|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #227, 228 and 229|
24 March, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
With the Fall of Adam and Eve, which The Creator had foreseen, and which is described in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, there was set into motion an age-long pattern of history whereby the restitution of all things spoiled in that deliberate act of self-will would be possible. We first began the present series of Bible Studies some time ago with the Call of Abram, out from among his people in Ur of the Chaldees, in order that he might, by The Almighty God's miraculous intervention into the natural processes of life, become the founder of a new tribal nation, and later a whole constellation of nations within which The Almighty could work to bring into being the earthly aspect of the Kingdom of God, under the divine rulership of The Lord Jesus Christ.
The story has unfolded that tribal ancestry through the lives of Abraham's descendants, Isaac, Jacob (renamed Israel), and the tribes of each of the Patriarchal sons of Israel as they first entered Egypt, and later escaped bondage by the miracles of the Exodus to wander in the area of Sinai where they met as a nation before Yahweh, (Jehovah), their God. Having undertaken certain national commitments and created the carefully described Tabernacle to focus the worship of the people, we now find them receiving, by God's word through the Prophet Moses, certain instructions regarding the methods by which sacrifice would point towards the means of Atonement. On our last two studies in the present series we have been examining some opening thoughts on the general principle of Atonement, because we have now arrived at the first chapter of the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament Scriptures.
While we have already begun to read the first chapter of that Book, we are still taking advantage of the wisdom which is available in various commentaries, and drawing upon the generalisations which that variety of sources provides. Before leaving that stage of our studies, I think it profitable to extract some further statements from the valuable passages introducing Leviticus which can be found in The New Bible Commentary. Here, in regard to Leviticus 1:1 - 7:38, under the heading "The Sacrifices", it is explained that "It is significant of its great importance that this manual of sacrifice, as we may call it, is placed first, that the laws regarding the sacrifices precede even the ordination of the priests who are to perform them. Similarly in Numbers the census of the tribes is placed before the celebration of the Passover which is stated to have preceded it in time (Nu. i.1, ix. 1). This code is introduced impressively. The opening word 'and' connects it directly with Ex. xl. 34f. 'Called' is a much stronger expression than 'spake' (1). It suggests a peremptory summons... and an important communication... . It is used of the proclamation of the feasts... and of the announcing of the day of atonement... ."
The notes continue by defining the words "tabernacle of the congregation" thus distinguishing this from the previous meeting tent and showing that the Tabernacle had by this time been completed. The Commentary continues: "Before considering this section in detail, it will be well to note carefully several points with regard to it. First, the sacrifices are discussed twice and from different viewpoints: (a) the Lord's portion of the sacrifices (i.2 - vi. 7) and (b) the portion of the priest and of the offerer (vi. 8 - vii. 36). Then, the five kinds of offering (burnt, meal, sin, trespass, peace) are discussed independently, without regard to any possible connection between them. In the third place, the description and inventory given here is not complete but is supplemented by other statements, both those previously made and others to follow... . Fourthly, the order of description varies here between (a) and (b) and is not the order of performance."
There follow a number of paragraphs detailing those matters which this note on Levitical sacrifices had introduced. Perhaps we can take some benefit by sampling that portion which pertains to the first chapter, and leave the rest for a subsequent program. Under the heading "The Lord's portion of the sacrifices (i.2 - vi.7)", the first thing noted is that the words "speak unto the children of Israel" indicate that the whole nation is involved in these laws. Noting that in verse 2, the Hebrew word "qorban", "Bring an offering" (AV), or "Offereth an oblation" (RV) covered gifts as well as sacrifices, these are now examined. The word "Cattle" (2) would include such unclean animals as horses, asses and camels, as it does when Pharaoh's livestock is listed in Exodus 9:3. "Herd" (2) means the bovines, while "flock" includes sheep and goats. Only these domestic animals and certain birds could be offered in sacrifice.
