The fire shall ever be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The fire shall ever be burning.—This fire, which first came down from heaven (Leviticus 9:24), was to be continually fed with the fuel especially provided by the congregation, and with the daily burnt offerings. During the second Temple, this perpetual fire consisted of three parts or separate piles of wood on the same altar: on the largest one the daily sacrifice was burnt; the second, which was called the pile of incense, supplied the fire for the censers to burn the morning and evening incense; and the third was the perpetual fire from which the other two portions were fed. It never was quenched till the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, we are positively assured that the pious priests who were carried captives into Persia concealed it in a pit, where it remained till the time of Nehemiah, when it was restored to the altar (2 Maccabees 1:19-22). The authorities in the time of Christ, however, assure us that the perpetual fire was one of the five things wanting in the second Temple.Leviticus 9:24 and which in after ages was maintained by constant fuel put unto it, there being every day burnt offerings upon it; which was an emblem of the love of Christ to his people, which is ever in a flame and burning, and can never be quenched by the many waters of their sins and iniquities; nor by all the sufferings he underwent to atone for them; nor by all the meanness and afflictions they are attended with; his love is fervent towards them, and always the same: and also of their love to him, which is unquenchable by the persecutions of men, by afflictions by the hand of God, by divine desertions, by Satan's temptations, or their own corruptions: it likewise may be an emblem of the graces of the Spirit of God in the hearts of his people, which have both light and heat in them; and though they are sometimes very low as to exercise, yet are in a wonderful manner preserved amidst great oppositions made unto them from within and from without; and may also be a symbol of the word of God, sometimes compared to fire for its light and heat, and may be signified by the fire on the altar for its perpetuity, which continues and abides, notwithstanding the attempts of men and devils to get it out of the world; and though the ministers of it die, that lives, and has been preserved in the worst of times, and will burn most clearly, and shine most brightly in the end of the world. This perpetual fire may also point at the prayers of saints, the fervency of them, and their perseverance in them; or rather to the efficacy and acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ, which always continues; nor may it be amiss applied to the afflictions of God's people, which constantly attend them in this world, and they must expect to have while in it; and even to the wrath of God on wicked men to all eternity, and which is the fire that cannot be quenched:
it shall never go out; as it is highly probable it never did, until the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar; though the author of second Maccabees states that:"For when our fathers were led into Persia, the priests that were then devout took the fire of the altar privily, and hid it in an hollow place of a pit without water, where they kept it sure, so that the place was unknown to all men.'' 2 Maccabees 1:19)pretends that some devout priests, who were carried captives into Persia, hid the fire of the altar privily in the hollow of a pit, where was no water, and in which it was kept sure and unknown to men, and was found and restored in the times of Nehemiah,"20 Now after many years, when it pleased God, Neemias, being sent from the king of Persia, did send of the posterity of those priests that had hid it to the fire: but when they told us they found no fire, but thick water; 21 Then commanded he them to draw it up, and to bring it; and when the sacrifices were laid on, Neemias commanded the priests to sprinkle the wood and the things laid thereupon with the water. 22 When this was done, and the time came that the sun shone, which afore was hid in the cloud, there was a great fire kindled, so that every man marvelled.'' (2 Maccabees 1)but this is contrary to what the Jews always assert (b), that the fire from heaven was wanting in the second temple; and yet from the account Josephus (c) gives of a festival called "Xylophoria", or the feast of the wood carrying, it seems to have been then in being, and great care was taken to preserve it that it might not go out; for, he says, at that feast it is a custom for all to bring wood to the altar, that so there might never be wanting fuel for the fire, for it always remained unextinguished: as to, what some have observed out of Diodorus Siculus (d), that Antiochus Epiphanes, when he went into the temple, quenched this fire, it appears to be a mistake; for Diodorus does not say that he put out the fire of the altar, but that he extinguished the immortal lamp, as it was called by them (the Jews), which was always burning in the temple; by which he plainly means the lamp in the candlestick, and perhaps what the Jews call the western lamp, which was always burning, and was the middle lamp bending to the west, and to which the rest bent: