professor of the literature and interpretation of the old testament
in the berkeley divinity school, middletown, conn.
in which is incorporated
A TRANSLATION OF THE GREATER PART OF THE GERMAN
COMMENTARY ON LEVITICUS,
JOHN PETER LANGE, D.D.,
professor of theology in the university of bonn.
THE THIRD BOOK OF MOSES
“The Book of the Sacerdotal Theocracy, or of the Priesthood of Israel, to set forth its typical Holiness.”
“The religious observances by which God’s people might be made holy, and kept holy.”—Lange.
™ 1. Name, Connection, Object, And Authorship
The writings of Moses have reached us in a five-fold division, the several parts of which have come to be commonly known by the names given to them in the Septuagint and Vulgate. In the Hebrew the whole Pentateuch is divided, as one book, into sections (Parashiyoth) for reading in the synagogues on each Sabbath of the year, and the several books are called by the first word of the first section contained in them. Thus the present book is
= and he called; it is also called by the Rabbins in the Talmud
= Law of the Priests, and
ñֵôֶø úּåֹøַú ÷ָøְáָּðåֹú
= Book of the Law of offerings. In the Septuagint and Vulgate this central book of the Pentateuch is called
) and Leviticus (liber) because it has to do with the duties of the priests, the sons of Levi. The Levites, as distinguished from the priests, are mentioned but once, and that incidentally, in the whole book (Lev_25:32-33).
As appears from the Hebrew name, the connection of this book with the one immediately preceding is very close. The tabernacle had now been set up, and its sacred furniture arranged; the book of Exodus closes with the mention of the cloud that covered it, and the Glory of the Lord with which it was filled. Hitherto the Lord had spoken from the cloud on Sinai; now His presence was manifested in the tabernacle from which henceforth He made known His will. It is just at this point that Leviticus is divided from Exodus. The same Lord still speaks to the same people through the same mediator; but He had before spoken from the heights of Sinai, while now He speaks from the sacred tabernacle pitched among His people. At the close Leviticus is also closely connected with, and yet distinctly separated from, the book of Numbers. It embraces substantially the remaining legislation given in the neighborhood of Sinai, while Numbers opens with the military census and other matters preparatory to the march of the Israelites in the second year of the Exodus. Yet on the eve of that march a number of additional commands are given in Numbers intimately associating the two books together.
The whole period between the setting up of the tabernacle (Exo_40:17) and the final departure from Mt. Sinai (Num_10:11) was but one month and twenty days. Much of this was occupied by the events recorded in the earlier chapters of Numbers, especially the offerings of the princes on twelve days (Numbers 7) which must have almost immediately followed the consecration of the priests and the tabernacle (Num_7:1 with Lev_8:10-11), and the celebration of the second Passover (Lev_9:1-5) occupying seven days, and begun on the fourteenth day of the first month. All the events of Leviticus must therefore be included within less than the space of one month.
The object of the Book is apparent from its contents and the circumstances under which it was given, especially when considered in connection with the references to it in the New Testament. Jehovah, having now established the manifestation of His presence among His people, directs them how to approach Him. Primarily, this has reference, of course, to the then existing people, under their then existing circumstances; but as ages rolled away, and the people were educated to higher spiritual capacity, the spiritual meaning of these directions was more and more set forth by the prophets; until at last, when the true Sacrifice for sin had come, the typical and preparatory character of these arrangements was fully declared. Lange (Hom. in Lev. General) says “Leviticus appears to be the most peculiarly Old Testament in its character of all the Old Testament books, since Christ has entirely removed all outward sacrifices. It may certainly be rightly said that the law of sacrifice, or the ceremonial law has been abrogated by Christianity. But if the law in general, in its outward historical and literal form has been abrogated, on the other hand, in its spiritual sense, it has been fulfilled (Galatians 2; Romans 3; Matthew 5); and so it must also be said in regard to the law of sacrifices. The sacrificial law in its idea has only been fully realized in Christianity;—in its principle fulfilled, realized, in Christ, to be realized from this as a basis, continually in the life of Christians.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews the character of the sacrificial system in general, and particularly of that part of it contained in Leviticus, is clearly set forth as at once imperfect and transitory in itself, and yet typical of, and preparatory for, “the good things to come.” A flood of light is indeed thrown back from the anti-type upon the type, and for this reason the Old Testament is always to be studied in connection with the New; yet on the other hand, the converse is also true, and Leviticus has still a most important purpose for the Christian Church in that it sets forth, albeit in type and shadow, the will of an unchangeable God in regard to all who would draw nigh to Him. Much of the New Testament, and especially of the Epistle to the Hebrews, can only be fully understood through a knowledge of Leviticus. To this general object of the book may be added the special purposes, already necessarily involved, of preserving the Israelites alike from idolatry by the multiform peculiarity of their ritual, and of saving them from indolence in their worship by the exacting character of the ceremonial. The Christian Fathers, as Eusebius, SS. Augustine, Leo, Cyril, as well as Origen and many others, speak of the book as setting forth in types and shadows the sacrifice of Christ; while many of them also, as Tertullian, SS. Clement, Jerome, Chrysostom, and others, speak of the inferior purpose just mentioned.
