The name found in the original for this species of sacrifice is shelamim, singular shelem. According to some commentators, shelem is derived from the Kal shalem, the sense and meaning of which is: to be whole, entire; to be safe, sound, secure actually and in one’s own mind; to be at peace, to be in a continuous state of peace, to have peace toward some one.
The second explanation of shelem refers it to the Piel shillem, to pay, to perform, to render a thing, to recompense, to reward; hence, to thank.
The remark is in order here that whereas the Piel shillem means to make whole and thus to bring to a state of peace, it is not at all necessary to refer shelem to the Kal shalem in order that this name may have the meaning of peace. This being true, the name shelem should be explained as being derived from the Piel and be taken as a signification of both peace and thankfulness. In the sphere of grace, certainly, peace and thankfulness go hand in hand.
But let us for the present disregard the name and concentrate on the sacrifices it signified. This having been done, we will know how the name shelem is to be explained.
Within the one species that in the English version of the Holy Scriptures bears the name of peace offering there are three variations, to wit, the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Hebrew, todhah), of the vow (nedher), and of the free-will (nedhabhah). That we have to do here with one class of three distinct offerings is plain from Lev. 7:11-20. This passage sets out with the notice, “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which, he shall offer unto the Lord. . . .” The plural offerings of the term peace offerings has reference to the three sacrifices mentioned in the subsequent five verses of this passage; and those mentioned are the three cited above.
Each of these three peace offerings was a sacrifice by blood. This all three had in common with the sin, trespass, and burnt offering. They were atoning sacrifices. And therefore the action with the blood of these offerings was essentially identical to the action with the blood of all the others. Having by the imposition of hands laid his guilt upon the head of his innocent substitute, the offerer killed it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Thereupon its blood was sprinkled by the officiating priest upon the altar round about and so presented to Jehovah as a covering for the worshipper in respect to his sins (Lev. 3:1, 2). The choice parts of the carcass “the fat that covered the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver with the kidneys” were burnt on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, “which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord” (Lev. 3:5). This, it will be recalled, was also the action with the choice parts of the sin and the trespass offering. And the truth set forth by this action was, of course, the same in each case. As this truth has already been apprehended and explained, we need have no further regard to the parts of the ritual of the peace offering presented above.
If the peace offering, on account of its being an atoning sacrifice, had much in common with the sin and trespass offering, it had more in common with the burnt offering. Both were appointed for the same kind of sins. There were, it will be recalled, three kinds of sins that could be atoned by the animal sacrifices. To the first kind belonged all sins committed unwittingly, or ascribable to carelessness or inadvertence. The second kind were sins of weakness and such as were done in the heat of passion. For as many sins of these two kinds as could be compensated, the trespass offering was appointed. The rest were to be expiated by the sin offering. There was still a third kind of sins, the one to which belonged: the many moral intimities and miseries that even the most devout Christians feel in themselves,—such intimities (to again quote from a former article) as imperfect and weak faith, the failure on the part of the believer to yield himself to serve God with that zeal as he is bound, the evil lusts of the flesh with which every believer has daily to strive. For sins of this character both the burnt and the peace offering availed and these offerings only. Thus, as the burnt, so the peace offering. It was appointed for spiritual believers, who by the mercies of God had so succeeded in crucifying the works of the flesh and mortifying their members which are upon the earth, that their walk of life was plainly that of a child of the light; thus believers who, as constrained by love, were walking, to quote from a former article, “in the way of the covenant and thus walking with God, and who therefore, at that particular juncture that they brought their burnt offering, did not find themselves under the necessity, on account of some particular sin or sins, that they either wittingly or unwittingly had committed, of bringing the sin and trespass offering.” Also here, the truth of this statement is borne out by the circumstance, that the written record of the legislation that concerned the ritual of the peace offering does not set out with some such statement as, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning the things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them. . . .” It was thus, no more than the burnt offering, a sacrifice that had to be brought on account of the worshipper’s having made himself conspicuous through his sinning against any of the commandments. But the observation made in respect to the burnt offering applies with equal force to the sacrifice under consideration. Whereas the holiest of men have but a small beginning of true obedience, whereas also such men despite all their striving to attain to the ideal of a perfect life in Christ, continue in this life to lie in the midst of death, do evil—the evil that they would not—and thus daily increase their guilt, also the peace offering had to be one by blood. Thus also in the description of the ritual of this offering, we come upon the notice, “And he shall put his hand upon the head of his offering and kill it. . . and. . . . the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.”
