Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Leviticus 6:8-15, 23-25, 30
8. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
8. Loquutus est etiam Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:
9. Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.
9. Praecipe Aharon et filiis ejus, dicendo, Haec est lex holocausti, (holocaustum est, quod aduritur super altare tota nocte usque mane, ubi ignis altari accensus fuerit in eo.)
10. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar.
10. Induet se sacerdos veste linen, femoralibus item lineis induct se super carnem suam, tolletque cinerem quum absumpserit ignis holocaustum ex altari, et ponet eum secus altare.
11. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.
11. Postea exuet se vestibus suis, et induet se vestibus allis, efferetque cinerem extra castra ad locum mundam.
12. And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings.
12. Et ignis super altare ardebit in eo, non extinguetur, et accendet in eo sacerdos ligna quotidie mane, et disponet super illud victimam holocausti, adolebitque super illud adipes prosperitatum.
13. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
13. Ignis perpetuo ardebit in altari, non extinguetur.
14. And this is the law of the meat offering: The sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
14. Ista est lex minha quam offerent filii Aharon coram Jehova ad altare.
15. And he shall take of it his handful, of the flour of the meat offering, and of the oil thereof, and all the frankincense which is upon the meat offering, and shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour, even the memorial of it, unto the LORD.
15. Tollet ex ea pugillo suo ex simila minha, et oleo ejus, et totum thus quod erit super minha: adolebitque super altare odorem quietis odorem ejus apud Jehovam.
23. For every meat offering for the priest shall be wholly burnt: it shall not be eaten.
23. Omnis minha sacerdotis tota eremabitur, non comedetur.
24. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:
25. Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.
25. Alloquere Aharon et filios ejus, dicendo, Ista eat lex hostile pro peccato, In loco in quo mactabitur hostia holocausti mactabitur hostia pro peccato coram Jehova, quia sanctificatio sanctificationum est.
30. And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire.
30. Omnis autem hostia pro peccato, de cujus sanguine inferetur aliquid in tabernaculum conventionis, ad expiandum in sanctuario non comedetur, igni comburetur.
9. Command Aaron and his sons. He more distinctly explains what might have appeared to be omitted; nor is it without reason that he carefully enters into these full details, for since God prefers obedience to all sacrifices, he was unwilling that anything should remain doubtful as to the external rites, which were not otherwise of great importance; that they might learn to observe precisely, and with the most exact care, whatever the Law commanded, and that they should not obtrude anything of themselves, inasmuch as the purity of the holy things was corrupted by the very smallest invention. He would, therefore, leave nothing to the people’s judgment, but directed them by a fixed rule even in the most trifling matters. As to the burnt-offerings, he commands that they should not be taken away from the altar till they were consumed by the fire; but after they were put on, he commands them to be burnt in a constant fire till the morrow. With this intent, he expressly says, that the fire should be kept alight on the altar all the night, since the sacrifices would not have been reduced to ashes without the application of fuel. Secondly, he commands the priest, clothed in the linen garment, and breeches, as he was wont to be in the performance of his sacred duties, to go to the altar, and to take away the ashes and put them by the side, or at some part of the altar; but when he shall have gone away from the altar, he bids him take off his holy garments, and carry the ashes out of the camp to a clean place. But what he had before briefly adverted to as to the supply of wood, he immediately declares more fully to be, lest the fire should go out. Again, he assigns to the priest the office of setting the wood in order every morning. But, because in the sacrifices 275 of prosperities the Law commanded the fat only to be burnt, Moses now adds, verse 12, that the fat was to be burnt on the same fire. It is worthy of particular observation, that he finally subjoins a precept as to so keeping up the fire that it may never go out.
The intent of this perpetuity was, that the offerings should be burnt with heavenly fire; for on the day that Aaron was consecrated, the sacrifice was reduced to ashes not by human means but miraculously, in token of approbation. True that God did not choose daily to exert this power; but He interposed the hand and labor of men in such a manner that the origin of the sacred fire should still be from heaven. The same thing afterwards happened at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, because that alteration of the divine decree demanded a sign (tesseram,) lest any should think that it was at the will of man that the splendor of the temple should outvie the tabernacle. Finally, the sacrifice of Elijah was graced by the same privilege when he restored the abolished legal service; and then also God upheld what He had ordained in His Law, in opposition to all corrupt and degenerate rites. Meanwhile, in order to prevent any adulterations, He chose to have the fire continually burning on the altar day and night, nor was it allowable to take it from elsewhere. There was, indeed, amongst the Persians 276 a perpetual fire, and at Rome also under the guardianship of the Vestal virgins; 277 and it may be, that in foolish mimicry they transferred to themselves the custom which they had heard of being observed by the Jews; for thus it is that, for the purpose of deceiving unbelievers, the devil often falsely makes a pretense of something divine, and imitates God just as an ape imitates man: but the purpose of God in rejecting strange fire was to retain the people in His own genuine ordinance prescribed by the Law, lest any inventions of men should insinuate themselves; for the prohibition of strange fire was tantamount to forbidding men to introduce anything of their own, or to add to the pure doctrine of the Law, or to decline from its rule. Meanwhile, since God had once testified, as if by stretching forth His hand from heaven (to receive them, 278 ) that the sacrifices were acceptable to Him, believers were confirmed in their confidence of this by the pledge of the perpetual fire.
