L. M. Grant.
While Genesis emphasizes the great subject of life in its beginnings, and Exodus considers God's principles of redemption and His authority established among a redeemed people, Leviticus (named for Levi, meaning “joined”) is the book of the sanctuary. Here we are brought into the very presence of God, so that sanctification to God and from all evil is the proper character of His saints.
Sanctification has two major aspects. First, sanctification by the one offering of Christ (Heb. 10:10), which is God's work for us, putting the believer in a new position before God; the other, sanctification by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:11), which is God's work inwardly in the believer, causing him to be morally set apart to God. Both of these are implied in Leviticus.
Only on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ are we privileged to enter God's presence; therefore Leviticus begins with the various aspects of the value of that one great sacrifice. In all of this the holiness and truth of God are specially prominent, just as in Genesis His power and majesty are displayed, and in Exodus His righteousness and grace.
THE BURNT OFFERING
(A) A BULL (vv. 1-9)
The first verse is significant of the character of the whole book of Leviticus. The Lord speaks to Moses from the tabernacle, His place of dwelling among the people. If we are to approach Him, it must be where He is, and on His terms. When we have been redeemed by Him and to Him, it is surely our desire to be near to Him, enjoying the light of His face. But this must be in His own way.
Therefore the burnt offering comes first, for this gives the most important aspect of the sacrifice of Christ. If one desired to offer a burnt sacrifice from the herd, this must be a male without blemish, a male because the burnt offering is altogether objective: all was to be offered in fire to the Lord. It was not in any way subjective, for the offerer has no part in the offering, as was true in the peace offering, which could be either a male or female (Lev. 3:1). The words in verse 3, “of his own free will” (KJV) are rightly rendered “that he may be accepted” (NASB).
The offerer was to put his hand on the head of the bull, signifying his personal identification with the sacrifice. This was necessary if God was to accept the offering as applicable to the offerer, just as believers are to signify their personal identification with Christ in accepting Him by faith. Then the offerer must kill the bull before the Lord, and the priests would sprinkle the blood of the offering all around the copper altar. Following this the offerer was to skin the animal and cut it into its various pieces. Leviticus 7:8 shows that the priest who offered the sacrifice was to keep the skin for himself. But all the rest of the animal, after the inwards and legs were washed, was to be laid in order on the altar and all burnt. Thus all was to go up in fire to God, for the most vital matter in the sacrifice of Christ is that in this God is glorified. The offerer is accepted, but this is simply the result of God being glorified. Our blessing through Christ's sacrifice is a lesser matter than God's glory. Indeed, if not one soul had been saved, yet God has been eternally honored by the work of Calvary. Yet the other offerings also were necessary as picturing other aspects of the value of Christ's sacrifice that involved the blessing of believers.
The cutting into various parts indicates that we are to value everything about Christ's sacrifice as being for God, and specially mentioned are the head (intelligence) the fat (typical of His devotion), the inwards, the hidden motives of His heart, and the legs (His walk). Thus the thoughts of the Lord Jesus were above all for God, His devotion was always Godward, His hidden motives were for God's glory, and His walk was always to please the Father. Thus the offering was “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” This is not said of the sin or trespass offerings.
(B) A SHEEP OR A GOAT (vv 10-13).
A burnt offering could be a sheep or a goat. The bull (larger and stronger) would remind us that some have a more full recognition of the great value of the sacrifice of Christ than others have. It speaks of the strength of the offering. The sheep denotes the submission of Christ, and the goat His substitution. Again, only a male was acceptable, and the offerer was to kill the animal before the Lord, and the priests were to sprinkle the blood all around the altar. This offering was also to be cut in pieces, each piece laid in order on the wood placed in the copper altar. As with the bull, the head and the fat are specially mentioned, and the inwards and legs being washed before burnt with all the rest of the animal on the altar. All ascended in fire to God as “a sweet aroma.”
(C) TURTLEDOVES OR YOUNG PIGEONS (vv. 14-17)
One might be too poor to bring a bull or sheep or goat, and provision was made that he could bring turtledoves or young pigeons. This would tell us that whatever may be our poverty of apprehension of the greatness of Christ's sacrifice, yet there is still glory given to God in only recognizing that Christ is the true Man from heaven who came to sacrifice Himself, for the birds speak of His heavenly character.
In this case the offerer did not kill the bird, but the priest was to wring off its head, its blood being drained out at the side of the altar. Its crop and its feathers were removed and put into the place of the ashes. Then it was split at its wings, but not divided. For the heavenly glory of the Lord Jesus is higher than man can perceive, and therefore not to be divided, though the two things must be distinguished in Him, that is, His deity and His Manhood. Also those spiritually poor cannot easily discern the many characteristics of the Lord Jesus that are implied in the pieces of the bull or sheep or goat. Therefore, however different might be the apprehension of the sacrifice on the part of the offerer, the burnt offering was still acceptable to God: He receives glory from it. All three of these burnt offerings are called “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” All were burned, thus ascending in fire to God. The burnt offering aspect of the sacrifice of Christ is specially emphasized in John's Gospel.
THE MEAL OFFERING (vv. 1-16)
This offering is an appendix to the burnt offering. We do not read of a meal offering ever being offered alone, but in connection with the burnt offering or the peace offering. For this was not a blood sacrifice, and in approaching God a blood sacrifice was imperative. The meal offering does not speak at all of the blood shedding of the Lord Jesus, but rather of the perfection of His humanity displayed in His life on earth. In this respect His entire life was an offering to God, but it could not make atonement for man's sin.
A meal offering was to be of fine flour with oil poured on it and frankincense put on it. The fine flour reminds us that every particle of the milled grain symbolizes some detail of the perfection of the character of the Lord Jesus as a true Man. The oil speaks of the anointing of the Spirit of God, which marked Him out as the Man of God's special appointment. The frankincense is white and sweet smelling, symbolizing the purity of the life of the Lord Jesus, a life fragrant to His God and Father.
The offering was to be brought to the priests, one of whom was to take only a handful of fine flour and oil, with all the incense and burn this as a memorial on the altar. This part was a sweet aroma to the Lord. But the rest would belong to Aaron and his sons: it was to be eaten (vv. 2-3). What went up in fire to God speaks of God's appreciation of the person of the Lord Jesus in lowly humanity. What was eaten by the priests intimates the appreciation of Christ by all His saints, for today all believers are priests to God.
Three types of meal offerings are now considered, the first of which is that
(A) BAKED IN THE OVEN (v. 4)
This could be either unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. The mixing with oil speaks of the permeating of the humanity of the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of God from His very birth. This was the very nature of His Manhood. Compare Luke 1:35. Anointing with oil implies His being anointed by the Spirit of God at His baptism (Matt. 3:16), in preparation for His great public ministry.
Baked in the oven indicates that He is a Sufferer, exposed to the heat of hidden sufferings. Inside an oven is where the heat is most intense, just as the unseen sufferings of the Lord Jesus were more intense than the sufferings to which men subjected Him outwardly. He felt the condition of mankind far more deeply than appeared on the surface. We may feel sorrow because of the evil all around us and for the way evil infiltrates the Church of God in its testimony on earth. He feels this more deeply than we, and when here on earth, His disciples did not enter into the sufferings of His heart, as in His weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) and in His prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-46).
(B) BAKED IN A PAN (vv. 5-6)
This oblation baked in a pan (or griddle) indicates open sufferings which the Lord endured from human enmity. Men's hostile words which issued eventually in their spitting, tearing out His hair, lashing Him, crowning Him with thorns, etc. were sufferings that draw out our deep admiration of Him, just as the cooking of the meal renders the result much more acceptable to the taste. “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Suffering therefore has valuable results.
In the case of an offering baked in a pan, this was to be parted in pieces and oil poured on it. We can discern the distinctions in what the Lord Jesus suffered from one source or another, and we should have appreciation for every various detail of what He suffered. The oil poured on tells us that He was empowered by the Spirit of God to bear all these things with calm confidence in His God and Father.
(C) COOKED IN A CAULDRON OR KETTLE (v. 7)
Though our King James Version calls this vessel a “frying-pan,” Young's Concordance defines it as a kettle, and both J.N.Darby's Version and the Numerical Bible use the word “cauldron.” In this case the offering was not baked, but cooked in water. Since water is a symbol of the Word of God, then it appears that this offering implies the sufferings of the Lord Jesus because of His obedience to God's Word and because of His faithfully declaring it (cf. Luke 4:25-29 and John 10:27-31). Neither “mixed with oil” or “anointed with oil” are mentioned here, but only “with oil,” but at least in every case the Spirit of God is involved.
INSTRUCTIONS COMMON TO ALL MEAL OFFERINGS (vv. 8-16)
All these offerings were to be brought to the Lord, being presented to the priest. At the altar the priest was to take a memorial portion (a handful — v. 2) and burn it on the altar as a sweet aroma to the Lord. What remained was for Aaron and his sons. Thus, God received His portion from that offering, Aaron (a type of Christ the High Priest) received his portion and each of the priests (typical of all believers) received their portion, — all thus sharing in appreciation of the perfections of the Man Christ Jesus in His life of devotion and willing suffering.
Leaven (yeast) was to be excluded from the meal offerings (v. 11), for leaven speaks of sin, and as to Christ, “in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Besides this, honey was not to be used. Leaven is corrupting, but honey is not. Why then is honey excluded? Because, being the result of the bees' activity in gathering what is sweet and good, it speaks of the ministry of the Word gathered by believers for the benefit of the whole Church of God. However sweet our thoughts are concerning the offering of Christ, those thoughts are not to be mixed with the offering itself. In other words, the best ministry of saints cannot improve on the established truth of God concerning Christ: therefore, while good ministry is beneficial for men, it has no place in the actual worship of the Lord Jesus.
The offering of the firstfruits (v. 12), being not properly a meal offering, was not burned, though offered to the Lord.
Every meal offering was to be seasoned with salt, for salt is a preservative, in contrast to leaven, which corrupts. Salt crystallizes at right angles, and is typical of righteousness, with which we know every detail of the Lord's life was perfectly seasoned, — not too little, not too much.
A MEAL OFFERING OF THE FIRSTFRUITS (vv. 14-16)
Though the offering of the firstfruits was not itself a meal offering (v. 12), yet part of the firstfruits could be offered as a meal offering. If so, it was to be of green heads of grain roasted by the fire, grain beaten from full heads. This speaks of the Lord Jesus in the freshness and vigor of His sinless life, as we are reminded by His words just before the cross, “If they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31). He was the green tree who had come out of a dry ground (Israel), as the one hope of prosperity for the nation (cf. Isaiah 53:2). In refusing Him, Israel would be shown up in a coming day to be dry and desolate. What would be done then? How terrible a question! Their having judged the Lord Jesus would issue in a dreadfully burning judgment for them!
What a difference there would have been if they had valued Him as the meal offering roasted with fire, for He suffered much as the One devoted to the will of His Father. Let us at least appreciate the meal offering aspect of the offering of the Lord Jesus. Oil and frankincense were to be put on this offering, emphasizing the anointing of the Spirit of God and the fragrance to God of the Lord's life of pure devotion. The memorial of the offering was burned, and all the frankincense, for this was God's portion. He deeply values the perfection of the Manhood virtues of His beloved Son, every detail of His life as it is seen in the four Gospels. If God is so pleased with Him, then surely we should find great delight too in contemplating even the smallest details of His character, of His actions and of His words as He ministered in tender compassion to the need of mankind. Nor should we be impressed only with the gentle kindness of His ways with those in need, but with the faithfulness of His dealing with ungodly men, not fighting for His own rights, showing no resentment and no selfish or bitter response to men's bad treatment, yet firmly declaring the truth, warning them of the judgment to come and pressing upon them God's claims of truth and righteousness. Every aspect of His character is seen in beautiful harmony and balance.
THE PEACE OFFERING
TAKEN FROM THE HERD (vv. 1-5)
The peace offering was also a voluntary sacrifice. However, it could either be a male or female, but only an unblemished animal. Of course it speaks also of the one sacrifice of Christ, but since a female was allowed, this involves the part that believers have with Christ in the value of His sacrifice. The burnt offering speaks altogether of the value of that sacrifice to God, but the peace offering involves also the blessing that comes to the believer by means of Christ's sacrifice.
Christ as the peace offering has established peace between God and men by means of His sacrifice, and this is seen especially in Luke's Gospel, so that grace, concord and fellowship are outstanding features of this offering.
As with the burnt offering, the offerer was to lay his hand on the head of the animal and kill it at the door of the tabernacle. Then the priests sprinkled the blood around the altar. However, all was not to be burned, as with the burnt offering, but only the fat that covered the inwards and the fat attached to the inwards, the two kidneys with the fat attached to them and the fatty lobe attached to the liver. These were to be burned as a sweet aroma to the Lord. This animal was from the herd. The fat always belonged to the Lord: it was not to be eaten, for it speaks of the energy of the devotion of the Lord Jesus to His God and Father. The two kidneys, purifying the blood by innumerable filters, picture the inner motives of the Lord Jesus, which are for God. At this time nothing is said of the parts that were to be given to the priest and the offerer: this subject is left for the law of the offering (Lev. 7:11-21).
CHOSEN FROM THE FLOCK (vv. 6-17)
A peace offering could also be of the flock, whether a lamb (v. 7) or a goat (v. 12). In each case also the offerer laid his hand on the head of the animal and killed it, and the priest sprinkled the blood around the altar (vv. 8-11 and 13-16). The parts removed from the animal are similar to those in verses 3 and 4, and these were burned, spoken of as “food, an offering made by fire to the Lord.” Thus, this offering of the Lord Jesus is for God Himself. Again this is “a sweet aroma” offering.
In Israel God insisted that it was a perpetual statute that they eat neither fat nor blood (v. 17). Today believers are warned definitely not to eat blood (Acts 15:20). This restriction was introduced when God first allowed men to eat animals (Gen. 9:3-4), long before the law was given to Israel. Neither at that time, nor under grace today is there any restriction as to eating fat, however. Most of us may find that our health is better if we refrain from eating fat, in spite of our liberty to do so.
THE SIN OFFERING
FOR CASES OF IGNORANCE (vv. 1-2)
The sin offering was for sins of ignorance, or inadvertence. These are things that we do not realize are sin and we easily fall into such things unintentionally. Why do we do this? Because we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam which leads even a believer into things he does not approve of. This gives him the struggle of Romans 7, as expressed in verse 19, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” We are not responsible for having the sinful nature, for we were born with it, but we are responsible for letting it express itself. Therefore, when one in Israel realized that he had sinned, however unintentional it had been, he must bring an offering to God.
Under law there was no sacrifice for the sins of willful disobedience. Numbers 15:30 says, “But the person who does anything presumptuously — that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people.” Thus there was no sacrifice for David's sin (Ps. 51:16). Under grace today, how wonderful the difference, for “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So that we must distinguish between the literal application of these sacrifices to Israel, and the spiritual significance for them for us today.
THE SIN OF AN ANOINTED PRIEST (vv. 3-12)
The sin of a priest was especially serious, because he was a representative of the people Godward. That sin must not be covered, but judged. Therefore the priest must offer a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. As with the burnt offering, he was to lay his hand of the head of the bull and kill it before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle. Then he was to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary and also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense. This sprinkling was not the same as with the burnt offering, however, for that blood was sprinkled around the altar of burn offering, outside.
Some of the blood of the sin offering for the anointed priest was sprinkled in front of the veil of the sanctuary, some put on the horns of the altar of sweet incense, and the rest poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. We shall see that, in the case of the sin of a ruler or of one of the common people (vv. 22, 27) the blood was sprinkled as it was with the burnt offering, but in the case of the sin of the whole congregation of Israel (v. 13) the blood was sprinkled just as in the case of the sin of a priest.
The reason for this seems to be that the priest was the spiritual representative of the people and he had access into the sanctuary: therefore the sanctuary was “purged by blood” on his account. The case of the sin of the whole congregation is evidently connected in such a way with the priest as their representative that a similar ritual was necessary.
Again the fat was to be removed, the two kidneys and the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and these burned on the altar of burnt offering, as God's portion. But nothing of this offering was to be eaten by the offerer. All was to be carried outside the camp and burned where the ashes were poured out.
This was not a voluntary offering, but one required because of the priest's sin: therefore it was not a “sweet savor” offering, for it speaks of Christ suffering from God under the curse of our sins, in a place of total rejection “outside the camp.” This was true of all the sin offerings of which the blood was taken into the sanctuary (Heb. 13:11), which included that for the priest and that for the whole congregation (vv. 6-6; 17-18). However, one day in the year, the great day of atonement, the high priest took the blood of the sin offering, not only into the first room of the holy place, but inside the veil, in the holiest of all, where he sprinkled the blood before and on the mercy seat (Lev. 16:1-17). The body of the animal was burned outside the camp.
It might be that the whole congregation of Israel became involved in a sin that they did not at the time realize was sin. Their ignorance did not excuse them, however. When the sin was brought to their attention, then a sin offering was required. The connection of this with the sin of the priest seems very clear, for the instructions as to the sacrifice are just the same, except that it is the elders of the people who were to lay their hands on the head of the bull before its slaughter, for the elders represent the people.
This offering for the whole congregation appears to teach us that at the cross sin in its entirety was fully judged, not only individual sins. This would be a further reason for the animal being burned outside the camp, with the blood brought into the sanctuary to make atonement. This sin offering aspect of the sacrifice of Christ is emphasized in the Gospel of Mark.
FOR A RULER (vv. 22-26)
A ruler was not a spiritual representative, as the priest was, yet he was in authority over the common people, so that his sin and that of one of the common people (v. 27) required the same treatment, except that a male goat was required for the ruler, a female for the subject. As to the priest and the whole congregation there was a marked difference.
Still, the ruler is typical of Christ, who willingly took the responsibility for our sins as though they had been His own. Indeed, when He is considered as King, Matthew writes of Him, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
The male kid of the goats was used because the ruler is objectively the authority. Again he was to lay his hand on its head and kill it at the door of the tabernacle. As with the burnt offering, the priest was then to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the copper altar and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of this altar. Then he was to burn all its fat on the altar. Thus his sin was forgiven. This does not speak of eternal forgiveness, but governmental, that is, for the time being, but it is typical of the value of the sacrifice of Christ as obtaining eternal forgiveness.
