Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study Leviticus 1:1-4; 2:1-3; 3:1-5. An Appropriate Sacrifice

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study Leviticus 1:1-4; 2:1-3; 3:1-5. An Appropriate Sacrifice
Date: November 4th 2017

Leviticus 1:1-4; 2:1-3; 3:1-5. 
An Appropriate Sacrifice

American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2017, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


The Old Testament book of Exodus provides us with an historical narrative that takes us from the call of Moses by the LORD to bring Israel out of Egypt through the arrival of the nation back on Mt. Horeb where Moses’ journey began.  God had a very specific purpose for Israel, that through this, the descendants of Abraham, the LORD would reveal Himself, His purpose, and His work to the world.  The Exodus served the nation of Israel in several ways.

Until the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, the LORD had revealed Himself openly to a very small number of people, doing so in His timing and consistent with His own plan.  Until the Exodus, virtually all people were actively worshiping or respecting gods that were fabricated from their own imaginations.  Much like modern superheroes like Ironman and Batman, they took on a persona as creative writers and/orators composed stories that served to give them “life.”  Just like we currently vicariously experience alternate universes such as those in Star Trek or Star Wars serials, the ancients held to the alternate universes of their pantheons of mythical Gods.

With the Exodus came an awakening to man as the LORD revealed Himself to a very large population, one formed from the descendants of Abraham, literally entering the human experience, and fulfilling His promise to Abraham.  It was (and is) important that people learn the true identity, nature, and purpose of God, so He used the Exodus from Egypt to teach these new ideas to Israel and to us.  As the “real thing,” God is dramatically different than the mythical gods of ancient human culture, and it is important that the people know those differences.

First, the LORD demonstrated to the nation that He is real.  As the only true and living God, the LORD showed His presence, His power, and His purpose as He brought the plagues upon Egypt and its Pharaoh and then parted the Red Sea, providing Israel’s escape and the subsequent destruction of Pharaoh’s army and his influence.  

Second, the LORD demonstrated His continual presence though the Pillar of Fire, the Shekinah Glory.  Where the geographic range of the mythical gods was limited to the subcultures that created them, the LORD is present everywhere.  As the LORD led the nation, He would take them throughout the region and would never leave them.

Third, the LORD demonstrated His provision for them.  It would have been literally impossible for the nation of Israel to survive in the desert for the duration of their 40-year journey had it not been for the miraculous provision of food and water that was provided by the LORD.

Fourth, the LORD taught the people His own righteous nature, and the power of sin to separate people from the blessings of power, presence, and provision that the LORD intends.  The LORD always taught that forgiveness for sin is a gift of God, gracefully given by Him to those who place their faith and trust in Him.  However, it was also important for the people to know that the price of that forgiveness is very high.  The people need to understand how much the LORD hates sin and evil, and the price for sin will still be paid.  It is for this purpose that the LORD established the sacrificial system.  The book of Exodus finished with the construction of the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle where the LORD would show His presence, and where required sacrifices would be made.  The historical narrative continues in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.  The book of Leviticus “is a highly theological work. Its theology, however, is not always expressed explicitly or clearly, but rather is often embodied, even encoded, in descriptions of ritual activity. The rituals described must be interpreted to appreciate the theological perspectives they reflect.”

The narrative of Leviticus begins with the establishment of the LORD’s requirements for sacrifice.

Leviticus 1:1.  And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.

Forgiveness always comes at a cost.  It is not free.  By exacting a cost, the LORD clearly denotes the significance of sin.  The nature of the sacrifices that are first introduced to Israel serve to establish these truths.  The LORD would teach that there is no forgiveness of sin without sacrifice, and sins of commission would require the blood of an animal as a substitution for the death that the sinner truly deserves.

The first seven chapters of Leviticus contain instruction on five different types of offerings or sacrifices.  Each of these offerings pertains to a unique facet of how we are to relate to God and to one another.

