The Oblation


What is to be understood by Romans 8: 32 where it is said of God that He “has not spared his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”? When was this delivering up, this occasion when God’s Son was given and not spared? It is true of course that the Lord Jesus was “given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2: 23)—and divine counsel and foreknowledge existed before the foundation of the world—but the actual delivering up relates to time. Rom. 8: 32 is somewhat like Eph. 5: 2. There we read that the Lord Jesus “loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour”, and that clearly refers to what was done, not at His incarnation, but at His death. Now certainly the Lord Jesus came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that had sent Him (see John 6: 38)—and on this basis we might limit God’s giving His Son to the Lord’s entrance into manhood. However, it does not seem from its context that Romans 8: 32 has this in mind. Romans 8: 32 speaks of Him as a man delivered up to die, and what was not spared was His life on earth as a man. Now if there was a man’s life that deserved to be spared, then it was His. We know this because we have a record of the divine assessment of the walk of God’s Son on this earth. Peter tells us that the Lord Jesus “received from God [the] Father honour and glory, such a voice being uttered to him by the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight” (2 Pet. 1: 17). Finding implies looking, and what God did not find in any other man, He found in Christ. This gives great force to the statement of Rom. 8: 32 that God did not spare Him but delivered Him up for us all.

   Why this preamble? The reason is that while Christians rightly emphasise the importance of Christ in death as “a burnt-offering, an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (Lev. 1: 9), the delight God found in Christ as a man walking here on earth is sometimes overlooked. This teaching is set out in what is commonly known as the meat offering or oblation of Leviticus 2—which, like the burnt offering was also “an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (v2). Very significant is the association between the oblation and the Hebrew word azkahrah or memorial. This word only occurs seven times in the Bible, three of which relate to the standard oblation (Lev. 2: 2, 9; 6: 15).  Memorial would, of course, suggest something that it is over but not to be forgotten and the implication is clear: the walk of Christ here on earth was so delightful to God that He is not minded to ever forget it. That being so, it is to form part of the worship offered up by His people.

An Offering not a Sacrifice

Blood and death characterised the burnt offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering. As they were sacrifices, some animal had to die, and its blood was shed.  The oblation, however, while an offering, was not a sacrifice. No animal died, and no blood was shed (that it is sometimes called the meat offering is confusing, but meat has an old English sense of food, both animal and vegetable). The oblation is thus a fitting picture of the life of Christ rather than the death of Christ.

   The sin offering and the trespass offering were demanded by God from the sinner, but the burnt offering, the oblation and the peace offering were free-will offerings—that is, they were offered according to the inclination of the individual concerned rather than because of a requirement placed upon him. Thus, with respect to the oblation, it ought to be the Christian’s delight to offer up something to God concerning that one beautiful and unique life. Why? Simply because God continues to take pleasure in it. In case some might think such an offering is the preserve only of the spiritually advanced, it is distinctly said to be open to all, for it is “when any one will present an oblation to Jehovah” (Lev. 2: 1). However, although any Israelite could bring the oblation, it also had to be prepared: the worshipper was to “pour”, to “put” (v1), to bake (see v4) and to “part” (v6), before finally he was “to bring” (v2) or to present (see v8). In keeping with this, it follows that if the Christian is to have something to offer, then he must have spent time meditating on things concerning Christ beforehand (see Luke 24: 27).

Flour, Oil and Frankincense   

The basic ingredients of the meal offering were simple but highly suggestive. There were three: fine flour, oil, and frankincense.

   Fine flour is wheaten grain that has been crushed or ground into a powder. However, the emphasis is on the fineness itself rather than the process by which the texture is achieved. Fineness suggests evenness of character, and the absence of what is coarse or rough. It is a picture of what God found in Christ as a unique man, flawless in every way. No fallen man could answer to the fine flour.

   Oil is a well-known figure of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus was anointed “with oil of gladness” (Heb. 1: 9) above his companions, for “having been baptised and praying … the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon him; and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight” (Luke 3: 21, 22). Again, “[The] Spirit of [the] Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach glad tidings to [the] poor” (Luke 4: 18).

