This book begins with the laws concerning sacrifices, of which the most
ancient were the burnt-offerings, about which God gives Moses
instructions in this chapter. Orders are here given how that sort of
sacrifice must be managed.
I. If it was a bullock out of the herd,
II. If it was a sheep or goat, a lamb or kid, out of the flock,
III. If it was a turtle-dove or a young pigeon,
And whether the offering was more or less valuable in itself, if it was
offered with an upright heart, according to these laws, it was accepted
The Law Concerning Offerings.
B. C. 1490.
1 And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the
tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
2 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.
1. It is taken for granted that people would be inclined to bring
offerings to the Lord. The very light of nature directs man, some way
or other, to do honour to his Maker, and pay him homage as his Lord.
Revealed religion supposes natural religion to be an ancient and early
institution, since the fall had directed men to glorify God by
sacrifice, which was an implicit acknowledgment of their having
received all from God as creatures, and their having forfeited all to
him as sinners. A conscience thoroughly convinced of dependence and
guilt would be willing to come before God with thousands of
2. Provision is made that men should not indulge their own fancies, nor
become vain in their imaginations and inventions about their
sacrifices, lest, while they pretended to honour God, they should
really dishonour him, and do that which was unworthy of him. Every
thing therefore is directed to be done with due decorum, by a certain
rule, and so as that the sacrifices might be most significant both of
the great sacrifice of atonement which Christ was to offer in the
fulness of time and of the spiritual sacrifices of acknowledgment which
believers should offer daily.
3. God gave those laws to Israel by Moses; nothing is more frequently
repeated than this, The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto
the children of Israel. God could have spoken it to the children of
Israel himself, as he did the ten commandments; but he chose to deliver
it to them by Moses, because they had desired he would no more speak to
them himself, and he had designed that Moses should, above all the
prophets, be a type of Christ, by whom God would in these last days
speak to us,
By other prophets God sent messages to his people, but by Moses he gave
them laws; and therefore he was fit to typify him to whom the Father
has given all judgment. And, besides, the treasure of divine revelation
was always to be put into earthen vessels, that our faith might be
tried, and that the excellency of the power might be of God.
4. God spoke to him out of the tabernacle. As soon as ever the
shechinah had taken possession of its new habitation, in token of the
acceptance of what was done, God talked with Moses from the mercy-seat,
while he attended without the veil, or rather at the door, hearing a
voice only; and it is probable that he wrote what he heard at that
time, to prevent any mistake, or a slip of memory, in the rehearsal of
it. The tabernacle was set up to be a place of communion between God
and Israel; there, where they performed their services to God, God
revealed his will to them. Thus, by the word and by prayer, we now have
fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,
When we speak to God we must desire to hear from him, and reckon it a
great favour that he is pleased to speak to us. The Lord called to
Moses, not to come near (under that dispensation, even Moses must keep
his distance), but to attend and hearken to what should be said. A
letter less than ordinary in the Hebrew word for called, the
Jewish critics tell us, intimates that God spoke in a still small
voice. The moral law was given with terror from a burning mountain in
thunder and lightning; but the remedial law of sacrifice was given more
gently from a mercy-seat, because that was typical of the grace of the
gospel, which is the ministration of life and peace.
Law of the Burnt-Offering.
B. C. 1490.
3 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.
4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt
offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for
5 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.
6 And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his
7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the
altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
8 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:
9 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.
If a man were rich and could afford it, it is supposed that he would
bring his burnt-sacrifice, with which he designed to honour God, out of
his herd of larger cattle. He that considers that God is the best that
is will resolve to give him the best he has, else he gives him not the
glory due unto his name. Now if a man determined to kill a bullock, not
for an entertainment for his family and friends, but for a sacrifice to
his God, these rules must be religiously observed:--
1. The beast to be offered must be a male, and without blemish, and the
best he had in his pasture. Being designed purely for the honour of him
that is infinitely perfect, it ought to be the most perfect in its
kind. This signified the complete strength and purity that were in
Christ the dying sacrifice, and the sincerity of heart and
unblamableness of life that should be in Christians, who are presented
to God as living sacrifices. But, literally, in Christ Jesus there is
neither male nor female; nor is any natural blemish in the body a bar
to our acceptance with God, but only the moral defects and deformities
introduced by sin into the soul.
2. The owner must offer it voluntarily. What is done in religion, so as
to please God, must be done by no other constraint than that of love.
God accepts the willing people and the cheerful giver. Ainsworth and
others read it, not as the principle, but as the end of offering: "Let
him offer it for his favourable acceptation before the Lord. Let
him propose this to himself as his end in bringing his sacrifice, and
let his eye be fixed steadily upon that end--that he may be accepted of
the Lord." Those only shall find acceptance who sincerely desire and
design it in all their religious services,
2 Corinthians 5:9.
3. It must be offered at the door of the tabernacle, where the brazen
altar of burnt-offerings stood, which sanctified the gift, and not
elsewhere. He must offer it at the door, as one unworthy to enter, and
acknowledging that there is no admission for a sinner into covenant and
communion with God, but by sacrifice; but he must offer it at the
tabernacle of the congregation, in token of his communion with the
whole church of Israel even in this personal service.
4. The offerer must put his hand upon the head of his offering,
"He must put both his hands," say the Jewish doctors, "with all his
might, between the horns of the beast," signifying thereby,
(1.) The transfer of all his right to, and interest in, the beast, to
God, actually, and by a manual delivery, resigning it to his service.
