Last week we covered the Peace Offerings (שֶׁלֶם (shelem)) “of a vow”—the vow of devotion, the vow of abstinence (קָרְבָּן (qorban)), and the vow of destruction (חֵרֶם (cherem)). Now we turn our attention to the “voluntary” (or “freewill”) offering. Keeping in mind that in these offerings is the only place the Bible ever talks about “free will.” What is the difference between a voluntary שֶׁלֶם (shelem), versus a Burnt Offering (עֹלָה (olah))? There is a slight difference, but none the less, the עֹלָה (olah) was brought—just because. You woke up one day, saw you God had blessed your herd or your flock. And you said, “I have been blessed by the hand of YHVH. I will offer Him an עֹלָה (olah) from the best that I have.” The שֶׁלֶם (shelem) of a vow was, “If God will bring us through this I will offer Him a שֶׁלֶם (shelem).” However, the freewill שֶׁלֶם (shelem) was more a matter of “God has been gracious to us, has strengthened and supplied us. I am indebted to God for all I have; therefore I will share with Him in all the things He has provided.”
Now, think all the way back to when we talked about the שֶׁלֶם (shelem) of thanksgiving. What window of time did you have to eat that before it had to be burned? Leviticus 7:15—“The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning.” However, God gave you more time if you brought a שֶׁלֶם (shelem) for a vow, or of your own…free will. Leviticus 7:16-18—“‘16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offers his sacrifice; but on the next day the remainder of it also may be eaten; 17 the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day must be burned with fire. 18 And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.’” You have two days to eat this. The priests, the Levites, your friends and family—gather them all together, because if you don’t get this eaten in two days, you gotta burn what’s left. Think about it. Where would you keep the leftovers? In your fridge? Your freezer? I don’t think so! And why was God so particular about when these things could be eaten? It’s because He jealously guards those things that He considers to be holy—sanctified, sat apart—to Him.
Now the שֶׁלֶם (shelem) was not one of those offerings that God declared to be “most holy to the LORD.” But they were not to regards their vows and their giving of thanks as something to be done lightly. Think on this as well—not only did they have just two days to eat this; they had to eat of it on the self-same day it was offered. You start eating it as soon as it is cooked thoroughly, making sure it is completely well done (we will see in the near future that they were not to eat it while the blood was still in it, Leviticus 7:26-27) and you finish it by the end of the second day. If you don’t, what happens? You bear your guilt, and God says, “I do not accept your gift. You have not fulfilled your vow; you have not given Me thanks” and as the text says, that person bears their sin. And then what do you have to do? You go through that all over again—and on top of that, now you have to bring a sin offering along with your שֶׁלֶם (shelem).
Could this possibly be what the writer of Hebrews was getting at when, as he was speaking of Christ, he wrote Hebrews 2:1-3—1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him… Was not Christ a Peace Offering? Did He not offer Himself up as a שֶׁלֶם (shelem) for us? Is it not the salvation we have in Christ that brings us into peace with God? Romans 5:1—Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It may have been with an eye toward this that Paul said, in Romans 7:24-25—24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Paul here describes Christ as a שֶׁלֶם (shelem) of thanksgiving, offering thanksgiving to God for Christ, who has delivered him from his “body of death.”
One last thing. If you kept your שֶׁלֶם (shelem) lying around your tent for more than a day, what was likely to happen to it? It would either become contaminated, or it may come into contact with some unclean thing, and what happened in that case? Leviticus 7:19-21—“‘19 The flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned with fire. And as for the clean flesh, all who are clean may eat of it. 20 But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, while he is unclean, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 Moreover the person who touches any unclean thing, such as human uncleanness, an unclean animal, or any abominable unclean thing, and who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.’” Real simple. If any part of the שֶׁלֶם (shelem), at any time, anywhere, comes into contact with anything that is unclean (see Leviticus 11:24-39; Numbers 19:11-16), you burn the שֶׁלֶם (shelem) with fire. If any unclean person (see Leviticus 15:3-33) eats from the שֶׁלֶם (shelem); if you touch any unclean thing (see: Leviticus 11:10-13, 20, 24-42; Deuteronomy 14:3, 7-8, 14:10, 12-20) and then you eat of the שֶׁלֶם (shelem)—you don’t just “bear your sin” and bring a sin offering. You are cut off from your people. You are put outside the covenant of God, or maybe, just maybe, God might just take you out of the world Himself. Does God have that right? Can He simply destroy someone just because they brushed up against a camel and then ate what was given in thanks to god for deliverance? Of course He does. Psalm 115:3—Our God is in Heaven and He does as he pleases. Psalm 24:1—The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. Notice I underlined that past part. Every single person that lives and has breath and moves upon the earth—whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, saved or lost—every single soul belongs to God. And if He says not to take even a bite of that roasted lamb of the שֶׁלֶם (shelem) after a dog runs by and knocks you over—then you don’t eat it. And if you do eat it, and God strikes you down, He is well within His rights because this is His world, you just occupy space, and if He says it and if He commands it then He has that right because it all belongs to Him anyway. Oh, I'm sorry. You don’t like that? Too bad. You don’t get a vote.
