I love good bread. One unexpected benefit of living in Africa was the availability of delicious bread. I will never forget the olive loaf from the French bakery that I munched on during my intense two-hour drive home during lunchtime. The brioche from the Indian grocery store in Ghana and the flatbread in Liberia were also favorites. For the first few years back in the US, I tried to find bread that could equal what I had in Africa but failed—I couldn’t even find a bakery that sold bread. I used to bake bread using the best flour I could find, but none of it compared to the African bakers’ loaves. And certainly, even those didn’t compare to God’s “bread from heaven.” When the Israelites left Egypt to journey through the wilderness to Canaan, God instructed them to make bread without yeast, which we now call Matzo. Then God provided them with daily manna, the substance of life, intended to prepare God’s people for the true Bread of Heaven, Jesus. “Jesus then said to [his disciples], “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33) Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to remember that God provides everything necessary for both physical and spiritual life. Giving thanks was to be a vital aspect of Israel’s life, along with atonement for sin, praise, and prayer.
Bread in the Sacrifices and the Bread of Life
God gave Himself so fully to the Israelites, providing daily manna for them, and in return, he wanted a grain sacrifice for thanksgiving. When he came in the flesh, Jesus offered his people himself, the Bread of Life—and in return, he wants our faithful devotion. The bread sacrifice represents the law in the Old Testament, and the Bread of Christ represents the power of Christ’s gospel to save from the Law. As we embark on Leviticus 2, we ask, “What does the description of the grain offering [in Leviticus 2] teach us about our relationship with God and our worship of Him? The Hebrew word for grain offering is minchah. Elsewhere in the Old Testament minchah is used to refer to gifts people gave to a king. Hence, the meaning of minchah included the act of a servant nation offering a gift to an overlord nation…the Israelites gave grain offerings to God not merely because He was a superior overlord, but because He is God. They offered Him not only service and allegiance; they offered Him the worship that is due only to God…God’s people worship Him as the One who provides all good things (James 1:17). He is the Lord, the King, and in bringing Him their gifts, His people were expressing their allegiance to Him. As they brought the sacrifice, they were thanking God for His provision, dedicating their harvest to Him, and symbolizing their dedication to Him… That’s what God’s people do in worship today…We know that what we have received, so [we worship] thanking and praising God for His gift of daily bread [especially in the Lord’s Prayer].” (1) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We are also called to demonstrate our gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him our highest offerings—our best, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.
Purpose of Grain Offerings—Leviticus 2
“After the exodus, God spoke to Moses and gave him His law for His people. God knew His people would transgress His law, but instead of giving up on His people, He provided a means of atonement for their sin so they could come into His presence. The sacrificial system was that means of atonement. The first chapter of Leviticus describes the first type of sacrifice—the burnt offering. The second chapter describes the grain offering. The burnt offering and the grain offering were similar…Both the burnt offering and the grain offering had to be of the best quality, both were offered by fire, and both resulted in a pleasing aroma to the Lord, meaning that the Lord was pleased with the offering.” (2) But, “it has never been the offering itself that has pleased God; it has always been what the offering has represented. If the offering is an expression of penitence for sin, a desire for God’s forgiveness, and dedication to God in the heart of the worshiper, then God is pleased…God meant His people to offer sacrifices mindful of the atonement He was providing and would provide, and mindful of their dedication to the God they were worshiping…Paul wrote about dedicating our bodies (ourselves) to God, and he used the language of presenting an offering to God (Rom 6:13).” (3) When we consider the importance of daily bread to the Israelites, who had no way to plant new crops in the wilderness or purchase anything, their sacrifices of fine flour, oil, frankincense, and salt take on a new meaning. “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priest. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 2:1-2) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We have Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, and are called to give him our best offerings— our first, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.
God instructed his people to bring him only unleavened flour or bread. “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil…No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.” (Lev. 2:4, 11) “The process of leavening involves fermentation, which is a form of decay and therefore is related to death. In Leviticus the realm of holiness, or cleanness, is the realm of life; and the realm of the profane, or uncleanness, is the realm of death. God’s people were to stay in the realm of holiness, or life; and they were to stay away from the realm of the profane, or death. Certainly they were to stay away from the realm of death in worship. Paradoxically, sacrificial animals were killed in worship, but the slaying of the animal was for the purpose of demonstrating that sin leads to death. As for yeast, it was associated with decay or death, so it was to be kept away from worship. Yeast is associated with corruption throughout the Bible. In Luke 12:1 Jesus said to keep away from ‘the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ In 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 Paul mentioned sexual immorality, malice, and evil; and he referred to all of that as yeast. He said to get the yeast out of the church, because a little yeast permeates the whole lump of dough. When we come to worship, we exclude corruption. Scores of statements in the Bible emphasize that God’s people cannot offer acceptable worship to God if the way we’re living is not acceptable to God. Sinful living or thinking is yeast; it’s corruption.” (4)
The Memorial Portion, the Most Holy Part, and Salt of the Covenant
Some of the ingredients for bread were offered to God as a “memorial portion” The rest was meant to feed the priests who served in the tabernacle, and was called the “most holy part,” possibly to remind them of their calling of holy service to God. “And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings” (vs. 9-10). “What exactly was the function of the memorial portion? It was not only to serve as a token of the offering itself, but also, as its name implies, to bring the offeror to the Lord’s ‘remembrance…to be ‘remembered’ before the Lord was to experience his favour. The grain offering’s memorial portion was therefore burned on the altar…serving as the offeror’s request to be remembered with favour when presenting praise or petition.” (5) Salt is not mentioned at the beginning of Leviticus 2 because it is assumed that Israel knew the importance of including salt in all their offerings. It is spelled out in verse 13: “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” “In covenantal contexts, salt underscored the covenant’s permanence. The covenant in mind here is that which the Israelites had just entered into with the Lord in Exodus (Exodus 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…The salt of the covenant [also] served to remind the Israelites of their covenant obligations. The Lord had chosen them to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ 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.” (6) “They were symbolizing the continuation of their covenant relationship with God. That’s what we do in worship. We have a covenant relationship with God—the new covenant through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. When Jesus shared His Last Supper with His apostles, He said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood’ (1 Cor 11:25). When we come to worship, we remember the covenant we have with the Lord through the blood of Jesus, and in worship we affirm that covenant.” (7)
Jesus wants to be our Bread of Life, depending on him rather than a good roll or loaf from the bakery, or anything else in this world for our spiritual wellbeing.Will I demonstrate my gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him my best offerings— most passionate devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship? We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,” who is Christ. (Matthew 6:10-11) “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56-58)
Related Scripture: Exodus 29:1-9; Leviticus 21:6; 24:5-9; Numbers 18:19; 1 Chronicles 23:15-30; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Matthew 16:12; Acts 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 4:18; Colossians 4:6.
1. Moseley, Allen, “Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series,” Leviticus 2, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.
2. Mosley, Ibid.
3. Mosley, Ibid.
4. Mosley, Ibid.
5. Sklar, Jay, “Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary,” Leviticus 2, Tndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014
6. Sklar, Ibid.
7. Mosley, Ibid.
February 9, 2023
One thought on “The Grain Offerings of Leviticus 2 and Christ, the Bread of Life”
My husband and I pick up day-old bread from a French bakery and bagels from a local bagel shop to take to a Food Net distribution site the next morning. We’ve become real fans of the sourdough French bread loaves and ciabatta rolls, and this blog is a good reminder to give thanks to the Bread of Life as we are make our pick-ups and deliveries.