Leviticus 3

Notes (NET Translation)

1 “‘Now if his offering is a peace offering sacrifice, if he presents an offering from the herd, he must present before the Lord a flawless male or a female.

Chapter 3 concerns the shelamim. The translation “peace offering” follows the Vulgate (pacificus) and the Septuagint (eirenikos). On this translation the offering can be seen to bring about or reaffirm the peaceful, harmonious relationship between the worshiper and God. Another common translation is “well-being offering”. B. A. Levine thinks similar words in Ugaritic and Akkadian indicate that the term originally meant a “gift of greeting” (Levine 1989, p. 15). On this translation the offering acted as a greeting towards God. The peace offering was prescribed for the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:19-20), the completion of the Nazirite vow (Num. 6:17-20), and the installation of the priests (Lev. 9:18, 22). It could also be offered freely (Lev. 7:12ff.).

The animal for this sacrifice could be either male or female. The age of the animal is not specified. Perhaps more lax restrictions are in place for the peace offering than the burnt offering because it was often offered spontaneously (Hartley 1998, p. 39).

2 He must lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it at the entrance of the Meeting Tent, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, must splash the blood against the altar’s sides.

Much of the ritual concerning the peace offering also applied to the burnt offering. Consult the commentary on Leviticus 1 for additional details.

3 Then the one presenting the offering must present a gift to the Lord from the peace offering sacrifice: He must remove the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that surrounds the entrails, 4 the two kidneys with the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver (which he is to remove along with the kidneys).

People of the ancient Near East believed that the gods wrote messages in the entrails of special animals (Ezek. 21:21). The lobe of the liver was an important part of such divination. This kind of divination was forbidden in Israel (Deut. 18:9-13). By burning up the animal’s inner organs they could not be set aside for divination. However, this is not the reason for these commands. The liver as a whole, not just its lobe, was used in divination but is not said to be placed on the altar. We simply don’t know why these organs were reserved for God.

5 Then the sons of Aaron must offer it up in smoke on the altar atop the burnt offering that is on the wood in the fire as a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

The burnt offering in this verse is probably the daily burnt offering, the Tamid (Ex. 29:38-39; Num. 29:3-4). “Thus the text can be interpreted to mean that all subsequent sacrifices are added to the Tamid. The sequence, burnt offering (of the Tamid) followed by the suet of the well-being [peace] offering, is expressly stated in 6:5b” (Milgrom 1991, p. 209).

6 “‘If his offering for a peace offering sacrifice to the Lord is from the flock, he must present a flawless male or female.

7 If he presents a sheep as his offering, he must present it before the Lord.

8 He must lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it before the Meeting Tent, and the sons of Aaron must splash its blood against the altar’s sides.

9 Then he must present a gift to the Lord from the peace offering sacrifice: He must remove all the fatty tail up to the end of the spine, the fat covering the entrails, and all the fat on the entrails, 10 the two kidneys with the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver (which he is to remove along with the kidneys).

Some sheep bred in Israel have a tail weighing fifteen pounds or more (Hartley 1998, p. 40; Milgrom 1991, p. 211-212).

11 Then the priest must offer it up in smoke on the altar as a food gift to the Lord.

Yahweh is not dependent on sacrifices for food (Ps. 50:7-15). This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper ate part of the sacrifice (Lev. 7). The point of calling the gift “food” is to highlight that this is, in a sense, a meal shared with Yahweh. The worshiper had fellowship with Yahweh.

12 “‘If his offering is a goat he must present it before the Lord, 13 lay his hand on its head, and slaughter it before the Meeting Tent, and the sons of Aaron must splash its blood against the altar’s sides.

14 Then he must present from it his offering as a gift to the Lord: the fat which covers the entrails and all the fat on the entrails, 15 the two kidneys with the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver (which he is to remove along with the kidneys).

16 Then the priest must offer them up in smoke on the altar as a food gift for a soothing aroma – all the fat belongs to the Lord.

Helev, the fat surrounding the internal organs mentioned throughout this chapter, is prohibited for human consumption. This verse is not prohibiting just any fat (cf. Deut. 32:14).

17 This is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all the places where you live: You must never eat any fat or any blood.'”

This verse indicates that the prohibition on fat (helev) and blood of sacrificial animals is binding in all situations, not just when presenting a peace offering. Lev. 17:10-12 also contains a prohibition on eating blood. There the blood is equated with life. “Since life is a gift of God, blood, the unique manifestation of this gift, must not be eaten but given back to God, the source of life” (Rooker and Cole 2000, loc. 2764-2765). The reasoning behind the prohibition of fat is not clear. Fat is often synonymous with “the best” (Gen. 45:18; Deut. 32:14; Ps. 81:16[17]) and therefore it could be to show that the worshiper is giving the best to God.

Somewhat suprisingly, there is no provision for sacrificing birds. J. E. Hartley thinks this is because a bird was too small to provide for a fellowship meal, an essential part of the peace offering (Hartley 1998, p. 42). J. Milgrom thinks it is because a bird would not supply much fat or blood for the altar, a significant part of this offering (Milgrom 1991, p. 222).

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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