The meat-offering was either that which was offered by the people or that by the priests at their consecration. Now,
I. As to the common meat-offering,
1. Only a handful of it was to be burnt upon the altar; all the rest was allowed to the priests for their food. The law of the burnt-offerings was such as imposed upon the priests a great deal of care and work, but allowed them little profit; for the flesh was wholly burnt, and the priests had nothing but the skin. But to make them amends the greatest part of the meat-offering was their own. The burning of a handful of it upon the altar (Lev. 6:15) was ordered before, Lev. 2:2, 9. Here the remainder of it is consigned to the priests, the servants of God’s house: I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings, Lev. 6:17. Note, (1.) It is the will of God that his ministers should be well provided for with food convenient; and what is given to them he accepts as offered to himself, if it be done with a single eye. (2.) All Christians, being spiritual priests, do themselves share in the spiritual sacrifices they offer. It is not God that is the gainer by them; the handful burnt upon the altar was not worth speaking of, in comparison with the priests’ share; we ourselves are the gainers by our religious services. Let God have all the frankincense, and the priests shall have the flour and the oil; what we give to God the praise and glory of we may take to ourselves the comfort and benefit of.
2. The laws concerning the eating of it were, (1.) That it must be eaten unleavened, Lev. 6:16. What was offered to God must have no leaven in it, and the priests must have it as the altar had it, and no otherwise. Thus must we keep the feasts of the Lord with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (2.) It must be eaten in the court of the tabernacle (here called the holy place), in some room prepared by the side of the court for this purpose. It was a great crime to carry any of it out of the court. The very eating of it was a sacred rite, by which they were to honour God, and therefore it must be done in a religious manner, and with a holy reverence, which was preserved by confining it to the holy place. (3.) The males only must eat of it, Lev. 6:18. Of the less holy things, as the first-fruits and tithes, and the shoulder and breasts of the peace-offerings, the daughters of the priests might eat, for they might be carried out of the court; but this was of the most holy things, which being to be eaten only in the tabernacle, the sons of Aaron only might eat of it. (4.) The priests only that were clean might eat of it: Every one that toucheth them shall be holy, Lev. 6:18. Holy things for holy persons. Some read it, Every thing that toucheth it shall be holy: Al the furniture of the table on which these holy things were eaten must be appropriated to that use only, and never after used as common things.
II. As to the consecration meat-offering, which was offered for the priests themselves, it was to be wholly burnt, and none of it eaten, Lev. 6:23. It comes in here as an exception to the foregoing law. It should seem that this law concerning the meat-offering of initiation did not only oblige the high priest to offer it, and on that day only that he was anointed, and so for his successors in the day they were anointed; but the Jewish writers say that by this law every priest, on the day he first entered upon his ministry, was bound to offer this meat-offering,—that the high priest was bound to offer it every day of his life, from the day in which he was anointed,—and that it was to be offered besides the meat-offering that attended the morning and evening sacrifice, because it is said here to be a meat-offering perpetual, Lev. 6:20. Josephus says, “The high priest sacrificed twice every day at his own charges, and this was his sacrifice.” Note, Those whom God has advanced above others in dignity and power ought to consider that he expects more from them than from others, and should attend to every intimation of service to be done for him. The meat-offering of the priest was to be baked as if it were to be eaten, and yet it must be wholly burnt. Though the priest that ministered was to be paid for serving the people, yet there was no reason that he should be paid for serving the high priest, who was the father of the family of the priests, and whom therefore any priest should take a pleasure in serving gratis. Nor was it fit that the priests should eat of the offerings of a priest; for as the sins of the people were typically transferred to the priests, which was signified by their eating of their offerings (Hos. 4:8), so the sins of the priests must be typically transferred to the altar, which therefore must eat up all their offerings. We are all undone, both ministers and people, if we must bear our own iniquity; nor could we have had any comfort or hope if God had not laid on his dear Son the iniquity of us all, and he is both the priest and the altar.