Moving to The Burnt Offering, we read that these were so called "because all of the flesh was consumed on the altar. Hence it is occasionally called the whole burnt offering... ." The Hebrew word for "burnt offering", "('olah) means 'that which goes up', either because all of the offering ascended as a sweet savour unto God (17), or because the entire animal, and not simply part of it, was offered (went up) on the altar." Our attention is called to the fact that the great brasen (bronze) altar is called "the altar of burnt offering." A further observation is that "the 'continual offering' (tamidh) was a burnt offering (Ex. xxix. 42; Nu. xxviii - xxix). The animal for the burnt offering, a male without blemish, was offered by a carefully-described ritual at the door of the tent where the offerer "places or presses his hand on its head, makes confession over it... slays it 'before the Lord', flays it, divides it 'into his pieces', i.e. according to its joints..., and washes the inwards and the legs. The priest collects the blood and sprinkles it round about upon the altar, and burns all of the flesh on it. Note the emphatic phrase, 'the priests, Aaron's sons... . the rite of sacrifice is distinctly a priestly function. Neither priest nor offerer partakes of any part of the sacrifice. But the hide goes to the officiating priest (vii. 8). In this sacrifice, in contrast with the sin and trespass offerings, the stress seems to be on the complete consecration and dedication of the offerer. This is made especially clear in Rom. xii. 1, where the words 'your bodies' and 'a living sacrifice' indicate clearly that Paul had the burnt offering in mind. but the words 'it shall be accepted for him to make atonement (4) and the sprinkling of the blood around the altar make it quite clear that dedication must be preceded by confession and expiation... . 'To make atonement' (4) is literally 'to cover over'. It implies the covering over of sin as something upon which the God of Israel who is holy cannot look (Hab. i. 13... ). Sin must be covered over with atoning blood. It is used both with reference to persons (as here...) and to things (e.g. the altar...). It is a 'burnt offering, a fire offering, a sweet savour unto the Lord' (9). 'Fire offering' is a term which is applied to all those sacrifices, any part of which was burned on the altar... ." The Commentary explains that, as manna was being given by God to Israel at the time, the meaning to be taken is that "the God who fed them did not need to be fed by them, but that it was His good pleasure to receive back from His children a portion of the good things which He had given them, as a sign of the recognition on their part that it was He who sustained their lives and gave them every blessing." An added point made by The Commentary is this: "The requirements in the case of the sacrifice of a sheep or a goat are the same as in that of the bullock... The place of sacrifice is to be the north side of the altar (11). This is mentioned only here, but it applies to all of the sacrifices except the peace offering. When the offering consists of a bird, the ritual is much simpler, but follows the same general pattern (14 - 17). Birds were offered, either as the required and regular sacrifice... or as a substitute for the normal sacrifice, permitted and accepted because of the poverty of the offerer... ."
I shall leave to you for the coming week the meditation that if The God of Israel so minutely and carefully insisted upon each aspect of those ancient sacrifices, they must play a prominent role in leading all His followers to a more complete understanding of those priorities and essentials which He desires us to clarify and understand in the later revelation regarding Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf upon the Cross of Golgotha. It will enhance our appreciation of what was there done for us if we study the Old Testament prelude to the later, and ongoing, relationship which God desires us to have with Himself. Christ performed the full sacrifice in Himself for us, but we must relate to Him even as those ancient Israelites did in pressing their hands upon the heads of their domestic animal sacrifices which by their multiplied thousands were made substitute for themselves in symbolic anticipation of Christ's once and for ever complete offering on our behalf. We of the British-Israel-World Federation assert the thesis that many in Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred lands today descend quite literally from those ancient Israelites, so the meaning of such sacrifices should be of particular interest to ourselves and especially so at this present time. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
31 March, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible Studies began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The Adamic Fall in the Garden of Eden, as the former chapters of Genesis relate, had precipitated the pre-ordained plan of The Almighty God for the correction of the dismaying, and eventually deadly, results of that single act of impetuous experimentation with Sin. A substitute Saviour had been promised, the Seed of the Woman, Who would bruise the Satanic Serpent's head. This role was the task of Jesus Christ, who must emerge upon the human scene as part of the progeny of the Adamic race, but also be of divine derivation to overcome the test of Sin's temptations. He must substitute Himself for all who would, either prior to the First Advent and in anticipation, or subsequently, and in remembrance thereof, make the Spirit-led choice by faith, to receive God's gracious gift: permission to become a part of His body of believers. Such a Saviour must appear within a Tribal, National context, to "set the stage", so to speak, for the climax of all history at Golgotha, and the following Resurrection and Ascension. For that purpose, Abram must be selected and called, the promises made and the tribal nation of his progeny produced and brought to understand and to participate in, that mighty Plan. It would necessitate a period of bondage in the civilization of ancient Egypt, and further steps being explained and revered, taught and believed, within that harbouring stream of humanity from one generation to the next down the long reaches of the centuries.
To that end, we, of the British-Israel-World Federation, believing as we do the thesis that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations of the present world are the continuation of the main body of Israel's descendants, continue our commission, which is to preach and to teach that National Message which forms the overall theme of the Scriptures, and to prepare our own people for full participation within that Great Plan which enfolds the heart of the process of Salvation in Christ Jesus.
