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The Law of Burnt Offerings The Burnt Offering Burnt Offerings Sacrifices Burnt Whole The Burnt Offerings
1:1-9 1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1-2a 1:1-2
1:3-9 1:3-9 1:3-9
1:10-13 1:10-13 1:10-13 1:10-13 1:10-13
1:14-17 1:14-17 1:14-17 1:14-17 1:14-17

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired - readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Hebrew Grammatical Tems, Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.


  1. This chapter deals with the voluntary offering of an individual to ensure or restore favor with YHWH.

  2. There are several types of the whole burnt offerings (holocaust). Probably they represent different socio-economic levels.
    1. the bull (herd), Lev. 1:1-9
    2. the male sheep or goat (flock), Lev. 1:10-13
    3. the bird, Lev. 1:14-17

  3. My favorite commentator on these OT ritual texts is Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, particularly for sacrifices at pp. 415-454.
    I also enjoy the discussion on "offerings and sacrifices" in NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 996-1021.

  4. There seems to be some variety of procedures but this may be attributed to the assumed knowledge of the receivers and the brevity of the writer (i.e., laying on of hands on each type of animal, a set ritual pronouncement by the officiating priest).
    There is obviously a distinction where the animal was killed.


1Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. 3If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. 4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. 5He shall slay the young bull before the Lord and Aaron's sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 6He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 9Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.'"

1:1 "the Lord" The all capitals Lord is the modern English translation way of reflecting YHWH, the covenant name for Israel's Deity. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "to Moses" YHWH revealed Himself directly and verbally to Moses. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MOSES' AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH.

▣ "the tent of meeting" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TABERNACLE OF THE WILDERNESS (Exodus 25-30).
This verse connects directly to Exod. 40:34-35. Leviticus is the "how to" manual for the new tabernacle.

1:2 "Israel" See SPECIAL TOPIC: ISRAEL (the name).

1:3 "burnt offerings" This must have been the most ancient kind of sacrifice for it is mentioned several times in the OT (cf. Gen. 8:20,22; Jdgs. 6:19-21; 11:31; 13:19-21; 1 Sam. 6:15; 7:9; 1 Kgs. 18:21-40). It seems to symbolize complete dedication because everything was burned on the altar of sacrifice. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SACRIFICIAL SYSTEMS OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST.

▣ "without defect" This had to be an animal that reflected its breed. The defects spoken of are defined more clearly in Lev. 22:18-25. The animal seems to have the purpose of replacing humans as a substitute for the death penalty of sin (cf. Gen. 3:3; Ezek. 18:4,20; Rom. 6:23). This involved man laying his hands on the animal's head (cf. Lev. 1:4; see SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS IN THE BIBLE). The unblemished animal symbolized innocence or sinlessness. The burnt offering symbolized the remission of sin in general, while the sin and guilt offerings, explained in later chapters, will deal with specific sins. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WITHOUT DEFECT.

1:3-6,16 "he shall offer it. . .he shall offer it" The offerer was intimately involved with the presenting of the sacrifice.

  1. He had to bring it to the door of the tent of meeting.
  2. He had to give it to the priest.
  3. He had to lay his hands on its head.
  4. He had to kill it himself.
  5. He had to skin it.
  6. He had to cut it in pieces.
We also learn from Lev. 1:16 that if a man could not bring a larger animal sacrifice that, as a provision for the poor, he could bring a bird. The officiating priest in this case handled most of the ritual except the removal of the bird's crop.

1:3c "a male" The text does not state why a male. Possibly

  1. male animals were more expensive
  2. a herd does not need numerous males
  3. it had more strength and vigor; it would have been an animal prized by its owner (and culture); only the peace offering allowed a male or female animal (i.e., Lev. 3:1,6)

▣ "that he may be accepted before the Lord" The NOUN "accepted" (BDB 953) has two connotations.

