It is also known as the peace offering and even the communion offering (n the sense of community). The wave offering is included here. Christ’s fulfillment of this offering has many parts, and they are all wonderful. (References: Lev. 3; 7:11-34)
As I note in many of these posts that touch on the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, the Spirit-inspired writers of the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) encourage us to read the Old Testament, particularly the priesthood and the ministry of the priests, as containing types and shadows of the substance or reality, which is Christ and his heavenly priesthood.
They [priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Heb. 8:5)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. (Heb. 10:1)
Then the author of Hebrews writes many, many verses explaining the realities of the copies and shadows. They are revealed most clearly in Jesus’s sacrifice and his priesthood in the heavenly, eternal sanctuary.
Peter explicitly makes the water of the flood during the time of Noah symbolic:
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Pet. 3:21)
Paul writes that food and festivals are but the shadow, while Christ is the substance:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)
Even the lives of the people in the OT serve as exemplary warnings for us:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11)
With their permission, so to speak, I apply their typological and symbolic method here.
For a general overview of the interrelations between the Old Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant, click on:
Many (not even close to all) elements are retained, and what is kept is improved on or streamlined.
The NIV is used, unless otherwise noted. Readers are invited to go to biblegateway.com, choose their own translation, and open another window to follow along.
Let’s use the Question and Answer format for clarity and conciseness.
What are the Scriptural background or parallels for the grain offering?
In Gen. 31:54, Isaac offered a sacrifice and invited his relatives to a meal (see Gen. 46:1).
In Exod. 10:25, Moses told Pharaoh that he must allow the Israelites to offer the burnt offering and sacrifices of a more general kind (or so it seems) (see Exod. 8:27-28).
Exod. 18:12 says: “Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.” It’s the latter sacrifice that resembles the peace / fellowship offering, because a large group was invited.
What is so distinctive about this offering?
It was a communal celebration. Families, even servants, joined in the festivities. They shared in the meal. It was “fellowship” or “communion” in the sense of community or sharing things in common. There was peace and fellowship between God and humankind, so the individual or family or community was in a state of well-being. It was the last of the offerings, after the burnt and food (grain) offerings.
In fact, the burnt, food, and peace offering are one continuous whole in Lev. 1-3.
It expresses friendship, fellowship, and peace with God, secured by the atonement offering (Kellogg, p. 82). Ps. 32:8: “They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.” When the nations are reconciled in the future, Isaiah 25:6 says: On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.”
It also secure peace among neighbors, when they are alienated. We can spiritualize this and see that we have been alienated from God, and he wanted reconciliation (see below). God invites us to sit at his table of fellowship. The worshipper had already laid his hand on the animal in identification with it, and the blood was splashed on the four sides of the altar, so he was now ready for fellowship with God. This speaks of Christ’s shed blood, which grants us access to fellowship with God (Kellogg, pp. 94-95).
What are the features of the peace / fellowship offering?
Cattle, sheep or goat could be offered, and it had to have no defect. Compare Jesus who was without sin. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15).
The animal could be male or female. This makes sense because it was a fellowship offering. Men and women could attend. Consider Gal. 3:26-28, which says: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It was used as a free expression of worship, praise or thanksgiving, so it was less regulated than the other offerings. Heb. 13:15-16 says we offer a sacrifice of praise through Jesus: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
The offerer laid one hand on it, which expresses his identification with the animal. It was not used to transfer his sin to it; otherwise a contaminated animal would be used to celebrate a joyous occasion that include an atonement. It also signifies that the animal stands in for the offerer. So we have an early form of substitutionary sacrifice.
See my post: What Is Penal Substitution?
I like to keep this section separate, since it is important. It is about blood manipulation:
The priest is to splash it on the four sides of the altar. The altar speaks of total dedication and sacrifice, and only the blood was splashed on its sides and is the access point to devotion to God. In other words, Jesus’s blood leads people to be totally dedicated and consecrated to God. Any other pathway is just a shortcut that God doesn’t accept. Jesus said he is the gate (John 10:7). Anyone who shepherds God’s flock without coming through the gate, but had climbed over the wall is a thief and robber. He is the good shepherd, and he lays down his life for the sheep, which speaks of sacrifice (John 10:14-15). Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Bottom line here: don’t listen to anyone who denies the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His shed blood applied by faith to the heart is the only way to be truly dedicated and consecrated to God.
The author of Hebrews writes of Jesus entering the heavenly tabernacle: “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). So in effect, he splashed his own blood on the eternal altar.
