What was the Old Testament grain offering?
The grain offering (also called the meal offering or cereal offering) was one of the main offerings presented by the Jews in worship to the Lord. It was formally instituted in Leviticus 2 for use in the Jewish tabernacle. It would later be practiced in the Jewish temple as well.
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In Leviticus 2, the teaching regarding the grain offering includes four main sections: the uncooked offerings (Leviticus 2:1-3), the cooked grain offerings (Leviticus 2:4-10), the ingredients involved (Leviticus 2:11-13), and the grain offerings given as firstfruits (Leviticus 2:14-16). Unlike the burnt offering (Leviticus 1), the grain offering did not include meat. Therefore, it did not include blood. Also, since it originated in the wilderness years in the desert, the grain offering likely was relatively uncommon and may have involved offering grain seeds rather than mature grain.
The grain offering also differed from the burnt offering in other significant ways. For example, only a portion of the grain was burned. The priests could use the rest for food. The opposite was true of the burnt offering in which only a small portion could be kept to eat. Also, while the burnt offering was for atonement of sin, the grain offering's focus was worship. A person could add grain to it to varying degrees.
Another important aspect of the grain offering was that it had to be pure. No leaven (yeast) or honey could be added to the grain. Both would cause the grain to decompose faster. Oil and frankincense were also to be added, ingredients often associated with joy or celebration. Salt was also included, likely for its preserving powers.
An important connection could exist between the "no leaven" command for the grain offering and the removal of leaven during the Passover. In both cases, there is a focus on God's provision as well as remembering what God did in bringing His people from bondage to freedom. The response in both events is to remember what God has done and to thank Him for it as an act of worship.
John 6:35 reveals how Jesus used the idea of bread or grain in reference to Himself. He taught, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." This grain offering in some ways reminds us of the Bread of Life found in Jesus who serves as a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
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