Leviticus 2 explains the Tribute Offering, an offering of flour and oil, often cooked into a cake or loaf of bread. This offering expressed love and loyalty and devotion for God the King. It teaches Christians that Christ is our King, and therefore, we are called to even greater devotion.
“Now when anyone presents a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it…” (Lev. 2)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
There are several types of grain offerings described: uncooked ground grain with oil and frankincense (2:1-3) and baked/cooked unleavened cakes/wafers made with oil or spread on top (2:4-10). In both, a memorial portion or handful is put on the altar, but the rest is given to the priests (2:2-3, 9-10). There is to be no leaven or honey in any of the grain offerings offered on the altar; they may be given as first fruits offerings but not put on the altar (2:11-12). Every grain offering is to be seasoned with salt, so that the “covenant of salt” is remembered constantly (2:13). Israelites could also bring early ripened grain as a grain offering, much like the offering of uncooked flour (2:14-16).
THE TRIBUTE OFFERING
It makes sense that the Ascension Offering is the first thing in Leviticus since it is the most common daily sacrifice, but Numbers 28 makes it clear that grain offerings were offered continuously with the daily Ascension Offerings (morning and evening), along with morning and evening drink offerings that were poured out to the Lord. This is likely why it comes next in Leviticus. It may also be that the grain offering was an additional option for the poorest in Israel who could not afford even a pigeon or a dove. It seems to be closely associated with the Ascension Offering given the repeated refrain: “up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Lev. 2:2, 9, cf. 1:9, 13, 17). The word translated “grain offering” is “minchah” and literally means “tribute.” While it always refers to this grain offering in Leviticus, it is used more generally to refer to any kind of sacrifice elsewhere (Gen. 4:3-5, 1 Sam. 2:17, 29, 26:19) and often refers to a gift of honor from an inferior to a superior, vassals to their lord, i.e. tribute (Gen. 32:19ff, Gen. 43:11ff, Jdg. 3:15ff, 1 Sam. 10:27, 2 Sam. 8:2ff, 1 Kgs. 4:21, 2 Kgs. 8:7-9). While frankincense is only added in the uncooked Tribute offerings, they are always mixed or anointed with oil, presumably highlighting the royal nature of the gift. This gift of bread proclaimed Yahweh as King.
THE GRAIN OFFERING OF JEALOUSY
This notion of tribute or loyalty perhaps explains why this offering was used for the jealousy rite in Numbers 5 as well as the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6. In Numbers 5, God established a trial by ordeal in which a woman suspected of adultery swears an oath of innocence before the Lord and a tribute of jealousy is offered in the process (Num. 6:15-18, 25-26). The Tribute offering swears allegiance to the Lord, and the woman is swearing that she has been faithful to her husband and her God, faithful to all her covenant vows in other words (cf. Prov. 2:17). The flip side of this is the Tribute offering that is offered at the conclusion of a Nazirite vow, which is a temporary oath of dedication to the service of the Lord (a sort of semi-priestly service, often associated with holy war). The point is again complete allegiance, loyalty, dedication.
COVENANT OF SALT
All of this is related to what is referenced in 2:13: “the salt of the covenant.” Salt was to go on the Tribute offering as well as all of the offerings (2:13). The same notion is referred to in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chron. 13:5 where the covenant is called “a covenant of salt.” In context, this designation refers to the permanence of the covenant: it is forever. This also underlines the covenantal character of the sacrificial system: “Gather my godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50:5). The sacrifices were not impersonal rites to appease the deity. They were personal, covenantal ceremonies of confession, devotion, and love. We also know that salt was used for judgment, as in Sodom and Gomorrah (Dt. 29:23, cf. Jdg. 9:45). But salt was also used for healing, as when Elisha healed the bitter spring of water (2 Kgs. 2:20-21). Salt, like the covenant, is therefore potent either to cause barrenness or else life, blessings or curses because it is a personal relationship with the God of the universe.
This seems to be the point Jesus is making in the gospels: He says we are the “salt of the earth” (Mt. 5:13). In context, the point is the savor/flavor of righteousness and obedience, and that gives a good “flavor” to the whole world (Mt. 5:16-20). But when the salt loses its savor, God throws it out to be trampled by men (Mt. 5:13). The same point is made in the following verse about God’s people being the light of the world; if the world goes dark, it is because God’s people have been disobedient/disloyal to their God. In Mark, Jesus says that everyone “will be salted with fire” (Mk. 9:49) and urges the disciples to have “salt” in themselves and be at peace with one another (Mk. 9:50). Right before this, Jesus warns about causing little ones to stumble and taking drastic measures to cut off the hand or foot or eye that causes stumbling in order to avoid Hell fire (Mk. 9:42-48). That is loyalty. It’s striking that Jesus describes a sort of dismembering to avoid fire but adds that everyone will be salted with fire – like all sacrifices. In Luke, Jesus speaks of salt that has become useless for soil or manure in the context of complete surrender to Him, giving up everything, even family and following Him (Lk. 14:26-35). The covenant of salt is potent: either for life and blessing, or else judgment and cursing.
The Tribute Offering forbids yeast and honey (2:11). At the same time, we know that grain offerings were usually offered with a drink offering, although the wine was poured out at the base of the altar (Ex. 29:40-41, Num. 28:9). Yeast and honey can both ferment, a certain kind of passive aging, while bread and wine are both products of human labor. Paul says that we must constantly get rid of the leaven of malice and wickedness, and we are to keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:6-8). This is talking about our work, our labors. People were made to work, and because we are made in the image of God, our work is potent. But it is either potent for blessing or cursing because of the salt of the covenant. Malice and wickedness grows naturally in a fallen world, just like weeds, but the blessing of God needs constantly tending. We need to put our labors on the altar every morning and every evening (and double on Sundays) which is to say put them on Christ and in Christ because He is our King.