FOR ONE OF THE COMMON PEOPLE (vv. 27-35).
In the case of the sin of ignorance on the part of one of the common people, the instructions were just the same as for a ruler, except that a female animal was required, and also that either a sheep or a goat was acceptable. The female was appropriate for a subject, for the female speaks of a subjective character, rather than objective, as in the case of a ruler. The goat is typical of Christ as Substitute, the lamb speaking of His lowly submission in sacrifice. The necessity of all of these offerings and the instructions concerning them should make a very real impression on the heart of every believer, for in this way we learn the horror of sin in God's sight and the infinite greatness of the sacrifice of Christ.
OFFERING FOR A SPECIFIC SIN (vv. 1-6)
The subject of the sin offering is continued in this chapter up to the end of verse 13. It is a descending scale, for the specific sin has to be brought to the attention of the offender, and the offering made, but allowance also made for a lesser offering in the case of poverty. Verse 1 is a sin of omission. One may hear and know of a matter of serious importance and yet not report it. In law this is called misprision, but it is sin before God. “The voice of adjuration” put one under solemn obligation to bear witness to what he knew was true. Thus, though the Lord said nothing in defense of Himself before the Sanhedrim, yet when the high priest adjured Him in God's name, He answered what was true, that He is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 26:63-64).
Also, touching the dead carcass of an animal would involve one in defilement, or touching a human who was defiled by any type of uncleanness, though this happened inadvertently (vv. 2-3). Or one might thoughtlessly swear an oath that he afterward realized was sinful (v. 4). Touching an unclean thing was of course simply ceremonial defilement, but pictures for us any associations we may make that are morally corrupt. If we identify ourselves with others living corruptly, we too shall be defiled by this.
When any such things were brought to a person's attention, he was to confess that he had sinned in that thing. How good it is when such a confession is made, with no excuses added!
In verse 6, because a trespass offering was here required, some have thought this introduces the subject of the trespass offering, but a sin offering and a burnt offering were also required (vv. 6-7), and then the sin offering is emphasized in verses 8 and 9. Properly speaking, the subject of the trespass offering begins in verse 14. But the trespass offering and the sin offering (v. 6) were both brought, a female from the flock, or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. This shows a close connection between the two offerings, for the act of disobedience (requiring a trespass offering) exposes the disobedient character of the person, that is, his sinful nature, which is emphasized in the sin offering.
BIRDS IN PLACE OF ANIMALS (vv. 7-10)
One who was unable to bring a lamb would be allowed to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons as a sacrifice. This pictures one who is poor in his apprehension of the value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as fully atoning for sin. At least he recognizes that the Lord Jesus is from heaven (pictured by the birds), therefore above him, and though his understanding is weak, God receives his offering.
The birds' heads were to be wrung off, symbolizing the intelligence being set apart, but otherwise no division of the parts of the bird was allowed, for the birds speak of the heavenly character of the Lord Jesus, which is above our ability to discern. Some of the blood was then sprinkled on the side of the altar and the rest drained out at the base of the altar. The first bird was for a sin offering, no doubt offered in accordance with Leviticus 1:14-17.
A MEAL OFFERING INSTEAD OF A BLOOD SACRIFICE (vv. 11-13)
Because of poverty one might not be able to bring even the birds for an offering. In this case the grace of God allowed an offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour, a small amount, but unlike other meal offerings, no oil or incense was put on it, because it was a sin offering. Since no blood was involved, it could not properly be atoning. It speaks of the purity of the Man Christ Jesus, however, and if there is in the offender a true regard for the person of Christ, though he has no understanding of the value of Christ's work of redemption, God can still graciously receive this offering, making this concession for ignorance.
There is no sweet savor in this, for it is a sin offering. A handful of this was taken by the priest and burned on the altar, and the remainder was the priest's, as was the case with a meal offering. Thus, God was given His part and the priest (typical of Christ) was given his.
THE TRESPASS OFFERING (vv. 14 to Lev. 6:7)
TRESPASS GODWARD (vv. 15-19)
The trespass offering deals with sin also, but not simply in its general evil character, rather in its being injurious either to God or to people. These are said to be sins of ignorance also. In this section sin in sacred things is first mentioned. For this a ram without blemish was to be offered, and also silver according to the proper estimation of the injury done. The trespass must be fully paid for, but a fifth part also added. Only this could be considered making proper amends.
Thus, the Lord Jesus has not only paid the penalty for the sin that Adam introduced into the world, but has gone beyond this, as Romans 5:17 tells us. He has not only restored what Adam lost, but much more. Adam lost earth, but Christ has introduced heavenly blessing for us.
TRESPASS MANWARD (vv. 1-7).
Though this trespass is directly involved with another person, yet it is “against the Lord,” for He is Creator and concerned about how His creatures are treated. One may have lied to his neighbor in reference to something that had been entrusted to him to keep or as to a pledge he had made, or he may have actually cheated his neighbor in some way. Or he may have found what was lost and instead of restoring it to its owner, he had sworn falsely about it. This could not be said to be a sin of ignorance, but he may have resorted to lying because of fear or weakness. Yet he must then not cover the matter over, but confess his sin and fully restore anything that the neighbor had lost and add one-fifth to the value of it.
The offering he must make also was the same as in the case of trespass in sacred things, a ram without blemish. Thus people would be restrained from such trespass by knowing they would lose by it when it came to light. But the offering was intended to direct men's hearts to something higher, though they could not realize its symbolical significance until Christ Himself was offered for our sins. Yet many must have realized that there was in the offerings a significance higher than they understood. They would recognize this in the measure in which they believed that God was wiser than they. For the time being also the offering gave a governmental forgiveness, but not the eternal forgiveness that is found only in the one sacrifice of Christ.
THE LAW OF THE BURNT OFFERING (vv. 8-13)
In contrast to the sin offering which was to be offered once a year, except for specific occasions of sin, the burnt offering was to be continual. There was an evening and morning sacrifice, and the fire on the altar was never to be put out. The significance of this is plain. There is never a time when God does not receive honor from the value of the sacrifice of Christ. For we have seen that the burnt offering all ascended to God in fire, so that it speaks of that aspect of the sacrifice of Christ that is all for the glory of God.
Evidently every morning the priest must put on his linen garments, (which emphasize the moral purity of the Lord Jesus as Great High Priest) and remove the ashes from the altar and put these beside the altar. Even that which was burned was not to be treated carelessly. For then the priest changed his garments and carried the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. What remained was only the reminder that the sacrifice had done its work. Thus the sacrifice of Christ will never be forgotten.
THE LAW OF THE MEAL OFFERING (vv. 14-23)
We have seen that the meal offering is a virtual appendix to the burnt offering. It speaks of Christ, not in His atoning sufferings, but in the purity of sinless Manhood in all His life on earth. Any meal offering, voluntarily brought by one of the people must have a handful of the meal taken, with its oil and all its incense, by the priest, and burned on the altar as a sweet aroma to the Lord. No incense was left for the priest.
The offering must not be baked with leaven, and the remainder was given to the priests to eat. Also anyone who touched this offering was thereby sanctified (or holy). This illustrates the sanctifying power of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
THE DAILY MEAL OFFERING (vv. 19-23)
This deals with the meal offering on behalf of the priests. Beginning from the day the priests were anointed, they were to bring a meal offering of one tenth of an ephah of fine flour, offering one half of it in the morning and one half at night. Thus it was offered along with the continual burn offering (vv. 9-12). This was made in a pan with oil, and offered as a sweet savor to the Lord, which seems to infer that incense was offered with it. But the priests could not partake of this offering: it was to be wholly burned (vv. 22-23)
THE LAW OF THE SIN OFFERING (vv. 24-30)
Verse 25 is a repetition of what has before been said of the sin offering. It was to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering, before the Lord. It was most holy. But verse 26 adds what had not been said before: the priest who offered it was to eat its flesh in the holy place. This would be in the case of the sin of a ruler or one of the people, for in the cases where the blood of the sin offering was taken into the sanctuary, nothing was to be eaten by the priest.
The eating of the sin offering by the priest signifies his entering into and feeling the seriousness of the sin as though it had been his own, just as the Lord Jesus confessed Israel's sins as though He had been responsible for them (Ps. 40:12; Ps. 69:5-6). Whatever touched the flesh of the animal would be holy, which speaks of any personal connection with the sacrifice of Christ being the means of sanctifying us from the guilt of sin, for the touching speaks of the touch of faith.
As well as everyone being constituted holy through touching the flesh of the sin offering, we are told that any garment on which the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled was to be washed with water (v. 27). Garments speak of habits, and if our habits are brought in contact with the truth of the blood-shedding of Christ, these habits must be cleansed from defilement by the washing of water by the Word of God.
If the offering was boiled in an earthen vessel, the vessel was to be broken, never used again. But if boiled in a copper pot, the pot was to be scoured afterwards and rinsed in water. Then scripture adds that all the males among the priests may eat the flesh. For even wives of the priests were not considered priests under law. Today, under grace, all believers, male and female, are priests (1 Peter 2:5), so that there is no select class of priests in any official position.
Verse 30, however, insists that no sin offering was to be eaten if its blood was brought into the sanctuary: it was to be burned.
THE LAW OF THE TRESPASS OFFERING (vv. 1-10)
In common with all the other offerings, the trespass offering was “most holy.” It was to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering. Its blood was to be sprinkled all around on the altar. The fat tail, the fat that covered the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that was on them, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver were to be removed and burnt on the altar by the priest. These all speak of characteristics of Christ that are entirely for God's appreciation: all are offered in fire to Him (vv. 3-5).
As with the sin offering, every male among the priests was to eat of it in the holy place, for the trespass offering was like the sin offering. The difference is only in the fact that the sin offering deals with the root principle of sin, while the trespass offering is for specific occurrences, and even the root principle is exposed by the occurrences. The priest who offered the animal was the one to receive its flesh.
A note is added in verse 8 as to the burnt offering. The flesh of it was all burned, so the priest would have nothing of this, but he was given the skin of the burnt offering.
Also the priest's part in the meal offering is repeated here (v. 9). After the handful was removed and burned on the altar, the offering priest received the rest. So that in all of these offerings the priest (typically Christ) had some part, — the burnt offering, meal offering, sin offering and trespass offering. The peace offering is not mentioned here because it was preeminently the shared offering, but it was necessary to insists that in all the offerings the priest was given some part, though no part to eat in the burnt offering — only the skin. Of course there was one exclusion, for the sin offering whose blood was brought into the sanctuary was totally burned outside the camp, including the skin (Lev. 16:17), after the fat had been burned on the altar.
One contrast, however, is to be noted in regard to the meal offering. While the sin offering and the trespass offering were to be eaten by the offering priest, the meal offering was to be shared by all the priests — “to one as much as the other” (v. 10).
THE LAW OF THE PEACE OFFERING (vv. 11-38)
We have seen in Leviticus 3 that the peace offering could be either a male or female: it could be of the herd (a bull or calf) or a sheep or a goat. Now we find other instructions concerning this, dealing first with the reasons for offering a peace offering.
It might be offered as “a thanksgiving” (v. 12), that is, some special reason for thankfulness to God gives occasion to it. For the peace offering does not merely speak of our recovery from hostility, but of the peace of true accord with the mind of God, and therefore of genuine communion with Him. In this case, along with the animal offered, a meal offering of unleavened cakes mingled with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil was to be brought. One of these cakes was to be offered as a heave offering, after which it belonged to the offering priest (v. 14).
There was no question of sin in the offering, but rather of true communion with God. In this the sacrifice of Christ has a vital part, as does also the purity of His person as the sinless Son of Man — permeated by the Spirit of God, or anointed by the Spirit. As such He brings His saints into the presence of God to share in the great value of His work accomplished for them. The heave offering completed the picture by its representing the Lord as risen from the dead. We commune with One who has died, but is risen! The offering for thanksgiving was to be eaten only on the same day it was offered (v. 15). For when once we have occasion to give thanks to God for some special reason, this is completed that same day. Will we not always have some occasion the next day, and indeed every day, for fresh thanksgiving?
As well as an offering for thanksgiving, the peace offering might be a vow or a voluntary offering. In both these cases the offering could be eaten both the day it was offered and the next day. The Lord Jesus has plainly forbidden us to make vows today (Matt. 5:33-37), for man in the flesh has been proven untrustworthy by the law of God, and we cannot promise what we may do in the future. Yet the vow would not doubt speak of the purpose of heart to devote oneself to the Lord in obedient faith. This is right, but not an actual vow. There is energy involved in this more than in a thanksgiving, so it was eaten two days.
The voluntary offering, however, was not because of a single matter for thanksgiving, but a spontaneous appreciation of the Lord Himself. This too involved more energy than did one occasion of thanksgiving, so it could be eaten the second day; but if any remained later than the second day, it was to be burned (v. 17). If one should eat it the third day, this could not be accepted, but would be an abomination to the Lord, rendering the eater guilty (v. 18).
As to the flesh of the peace offerings, while the priest and the offerer were privileged to eat of these. yet if the flesh touched any unclean thing, it was not to be eaten (v. 19). Simply the association with uncleanness was defiling. If the flesh was clean, those who were clean could eat of it. But if one ate of this offering while he was unclean, he was to be “cut off from his people” (v. 20). Death may seem a harsh sentence for such a thing, but the Lord intends to press upon us the seriousness of pretending to have fellowship with Him while indulging in sinful practices.
Also, the person who touched any unclean things, whether human uncleanness or an unclean animal, or anything of an abominable unclean nature, and in that condition ate the flesh of the sacrifice, was similarly sentenced to death (v. 21). This was not a question of personal uncleanness, but simply of association with uncleanness. Thus today, in Christendom, there are innumerable cases of unclean doctrine and practice introduced, and the Christian is warned, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you “ (2 Cor. 6:17).
WARNINGS AS TO EATING FAT AND BLOOD (vv. 22-29)
Since the flesh of the peace offering could be eaten, some might be inclined to rationalize that the fat and blood should not be withheld from them. Many today rationalize in such a way, for they do not distinguish things that differ. Therefore God insists as He had done often before, that the fat of any offerings was never to be eaten. For it speaks of the energy of the Lord's devotion to His Father, and therefore it was for God alone. Disobedience to this law was also punishable by death (v. 25).
The eating of the blood of animals or birds is also again absolutely forbidden (vv. 26-27). This prohibition was introduced at the time that animals were first allowed to be eaten as food (Gen. 9:3-5). Blood was never to be eaten, and this is as true today as it was then (Acts 15:28-29). As to eating fat, this was forbidden only in cases of animals being sacrificed (v. 25). But any eating of blood was punishable by death, under law (v. 27). Such a sentence is not to be carried out under grace, though eating blood is just as seriously wrong today as at any time. For “the blood is the life,” and we must in this matter recognize God's rights as the lifegiver.
THE SPECIAL PORTION OF AARON AND HIS SONS (vv. 28-36)
Though this continues the law of the peace offering, it is again stated, “The Lord spoke unto Moses,” as was true also in verse 22. This indicates some special emphasis in both cases. While the offerer was to eat part of the peace offering, this is not mentioned here, but rather what Aaron and his sons were to share. Aaron is typical of Christ, and his sons speak of God's saints as worshipers. When the offering was brought to the Lord, the breast was waved as a wave offering to the Lord and given to Aaron and his sons. The sacrifice of course speaks of Christ sacrificed on Calvary, but the wave breast reminds us of His exaltation in heaven, the breast indicating the warmth of His love flowing out now, which is wonderful food for true worshipers to feed upon. It is surely of Christ as glorified that we read, “He will rest in His love, He will exult over thee with singing”(Zeph. 3:17 — JND).
The right thigh of the heave offering was also to be given to Aaron and his sons. The heave offering was simply to be lifted up, signifying the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, while the wave offering, being waved, symbolizes His ascension and heavenly exaltation. The right thigh speaks of strength, typically the power of Christ's resurrection, a fitting complement to the warmth of love implied in the wave breast.
From the time Aaron and his sons were anointed as priests, they were entitled to have those parts of the peace offering (v. 36).
THE CONSECRATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS (vv. 1-36)
The consecration of Aaron and his sons is typical of what is involved in the establishing of all believers as priests in this present day of grace. The garments, the anointing oil, a bull, two rams and a basket of unleavened bread all have an important part in this (v. 2). All the congregation of Israel was to be gathered for this event (vv. 3-4) at the entrance of the tabernacle, and Moses announced that they were acting on the commandment of God.
First Aaron and his sons were washed with water. This is typical of “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). Compare also John 13:10. It is not cleansing by blood, which has to do with God's justice being satisfied by the death of Christ for us. The washing or bathing in water is rather typical of God's cleansing work within us, that is, new birth, which makes a difference in our character and actions. Therefore a priest must be born again by God. Of course this is not true of the Lord Jesus, in whom there is no sin, and who always had the nature of God. But the washing of Aaron would remind us that Christ, being Himself “separate from sinners,” has identified Himself in grace with all those who partake of the divine nature.
The tunic then was put on Aaron, an under garment of fine linen (Ex. 28:39). This speaks of the inward purity of the Lord Jesus. The sash for the tunic was added in order to bind the tunic in place. This speaks of the Lord's inner thoughts and motives being kept in perfect control.
Then the robe of the ephod was put on Aaron. It was blue in color, reminding us that Christ is God's High Priest, “made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). Then the intricately woven band was added to tie the ephod in place. The breastplate was put on the ephod with the urim and thummim (the 12 precious stones) set in the breastplate. Urim and thummim means (lights and perfections,” for the stones reflect the light and symbolize the varied beauties and perfections of the Lord Jesus, as are reflected in the twelve tribes of Israel, or at least will be reflected when the nation is brought to God and blessed in the millennial age.
The turban was next placed on Aaron's head, a covering that reminds us that every thought of the Lord Jesus was always perfectly kept in subjection to His God and Father. The golden plate was put in the forepart of the turban, with its inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” Thus, the Lord's thoughts were always consistent with the absolute holiness of God.
