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No. 144: Leviticus 1:3-4, 10

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 144
Copyright © 2001 Biblical Horizons
August, 2001

Leviticus 1:3-13, Translation

3If his Nearbringing is an Ascension from the


a perfect male shall he bring him near.

To the forecourt of the Tent of Meeting he shall

bring him near,

for his acceptance before Yahweh.

4And he shall lean his hand on the head of the


and he will be accepted for him to cover him.

5And he shall slaughter the son of the herd

before Yahweh.

And Aaron’s sons the palace-servants shall bring

near the blood.

And they shall dash the blood on the Commu

nion Site round about that is at the forecourt

of the Tent of Meeting.

6And he shall strip the Ascension.

And he shall section him into his sections.

7And the sons of Aaron the palace-servant shall

stoke up fire on the Communion Site.

And they shall arrange wood on the fire.

8And Aaron’s sons the palace-servants shall

arrange the sections, the head, and the suet,

on the wood that is on the fire that is on the

Communion Site.

9And his entrails and his shins he shall wash

with water.

And the palace-servant shall transform all of it

into smoke on the Communion Site for an


bridal-food of a pleasing aroma to Yahweh.

10And if from the flock is his Nearbringing, from the sheep or from the goats,

for an Ascension,

a perfect male shall he bring him near.

11And he shall slaughter him on the flank of the

Communion Site north before Yahweh.

And Aaron’s sons the palace-servants shall dash

his blood on the Communion Site round


12And he shall section him into his sections, and

his head, and his suet.

And the palace-servant shall arrange them on

the wood that is on the fire that is on the

Communion Site.

13And the entrails and the shins he shall wash

with water.

And the palace-servant shall bring all of it near.

And he shall transform it into smoke at the

place of the Communion Site.

He is an Ascension, bridal-food of a pleasing aroma to


The Herd Ascension Ritual

1. Adam brings the ox.

2. Adam leans hand on the head of the ox.

3. Adam slaughters the ox.

4. Palace-servant brings the blood near.

5. Palace-servant dashes the blood on the walls of the Communion Site.

6. Adam strips the ox.

7. Adam cuts the ox into sections.

8. Palace-servant stokes up the fire.

9. Palace-servant adds wood to the fire.

10. Palace-servant arranges clean sections on the fire.

11. Adam washes unclean sections.

12. Palace-servant transforms all sections into smoke.

The Flock Ascension Ritual

1. Adam brings the flockmember.

. Adam leans hand on the head of the flockmember.

2. Adam slaughters the flockmember.

-. Palace-servant brings the blood near.

3. Palace-servant dashes the blood on the walls of the Communion Site.

-. Adam strips the flockmember.

4. Adam cuts the flockmember into sections.

-. Palace-servant stokes up the fire.

-. Palace-servant adds wood to the fire.

5. Palace-servant arranges clean sections on the fire.

6. Adam washes the unclean sections.

7. Palace-servant transforms cleansed sections into smoke.

Annotations and Commentary

3aIf his Nearbringing is an Ascension1 from

the herd,

a perfect2 male shall he bring him near,

10And if from the flock is his Nearbringing, from the sheep or from the goats,

for an Ascension,3

a perfect male shall he bring him near.

1. `olah, something that goes up, ascends. It is true that this offering is wholly burned up, but “whole offering” and “burnt offering” are not the meaning of the term. There are other words for “whole” and “burn.” Better alternatives used by some are “offering-up,” “elevated offering,” and “elevation.” “Ascension,” however, provides a link with all the ascensions up to mountain tops, rooftops, and upper rooms for worship, ascending on an altar (Exodus 20:26), the Psalms of Ascent, Jesus’ ascension to heaven, and even an edible animal’s “ascending” the cud (Leviticus 11). Moreover, “burnt offering” has made for confusion in the story of Jephthah (Judges 11), for Jephthah’s daughter was not burned up, but sent up to serve in God’s palace for the rest of her life.

This ascension must be considered in two ways. First, the animal moves upward, but second, upward also means inward toward the Holy of Holies, from east to west. East of the Communion Site is the pit of fat-ashes (1:16), where the ashes that drop onto the ground under the Communion Site are taken. Thus, west of the Communion Site is equivalent to the area above the Communion Site.

2. tamim, “perfect,” here meaning “unblemished.” This is the word “perfect” found with respect to Noah (Genesis 6:9), Jacob (25:27), Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), and in God’s command to Abram (Genesis 17:1). It means complete, whole, blameless, morally upright.

3. The difference in phrasing is important: The ox ascends from the herd, but the flockmember does not ascend from the flock. It is “brought near” from the flock, but does not “ascend” from the flock. This ties to the fact that the ox is a “son” and the flockmember is not a “son” in this sense. We shall take this up below.

Additional Comments: It is important to understand that the Dedication’s “perfection” signifies the “perfection” that God requires of human beings. The “perfect male” speaks of the original Adam, palace-servant of the Garden. Since Eve came from Adam, the “perfect male” animal can represent her also. Additionally, since the purpose of the ritual, as we shall see, is to enable the adam to function as a palace-servant, and since the palace-servants had to be men, the animal must be male. The Israelite, as a member of Yahweh’s bride, is represented in the Tabernacle by the male palace-servants, and in the Communion Site by the male animal. Just as palace-servants had to be unblemished, so the animal had to be “perfect” (Leviticus 21-22).

Female animals are put into the Communion Site on top of the male Ascension, and thus are conducted into the symbolic Garden by a “husband.” As we shall see, part of the meaning of the Ascension is that the clean and male (palace-servant) part of the animal ascends first, and then brings the cleansed and female (member of Yahweh’s bride) part afterwards.

