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This chapter contains certain laws and rules concerning sacrifices, particularly burnt offerings, which were delivered by the Lord to Moses, ( Leviticus 1:1,2) what those offerings should be of, ( Leviticus 1:3,10,14) what rules should be observed, what actions should be done, first by the persons that brought them, ( Leviticus 1:3,4) and then by the priest that offered them, with respect to the burnt offering of the herd, ( Leviticus 1:5-9) and to the burnt offering of the sheep and goats, ( Leviticus 1:11-13) and to the burnt offering of fowls, ( Leviticus 1:15-17) all which, when offered aright, were of a sweet savour to the Lord, ( Leviticus 1:9,13,17).
Ver. 1 . And the Lord called unto Moses , etc.] Or “met him”, as the phrase is rendered in ( Numbers 23:4). The word arqyw , translated “called”, the last letter of it is written in a very small character, to show, as the Jews say, that he met him accidentally, and unawares to Moses: other mysteries they observe in it, as that it respects the modesty of Moses, who lessened himself, and got out of the way, that he might not have the government laid upon him, and therefore the Lord called him; or to denote the wonderful condescension of the Lord, whose throne is in heaven, and yet vouchsafed to dwell in the tabernacle, out of which he called to Moses, and from Mount Sinai, and out of the cloud f3 . The word “Lord” is not in this clause, but the following, from whence it is supplied by our translators, as it is in the Syriac version, and as the word “God” is in the Arabic version; the two Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase it, “the Word of the Lord called to Moses,” by an articulate voice, though it may be it was a still small one; and which some think is the reason of the smallness of the letter before mentioned; and Aben Ezra says that Moses heard it, but all Israel did not hear: and spoke unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation ; from off the mercy seat, between the cherubim over the ark, where the glory of the Lord, or the divine Shechinah and Majesty took up its residence, and from whence the Lord promised to commune with Moses, ( Exodus 25:22): saying ; what follows concerning sacrifices; which shows, that these were not human inventions, but of divine institution, and by the appointment of God.
Ver. 2 . Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them , etc.] For unto no other was the law of sacrifices given; not to the Gentiles, but to the children of Israel: if any man ; or woman, for the word “man”, as Ben Gersom observes, includes the whole species: of you ; of you Israelites; the Targum of Jonathan adds, “and not of the apostates who worship idols.”
Jarchi interprets it of yours, of your mammon or substance, what was their own property, and not what was stolen from another f4 , (see Isaiah 61:8): bring an offering unto the Lord ; called “Korban” of “Karab”, to draw nigh, because it was not only brought nigh to God, to the door of the tabernacle where he dwelt, but because by it they drew nigh to God, and presented themselves to him, and that for them; typical of believers under the Gospel dispensation drawing nigh to God through Christ, by whom their spiritual sacrifices are presented and accepted in virtue of his: ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, [even] of the herd, and of the flock ; that is, of oxen, and of sheep or goats. The Targum of Jonathan is, “of a clean beast, of oxen, and of sheep, but not of wild beasts shall ye bring your offerings.”
These were appointed, Ben Gersom says, for these two reasons, partly because the most excellent, and partly because most easy to be found and come at, as wild creatures are not: but the true reason is, because they were very fit to represent the great sacrifice Christ, which all sacrifices were typical of; the ox or bullock was a proper emblem of him for his strength and laboriousness, and the sheep for his harmlessness, innocence, and patience, and the goat, as he was not in himself, but as he was thought to be, a sinner, being sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, and being traduced as such, and having the sins of his people imputed to him.
Ver. 3 . If his offering [be] a burnt sacrifice of the herd , etc.] So called, because consumed by fire, (see Leviticus 6:9) even all of it except the skin, and therefore its name with the Greeks is “a whole burnt offering”, as in ( Mark 12:33) its name in Hebrew is hlw[ , which comes from a word which signifies to “ascend” or “go up”, because not only it was carried up to the altar by the priest, which was common to other sacrifices, but being burnt upon it, it ascended upwards in smoke and vapour; it was typical of Christ’s dolorous sufferings and death, who therein sustained the fire of divine wrath, and his strength was dried up like a potsherd with it.
