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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 2

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


The meat-offering of flour with oil and incense, 1-3.

The oblation of the meat-offering baked in the oven and in

the pan, 4-6.

The meat-offering baked in the frying-pan, 7-10.

No leaven nor honey to be offered with the meat-offering, 11.

The oblation of the first-fruits, 12.

Salt to be offered with the meat offering, 13.

Green ears dried by the fire, and corn to be beaten out of

full ears, with oil and frankincense, to be offered as a

meat-offering of first-fruits, 14-16.


Verse Leviticus 2:1. Meat-offering — מנחה minchah. For an explanation of this word Genesis 4:3, and Lev. vii. Calmet has remarked that there are five kinds of the minchah mentioned in this chapter.

1. סלת soleth, simple flour or meal, Leviticus 2:1.

2. Cakes and wafers, or whatever was baked in the oven, Leviticus 2:4.

3. Cakes baked in the pan, Leviticus 2:5.

4. Cakes baked on the frying-pan, or probably, a gridiron, Leviticus 2:7.

5. Green ears of corn parched, Leviticus 2:14.

All these were offered without honey or leaven, but accompanied with wine, oil, and frankincense. It is very likely that the minchah, in some or all of the above forms, was the earliest oblation offered to the Supreme Being, and probably was in use before sin entered into the world, and consequently before bloody sacrifices, or piacular victims, had been ordained. The minchah of green ears of corn dried by the fire, c., was properly the gratitude-offering for a good seed time, and the prospect of a plentiful harvest. This appears to have been the offering brought by Cain, Genesis 4:3

Genesis 4:3. The flour, whether of wheat, rice, barley, rye, or any other grain used for aliment, was in all likelihood equally proper; for in Numbers 5:15, we find the flour of barley, or barley meal, is called minchah. It is plain that in the institution of the minchah no animal was here included, though in other places it seems to include both kinds; but in general the minchah was not a bloody offering, nor used by way of atonement or expiation, but merely in a eucharistic way, expressing gratitude to God for the produce of the soil. It is such an offering as what is called natural religion might be reasonably expected to suggest: but alas! so far lost is man, that even thankfulness to God for the fruits of the earth must be taught by a Divine revelation; for in the heart of man even the seeds of gratitude are not found, till sown there by the hand of Divine grace.

Offerings of different kinds of grain, flour, bread, fruits, c., are the most ancient among the heathen nations and even the people of God have had them from the beginning of the world. See this subject largely discussed on Exodus 23:29, where several examples are given. Ovid intimates that these gratitude-offerings originated with agriculture. "In the most ancient times men lived by rapine, hunting, c., for the sword was considered to be more honourable than the plough but when they sowed their fields, they dedicated the first-fruits of their harvest to Ceres, to whom the ancients attributed the art of agriculture, and to whom burnt-offerings of corn were made, according to immemorial usages." The passage to which I refer, and of which I have given the substance, is the following: -

"Non habuit tellus doctos antiqua colonos:

Lassabant agiles aspera bella viros.

Plus erat in gladio quam curvo laudis aratro:

Neglectus domino pauca ferebat ager.

Farra tamen veteres jaciebant, farra metebant:

Primitias Cereri farra resecta dabant.

Usibus admoniti flammis torrenda dedere:

Multaque peccato damna tulere suo."

FASTOR., lib. ii., ver. 515.

Pliny observes that "Numa taught the Romans to offer fruits to the gods, and to make supplications before them, bringing salt cakes and parched corn; as grain in this state was deemed most wholesome." Numa instituit deos FRUGE colere, et MOLA SALSA supplicare, atque (ut auctor est Hemina) far torrere, quoniam tostum cibo salubrius esset. - HIST. NAT. lib xviii., c. 2. And it is worthy of remark, that the ancient Romans considered "no grain as pure or proper for divine service that had not been previously parched." Id uno modo consecutum, statuendo non esse purum ad rem divinam nisi tostum. - Ibid.

God, says Calmet, requires nothing here which was not in common use for nourishment; but he commands that these things should be offered with such articles as might give them the most exquisite relish, such as salt, oil, and wine, and that the flour should be of the finest and purest kind. The ancients, according to Suidas, seem to have made much use or meal formed into a paste with milk, and sometimes with water. (See Suidas in Μαζα.) The priests kept in the temples a certain mixture of flour mingled with oil and wine, which they called υγιεια Hugieia or health, and which they used as a kind of amulet or charm against sickness; after they had finished their sacrifices, they generally threw some flour upon the fire, mingled with oil and wine, which they called θυληματα thulemata, and which, according to Theophrastus, was the ordinary sacrifice of the poor.