3bTo the forecourt1 of the Tent of Meeting he

shall bring him near,

for his acceptance before Yahweh.

4And he shall lean his hand on the head of

the Ascension,2

and he will be accepted for him to cover


1. The word means “door” or “entrance,” but often includes the area around a door, as it does here. It is related to the word for mouth, and since the ritual converts the animal into food for God, the idea of bringing the animal close to God’s mouth is important. As concerns the Tabernacle, the word is used for the whole area between the outer gate of the court and the Tabernacle entrance. It is the area around the Communion Site.

2. Not “lay his hand.” The verb means to lean with force. None of the statements above are included in the ritual for the Flock Ascension, because they are unnecessary. The flockmember perforce is going to be brought into the forecourt for acceptance. Leviticus 8:18 makes it plain that the hand is leaned upon the flockmember.

3. kaphar, cover. The idea here is that the sinner is clothed, covered, first by the blood of the animal and then by the fire of God’s glory, and thereby made acceptable before God. The adam must not ascend and appear before Yahweh unless properly clothed, covered, in the “garment” of the animal, which has died to provide this covering.

It is true that the effect of this re-covering is for the adam to be joined with God, to be reconciled with God, to be re-fellowshipped with God, and thus to be “at-one-mented” with God. But this reconciliation or atonement is effected by his being covered in blood and glory. To translate the word as “atonement” obscures the many important links with the clothing given to Adam, the garments of the palace-servants and especially of the High Palace-Servant, the cover of gold that rests upon the Ark, and the firmament cover over the earth.

Additional Comments, 1: This is the first of three “bringings near.” First the animal is brought near to the forecourt and is slaughtered. Second, the blood is brought near the Communion Site and dashed against its walls (1:5). Third, the whole animal is brought near and placed into the Communion Site (1:13). As can be seen, the animal is brought nearer and nearer, and finally ascends to God.

2: Leaning the hand is used in ordination, the commissioning of someone else to be one’s representative. Pointedly, leaning the hand commissions someone else to do what one cannot do oneself. Thus, when Moses is about to die, he leans his hand on Joshua to continue his work and to lead the people into the land of promise. When the Israelites fail to guard the holiness of God’s palace, they lean their hands on the Levites, commissioning them to do what they are unable to do.

Leaning the hand is not sheer substitution, as if the person commissioned is going to do something the commissioner is not supposed to do. Rather, the commissioner is acting by means of the person commissioned. Moses leads the people into the promised land by means of Joshua. The people guard Yahweh’s holiness by means of their Levite representatives. And the adam enters God’s presence by means of the animal.

Leaning, thus, is the way the adam symbolically places himself into the animal, identifying with it, so that the animal, as it were, transports him to Yahweh, since the animal that transports him to the glory inside the Communion Site is a symbol of the future son of Adam who will someday transport him to Yahweh in reality. He leans on the head because the head is the leading part of the animal and carries the rest with it. Thus, to lean on the head is to call upon the head to carry the rest of the body, including the adam.

The High Palace-Servant represented all Israel, and all humanity, and his head was the holiest part of him, crowned with “Holy to Yahweh.” But the High Palace-Servant did not enter God’s presence for himself alone, as a sheer substitute for the people; he carried the names of the tribes on his garments with him.

It is not a part of the adam that is symbolically transferred to the animal, but the whole man. The Purifications of Leviticus 4-5 & 16 deal with the transfer of impurities and how they are carried away by blood and flesh. Here it is the whole person who is transferred and carried by the whole animal. That is why there is no confession of sin here, because the whole man, not just his sin, is being symbolically transferred.

What happens to the animal is that it becomes dead. It is the whole adam, an adam liable to death, that is symbolically transferred onto the animal. The animal takes upon itself the death that the adam deserves, and then conveys the adam to God. The animal is a substitute as well as a representative. The animal dies judicially so that the adam does not have to. Then the animal, as representative, carries the adam with him to God.

Thus, the leaning creates a double identification. First, the identification is substitutionary: the animal dies in the place of the adam. Second, the identification is representative: the (“resurrected”) animal is eaten into God’s fellowship as a sign that the adam also is; and because the adam has been restored to the Garden and its food, he (as Communion Site) can also eat the animal.

The head of the animal precedes its body. This is clearly fulfilled as Jesus, the Head of the Church, ascends to God, and then sends the Spirit to cleanse the unclean members of His Body so that we also can ascend to God. By leaning his hand upon the head, the adam expresses his confidence that the head of the perfect animal, symbolizing the future Captain of a new humanity, will lead him into God’s presence.

3: The adam must bring an animal substitute/representative for two reasons. First, being a sinner, he is excluded from God’s presence, banished from the Garden of Eden. No one but an Aaronic palace-servant wearing special blood-spattered clothing may approach either the Communion Site or the Tabernacle, on pain of death. The adam must die in order to approach the Communion Site wherein God’s fiery presence symbolically dwells. But the adam is unworthy, and may not do so. Someone else, in this case an animal symbol, must die for him. The animal must approach the Communion Site as the adam’s representative.

This is the first covering we require. Because of our sin we must not approach God, and we cannot be at one with God, without this first covering of blood provided by a substitute who has died for us.

Second, ascending into God’s presence requires glorification, transformation by fire. Adam did not need to be glorified to be in the original Garden, but now that Adam has usurped the glorious prerogatives of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he must be glorified in order to reenter the Garden. There is no going back: Adam must go forward to the fire of glory or else forward to the fire of hell. The glorious garments of the palace-servants enabled them to go up to the Communion Site and into the Tabernacle, for the God of the Glory requires glorious servants. The adam does not have these garments, these coverings.

(continued in issue 145)

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