Jarchi on ( Leviticus 1:1) says, there were in the burnt offerings mysteries of future things: let him offer a male ; and not a female, pointing at the Messiah’s sex, and his strength and excellency, the child that was to be born, and the Son to be given, whose name should be Immanuel: without blemish ; or [perfect], having no part wanting, nor any part superfluous, nor any spot upon it, (see Leviticus 22:19-24) denoting the perfection of Christ as man, being in all things made like unto his brethren, and his having not the least stain or blemish of sin upon him, either original or actual, and so could, as he did, offer up himself without spot to God, ( Hebrews 2:17 9:14 1 Peter 1:19): and he shall offer it of his own voluntary will ; not forced or compelled to it, or with any reluctancy, but as a pure freewill offering; so our Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life of himself, and freely gave himself an offering and a sacrifice, and became cheerfully and readily obedient unto death: at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord ; it was to be done openly and publicly, and in the presence of the Lord, to whom it was offered up; showing, that Christ’s sacrifice would be offered up to God, against whom we have sinned, by which his law would be fulfilled, his justice satisfied, and wrath appeased, and that his death would be public and notorious; (see Luke 24:18-20).
Ver. 4 . And he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering , etc.] According to the Targum of Jonathan, it was his right hand; but it is generally thought by the Jewish writers that both hands were laid on; so Ben Gersom and Aben Ezra, with whom Maimonides agrees, who says, he that lays on hands ought to lay on with all his strength, with both his hands upon the head of the beast, as it is said, “upon the head of the burnt offering”: not upon the neck, nor upon the sides; and there should be nothing between his hands and the beast: and as the same writer says f6 , it must be his own hand, and not the hand of his wife, nor the hand of his servant, nor his messenger; and who also observes f7 , that at the same time he made confession over the burnt offering both of his sins committed against affirmative and negative precepts: and indeed by this action he owned that he had sinned, and deserved to die as that creature he brought was about to do, and that he expected pardon of his sin through the death of the great sacrifice that was a type of. Moreover, this action signified the transferring of his sins from himself to this sacrifice, which was to be offered up to make atonement for them; so Gersom observes; (see Leviticus 16:21,22). This denotes the translation of our sins from us, and the imputation of them to Christ, who was offered up in our room and stead, to make atonement for them, as follows: and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him : that is, the burnt offering should be accepted in his room and stead, and hereby an atonement of his sins should be made for him, typical of that true, real, and full atonement made by the sacrifice of Christ, which this led his faith unto.
Ver. 5 . And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord , etc.] That is, the man that brings the burnt offering, for no other is yet spoken of; and according to the traditions of the elders f8 , killing of the sacrifice was right when done by strangers, by women, and by servants, and by unclean persons, even in the most holy things so be it that the unclean did not touch the flesh; and it is observed f9 , that the service of the priest begins in the next clause, killing being lawful by him that was not a priest, according to the Targum of Jonathan, the butcher; but Aben Ezra interprets it of the priests, and certain it is, that the burnt offerings of the fowls were killed by the priests, ( Leviticus 1:15) and the Septuagint version renders it, “and they shall kill”: but be this as it will, the burnt offering was to be killed in the court before the Lord; and this was typical of the death of Christ, who, according to these types, as well as to other prophecies, was to die for the sins of men, and accordingly did; and if this was the proprietor and not the priest that killed the sacrifice, it may denote that the sins of God’s people, for whom Christ’s sacrifice was offered up, were the cause of his death: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood : in vessels or basins, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, into which they received it when slain: and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation ; which was the altar of burnt offering, and not the altar of incense, as appears by the situation of it, (see Exodus 40:5,6) and the blood was sprinkled all around the altar with two sprinklings: the rule in the Misnah is f10 ; the slaying of the burnt offering is in the north, and the reception of its blood into the ministering vessels is in the north, and its blood ought to have two sprinklings, which answer to four; which Maimonides explains thus; because it is said “round about”, it must needs be that