The Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Meal Offering

The Old Covenant Book of Leviticus outlines five special Levitical fire offerings and sacrifices. The Burnt Offering is for the sanctification of the whole man in self-surrender to the Lord even unto death. The Meal or Grain Offering is the fruit of that sanctification. The Peace Offering is the blossoming of the possession and enjoyment of saving grace. The Sin Offering is for making amends for sin. The Trespass Offering was for the restoration of rights that had been violated.

The New Testament views all the old covenant sacrifices as types of the death of Christ. That is, the five sacrifices bring out different aspects and significance of His one sacrificial death on the cross. Lambs sacrificed every morning and evening were the most typical victim, so Jesus is called ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Indeed he died at the time of the evening sacrifice. (3)

The Meal or Grain Offering (Leviticus 2:1-16)

The second Levitical offering is called a Meal or Grain Offering, and it is the only one that was not a blood offering. The Meal Offering is referred to in the Hebrew text as korban minchah, and literally means “to give a present.” Therefore, the basic concept is that of a gift (Genesis 32:13, 18). It was often used in the context of giving a gift to gain the favor of a superior. It was a tribute of a faithful worshipper to a divine overlord. (2)

Again, this is the only bloodless offering. However, it was never offered apart from blood but was normally accompanied by blood (Leviticus 23:9–14. Numbers 15:1–16. Ezra 7:17). Often, the Meal Offering is mentioned in conjunction with the Burnt Offering, as it is very closely associated with the Burnt Offering (Joshua 22:23, 29. Judges 13:19, 23. 1 Kings 8:64. 2 Kings 16:13). Before the Meal Offering was placed upon the Altar, the Burnt Offering was given first. The Meal Offering was then placed upon the Burnt Offering so that the Meal Offering offered by fire always came in contact with blood.

Consequently, there is no ground in the Meal Offering for human boasting as though the offerer were received by God on the grounds of human effort. Again, the recognition of the person’s unworthiness is emphasized by the fact that meal offerings must be accompanied by a whole burnt offering.

The Meal Offering was sacrificially offered to God in thanksgiving, and then given to the priest for the purpose of ministry. It may have been offered either cooked or uncooked. The basic content of the Meal Offering was wheat beaten into a very fine sifted flour (1). However, unsifted barley flour was used in the offering of the woman accused of adultery (Numbers 5:15). (5,7)

Cakes or Wafers of the Meal Offering

Ten cakes (loaves) or ten wafers were prepared for the Meal Offering with the exception of twelve cakes for the showbread and twelve “baked cakes” for the High Priest (4),

Cooked Meal Offering

There were four cooking options for the finely sifted wheat flour:

  • baked in an oven mixed with olive oil (1) into ring-shaped or perforated unleavened loaves,
  • baked in an oven into unleavened wafers smeared with olive oil,
  • baked on a flat pan (griddle) mixed with olive oil into an unleavened cracker, crumbled into pieces, and then olive oil poured over the pieces, and
  • deep-fried in a pan of olive oil (Leviticus 2:4-10)

There was only one option for the first ripe grain of barley at harvest times during the Feast of First Fruits (1) :

  • roasted in fire soft barley kernels from crushed bits of fresh grain which is ground, sifted, mixed with olive oil and frankincense (1) placed on it (Leviticus 2:14-16)

The Uncooked Meal Offering

It would be offered as a fine wheat flour along with two items (Leviticus 2:1-3):

  • olive oil (poured on), and
  • frankincense (placed on) (Leviticus 2:1,15).

Except for the coarse barley meal offerings of a sinner or a woman accused of adultery which had neither (Numbers 5:15), the showbread which required frankincense but not oil, and a meal offering brought with drink offerings that required oil but not frankincense.

