Leviticus 1

Introduction to the Sacrificial Regulations

Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him
Heb “And he (the Lord) called (וַיִּקְרָא, vayyiqra’) to Moses and the Lord spoke (וַיְדַבֵּר, vayedabber) to him from the tent of meeting.” The MT assumes “Lord” in the first clause but places it in the second clause (after “spoke”). This is somewhat awkward, especially in terms of English style; most English versions reverse this and place “Lord” in the first clause (right after “called”). The Syriac version does the same.
The best explanation for the MT of Lev 1:1 arises from its function as a transition from Exod 40 to Lev 1. The first clause, “And he (the Lord) called to Moses,” links v. 1 back to Exod 40:35, “But Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord had filled the tabernacle” (cf. J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:134). Exod 40:36–38 is a parenthetical explanation of the ongoing function of the cloud in leading the people through the wilderness. Since Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, the Lord “called” to him “from” the tent of meeting.
from the Meeting Tent:
The second clause of v. 1, “and the Lord spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,” introduces the following discourse. This is a standard introductory formula (see, e.g., Exod 20:1; 25:1; 31:1; etc.). The combination of the first and second clauses is, therefore, “bulky” because of the way they happen to be juxtaposed in this transitional verse (J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 8). The first clause of v. 1 connects the book back to the end of the Book of Exodus while the second looks forward the ritual legislation that follows in Lev 1:2ff. There are two “Tents of Meeting”: the one that stood outside the camp (see, e.g., Exod 33:7) and the one that stood in the midst of the camp (Exod 40:2; Num 2:2ff) and served as the Lord’s residence until the construction of the temple in the days of Solomon (Exod 27:21; 29:4; 1 Kgs 8:4; 2 Chr 5:5, etc.; cf. 2 Sam 7:6). Exod 40:35 uses both “tabernacle” and “tent of meeting” to refer to the same tent: “Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” It is clear that “tent of meeting” in Lev 1:1 refers to the “tabernacle.” The latter term refers to the tent as a “residence,” while the former refers to it as a divinely appointed place of “meeting” between God and man (see R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:873–77 and 2:1130–34). This corresponds to the change in terms in Exod 40:35, where “tent of meeting” is used when referring to Moses’ inability to enter the tent, but “tabernacle” when referring to the Lord taking up residence there in the form of the glory cloud. The quotation introduced here extends from Lev 1:2 through 3:17, and encompasses the burnt, grain, and peace offering regulations. Compare the notes on Lev 4:1; 5:14; and 6:1 [5:20 HT] below.
“Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When
“When” here translates the MT’s כִּי (ki, “if, when”), which regularly introduces main clauses in legislative contexts (see, e.g., Lev 2:1, 4; 4:2, etc.) in contrast to אִם (’im, “if”), which usually introduces subordinate sections (see, e.g., Lev 1:3, 10, 14; 2:5, 7, 14; 4:3, 13, etc.; cf. כִּי in Exod 21:2 and 7 as opposed to אִם in vv. 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11).
Lev 1:1–2 serves as a heading for Lev 1–3 (i.e., the basic regulations regarding the presentation of the burnt, grain, and peace offerings) and, at the same time, leads directly into the section on “burnt offerings” in Lev 1:3. In turn, Lev 1:3–17 divides into three subsections, all introduced by אִם “if” (Lev 1:3–9, 10–13, and 14–17, respectively). Similar patterns are discernible throughout Lev 1:2–6:7 [5:26 HT].
Heb “a man, human being” (אָדָם, ’adam), which in this case refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female, since women could also bring such offerings (see, e.g., Lev 12:6–8; 15:29–30; cf. HALOT 14 s.v. I אָדָם); cf. NIV “any of you.”
among you presents an offering
The verb “presents” is cognate to the noun “offering” in v. 2 and throughout the book of Leviticus (both from the root קרב [qrb]). One could translate the verb “offers,” but this becomes awkward and, in fact, inaccurate in some passages. For example, in Lev 9:9 this verb is used for the presenting or giving of the blood to Aaron so that he could offer it to the Lord. The blood is certainly not being “offered” as an offering to Aaron there.
to the Lord,
The whole clause reads more literally, “A human being (אָדָם, ’adam), if he brings from among you an offering to the Lord.”
The shift to the second person plural verb here corresponds to the previous second person plural pronoun “among you.” It is distinct from the regular pattern of third person singular verbs throughout the rest of Lev 1–3. This too labels Lev 1:1–2 as an introduction to all of Lev 1–3, not just the burnt offering regulations in Lev 1 (J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:146; cf. note 3 above).
must present your offering from the domesticated animals, either from the herd or from the flock.
Heb “from the domesticated animal, from the herd, and from the flock.” It is clear from the subsequent division between animals from the “herd” (בָּקָר, baqar, in Lev 1:3–9) and the “flock” (צֹאן, tson; see Lev 1:10–13) that the term for “domesticated animal” (בְּהֵמָה, behemah) is a general term meant to introduce the category of pastoral quadrupeds. The stronger disjunctive accent over בְּהֵמָה in the MT as well as the lack of a vav (ו) between it and בָּקָר also suggest בְּהֵמָה is an overall category that includes both “herd” and “flock” quadrupeds.
The bird category (Lev 1:14–17) is not included in this introduction because bird offerings were, by and large, concessions to the poor (cf., e.g., Lev 5:7–10; 12:8; 14:21–32) and, therefore, not considered to be one of the primary categories of animal offerings.

