Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Leviticus 7

Leviticus 7: Rules for Guilt and Fellowship offerings; the eating of fat and blood forbidden; the priests’ share of offerings

Synopsis

This chapter continues on from Chapter 6, mostly focused on rules for the priests to follow, when offering sacrifices.

  • Guilt offerings were to be slaughtered in the same place where the burnt offering was slaughtered. The blood was to be sprinkled against all sides of the altar.
  • All of the fat from the animal was to be offered—“the fat tail and the fat that covers the inner parts, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which [was] to be removed with the kidneys” (verses 3b–4).
  • The priest was to burn all of this fat on the altar.
  • The rest of the meat was to be eaten by any male in the priest’s family—but it had to be eaten in a holy place, because it was holy.
So far, this is mostly a recap of rules already given.

  • Sin offerings and guilt offerings belonged to the priest who made atonement with them.
    • When a priest offered a burnt offering, he was allowed to keep its hide for himself.
  • I’m not sure about how the next two rules work together, so I’ll just quote them verbatim:

    Every grain offering baked in an oven or cooked in a pan or on a griddle belongs to the priest who offers it, and every grain offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, belongs equally to all the sons of Aaron. (verses 9–10)
I like that it’s explicitly stated that the priest was allowed to keep the hide from sin offerings. The priests needed to clothe their families too—it’s not just food that they needed. But for the grain offerings, I’m not sure how to differentiate what belonged to the priest who offered it, vs. what belonged equally to all priests. The two verses seem to be contradictory, as written, so I’m not sure what the rules are really supposed to be.

  • For Fellowship Offerings—also called “Peace Offerings”—there were different kinds that Israelites could present, and the rules were different for each.
    • When the offering was given as an expression of thankfulness, the person giving the offering was to offer cakes of bread, wafers, and cakes of fine flour—without yeast, of course, and mixed with oil—along with the actual offering itself. If I’m reading the verse correctly, one of each kind of “cake” was to be a contribution to the LORD, and the rest belonged to the priest. Any of the meat of the Fellowship Offering, in this case, was to be eaten the same day as it was offered.
    • When the offering was given as the result of a vow, or when it was a freewill offering, the meat was still to be eaten on the day of the offering, but if any was left over until the next day, it could still be eaten. Any which was left over until the third day was to be burned up; it would not be accepted, as part of the offering, and the one who ate it on the third day would be “held responsible” (verse 18).
Although I find these rules fascinating—which meat must be eaten on the same day, vs. meat that can be left until the next day, etc.—I’m also in way over my head, in trying to interpret why the rules are set up this way. What it is about an expression of thankfulness, that demands the meat be eaten the same day, vs. a vow or freewill offering, which can be left until the next day? Nothing springs to mind, that would account for the difference, to me.

  • Any meat that touched anything “ceremonially unclean” was not to be eaten. The Israelites were to burn it up. For the other meat, which did not become unclean, the people eating the meat also had to be “ceremonially clean” themselves.
  • If anyone who was unclean ate the meat from a Fellowship Offering, he was to be “cut off from his people” (verse 20, and verse 21).
  • Those rules were for priests, when it came to the meat of Fellowship Offerings, but there were also rules for the Israelites in general, when it came to meat: They were not to eat fat, and they were not to eat blood.
    • When an animal died on its own, such as if it was “found dead or torn by wild animals” (verse 24), the fat could be used for other purposes, but not for eating.
    • Anyone who ate the fat of an animal which was offered to the LORD by fire was to be cut off from his people.
    • Similarly, anyone who ate blood—period—was to be cut off from his people.
One question I have, from this passage: What about an animal which was slaughtered for food; were the Israelites allowed to use the fat for other purposes, other than eating? Or was it only animals that died on their own, that they were allowed to use the fat for other purposes?

  • Anyone who brought a Fellowship Offering to the LORD was to bring it with his own hands. He was to bring both the fat and the breast, and the breast was to be waved before the LORD as a “wave offering” (verse 30).
  • The fat was to be burned on the altar, but the breast belonged to the priests. The right thigh also belonged to the priest, although it wasn’t waved before the LORD.
  • Specifically, the priest who actually offered the blood of the sacrifice was to get the thigh, while the breast belonged to the priests in general.
In the case of the animal’s breast, which belonged to the priests in general, I’m not sure how that worked.

Thoughts

I think I mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I’m trying to remember to put all of these rules in the past tense, as they are not binding for Christians today. e.g. I am trying to remember to write “the priests were to burn the fat on the altar” instead of “the priests are to burn the fat on the altar”. I don’t know if I’ve been remembering to do that, lately; I got halfway through this chapter in the present tense, and had to go back and correct myself.

In these chapters, about rules and regulations for offerings and other worship rituals, I’m sometimes taking a bit of liberty with the terminology; any time a passage refers to the “sons of Aaron” or “Aaron’s sons” I’m usually just generalizing that to mean “the priests”. Once in a while, Aaron himself might actually be referred to, in which case I’m usually generalizing that to the “High Priest”. I’m doing this because these rules were meant to be followed as long as Israel was a nation, even after Aaron and his sons were dead, and it was their descendants who were serving as priests. Hopefully, in doing so, I haven’t lost any of the meaning, or misrepresented any of the rules.

This chapter mentions being “ceremonially clean” or “unclean” a couple of times. A later chapter will give rules for what made a person unclean, and instructions for dealing with uncleanness.
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