The burnt and peace offerings were alike in one more respect. Both had to be supplemented with meat (better said, cereal) and with drink offerings.
On account of what these two species of offerings had in common, it may be expected that in the Old Testament Scriptures they always be mentioned together. And so they are. Joshua built an altar unto the Lord in mount Ebel. “And they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings” (Jos. 8:31). In the reply of the two tribes and half to the ten tribes (Jos. 22), the statement occurs, “That we have built us an altar to turn from following the Lord, or if to offer thereon burnt offerings or meat offerings, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the Lord Himself require it.” The children of Israel, having been twice defeated by the Benjamites, came to the house of God, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. After the destruction of the Benjamites, they in great heaviness of spirit went to the house of God and, building there an altar, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (Jud. 21:14). Samuel told Saul that he would come down to him at Gilgal to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings (I Sam. 10:8). When the Ark of the Lord had been brought in and set in his place, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (II Sam. 6:17). David built by the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebuzite an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (II Sam. 24:20). Having awakened from his dream, Solomon came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and peace offerings. . . . (I Kings 3:15). On the occasion of the dedication of the temple, Solomon offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of peace offerings (I Kings 8:64).
The reason that these two sacrifices were always offered together can be none other than that the one without the other was not complete. Wholly yielding one’s self unto God, as one who is alive from the dead, and yielding one’s members as instruments of righteousness unto God (this was the action of Christ and His people symbolized by the burnt offering), not only goes hand in hand with but even includes thanksgiving and praise. And one who so yields his self has peace toward God. He is one whose heart and mind are being kept in Christ by peace—the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
However, though the offering under consideration had much in common with all the other offerings and especially with the burnt offerings and thus formed together with the others one complete system of sacrifices setting forth the manifold mercies of God, it in one respect differed from each of the others. And it is precisely this difference that formed its mark of distinction and that accounts for its appointment and for the name that was given it. How did this offering differ from each of the others? The answer is to be taken from Scripture, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, He that offereth the sacrifice of his peace offerings unto the Lord, shall bring his oblation unto the Lord of the sacrifice of his peace offerings. His own hands shall bring the offering of the Lord made by fire, the fat with the breast; it shall he bring, that the breast may be waved for a wave offering before the Lord. And the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. And the right shoulder shall ye give unto the priest for a heave offering of the sacrifices of your peace offering. He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part. For the wave breast and the heave shoulder have I taken of the children of Israel from off the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons, to a statute forever, from among the children of Israel” (Lev. 7:28-34).
This passage, it will be observed, has chiefly to do with the breast and the right shoulder of the animal sacrifice. The breast, so the passage teaches, was moved in a horizontal direction for the waving, and the shoulder in a vertical one for the heaving. The ceremony was performed by the priest assisted perhaps (Scripture does not say) by the offerer. When the parts were thus presented, they were given to the priesthood for food. But what was done, with all the rest of the flesh? Scripture gives no direct answer. It is plain, however, from such passages as Deut. 12:6, 7, that the rest was given to the offerer, to be partaken of by himself and those he was bidden to call to share with him, namely his own friends, the Levite, the widow and the fatherless, “But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither shalt thou come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your free-will offerings, and the firstfruits of your herds and of your flocks; and there ye shall eat before the Lord your God. . . The name heave offering in the above Scripture signifies also the peace offering.
This then was peculiar to the peace offering: with the exception of its choice parts (the fat and the caul), which were burnt upon the altar, the entire dead body was given to the priesthood and the offerers for food.
