This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Concluding Notes on Leviticus Chapter 1

( 1.) It will be observed that in each of these burnt offerings there are very minute directions given respecting the manner of proceeding, but in the last two the most important item, the atonement, is omitted. Hence our inference that only the first was distinctly expiatory seems to be legitimate. But this involves the following difficulty: Only the most costly offering availed for the forgiveness of sins, and hence the poor man is left unforgiven. This compromises the Divine character, implying that he is a respecter of the persons of the rich. This cannot be admitted for a moment. The only other explanation is, that the expiatory character of the last two is to be inferred from the first, or, that burnt offerings from Abel down to Moses were always understood to be expiatory. For an extended discussion see Pre-Sinaitic Sacrifices (Part 1)Pre-Sinaitic Sacrifices (Part 2), and Pre-Sinaitic Sacrifices (Part 3).

(2.) The private whole burnt offering was offered on the following occasions: 1.) At the consecration of priests, (Leviticus 8:18; 9:12.) 2.) At the purification of women, (Leviticus 12:6-8.) 3.) At the cleansing of lepers, (Leviticus 14:19.) 4.) At the removal of other ceremonial uncleanness, (Leviticus 15:15, 30.) 5.) At an inadvertent breach of the Nazarite’s vow, or at its end. Numbers 6:11, 14 and Acts 21:26. Free will burnt offerings were accepted by God on any solemn occasion. The public occasions were: 1.) The daily morning and evening sacrifice of a lamb. 2.) The same, doubled, on the Sabbath, so that sixteen lambs were offered each week in the regular service. 3.) At the new moons, the three great festivals, the great day of atonement, and the feast of trumpets; generally two bullocks, a ram, and seven lambs. The entire number of animals required for all these public burnt offerings was more than a thousand annually.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Leviticus 1:7-17

"And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: 8 And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD." — Leviticus 1:7-17 KJV.

7. Put fire upon the altar — So long as the altar was stationary the fire was never to go out. See Leviticus 6:13. When the altar was transported, the fire was probably carried in a censer and put on the altar in its new location. See Numbers 4:16. 

 Lay the wood — Such a ritual could not be executed in the dessert of Sahara. Wood still abounds in the Sinaitic Peninsula, and charcoal has for centuries been the chief article of export. 

 In order — The sacrifice was to be made with decency and deliberation. 

 8. Shall lay the parts — The victim was to be cut in pieces to facilitate the burning. Since the whole burnt offering symbolizes complete self-consecration, the pieces may typify that dedication of self in detail, which eminent saints assure us insures the more perfect work of the fire Divine in the person of the Sanctifier. “Yield… your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” See Romans 6:13. 9. 

His inwards — The intestines, because they contained impurities, could not be burned until they had first been cleansed. According to Maimonides the ablution was three times repeated. Thus there is strikingly set forth that inward holiness required by God of all his people, and the provision made for its attainment in the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. “I will put my law in their inwards, and write it in their hearts.” Jeremiah 31:33. “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Hebrews 10:22. 

And his legs — The lower parts, below the knees, having contracted defilements in walking, were unfit to lay upon the altar until cleansed. “Lord, not my feet only.” — Peter. 

All on the altar — Of most of the other offerings a portion might be given to the Lord in the persons of his priests, and a part might be given back to the offerer to share with his friends, (Leviticus 7:15;) but the burnt offering must all lie upon the altar till the fire has changed it into an odour of sweet smell, and wafted it, on the curling smoke, to heaven. The spiritual import of this self-dedicatory sacrifice is obvious. If we would obtain a thorough and pervasive holiness through all our collective powers and parts, we must, without mental reservation, surrender ourselves entirely unto the God of peace till, through the Holy Ghost, he sanctifies us wholly. Romans 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. 

An offering made by fire — The term אִשֵּׁ֛ה (ishsheh) is generic of every kind of sacrifice by fire, and once even where no fire is used except for baking. Leviticus 24:7, 9. 

