31 May 2012

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--The Peace Offering Part 1 (3:1-17; 7:11-21)

Today we begin a look at the commands concerning the Peace Offering. But this time we’re going to take a slightly different approach.  We’re going to start in Leviticus chapter 7, and work our way back to chapter 3. The reason for this is simple: in chapter 7 we see the three different classes of Peace Offering (thanksgiving, vow, and free-will), while chapter 3 contains the commands that deal with which animals could be offered (from the herd or from the flock)—how they were to be cut up, what was to be burned, what was to be eaten, and what to do with the blood. Now, before we begin, we need another lesson on the Hebrew. While the translators have done a masterful job (and I would never try to convince anyone I knew better than the translators), we need to clarify what the Hebrew means here. The Hebrew phrase is וְאִם־זֶ֥בַח שְׁלָמִ֖ים  (veyim-zevah shelamim). It literally means “a slaughtering for (i.e., owing to) deliverance.” This was an offering that was given as thanks for salvation, and the “peace” that came with it. Let’s see here. The word translated “Peace Offering” is שֶׁלֶם (shelem). This comes from the Hebrew שָׁלַם (shalam), which is, in turn, the root of another Hebrew word we all are familiar with—which is? שָׁלוֹם (shalom). Interesting how that works, no?

At any rate, with this offering, the offerer was to partake in eating the bread and flesh of this sacrifice along with the priests, the fat being burned and consumed by YHVH. In their commentary, Keil and Delitzsch tell us, “The object of the shelamim was invariably salvation: sometimes they were offered as an embodiment of thanksgiving for salvation already received, sometimes as a prayer for the salvation desired; so that they embraced both supplicatory offerings and thank-offerings, and were offered even in times of misfortune, or on the day on which supplication was offered for the help of God.” For all those who have ever heard anyone say that we don’t need to study the Old Testament (especially the Law) because it has nothing to do with the New Testament—this is just one more chance to show how biblically ignorant they really are. This was an offering of supplication and/or thanksgiving for the peace they had with God. Hmmm. I do believe the apostle Paul had something to say about supplication and thanksgiving and the peace of God. Oh yeah, Philippians 4:6-76 In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. But all that Old Testament stuff doesn't mean anything today. Right?

Well, that said, let’s start with Leviticus 7:11-15“‘11 This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the LORD: 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. 13 Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering. 14 And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering. 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.’” For our purposes, let’s go ahead and stay with the term “Peace Offering.” Here we see the first class of Peace Offering, the “Peace Offering of thanksgiving.” (And, just for reference, each of these classes of Peace Offering (thanksgiving, vow, free-will) were prepared the same way and accompanied by the same offering of bread. The difference in the rules regarding the offerings was in the length of time you had to eat it. We will deal with that shortly). This was offered by a person as thanks to God for their deliverance or safekeeping during some kind of danger. If He spared your livestock during a famine. If He spared your crops during a drought. Perhaps your grateful that you were not killed by the intruder that snuck in by night. Whatever it was that God brought you through, if you were grateful enough for His grace in delivering you—you brought a “Peace Offering of Thanksgiving.”

Now, if you read carefully you will find one part of this offering that is not to be included in any of the other offerings we saw in chapter 1 or chapter 2. What might that be? Leaven. Leviticus 7:13“Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering.” This was the one time a person could offer bread that had been leavened. However, leaven was not to be burned on the altar. When the person brought their animal and their unleavened cakes or unleavened wafers with their leavened bread, they offered to the priest who would sprinkle the blood of the offering one of the loaves of leavened bread —but don’t even think about putting it on the altar. The unleavened bread, however, was given to the priest as a heave offering. When you gave it to the priest, he took it from your hand and “heaved” it into the air, and caught it when it came back down. This was done as a way for the priest to offer thanks on behalf of the offerer, to acknowledge that all things come to our hands from God.