Verse 2

Verse Leviticus 2:2. His handful of the flour — This was for a memorial, to put God in mind of his covenant with their fathers, and to recall to their mind his gracious conduct towards them and their ancestors. Mr. Ainsworth properly remarks, "that there was neither oil nor incense offered with the sin and jealousy offerings; because they were no offerings of memorial, but such as brought iniquities to remembrance, which were neither gracious nor sweet-smelling before the Lord." Numbers 5:15; Leviticus 5:11.

In this case a handful only was burnt, the rest was reserved for the priest's use; but all the frankincense was burnt, because from it the priest could derive no advantage.

Verse 4

Verse Leviticus 2:4. Baken in the oven — תנור tannur, from נר nar, to split, divide, says Mr. Parkhurst; and hence the oven, because of its burning, dissolving, and melting heat.

Verse 5

Verse Leviticus 2:5. Baken in a pan — מחבת machabath, supposed to be a flat iron plate, placed over the fire; such as is called a griddle in some countries.

Verse 7

Verse Leviticus 2:7. The frying-pan — מרחשת marchesheth, supposed to be the same with that called by the Arabs a ta-jen, a shallow earthen vessel like a frying-pan, used not only to fry in, but for other purposes. On the different instruments, as well as the manner of baking in the east, Mr. Harmer, in his observations on select passages of Scripture, has collected the following curious information.

"Dr. Shaw informs us that in the cities and villages of Barbary, there are public ovens, but that among the Bedouins, who live in tents, and the Kabyles, who live in miserable hovels in the mountains, their bread, made into thin cakes, is baked either immediately upon the coals, or else in a ta-jen, which he tells us is a shallow earthen vessel like a frying-pan: and then cites the Septuagint to show that the supposed pan, mentioned Leviticus 2:5, was the same thing as a ta-jen. The ta-jen, according to Dr. Russel, is exactly the same among the Bedouins as the ρηγανον, a word of the same sound as well as meaning, was among the Greeks. So the Septuagint, Leviticus 2:5: if thy oblation be a meat-offering, baken in a pan, (απο τηγανου), it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil.

"This account given by the doctor is curious; but as it does not give us all the eastern ways of baking, so neither does it furnish us, I am afraid, with a complete comment on that variety of methods of preparing the meat-offerings which is mentioned by Moses in Leviticus 2:1-16. So long ago as Queen Elizabeth's time, Rauwolff observed that travellers frequently baked bread in the deserts of Arabia on the ground, heated for that purpose by fire, covering their cakes of bread with ashes and coals, and turning them several times until they were baked enough; but that some of the Arabians had in their tents, stones, or copper plates, made on purpose for baking. Dr. Pococke very lately made a like observation, speaking of iron hearths used for baking their bread.

"Sir John Chardin, mentioning the several ways of baking their bread in the east, describes these iron plates as small and convex. These plates are most commonly used, he tells us, in Persia, and among the wandering people that dwell in tents, as being the easiest way of baking, and done with the least expense; the bread being as thin as a skin, and soon prepared. Another way (for he mentions four) is by baking on the hearth. That bread is about an inch thick; they make no other all along the Black Sea from the Palus Maeotis to the Caspian Sea, in Chaldea, and in Mesopotamia, except in towns. This, he supposes, is owing to their being woody countries. These people make a fire in the middle of a room; when the bread is ready for baking they sweep a corner of the hearth, lay the bread there, and cover it with hot ashes and embers; in a quarter of an hour they turn it: this bread is very good. The third way is that which is common among us. The last way, and that which is common through all Asia, is thus: they make an oven in the ground, four or five feet deep and three in diameter, well plastered with mortar. When it is hot, they place the bread (which is commonly long, and not thicker than a finger) against the sides, and it is baked in a moment.

"D'Arvieux mentions another way used by the Arabs about Mount Carmel, who sometimes bake in an oven, and at other time on the hearth; but have a third method, which is, to make a fire in a great stone pitcher and when it is heated, they mix meal and water, as we do to make paste to glue things together, which they apply with the hollow of their hands to the outside of the pitcher, and this extremely soft paste spreading itself upon it is baked in an instant. The heat of the pitcher having dried up all the moisture, the bread comes off as thin as our wafers; and the operation is so speedily performed that in a very little time a sufficient quantity is made.