To understand the significance of this, regard must first be had to the wave- and heave offering. Scripture sheds no direct light on the meaning of this rite. This rite, however, speaks for itself and can therefore be understood. The prevalent view that it was intended to be a sort of presentation of the parts to God, as the supreme Ruler in all the regions of this lower world and in the higher regions above, is inadequate, however true it may be. It is to be considered that what was partaken of by the priesthood and the offerers was the flesh of an animal that through its suffering and dying in that very flesh had expiated sin. Now when the sacrifice was a burnt offering the whole carcass and thus not merely its choice parts (the fat and the caul) was placed upon the altar (after the slaying of the victim) and thus presented to Jehovah for acceptance. And by Jehovah it was accepted so that sins were no longer being imputed. When, however, the sacrifice was a peace offering, only the choice parts of the victim were placed upon the altar and the rest was partaken of by the priesthood and the offerers and this for a reason to be explained presently. But whereas in this flesh atonement had been made, it, too, as well as the choice parts had first to be presented to Jehovah for acceptance in token that the victim’s dying in this flesh had actually been accepted as a symbolical payment for sin. But this flesh could not be presented through its being placed upon the altar; for what was laid upon the altar was burnt. It was therefore presented through the priest’s heaving, that is raising, not the whole of it but only one of its representative parts (the right shoulder) heavenward and in all probability also in a direction toward Jehovah’s throne that stood in the holiest place of the worldly sanctuary; and through this same priest’s waving, that is, moving to and fro, the other part. Now as the altar was the meeting-place between Jehovah and the worshipper, the clause “That the breast may be waved for a wave offering before the Lord” implies that this waving was done before the altar. So, what the rite under consideration plainly signified is that Israel’s food was the gift of its Redeemer-God that came from His altar, that thus what His people nourished their mortal frames with was the flesh of a victim that through its death had expiated (symbolically) their sins not only but had also rendered itself available as food to those whose sins had been expiated. If this flesh and the altar be regarded as one—and so they should be regarded—then it will be understood that the altar was Jehovah’s table, prepared by Him for His people through the death of a sacrifice which He Himself provided. Rightly considered, the truth set forth by the peace offering, is that the people of Israel, as residents of Canaan, were always seated at Jehovah’s altar, and that whatever material gift He bestowed was found upon this table and thus was and had to be received as a gift of mercy, as a gift that He prepared for His people through the death of His very own sacrifice. For with that right shoulder and with that breast is to be associated firstly, the rest of the carcass; secondly, all the first-born of the flocks, all the firstfruits, all the tithes of all the products of their fields and vineyards; and lastly, all that these firstfruits and tithes represented, namely, the entire yield of the soil and all their flocks and herds. That such is the right conception is evident from the following. The firstborn of the herd and flocks had to be presented to Jehovah and, after having been properly sacrificed, shared with the dependent members of the community. Deut. 14:23-27. These first-born, as sacrificed, were thus peace offerings. Further. All the first fruits and all the tithes brought by the people of Israel to the sanctuary, were placed by the officiating priest before Jehovah’s altar. And it was in the very presence of this altar that these gifts were partaken of. What else does this signify than that these offerings together with what they represented had to be regarded as gifts that the people of Israel received from Jehovah’s table.
And what came from this altar—the flesh of the peace offering—was ceremonially clean. It was the flesh of an animal without spot or blemish. And while still in a fresh state it also had to be eaten. Hence, as much of it as remained after the second day, became an abomination and therefore had to be burned. “The soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.” This flesh had also to be destroyed with fire, if it had been brought in contact with any unclean thing. What is more, only such who were ceremonially clean might eat of it, “The soul that eateth of the sacrifice of peace offerings that pertain unto the Lord, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of a man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offerings, which pertaineth unto the Lord, even that soul shall be cut off from his people” (Lev. 7:18-21). How well these prohibitions were designed to impress upon the ancient worshipper and upon us all, that the gifts that God prepares for His people through the atoning sacrifices are holy and may be partaken of only by such who are holy on account of their being cleansed from all their sins by the blood of this same sacrifice, and that such do indeed constitute “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9, 10). How loudly these prohibitions proclaim that God is resolved by Himself that His chosen people only shall partake of the gifts of His altar, Christ Jesus.
