Meat-offering - מנחה minchah . For an explanation of this word see Clarke's note on Genesis 4:3, and Lev. vii. Calmet has remarked that there are five kinds of the minchah mentioned in this chapter.
All these were offered without honey or leaven, but accompanied with wine, oil, and frankincense. It is very likely that the minchah, in some or all of the above forms, was the earliest oblation offered to the Supreme Being, and probably was in use before sin entered into the world, and consequently before bloody sacrifices, or piacular victims, had been ordained. The minchah of green ears of corn dried by the fire, etc., was properly the gratitude-offering for a good seed time, and the prospect of a plentiful harvest. This appears to have been the offering brought by Cain, Genesis 4:3; see Clarke's note Genesis 4:3. The flour, whether of wheat, rice, barley, rye, or any other grain used for aliment, was in all likelihood equally proper; for in Numbers 5:15, we find the flour of barley, or barley meal, is called minchah. It is plain that in the institution of the minchah no animal was here included, though in other places it seems to include both kinds; but in general the minchah was not a bloody offering, nor used by way of atonement or expiation, but merely in a eucharistic way, expressing gratitude to God for the produce of the soil. It is such an offering as what is called natural religion might be reasonably expected to suggest: but alas! so far lost is man, that even thankfulness to God for the fruits of the earth must be taught by a Divine revelation; for in the heart of man even the seeds of gratitude are not found, till sown there by the hand of Divine grace. Offerings of different kinds of grain, flour, bread, fruits, etc., are the most ancient among the heathen nations; and even the people of God have had them from the beginning of the world. See this subject largely discussed on Exodus 23:29; (note), where several examples are given. Ovid intimates that these gratitude-offerings originated with agriculture. "In the most ancient times men lived by rapine, hunting, etc., for the sword was considered to be more honorable than the plough; but when they sowed their fields, they dedicated the first-fruits of their harvest to Ceres, to whom the ancients attributed the art of agriculture, and to whom burnt-offerings of corn were made, according to immemorial usages." The passage to which I refer, and of which I have given the substance, is the following: -
"Non habuit tellus doctos antiqua colonos:
Lassabant agiles aspera bella viros.
Plus erat in gladio quam curvo laudis aratro:
Neglectus domino pauca ferebat ager.
Farra tamen veteres jaciebant, farra metebant:
Primitias Cereri farra resecta dabant.
Usibus admoniti flammis torrenda dedere:
Multaque peccato damna tulere suo."
Fastor., lib. ii., ver. 515.
Pliny observes that "Numa taught the Romans to offer fruits to the gods, and to make supplications before them, bringing salt cakes and parched corn; as grain in this state was deemed most wholesome." Numa instituit deos Fruge colere, et Mola Salsa supplicare, atque (ut auctor est Hemina) far torrere, quoniam tostum cibo salubrius esset - Hist. Nat. lib xviii., c. 2. And it is worthy of remark, that the ancient Romans considered "no grain as pure or proper for divine service that had not been previously parched." Id uno modo consecutum, statuendo non esse purum ad rem divinam nisi tostum - Ibid.
God, says Calmet, requires nothing here which was not in common use for nourishment; but he commands that these things should be offered with such articles as might give them the most exquisite relish, such as salt, oil, and wine, and that the flour should be of the finest and purest kind. The ancients, according to Suidas, seem to have made much use or meal formed into a paste with milk, and sometimes with water. (See Suidas in Μαζα ). The priests kept in the temples a certain mixture of flour mingled with oil and wine, which they called Ὑγιεια Hugieia or health, and which they used as a kind of amulet or charm against sickness; after they had finished their sacrifices, they generally threw some flour upon the fire, mingled with oil and wine, which they called θυληματα thulemata, and which, according to Theophrastus, was the ordinary sacrifice of the poor.
A meat offering - Better translated in Leviticus 2:4 an oblation of a meat offering קרבן qorbân see Leviticus 1:2 מנחה mı̂nchāh signifies literally a “gift”; and it appears to have been applied especially to what was given by an inferior to a superior Genesis 32:18-20; Genesis 43:11; Judges 3:15; 1 Samuel 10:27: but in the technical language of the Law, it regularly denoted the vegetable offerings as distinguished from the animal offerings. Our translators have rendered it “meat-offering”, applying the word “meat”, according to old usage, as a general term for food. Vegetable-offering or meal-offering would be a more convenient rendering.
The meaning of the מנחה mı̂nchāh appears to be much more simple than that of the animal sacrifices. The מנחה mı̂nchāh as a sacrifice, was something surrendered to God, which was of the greatest value to man as a means of living. It might thus seem to be merely eucharistic. But it should not be overlooked that the grain had been modified, and made useful, by man‘s own labor. Hence, it has been supposed that the מנחה mı̂nchāh expressed a confession that all our good works are performed in God and are due to Him.
The order in which the kinds of offering are named agrees with their development in order of time. The burnt-offering and the מנחה mı̂nchāh answer to the first two offerings on record Genesis 4:3-4; Amos 5:22.
Three kinds of מנחה mı̂nchāh are here mentioned; (1) Leviticus 2:1-3; (2) Leviticus 2:4-7; (3) Leviticus 2:14-16. Of each of them a small portion was burned on the altar “for a memorial,” and the remainder was given to the priests. The offerings of flour belonged to the priests at large, but those of cakes and wafers to the officiating priests, Leviticus 7:9-10. Instructions to the priests are given in Leviticus 6:14-23.
Fine flour - finely bolted flour of wheat. It was probably always presented in a bowl, compare Numbers 7:13.
Oil - For the purpose of anointing and as food; in both senses a symbol of divine grace.
Frankincense - See the Exodus 30:34 note.