After this, Moses anointed with oil the tabernacle and all its inner furniture, and sprinkled some of the oil on the altar of burnt offering seven times, with all its utensils, and also the laver and its base. Thus the tabernacle and all the furniture connected with it were consecrated.
Then Aaron alone (not his sons) was anointed with oil (v. 12). This is typical of the Lord Jesus being anointed with the Spirit of God when He was baptized by John (Matt. 3:13-16)
Only after this do we find Aaron's sons associated with him. Their tunics, sashes and headgear were put on them (v. 13). But they were not yet anointed. First, the bull of the sin offering had to be offered, with Aaron and his sons laying their hands on its head. Then Moses killed the bull. Thus the priestly family is identified with the high priest in appropriating the value of the sacrifice. So believers today are identified with Christ in sharing the value of His great sacrifice. The blood was put on the horns of the altar, with the remainder poured out at the base of the altar. The fat and the kidneys were burned on the altar, but the rest of the animal was burned totally outside the camp. This appears to be one exception as to the blood of the sin offering brought inside the tabernacle, but it was specially commanded by God (v. 17).
The application of these things is emphasized now in the offering of the second ram, the ram of consecration (v. 22). The basis of the truth of God concerning sacrifice was laid first, for this is objective, so that the subjective appropriation of this is seen in the ram of consecration. Again Aaron and his sons lay their hands on its head. Moses killed it, and instead of first putting the blood on the altar, he took some of the blood and put it on the tip of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then he did the same on Aaron's sons, and afterward sprinkled the blood all around on the altar.
Thus Aaron alone was first anointed with blood following his previous anointing with oil (v. 12). So Christ was anointed with the Spirit when baptized by John, then with blood when He shed His blood at Calvary. After this Aaron's sons were anointed with blood before they were anointed with oil, just as believers were first cleansed by the shedding of the blood of Christ before receiving the Spirit of God at Pentecost (Acts 2).
In verses 23 and 24 the blood put on the right ear speaks of the hearing of the priests being consecrated to God. They are to have an ear above all for God's Word. Blood on the thumb indicates their works are to be consecrated to God; and blood on the big toe speaks of their walk also consecrated to Him. As it was absolutely true of the Lord Jesus, so it is properly true of believers.
Still, the consecration was not yet complete. The fat and the two kidneys of the ram and the right thigh were taken by Moses. Then one unleavened cake from the basket of unleavened bread, a cake anointed with oil and one wafer, were placed on the fat and on the right thigh. These were then given to Aaron and his sons to wave as a wave offering before the Lord. Thus the significance of the present exultation of the Lord Jesus is emphasized, for He not only died for us, but lives for us in the power of an endless life. Afterward this was all burned on the altar of burnt offering for a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Then Moses waved the breast of the ram as a wave offering before the Lord, and kept it for himself. The two wave offerings (of the priests and of Moses) insist on the heavenly character of the priesthood of Christ and of believers also. The actual consecration of the priests is accomplished when Moses sprinkled the anointing oil on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Thus Aaron was anointed twice, first alone (v. 12), then together with his sons. His first anointing is typical of Christ's being anointed by the Spirit when John baptized him (Matt. 3:16). His second anointing is typical of what Peter speaks of in Acts 2:33. When Christ was exalted to the right hand of God He received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, whom He immediately shared with His saints by sending Him at Pentecost.
Personally Christ received the Spirit before His sacrifice, but the saints of God could only receive Him after Christ had shed His blood for them. Our sins must first be cleansed away by His blood before the Spirit could possibly come to us. Christ Himself, being without sin, received the Spirit apart from the shedding of His blood; yet afterward, in order to identify Himself with His saints in grace, He shares the value of His blood-shedding with them, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Following this, Moses tells Aaron to boil the remaining flesh of the offering at the door of the tabernacle, and together with his sons eat this with the bread from the basket of consecration offerings (v. 31). Whatever remained over was to be burned. Thus they were to assimilate that which speaks of Christ and His offering, just as we who are made priests today are to first feed upon Christ before we can function as priests. Yet none of us will appropriate all that is involved in the person and work of Christ, but God can, as the extra is offered to Him in fire.
With all of this being done, the priests were not yet allowed to do any service for the people: they were commanded to remain inside the door of the tabernacle for seven days, the number of completeness (v. 33). They must first learn what it means to be in the place of communion with God before being entrusted with service for others. How true this is for us too. Only by being in calm, sustained communion with God can we be fitted to rightly represent Him before others. This was so important that if they disobeyed they would expose themselves to the death penalty (v. 35). However, we are told in verse 36 that Aaron and his sons obeyed the word of God.
THE BEGINNING OF PRIESTLY MINISTRY (vv. 1-24)
Having completed all the instructions concerning the offerings and their laws, and now also having completed the consecration of the priests, Moses indicates the beginning of the priestly service in connection with the people. This was on “the eighth day,” for it was a new beginning for the people as regards their relationship to God. Moses addressed both Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. Aaron was to offer a young calf and a ram for a burnt offering, while the children of Israel were to offer a kid of the goats for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb, both yearlings, for a burnt offering, a bull and a ram for peace offerings and a meal offering mingled with oil. The reason for this is said to be “for today the Lord will appear unto you” (v. 4).
Since this began a new relationship to God, with the appearing of God to them in grace, all four of these fundamental offerings are required. The only one not required was a trespass offering, for it dealt only with specific cases of personal guilt, while the sin offering dealt with the basic sinful nature of man. The burnt offering emphasizes God's rights and God's glory, the peace offering speaks of peaceful accord and communion between God and men through this one sacrifice. The meal offering insists on the perfection of the lowly Manhood of the Lord Jesus.
It may seem that there is a great deal of repetition in connection with these offerings, but this is not without serious reason. The sacrifice of Christ has been the most amazing and significant fact of all history, and God wants its significance deeply impressed on every soul of mankind. Believers know how easily we let slip the remembrance of the wonder of the cross. Because of our tendency to forget, the Lord Jesus instituted the observing of the Lord's supper, the breaking of bread, saying, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
Bringing the animals, etc. that Moses had commanded, all the congregation came and stood before the Lord, to hear Moses declare what the Lord had commanded, on the basis of which alone the Lord could appear to them (vv. 5-6).
OFFERINGS FOR AARON (vv. 7-14)
First Moses tells Aaron to offer his sin offering and burnt offering, which is said to be for himself and for the people. Though it was primarily for Aaron, yet he was the representative of the people, so that they are seen as linked together (v. 9). Secondly, however, Aaron was told to offer the offering of the people to make atonement for them. For, though the people are in one sense linked with Aaron, yet in another sense they were distinct from Aaron, and both aspects have to be regarded, just as in one sense believers are linked with Christ and in another sense are altogether distinct from Him.
When the calf of the sin offering for Aaron was killed, his sons brought the blood to him. He dipped his finger in the blood and put this on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, then poured the rest of the blood out at the base of the altar. All the fat and the kidneys were burned on the altar, as the Lord had commanded, for the fat speaks of the perfect devotion of the Lord Jesus to His Father and the kidneys His inner motives, which only God can rightly enjoy. The flesh and the hide of the animal he burned outside the camp. Though no mention is made of blood brought into the sanctuary, yet since this was an offering for the high priest, the priests were not to eat of it: all was to be burned (Lev. 4:3-12).
Next the burnt offering for Aaron was killed. Aaron's sons presented to him the blood, which he sprinkled all around the altar. Then his sons brought to him the various parts of the animal with its head, and these he burned on the altar, for this was a sweet aroma to the Lord. But only when the inwards and legs were washed were they burned also on the altar. The waste, which speaks of defilement, must be washed away, for there was absolutely nothing defiling in the sacrifice of Christ. The inward physical defilement of the animal and the outward defilement of its legs symbolizes the inward spiritual defilement of all mankind and the outward defilement of our walk. In Christ there was absolutely nothing of this, so the animal's inwards and legs had to be washed in order to give a little indication of the purity of the Lord Jesus.
OFFERINGS FOR THE PEOPLE (vv. 15-24)
Now the goat for the people's sin offering was killed. The goat speaks of Christ as the Substitute for His people. We are told it was offered “like the first one,” but nothing more is said of it. Actually, it was not to be burned as was the calf for Aaron, but its flesh eaten by the priests (cf. Lev. 9:16-18).
The sacrifice of the burnt offering is only mentioned briefly in verse 16, but it was offered in the prescribed manner. This offering involved both a calf and a lamb, both yearlings (v. 3). Then the meal offering was brought and a handful taken and burned on the altar beside the burnt offering (v. 17). Since it was not a blood offering, it was offered along with a blood offering. It speaks of the perfection of the humanity of Christ.
More is said concerning the bull and the ram as a sacrifice of peace offerings, for this speak of the strength of the offering as bringing Israel into communion with God initially. When Aaron killed these animals, his sons brought the blood to him, which he sprinkled all around on the altar (v. 18). Thus, redemption by blood was accomplished. All the fat and the kidneys of both animals were first put on the breasts, then burned in the fire. The breasts were not burned, for they were given to Aaron and his sons (Lev. 7:31) after they were waved, together with the right thigh (vv. 20-21) But the fat was first put on the breasts before being burned to indicate that, though the fat was all for God, yet the priests were expected to have an appreciation of the fact that the fat did belong solely to God, just as believers today have reason to deeply appreciate the total devotion to God that is manifest in the Lord Jesus. We have before seen that the waving of the offering speaks of the ascension to glory of the Lord Jesus following His sacrifice, for priestly work is necessarily connected with His place in heaven today.
Having completed the offerings, Aaron could then lift up his hands to bless the people, which reminds us of the Lord Jesus in Luke 24:50, having completed His work of redemption, lifting up His hands in blessing to the disciples, for the basis of all blessing is the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.
Then Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle (v. 13), typical of the Lord Jesus entering heaven after His resurrection; but again coming out, and again blessing the people. The first blessing speaks of that to the Church immediately following the resurrection of the Lord, and this continues all the time the Lord Jesus is presently exalted on the Father's throne. But He will again come forth at the time when Israel is to be blessed with wonderful millennial blessing. Moses is typical of Christ as Ruler, and Aaron speaks of Him as High Priest, for in the coming day Israel will recognize Him both as King and Priest, so will have both the blessing of proper rule and that of mediatorship.
At this time the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, as indeed at the time of His coming in majestic glory, all the world will be subdued by the light of His manifestation. Attending this, fire came out from before Him to consume the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. Thus God indicated His acceptance of the offering, and He Himself was glorified.
In two ways the people were affected by this. First, they shouted, indicating their appreciation of what was manifestly the Lord's victory (cf. Num. 23:21). Secondly, they fell on their faces, showing their willing humbling of themselves before Him, subdued at the recognition of His majesty.
FAILURE IN THE PRIESTHOOD (vv. 1-7)
Priestly ministry had barely begun when those entrusted with it failed seriously. Two of Aaron's four sons put in their censers incense other than that which the Lord had commanded, and offered this in fire before the Lord (v. 1). Notice that it is not said the Lord commanded that they should not do what they did, but He had not commanded them to do it. This is most serious where worship of the Lord is concerned. Only what He has indicated is acceptable to Him. If we add any humanly conceived notions to this, God will consider it “strange fire.” In some areas of life we may have no explicit directions from the Lord, and where this is true we must not dare to lay down our own regulations, but it is wise always to seek the Lord's guidance in the scriptures, for this is the one safe preservative for us.
God's displeasure with Nadab and Abihu was immediately and strongly expressed in His sending out fire to consume them. He had before (Lev. 9:24) sent fire to consume the burnt offering, in token of His acceptance of it; but this fire did not consume the offering, but the offerers, indicating God's refusal of their offering. Though He may not bring the same swift judgment today, yet any man-devised pretensions of worship are just as abominable to Him as this strange fire of Nadab and Abihu.
Moses discerned just what was involved in this, and told Aaron that God was indicating by such an infliction the fact that He must be regarded as holy, that is, as set apart from all that is merely men's conception, and glorified above and before all the people. This was especially important at the institution of the public worship of Himself. Aaron at the time was wise enough to say nothing.
The cousins of Nadab and Abihu were called upon to carry the bodies of the offenders outside the camp to bury them (vv. 4-5). Then Moses instructed Aaron and his two remaining sons not to even uncover their heads and not to tear their clothes (which in Israel was a sign of mourning). It was not consistent with priestly character to show signs of mourning, for the priest is one who draws near to God, in whose presence mourning has no place. A priest was never to tear his garments, though Caiaphas did this when interrogating the Lord Jesus (Matt. 26:65), a trespass for which the law demanded the death penalty. For above all, the High Priest is typical of the Lord Jesus. Will His garments of priestly dignity every be torn? Absolutely not! For this would indicate some failure or fault in His priestly work. Thank God this is impossible. He remains faithful and true forever!
The rest of Israel could mourn for Nadab and Abihu, but the priests were told to remain in the tabernacle at this time because the anointing oil of the Lord was upon them. The oil is typical of the Holy Spirit whose power is such as to lift the soul above every circumstance of sorrow. Thus we may learn today that in the Lord's presence (the holy place), where the Spirit of God pervades the atmosphere, we may rise above the sorrows of earth, in holy confidence and peace.
FITTING PRIESTLY BEHAVIOR (vv. 8-20)
The Lord now speaks directly to Aaron to forbid him and his sons to drink wine or other intoxicating drinks when they were serving in the tabernacle, lest this should lead to their death (v. 9). They were to have their minds unclouded so as to be able to distinguish between what was unclean and what was holy. It may be that Nadab and Abihu had had their minds impaired because of liquor.
Liquor was not forbidden generally to the people, though they were warned against drunkenness. But a priest was in a special place of responsibility, and in the service of God he was not to allow his mind to be impaired. The mother of Solomon also warned him that it was not for kings to drink wine or strong drink (Prov. 31:4-5) lest this should impair their ability to govern fairly. Believers today, who are both kings and priests (Rev. 1:6) should take this to heart, and not indulge in anything that might becloud their sober discernment and wisdom in bearing witness to the Lord. For we might be intoxicated by pleasures or other things that would affect our judgment just as liquor might.
Besides this, the priest should be in proper control of his mind in order to teach the children of Israel all the statutes that the Lord had laid down for them (v. 11). This is an honorable privilege and one that should always exercise the teacher to practice self-discipline.
Moses then instructed Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar to eat all that remained of the meal offerings, doing so without leaven. This is said to be the due of Aaron and his sons. God had decided this, and whatever God provides us in a spiritual way we should rightly respond by appropriating it. The breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering are specifically mentioned (v. 14). The priests were to thus (typically) enter into the affections of Christ as glorified in heaven (the breast waved), and into “the power of His resurrection” (the thigh heaved). The entire family of the priests was to share in this, daughters as well as sons, just as the entire priestly family today (all saints) is called to enjoy such spiritual blessing. The repetition of verse 15 is to emphasize the importance of this provision of which the priestly family was responsible to partake.
However, in verse 16 we are told that when Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering, he found that it had all been burned. Therefore he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, questioning why they had not eaten this sin offering in the holy place, since its blood had not been taken into the sanctuary (v. 15). This offering was for the people, and the priests' eating it symbolized the fact of the priests entering into and feeling the guilt of the people as though it had been their own. This is what the Lord Jesus did in the fullest way, even taking that guilt upon His own shoulders in going to the cross. Every believer should have this same attitude. It will make us true intercessors rather than critics.
In this case, however, Aaron explained to Moses that, since his two sons had died that day, it would be too hard for him to rise above the level of his own distresses, therefore he would not be in a fitting state of soul to rightly feel the failure of others. He asks then, would his eating of the sin offering outwardly be accepted in the sight of the Lord? In other words, he would be going through the form without any real heart in it. Moses recognized the force of this, and was content.
ANIMALS ALLOWED OR DISALLOWED FOR FOOD (vv. 1-8)
Never since the flood has man been commanded to be a vegetarian. After the flood Noah was told, “every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” (Gen. 9:3). Nothing at that time was forbidden, except the eating of blood, a matter that has not changed through the ages. However, under law, and under law only, God put strict limits on what animals, birds or water creatures were permitted to Israel to eat. These laws were never put upon Gentiles, but only on Israel. The reason for some being forbidden was simply because of a spiritual significance, not that there was evil in the creature itself. This is clearly seen in Acts 10:9-15 and Acts 10:28. In a vision the Lord told Peter to eat all kinds of animals. Peter objected, but the Lord insisted. Then he realized that the unclean animals were symbolical of people, that is, Gentiles, as Peter says in Acts 10:28, that God had shown him he should not call any man unclean. Before the cross, Israel was strictly separate from Gentiles because Gentiles were considered unclean to them, but the sacrifice of Christ cleanses all who trust Him as Savior, whether Jews or Gentiles, therefore God has removed the barrier between clean and unclean animals, so that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
This chapter therefore deals typically with the question of our association with others in the world. The earlier chapters of Leviticus involve the beauty and holiness of our association with the living God.
Among the animals there were two marks that would make one suitable for eating, (1) if it has a divided hoof, and (2) if it chewed the cud (v. 3). The divided hoof enables the animal to walk through miry land without being bogged down in it. Thus our fellowship is not to be with those who are entangled in their walk by the affairs of this life, but with those who are dependent on divine grace to bear them through the world, for the number 2 (the divided hoof) speaks of dependence rather than self-sufficiency, as number 1 might infer.
Chewing the cud (rumination) is typical of the character of meditation, inferring taking time to digest the truth of the Word of God. As the hoofs indicate the walk through the world, so the chewing of the cud speaks of concern for God's honor.
Verses 4 to 8 insist that both of these things must be present or the animal was unclean. The camel chewed the cud but did not divide the hoof. So there are those who make a show of honoring God while their walk is fouled in the mire of the world. So-called “transcendental meditation” may give the appearance of being very spiritual, but it is total vanity, for there is no Christian walk to go with it. Again, falsely so-called “Christian Science” puts on an air of highest spirituality, but its victims live in a dream world, their feet unable to walk in the path of Christian faith. Many false religions are the same in essence, and the believer is to have no part with such things.
