Leviticus 6 – Instructions for the Priests
A. More instances for performing the guilt offering.
1. (1-3) Stealing from one’s neighbor made a guilt offering necessary.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins:
a. If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD: This continues the section starting at Leviticus 5:14 regarding the guilt offering. Here we see that the guilt offering was required in cases of theft. Sins of lying and deception are also mentioned but these are in connection with lying in order to steal from someone else.
i. We note that it says, against the LORD. These were obviously sins against other people but they were also sins against God and had to be dealt with as such.
b. In any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: People may steal through simple robbery, or use deception to take what does not belong to them (lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge). There are many ways to steal but all of them are sins.
i. Extorted from his neighbor: “The idea here is of one gaining something that belongs to another person by means other than outright theft. It usually involves trickery of some kind.” (Peter-Contesse)
ii. All this is founded on a basic idea clearly stated in Exodus 20:15: You shall not steal. Every command against stealing in the Bible is a recognition of the right to personal property; that God trusts people to manage property as delegated “owners” of that property. Since ultimately all things belong to God (Psalm 24:1), men only “own” things that are delegated to them by God. Yet, God expects humanity to respect His delegation of property, and other people or states are not permitted to take that property without due process of law.
iii. Therefore, economic or political systems that reject the principle of the private ownership of property – such as communist or socialist systems, which claim that all property belongs to the state or the collective – those systems reject God’s wisdom and will and are destined for failure.
2. (4-6) Restitution for the theft had to be made, then the guilt offering.
Then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest.
a. He shall restore what he has stolen: If a person was guilty of fraud or theft, it wasn’t enough to make a sacrifice to cover the guilt of the sin before God. They first had to make restitution to settle the account with the victim of the fraud.
i. For safekeeping: Matthew Poole thought that this was a Hebraic way of referring to business or trading. “Which is very usual, when one man puts anything into another’s hand, not to keep it…but to use and improve it for the common benefit of them both, in which cases of partnership it is easy for one to deceive the other, and therefore provision is here made against it.”
b. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering: It wasn’t enough to just return what was stolen. The thief also had to add 20% (one-fifth) to what was stolen as a penalty.
i. In the New Testament, Ephesians 4:28 expresses another aspect of restitution when the thief repents of being a taker and becomes a giver: Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
c. And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD: Restitution and the penalty that went with it had to be made the same day of his trespass offering. This powerfully demonstrated that one could not get right with God without also making the wrong right with men.
i. This urgency of making things right with other people before we make things right with God is the same idea Jesus communicated in Matthew 5:23-24.
3. (7) The certainty of forgiveness when the sacrifice is made.
So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.”
a. So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD: This was a marvelous assurance for a guilty conscience. The sinner could depend upon this promise and know his sin was covered before the LORD.
i. The New Testament makes a similar statement in light of the New Covenant, found in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
b. For any one of these things that he may have done: The emphasis is that any sin can be cleansed through an atoning sacrifice. Before the perfect work of Jesus on the cross the cleansing was not perfect, but it could be extended to any sin – in anticipation of the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice to come.
B. Specific instructions for the priests regarding the offerings.
1. (8-13) The burnt offering.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.
a. This is the law of the burnt offering: This offering was previously described in chapter 1 and spoke of consecration. The animal had to remain upon the altar in a slow burn for a long time, tended by the priest (shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning).
i. “We may therefore reasonably conclude that the priests sat up by turns the whole night, and fed the fire with portions of this offering till the whole was consumed.” (Clarke)
ii. The description given in chapter 1 did not include the instruction regarding the required garments of the priest (his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body). It also did not include the direction for the priest to deposit the ashes of the burned sacrifice outside the camp to a clean place, once he had taken off his priestly garments.
iii. These linen garments for the priests are described in Exodus 28:39-43.
b. And the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it: The long-burning character of the burnt offering is an appropriate illustration of the work of giving ourselves completely to God. Coming to God as a living sacrifice is not a quick work and we may feel that we, like the burnt offering, endure the heat of the fire for a long time.
i. “Does the perpetual fire burn on the altar of thy heart? Art thou ever looking unto Jesus, and beholding, by faith, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world?” (Clarke)
c. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning: The provision of wood for the altar is later the subject of Nehemiah 10:34 and 13:31. Together with the sacrifices themselves, this wood was the fuel for the fire on the altar.
d. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out: The phrasing of this is emphatic (according to Peter-Contesse) and shows that keeping the altar fire always burning was an important duty of the priests. They had to supply wood to the altar fire through the night. Through the day, the continual offering of sacrifices would keep the fire burning.
i. As it happened, the altar’s fire was ignited by miraculous fire coming from heaven (Leviticus 9:24). This added to the reason why the altar’s fire should never be allowed to go out. This was God’s fire, and it needed to be respected and cared for.
ii. John Trapp considered that the fire of the altar should not go out and made an application of the idea: “No more should our faith, love, zeal (that flame of God, as Solomon calls it, Song of Solomon 8:6-7), that should never go out; the waters should not quench it, nor the ashes cover it.”
iii. F.B. Meyer observed that the perpetual fire was an emblem of:
· God’s love, because there was never and will never be a time when God does not love.
