The Meat Offering

Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland

Part 3 of 7 of the series The Levitical Offerings

3. THE MEAT OFFERING

The second offering prescribed for the Israelite in the ceremonial law in Leviticus is the meat offering. The Hebrew term minchah is usually translated in the Authorised Version as meat offering, since the offering consisted mainly of what was the food of the people. Luther rendered it food offering. In 1611 A.D., ‘meat’ meant food in general, but the revisers changed the name to meal offering to mark the distinction between this offering and the various animal sacrifices (cf. Acts 2. 46, ‘meat’ A.V., and ‘food’ R.V.).

The Hebrew word minchah means, literally, that which is apportioned. Its first occurrence in Scripture is in Genesis 4. 3-5, where it is used of the offerings brought by Cain and Abel to God. Each brought his minchah as an acknowledgement of God’s provision for him, with a desire for its continuance. God had respect to Abel’s offering, but not to Cain’s. No doubt Abel’s was the best that he could bring - ‘the firstling of the flock, and the fat thereof’ (cf. Mal. 1. 8). On the other hand, Cain’s did not rise to God’s expectation, and God did not respect it. It is used again of the present which Jacob prepared to appease Esau’s wrath and to seek his favour, Gen. 32. 20. It is also used of the present that Joseph’s brethren gave him as a token of their homage and gratitude for past favours, 43. 26. It was a recognition of Joseph’s dignity and authority. Minchah is also used in the later Old Testament books to denote any kind of offering, grouping them all together under this general term, 1 Sam. 3. 14; 1 Kings 18. 29; Mal. 1. 13.

In Leviticus 2, we have this term minchah used of a specific offering ordained of God for the children of Israel, reminding them that they owed all their sustenance to God. In effect God said to the Israelite, ‘If you wish to acknowledge your indebtedness to Me, I will show you exactly what I require’. He gave to Moses detailed requirements for such an offering, that it might be accepted by Him, and that Israel might not, like Cain, be angry at God’s non-acceptance of their present. Thus the minchah was the portion given back to God by the Israelite in recognition of His greatness, and as an acknowledgement of His provision for their material needs. Being food, it indicated especially God’s provision for the sustenance of life. Inherent in it is the idea of remembrance, Lev. 2. 2, Num. 5. 15 R.V. It was a sweet-savour offering, presented that God might receive satisfaction from it. Its offering was an act of worship, of gratitude and of petition for future blessings.

A meat offering was also subsidiary to the regular offerings, namely the daily morning and evening sacrifices, the Sabbath offerings and the various festival offerings. These subsidiary offerings differ somewhat from what is set forth in Leviticus 2, in that they consisted merely of prescribed quantities of fine flour mixed with oil, the amount varying with the animal offered, Num. 15. 4-10. The meal offering of Leviticus 2 was offered by private individuals; for example, at the consecration of the priests and Levites, Lev. 6.20, at the end of the Nazarite vow, Num. 6. 15, and for cleansing of the leper, Lev. 14. 20.

In common with the other sweet-savour oblations, it pointed to Christ who gave Himself for us, an offering to God for a sweet-smelling savour, Eph. 5. 2. The incarnation and the life of Christ were necessary to the accomplishment of His atoning death. This fact, taught in the compulsory association of the burnt and meat offerings, points to the latter as a type of the life and service of Christ. It is not, as in the case of the burnt offering, the laying down of His life in death, but His life as lived for God.

In presenting Christ to God as his burnt offering the believer appreciates Him also as the perfect anti-type of the meat offering. In it the Lord is presented as the One who perfectly met the requirements of God; the One whom God sent to provide for the sustenance of our spiritual life; the One who was ‘the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever’, John 6. 51. We feed on Christ, and recognize how His life, lived here amongst men, was necessary for our blessing.

The Ingredients

For the Israelite, three ingredients were essential in the meat offering, (i) flour, (ii) oil and (iii) frankincense, Lev. 2. 1. Each has a typical import. Flour, the result of the grinding of wheat (a reducing process for the grain) portrays the humiliation of Christ in coming into manhood. Equal with God, He made Himself of no reputation, being made in the likeness of men, Phil. 2. 7. Fine flour is specified. It indicates the perfection of the humanity of Christ and the evenness of His character, every attribute being in perfect balance. The absence of lumps suggests that in Him no graces outshone any other.

Oil is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that possessed Christ without measure, John 3. 34; He was ever full of the Spirit, and was constantly led of the Spirit.

Frankincense, the most fragrant of balsams, points to the fragrance of the life of Christ - a life that ever pleased the Father. 'All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia’, Ps. 45. 8. All His habits produced a sweet-smelling savour.

Every meat offering must also be seasoned with salt, called salt of the covenant, Lev. 2.13. Salt was commonly used in the ratification of a covenant, 2 Chron. 13. 5. This teaches that the meat offering, in common with the other offerings, was in the nature of an acknowledgement of God’s covenant with Israel, and points to Christ and the new covenant. Salt, an ingredient which restrains corruption, also points to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ being always well-seasoned, with no corruption of speech or thought.

