The Word Made Fresh
1“Here are instructions for offerings for guilt. It is a very sacred practice. 2The guilt offering must be slaughtered at the same place where other offerings are slaughtered. The blood must be sprinkled against the four sides of the altar. 3All the fat must be burned as an offering on the altar: the tail, the fat from the entrails, 4the kidneys and fat between the thighs, and the lobe of the liver separated from the kidneys. 5The priest will completely burn them on the altar for the LORD as an offering for forgiveness of guilt. 6Any of the priests may eat the remaining meat in a sacred place.
7“The guilt offering is handled like the burnt offering; it belongs to the priest who placed it on the altar. 8The hide of the animal also belongs to the priest. 9The same rule applies to the grain offering that is baked or fried; it belongs to the priest who placed it on the altar. 10However, other grain offerings whether dry or mixed with oil, belongs equally to all of Aaron’s sons.
11“Here is the procedure for presenting offerings for the community. 12If an offering is brought for thanksgiving, you must also offer unleavened flatbread with oil, thin cakes spread with oil and another unleavened flatbread made of the finest flour mixed with oil. 13This offering must also be accompanied with flatbread that is leavened with yeast. 14One of each kind of bread is presented as an offering to the LORD and the rest belongs to the priest who sprinkled the blood of the thanksgiving offering. 15The meat of the thanksgiving sacrifice must be eaten on the day it is given; none of it may be left for the next day.
16“If an offering is made to bind a promise, or is simply made freely, it may be eaten on the day it is offered, but in this case what is left may be eaten the next day. 17If any of it remains on the third day it must be burned on the altar. 18Whoever eats any of it on the third day is guilty of a serious offense, and the person who brought the sacrifice will not be credited with it.
19“Meat that comes into contact with anything that is ritually unclean must not be eaten. It must be burned up. Other meat may be eaten by anyone who is ritually clean. 20Anyone who is ritually unclean and eats meat from the sacrifice will be ejected from their family. 21If anyone has touched anything that is ritually unclean, whether it is human or animal, and then eats some of the meat from the LORD’s offering of thanksgiving, that one must be ejected from their family.”
22The LORD said, “Moses, 23tell the Israelites they must not eat the fat from ox or sheep or goat. 24Fat from an animal that dies or is killed by a wild animal may be used as you wish, but not eaten. 25Anyone who does must be ejected from his family. 26You must never eat the blood of any bird or animal in any of your camps. 27Anyone who does must be ejected from their family.”
28“Moses,” the LORD said, 29“Tell the people of Israel that anyone who would offer a sacrifice to me of thanksgiving must bring the offering in their own hands. 30Bring it in your own hands and bring the fat with the breast so that the breast may be raised before the LORD by the priest. 31The priest will then burn the fat on the altar, but the breast belongs to Aaron and his sons. 32Give the priest also the right thigh from your thanksgiving offering. 33Aaron’s son who offers the blood and fat of your sacrifice will have the thigh as his portion. 34I take the breast and thigh the people offer from their thanksgiving sacrifices and give them to Aaron and his sons as a permanent compensation for them. 35Once they have been ordained as priests this will be their benefit from the sacrifices they burn on the altar.”
37These are the rules by which the priests will bring to the LORD the burnt offerings, grain offerings, guilt offerings, ordination offerings and thanksgiving offerings, 36which the LORD commanded Moses on Mt. Sinai to instruct the people of Israel.
1-6: We repeat the procedure for the guilt offering, this time specifically in reference to offerings made by the priests. Priests can sin, too, and are not exempt from making atonement and restitution.
7-10: The priests’ compensation package is covered here, at least as much as it has to do with feeding them. The priest on duty gets to eat the specified part of each burnt offering, meat and grain. However, every other grain offering is divided equally between all the priests, not just the one who happens to be on duty at the time.
11-18: Another kind of offering is covered here; the well-being offering, which may be given as a thanksgiving offering or as a votive, or free-will, offering, made simply because the person wishes to do so out of esteem for the LORD. The disposition of the sacrifices – the parts to be burned, eaten, or discarded – follows the pattern described before.
19-21: Here we learn of meat that has become unclean, and the punishment that accrues to those who eat such meat. They shall be “ejected from their family,” or “cut off from their people.” I think this is the first occurrence of that phrase. The exact meaning of it is not clear, and guesses range from a period of having to live outside the encampment to banishment to execution.
22-27: It is forbidden to eat fat or blood, and anyone who does is subject to being “cut off.” This is a curious regulation to our way of thinking, but in their culture the blood was God’s life-gift, and the fat was the choicest part of the animal.
28-36: Meticulous rules govern the sacrifice of well-being (also called thanksgiving) as with the other kinds of sacrifices. As before, the thigh and breast of well-being sacrifices are given to the priest who makes the offering.
37-38: These verses summarize the types of sacrifices treated thus far.
One thing we can say for certain: they took their faith and their religion very seriously. We exercise a great deal more freedom in our own religious rituals and are no longer expected to slaughter animals as offerings. On the other hand, we have to marvel at the complexity of their rituals and the faithfulness accompanying them. God’s covenant with Israel was very much a covenant of blood, which means it was a covenant of life. Our covenant with God is also a covenant of life; but the life was given 2000 years ago and is no longer required of us.