We have, on past programmes, studied successively, the Biblical passages which lead from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, and the children of Israel as they experienced life in the land of Egypt, and later, the great miracles of the Exodus. We have arrived at Mount Sinai, where Moses is transmitting God's instructions for the manner of worship which Israel, His national wife, is to follow in the years to come, and to that end, The Tabernacle, that gloriously beautiful portable tent and extremely symbolic focal point of national worship has now been constructed. It is but the shadow of the reality in Jesus Christ, but through it, we may arrive at deeper understanding of what He did, and continues to do, for His people. It was essentially to that end that the Tabernacle was constructed, and we do well to study it and all the rituals connected thereto, for therein lies great wisdom and understanding of our designed calling in Christ Jesus Our Lord.
Today, with our reading in Leviticus 2, we find instructions regarding the manner of presentation of what the AV translates as "meat offering", but which we soon discover as we read the passage, to be one composed of grain and other herbal substances. We are reading from Leviticus 2:1
1. And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon:
The Companion Bible explains that "any" in verse 1 means "any soul", Heb. nephesh, and the word "offer" translates Heb. "korban." Where the translators used the words "meat offering", The Companion Bible suggests a better translation might be "an oblation of a meal offering." Heb. minchah. Here, once again, the capitalisation of each letter in the title "LORD" in the AV indicates to the informed reader that the original Hebrew name "Jehovah", or, in Hebrew, "Yahweh", is used. Of the "fine flour", it explains, "Not merely ground, but perfect and ready, no unevenness. So with the life of the Antitype. 'the Man Christ Jesus'. Flour is to the wheat what blood is to the body; and pneuma is to the resurrection body." It notes of the word "oil", "Flour mixed with oil, and then oil poured on it. So Christ's life permeated and actuated by The Holy Spirit." Of the frankincense, it goes on: "This ascended to God as a sweet savour."
2. And he shall bring it to Aaron's sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD:
Here, The Companion Bible mentions that the use of the word "memorial" is "to remind", and the sweet savour is, as in Lev. 1:9, "a savour of satisfaction."
3. And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron's and his sons': it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.
Here, our reference explains that of seven holy things, there are two classes; those which are "holy", and those which are "most holy." The three in the first group, those which are classed as "holy" are thank-offerings as in Lev. 23:20, firstborn, as in Numbers 18:17, and Firstfruits, as in Leviticus 2:12. In the second group, the "most holy", are The Incense of Exodus 30:36, Shewbread of Leviticus 24:9, the Sin and Trespass Offering of Leviticus 6:25-29, and the Meal offering, mentioned in this present passage.
I might interject an observation of my own at this point. The New Bible Commentary, in a note introducing the study of Leviticus, lists those groups of sacrificial offerings which were to be made as five in number. It lists two of those sacrifices, namely, the sin and trespass offerings as separate ones. Sometimes we can learn from such divergences of scholarship because we are then thrust upon our own resources. We must at such moments detach ourselves from a slavish following after any single human authority to weigh the evidence for ourselves. In a Bible study, it can become a useful focal point for discussion when one participant discovers that the resource in that person's hands provides a differing viewpoint from one held by another in the circle, and it often comes about that the insights and wisdom prayerfully contributed by others thereupon enhance the interest and understanding of everyone present, even though some may agree to disagree on the matters thus raised. Bible fellowship does not fracture upon discovering variation in approach, because the group gathers in fellowship at the feet of Christ. It does not depend upon a total unanimity on all points of understanding. Mark 9:38 mentions an incident (also found in Luke 9:49) which followed the experience in the same chapter of three disciples as they observed Christ transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration. Had this, perhaps, created a sense of authority and self-importance? Later a discussion arose among the disciples concerning who among them should be the greatest in the kingdom. and after that, John had said "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name and we forbad him, because he followeth not us." To this, Jesus replied "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. for he that is not against us is on our part." I will leave that with our listeners for a point of meditation in the context of variant views concerning such Scriptures. Now, let us return to our present Scripture passage.
4. And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.
Here, The Companion Bible indicates that baking is a Type of the sufferings and trials of the Antitype, "tried as by fire."
5. And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in a pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil.
6. Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon: it is a meat offering.
7. And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in the fryingpan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil.
8. And thou shalt bring the meat offering that is made of these things unto the LORD: and when it is presented unto the priest, he shall bring it unto the altar.
9. And the priest shall take from the meat offering a memorial thereof, and shall burn it upon the altar: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
10. And that which is left of the meat offering shall be Aaron's and his sons': it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.
