1 “This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. 2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. 3 And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, 4 the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the Lord; it is a guilt offering. 6 Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. 7 The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. 8 And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. 9 And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. 10 And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.” – Leviticus 7:1-10 ESV
Chapter 5 contains God’s regulations regarding the guilt offering.
“…he [the guilty party] shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering.” – Leviticus 5:15 ESV
God made it clear what the offering was to be and exactly what sin it was meant to atone for.
“He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.” Leviticus 5:16 ESV
But God did not spell out what the priest was to do with the ram after its life was taken. This opening section of chapter 7 provides Aaron and his sons with the details concerning their role in the process of providing atonement for the penitent sinner. The protocol for the guilt offering followed that of the burnt offering.
“In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar.” – Leviticus 7:2 ESV
The blood of the slaughtered animal must be used to anoint and cleanse the bronze altar. Then the officiating priest was to butcher the animal, placing the fatty portions of the animal on the altar to be consumed as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And God was very specific about what parts of the animal were to be burned.
“Then the one making the offering must present all its fat: the fatty tail, the fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver (which he must remove along with the kidneys)…” – Leviticus 7:3-4 ESV
The fatty portion of the animal was considered to be the best part because it was the most flavorful and represented health and vitality. This favored part of the animal was dedicated to God and offered as a gift to the Lord. But God was willing to share this offering with His priestly mediators.
“Every male among the priests may eat of it…” – Leviticus 7:6 ESV
These delicacies, while dedicated to God, were made available to His servants as payment for their role in the atonement of His people. These men had dedicated their lives to the service of the rest of the nation and God made sure they were adequately compensated for their efforts. He even gave the presiding priest the rest of the meat from the sacrifice along with the hide that had been removed during the butchering. This generous compensation plan also included the burnt offering and the grain offering. The priests were richly rewarded for their work. When they served well, the also ate well. They would never run short of food, because there would never be a shortage of sacrifices. Their role in providing atonement for the people earned them the favor and generosity of God Almighty. No part of the animal went to waste. Even the flour used for the grain offering was used to bake cakes that filled the stomachs of God’s priests. The repentance of the people brought them repentance and prolonged their lives, but it also nourished the lives of the men who served as their faithful mediators.
The role of the priest was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. But this was also their sole means of livelihood. The priests were not bi-vocational. Their job was so demanding that they had no time to earn an income on the side. So, they were completely dependent upon God for their sustenance. And the very sacrifices the people made to atone for their sins, God used to feed and nourish His priests. Oddly enough, because sin was going to be a constant problem for the Israelites, offering sacrifices would become a permanent part of their lives., and it provided the priests with job security and a steady source of nourishment.
The apostle Paul picked up on this divine compensation plan when he wrote his first letter to his young protege, Timothy.
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18 NLT
Paul actually quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4, using timeless wisdom regarding the fair treatment of a laboring ox to encourage the proper compensation of a pastor, elder, or teacher. He also picked up a statement made by Jesus when He was sending out 72 of His disciples on a missionary journey.
“Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.” – Luke 10:7 NLT
The priests deserved to be compensated for their work and God was the one who made sure that they were more than adequately provided for. Without their efforts, the sacrifices of the people would mean nothing. The faithful efforts of the priestly class would ensure that the people received forgiveness from God and, in return, the priests would receive the benefit of the gifts the people provided as payment for their sins. It was a win-win for all involved.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.