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The Five 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 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 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 offering that was bloodless. 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 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. However, unsifted barley flour was used in the offering of the woman accused of adultery and very fine sifted barley flour in the first barley (‘omer) (Sheaf of Waving) of the new agricultural season (which was from the advent of the full moon of the month Nisan through Pentecost). (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 five options for the finely sifted wheat flour:

  • baked in an oven mixed with olive oil 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,
  • deep-fried in a pan of olive oil, and
  • roasted in fire soft kernels from crushed bits of fresh grain with olive oil and frankincense on it (only for the first ripe grain which was barley at harvest times during the Feast of First Fruits). (Leviticus 2:4-10)

The Uncooked Meal Offering

It would be offered as a fine wheat flour along with two items (Leviticus 2:1-3) (except for the meal offerings of a sinner or a woman accused of adultery which had neither, the showbread which required frankincense but not oil, and a meal offering brought with drink offerings that required oil but not frankincense):

  • olive oil (poured on), and
  • frankincense (placed on).

There were two items that were never to be added to the Meal Offering:

  • leaven, and
  • honey (Leviticus 2:11).

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

  • Salt (from Sodom (6)) (Leviticus 2:13)

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 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 [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 Loaves” of Pentecost and referred to as “a meal offering” (they were NOT offered upon the Altar and were leavened). (4)
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)

Required Sacrifices

  • None

There were six 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 (7,4)
  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. The worshipper would then take a handful of the Meal Offering (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.) (4)
  5. The priest would take the handful of fine flour with all the frankincense and olive oil upon it from the worshipper and burn it on the Altar providing a sweet-smelling aroma to God.
  6. The rest of the Meal Offering would be given to the priest as a means of sustenance.

Typological Meaning

The Meal Offering typifies the perfect humanity of the Messiah.

Finely Sifted Flour

The grain offering was to be made of “fine flour.”  In order to make coarse grain into fine flour, you must pound, grind, and sift it repeatedly. Usually, when a loaf of bread is made leaven is added so that it will rise.  After the dough is allowed to rise, it is then punched down, kneaded, shaped into a loaf, and then put into the oven to bake.  After baking it becomes bread for consumption.

When Jesus was on the cross, our sins, our “leaven,” were placed on Him like a garment.  Jesus was beaten, punched to become fine flour, and then placed in God’s furnace of misery; the cross where he suffered God’s judgment in payment for all our sin and sins.  In doing so, He became the Bread of Life!

Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery. (Isaiah 48:10 NET)
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 NET) 
I am speaking to thoughtful people. Consider what I say. Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:15–17 NET)

Barley

“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)”. (10) “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).” (11) “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 synagogue.” (12)

Consequentially, Barley represents that Jesus would come from poor common people (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:1-8) and that the first to respond to His call, the first fruits (i.e., the first converts) would be the same.

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)

Olive Oil

The bread dough was to be mixed with olive oil (1), beaten, pounded into the desired shape, and baked in an oven. If it was an unleavened “cake,” it was to be “mixed with oil”.  If it was an “unleavened wafer”, it was to be “anointed” with oil.

Mixed with oil is a picture of Jesus who was born without sin and full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was “anointed with oil,” upon coming up out of the waters after being baptized by John. At that time, The Holy Spirit rested ON HIM (poured over Him as oil) without measure. 

You love justice and hate evil. For this reason God, your God has anointed you with the oil of joy, elevating you above your companions. (Psalm 45:7 NET)
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing.” (Hebrews 1:9 NET)
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52 NET)

Frankincense

Frankincense is used for incense and perfume. Frankincense is tapped from the scraggly but hardy trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called Frankincense tears

This depicts the horrendous torture He suffered by slashings and stripes from the whippings and beatings before He suffered the most disgraceful death of crucifixion. Furthermore, it represents what Jesus is doing for us in the present role as our Great High Priest and Covenant Mediator.

Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. (Hebrews 4:14–16 NET)

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) 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. Exceptions to these conditions exist in the grain offerings in Leviticus 23; Numbers 5, 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. 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.” (16)

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 motion up and 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 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). (7)

“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.” (17)

“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.” (8) “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.” (13)

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)

Leaven and Honey

Leaven represents sin and honey represents what would enhance the spread of sin. That is, the sugars in honey would accelerate the fermentation and release of CO2 by the leaven (yeast) and result in the bread becoming spoiled much sooner. This offering contained no leaven or honey because it represented Jesus in His perfect life in the flesh.  Jesus committed no sin, had no sin within Himself, and never knew sin; therefore, He qualified to be our sacrificial offering.

Meanwhile, when many thousands of the crowd had gathered so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1 NET)
A little yeast makes the whole batch of dough rise! (Galatians 5:9 NET)
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6–8 NET)

Salt

Salt has the following characteristics that are of utility to us and others.

Salt Preserves – many of the disciples Jesus called were fishermen and were well aware of the ability of salt to preserve caught fish and thus keep them from spoiling.

As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”They left their nets immediately and followed him.Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:16–20 NET)

Salt Flavors – salt is added to food to bring out its flavor. Salt can turn bland food into savory!

Can food that is tasteless be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? (Job 6:6 NET)

Salt Heals – in Biblical times salt was rubbed on newborn babies due to salt’s antiseptic properties.

The men of the city said to Elisha, “Look, the city has a good location, as our master can see. But the water is bad and the land doesn’t produce crops.”Elisha said, “Get me a new jar and put some salt in it.” So they got it. He went out to the spring and threw the salt in. Then he said, “This is what the Lord says, ‘I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or fail to produce crops.”The water has been pure to this very day, just as Elisha prophesied. (2 Kings 2:19–22 NET)

Salt Penetrates – a small amount of salt in a bottle of water will be nearly instantly salty throughout.

Salt represented the permanence of the covenant that the Israelites had just entered into with the Lord (Exod. 20–24). By requiring the Israelites to add salt to their offerings, the Lord provided a way for them constantly to affirm their covenant relationship with him. This affirmation would have greatly encouraged the people, by reminding them of the Lord’s steadfast commitment to be their covenant King. They especially needed this encouragement as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and establish God’s kingdom there. Only the presence of their covenant King in their midst could give them confidence in the success of their mission. (It is no different for the Christian today; this is no doubt why Jesus assures us of his presence when giving us our covenant mission; Matt. 28:18–20.) As well as being an encouragement, the requirement of the salt of the covenant served to remind the Israelites of their covenant obligations. The Lord had chosen them to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod. 19:6), and the covenant laws he had given them had to be followed in order to show to the nations the Lord’s wisdom, righteousness and holiness (1) (Lev. 20:24b–26; Deut. 4:5–8). (9)

Jesus picks up on the same principle when he tells his disciples, ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew. 5:16). To follow the King’s commands is to reflect the King’s character. Believers are to do this in such a radical way that people end up knowing the King’s character by seeing how his servants live. (9)

Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:49–50 NET)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6 NET)
Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25 NET)

Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant

Topical Index of Hal’s Blogs (1)

(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.

 (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) III:2: “Nor shall you allow salt to be lacking:” Since the word for “be lacking” uses the same consonants as those in the word Sabbath, the meaning is: produce salt that has no Sabbath but is produced winter and summer, and what is that? It is salt from Sodom.

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

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

(8) 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.

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

(10) 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.

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

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

(13) 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.

(14) Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

(15) 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.

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

 (17) 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.


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Hal Warren

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Through an interdenominational ministry dedicated to helping the local church build men for Jesus, Hal trained men, the leaders of men’s ministries, and provided pulpit supply. Before that, he was a Men’s Ministry Leader and an Adult Bible Fellowship teacher of a seventy-five-member class at a denominational megachurch. Presently, Hal desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Hal is a Professional Engineer, holding an MBA from Liberty University and a Ph.D. in Engineering. He served six years honorably in the USN Nuclear Power Program, followed by a distinguished 36-year career in the commercial nuclear energy field. 

Hal and his wife have five adult children, several grandchildren, and with more grandchildren on the way! 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. 

Topical Index of Hal's Blogs

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