(2.) An acknowledgment that he deserved to die, and would have been
willing to die if God had required it, for the serving of his honour,
and the obtaining of his favour.
(3.) A dependence upon the sacrifice, as an instituted type of the
great sacrifice on which the iniquity of us all was to be laid. The
mystical signification of the sacrifices, and especially this rite,
some think the apostle means by the doctrine of laying on of
which typified evangelical faith. The offerer's putting his hand on the
head of the offering was to signify his desire and hope that it might
be accepted from him to make atonement for him. Though the
burnt-offerings had not respect to any particular sin, as the
sin-offering had, yet they were to make atonement for sin in general;
and he that laid his hand on the head of a burnt-offering was to
confess that he had left undone what he ought to have done and had
done that which he ought not to have done, and to pray that, though
he deserved to die himself, the death of his sacrifice might be
accepted for the expiating of his guilt.
5. The sacrifice was to be killed by the priests of Levites, before the
Lord, that is, in a devout religious manner, and with an eye to God and
his honour. This signified that our Lord Jesus was to make his soul, or
life, an offering for sin. Messiah the prince must be cut off as a
sacrifice, but not for himself,
It signified also that in Christians, who are living sacrifices, the
brutal part must be mortified or killed, the flesh crucified with its
corrupt affections and lusts and all the appetites of the mere animal
6. The priests were to sprinkle the blood upon the altar
for, the blood being the life, it was this that made atonement for the
soul. This signified the direct and actual regard which our Lord Jesus
had to the satisfaction of his Father's justice, and the securing of
his injured honour, in the shedding of his blood; he offered himself
without spot to God. It also signified the pacifying and purifying
of our consciences by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ upon
them by faith,
1 Peter 1:2,Heb+10:22.
7. The beast was to be flayed and decently cut up, and divided into its
several joints or pieces, according to the art of the butcher; and then
all the pieces, with the head and the fat (the legs and inwards being
first washed), were to be burnt together upon the altar,
"But to what purpose," would some say, "was this waste?
Why should all this good meat, which might have been given to the poor,
and have served their hungry families for food a great while, be burnt
together to ashes?" So was the will of God; and it is not for us to
object or to find fault with it. When it was burnt for the honour of
God, in obedience to his command, and to signify spiritual blessings,
it was really better bestowed, and better answered the end of its
creation, than when it was used as food for man. We must never reckon
that lost which is laid out for God. The burning of the sacrifice
signified the sharp sufferings of Christ, and the devout affections
with which, as a holy fire, Christians must offer up themselves their
whole spirit, soul, and body, unto God.
8. This is said to be an offering of a sweet savour, or
savour of rest, unto the Lord. The burning of flesh is unsavoury
in itself; but this, as an act of obedience to a divine command, and a
type of Christ, was well pleasing to God: he was reconciled to the
offerer, and did himself take a complacency in that reconciliation. He
rested, and was refreshed with these institutions of his grace, as, at
first, with his works of creation
Christ's offering of himself to God is said to be of a
and the spiritual sacrifices of Christians are said to be acceptable
to God, through Christ,
1 Peter 2:5.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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:
13 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.
14 And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be
of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of
15 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:
16 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:
17 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
Here we have the laws concerning the burnt-offerings, which were of the
flock or of the fowls. Those of the middle rank, that could not well
afford to offer a bullock, would bring a sheep or a goat; and those
that were not able to do that should be accepted of God if they brought
a turtle-dove or a pigeon. For God, in his law and in his gospel, as
well as in his providence, considers the poor. It is observable that
those creatures were chosen for sacrifice which were most mild and
gentle, harmless and inoffensive, to typify the innocence and meekness
that were in Christ, and to teach the innocence and meekness that
should be in Christians. Directions are here given,
1. Concerning the burnt-offerings of the flock,
The method of managing these is much the same with that of the
bullocks; only it is ordered here that the sacrifice should be killed
on the side of the altar northward, which, though mentioned here
only, was probably to be observed concerning the former, and other
sacrifices. Perhaps on that side of the altar there was the largest
vacant space, and room for the priests to turn them in. It was of old
observed that fair weather comes out of the north, and that
the north wind drives away rain; and by these sacrifices the
storms of God's wrath are scattered, and the light of God's countenance
is obtained, which is more pleasant than the brightest fairest weather.
2. Concerning those of the fowls. They must be either turtle-doves
(and, if so, "they must be old turtles," say the Jews), or
pigeons, and, if so, they must be young pigeons. What was
most acceptable at men's tables must be brought to God's altar. In the
offering of these fowls,
(1.) The head must be wrung off, "quite off," say some; others think
only pinched, so as to kill the bird, and yet leave the head hanging to
the body. But it seems more likely that it was to be quite separated,
for it was to be burnt first.
(2.) The blood was to be wrung out at the side of the altar.
(3.) The garbages with the feathers were to be thrown by upon the
(4.) The body was to be opened, sprinkled with salt, and then burnt
upon the altar. "This sacrifice of birds," the Jews say, "was one of
the most difficult services the priests had to do," to teach those that
minister in holy things to be as solicitous for the salvation of the
poor as for that of the rich, and that the services of the poor are as
acceptable to God, if they come from an upright heart, as the services
of the rich, for he accepts according to what a man hath, and
not according to what he hath not,
2 Corinthians 8:12.
The poor man's turtle-doves, or young pigeons, are here said to be
an offering of a sweet-smelling savour, as much as that of an ox
or bullock that hath horns or hoofs. Yet, after all, to love God
with all our heart, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is better
than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices,
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Leviticus' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".