We shall leave the remainder of our study on this passage for our next Bible Study, but for the present, let me leave with you the thought that we are progressively unfolding the purposes of The Almighty for our own lives through an understanding of those symbolic sacrificial lessons which were conducted through many generations of ancient Israelites, and all of which pointed forward to the magnificent expression of love given to His people by Jesus Christ on Calvary as He opened the door to reconciliation of ourselves to The Almighty God of all the earth. May you receive a blessing in such contemplations.
7 April, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
This week is noteworthy in that it marks the time in our calendar wherein throughout most of Christendom we celebrate what has become generally known as "Easter", although in fact the occasion ought, in preference, to be assigned its proper non-pagan name of "Passover", or perhaps "pesah." For this reason, although our line of recent Bible Studies has (perhaps fortuitously) fallen in its regular sequence upon a study of "Atonement", I feel that it is appropriate to mark the season by slightly varying the normal pattern of this course of studies to review once again, by name, the principle and the pattern of "Passover", and the Biblical events which tie the Exodus, the entry into the Promised Land and the Crucifixion of Our Lord together with notable prospects for a yet future experience by God's people.
The New Bible Dictionary item which deals with the word "Passover", contains nearly two pages of information, and we may find that at least some of the material afforded by that reference can assist us in our review. The lead sentences introduce the matter thus: "In Christian thought, as in Judaism, the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the dedication of the first-born have been traditionally regarded as closely connected memorials of interdependent events of the historic Exodus, instituted by Moses himself at God's specific command. Passover means, of course, two things - the historic event and its later recurrent institutional commemoration... . The conjoined prohibition of leaven... symbolizes the haste of that unforgettable night in Egypt, and the dedication of the first-born is a later statutory offering of thanksgiving for God's wondrous deliverance."
After presenting an account of various scholarly views concerning the possibility that a sort of passover tradition might have been implanted among the various races of mankind much earlier than the Biblical focus at the time of The Exodus, or alternatively that it might have been authored by some writer of a much later century than that of Moses, the account proceeds to yield the following passage.
"Ex. xii, the natural starting-point of study, suggests the following principal considerations.
1. Passover, Heb. pesah, comes from a verb meaning 'to pass over', in the sense of 'to spare' (Ex. xii. 13, 27, etc.). There seems to be nothing except perspicuity to condemn the view that God simply and literally passed over the blood-sprinkled Israelite houses, while smiting the Egyptians. The term is used both for the ordinance and for the sacrificial victim... .
2. Abib, later called Nisan, the month of the ripening ears and of the first Passover, was made in honour the first month of the Jewish year (Ex. xii. 2; Dt. xvi. 1; cf. Lv. xxiii. 5; Nu. ix. 1-5, xxviii. 16)."
Here I feel constrained to remind ourselves that, in fact, mention of that term "Jewish year" by this reference is totally anachronistic in the context of The Exodus as there were no Jews as such for many hundreds of years after that time. The massed clans descended of Noah's son, Shem, might all share a claim to be Semitic. Hebrews, there were, descendants of Eber, as was Abraham and all his descendants (from whom we must not exclude the Arab descendants of his son Ishmael, nor Isaac and his sons, Esau and Jacob). Israelites, there were, for Jacob was given this name, and hence his tribal descendants share that term. Judahites there were, by this time, being perhaps one thirteenth of those called Israel, but the term "Jew", as the famous Jewish historian Josephus explains, were those, many centuries later, of the remnant of a small portion of Judah who returned to Palestine from the Babylonian Captivity (along with an admixture of non-Israel peoples). That said, let us return to our reference.
"3. Of especial interest is the identity of the Paschal victim, whether or not it be the lamb popularly conceived, of which Christ is the antitype. In Dt. xvi. 2 the choice of animal is unquestionably much wider; in Ex. xii. 3-5 it is a matter of exegesis. The Hebrew word 'seh' (verse 3) means sheep or goat, irrespective of age, but, unlike the more general word in Deuteronomy, it excludes all other kinds. whether the choice be further limited to a lamb or kid depends on the precise translation of 'ben-sana' (verse 5), lit. 'son of a year'. If, as some maintain, this really means a yearling animal, between twelve and twenty-four months in age..., then a full-grown sheep or goat is meant. But the traditional exegesis, which takes twelve months as the upper, not as the lower, age limit is by no means disproved. The rabbinic evidence on this point is interesting, but not conclusive." There follows some further discussion regarding the traditions concerning the selection of lamb or kid, lamb or goat being several times asserted. The point is made of one rabbinic ruling that a female is excluded, or a male which is over two years of age. The passage also mentions that "the typologies 'Christ our Passover', 'Lamb of God', rested on widespread precedent."