Burnt Offering Regulations: Animal from the Herd

“‘If his offering is a burnt offering
The burnt offering (עֹלָה, ’olah) was basically a “a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord” (vv. 9, 13, 17). It could serve as a votive or freewill offering (e.g., Lev 22:18–20), an accompaniment of prayer and supplication (e.g., 1 Sam 7:9–10), part of the regular daily, weekly, monthly, and festival cultic pattern (e.g., Num 28–29), or to make atonement either alone (e.g., Lev 1:4; 16:24) or in combination with the grain offering (e.g., Lev 14:20) or sin offering (e.g., Lev 5:7; 9:7). See R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 4:996–1022.
from the herd he must present it as a flawless male; he must present it at the entrance
Heb “door” (so KJV, ASV); NASB “doorway” (likewise throughout the book of Leviticus). The translation “door” or “doorway” may suggest a framed door in a casing to the modern reader, but here the term refers to the entrance to a tent.
of the Meeting Tent for its
The NIV correctly has “it” in the text, referring to the acceptance of the animal (cf., e.g., RSV, NEB, NLT), but “he” in the margin, referring to the acceptance of the offerer (cf. ASV, NASB, JB). The reference to a “flawless male” in the first half of this verse suggests that the issue here is the acceptability of the animal to make atonement on behalf of the offerer (Lev 1:4; cf. NRSV “for acceptance in your behalf”).
acceptance before the Lord.
He must lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted for him to make atonement
“To make atonement” is the standard translation of the Hebrew term כִּפֶּר, (kipper); cf. however TEV “as a sacrifice to take away his sins” (CEV similar). The English word derives from a combination of “at” plus Middle English “one[ment],” referring primarily to reconciliation or reparation that is made in order to accomplish reconciliation. The primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, however, is “to wipe [something off (or on)]” (see esp. the goal of the sin offering, Lev 4, “to purge” the tabernacle from impurities), but in some cases it refers metaphorically to “wiping away” anything that might stand in the way of good relations by bringing a gift (see, e.g., Gen 32:20 [21 HT], “to appease; to pacify” as an illustration of this). The translation “make atonement” has been retained here because, ultimately, the goal of either purging or appeasing was to maintain a proper relationship between the Lord (who dwelt in the tabernacle) and Israelites in whose midst the tabernacle was pitched (see R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:689–710 for a full discussion of the Hebrew word meaning “to make atonement” and its theological significance).
on his behalf.
Then the one presenting the offering
Heb “Then he”; the referent (the offerer) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The LXX has “they” rather than “he,” suggesting that the priests, not the offerer, were to slaughter the bull (cf. the notes on vv. 6a and 9a).
must slaughter the bull
Heb “the son of the herd”; cf. KJV “bullock”; NASB, NIV “young bull.”
before the Lord, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, must present the blood and splash
“Splash” (cf. NAB) or “dash” (cf. NRSV) is better than “sprinkle,” which is the common English translation of this verb (זָרַק, zaraq; see, e.g., KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT). “Sprinkle” is not strong enough (contrast נָזָה [nazah], which does indeed mean “to sprinkle” or “to splatter”; cf. Lev 4:6).
the blood against the sides of the altar which is at the entrance of the Meeting Tent.
Next, the one presenting the offering
Heb “Then he”; the referent (the offerer) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The LXX and Smr have “they” rather than “he” in both halves of this verse, suggesting that the priests, not the offerer, were to skin and cut the carcass of the bull into pieces (cf. the notes on vv. 5a and 9a).
must skin the burnt offering and cut it into parts,
and the sons of Aaron, the priest,
A few medieval Hebrew mss, Smr, LXX, Syriac, and Tg. Onq. have plural “priests” here (cf. 1:5, 8) rather than the MT singular “priest” (cf. NAB). The singular “priest” would mean (1) Aaron, the (high) priest, or (2) the officiating priest, as in Lev 1:9 (cf. 6:10 [3 HT], etc.). “The sons of Aaron” is probably a textual corruption caused by conflation with Lev 1:5, 8 (cf. the remarks in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 13).
must put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.
Then the sons of Aaron, the priests, must arrange the parts with the head and the suet
A few Hebrew mss, Smr, LXX, Syriac, and Tg. Onq. have the conjunction “and” before “the head,” which would suggest the rendering “and the head and the suet” rather than the rendering of the MT here, “with the head and the suet.”
“Suet” is the specific term used for the hard, fatty tissues found around the kidneys of sheep and cattle. A number of modern English versions have simplified this to “fat” (e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
on the wood that is in the fire on the altar.
Heb “on the wood, which is on the fire, which is on the altar.” Cf. NIV “on the burning wood”; NLT “on the wood fire.”
Finally, the one presenting the offering
Heb “Finally, he”; the referent (the offerer) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Once again, the MT assigns the preparation of the offering (here the entrails and legs) to the offerer because it did not bring him into direct contact with the altar, but reserves the actual placing of the sacrifice on the altar for the officiating priest (cf. the notes on vv. 5a and 6a).
must wash its entrails and its legs in water and the priest must offer all of it up in smoke on the altar
Heb “toward the altar,” but the so-called locative ה (hey) attached to the word for “altar” can indicate the place where something is or happens (GKC 250 #90.d and GKC 373-74 #118.g; cf. also J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:161). This is a standard way of expressing “on/at the altar” with the verb “to offer up in smoke” (Hiphil of קָטַר [qatar]; cf. also Exod 29:13, 18, 25; Lev 1:9, 13, 15, 17; 2:2, etc.).
– it is
A few Hebrew mss and possibly the Leningrad B19a ms itself (the basis of the BHS Hebrew text of the MT), under an apparent erasure, plus Smr, LXX, Syriac, and Tg. Ps.-J. suggest that Hebrew הוּא (hu’, translated as “it is”) should be added here as in vv. 13 and 17. Whether or not the text should be changed, the meaning is the same as in vv. 13 and 17, so it has been included in the translation here.
a burnt offering, a gift
The standard English translation of “gift” (אִשֶּׁה, ’isheh) is “an offering [made] by fire” (cf. KJV, ASV). It is based on a supposed etymological relationship to the Hebrew word for “fire” (אֵשׁ, ’esh) and is still maintained in many versions (e.g., NIV, RSV, NRSV, NLT; B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 7–8). For various reasons, including the fact that some offerings referred to by this term are not burned on the altar (see, e.g., Lev 24:9), it is probably better to understand the term to mean “gift” (J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 22) or “food gift” (“food offering” in NEB and TEV; J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:161–62). See R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 1:540–49 for a complete discussion.
of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