A sweet savour unto the Lord — The anthropomorphism so clearly implied here is scarcely to be avoided. It is impossible for us to form a conception of pure spirit. Hence our ideas naturally clothe themselves in material forms, and we think of Jehovah as a man whose nostrils are regaled with the delicious odours diffused through the air. Stripped of its impressive imagery, and expressed in the cold phrase of modern philosophy, the Orientalism becomes this: God receives with delight every true act of worship. 

10, 11. Offering… of the flocks — The burnt offering of a sheep or goat differed from that of the herd in these particulars: — The sheep was to be killed on the side of the altar northward, for reasons not assigned: the impressive ceremony of laying the hand upon the head of the victim is absent; and also the declaration that it shall be accepted for an atonement. Hence we infer that either this offering, as well as that which follows, was not expiatory, or that the peculiar nature of the burnt offering was well understood. See Concluding Note, (1.)

14. Offering… of fowls — In a descending scale Jehovah adjusts his requirements to the ability of the offerer, from a bull to a pigeon.

Turtledoves — These are first spoken of as appropriate for sacrifice in Genesis 15:9, where Abram is commanded to offer one, together with a young pigeon, in addition to larger sacrifices. The admission of a pair of turtledoves for a burnt offering is a step of condescension lower than the concession of the young pigeons, since the former are not property, not being domesticated. For the practicability of the sacrifice of the turtledove in the wilderness see Introduction, (4.) For a few months in winter this bird was absent from Palestine seeking a warmer climate. Hence “the voice of the turtle in the land” (Song of Solomon 2:12) was the grateful sign of spring. Thus the poor could bring their tame pigeons, and the poorest, with a little effort, might capture and offer to the Lord a pair of turtledoves, an offering eminently appropriate on account of their imagined fidelity and devotion to each other, which might be taken as symbolizing devotion to God. 

Young pigeons — These are too well known to require description. This offering was always possible. See The Sacrificial Animals. 

Wring off his head — Rather, pinch it off and lay it on the altar. The blood was then to be pressed out at the side of the altar. 

16. Crop with his feathers — The Hebrew may be so rendered, but in the estimation of the best scholars it does not here signify feathers, but filth in the crop and connected viscera. 

Place of the ashes — Rather, fat-ashes. The indestructible portions of the offering were to be taken from the altar and placed on the east side till they were removed without the camp. Chap. 6:11.

17. Cleave it with the wings — The breast bone was to be split and the body laid open, so that there would be a wing on each side; but the halves were not to be completely separated from each other.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Leviticus 1:4-6

"And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces." — Leviticus 1:4-6 KJV.

4. Put his hand upon the head — Or, press his hand, etc. The symbolism of this act is differently interpreted. But most writers are agreed that as the hand is the organ of transmission, the notion of communication is especially manifest in consecration or blessing. But in the burnt offering what is transmitted? Nothing, says Bahr; it is only “a renunciation of one’s own.” Hoffman asserts that it signifies the power of the offerer over the life of his victim. With Baumgarten and Kurtz we accept the idea of the transmission of the feelings of the man to the animal. As expiation, in verse 4, is expressly declared to be one function of the burnt offering, we conclude that guilt is symbolically transferred in the imposition of the hand formally and solemnly dedicating the victim to Jehovah as the substitute of the sinner.

To make atonement — The Hebrew word כַפֵּ֥ר (caphar) signifies primarily to cover over, to conceal sin, and hence to expiate, to forgive it. The word atonement occurs only once in the New Testament, (Romans 5:11,) and there signifies a change produced in our relation to God, a reconciliation, without indicating its nature or manner. But in the Old Testament it signifies an expiation — a propitiation in the New Testament sense. Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10. It includes the satisfaction of the law by suffering the penalty, and the conciliation of the Lawgiver by obedience to his precepts. For the character of the Old Testament forgiveness, see Temporal and Spiritual Benefits of Sacrifices.

For him — These words, occurring twice, strongly suggest the vicarious work of the great Redeemer, who was made a curse for us. Galatians 2:20; 3:13.

5. Shall kill — After the most searching scrutiny by the priest, if the animal was pronounced perfect, the offerer killed it, except when it was presented in behalf of the whole congregation; then it was killed by the high priest. Chap. 16:15.

