This week’s parasha is entitled Vayikra, meaning “And He Called” and introduces us to the book of Leviticus. These chapters describe the various offerings made to Adonai. Each chapter describes a different type of offering. The many details might not seem exciting to today’s reader, but they are significant, and should not be ignored. In some ways they foreshadow Messiah Yeshua’s nature and His atoning death.
Chapter one concerns the burnt offering. The worshiper could bring an offering from the herd or flock as atonement for sin, but whether it was a bull, a sheep or a goat, it had to be a male animal and could not have any defects. The offender would lay his hand on the head of the innocent animal and confess his sins over it, after which the animal would be slain, and Aaron’s sons the priests would sprinkle the blood on all four sides of the altar.
Only those who desire to bring voluntary offerings. Dedication and consecration are not commanded but willed by the person, just as only those who truly seek Messiah will find him. If one offers a sheep or a goat as a burnt offering, it must be a male that has nothing wrong with it. The one seeking atonement must kill the animal on the north side of the altar in front of the Lord.
The animal would be cut into pieces and the head and the fat removed. The priest would wash the legs and inner parts with water, then bring all these parts to the altar to be offered as a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling gift to the Lord. If a man was too poor to offer a bull or goat, he was permitted to offer a pair of pigeons.
Chapter two speaks of the grain or meal offerings. These consisted of flour and oil to which were added salt and frankincense, and were generally accompanied by the drink offering of wine. It could also be an offering of baked cakes. The grain offering was described in the same terms as the burnt offering, an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to Adonai. Every single grain offering was to have salt. Salt was a very precious and costly commodity in the ancient world. It was both a healing agent and a preservative.
But the grain offerings were not to include any leaven, or yeast. The Lord God would not accept any grain offering that had either yeast or honey, perhaps because honey adds an artificial sweetness to grain, and yeast adds artificial sourness. Also, leaven is used in the Bible as a symbol for sin. Just as leaven causes dough to puff up into bread, pride causes people to become puffed up. And God detests those who are proud in their hearts.
Chapter three describes the peace offerings. These were different in a few ways. First, they were voluntary; and second, if taken from the flock, the peace offering could be a male or female animal. Also, in the peace offering the worshiper actually joined the priest in the sacrificial meal of what remained, whereas in the other offerings only the priest ate this meal. But the Jewish people are warned here never to eat any fat or blood of the offerings.
Chapter four describes the sin offerings. Adonai made provision for when a person – even one of the priests – would sin unintentionally. In such a case, he must offer a young bull to the Lord as a sin offering, and the bull must not have any defects.
Whether the sin was intentional or not, it still demanded the price of blood. And, this offering was not a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord. These sacrifices included a bull, a lamb or female, also the goat, dove, or even flour. The nature of the offering depended on the status of the one making the offering. The sin of the priest required nothing less than a bull, the blood of which was sprinkled within the holy place of the Tabernacle.
The purification of the congregation as a whole also demanded a bull, whose blood was applied by the priest in the same way. The inadvertent sin of a ruler was atoned by the sacrifice of a male goat, the blood being applied to the great altar. An ordinary person presented a female goat or lamb, or if they could not afford it, two doves or a specific measure of flour. When all of this was done properly and with sincerity, the sin would be forgiven. Once again, the sacrificial animal must be flawless.
Chapter five informs us about guilt offerings, which included circumstances such as coming in contact with something or someone unclean, or a promise made rashly, or else sinning in some way unintentionally. Unintentional sins need atonement just as much as willful, rebellious sins. God is holy, and He will not abide in the midst of a sinful people. And good intentions don’t make up for sin. We must still confess our sins, and blood is necessary to have atonement.
A few thoughts in closing. There are many aspects of the offerings in parasha Vayikra that point us to Messiah Yeshua’s own sacrifice. For example, the absence of leaven points to His sinless nature, as does the demand that the sacrificial animals be completely flawless. The Apostle Peter described Yeshua’s death as of “a lamb unblemished and spotless.”
The peace offerings, with the meal that was shared by the priest and the worshiper together, anticipated a future time when a redeemed mankind will break bread in righteousness, as “a kingdom of priests.”
And as every grain offering was to be accompanied by salt, Yeshua declared that His followers are to be the salt of the earth. If you have become complacent, and no longer have that Gospel-flavor, you are in danger of becoming useless. Why not repent and ask Adonai to make you salty once again?