Consideration of Numbers 15:1-16 and its importance to Leviticus chapters 1-7
Numbers 15:1-16 refers to additional commandments regarding the offerings and sacrifices that are found not only in the first 7 chapters of Leviticus but throughout the Mosaic Law. In these verses we find additional requirements that the Lord through Moses required of the Israelites when they (v.3)
‘...offer to YHWH from the herd or from the flock an offering by fire or a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfil a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing odour to YHWH’
Going by what Moses here records, we discover that these additional ingredients were not universal in their inclusion but only referred to certain of the sacrifices that are mentioned in Leviticus chapters 1-7. The exceptions were
1:14-17 - burnt offering - bird
2 - cereal offering - all of them
3 - peace offering - there was a male/female option here so it would only have been the female offerings that wouldn’t have called for the additional ingredients
4:27-35 - sin offering - females
5:1-6 - sin offering - female
5:7-10 - sin offering - bird
5:11-13 - sin offering - cereal (that is, flour with no oil or incense)
There may be an allusion to Christ here, seeing as the animals all had to be male and without blemish, but we’ll look at this a little later below after we’ve understood the technicalities of the passage.
With each and every sacrifice that satisfies the conditions, the three additional ingredients of flour, oil and wine had to be offered - the first two regarded as a cereal offering (v.4) and the last as a drink offering (v.5 - incidentally, the RSV at Ex 29:38-42, which mentions the ‘continual offering’ that was offered morning and evening, translates the same Hebrew word for ‘drink offering’ used in Numbers as ‘libation’ [Strongs Hebrew Number 5262]).
These ingredients were fixed for each type of animal that was offered to God (the same proportion and weights/volumes were used for the lamb of the continual offering previously mentioned as defined in the Numbers passage). These, listed, were
Lamb - one tenth ephah of flour - one quarter hin of oil - one quarter hin of wine
Ram - two tenths ephah of flour - one third hin of oil - one third hin of wine
Bull - three tenths ephah of flour - one half hin of oil - one half hin of wine
To complete the instructions, it should be noted that in the parallel passage to Ex 29:38-42, it states (Num 28:7) that the wine was to be poured out (presumably at the base of the altar of burnt offering) while the oil and flour (again presumably) were offered on the altar along with the lamb (28:4-6).
The Scriptures in Num 15:1-16 seem to read as if it’s the offerer who’s to provide these three extra items whenever they came to offer sacrifice and that it wasn’t the responsibility of the priesthood to do so - therefore the Lord speaks (v.1 - my italics)
‘...to the people of Israel, “When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I give you, and you offer to YHWH...”’
But, if we were to simply conclude here, we would be missing the reason for the legislation’s introduction, seeing as it points to a fulfilment in Christ.
Firstly, then, we need to consider the three ingredients that were specified (flour, oil and wine) and their relevance to a verse of New Testament Scripture which tells us (Heb 9:14) that
‘...the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, [will] purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God’
In this one verse there’s a very strong allusion to the Old Testament passage in question. Taking the ingredients one by one, we see
Flour (used as a loose measure in the passage but indicative of bread - in some cereal offerings [though not here] the flour was cooked into cakes before being offered) - indicative of the body of Christ in such passages as Mtw 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 and I Cor 11:23-24. This is loosely taken to be mentioned in the Hebrews passage when it says that He ‘offered Himself’, that is, His body as Heb 10:5 shows us.
Oil - indicative of the Holy Spirit. I think that most christians will immediately accept the allusion to the Holy Spirit when the term oil is used but, as I discovered, actually trying to conclusively prove this equation from Scripture is another matter entirely!
In a rather clumsy proof, it’s best to begin with Is 61:1 which Jesus quoted in Luke 4:14 and which equates the ‘anointing’ as being the same as the Spirit of God being upon someone. Maybe even Zechariah chapter 4 - the prophecy of the lampstand that the prophet sees - is good enough to equate the anointing oil as being a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s work.
This anointing is variously spoken of in the New Testament, Peter relating (Acts 10:38) how
‘...God anointed Jesus...with the Holy Spirit and with power’
again equating the Spirit with the anointing. That the anointing of oil must be a symbol of the Holy Spirit is surely satisfactorily demonstrated in James 5:14 which instructs the elders (upon a request) to anoint the sick person
‘...with oil in the name of the Lord’
I John 2:27 also seems to equate the term anointing with the Holy Spirit. Finally, a hop back in to the Old Testament shows us that the instrument of anointing was oil (Ps 133:1-2, Ex 29:7, I Sam 10:1) which hopefully ties the two testaments together.
Well, I hope that that’s sufficient ‘proof’! The oil of the sacrifice of Numbers chapter 15 is thus equated with the reference to ‘the eternal Spirit’ in the Hebrews passage.
Wine - indicative of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ poured out to secure forgiveness. Jesus referred to wine as being a symbol of His blood in Mtw 26:27-28, Mark 14:23-24 and Luke 22:20 and Paul did in I Cor 11:25. It represents the ‘blood of Christ’ in the Hebrews passage.
Not only are these three elements present, but the term ‘without blemish’ also appears, a term which is used in the legislation for the animals that were required to have the additional ingredients offered with them (the only exceptions are Lev 3:12 and 4:14 but I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that they should be expected to be perfect offerings as well as the others).
And, as we mentioned above, all the sacrifices that fell under the legislation of Numbers 15 were male - females and birds were excluded.
Therefore, Heb 9:14, could be noted simply to see the fulfilment of the passage as follows
‘...the blood [wine] of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit [oil] offered Himself [bread] without blemish [as the required male sacrifice] to God...’
- even though the priests, who at least twice daily (Ex 29:38-42) offered these requirements of Numbers 15:1-16, would never have realised the implications of what they were doing until after the Christ had come. Then, and only then, can we see a testimony to the fact that, when Christ came, He was to offer the ultimate sacrifice and fulfil the sacrificial legislation.
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