Of the authorship of this book there is little need to speak, because there is really no room for doubt. This is not the place to combat the opinions of those critics who, like Kalisch, hold the whole Pentateuch to have been a very late compilation from fragments of various dates, and the Mosaic system to have been one of gradual human-development. The portions assigned by Knobel to another author than the “Elohist” are Lev_10:16-20; Leviticus 17-20; Leviticus 23, part of Lev_23:2 and Lev_23:3, Lev_23:18-19; Lev_23:22; Lev_23:29-44; Lev_24:10-23; Lev_25:18-22; Leviticus , 26; but the reasons given “are too transparently unsatisfactory to need serious discussion.” Generally, it may be said that even those critics who question most earnestly the Mosaic authorship of some other portions of the Pentateuch are agreed that Leviticus must have proceeded substantially from Moses. There is really no scope in this book for the Jehovistic and Elohistic controversy; for although Knobel delights to point out the distinct portions by each writer, yet the name
never occurs in Lev. absolutely, but only with a possessive pronoun marking the Deity as peculiarly Israel’s God. (It is however once used, Lev_19:4, for false gods). The book contains every possible mark of contemporaneous authorship, and there are constant indications of its having been written during the life in the wilderness. The words used for the sanctuary are either
(4 times) or
(35 times) and never any term implying a more permanent structure. For the dwellings of the people,
in the sense of a house, is never used except in reference to the future habitation of the promised land, which is the more striking because it occurs thirty-seven times in this sense, and in all of them with express reference to the future, except Lev_27:14-15, where this reference is implied;
do not occur at all;
tent, occurs once, while the indefinite word
is found eight times;
, which is neither house nor tent, but booth, occurs four times in the commands connected with the observance of the feast of tabernacles, and with especial reference to Israel’s having dwelt in booths at their first coming out from Egypt (Lev_23:43). The use of all these terms is thus exactly suited to the wilderness period, but not to any other. The use of
for the feminine, so frequently changed in the Samaritan to
, and so pointed by the Masorets; the use of
for the people, so common in Ex., Lev., Num., and Josh., and so infrequent elsewhere; the usual designation of them as the children of Israel, a phrase so largely exchanged for the simple Israel in later writers; and many other marks point to the earliest period of Hebrew literature as the time of the composition of this book. The book itself repeatedly claims to record the laws which were given to Moses in Mount Sinai, or in the wilderness of Sinai (Lev_7:38; Lev_25:1; Lev_26:46; Lev_27:34), and in one instance (Lev_16:1), the time is sharply defined as after the death of Aaron’s two sons, and sometimes (Lev_21:24; Lev_23:44) the immediate publication of the laws is mentioned. There are frequent references to the time “When ye be come into the land of Canaan” as yet in the future (Lev_14:34; Lev_19:23; Lev_23:10); and laws are given for use in the wilderness, as e.g., the slaughter of all animals intended for food at the door of the tabernacle as sacrifices (Lev_17:1-6), which would have been impossible to observe when the life in the camp was exchanged for that in the scattered cities of Canaan, and which was actually abrogated on the eve of the entrance into the promised land (Deu_12:15; Deu_12:20-22). In this abrogation no mention is made of the previous law, but its existence is implied, and the change is based on the distance of their future homes. There is frequent reference in the laws to the “camp” (Lev_4:12; Lev_4:21; Lev_6:11; Lev_13:46; Lev_14:3; Lev_14:8; Lev_16:26-28), so that in after times it became necessary to adopt as a rule of interpretation that this should always be understood in the law of the city in which the sanctuary stood. Throughout the book Aaron appears as the only high-priest (although this term is never used) and provision is repeatedly made for his son, who should be anointed, and should minister in his stead; and Aaron’s sons appear as the only priests. The Levites have not yet been appointed, nor are they ever mentioned except in one passage in reference to their cities in the future promised land (Lev_25:32-33). Not to dwell further upon particulars, it may be said in a word that we have here, and here only, the full sacrificial and priestly system which is recognized as existing in the two following books of the Pentateuch, and all subsequent Hebrew literature. For an excellent summary of the evidence, see Warrington’s “When was the Pentateuch written?” (London: Christian Evidence Com. of Soc. P. C. K.).
The only passage presenting any real difficulty in regard to the date of the book is Lev_18:28, “That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.” For the true sense of these words, see the commentary; but even taking it as it stands in the A. V., and supposing the whole exhortation, Lev_18:24-30, to have been added by divine direction when Moses made his final revision of the work on the plains of Moab, we can easily understand the language. Already, the conquest of the trans-Jordanic region was accomplished, and that of the rest of the land was to be immediately entered upon with the clearest promise of success. God warns the people through Moses, when all shall be done, not to follow in the ways of the Canaanites, lest they also themselves suffer as their predecessors had suffered. It is simply a case of the Lord’s speaking from the stand-point of an accomplished work, while the work was in progress, and assuredly soon to be completed. It is to be noted that in the book itself the claim to Mosaic authorship is distinctly made in the last verse of Leviticus 26, and again of the appendix, chap, 27 (comp. Num_36:13).
2. Unity And Contents Of Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is marked on the surface with these elements of unity: it is all centred in the newly-erected tabernacle; and only a few weeks passed away between its beginning and its close. There is necessarily much variety in so considerable a collection of laws, and something of historical narrative in connection with the immediate application of those laws; but the main purpose is everywhere apparent and controlling—the arrangements whereby a sinful people may approach, and remain in permanent communion with a holy God. This will better appear in the following table of contents. The arrangement of the book is as systematic as the nature of its contents allowed. In regard to one or two alleged instances of repetition (Lev_11:39-40 compared with Lev_22:8, and Lev_19:9 with Lev_23:22) it is sufficient to say that they were intentional (see the commentary); and in regard to several chapters supposed to be placed out of their natural connection, (as e. g., Leviticus 12, 15,) it simply does not appear that the thread of connection in the mind of Moses was the same as in that of the critic. In fact, in the instances alleged, the great Legislator seems to have taken especial pains to break that connection which is now spoken of as the natural one, and has thus, for important reasons, separated the purification after child-birth from all other purifications which might otherwise have seemed to be of the same character. Such points will be noticed in detail in the commentary. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that Leviticus was given at Sinai in view of an immediate and direct march to Canaan, which should have culminated in the possession of the promised land. When this had been prevented in consequence of the sin of the people, a long time—above thirty-eight years—passed away before the encampment on the plains of Moab. During this period the law was largely in abeyance, as is shown by the fact that its most imperative requirement, circumcision, was entirely omitted to the close (Jos_5:5-8). After this long interval, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the writings of Moses would have been revised before his death, and such clauses and exhortations added as the changed circumstances might require. These passages, however, if really written at that time, so far from being in any degree incongruous with the original work, do but fill out and emphasize its teachings.
