From Leviticus 22-23
To offer substandard sacrifices to God is not acceptable. In today’s passage we look at the requirements for acceptable sacrifices. They have to be without blemish – perfect. We are all called to sacrifice to the LORD. In the gospel Jesus compares the sacrifice of two people to make his point.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Chapter 21 of Leviticus gives a string of instructions for Aaron and the priests for how they are to go about worship in the tabernacle.
The instructions continue into chapter 22 which is where today’s passage picks up.
17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD, 19 if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. (Lev 22:17–20)
The LORD is speaking to them through Moses. Sometimes he refers to himself in the first person (‘I’), sometimes in the third person (‘to the LORD’).
The rules concern the offerings people bring into the tabernacle to be used as their sacrifices. These include burnt offerings, freewill offerings, peace offerings, food offerings and vow offerings. Most of these offerings are described in the first six chapters of Leviticus.
What will you offer to the LORD as your sacrifice?
Households form the basic social unit in the scriptures. The whole nation is described as the ‘house of Israel’. These rules apply to them and foreign travellers as well who have adopted the Israelite faith.
The LORD is clear the sacrifice needs to be without blemish. The command emphasises the costliness of the sacrifice and its purity. God won’t accept second best sacrifices. Presumably, the Levites will perform an additional check on the quality of the sacrifice before allowing it to be offered up. These are their instructions and I’m sure they are meant to pass them on.
21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. (Lev 22:21–22)
Moses gives more detail on what he means by without blemish.
It must be perfect. This is not meant to be an unobtainable goal. As practically possible, there should be no blemish.
They would have had to inspect their flocks and identified the best. Then checked it for issues.
23 You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.
24 Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land, 25 neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.” (Lev 22:23–25)
Different sacrifices require different levels of quality. They were allowed to present bulls or lambs with minor issues. Vow offerings required a higher standard, and in part this represents the offeror’s thankfulness for what the LORD has done for him.
“The list of blemishes and malformations which exclude from the altar is given; they are such as deform the animal, and make it less valuable: blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord, nor any animal that is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut, that is, castrated in any manner. The clause following the mention of castration—neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land—literally translated, neither shall ye make in your land, probably forbids castration altogether, not merely the offering of castrated animals in sacrifice.” (Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Leviticus (p. 329). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)
26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD.
28 But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day. (Lev 22:26–28)
Why do you think the consideration? Why bother waiting?
A majority of scholars I looked at indicated before the eighth day the sacrifice is not mature and therefore is not an adequate sacrifice. One draws similarities with circumcision being on the eighth day. Another refers to polemics against pagan practices. There isn’t a consensus on why.
29 And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD. (Lev 22:29–30)
The offeror is urged to take his offering seriously. To be aware of his attitude and respect of the LORD in making it.
The instructions to eat the offering are given to the priests. Since they had no land of their own to grow produce or keep livestock, the offerings provided them with food for themselves and their families.
31 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. 32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.” (Lev 22:31–33)
The summary statement wraps up a whole block of commands from the LORD. The priests and offeror’s were reminded the way they conducted themselves in worship reflected upon how the all Israel respected the LORD.
The starting point for their obedience is their rescue from slavery in Egypt by the LORD.
His grace and mercy in salvation should inspire them to serve him well and resist profaning his name.
In Israel’s history there is another reminder of the necessity to offer unblemished sacrifices to the LORD. Ezekiel passes on the word of the LORD.
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.
8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.
9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. (Mal 1:6–10)
Israel did not learn from Moses or obey the LORD’s word through him. How easy it is to give the LORD second best. He deserves more.
In the gospel, Jesus spoke about the giving of two people and shared a helpful point.
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mk 12:41–44)
The cost of our sacrifice to God need not be absolutely great. But it has to be pure.
Whatever we give, it must be of our best, the best of our minds, the best of our hearts. Whatever we are most attached to, that we must be prepared to give up, if God demands the sacrifice.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.