the inner sides of the altar with it.
2. To arrange the fire on the altar.
3. To place upon the altar the head, and the fat, and the remainder of the animal, for consumption by the fro.
4. To sprinkle or place a meat offering upon them.
5. The next morning, still dressed in their priestly garments, to take the ashes off the altar, and to place them at the east of the altar (chapter 6:10).
6. To carry them outside the camp to a clean place, the bearer being dressed in his ordinary costume (Leviticus 6:11). There were, therefore, four essential parts in the ritual of the burnt offering - the oblation of the victim (verses 3, 4), the immolation (verse 5), the oblation of the blood, representing the life (ibid.), and the consumption (verse 9) - the first two to be performed by the offerer, the third by the priest, the fourth by the fire representing the action of God. The moral lesson taught by the burnt offering was the necessity of self-surrender and of devotion to God, even to the extent of yielding up life and the very tenement of life. As the offerer could not give up his own life and body and still live, the life of an animal belonging to him, and valued by him, was substituted for his own; but he knew, and by laying his hand on its head showed that he knew, that it was his own life and his very self that was represented by the animal. The mystical lessons taught to those who could grasp them were -
1. The doctrine of substitution or vicarious suffering.
2. The fact that without the shedding of blood there was no acceptance.
3. The need of One who, being very man, should be able to perform an action of perfect surrender of his will and of his life. The fulfilment of the type is found in the perfect submission of Christ as man, throughout his ministry, and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, and in the offering made by him, as Priest and willing Victim, of his life upon the altar of the cross. the burnt offering is to be without blemish, for had not the animal been perfect in its kind, it would not have served its moral, its mystical, or its typical purpose. The word ἄμωμος, used by the LXX. as equivalent to the Hebrew term, is applied to Christ in Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 1:19; and St. Paul teaches that it is the purpose of God that those who are adopted in Christ should also be "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 1:4). A priest had to certify that the victim was free kern all defects. He shall offer it of his own voluntary will should rather be translated, He shall offer it for his own acceptance. The animal, representing the offerer, was presented by the latter in order that he might be himself accepted by the Lord. This aspect of the offering is brought out more clearly by the minchah, or meat offering, which always accompanied the burnt offering. The place where the presentation took place was the door of the tabernacle, that is, the space immediately within the eastern entrance into the court of the tabernacle, immediately facing the brazen altar, which stood before the east end of the tabernacle, where was the door or entrance which led into the holy place. "The presenting of the victim at the entrance of the tabernacle was a symbol of the free will submitting itself to the Law of the Lord" (Clarke). Cf. Romans 12:1: "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Verse 4. - And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering. This putting, or forcibly leaning, the hand on the victim's head, which is the most essential part of the oblation of the victim, was a symbolical act implying "This animal is now for present purposes myself, and its life is my life." It was this act of identification with the offerer which made it be accepted for him to make atonement (literally, covering) for him. The sin offering is the sacrifice which especially symbolizes and ceremonially effects atonement, but the idea of atonement is not absent from the burnt sacrifice. The aspect under which atonement is presented here and elsewhere in the Old Testament is that of covering. But it is not the sin that is covered, but the sinner. Owing to his sin, the latter is exposed to the wrath of a just God, but something intervenes whereby he is covered, and he ceases, therefore, to attract the Divine anger and punishment. No longer being an object of wrath, he becomes at once an object of benevolence and mercy. The covering provided by a sacrifice is the blood or life of an animal, symbolically representing the offerer's own life freely surrendered by him for his acceptance, and typically foreshadowing the blood of Christ.
And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Verse 5. - And he shall kill the bullock. After having made the presentation, the offerer proceeds to the second part of the sacrifice, the immolation or slaying, which was to be performed before the Lord, that is, in front of the tabernacle, on the north side of the brazen altar. Then follows the third part of the sacrifice: the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar. The priests caught the blood (sometimes the Levites were allowed to do this, 2 Chronicles 30:16), and sprinkled or rather threw it round about on the altar, that is, so as to touch all the inner sides of the altar. "A red line all round the middle of the altar marked that above it the blood of sacrifices intended to be eaten, below it that of sacrifices wholly consumed, was to be sprinkled" (Edersheim, 'The Temple'). This was in some respects the most essential part of the ceremony, the blood representing the life (chapter 17:11), which was symbolically received at the hands of the offerer, and presented by the priests to God. In the antitype our Lord exercised the function of the sacrificing priest when he presented his own life to the Father, as he hung upon the altar of the cross.