The contents of Leviticus are arranged in the following table in such a way as to show something of the connection of its parts.
Book I.—Of approach to God. (Lev_1:1-16).
First Part. (1–7) Laws of Sacrifice.
§ 1. General rules for the Sacrifices. (Lev_1:1 to Lev_6:7).
A. Burnt offerings. Leviticus 1.
B. Oblations (Meat offerings). Leviticus 2.
C. Peace offerings. Leviticus 3.
D. Sin offerings. Lev_4:1 to Lev_5:13.
E. Trespass offerings. Lev_5:14 to Lev_6:7.
§ 2. Special instructions chiefly for the Priests. Lev_6:8 to Lev_7:38.
A. For Burnt offerings. Lev_6:8-13.
B. “Oblations (Meat offerings). Lev_6:14-23.
C. “Sin offerings. Lev_6:24-30.
D. “Trespass offerings. Lev_7:1-6.
E. “the Priests’ portion of the above. Lev_7:7-10.
F. “Peace offerings in their variety. Lev_7:11-21.
G. “the Fat and the Blood. Lev_7:22-27.
H. “the priests’ portion of peace offerings. Lev_7:28-36.
Conclusion of this Section. Lev_7:37-38.
Second Part. Historical. (Leviticus 8-10).
§ 1. The Consecration of the Priests. Leviticus 8.
§ 2. Entrance of Aaron and his sons on their office. Leviticus 9.
§ 3. The sin and punishment of Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus 10.
Third Part. The Laws of Purity. (Leviticus 11-15).
§ 1. Laws of clean and unclean food. Leviticus 11.
§ 2. Laws of purification after child-birth. Leviticus 12.
§ 3. Laws concerning Leprosy. (Leviticus 13, 14).
A. Examination and its result. Lev_13:1-46.
B. Leprosy in clothing and leather. Lev_13:47-59.
C. Cleansing and restoration of a Leper. Lev_14:1-32.
D. Leprosy in a house. Lev_14:33-53.
E. Conclusion. Lev_14:54-57.
§ 4. Sexual impurities and cleansings. Leviticus 15.
Fourth Part. The Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16.
Book II.—Of continuance in communion with God. (Leviticus 17-26).
First Part. Holiness on the part of the people. (Leviticus 17-20).
§ 1. Holiness in regard to Food. Leviticus 17.
§ 2. Holiness of the Marriage relation. Leviticus 18.
§ 3. Holiness of Conduct towards God and man. Leviticus 19.
§ 4. Punishment for Unholiness. Leviticus 20.
Second Part. Holiness on the part of the Priests, and holiness of the Offerings. Leviticus 21, 22.
Third Part. Sanctification of Feasts. (Leviticus 23-25).
§ 1. Of the Sabbaths and Annual Feasts. Leviticus 23.
§ 2. Of the Holy lamps and Shew-bread. Lev_24:1-9.
§ 3. Historical. The punishment of a Blasphemer. Lev_24:10-23.
§ 4. Of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. Leviticus 25.
Fourth Part. Conclusion. Promises and Threats. 26. Appendix. Of vows. Leviticus 37.
3. The Relation Of The Levitical Code To Heathen Usages
Widely divergent views have been held by different writers upon this subject. Spencer (De legibus Hebrœorum) was disposed to find an Egyptian origin for almost every Mosaic institution. Baehr (Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus) has sought to disprove all connection between them. The à priori probability seems well expressed by Marsham (in Can. chron. Œgypt., p. 154, ed. Leips.) as quoted by Rosenmueller (Pref. in Lev., p. 5, note). “We know from Scripture that the Hebrews were for a long time inhabitants of Egypt; and we may suspect, not without reason, that they did not wholly cast off Egyptian usages, but rather that some traces of Egyptian habit remained. Many laws of Moses are from ancient customs. Whatever hindered the cultus of the true Deity, he strictly forbade. Moses abrogated most of the Egyptian rites, some he changed, some he held as indifferent, some he permitted, and even commanded.” Yet this legislation by its many additions and omissions, and the general remoulding of all that remained became, as Rosenmueller also remarks, peculiarly and distinctively Hebrew, adapted to their needs, and sharply separating them from all other people.
