Vayikra/”And He Called”, Leviticus 1:1-6:7 is the opening portion of the book of Leviticus. Out of the 5 Books of the Torah, it is interesting that Leviticus seems to be the hardest to relate to addressing subjects that we are so far removed from, yet it’s the heart (middle) of the Torah! In fact it contains 40% of all of the Torah’s commandments. Where Genesis and Exodus give a historical narrative and cover how Israel comes about and is chosen, Leviticus now reveals how to be in relationship with Yahweh. The key to this relationship revolves around the function and the care of not only the Tabernacle – but of the sacrificial system!
Vayikra spends the entire portion addressing just this – the types of sacrifices. Five are detailed here: Olah, Minchah, Shelamim, Chatat, & Asham. Yet in our society today, being so distanced from these concepts, it’s very difficult to address the role of the sacrificial system, usually content to assume it’s done away with due to the role of Messiah. Yet Ezekiel makes it clear that even in the Millennial Kingdom the sacrificial system will be in place. We also find Daniel prophesying of the key role of the sacrificial system in the plan of the Anti-messiah who will shut down the morning and evening oblations as an affront to the Most High.
The question then becomes, what is so important about these rituals? What was taking place when Israel came to the altar with their offerings?
Leviticus 1:1 – 3
Called: Strong’s #7121 qara’ קָרָאto call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim; yet it can also infer to invite (as to invite to a meal), to summon, and specifically to call by name
*Names were extremely important in the ancient culture – an understanding that we have lost in our society today. For someone to know your name it indicated that they then had power over you and it entailed a certain kind of relationship. It opens up the possibility of, in fact admits a desire for a certain intimacy in the relationship! A relationship without the intimacy of names indicates distance.
So by using this terminology to introduce the offerings it reveals that they are in fact the key to this relationship! When Yahweh qara – calls them by name, it indicated that He was voicing His desire for a higher level of intimacy and communication with Israel. And to answer to this call would indicate that Israel was willing to submit to His power and authority in their life.
*It’s no accident that this phrase in the Hebrew Vayikra ויקראis written with a diminished א on the end! The Aleph represents the strong one, the head, and self. Immediately the message being sent was that to answer the summons/the call would require a diminishment of self, of your own strength!
With the removal of the אwe’re left with the root yaqar יָקַר(#3365-3368) meaning something valuable, costly, rare, or precious, indicates a high evaluation put upon something. In other words, if Israel was tenacious enough to answer the call, knowing they themselves would be made small, they would access something rare and precious and valuable! John 3:30– “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The amazing thing though is that Yahweh is not requiring anything of Israel that He has not already done Himself! He calls them by name (indicating a level of power and authority over them if they choose to answer), yet He’s already revealed His name to them and in fact entrusted them with the keeping of His Name! From the ancient mindset, they would have understood that by the revealing of His name He was choosing to make Himself vulnerable to them!
Because of this the 3rdof the 10 Commandments says “Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh thy Elohim in vain; for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” – Exodus 20:7
Vain: Strong’s #7723 Shav’ שָׁוְאemptiness, vanity, falsehood, nothingness, worthlessness, deception, without result, fraud, or deceit
*Breaking it apart – ש = to destroy, ו= connection, link, & א = yourself! Israel was to be the keepers of The NAME (Character, Power, Image, Essence of who Yahweh is) yet we take His name in vain and make it empty, worthless, and ineffective (without result) when we destroy the link/the connection that to truly be one who is a “keeper of His name” we must decrease, we must give ourselves!
This is why everything in the Torah seems to be pointing to this central book of Leviticus and the sacrificial system! It’s the key!
In Lev. 1:2 – “If any man of you bring an offering unto Yahweh…” – this verse in the Hebrew if this is the true translation (and if it was following the normal rules of grammar) should read “adam mikem ki yakriv” but it doesn’t! In the Hebrew the phrase is “adam ki yakriv mikem” – it literally is saying “when one offers a sacrifice of you!”
The essence of sacrifice is that we offer ourselves! The physical form of sacrifice – an animal on the altar – is only an external manifestation of an inner act. The real sacrifice is mikem “of you”. We give Yahweh something of ourselves!
Romans 12:1– “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
In the same way that it is the altar that makes the sacrifice holy, so it is the presence of the Name of Yahweh written upon the Scroll that makes it a holy book. Therefore if Israel was to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16), the only way to take something mundane and ordinary was to put it on the altar or to place His name upon them! So He teaches Israel the proper way to come before Him, He allows the substitute of the animal sacrifice but uses it to teach us it was symbolic of you and I! At the same time, He allows Himself to be exposed and vulnerable by placing His NAME upon them!
To continue to build upon this, we must properly define the term offering: Strong’s #7133 qorban קָרְבָּןoffering, oblation, sacrifice; the first use of this term is here Lev. 1! From the English translations of this word, offering/sacrifice have associations of pain entailed in giving up something of value, the emphasis is placed on loss. Yet this couldn’t be farther from the meaning in the Hebrew!
*From the root qarab #7126 קָרַבto come near, to approach, enter into, and to draw near – qorban (offering) literally means the drawing near!
