"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"—John 1:29
The tabernacle was that tent whose two apartments, separated by the veil, formed the Holy Place, and the Most Holy. This "tabernacle" was God's dwelling-place on earth; where he met with men,—the token of his returning to man after the fall. It was here that "the voice of the Lord God" was often heard, as in Eden, in the cool of the day.
Ver. 1. And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,—
The cloud that guided Israel had descended on the tabernacle; and while this pillar stood over it, the glory of the Lord filled the Holy of holies within (Exod. 40:34). Rays of this glory were streaming out all around, perhaps like the light that shone from Christ's form "on the holy mount," through his raiment, till the whole hill shone. Out of the midst of this "excellent glory" (2 Pet. 1:17) came the voice of the Lord. He called on Moses as at the bush; and having fixed the undivided attention of Moses on him that spake, Jehovah utters his mind. What love is here! The heart of our God, in the midst of all his own joy, yearning to pour itself out to man!
The date of these laws is probably a few days after the tabernacle had been set up. They are given not from Sinai, though at its foot (see chap. 27:34); but from over the mercy-seat, from between the cherubim, where the glory had so lately found a resting-place. Perhaps this intimated that all these institutions about to be given bear on the same great subject, viz. Atonement and its effects. Sinai and its law a few weeks before, with the dark apostasy in the matter of the golden calf, had lately taught them the necessity of reconciliation, and made their conscience thirst for that living water. And it is given here. The first clause of this book declares a reconciled God—"The Lord called to Moses," as a man to his friend.
Ver. 2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering The Septuagint render this "προσοισετε τα δωρα ὑμῶν." Hence, perhaps, Heb. 8:3, "gifts and sacrifices." of the cattle, even of the herd and of the flock.
When the Lord said, "Speak to the children of Israel," instead of himself addressing them, it taught the people their need of a Mediator. It was as if he had said, These things are addressed to sinners who cannot see my face or hear my voice, except through a daysman.
The offerings first spoken of are those that are to be wholly consumed—types of complete exhaustion of wrath. In these cases, everything about the animal was consumed, sinews, horns, bones, hoof, the wool on the sheep's head, and the hair on the goat's beard—(Willet). Hence they were called whole burnt-offerings (ὁλοκαυτωματα). God prescribes the symbols of atonement, even as he fixed on the ransom itself. It is a sovereign God that sinners are dealing with; and in so doing, he fixed on the herd and the flock, as the only class of cattle (בְּהֵמָה) or four-footed beasts, that he would accept. If we are to inquire into a reason for this beyond his mere sovereignty, there are two that readily present themselves as every way probable. First, oxen, sheep, and goats (the herd and flock) are easily got by men, being at their hand. He did not wish to make them go in pursuit of beasts for offering, for salvation is brought to our hand by our God. Second, the characteristics of these animals fit them to be convenient types of various truths relating to sacrifice. The ox taken from feeding by the river-side, or the sheep from its quiet pastures,—perhaps from among the lilies of Sharon,—was an emblem of the Redeemer leaving the joy and blessedness of his Father's presence, where he had been ever "by the streams that make glad the city of God." Another reason has been assigned, viz. all these were horned animals. Whether in the East such were reckoned more valuable than other animals we cannot say. It is, at least, worthy of notice, that the horn, which is the symbol of power and honour, is found in them all.
Ver. 3. If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord.
"A male," representing the second Adam, "without blemish." Christ, by his one offering, makes his Church spotless (Eph. 5:27), and, therefore, he was to be so himself. Of course, therefore, the type of him must be so. In the peace-offerings it was different: for these typified rather the effects of Christ's atonement on the receiver than himself atoning; and the animal, in that case, might have some defect or blemish, even as the effects of his work may be imperfectly experienced by the sinner, though the work itself is perfect. But whatever speaks of Christ himself must speak of perfection. "Before the Lord" is an expression ever recurring: it is remarkable that it should occur so often. But perhaps it was because the Lord meant thus to insert a Divine safeguard against the Socinian idea, that sacrifice chiefly had reference to the offerer, not to God. Every sacrifice is brought before "the great Inhabitant of the sanctuary." So also this expression guards us against Popish error, as if ministers of Christ are priests in the same sense as the line of Aaron. No; ministers of Christ approach men in behalf of God, who sends them as ambassadors, but these priests approached God in behalf of guilty men. "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will." Some translate this, "He shall offer it in order to be accepted." I do not think this meaning can be proved to be the true one, although the Septuagint generally renders the expression, "δεκτον ἔναντι Κύριου;" and the Oxford MS. here has, "δεκτον αὐτῳ ἐξιλασθαι ἐναντι Κυριου." The Gospel warrant is, "Whosoever will, let him come." There must be a willing soul; none but a soul made willing in the day of his power pays any regard to atonement. The Lord allows all that are willing to come to the atoning provision. "Are you thirsty for the living God? for yonder altar's sacrifice?" might some son of Aaron say to a fearful soul. The fearful conscience replies, "I cannot well tell if I be really thirsty for him." "But are you, then, willing to go to yonder altar?" "Yes, I am." "Then you may come; for read Leviticus 1:3, and see that it is neither riches nor poverty, moral attainment nor deep experience, but simply a conscience willing to be bathed in atonement, that is spoken of by the God of Israel."