  1. YHWH's favor ‒ Deut. 33:16; Ps. 5:13; 89:18; 106:4; Pro. 8:35; 12:2; 18:22; Isa. 60:1
  2. YHWH's approval of an offered sacrifice (i.e., Gen. 4:4)
    1. of the offerer(s) himself ‒ Exod. 28:38; Lev. 1:3; 19:5; 22:20; Isa. 56:7; Jer. 6:20
    2. of the sacrifice itself ‒ Lev. 1:4; 22:21,29
  3. YHWH's acceptance ‒ of a faithful follower's words and thoughts ‒ Ps. 19:15
This context is not about forgiveness of sin (Lev. 4:1-5:13), but a freewill offering to assure YHWH's favor. It was important to the offerer to feel/know YHWH's acceptance of their gift (Qorban; lit. "that which is brought near"). Any Israelite, male or female, could bring an offering at any time. This was separate and distinct from regular corporate offerings. Here, the individual was actively involved in the choosing, slaying, and preparing the animal.

1:4 ""He shall lay his hand on the head" Sometimes one hand is laid on the animal (i.e., the individual, cf. Lev. 1:4) and sometimes both hands (i.e., Aaron in Exod. 29:10,15 and the High Priest on the Day of Atonement in Lev. 16:21). There seems to be no theological significance intended.
The Hebrew term here is much stronger than "lay"; it is the word for "press" or "lean heavily against" (BDB 701, KB 259, Qal PERFECT with waw, cf. Lev. 3:2,8,13; 4:4,15,22,24; 16:21). Here, this seems to involve an identification of the out-of-favor offerer with the innocent animal. This relationship is clear when one compares Num. 8:10, where the same procedure is used to set the Levites apart as representatives of the whole congregation.
In Exod. 29:10, it is the officiating priest who lays his hands on the sacrifice, but this is a special offering at the consecration of Aaron and his sons and not a regular procedure of an individual's sacrifice.
In 2 Chr. 35:11 the priests are said to have slaughtered the animals, but this also was a coronation service for the king which involved a large number of animals (cf. 2 Chr. 35:7-9)

▣ ""it may be accepted" This is the VERB form (BDB 953, KB 1280, Niphal PERFECT with waw) of the NOUN used in Lev. 1:3.

▣ ""to make atonement" This VERB (BDB 497, KB 493, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used many times in Leviticus and Numbers. Its basic meaning is "to cover" or "to erase," but is used in metaphorical extension to veil sins from YHWH's eyes (used 16 times in Leviticus 16, the day of covering). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ATONEMENT and SPECIAL TOPIC: MERCY SEAT

1:5 "before the Lord" This refers to the open space between the entrance to the tabernacle (Lev. 1:3) and the altar of sacrifice (cf. Lev. 17:4-5). This is where the bulls were slain ("from the herd").
The animals from the "flock" (i.e., sheep and goats) were slain on the north side of the altar in a separate place (cf. Lev. 1:11).

▣ "shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar" Later on the sin offering (i.e., Lev. 4:1-5:13; 6:24-36) will emphasize the place the blood is to be put in the procedure, but for the burnt offering the focus is on the flesh, not the blood. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE BLOOD.

▣ "sprinkle" This VERB (BDB 284, KB 283, Qal PERFECT with waw) basically means "to toss" or "to scatter." It is used of

  1. the covenant inauguration, Exod. 24:6,8
  2. the consecration of the altar and Aaron, Exod. 29:16,20; Lev. 8:19
  3. to symbolize the animal's life (as all life) belongs to YHWH, therefore, its blood was sprinkled on the altar of sacrifice
    1. whole burnt offering ‒ Lev. 1:5,11; 9:12
    2. peace offering ‒ Lev. 3:2,8,13; 9:18; 17:6
    3. special ritual for animals killed in the field ‒ Lev. 17:6
    4. guilt offering ‒ Lev. 7:2,14

There is a second VERB (BDB 633 I, KB 683) which basically means "cause to spurt," which is used in parallel in Exod. 29:16,20,21.

