Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
What is the significance of the meal offering (Lev. 2)?
Compared to the sacrificial offerings mentioned in Leviticus, the meal offering is unique in that it was a bloodless one. A study of the Levitical instructions on how to offer it will help us understand its meaning and theological implications.
1. Nature of the Offering. The Hebrew term minkhah means “gift, tribute,” given to a superior as an act of homage or gratitude (e.g., Gen. 32:14, 19; 1 Sam. 26:19). It also designates a grain or animal offering (Judges 6:18, 19; 1 Sam. 2:15-17). In Leviticus it is a technical term for a voluntary “grain offering,” brought uncooked (Lev. 2:1-3) or cooked (verses 4-10, 14, 15) as an act of homage to the covenant Lord. If uncooked, it was made of semolina wheat accompanied by olive oil and frankincense, symbols of blessings, joy, and dedication to God (Deut. 11:14; Isa. 61:3; Ps. 141:2). The priest would burn on the altar a handful of the semolina mixed with oil and frankincense as a memorial. The flour could be baked as a thick cake (Lev. 2:4) or prepared as thin wafers. Other possibilities were to cook it on a flat pan as a type of pancake (verse 6; cf. Lev. 1:6) or to deep-fry it in a covered pan (verse 7). The last type of cooked grain offering consisted of the first harvest of barley (verse 14; cf. Ex. 9:31). The green head of the grain was roasted, oil added to it, and frankincense placed on it.
2. Meaning. Here are a few reflections on this offering. First, the offering was an act of joyful gratitude, homage, and adoration to the covenant Lord. It recognized that God was the Lord of His people, and that He provided abundantly for them. The portion burned on the altar, called a “memorial” (Lev. 2:2), was not only a token representing the full offering, but also an act of remembrance, signifying that His people had not forgotten the goodness of the Lord.
Second, it was considered “an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (verse 2, NIV); that is, when God smelled the offering He not only accepted it, but He also accepted the worshipper as a covenant partner, not as an enemy. The use of salt reaffirmed the idea of the permanency and the importance of preserving the covenant relationship (verse 13).
Third, the uncooked flour, offered unaltered by humans, expressed God’s goodness. The cooked flour showed the willingness of worshipers to consecrate their work and service to God.
Fourth, the exclusion of leaven and honey, symbols of death and sin (see 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Matt. 16:6, 11), suggests that God did not want any fermenting agents to spiritually alter His followers’ relationship with Him.
Fifth, since this was a vegetarian meal, it has been suggested that perhaps this offering referenced humanity’s original vegetarian diet (Gen. 1:29, 30). In that case, it would point back to the human diet in Eden and point forward to the peaceful coexistence of humans and animals in the future (e.g., Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25).
Finally, since this is about grain from which bread is made, it reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life who nurtures our spiritual lives and preserves our physical existence (John 6:35). We should honor Him as Lord of our lives.