the Heathens in many places imitated this perpetual fire: the Brahmans among the Indians speak of fire falling from heaven, kept by them on everlasting hearths, or in fire pans (e), for that purpose: the Persians had their perpetual fire, having a great opinion of that element: in the march of Darius against Alexander, it is observed by the historian (f), that the fire which the Persians call sacred and eternal was placed on altars of silver, and he is said to adjure his soldiers by the gods of their country, and by the eternal fire on the altars, &c. to rescue the Persian name and nation from the last degree of reproach (g): the Grecians have many traces of this continual fire on the altar among them: at Mantinia, as Pausanias (h) relates, was a temple of Ceres and Proserpina, where a fire was kindled, and great care taken that it might not be extinguished; and in the temple of Pan, a fire burned which was never quenched: and the same writer says (i), with the Eleans was an altar which had fire continually burning on it night and day: and Aelianus (k) makes mention of an altar of Venus at Eryce in Sicily, which burnt night and day; and of which he says many things wonderful and fabulous: and it is well known that the Romans had their goddess Vesta, whom Velleius Paterculus (l) calls the keeper of the perpetual fires; and there were certain virgins, called the "vestal" virgins, whose business it was to take care that the fire never went out; and is by Virgil (m) called the eternal fire: and Vesta itself is thought by some learned men to be the same with "Esh-jah", the fire of Jehovah: now these were all satanical imitations of the perpetual fire on the altar of God.
(b) T. Hieros. Taaniot, fol. 65. 1. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 21. 2.((c) De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 17. sect. 6. (d) Eclog. 1. ex l. 34. p. 902. (e) Ammian. Marcellin. l. 23. (f) Curt. Hist. l. 3. c. 3.((g) Curt. Hist. l. 4. c. 14. (h) Arcadica sive, l. 8. p. 469, 516. (i) Eliac. 1. sive, l. 5. p. 316. (k) Hist. Animal. l. 10. c. 50. (l) Hist. l. 2. in fine. (m) "Vos aeterni igneis", &c. Aeneid. l. 2.The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
(Note: In the original the division of verses in the Hebrew text is followed; but we have thought it better to keep to the arrangement adopted in our English version. - Tr.)
The Trespass-Offerings. - These were presented for special sins, by which a person had contracted guilt, and therefore they are not included in the general festal sacrifices. Three kinds of offences are mentioned in this section as requiring trespass-offerings. The first is, "if a soul commit a breach of trust, and sin in going wrong in the holy gifts of Jehovah." מעל, lit., to cover, hence מעיל the cloak, over-coat, signifies to act secretly, unfaithfully, especially against Jehovah, either by falling away from Him into idolatry, by which the fitting honour was withheld from Jehovah (Leviticus 26:40; Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 22:16), or by infringing upon His rights, abstracting something that rightfully belonged to Him. Thus in Joshua 7:1; Joshua 22:20, it is applied to fraud in relation to that which had been put under the ban; and in Numbers 5:12, Numbers 5:27,it is also applied to a married woman's unfaithfulness to her husband: so that sin was called מעל, when regarded as a violation of existing rights. "The holy things of Jehovah" were the holy gifts, sacrifices, first-fruits, tithes, etc., which were to be offered to Jehovah, and were assigned by Him to the priests for their revenue (see Leviticus 21:22). חטא with מן is constructio praegnans: to sin in anything by taking away from Jehovah that which belonged to Him. בּשׁגגה, in error (see Leviticus 4:2): i.e., in a forgetful or negligent way. Whoever sinned in this way was to offer to the Lord as his guilt (see Leviticus 5:6) a ram from the flock without blemish for a trespass-offering (lit., guilt-offering), according to the estimate of Moses, whose place was afterwards taken by the officiating priest (Leviticus 27:12; Numbers 18:16). שׁקלים כּסף "money of shekels," i.e., several shekels in amount, which Abenezra and others have explained, no doubt correctly, as meaning that the ram was to be worth more than one shekel, two shekels at least. The expression is probably kept indefinite, for the purpose of leaving some margin for the valuation, so that there might be a certain proportion between the value of the ram and the magnitude of the trespass committed (see Oehler ut sup. p. 645). "In the holy shekel:" see Exodus 30:13. At the same time, the culprit was to make compensation for the fraud committed in the holy thing, and add a fifth (of the value) over, as in the case of the redemption of the first-born, of the vegetable tithe, or of what had been vowed to God (Leviticus 27:27, Leviticus 27:31, and Leviticus 27:13, Leviticus 27:15, Leviticus 27:19). The ceremony to be observed in the offering of the ram is described in Leviticus 7:1. It was the same as that of the sin-offerings, whose blood was not brought into the holy place, except with regard to the sprinkling of the blood, and in this the trespass-offering resembled the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings.