  1. sin offering has a more elaborate procedure using the blood ‒ Lev. 4:3-12,17
  2. guilt offering ‒ Lev. 5:9
  3. consecration of Aaron and his sons ‒ Lev. 8:11,30
  4. cleansing of a leper ‒ Lev. 14:7,16,27,51
  5. ritual of the Day of Atonement ‒ Lev. 16:14,15,19
  6. water with ashes of the red heifer for cleansing ‒ Num. 19:4,18,21
  7. the Suffering Servant of Isa. 52:13-53:12, esp. 52:15a
Sprinkling was a symbol of cleansing and purifying.

1:6 "skin" We learn from Lev. 7:8 that the skin belonged to the priest.

1:7 "altar" We learn from Exod. 27:1-8 that this refers to the large, bronze, sacrificial altar which appeared prominently in front of the main gate of the tabernacle. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ALTAR OF SACRIFICE

1:8 "shall arrange the pieces" From rabbinic tradition the pieces of the animal were arranged on the altar similarly to its living form.

NASB, NRSV, JPSOA, REB, LXX  "the suet"
NKJV, TEV, NJB, Peshitta  "the fat"
This Hebrew NOUN (BDB 804) occurs only in Lev. 1:8,12; 8:20, where it denotes "fat." But the exact nature or location in the body of the animal is unspecified. Some think
  1. fat close to the head
  2. fat on the internal organs
Fat was a sign of the health and exceptional nature of the animal. Fat, like blood, uniquely belonged to YHWH, the giver of life and health.

1:9 "its legs he shall wash with water" This involved the washing away of any excretions that may have spilled out during the killing of the animal. From the context it is assumed that the water would be found at the laver, which is to the left of the sacrificial altar as one entered the tabernacle. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAVER and SPECIAL TOPIC: TABERNACLE OF THE WILDERNESS (Exodus 25-30).

▣ "a soothing aroma to the Lord" This is a metaphor for the acceptance of the sacrifice by God. It does not have the implication that it was food for God, as some of the ANE customs imply (note the imagery of Lev. 3:11 and Num. 28:2). This phrase is first found in Gen. 6:5. There is possibly a spiritual allusion to this in Eph. 5:2 and Phil. 4:18. See SPECIAL TOPIC: A SOOTHING AROMA.

10"'But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect. 11He shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord and Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar. 12He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 13The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.'"

1:11 "northward" This NOUN (BDB 860) originally referred to Mt. Saphon, where the Canaanite pantheon dwelt. The word can also refer to compass directions. As one faced east (i.e., the rising of the sun, the entrance of the tabernacle), the left hand pointed north, the right hand south.
The "north" became an idiom for invasion and trouble (i.e., both Assyria and Babylon attacked from the north).

14"'But if his offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons. 15The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar. 16He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes. 17Then he shall tear it by its wings, but shall not sever it. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.'"

1:14 "the turtledoves or from young pigeons" It is significant that through the entire discussion of sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7), God makes provision for all people to come to Him. Therefore, in every type of sacrifice there is provided a lesser offering for the poor to bring. The reason for two different types of birds is because the turtledoves were migratory and were not available year round.

1:16 "crop" This term (BDB 597) is found only here in the OT. It was the food pouch just below the head in the front where the food is stored for a brief period.
The JPSOA suggests it be translated "its crop with its contents" (following Targum Onkelos), but the Jewish Study Bible (p. 208) suggests it should be translated "its feathers and its excrement."
The MT and LXX have "its crop with its feathers."

▣ "eastward" The entrance of the tabernacle faced "east," so the ashes were put as far away as possible from the altar of sacrifice on the left side toward the front barrier of the tabernacle fence.

1:17 "shall not sever it" This seems to follow Gen. 15:10.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What is the purpose of the completely burnt offerings?
  2. Why is the procedure different?
  3. Why were there three options?
  4. What does the phrase "a soothing aroma" mean?
  5. List the things the offerer had to do with the animal he/she brought to the tabernacle?

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