Leviticus 1
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

The first part of this law comprising Leviticus 1:1 to Leviticus 6:7 [Hebrews 1-5] is addressed to the children of Israel. The first two verses are introductory.

And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
1. And the Lord called] The tabernacle had been reared up, and the cloud had covered it (Exodus 40:17-34); Moses, who was not able to enter into the tent of meeting (Exodus 40:35), remains without, and receives the first ordinances issued from within the tent. The verse connects these ordinances about sacrifice (chs. 1–7) with Exodus 40:35, and the erection of the tabernacle.

out of the tent of meeting] The place from which God issues His commands is more exactly described (Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89) as ‘from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim.’ The tent (‘tabernacle’ A.V.) is called the ‘tent of meeting’ (Heb. ’Ohel Mô‘çd) because it is the appointed place of meeting where the Lord meets Moses (Exodus 25:22; Exodus 30:6; Exodus 30:36), and the children of Israel (Exodus 29:43). The account of the tent of meeting in Exodus 33:7-11 (E), though different in some points from that of P, describes it as the place where the Lord meets Moses (‘the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the door (opening) of the Tent: and the Lord spake with Moses’). See Driver’s notes on Exodus 27:21, and on the passages here quoted, and Intr. to Pent. pp. 84 f. The translation of A.V. tabernacle of the congregation renders mô‘çd (‘appointed meeting place’) as if it were ‘çdâh (congregation), and suggests that the tabernacle was the place where the children of Israel assembled. But they were not allowed to come near it (Numbers 17:13); only priests and Levites were permitted to draw nigh.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
2. oblation] Heb. korban, from a root signifying ‘to come near’; a general term for anything brought near to God, whether sacrifice, or other sacred gift. It occurs frequently in chs. 1–7, also in Leviticus 9:7; Leviticus 9:15, Leviticus 17:4, Leviticus 22:18; Leviticus 22:27, Leviticus 23:14, Leviticus 27:9; Leviticus 27:11 (in Leviticus 27:11 ‘sacrifice’ A.V.); Numbers 5:15 (the meal offering of jealousy), Leviticus 6:14; Leviticus 6:21 (the offerings of the Nazirite), 7 (the offerings of the princes, parts of which were not for sacrifice), Leviticus 9:7; Leviticus 9:13 (the passover), Leviticus 15:4; Leviticus 15:25, Leviticus 18:9 (‘oblation’ A.V.), Lev 28:2, Lev 31:50 (‘oblation’ A.V., the spoil of Midian).

In the Pent., the word occurs only in Lev. and Num.; outside the Pent, it is found in Ezekiel 20:28; Ezekiel 40:43; Nehemiah 10:35; Nehemiah 13:31. In Neh. the first syllable of the word has the vowel ŭ; both R.V. and A.V. translate ḳurban hâ‘çẓim by ‘wood offering.’ R.V. renders ‘oblation’ except in Ezekiel 20:28 and Neh.; A.V. generally has ‘offering’; other renderings are noted in the list of passages given above. The verb from the same root is used in the Hiph.; it is applied to the action both of the layman and the priest, and is translated ‘offer.’

The verse refers only to animal sacrifices, and serves as an introduction to the Burnt-Offering, and to the Peace-Offering of ch. 3.

of the herd and of the flock] i.e. large and small cattle. An offering of birds (Leviticus 1:14-17) is not mentioned here.