"4. It is laid down in Ex. xii. 46 and Nu. ix. 12 that no bone of the Passover victim is to be broken. This small detail is typologically fulfilled when it is reverently applied to the crucified One (Jn. xix. 36).
5. There is no blood ritual in Dt. xvi. In Ex. xii, however, it is commanded that on the Passover night in Egypt, the lintel and side-posts of each Israelite door should be smeared with the victim's blood. This is applied with Hyssop, the foliage of the marjoram plant, a common emblem of ritual purity in the Pentateuch and elsewhere, and the blood is carried in a basin (Heb. 'sap'; the Hebrew word also means 'threshold', which would alter slightly, though not basically, the meaning of verse 22). This smearing has been interpreted as apotropaic, that is to say, intended to war off evil spirits. The biblical story has even been rewritten with Yahweh Himself as the demonic spirit to be warded off... . There is surely greater cogency in fitting it into its place in the long history of the theology of atonement by blood, culminating in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
6. The phrase 'between the two evenings' in Ex. xii. 6... has been accorded two variant renderings according to community practice; either between noon and sunset, or between sunset and dark. The matter is important to Jews, but can scarcely be determined by etymology.
7. Ex. xii. 43-49 certainly excludes Gentiles from participation in the Passover, but it leaves the door noticeably wide for conscientious proselytes willing to meet the conditions required. The whole drama and inner meaning of Ex xii is concentrated into seventeen pregnant Greek words in Heb. xi. 28."
Here, once again, I feel constrained to interject the point that the word "Gentiles" does not necessarily exclude descendants of the tribes of Israel, as many were later deported by the Assyrians, and thereby became migrants who filtered among, and were frequently confused in identity with, non-Israel pagans. We have thus become accustomed to a misconception with regard to the term. In the Old Testament, "Gentiles" generally translates the Hebrew word "goy", and in the New Testament, it generally translates the Greek work "ethnos." In Young's Concordance, both terms are given the meaning "Nation", amplified in the case of "goy" by the explanatory words "a collective body". Hence, these words may include deported Israelites, and should not be altogether confined to non-Israel peoples. Indeed St. Paul demonstrates an instance of this when, in I Corinthians 10:1-4, he tells those to whom he addresses that epistle that the fathers of these Corinthians experienced the cloud and parting of the waters at the Exodus, yet two chapters further on in his epistle, he says, in I Corinthians 12:2, "Ye know that ye were Gentiles... ." In I Peter 2:9, Peter ascribes the prophecy of Hosea 2:23 concerning descendants of deported Israel to those to whom his epistle is addressed in I Peter 1:1, namely the "strangers scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia", yet in I Peter 4:3 he writes to remind them of their past life as "Gentiles"! Indeed, as I recall it, one well-versed Biblical authority has stated a belief that whenever an epistle of the New Testament addresses or refers to "Gentiles", such ex-patriate Israelitish descendants are, almost always in fact, intended.
The New Bible Dictionary item continues with a passage which contrasts the earlier practices of Exodus with those of the later generation recorded in Deuteronomy, and those of later history. Of the New Testament times, it notes that "the Passover victim was ritually slaughtered in the temple, but the meal could be eaten in any house within the city bounds. A company bound together by some common tie, such as Jesus and His disciples, could celebrate as though they formed a family unit. Christians must have perceived at a date soon after the close of the New Testament canon that the Lord's Supper replaces Passover completely, and that this was its intended purpose. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70, any possibility of slaughtering a victim in ritual manner utterly ceased, and the Jewish Passover reverted to the family festival it had been in the earliest days - the wheel had turned full circle... ."
"Exodos", The Greek word used in Luke 9:31 for Christ's death, is the same Greek word used in Hebrews 11:22 of Israel's departing from Egypt. This season of Passover commemorates the Crucifixion, death, burial and Resurrection of Our Lord and while that event is upon the minds of many, it is as well to see this as both the culminating historic focal point of God's Great Plan of Redemption and Salvation through Our Lord, and likewise as the pattern of both that Exodus which drew Israel out of Egypt, and the forthcoming equivalent Exodus of God's people from the new spiritual Egypt and Babylonian system which imposes today's form of bondage upon us all. Israel's entry into the Promised Land under Joshua will, we believe, be repeated as Jesus, the greater "Joshua" leads His people into the Kingdom of God upon the earth, as it is in heaven. May you find blessing in this thought and realisation for the coming week.
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