Leviticus 2

Notes (NET Translation)

1 “‘When a person presents a grain offering to the Lord, his offering must consist of choice wheat flour, and he must pour olive oil on it and put frankincense on it.

Chapter 2 concerns the grain offering (Heb. minhah, also called the cereal offering). While in other contexts the Hebrew term minhah can refer to any gift or tribute, here it refers to a grain offering. The ambiguity of the term makes it unclear whether a grain offering was offered on a daily basis (1 Kgs. 18:29; 2 Kgs. 3:20; Ezra 9:4-5; Dan. 9:21). The conjunction ki (“when”) indicates the offering is voluntary.

This offering consisted of solet (“choice wheat flour”). J. E. Hartley takes this to refer to wheat that is ground and sifted (Hartley 1992, p. 30). B. A. Levine takes this to refer to semolina, a luxury item in the ancient Near East consisting of flour taken from the inner kernels of wheat (Levine 1989, p. 9). The significance of the olive oil and frankincense is not clear. Verse 2 says that all of the frankincense must be offered on the altar so it was probably placed upon the flour in a single lump that could be scooped up by the priest.

2 Then he must bring it to the sons of Aaron, the priests, and the priest must scoop out from there a handful of its choice wheat flour and some of its olive oil in addition to all of its frankincense, and the priest must offer its memorial portion up in smoke on the altar – it is a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

The precise meaning of the Hebrew azkarah (“memorial portion”) is uncertain. The NET translation (“memorial portion”) is the result of taking the word to be from the root zkr, meaning “to remember”. The idea is that the offerer is remembering God’s grace in giving him his daily food (Deut. 26:9-10).

3 The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and to his sons – it is most holy from the gifts of the Lord.

In ancient Near Eastern cults it was normal for the priests to consume large portions of the offerings. Sometimes the donors would also eat part of the offering. According to Ezekiel 42:13, the eating was to take place in a specified area of the tabernacle/temple precinct.

4 “‘When you present an offering of grain baked in an oven, it must be made of choice wheat flour baked into unleavened loaves mixed with olive oil or unleavened wafers smeared with olive oil.

A tannur was a “cylindrical mud or clay oven with a large opening at the top and, sometimes, a small hole at the base for air; it was constructed either fully above or partially embedded in the ground” (Milgrom 1991, p. 184). According to the rabbis (m. Menah. 6:3; Sipra, Nedaba, par. 10:6), the wafers were smeared with olive oil in the form of the letter X (Greek chi) and this indicates their tradition antedates Christianity. Presumably the Christian can counter that this practice pre-figures the cross.

5 If your offering is a grain offering made on the griddle, it must be choice wheat flour mixed with olive oil, unleavened.

The griddle was usually made of clay or iron.

6 Crumble it in pieces and pour olive oil on it – it is a grain offering.

7 If your offering is a grain offering made in a pan, it must be made of choice wheat flour deep fried in olive oil.

The pan, unlike the griddle, had a lid. “The dough was probably placed in boiling oil and cooked until crisp” (Hartley 1998, p. 31).

8 “‘You must bring the grain offering that must be made from these to the Lord. Present it to the priest, and he will bring it to the altar.

Verses 8-10 recapitulate verses 2-3.

The presentation by the priest to the altar is an indispensable rite in the sacrificial procedure (see at 1:5); but whereas only the burnt parts of the other offerings are presented to the altar, the entire cereal offering undergoes presentation to the altar even though only its “token” is burned. This is done to indicate that the entire offering in reality belongs to God that he, by his grace, has bestowed most of it as a perquisite on the priesthood. This point is stated explicitly in the priestly instructions: “I have assigned it (the cereal offering) as their portion from my food gifts” (6:10; see 10:12-13; 24:9). (Milgrom 1991, p. 186)

9 Then the priest must take up from the grain offering its memorial portion and offer it up in smoke on the altar – it is a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

10 The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and to his sons – it is most holy from the gifts of the Lord.

11 “‘No grain offering which you present to the Lord can be made with yeast, for you must not offer up in smoke any yeast or honey as a gift to the Lord.

The meaning of the Hebrew devash (“honey”) has been debated since antiquity. It is a general term for sweetness and only sometimes refers to the honey of bees (Judg. 14:8-9). Verse 12 states that it can be offered as a “first fruit” (re’shit) and so, in this context, it probably refers to the nectar of dates and possibly of other fruits (Levine 1989, p. 12).

Leviticus does not explain the reason for the prohibition of yeast and honey/nectar being offered on the altar. The next verse makes it clear that they were suitable for some offerings (Lev. 23:17, 20; 2 Chr. 31:5). Leavened bread may have been seen as corrupted in some sense.

12 You can present them to the Lord as an offering of first fruit, but they must not go up to the altar for a soothing aroma.

The point is that leaven and honey/nectar are unsuitable as altar offerings but are suitable as offerings set before God. The Hebrew re’shit can be understood as first in order or foremost in quality. J. E. Hartley thinks that here it refers to both the first and the choicest (Hartley 1992, p. 31).

13 Moreover, you must season every one of your grain offerings with salt; you must not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing from your grain offering – on every one of your grain offerings you must present salt.

For sacrifices of meat, salt was used to remove blood. It may have been used in grain offerings as well so that there was a uniformity to the rituals. The phrase “the salt of the covenant of your God” (melah berit ‘eloheka) emphasizes that the salt symbolizes the eternal, abiding nature of the covenant between God and Israel (Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5). It was customary among Arabs and Greeks to commemorate a covenant by eating salt together (Hartley 1992, p. 32; Wenham 1979, loc. 913).

14 “‘If you present a grain offering of first ripe grain to the Lord, you must present your grain offering of first ripe grain as soft kernels roasted in fire – crushed bits of fresh grain.

The rabbis maintained that this kind of offering was of barley instead of wheat (m. Menah. 10:4; Sipra, Nedaba par. 13:4). To this day “Arab peasants roast barley precisely as described in this verse, but not wheat because of the latter’s flat taste” (Milgrom 1991, p. 192). The offering of first fruits was mandatory (Num. 18:13; Neh. 10:36).

15 And you must put olive oil on it and set frankincense on it – it is a grain offering.

16 Then the priest must offer its memorial portion up in smoke – some of its crushed bits, some of its olive oil, in addition to all of its frankincense – it is a gift to the Lord.

Bibliography

Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 1-16. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.

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