"Maimonides and the Septuagint differ in their explanation of Leviticus 2:5; for that Egyptian rabbi supposes this verse speaks of a fiat plate, and these more ancient interpreters, of a ta-jen. But they both seem to agree that these were two of the methods of preparing the meat-offering; for Maimonides supposes the seventh verse speaks of a frying-pan or ta-jen; whereas the Septuagint, on the contrary, thought the word there meant a hearth, which term takes in an iron or copper plate, though it extends farther.

"The meat-offerings of the fourth verse answer as well to the Arab bread, baked by means of their stone pitchers, which are used by them for the baking of wafers, as to their cakes of bread mentioned by D'Arvieux, who, describing the way of baking among the modern Arabs, after mentioning some of their methods, says they bake their best sort of bread, either by heating an oven, or a large pitcher, half full of certain little smooth shining flints, upon which they lay the dough, spread out in form of a thin broad cake. The mention of wafers seems to fix the meaning of Moses to these oven pitchers, though perhaps it may be thought an objection that this meat-offering is said to have been baked in an oven; but it will be sufficient to observe that the Hebrew words only signify a meat-offering of the oven, and consequently may be understood as well of wafers baked on the outside of these oven pitchers, as of cakes of bread baked in them. And if thou bring an oblation, a baked thing, of the oven, it shall be an unleavened cake of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. Whoever then attends to these accounts of the stone pitcher, the ta-jen, and the copper plate or iron hearth, will enter into this second of Leviticus, I believe, much more perfectly than any commentator has done, and will find in these accounts what answers perfectly well to the description Moses gives us of the different ways of preparing the meat-offerings. A ta-jen indeed, according to Dr. Shaw, serves for a frying-pan as well as for a baking vessel; for he says, the bagreah of the people of Barbary differs not much from our pancakes, only that, instead of rubbing the ta-jen or pan in which they fry them with butter, they rub it with soap, to make them like a honeycomb.

"Moses possibly intended a meat-offering of that kind might be presented to the Lord; and our translators seem to prefer that supposition, since, though the margin mentions the opinion of Maimonides, the reading of the text in the sixth verse opposes a pan for baking to a pan for frying in the seventeenth verse. The thought, however, of Maimonides seems to be most just, as Moses appears to be speaking of different kinds of bread only, not of other farinaceous preparations.

"These oven pitchers mentioned by D'Arvieux, and used by the modern Arabs for baking cakes of bread in them, and wafers on their outsides, are not the only portable ovens of the east. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Lamentations 5:10, describes an eastern oven as a round vessel of brass, blackened on the outside by the surrounding fire which heats it within. Such an oven I have seen used in England. Which of these the Mishnah refers to when it speaks of the women lending their ovens to one another, as well as their mills and their sieves, I do not know; but the foregoing observations may serve to remove a surprise that this circumstance may otherwise occasion in the reader of the Mishnah. Almost every body knows that little portable handmills are extremely common in the Levant; movable ovens are not so well known. Whether ovens of the kind which St. Jerome mentions be as ancient as the days of Moses, does not appear, unless the ta-jen be used after this manner; but the pitcher ovens of the Arabs are, without doubt, of that remote antiquity.

"Travellers agree that the eastern bread is made in small thin moist cakes, must be eaten new, and is good for nothing when kept longer than a day. This, however, admits of exceptions. Dr. Russel of late, and Rauwolff formerly, assure us that they have several sorts of bread and cakes: some, Rauwolff tells us, done with yolk of eggs; some mixed with several sorts of seed, as of sesamum, Romish coriander, and wild garden saffron, which are also stewed upon it; and he elsewhere supposes that they prepare biscuits for travelling. Russel, who mentions this stewing of seeds on their cakes says, they have a variety of rusks and biscuits. To these authors let me add Pitts, who tells us the biscuits they carry with them from Egypt will last them to Mecca and back again.