The burnt offering.  First recorded in Genesis, this was an animal sacrifice that was offered twice each day and was completely consumed by fire.  Literally meaning “go up in smoke” it was an acknowledgment of the offeror’s sin-nature and a request for a renewed, positive, relationship with God.

The grain offering.  Often brought at the same time as a burnt offering, the grain offering was partially burned, but most was kept for the provision of the priests and Levites.  Usually comprised of whatever grain was being used by the family, typically wheat, oats, or barley, would be given as an act of worship that demonstrates the offeror’s appreciation of the LORD’s provision.

The peace offering. This was a free-will offering that would serve to communicate one’s thankfulness to the LORD for His mercy, His kindness, and His provision.  It might be given to praise God for His goodness, his deliverance, or to accompany a fulfilled vow,  

The sin offering. This was an offering that was given to seek atonement from the LORD for unintentional sins, or sins committed in ignorance.  Such sins would be exposed by one’s breaking one of God’s laws.  Consisting of an animal sacrifice, the nature of the animal used would be consistent with the social status of the offeror.  Sin offerings could be given by individuals for specific sins

The guilt offering. Similar to the sin offering in its execution, this was given to seek restoration for an unintentional transgression, such as one’s becoming “unclean” by taking part in some action that is declared to be so, such as touching a dead body, or experiencing an effusion of blood.

Before we continue, we might note that none of the sacrifices or offerings that are defined in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy serve to either atone for or to seek restoration for any deliberate sin.  Such a sacrifice would not be available until the final sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary.  It was Jesus’ declaration that He could and would forgive such sins that first enraged the Jerusalem Jewish elite.

Also, we might note that offerings to the LORD that are given today may be categorized into three major types:  tithes, offerings, and gifts.

Tithes.  These are given to the LORD for the purpose of the systematic support of on-going ministries.  Many churches operate much like a business and take great care to handle their finances with integrity and fiscal responsibility.  Such churches will establish budgets that depend upon the support of the congregation.  Resources that are given to the church to support these operations are the tithes.  These are “brought into the storehouse.”  The church ministries rely on the consistent contribution of tithes in order to keep them active.

Offerings.  In addition to the consistent day-to-day needs of the church ministries, there are also event-driven needs that are not a part of the church “budget.”  A unique need might be brought to the church fellowship, and a request for an offering can be taken.  Offerings are given above the tithe since the church ministries would suffer if tithes were used to meet the needs of special offerings.

Gifts.  The third form of giving is the gift.  Like gifts that we give to one another that serve to illustrate our love for one another, those who love the LORD may also be inspired to make a special gift to the LORD’s work when a need or opportunity is recognized.  Like the offering, it is given above and beyond the tithe, and unlike the offering, it tends to be very personal as one simply desires to bring a gift to the LORD.

We may observe much of the foundation for the giving of tithes, offerings, and gifts when we study the plan for sacrifices that was given to the Israelites as they were first coming to terms with understanding the nature of God.

Leviticus 1:3.  If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.

THE BURNT OFFERING

The different forms of offerings given in worship are listed frequently in the biblical narrative from Leviticus through Deuteronomy, and when listed, the burnt offering, the ‘ōlāt, is consistently listed first.  In many ways, the LORD’s directions for the burnt offering serve as a model for sacrifices to the LORD. “The burning rite on the altar is the element common to all types of sacrifice, as well as the feature that distinguishes the sacrifice as an "offering for YAHWEH." Indeed, it is the burning rite that accomplishes the goal of biblical sacrifice—namely, communication with God.”

Where the pagan form of sacrifice was believed to be a heartless work that was necessary to make their gods respond in a manner that they desired, the LORD redefined the practice, moving the motivation for worship from traditional practice to the heart.  This passage illustrates the following list of changes:

1.    This is a voluntary offering that is given by the worshipper, not the priest.  When we give to the LORD we do it voluntarily.  The LORD does not stand over us with a threat of destruction if we choose not to honor Him with our tithes, gifts, and offerings.  Rather, the only appropriate means for giving to the LORD is from the heart: a desire to do so not only because the LORD requires it, but because we want to do so.  One who loves the LORD seeks to be a part of what He is doing in this world, and gifts, tithes, and offerings allow us to support this work.