Furthermore, there were two items that were never to be added to the Meal Offering that would be offered by fire:

He must present this grain offering in addition to ring-shaped loaves of leavened bread which regularly accompany the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offering. (Leviticus 7:13 NET)

However, leaven was to be used (1) in the:

  • Ring-shaped loaves of bread that normally accompanied a Thanksgiving Peace Offering, and
  • Two First Fruit (of wheat) Loaves of the Feast of Weeks (i.e., Pentecost)
You can present them to the Lord as an offering of first fruit, but they must not go up to the altar for a soothing aroma. (Leviticus 2:12 NET)

There was one item items that was always to be added to the Meal Offering:

  • Salt (from Sodom (XV)) (Leviticus 2:13)
Moreover, you must season every one of your grain offerings with salt; you must not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing from your grain offering—on every one of your grain offerings you must present salt. (Leviticus 2:13 NET)

Individual Meal Offerings

There were nine individual meal offerings, all of them offered upon the Altar, as follows:

  • the sinner’s meal offering that a poor man offered when he was obliged to bring a sin offering but could not afford to offer an animal (Leviticus 5:11–13),
  • the meal offering (barley) of a woman suspected of adultery, known as “the meal offering of jealousy” [i.e., a woman accused of adultery],” (Numbers 5:15),
  • the meal offering that every priest brought when he first entered the service, which he offered with his own hand and was called “the meal offering of induction,”
  • the meal offering that the High Priest offered every day, which was referred to as “Baked Cakes” (Leviticus 6:19–23),
  • the meal offering of fine flour, brought as a vow or free-will offering (Numbers 15:1–16),
  • the meal offering baked on a griddle, brought as a vow or a freewill offering,
  • the meal offering of the stewing-pan, brought as a vow or a freewill offering,
  • the meal offering baked in an oven, brought as a vow or a freewill offering, and
  • the meal offering of wafers, brought as a vow or a free-will offering. (4)

Congregational Meal Offerings

Three meal offerings were brought by the congregation:

  • the Sheaf of Waving (1) [ʿomer] (first barley), which was offered upon the Altar (Leviticus 23:13, 18),
  • The Showbread, which was prepared every week and was NOT offered upon the Altar but consumed entirely by the priests. (Leviticus 23:15–17, 24:5–9) (5)
  • the “Two First Fruit (of wheat) Loaves” (1) of the Feast of Weeks (i.e., Pentecost) and referred to as “a meal offering” (they were NOT offered upon the Altar and were leavened). (4)

Required Sacrifices

  • None required; however, Meal Offerings were typically associated with other offerings as indicated in the“Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant” table immediately below:
Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant

There were seven sequential steps of the Meal Offering ritual.

  1. The worshipper would bring his Meal Offering to the Tabernacle.
  2. The following Meal Offerings were required to be waived (i.e., to swing them forward and backward and upward and downward) at the East end of the Bronze Altar: (a) the meal offering of fine flour, and (b) the meal offering prepared in the baking pan, and (c) the meal offering prepared in the frying pan [Leviticus 2:8], and (d) the meal offering of cakes, and (e) the meal offering of wafers, and (f) the meal offering of priests, and (g) the meal offering of an anointed priest, and (h) the meal offering of gentiles, and (i) the meal offering of women accused of adultery, (j) the meal offering of a sinner and (k) the meal offering of the Sheaf of Waving (I,4)
  3. For all Meal Offerings that were to be burned by fire, the offerer was required to “bring near” the offering to the Bronze Altar on the west side against the point of the southwest horn. (4)
  4. When presenting a meat-offering, the priest first brought it in the golden or silver dish in which it had been prepared, and then transferred it to a holy vessel, putting olive oil and frankincense upon it. (6)
  5. Taking his stand at the south-eastern corner of the altar, he next took the ‘handful’ that was actually to be burnt (except for the induction meal offering, the “Baked Cakes”, and a priest’s meal offering brought because of a sin or as a freewill offering, all which were burned upon the Altar and no Handful was taken from them), put it in another vessel, laid some of the frankincense on it, carried it to the top of the altar, salted it (1), and then placed it on the fire of the Altar to burn thus providing a sweet-smelling aroma to God. (6)
  6. The rest of the Meal Offering would be given to the priest as a means of sustenance.
  7. Every meat-offering was accompanied by a drink-offering of wine, which was poured at the base of the altar. (6)

Typological Meaning

The Meal Offering typifies the perfect humanity of the Messiah.


