The text reads:
And the priest who offers any man’s burn offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered.Leviticus 7:8 ESV
This is the only time the hide of the animal is mentioned as being gifted in the text of Scripture.
For me, this has stood out for a few weeks, and I have been pondering why the skin of the burnt offering?
What is being done here?
The whole offering is being offered to the L-rd, so why is the skin so special here to be singled out as a gift.
Skins turn to leather, which has a boatload of uses. Perosnally I love the smell of tanned leather.
So, let’s grab some commentators and see what they have to say.
Roy Gane mentions nothing about the skins (NIV Application Commentary). Richard Hess only mentions the fact of the skins transferring to the priest with no exposition as to why (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). Allen Ross, author of “Holiness to the L-rd: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus) mentions the L-rd took care of the practical needs of the priest in the offering. “Not only did they eat the meat, but they also received the skins. In addition to providing clothing for the families of the priests, no doubt a lively trade could have been sustained from the skins taken from the sacrifices. G-d takes care of those who minister thorugh the giving of worshipers.” There, in the sacrificial system instituted by Moses, is found “spiritual satisfaction [for] the worshiper and practical needs [for] the priest in service” (Ross, 176).
And finally, Jacob Milgrom says nothing as to the purpose of the hides, though he does mention it is passing, and talking about the volume of hides produced from personal burnt offerings, he menitons these all belong to the priests.
What is the purpose of the hides from the burnt offering.
Being left to speculate with my gut based on the rest of the text. I will note that the L-rd covered the first man and his bride with skins from a sin offering:
And the L-RD G-d made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.Genesis 3:21 ESV
I wonder if the L-rd’s assignment of hides from the burnt offering to the priests was designed to be a perpetual reminder of his mercy to the first couple in the garden, a memorial of His mercy. And as we hand Him everything in that portion called the burnt offering in recognition of all He has done, as the children of Israel handed the L-rd the whole of the burnt offerings in regonition of His transplanting and sustaining the nation of Israel in Mizraim, perhaps it ws a reminder of the extent of His mercy in making sure the priests, and we by extension, as members of a royal priesthood, are covered, regadless of our behavior, perpetually by His mercy. The burnt offering is also the only offering that has to be executed morning and evening regardless of the state of Israel. The other offerings are only executed WHEN an event happens. The burnt offering, however, is mandated without respect to event. Therefore, baked into the process of the burnt offering is a picture of Father’s unfailing love toward us.
This is speculation, but it is speculation that makes sense.
Consider this today as you read the text, that His mercy and his love must always burn, and there is never a time when that fire does not burn out (Leviticus 6:13), and that fire is powered by the never-faiing burnt offering, morning and evening.