The Word Made Fresh
1“When someone wishes to make a grain offering to the LORD, only the finest flour should be used. Oil should be poured on it 2and it should be brought to the priests, Aaron’s sons, with incense. One of them shall take a handful of the flour and oil and all the incense and burn it on the altar, and the smoke will carry a pleasant smell to the LORD. 3What is left of the grain offering will be given to Aaron and his sons and is considered part of the solemn offering to the LORD.
4“When the grain offering has been baked in an oven it must be of cakes made of the finest flour without yeast mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. 5Or if it is heated on a flat surface, 6break it, smear it with oil and give it as a grain offering. 7It may also be baked in a pan. 8However it is baked, bring it to the LORD by giving it to a priest who will carry it to the altar, 9tear off a portion to be burned as a pleasant smell to the LORD, 10and keep the rest for Aaron and his sons as a sacred part of the offering by fire to the LORD.
11“Do not use yeast with any grain offering. You must not use yeast or honey in any offering to the LORD. 12Those things can be brought to the LORD as a special gift but must not be burned on the altar. 13All of your offerings must include salt to represent your agreement with the LORD.
14“If your offering consists of the first grain harvested that season, make sure you bring only fresh-plucked heads of grain roasted over fire. 15Add oil and frankincense as with all grain offerings, and 16the priest will burn some of the grain and oil, along with all the incense, as an offering to the LORD by fire.
1-3: We enter the kinder, gentler world of grain offerings. Whereas the animal sacrifice is for atonement – to make oneself right with God – the grain offering is more along the lines of thanksgiving. It is also a prayer for crops to thrive. The grain is ground into flour, mixed with oil and an aromatic resin called frankincense, and brought to the priest. The priest takes a handful of it and burns it on the altar. The rest is for the priests’ pantry.
4-10: Baked or fried cakes or wafers may also be presented as offerings. They are spread with oil and brought to the priest. The priest burns a token portion of it on the altar and keeps the rest for the pantry.
11-13: Some additional rules for grain offerings: leavening or yeast must never be used, but they must always use salt. In this way each grain offering becomes a reminder of their rescue from slavery in Egypt and the Passover meal they ate on the night of the 10th plague (the death of the firstborn children of the Egyptians).
14-16: Rough grain just harvested may also be brought as an offering of first fruits without grinding it into flour. It is offered with oil and frankincense (and presumably salt as well) just as the other grain offerings. We might wonder, of course, where they are to harvest grain in the Sinai wilderness. The fact is that many of the laws given in Leviticus and Numbers will not apply until they have settled in the land of Canaan.
Part of the reason the people are being given rules for offering things like wheat and barley is to help them anticipate the future God has promised them – possession of the land of Canaan. Perhaps we, too, should be thinking and planning ahead about the offerings we might be surrendering to God in the future as the LORD continues to bless us throughout our lives.