With all their bodily needs fulfilled at Jehovah’s table (altar), the ancient worshippers were bidden to rejoice, “Thou shalt not eat within thy gates the tithes of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offerings of thy hand: but thou mayest eat them before the Lord thy God in the place where the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (Deut. 12:17, 18). “Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou and thy son; And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: . . . .” (Deut. 16:11).
“And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman. . . .” that is, “Thou shalt remember that thou art a people redeemed from bondage through the blood of my sacrifice and, as a people with sins taken away, art and shalt be everlastingly feasting at My table that I prepared for thee in My house through the death of this same sacrifice.” Rejoice therefore! Now this rejoicing might not be (though it was this on the part of the carnal seed) a carnal, worldly, merrymaking, the issue of hearts that were glad for the sole reason that the soil had again abundantly yielded. There is nothing specifically Christian about such rejoicing. The thought of being secure in a material sense is gratifying to the flesh, so that, when garners are again full, the world, too, is glad. It is this on account of its being prostrated before the shrine of Mammon. In its rejoicing it ends in the things on earth.
What Jehovah required of His people is that they rejoice because the material things with which He had laden His table or altar signalized His mercy over them, and because they formed (then, in the dispensation of the law but not in this day) the certain evidence that He loved them and the pledge that He, as their Redeemer-God, would clothe them with true salvation for Christ’s sake and that thus they would awaken to behold His face in righteousness and be satisfied by His likeness. They who could so rejoice loved God for His own Self. They rejoiced therefore also when the fig tree did not blossom, when there was no fruit in the vines and when the fields yielded no meat and the flocks were cut off from the fold: for their rejoicing was not in things but in the Lord and in the God of their salvation. And rejoicing, they would praise Him and bless His name. And their praise was their thanksgiving and thus not that goat or bullock that they placed on God’s altar. “I will take no bullock out of thy house” said the Lord to them, “nor he goats out of thy folds: for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. . . . Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 50). The sacrifices were no pay turned out to the Lord for benefits received but merely the instruments for the expression of gratitude and praise. So the vain man regarded his offering, namely, as so much pay. The Lord therefore abhorred his sacrifice. The spiritually enlightened in Israel understood this. “What,” asks the psalmist, “shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (The Lord, so it appears from the preceding verses had delivered his soul from death). “I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. . . . I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116). But true praise, as its content indicates, is also, to be sure, His gift. For true praise is first of all the believer’s confession that he by nature is worthy of an eternal doom and is dead in sin and thus by himself hopelessly lost. Now as often as the believer so confesses before God, he at the same time confesses the righteousness and the holiness of God, the sovereignty of His mercy and the infinite power of His redeeming and saving love. Such a confession therefore carries with it a confession of the glories of God; and the confession of these glories is at once glory and praise to Him. Thus, true praise is the absolute denial that praise can be anything else but His gift. And to this praise, the Israelite gave expression also through the medium of his peace offerings.
It ought to be plain now why the offering under consideration bore the name of peace offering. This sacrifice was the one offering by blood whose flesh was food for the worshipper. With his sins atoned by the shed blood of this sacrifice, he, the worshipper, sat at God’s table, as God’s friend, with the peace of God in his heart and with God’s praises in his mouth (I speak now of the believing worshippers), partaking of nourishment that God through the death of his innocent substitute had prepared for him.
The true peace offering is Christ. The carcass of the peace offering in its lying on the altar in a state of consumption as to its choice parts and in its being partaken of by the worshippers in God’s house, was shadow, the body of which again is the ascended and glorified Christ upon God’s altar in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. Having become obedient unto death, and by His obedience saved His people from their sins, He presented Himself to God in the Holy place. And the Father, smelling a sweet savor, poured of His Spirit upon Him, so that all fulness now dwells in Him. Thus He is the true bread, God’s table eternal in the heavens at which the redeemed are now and ever seated, eating His flesh and drinking His blood and so enjoying as the Father’s children the best things in His house. And eating, they are satisfied. And satisfied, they praise the Lord. And their heart shall live forever.