Though the burnt sacrifices were actually performed by a priest at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting twice daily, these were offerings that were brought by the people at any time during the day.  There was no law that stated that they must bring the offering.  They were simply taught that the burnt offering is an appropriate means by which the people can demonstrate their love for the LORD and their appreciation for who He is, and what He has done for them.

If a gift given to the LORD is given for any reason other than by personal choice to do so, it is not a sacrifice.  Such payments would be a form of a tax.

2.    This is the one offering where the entire gift is consumed with fire.  No profit or reward is provided for either the offeror or the priests.  Other than the skins, nothing is left for anyone to use either as food or for any other purpose.  This is the purest form of sacrifice, for a sacrifice is not true if any portion of the gift is retained by the giver.  To give it all is the purest form of worship. 

Even today when people give their tithes, offerings, and gifts, they often want something in return.  They may wish to control how the resources are used.  They may wish to have their name emblazoned on the gift so that others in the future can know of their “generosity.” If the giver receives anything in return for a gift given to the LORD it is not a true gift.  It is not a sacrifice.

3.    The value of this offering is also indicated in the commands concerning its nature:  an unblemished male.  Between rams and ewes, a good ram is far more valuable to the owner.  A flock will consist mostly of ewes with the best ram, or a couple of the best rams, left with them to produce offspring.  The gift of a ram is a far greater sacrifice on the part of the worshipper than that of a ewe.  The need for the ram is far greater than the need of one of their many ewes.

Likewise, today we may see people make “gifts” to the church of things that they no longer need.  People may see a need in the church and meet it with one of their unneeded items such as an old appliance or some used and unneeded furniture.  Hypocrisy enters when the giver considers this a gift to the LORD.  Items that could be better taken to a thrift store or discarded do not honor the giver, the gift, or the LORD.

4.    Furthermore, the ram that is to be offered as a sacrifice is to be without blemish.  Virtually any flaw that could be found in the ram would be considered a blemish.  We might first think of genetic flaws that affect the appearance of the animal, or in some cases we might think of one that has colored spots in its fur.  However, it would be more likely that the ram might have an ulcer, a sore, or a cut or scrape in its flesh.  These would also be considered a blemish.

Leviticus 1:4.  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The idea is simple:  the LORD is holy, sinless, and righteous.  As the ram is innocent of any sin, such innocence and purity is represented by its flawlessness.  The primary purpose of the sacrifice takes on a vicarious role where the sins of the offeror are “imputed” upon the innocent, sinless ram who is put to death as a substitution for the offeror who, in reality, deserves it.  This is also establishing an architype for the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  “Events which led to situations beyond correction in the light of Israel's ethical code require special attention, for these acts, such as murder and adultery, were not subject to sacrificial correction.”  Though the blood of the animal could not atone for the sin of the offeror, “it was the basis upon which God forgave sins in the Old Testament in anticipation of the future work of Christ.” Consequently, the death of Christ on the cross was an event that would forever eliminate the need for animal sacrifice. 

This is the first point where “atonement” is mentioned.  The burnt offering is given as an atonement, or a full payment or reconciliation for the sins of the offeror and/or his family.  This further emphasizes the dramatic impact that sin has in the life of a faithful believer.  Sin serves to separate one from God, temporally in the life of a believer, and eternally in the life of an unbeliever.  In order to avoid that separation, sins must be forgiven by the LORD.  There is nothing that anyone can do to atone for their own sins.  The offering of the ram for burning is not the act of atonement.  It is the death of the ram that serves as the atonement as it demonstrates the finality of separation from God that sin demands.  The placement of the hand on the head of the ram serves as a symbol of transfer, where the sins of the worshipper are transferred to this innocent, sinless ram who is going to die as an atonement for the offerors’ sin, and not its own.