the sprinklings should comprehend the four sides of the altar; and this is done when the two sprinklings are upon the two horns, which are diametrically opposite; and this is what is meant, “which are four”; the sense is, that those two should include the four sides, and the two opposite horns were the northeast and the southwest, as he and other Jewish writers observe f12 , and which he expresses more clearly elsewhere f13 : when the priest took the blood in the basin, he sprinkled out of it in the basin, two sprinklings upon the two corners of the altar opposite from it; and he ordered it so to sprinkle the blood upon the horn, that the blood might surround the corners in the form of the Greek letter “gamma” f14 ; so that the blood of the two sprinklings might be found upon the four sides of the altar; because it is said of the burnt offerings, and of the peace offerings “round about”; and this is the law for the trespass offering, and the rest of the blood was poured out at the bottom southward: now this was always done by a priest, for though the bullock might be killed by a stranger, as Gersom on the place observes, yet its blood must be sprinkled by a priest; and it is the note of Aben Ezra, that this might be done by many, and therefore it is said, the “priests, Aaron’s sons”, when the slaying of it was only by one. The “altar” on which the blood was sprinkled typified the divinity of Christ, which gave virtue to his blood, whereby it made atonement for sin; and in allusion to this rite Christ’s blood is called “the blood of sprinkling”, ( 1 Peter 1:2) ( Hebrews 12:24) which being sprinkled on the heart by the Spirit of God clears it from an evil conscience, and purges the conscience from dead works, and speaks peace and pardon there, ( Hebrews 10:22 9:14).
Ver. 6 . And he shall flay the burnt offering , etc.] Take off its skin; this was the only part of it that was not burnt, and was the property of the priest, (Lev 7:8) but who this was done by is not so manifest, since it is in the singular number “he”, and seems to be the bringer of the offering; for Aaron’s sons, the priests that sprinkled the blood, are spoken of plurally; and agreeably, Gersom observes, that the flaying of the burnt offering and cutting it in pieces were lawful to be done by a stranger; but Aben Ezra interprets “he” of the priest; and the Septuagint and Samaritan versions read in the plural number, “they shall flay”, etc. and this was the work of the priests, and who were sometimes helped in it by their brethren, the Levites, ( 2 Chronicles 29:34) and as this follows upon the sprinkling of the blood, it was never done till that was; the rule is, they do not flay them (the sacrifices) until the blood is sprinkled, except the sin offerings, which are burnt, for they do not flay them at all f15 . The flaying of the burnt offering may denote the very great sufferings of Christ, when he was stripped of his clothes, and his back was given to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; and the skin of the sacrifice, which belonged to the priest, may be an emblem of the righteousness of Christ, and which also was signified by the coats of skins the Lord God made for Adam and Eve, ( Genesis 3:21) that robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, which all that are made kings and priests to God are clothed with: and cut it into his pieces ; which was done while he was flaying it, and after this manner, as Maimonides relates f16 , he flays until he comes to the breast, and then he cuts off the head, then its legs, and finishes the flaying; then he rends the heart, and brings out its blood; then he cuts off the hands, and goes to the right foot, and cuts off that, and after that he cuts down the beast until its bowels are discovered; he takes the knife and separates the lights from the liver, and the caul of the liver from the liver, and does not remove the liver out of its place; and he goes up to the right side, and cuts and descends to the backbone, and he does not go to the backbone until he comes to the two tender ribs; he comes to the neck, and leaves in it two ribs here and two ribs there; he cuts it and comes to the left side, and leaves in it two tender ribs above and two tender ribs below; then he comes to the point of the backbone, he cuts it, and gives it and the tail, and the caul of the liver, and the two kidneys with it; he takes the left foot and gives it to another; and according to this order they flay and cut in pieces the burnt offering of the cattle; and these are the pieces spoken of in the law, ( Leviticus 1:6) some apply this to the ministers of the Gospel, rightly dividing the word of God, and to the effect the word has in dividing asunder soul and spirit; but it is best to apply it to Christ, either to the evidence given of him in the Gospel, in which he is clearly set forth in his person, natures, and offices, and in all the parts and branches thereof; where every thing is naked and open to view, as the creature was when thus cut up; or rather to his sufferings, which he endured in every part of his body, from head to foot.