If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
(a) Bullock (3–9)

3. a male without blemish] In the sacrificial system of the Hebrews, the male animal is regarded as of more value than the female. It is prescribed for the Burnt-Offering, and for the principal feasts (Exodus 12:5; Numbers 28, 29), but for the Peace-Offering and some others (Leviticus 3:1, Leviticus 4:28-32) a female may be brought. In some countries females were spared for purposes of breeding, and for the value of their milk, and when offered were considered a more costly oblation; generally, however, males were preferred. For details, cp. Dillm. in loc. and Daremberg et Saglio, Dict. des Antiq. Gr. et Rom. Art. Sacrificium. The necessity for the victim being without blemish was recognised by nearly all nations who brought animal sacrifices. Cp. Leviticus 22:20 and Deuteronomy 15:21; Deuteronomy 17:1.

that he may be accepted] Here and in Leviticus 19:5, Leviticus 22:19; Leviticus 22:29 A.V. has translated of [at] his [your] own (voluntary) will, but Leviticus 22:20-21, Leviticus 23:11, Exodus 28:38 are translated as in R.V. The rendering of R.V. is the correct one in all these passages, the Heb. (râẓôn) being the same in all. The word is used in connexion with the Burnt-Offering and the Peace-Offering but not in reference to the Sin-Offering. In Leviticus 1:4 and it shall be accepted for him, the verb of the same Heb. root is used. Cp. Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 6:20.

Ch. Leviticus 1:3-17. The Burnt-Offering

For general remarks on the Burnt-Offering see on Leviticus 6:9. Three varieties may be brought, viz. (a) Bullock (Leviticus 1:3-9), (b) Sheep or Goat (Leviticus 1:10-13), (c) Fowls (Leviticus 1:14-17).

And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
4. he shall lay his hand upon] This ceremony is prescribed for animal sacrifices generally (1) for the Burnt-Offering here and Leviticus 8:18; Exodus 29:15; (2) for the Peace-Offering Leviticus 3:2; Leviticus 3:8; Leviticus 3:13; (3) for the Sin-Offering Leviticus 4:4; Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:29; Leviticus 4:33, Leviticus 8:14; Exodus 29:10; 2 Chronicles 29:23; (4) for both Burnt-Offering and Sin-Offering Numbers 8:12; (5) for the ram of consecration Leviticus 8:22; Exodus 29:19; (6) for the Levites when presented as a wave-offering Numbers 8:10. There is no mention of the ceremony in connexion with the Guilt-Offering, but from the statement in Leviticus 7:7 that there is one law for the Sin-Offering and the Guilt-Offering, and the absence of ritual detail in Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7, it seems probable that the ceremony was not omitted when a Guilt-Offering was brought. On the Day of Atonement Aaron laid both his hands on the live goat which was sent away into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21); when a blasphemer was put to death by stoning, all those that heard him were to lay their hands upon him (Leviticus 24:14 and cp. the story of Susanna 5:34); Moses appointed his successor Joshua by laying his hands upon him (Numbers 27:18; Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 34:9).

In all these passages the Heb. word for ‘lay’ is ṣâmak, and the action was called in post-Biblical Heb. ṣěmîkah. Something more than a mere putting of the hand on the head is intended; the word implies pressure or leaning upon an object. Targ. Jon. translates Leviticus 1:3 he shall lay his right hand with firmness and Tal. Bab. Zebâhîm 33 a enjoins the exercise of ‘all his strength.’ Cp. Chagîgah 16 b, where Ramai bar Chama says, ‘We require the laying on to be done with all one’s strength.’ According to Jewish tradition a confession of sin accompanied the laying on of hands. It does not seem probable that sacrificial acts were performed altogether in silence; special liturgical forms are prescribed in Deuteronomy 26 for two occasions; and it may be that the offerer made some statement of his intention in bringing his oblation, and prayed that the sacrifice might be graciously accepted. The expression ‘all his strength’ might then refer to mental as well as physical energy.

The rabbinic opinion is that the ṣĕmîkah was performed with both hands, but Targ. Jon. quoted above shews that the tradition varied.

and it shall be accepted for him] See on Leviticus 1:3.

to make atonement for him] Either the sacrifice will make atonement (Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 30:15-16), or the priest, by offering the sacrifice (Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 4:35). An atoning effect is attributed to the Burnt-Offering here and in Leviticus 14:20, Leviticus 16:24 (cp. Ezekiel 45:15; Ezekiel 45:17; Micah 6:6; Job 1:5; Job 42:8), but more often to the Sin-Offering and Guilt-Offering.

