Leviticus 3 Commentary

The peace offering (3:1-17)

Among Israelites in general, the most popular of the offerings was the peace offering (GNB: fellowship offering). The characteristic feature of this offering was the feast for the worshippers that followed the sacrifice (1 Sam 9:12-13). First, however, the animal was sacrificed with blood ritual the same as that of the burnt offering. Then the Lord’s portion, consisting of the richest and most vital parts


of the animal, was burnt upon the altar, probably to indicate consecration, as in the burnt offering (3:1-5; 7:22-27). This procedure, which was outlined first for cattle, applied also to sheep and goats (6-17).

Only when the offerers had completed these two steps of atonement and dedication could they go ahead with the feast. Even then they had first to provide the priest with his portion, which the priest, before eating, symbolically offered to God by the ritual of waving it up and down (7:28-36; cf. Exod 29:26-28).

The offerers and their guests then joined in a joyous feast where they ate the remainder of the sacrifice. No offerer could eat alone, because the offering was to express peace, and this was indicated in the fellowship of people eating together. This in turn pictured the higher fellowship with God. The offering also encouraged people to be generous and hospitable, for they were to share their meal not only with friends and relatives, but also with the poor and needy (Deut 12:5-7,12-13).

Meat for the feast came from the sacrificial animal, but other food items, such as cakes and biscuits, came from the daily food of the people. Though the host did not offer these additional food products on the altar, he still had to present a portion to God. He did this by giving a portion to the priest together with the priest’s portion of the sacrificial animal (7:11-14).

A time limit was set for this feast, possibly to ensure that the food did not spoil in the hot climate. If the offering was a thanksgiving, a person would very likely invite a good number of friends to join and celebrate with him; as a result the food could all be conveniently eaten in one day. But if the offering was for a vow or was a personal freewill offering, the ceremony would be more private and the number of people invited would be much smaller. The food could not all be eaten in one day, so the time limit was extended to two days (7:15-18).

People had to remember at all times that the happiness of the feast did not lessen its holiness.

Therefore, all who joined in had to be ceremonially clean (7:19-21).

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