So, now that we have seen all the regulations and restrictions that go along with the sacrifice of שֶׁלֶם (shelem), let’s see what you could offer and how it was to be prepared. This should not take nearly as long. For this, we turn to Leviticus 3. You could offer an animal from either your herd (livestock), or your flock (sheep or goats). The preparation of livestock and the preparation of goats was the same, so let’s look at them together. Leviticus 3:1-6, 12-16—“‘1 When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. 2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 3 Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 5 and Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. 6 If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD is of the flock, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish…12 And if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD. 13 He shall lay his hand on its head and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. 14 Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 16 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the LORD's.’”
Did you notice something there in verse 1? The Burnt Offering (עֹלָה (olah)), you had to bring a male without blemish. The Peace Offering (שֶׁלֶם (shelem)), you could bring a male or a female. So you find a male or female goat without spot or blemish, or a male or female cattle without spot or blemish, and you bring it to the priest. You lay your hand on the head of that animal, you declare that God is your Almighty Provider, Deliverer, and the One who sustains and upholds all things. And then you slit its throat. And you watch as this animal goes from healthy and vibrant and living one minute, to bleating and bellering and thrashing and kicking the next. And finally you watch as this beast very…slowly…bleeds…to…death. The priest sprinkles some of that blood around the altar, and then he hoists the animal up by its hind legs until all the blood is drained (all 10 or so gallons of it). Then he cuts it up as we read in verses 4-5. Those things he burns on the altar as a sweet aroma to the LORD. You guys don’t eat that, it belongs to God.
Now, do you just throw the rest of the carcass on top of the daily Burnt Offering? Not quite. While the rest of the offering is indeed burned on top of the daily Burnt Offering (Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice) and roasted until there’s no more blood left, it wasn’t just thrown there in a heap. Aaron and his sons get the breast (brisket) and the right thigh. They cut those pieces out, and everything is laid, in order, on the altar and burned. “Where does it say that about Aaron and his sons?” you ask. It tells us that in the instructions for the initial consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood in Exodus 29:26-28—“26 Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be your portion. 27 And from the ram of the consecration you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering which is waved, and the thigh of the heave offering which is raised, of that which is for Aaron and of that which is for his sons. 28 It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the LORD.” They take the breast (brisket) and wave it back and forth. They take the right rear thigh and heave it into the air. Let’s see…one goes up and down, the other goes back and forth. Maybe, kinda like the upright beam and the horizontal beam of the cross? Then once the animal is cut up in the proper manner, you follow the various commands determined by whether this is an offering of thanksgiving or if it’s a vow or free-will offering.
Now, suppose you don’t bring an ox or a goat? Suppose you bring a lamb? I'm glad you asked. Leviticus 3:7-11—“‘7 If he offers a lamb as his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD. 8 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron's sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. 9 Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD, its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. And the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 10 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 11 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to the LORD.’” The one thing that sets the offering of a lamb apart from the offering of livestock or goats is the inclusion of the “fat tail” (verse 9). If you have a KJV, it renders “the fat tail” as “the whole rump.” And that is not correct. John Gill—“In the eastern countries, some sheep and lambs had very large tails, and very fat ones, the least weighing ten or twelve pounds, the largest above forty, and were put in little carts for ease and safety. Now such as were ‘whole’, entire, perfect, and without blemish, as the word signifies, the fat of them that was next to the backbone was to be taken off of such as were brought for Peace Offerings.” The “fat tail” was (and in some places, still is) a delicacy in the Middle East. And here, in this offering (and also in the offering for the consecration of Aaron and his sons, Exodus 29:22; Leviticus 8:25), God says, “I want that.” Do you get to say, “Well, now, I promised that to Yitzhak if he’d help me fix my tent”? No. That belongs to God. Didn’t we just say a little while ago that everything—that is, every thing—belongs to God? He has that right. If He says “Take the best, most tender and delectable part of that animal and burn it for Me”—case closed.
We will finish up the Peace Offerings next week.