Leviticus 2 – The Grain Offering
A. The procedure for the grain offering.
1. (1-3) The presentation of the grain offering.
‘When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. The rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire.
a. When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD: The grain offering was typically fine flour, mixed with a bit of oil and frankincense. A portion of the flour was burnt before the LORD on the altar. The remainder was given to the priests for their own use in making bread for the priest and his family (the rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’).
i. G. Campbell Morgan rightly saw the grain offering as suggestive of our service to God. “This meal offering was the work of men’s hands, of the fruits of the ground, the result of cultivation, manufacture, and preparation; and it was the symbol of service offered.”
ii. Matthew Poole considered three reasons for the grain offering.
· Grains and things that grow are of great necessity and benefit to man, and it is appropriate to honor God with such things.
· Even the poorest could offer a grain offering, and God wanted to open the door for the poor to bring offerings to Him.
· This brought necessary and helpful grain and other produce to the priests.
iii. Poole described fine flour: “Searched, or sifted, and purged from all bran, it being fit that the best things should be offered to the best Being.”
iv. All with frankincense: “This substance was often used in rituals of antiquity, because it produces a pleasant odor when burned. It was a very expensive product because it was usually imported from the southeastern coast of the Arabian peninsula, through the intermediary of Arabia. Normally it was used only in ritual ceremonies.” (Peter-Contesse)
v. “Because the priests represent God, they have a right to those sacrifices offered to God. The grain offering apparently provided the main source of income for the priesthood.” (Rooker)
vi. Nehemiah 13:12 tells us that the tithes of wine, grain, and oil were stored in special rooms at the temple.
b. A memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD: God allowed and received this bloodless sacrifice as an expression of thanksgiving, not as atonement for sin. In a society where most people were farmers, this was a fitting symbol of thanks for God’s faithful provision.
c. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire: The emphasis of the grain offering was gratitude. That it was called most holy of the offerings shows the high regard God has of our thankfulness.
2. (4-10) Different types of grain offering.
‘And if you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. But if your offering is a grain offering baked in a pan, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. ‘If your offering is a grain offering baked in a covered pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. You shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the LORD. And when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. Then the priest shall take from the grain offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar. It is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. And what is left of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire.
a. If you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven: A grain offering could also be brought in the form of fine flour already baked. It could be baked in an oven, cooked on a flat griddle, or prepared in a covered pan.
i. No matter what form it was in, the grain offering had to be prepared at home. We can imagine an ancient Jewish woman carefully preparing the best her kitchen could make and presenting it to God as a sacrifice. This expression of devotion to God began at home and if offered with the right heart, was a sweet aroma to the LORD.
ii. The covered pan worked like a modern deep fat fryer. “Authorities suggest that the cereal offering cooked in the [covered pan] would look rather like a modern deep-fried doughnut” (Harrison). “These cakes may have been deep fried or even boiled, dumpling style.” (Harris)
b. Unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers: As will be specifically commanded later in Leviticus 2:11, God did not want leaven (yeast) in the grain offering. In the picture of the grain offering, we can say that God did not want His service to be corrupted by sin, by leaven.
· Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:6-12) and the leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15), by which He meant their doctrines, their philosophy.
· Paul spoke of the old leaven of corruption and sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-9).
i. “The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy; that is, of ritualism without spiritual and moral content. The leaven of the Sadducees was rationalism; that is, Herodianism or worldliness; the elimination of the supernatural. Paul speaks of the leaven of ‘malice and wickedness,’ as the opposite of ‘sincerity and truth.’” (Morgan)
ii. “These then are the corrupting influences which are not to be mixed with our service. In all the work we do for God, there is to be an absence of hypocrisy, of materialism, of the spirit which is contrary to love and truth.” (Morgan)
iii. If the grain offering is a picture of proper service to God, it is also a reminder that we fall short in serving God as we should. We are grateful that Jesus fulfilled the heart and meaning of the grain offering for us, as the One who perfectly served God, whose service was never touched with leaven in any way.
iv. “The New Testament believer is also reminded that as the believer in Old Testament times offered this grain to God, so Jesus Christ as the Bread of life offered his life to God (John 6:32–35).” (Rooker)
c. Fine flour mixed with oil: The grain offerings needed oil with them. This was practical, helping with the binding together of the flour of the offering, and helping it to burn properly. It was also symbolic of the fact that our service, our offering, should be always in the presence and under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
i. “Jacob was the first we read of that consecrated his offerings with oil. [Genesis 28:18] Probably he had it from his predecessors.” (Trapp)
d. What is left of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: If the grain offering was brought as fine flour or as prepared bread, a portion went to the priests for their provision.
B. Special instructions regarding the grain offering.
1. (11) The addition of leaven or honey was prohibited.
