Messianic Education Trust
(Lev 21:1 - 24:23)

Vayikra/Leviticus 22:20   Any that have a blemish you will not offer

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno is concerned that this and the preceding verse speak about animals for sacrifice that might have a blemish. He connects the need for the sacrifice to be perfect with G-d's own perfection: "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a G-d of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He" (D'varim 32:4, NASB). In particular, although all sacrifices are required to be without defect, the offerings of major holiness (e.g. for the burnt offering, the sin offering and so on) must be both male and without blemish, and the following verses list many defects that disqualify cattle and sheep from being suitable for sacrifice although (see v.23) some animals with minor blemishes may be accepted for freewill offerings because they are not offered on the altar.

Sforno also makes the obvious connection to the opening of the book of Mal'achi: "when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil?" (Mal'chi 1:8, NASB). "'I am not pleased with you,' says the L-rd of Hosts, 'nor will I accept an offering from your hand'" (v.10, NASB); "'you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame and sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?' says the L-rd" (v.13, NASB). Even a human governor would not accept defective animals at his table, so how much less will G-d accept defective sacrifices or offerings from us.

As the Cohen Gadol, Aharon had to offer a sacrifice for himself before he could offer one on behalf of the people; this is why Yom Kippur is really Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonements: first Aharon, then the altar and then the people. But that, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us, was only a temporary situation. The prophets tell us of G-d's search: "Run to and for through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her" (Jeremiah 5:1, ESV). "I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before Me for the land ... but I found none" (Ezekiel 22:30, ESV). What was G-d to do? How could He present an offering that would be acceptable? "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no-one to intercede; then His own arm brought Him salvation and His righteousness upheld Him" (Isaiah 59:16, ESV).

To fulfill the Torah, G-d's own offering had to be perfect. Yochanan the Immerse said: "Behold, the Lamb of G-d that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, ESV). G-d sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3, ESV); "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of G-d" (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).

Further Study: Hebrews 2:14-18; Galatians 3:13-14

Application: Do you look at yourself and think: I just have too many faults and blemishes - I can never please G-d? Then take heart - G-d has already done it for you; knowing us even better that we do ourselves, He Himself has rescued us and offered Himself - in Yeshua - as our sacrifice.

© Jonathan Allen, 2006

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