Leviticus 1:9b.  and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Verses five through nine include specific instructions given to the priest of how to prepare the sacrifice from its killing and skinning, through the cleaning, division of the parts, and their placement on the altar.  The entire prepared sacrifice is then burned until it is completely consumed.  However, the blood is not burned, but rather, spread around the sides of the altar.  Representing life, it is neither kept for consumption, consistent with the commands of the LORD, nor is it burned as part of the sacrifice.  The burning of the blood, representing the burning of life, would not be pleasing or acceptable to the LORD.

The biblical narrative often describes the offering as a “sweet savor” unto the LORD. When an offering is given in the correct motive and done so in the means that the LORD has required, He is pleased with the offering.  When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he described how the LORD is pleased with those who place their faith and trust in Him:

1 Corinthians 2:15-17.  For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Though some have interpreted the phrase “sweet savor” to refer to the burning of incense, this only represents a misunderstanding of the context wherein the word is rendered.  It is simply a representation of the LORD’s pleasure when the faithful worship Him in sincerity, in obedience, and in truth.

The narrative continues with instructions for those who do not have a herd of sheep.  Those with flocks of goats or sheep can bring an unblemished male of either.  “In effect, the detailed rules about impure animals brought the meat diet of the Israelites into correspondence with the sacrificial regime. What was impure for the altar was impure for the body of the Israelite, the meat that defiled the one defiled the other. The only animals which were allowed for sacrifice were the flocks and herds which the people of Israel reared for their livelihood, and these were the only land animals which the people were allowed to eat.”  Likewise, those who do not have flocks may bring a bird, provided it is one that is defined as “clean.”

THE GRAIN OFFERING

Leviticus 2:1 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon:

The burnt offering that is described first is meant to serve as a symbol of the necessity of an atonement to provide forgiveness for the sins of the offeror.  This is of paramount importance to the spiritual welfare of the offeror.  The second offering that is prescribed in this passage is the grain offering.  Its purpose is quite different from that of the burnt offering, but it is of no less importance. 

This offering served to demonstrate the offeror’s sincere appreciation for the LORD’s provision of their needs.  The grain offering is characterized by the offeror bringing the “first fruits,” or the best of his harvest of grain, whether it be barley, wheat, oats, or any other such grain.  Also, note that the offering is to be prepared for consumption.  The remainder of this chapter will provide some detail as to instructions on how to prepare the various forms of grain offerings, and in each case they are brought in a form that is ready to be eaten, and may be in the form of various breads and pastries.  Furthermore, the reference to oil and frankincense denotes that, again, the offeror is bring his/her very best.  The offering is to be prepared in the very best form that the offeror can prepare.  Not only would such an offering be pleasing to the LORD, it will also be quite pleasing to the priests and Levites who depend upon this offering for their sustenance.

Leviticus 2:2-3. And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD: 3And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.

This offering also served to meet the needs of the Tent of Meeting (and later, the Tabernacle and the synagogues), that was ministered to the people through the priests and the Levites.  The priests and the Levites were not apportioned any land following the entrance of Israel into the region of Canaan.  It was the responsibility of the remaining tribes to meet their needs of sustenance, and an important component of this was the grain offering.  When the later biblical narrative would describe the offering as a tithe, it was referring to one tenth of their means, given on a regular basis.  This way, ten families would provide for the needs of one family of the community of priests and Levites.  Since there were twelve tribes, the needs of the priests and Levites would be provided for through this offering.

This offering is described both as a “sweet savor” and a “most holy” of the offerings.  The importance of the grain offering cannot be understated since this was such an important part of the support of the priests and Levites.  The Israelites would soon turn their interests away from the LORD and the sacrificial system would break down, forcing the priests and Levites to turn from their responsibilities of ministry to the congregation and obtain employment to meet their needs.