Rev. 6:9 says about the martyrs who are at the alter in heaven: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” If they died by the sword, then their blood was precious. Their life was in it (Lev. 17:11). Their blood was not splashed at the altar, but the symbolism does exist indirectly.
See my posts:
Next, the common people could eat the meat of the peace offering. Lev. 17:11 explains why people were not allowed to eat the blood of the sacrifice: Life of the creature is in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (v. 11). So in a sense, it was life for life. The life of the animal for the continued living of the worshiper. This prohibition was important during the peace / fellowship offering because the people ate the meat, and they could be at risk of accidentally eating the blood. The New Covenant has transposed the blood into the fruit of the vine. No one literally drank the blood of Christ, but Christians identify with his sacrifice by partaking of the substitute. Once again, Christ’s sacrificial death was all about the substitute. He stands in our place. We deserved death for our sins (Rom. 6:23), so we should have hung on the cross, but he did this in our place. And so the people could not eat the blood, for it made atonement for them.
They could not eat the fat, either. It was burnt up completely, so it was a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It’s not the physical smoke that was pleasing, but the altar symbolized complete dedication and burning away all the useless things in the believer’s life, and this pleased the Lord. It was the best part, and it went to the Lord. Rev. 8:4 says that the aroma pleasing to God is the prayers of his people. More deeply still, recall this verse: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Jesus is the pleasing aroma when God inspects our sacrifice. Jesus stands in for us, and God is pleased with our offering, because of his Son.
Typologists say burning the fat may symbolize the useless and indolent aspects of the believer. God wants to take our laziness from us and burn it up. Further the Scriptures indicate that fat and fatness represent the riches part, so only the best belongs to the Lord.
The peace offering did not make atonement as clearly as did the sin and guilt offerings, but the peace offering was associated with the sanctuary, so atonement was embedded in it to some degree. That’s why there is blood manipulation.
Recall what atonement meant.
In English the word literally means “at-one-ment,” or reconciliation, being at one with God (the -ment suffix means the “result of”). The Hebrew verb is kapar (used 102 times) and is generally translated as “to atone,” “to wipe clean,” and “to appease.” In Gen. 32:20, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to “wipe” (atone) the anger off his brother Esau’s face. The gift of the burnt offering was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, not by blood manipulation primarily (that is the sin offering), but by a gift. As it turned out, Esau was not angry because time healed his wounds, and he was prosperous. The main point, however, is that sacrifice and gifts atone for or wipe away just wrath. The sacrifice of an animal during the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13), for example, was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, by blood manipulation primarily. Then God’s judicial wrath would be lifted and he would smile on his people again. Jacob and Esau were reconciled. Either by gift or blood manipulation or handling, God and his people were reconciled.
Jewish commentators on Lev. 4:20 say that a Hebrew verb for “forgive” is salach (pronounced sah-lahkh), and it refers only to God’s forgiveness (Torah, p. 771). The forgiveness of God runs deep in NT Greek, and makes no such distinction in the Greek verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee). Humans have to forgive, as well.
See the post: What Is Biblical Forgiveness?
The NT Greek nouns are hilasmos (used twice and pronounced hih-lahss-mohss) and hilasterion (also used twice and pronounced hih-lah-stay-ree-own). The first noun appears in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and means “an atoning sacrifice, propitiation.” Propitiation means “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the sacrifice that atones for sins. Our sins destroyed and separated us from God, but the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us to God (1 John 1:6-7).
For more information, please click on this post:
To forestall objections that falsely accuse God of being primitive or petty or a child abuser, please see this post: Christ’s Death on Cross = Cosmic Child Abuse?
What was the purpose of the peace / fellowship offering?
First, it was used for the ordination of priests (Exod. 29:25).
Second, it was used at the inauguration of the tabernacle (Lev. 9:4, 18, 22).
Third, there are two major regulations in Lev. 7:11-34. Staring off, it was a thanksgiving offering, so thick bread without yeast or thin bread without yeast were included (think pita bread of sorts). Both breads were mixed with oil.
What does yeast symbolize? In Exod. 12, the Israelites were not to bake bread with yeast, because they had no time to lose, waiting for it to rise. They were to depart from their slavery in Egypt in haste. What about your personal slavery? Do you want to leave it behind you in a hurry, or do you lollygag and linger, as it entices you backwards? In some (not all) contexts, yeast is a bad thing. Jesus told his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When the disciples didn’t understand the metaphor, he told them that yeast symbolized their teaching (Matt. 16:5-6 and 11-12). Luke says the yeast of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Paul says that even a little yeast leavens (or rises) the entire loaf, which in context speaks of a negative influence, which we are to get rid of (1 Cor. 5:6-7; Gal. 5:9).