14. And this is the Law of the meat-offering. We have already seen that there were various kinds of this offering; now, the cakes or wafers are omitted, 279 and mention is only made of uncooked flour, whereof God commands that the priest should burn on the altar as much as his hand could hold. But this law was necessary in order that believers might be fully assured that God was propitiated by the due offering of this part, and that none might complain because the greater portion remained with the priests. Lest, however, the dignity of the sacrifice should be impaired, it was only permitted to the priests to make unleavened bread of it, which they were to eat in the sanctuary, as we have seen elsewhere. The meat-offering of the priests is excepted, which I conceive to be for two reasons, — first, that the excellency and dignity of their gift, honored as it was by special privilege, might stimulate the priests to greater efforts of piety, so as not to exercise themselves in God’s service in a common and perfunctory manner; secondly, that they might be thus restrained from the affectation of offering it too frequently. For if it only cost them a little flour, a door was opened to vain ostentation; they would have never ceased offering their 280 minha, the profit of which returned to themselves; perhaps they might even have made a trade of it, as we see the Popish sacrificers entice the simple populace to profuse expenditure in offerings by the pomp of their fictitious devotion. Lest, therefore, they should cause their immoderate oblations to minister both to their vainglory and avarice, God willed that their meat-offering should be entirely consumed.
25. Speak unto Aaron. We everywhere see how carefully God provided that the people should have no doubts about anything. And assuredly true religion is distinguished from false imaginations by this peculiar mark, that God Himself prescribes what is to be done. Nor can certainty, though religion ought to be based upon it, be derived elsewhere than from His own mouth. Now, because there was a difference between burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, it would have been natural to kill them separately in different, places, unless the error had been anticipated; but all doubt, is removed when God assigns the same place to them both. Whence, too, we gather that one law suffices for the proper worship of God, if men are not wise in their own conceits, but depend on His mouth. For how came it to pass that, whilst these two kinds of oblations differed from each other, the rule respecting them was the same on this point, except because it so pleased God? This passage, therefore, sufficiently reminds us with how great sober-mindedness and modesty it becomes us to follow what is pointed out to us in God’s word. A reason, however, is at the same time added, which may invite reverence to be paid to the sin-offerings, when especial sanctity is attributed to them, which, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, is called “holiness of holinesses.” Moreover, Moses begins to distinguish between חטאה, chateah, 281 and אשם, asham, which the Latins translate peccatum, and delictum, though he had before used them indifferently to express the same thing. What the difference was, I confess, I know not; I see the guesses of others, but nothing certain.
30. And no sin-offering. The exception is repeated both with reference to the sacrifices mentioned in the fourth chapter, and also to the solemn sacrifice, whereby the priest and the people were reconciled every year: for private persons individually atoned for their sins at less expense, and only the greater altar, which stood in the court, was sprinkled with blood; but if the priest reconciled God to the whole people, or to himself, in order that the intercession might be more efficacious, he entered the sanctuary to pour out blood on the opposite side of the veil. God now again commands that such victims should be entirely burnt. This passage, then, is nothing but a confirmation of the others in which a like command is given. Hence the Apostle, in an apt allusion, infers that the distinction of meats is abolished; for he says that the minor altar, which under the Law was hidden, is now laid open to us, (Heb 13:10,) and therefore we no longer eat of the legal sacrifices; yea, forasmuch as our One Priest has brought His blood into the sanctuary, it only remains for us to go forth with Him without the camp.
Or peace-offerings, vide supra, p. 105.
“The Persians regarded with reverence the sun and every kind of fire. The fire continually kept alive in their temples, was considered as sacred. It had been kindled from fire, which Zoroaster pretended to have brought down from heaven. It was fed by a particular kind of wood, and was supposed to be polluted even by the breath of those who approached it.” — Hill’s Essays on Ancient Greece, Essay 20. The sacred fire was kept alive even in their marches. — Curt, 3 3; Ammian Marcel., 23:6.
“Virgines Vestales in urbe custodiunto ignem loci publici sempiternum.” — Cicero de Legg. 2:8.
Added from Fr.
“Omettant les gasteux, et les tourtes, et bignets, tant cuits au four que frits;” omitting the cakes, and the tarts, and fritters, both cooked in the oven and fried. — Fr.
“Leurs belles parades.” — Fr.
A. V., “The sin-offering and the trespass-offering.” Michaelis has affirmed that the former was a sacrifice for sins of commission, and the latter for sins of omission: but the Hebrew lexicographer, J. Simons, has observed that this distinction is by no means compatible with the text in all instances. Professor James Robertson, “Clavis Pentat.,” in a note on Le 4:3, gives other opinions about the distinction, but expresses himself as most approving of that which supposes the first to be an offering for offenses against the First Table of the Decalogue: the second for those against the Second Table. — W.