The swine however (v. 7) divides the hoof, but does not chew the cud. There are some people who seem to have ability to walk rightly, concentrating on moral uprightness and yet having no heart for learning the Word of God, no meditation therefore on the person of Christ who sits on the right hand of God. They may have feet that could take them through the mire of the world, but instead, though they may even be washed (not saved, but outwardly cleaned up), they prefer to return to wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:22). Thus Mormonism makes a show of emphasizing morality, boasting in such things as not drinking tea or coffee, yet the Lord Jesus is not the Object of their thoughts and the mire of material gain has entangled them. The believer is warned not to have any fellowship with such.
WATER CREATURES ALLOWED OR DISALLOWED (vv. 9-12)
Verses 9 to 12 deal with creatures of the waters. Fish with fins and scales, whether from the rivers or the seas, were allowed in Israel's diet. They are in an element where progress is impeded, the water being much heavier than air. This would speak of the conflict of believers, having to expend energy in order to progress at all. For this conflict we need fins, the means of movement, which is virtually our offensive weapon, while the scales are for protection or defense. All true Christians are enlisted in God's army (2 Tim. 2:3-4), therefore one who has no spiritual defense and no spiritual energy is not a fit companion for a believer. How can we have spiritual fellowship with one who has no spiritual qualities? These are in fact called an “abomination,” therefore to be repulsive to a believer.
BIRDS FORBIDDEN AS FOOD (vv. 13-19)
Birds are now considered, but only specific birds mentioned that were forbidden, with no rule given as to distinguishing clean from unclean. Yet all of these considered unclean are evidently those that feed on flesh or other animate life. These unclean birds of the air are typical of what is Satanic (Matt. 13:4 and 19), for Satan is “the prince of the power of the air.” How many there are everywhere who follow Satan's example of consuming others rather than being of blessing to them. Such an unbeliever is referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:17: “If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” In that chapter the believer is a builder, not a destroyer. Sometimes one can be so deceptive as to appear to be a believer in order to get in among God's people to destroy them. This is satanic deceit. We must therefore be on our guard not to have fellowship with what is unclean or questionable.
Clean birds were however not forbidden, for they speak of what is genuinely heavenly in character, such as is seen in Colossians 3:2-3: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Those who have this attitude are fit companions for believers. There are certain birds that in fact are typical of the Lord Jesus, being used in the offerings, as in Leviticus 1:14-17, turtledoves or pigeons. Again, at the baptism of the Lord Jesus, we are told that “He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (Matt. 3:16). This is a precious contrast to Genesis 15:11, where the vultures came down on the carcasses of Abram's sacrifice with the object of devouring it, just as Satan tries to destroy the value of the sacrifice of Christ. Abram, the man of faith, drove the vultures away.
INSECTS TO BE PERMITTED OR REFUSED (vv. 20-23)
Flying creeping things symbolize those who profess what is heavenly, but compromise this with earthly-mindedness: their lives are therefore contradictory. Philippians 3:18-19 tells us of these, the many who “walk,” that is, make a profession of heavenly character, but they really set their minds on earthly things. The believer is not to have fellowship with these. Yet if the flying insect had jointed legs with which to jump on the earth, this was permitted as food. For, though it had contact with the earth, it was enabled to leap above the earth's level, typifying the faith that rises above circumstances. Thus, locusts, crickets and grasshoppers might be eaten.
CONTACT WITH THE UNCLEAN DEFILING (vv. 24-28)
All those things that were unclean to Israel were not only forbidden to be eaten, but any person who had contact with the dead carcass of any of them was thereby himself rendered unclean. He must wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. Again, it must be insisted that there was no moral uncleanness in the dead body itself, but it symbolized the uncleanness that believers today may contact by associating with what is morally or spiritually unclean. It is with very real reason that Timothy was instructed, “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins: keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22). In disobeying this we might be virtually handling a dead carcass. The person may be guilty of serious sins we do not suspect, and by associating with him we should identify ourselves with his sins. In other words, we must take time to know a person before identifying ourselves with him.
If we have had such contact with uncleanness, whether or not unwillingly, there is to be true self-judgment of the matter, a washing of our clothes (our habits), and then restoration.
CREEPING THINGS (vv. 29-47)
Only some creeping things that are forbidden are mentioned here, yet in verses 41-43 this is widened to include all creeping things of whatever kind. These are typical of people who are of a repulsive earthbound character, and no doubt each one of them is intended to picture some special unfavorable characteristic of such unbelievers, though we may be unable to interpret the details of these things.
None of these were to be eaten, and if any had died, a person who even touched the dead body would be unclean until evening (v. 31). Or if such a dead body fell on any article of wood or clothing or skin or sack, or whatever was used to work with, the article was to be put in water and be unclean until evening, when it would again be clean (v. 32)
However, if the body fell into an earthen vessel, the vessel was to be broken and anything inside the vessel was unclean. In such a vessel any food that had been made wet with water or any liquid in the vessel would be unclean (v. 34). Even an oven or a cooking stove (likely made of earth) would be unclean through a dead carcass or part of it falling on it, and it was to be broken.
On the other hand, a spring that produced plenty of water would not be defiled by the dead carcass (v. 36). Typically this tells us that the word and Spirit of God are superior to death and cannot be defiled by it. For water speaks of the word of God and its flowing speaks of the energy of the Spirit of God in giving power to the word.
While generally otherwise anything that touched part of a dead carcass would be unclean, yet seed that was to be sown was an exception, so long as the seed was not moistened with water (vv. 37-38). The spiritual significance of this is perhaps hard to discern
Though not dealing with the same subject, verses 39 and 40 are inserted here concerning clean animals. If one of these were to die (not therefore slaughtered for meat), then a person who touched its carcass would be unclean until evening, or if one ate of its carcass, he must wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. Even what is clean may fall into the corruption of death.
But in verses 41-43 it is insisted that all creeping things were forbidden to Israel. Even these are no longer forbidden now that grace has been declared in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Tim. 4:4), at least if they are received with thanksgiving. This reminds us that even the most loathsome of human beings may still be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus.
These instructions were given to Israel on the basis of the holiness of their God (vv. 44-45). God's name is to be sanctified from all that is inconsistent with His character. Because He is holy, Israel was commanded to be holy. For God had brought them out from the unclean bondage of Egypt that they should belong to Him. They (and we) should therefore love what is good and abhor that which is evil.
Verses 46-47 conclude the treatment of this subject by declaring this to be the law given to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.
LAWS CONNECTED WITH CHILDBIRTH
Every child born into the world adds to the sin that was first introduced by the woman. Yet God had told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), and this instruction was not changed when they sinned, though God told the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). But each child born is a reminder that sin requires a sacrifice. So in Israel when a woman had borne a male child, she was to be unclean for seven days. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin was to be circumcised. The number eight signifies a new beginning, which takes place when the flesh is cut off, for “the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63).
Then she was to remain 33 days “in the blood of her purification” (v. 4). She was not to touch anything that was consecrated to the service of God, nor enter the sanctuary, until her purification was complete. But if she should bear a female child, the time was twice as long, two weeks being unclean and 66 days of waiting until purification was accomplished. This stems from the fact that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14), and it is through the woman that the race of sinners is perpetuated.
In each case, however, when the time was completed, whether for a male or female, the mother was to bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove as a sin offering (v. 6). Notice here that there was no trespass offering, for it was not a matter of her having done anything wrong. But the sin offering deals with the sinful nature that is inherited by birth, so that this offering speaks of God having, by the cross of Christ, condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). The burnt offering tells us that God's glory is really the first consideration in this matter. When God is glorified and sin condemned, then the unclean is rendered clean (v. 7).
However, a provision of grace was made for one who was poor (v. 8). If she could not bring a lamb, then another young pigeon or turtledove would substitute for the lamb. Joseph and Mary took advantage of this provision for poverty, when presenting the Lord Jesus to God in the temple (Luke 2:22-24).
LAWS CONCERNING LEPROSY (vv. 1-44)
The seriousness of the plague of leprosy is emphasized by the fact that two long chapters are devoted to this subject. The physical illness, however, is significant of that which is far more serious spiritually. In Chapter 12 have seen the sinful nature of mankind dealt with; now this chapter considers that which speaks of the outbreak of the nature in sinful activity. For, though we are not responsible for having a sinful nature, yet we are responsible if we allow it to break out in sinful actions, and today those who form an assembly are responsible to discern and judge evil when it does break out among them.
When something of a questionable character appeared on a person's skin, then he was to be brought to a priest, who was to examine it, for he might not come voluntarily. All the congregation could not examine him, but a fit representative of the congregation was to do so. Thus, in the assembly, though all believers are priests, yet it would be only those in whom priestly character is developed who are able to rightly discern and judge as to the seriousness of any suspected evil. Those who investigate such things should be those who have godly discernment and experience, and who know how to “have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray” (Heb. 5:2)
If something appeared on the skin of an individual that turned into a sore similar to leprosy, then a priest was to examine him. If two symptoms were evident, the hair in the sore turned white and the sore deeper than the skin, then no question remained: it was leprosy, and the priest was to pronounce the patient unclean. The white hair would speak of the decay of spiritual strength and the sore deeper than the skin indicates that the sin is not merely a light case of indiscretion. To discern this requires true spiritual perception, and great care must be taken that any judgment should be under the guidance of God. But when the case is clear, then God's word is clear: the person must be pronounced unclean.
On the other hand, though a bright spot may be white, it if did not appear to be deeper than the skin and its hair had not turned white, the priest's judgment must be delayed. The person was to be isolated for seven days. This would not speak of one being put out of fellowship, but only of his being deprived of certain privileges of practical fellowship for the time being until the matter was cleared. If no change had taken place after seven days, then another seven days of probation were added. In that time, if the sore had faded and had not spread, the priest was to pronounce the person clean, and he needed only to wash his clothes.
In verse 6 it has been clear that if the sore suspected of being leprosy had not spread, but faded, the patient was pronounced clean. However, if it had spread, it was a different matter: the priest was then to pronounce the man as leprous (v. 8). So for us today, if evil is at work, it will spread: if not, it will fade. How do we discern this? The surest sign that evil is not active is seen in an attitude of self-judgment. In a case like this, an attitude of self-defense almost always indicates that the evil is spreading. It may take a little time to be able to discern whether there is genuine self-judgment, so that verse 7 indicates that there could seem to be self-judgment when it was not really there. If the same thing surfaced again, even after one was pronounced clean, the priest was again to examine the person and if finding it had spread, was to pronounce him unclean. If a believer falls into the same type of sin after being forgiven, this shows that the root of the matter has not been really judged.
Verses 9 to 11 speak of one who has a leprous sore, and the priest finds that the swelling is white, the hair is white and raw flesh appears in the sore. There is no question in this case: the person is pronounced unclean.
Yet if leprosy were to break out all over the skin, covering the patient from head to foot, and the examination of the priest confirmed this, then the person was pronounced clean (vv. 12-13). This may seem strange, but the spiritual significance is most important, for it speaks of one who has totally judged the sin of the flesh in himself: he is fully exposed before God.
But a caution is added: if raw flesh appeared on the person, he was unclean. The priest must again confirm this by examination and pronounce the person unclean, for raw flesh speaks of sin being active.
This might change again, however, the raw flesh disappearing and the sore becoming white, in which case the priest was to pronounce the patient clean (vv. 16-17). Thus, recovery and restoration are still possible, and priestly discernment should be able to recognize a favorable change in the attitude of one who has before been in a bad condition.
One might have a boil that is healed, yet afterward develop from it a swelling or bright spot. The symptoms of leprosy must again be subject to the priest's examination, and the same principles applied as to discerning whether or not it was leprosy. There are definitely things that differ, as the New Testament also teaches us. “A man overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1) is not the serious case of one who has formed a habit of being an adulterer, covetous, an idolater, a reviler, drunkard or extortioner (1 Cor. 5:11). In the first case, one needs the restoring help of believers; in the second case it is required that he be put away from the fellowship of saints, though with the object of eventual recovery. Some cases are transparently clear, while others have such difficulty as to require special discernment. For this reason, time was given for the priest to be sure as to the case (v. 21). If after time was given the sore spread, the person was unclean; if there was no spreading the priest pronounced him clean (vv. 22-23).
Leprosy could possibly develop from a burn also (v. 24), in which case the same procedure was to be applied. The priest must examine the victim. If there was any doubt he was to be shut up for seven days, and when doubt was removed, then he was to be pronounced clean or unclean, as the case required (vv. 25-28).
From verse 29 to 37 the matter of suspected leprosy in he head or beard is considered. Similar examination was necessary, and if leprosy were confirmed, the patient was unclean: if not, he was pronounced clean. Leprosy in the head would speak of the intellect being wrongly affected by doctrine that is a perversion of the truth. If it were only a matter of one being mistaken, this could be corrected, but if one is committed to holding a seriously false doctrine and after being labored with to seek to correct him, he is determined not to change, then he is rendered unfit for the fellowship of believers.
Verse 38 and 39 deal with a case where there were no real symptoms of leprosy at all, yet it a question were raised, the priest must examine the person and pronounce him clean. Baldness, whether full or partial, was not to be considered suspect (vv. 40-41). Yet a bald head might develop a sore that must also be examined by the priest as in other cases, with the same care, requiring a decision one way or the other.
THE LEPER PUT OUTSIDE (vv. 45-46)
When any case proved to be leprosy, the priest having pronounced the person unclean, then that person was put outside the camp of Israel, with his clothes torn and his upper lip covered, then required to cry out, “Unclean, Unclean.” Evidently he was to do this if anyone approached him. This compares with a New Testament case of one so seriously involved in sin that he must be put out of the assembly (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
LEPROSY IN A GARMENT (vv. 47-59)
It may seem strange that leprosy might break out in a garment, and there is evidently no actual case of this recorded in scripture, so that therefore the spiritual significance of it seems the important matter. The garment speaks, not of the person, but of habits. If something appeared suspect in the garment, the priest was to exercise the same care in examination as in the case of a person (vv. 50-51) and if the plague was confirmed as leprosy, the garment was to be burned. Thus we should have priestly discernment as to any habits we may adopt. They may seem at first rather innocent, yet alarming symptoms may appear. If the habit has sin plainly involved in it, we should judge it and totally refuse it.
In some cases there may be only an element in the habit that is questionable, so that, as a piece of a garment might be torn out (v. 56), so the questionable element in any habit should be expunged. But after this, the plague might again appear in the garment, and if so, the garment was to be burned. So, if in a certain habit sin breaks out the second time, the habit is to be fully judged and refused.
RESTORING OF A LEPER (vv. 1-20)
Even a case of leprosy may be healed, though this is not frequently seen in the Old Testament. Miriam's leprosy was healed very soon after her infliction (Num. 12:9-16) because of the intercession of Moses. She was shut out of the camp only seven days. Naaman was healed of his leprosy, but he was a Gentile (2 Kings 5:1, 14), and therefore the Jewish ritual would not apply to him. Many lepers were in Israel at the time, but none of them were healed (Luke 4:27). The Lord Jesus healed lepers (Matt. 8:2-3; Luke 17:12-14), and told them to show themselves to the priests.
If a leper were healed he was to be brought to the priest (v. 2), and the priest was to examine him outside the camp. The healing being confirmed, then the priest was to command that two live and clean birds should be brought, and cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. One bird was then to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. Then the living bird, the cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop were to be dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed. “over running water” (v. 5). The blood then was to be sprinkled seven times upon the recovered leper, and the living bird was let loose.
Both birds speak of Christ, the first one picturing His sacrifice on Calvary. The earthen vessel reminds us that He came in a human body (a vessel) of lowly humiliation to be a willing sacrifice. Running water or “living water” symbolizes the living power of the Spirit of God energizing that wonderful sacrifice, so that life would triumph over death.
Therefore the living bird is a picture of Christ in resurrection. The cedar wood represents all that is exalted and dignified in manhood, while the hyssop is the opposite, speaking of the lowliest of mankind. Whether high or low, rich or poor, Christ's work has been necessary for all, and sufficient for all; and the scarlet (in between) is the warmth of the love of God that brings all together. This is manifested only in Christ raised from the dead. The blood sprinkled on all these tells us that in resurrection the cross can never be forgotten, and the great blessing that Christ has accomplished for Himself in unity with His blood-bought people is dependent on His blood shed at Calvary. Thus, as the living bird is set free, so all believers are blessed in the liberty that belongs to Christ in resurrection.
Yet, though those things in verses 1 to 7 are basic in the restoration of the leper, there is much more added in verses 8 to 20, dealing with practical details of restoration.
To begin with, there is cleansing by water, first, of the person's clothes, and after shaving off all his hair, then he himself washed (v. 8). The sacrifice of the bird had to do with what was done for him, but the washing of water is the application of the word of God to his personal condition. We also need both. Yet even then he must stay outside his tent for seven days, though allowed inside the camp. On the eighth day he was to repeat what he had done a week earlier, shaving off all his hair, including even his eyebrows, wash his clothes and his own body. Then we are told “he shall be clean” (v. 9).
In the first cleansing the person is restored to his place in the camp, while in the second he is fully restored to God and to his accustomed dwelling among the people of God, speaking of practical fellowship restored, through “the washing of water by the word.” All of this shows us that God does provide the means of restoration that is there for the appropriation of every returning wanderer. He takes advantage of it and is thus far restored (to the camp), yet God seeks a deeper work within the person, by which restoration becomes vital to him.
Though at the end of verse 9 the leper is now said to be clean, yet on this same eighth day he must bring two male lambs, one ewe lamb of the first year, all without blemish, three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and one log of oil. The priest was then to take one male lamb and offer it as a trespass offering before the Lord (v. 12). The waving speaks of Christ ascended back to glory, though in the type this was done before the sacrifice was killed.
These things also are evidently connected with the cleansing process, for verse 14 speaks of one “who is to be cleansed.” The priest was to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the tip of the person's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. This indicates that cleansing is to have a practical effect on how and what a person hears, on what he does with his hand and how he walks.
