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Leviticus 2 – The Memorial Portion

Leviticus 2 – The Memorial Portion

Leviticus 2 overviews the Grain Offering.  This offering consists of fine flour (semolina), oil, frankincense and salt.  The priest would take a handful of the offering—making sure to include all the frankincense—and burn that handful on the altar.  The rest would be eaten by the priests.  The portion that was burned is called the “memorial portion” (Lev 2:2 ESV).

            There exists some controversy over the meaning of “memorial portion.”  The Hebrew word—azkarah—has an uncertain etymology.  Most believe it means something like the ESV translates it: “memorial portion.”  A portion of the entire offering burned up to memorialize the Lord’s blessings upon Israel.  It was a way of remembering what God had done for them in both their redemption from Egypt and the blessings that followed in the Land (cf. Deut 26:1-11).

            However, others think that the Hebrew word means something more like “a token portion.” Certainly this idea can be seen in the offering itself, as the handful the priest burns is indeed a “token portion” of the entire offering the worshiper brings.

            Still others believe the word means something akin to “the invocation portion.”  The idea here is that the offering invokes God’s name in worship.  Once again, this idea too seems inherent in the act itself.

            Etymologically, the Hebrew word azkarah appears closely related to the Hebrew word for “remember”: zakar.  They share the same root consonants.  It appears that the handful is a microcosm of the already-microcosmic offering itself.  Here’s what I mean:

            The Grain Offering itself is a microcosm of God’s entire blessing upon Israel.  To put it another way, the offering represents all that God has given Israel.  Since the Israelites could not possible bring back everything God had blessed them with, they bring back a token portion of it, a memorial portion.

            But the priest does not burn up the entire offering.  He only takes a token portion of the token portion—a microcosm of the microcosm!  As the handful is a miniature representative of the whole offering, the whole offering is representative of the entirety of blessings upon Israel.                   The same goes for our gifts to the Lord.  We give a portion back to God what He has given us, though all the while recognizing that that portion only represents a shred of all we’ve been blessed with.  We are grateful for it all, as this small portion demonstrates.

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