When we’re commanded to give a qorban our emphasis should not be focusing on the loss of something of value, if so we’ve completely missed it!
The emphasis instead is on the fact that we’ve been called by name by the GREAT I AM and we’re now being given an opportunity to draw near to Him! The one who dedicated a qorban found a greater reward in a closer, more powerful connection with Yahweh – what was given paled in comparison to what was gained!
What is being conveyed is that the object and purpose of the qorban was the attainment of something higher – the individual desiring that something of himself should come closer to the Almighty, that is what qorban is! When was the last time this was our focus?
Now let’s take a look at the specific animals mentioned as an appropriate offering.
Cattle: Strong’s #929 behemah בְּהֵמָהbeast, animal, cattle; from an unused root probably meaning to be mute
*3 letter root forms #1993 hamah הָמָֽהto murmur, to cry aloud, clamorous, tumult, uproar, to make noise; it’s basic renderings are a strong emotional response, indicates the murmurings of one’s soul in distress, or the restlessness of the human heart.
This term is also used in Psalm 55:17– “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud (hamah): and he shall hear my voice.”
*David speaks of crying out and praying 3 times a day…this corresponds to the daily prayers (Amidah) 3 times a day, which corresponded with the schedule of the daily sacrifices/offerings in the Temple!
Breaking it apart the first part forms בהם (bahem) “in them” and attached to the end is the letter ה, which means to reveal, a picture of a window – tying all this together, the offering of the behemah seems to be directly connected to the emotional aspect of an individual. Emotions were built into us, they’re considered one aspect of our soul! It’s this strong emotional response to the presence of the Living GOD that causes us to reach out and desire to draw near! It’s our emotions that actually reveal, act as a window, in us (“in them”) that indicate to Yahweh our intentions as we approach!
When we take away the emotions completely, we are likened unto one who has become mute (behemah) – there’s nothing being revealed!
Yet we find when left just to our emotions, we can become unbalanced. Our emotions can leave us in a state of tumult, distress, restlessness, and we become likened unto the crashing of the waves! So Yahweh balances this with the other aspects of what makes up our very being and the other offerings that teach us how to draw near to Him with each aspect of our nature/character/being!
*As a side note, from a Hebraic mindset there are 5 levels/aspects of the soul (nefesh – instincts, ruach – emotions, neshamah – mind, chayah – bridge, yechidah – oneness) interesting because there are 5 sacrifices brought – hmm…could it be that it was teaching us Yahweh desires for us to use each aspect that makes up who we are to draw close to Him and it’s only when we are balanced in doing so that you then see His Presence in the camp?
Let’s look at the next suitable offering. Herd: Strong’s #1241 baqar בָּקָרcattle, herd, oxen, ox; from #1239 baqar בָּקַרto seek, enquire, consider, to look for, to cleave open – plowing; the sense of asking, inquiring, to look at, inspect, contemplate with the mind, to think on
*Where Behemah/Cattle seems to focus on the emotions of man drawing close and their role in this, this term baqar/herd focuses on the intellectual aspect of man (mind or neshamah)!
When left to just our emotions we become susceptible to getting worked up, so it becomes balanced with the intellectual side where we must inspect, inquire, look into, and contemplate who it is we’re approaching and how it is we’re to approach! Yet the intellectual aspect devoid of any emotion causes us to miss the heart of why we’re approaching, and we in effect become mute! There’s no way to voice our desire to draw near when He calls us by name.
Flock: Strong’s #6629 tso’n צֹאןsmall cattle, sheep, goats, flocks; from an unused root meaning to migrate; cognate of Zion צִיּוֹן(#6726) which coincidentally is a horticultural term for the grafting place – could it be the focus is on the grafting together of all these aspects of who we are and choosing to draw near to Yahweh with the very essence of who we are? And this is what is now offered up?
It’s important to note that this intimate relationship revolves around Israel coming to the altar with this offering. The altar when looking at the pattern of the Tabernacle/Temple built in the form of a man represents the feet of the man!
A beautiful picture begins to unfold here – Israel coming to the feet of her husband.
The main scenario associated when dealing with the feet is the washing of the feet and is seen multiple times in Scripture. The washing of the feet in Rabbinical literature was a service which the wife was expected to render to her husband (Yer. Ket. v30a) it was one of the personal attentions to which her husband was entitled no matter how many maids she may have had. Likewise according to the Talmud besides preparing his drink and bed, the wife had to wash her husband’s face and feet.
*Hmm…perhaps we can now better understand the ritual and symbolism of Ruth coming and uncovering the feet of Boaz – she is coming to the altar of the Tabernacle Man responding and voicing her desire for a Covenantal relationship!
And again in the New Testament we see the same scenario – the harlot coming to anoint and wash the feet of Yeshua – the Tabernacle Man – she comes to the altar!
She fulfills the pattern and follows the protocol of what was expected all along, she offers herself – all that she is – up at the altar, at the feet of the one who was represented by the very Tabernacle itself!
John 12:3– “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.”
Leviticus 1:9– “…and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto Yahweh.”
*When was the last time our offerings/our worship was so focused on drawing near to the one who had called us that there was a sweet aroma that filled the house?
Psalm 103:1– “Bless Yahweh, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”