Leviticus 3 – The Peace Offering
A. Offering cattle for the peace offering.
1. (1-2) The presentation and killing of cattle for the peace offering.
‘When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.
a. When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering: In contrast to the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:3), the sacrifice of a peace offering could be either a male or female animal. However, the animal still had to be without blemish.
· Without blemish means we give God the best.
· Without blemish means we need a sinless substitute.
· Without blemish points to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19).
i. The peace offering was not an offering to make peace with God (this was the purpose of the sin offering of Leviticus 4), but an offering to enjoy peace with God. The whole reason Jesus made peace between the Father and the believer is so that the peace could be enjoyed.
ii. The greatest animal peace offering ever made happened when Solomon dedicated the temple, offering 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep (1 Kings 8:63). That must have been history’s greatest barbecue. Later, Hezekiah gave a festival where 2,000 bulls and 17,000 sheep were given for peace offerings (2 Chronicles 30:24).
iii. The greatest peace offering ever made happened when Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. His sacrifice not only paid the penalty of our sin, but He also made peace between the believer and God that can now be enjoyed: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Ephesians 2:14-16 notes that Jesus Christ Himself has become our peace and has broken down the wall of separation.
iv. Notably, either a male or female animal could be used. When it comes to peace with God and fellowship with God, there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28), all are welcome before God. Leviticus 7:11-14 further explains that the peace offering made for thanksgiving was to be presented with an offering of unleavened cakes or wafers and leavened bread. These two were presented as a wave offering and may be considered a prophetic announcement of God bringing Jew and Gentile together in the peace of Jesus the Messiah (Ephesians 2:11-18).
b. He shall lay his hand on the head of the offering: As with the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:4), the one bringing the offer identified with the substitute sacrifice and symbolically transferred their sin to the sacrifice by laying his hand on the head of the offering.
c. Kill it at the door of the tabernacle: As with the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:5), the sense is probably (though not certainly) that the Israelite bringing the offering actually made the cut to the animal’s neck that bled the animal to death. Afterwards, it was the job of the priests to sprinkle the blood all around on the altar.
i. This happened at the door of the tabernacle, at the very entrance. This was where the Israelites brought their sacrifice to the priests. The non-priestly Israelite did not go into the tabernacle court, except here at the very entrance, at the door of the tabernacle.
2. (3-5) The presentation of the parts of the animal sacrifice.
Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.
a. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails: In the peace offering, the blood of the animal was offered to God (Leviticus 3:2) along with the fat, which was burned on the altar of sacrifice.
i. The heleb, ‘the fat’ that covers the organs and entrails, was not to be eaten but was to be burned. The fat represented the choicest part of the offering. The fat belonged to God and had to be offered to him in sacrifice.” (Rooker)
b. On the altar upon the burnt sacrifice: The altar that received God’s portion of the peace offering was the same altar that received the burnt sacrifice – which comes first. Peace and fellowship with God come on the same basis as God’s sacrifice for sin.
i. In Christian terminology, we would say that the cross of Jesus Christ is not only the place where our sin was paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus, it is also the place where we enjoy peace and fellowship with God.
c. An offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD: The offering of the animal’s fat from the different parts of the cut-up sacrifice pleased God; it was a pleasant, sweet aroma to the LORD.
· Fat was considered to be the prime portion, giving flavor and moisture to the meat of the animal.
· Fat is the stored energy of the animal; it is a way of offering one’s energy and work to God.
i. There is no mention made of what to do with meat portions of the animal. This is because the meat portion was to be shared, with a part given to the priests and a part given to the one who brought the offering. That one ate his portion of meat as part of a fellowship meal with God, normally with a gathering of immediate and extended family.
ii. “Think of this blessed feast with God. We who were once far off in the wicked and hostile imaginings, are now made nigh; we sit at God’s table as His children and hear Him say. Let us make merry and be glad; this My son was dead and is alive again.” (Meyer)
· We can feast because we have peace with God.
· We can feast because we have the peace of God.
· We can feast because we have the God of peace.
d. A sweet aroma to the LORD: Morgan points out that this phrase is used of the first three offerings (the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering). It is not used of the sin offering or the trespass offering. The idea is that in the first three the fire brings out the aroma; in the last two, the fire destroys.
i. Morgan drew this spiritual principle from this: “If a man be in rebellion, a sinner persisting in his sin, the fire destroys him. If he be yielded, the fire brings out the beauty of character. Christ knew the fire bringing out sweet savour in His absolute perfections; He knew it as consuming, as He represented the sinner, and was made sin.”