"The Scriptures suppose their loaves of bread were very small, three of them being requisite for the entertainment of a single person, Luke 11:5. That they were generally eaten new, and baked as they wanted them, as appears from the case of Abraham. That sometimes, however, they were made so as to keep several days; so the shew-bread was fit food, after lying before the Lord a week. And that bread for travellers was wont to be made to keep some time, as appears from the pretences of the Gibeonites, Joshua 9:12, and the preparations made for Jacob's journey into Egypt, Genesis 45:23. The bread or rusks for travelling is often made in the form of large rings, and is moistened or soaked in water before it is used. In like manner, too, they seem to have had there a variety of eatables of this kind as the Aleppines now have. In particular, some made like those on which seeds are strewed, as we may collect from that part of the presents of Jeroboam's wife to the Prophet Ahijah, which our translators have rendered cracknels, 1 Kings 14:3. Buxtorf indeed supposes the original word נקדים nikkuddim signifies biscuits, called by this name, either because they were formed into little buttons like some of our gingerbread, or because they were pricked full of holes after a particular manner. The last of these two conjectures, I imagine, was embraced by our translators of this passage; for cracknels, if they are all over England of the same form, are full of holes, being formed into a kind of flourish of lattice-work. I have seen some of the unleavened bread of the English Jews made in like manner in a net form. Nevertheless I should think it more natural to understand the word of biscuit spotted with seeds; for it is used elsewhere to signify works of gold spotted with studs of silver; and, as it should seem, bread spotted with mould, Joshua 9:5-12; how much more natural is it then to understand the word of cakes spotted with seeds, which are so common in the east! Is not לבבות lebiboth, in particular, the word that in general means rich cakes? a sort of which Tamar used to prepare that was not common, and furnished Amnon with a pretence for desiring her being sent to his house, that she might make some of that kind for him in the time of his indisposition, his fancy running upon them; see 2 Samuel 13:2-8. Parkhurst supposes the original word to signify pancakes, and translates the root לבב labab to move or toss up and down: 'And she took the dough, (ותלוש vattalosh), and kneaded (ותלבב vattelabbeb, and tossed) it in his sight, ותבשל vattebashshel, and dressed the cakes.' In this passage, says Mr. Parkhurst, it is to be observed that לבב is distinguished from לש to knead, and from בשל to dress, which agrees with the interpretation here given.

"The account which Mr. Jackson gives of an Arab baking apparatus, and the manner of kneading and tossing their cakes, will at once, if I mistake not, fix the meaning of this passage, and cast much light on Leviticus 11:35. "I was much amused by observing the dexterity of the Arab women in baking their bread. They have a small place built with clay, between two and three feet high, having a hole in the bottom for the convenience of drawing out the ashes, somewhat similar to that of a lime-kiln. The oven, which I think is the most proper name for this place, is usually about fifteen inches wide at top, and gradually grows wider to the bottom. It is heated with wood, and when sufficiently hot, and perfectly clear from smoke, having nothing but clear embers at the bottom, which continue to reflect great heat, they prepare the dough in a large bowl, and mould the cakes to the desired size on a board or stone placed near the oven. After they have kneaded the cake to a proper consistence, they pat it a little, then toss it about with great dexterity in one hand till it is as thin as they choose to make it. They then wet one side of it with water, at the same time wetting the hand and arm with which they put it into the oven. The side of the cake adheres fast to the side of the oven till it is sufficiently baked, when, if not paid proper attention to, it would fall down among the embers. If they were not exceedingly quick at this work, the heat of the oven would burn their arms; but they perform it with such amazing dexterity that one woman will continue keeping three or four cakes in the oven at once, till she has done baking. This mode, let me add, does not require half the fuel that is made use of in Europe." See more in HARMER'S Observat., vol. i., p. 414, &c., Edit. 1808.

Verse 8

Verse Leviticus 2:8. Thou shalt bring the meat-offering — It is likely that the person himself who offered the sacrifice brought it to the priest, and then the priest presented it before the Lord.

Verse 11

Verse Leviticus 2:11. No meat-offering - shall be made with leaven — See the reason of this prohibition in the note on Exodus 12:8. Exodus 12:8.

