Animal sacrifices offered to propitiate God’s wrath were the most common sacrifices in ancient Israel. Yet almost as routine as the burnt offering was the grain offering. The grain offering is described in Leviticus 2 after the prescriptions for the propitiatory burnt offering in Leviticus 1, for the grain offering was always offered after the burnt offering when both sacrifices were brought on the same occasion.
Minchah, the Hebrew term for the grain offering, is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to the tribute that was offered to a great king as a sign of and thanksgiving for his goodness to his subjects (Judg. 3:15). In essence, the grain offering served the same purpose. When ancient Israelites offered up their grain on the altar, they were thanking the Lord for His mercies and for supplying their needs.
According to the instructions in Leviticus 2, either raw grain or grain that had been made into cakes could be given to God (vv. 1–10). The cakes to which the text refers were something like a modern pancake and were a daily staple of the people. Offering such things symbolized the need to dedicate every aspect of their daily lives to the Creator, including the labor by which they coaxed the grain from the ground.
Like the other offerings, the grain sacrificed to the Lord had to be pure. No leaven or honey could be added to the cereals that were offered (v. 11), probably because decomposition occurs in the leavening process and therefore makes the grain evidence of the decay of sin. This interpretation makes sense when we recall how leaven is often, but not always (Matt. 13:33), used throughout Scripture to represent wickedness (Luke 12:1). Honey hastened this leavening process. Oil and frankincense were added to the grain offering because of their association with celebration and gladness (1 Sam. 16:13; Song 3:6–11). Salt was also a part of the grain offering (Lev. 2:13), most likely because salt is a preservative, and it was the covenant with Yahweh and the people’s gratitude for their salvation that sustained Israel.
When a grain offering was given, only a small portion of it was actually sacrificed. The rest of it went to the priests (vv. 3, 10) to supply their needs for food. From ancient times, the leaders and clergy of God’s people depended on the covenant community’s kindness to help them provide for their own families.