Animal from the Flock

10  “‘If his offering is from the flock for a burnt offering
Heb “And if from the flock is his offering, from the sheep or from the goats, for a burnt offering.” Here “flock” specifies the broad category, with “sheep or goats” giving specific examples.
– from the sheep or the goats – he must present a flawless male,
11 and must slaughter it on the north side of the altar before the Lord, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, will splash its blood against the altar’s sides. 12 Next, the one presenting the offering
Heb “Then he”; the referent (the offerer) has been specified in the translation for clarity (so also in v. 13).
must cut it into parts, with its head and its suet, and the priest must arrange them on the wood which is in the fire, on the altar.
13 Then the one presenting the offering must wash the entrails and the legs in water, and the priest must present all of it and offer it up in smoke on the altar – it is a burnt offering, a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

From the Birds

14  “‘If his offering to the Lord is a burnt offering from the birds,
Heb “from the [category] ‘bird.’”
he must present his offering from the turtledoves or from the young pigeons.
Heb “from the sons of the pigeon,” referring either to “young pigeons” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT) or “various species of pigeon” (contrast J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:168, with J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 14).
15 The priest must present it at the altar, pinch off
The action here seems to involve both a twisting action, breaking the neck of the bird and severing its vertebrae, as well as pinching or nipping the skin to sever the head from the main body. Cf. NASB, NRSV “wring off its head”; NAB “snap its head loose”; NLT “twist off its head.”
its head and offer the head
Many English versions have “it” here, referring to the head of the bird, which the priest immediately tossed on the altar fire. However, “it” could be misunderstood to refer to the bird’s body, so “head” is repeated in the present translation for clarity. As the following lines show, certain things needed to be done to the body of the bird before it could be placed on the altar.
up in smoke on the altar, and its blood must be drained out against the side of the altar.
16 Then the priest
Heb “Then he”; the referent (apparently still the priest) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
must remove its entrails by cutting off its tail feathers,
This translation (“remove its entrails by [cutting off] its tail feathers”) is based on the discussion in J. Milgrom, Leviticus (AB), 1:169–71, although he translates, “remove its crissum by its feathers.” Others possibilities include “its crop with its contents” (Tg. Onq., cf. NIV, NRSV; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 23) or “its crop with its feathers” (LXX, NASB, RSV; “crop” refers to the enlarged part of a bird’s gullet that serves a pouch for the preliminary maceration of food).
and throw them
The pronoun “them” here is feminine singular in Hebrew and refers collectively to the entrails and tail wing which have been removed.
to the east side of the altar into the place of fatty ashes,
17 and tear it open by its wings without dividing it into two parts.
Heb “he shall not divide it.” Several Hebrew mss, Smr, LXX, and Syriac have a vav on the negative, yielding the translation, “but he shall not divide it into two parts.” Cf. NIV “not severing it completely” (NRSV similar).
Finally, the priest must offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is in the fire – it is a burnt offering, a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

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