Modern Tithes and Offerings.  What should we pay our pastor?

We may observe this same needed offering today in the tithes that the congregation bring to the church fellowship for the purpose of the support of the priests and “Levites” the church staff as well as its facilities.  Whether we refer to them as priests, bishops, brothers, pastors, or by any other name, it is the responsibility of the congregation to meet their needs. 

We might ask the question, “How large should a congregation be before we can support a pastor full-time?”  The model of support that was given to the Israelites was a ration of ten-to-one.  Ten families, bringing in the tithe, would support a single minister.  With this in mind, an ancient congregation with ten families could support one full-time priest or Levite.  The other offerings that are included in the ancient sacrificial system served to balance out the support of both the priests and Levites as well as the needs to maintain and administer the facilities where the Israelites came together to worship. 

The failure of modern congregations to be obedient to the tithe drives this ratio so high that most smaller congregations simply refuse to support their pastors full-time and require them to seek other income.  When this happens, the gifts given to the LORD through the congregation fail to become a “sweet savor” to the LORD.  This is something that modern congregations might sincerely address as they determine their obedience to the demands of the LORD for what the scriptures describe as a “pleasing” sacrifice. 

Since the combined offerings of the ancients is now aggregated into a single monetary “tithe,” a typical congregation of twenty families should be able to support a single full-time minister at a level that is equal to the average of their families.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.  Also, congregations will often grow too large for a single pastor to effectively minister to before they will call another.  A modern ratio of membership to ministers that seems to serve well is two-hundred members for each minister.  That is, a church with four-hundred members should be able to support two full-time ministers.  Consider this when your church is discussing its annual budget.

Before leaving this discussion we might also consider the question of “at what level should we provide financial support for the pastor and his family.”  Often the church will pay their pastor the very minimum that they will accept.  These pastors, dedicating their lives to the ministry, find only poverty when their ministry ends.  Forgotten by the church, they suffer for the remainder of their days.  According to the recommendations of a recent major salary study, a good “rule of thumb” was stated: provide for your pastor at an amount equal to that paid to your local school principal.  This takes into account the community’s cost of living. Just as the school pays for the principal’s business expenses, the church fellowship should do the same for their pastors and staff. 

THE PEACE OFFERING

Leviticus 3:1.  And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.

The of the peace offering is similar to the burnt offering, but the differences in its application are very important, and like the grain offering, is a “most holy” sacrifice, and for the same reasons.  The peace offering, like the grain offering, is a voluntary offering.  It is a “free will” offering that is given by the offeror to express their appreciation for the love, grace, mercy, and provision that the LORD gives.  All of these offering serve to differentiate the meaning of the sacrifices from those of the pagans, and do so by the offeror’s demonstrated declaration that the LORD is real, and that the benefits He gives to the faithful are also real. Though other ancient religions had their variations on sacrifices, the reapplication of its nature and purpose was so dramatically different that there “is very little that can be compared in discussing, for instance, pagan forms of sacrifice and their Israelite counterpart.”

Note that the sacrifice given for the peace offering is, like the burnt offering, taken first from the flocks or herds of sheep or goats.  Though the offering must still be without blemish, the animal can be either a male or female, and since flocks were largely female, would can surmise that the sacrifice of female sheep or goats was commonplace.

Leviticus 3:2.  And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.

Like the burnt offering, the priest administers the rite, and places his hand on the head of the animal as it is being killed.  This, again, represents the vicarious nature of the sacrifice wherein the animal is killed in the place of the sinner who so deserves it.  We find peace with the LORD only through His grace.  There is no work of mankind that can eliminate the enmity between God and man other than one’s placing their complete faith and trust in Him.  This is a reminder of the seriousness of what is required for us to find peace with God, and serves to help us to fully appreciate that gift.  Therefore, this offering was also appropriate when one wished to express thanks for some deliverance by the LORD from some malady, and for occasions when one was taking a vow to the LORD.