Now what does the bread symbolize? As I noted in other posts in the Leviticus series, the basic function of bread was to nourish the body. And in the context of the tabernacle, the bread was sacred or holy. Jesus turned this basic function into a spiritual and holy purpose.
First, in the next verses in John 4 the food–literally bread–is the will of God. He said these next words in the context of ministering to the Samaritan woman, who repented. Then many Samaritans were converted to Jesus.
34 “My food [bread],” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Doing the will of God is the right food, and this food is about the harvest and reaping souls. Harvest and reaping is the first work so that souls can be nourished with the bread of heaven.
Second, let’s build on the idea that sacred bread from heaven nourishes the soul. After feeding the five thousand with bread and fish, Jesus said:
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:32-35)
Then he added a lesson about his body and blood:
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)
He expands on this idea by contrasting Manna (Exod. 16; Num. 11:4-35) in the wilderness with his being the bread that lasts:
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Many interpreters say the bread imagery includes the Eucharist or Communion bread, because it is all about feasting on the person and Spirit of Jesus, and then they shall live forever. However, as we shall see below, the bread at the Lord’s Table (Communion or Eucharist) is never explained to allow the partaker to live forever, unless one imports a prior belief of a miracle into the bread eaten at the Last Supper.
Further, Jesus did not say here in John 6 that his body was literal bread, but this is metaphorical language for intimacy and lifelong connection to him. Only daily life in Christ and walking in the Spirit can do that, not a doctrine that mystifies literal bread at the Eucharist or Communion.
Third, speaking of the Eucharist or Communion, Jesus here takes the bread and breaks it and distributes it.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22)
It is about the bread in the Holy Place in the sanctuary being symbolic of New Testament truth that Christ is the bread of heaven. And in this case Paul guides us clearly in Col. 2:17, which says that eating and drinking is a mere shadow, but the substance is in Christ. Therefore, we can symbolize things from the Old to the New Testaments.
What does oil symbolize? Let’s do a quick review of oil and its symbolic meaning of anointing and the Spirit.
Oil speaks of the sacred anointing for consecrating the priests (Exod. 29:7; 30:22-33).
Next, Samuel took a flask of oil and anointed first Saul (1 Sam. 10:1) and then David (1 Sam. 16:1) to be kings. In 11 Sam. 6:3, we read: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (see Ps. 89:20). In Ps. 23:5, David proclaimed that God anointed his head with oil.
Heb. 1:9 says that God anointed his Son Jesus with the “oil of joy.”
Mark 6:13 says Jesus anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. James 5:14 says oil was used to anoint the sick.
In Luke 4:18 Jesus said God has anointed him to carry out the ministry of God. Acts 10:38 says God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Paul said that God anointed them (2 Cor. 1:21). “Christ” means “the Anointed One.”
We, God’s New Covenant people, also have an anointing from the Holy One, who will guide his people to the truth (1 John 2:20, 27). The Holy One is the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
From these verses oil came to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Oil, the anointing, and the Spirit are linked. Being in Christ, we are all anointed by the Spirit.
Next, the second regulation says that the meat had to be eaten on the day it was offered. This was a good idea before refrigeration.
Fourth, there were three kinds of peace / fellowship offering, subdividing into the thanksgiving offering, eaten on the first day; and the votive and free will peace offerings, eaten on the first and second days (Lev. 7:11-18).
If the meat touched anything unclean it was to be burned. This indicates that unclean things could not be mixed in with peace and fellowship.
Incidentally, the votive offering was associated with making a promissory vow to the Lord, to get his help in a difficult situation. The one who made the vow was responsible to pay it (Lev. 27:2-13; Deut. 23:21-23). One could make the vow of either a burnt offering or a peace offering (Lev. 22:18-23). And a freewill offering was sometimes offered with the votive (Lev. 22:18-25; 23:38).
The free will offering could be offered on any occasion to worship (e.g. Ezek. 46:12).
What about the priestly portion of the peace / fellowship offering?
This section comes from Lev. 7:28-38.