Come then with the sacrifice to "the door of the tabernacle." The altar was near the door of the tabernacle; it faced it. It was the first object that met the eye of a worshipper coming in. The priest met him there, and led the offerer with his sacrifice on to the altar. The presenting any sacrifice there was a type of the worshipper's object being to get admission into the presence of God by entrance at that door ("access," Eph. 2:18). Thus the offerer walked silently and with holy awe to the door of the tabernacle, and there met his God.
As a type of Christ, it would declare Christ's willing offering of himself—"Lo, I come;" and how he was, in the fulness of time, led silently as a lamb to the slaughter. For we are to distinguish between the presentation of Christ before he went forth, and the presentation of himself after all was done.
Ver. 4. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him.
This action of the offerer gives us a view of faith. The offerer puts his hand on the same head whereon the Lord's hand was laid, and thereby agrees to all that is implied in his choosing that offering. God and the believing soul meet at the same point, and are satisfied by the same display of the Divine attributes.—"He shall put his hand." We make no reference, here nor elsewhere, to Jewish traditions as to the manner in which the thing was done, and the words used. It is strange that Ainsworth, Patrick, Outran), and others, should waste so much time in this department. Are these traditions anything more than human fancy—often, too, of a somewhat modern date? Augustine judged well when he said, "Quid scriptura voluerit, non quod illi opinati fuerint, inquirendum." It is yet more forcible in the Hebrew—"He shall lean his hand" (וְסָמַךְ), the very word used in Psalm 88:7, "Thy wrath leaneth hard upon me." We lean our soul on the same person on whom Jehovah leant his wrath.
When the worshipper had thus simply left his sins, conveyed by the laying on of his hand upon the sacrifice, he stands aside. This is all his part. The treatment of the victim is the Lord's part. The happy Israelite who saw this truth might go home, saying, "I have put my hand on its head; it shall be accepted as an atonement." Faith in the Lord's testimony "was the ground of an Israelite's peace of conscience,—nothing of it rested on his own frame of mind, character, or conduct.
Ver. 5. And he shall hill the bullock before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
It is interesting to notice here, that Outram, Witsius, and others, seem to have proved that, in patriarchal ages, every man might offer his own sacrifice. Heads of families, and heads of a tribe or nation, often acted for those under them; but the idea that the first-born were the only priests is without foundation. The patriarchal age was taught that every man must take Christ for himself personally. In the Mosaic economy, however, this is altered. There is another truth to be shewn forth. Any one (2 Chron. 30:17) might kill the animal—any common Levite, or even the offerer himself—for there may be many executioners of God's wrath. Earth and hell were used in executing the Father's purpose toward the Prince of Life. But there is only one appointed way for dispensing mercy; and therefore only priests must engage in the act that signified the bestowal of pardon.
The animal is "killed" in the presence of the Lord. And now, what an awfully solemn sight! The priest "brings forward the blood." As he bears it onward, in one of the bowls of the altar, all gaze upon the warm crimson blood! It is the life! So that when the blood is thus brought forward, the life of the sacrifice is brought before God! It is as if the living soul of the sinner were carried, in its utter helplessness and in all its filthiness, and laid down before the Holy One!
The blood was then "sprinkled round about upon the altar." The life being taken away, the sinner's naked soul is exhibited! He deserves this stroke of death—death in the Lord's presence, as a satisfaction to his holiness! As the blood that covered the door on the night of the Passover represented the inmates' life as already taken, so the blood on the altar and its sides signified that the offerer's life was forfeited and taken. It was thus that Jesus "poured out his soul unto death" for us.