And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
5, 6. And he shall kill … flay … and cut it into its pieces] Many would not be able to flay and divide an animal without assistance; it seems probable that these parts of the ritual were performed by some one else. The plural verbs in LXX. and some other versions (they shall kill … flay …) may refer to existing practice, and it appears from 2 Chronicles 29:24; 2 Chronicles 29:34; 2 Chronicles 35:9-11 that priests and Levites performed these duties.

Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall present] bring A.V., the same Heb. word as that translated ‘offer’ in Leviticus 1:3. The priestly action commences here.

and sprinkle] Better, throw or scatter; the blood was caught in a bowl, and thrown against the sides of the altar twice, in such a manner that the blood touched all the four sides. The priest went to the N.E. corner, and threw the blood against the N. and E. sides, and then to the S.W. corner, where he threw the blood against the S. and W. sides. This is described in Mishna Zebâḥîm 53 b as ‘two applications of the blood which are four’ and quoted by Rashi in his commentary on this verse. For ‘sprinkling’ with the finger (Leviticus 4:6) another Heb. word is used.

door] entrance. There were no doors to the tent of meeting, but curtains.

And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
7. shall put fire upon the altar] According to Leviticus 6:9-13 the fire is kept burning upon the altar.

lay wood in order] The verb ‘lay in order’ here and in Leviticus 1:8 is different from ‘lay’ in Leviticus 1:4. The wood was collected and brought by the people (Nehemiah 10:34).

And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
9. a sweet savour] a soothing odour (McNeile on Exodus 29:18). The word ‘savour’ in old English is applied to the smell as well as the taste of a thing. See HDB. Art. Savour and Driver’s note (C.B.) on Exodus 29:18.

And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
(b) Sheep or Goat (10–13)

The oblation from the flock was made in the same manner as that from the herd. The whole of the ceremonial is not repeated, but an additional detail is supplied; the Burnt-Offering is killed ‘on the side of the altar northward’ as also the Sin-Offering and Guilt-Offering. By a slight transposition of words Leviticus 1:12 will read thus: ‘And he shall cut it into its pieces, and the priest shall lay them in order, and its head and its fat, on the wood …’

And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
(c) Fowls (14–17)

This kind of offering is not included in the general introduction in Leviticus 1:2. The ritual is slightly altered; the laying the hand on the victim is omitted, the bringing in the hand being equivalent; and the priest performs all the ceremonial.

And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
15. wring off] Or, pinch off the head with the nail, as A.V. mg., a word used here and Leviticus 5:8 only. The head is burnt after being removed, and the remainder of the bird is burnt afterwards. This burning of the parts separately is in marked contrast with the burning of the whole together in the two preceding sections (Leviticus 1:9 and Leviticus 1:13).

drained out on the side of the altar] The blood is too small in quantity to be treated as in the previous cases.

And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
16. take away its crop with the filth thereof] i.e. the bird is drawn as when made ready for cooking. The rendering of R.V. mg. (and so LXX. and Vulg.), as well as the Tal. Bab. (Zebaḥim 64 b), describes the removal of the feathers. It is probable that the bird was both cleaned and plucked.

on the east part, in the place of the ashes] The ashes to which the fire has reduced the Burnt-Offering (Leviticus 6:10).

And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
17. rend it by the wings thereof] The action corresponds to that of dividing into parts (Leviticus 1:6 and Leviticus 1:12), but because of the small size of the bird the division is not completed.

a sweet savour] The offering of fowls is thus described, as well as the offerings of the herd and of the flock, to teach that, whether the offerer bring much or little, it is all one in the sight of God provided only that the heart be directed heavenwards. (Rashi, based on Talm. Menâḥoth.)

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