Troublesome Topic: The Purpose of the Grain Offering

Leviticus 2:1


Now whenever someone draws near

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an offering that is a grain offering

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to YHVH (read Adonai), his offering must be ground flour. He shall pour oil onto it and put frankincense on it.


Now whenever someone draws near to offer a gift from the harvest to THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD,  his offering must be in the form of grain that is husked and ground. He must pour olive oil onto it and then put bits of frankincense in it.

Leviticus 2:2


He must bring it to the sons of AARON, the priests, one of whom shall take from it a handful of flour and oil with all the frankincense in it, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as a memorial offering; it is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to YHVH (read Adonai).


He must bring it to the descendants of THE ENLIGHTENED TEACHER who are priests, and one of them must take a handful of the flour that contains oil and the right amount of frankincense in it, and this priest must burn it up on the altar as an offering which serves the purpose of remembering [what God has done]; it is totally consumed by the fire, and because of that THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD loves the smell of it; He finds it soothing because it quiets [His anger toward sin.]

Ingredients of the Grain Offering and What They Symbolized

~Flour was the main ingredient in this sacrifice. It was sometimes described as “high quality ground grain.” This indicates that God asked for common things, yet important things. Even poor people could bring offerings, yet it was still something of value.

Because it was the produce of the field it seems to point toward the purpose of expressing gratitude to God for the harvest.

~ Olive oil was another ingredient. It is a staple of life; oil is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

The use of olive oil could point toward gratitude for the olive harvest which provided them with much needed oil which they used in many ways. The connection to the Holy Spirit may have been related to the issue of consecration and would have been a commitment to living under the direction of God’s Spirit.

~ Frankincense was, and still is, a very expensive commodity. In ancient times frankincense was more valuable than gold! It was used in burials (and other things). When Frankincense was heated it released a sweet smell. That’s why God sometimes lets us go through the “fire,” so we can begin to release a sweeter “smell” in our lives.

Some think that God had them add frankincense into this offering so that it would smell good and thus be the “sweet smelling aroma” spoken of. But this could not be the case for reasons I express in my lesson about “The sweet smelling aroma wasn’t very sweet.”

~ Salt was expensive in ancient times and was a highly desirable commodity. We get our phrase “worth your salt” from the fact that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt rather than coins. Salt was used to cure meats and thus preserve them; it is a barrier to impurity or corruption, a barrier to the natural process of decay and putrefaction (rotting). Thus it was added to the grain offering to represent God’s purifying and preserving work in our lives.

Salt was often used in covenant-making to show the importance of the covenant. It also pointed to the fact that if someone disobeyed part of the covenant, the other party had the right to come to their house, find all their salt and dump it in the violator’s field rendering that salt useless for anything except to be “trampled underfoot” as Jesus said.

Things That Were Not Allowed in the Grain Offering

~ Yeast was a picture of something that permeated the whole batch. In the Bible it was sometimes used to depict sin, and sometimes it was used to depict good things. Here it appears to depict a negative influence that infiltrated everything around it.

The point was this: Keep your offering pure; keep your dedication and commitment to God pure, without influences that will corrupt you.

~ “Honey” was used to denote several syrupy liquids that were usually sweet. It could come directly from the fruit of a plant, such as the date palm, or it could come indirectly from plants via honeybees. But not all “honey” in the Bible came from bees. In fact, they did not practice beekeeping and finding a beehive with honeycomb in it was a rare and special find. Palm-honey or bee-honey was not allowed, either because it was used in pagan cultic practices, or because it was used in brewing beer, or because it represented life’s luxurious pleasures. I believe it is most likely because God wanted to teach them to not seek luxuries in life. If we seek after life’s luxuries, we can be easily corrupted by the negative influences (yeast). But if we seek a life of simplicity, we will be less likely to be corrupted.

Simplicity is a word that we don’t use much anymore because the lives of most Americans are headed at breakneck speed away from anything that resembles simplicity. We try to do everything and end up unable to do anything well. We try to keep all our options open and end up dabbling in a little bit of everything, failing to follow a clear purpose, unless that purpose is to try a little bit of everything. Simplicity requires adherence to a clearly defined purpose that is not satisfaction of self. Simplicity requires saying “no” and doing so forcefully and frequently.

How Was it Offered?

The worshipper brought flour made from the best part of his grain (without mixing the grains). This flour was mixed with olive oil and frankincense and formed by the priest into what we would call a tiny pie crust. The word “cake” is not helpful to us because our cakes are light and airy, which requires lots of leavening. These could not have any leavening (yeast).

One of these tiny pie crusts was burned on the altar and it was completely consumed, just like the burnt offering. It was also called a “sweet smelling aroma to the Lord” because the smoke of the offering went up to God. In this way it was similar to the burnt offering, thus its purpose may have partially been one of commitment.

When Was it Offered?

The grain offering was used during the feasts, when they gave thanks to God for the harvest. Thus, it was likely used to express gratitude. They were often used in conjunction with burnt offerings, so it likely had the additional purpose of dedication or consecration. It was considered a dedicatory offering, so dedication makes sense. It often accompanied a sin offering or a guilt offering so it had to do with a recognition of our spiritual condition before God (although you will be surprised to find out what the sin offering and the guilt offering actually dealt with).

Lessons from the Grain Offering

1.  Repentance must come first.

None of the dedicatory offerings were accepted by God unless that person was right with God.

2.   Don’t make it about you. In trying to thank God we need to make sure we don’t include anything that offends Him or is contrary to His nature and purpose. We like honey and things made with yeast, but they are symbols of our sinful desires. Don’t offer God what you like; this is akin to a man giving his wife a chain saw for Christmas.

3.  We should offer God only what He asks for, not what we think He might want.

Nadab and Abihu offered God the wrong kind of incense offering and they died because of it. There was a reason He demanded the things He did—to teach them about Him. If we offer Him what we think God wants, we don’t learn anything about Him; it is only a reflection of us.

4. Find out what God wants from you.

Be in His word! God tells us in His word what He desires from us.

Micah 6:8 says “Mankind, He has shown you what is acceptable, and what YHVH (read Adonai) requires from you, only to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Here are some examples from the New Covenant of things we are told to offer God:

~ Our bodies as living sacrifices  Rom. 12:1

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~ Ourselves  II Cor. 8:5

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Thankfulness Heb. 13:15

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The next lesson in the full series on covenants is The Peace/Fellowship Offering.



This word simply means to “draw near” for any purpose. Context must indicate what or who someone is drawing near to, and what the purpose was. If the context is that of sacrifices or the temple, we can be confident that they were drawing near to the altar of sacrifice, and the purpose was to offer their sacrificial animal on the altar.


I have rendered this word in the translation column as “grain offering” because that is what it was usually called, but that is not what the word means. The word used here means “gift, tribute, or present.”

3: Rom 12:1

Therefore, I come along side you to call you, brothers, based on the compassionate mercy of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice which is well-pleasing to God; doing this is a logical way for you to worship.

4: II Cor 8:5 

And not only as we had expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then to us, by the will of God.

5: Heb. 13:15

"Through Him (Jesus) then, let us offer a thank offering to God in every situation; this is the natural byproduct of lips that confess His name."