It was, further, "round about," as well as "upon," the altar. This held it up on all sides to view; and the voice from the altar now is, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." All within the camp might look and live; for this sacrifice represents Christ's dying as the only way for any, and the sufficient way for all.
The altar mentioned here was the "altar of brass;" not the "golden altar," which stood in the Holy Place.
Ver. 6. And he shall flay the burnt-offering, and cut it into his pieces.
Here, again, any one might act, as well as the priest; for any of God's creatures may be the executioners of his wrath. "He shall flay."—The skin torn from off the slain animal may intimate the complete exposure of the victim, uncovered, and laid open to the piercing eye of the beholder. But specially, it seems to shew that there is no covering of inherent righteousness on the person of the sinner. While the skin was unwounded, the inward parts were safe from the knife; thus, so long as man had personal righteousness interposing, no knife could pierce his soul. But the taking away of the victim's skin shewed that the sinner had no such protection in God's view; even as the bringing of such skins to Adam and Eve, after the fall, shewed that God saw them destitute of every covering, and had, in his mercy, provided clothing for them by means of sacrifice.
The "cutting it into pieces" would at last leave the sacrifice a mangled mass of flesh and bones. Entire dislocation of every joint, and separation of every limb and member, was the process. By this the excruciating torment due to the sinner seems signified. God's sword—. his Abraham's knife—spares not the sacrifice; but uses its sharpness and strength to pierce and destroy to the uttermost. The slashing sword of wrath leaves nothing to the guilty; but, as "one woe is past, behold, another woe cometh quickly." Yet it is "into his pieces." There was an order observed—a regularity and deliberate systematic procedure. So will it be in the damnation of hell; every pang will be weighed by perfect holiness, every stroke deliberated upon ere it is inflicted. And, in truth, this deliberate infliction is the most awful feature of justice. It leaves the sufferer hopeless. The stroke is awfully relentless, determined, righteous! Such, too, were the Saviour's sufferings. Every part and pore of his frame was thus mangled; every member of his body, every feeling of his soul. There was not an action of his life, or desire in his heart, but was combined with woe; and all so just, that from the cross he lifts his eyes to his Father, and looking on him as he had ever done, cries, "But thou art holy!" (Ps. 22:3.)
Ver. 7. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire.
This verse is well illustrated by Heb. 9:14, "Who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God." Christ was prepared, in his human nature, by the Holy Spirit. The Father prepared the fire of wrath, filled the vial with that wrath, and then poured it out. The Holy Spirit, as Heb. 9:14 declares, set all things in order, in Christ's human nature, ready for the vial being poured out. At the moment when the fire came down and consumed him, love to God and man was at its highest pitch in his soul—obedience, holy regard for the Divine law, hatred of sin, love to man.
The wood, taken by itself, is not a type of anything; but it must be taken thus:—the laying the wood in order preparatory to the fire coming. In this view it represents what we have just said.
The fire was from that fire which descended from the cloudy pillar. It was, therefore, divinely intended to shew "the wrath of God revealed from heaven" against all ungodliness of men. Indeed, the fire from the bosom of that cloud was no less than a type of wrath from the bosom of God against him who lay in his bosom (see chap. 6:9, and 9:24).
Ver. 8. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar.
The fat did, of course, help the flame to consume the head, notwithstanding the gushing stream of blood. But what is the type? The head was that whereon the offerer leant his hand, conveying to it his load of guilt. The fat (פָּדֶר) is a word that occurs only thrice, viz. here, and ver. 12, and chap. 8:20. Some understand it to be the midriff; others, the fat separated from the rest of the flesh; but there is no way of arriving at the certain import. The type, however, is obvious. The head and this fat are two pieces—one outward, the other inward; thus representing the whole inner and outer man. Christ's whole manhood, body and soul, was placed on the altar, in the fire, and endured the wrath of God. There could be no type of his soul otherwise than by selecting some inward part to signify it; and that is done here by the "fat." It is on the fat, too, that the fire specially kindles. It is at the man's heart, feelings, and desires that God expresses his indignation most fully. It is the heart that is desperately wicked. It is the carnal mind that is enmity against God.
Ver. 9. But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt-sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.
Answerable to the "head and fat" of the former verse, as parts representing the inward and outward, we have here the legs �