Leviticus 3:3-5.  And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, 4And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. 5And Aaron’s sons shall burn it 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.

Another variation from the burnt offering is illustrated by the instructions for the preparation of the sacrifice.  The “inwards” that is, the heart, stomach, intestines, and internal organs would be burned along with the fat that surrounds them.  The meat of the animal and the fat that surrounds that meat is not burned.  Though some have used this passage to declare that these internal organs are “unclean,” there is no actual imperative concerning the status of internal organs.  Though several animals were initially declared “unclean” no list of internal organs that are declared to be “unclean” exists. 

Like the grain offering, the meat from the peace offering was to be given to the priests and the Levites, as well as shared among the offeror and his family during the visit to the Tent of Meeting, or later to the Tabernacle or synagogue.  Typically, the sacrifice would be followed with a meal in which a portion of the meat, as well as a portion of the grain sacrifices would be served.  The offeror, his/her family, the priests and the Levites would eat together.

Since the grain and peace offerings would be received and sacrificed every day, these played a very important part in the sustenance of the priests, the Levites, and even the people, as they would get together regularly for this “pot luck” dinner.  This dinner would also serve as a means of fellowship for the families, the priests, and the Levites.  It also served as a token of their fellowship with the LORD.  Consequently, the importance of these three sacrifices to the ancient Israelites cannot be understated as they served to teach them the reality, the person, and the holiness of God, as well as the nature of His love for them and the grace that He demonstrates through His provision of, not only their needs, but also the gift of a relationship with Him.

Just like the ancient Israelites, we have much to learn from the imperatives from the LORD concerning these ancient sacrifices.  Not only did they serve to establish the nature of the relationship between the ancients and the LORD so many thousands of years ago, the still serve the same purpose today.  When we are disobedient to the LORD’s imperatives to return to Him a portion of what is already His, we suffer in the identical manner that the ancient Israelites suffered when they neglected the sacrifices:  their relationship with the LORD was compromised, and the administration of the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle and the synagogues suffered. 

Let us take this opportunity to assess our own opinions and beliefs concerning what the LORD requires from us as an “appropriate sacrifice,” and seek forgiveness for our shortcomings, repent of our arrogance and selfishness, and seek to restore to the LORD what He both demands and deserves.

 

Hayes, John Haralson.  Atonement in the Book of Leviticus.  Interpretation, 52 no 1 Jan 1998, p 6.

Exodus 30:30; multiple references in Leviticus; Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7.

Shrum, Kevin.  Exodus, Leviticus.  Explore the Bible Leader Guide.  Nashville, TN: Lifeway Christian Resources.  Fall 2017.  p. 104.

Leviticus 1:1-17, 6:8-13.

Genesis 8:20.

Leviticus 2:1-16, 6:14-23.

Leviticus 3:1-17, 7:11-36.

Leviticus 4:1-5:13, 6:24-30.

Saydon, Paul P.  Sin-offering and trespass-offering.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 8 no 4 Oct 1946, p 393-397.

Leviticus 5:14-6:7, 7:1-10.

Barrick, William D.  Penal substitution in the Old Testament.  The Master's Seminary Journal, 20 no 2 Fall 2009, p 154.

Mark 2:9-11.

Malachi 3:10.

Eberhart, Christian.  A neglected feature of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible: remarks on the burning rite on the altar.  Harvard Theological Review, 97 no 4 Oct 2004, p 485.

The skin of the offering was kept by the priests who were serving their shift as part of the rotation of the priestly divisions. As time evolved, more powerful priests forcibly took possession of the skins from the lesser priests. Subsequently, it was decreed by the Beth din shel Kohanim (the court of the priests in Jerusalem) that the skins should be sold, with the monetary proceeds being given to the Temple in Jerusalem (Tosefta 19, a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the late 2nd century, the period of the Mishnah.)