The bullock — Literally, the son of a bull. The term ox is often used in a broad sense as describing sacrificial victims of the bovine genus, but in the narrow sense of modern parlance it is an improper term, since the ox is not a perfect male. See note on verse 3.

Before the Lord — Since Jehovah had deigned to take up his abode between the cherubim above the mercy seat in the holy of holies, the whole tabernacle, recently illumined with his glory, was filled with his special presence. Hence before the open door of the holy place, the court of the priests, was before the Lord

 The priests, Aaron’s sons — They had been designated (Exodus xxix) but not yet consecrated. Chap. 8.

Sprinkle the blood — Brought from the door of the tabernacle to the altar, it is to be copiously spilled upon the ground round about, upon the altar’s walls, and probably upon its top. The verb sprinkle here used is different from that employed to express the scattering of drops with the finger or hyssop. As no instrument for sprinkling is here specified, and as the same verb is used when all the blood of an ox, as here, and all the blood of a sheep, verse 11, are to be thus treated, we infer that the manner was by waving the basin and spilling the blood. For the ceremonial office of the blood see The Ceremonial Function of Blood.

6. He shall flay — It was the work of the offerer to kill, skin, and cut up the victim.

— Commentary on Leviticus.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Leviticus 1:3

"If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD." — Leviticus 1:3 KJV.

Burnt sacrifice — The עֹלָ֤ה (‘olah) is so called because it ascends to heaven in the consuming flames. It should always be translated whole burnt offering. It is a holocaust, because the sacrifice was entirely consumed. It symbolizes the devotement of the entire man — soul, body, and spirit — to the service of God. Perfect love to him is more than all whole burnt offerings. Mark 12:33. As fire purifies what it does not consume, it typifies the Sanctifier consuming inward sin and cleansing the indestructible essence of the soul. Every sacrifice was in part a burnt offering, because Jehovah’s special portion was consumed by fire, the symbol of his presence.

Without blemish — תָּמִ֖ים (tamim), perfect. Defective sacrificial animals are described in chap. 22:20-24, as the blind, broken, maimed, scabbed, having wens, or scurvy, parts lacking or superfluous; also the castrated, spoken of as cut, crushed, bruised, or broken. An animal was an imperfect offering under eight days old. Exodus 22:30. What a sermon is this, preached morning and evening through the centuries, on the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb without blemish and without spot!” 1 Peter 1:19.

Of his own voluntary will — Of his own free choice: “not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth” a willing offering.

At the door of the tabernacle — This precise spot is designated in order to prevent any secret idolatrous rites under the mask of the prescribed ritual. The prohibition of all other places for sacrifice was also a strong safeguard of the national unity. Another altar was a political secession. Joshua 22:11-34.

Before the Lord — That is, to Jehovah. The rendering in the Authorized Version is sustained by some scholars. It is true that all burnt offerings, being chiefly self-dedicatory, must be purely voluntary. But the Hebrew is the same here as in Exodus 28:38, and Leviticus 22:20, 21, and is correctly rendered in the Authorized Version. But in Leviticus 19:5 and 22:19, 29, the word is rendered “own will,” as it is here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The Arrangement and Divisions of the Book of Leviticus.

The order of subjects has been much criticised by those who deem themselves competent to sit in judgment even upon the style in which God should speak to men. Dr. Kalisch, with the double vail of Judaism and Rationalism before his eyes, amplifies on the “illogical arrangement” of Leviticus. It is not marvellous that a series of types should seem confused and chaotic to one who is stone-blind to the great Antitype which explains and harmonizes them all. On the other hand, Bertheau sees a regularity and exactness in the arrangement of topics which it is difficult for us to discover. His “seven groups of the laws of Moses,” each containing a greater or less number of decalogues, proceeds in some cases upon assumptions so arbitrary that we have not thought it wise to adopt it.

The chief difficulty in the grouping of subjects arises from the commingling of rules of life relating to morals with those relating to mere ceremonial requirements, the Hebrew mind never having made that sharp discrimination between the ethical and the ritual which the Christian has been trained to make. Acts 15:20, 29.