   Frankincense is a fragrance and brings out the thought of the delight that God had in Christ as man. Frankincense was not part of either the burnt offering or the peace offering, where the sweet-smelling odour came from the burning of the flesh or the fat. This odour brought out the intrinsic and satisfying pleasure God had in the sacrifice, but it also reflected the immense solemnity of the occasion, because death was involved. The sweet odour of the frankincense, by contrast, was a thing of beauty and loveliness. It would not be fitting to call the burnt offering beautiful, and yet beauty attached to the oblation. Interestingly, in the case of the fine flour offered as the feeblest type of sin offering, frankincense was specifically excluded, “for it is a sin-offering” (Lev. 5: 11). There was thus both a similarity with the oblation, and a profound difference.

Christians as Priests

The offering was to be brought to Aaron’s sons, the priests who actually offered a portion and ate the remainder. Now of course all Christians ought to be able to “present an oblation to Jehovah” (Lev. 2: 1)—that is, to have developed something in terms of their own personal appreciation of the Lord’s walk down here that is suited to bring delight to the heart of God. However, Christians also need take the next step and to act as priests—that is, to function as worshippers. This two-fold character can be seen in v8, 9: “thou shalt bring the oblation that is made of these things to Jehovah; and it shall be presented to the priest, and he shall bring it to the altar. And the priest … shall burn it on the altar”. There was the bringing of what was suitable, but it was the priest who actually took the offering to the altar and burnt it there. In the type there was thus a division of responsibilities, but in the antitype, Christians ought to be fulfilling both.

   It is quite remarkable that although the offerer brought the offering (and to some degree prepared it), he did not get to partake of it. This implies that if we want to be spiritually fed (that is, to feed on what God feeds on), then we need to be active worshippers. In the oblation, there was a portion offered to God, but “the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: unleavened shall it be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tent of meeting shall they eat it” (Lev. 6: 16). What is the court? It was a place apart from normal day to day activities that surrounded the tent where God spoke to His people, and where the priests were found engaged in the service of God. It is not difficult to equate this with saints gathered together in the Lord’s name for public worship in our day. Thus, the oblation differed from Christ as manna, “the bread of life” (John 6: 48), which every believer needs to appropriate every day in his private devotions. Manna is wilderness food from heaven to sustain the believer as he journeys through this world that has rejected Christ, but in the oblation the thought is partaking of what is offered up to God of the Lord’s life on this earth. One wonders to what degree the oblation marks Christian meetings for worship, and how much appetite saints have for such spiritual food.

   God, however, must have His portion first before the worshippers can eat. It was to be burnt by fire from off the altar—that is, God tested and proved the offering. The oblation passed the assessment, because in burning it, all was delightful to God, “an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (Lev. 2: 2). Indeed, the oblation is peculiarly described as being “most holy of Jehovah’s offerings by fire” and again, (speaking of Aaron and his sons) “as their portion have I given it [unto them] of my offerings by fire: it is most holy; as the sin-offering, and as the trespass offering. All the males among the children of Aaron shall eat of it. [It is] an everlasting statute in your generations, [their portion] of Jehovah’s offerings by fire: whatever toucheth these shall be holy” (Lev. 2: 3; 6: 17, 18, my emphasis). This suggests that God has a particular interest in guarding and setting apart the “person of Christ” (2 Cor. 2: 10), and that those who touch these things also need to be holy.

The Oven, the Pan and the Cauldron

In Lev. 2: 4-10 details are given of three specific ways in which the oblation could be prepared, and these in turn picture how Christ was tested here as man, bringing out what made His life so delightful to God.

   The first method of preparation was “baken in the oven” (v4). This was also the most complex process of the three and indicates that the offerer has entered in the fullest way possible to the thoughts of God about the “man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2: 5). There were two varieties baked in the oven: “unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil” and “unleavened wafers anointed with oil” (v4). Anointing speaks of Christ as the Man of God’s choice, while mingling is rather the Lord as full of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 4: 1), and thus utterly given over to the will of God. Both cakes and wafers were baked in the intense heat of the oven, an enclosed chamber that prevented all but God viewing what went on. The baking precedes the burning, indicating that what we have here is not the sufferings of Calvary, but the pressures that Christ was brought under in life. What spiritual affliction for such a holy and devoted Man to move in a scene of sin, death, and hatred of God! The Christian in the good of the oblation will meditate upon these things and bring his Spirit-taught thoughts to God in worship. Some might ask how this can be seeing that the oblation was prepared away from the eye of man. That is true, but the believer has the Word of God, and, in measure, these things are revealed to him (see Mark 1: 41; 3: 5; John 11: 39 etc.).  