Then the priest was to pour some of the oil into the palm of his left hand and with his right finger sprinkle the oil seven times before the Lord — perhaps at the altar of burnt offering, or possibly at the door of the tabernacle. Then he was to put the oil on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and the big toe of the right foot of the healed leper, just as he had done with the blood, and the rest of the oil on the head of the person (vv. 15-18). The oil is typical of the Holy Spirit, who is the power by which the ear takes in the truth, the power by which one's actions are made right and by which the walk is corrected. Put on the head indicates the intelligence being brought into subjection by the power of the Spirit.
The other lambs were then offered, one as a sin offering, the other a burnt offering, and with the burnt offering a meal offering (or grain offering). Thus the seriousness of leprosy is emphasized, for the trespass offering first stresses the need of meeting the details of sinful practice (which is typified in leprosy), while the sin offering deals with sin as the hateful principle of evil that has corrupted our very nature. The burnt offering is that which gives all glory to God in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, for God is the source of all blessing in restoration. The accompanying meal offering reminds us that the only One who could be a satisfactory offering for sin must be a true Man of sinless character, for the fine meal is typical of the purity of the details of the entire life of the Lord Jesus — so totally in contrast to leprosy. All of these things are therefore involved in our being cleansed from the foul disease of sin, for when God works He does a complete work.
A PROVISION FOR POVERTY (vv. 21-32)
We have before seen an exception made on account of poverty (Lev. 5:7), and so it is in the case of the restoring of a leper. If one could not bring three lambs, he might bring only one male lamb as a trespass offering, one tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a meal offering, one log of oil, and two turtledoves or young pigeons to substitute for two of the lambs.
The ritual was the same as in the first case, but the birds took the place of lambs in the sin offering and the burnt offering. In this is seen typically a poverty of apprehension as to the sin offering and burnt offering. There are many who are too poor spiritually to realize properly how sin is dealt with and condemned in the sacrifice of Christ, and they have only a small understanding of that sacrifice being above all for the glory of God (the burnt offering). How good it is then to see God's gracious care for the weak.
LEPROSY IN A HOUSE (vv. 33-47)
As in the case of a garment, it seems strange that leprosy could literally be present in a house. No example of this is recorded in scripture either. Again therefore, the spiritual significance must be the matter of real importance. If the owner of the house found evidence of such a plague in his house, he must report it to the priest, who would examine it.
On the one hand there is an application to “the whole house of Israel” in this scripture. Its condition gave cause for alarm even before the days of David. The prophets have examined it, and with one consent have found it in such a state as Isaiah 1:6 describes, “From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” There have been many efforts by God to restore the nation, even after its being taken into captivity, symbolizing its isolation. But finally, in rejecting Christ, Israel has exposed its hopeless leprous condition. Christ makes the pronouncement, “Your house is left to you desolate' (Matt. 23:38), and the whole house has been taken away. It will therefore be a miracle of God that will restore the house of Israel, as will be true in the millennium, as Ezekiel 36:36 declares, “I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and planted what was desolate” (NKJV).
As was true of the house of Israel in its being under suspicion of leprosy, a similar application is true of the professing Church. God has dealt with her alarming symptoms in seeking to restore her, but her state has deteriorated, so that the exposure of leprosy is clearly seen in the address to Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). She is to be spit out of the Lord's mouth (v. 16), involving His refusal of her. For Laodicea professes to be God's Church, but is composed only of unbelievers. It is plainly a leprous house, ready to be demolished.
Yet there is an application also to a local fellowship of professed believers. If sin breaks out among them that seems to be of a serious character, the matter should be immediately put into the hands of the Lord, the One having true priestly discernment. Of course, others also from another assembly, men of spiritual experience and priestly discernment, may unite with the Lord in forming a judgment as to whether this is a case that demands rigorous action, and as to how far the action should go.
Even if the plague appeared serious to the priest, he was to wait for a week before a second examination (vv. 37-38). If then the plague had spread, the priest was to command that the stones in which the plague was should be taken out and thrown into an unclean place (v. 44). This would speak of individuals who have been guilty of positive sinful practice being excommunicated from fellowship.
The house was also to be scraped, typical of the self-judgment of all in the house in divesting themselves of any association with the evil. New stones were added in place of the old and the house was freshly plastered (v. 42). But if the plague came back after this, it was evident that the leprosy was settled into the house itself, and the priest was to break down the house, having all of it taken to an unclean place outside the city (vv. 44-45). So any assembly in which serious evil persists after proper labor with it, is totally unfit for anyone's fellowship. Other assemblies must cease all identification with it. Also, anyone who had even come into the house would be unclean till the evening, but if he had laid down in the house or if one had eaten in the house, he must wash his clothes. Thus today also, if only we are present in a location where spiritual evil is practiced, we shall be defiled by it, and more so if we linger in the place. This is a serious consideration for every Christian.
CLEANSING OF A HOUSE (vv. 48-52)
If after the house was freshly plastered there was no recurrence of any plague, the priest was to pronounce the house clean. However, he was to follow the same procedure as in the case of the cleansing of a leper (Lev. 14:1-7), taking two birds with cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop, killing one bird in an earthen vessel over running water, then taking the live bird, the cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet, dipping them in the blood of the dead bird and in running water, and with this sprinkle the house seven times (v. 51). When this means of cleansing was complete, the priest was to let loose the live bird into the open field (v. 52). We have seen that the sacrificed bird is typical of Christ sacrificed for us, and the live bird, Christ raised from the dead. Again therefore, as with a person, so with an assembly, restoration is based on the value of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Verses 54-57 sum up the whole matter of the law concerning leprosy, whether in a person, in a garment or in a house.
UNAVOIDABLE DISCHARGES (vv. 1-33)
Because leprosy speaks of the outbreak of positive sin, it required rigorous treatment. Nothing like this is intimated in chapter 15, but rather the frailty of the human body in suffering the effects of the contamination of sin through Adam, our first father. We are not in any way responsible for the sinful nature we have inherited by birth, though we are responsible for allowing that nature to manifest itself in sinful actions. The discharges spoken of here were not avoidable, but are intended as a reminder that we have inherited a sinful nature from Adam. Therefore the cleansing process was not as involved as in the case of leprosy.
We do not know how fully the people obeyed the orders given here, for in many cases the infirmity would be known only by the individual. Yet the instructions given as to restoration are of value to us today. Our very infirmities remind us that from our birth we have possessed a sinful nature, so that the birds being offered for cleansing insist upon the value of the sacrifice of Christ as the one means of meeting our sinful condition. Our infirmities need the compassionate grace of the Lord Jesus in order that we may be lifted above them. High priests taken from among men were “compassed with infirmity” (Heb. 5:1-2 — KJV), but this was not true of the Lord Jesus, who is our great High Priest. Sin had no place whatever in His nature. Not only is it true that “He did no sin,” but in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT (vv. 1-34)
This is a chapter of central importance in the book of Leviticus. It forms a basis for, and is explained in, the epistle to the Hebrews. Aaron's two sons had died for offering “strange fire to the Lord” (Lev. 10:1-2). We are reminded of this in verse 1 of chapter 16 in order to be impressed with the seriousness of any approach into the holy presence of God. The priests, and even the high priest were forbidden to come at all times into the holiest of all, inside the veil. This is a contrast to the Lord Jesus in the actual fact of His personal glory, for He was always, by virtue of His person, in the intimacy of the presence of God.
Yet, Aaron is typical of Christ as High Priest, the representative of His people, and what He does for their sakes is to be distinguished from what He is entitled to personally.
Verse 2 tells us that God Himself would be present in the cloud on the mercy seat, therefore it was only one day of the year that Aaron alone could enter the most holy place. Verse 29 indicates this to be on the tenth day of the seventh month. The Lord fully described the ritual which Aaron was to strictly observe.
He was to bring a young bull as a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Having washed his flesh in water, he was to put on, not his garments of glory and beauty, but those of linen (v. 4). These speak of the moral purity of the Lord Jesus in His perfect Manhood.
Also, from the congregation he was to take two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram as a burnt offering (v. 5).
Then Aaron was first to present his own bull of the sin offering before the Lord, not yet to kill it (v. 6 — JND trans.), though it was that which was to make atonement for him and his house. Similarly, he was to present the two goats before the Lord at the tabernacle door (v. 7).
Following this he was to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. For only one was to be sacrificed to the Lord as a sin offering. Then it was offered, but the other one was again presented before the Lord alive. Though it is said the first goat was offered, yet not until verse 15 are we told the goat was slaughtered.
It therefore appears that the bull for Aaron and his house was first slaughtered (v. 11). Then Aaron was to bring from the altar a censer full of coals and his hands full of finely ground sweet incense, put on the fire to form a cloud of incense that would cover the mercy seat when Aaron entered the holiest of all. If he failed to do this when entering the most holy place, he would die. But also, he must bring with him some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the east side and in front of the mercy seat seven times (v. 14).
The spiritual significance of this is indicated in Hebrews 9:11-12: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of bulls and calves, but with (or “by”) His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Some have imagined that the Lord Jesus literally took His shed blood into heaven when He ascended there, but this is confusing the type with the antitype. Because of the value of the shedding of His blood, He entered heaven on behalf of His redeemed people, having obtained eternal redemption. The throne of God has been perfectly vindicated by virtue of the blood of Christ having been shed at Calvary. His resurrection and ascension to heaven have confirmed the fact that redemption is fully accomplished.
Now he must kill the goat that is specifically said to be “for the people” (v. 15), bring its blood inside the veil and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before it. The bull had been for Aaron and his house (v. 6). This implies the Lord Jesus and the priestly family, which today is the Church of God, for all believers now are priests (1 Peter 2:5). The two goats picture the one sacrifice of Christ on behalf of Israel, the first one being that which actually makes atonement by being offered up. But because Israel has not recognized the sacrifice of Christ, though it has really been for them, the results of that sacrifice will not be applied to Israel until they finally turn to the Lord.
Therefore the high priest was to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confessing over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, putting them on the head of the goat and sending it away by a suitable man into the wilderness (v. 2). Thus the atonement, though definitely made for Israel, does not at the time have application to Israel: their sins are still not gone, though confessed by the high priest (Christ), and the value of the atonement is for Israel delayed, while the nation is dispersed among the nations, “in the wilderness.” How striking a witness this is to the fact that God knew perfectly well that Israel would reject their Messiah and remain a long time in sad unbelief!
After sending the scapegoat away into the wilderness, Aaron was to come into the outer sanctuary of the tabernacle, take off his linen garments and leave them there, to wash his body and put on his normal garments of glory and beauty, then to come out and offer the burnt offering for himself and that also for the people (v. 24). His coming out in those garments signified that the work of atonement was done to the satisfaction of God. The burnt offerings signified that God was glorified in the perfection of the sacrifice. It is noted here also that the fat of the sin offering was to be burned on the altar. This was commanded in Leviticus 4:8-10, though otherwise the bodies of those animals whose blood was taken into the sanctuary were burned outside the camp (Lev. 4:11-12), which also verse 27 of this chapter confirms. This speaks of Christ as the sin offering bearing the unmitigated judgment of God.
The one who burned the animals was to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water (v. 26), showing that only the contact with that which was put under the judgment of God had a defiling influence, though when the burning took place, no more defilement would be spread.
On the tenth day of the seventh month Israel was to recognize as a permanent statute of God that they should afflict their souls and do no work (v. 29). This speaks of humbling themselves in serious self-judgment. When we reach Leviticus 23 we shall see how this is emphasized when “the set times of Jehovah” are discussed (vv. 26-32). Those set times speak of God's dealings from the time of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary until the morning of millennial blessing for Israel.
The great day of atonement pictures the national repentance of Israel when the Lord Jesus, their Messiah, appears to them when they are in the throes of the great tribulation. “They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for his firstborn” (Zech. 12:10). Revelation 1:7 adds to this, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth (the land) will mourn because of Him.”
Verse 32-34 lay special emphasis on the work of “the priest who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place.” Typically this priest is Christ, who has been not only the great sacrifice Israel needed, but the one Mediator between God and men, the One who intercedes and who has offered Himself for us. It is He through whom Israel is blessed, and also through whom the whole temple service is sanctified. He makes atonement for the priests (the priestly family, the Church) and for the people (that is, Israel). This statute was to allow no lapsing, no intermission, but was to be faithfully kept every year (v. 34).
GOD'S RIGHTS WHEN AN ANIMAL WAS KILLED (vv. 1-16)
This chapter is an appendix to chapter 16, though it does not deal with the sin offering. Rather, the Lord now strongly insists that any Israelite who would slaughter an ox or a lamb or a goat must bring it to the door of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord. Verse 5 adds that these were to be offered as peace offerings to the Lord.
The offerer received most of the peace offering as food, but first the fat, the two kidneys and the lobe of the liver were to be burned on the altar to the Lord (Lev. 7:3-5), while the breast was given to Aaron and his sons and the right thigh to the priest who offered the animal (Lev. 7:31-33). Thus, God was to be first recognized in the killing of the animal, then typically Christ and the priestly family were to have their part, then the offerer was given all that remained.
The spiritual significance of this for us we must not ignore. For if anyone in Israel did not give God this first place of recognition, he was to be sentenced to death. The matter is no less serious for us, though God is not today requiring the sentence of death for an offender. Instead He has given us the instruction of 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Even animals unclean for Israel by the law's standards are for us perfectly fit for eating, for they are sanctified by the word of God and by the prayer of thanksgiving on the part of the eater. If one does not thank God for his food, he has no proper right to eat at all. For every creature is the property of God, and in receiving it we ought to recognize His rights first of all.
The ungodly sacrificed to demons in their recognizing idols, and evidently Israel had blindly followed this evil example, but verse 7 tells them to desist from this adulterous association. In fact, not only the people of Israel, but also any Gentiles who dwelt among them, were required to bring their sacrifices to the door of the tabernacle to be offered to the Lord, or suffer the penalty of death (vv. 8-9).
Again the Lord insists that anyone of Israel or of strangers who dwelt among them who ate blood must be cut off, that is, put to death (v. 10). “For the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and “it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (v. 11). The blood shed is the sign of death. Since God is the Lifegiver, we must recognize His rights by refraining from eating blood. This was true before the law was given (Gen. 9:4), and it remains true today when believers are not under law but under grace (Acts 15:28-29).
If an animal died or was killed by other animals, it would not be properly bled, and if one should eat the dead animal he must both wash his clothes and bathe in water to be cleansed from defilement. If he did not, he would bear his guilt, which would mean death (vv. 15-16). All of this chapter therefore insists that God has rights that man must not ignore.
FORBIDDING SEXUAL SINS (vv. 1-30)
Chapter 17 has dealt with sin directly against God; now chapter 18 speaks of sin in relationship with other creatures, primarily humans, but also animals (v. 23). Moses was commanded to speak to the children of Israel, giving them God's message, “I am the Lord your God” (v. 2). This positive message itself should lift people's hearts far above the level of all the evil that surrounds them. Yet most of what follows is negative, telling Israel what they were not to do.
First, the evil practices they had seen in Egypt they were told not to do. Secondly, when they entered the land of Canaan they were not to do as the Canaanites did (vv. 2-3). The world was living in moral corruption, as it still is today, and the believer is not to conform to this kind of thing. They had come out of Egypt, as believers today have left the world that ignores the living God. Let them then take no part of the world with them. They were going to Canaan, but the Canaanites were living in corruption fully as bad as Egypt, for Canaan is typical of Christendom, where the profession of Christianity is accompanied by many glaring abuses of Christianity. These are circumstances distressing to one who has been called by God to a path of obedience to Him, but we should regard circumstances as a proving ground. Israel was tested in Canaan, and we cannot escape testing, but we have the Word of God to guard us and to strengthen us (vv. 4-5).
Any sexual relation with a blood relative is firmly forbidden (vv. 6-18). Even secular governments recognize the morality of this, so that incest is illegal. Abraham, married his half-sister (Gen. 20:11-12), but this was early in human history, when there was not the same danger of children being badly affected. “The laws of heredity show that in a fallen race, the inheritance of disease to which all are liable is intensified when similar tendencies are found in both parents” (Numerical Bible — Genesis — page 349). Time only increases the weakness that such disease brings in any genetic line, and of course this would be doubly increased by the marriage of two from the same line.
This evil defiled the assembly at Corinth when a man took his father's wife, that is, his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1). The assembly was told that such sin was not even named among the nations, and the man was put out from the assembly (v. 12). Only when the sin was judged and discontinued was the man restored (2 Cor. 2:6-8).
These laws deal with matters that are morally wrong and are still wrong today. Though the believer is not in any sense “under law,” but “under grace,” this does nor mean that he is free to break over bounds of morality. Rather, it means that grace gives him both the desire and the ability to carry out the righteousness required by the law, without considering himself under the law's authority (Rom. 8:3-4).
Adultery is just as evil as is incest (v. 20), and similarly forbidden. Verse 21 adds that Israelites were forbidden to offer their children to Molech. Though people spoke of this as a sacrifice, the practice did not spring from unselfish love for Molech, but from the selfish evil of wanting to get rid of a child. How evil it is today that many want to get rid of a child before it is born! Molech was an image with its arms outstretched, and people would place their children in its arms, while a fire was lit beneath. Then with drums and noisy music the cries of the child were drowned out as it was burned to death. Thus this religious wickedness sanctified the torture and murder of an unwanted child!
Closely related to this is the strong prohibition of the abominable practice of homosexuality (v. 22). God has provided the honorable institution of the marriage of a man and woman, yet people dare to abuse the very best that God has given, because of utter selfishness. We know too that such things bring painful repercussions (Rom. 1:26-27. God is not mocked. People may feel they get away with evildoing, but whatever one sows he will also reap (Gal. 6:7).
It was even necessary that Israelites should be warned against the repulsive wickedness of having sexual relations with an animal (v. 23). But this, along with the other evils before mentioned, was practiced among the nations that God was to dispossess from Canaan (v. 24). In fact, it was because of the gross defilement of the land by these things that God was punishing the inhabitants by death or expulsion. If anyone in Israel were to be found guilty of such things, this would incur the death penalty also.
Just as this chapter begins, so it ends by the positive declaration, “I am the Lord your God” (v. 30). If Israel would only rightly recognize this wonderful, positive blessing, this would preserve them from all the negative evils of this chapter.