The second case (Leviticus 5:17-19), from its very position between the other two, which both refer to the violation of rights, must belong to the same category; although the sin is introduced with the formula used in Leviticus 4:27 in connection with those sins which were to be expiated by a sin-offering. But the violation of right can only have consisted in an invasion of Jehovah's rights with regard to Israel, and not, as Knobel supposes, in an invasion of the rights of private Israelites, as distinguished from the priests; an antithesis of which there is not the slightest indication. This is evident from the fact, that the case before us is linked on to the previous one without anything intervening; whereas the next case, which treats of the violation of the rights of a neighbour, is separated by a special introductory formula. The expression, "and wist it not," refers to ignorance of the sin, and not of the divine commands; as may be clearly seen from Leviticus 5:18 : "the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his error, which he committed without knowing it." The trespass-offering was the same as in the former case, and was also to be valued by the priest; but no compensation is mentioned, probably because the violation of right, which consisted in the transgression of one of the commands of God, was of such a kind as not to allow of material compensation. The third case (Leviticus 6:1-7) is distinguished from the other two by a new introductory formula. The sin and unfaithfulness to Jehovah are manifested in this case in a violation of the rights of a neighbour. "If a man deny to his neighbour (כּחשׁ with a double ב obj., to deny a thing to a person) a pikkadon (i.e., a deposit, a thing entrusted to him to keep, Genesis 41:36), or יד תּשׂוּמת, "a thing placed in his hand" (handed over to him as a pledge) "or גּזל, a thing robbed" (i.e., the property of a neighbour unjustly appropriated, whether a well, a field, or cattle, Genesis 21:25; Micah 2:2; Job 24:2), "or if he have oppressed his neighbour" (i.e., forced something from him or withheld it unjustly, Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14; Joshua 12:8; Malachi 3:5), "or have found a lost thing and denies it, and thereby swears to his lie" (i.e., rests his oath upon a lie), "on account of one of all that a man is accustomed to do to sin therewith:" the false swearing here refers not merely to a denial of what is found, but to all the crimes mentioned, which originated in avarice and selfishness, but through the false swearing became frauds against Jehovah, adding guilt towards God to the injustice done to the neighbour, and requiring, therefore, not only that a material restitution should be made to the neighbour, but that compensation should be made to God as well. Whatever had been robbed, or taken by force, or entrusted or found, and anything about which a man had sworn falsely (Leviticus 6:4, Leviticus 6:5), was to be restored "according to its sum" (cf. Exodus 30:12; Numbers 1:2, etc.), i.e., in its full value; beside which, he was to "add its fifths" (on the plural, see Ges. 87, 2; Ew. 186 e), i.e., in every one of the things abstracted or withheld unjustly the fifth part of the value was to be added to the full amount (as in Leviticus 5:16). "To him to whom it (belongs), shall he give it" אשׁמתו בּיום: in the day when he makes atonement for his trespass, i.e., offers his trespass-offering. The trespass (guilt) against Jehovah was to be taken away by the trespass-offering according to the valuation of the priest, as in Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:16, and Leviticus 5:18, that he might receive expiation and forgiveness on account of what he had done.
