Vayikra/Leviticus 3:1 And if his offering is a sacrifice of peace-offerings ...
The word has attracted attention from many commentators. A noun derived from the root , to be whole or complete, its usual translation of "peace-offerings" is more a reflection of theVulgate Latin translation pacificus, while the Septuagint gives it no less that three different translations. Levine (JPS Torah Commentary: Vayikra, pg. 15) points out that there is now evidence that the term originally meant "tribute, gift of greeting"; in Akkadian and Ugaritic texts the cognate1 terms are used to describe the gifts presented by vassals to their suzerains2 when they visited them, or by ambassadors when on a diplomatic mission to allies. In this sense, it is much more difficult to sit and eat with people with whom you are in violent disagreement unless there has been some form of reconciliation. So within the Temple system, the peace offering expressed a peaceful relationship between G-d and the people, reaffirmed by the sacrifice itself.
Rashi makes two comments: first that they bring peace into the world - because they are offered as a means of showing or making peace - and secondly "because there is peace in them, for the altar, for the priest and for the owner." All who are involved in the process receive a portion of the offering: part is burnt on the altar as the L-rd's portion, the breast and part of the right hind leg go to the kohanim and the rest goes to those who bring the offering and it is to be eaten that day. All are seen to be participating in the peace-offering: G-d Himself, the priest as G-d's representative, and the people who brought the offering; not only do they participate in the process and the meat, but they are also seen as participating in the peace, the fellowship of taking part in a shared meal.
In His early teaching in the Galil, Yeshua taught: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of G-d" (Matthew 5:9, NASB). One of the ways that Jewish tradition portrays Aharon, the High Priest, is in the role of peace maker - that he would go around the camp making peace between those in conflict, resolving arguments and negotiating disputes to bring about peaceful resolution. Anyone who has spent time working in the counselling, political or arbitration arenas - be that industrial relations, marriage counselling, international treaties or sibling rivalry - knows that it can be very hard work to make peace. Note that there is a big difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper; while the latter will attempt to smooth over differences and keep things ticking over without erupting into conflict, it is only the peacemaker who will force the differences and disagreements out into the open so that they can be resolved, even if that does mean a short-term increase in hostilities. Yeshua didn't call us to be peacekeepers, although we often seem to be engaged in that activity, but to be peacemakers: engaging with people and situations to resolve conflicts rather than hiding them or pretending that they don't exist.
That, after all, is the example He set us on the cross by providing the only possible solution to our broken relationships with G-d. Rav Sha'ul wrote: "We have peace with G-d through Yeshua the Messiah" (Romans 5:1, NASB). What did he mean by that? He goes on to explain: "while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us" (v.8); "while we were enemies, we were reconciled to G-d through the death of His Son" (v.10). Writing to those at Colossi, Sha'ul added, "through Him, [G-d] reconciled all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20, NASB). Knowing that the issue of sin could not be swept under the carpet or simply ignored, Yeshua was not only our sin-offering, offering His body as a sacrifice to take away sin, and our Passover Lamb, that His blood causes the destroyer to pass over us, but He is also our peace offering - He made peace between us and G-d so that relationship might be restored. The shared meal of the peace offering becomes ours as Yeshua said: "Here, I'm standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he will eat with Me" (Revelation 3:20, CJB).
1 - cognates are words - in one or more languages - that have a common origin, meaning that they are descended from the same word, possibly in a common predecessor language.
2 - a suzerain is an over-king; a powerful king to whom other (lesser, smaller) kings are vassals or tributary while retaining some limited autonomy.
Further Study: Judges 6:17-24; Proverbs 16:7; Hebrews 12:14
Application: Have you really made peace with G-d, or have you accepted His forgiveness in Yeshua while carefully keeping your distance in case He turns round and zaps you? Today would be a fine day to sit down and chew over the peace offering that Yeshua made for us and really get to know Him close up, for He is our peace.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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