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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 10–17
Verses 10–17

Here we have the laws concerning the burnt-offerings, which were of the flock or of the fowls. Those of the middle rank, that could not well afford to offer a bullock, would bring a sheep or a goat; and those that were not able to do that should be accepted of God if they brought a turtle-dove or a pigeon. For God, in his law and in his gospel, as well as in his providence, considers the poor. It is observable that those creatures were chosen for sacrifice which were most mild and gentle, harmless and inoffensive, to typify the innocence and meekness that were in Christ, and to teach the innocence and meekness that should be in Christians. Directions are here given, 1. Concerning the burnt-offerings of the flock, Lev. 1:10. The method of managing these is much the same with that of the bullocks; only it is ordered here that the sacrifice should be killed on the side of the altar northward, which, though mentioned here only, was probably to be observed concerning the former, and other sacrifices. Perhaps on that side of the altar there was the largest vacant space, and room for the priests to turn them in. It was of old observed that fair weather comes out of the north, and that the north wind drives away rain; and by these sacrifices the storms of God’s wrath are scattered, and the light of God’s countenance is obtained, which is more pleasant than the brightest fairest weather. 2. Concerning those of the fowls. They must be either turtle-doves (and, if so, “they must be old turtles,” say the Jews), or pigeons, and, if so, they must be young pigeons. What was most acceptable at men’s tables must be brought to God’s altar. In the offering of these fowls, (1.) The head must be wrung off, “quite off,” say some; others think only pinched, so as to kill the bird, and yet leave the head hanging to the body. But it seems more likely that it was to be quite separated, for it was to be burnt first. (2.) The blood was to be wrung out at the side of the altar. (3.) The garbages with the feathers were to be thrown by upon the dunghill. (4.) The body was to be opened, sprinkled with salt, and then burnt upon the altar. “This sacrifice of birds,” the Jews say, “was one of the most difficult services the priests had to do,” to teach those that minister in holy things to be as solicitous for the salvation of the poor as for that of the rich, and that the services of the poor are as acceptable to God, if they come from an upright heart, as the services of the rich, for he accepts according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not, 2 Cor. 8:12. The poor man’s turtle-doves, or young pigeons, are here said to be an offering of a sweet-smelling savour, as much as that of an ox or bullock that hath horns or hoofs. Yet, after all, to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices, Mark 12:33.