And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
Verse 6. - He shall flay the burnt offering. The hide was given to the priest (Leviticus 7:8). The whole of the remainder of the animal was consumed by the fire of the altar; none of it was eaten by the offerer and his friends as in the peace offerings, or even by the ministers of God as in the sin offerings; it was a whole burnt offering. His pieces, into which it was to be cut, means the customary pieces.
And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
Verse 7. - The priest shall put fire upon the altar. The fire once kindled was never to be allowed to go out (Leviticus 6:13). Unless, therefore, these words refer to the first occasion only on which a burnt sacrifice was offered, they must mean "make up the fire on the altar" or it might possibly have been the practice, as Bishop Wordsworth (after Maimonides) supposes, that fresh fire was added to the altar fire before each sacrifice.
And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
Verse 8. - And the priests shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order. The head and the fat are designated by name, because, with the "pieces," they complete the whole of the animal with the exception of the hide. The order in which they were laid is said to have been the same approximately as that which the members held in the living creature.
But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
Verse 9. - The priest shall burn all on the altar, etc. The fourth and last part of the sacrifice. The word employed is not the common term used for destroying by fire, but means "make to ascend." The life of the animal has already been offered in the blood; now the whole of its substance is "made to ascend" to the Lord. Modern science, by showing that the effect of fire upon the substance of a body is to resolve it into gases which rise from it, contributes a new illustration to the verse. The vapour that ascends is not something different from that which is burnt, but the very thing itself, its essence; which, having ascended, is of a sweet savour unto the Lord, that is, acceptable and well-pleasing to him. The burnt offering, the meat offering, and the peace offering, are sacrifices of sweet savour (Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 3:5); the expression is not used with regard to the sin offering and trespass offering. St. Paul applies it to the sacrifice of Christ, in Ephesians 5:2, "As Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour;" thus indicating, in an incidental manner, the connection between the Jewish sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ, as type and antitype.
And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
Verse 10. - If his offering be of the flocks. The ritual of the burnt offering was the same. whether the victim was a hull, sheep, or goat.
And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
Verse 11. - He shall kill it on the side of the altar, northward before the Lord. In the sacrifice of the bullock it is only "before the Lord" (verse 5). No doubt the same place is meant in both cases, but it is specified with more exactness here. On the western side of the altar was the tabernacle, on the east side the heap of ashes (Leviticus 1:16), on the south side probably the ascent to the altar (see Josephus, 'De Bell. Jud.,' 5:05, 6); on the north side, therefore, was the most convenient slaughtering place, and this is probably the reason for the injunction.
And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
Verse 14. - If the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls. A comparison of Leviticus 12:8 leads us to infer that the permission to offer a bird was a concession to poverty. The pigeon and the turtle-dove were the most easy to procure, as the domestic fowl was at this time unknown to the Hebrews. The first and only allusion in the Bible to the hen occurs in the New Testament (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:30, nor is there any representation of the domestic fowl in ancient Egyptian paintings. The domicile of the bird was still confined to India. A single pigeon or turtle-dove formed a sacrifice, and there was no rule in respect to sex, as there was in the case of the quadrupeds.
And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
Verse 15. - The priest shall bring it unto the altar. The difference in the ritual for the burnt sacrifice of fowls is:
1. That the offerer is not commanded to lay his hand on the bird.
2. That the altar is the place of maciation, instead of the space on the north side of the altar.
3. That the priest slays it instead of the offerer.
4. That the blood (owing to its smaller quantity) is pressed out against the side of the altar instead of being caught in a vessel and thrown on it. There is no essential variation here; the analogy of the sacrifice of the animal is followed so far as circumstances permit. It is not certain that the word malak, translated wring off his head, means more than "make an incision with the nail;" but in all probability the head was to be severed and laid on the fire separately, after the manner of the other sacrifices.
And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
Verse 16. - With his feathers, rather the contents of the crop. This and the ashes are to be placed beside the altar on the east part, as being furthest from the tabernacle and nearest to the entrance of the court, so that they might be readily removed.
And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.