‘No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire.
a. No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven: Yeast (leaven) was not allowed because it was a picture or representation of sin and the effects of sin. Ancient Israelites brought leaven into their dough by a pinch of dough left over from the previous batch, as in the making of sourdough bread.
i. A little pinch of dough from the old batch made a whole new lump of dough rise and puff up, spreading through the entire new batch. Therefore, the work of leaven was considered an illustration of the work of sin and pride. The presence of a little can corrupt everything.
ii. “As the burnt offering was to be ‘without blemish’ so the meal offering was to be without leaven.” (Morgan)
iii. However, bread with leaven was a part of the peace offering, but not offered on the altar (you shall burn no leaven). In the peace offering, the bread with leaven was part of a heave offering (Leviticus 7:11-14) or a wave offering (Leviticus 23:17).
b. Nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire: Honey was not allowed because it was a favorite thing to sacrifice to pagan deities. God did not want to be worshipped in the same way that false, pagan gods were worshipped.
i. “Honey: this word is used both of honey from bees and a kind of concentrated fruit syrup made from raisins or dates.” (Peter-Contesse)
ii. One reason God did not want honey in the sacrifice was “To teach us that God’s worship is not to be governed by men’s fancies and appetites, to which honey might have been grateful, but by God’s will.” (Poole)
iii. Leaven can make things artificially sour and honey can make things artificially sweet. God did not want either of these in sacrifice. When we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) He wants us to come just as we are, without artificially making ourselves more sour or sweet.
iv. F.B. Meyer considered it like this:
· “No leaven – the symbol of the rising pride and self.”
· “No honey – that which is merely attractive and sensuous.”
2. (12) The offering of firstfruits.
As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the LORD, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma.
a. As for the offering of the firstfruits: The best of the first of the harvest (firstfruits) were to be offered to the LORD, but not as other grain offerings. They were never to be burned on the altar but offered with a different procedure.
b. They shall not be burned on the altar: God had a different procedure for the offering of the firstfruits than for the grain offering in general. This is described in Leviticus 2:14-16.
3. (13) Each grain offering must include salt.
And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.
a. Every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt: Salt was an important part of the offering because it spoke of purity, of preservation, and of expense. Every sacrifice offered to God should be pure, should be enduring, and should cost something. In this one verse, God repeated the command three times.
i. As a preservative salt will slow or virtually stop the normal process of rot in meat. It is the nature of flesh to spoil, but salt-cured meats stay good.
ii. Salt also spoke of friendship. According to ancient custom, a bond of friendship was established through the eating of salt. It was said that once you had eaten a man’s salt, you were his friend for life. God wanted every sacrifice to be a reminder of relationship.
iii. Previously, God commanded that sacrifices should not contain honey (Leviticus 2:11). The command to include salt and exclude honey means God wants the sincerity of our service, not things made artificially sweet. “There is a kind of molasses godliness which I can never stomach.” (Spurgeon)
iv. The fact that God commanded that every grain offering should include a pinch of salt shows that small things matter in our service to God. Our faithfulness in small things honors God. “My brethren, nothing in the service of God is trifling. A pinch of salt may seem to us exceedingly unimportant, but before the Lord it may not be so.” (Spurgeon)
v. “A special chamber in the temple was designated for the storage of salt (m. Mid. 5:3).” (Rooker)
b. The salt of the covenant of your God: Therefore, a covenant of salt had specific characteristics. It was:
· A pure covenant (salt stays pure as a chemical compound).
· An enduring covenant (salt makes things preserve and endure).
· A valuable covenant (salt was expensive).
i. “Salt is a preservative, so it symbolizes the notion that the covenant cannot be destroyed by fire or decay. The phrase ‘covenant of salt’ emphasizes the durability or eternality of the covenant.” (Rooker)
ii. The idea of the covenant of salt is repeated in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5.
c. With all your offerings you shall offer salt: Jesus spoke of the idea of salt and sacrifice in Mark 9:49-50. There He said that people, as living sacrifices to God, must be seasoned with fire and salt.
i. Because salt spoke of so many things – the covenant, fellowship, sincerity, purity – the inclusion of salt with all your offerings speaks to the way we should serve God. In all our service, we must:
· Remember the covenant.
· Remember fellowship.
· Remember sincerity.
· Remember purity.
4. (14-16) Procedure for a grain offering of firstfruits.
‘If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a grain offering. Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the LORD.
a. If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the LORD: In Leviticus 2:12 God told Israel to not bring firstfruits offerings in the same manner as grain offerings. Here God told them how to bring a firstfruits offering.
i. The idea of firstfruits was important. The first of the harvest and the firstborn of livestock belonged to the LORD. This could be considered risky giving because the land might not yield much more produce, and the cow or ewe might not give birth again – yet the first still belonged to God.
ii. The LORD promised to bless this giving of the firstfruits and firstborn in faith: Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
iii. God was delighted with the green heads of grain: “To signify that God should be served with the firstfruits of our age, the primrose of our childhood.” (Trapp)
b. The priest shall burn the memorial portion: It seems that none of the firstfruits offering were kept by the priests, but all of it was burnt to thank God, to honor God, and to declare their trust in God’s provision of a full harvest.
c. You shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it: These were thought to sweeten the sacrifice and make it costlier.
d. An offering made by fire to the LORD: We see that Jesus, in His life and work, fulfilled the grain and the firstfruits offering. 1 Corinthians 15:20 presents Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection, the first of God’s new order of resurrection life: But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.