On the other hand, neither leaven nor honey should be offered with the meat offering. While making food palatable, each in its own way tended to corruption. Leaven, typical of malice and wickedness, 1 Cor. 5. 8, was not found in Christ; in Him is no sin, 1 John 3. 5. Honey, being natural sweetness, suggests personal glory and that which appeals to the flesh, Prov. 25. 27. Christ sought not His own glory, but that of the Father, John 7. 18.

The Ritual

The ritual connected with this offering is set forth in Leviticus 2. 2-3. The offering must be presented to the priest, and a handful taken out of the flour and oil; this, together with all the frankincense, was burnt on the altar. Three things are said of the portion thus burned: (i) it was a memorial - it would remind the Israelite of his indebtedness to God; (ii) it was an offering made by fire, literally, a firing - it would be consumed by the fire to indicate that it had been devoted to God, and (iii) it was a sweet savour - it would give satisfaction to God.

In Leviticus 2, God ordained that three different products may be offered as a meat offering: (1) corn, v. 14; (ii) dough, v. 1, and (iii) bread, v. 4. These represent three stages in the preparation of the food of the people, namely, (i) the corn, being ears of the new wheat parched on a pan, and rubbed to obtain the roasted grains - a favourite food in harvest, Ruth 2. 14; (ii) the dough, being the wheat ground into flour and mixed with oil as a batter, and (iii) the flour baked into bread. This bread was further subdivided into three varieties according to the method of baking: (i) baked in an oven', (ii) baked on a flatplate, and (iii) baked by frying in oil. Again, the bread baked in the oven may be either in the form of unleavened cakes made from a batter of fine flour and oil, or unleavened wafers over which oil had been poured. In each case, it was a manufactured article that was offered. Thus the Israelite offered the fruit of his own labour to God; he offered a life of service to God.

As with the burnt offering, some meat offerings were compulsory and some voluntary. With the various statutory burnt offerings the Israelite must bring a meat offering, the nature and amount being designated in each case. Fine flour and oil were always specified, but for the various animals offered the amount of flour and oil varied. With a bullock three tenths of an ephah of flour mixed with half an hin of oil were required; with a ram, two tenths of an ephah of flour mixed with a third of an hin of oil; with a lamb one tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with a quarter of an hin of oil, Num. 15. 4-11. These varying quantities suggest different measures of appreciation of God’s provision, as the different animals offered in the burnt offerings suggest varying grades of worship. Today, each believer appreciates in a different measure the value of Christ’s life and service to God whilst on earth. Much is expected of him to whom much is given.

The Truth Set forth by the Offering

What an apt picture of Christ this ritual brings to our hearts. Every time we speak to God of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ we are reminded of our indebtedness to Him for the gift of His Son coming into manhood and bringing untold blessings. We appreciate, too, how His life was lived in perfect devotedness to God. We hear the Saviour say,‘A body hast thou prepared me . . . Lo, I come ... to do thy will, O God’, Heb. 10. 5-7. We understand also something of the satisfaction the Father received from that life, as twice we hear the words from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’, Matt. 3. 17; 17. 5. Thus we present Christ our meat offering.

The believer today would offer his life in service to God, but he is verily conscious that his own service is so inadequate and imperfect that he presents instead the perfect work of Christ. This corresponds to the type set forth in Leviticus 2. The various products present different facets of the life of Christ. In each case the basis of the meat offering is flour made from wheat, the best ingredient that the Israelite used for bread, 1 Chron. 21. 23. The offerer presented only the best fruit - such was the life of Christ.

The different stages in the preparation of the wheat for food suggest different abilities, different experiences, different times spent in God’s service. The parched corn reminds us of the Lord’s youth at Nazareth, ever subject to the fire of God’s holiness. The dough typifies the perfection of the Lord’s life of service, the evenness of His character in association with the fulness of the Spirit. The baking of the bread suggests suffering - not the suffering of Calvary, but the sufferings associated with the Lord’s life, His preparation for the altar. The baking done on the flatplate points to the sufferings that Christ endured as He came into contact with the effects of sin on man, when His sorrows became apparent to those around, John 11. 33, 38; the baking in the frying-pan to the open attacks from His enemies whilst He taught, as ‘they set themselves vehemently against him’, Luke 11. 53 R.V. marg.; the baking in the oven to the sufferings which He experienced unseen by man, as in the wilderness temptation when He was alone with Satan. Some suggest that the oil mingled with the fine flour represents the incarnation of Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and the wafers anointed with oil the anointing of Christ with the Holy Spirit at His baptism.

One further point remains to be considered, namely, the relationship of the priest to the meat offering. This is dealt with in Leviticus 6.14-18. After he had burned the handful on the altar, the rest was given to him by God for food. The fact that God called this holy, that He ordained it to be baked without leaven and eaten in the holy place, suggests that the whole belonged to God, who gave this remainder to the priest for his sustenance. In this the believer views himself as a priest. When he offers to God the perfections of Christ’s life as his meat offering, he receives from God that which sustains his spiritual life and satisfies his soul. The believer appreciates just how much he owes to Christ’s activity, even now, on his behalf. He is ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever’. He is seen in the same characteristics that controlled His work for men whilst on earth. In what differing degrees do we realise our indebtedness to Him as our Great High Priest, as Advocate, as Shepherd and as Friend?