Next, let’s talk about how long you had before you had to get rid of the flesh of the Peace Offering of thanksgiving. After the priest burned your Peace Offering of thanksgiving, you had until the end of that business day to eat it. You finish it before sundown—that’s it. If you don’t finish it before sundown, you burn it until it is obliterated. There are many instances when God is very specific regarding time. And in some of those cases, He gives the people until sundown to get the things done that He wants done. Think back to Exodus 16. The people are grumbling in the wilderness. They're crying out “Oh that we could have died in Egypt! Moses led us out here to kill us in the wilderness! Yada yada yada!” And God—being the ever-patient, ever-gracious God that he is—lets their obstinacy slide and, in fact, provides some kind of substance for their daily food. And what was that substance? Manna. And how long did they have to use the manna they gathered in the morning? (Remembering, of course, that what they gathered on the sixth day would suffice through the Sabbath). Exodus 16:14-1914 And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: 'Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent'"…19 And Moses said, "Let no one leave any of it till morning." Let’s go back even further, to the night of the first Passover. What was the command that God enjoined upon the people concerning the Passover lamb? Exodus 12:8-10“8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire…10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.” If God says you have such-and-such an amount of time to eat something, you eat it within that window. You don’t say to yourself, “Yeah, I know God said that, but did He really mean that?” If God says it, He means it.

Now, the other classes of Peace Offerings are fond in the verses that follow. The rules for these are different. Leviticus 7:16“‘16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering…’” Let’s talk about these individually. “If his offering is a vow…” There were, apparently, three different types of “vows” one could make—there was a vow of devotion, a vow of abstinence (the [קָרְבָּן, qorban), and the vow of destruction (the [חֵרֶם, cherem], or Greek [ἀνάθεμα, anathema]). First, the “vow of devotion.” Basically, this is a promise the person makes to God. They say, “If God delivers me through this, I will offer Him the best of my herd.” One example of this type of vow is that of Jacob in Genesis 28:20-2220 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." He made a vow that if God would protect him, he would give God one-tenth of all God gives him. David made a similar vow, and fulfilled it in Psalm 66:12-1512 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment. 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, 14 which my lips have uttered And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah.

Next is the “vow of abstinence.” If the term קָרְבָּן (qorban) looks familiar, it should. It was brought over directly into the Greek κορβᾶν (korban) (and is equivalent to the Greek δῶρον, doron) by Mark in his gospel. Mark 7:11“11 But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is κορβᾶν (korban)"' (that is, a δῶρον [doron] to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother…” Under the old covenant, the קָרְבָּן (qorban) was a good thing. We read this passage, and Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees concerning קָרְבָּן (qorban) and we think “Ooh, קָרְבָּן (qorban) bad!” No!! קָרְבָּן (qorban) good! It was not the קָרְבָּן (qorban) that Jesus was denouncing—it was the Pharisees’ abuse of it to hold onto every penny they had at the cost of allowing their parents to suffer in poverty. If someone made a vow of קָרְבָּן (qorban), it simply meant that the person had set some possession and had dedicated it to the use of the temple. They may have held the object in their physical possession—but it belonged to God, and on the day it was required they were to give it over. And when it is time to devote it, you bring your animal, your unleavened cakes and wafers, your leavened bread—you give it to the priest, he kills, cuts up, heaves, burns and you all partake of it.

Another type of “vow of abstinence” was the Nazarite (or ‘Nazirite’, depending on your translation) vow. Numbers 6:1-81 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazarite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD.” This person, although not a Levite, could go through these rites and commit themselves to the service of YHVH. Samson was a Nazarite—not exactly the best example. John the Baptist was probably a Nazarite, since Jesus said of him that “John came neither eating nor drinking” (Matthew 11:18).

Now, not only did the Nazarite take this vow and go through these rituals, but there were other offerings—Peace Offerings of a vow of abstinence—they had to perform under certain circumstances. Pick it up at Numbers 6:9-21“‘9 And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; 11 and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day. 12 He shall consecrate to the LORD the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled. 13 Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 14 And he shall present his offering to the LORD: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings. 16 Then the priest shall bring them before the LORD and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19 And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, 20 and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the LORD; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.' 21 This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the LORD the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he takes, so he must do according to the law of his separation.”

If the Nazarite touched the dead body of one who died near him, he had to bring two turtledoves or pigeons, had to bring a ewe lamb of the first year, all the unleavened cakes and wafers and leavened bread, the oil, the drink offering, had to shave his head, give a Grain Offering. You get the idea. This was a Peace Offering of קָרְבָּן (qorban). The man had dedicated his whole self to the service of God; God granted that privilege so long as the Nazarite acted accordingly. If he didn’t, he had to bring his קָרְבָּן (qorban).

We will look at the next Peace Offering next time.

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