It can scarcely be necessary to speak of what the Mosaic law taught in common with the customs of all people at this period of the world’s history. The aim of the law was to elevate the Israelites to a higher and better standard, but gently, and as they were able to bear it. Certain essential laws were given, and these were insisted upon absolutely and with every varied form of command which could add to the emphasis. The unity of God, and His omnipotence, were taught with a distinctness which was fast fading out from the world’s recollection, and which we scarcely find elsewhere at this period, except in the book of Job, which may itself have been modified in Mosaic hands. So, too, the necessity of outward sacramental observances for the whole people, whereby communion with God through His Church should be maintained, were strongly insisted upon, as in circumcision and the Passover, and other sacrifices. But when we come to consider the conduct of the ordinary life, we find the universally received customs of the times not abrogated, but only restrained and checked according to the capacity of the people. All these checks and restraints were in the direction of, and looking towards, the higher standard of the morality of the Gospel, as may be seen in the law of revenge, where unlimited vengeance was restricted to a return simply equal to the injury received; in the laws of marriage, which imposed many restrictions on the freedom of divorce and of polygamy; in the laws of slavery, which so greatly mitigated the hardships of that condition. But in these, as in many other matters, their Heavenly Father dealt tenderly with His people, and “for the hardness of their hearts” suffered many things which were yet contrary to His will.
The same general principles apply to the retention among them of very much of Egyptian custom and law. It is more important to speak of these because the Israelites lived so long and in such close contact with the Egyptians from the very time of their beginning to multiply into a nation until the eve of the promulgation of the Sinaitic legislation. Particular points in which this legislation was adapted to the already acquired habits and ideas of the people, will be noticed in the commentary as occasion requires. It is only necessary here to point out on the one hand how apparent lacunœ in the Mosaic teaching may thus be explained, and on the other, how largely the Egyptian cultus itself had already been modified, in all probability, by the influence of the fathers of the Jewish people. By consideration of the former it is seen, e.g., why so little should have been said in the Mosaic writings of immortality and the future life. This doctrine was deeply engraven in the Egyptian mind, and interwoven as a fundamental principle with their whole theology and worship. It passed on to the Israelites as one of those elementary truths so universally received that it needed not to be dwelt upon. The latter is necessarily involved in more obscurity; but when we consider the terms on which Abraham was received by the monarch of Egypt; the position occupied at a later date by Jacob; the rank of Joseph, and his intermarriage with the high-priestly family; and remember at the same time that the priesthood of Egypt was still in possession of a higher and purer secret theology than was communicated to the people—we see how Israel could have accepted from the land of the Pharaohs an extent of customs, (to be purified, modified, and toned by their own Sinaitic legislation) which it might have been dangerous to receive from any other people. Yet plainly, whatever of detail may have been adopted from Egyptian sources, it was so connected and correlated in the Mosaic legislation that the whole spirit of the two systems became totally unlike.
The ancient versions are of great value in the interpretation of the technical language of the law. The Samaritan text and version (which however sometimes betray a want of familiarity in detail with the ritual as practised at Jerusalem) often give valuable readings; so also the Septuagint, the Chaldee Targums, and of later date, the Syriac and the Vulgate.
The New Testament, especially the Epistle to the Hebrews, supplies to a large extent an inspired commentary upon Leviticus. The various treatises of Philo, and the antiquities of Josephus, give also fully the ancient explanations of many single passages and views of larger sections.
Since their time the literature of Leviticus is voluminous, consisting of commentaries, of special treatises upon the subjects with which it is occupied, and of archæological investigations illustrating it. Of special treatises sufficient mention will be made in connection with the subjects to which they relate, and it is unnecessary here to particularize works of archæology. Of commentaries the following are those which have been chiefly used in the preparation of the present work: Origen: Selecta in Lev. and Hom. in Lev. Theodoret, Quœst. in Lev. Augustine, Quœst. in Lev. Biblia Max. versionum, containing the annotations of Nicolas de Lyra, Tirinus, Menochius, and Estius, Paris, 1660. Calvin, in Pentateuchum. Critici Sacri, London, 1660. Poli, Synopsis, London, 1689. Michaelis, Bibl. Hebr., Halle, 1720. Calmet, Wircesburgii, 1789. Patrick, London, 1842, and freq. Rosenmueller, Leipsic, 1824. Of more recent date, Knobel (of especial value), Leipsic, 1858. Boothroyd, Bibl. Hebr., Pontefract (no date). Barrett’s Synopsis of Criticisms. London, 1847. Kalisch, Leviticus, London, 1872. Otto von Gerlach on the Pentateuch, translated by Downing, London, 1860. Wordsworth, London, 1865. Keil and Delitzsch on the Pentateuch; (Keil), translated by Martin, Edinburgh, 1866. Murphy on Leviticus, Am. Ed., Andover, 1872. Clark, in the Speaker’s Commentary, New York, 1872. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, London, 1871. To which must be added, as containing much of commentary on large portions of this book, Baehr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, Heidelberg, 1837–’39, 2 te Auflage, Erster Band, Heidelberg, 1874. Outram on Sacrifices, translated by Allen, London, 1817. Hengstenberg, Die Opfer des heil. Schrift, Berlin, 1839. Kurtz on Sacrifice, Mitau, 1864. Hermann Schultz, Alttestamentliche Theologie, Frankfurt a M., 1869, 2 vols. Œhler, Theologie des Alten Testaments, 2 vols., Tübingen, 1873–74 (a translation is in the press of T. & T. Clark). Of Lange’s own commentary (1874) as much as possible, and it is believed everything of importance, has been introduced into this work, which was already well advanced before its publication. Such portions are always distinctly marked. In several of the chapters his commentary is given in full; in others, nearly so.