The division of the book into two parts adopted by Keil and Murphy, the first relating to the expiation of guilt and the second to the sanctification of the life, we have adopted, only making the division at the end of chap. x instead of chap. xvi, since the intervening chapters bear more or less directly upon sanctity of life, especially in the conception of the Hebrews. Even the day of atonement, described in chap. xvi, was not for the removal of conscious guilt at the initiation of the spiritual life, but for those “errors” (ἀγνοημάτων,) “of the people,” (Hebrews 9:7,) which are incidental to the most advanced stages of holy living on the earth, making appropriate the daily prayer, “Forgive us our debts.”


Part I. Propitiation, chapters 1-10.

SECTION I. Ritual of the Altar, chapters 1-7.

Introductory, Leviticus 1:1-17. The Meat Offering, Leviticus 2:1-16. The Peace Offering, Leviticus 3:1-17. Ordinary Sins of Inadvertence, Leviticus 4:1, 2. Sin of a Priest, Leviticus 4:3-12. Sin of the Congregation, Leviticus 4:13-21. Sin of a Prince, Leviticus 4:22-26. Sin of a Private Person, Leviticus 4:27-35. The Trespass Offering: Sin Against Justice — Concealing Testimony, Leviticus 5:1. Involuntary Violation of Ceremonial Purity, Leviticus 5:2, 3. Inadvertency in Oaths, Leviticus 5:4, 5. Trespass Offering Therefor, Leviticus 5:6-13. Defects in Holy Things, Leviticus 5:14-19. Wilful Fraud, Leviticus 6:1-7. Ordinances Appertaining to the Priests, Leviticus 6:8-30. Additional Laws of the Trespass Offering, Leviticus 7:1-10. Laws of the Peace Offering, Leviticus 7:11-21. The Fat and Blood Forbidden to be Eaten, Leviticus 7:22-30. Portion of the Priests, Leviticus 7:11-34. Summary of Preceding Laws, Leviticus 7:35-38.

SECTION II. Consecration of the Aaronic Priesthood — First Service —

Judicial Death of Nadab and Abihu, chapters 8-10.

The Investment and Unction, Leviticus 8:1-36. Aaron’s First Offering and Blessing, Leviticus 9:1-7. Aaron’s Personal Offerings, Leviticus 9:8-14. The Offerings for Israel, Leviticus 9:15-21. The Benediction and the Consuming Fire from Jehovah, Leviticus 9:22-24. Nadab and Abihu Slain by Jehovah, Leviticus 10:1-7. The Priests Forbidden Wine and Strong Drink, Leviticus 10:8-11. Eating the Most Holy Things, Leviticus 10:12-20.

Part II. Holiness, Rules for Sanctity of Life, chapters 11-27.

SECTION I. External Purity, chapters 11-15.

Purity and Impurity in Animals: Concerning Beasts, Leviticus 11:1-8. Concerning Fishes, Leviticus 11:9-12. Concerning Fowls, Leviticus 11:13-19. Concerning Winged Insects, Leviticus 11:20-25. Concerning Larger Animals, Leviticus 11:26-28. Purity and Impurity in Persons, Leviticus 12:1-8. The Leper, Leviticus 13:1-59. The Ceremonial Cleansing of the Leper, Leviticus 14:1-32. Signs of Leprosy in a House, Leviticus 14:33-45. The Cleansing of a House Suspected of Leprosy, Leviticus 14:46-57. Physical Sanctification: Treatment of Issues, Leviticus 15:1-18. The Uncleanness of Women in their Issues, Leviticus 15:19-33.

SECTION II. Ceremonial Purity, chapters 16-27.