“It was, and is, grown chiefly as provender for horses and asses (1 Kings 4:28), oats being practically unknown, but it was, as it now is, to some extent, the food of the poor in country districts (Ruth 2:17; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9, 13)”. (IV) “Barley bread served as food for the common people; and the loaves which were miraculously distributed to the multitude by our Lord were made of barley (John 6:9, 13).” (V) “As the first grain to ripen, barley was a symbol of spring (Ruth 1:22). The first omer of barley was reaped on the second day of Passover, marking the beginning of the spring harvest season (Leviticus. 23:9–15). The end of the barley harvest (and the beginning of the wheat harvest) is associated with the festival of Shavuot when the Book of Ruth (which takes place during the barley harvest) is read in the synagogue.” (VI)

Consequentially, Barley represents that Jesus would come from poor common people (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:1-8).

Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26–29 NET)
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 NET)

Barley also represents the people of Israel, the Jews. God did not favor and chose this people group to be His people because they were the largest, most prestigious nation. Israel like barley compared to wheat was the smallest nation. However, it was Jews that were the first to respond to His call, the first fruits (i.e., the first to be born again).

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. He has chosen you to be his people, prized above all others on the face of the earth. It is not because you were more numerous than all the other peoples that the Lord favored and chose you—for in fact you were the least numerous of all peoples. Rather it is because of his love for you and his faithfulness to the promise he solemnly vowed to your ancestors that the Lord brought you out with great power, redeeming you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So realize that the Lord your God is the true God, the faithful God who keeps covenant faithfully with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, but who pays back those who hate him as they deserve and destroys them. He will not ignore those who hate him but will repay them as they deserve! So keep the commandments, statutes, and ordinances that I today am commanding you to do. (Deuteronomy 7:6–11 NET)

Israel was a small group of people without great culture or prestige. They possessed no unique personal qualities which would warrant such a choice. The election was an act of God alone (cf. John 15:16). The ultimate cause for that choice lay in the mystery of divine love. (XVII)

Waving or Elevating (Heaving)

“Waving or elevating the offering apparently had several purposes. In most cases, and always when animal meat and fat constituted the sacrifice, the ritual marked a change in ownership of the sacrifice from the offerer to God, and its consecration for the presiding priest’s meal (Leviticus 7:24–36). (VIII) (X)

Major sacrifices such as the purification, holocaust, burnt, and “sin” offerings were not elevated because they already belonged to Yahweh. Moreover, the priest lifted only those parts of the carcass that he would eat (the breast and right shank), not the parts returning to the worshipper. (VIII) (X)

Exceptions to these conditions exist in the grain offerings in Leviticus 23; Numbers 5:15 [i.e., the grain offering of suspicion], all of which depart from the norm by being of barley rather than wheat and by lacking oil and incense. Also dissimilar is the offering for the person with scale disease, which cannot be paid in silver, unlike reparation offerings in other contexts.(VIII) (X)

The elevation offering could occur at various points of the ritual cycle: with grain offerings at the beginning (Leviticus 23:15) and with meat and mixed offerings in the middle (Exodus 29:23–26; Numbers 5:25; Leviticus 14:12) or at the end (Exodus 29:27–28; Lev. 9:21) of the ceremony. Notably, the elevation offering marks the transition to the ritual exit (through blessing) in the inaugural service of the priest (Leviticus 9:21), perhaps to signify his new right to preside at all sacrifices. The elevation of the offering thus marked important transitions in the ritual, especially prior to its climax.” (VIII) (X)

Hebrew “terumah” (Exodus 29:27) means simply an offering, a present, including all the offerings made by the Israelites as a present. This Hebrew word is frequently employed. Some of the rabbis attach to the word the meaning of elevation and refer it to the heave offering, which consisted in presenting the offering by a [single] motion up and [then] down, distinguished from the wave offering, which consisted in a repeated movement in a horizontal direction, a “wave offering to the Lord as ruler of the earth, a heave offering to the Lord as ruler of heaven.” The right shoulder, which fell to the priests in presenting thank offerings, was called the heave shoulder (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). (I)

