And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice…
The ceremony of the offering of the flock is almost identical with that of the herd described in the verses preceding. In that of the fowls there is a wider dissimilarity.
I. the VARIETY OF THE VICTIMS CLAIMS ATTENTION.
1. Five or six kinds of victims were accepted.
(1) These were beeves, sheep, goats, turtle-doves, pigeons. To these may be added the clean birds, supposed to have been sparrows, which were required in the particular ceremony of the cleansing of the leper.
(2) All these, excepting the last, were proper for burnt offerings. They are notable as mild, gentle, inoffensive, and useful creatures. They are therefore fittingly used as types to describe the innocence and meekness of Jesus (John 1:36; Isaiah 53:7).
(3) As Christians we have nothing to do with the ferocity of the tiger or the rapacity of the wolf. If we have the wisdom of the serpent, it must be associated with the harmlessness of the dove (see Matthew 10:16).
2. But what are the lessons conveyed in this variety?
(1) It evinces the insufficiency of the sacrifices of the Law. If one sacrifice or one kind of sacrifice could really take away sin, why repeat it or have recourse to others? Their usefulness therefore was in the manner in which they foreshadowed the better Sacrifice.
(2) By contrast it evinces the sufficiency of the Great Sacrifice of the New Testament. No single sacrifice or kind of sacrifice could body forth all that was required in a sufficient Saviour; therefore the number and variety of the type's. But Jesus offered himself alone and once, Because everything centred in him. Supplementary sacrifices such as that of the Mass, are blasphemous impertinences.
(3) It further evinces the mercifulness of Divine justice. Here was the bullock for the rich man. Here was the sheep or goat for the man in moderate circumstances. Here were the turtle-doves or pigeons for the poor (2 Corinthians 8:12). Here is Christ without money and without price for all.
II. THERE ARE NOTABLE OMISSIONS.
1. The placing of the offerer's hand upon the head of the victim.
(1) This is mentioned in connection with the offering from the herd (verse 4). Omitted in the description of the offering from the flock. Also from the offering from the fowls. It may have been done nevertheless.
(2) It was very expressive of the transfer of sin to the victim. Possibly Paul refers to this custom - of course, taking it in its application to the gospel - when he speaks of the "laying on of hands" as amongst the "first principles of the doctrine of Christ" (Hebrews 6:2).
(3) If in any case it was omitted, it would then suggest the important truth that the hand of God laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6, 10).
2. The flaying of the skin.
(1) This is described in the account of the herd, but omitted in that of the flock (ver. 6). It appears, nevertheless, to have been done also in the latter case.
(2) The skin is the natural clothing or covering of the animal. If the coats of skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve in substitution for their covering of fig leaves by which they expressed their sense of shame for their sin, were those of sacrificed animals, then it vigorously sets forth the manner in which we receive "beauty for ashes" when invested with the righteousness of Christ.
3. Instead of the "door of the tabernacle of the congregation" which is mentioned in connection with the herd, "northward" is the term used in connection with the flock (comp. verses 5, 11). These expressions are generally synonymous (Leviticus 7:2). Standing at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, the worshipper held communion with God and with the whole congregation. He stood at the north side of the altar, because that was the place of rings to which the victims were fastened in order to be slain. The hill of Calvary also was situate northwest of Jerusalem. How humiliating that our communion with God and his Church must be through suffering and blood!
III. DIFFERENCES ARE NOTICEABLE IN THE BURNT SACRIFICE OF FOWLS.
1. In this case two birds were brought.
(1) One, however, only is offered as a burnt sacrifice. The singular is used in this description.
(2) The other was to be used as a sin offering (see chapters Leviticus 5:7; 12:8; 14:22).
2. They were cloven but not divided.
(1) This was in accordance with the directions given to Abraham (Genesis 15:10).
(2) The cleaving was required for the removal of the intestines, but the wings must not be divided, for the power for flight of Christ to heaven cannot be impaired (Acts 2:24).
(3) The head was wrung off, and the blood wrung out by the side of the altar.
3. The crop and feathers were cast into the place of ashes.
(1) This was during the tabernacle "by the side of the altar on the east part." All the ashes went there (see Leviticus 6:10).
(2) In the temple the place of ashes was a closet under the altar. In allusion to this the souls, that is to say, the bodies, of the martyrs are represented as under the altar, crying for vengeance upon their persecutors (Revelation 6:9-11). Reflect: The poor man's pigeons as truly as the rich man's bullock was "of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (see Ephesians 5:2; also 1 Peter 2:5). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.