MANY LAWS GROUPED TOGETHER (vv. 1-37)
We have seen at the beginning and end of chapter 18 God's announcement, “I am the Lord your God.” In chapter 19 the expression “I am the Lord” occurs 15 times. But here it is difficult to find any division of topics, for laws of every kind are found following one another. It has been suggested that in this case the reason is to stress that the law is one: there is a unity about it that is not to be ignored by those under law. James 2:10 strongly enforces this: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The chapter begins with God's assertion, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (v. 2). Holiness involves, not only acting rightly, but loving what is good and hating what is evil. Thus, Israel was to be totally and feelingly on God's side. True regard for mother and father is linked with the keeping of the sabbath days, which was to express regard for God (v. 3).
Idolatry is therefore firmly forbidden (v. 4). This had been stated in the ten commandments, but is often repeated because God knew Israel's tendency to disobedience. If a peace offering was offered, it was to be eaten the first two days, but after this any part left over was to be burned, not eaten (vv. 6-7). One who ignored this was to be put to death (v. 8).
Self discipline was also to be exercised in harvesting. They must not reap the corners of their fields, nor go back to glean what had been left in the first harvest. This was to be left for the poor or for strangers who had little means of support (vv. 9-10). Such a law tested whether they loved their neighbor and whether their faith was really in God.
Stealing, cheating, lying, swearing falsely in God's name are common evils, but forbidden by law (vv. 11-12), and no less evil under grace, for again there is no faith nor love in any of these. The same is true in whatever kind of oppressive treatment one may practice on his neighbor, including deferring to pay the wages of an employee (v. 13). Consideration of the deaf and the blind is also required by law (v. 14), as is fairness and impartiality in judgment, favoring neither rich or poor (v. 15).
Talebearing or slandering is then mentioned followed by hidden hatred. Law does not only forbid bad actions, but also bad thoughts of the heart (vv. 16-17). If one's brother had done evil, this was no reason to hate him: rather, even the law required that he should rebuke the offender, not in a harsh spirit, not condemning him nor bearing any grudge against him, but instead, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18).
Mixtures were also forbidden. Jews were not to allow their livestock to breed with other species. Mixed seed was not to be sown. Linen and wool were not to be mixed in any garment. This has typical significance such as is seen in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”
While adultery was punishable by death, yet a difference was made in the case of verse 20, and this fornication could be atoned for by a trespass offering (vv. 21-22).
When Israel came into the land of Canaan and planted trees, they were not to eat any of their fruit for the first three years. In the fourth year they were still not to eat the fruit, but sanctify it to the Lord, then in the fifth year they could eat it. These are not laws for Gentiles, nor for the present dispensation of grace, but they teach us that in everything, even in our eating, God should have the first place.
In verse 26 the prohibition against eating anything with blood is linked with that against divination or soothsaying, for the first speaks of God's rights, the second that we are not to allow Satan any rights over us.
Verses 27-28 tell us that our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please, whether in shaving for show or making cuts in the flesh or being tattooed (Compare 1 Cor. 6:19-20). All of these are only to satisfy a person's pride.
Parents are warned against the horrible evil of prostituting their daughters (v. 29). This would not only be gross cruelty to the daughters, but would lead to wickedness filling the land. Again also the Lord insists on their keeping His sabbaths and reverencing His sanctuary, for the parent-daughter relationship will be rightly sustained only where there is a proper relationship with the Lord. This sacred relationship also calls for the total refusal of any relationship with mediums and familiar spirits (v. 31), who represent Satan, the arch-enemy of God.
The aged among the people were to be held in honor and respect. In eastern countries today people are more careful about this than in the west. Also, when a stranger came to reside in Israel he was to be treated with respect and courtesy, in fact, Israel was told to “love him as yourself” (v. 34). If this was true in Israel under law, how much more emphatic it should be for Christians who are “under grace.”
It is insisted that no injustice of any kind should be found amongst Israelites, whether in measurements, weights or volume. Their scales were to be honest, their weights and all measurements. These things are always right, whether in Israel or among Gentiles, as everyone's conscience bears witness. The Christian is glad to conform to such instruction, not because it is law, but because he knows and loves the Lord. Thus it is added here, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” We have been brought by grace out of worse bondage than that of Egypt, and have greater reason to respond in love and obedience to the Lord.
PENALTIES FOR SIN GODWARD (vv. 1-8)
Chapter 19 has given many laws forbidding sin; now chapter 20 shows that law, when it is broken, demands certain penalties. These penalties were to be executed as soon as the offender's guilt was established. There were no long drawn out court cases and no appeals after one was proven guilty. Even in the days of Solomon Israel had failed to carry out these penalties promptly, so that Ecclesiastes 8:11 tells us, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” In western culture today, such long delays have caused people to make a mock of the judicial system. We are told that in Singapore crime is kept to a minimum, because penalties are promptly imposed and promptly executed.
Verses 1-8 speak of sin against God. Offering of children to Molech was punishable by death. In fact, the people were responsible to stone the offender to death (v. 1). If the people were lax in this, then God would carry out His judgment on the person and his family and on all who identified themselves with the person in the evil he had done (v. 5).
Similarly in the case of any person who contacted spirit mediums or those who possessed a familiar spirit. This was satanic opposition to God, who would punish the offender with death (v. 6). Later in Israel's history King Saul banished mediums and spiritists from the land of Israel (1 Sam. 27:3), yet he himself went to inquire of a medium (1 Sam. 27:7-25), with no pleasant results. He died the next day.
Therefore, for Israel the only safe course was the positive action of consecrating themselves to the Lord in holy separation from evil, keeping and performing His statutes (vv. 7-8).
PENALTIES FOR SIN AGAINST OTHERS (vv. 9-21)
Verse 9 deals with sin against parents, who should be recognized with at least serious respect, apart from the question of their reliability. Even if they were unfair, this gave no right to the children to curse them. The ten commandments had said to honor father and mother. Therefore, cursing (speaking evil of) parents was to be punished with death.
Adultery too (a guilty infraction of the marriage bond) called for the death penalty for both the man and the woman involved in this. God does not require Gentile governments to enforce Israel's laws, but these evils are no less wicked wherever they are found. Meanwhile, God is delaying punishment, and today is commanding all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). If so, they will be saved from the punishment they deserve: if not, their punishment will be not only death, but eternal torment in the lake of fire.
The penalty for incest was death for both parties (vv. 11-12). Those guilty of homosexual relations incurred the same penalty (v. 13). If a man married both a woman and her mother, all three of them were to be burned to death.
A human and an animal having sexual relations were both to be killed (vv. 15-16). Incest with a half sister was just the same as with a full sister: it demanded death. The same was true as regards aunts, whether on the father's or the mothers's side (vv. 19-20). It is evident that such evil between an uncle and niece would be the same.
Verse 21 evidently refers to one taking his brother's wife while his brother was still living, for if one had died, then his brother was told to take his widow and raise up seed that would be counted as that of his deceased brother (Deut. 25:5).
DISCERNING AND OBEYING THE TRUTH (vv. 22-27)
This last section of the chapter presses home upon the consciences of the people the vital importance of keeping all God's statutes and judgments. These were laws that Israel had three times promised to keep (Ex. 19:8; Ex. 24:3; Ex. 24:7). If they did not keep these, then the land would “vomit you out.” For God had separated the land as His own “holy land.” That land would expel the nations that were occupying it, because of the worship of idols and evil spirits. It could also do the same to Israel if thy descended to a similar level. In fact, history has proven this true in the scattering of Israel from their land for centuries following their rejection of Christ, their promised Messiah.
They could not say they were not warned. Many scriptures beside this admonished and warned them. They had been separated by God from all other peoples (v. 24). Therefore they were to clearly discern between clean and unclean (v. 25). These verses plainly infer that unclean animals and birds were symbols of unclean people, from whom God had separated Israel.
Thus they were to be holy, separate from evil, because God is holy, and He had set them apart from the Gentiles, to be His (v. 26). The chapter ends with the death sentence by stoning pronounced on any medium or spiritist (v. 27). For the object of such people was to get rid of God's authority by means of satanic activity.
SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF PRIESTS (vv. 1-15)
Since the priests were given the sacred privilege of drawing near to God on behalf of the people, they were therefore more responsible as regards their conduct. In our present dispensation of the grace of God all believers are priests, not by official appointment, as with Aaron and his sons, but in true moral character. The outward defilement that Israel's priests were to avoid is typical of the more serious moral defilement that Christians should be careful to avoid.
The priest was to have no contact with a dead body except for cases of near relatives, mother, father, son, daughter, brother or unmarried sister (vv. 2-3). In those cases he would likely have some responsibility for their burial. The dead body speaks of that which was once alive, but has turned into the corruption of death, as for instance in Revelation 3:1, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” This was Sardis, once a thriving testimony to the grace of God, but now dead as regards any relationship to God. If believers have a priestly character they will keep clear of any association of a body of this kind.
Making their heads bald (v. 5), as some religious fanatics do, shaving the edges of their beards, making cuttings in their bodies, were things not to be practiced by priests. All of this was for show, in desire to improve the flesh. By making a show of ourselves in any way, we may too easily give the impression that the flesh in us is better than in other people. This is false.
The positive fact of their being holy to their God is again insisted on in verse 6, responsible not to profane His name, that is, to bring this name down to the level of fallen humanity. For they offered the offerings of the Lord and the bread of their God, by which He was given the highest place of dignity.
The priests' wives were to be carefully selected. One who had been a harlot or promiscuous, or who was divorced from a husband, was not to be taken as a wife by a priest (v. 7). While these things are not laws to govern believers today, yet they are typical of the moral defilement that believers are to avoid. We are told one may be at liberty to marry, but “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). A believer should have spiritual discernment as to whether a woman is the proper partner for him. The grace of God can so work with any of the above women as to greatly change their character, so that now, in this day of grace, one who is truly converted by God may be transformed into a faithful, devoted wife. The spiritual discernment of the believer as regards choosing a partner, therefore, is vitally important, whether in fact man or woman. The holiness of God is involved in this matter too (v. 8), and it is well to guard against any suggestion of compromising that holiness.
If a daughter of a priest acted as a harlot, she was to be burned to death, for she had profaned her father, showing contempt for his relationship to God. Today, grace does not carry out such a sentence, but may instead act in true restoration of such an offender.
The high priest was not allowed to uncover his head nor to tear his garments. This was because he is a picture of Christ who was always subject to the authority of God, as the covering symbolizes, and whose habits, symbolized by the garments, were absolute perfection. Tearing speaks of judging evil, but there was no evil in His habits to be judged. When the Lord Jesus stood before the Sanhedrim, the high priest disobeyed this law by tearing his clothes (Matt. 26:65). Thus he expressed his contemptuous attitude toward the word of God and toward the Son of God. In the Church of God a man is told not to cover his head when praying or prophesying, though the woman is told to cover hers (1 Cor. 3:7). This is a marked contrast to Israel's law.
The high priest was not to have contact with any dead body, even that of his father or mother (v. 11). This again is because he symbolized the Lord Jesus, who is emphatically “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). For the other priests the law was not so rigid (vv. 1-3)
The high priest was told not to go out of the sanctuary, that is, the area of the sanctuary (v. 12). This must at least be true so long as he was acting in the capacity of high priest. So today, the Lord Jesus has entered the holy place (heaven itself) once, and maintains His service for His saints in that place (Heb. 9:11-12).
The high priest was allowed to marry only a virgin of his own people (vv. 13-14). So the Bride of Christ, the Church, is considered “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27), and is only from the family of faith. The high priest was also responsible to preserve his own family from unholy degradation (v. 15).
CONDITIONS OF SERVICE FOR PRIESTS (vv. 16-24)
The Lord now instructs Moses to tell Aaron that no priest of Aaron's line could serve in presenting offerings to God if he had any physical defect. No offering was to have any such defect, and the priest was to be consistent with the offering. Physical defects are no hindrance to true worship for believers today, but physical defects are typical of spiritual or moral defects, of which there were none in the Lord Jesus.
So long as there is something wrong with one's sight, walk, attitude (as with a marred face), actions (hands) or anything else of a moral or spiritual character, it is not right for one to take a public place in approaching God, though that one may be a believer. “He may eat the bread of his God” (v. 22), but is disqualified from public service. One may be recovered from such spiritual or moral disfigurements, for grace can certainly change things. But even when there are some things defective, what grace it is that one is allowed to eat the food of his God. Mephibosheth is an example of one who ate at the king's table continually, though he was lame on both his feet (2 Sam. 9:13).
NO PROFANING OF SEPARATED THINGS (vv. 1-16)
Aaron and his sons were always in close proximity to those things that had been separated for sacred purposes. They were therefore to be careful as to their contact with these things, lest they should profane the name of the Lord. If one had contacted any uncleanness, he must be cleansed from this before touching the holy things. A number of things are listed as to what would make one unclean.
This was only ceremonial uncleanness, but is, as we have seen before, symbolical of moral or spiritual uncleanness. Cleansing would not be complete until evening. In cases of leprosy, the time was longer, with offerings being made (Lev. 14). But in all cases one was to bathe and wash his clothes, as we find elsewhere (Lev. 15), and in some cases the time for cleansing was longer than in others.
Often now a person may intuitively realize that his moral or spiritual condition is such that he ought to avoid any handling of spiritual things. If we are in an unclean moral state, how much better is this avoidance than any hypocritical pretense of religious observance! At least the person will realize the need of being cleansed.
If an animal died or was killed by beasts, it was not to be eaten (v. 8). In this case it had not been offered before the Lord. Also, only the priests and their families were to eat of the holy things. No hired servant was allowed to eat (v. 10). Yet if the priest bought a person, that person was privileged to eat the priest's fare. A hired servant is one who serves for wages, while the one bought is fully the possession of his master, as true believers today belong fully to the Lord. They do not serve for gain, but because they are His.
If a priest's daughter was married to one who was not of the priestly family, she could no longer eat of the holy things (v. 12), yet if she was widowed or divorced, having no children, and returned to live with her father, she would be allowed to eat her father's food (v. 13).
If one should eat holy food, being unaware that it was holy, then afterward he must restore the same amount as an offering for the priest and add the fifth part to it (v. 14).
All of these things should press upon us the importance of Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” To give God His place of supreme honor, a place of pure holiness and sanctification, is a matter we must not dare to overlook. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 4:15).
UNBLEMISHED SACRIFICES (vv. 17-25)
The Lord now instructs Moses to address Aaron and his sons and all the children of Israel, to insist that even free will burnt offerings must be free from blemishes. For some might think that, though the compulsory offerings for sin and trespass must be without defect, yet this might not be required if the offering was giving voluntarily. But the burnt offering was offered primarily for God's glory, and no defect was to be allowed (vv. 18-20).
The peace offering might be offered to fulfill a vow, or as a free will offering. No defect was to be allowed in such cases either, except that a bull or a lamb that had a limb too long or too short could be allowed for a free will offering, but not for a vow (vv. 21-23). But no animal that had been bruised or crushed or torn or cut was acceptable for any sacrifice. The same law must be applied to a foreigner who desired to offer anything to God (v. 25).
FURTHER CONDITIONS OF ACCEPTABLE OFFERINGS (vv. 26-32)
The Lord adds conditions that are interesting as regards the acceptability of any offering. When a bull, sheep or a goat was born it must be allowed seven days with its mother before being used as an offering. Also, the mother was not to be killed on the same day as her offspring (vv. 26-28). No doubt it will take spiritual discernment to understand the spiritual significance of these things.
The peace offering of a thanksgiving is singled out also (vv. 29-30), to insist that it was to be offered entirely voluntarily and eaten the same day it was offered, with nothing allowed to remain over night. This is repeated from Leviticus 7:15. Just as God's mercies are “new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23), so our occasions of thanksgiving should be always new and fresh.
Therefore, even what seemed to be the least of God's commandments were to be carefully observed, that God's name should not be profaned, but hallowed by His people, for He had brought them out of Egypt (vv. 31-33).
THE SET TIMES OF THE LORD (vv. 1-43)
The times of special observance in Israel are called “feasts” in most translations, yet all were not feasts for Israel, as per the day of atonement (vv. 26-32), which was a day of brokenness and humiliation rather than of feasting. Yet all may be called feasts of the Lord when we think of what pleasure the Lord would have in their proper observance. Sadly, these degenerated into mere “feasts of the Jews” in which there was no real honor given to God (John 2:3; John 5:1; John 6:4; John 7:2; John 11:55).
However, from their very inception, God calls these “holy convocations” — “My feasts” (v. 2). Ought we not therefore to seek to learn in all this chapter how we should please the Lord rather than ourselves? Six of these set times were kept once in the year, but before they are mentioned, there is prior emphasis on
1. THE SABBATH (v. 3)
This was to be observed every week on the seventh day, so that it overspread the whole year. It was to be a day of rest, with no work to be done. It teaches us that we are to rest on the value of God's work already accomplished, not daring to add any work of our own to this. Such a reminder was necessary for Israel, and is necessary for us.
2. THE PASSOVER AND UNLEAVENED BREAD (vv. 4-8).
The Passover was vitally significant of Israel's initial relationship with the Lord. They could have no true relationship with Him apart from the blood of the lamb shed and sprinkled on their doorposts. This feast was to be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month. Its typical meaning clearly extends to believers of the present dispensation of grace, for 1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Just as it took place in the beginning of Israel's year, so the sacrifice of Christ is the beginning of all true blessing for mankind.
Linked closely with the Passover was the feast of unleavened bread. Israel was to eat no leavened bread for a week beginning with the Passover. Leaven speaks of sin in its corrupting character. For if, on the one hand, the Passover teaches the wonderful positive value of the sacrifice of Christ, on the other hand the abstaining from leaven is negative, emphasizing that in the cross of Christ sin is fully judged. The least allowance of sin would be gross contamination where the sacrifice of Christ is concerned, for that sacrifice involved the total judgment of sin.
Believers today are not told to literally eat unleavened bread, as Israel was, but rather to observe the spiritual meaning of this, as told us in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
No customary (or servile) work was to be done (vv. 7-8), for this typically tells us that we must not dare to think of gaining God's favor or blessing by our own work. On the positive side an offering by fire was to be made every day for the seven days (the number of completeness), telling us that we must depend completely on the value of God's great work in the sacrifice of His Son.