As has already been explained, the peace offerings appear under three divisions—the sacrifice of thanksgiving or praise, of vow and of free-will. Let us have regard to the sacrifice of thanksgiving. That one of the variations in the species of sacrifices under consideration is called a thanksgiving sacrifice, shows that the ideas of thanksgiving and praise came most distinctly out through this species. Some even regard thank offerings and thus not peace offerings the proper appellation for this species. But, as already has been observed, thanksgiving, praise, and peace are triplet graces that are always found together in the heart of believers. Thus, as a name for this species, peace is as appropriate as thanksgiving.
The first of this species (the sacrifice of thanksgiving), seems to have been somewhat superior to the second and third, in that its flesh required to be eaten on the first day, or else burnt with fire, while the flesh of the vow and freewill offering might be eaten either on the first or on the second.
What occasion called especially for the thanksgiving peace offering and not for the free-will (which was also a peace offering), cannot be determined from Scripture. This has occasioned the conjecture that the thank offering was the proper instrument for the expression of the worshipper’s gratitude when he had received some spontaneous token of the Lord’s goodness or had been made to experience some special act of His mercy, and that thus the free-will offering was appointed for the expression of gratitude when the acts of mercy experienced were but ordinary. This view, also held by Fairbairn, must be taken for what it is, a conjecture. It cannot be proven from Scripture. And the reason is that as often as there appears in the Old Testament Scriptures a worshipper bringing to the Lord a sacrifice on account of some special act of mercy experienced, the name employed is simply peace offering. This being true, right conduct in this case consists in simply confessing ignorance and not resorting to conjecture. It is unquestionably true that the Old Testament worshipper knew which of the two sacrifices he was to bring on any occasion. But we do not know as Scripture is silent on the matter.
As to the free-will peace offering, it was marked as being somewhat inferior to the thank- and vow offering also by the circumstance that an animal with “anything superfluous or lacking in his parts” might be offered.
Why was this sacrifice called a free-will offering? Because, so it is commonly held, the worshipper might or might not bring it, as he chose. But this is doubtful. Also these offerings had to be brought. The people of Israel might not choose not to bring them. This is plain. We read, “And thou shalt keep the feasts of the weeks unto the Lord thy God with sufficiency of a free-will offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; . . . .and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee” (Deut. 16:10, 16, 17). From these Scriptures it appears that one reason why the offerings here mentioned bore the name of free-will, is that the portion of the increase that met the requirement, “Every man shall give as he is able” was allowed to be computed by the worshipper. But with this portion he had to appear before the Lord. The element of freedom that marked the free-will peace offering seems to have been that the worshipper was free to choose for the altar either a perfect animal or one that had anything superfluous or lacking in his parts. There were still other reasons why these offerings were called free-will. But the contention that they were so called because the people of Israel might choose never to bring them, is at variance with the testimony of the above-cited texts. But in bringing these offerings, the people of Israel were not under the constraint of a special precept as they were when they offered their tithes, firstlings of the flock and their firstfruits. This in all likelihood is the explanation of their being called free-will offerings.
These offerings had to be brought as well as the people of God of this day must pray, must support the ministry of the gospel by their material gifts, must attend divine worship. But just how often they must pray and how many of the services they are to attend on the Sabbath God in His Word does not say. So it was with free-will offerings in distinction from all the others. These offerings had to be brought. But just how often was left to the choice of the worshipper. Therefore they bore the name of free-will offerings.
And here without a doubt we have hit upon the true distinction between the thanksgiving peace offerings and the free-will peace offerings. The former had to be brought, so the law required, at stated times, on Israel’s feasts, (think of the firstlings of the flock and the herd. These as sacrificed were peace offerings), the latter were brought as often as the worshipper was prompted to bring them. And the peace offering brought in times of national stress or when God had brought deliverance to His people, or to an individual in trouble, were in all likelihood the free-will peace offerings. This view, it will be noticed, is the direct opposite of the one broached by Fairbairn.