2. Additional Sacrificial Regulations for the Priests (6:8-7:38)

This section supplements the handbook on sacrifice (1:1-6:7) and contains additional administrative details about the sacrificial ritual for the priests, especially the procedure for the distribution and disposal of the flesh and other parts of the sacrifice which were not burned on the altar. Whereas the major section on sacrifice was addressed “to the Israelites” (1:2; 4:2), this section (except for the appendix, 7:22-38) is addressed to “Aaron and his sons,” that is, the priests (6:9, 25). The primary concern of the section is to identify which persons, places, and portions were acceptable to God as sacrificial meals.

Since the same five offerings are treated, there is some overlap with 1:1-6:7, and only new features are pointed out. A.F. Rainey has clearly demonstrated that the Old Testament sacrifices were listed in three different orders (“Sacrifice,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 4:201-3): (1) The didactic order (burnt, meal, fellowship, sin, and guilt offerings) was followed in 1:1-6:7. (2) The administrative order (i.e., inventory order: burnt, meal, sin, guilt, and fellowship offerings) was followed in 6:8-7:38 (cf. Num. 7:87-88). This order reflects the relative frequency of the sacrifices (if the expiatory offerings—sin and guilt—are grouped together), as well as the differences in disposing of the parts of the sacrifice. The burnt offering, mentioned first, was wholly consumed on the altar; the meal, sin, and guilt offerings were partially consumed on the altar and partially consumed by the priests; the fellowship offering, mentioned last, was partially consumed on the altar, partially consumed by the priests, and partially consumed by the worshiper and his family in a communal feast. (3) The procedural order in which the sacrifices were actually offered (sin and/or guilt, burnt, grain, and fellowship offerings) is obvious in numerous passages such as Leviticus 8:14-32 (cf. Ex. 29:10-34); Leviticus 14:12-20; 15:14-15, 29-30; Numbers 6:16-17 (contrast the administrative order in Num. 6:14-15); 2 Chronicles 29:20-35.

a. Priestly regulations for the burnt offering (6:8-13)

6:8-13. Since no part of a burnt offering was eaten by priest or worshiper, this brief section treats only the responsibility of the priests in the proper care of the ashes and fire on the altar.

Throughout the night the embers of the evening burnt offering were to remain on the altar and the altar fire was to be kept burning. In the morning, wearing clothes appropriate to each task, the priest was to remove the ashes from the altar and then dispose of them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp.

The priests were responsible to keep the fire burning on the altar at all times.

b. Priestly regulations for the grain offering (6:14-23)

6:14-18. These verses add little to the procedure outlined in chapter 2. The words most holy (6:17) indicate sacrificial flesh that could be eaten only by the priests (any male descendant of Aaron, v. 18). (The burnt offering, which was not to be eaten, was never said to be “holy” or “most holy.”)

6:19-23. The priest’s regular (i.e., daily; cf. Heb. 7:27) grain offering was not mentioned in Leviticus 2. It was to be prepared by the “heir apparent” of the anointed (high) priest (6:22) and offered half... in the morning and half in the evening (v. 20). Since a priest was not to eat his own offering, it was to be burned completely on the altar (v. 23).

c. Priestly regulations for the sin offering (6:24-30)

6:24-30. This paragraph outlines (a) the procedure by which the flesh of the sin offering was to be consumed by the priest (v. 26) and his male relatives (v. 29); (b) the ritual for reconsecrating clothing accidentally touched by sacrificial blood or utensils touched by sacrificial meat (vv. 27-28); and (c) the restriction against eating the flesh of the sin offering of the priest or the community (identified by the ritual of taking blood... into the Tent of Meeting, v. 30).

d. Priestly regulations for the guilt offering (7:1-6)

7:1-6. A fuller presentation of the sacrificial procedures is given here than in 5:14-6:7. The place of slaughter (7:2) parallels that of the burnt offering (at the north side of the altar, 1:11). The ritual procedure for the manipulation of blood (7:2) and the incineration on the altar (vv. 3-5) parallels that of the fellowship offering (chap. 3). The eating of the sacrificial flesh (7:6) parallels that of the sin offering (cf. 6:26, 29).

e. Priests’ summary of expiatory and dedicatory offerings (7:7-10)

7:7-10. This paragraph mentions the first four offerings (sin... guilt... burnt, and grain) and summarizes what the priest received from each. Cooked grain offerings went to the officiating priest (v. 9) whereas uncooked grain offerings were shared by all the priests (v. 10).

f. Priestly regulations for the fellowship offering (7:11-21)

The distinctive feature of the fellowship offering was its accompanying communal meal. Since the priests’ regulations pertained primarily to the distribution of the flesh of the sacrificial animals, it is natural that many details of this meal are found only here.

