"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.
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.)
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.