   Next, we come to the oblation baked “on the pan” (Lev. 2: 5) which was open and so speaks of the pressures and testing that could be apprehended by the eye of mankind in general. There is no creation described here (no cake or wafer) although the offering is still baked and mingled with oil. This type perhaps refers to the open hostility of fallen man that the Lord was faced with (see John 15: 25), although there was never an occasion when the fine flour gave way to irritableness or aggression. Interestingly, the way in which the oblation is mingled with oil is described: “thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon” (Lev. 2: 6). The intended thought might be that it was open to all to see that there was no part of the Lord’s manhood that was not touched by the Holy Spirit. Hence his opposer’s could find nothing with which to justly accuse him despite seeking it (see Luke 6: 7).

   Lastly, we have the oblation prepared “in the cauldron” (Lev. 2: 7; AV: frying pan) or marchesheth in Hebrew—a word which occurs only here and in Lev. 7: 9. In the latter Scripture it is placed second after the oven and before the pan—which is perhaps a clue that this form of the oblation is not to be regarded as inferior to the oblation baked in the pan. In one aspect, it is a mixture of the oven and the pan, being both somewhat enclosed, and somewhat open. In a cauldron or kettle, boiling water is the means of applying the heat, water being characteristically a picture of the Word of God (see John 3: 5; Eph. 5: 26 etc.). It perhaps speaks of the conflict between the Jews and the Lord Jesus over the written Scriptures and also His own authoritative words (see, for example, Matt. 22: 15-46).

   All this might be of great interest to the serious Bible student, but truth, as always, must have its practical effect. So, in our worship, how much of this side of the oblation is mentioned in the prayers and hymns offered to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? I ask this, because whether the oblation was prepared in the oven, the pan or the cauldron, the word is “thou shalt bring the oblation that is made of these things to Jehovah; and it shall be presented to the priest, and he shall bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take from the oblation a memorial thereof, and shall burn it on the altar, an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (Lev. 2: 8, 9). Of course, there is a sense in which the oblation was offered up during the Lord’s lifetime on earth but the use of the word memorial, and the fact that Christians (typified by Aaron and his sons) are then said to eat the remainder of the offering “in a holy place” (Lev. 6: 16), suggests that it is to be an intrinsic part of our worship now. The act of eating speaks of assimilation and so eating the oblation ought to have a formative effect on our spiritual character. Eating together is, of course, one of the primary features of fellowship (see Acts 2: 46 etc.), and raises the question whether we do, in fact, share the same spiritual appetite and tastes.

Leaven, Honey, and Salt 

The next section of Leviticus 2 deals with (and in some cases reiterates) the prohibitions and the requirements associated with the oblation.

   We have already noticed that the oblation prepared in the oven or on the pan was to be unleavened, and this is strengthened by Lev. 2: 11: “No oblation which ye shall present to Jehovah shall be made with leaven; for no leaven and no honey shall ye burn [in] any fire-offering to Jehovah”. The prohibition was absolute, for leaven is a picture of evil, and the meal offering, as a picture of the Christ of God, was to absolutely free of it. The very idea that men can approach God in worship with such a defective view of Christ is abhorrent. Similar truth is taught in the law of the oblation: “unleavened shall it be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tent of meeting shall they eat it. It shall not be baken with leaven … it is most holy” (Lev. 6: 16, 17). Of course, an Israelite with an alert mind would recall Lev. 23: 17, and the two wave-loaves of fine flour that were baken with leaven as first-fruits to Jehovah, and this is why in Leviticus 2 we have the insertion that: “As to the offering of the first-fruits, ye shall present them to Jehovah; but they shall not be offered upon the altar for a sweet odour” (v12). The people of God are represented in what is presented with leaven (for if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves—see 1 John 1: 8), but the Lord was utterly without corruption, and only what typifies Him is to be offered on the altar for a sweet odour.

