Leviticus 1 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Leviticus 1)

Verse 1

[1] And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,

Moses — Stood without, Exodus 40:35, waiting for God's call.

The tabernacle — From the mercy-seat in the tabernacle.

Verse 2

[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 of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.

There are divers kinds of sacrifices here prescribed, some by way of acknowledgment to God for mercies either desired or received; others by was of satisfaction to God for men's sins; others were mere exercises of devotion. And the reason why there were so many kinds of them was, partly a respect to the childish state of the Jews, who by the custom of nations, and their own natural inclinations were much addicted to outward rites and ceremonies, that they might have full employment of that kind in Gods's service, and thereby be kept from temptations to idolatry; and partly to represent as well the several perfections of Christ, the true sacrifice, and the various benefits of his death, as the several duties which men owe to their Creator and Redeemer, all which could not be so well expressed by one sort of sacrifice.

Of the flock — Or, Of the sheep; though the Hebrew word contains both the sheep and goats. Now God chose these creatures for his sacrifices, either, 1. In opposition to the Egyptian idolatry, to which divers of the Israelites had been used, and were still in danger of revolting to again, that the frequent destruction of these creatures might bring such silly deities into contempt. Or, 2. Because these are the fittest representations both of Christ and of true Christians, as being gentle, and harmless, and patient, and useful to men. Or, 3. As the best and most profitable creatures, with which it is fit God should be served, and which we should be ready to part with, when God requires us to do so. Or. 4. As things most common, that men might never want a sacrifice when they needed, or God required it.

Verse 3

[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 burnt sacrifice — Strictly so called, such as was to be all burnt, the skin excepted. For every sacrifice was burnt, more or less. The sacrifices signified that the whole man, in whose stead the sacrifice was offered, was to be entirely offered or devoted to God's service; and that the whole man did deserve to be utterly consumed, if God should deal severely with him; and directed us to serve the Lord with all singleness of heart, and to be ready to offer to God even such sacrifices or services wherein we ourselves should have no part or benefit.

A male — As being more perfect than the female, Malachi 1:14, and more truly representing Christ.

Without blemish — To signify, 1. That God should he served with the best of every kind. 2. That man, represented by these sacrifices, should aim at all perfection of heart and life, and that Christians should one day attain to it, Ephesians 5:27. 3. The spotless and compleat holiness of Christ.

Of his own will — According to this translation, the place speaks only of free-will offerings, or such as were not prescribed by God to be offered in course, but were offered by the voluntary devotion of any person, either by way of supplication for any mercy, or by way of thanksgiving for any blessing received. But it may seem improper to restrain the rules here given to free-will offerings, which were to be observed in other offerings also.

At the door — In the court near the door, where the altar stood, Leviticus 1:5. For here it was to be sacrificed, and here the people might behold the oblation of it. And this farther signified, that men could have no entrance, neither into the earthly tabernacle, the church, nor into the heavenly tabernacle of glory, but by Christ, who is the door, John 10:7,9, by whom alone we have access to God.

Verse 4

[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.

He shall put his hand — Both his hands, Leviticus 8:14,18, and Leviticus 16:21. Whereby he signified, 1. that he willingly gave it to the Lord. 2. That he judged himself worthy of that death which it suffered in his stead; and that he laid his sins upon it with an eye to him upon whom God would lay the iniquity of us all, Isaiah 53:6, and that together with it he did freely offer up himself to God.

To make atonement — Sacramentally; as directing his faith and thoughts to that true propitiatory sacrifice which in time was to be offered up for him. And although burnt-offerings were commonly offered by way of thanksgiving; yet they were sometimes offered by way of atonement for sin, that is, for sins in general, as appears from Job 1:5, but for particular sins there were special sacrifices.

Verse 5

[5] And he shall kill 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.

And he — Either, 1. the offerer, who is said to do it, namely, by the priest; for men are commonly said to do what they cause others to do, as John 4:1,2. Or, 2. the priest, as it follows, or the Levite, whose office this was.

Shall sprinkle the blood — Which was done in a considerable quantity, and whereby was signified, 1. That the offerer deserved to have his blood spilt in that manner. 2. That the blood of Christ should be poured forth for sinners, and that this was the only mean of their reconciliation to God, and acceptance with him.

Verse 6

[6] And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.

Pieces — Namely, the head, and fat, and inwards, and legs, Leviticus 1:8,9.

Verse 7

[7] And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:

Put fire — Or, dispose the fire, that is, blow it up, and put it together, so as it might be fit for the present work. For the fire there used and allowed came down from heaven, Leviticus 9:24, and was to be carefully preserved there, and all other fire was forbidden, Leviticus 10:1, etc.

Verse 8

[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 — All the fat was to be separated from the flesh, and to be put together, to increase the flame, and to consume the other parts of the sacrifice more speedily.

Verse 9

[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.

But the inwards shall he wash — To signify the universal and perfect purity both of the inwards, or the heart, and of the legs, or ways or actions, which was in Christ, and which should be in all Christians. And he washed not only the parts now mentioned, but all the rest, the trunk of the body, and the shoulders.

A sweet savour — Not in itself, for so it rather caused a stink, but as it represented Christ's offering up himself to God as a sweet smelling savour.

Verse 11

[11] And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.

North-ward — Here this and other kinds of sacrifices were killed, Leviticus 6:25, and Leviticus 7:2, because here seems to have been the largest and most convenient place for that work, the altar being probably near the middle of the east-end of the building, and the entrance being on the south-side. Besides this might design the place of Christ's death both more generally, in Jerusalem, which was in the sides of the north, Psalms 48:2, and more specially, on mount Calvary, which was on the north-west side of Jerusalem.

Verse 14

[14] And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.

Turtle-doves — These birds were appointed for the poor who could not bring better. And these birds are preferred before others, partly because they were easily gotten, and partly because they are fit representations of Christ's chastity, and meekness, and gentleness, for which these birds are remarkable. The pigeons must be young, because then they are best; but the turtle-doves are better when they are grown up, and therefore they are not confined to that age.

Verse 15

[15] And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:

His head — From the rest of the body; as sufficiently appears, because this was to be burnt by itself, and the body afterwards, Leviticus 1:17. And whereas it is said Leviticus 5:8.

He shall — wring his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder, that is spoken not of the burnt-offering as here, but of the sin-offering.

Verse 16

[16] And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:

With its feathers — Or, with its dung or filth, contained in the crop and in the guts.

On the east — Of the Tabernacle. Here the filth was cast, because this was the remotest place from the holy of holies, which was in the west-end; to teach us, that impure things and persons should not presume to approach to God, and that they should be banished from his presence.

The place of the ashes — Where the ashes fell down and lay, whence they were afterwards removed without the camp.

Verse 17

[17] And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

He shall cleave the bird through the whole length, yet so as not to separate the one side from the other.

A sweet savour unto the Lord — Yet after all, to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices.