Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
The Book is called Leviticus: because it treats of the offices, ministries, rites and ceremonies of the Priests and Levites. The Hebrews call it Vayyicra, from the word with which it begins; (Challoner) "and (the Lord) called." The a at the end of this word is printed in a smaller size, to insinuate that little children should begin to read this Book first, if we may give any credit to those who attempt to account for all the irregularities sanctioned by the great Massora! But such irregular letters are the faults of some transcribers, and are of no authority. (Kennicott, Dis. 1.) --- This Book is styled also, "The Priests' Law." (Haydock) --- The seven first chapters explain the sacrifices; the sixteen next, the offices and ordination of the Priests and Levites. From the 23d chapter to the end, the feasts are designated, and some regulations respecting vows are interspersed. All these rites and sacrifices foreshewed the eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus Christ, (St. Leo, ser. 8. de pas. Trid. sef. 22. c. 1.) and tended to keep the Hebrews employed, and at a greater distance from idolatry. (St. Jerome on Isai. i. &c.) --- These prescriptions were given during the month of Nisan, in the second year after the exit, while the Hebrews remained at the foot of Mount Sinai. God spoke from the New Tabernacle. (Tirinus) --- In the Book of Deuteronomy we find but few regulations respecting sacrifices, as Moses had sufficiently explained them in this book. (Du Hamel) --- If we confine ourselves to the letter, we may say these precepts are not good, and carnal; (Ezechiel xx. 25.; Hebrews vii. 16.) but if we consider the spirit, we shall confess that they are excellent, and spiritual. (Romans vii. 14.; 2 Corinthians iii. 6.; Origen, contra Cels. vii.) (Calmet)
Offer, voluntarily, without any command. Some sacrifices were of precept, Exodus xxii. 29. (Menochius) --- These first chapters are addressed to the people; the 6th from ver. 9, to the priests. Oxen, goats, and sheep, pigeons, and turtles, were to be offered in sacrifice, and small birds also, in the purification of lepers, (chap. xiv. 4,) as they might easily be procured. (Calmet) --- By sacrifice, we testify the dominion of God over all. They were offered by the patriarchs, and by all nations. God requireth that the victim should be without blemish, and slain with certain ceremonies wisely ordained, Psalm ciii. 24. (Worthington) --- A sacrifice. Hebrew korban, a present of any sort, Mark vii. --- Sheep and goats, ver. 10. The same term, tson, signifies both. (Menochius)
A holocaust. That is, a whole burnt-offering; (olocauston) so called, because the whole victim was consumed with fire; and given in such manner to God as wholly to evaporate, as it were, for his honour and glory; without having any part of it reserved for the use of man. The other sacrifices of the Old Testament were either offerings for sin, or peace-offerings: and these latter again were either offered in thanksgiving for blessing received, or by way of prayer for new favours or graces. So that sacrifices were then offered to God for four different ends or intentions, answerable to the different obligations which man has to God: 1. By way of adoration, homage, praise, and glory, due to his divine Majesty. 2. By way of thanksgiving for all benefits received from him. 3. By way of confessing and craving pardon for sins. 4. By way of prayer and petition for grace an relief in all necessities. In the New Law we have but one sacrifice, viz. that of the body and blood of Christ: but this one sacrifice of the New Testament perfectly answers all these four ends; and both priests and people, as often as it is celebrated, ought to join in offering it up for these four ends. (Challoner) (St. Augustine, City of God viii. 17.; St. Chrysostom in Psalm xcv.) --- We have an altar, (Hebrews xiii. 10,) on which the unbloody sacrifice is offered, (Matthew xxvi. 25,) as the blood of Christ was on the cross, Hebrews ix. 25. (Worthington)
Victim. To transfer all the curses due to him upon it, (Eusebius, Demon. i. 10,) and to testify that he gives it up entirely for the honour of God. (Lyranus) --- The Egyptians cut off the head of the victim, and vented upon it imprecations, begging that the gods would discharge upon it all the evils which they had deserved. Then they sold it to some foreigner, or threw it into the Nile. (Herod. ii. 39.) All nations seem to have acknowledged, that life would be given for life. Hanc animam vobis pro veliore damus: (Ovid, Fast. i.) and they had holocausts, in imitation of the Hebrews. (Bochart) --- Expiation. Hebrew, "it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him," provided he be in proper dispositions. (Menochius) --- The primary intention of the holocaust was to honour God: but this insured his favour also, and pardon. (Du Hamel)
He, by the hands of the priests, (chap. x. 1,) as the Septuagint express it, "they shall immolate;" (Menochius) though we might infer from this text, that the person who offered the victim, had to slay it; (Calmet) while the priests alone could pour the blood upon and around the altar. Without the effusion of blood remission is not made, Hebrews ix. 22. (Haydock)
They. Regularly the Levites performed this office. The skin belonged to the priest, chap. vii. 8. (Calmet)
Fire. Hebrew and Septuagint place the fire first, then the wood. It was the sacred fire which was never extinguished, but removed from the altar in marches, (chap. iv. 13,) perhaps in a censer or pan. (Haydock)
All things, &c. Hebrew pador, may signify the fat, or the trunk of the animal. (Calmet)
Sweet. Not that the Deity can take delight in sweet odours; but he is pleased with the devotion of men. For their advancement in piety, he required these sacrifices; 1. to keep the people from idolatry; 2. to teach them to consecrate their body and effects to him, as well as their souls, to serve justice unto sanctification; (Romans vi. 19; John iv. 24) as without the help of exterior observances, the mind will hardly rise to the contemplation of truth; 3. to prefigure the greater mysteries of the Christian religion, of which the law was only a shadow, incapable of conferring justifying grace. (John i. 17; Galatians iii. 11.) (Worthington) --- The law was our pedagogue, in Christ, that we might be justified by faith, ver. 24.
Male. Lyranus seems to have read "a year old," in the Vulgate. But it is not found in the Hebrew or in any version. It may have been taken from Exodus xii. 5, where the paschal lamb must be a male of one year. --- Blemish. The Septuagint add, "and he shall put his hand upon its head." (Haydock)
Pigeons. Hebrew and Septuagint say nothing about the age; though the Rabbins assure us, that old turtles and young pigeons were to be immolated, as being more excellent. God requires only what each person may easily procure. This third species of holocaust was chiefly intended for the poor, chap. xii. 8. But if they could not afford even this, they might offer flour, chap. ii.
The neck. Some say, without pulling the head off (Grotius); which the Rabbins deny. (Calmet)
Throat. Hebrew mierath, is rendered "the crop and its contents," by the Chaldean, Syriac, and Samaritan.
Pinions, as if it were to be roasted. Eusebius remarks, that the pagans plunged their birds into the sea, then poured the blood round the altar, and afterwards burnt them. Abram did not divide the birds, Genesis xv. 10. (Calmet) --- Oblation. Hebrew, "made by fire;" or which must be all consumed, except the crop and feathers. (Haydock)