A Pleasing Aroma

but a gory look.

Exodus 29:10-18 (ESV)

“Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

“Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD.”

The bull is a sin offering. That’s why Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull – they are laying their sins upon the bull. This is also why most of the bull is to be burned all the way outside the camp, not just outside the courtyard. That sets an important precedent.

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. – Hebrews 13:11-12 (ESV)

Next, the ram is also completely burned up, though the ram is all burned on the altar. But the legs and entrails must be washed first. Why?

All of the bull (except some fat and three organs) is to be burned outside the camp. But in describing this, the passage doesn’t say entrails; it says dung. This highlights what’s so unclean about the entrails.

The entrails of the ram and its legs (which walk though dung) are the dirty parts. That “dirt” might not even burn well, nor smell good while burning. Furthermore, the “dung” in the intestines is wet and hard to ignite.

So all that needs to be cleaned up. Remember, it’s supposed to be a pleasing aroma.

In addition to setting the precedent about taking the sin offering outside the camp, this passage displays the seriousness of the whole thing in a rather alarming fashion. After the laying on of hands, the animals are slaughtered and their blood splattered all over the altar.

So, even though they cleaned up anything that might make the fire stink, the place looks like a horror movie. Again, the analogy with Christ’s sacrifice is strong.

We’re supposed to be repulsed by it.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.