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Leviticus 2:11-13 meaning

Leviticus 2:11-13 provides further instructions on what must be excluded from the grain offering and introduces an essential element that must be present: salt.

God strictly forbids the use of leaven (yeast) and honey in the grain offering: "‘No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD" (v. 11).

Leaven in the Bible often symbolizes sin and pride due to its fermenting properties which spread and permeate the dough into which it is incorporated (Matthew 16:6, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Honey, while good, ferments when offered on fire and may have been excluded to differentiate Israelite worship from Canaanite practices, where honey may have been used in offerings. This provision symbolizes purity and being set apart from sin.

The next verse contrasts the use of leaven in the wave offerings of first fruits with the prohibition of using leaven in the grain offerings: "As an offering of first fruits you shall bring them (leaven and honey) to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar" (v. 12).

First fruits were offerings of the initial harvest, symbolizing God’s provision and the worshiper’s gratitude. It was permitted to use leaven and honey in the loafs used for the wave offering of first fruits, but not permitted if burnt on the altar like the grain offering.

The wave offering was waved before the Lord, but not consumed in the fire. For the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), each Israelite brought two loaves of bread for a wave offering. It is believed that in this wave offering the priest would wave the two loaves up and down in a vertical motion, then side-to-side in a horizontal motion.

It has been noted that the wave offering motions form the shape of a cross. The Levitical sacrifices can be paralleled to aspects of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Usually, grain offerings are to be made without leaven. However, of these two loaves it is said they are to be baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:17). Perhaps this was because this was a time of celebration, with the new harvest being gathered, but also because it would not be offered in fire but brought to the priest for it to be waved before the LORD (Leviticus 23:20). The priest was a mediator between the offeror and God. After being waved before the Lord, the wave-loafs would be retained by the priests for their sustenance.

God now emphasizes the importance of salt to be included in the grain offering (“minkah”) as well as with every offering (“korban”): "Every grain offering (“minkah”) of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering (“minkah”); with all your offerings (“korban”) you shall offer salt" (v.13).

Salt was a preservative and a symbol of enduring covenant, purity, and hospitality in the ancient Near East. Salt could even be used as money in ancient times, and the Latin word for salt (sal) is where the English word “salary” derives from. The "salt of the covenant" signifies an everlasting covenant between God and Israel. It was essential that every offering presented to God included salt, as a sign of this unbreakable covenant.

These verses from Leviticus 2:11-13 show that the grain offering was not merely about following a recipe—it was a ritual filled with symbolism and significance, reflecting the Israelites' relationship with God. The absence of leaven and honey and the presence of salt all carried deep spiritual meaning and were part of the people's expression of devotion and adherence to the covenant (or treaty) with Yahweh their God.

These ongoing rituals were means by which Israel could remember their agreement to follow the laws of God, and abide by the covenant agreement into which they had entered with Him (Exodus 19:8). God promised to bless Israel if they kept their covenant with Him (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). Much of this flowed from the practical consequence of a society based on loving one another, as God commanded, versus the common pagan practices of mutual exploitation. But God also promised divine blessings as well (Deuteronomy 28:7). 

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