The Word Made Fresh
1“If anyone is unfaithful to my law,” the LORD said to Moses, 2“by lying to another about property placed in his trust, or by stealing from another, 3or if someone has found something another has lost and lies about it, or if someone lies about anything another person has done, 4that one has sinned and must return the property taken by theft or fraud, or property that was lost which was found, 5or anything else falsely claimed. The guilty party must pay back the value of the property plus twenty percent, and this must be done on the very day he is found guilty. 6The guilty party must then pay the priest a fine to the LORD of a ram without any defect. 7The priest will make amends for the guilty party before the LORD and the guilt will be removed.”
8The LORD said to Moses, 9“Tell Aaron and his sons these are the rules for a whole burnt offering: it must remain on the edge of the altar all night long while the fire is kept burning. 10The priest will then don a linen gown over linen underwear, and since the offering will have been consumed by the fire overnight, he must remove the ashes and pile them beside the altar. 11Then the priest must change into his everyday clothes and carry the ashes outside of the camp to a designated area. 12The fire on the altar must not be allowed to go out. Each morning a priest will lay wood on it and then place any whole burned offering on it until it completely consumes the fat of the offering. 13The fire on the altar must not be allowed to go out.
14“Here is how the grain offerings are to be handled: Aaron’s sons will present it to the LORD at the front of the altar. 15One of them will take a handful of the flour and oil and all the incense brought with it and burn this part of it on the altar. It will be a pleasing odor to the LORD. 16The remaining portion is for Aaron and his sons to eat, and it must be eaten cooked without yeast in a sacred area in the courtyard of the sanctuary. 17Do not bake it with yeast. I give it to the priests as their share of grain brought to me. It is just as sacred as any other offering. 18Only those descended from Aaron may eat it. It will always be their share of the gifts brought to the LORD, and anyone who handles these grain offerings will be sacred as well.”
19The LORD said, “Moses, 20only Aaron and his sons are set apart for the priesthood, and they must bring this as an offering to me: two quarts of fine flour as a grain offering, half of it in the morning and half in the evening. 21It must be baked with oil on a flat surface and brought to me crumbled as a grain offering that will give a pleasing odor. 22The priest who is anointed to succeed Aaron will prepare this offering daily for the LORD and let the altar fire completely burn it up. 23Every offering of grain from the priests must be completely burned; it must not be eaten.”
24Then the LORD said, “Moses, tell Aaron and his sons these instructions concerning an offering for purification. It must be slaughtered before me at the same place the burned offering is slaughtered because it is very special. 26The priest who offers it will eat it, and it must be eaten in the courtyard of the sanctuary. 27Anything that touches it will be set apart and any blood from it must be cleansed within the bounds of the courtyard of the sanctuary. 28If the meat was cooked in a clay bowl, the bowl must be shattered. If it was cooked in a bronze pan the pan must be scrubbed clean and rinsed with water. 29Any priest can eat the offering; it is set apart for them. 30But if any part of the offering with blood is brought into the meeting tent it must be burned with fire.
1-7: This paragraph deals with cheating one’s neighbor. Again, it seems the emphasis is on doing the thing unintentionally because the law applies when one realizes one’s guilt. The value of the thing taken plus 20% is the specified fine to be paid to the one wronged, and then for atonement a male sheep is sacrificed.
8-13: Here are rules about regular offering and sacrifices and the perpetual fire that is to be kept on the altar – a symbol of the abiding presence of God, although it is hard to imagine how it could be kept when they are on the move. The priest is required to dress in his linen undergarments and vestments when the ashes are removed from the altar in the morning, then to change into “ordinary” clothing to remove the ashes to a site outside the camp. This notion of holy dress to honor God is carried over today in the practice of many congregations to come to worship dressed in one’s “Sunday clothes.”
14-18: The provision for the priests is reiterated concerning grain offerings. A portion of the offering is to be eaten by the priests, but only within the tabernacle; holy food must be eaten in the holy place. The priests themselves are deemed to be holy, and therefore anything that touches them (or that they touch?) becomes holy. This idea will result in excesses on the part of unscrupulous priests down the road.
19-23: If a priest brings a grain offering, it has to be entirely consumed by fire on the altar. When a priest is ordained, he is to prepare the grain offering personally, baking it with oil on a griddle. This is in keeping with the overall idea of the priests being set apart for God.
24-30: These verses present the rules about sin offerings made by the priests and specify what may be eaten by whom and where.
I think it would be a good thing if we would reclaim the idea that we should bring gifts to the LORD to atone for (or apologize for) something we may have done without realizing it was against God’s will. Of course, the death of Christ takes away all our sins, known and unknown, but it is always a healthy thing when we can acknowledge that we may have been wrong now and then.