Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Laws relative to detention of property entrusted to the care of another, to robbery, and deceit, Lev 6:1, Lev 6:2; finding of goods lost, keeping them from their owner, and swearing falsely, Lev 6:3. Such a person shall not only restore what he has thus unlawfully gotten, but shall add a fifth part of the value of the property besides, Lev 6:4, Lev 6:5; and bring a ram without blemish, for a trespass-offering to the Lord, Lev 6:6, Lev 6:7. Laws relative to the burnt-offering and the perpetual fire, Lev 6:8-13. Law of the meat-offering, and who may lawfully eat of it, Lev 6:14-18. Laws relative to the offerings of Aaron and his sons and their successors, on the day of their anointing, Lev 6:19-23. Laws relative to the sin-offering, and those who might eat of it, Lev 6:24-30.
Lie unto his neighbor, etc. - This must refer to a case in which a person delivered his property to his neighbor to be preserved for him, and took no witness to attest the delivery of the goods; such a person therefore might deny that he had ever received such goods, for he who had deposited them with him could bring no proof of the delivery. On the other hand, a man might accuse his neighbor of detaining property which had never been confided to him, or, after having been confided, had been restored again; hence the law here is very cautious on these points: and because in many cases it was impossible to come at the whole truth without a direct revelation from God, which should in no common case be expected, the penalties are very moderate; for in such cases, even when guilt was discovered, the man might not be so criminal as appearances might intimate. See the law concerning this laid down and explained on Exo 22:7 (note), etc.
Have found that which was lost - The Roman lawyers laid it down as a sound maxim of jurisprudence, "that he who found any property and applied it to his own use, should be considered as a thief whether he knew the owner or not; for in their view the crime was not lessened, supposing the finder was totally ignorant of the right owner." Qui alienum quid jacens lucri faciendi causa sustulit, furti obstringitur, sive scit, cujus sit, sive ignoravit; nihil enim ad furtum minuendum, facit, quod, cujus sit, ignoret - Digestor, lib. xlvii., Tit. ii., de furtis, Leg. xliii., sec. 4. On this subject every honest man must say, that the man who finds any lost property, and does not make all due inquiry to find out the owner, should, in sound policy, be treated as a thief. It is said of the Dyrbaeans, a people who inhabited the tract between Bactria and India, that if they met with any lost property, even on the public road, they never even touched it. This was actually the case in this kingdom in the time of Alfred the Great, about a. d. 888; so that golden bracelets hung up on the public roads were untouched by the finger of rapine. One of Solon's laws was, Take not up what you laid not down. How easy to act by this principle in case of finding lost property: "This is not mine, and it would be criminal to convert it to my use unless the owner be dead and his family extinct." When all due inquiry is made, if no owner can be found, the lost property may be legally considered to be the property of the finder.
All that about which he hath sworn falsely - This supposes the case of a man who, being convicted by his own conscience, comes forward and confesses his sin.
Restore it in the principal - The property itself if still remaining, or the full value of it, to which a fifth part more was to be added.
With thy estimation - See Clarke's note on Lev 5:15.
And the Lord spake unto Moses - At this verse the Jews begin the 25th section of the law; and here, undoubtedly, the 6th chapter should commence, as the writer enters upon a new subject, and the preceding verses belong to the fifth chapter. The best edited Hebrew Bibles begin the 6th chapter at this verse.
This is the law of the burnt-offering - This law properly refers to that burnt-offering which was daily made in what was termed the morning and evening sacrifice; and as he had explained the nature of this burnt-offering in general, with its necessary ceremonies, as far as the persons who brought them were concerned, he now takes up the same in relation to the priests who were to receive them from the hands of the offerer, and present them to the Lord on the altar of burnt-offerings.
Because of the burning upon the altar all night - If the burnt-offering were put all upon the fire at once, it could not be burning all night. We may therefore reasonably conclude that the priests sat up by turns the whole night, and fed the fire with portions of this offering till the whole was consumed, which they would take care to lengthen out till the time of the morning sacrifice. The same we may suppose was done with the morning sacrifice; it was also consumed by piecemeal through the whole day, till the time of offering the evening sacrifice. Thus there was a continual offering by fire unto the Lord; and hence in Lev 6:13 it is said: The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar, it shall never go out. If at any time any extraordinary offerings were to be made, the daily sacrifice was consumed more speedily, in order to make room for such extra offerings. See more on this subject in Clarke's note on Lev 6:23 (note). The Hebrew doctors teach that no sacrifice was ever offered in the morning before the morning sacrifice; and none, the passover excepted, ever offered in the evening after the evening sacrifice; for all sacrifices were made by day-light. The fat seems to have been chiefly burned in the night season, for the greater light and convenience of keeping the fire alive, which could not be so easily done in the night as in the day time.
And put on other garments - The priests approached the altar in their holiest garments; when carrying the ashes, etc., from the altar, they put on other garments, the holy garments being only used in the holy place.
Clean place - A place where no dead carcasses, dung, or filth of any kind was laid; for the ashes were holy, as being the remains of the offerings made by fire unto the Lord.
The fire shall ever be burning - See on Lev 6:9 (note) and Lev 6:20 (note). In imitation of this perpetual fire, the ancient Persian Magi, and their descendants the Parses, kept up a perpetual fire; the latter continue it to the present day. This is strictly enjoined in the Zend Avesta, which is a code of laws as sacred among them as the Pentateuch is among the Jews. A Sagnika Brahmin preserves the fire that was kindled at his investiture with the poita, and never suffers it to go out, using the same fire at his wedding and in all his burnt-offerings, till at length his body is burnt with it - Ward's Customs.