Ver. 7 . And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar , etc.] The fire of the altar originally came down from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice, and which was a token of God’s acceptance of it, (see Leviticus 9:24 1 Kings 18:23,24,38 1 Chronicles 21:26 <140701> Chronicles 7:1) and this fire was kept burning continually upon the altar, ( Leviticus 6:12,13) and yet the Jewish writers say, it was the command of God, according to this passage, that fire should be brought from another place and put here; Jarchi’s note on the text is, “though fire came down from heaven, it was commanded to bring it from a common or private place:” and Maimonides says the same thing, and so it is often said in the Talmud f18 ; and this, as Gersom observes, was not done by any but a priest in the time of his priesthood, or when clothed with his priestly garments; and so in the Talmud it is said, that the putting fire upon the altar belonged to the priesthood, but not flaying or cutting in pieces f19 : this fire denoted the wrath of God, revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, and which is the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, and all the workers of iniquity; and which Christ endured for his people in human nature, when he bore their sins, and became a whole burnt offering for them: and lay the wood in order upon the fire ; the wood for the sacrifice was an offering of the people, brought to the temple at the times appointed, ( Nehemiah 10:34 13:31) where was a place called µyx[h tkçl , “the wood room”, or “wood chamber”, and which was in the northeast part of the court of the women; and here such priests as had blemishes wormed the wood, or searched the wood for worms; for whatsoever wood had a worm found in it, it was not fit to be laid upon the altar; and it was from hence the priests fetched the wood and laid it on the altar f20 ; for a private person might not bring it from his own house for his offering f21 , though it was provided by the congregation f22 , and brought thither by private persons; and it might be any sort of wood but that of the vine and olive f23 , which were not used, because they did not burn well, and were soon reduced to ashes; and because such a consumption would be made of such useful trees hereby, that there would be no wine or oil in the land of Israel, so necessary for private and religious uses. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “the pile of wood being laid before”: that is, before the fire was put upon the altar; but this is contrary to the text, for the wood was laid upon the fire, and therefore the fire must be first; the case seems to be this, the fire was first kindled, and then the wood laid in order upon it.
Ver. 8 . And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts , etc.] That were cut in pieces, ( Leviticus 1:6) some of which are particularly mentioned: the head and the fat ; the head which was cut off, and the body, the trunk of it; so, Aben Ezra says, the wise men interpret the word rdp “fat”, which is only used here and in ( Leviticus 1:12 8:20) and which he thinks is right; though others take it to be the fat caul, or midriff, which parts the entrails; and the Targum of Jonathan renders it, the covering of fat: these are particularly mentioned, but include in general the rest of the pieces, which were laid: in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar ; this disposition of the several parts of the burnt offering upon the altar signifies the laying of Christ upon the cross, and the disposition of his head, his hands, and feet there; according to the usual order of crucifixion: the skin, as before observed, was not burnt, but was the property of the priest, and the sinew that shrunk was taken away, and cast upon the ashes in the middle of the altar f24 .