Nor any honey — Because it was apt to produce acidity, as some think, when wrought up with flour paste; or rather because it was apt to gripe and prove purgative. On this latter account the College of Physicians have totally left it out of all medicinal preparations. This effect which it has in most constitutions was a sufficient reason why it should be prohibited here, as a principal part of all these offerings was used by the priests as a part of their ordinary diet; and these offerings, being those of the poorer sort, were in greater abundance than most others. On this account, the griping, and purgative quality of the honey must render it extremely improper. As leaven was forbidden because producing fermentation, it was considered a species of corruption, and was therefore used to signify hypocrisy, malice, c., which corrupt the soul it is possible that honey might have had a moral reference, also, and have signified, as St. Jerome thought, carnal pleasures and sensual gratifications. Some suppose that the honey mentioned here was a sort of saccharine matter extracted from dates. Leaven and honey might be offered with the first-fruits, as we learn from the next verse; but they were forbidden to be burnt on the altar,

Verse 13

Verse Leviticus 2:13. With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt. — SALT was the opposite to leaven, for it preserved from putrefaction and corruption, and signified the purity and persevering fidelity that were necessary in the worship of God. Every thing was seasoned with it, to signify the purity and perfection that should be extended through every part of the Divine service, and through the hearts and lives of God's worshippers. It was called the salt of the covenant of God, because as salt is incorruptible, so was the covenant made with Abram, Isaac, Jacob, and the patriarchs, relative to the redemption of the world by the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ. Among the heathens salt was a common ingredient in all their sacrificial offerings; and as it was considered essential to the comfort and preservation of life, and an emblem of the most perfect corporeal and mental endowments, so it was supposed to be one of the most acceptable presents they could make unto their gods, from whose sacrifices it was never absent. That inimitable and invaluable writer, Pliny, has left a long chapter on this subject, the seventh of the thirty-first book of his Natural History, a few extracts from which will not displease the intelligent reader. Ergo, hercule, vita humanior sine Sale nequit degere: adeoque necessarium elementum est, ut transierit intellectus ad voluptates animi quoque. Nam ita SALES appellantur omnisque vitae lepos et summa hilaritas, laborumque requies non alio magis vocabulo constat. Honoribus etiam militiaeque inter ponitur, SALARIIS inde dictis--Maxime tamen in sacris intelligitur auctoritas, quando nulla conficiuntur sine mola salsa. "So essentially necessary is salt that without it human life cannot be preserved: and even the pleasures and endowments of the mind are expressed by it; the delights of life, repose, and the highest mental serenity, are expressed by no other term than sales among the Latins. It has also been applied to designate the honourable rewards given to soldiers, which are called salarii or salaries. But its importance may be farther understood by its use in sacred things, as no sacrifice was offered to the gods without the salt cake." So Virgil, Eclog. viii., ver. 82: Sparge molam.

"Crumble the sacred mole of salt and corn."

And again, AEneid., lib. iv., ver. 517: -

Ipsa mola, manibitsque piis, altaria juxta.

"Now with the sacred cake, and lifted hands,,

All bent on death, before her altar stands."


In like manner Homer: -

Πασσε δ' ἁλος θειοιο, κρατευταων επαειπας.

Iliad, lib. ix., ver. 214.

"And taking sacred salt from the hearth side,

Where it was treasured, pour'd it o'er the feast."


Quotations of this kind might be easily multiplied, but the above may be deemed sufficient.

Verse 14

Verse Leviticus 2:14. Green ears of corn dried by the fire — Green or half-ripe ears of wheat parched with fire is a species of food in use among the poor people of Palestine and Egypt to the present day. As God is represented as keeping a table among his people, (for the tabernacle was his house, where he had the golden table, shewbread, c.,) so he represents himself as partaking with them of all the aliments that were in use, and even sitting down with the poor to a repast on parched corn! We have already seen that these green ears were presented as a sort of eucharistical offering for the blessings of seed time, and the prospect of a plentiful harvest.

Leviticus 2:14- : several other examples might be added here, but they are not necessary.

The command to offer salt with every oblation, and which was punctually observed by the Jews, will afford the pious reader some profitable reflections. It is well known that salt has two grand properties.

1. It seasons and renders palatable the principal ailments used for the support of life.

2. It prevents putrefaction and decay.

The covenant of God, that is, his agreement with his people, is called a covenant of salt, to denote as we have seen above, its stable undecaying nature, as well as to point out its importance and utility in the preservation of the life of the soul. The grace of God by Christ Jesus is represented under the emblem of salt, (see Mark 9:49; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6), because of its relishing, nourishing, and preserving quality. Without it no offering, no sacrifice, no religious service, no work even of charity and mercy, can be acceptable in the sight of God. In all things we must come unto the Father THROUGH HIM. And from none of our sacrifices or services must this salt of the covenant of our God be lacking.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Leviticus 2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/leviticus-2.html. 1832.
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