LEVITICUS 5, 6 and 7
Having dealt with the five offerings from the giver’s point of view, Leviticus then looks again from the perspective of the priest receiving the offering on behalf of God. The Burnt Offering was obviously burnt whole – minus the skin in the case of a bull, which the priest could keep for himself. The ashes needed to be removed and placed in a ‘ceremonially clean place’ outside the camp. The fire on the altar had to be kept burning day and night – which probably would not have been difficult, given the amount of animal fuel being placed on it!
Priests kept most of a grain offering, after burning a token portion of it, and ate it baked into cakes and loaves, with olive oil, but without yeast. A male relative of the priest could also eat of these.
The sin offering had its fat removed and burned on the altar, but the flesh could be cooked by the priests and eaten. Interesting that whoever touched the flesh became holy!
The guilt offering was treated in the same way as the sin offering, from the priests’ point of view, and it was only allowed to be eaten in the sanctuary area – like the sin offering. This symbolised the fact that once someone or something had been dedicated to the Lord, it was forever set apart – holy – and never permitted to be treated in a common way again. Does the same apply to us?
The Fellowship offerings were eaten by the giver along with a combination of meat and grain products. There were strict regulations on how long the cooked meat could be left before it was eaten – very similar to our food hygiene regulations. What the Law called ‘unclean’, we might call ‘contaminated’. Meat which touched anything ‘unclean’ was itself regarded as ‘unclean’, regardless of timescale. Eating fat or blood were also strictly forbidden. In these regulations, you can see the kindness and thoughtfulness of the Lord, who had to guard the people against all kinds of diseases and food poisoning.
Notice that only the male relatives of priests could eat of these offerings – and only then in the sanctuary – so what did their women live on? The tithes that every Jew was required to pay annually to the Levites and priests would be more than enough to feed everyone in the tribe of Levi (who had no land inheritance in Israel) and was a compensation for their full-time devotion to the household of God. As God’s church today, we need to be equally diligent in giving generously of our earnings to those who have no other income than the work of God’s kingdom. As we bring our generous gifts to the central ‘storehouse’, we will be blessed abundantly by God in all that we do and in all that we earn. Those who hold back in their giving (then and now) are those who are effectively robbing God, and who need to repent. Malachi 3:8-12.