PRELIMINARY NOTE ON THE LEVITICAL SACRIFFICES
Leviticus properly opens with the law of sacrifice, because this was the centre and basis of the Divine service in the newly-erected tabernacle. But since sacrifices have to do with the relations of man to God, they can only satisfactorily be considered in connection with the established facts of those relations. Of these facts three are fundamental: the original condition of man in a state of holiness and of communion with God; the fall, by which he became sinful, and thus alienated from God; and the promise, given at the very moment of man’s passing from the one state to the other. The promise was that in the future the woman’s Seed should bruise the serpent’s head—that in the long struggle between man and the power of evil, one born of woman should obtain the final victory. This promise was ever cherished by the devout in all the following ages as the anchor of their hope, and its realization, as seen at the birth of Cain and of Noah, was continually looked for. The expectation of a Deliverer, Redeemer, Messiah, became the common heritage of humanity, although as time rolled away, it tended to become faint and obscure. Therefore there came the call in Abraham of a peculiar people, in whom this hope should not only be kept alive, but, as far as possible, saved from distortion and misconception. It was distinctly the blessing of Abraham’s call, the birthright renewed to his son and grandson, and the reason for the choice and the care of a peculiar people.
From the circumstances under which this promise was given, and the way in which it is constantly treated in Revelation, it is plain that the restoration of man to full communion with God could only be brought about by the restoration of man’s holiness; it was only in obedience to the Divine will that man could obtain at-one-ment with his Maker. This might seem to be sufficiently plain as a truth of natural religion, but it was also abundantly taught in history and in Scripture. Not only was it shown by the great judgments upon transgression in the deluge, in Babel, in the overthrow of Sodom, etc., but constantly the relative and partial attainment of holiness, as in the case of Enoch, Noah, and others, was made the ground of a relatively larger bestowal of the Divine favor. Abraham’s acceptance was expressly grounded upon his faith—necessarily including those works without which faith is dead—and so with the other heroes recounted in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Later, Moses in his parting exhortations in Deuteronomy, constantly and strongly urges the necessity of a loving obedience springing from the heart, and this is more and more fully unfolded by the prophets from Samuel down, as the people were able to bear it.
Meantime from the first, in the case of Cain and Abel, and probably still earlier, and then among all nations as they arose, sacrifices were resorted to as a means of approach to God. From their universality, it is plain that they were looked upon as in some way helping to bring about that restoration of communion with God which should have been reached by a perfect holiness; but since man was conscious he did not possess this holiness, sacrifices were resorted to. As they never could have been offered by a sinless being, they necessarily involve confession of sin. Whether sacrifice in its origin was a Divine institution, or whether it sprang from a human consciousness of its propriety, is here immaterial. Lange takes the latter view. It speedily received the Divine sanction and command. Theoretically the sacrifice could have had no intrinsic value for the forgiveness of sin. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Lev_9:13; Lev_10:4) has abundantly shown that while sacrifices might have in themselves a certain absolute value for purposes of ceremonial purification, there was yet no congruity or correlation between the blood of bulls and goats and the removal of human sin. Hence, theoretically also, sacrifices, while they received the Divine approbation, must have been a temporary institution, in some way useful to man for the time being, but looking forward to the true atonement by the victory of the woman’s Seed over evil. Thus sacrifices are in their very nature typical; having little force in themselves, and yet appointed for the accomplishment of a result which can only be truly attained in the fulfilment of the primeval promise. How far this true nature of sacrifices may have been more or less dimly perceived by man from the outset, it is not necessary here to inquire. It is obvious that from this point of view the intrinsic value of the sacrifices was entirely a secondary matter; their whole efficacy resulted from the Divine appointment or approbation of them.
The tendency of man apart from Revelation to corruption in his ideas of God and of the means of approaching Him is nowhere more marked than in regard to sacrifice. The gods of the heathen were, for the most part, deifications of nature or her powers; they represented natural forces, and instead of originating are themselves governed by natural laws. This is true, whether their creed were polytheistic, as that of the Greeks and Romans, or pantheistic, as that of Buddhism. In Hebrew law, on the other hand, God appears “as the Creator and omnipotent Ruler of the universe, a personal Lord of an impersonal world, totally distinct from it in essence, and absolutely swaying it according to His will; but also the merciful Father of mankind.” “Therefore the sacrifices of the Hebrews have a moral or ethical, those of other nations a purely cosmical or physical character; the former tend to work upon mind and soul, the latter upon fears and interests; the one strives to elevate the offerer to the sanctity of God, the other to lower the gods to the narrowness and selfishness of man.” Kalisch. Moreover, among the heathen, God was regarded as alienated, and to be propitiated in such ways as man could devise; sacrifices were considered as having a certain satisfying power in themselves, as in some sort a quid pro quo, and as an opus operatum, independent of the moral life of the offerer. Hence as the occasion rose in importance, the value of the sacrifice was increased even to the extent of sometimes using human victims. Among the Israelites, sacrifices were known to be of God’s own appointment as a means of approach to Him. They had a shadow, indeed, of the heathen character, as offering actual compensations for certain offences against the theocratic state, but this was very secondary. Their main object was to bridge over the gulf between sinful man and a holy God. Although the law of sacrifices necessarily stands by itself, yet the same Legislator everywhere insists upon the necessity of a loving obedience to God. Hence, however costly sacrifices might be allowed, and even encouraged as Free-will, and Peace, and Thank-offerings, and more numerous victims were required at the festivals and on other occasions for burnt-offerings, the Sin-offering must (except in certain specially defined cases) be of the commonest and cheapest of the domestic animals, and even this always, as nearly as might be, of a uniform value. There was no gradation in the value of the offering in proportion to the heinousness of the offence; the atonement for all sins, whatever the degree of their gravity, was the same. Even the morning and evening sacrifice for the whole people which, although not strictly a sin-offering, yet had a somewhat propitiatory character, was still the single lamb. By this the typical nature of sacrifice as a temporary and, in itself, ineffectual means, was strongly expressed.