The biblical writers regarded this offering as most representative of Israel's worship, as best expressing the proper worship of God. It is notable that almost all of the regular temple offerings (morning and evening, Sabbath, new moons, festivals, etc.) mandated in Num. xxviii-xix are ōlôt accompanied by cereal and drink offerings (occasionally a sin offering is added: monthly, xxviii 15; at festivals: xxviii 22; xix 11, 16, etc.). Therefore the ōlāh exemplifies the temple cult of the priests, apart from the lay people's participation in it, as pure gift to the deity devoid of almost any profit to the priests. The implication of its rhetorical prominence then is that the ōlāh represents the purist form of divine service. Watts, James W.  ʻōlāh: the rhetoric of burnt offerings.  Vetus testamentum, 56 no 1 2006, p 132.

Many might not know that, in the United States, if the giver receives in return any benefit from a tithe, offering, or gift that is given to the church, the benefit portion is not tax deductible.

We might note that, if the offeror had no ram that was without any blemish, one could be brought if it was as close to blemish-free as the owner could find.

For example. Genesis 30:32.

Davies, Douglas.  Interpretation of sacrifice in Leviticus.  Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 89 no 3 1977, p 397.

Briley, Terry.  The Old Testament 'sin offering' and Christ's atonement.  Stone-Campbell Journal, 3 no 1 Spr 2000, p 92.

Leviticus 1:5-9a. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 6And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. 7And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: 8And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: 9But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water. 

Meshel, Naphtali.  The form and function of a biblical blood ritual. Vetus testamentum, 63 no 2 2013, p 276-289.

The description of the offering to the LORD as a “sweet savor” is mentioned no less than forty-three times, including one in Genesis 8:21, three in the book of Exodus, sixteen in the book of Deuteronomy, eighteen in the book of Numbers, four in the book of Ezekiel, and one in 2 Corinthians 2:15. 

Edelman, Diana.  The meaning of qitterVetus testamentum, 35 no 4 Oct 1985, p 400.

Douglas, Mary.  The Eucharist: Its Continuity with the Bread Sacrifice of Leviticus.  Modern Theology, 15 no 2 Apr 1999, p 211-212.

Leviticus 1:10-17.  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. 11And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar. 12And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: 13But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. 14And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. 15And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: 16And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: 17And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder:  and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Note that in some translations, including the King James Version of the Bible, the word, “meat” is used to render the description of this offering.  The Hebrew term that is so rendered is actually more accurately translated as “food.”  The Hebrew language uses a relatively small vocabulary that often depends upon an understanding of the context in which the word is used in order to translate to another language such as Greek or English.  The several biblical references to the offering always refer to its content as a gift of prepared grain and never meat.

Lifeway SBC Compensation Study, 2016.

Gruenwald, Ithamar.  Sacrifices in biblical literature and ritual theory.  The Review of Rabbinic Judaism, 4 no 1 2001, p 2.

Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:15-16; James 4:4.

It is well known that the ritual of the peace offering ends with the worshipper eating the rest of the meat. However, this part of the ritual is not mentioned at all in Leviticus 3. It is easily surmised, then, that the purpose of Leviticus 3 was not to prescribe the whole ritual of the peace offering. The fact that not all the ritual components of the peace offering are mentioned in Leviticus 3 suggests that the purpose of Leviticus 3 is to instruct the Israelites to offer the peace offering to the Lord, while presupposing the communal part of the ritual. Deliberately omitting the communal part of the ritual, the text concentrates on the procedure starting from the slaughtering of the animal to the burning of the fat to the Lord.  Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi.  Spirituality in Offering a Peace Offering.  Tyndale Bulletin, 50 no 1 1999, p 26

Romerowski, Sylvain.  Old Testament sacrifices and reconciliation.  European Journal of Theology, 16 no 1 2007, p 13.

 



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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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