The meat-offering - See Clarke on Lev 2:1 (note), etc.
His handful of the flour - An omer of flour, which was the tenth part of an ephah, and equal to about three quarts of our measure, was the least quantity that could be offered even by the poorest sort, and this was generally accompanied with a log of oil, which was a little more than half a pint. This quantity both of flour and oil might be increased at pleasure, but no less could be offered.
In the day when he is anointed - Not only in that day, but from that day forward, for this was to them and their successors a statute for ever. See Lev 6:22.
For every meat-offering for the priest shall be wholly burnt - Whatever the priest offered was wholly the Lord's, and therefore must be entirely consumed: the sacrifices of the common people were offered to the Lord, but the priests partook of them; and thus they who ministered at the altar were fed by the altar. Had the priests been permitted to live on their own offerings as they did on those of the people, it would have been as if they had offered nothing, as they would have taken again to themselves what they appeared to give unto the Lord. Theodoret says that this marked "the high perfection which God required in the ministers of his sanctuary," as his not eating of his own sin-offering supposes him to stand free from all sin; but a better reason is given by Mr. Ainsworth: "The people's meat-offering was eaten by the priests that made atonement for them, Lev 6:15, Lev 6:16, Lev 7:7; but because no priest, being a sinner, could make atonement for himself, therefore his meat-offering might not be eaten, but all burnt on the altar, to teach him to expect salvation, not by his legal service or works, but by Christ; for the eating of the sin-offering figured the bearing of the sinner's iniquity;" Lev 10:17.
In the place where the burnt-offering is killed, etc. - The place here referred to was the north side of the altar. See Lev 1:11.
The priest - shall eat it - From the expostulation of Moses with Aaron, Lev 10:17, we learn that the priest, by eating the sin-offering of the people, was considered as bearing their sin, and typically removing it from them: and besides, this was a part of their maintenance, or what the Scripture calls their inheritance; see Eze 44:27-30. This was afterwards greatly abused; for improper persons endeavored to get into the priest's office merely that they might get a secular provision, which is a horrible profanity in the sight of God. See Sa1 2:36; Jer 23:12; Eze 34:2-4; and Hos 4:8.
Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy - The following note of Mr. Ainsworth is not less judicious than it is pious: -
"All this rite was peculiar to the sin-offering, (whether it were that which was to be eaten, or that which was to be burnt), above all the other most holy things. As the sin-offering in special sort figured Christ, who was made sin for us, (Co2 5:21), so this ordinance for all that touched the flesh of the sin-offering to be holy, the garments sprinkled with the blood to be washed, the vessels wherein the flesh was boiled to be broken, or scoured and rinsed - taught a holy use of this mystery of our redemption, whereof they that are made partakers ought to be washed, cleansed, and sanctified by the Spirit of God; that we possess our vessels in holiness and honor, and yield not our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin," Th1 4:4; Rom 6:13.
The earthen vessel - shall be broken - Calmet states that this should be considered as implying the vessels brought by individuals to the court of the temple or tabernacle, and not of the vessels that belonged to the priests for the ordinary service. That the people dressed their sacrifices sometimes in the court of the tabernacle, he gathers from Sa1 2:13, Sa1 2:14, to which the reader is desired to refer. In addition to what has been already said on the different subjects in this chapter, it may be necessary to notice a few more particulars. The perpetual meat-offering, מנחה תמיד minchah tamid, Lev 6:20, the perpetual fire, אש תמיד esh tamid, Lev 6:13, and the perpetual burnt-offering, עלת תמיד olath tamid, Exo 29:42, translated by the Septuagint θυσια διαπαντος, πυο διαπαντος, and ὁλοκαυτωσις and ὁλοκαυτωμα διαπαντος, all cast much light on Heb 7:25, where it is said, Christ is able to save them to the uttermost (εις το παντελες, perpetually, to all intents and purposes) that come unto God by him; seeing he ever liveth (παντοτε ζων, he is perpetually living) to make intercession for them; in which words there is a manifest allusion to the perpetual minchah, the perpetual fire, and the perpetual burnt-offering, mentioned here by Moses. As the minchah, or gratitude-offering should be perpetual, so our gratitude for the innumerable mercies of God should be perpetual. As the burnt-offering must be perpetual, so should the sacrifice of our blessed Lord be considered as a perpetual offering, that all men, in all ages, should come unto God through him who is ever living, in his sacrificial character, to make intercession for men; and who is therefore represented even in the heavens as the Lamb just slain, standing before the throne, Rev 5:6; Heb 10:19-22. And as the fire on the altar must be perpetual, so should the influences of the Holy Spirit in every member of the Church, and the flame of pure devotion in the hearts of believers, be ever energetic and permanent. A continual sacrifice for continual successive generations of sinners was essentially necessary. Continual influences of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men were essentially necessary to apply and render effectual this atonement, to the salvation of the soul. And incessant gratitude for the ineffable love of God, manifested by his unspeakable gift, is surely required of all those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Reader, dost thou feel thy obligations to thy Maker? Does the perpetual fire burn on the altar of thy heart? Art thou ever looking unto Jesus, and beholding, by faith, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world? And dost thou feel the influences of his Spirit, at all times witnessing with thy spirit that thou art his child, and exciting thee to acts of gratitude and obedience? If not, of what benefit has the religion of Christ been to thee to the present day? Of a contrary state to that referred to above, it may be well said, This is not the way to heaven, for the way of life is above to the wise, that they may depart from the snares of death beneath. Arise, therefore, and shake thyself from the dust; and earnestly call upon the Lord thy God, that he may save thy soul, and that thou fall not into the bitter pains of an eternal death.