That the ancients had the idea of sin as a moral offence against God, has indeed been called in question; but seems too certain, at least among the Egyptians, the Hindoos, and the Israelites, to require proof. It is abundantly expressed in the book of Job. It may be well, however, to point out some of the heads of the evidence that sacrifice was regarded as a propitiation for such sin, i. e., as a means for obtaining the Divine pardon for its guilt. Prominent in this evidence is the fact just mentioned, that there was no proportion between the offence and the value of the sacrifice; since the idea of compensation was thus excluded, it remains that what was sought for was forgiveness. Calvin (in Leviticus 1.) justly remarks that the idea of reconciliation with God was connected under the old dispensation with sacrifice after a sacramental fashion, as with baptism now. Historically, this idea of sacrifice as a means of obtaining forgiveness is clearly brought out in the sacrifices of Job, both for his children in the time of his prosperity (Job_1:5), and for his friends after his affliction (Job_42:8). Tholuck, following Scholl, has shown (Diss. II., App. Ep. Hebr.) that the idea of such propitiation was prevalent throughout all antiquity; that clean animals were changed in their status on the express ground of their being “a sin-offering,” “an atonement,” so that the parts of them not consumed upon the altar might be eaten only by the priests, and their remains must be burned, or else the whole burned, without the camp (Exo_29:14; Lev_4:11-12; Lev_4:21; Lev_6:30; Lev_16:27-28, etc.); that the idea is distinctly brought out in Lev_17:11, and in parallel passages. “The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls;” that in the case of a murder by unknown hands (Deu_21:9) the guilt of the crime must rest upon the whole neighborhood until the people had symbolically transferred that guilt to a victim, and this had been offered in sacrifice; and finally, that the ritual of the day of atonement necessarily involves this idea. (See on Leviticus 16) “The notion of internal atonement.… formed a distinctive feature of the theology of the Pentateuch.” Kalisch, I. p. 161.
On passing from these more general considerations to the particular system of the Levitical sacrifices, it needs to be constantly borne in mind that these, far from being a new institution, were in fact a special arrangement and systematizing of one of the most ancient institutions known to man. The change from the one to the other was strictly parallel to the course of divine operations in nature. The earlier is ever the more general and comprehensive; the later the more specialized both in structure and functions. At the same time the law was not merely an evolution, a normal development of Divine teaching previously received, but it was distinctly “added because of transgressions until the promised seed should come.” We must therefore be prepared to find in it especial safeguards for the chosen people against those misconceptions which became common among the heathen, and also a constant relation to its final cause and its terminus when “the Seed should come.”
It will help materially to a clear idea of the Mosaic sacrificial system if we examine the various words used for sacrifice before and under the law, having regard also to the subsequent usage of the same words and to their various translations in the ancient versions.
The earliest word that occurs is also the most general in its original sense, though under the law it acquires a strictly technical signification:
, given by the lexicographers as from a root not used,
=to distribute, to deliver, and hence to make a present of, to give. In the LXX. it is translated before the law only by the words
(Gen_4:4; Gen_32:13; Gen_32:18; Gen_32:20-21, etc.) and
(Gen_4:3; Gen_4:5 only); in the law, where it occurs very frequently, only by
or by the combination
, and this is the case also in Ezekiel (although twice, Lev_2:13; Num_17:9, the form is
), except in the single instance of
, Lev_9:4. After the books of the law both these translations are frequently employed, and also
three times, and frequently the Hebrew word is simply expressed in Greek letters
. The Vulg. translates by munus, munusculum, oblatio, oblatio sacrificii, and sacrificium; but in the law oblatio and sacrificium are the terms commonly employed. In the A. V. meat-offering, or simply offering, is the only translation in Ex., Lev., Num. and Ezek.; but present, gift, sacrifice and oblation are used elsewhere as well as these, usually according to the sense implied by the context. The word is used outside of the law in the general sense of a propitiatory gift or tribute to any one, and hence of such a gift to God, or sacrifice in its most general sense. It is used of the offerings of both Cain and Abel, the one unbloody, the other bloody. In the prophets it is used as a word for sacrifice in general. It is used frequently in the historical books of gifts or tribute from man to man as from Jacob to Esau, to Joseph in Egypt, of the Moabites and Syrians to David, and distinctly of tribute, 2Ki_17:3-4, etc. In the law (Ex., Lev., Num., to which must be added Ezek.) it has a strictly defined technical signification, and is applied only to the oblation (A. V. meat-offering) except in Numbers 5, where it is used (six times) of the unbloody jealousy-offering of barley. It is always therefore in the law a bloodless offering, and being nearly always an accompaniment of a bloody offering, may be regarded in its original sense of a gift to God, offered along with a sacrifice more strictly so called. In the few instances in which it stands alone it never appears as offered for the purpose of atonement. In the case of the sin-offering of flour allowed in extreme poverty (Lev_5:11-13) this is expressly distinguished from the
in that the remainder should belong to the priest,
The word which comes next in the order of the record is
, derived from
, to ascend, to glow, to burn. It means uniformly throughout the Old Testament: the whole burnt-sacrifice, so specifically indeed that twice (Deu_33:10; Psa_51:19 )
whole is substituted for it. In a few cases it is variously translated by the LXX. (once each
, six times
, thirteen times
, three times
), but in the vast majority of cases by some term signifying the holocaust,