· The prayers of Jesus for His people, because He forever lives to pray for His people (Hebrews 7:25).
· The ministry of the Holy Spirit, because the fire first lit on the Day of Pentecost still burns among the people of God.
iv. The perpetual fire was also connected to the idea that these sacrifices must be continually offered. The perfect sacrifice Jesus made on the cross did not need to be a continual sacrifice; it was a once-for-all sacrifice, as described in Hebrews 7:27: who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
2. (14-18) The ceremony of the grain offering.
‘This is the law of the grain offering: The sons of Aaron shall offer it on the altar before the LORD. He shall take from it his handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil, and all the frankincense which is on the grain offering, and shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma, as a memorial to the LORD. And the remainder of it Aaron and his sons shall eat; with unleavened bread it shall be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of meeting they shall eat it. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of My offerings made by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the trespass offering. All the males among the children of Aaron may eat it. It shall be a statute forever in your generations concerning the offerings made by fire to the LORD. Everyone who touches them must be holy.’”
a. This is the law of the grain offering: This offering was first mentioned in chapter 2. This portion repeats most of the same details of the grain offering given in chapter 2.
b. Everyone who touches them must be holy: One aspect of the grain offering specifically detailed here, but not included in chapter 2, is that not only was a portion of the offering given to the priests, but only those who were ceremonially clean (holy) could eat of it.
3. (19-23) The grain offering at the anointing of the priests.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This is the offering of Aaron and his sons, which they shall offer to the LORD, beginning on the day when he is anointed: one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a daily grain offering, half of it in the morning and half of it at night. It shall be made in a pan with oil. When it is mixed, you shall bring it in. The baked pieces of the grain offering you shall offer for a sweet aroma to the LORD. The priest from among his sons, who is anointed in his place, shall offer it. It is a statute forever to the LORD. It shall be wholly burned. For every grain offering for the priest shall be wholly burned. It shall not be eaten.”
a. Beginning on the day when he is anointed: There was a particular grain offering that was part of the anointing and consecration ceremony for a priest. This general ceremony was first described in Exodus 29 and was carried out in Leviticus 8.
i. The baked pieces: “Or fried, so that it swells and bubbles up.” (Poole)
b. For every grain offering for the priest shall be wholly burned: In the normal grain offering, part of the grain went to the priests and they made bread from it for the priest and his family. But the grain offering associated with the anointing ceremony for the priests was not to be eaten, it was to be wholly burned before the LORD.
4. (24-30) The sin offering.
Also the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before the LORD. It is most holy. The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of meeting. Everyone who touches its flesh must be holy. And when its blood is sprinkled on any garment, you shall wash that on which it was sprinkled, in a holy place. But the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. And if it is boiled in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water. All the males among the priests may eat it. It is most holy. But no sin offering from which any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of meeting, to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten. It shall be burned in the fire.
a. This is the law of the sin offering: The sin offering was first described in chapter 4. Here, a few additional details are added for the proper sacrifice of the sin offering.
b. The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it: In some cases, a portion of the meat from the sin offering was to be given to the priest who did the work of sacrificing the animal.
c. In a holy place it shall be eaten…. Everyone who touches its flesh must be holy: However, the meat from the sin offering had to be regarded as holy, and everything connected to the eating of it had to be holy (ceremonially clean).
· The place had to be holy (in the court of the tabernacle of meeting).
· The person preparing or eating the meat had to be holy (Everyone who touches its flesh must be holy).
· The blood from the meat was holy (you shall wash that on which it was sprinkled).
· The pot it was cooked in was holy (the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken…. in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water).
i. Anything touched by the meat of the sin offering or its blood had to be holy or be cleansed in a special manner because the animal’s meat was thought to be infected with the sin of the one who brought the offering.
ii. When sin “soaks in” to something, there is no way it can be cleansed, and it must be destroyed. Yet a metal, tempered by fire, has already been “judged” – and can therefore simply be cleansed. This is an illustration that those who do not have their sin cleansed by Jesus will be destroyed by that sin in an eternal sense.
d. But no sin offering from which any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of meeting, to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten: In chapter 4, a distinction is made between the sin offering for a priest, for Israel as a whole, for a ruler, and for the common person. For the sin offering made for a priest or for Israel as a whole, there was no portion of the animal that could be eaten.