B. Offering sheep or goats for the peace offering.
1. (6-8) Offering a lamb as a peace offering.
‘If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD is of the flock, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offers a lamb as his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar.
a. Is of the flock: The peace offering could also be an animal from the flock, a sheep or a goat. If it was from the flock, it had to be without blemish, and the one bringing the sacrifice had to lay his hand on the head of the offering and kill it, as in the offering of cattle from the herd in the peace offering (Leviticus 3:2).
b. Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar: The presentation of the blood to God was the duty of the priests.
2. (9-11) Offering the fat of a lamb presented as the peace offering.
‘Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD, its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. And the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
a. He shall offer: The procedure was generally the same as the offering of a bull or cow (Leviticus 3:3-5). The blood and the fat were given to the LORD, while the unmentioned meat portions were for the one who brought the offering and for the priest.
b. Its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone: The offering of the whole fat tail was significant. That portion of the animal was considered a delicacy and could weigh as much as 60 pounds (27 kilograms). This part of the animal, though valued for eating, was not eaten by the priests or by the one bringing the offering in the fellowship meal that accompanied the peace offering. It was burned on the altar as food, to God.
i. Commentators such as John Trapp and Matthew Poole say that the fat tail of this ancient breed of sheep was “larger and better” than what they saw among sheep of their own day. Adam Clarke also has an extended comment on this.
ii. “The tail of the kind of sheep raised in Palestine may have contained as much as seven or more kilograms of fat and was considered a delicacy.” (Peter-Contesse)
iii. The fatty lobe attached to the liver: “among certain neighboring tribes of the Israelites, the liver was used in divination rites. Possibly this is why Jewish legislation required that it be burned. But it is also true that, like the fat, this particular part of the liver referred to as the appendage was considered a delicacy and was therefore appropriate to be set aside for God.” (Peter-Contesse)
c. The priest shall burn them on the altar as food: The idea was that this was “God’s food,” His portion of the sacrifice. The family that brought the peace offering would eat their portion, and this portion belonged to God, in a meal that they shared together.
i. “The worshiper in this sense shared a meal with the Lord, which means that he had fellowship with him.” (Rooker)
3. (12-16) Offering a goat as a peace offering.
‘And if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on its head and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the LORD’s.
a. If his offering is a goat: God accepted both sheep and goats in the peace offering. When it was offered, the same steps were followed as in the offering of cattle or sheep, as described earlier in Leviticus 3.
b. All the fat is the LORD’s: This sacrifice demonstrates God’s claim upon all that is valued, and upon all our energy. Fat is essentially stored energy, and it belongs to the LORD.
4. (17) Conclusion: The fat and the blood belong to God.
‘This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.’”
a. You shall eat neither fat nor blood: There was a spiritual significance to this command relevant to the peace offering. We enjoy peace with God by giving Him the best and our energy (represented by the fat), and by giving Him our lives (represented by the blood).
i. Even as it was impossible to remove all the blood from an animal, so was it impossible to remove all the fat from meat – this speaks of removing as much as one can practically.
ii. “By the fat therefore mentioned here and in the preceding verse, we may understand any fat that exists in a separate or unmixed state, such as the omentum or caul, the fat of the mesentery, the fat on the kidneys, and whatever else of the internal fat was easily separable.” (Clarke)
b. You shall eat neither fat: There was a practical significance to this command. Whatever other benefits there may be in eating less fat and blood, it is true that parasites such as tapeworms were often found in the fatty tissues. By obeying this command, the ancient Israelites avoided great exposure to these dangerous parasites.
i. Matthew Poole described another reason why this normally desired portion of the animal was given to God: “To exercise them in obedience to God, and self-denial, and mortification of their appetites, even in those things which probably many of them would much desire.”
c. You shall eat neither fat nor blood: The ritual eating of blood was a common practice of pagan peoples, both ancient and modern. God wanted His people separated from these pagan rituals, and to instead recognize that life and blood are strongly connected (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11-14).
i. “This was forbidden, partly, to maintain reverence to God and his worship; partly, out of opposition to idolaters, who used to drink the blood of their sacrifices; partly, with respect unto Christ’s blood, thereby manifestly signified; and partly, for moral admonition about avoiding cruelty.” (Poole)
ii. A perpetual statute throughout your generations: This phrase is used 17 times throughout Leviticus. “It indicates a rule that is to be observed by all Israelites for all time.” (Peter-Contesse) It was also to be observed wherever they lived, in whatever land (in all your dwellings).