(seventy-three times). In the Vulg. the only renderings are holocaustum (seldom holocautoma) and hostia, except a very few times oblatio; in the A. V., always either burnt-offering or burnt-sacrifice, which are used interchangeably, and seem to have been intended to convey the same meaning. It is first used in Gen_8:20 for the sacrifices offered by Noah, and throughout Genesis 22. It is also used three times in Exodus (Exo_10:25; Lev_18:12; Lev_24:5) in relation to sacrifices previous to those of the Levitical system. In the law itself it occurs very frequently, and also in the subsequent books. It constitutes the daily morning and evening sacrifice for the congregation. It was always an animal sacrifice and was wholly consumed, except the skin, upon the altar. In signification it was the most general of all the sacrifices, and in fact was the only unspecialized bloody sacrifice of the law. It must be regarded therefore as including within itself, more or less distinctly, the idea of all other sacrifices; it was a means of approach to God in every way in which that approach could be expressed. It was not distinctly a sin-offering; yet the fact that it should be accepted for the offerer “to make atonement for him” (
, Lev_1:4) is prominent in its ritual, and the same idea is distinctly brought out in the (probably earlier) sacrifices of Job (Job_1:5; Job_42:8). There is a rabbinical maxim: “the burnt offering expiates the transgressions of Israel,” and this idea is fully expressed in the Targums. “The burnt-offering, as it is the most ancient, so also is it the most general and important in the Mosaic cultus,
ἐóôéí ἡ ὁëüêáõôïò
(Philo de vict., p. 838).” Tholuck (Diss. II. in Hebr.). Yet Tholuck afterwards separates this sacrifice quite too absolutely from the sin-offering. The latter indeed, as specializing one feature of the burnt-offering, had a different ritual, and was without the oblation; as offered only for the expiation of sin, it carried with it to those who bore its unconsumed flesh a defilement which could not attach to the burnt-offering, since this included other ideas also within itself. But all this by no means forbids that in its general, comprehensive character, the burnt-offering should include the idea of expiation for sin which is distinctly attached to it in the law. It was often offered also as a praise or thank-offering (2Sa_7:17, etc.). As already said, it was the one comprehensive sacrifice daily offered upon the altar of the tabernacle (Exo_29:38-42); it was doubled on the Sabbath (Num_28:9-10), and multiplied, with added victims of higher value, on the first of each month (ib. 11); and so also at the great yearly festivals (ib. 16–xxix. 39). So far as the burnt-offering had a specific signification of its own, its meaning is generally assumed by theologians to have been that of entire consecration to God. Such a meaning is certainly sufficiently appropriate; but is never distinctly attributed to it in the Scriptures either of the Old or New Testament. It is however constantly described in the more general sense of a means of approach to God.
is used not so much for any particular kind of sacrifice as for the victim for any sacrifice. It is frequently coupled with some other word determining the kind of sacrifice intended, especially
. When not so identified, it may mean any kind of sacrifice (although most frequently used of the peace-offerings), and does not therefore require particular consideration. It occurs first in Gen_31:54; Gen_46:1, and is generally rendered in the LXX. and Vulg.
and hostia. The verb is the technical word for slaughtering animals in sacrifice, nor is it ever used in any other sense in the Pentateuch except in Deu_12:15; Deu_12:21, where permission is given to those at a distance from the sanctuary to slay sacrificial animals simply for food. In the later books there are very few other exceptions to this usage: 1Sa_28:24; 2Ch_18:2; Eze_34:3. From this word is derived the Hebrew name for the altar,
, not, as sometimes asserted, because sacrifices were originally slain upon the altar; but because this was the place of destination for them.
No other words for sacrifice occur until the time of the Exodus. There the various specialized forms of the Mosaic sacrifices are described; but before speaking of these the word
must be mentioned, which is frequently rendered (chiefly in Lev. and Num.) offer or sacrifice. It is not, however, properly a sacrificial term; but merely a word of very broad signification—like size:22pt">
or do—which is adapted in sense to its connection. It first occurs in the meaning sacrifice in Exo_29:36. Therefore passing by this, the earliest especial sacrificial term of the law is
, pascha, passover. It occurs first in Exo_12:11, and frequently afterwards, although only once in Lev. (Lev_23:5). The noun always means the lamb slain by the head of each house in Israel on the 14th Nisan, and eaten by him and his family the following evening, or at least the seven days’ feast of which this was the beginning, and the characteristic feature. The history of its institution is fully given in Exodus 12. From the abundant references to it in the New Testament it was plainly designed as an especial type of Christ. It was distinctly a sacrifice, being reckoned a
in Num_9:7; Num_9:13, and slain in the place of sacrifice (Deu_16:5-6), and its blood, after the first institution, was sprinkled by the priests (2Ch_30:16; 2Ch_35:11), as affirmed by all Jewish authorities; indeed, it is in connection with the Passover that the mention of the treatment of the blood of sacrifice first occurs. It is classed by Outram among the Eucharistic sacrifices, and is assimilated to them by the fact that its flesh was eaten by the offerer and his household; but is distinguished from them in having nothing of it given to the priest. It was really a sacrifice appointed before the institution of the priesthood in which each head of the family offered, and thus it perpetuated the remembrance that, by their calling, the whole nation were a holy people, chosen “to draw near to God.” Its historic relations are always most prominent, and it was in fact the great sacrament of the covenant by which God had delivered Israel and constituted them His chosen people. Its celebration constituted the chief of the three great annual festivals, and was the only one of them having a fundamentally sacrificial character. It thus became a fit type of the new covenant and of the deliverance through Christ from the bondage of sin.