The Day of Atonement: Occasion of the Institution, Leviticus 16:1, 2. Outline of the Ceremonial, Leviticus 16:3-10. Detailed Description of Certain Rites, Leviticus 16:11-28. General Rules respecting the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29-34. The Sacredness of Blood, Leviticus 17:1-16. Holiness in Social Life: The Vices of Egypt and Canaan Prohibited, Leviticus 18:1-5. Prohibition of Incestuous Marriages, Leviticus 18:6-18. Unnatural Lusts Prohibited, Leviticus 18:19-30. Holiness Towards God and Righteousness Towards Men, Leviticus 19:1-37. Punishments, Leviticus 20:1-27. Holiness in the Priests: The Priests’ Mourning for the Dead, Leviticus 21:1-6. Holiness in Family Relations, Leviticus 21:7-15. Personal Disabilities for the Priesthood, Leviticus 21:17-24. Reverence for Holy Things, Leviticus 22:1-16. Acceptable Sacrifices, Leviticus 22:17-28. Miscellaneous Precepts Reiterated, Leviticus 22:29-33. Holiness in Days — Festivals Instituted; The Feasts of the Lord, Leviticus 23:1-8. The Sheaf of Firstfruits, Leviticus 23:9-14. The Feast of Pentecost, Leviticus 23:15-21. The Law of Charity, Leviticus 23:22. The Feast of Trumpets, Leviticus 23:23-25. Day of Expiations, Leviticus 23:26-32. The Feast of Ingathering, Leviticus 23:33-44. Purity in Oil and Showbread; Holiness of the Divine Name, and Sacredness of Human Life; The Illumination of the Tabernacle, Leviticus 24:1-4. Ordinance of the Showbread, Leviticus 24:5-9. The Blasphemer Stoned, Leviticus 24:10-23. The Law of Retaliation, Leviticus 24:17-23. Holiness Applied to Years: The Sabbatical Year, Leviticus 25:1-7. The Year of Jubilee, Leviticus 25:8-55. Rules for the Sale of Land, Leviticus 25:14-17. Additional Legislation respecting the Sabbatical Year, Leviticus 25:18-22. The Redemption of Land, Leviticus 25:23-28. The Redemption of Houses, Leviticus 25:29-34. Mercy to the Poor Enjoined, Leviticus 25:35-43. Non-Hebrew Servants, Leviticus 25:44-46. The Hebrew Servant and the Foreign Master, Leviticus 25:47-55. Promises and Threatenings as Sanctions of the Law and Motives to Holiness. Idolatry, the Sabbath, and the Sanctuary, Leviticus 26:1, 2. Blessings Promised to Obedience, Leviticus 26:3-13. Threatenings Against Disobedience, Leviticus 26:14-39. Mercy After Judgments — Israel not Utterly Destroyed, Leviticus 26:40-46. Holiness in Promises — Vows: Persons the Objects of Vows, Leviticus 27:2-8. Animals Vowed, Leviticus 27:9-13. Houses and Fields Vowed, Leviticus 27:14-25. Firstlings and Unclean Beasts, Leviticus 27:26, 27. Things Under the Ban and Tithes, Leviticus 27:28-34.

— Commentary on Leviticus.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Spiritual Import of the Levitical Sacrifices.

 We must not conclude our introductory remarks [to the book of Leviticus] without calling attention to the vital point — the central idea of the book — its spiritual meaning.

That so elaborate a ritual looked beyond itself we cannot doubt. It was a prophecy of things to come; a shadow whereof the substance was Christ and his kingdom. We may not always be able to say what the exact relation is between the type and the antitype. Of many things we may be sure that they belonged only to the nation to whom they were given, containing no prophetic significance, but serving as witnesses and signs to them of God’s covenant of grace. We may hesitate to pronounce with Jerome, that ‘every sacrifice, nay, almost every syllable — the garments of Aaron and the whole Levitical system — breathe of heavenly mysteries;’ but we cannot read the Epistle to the Hebrews and not acknowledge that the Levitical priests ‘served the pattern and type of heavenly things’ — that the sacrifices of the law pointed to and found their interpretation in the LAMB OF GOD — that the ordinances of outward purification signified the truer inward cleansing of the heart and conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.

One idea, moreover, penetrates the whole of this vast and burdensome ceremonial, and gives it a real glory, even apart from any prophetic significance. HOLINESS is its end. Holiness is its character. The tabernacle is holy — the vessels are holy — the offerings are most holy unto Jehovah — the garments of the priests are holy. All who approach Him whose name is ‘Holy,’ whether priests who minister to him or people who worship before him, must themselves be holy. It would seem as if, amid the camp and dwellings of Israel, was ever to be heard an echo of that solemn strain which fills the courts above, where the seraphim cry one to another, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. — Perowne.