   Another prohibition attached to honey. Honey is typical of natural sweetness, or what is attractive to nature, and is thus a more subtle problem than outright evil. If Christ is typified in what is unleavened, He is also typified in the absence of honey. Some commentators take the significance of the honey to mean that what is naturally attractive in ourselves should have no part in the worship we offer but while this is clearly true, it is doubtful that is in view here. Leaven, honey, and salt were all additives to the oblation (for good or ill), and it seems inconsistent to isolate the honey as being the only one that refers to the manner in which we offer rather than relating directly to Christ. The word is “no oblation which ye shall present to Jehovah shall be made with leaven; for no leaven and no honey shall ye burn [in] any fire-offering to Jehovah” (Lev. 2: 11). In this context, the absence of honey refers to the fact that Christ “hath no form nor lordliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53: 2). This is not to detract from any natural characteristics the Lord may have had (although, significantly, Scripture is extremely sparing in noticing these), but shows that what God took delight in was His obedience and devotion to the divine will. “Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16: 7).

   Lastly, we get the divine instruction that “every offering of thine oblation shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thine oblation: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev. 2: 13). Salt is the antithesis of leaven—it acts against corruption. To be unleavened is the absence of evil; to be seasoned with salt means that there is no possibility of evil. Such was the perfect manhood of Christ. The fact that the worshipper had to pro-actively season the offering with salt may reflect the fact that God insists on the worshipper always having before his mind the impossibility of an atom of corruption being found in the Lord. “In him sin is not” (1 John 3: 5).

The Offering of the First-Fruits 

In the final section of Leviticus 2, we have the subject of the oblation of first-fruits returned to—but with a difference. In v12, the offering of first-fruits was “not to be offered upon the altar for a sweet odour”, since it refers to Lev. 23: 16, 17 and the oblation baked with leaven, typifying the Assembly. In verses 14-16, however, we have “an oblation of thy first-fruits to Jehovah” that the priest “shall burn the memorial thereof … [it is] an offering by fire to Jehovah”. This oblation clearly typifies Christ rather than the saints—but in a distinct way from what we have had before. Indeed, no Israelite could offer this particular oblation in the wilderness—there was no agriculture in the desert. It waited until the worshipper was over the Jordan, the river of death: “And they ate on the morrow after the passover, unleavened loaves, and roasted [corn] on that same day” (Josh. 5: 11). Of course, the feast of first-fruits is taken up more fully in Lev. 23: 9-14, but there it is a wave-offering, and not the “offering by fire to Jehovah” (Lev. 2: 16) that is presented here. This seems in keeping with the primary thought in Leviticus 2 of what is tested by the fire and found perfect. Being “an oblation of thy first fruits” (Lev. 2: 14), our minds are immediately taken to Christ as “raised from among [the] dead, first-fruits of those fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15: 20). Thus, it is Christ in resurrection here, but the “memorial” (Lev. 2: 16) describes the man that went into death and came out of it.

   “Green ears” suggest life in full vigour, while “full ears” (v14) suggest life in maturity. These thoughts recall the prophetic words of Psalm 102, “My God, take me not away in the midst of my days” (v24), and yet this One was “cut off out of the land of the living” (Is. 53: 8). This ending of the Lord’s beautiful life in the judgment of God is suggested by the “corn beaten out of full ears” (my emphasis) and the “corn roasted” (or dried) “in fire” (Lev. 2: 14, my emphasis). Oil and frankincense were then added to the corn, and the oblation then burnt as a “memorial” (v16). Thus, God would ever have it be remembered that the Lord Jesus “having been found in figure as a man”, then “humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and [that the] death of [the] cross” (Phil. 2: 8). First-fruits necessitates, of course, the full harvest to come and so “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit” (John 12: 24) and “For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make perfect the leader of their salvation through suffering” (Heb. 2: 10).


This study began with a consideration of Rom. 8: 32: “He who, yea, has not spared his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”. It is to be hoped that our appreciation, both of the delight that God found in the Lord’s life of “blood and flesh” (Heb. 2: 14), as well as of the tremendous sacrifice that God made in delivering Him up for us all has been deepened. Yet if Christ’s precious blood was indeed shed, He was also “raised up from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6: 4), in order that “he should be [the] firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8: 29). May our souls be bowed in worship and praise to the God who has brought all this about!