If now, in order to obtain a clear view of the much canvassed difference between the sin-offerings and trespass-offerings,
(Note: For the different views, see Bhr's Symbolik; Winer's bibl. R. W.; Kurtz on Sacrificial Worship; Riehm, theol. Stud. und Krit. 1854, pp. 93ff.; Rinck, id. 1855, p. 369; Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.)
we look at once at the other cases, for which trespass-offerings were commanded in the law; we find in Numbers 5:5-8 not only a trespass against Jehovah, but an unjust withdrawal of the property of a neighbour, clearly mentioned as a crime, for which material compensation was to be made with the addition of a fifth of its value, just as in Leviticus 5:2-7 of the present chapter. So also the guilt of a man who had lain with the slave of another (Leviticus 19:20-22) did not come into the ordinary category of adultery, but into that of an unjust invasion of the domain of another's property; though in this case, as the crime could not be estimated in money, instead of material compensation being made, a civil punishment (viz., bodily scourging) was to be inflicted; and for the same reason nothing is said about the valuation of the sacrificial ram. Lastly, in the trespass-offerings for the cleansing of a leper (Leviticus 14:12.), or of a Nazarite who had been defiled by a corpse (Numbers 6:12), it is true we cannot show in what definite way the rights of Jehovah were violated (see the explanation of these passages), but the sacrifices themselves served to procure the restoration of the persons in question to certain covenant rights which they had lost; so that even here the trespass-offering, for which moreover only a male sheep was demanded, was to be regarded as a compensation or equivalent for the rights to be restored. From all these cases it is perfectly evident, that the idea of satisfaction for a right, which had been violated but was about to be restored or recovered, lay at the foundation of the trespass-offering,
(Note: Even in the case of the trespass-offering, which those who had taken heathen wives offered at Ezra's instigation (Ezra 10:18.), it had reference to a trespass (cf. vv. 2 and 10), an act of unfaithfulness to Jehovah, which demanded satisfaction. And so again the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:3.), when presenting gifts as a trespass-offering for Jehovah, rendered satisfaction for the robbery committed upon Him by the removal of the ark of the covenant.)
and the ritual also points to this. The animal sacrificed was always a ram, except in the cases mentioned in Leviticus 14:12. and Numbers 6:12. This fact alone clearly distinguishes the trespass-offerings from the sin-offerings, for which all kinds of sacrifices were offered from an ox to a pigeon, the choice of the animal being regulated by the position of the sinner and the magnitude of his sin. But they are distinguished still more by the fact, that in the case of all the sin-offerings the blood was to be put upon the horns of the altar, or even taken into the sanctuary itself, whereas the blood of the trespass-offerings, like that of the burnt and peace-offerings, was merely swung against the wall of the altar (Leviticus 7:2). Lastly, they were also distinguished by the fact, that in the trespass-offering the ram was in most instances to be valued by the priest, not for the purpose of determining its actual value, which could not vary very materially in rams of the same kind, but to fix upon it symbolically the value of the trespass for which compensation was required. Hence there can be no doubt, that as the idea of the expiation of sin, which was embodied in the sprinkling of the blood, was most prominent in the sin-offering; so the idea of satisfaction for the restoration of rights that had been violated or disturbed came into the foreground in the trespass-offering. This satisfaction was to be actually made, wherever the guilt admitted of a material valuation, by means of payment or penance; and in addition to this, the animal was raised by the priestly valuation into the authorized bearer of the satisfaction to be rendered to the rights of God, through the sacrifice of which the culprit could obtain the expiation of his guilt.
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