Leviticus 6:9-11 – Eating the Meal Offering

Leviticus 2:1-16 tells about different types of meal offerings. Now in Leviticus 6:7-11 we learn more details about these offerings.

Verse Confusion?
It turns out there are differences in how verses are numbered in Jewish bibles compared to the King James Version and others. In Jewish bibles, Leviticus 5 has 26 verses and Leviticus 6 has 23 verses. By way of contrast, the KJV counts the last 7 verses of Chapter 5 as the beginning of Chapter 6.

  • Hebrew Leviticus 5:20-26 in KJV is 6:1-7
  • Hebrew Leviticus 6:1-23 in KJV is 6:8-30

In this article I am discussing Leviticus 6:9-11 (or in KJV 6:16-18) about the meal offering. It is not a discussion about removing ashes from the Altar.

Background

In Leviticus Chapter 2, God commands Moses about the different meal offerings that may be brought:

  • fine flour offering
  • baked in an oven
  • baked in a pan
  • baked in a deep pan

In Leviticus 6:7-11 we are taught more details about what the priests do with the meal offerings. In particular, we are taught that only a small amount of the flour and oil along with all of the frankincense are to be burnt on the Altar.

The remainder of the meal offering is to eaten by the priests. However, there are some restrictions and cautions about preparing and eating it.

Passover is coming soon! Click here to download a guide to simplify preparing for the festival. It's free. Passover Cleaning.

Preparing the Meal Offering

In this article I will explain the verses about preparing and eating the meal offering.

Leviticus 6

9. Aaron and his sons shall eat the remainder of it. Unleavened it shall be eaten, in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting they shall eat it.
10. It shall not be baked leavened. Their portion I gave it from My fire offerings. It is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering.
11. Every male of the sons of Aaron may eat it as an eternal ordinance for your generations from the fire offerings of the Lord. Every thing that touches them will become holy.

A translation note:
In Verse 6:10, the Hebrew “chelkam” (“their portion”) can be understood in two ways. Should it be attached to the phrase before it or after it?

Often the cantillation symbols clarify such questions. In this verse they are ambiguous. The above translation attaches “chelkam” to the words after it.

Rabbi Shraga Silverstein in The Rashi Chumash captures this ambiguity in his translation:

It shall not be baked with leaven, their portion [(Even what is left over may not be baked with leaven)]. (Their portion) have I given it of My fire-offerings …

By repeating the phrase “their portion” he is showing that it belongs to the phrases before and after it.

Now let’s look at each verse phrase-by-phrase.

Leviticus 6:9 (KJV 6:16)

9. Aaron and his sons shall eat the remainder of it. Unleavened it shall be eaten, in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting they shall eat it.

remainder of it – the part of the meal offering that was not burnt on the altar. This is the portion that the priests eat.

in a holy place – and what is this holy place? In the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting [Rashi]. According to Rashi, the verse permits the priests to eat offerings in the entire courtyard, not just a section of it.

they shall eat it – the midrash explains that this means the priests may eat the meal offering with any other foods or seasonings that they desire.

matzah

Leviticus 6:10 (KJV 6:17)

10. It shall not be baked leavened. Their portion I gave it from My fire offerings. It is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering.

It shall not be baked leavened – no part of the meal offering may be allowed to be baked with leaven or otherwise become leavened. This is even if the leavened part is not eaten. [Rashi]

Daat Mikra writes this refers to when the priests prepare their portion of the meal offering to eat it. The verse mentions baking, but all forms of cooking are included.

In the language of our sages, the priests being permitted to eat specific portions of the offerings is called “eating from God’s table.” Since nothing leavened is permitted to be burned on the altar, so too, the priests may not eat their portion of the meal offering if it becomes leavened. [Sorotzkin]

Honey is permitted to be used in the remainder of a meal offering but leaven is not permitted to be used in the remainder of a meal offering. (Gemara Menachot 58a)

Rabbi Sorotzkin points out that honey also may not be brought on the altar (Leviticus 2:11). But the priest may eat the meal offering mixed with honey. Why isn’t that also forbidden? He suggests that honey only adds flavor to the meal offering, but permitting it to become leavened is a significant change in the entire meal offering.

Their portion I gave it from My fire – Daat Mikra explains that the word “because” should be inserted at the beginning of this phrase. Like this: because I gave them their portion from My fire, that is, from the offerings that are brought to Me and are fitting to be burnt with fire on My altar. Therefore, the meal offering must be treated with the proper level of sanctity.

most holy – The meal offering has the status of an offering with a high level of sanctity, the same level as the sin offering and the guilt offering. [Daat Mikra]

Leviticus 6:11 (KJV 6:18)

11. Every male of the sons of Aaron may eat it as an eternal ordinance for your generations from the fire offerings of the Lord. Every thing that touches them will become holy.

Every male – Daat Mikra clarifies that even though the priests with certain blemishes cannot perform the service or bring offerings, they may still eat the meal offering.

Every male of the sons of Aaron – but not the whole family. This demonstrates that eating the offering by the priests is a part of the service. [Steinsaltz]

may eat it – The priest eating any offering is a symbolic continuation of the the consumption of an offering on the altar. These gifts are one way the priests were supported. [based on Hirsch]

Every thing that touches them – this is a general rule for holy offerings.

will become holy – when they are eaten with other food that is of lower sanctity, if the two foods touch, then the lower sanctity food has the same holy status as the offering. [Steinsaltz]

them – the word “them” includes all offerings of the high level of sanctity that are eaten: meal offering, sin offering, and guilt offering.

will become holy – to be like it. It must be eaten with the same restrictions / stringencies as the meal offering. [Rashi]

Chizkuni and Rav Saadia Gaon understand this phrase very differently than Rashi. They write that any person who comes to touch the meal offering must first purify himself and only then may he touch it.

A Lesson from Leaven

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his commentary on Leviticus 2:11-12 and 6:9-11 explains why the meal offering must be unleavened. He posits that leavened bread represents independence and sovereignty. However, the meal offering is an expression of dependence on God.

According to R. Hirsch, unleavened bread, matzah, symbolizes a lack of independence. It is a sign of bondage, that our time is not our own.

That is why matzah represents our deliverance from Egypt on Passover. “Each year when we celebrate the festival commemorating our deliverance from Egypt, matzah displaces leaven and leavened bread from our homes, reminding us anew that not by our own hands did we obtain freedom and independence, but by God’s grace, which is perpetual.”


A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.

2 thoughts on “Leviticus 6:9-11 – Eating the Meal Offering”

Comments are closed.