The breast of the animal was lifted up (or heaved) and waved before the Lord. It was go to the priests and their families. Lev. 10:14-15 suggests that the priest literally waved the offering back and forth before the Lord. It was a conspicuous or visible act to draw attention towards the gratitude of the offerer. However, “waving” could just mean “presenting” before the Lord. Why? Aaron, the first high priest, “waved the Levites as a wave offering before the Lord” (Num. 8:11). He did not literally pick them up and wave them. The heart of the action was to present the gift, the priests, before the Lord, not the ritual gesture itself.
This worship gesture may be indicated by this verse: “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8). Our wave offering is to lift our hands and praise God.
Further, Father God fulfills the lifting and waving requirement in his Son, who had willingly sacrificed himself on the cross. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:32-33). Then he ascended to the Father’s right hand. “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Eph. 4:10). And “therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess”(Heb. 4:14).
However, if restrictive interpreters don’t like this symbolism of the wave offering = lifted up = Christ being lifted up on the cross, then recall the other interpretation. It signifies a very special offering. And no offering is more special than Christ on the cross.
The second portion that belonged to the priest was the right thigh, which was the “tribute” or “contribution offering.” Only the priest who officiated in the presentation or wave or lifting up and his family got this portion, not the priests generally. The term could literally be translated as “to set aside as a special gift” (e.g. Lev. 4:8-10, 31, 35; 22:15; Num. 15:19-21). Thus this offering became generalized to any portion for the use of the priests (Num 5:9; 15:19-21; 18:8, 19: Deut. 12:6, 11, 17; 2 Chron. 31:10, 12, 14). For example, it could refer to the grain offering portions that accompanied the peace offering that went to the priests (Lev. 7:14); the wave offering for the priests (Num. 18:11-19); the tithes of to the Levites and priests (Num. 24-29); and the booty that went to the priests (31:29, 41, 52). So, in other words, this offering was a catch-all, in case the other five offering (burnt, grain, fellowship / peace, sin, guilt) did not cover all the needs of the temple and the people who felt the need to give outside of those five.
A review and preview of the five main offerings:
Burnt offering: full surrender of the worshiper symbolized by the victim animal to God, and full surrender and consecration must come before fellowship with God;
Grain offering: consecration to God of the fruit of his labors; people are at rest in Christ;
Peace / fellowship offering: sustenance of life from God’s table and peace with God; Fellowship offering: joy and fellowship with God and humans; humanity needs fellowship with God
Sin offering: expiation of sin by the shedding of blood; it is beneficial for the Israelite worship to have his sins forgiven. The animals stands in for him.
Guilt offering: expiation of sins even for sins a man may not know he committed; providing an Israelite a way of ridding himself of guilt benefits him psychologically. Sometimes he is also responsible for restitution.
How does Jesus fulfill the peace / fellowship offering?
Let’s speak about the names fellowship / peace.
First, his sacrifice established peace between the human and God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom. 5:1-2). We don’t need the temple complex to have peace and fellowship with God.
Second, the fellowship / peace offering speaks of a community offering and the enjoyment of the meal together. In the earliest Christian community, they had fellowship, as seen in this passage:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Jesus himself is our peace, and he broke down the dividing wall that divided the two huge classes of people: Jew and Gentile:
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-18)
Jesus, in his flesh (on the cross) set aside all the commands and regulations, with the purpose of creating one new humanity out of two, thus making peace. Now we can have fellowship with each other.
How does this post help me grow in Christ?
We have peace with God, so we can enter into fellowship with him and each other.
In my post about fellowship, I wrote out the list of “one another” verses. Here are some of them:
Live in harmony with another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Pet. 3:8)
Accept one another (Rom. 15:7)
Each member of the body belongs to one another (Rom. 12:5)
Share with one another (2 Cor. 8:7, 13-15)
Serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13)
Carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
Be kind to one another (Eph. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:15)
Forgive one another (Eph. 4:32)
Love one another (John 13:34; 15:12-17; Col. 3:14; 1 John 4:11-12)
Live in peace with one another (1 Thess. 5:13)
Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
Please see my post What Is Fellowship? for more of the list.
In God’s new temple, we are being fitted together to become the dwelling place of God himself, by his Spirit.
You are … fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22).
We are like living stones, and as a holy priesthood we offer spiritual sacrifices:
4 As you come to him, the living Stone [Jesus]—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:4-5)
God has gone global, no longer confined to Israel. He does not need the old temple. We are now the temple, where his presence dwells.
Now we have peace and fellowship through Christ, not by the blood of animals.
The Fellowship Offering from a NT Perspective
At that link, look for DOTP.