7:11-15. In the case of a thank offering—the most common kind of fellowship offering (cf. 22:29-30)—the sacrifice of thanksgiving (7:12; cf. comments on chap. 3) was to be accompanied by one of each kind (7:14) of three unleavened grain offerings (described in v. 12). Since the offerings were without yeast, the priest apparently offered “a memorial portion” on the altar accompanying the fat of the animal of the fellowship offering (cf. 2:9, 11-12). Then the officiating priest retained the rest for his allotment (7:14). However, the offering with cakes of bread made with yeast (v. 13) was apparently for the communal meal rather than for the officiating priest. The priest’s portions of the fellowship offering are explained in verses 28-34. The portion of the meat of this fellowship offering of thanksgiving that was for the communal meal had to be eaten on the day of the offering (v. 15). The participants in the communal meal were the worshiper and his family. A Levite from his community and the poor (who could afford no fellowship offering of their own) could be included (Deut. 12:12, 18-19). This meal had to be eaten at a divinely appointed place (Deut. 12:6-26).

7:16-18. However, in the case of a fellowship offering for a vow or a freewill offering... anything left over could be eaten on the next day. But any leftovers beyond the second day had to be burned up. To eat any meat on the third day disqualified the entire offering and made the violator subject to divine punishment. (For the special ritual of a fellowship offering at the deconsecration of a Nazirite, see Num. 6:13-20.)

7:19-21. (Cf. 19:5-8.) The general rule for eating meat was that both the meat and its eater had to be ceremonially clean. Anyone ceremonially unclean (cf. chaps. 11-15; 22) who ate any meat of the fellowship offering was to be cut off from his people (i.e., through death; cf. 7:21, 25, 27; 17:4, 9; 18:29; 19:8; 20:8, 17-18; 22:3; etc.).

g. Appended regulations addressed to the Israelites (7:22-36)

(1) The prohibition against eating fat or blood.

7:22-27. The principle set forth in 3:17 is now expanded. Eating fat from a clean animal, whether it died of natural causes or was slain by a wild animal (7:24) or was slaughtered as a sacrifice (v. 25), was prohibited on penalty of direct divine judgment (be cut off from his people). The rest of an animal not used for sacrifice could be eaten, but since this resulted in temporary uncleanness (11:39-40; 17:15), it was preferably given to a non-Israelite (Deut. 14:21). The fat of such an animal could be used for any other purpose besides food, such as lighting, polish, or other household purposes. The second prohibition pertains to eating meat from which blood was not drained (cf. 1 Sam. 14:33). The threatened penalty again was divine judgment.

(2) The priests’ share of the fellowship offering.

7:28-34. This paragraph supplements verses 11-21 on the communal meal shared by a worshiper and his family. As with other offerings (except the burnt) the priest received designated portions for food. The breast of the fellowship offering was to be waved before the Lord as a wave offering. Jewish scholars interpreted this as a sideways action, dedicating the offering to the Lord. On the other hand they regarded the “heave offering” (kjv; niv translates contribution, v. 32, and regular share, v. 34) of the right thigh (v. 32) as an up-and-down motion. The right thigh was given to the officiating priest (vv. 32-33) whereas the breast was given to the whole body of priests (v. 34) and their families—”sons and daughters” (Num. 18:11-12).

(3) Summary of the priests’ share of the offerings.

7:35-36. These verses appear to summarize the entire section of 6:8-7:34. Immediately after their installation into priestly service, the priests began to receive their regular share for the generations to come.

h. Conclusion to the laws concerning sacrifices (7:37-38)

7:37-38. This concluding paragraph probably refers back to the entire first seven chapters of the book, which included both the handbook on sacrifice addressed to the Israelites (1:1-6:7) and the additional regulations addressed to the priests (6:8-7:36). The administrative order of listing the sacrifices was followed since this order was just followed in the priestly regulations. The addition of the ordination offering (which probably refers to the special fellowship offering of a ram, 8:22-29) anticipates chapter 9 which records the ordination of Aaron and his sons. The reminder that these regulations are those which the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai points out that the sacrificial system was part of the covenant obligation given at Sinai (cf. 1:1).