Ver. 9 . But the inwards and his legs shall he wash in water , etc.] This was first done in a room in the court of the temple, called ˆyjdmh tkçl , “the room of the washers”, or the washing room, where they washed the inwards of the holy things f25 ; and after that they washed them upon the marble tables between the pillars, where they washed them three times at least f26 ; and whereas this is said to be done “in water”; Maimonides f27 observes, “not in wine, nor in a mixture of wine and water, nor in other liquids:” the washing of the inwards and legs denoted the internal purity of Christ’s heart, and the external holiness of his life and conversation, and the saints’ purification by him both in heart and life: with Philo the Jew these things had a mystical meaning; by the washing of the inwards was signified that lusts were to be washed away, and such spots removed as were contracted by surfeiting and drunkenness, very harmful to the lives of men; and by the washing of the feet was signified that we should no more walk upon the earth, but mount up to the air, and pass through that, even to heaven: and the priest shall burn all on the altar ; all the other pieces, as well as the inwards and legs, excepting the skin, which denoted the painful sufferings of Christ, and the extent of them to all parts of his body; and indeed his soul felt the fire of divine wrath, and became an offering for sin: [to be] a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire ; that is, all the parts of the bullock were burnt on the altar, that it might appear to be a whole burnt offering consumed by fire: of a sweet savour unto the Lord : he accepting of it, and smelling a sweet savour of rest in it, as an atonement for sin, typical of the sacrifice of Christ, which is to God for a sweet smelling savour, ( Ephesians 5:2) the Jewish doctors gather from hence, that whether a man offers much or little, it matters not, if his heart is but directed to God; which Maimonides explains thus f30 , he that studies in the law, it is all one as if he offered a burnt offering, or a meat offering, or a sin offering, concerning which this phrase is used.
Ver. 10 . And if his offering be of the flocks , etc.] As it might be: [namely], of the sheep, or of the goats for a burnt sacrifice ; which were both typical of Christ, (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:2”) he shall bring it a male without blemish ; (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:3”).
Ver. 11 . And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord , etc.] This is a circumstance not mentioned in the killing of the bullock: Maimonides says, there was a square place from the wall of the altar northward, to the wall of the court, and it was sixty cubits, and all that was over against the breadth of this, from the wall of the porch to the eastern wall, and it is seventy six cubits; and this foursquare place is called the “north”, for the slaying of the most holy things; so that it seems this being a large place, was fittest for this purpose. Aben Ezra intimates, as if some respect was had to the situation of Mount Zion; his note is, “on the side of the altar northward”, i.e. without, and so “the sides of the north”, ( Psalm 48:2) for so many mistake who say that the tower of Zion was in the midst of Jerusalem; and with this agrees Mr. Ainsworth’s note on ( Leviticus 6:25) hereby was figured, that Christ our sin offering should be killed by the priests in Jerusalem, and Mount Sion, which was on “the sides of the north”, ( Psalm 48:2) crucified on Mount Calvary, which was on the northwest side of Jerusalem; as by the Jews’ tradition, the morning sacrifice was killed at the northwest horn of the altar f32 : and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar ; (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:5”).
Ver. 12 . And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat , etc.] Or “his body”, as the Targum of Jonathan; this was to be cut in pieces in the same manner as the bullock, (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:6”): and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that [is] on the fire, which is on the altar ; (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:8”).
Ver. 13 . But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water , etc.] As he did the bullock, ( Leviticus 1:9): and the priest shall bring [it] all : all the parts to the ascent of the altar, as the Jews interpret it; all the parts and pieces of it, even the very wool on the sheep’s head, and the hair on the goat’s beard, their bones, sinews, and horns, and hoofs f34 , all were burnt, as it follows: and burn [it] on the altar, it [is] a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord ; (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:9”).
Ver. 14 . And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls , etc.] As it might be for the poorer sort, who could not offer a bullock, nor a sheep, or a lamb, ( Leviticus 5:7 12:8): then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons ; the Jewish writers all agree, that the turtles should be old, and not young, as the pigeons young, and not old; so the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, Aben Ezra and Gersom f35 ; the latter gives two reasons for it, because then they are the choicest and easiest to be found and taken: no mention is made of their being male or female, either would do, or of their being perfect and unblemished, as in the other burnt offerings; but if any part was wanting, it was not fit for sacrifice, as Maimonides observes. These creatures were proper emblems of Christ, and therefore used in sacrifice, whose voice is compared to the turtle’s, and his eyes to the eyes of doves, ( Song of Solomon 2:12 5:12) and who is fitly represented by them for his meekness and humility, for his chaste and strong affection to his church, as the turtledove to its mate, and for those dove like graces of the Spirit which are in him.