“The parts assigned to the priest constituted the wave-offering (“terumah”; Ex. 29:24, 26), and were waved backward and forward in a line with the altar. According to Orelli, this movement was a symbolical expression of the reciprocity of the giving and receiving on the part of God and the sacrificer (Herzog-Hauck, “Real-Enyc.” 1904, 14:392). They were waved toward the four sides of the world (see Rashi on Ex. 2:9; Baḥya on Lev. 8; and Levi ben Gershon on Lev. 3.). The wave-offering symbolized that the person dedicated himself to God, who dwells as much above as among His people (Hoff, “Die Mosaischen Opfer,” p. 23, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1857). Kurtz suggests that the offering was waved vertically as well as toward the four quarters of the world.” (IX)

“To wave an offering is to swing, sway, or move to and fro while physically presenting something in worship to the Resurrection and the Life through this action.” (II) “The wave offering was waved, not from right to left, but back and forth toward the altar and the priest, symbolizing that the offering was being given to God.” (VII)

While there is some disagreement on the waving or heaving terminology, the act of Waving or Heaving back and forth portrays the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, we have reminders in the water Baptism (1) and the Lord’s Supper (1) (i.e., Eucharist or Communion). The Waving to the four corners of the World (North, East, West, South) represents that Jesus died for everyone, everywhere, and at every time since the fall of man on Earth! Now that is Good NEWS! Hallelujah!

Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:12–15 NET)
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me." For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NET)
Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant Series:

(Peace, Wholeness, Success)

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 2 NET)

(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.

(2) This article has been primarily adapted from: Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 180, p. 16). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

(3) Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

(4) Neusner, J. (2007). A History of the Mishnaic Law of Holy Things: Menahot: Translation and Explanation. (J. Neusner, Ed.) (Vol. 2, p. 1). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

(5) Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 19, pp. vii–viii). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

(6) Edersheim, A. (1959). The Temple, its ministry and services as they were at the time of Jesus Christ. (p. 138). London: James Clarke & Co.

(I)  Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah : A new translation (p. 742). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

(II) Malda, B. D. (Ed.). (2015). Come and Worship: Ways to Worship from the Hebrew Scriptures (p. 62). Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books: a division of Messianic Jewish Publishers.

(III) Sklar, J. (2013). Leviticus: An Introduction and Commentary. (D. G. Firth, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 101). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

(IV) Masterman, E. W. G. (1915). Barley. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 405). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

(V) Balfour, J. H. (1885). The Plants of the Bible (p. 212). London; Edinburgh; New York: T. Nelson and Sons.

(VI) Eisenberg, R. L. (2004). The JPS guide to Jewish traditions (1st ed., p. 670). Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society.

(VII) Hannah, J. D. (1985). Exodus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 153). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

(VIII) Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

 (IX) Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 9, p. 568). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

(X) Hamilton, M. W. (2000). Elevation Offering. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 392). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

(XI)  (2016). The Lexham Figurative Language of the New Testament Dataset. In J. R. Westbury, J. Thompson, K. A. Lyle, & J. Parks (Eds.), Lexham Figurative Language of the Bible Glossary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

(XII) Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 331). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

(XIII) Lindsey, F. D. (1985). Leviticus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 177). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

(XIV) Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 19, p. 617). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

(XV) Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 143). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

(XVI) Wuest, K. S. (1961). The New Testament: an expanded translation (1 Co 5:6–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

(XVII) Thompson, J. A. (1974). Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 5, p. 147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

(XVIII) Keach, B. (1858). An Exposition of the Parables and Express Similitudes of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (pp. 239–240). London: Aylott and Co.

(XIX) Beis Hamikdash Topics – Tour of the Temple: Class 10, The Altar

(XX) C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperCollins, 1974), pp. 236–37.

(XXI) Hall, K. D. (2000). Libation. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 807). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans. 

(XXII)  Rogers, A. (2017). Back to Bethel. In Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive (Ge 35). Signal Hill, CA: Rogers Family Trust.

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Presently, He desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.

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