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Vayikra/Leviticus 6:15 And the anointed priest under him from his sons shall do it - an eternal statute to Adonai
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At first reading, this regulation applies to the offering that the High Priest and his sons on the day of his inauguration: "This is the offering that Aharon and his sons shall offer to the L-RD on the occasion of his anointment: a tenth of an ephah of choice flour as a regular meal offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening" (Vayikra 6:13, JPS), but the Jewish tradition takes it to cover the grain offering that is brought morning and evening every day as a part of the - the regular burnt offering specified earlier: "Now this is what you shall offer upon the altar: two yearling lambs each day, regularly. You shall offer the one lamb in the morning, and you shall offer the other lamb at twilight. There shall be a tenth of a measure of choice flour with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil mixed in, and a libation of a quarter hin of wine" (Shemot 29:38-40, JPS). The connection is made because of the 'continual' nature of the offering and its size: one tenth of an ephah.
Baruch Levine confirms that "there is evidence from Second Temple times of a daily grain offering presented by the High Priest, just as this passage ordains." In a passage in praise of Moshe, Aharon and Phinehas, using the phrase , The Wisdom of Ben Sira1, says that, "his [the High Priest's] cereal offering is wholly burned as an established offering twice each day" (Ben Sira 45:14, Anchor Bible). The Mishnah also refers to it as a daily practice in Second Temple times; Menachot 4:5 and 6:2 call the daily grain offering , "the griddle cakes of the High Priest". In "Antiquities of the Jews", Josephus also refers to this rite (4.10.7).
Gersonides insists that "there must be no interruption of these daily offerings; if the High Priest dies, his heirs bring the offering until another High Priest is appointed." The Sages have an extended discussion as to who should bear the cost of the grain offerings in such a circumstance: "Our Rabbis taught: If the High Priest died and they had not appointed another in his stead, whence do we know that his meal-offering must be offered at the expense of his heirs? Because it is written, 'And the anointed priest that shall be in his stead from among his sons shall offer it'. So Rabbi Judah bar Simeon says, 'It is a statute for ever', this implies that it is offered at the expense of the community" (b. Menachot 51b).
The above begs the question of exactly how the High Priest is appointed and how long it takes for that process to happen. If there is has been a discussion about who bears the cost of the offering, then it might be assumed that the succession is neither automatic or instant. One, or perhaps more, of the late High Priest's sons are responsible for maintaining the daily sacrifices until the interregnum period is over and the new High Priest has been installed. RabbiHirsch explains, "although the office of Cohen Gadol is hereditary, the office is not assumed. The representatives of the nation, after assuring themselves of his qualifications, have to induct the Cohen Gadol elect into his office by anointing, or by investment with the special garments." Perhaps the eldest son is not fit, because of physical blemish or disability, because of a mental illness or condition, or has disqualified himself by marrying incorrectly or by inappropriate behaviour; in these situations, the elders or the Sanhedrin would look at another son (if any) or the next male relative to find a successor. Even if the first-born son is qualified in every way, it may still take time to assemble the elders of Israel and the senior priests who will perform the ceremony in Jerusalem, to prepare the animals for the sacrifices and for the new High Priest to practice or learn some of the liturgy and actions that he may never have performed before.
It is important to recognise that our relationships with G-d, whether Jew or Gentile, are not on a hereditary basis. Rav Sha'ul describes a continuity of grace within families: "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy" (1 Corinthians 7:14, ESV). By the presence of a believer in an otherwise unbelieving household, a measure of grace is extended to the unbelieving members so that they may hear the gospel and have a life-long opportunity to come into relationship with G-d for themselves. Jewish people remain, of course, part of G-d's chosen people because of His covenant made with us at Mt. Sinai, but each man remains responsible for his own sin - "In those days they shall no longer say: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:29-30, ESV) and confirmed in "Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die ... The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:4,20, ESV). Each person is responsible for his own sin and therefore for finding atonement and forgiveness - relationship - with G-d.
This explains the slightly different ways in which Jew and Gentile approach G-d and the common ground that they have together in Messiah. A Jewish person, as part of the Jewish people, a physical descendant of Avraham, Yitz'khak and Ya'akov, is in a covenant relationship with G-d, which imposes certain obligations upon him. The continued existence of the Jewish people confirms the word of Scripture that G-d will never give up on or abrogate His covenant with the people Israel, in spite of their sin. Gentiles, on the other hand, as physical descendants of Noah are also in a covenant relationship with G-d, which also imposes certain - though less particular - obligations upon him. Rav Sha'ul shows that even though Gentiles are formally not part of Israel or subject to G-d's covenant laws that the Jews are, when they behave in a proper way, this demonstrates that G-d's law is in fact in their hearts and that their consciences act to convict them of their sin. This lead Sha'ul to his conclusion that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d" (Romans 3:23), echoing Solomon: "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NASB). From this position of universal sin, both Jew and Gentile need atonement - a sacrifice to pay for or cover their sin - and forgiveness; this is found in Messiah Yeshua: "The Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); notice the gospel doesn't say "the sin of the Jews" or "the sin of the Gentiles", but "the sin of the world" because Yeshua is both the Messiah of Israel and Messiah for all who believe in Him: "For G-d so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting" (John 3:16).
For the Jew, Yeshua brings atonement for those who are already in the Jewish covenant with G-d. For the Gentile, Yeshua brings atonement for those who are already in the Gentile covenant with G-d. He makes a way for everyone to be reconciled with G-d - "G-d was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19) - and so all believers, whether Jew or Gentile and despite their individual callings and unique way of living before G-d, "all one in Messiah Yeshua" (Galatians 3:28). Jew and Gentile together stand on the same spiritual foundation before G-d: Messiah's atoning sacrifice on the cross. The same good news applies to both Jew and Gentile. The same benefits - a restored relationship with G-d, life in all its fullness now and life everlasting - accrue to both Jew and Gentile who trust in Him.
The question everyone needs to ask therefore is not, "Are you a Jew or a Gentile?" but "Do you know Yeshua?" Just as Israel had to bring the daily grain offering and the responsibility endured through the death of the High Priest, we are responsible for our sin and it is not contingent upon our fathers. Just as the priesthood was hereditary but not assumed, we are extended grace by our families but must all make our own connection with Yeshua.
1. - also known as Ecclesiasticus, the book was probably written between 200-175 BCE in Jerusalem by the scribe Jesus ben Sirach. Although read as Scripture by some Jews and frequently quoted in the Talmud, it was not accepted into the Hebrew canon, so its Hebrew text - though known in several versions - has not been well preserved. It is present in Greek translation in the Septuagint and is part of the Apocrypha, accepted as deutero-canonical by some churches.
Further Study: Ezekiel 18:5-32; Malachi 2:15; 1 Peter 1:17-21
Application: Do you know Yeshua for yourself or are you relying upon your family or upbringing? The only way to know Yeshua is for yourself - why not ask Him about how to do that today?
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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