) or peace-offering, is first mentioned Exo_20:24, in reference to the future offerings of the law, but in a way that seems to imply a previous familiarity with this kind of sacrifice. It is rendered in the LXX. sometimes by
, but more generally by
, and in the Vulg. by pacificus and salutare; in the A. V. uniformly peace-offering. Under the law it was separated into three varieties: the thank, the vow, and the free-will offering. See under Lev_7:12. In Lev_7:12-13; Lev_7:15; Lev_22:29, the thank-offering has the distinct name,
, which does not elsewhere occur in the law, though frequent afterwards. This variety included all the prescribed thank-offerings. The idea of propitiation was less prominent in this than in any other sacrifice, although the sprinkling of the blood—which was always propitiatory—formed a part of its ritual; but it was especially the sacrifice of communion with God, in which the blood was sprinkled and the fat burned upon the altar, certain portions given to the priests, and the rest consumed by the offerer with his family and friends in a holy sacrificial meal. In the wilderness no sacrificial animal might be used for food except it had first been offered as a sacrifice. It naturally became one of the most common of all the sacrifices, and the victims for it were sometimes provided in enormous numbers, as at Solomon’s dedication of the temple (1Ki_8:63). Peace-offerings were, for the most part, voluntary, but were also prescribed on several occasions, as at the fulfillment of the Nazarite vow (Num_6:17), and are constantly expected at the great festivals. “The peace-offering was always preceded by the piacular victim, whenever any person offered both these kinds of sacrifices on the same day. Exo_29:14; Exo_29:22; Num_6:14; Num_6:16-17.” Outram. Although the
is not mentioned under its distinctive name before Exo_20:24, yet it cannot be doubted that sacrifices of the same character are included in the more general term,
, at a much earlier period (see Gen_31:54; Exo_10:25; Exo_18:12), as they were certainly common at all times among the heathen. In the New Testament they are alluded to in Php_4:18 and Heb_13:15-16.
(from the Pihel of
) in the sense of sin occurs in Gen_4:7 and frequently; but in the sense of sin-offering is not found before the establishment of the Levitical system. The first instance of this sense is in Exo_29:14, after which it is very frequent both in the law and in the later books. Besides a variety of occasional translations, the usual rendering in the LXX. is
, and in the Vulg. peccatum. In the A. V. it is variously translated punishment, punishment of sin, purification for sin, purifying, sinner, sin and sin-offering; but the last two are by far the most common. It is the distinctive, technical word in the law for the piacular offering for sin. For its ritual see 4–5:13. The sin-offerings of which the blood was carried within the sanctuary, and whose bodies were burned without the camp, are particularly referred to in the New Testament as typical of Christ; but more general references to Him as our Sin-offering are frequent. Sin-offerings were prescribed (a) at each new moon, Num_28:15; (b) at each of the three great festivals, Num_28:22; Num_28:30; Num_29:16; Num_29:19; Num_29:22; Num_29:25; Num_29:28; Num_29:31; Num_29:34; Num_29:38; (c) at the feast of trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, and on the tenth day of the same, ib. 5, 11; (d) the sin-offering,
on the great day of atonement, Leviticus 16; (e) private sin-offerings, for a woman after child-birth, Lev_12:6; Lev_12:8; for the leper at his cleansing, Lev_14:19; Lev_14:22; Lev_14:31; for a person cleansed of an issue, Lev_15:15; Lev_15:30; for the Nazarite accidentally defiled, Num_6:11, and at the time of the fulfillment of his vow, ib. 14, 16; and on other special occasions, Num_7:16; Num_7:22; Num_7:28; Num_7:34; Num_7:40, etc.; besides the ordinary sin-offerings of Leviticus 4. The ordinary victim was a she-goat or a ewe, replaced for the high-priest or for the whole congregation by a bullock, and for a prince by a he-goat for reasons given in the commentary on Leviticus 4. In case of poverty, for the ordinary offering might be substituted turtle-doves or young pigeons, or even an offering of flour. But besides regular victims, there were various others prescribed for those exceptional occasions which from their nature required some such discrimination. Thus at Aaron’s entrance upon his sacred functions his sin-offering was a calf (Lev_9:1-8); at the end of the Nazarite’s vow (Num_6:14), and at the recovery of a leper able to bring this offering (Lev_14:10; Lev_14:19), a ewe-lamb was the prescribed victim. Though not strictly sin-offerings, yet to the same general category belong the red heifer whose ashes were used for purifications (Num_19:2-22), and the heifer to be slain in case of an unknown murder (Deu_21:1-9). Yet these were all peculiar and exceptional cases, and the rule remains that the ordinary sin-offering was always the same.
is first used Lev_1:2, occurs very frequently in Leviticus and Numbers, and is never used elsewhere except twice in Ezekiel. (With the pointing,
, it is also found twice in Neh.) There are but one or two variations from the translation,
, in the LXX., and donum in the Vulg. In the A. V. it is generally translated offering, but sometimes oblation, and once (Lev_27:11) sacrifice. Its meaning is perfectly clear—that which is offered (brought nigh) to God, whether as a sacrifice or as a dedicatory gift; if, however, the thing offered be a sacrificial animal, then of course it necessarily means a sacrifice. In either case, it is something given to God.
, like the nearly related
, has the double sense of trespass or guilt and trespass-offering. It occurs once in Genesis (Lev_26:10) in the former sense, but is not found in the latter earlier than Lev_5:6. It is frequent in Leviticus, and less so in subsequent books in both senses. In the LXX. and Vulg. it has a considerable variety of renderings; but the most frequent are LXX.
, and Vulg. delictum. For the distinction between this and the sin-offering, see Lev_4:1 and Lev_5:14.
There remains, as belonging to the list of the sacrifices, the incense, for which two words are used, neither of which occur before the giving of the law.
first occurs Exo_30:34, and is uniformly translated in the LXX.