Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The Lord calls to Moses out of the tabernacle, and gives him directions concerning burnt-offerings of the beeve kind, Lev 1:1, Lev 1:2. The burnt-offering to be a male without blemish, Lev 1:3. The person bringing it to lay his hands upon its head, that it might be accepted for him, Lev 1:4. He is to kill, flay, and cut it in pieces, and bring the blood to the priests, that they might sprinkle it round about the altar, Lev 1:5, Lev 1:6. All the pieces to be laid upon the altar and burnt, Lev 1:7-9. Directions concerning offerings of the Smaller Cattle, such as sheep and goats, Lev 1:10-13. Directions concerning offerings of Fowls, such as doves and pigeons, Lev 1:14-17.
And the Lord called unto Moses - From the manner in which this book commences, it appears plainly to be a continuation or the preceding; and indeed the whole is but one law, though divided into five portions, and why thus divided is not easy to be conjectured. Previously to the erection of the tabernacle God had given no particular directions concerning the manner of offering the different kinds of sacrifices; but as soon as this Divine structure was established and consecrated, Jehovah took it as his dwelling place; described the rites and ceremonies which he would have observed in his worship, that his people might know what was best pleasing in his sight; and that, when thus worshipping him, they might have confidence that they pleased him, every thing being done according to his own directions. A consciousness of acting according to the revealed will of God gives strong confidence to an upright mind.
Bring an offering - The word קרבן korban, from קרב karab, to approach or draw near, signifies an offering or gift by which a person had access unto God: and this receives light from the universal custom that prevails in the east, no man being permitted to approach the presence of a superior without a present or gift; and the offering thus brought was called korban, which properly means the introduction-offering, or offering of access. This custom has been often referred to in the preceding books. See also Leviticus 7.
Of the cattle - הבהמה habbehemah, animals of the beeve kind, such as the bull, heifer, bullock, and calf; and restrained to these alone by the term herd, בקר bakar, which, from its general use in the Levitical writings, is known to refer to the ox, heifer, etc. And therefore other animals of the beeve kind were excluded.
Of the flock - צאן tson. Sheep and Goats; for we have already seen that this term implies both kinds; and we know, from its use, that no other animal of the smaller clean domestic quadrupeds is intended, as no other animal of this class, besides the sheep and goat, was ever offered in sacrifice to God. The animals mentioned in this chapter as proper for sacrifice are the very same which God commanded Abraham to offer; see Gen 15:9. And thus it is evident that God delivered to the patriarchs an epitome of that law which was afterwards given in detail to Moses, the essence of which consisted in its sacrifices; and those sacrifices were of clean animals, the most perfect, useful, and healthy, of all that are brought under the immediate government and influence of man. Gross-feeding and ferocious animals were all excluded, as were also all birds of prey. In the pagan worship it was widely different; for although the ox was esteemed among them, according to Livy, as the major hostia; and according to Pliny, the victima optima, et laudatis sima deorum placatio, Plin. Hist. Nat., lib. viii., c. 45, "the chief sacrifice and the most availing offering which could be made to the gods;" yet obscene fowls and ravenous beasts, according to the nature of their deities, were frequently offered in sacrifice. Thus they sacrificed horses to the Sun, wolves to Mars, asses to Priapus, swine to Ceres, dogs to Hecate, etc., etc. But in the worship of God all these were declared unclean, and only the three following kinds of Quadrupeds were commanded to be sacrificed:
1. The bull or ox, the cow or heifer, and the calf.
2. The he-goat, she-goat, and the kid.
3. The ram, the ewe, and the lamb.
Among Fowls, only pigeons and turtle-doves were commanded to be offered, except in the case of cleansing the leper, mentioned Lev 14:4, where two clean birds, generally supposed to be sparrows or other small birds, though of what species is not well known, are specified.
Fish were not offered, because they could not be readily brought to the tabernacle alive.
Burnt-sacrifice - The most important of all the sacrifices offered to God; called by the Septuagint ὁλοκαυτωμα, because it was wholly consumed, which was not the case in any other offering. See on Leviticus 7 (note).
His own voluntary will - לרצנו lirtsono, to gain himself acceptance before the Lord: in this way all the versions appear to have understood the original words, and the connection in which they stand obviously requires this meaning.
He shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering - By the imposition of hands the person bringing the victim acknowledged,
1. The sacrifice as his own.
2. That he offered it as an atonement for his sins.
3. That he was worthy of death because he had sinned, having forfeited his life by breaking the law.
4. That he entreated God to accept the life of the innocent animal in place of his own.
5. And all this, to be done profitably, must have respect to Him whose life, in the fullness of time, should be made a sacrifice for sin.
6. The blood was to be sprinkled round about upon the altar, Lev 1:5, as by the sprinkling of blood the atonement was made; for the blood was the life of the beast, and it was always supposed that life went to redeem life.