Ver. 15 . And the priest shall bring it unto the altar , etc.] The southeast horn of it; near which was the place of the ashes, into which the crop and its feathers were cast f37 : and wring off his head ; by twisting it back as it should seem; the word used is only to be found here, and in ( Leviticus 5:8) the Jews say, it signifies to cut with the nail, and that the priest did this, not with a knife or any other instrument, but with his nail; so Jarchi and Gersom on the place observe: some think he only let out the blood this way, but did not separate the head from the body, which seems to be favoured by ( Leviticus 5:8) though Maimonides and Bartenora conclude the reverse from the same place; and that the meaning is, that he should cut off the head and divide it asunder at the time he cuts with the nail: the manner of cutting with the nail was this f39 , the priest held both the feet of the bird with his two fingers of his left hand, and the wings between two other fingers, and the bird upon the back of his hand, that it might not be within the palm of it; then he stretches out its neck upon the thumb about two fingers’ breadth, and cuts it over against the neck with his nail, and this is one of the hardest services in the sanctuary: and burn [it] on the altar ; that is, the head, after squeezing out the blood, and rubbing it with salt: and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar : or “the wall” of it: this, though mentioned last, must be done before, and immediately upon the wringing of the head, and between that and the burning it on the altar: this wringing off the head, and wringing out the blood, denote violence, and show that Christ’s death, which this was a type of, was a violent one; the Jews laid violent hands upon him, and pursued his life in a violent manner, were very pressing to have it taken away, and his life was taken away in such a manner by men, though not without his Father’s secret will, and his own consent.
Ver. 16 . And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers , etc.] Or “with its meat”, or “dung”, as Onkelos renders it, meaning that which was in its crop; and so the Jerusalem Targum interprets it, “with its dung”; and Jonathan’s paraphrase is, “with its collection”, or what was gathered together in the crop; it includes the entrails, as Gersom observes: and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes ; where the ashes of the burnt offering were put every day, and every time such an offering was made; and all this answered to the washing of the inwards, and legs of the other burnt offerings, and signified the same thing, the cleanness and purity of Christ, and of his people by him.
Ver. 17 . And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof , etc.] One wing being on one side, and the other on the other side: but shall not divide it asunder ; the body of the bird, though it was cleaved down in the middle, yet not parted asunder, nor any of its wings separated from it; the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it, “but shall not separate its wings from it”; this denoted, that though, by the death of Christ, his soul and body were separated from each other, yet the human nature was not separated from his divine Person, the personal union between the two natures still continuing; nor was he divided from his divine Father, though he was forsaken by him, yet still in union with him as the Son of God; nor from the divine Spirit, by which he offered up himself to God, and by which he was quickened; nor from his church and people, for whom he suffered, they being united to him as members to their head: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire ; in like manner as the ox, sheep, or goat were burnt: according to the Misnah, the priest went up the ascent (of the altar) and turned round about the circuit; when he came to the southeast horn, he cut its head (or nipped it) with his nail, over against its neck, and divided it, and squeezed out its blood by the wall of the altar, and turned the part nipped to the altar, and struck it at it, and rubbed it with salt, and cast it upon the fires; then he went to the body and removed the crop and its feathers (or dung) and the entrails that came out along with it, and threw them into the place of ashes; he cleaved but did not divide asunder, but if he divided it was right, then he rubbed it with salt, and cast it upon the fires f40 : it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord ; (see Gill on “ Leviticus 1:9”) so with the Heathens, to the gods of the air they sacrificed fowls for burnt offerings f41 .