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Vayikra/Leviticus 22:18 Any man - from the house of Israel or from the sojourner in Israel - who brings his offering
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The text starts with the repeated words , which is translated "any man" and - Baruch Levine confirms - often introduces a positive statement. The trope marks tell us that the next phrase - "from the house of Israel or from the sojourner in Israel" - all belongs together, so qualifies "any man" before "who brings his offering". The words could be quite legitimately be re-ordered (and slightly paraphrased) to read: "Any man who brings his offering, be they part of the house of Israel or simply resident in the Land ...". Put another way, the text tells us that offerings may be brought by both anyone who is an Israelite and by anyone who is resident in the Land. Levine comments that, "In the Ancient Near East, is was customary to pay respect to the god of the host country. Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple - 'if a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name - for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm - when he comes to pray toward this House, oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the foreigner asks You for' (1 Kings 8:41-43, JPS) - refers to the stranger from a distant land who, impressed with the renown of the G-d of Israel, wishes to worship Him in Jerusalem."Ibn Ezra agrees that the same rules or procedures apply to Jewish and Gentile worshippers: "With regard to votive or freewill offerings the same rule applies to Israelites and strangers, for it is written 'And when, throughout the ages, a stranger who has taken up residence with you, or one who lives among you, would present an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the L-RD - as you do, so shall it be done by the rest of the congregation. There shall be one law for you and for the resident stranger; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the stranger shall be alike before the L-RD; the same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the stranger who resides among you' (B'Midbar 15:14-16, JPS)".
This position doesn't please everyone.Targum Onkelos, for example, changes the text to substitute 'convert' for 'sojourner'; becomes as the idea of converts to Judaism offering sacrifices is much more acceptable than that of Gentiles. An older witness, the book of Acts, records the reaction when Rav Sha'ul shares his testimony on the steps of the Roman barracks in Jerusalem. The crowd are surprised that he speaks Hebrew and listen carefully until he says, "'And [the Lord] said to me, "Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles."' Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.' And they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air" (Acts 22:21-23, ESV). Quite a strong reaction! A few years later, when he had reached Rome, Sha'ul called together the Jewish leaders in that city and shared at length with them, but "disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Sha'ul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right ... Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen" (Acts 28:25,28, ESV). To Jewish ears, the idea that the G-d of Israel would be interested in the heathen nations of the world, or would want to form relationship with any of them was incomprehensible and, certainly at that time, offensive!
The 19th century German rabbi Samson RaphaelHirsch attempted to draw a middle line, allowing Gentile sacrifices, but only of a limited nature. "By this universal generalisation, strangers and foreigners are included, that they too, although heathens, can bring free-will offerings in the Jewish Sanctuary of God. The Jewish Altar being open for the reception of offering from all men is indeed already indicated in the very first words of the giving of the facts of offerings (Vayikra 1:2). This inclusion of the right to bring free-will offerings is indicated here under the heading of burnt offerings, to tell us that the offerings of non-Jews are limited to burnt offerings. The reason is that one can only assume in him that he has the sacrificial idea of giving himself up entirely to G-d, but not that he has the specifically Jewish idea of living a holy and righteous life before G-d."
The prophets had spoken about foreigners who would come to worship and serve G-d: "As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the L-RD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the L-RD, to be His servants - all who keep the sabbath and do not profane it, and who hold fast to My covenant - I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:6-7, JPS) and although the early church - led by the Apostles in Jerusalem - was initially very concerned about Gentile converts, challenging Peter about what had happened at the house of Cornelius, "When Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them'" (Acts 11:2-3, NASB), it is clear that not only did they recognise that G-d was at work on that occasion - "When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified G-d, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also G-d has granted repentance that leads to life'" (v.18, NASB) - but welcomed Gentile believers into the body of Messiah.
Rav Sha'ul explained this carefully to the believers in Ephesus: "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of G-d's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of G-d in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB). The household of G-d is made up of the believers from the house of Israel and the believers from the nations, those who have been called together and made one in Messiah. The 'sojourner', the temporary dweller alongside Israel, has now been replaced by fellow citizens. Not fellow Israelites, since they have not joined physical Israel, but fellow believers: "Where this happens, there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, uncivilized person, slave, or free person. Instead, Messiah is everything and in everything" (Colossians 3:11, GWT). Since all are now fellow citizens, they share a common calling, a common purpose, a common inheritance and the same Lord: Yeshua. Now they can build together! Now the kingdom can be seen!
In Yeshua, G-d's altar is open to all. Yeshua told Nicodemus how it worked, how G-d loved not just Israel but the world: "He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16, JB). Here 'everyone', other versions 'whosoever'; not just Jews, not just those living in the Land (Jew or Gentile), but anyone and everyone who would offer themselves and believe in Yeshua. But surely the concept of offerings and sacrifices don't apply to believers today? I mean, it's so - well - animal! Here's Sha'ul again: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1, ESV). Sha'ul is talking about the burnt offering, the one that was cut up in pieces, put whole on the altar and then never taken off again, turned slowly over and over in the fire until it all rose as a sweet smelling savour before G-d. How on earth are we to do that?
Hear Sha'uls words again from Eugene Peterson: "Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life - and place it before G-d as an offering" (The Message). It's not that G-d wants us to sacrifice our lives and have no life and no future; on the contrary, He wants our lives to be His life, our future to be His future. Everything that we do is to be offered up - that is, surrendered and handed over - to Him, submitted to His lordship. It doesn't go away, on the contrary, it gets turned over and over so that some things we have to hand over every day, many times - but it is the way we worship G-d, by sacrificing ourselves for Him. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30, ESV). And in our sacrifice, we find fulfillment. As we give ourselves up, we find that we have Him instead of all the stuff that we didn't really want or need. As Jim Elliott wrote in his journal on October 28th, 1949, just over two months before he was killed by South American Indians he was trying to reach with the gospel, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose".
Further Study: Philippians 3:20-21; Romans 6:13-14
Application: Are you holding your offering back or have you drawn near to place it on the altar? Whether Jew or Gentile, our offerings are always accepted in Messiah Yeshua.
Comment - 21Apr13 09:32 Jenny: This really helped me. It shows the love of God in the Old Testament and that He did not intend it just for the Isrealites as they thought. It shows that the salvation of God is for everyone. I did not realise about the cut meat that remained on the altar being turned until it was consumed and how this relates to our everyday life - how very helpful and illuminating.
Comment - 22Apr13 11:32 Tim: The reluctance in Rabbinic Judaism to come to terms with the outsider and the other in any equal sense on the subject of offerings struck me. "The Bible says X, Rabbi whoever says Z, and so-and-so tries to draw a middle line" is very unsatisfactory for me because it makes a position to the right of the Scriptures somehow appear to be "moderate" and the Bible somewhere on the extreme left. Also, grappling with the statement of Jesus in John 10:16 seemed to me to be a unifying & inclusive position.
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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