See Clarke on Exo 29:10 (note). On the required perfection of the sacrifice see Clarke on Exo 12:5 (note). It has been sufficiently remarked by learned men that almost all the people of the earth had their burnt-offerings, on which also they placed the greatest dependence. It was a general maxim through the heathen world, that there was no other way to appease the incensed gods; and they sometimes even offered human sacrifices, from the supposition, as Caesar expresses it, that life was necessary to redeem life, and that the gods would be satisfied with nothing less. "Quod pro vita hominis nisi vita hominis redditur, non posse aliter deorum immortalium numen placari arbitrantur." - Com. de Bell. Gal., lib. vi. But this was not the case only with the Gauls, for we see, by Ovid, Fast., lib. vi., that it was a commonly received maxim among more polished people: -
" - Pro parvo victima parva cadit.
Cor pro corde, precor, pro fibris sumite fibras.
Hanc animam vobis pro meliore damus."
See the whole of this passage in the above work, from ver. 135 to 163.
He shall flay - Probably meaning the person who brought the sacrifice, who, according to some of the rabbins, killed, flayed, cut up, and washed the sacrifice, and then presented the parts and the blood to the priest, that he might burn the one, and sprinkle the other upon the altar. But it is certain that the priests also, and the Levites, flayed the victims, and the priest had the skin to himself; see Lev 7:8, and Ch2 29:34. The red heifer alone was not flayed, but the whole body, with the skin, etc., consumed with fire. See Num 19:5.
Put fire - The fire that came out of the tabernacle from before the Lord, and which was kept perpetually burning; see Lev 9:24. Nor was it lawful to use any other fire in the service of God. See the case of Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 10 (note).
The priests - shall lay the parts - The sacrifice was divided according to its larger joints.
1. After its blood was poured out, and the skin removed, the head was cut off.
2. They then opened it and took out the omentum, or caul, that invests the intestines.
3. They took out the intestines with the mesentery, and washed them well, as also the fat.
4. They then placed the four quarters upon the altar, covered them with the fat, laid the remains of the intestines upon them, and then laid the head above all.
5. The sacred fire was then applied, and the whole mass was consumed. This was the holocaust, or complete burnt-offering.
An offering - of a sweet savor - אשה ריח ניחוח ishsheh reiach nichoach, a fire-offering, an odour of rest, or, as the Septuagint express it, θυσια οσμη ευωδιας, "a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor;" which place St. Paul had evidently in view when he wrote Eph 5:2 : "Christ hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering, και θυσιαν - εις οσμην ευωδιας, and a sacrifice, for a sweet-smelling savor," where he uses the same terms as the Septuagint. Hence we find that the holocaust, or burnt-offering, typified the sacrifice and death of Christ for the sins of the world.
His offering be of the flocks - See Clarke on Lev 1:2 (note).
Cut it into his pieces - See Clarke's note on Gen 15:10.
Pluck away his crop with his feathers - In this sacrifice of fowls the head was violently wrung off, then the blood was poured out, then the feathers were plucked off, the breast was cut open, and the crop, stomach, and intestines taken out, and then the body was burnt. Though the bird was split up, yet it was not divided asunder. This circumstance is particularly remarked in Abram's sacrifice, Gen 15:10. See Clarke's note Gen 15:10. See Ainsworth. We have already seen, on Lev 1:2, that four kinds of animals might be made burnt-offerings to the Lord.
1. Neat cattle, such as bulls, oxen, cows, and calves.
2. He-goats, she-goats, and kids.
3. Rams, ewes, and lambs.
4. Pigeons and turtle-doves; and in one case, viz., the cleansing of the leper, sparrows or some small bird.
All these must be without spot or blemish - the most perfect of their respective kinds, and be wholly consumed by fire. The Rich were to bring the most costly; the Poor, those of least price. Even in this requisition of justice how much mercy was mingled! If a man could not bring a bullock or a heifer, a goat or a sheep, let him bring a calf, a kid, or a lamb. If he could not bring any of these because of his poverty, let him bring a turtle-dove, or a young pigeon, (see Lev 5:7); and it appears that in cases of extreme poverty, even a little meal or fine flour was accepted by the bountiful Lord as a sufficient oblation; see Lev 5:11. This brought down the benefits of the sacrificial service within the reach of the poorest of the poor; as we may take for granted that every person, however low in his circumstances, might be able to provide the tenth part of an ephah, about three quarts of meal, to make an offering for his soul unto the Lord. But every man must bring something; the law stooped to the lowest circumstances of the poorest of the people, but every man must sacrifice, because every man had sinned. Reader, what sort of a sacrifice dost thou bring to God? To Him thou owest thy whole body, soul, and substance; are all these consecrated to his service? Or has he the refuse of thy time, and the offal of thy estate? God requires thee to sacrifice as his providence has blessed thee. If thou have much, thou shouldst give liberally to God and the poor; If thou have but little, do thy diligence to give of that little. God's justice requires a measure of that which his mercy has bestowed. But remember that as thou hast sinned, thou needest a Savior. Jesus is that lamb without spot which has been offered to God for the sin of the world, and which thou must offer to him for thy sin; and it is only through Him that thou canst be accepted, even when thou dedicatest thy whole body, soul, and substance to thy Maker. Even when we present ourselves a living sacrifice to God, we are accepted for his sake who carried our sins, and bore our sorrows. Thanks be to God, the rich and the poor have equal access unto him through the Son of his love, and equal right to claim the benefits of the great sacrifice!