3 THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS (vv. 9-14)
Israel's harvest began early in their year, so the feast of firstfruits took place not long after the Passover. This was to be observed only in the land, as verse 10 tells us. The land speaks of the “heavenly places” into which believers are introduced by the resurrection of Christ. Before the harvest was reaped, the children of Israel were to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits to the priest, who would wave this before the Lord. The message here is perfectly plain. The firstfruits picture Christ in resurrection. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
While the sheaf speaks of the springing up of life from death, the waving of the sheaf signifies the ascension of the Lord Jesus to heaven. Thus, the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord form the solid basis of blessing for the Church today. This too is the only basis for the blessing of the nation Israel, but that nation has refused this great blessing sent to them by God in the person of His Son. Therefore they are blinded for the time being until the Lord eventually turns away ungodliness from Jacob and Israel's eyes are opened to receive their Messiah.
On this day of the waving of the sheaf before the Lord, being the first day of the week (v. 11), a lamb (a yearling male) was to be offered as a burnt offering, together with a grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and a drink offering of wine (vv. 12-13). The burnt offering was all for God, speaking of the unselfish adoration of our hearts toward the living God, who has by Himself accomplished the great work of redemption and the exaltation of His beloved Son. The grain offering was not a blood sacrifice, but speaks of the perfection and purity of the Manhood of the Lord Jesus as the only One fitted to become the sacrifice. The drink offering of wine speaks of the joy that the offerer has in contemplation of Christ's sacrifice. Thus, God is preeminently glorified, Christ is exalted, and the believer wonderfully blessed.
Verse 14 insists that the children of Israel must not eat any of their harvest until they had offered the firstfruits to the Lord. God gave the increase, so He had prior rights, and especially so because the firstfruits symbolize the Lord Jesus as the firstborn from among the dead.
4 PENTECOST (vv. 15-22)
The sheaf of the firstfruits was waved before the Lord on the first day of the week. Then seven weeks were to pass until, on the fiftieth day (also a first day of the week) was the celebration of Pentecost (meaning “fifty”). Then “a new grain offering” was to be offered to the Lord. This signifies in some sense a new beginning, for it was on this day (fifty days after the resurrection of Christ) that the Spirit of God came to indwell believers (Acts 2) and to begin the marvelous formation of the Church in unity on earth.
Verse 17 is most interesting at this point. The people were to bring from their homes two loaves of bread, called “wave loaves.” But in contrast to all other grain offerings, they were to be baked with leaven. Therefore they certainly do not speak of Christ, for “in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). They can only signify believers accepted by God in spite of their sinful natures. When the Spirit of God came at Pentecost in “divided tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3), those upon whom He came were publicly accepted by God. The Spirit had come upon the Lord Jesus “like a dove” (Matt. 3:16), for in Him personally the Father had pure delight. When the Spirit came at Pentecost it was “as of fire,” which speaks of God's holiness in judging evil, so that the effect of the Spirit's presence in believers is to cause self-judgment of the sin within them.
The two wave loaves picture the acceptance of both Jewish and Gentile believers, who are seen in 1 Corinthians 12:13 to be joined together in one body by “the baptism of the Spirit.” As the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits is typical of the ascension of the Lord Jesus to heaven, so the waving of the two loaves pictures the Church as being “raised up together” and made to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:6). This could not be applied to Israel, for Israel is God's earthly people, but the Church is identified today with Christ in heaven. Wonderful grace!
These wave loaves are said to be “the firstfruits to the Lord.” This does not contradict the fact that the wave sheaf (offered 50 days earlier) was the sheaf of firstfruits, typical only of Christ raised and glorified. From this viewpoint Christ stands alone. But when the people are considered, the firstfruits from among mankind focuses upon the Church, which is the first result of the work of Christ. So James 1:18 tells us, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” This has taken place before the general harvest which will involve Israel and the nations.
On that day seven yearling lambs were offered, one young bull and two rams, as a burnt offering, together with grain offerings and drink offerings. In the feast of firstfruits, since the focus is on Christ alone, only one lamb was sacrificed (v. 12), but Pentecost involves the large number who are identified with Christ, so seven lambs (the complete number) were offered, besides a bull and two rams, the bull speaking of the strength of the offering in its capability of atoning for large numbers, the two rams symbolizing the witness that redemption is accomplished. This burnt offering was again accompanied by a grain offering and a drink offering.
More than that, however, a sin offering was required (one kid of the goats) and a peace offering (two yearling lambs). For Pentecost involves the acceptance of all believers, as we have seen, so that a sin offering of the substitutionary goat was imperative, and the peace offering implies the fellowship of believers with the Lord Jesus and with God the Father. Since the feast of firstfruits speaks of the Lord Jesus alone in His resurrection and ascension, only a burnt offering was indicated, for this was all for the glory of God. But Pentecost involves the blessing of those whom the Lord calls, “My brethren,” the Church of God.
The priest was to wave these offerings also before the Lord, as he had waved the loaves. For we need the insistence that the Church is a heavenly company, identified fully with her glorified Lord. The priest was to consider this a matter of holiness too (v. 20).
Again, in verse 21, customary (or servile) work was forbidden, for Pentecost speaks of another great work of God in which people are blessed by God's grace without any work on their part
Verse 22 adds a most interesting precept at this point. Though the main harvest was not reaped till much later than Pentecost, yet Israelites are told now that in reaping their harvest they were not to reap the corners of their fields nor gather any gleanings, but leave these for the poor and for strangers to gather. This is consistent with the character of the Church, for being the recipients of God's grace today, we should show the same grace to others, as Galatians 2:10 insists. As well as this, the grace of God by which we have been so greatly blessed, will not be exhausted when the Church is translated to heaven: there will be abundance of grace left for the poor of Israel and for stranger Gentiles who will be brought to God during the tribulation period.
THE THREE FINAL SET TIMES (vv. 23-44)
The three feasts we have considered all took place early in the year, and refer to those great works of God that have already taken place, — the sacrifice of Christ, His resurrection, His ascension and the coming of the Spirit of God to introduce the Church period. There follows a long interval before the last three set times were celebrated. These three speak of the future restoration and blessing of the nation Israel, beginning with
5 THE BLOWING OF TRUMPETS (vv. 23-25)
Only three verses deal with this observance, the blowing of trumpets on the first day of the seventh month. Israel's seventh Month would correspond to our October. All three of the last set times were observed in this month. They speak of the revival of blessing for Israel in a coming day, long after the Church was established in the book of Acts. Israel the nation at that time rejected the grace sent to her in Christ, yet God will restore her to great blessing in spite of this, when He works in hearts to bring them to receive the Lord Jesus; for it will be God's work in their hearts that initiates this great revival, though centuries have passed since that nation had refused Him.
The blowing of trumpets signifies the regathering of Israel back to their land, as is seen in Matthew 24:31: “He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The trumpet speaks of clear, declared testimony, and the Jews, who have been so scattered for centuries, will be awakened to return to their land. Already there are some stirrings of the Jews to this end, and many have returned to the land, but as yet not by any means all of Judah has returned, and we do not even know where the ten tribes are. But God knows, and this great trumpet call of angels will bring them out and back to the land of promise.
Therefore the blowing of trumpets was another “holy convocation.” Again, no customary work was to be done, for human energy will have nothing to do with this great regathering of Israel (v. 25). It will be exclusively the work of God.
6 THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (vv. 26-32)
The tenth day of the seventh month was a great climax for Israel, for it symbolizes the most vital climax of their entire history. We have before considered that Leviticus 16 devotes 34 verses to the services of this day, and seven more verses are occupied with this in chapter 23. This day was most holy, but by no means a day of feasting, rather a day in which everyone in Israel was commanded to afflict his soul (v. 27) in severe self-judgment. On the positive side, however, they were to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. Chapter 16 shows this to be the one day of the year when the high priest brought the blood of the sin offering into the holy place, sprinkling it before and on the mercy seat (Lev. 16:11-19), Verse 29 of that chapter furnishes the date (the tenth day of the seventh month) on which this was done.
This day is a striking picture of the coming day when Israel will be brought down to a place of deepest humiliation and self-judgment when, at the end of the Great Tribulation, God says, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplications, then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).
After centuries of suffering because of having rejected their Messiah, the change in that nation will be amazing when they look on the One they had pierced. Only then will they use the language of Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” It will be astonishing to them then to find that Jesus whom they crucified is their true Messiah, the Son of God, and all the world will be astonished at the miraculous change that takes place in Israel as a result of their receiving Christ; and the nations will bring tribute to Israel in the way of much wealth (Isa. 61:6).
But only a national repentance and faith will bring national blessing. The one who will not afflict his soul will be cut off from his people (v. 29). He will have judgment rather than blessing. Also the one who did any work was to suffer the same fate. For at the sight of the Lord Jesus every one must cease from his own works, to contemplate the wonder of the sacrificial work of Christ as the only basis of their blessing. It is sad to think that two thirds of Israel will be cut off in death at the time of the tribulation (Zech. 13:8) because they have no faith in the Lord Jesus. The other one third will then form the nation Israel, a nation born again in one day (Isa. 66:8).
The things seen in these verses on the day of atonement are mainly negative, but the positive things are seen in Leviticus 16, which is well worth our careful consideration.
7 TABERNACLES (vv. 33-44)
The Feast of Tabernacles completes the series of set times in Israel, and is therefore connected with the eventual completion of God's ways in bringing Israel to the fulfillment of God's promise of blessing toward them. The work will be quickly done, from the time of God's regathering the nation to the land until His fully establishing them in the blessing of millennial glory.
So, beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (v. 34), in which there was to be a holy convocation, an offering was to be made every day through seven days, and on the eighth day was another holy convocation (v. 36).
The Blowing of Trumpets was for one day only, as was the Day of Atonement (over one night and day — v. 32), for they were leading up to the Feast of Tabernacles, which, being for seven days, pictures the eventual completeness of blessing that God will give Israel in fulfilling His promise to Abraham, given long before the covenant of law was introduced in the days of Moses.
On the first day and the last day of this observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, no customary work was to be done (vv. 35-36), for the marvelous millennial blessing of Israel will be God's sovereign work exclusively, just as is true of the spiritual significance of all these set times.
Verses 37 and 38 sum up these set times by insisting again that they are “feasts of the Lord, and offerings were to be made “to the Lord,” all on the days appointed, besides gifts, vows and freewill offerings which they were to “give to the Lord.” The Lord was to be the Object of their lives.
Also, on the first day of Tabernacles, the 15th day of the seventh month, after the completion of harvest, they were to take the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, bows of leafy trees, and willows (vv. 39-40). These were to be used to make booths (v. 42) in which they were to live during the week they observed. This would be a shade from the heat of the sun, but no protection from rain, wind and cold, which would not be likely at that time of year in the land of Israel.
However, the significance of this is that in the millennium the outward circumstances will be no problem, neither the weather nor the danger of thieves and robbers. All will dwell safely without need of such precautions as we cannot do without today.
CONTINUAL LIGHT (vv. 1-4)
Here Moses is told to command the children of Israel that they bring pure olive oil for the seven lamps, never allowing the supply of oil to lapse, so that the lamps would burn continually (vv. 1-2). For the light from these was to light up the lampstand itself. In the holy place the light was always to shine upon Him who is the Sustainer of the light, the Lord Jesus. The light speaks of testimony, and Christ is always the Object of all testimony for God. The light is maintained by the constant supply of the oil (the Spirit of God), while the wicks are there, not to be displayed, but to burn, just as believers are to burn for the Lord, not to display themselves. In fact, the wicks must be often trimmed so that the light might burn brightly, a reminder of the self-judgment that we find constantly necessary. The more brightly the light shines, the less we shall see of the wick. If the wick has not been trimmed, this will draw one's attention more to the wick than to the light, and the smell of the wick will draw attention too!
The light does not speak of a publicly declared testimony, as the trumpets do, but rather of the constant testimony of our daily conduct, which we are not to allow to lapse. It was also priestly work to trim the lamps (vv. 3-4). just as the Lord Jesus deals with us to produce self-judgment, which will be spontaneous if we ourselves practice our proper priestly functions. That is, we shall fully cooperate with Him in this necessary work.
CONTINUAL COMMUNION (vv. 5-9)
The priests also were in charge of keeping the table furnished with bread. The table pictures Christ as the Sustainer of fellowship or communion, and the twelve loaves of bread, changed every week, while symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel, are at the same time significant of all the saints of God today, all privileged to enjoy the fellowship of the Father and the Son in unity.
Is this fellowship only occasional? By no means. Fresh bread was to be arranged on the table every Sabbath day (v. 8). Thus, our fellowship with God and with His saints is to be continual, never allowed to become stale. Just as the priests were responsible for this, so, if we are functioning as priests, we shall always be in communion with the Lord.
The bread was placed in two rows, six in a row (v. 6), for fellowship is necessarily between two parties. Frankincense was also to be put on the loaves (v. 7). Frankincense means whiteness. It speaks of the Lord Jesus in the perfect purity of His humanity, which will impart proper, godly character to our communion.
When replaced, the bread that was removed each Sabbath day was then to be eaten by Aaron and his sons. It was not for all Israel, but for the priestly family. Today, all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:5), so that they are identified with Christ. our Great High Priest in communion together, enjoying that which reminds us of Himself and His great work of sacrifice and suffering for our sake. For one week the bread was to be displayed, but not eaten. This display was the testimony of what true fellowship is, though not the actual partaking. But at the end of the week the priests were to eat it, thus figuratively in a practical way entering into the blessedness of communion with God through His beloved Son. We today may learn in God's word what is the meaning of fellowship, but we need also to feast on Christ Himself, the bread of life.
CONTRADICTION OF SINNERS AGAINST GOD (vv. 10-23)
Following the verses that have spoken of the pure light and pure fellowship of the sanctuary, a shocking contrast meets us in this section. A fight takes place between two men, and one of them (whose mother was an Israelite, but his father Egyptian) blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed (vv. 10-11). Though Israel has not even realized it, this is just what the nation has done when they rejected the Lord Jesus. They blasphemed and insulted the Son of God. Though the priests in Israel had a favored place in the temple of God, as verses 1-9 have shown, yet they showed utter contempt for the Lord of that temple when He came among them. (Luke 22:63-65).
The offending man was put in custody, for there was to be calm deliberation as regards judgment of the case. Then the Lord told Moses to take him outside the camp, where the witnesses were to lay their hands on his head, as bearing witness to what had been done. Then all the congregation was called upon to stone him to death (v. 14). This was solemn, humiliating work, but the law was absolute. Being under law, there was no alternative. Though today, under grace, no such sentences are to be carried out, yet we must not think that the evil is any less serious than at that time. Of course, God hates the evil just as He did then, but He now patiently bears with it until the time of judgment will come.
The Lord however gives plain orders that anyone who blasphemed the name of the Lord must be put to death (vv. 15-16). At the same time He adds to this other serious judgments. A murderer was to be also put to death. Israel became guilty of this also in their murder of the Lord Jesus.
If one killed an animal belonging to another, he must make this good by giving him an animal of the same value. If one harmed another physically, he was to receive the same treatment himself, — “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (vv. 19-20). This is righteous law pure and simple, justice without mercy. For a second time it is insisted that an animal killed required restitution, but the killing of a human called for the death penalty (v. 21). Of course animals were killed in sacrifice, but these were the property of the offerer.
Any stranger who lived among the Israelites was subject to the same law as all others (v. 22). This would surely remind us that any stranger who comes to partake of the privileges of fellowship in any assembly is thereby subject to the same discipline as all others.
Verse 23 tells us that the sentence of death was carried out in the case of the man who had blasphemed the name of the Lord. The people stoned him to death as God had commanded.
THE SEVENTH YEAR SABBATH (vv. 1-7)
Here was a wonderful provision for Israel every seven years. When they came into their land, they were to plant their land for six years and reap its fruits. But the seventh year they were to do no planting, nor any pruning of their vineyards, but to allow the land to rest for the whole year (vv. 1-4).
Though doing no work on the land, they could still expect fruit or grain to grow voluntarily. If so, they were not to reap this, that is, to store it or sell it (v. 5). For the sabbath produce of the land was to be food for them and their households (v. 6). In other words, they could use it as they needed it, but were not to make money from it.
If Israel had adhered to this, they would have been greatly blessed. The six years they worked would have provided more than enough to keep them through the seventh year. All that was needed was faith to believe God. But we know how selfish our own hearts are. When for six years their crops were so abundant, selfishness would say, “Why not get the same profit from the seventh year too?” Instead of resting and giving God glory, Israel preferred their own works, and thereby lost instead of gaining. Therefore Leviticus 26:31-35 prophesies of the resulting desolation in Israel, the people scattered and the land lying desolate, during which time God would give the land its needed rest. In spite of much experience we do not easily learn that selfishness defeats its own ends.
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE (vv. 8-17)
This was another gracious provision of God for His people Israel. At the end of 49 years (7x7) a year of jubilee was ordered on the 50th year. This was not merely a celebration, and not only a year of rest for the land, but on the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month, the trumpet was to be sounded throughout all the land (v. 9), proclaiming liberty to all its inhabitants (v. 10). This would appropriately take place after the high priest had offered the sin offering and brought its blood into the holiest, thus making atonement for the people.
In this 50th year Jubilee God's wisdom is seen in addressing the inequalities that develop over a period of time, things which become destructive in many nations today. For some people become wealthy and the poor become virtually their slaves. People lose their property and others gain by their loss. Today, what wealthy man would want the government to adopt a policy of Jubilee such as Israel was given? But God's method of government in Israel was far better than any human government has ever advanced.
Whatever condition one was in, a slave or not, he was given back the property he owned previous to the year of Jubilee (v. 13). This is wonderfully symbolic of the great equalizing of all things when the Lord Jesus takes His great power to reign over Israel and the nations. What a Jubilee of unspeakable joy that will be! Mankind will cease from his own work and will recognize with wondering awe the greatness and perfection of the work of God!
The price of things sold and bought between the people was to be regulated by the number of years remaining till the Jubilee (vv. 14-16), for in this case it was really a lease for that number of years. Of course, if it were livestock, the age of the animal would also be considered, and perishables would not be considered in this matter.
But it was important for all to remember that they were not to oppress one another (v. 17), in other words, they must be fair in their dealings. No matter how good a government may be, if individuals are not fair, there is trouble.
BLESSINGS FOR OBEDIENCE (vv. 18-22)
So long as Israel would observe God's statutes and keep His judgments, they would dwell in the land safely (v. 18). The land would yield well for them, so that they would have no lack. This was a definite promise of God. Israel might question how they would be supported in the seventh year if they rested the land, as God commanded (v. 20), and the answer was plain: God would see to it that the sixth year produced enough for three years, not only sufficient for the seventh year, but abundantly over-sufficient (v. 21).
How well it would have been for Israel if they had only simply believed God! But their want of faith induced disobedience, by which they forfeited all title to God's conditional promise.
REDEMPTION OF PROPERTY (vv. 23-34)
Though the land was always to be returned to its original owner in the day of Jubilee, yet also if land had been sold, the original owner had the right of redeeming it at it fair market value at any time (v. 24). Thus it was impressed on Israel that the land belonged to the Lord (v. 23).
If an Israelite became so poor that it was necessary to sell his land or other possessions, it was also possible for a relative to redeem this (v. 25). The buyer must give way in such a case. The seller himself might eventually have sufficient funds to redeem his possession, and if so he was to count the number of years since its sale, and of course the time remaining till the year of Jubilee, and pay according to this. If, for instance, the buyer had use of the property for 20 years and there were ten years left before the Jubilee, the percentages were to be worked out according to this. For in the year of Jubilee the first owner would pay nothing to have his property returned (v. 28).
An interesting exception was made in the case of one owning a house in a walled city. If he sold it, he could redeem it within one year (v. 29), but if not redeemed in that time, the house became the permanent property of the buyer: it was not released in the year of Jubilee (v. 30). However, those houses in unwalled towns or villages were to be considered as those in the country. They could be redeemed at any time, and in the year of Jubilee were returned to the original owner (v. 31).
However, the houses of the Levites in their cities were redeemable at any time, and would return to the original owner at the time of Jubilee (vv. 32-33). For the Levites were given property only in their own cities. They therefore had the right to the redemption of their property. In these cities, however, there was common land, belonging to all the Levites, and that was not ever to be sold (v. 34).
LENDING WITHOUT INTEREST (vv. 35-38)
In cases of poverty in Israel, neighbors were to be of help, lending money, but not charging interest (vv. 36-37). Jews were not forbidden to take interest from foreigners (Deut. 23:20), but were to charge nothing when dealing with their own people. This is surely a good lesson for us too. If one requires help because of poverty, it is unseemly that we should charge him interest. Dealing on the basis of business is a different matter. Still better than lending to those in poverty is the grace of giving to them, as 2 Corinthians 9:7 assures us.
HIRED SERVANTS, BUT NOT SLAVES (vv. 39-55)
Israel was never to make slaves of their own people, yet if one became so poor as to sell himself to another, he would thus become a hired servant. He was not to be oppressed as though he was merely the property of a master. In the year of Jubilee he was set free to return to his original property, which was also released at the time. This applied also to his family (v. 41). For Israel must remember that all Israelites were God's servants whom He had redeemed from Egypt. They were never to be sold as slaves, though they could become hired servants. This was virtually a leasing agreement, as was true of the sale of land also. No harsh treatment was allowed (v. 43).
However, Israel was allowed to buy Gentile slaves and keep them permanently, whether from the nations around or from those Gentiles who settled in the land (vv. 44-46). It is not said here that they were not to rule over such slaves with rigor, but in Exodus 22:21 it is insisted, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In the case of a foreigner dwelling or sojourning in the land of Israel, if he were to buy an Israelite, the Israelite was not his permanent property, but could be redeemed at any time by any near relative (vv. 47-49). In the year of Jubilee he was to be set free without charge. So that the price of redemption would become lower as the day of Jubilee became closer. Thus the same principles applied to an Israelite serving a Gentile as would apply if he were sold to another Israelite. He would be a hired servant, not a slave. For in a particular way the children of Israel were God's servants (v. 55). Believers today too are permanently God's servants.
This chapter is more or less a summary of the moral lessons of the book of Leviticus, a chapter that presses home the seriousness of having to do with a God of absolute holiness and truth. It is divided into three sections, the first of which deals with
THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE (vv. 1-13)
Israel was given promise of marvelous blessing from God on condition of obedience to His law. Verse 1 therefore strongly insists on obedience to the first commandment, warning against idolatry in any of its forms. Verse 2 presses the keeping of God's sabbaths, as has been repeated many times in this book, and showing due respect for God's sanctuary, the place of His dwelling in Israel.
Obedience to God's statutes and commandments would unfailingly result in the rain being given in its proper season, the land and the trees yielding healthy fruit, the harvest being abundant, occupying all the time before the vintage of their vineyards, and the vintage being so great as to continue till the time of sowing. Provision would then be fully sufficient for them, and they would also dwell safely in their land (vv. 3-5).
All would be at peace, with no fear of beasts or enemies (v. 6), and if enemies did come they would be easily defeated; five men would defeat 100, and one hundred men put 10,000 to flight (vv. 7-8). Something like this did take place in the book of Judges, when God used only 300 men led by Gideon, to completely rout the huge army of the Midianites (Judges 7:19-22). God would look on them favorably, making them fruitful and multiplying the nation. After eating the old harvest they would clear out the remainder to make room for the new. Thus the blessing would be continual (vv. 9-10).
Best of all, if they obeyed God, God would dwell among them in His tabernacle; He would walk with them and be known as their God, they themselves being known as God's people (vv. 11-12). For He reminds them again that He is the Lord their God who brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and lifted them up to walk in the dignity of true freedom. Such words ought to have had a vital effect on them.
THE SAD RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE (vv. 14-39)
This section occupies the largest part of the chapter because God knew that Israel would not obey Him, and they needed the plain warning that would actually become an accurate prophecy of their history. How can we possibly be so insensitive in reading plain warnings like this, that we foolishly ignore them? God means what He says, whether in promising blessing for obedience, or in warning of great suffering for disobedience. To simply believe God is the only safe attitude for anyone.
Verse 16 begins the details of their suffering for disobedience. God would appoint over them the terror of wasting disease and fever, which can rapidly bring down the strength of the strongest. They would sow their seed, but their enemies would eat the crop. Their enemies would defeat them in battle and rule over them with hateful oppression. Fearful, they would flee when only imagining being pursued (v. 17).
After all of the previous dreadful inflictions, if the hearts of the children of Israel remained stubborn, God would increase the punishment seven times more (v. 18). For He knows how to break the pride of man's haughtiness. Instead of the beautiful blue heavens bringing promise of blessing, the heavens would be like iron in their strong resistance of Israel's bad condition. The earth would be like bronze, hard and unyielding, so that it would not produce ( vv. 19-20).
If such inflictions did not melt their hearts into subjection, then they could expect another seven-fold increase in their troubles (v. 21). God would send wild beasts among them which would cause a terrible decimation of their children, their livestock and their adults too (v. 22). Their highways would be reduced to desolation, with none to pass through.
If these things would not change their attitude, and they still walked contrary to the Lord, then he would increase their affliction seven times more (vv. 23-24). He would send the sword of their enemies against them, and when they took cover in their cities they would be attacked by pestilence and become an easy prey to the cruelty of their enemies (v. 25). Their supply of bread would be cut off and family conditions so reduced that only one woman out of ten would have an oven that she would have to share with others (v.26). so that the little they had to eat would not satisfy them.
Verses 27 and 28 are a virtual repetition of verses 23 and 24. How wearying it must have been to God to find Israel consistently rebellious in the face of His many disciplinary dealings! But His chastisement would then bring the awful experience of their eating the flesh of their sons and daughters (v. 29)! Compare 2 Kings 6:26-29. Instead of turning in repentant faith, praying to God, they would adopt the horrible alternative of murdering their children to satisfy their fleshly appetites!
This kind of thing would go along with the worship of idols in their high places. God would destroy those places, and in those very places some would suffer death, with their carcasses left on the lifeless forms of their broken idols (v. 30), as much as to say, “Where is the help the idol was expected to give to its deluded victim?”
Cities would be laid waste and place of worship destroyed, the land becoming so desolate that even their enemies would be astonished. The people of Israel would be scattered among the nations, not losing their identity, but being persecuted unmercifully where they went. All these things have actually taken place. For centuries the land laid desolate, though in 1948 the Jews regained possession of part of the land with a government of their own. Though conditions in the land are improved materially, yet they are still shaken by enemy opposition and peace is only a dim vision in the hopeful future.
During the seventy year captivity, when Nebuchadnezzar subdued those then in the land, the land was reduced to a desert, at God's decree, resting and enjoying the sabbath years that Israel had ignored in their disobedience to God (vv. 34-35).
Fear of their enemies would be so great that the sound of a shaken leaf would cause them to flee, expecting injury or death when actually no one was pursuing them (v. 36). They would be no help to one another in their selfish anxiety to deliver themselves alone. In the lands in which they had sought shelter they would be virtually “eaten up” (v. 38). Their iniquity would bring more and more suffering in their enemies' lands.
History confirms all these curses as coming on the Jewish nation. The holocaust in Germany during the 1940's was but another link in the chain of Israel's years of agony.
CONFESSION AND RECOVERY (vv. 40-45)
After speaking of the enormous guilt of Israel that would cause them such prolonged suffering, yet the Lord emphasizes that He will not give them up. His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be completely fulfilled. Why have they not yet been fulfilled? The answer is simple: Israel has not yet turned to God in honest confession of their sin and the sin of their fathers. There is one glaring evidence of their guilt they have never faced, that is, their cruel rejection and crucifixion of their true Messiah, the Son of God.
But in a coming day the enormity of this guilt will cause them deepest repentance. They will confess this as their own iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers. They will confess how thoroughly contrary to God they have been, and that God has been right in being contrary to them (vv. 40-41). They will be humbled as never before, to accept the full responsibility of their guilt. This is implied in the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10-14, when they look upon Him whom they pierced and are broken down in genuine repentance and faith.
The result of Israel's future national repentance will be marvelous, unlimited grace, in accordance with God's unconditional promise to Jacob and to Abraham, which He will remember (v. 42). but verse 43 goes back to emphasize the ruin they had brought on their land, and therefore the greatness of the grace of God that will yet restore them. It is repeated that they will “accept their guilt,” making no excuses, but blaming only themselves for despising God's judgments and abhorring His statutes.
Yet, though they cannot and will not plead any extenuating circumstances, God will not cast them away, for this would mean breaking His unconditional covenant with them (v. 44). But “for their sakes” He would remember the covenant of their ancestors whom, in wonderful grace, He has brought out of the land of Egypt that He might be publicly their God. How this magnifies the wonder of the grace of His heart! So He adds, “I am the Lord” (v. 45).
Verse 46 indicates that this 26th chapter properly concludes the consideration of the statutes, judgments and laws that God laid upon Israel. Therefore, chapter 27 must be considered an appendix, with a significance peculiar to itself.
THE PERSONAL VOW (vv. 1-8)
This was not a matter of a law requiring anything, but of a voluntary vow made to God. Though it was not required, yet when the vow was made, then it was absolutely required to be kept. If one were to consecrate to the Lord one of his family, the value of this was estimated in currency. A male from 20 to 60 years of age was estimated at 50 shekels of silver (v. 3). A female of the same age was valued at 30 shekels; a boy between 5 and 20 years was 20 shekels, and a girl of that age 10 shekels (v. 5). A little boy, from 1 month to 5 years was valued at 5 shekels and a little girls 3 shekels (v. 6). For a higher age, 60 years and older, the valuation for a male was 15 shekels and for a female 10 shekels (v. 7).
This was law. Israel had vowed to do all that the Lord commanded (Ex. 19:8; Ex. 24:2, 7). God held them to it, but they did not keep this vow. Every individual therefore had incurred a debt they have never paid, nor can pay. Their condition for that reason is hopeless. Only God's grace can meet it, — grace that came in the person of the Son of God, but which Israel then refused. Only when their minds are changed will they receive such grace.
Because of man's proven unfaithfulness — proven by Israel under law, — the Lord Jesus warned people not to vow at all (Matt. 5:33-37). In other words, we are not to trust ourselves. Our trust must be only in the Lord, whose word can never fail.
Verse 8 makes one exception in the case of valuation. If one was too poor to pay, the priest was allowed to lower the valuation to accommodate the person's poverty. This is not absolute law, but law tempered by mercy, which does show, even at that time, that God is a God who delights in mercy.
A DEVOTED SACRIFICE (vv. 9-13)
Next we have the question of animals given to the Lord. All that were given as sacrifices were holy: once given there could be no change of mind (v. 9). No substitute was allowed in any case. If one decided to exchange it for another, both animals would be forfeit and holy (v. 10).
If an unclean animal was devoted to the Lord, therefore one not qualified as a sacrifice, the priest would set a value on the animal, and if it was to be redeemed, then one-fifth was to be added to the valuation, and it could be redeemed (vv. 11-13). In other words, if anything was given to God, God must gain from it, for His glory is to be supremely recognized. Thus, in the sacrifice of Christ, God has been infinitely glorified. The gain was His. Yet, when God gains, we shall gain too, as is wonderfully true in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.
A HOUSE SANCTIFIED (vv. 14-15)
There is again a higher significance in this case than simply the matter of a person's house being set apart for the Lord. This was true of the temple in Israel: being sanctified, it was God's property, and the Lord called it “My Father's house” (John 2:16). In the epistles of the New Testament, however, the house of God is no longer a material building, but a house composed of all believers, “a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Every believer is a stone — a living stone — in that building, a house exclusively for God, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Again, God is to gain by this house being sanctified for Him.
Another principle is introduced in the case of one desiring to redeem his house. If so, one-fifth was to be added to its estimated worth (v. 15). The Lord Jesus will yet redeem the house of Israel by virtue of His sacrifice already accomplished, which has more than paid for the value of the house: therefore it can be said, “it shall be His.”
A FIELD SANCTIFIED (vv. 17-25)
If a field was devoted to the Lord, its value would be estimated according to the value of the seed that could be planted in it (v. 16). This tells us that the crop was more important than the field. Typically, “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38), and the seed speaks of the word of God (Mark 4:14) which produces fruit in believers in the world, who are more important than merely the literal earth. The world today has been devoted to God for judgment, though the day of Jubilee will bring a wonderful liberation at the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory. The judgment of the world will issue then in its liberation from bondage.
If the first owner of the field wanted to redeem it, again he must add the fifth part to its valuation. So also, the redemption of the world requires the price the Lord Jesus has already paid in His marvelous sacrifice of Calvary, which is greater than the value of the world. Today the world has been purchased (Matt. 13:44), not yet been redeemed, though all believers have been redeemed; and the world itself will be redeemed when the Lord takes His great power and reigns over all (Rom. 8:21).
The case of one who does not want to redeem his field, or of his selling the field to another man, is added in verse 20. If this were so, then the field, when released in the Jubilee, would be sanctified to the Lord and become the possession of the priest (v. 21). This indicates that in the millennium the Lord Jesus, as God's Priest, will inherit the earth, while Israel will be a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6), identified with Him, and therefore also inheriting the earth (Matt. 5:5).
FIRSTBORN OF ANIMALS (vv. 26-27)
Under law, in every case, the firstborn of an animal was devoted to the Lord. It could not therefore be a voluntary offering: it must be sacrificed because it belonged to the Lord.
But an unclean animal could not be sacrificed to the Lord. Therefore a provision was made for its redemption. One might pay the priest's estimated value of it plus one-fifth. However, Exodus 13:13 makes one exception. The firstborn of a donkey was to be redeemed with a lamb, but if not redeemed, the donkey must have its neck broken. The significance of this is plain. Man is like a wild donkey's colt, unclean, untamed and rebellious. He must be redeemed by the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, or else have his stiff-necked rebellion broken in dreadful judgment. All humans are like unclean animals, needing to be redeemed.
DEVOTED TO DESTRUCTION (vv. 28-29)
This is the case of something, or someone being placed “under the ban” (v. 29) because of the serious corruption of sin. Once this devoting to destruction has taken place, there is no release, no redemption. Therefore, whether it may be principles of evil or humans identified with the evil, once the pronouncement of God has taken place against the evil, it cannot be reversed. God deals constantly in great grace seeking to bring people to repentance, but in spite of this, some resist this great mercy of God and eventually manifest themselves as enemies of God, determined to act in rebellion. Therefore, they become as Romans 9:22 describes, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,” and “they stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:8).
We do not decide when people have crossed the line to assume positive hostility against God, but we should continue preaching the gospel to them as long as they will listen. But God knows, and when once He has decided that they are under the ban of devotion to destruction, nothing can change this. How dreadful a consideration for those who dare to resist the gracious pleadings of the Spirit of God! This is the case of those spoken of in Hebrews 6:4-8 and Hebrews 10:26-31.
THE TITHE INVOLVING COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION (vv. 30-34)
The Book of Leviticus fittingly closes with the tithe (one tenth) of the fruit of the land being sanctified to the Lord (v. 30). The number 10 speaks of responsibility, so Israel was responsible to render to God one-tenth of all that He gave them. If so, God would greatly bless them. If a man wanted to redeem a tithe he must add one-fifth to its value (v. 31). This would keep Israel from making greed a motive.
One was not to first inspect his animals with the object of keeping the best and using the other as a tithe, but to give one-tenth without any such inspection (v. 33). A proposed exchange would forfeit the exchange.
In one way this conclusion of Leviticus is prophetic of Israel's eventual great blessing when they give the Lord Jesus His true place. Because He will be honored, they will be greatly blessed. This is just as true for us also. In the measure in which we honor Him now, we shall be spiritually blessed, and in eternity when He is in full measure honored, His saints shall be in full measure blessed. Wonderful anticipation!
L. M. Grant.