The Sacrifices Required By the Law

The Old Testament Law series (post #3)

Any Jew today who desires to keep the Old Testament law faces an unscalable mountain of a problem. The problem is, the law required five types of sacrificial offerings that were to be offered up to God. Such sacrifices, of course, demand not only a sacrificial altar but also a priestly order to officiate the sacrifices. Obviously, today’s Jews have no altar and no priests.

The Burnt Offering

This was the offering a Jew was to bring to express devotion and dedication to the Lord. It was completely voluntary on the offerer’s part. The sacrificial animals could be a male from one’s herd (Leviticus 1:3-10) or one’s flock (Leviticus 1:10-14). It could also be a turtledove or a young pigeon (Leviticus 1:14-17). Any sacrificial animal had to be without blemish, the finest of the lot. In Malachi 1:6-14, God sharply rebukes the Jews for offering sacrificial animals that were blind, lame, sick, or blemished in some way.

The process for offering a burnt offering was downright gruesome. The Jew would bring the sacrificial animal to the tabernacle, or later on in Israel’s history, the temple (Leviticus 1:3). There a priest would examine the animal to make sure it was worthy. If the animal was from the herd or the flock, the Jew would put his hand on the head of the animal, thus signifying not only the person’s identification with the sacrifice but also the transfer of something to the sacrifice (Leviticus 1:4). Then the Jew would kill the animal as the priests caught the blood in a basin (Leviticus 1:5). Next, the priests would sprinkle the blood on all sides of the altar.

(If the sacrificial animal was a bird, the priest would wring the bird’s neck, drain its blood on the side of the altar, remove the crop and feathers, split the body at the wings, and then burn the body on the altar: Leviticus 1:14-17.)

As for the bloodless body of the animal from the herd or flock, the Jew would skin it and cut it into pieces (Leviticus 1:6). The entrails and legs also had to be washed with water (Leviticus 1:9). All of the dismembered parts were then laid in order on the red- hot altar and burned (Leviticus 1:8-9). Everything was burned except the skin, and the smoke that rose up from the altar made for “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” The priest who officiated the offering received the animal’s skin (Leviticus 7:8).

The Grain Offering

This was the offering a Jew was to bring to express thankfulness to God for providing him with the good things of life. Like the Burnt Offering, it was voluntary. The offering could be presented at the altar in one of five forms. It could be: fine flour with oil and frankincense poured on it (Leviticus 2:1); oven-baked cakes made from unleavened bread mixed with oil (Leviticus 2:4); pan-baked cakes made from fine flour and unleavened bread mixed with oil (Leviticus 2:5); covered-pan cakes made from fine flour and unleavened bread mixed with oil (Leviticus 2:7); or crushed roasted heads of new grain with oil and frankincense poured on them (Leviticus 2:14-15). Each type of grain offering was to be seasoned with salt (Leviticus 2:13) and without honey (Leviticus 2:11).

In the case of any type of grain offering, the Jew prepared the offering at home and brought it to the tabernacle/temple. Once it was presented to the priest, the priest would take a portion of it as a “memorial portion” and burn that portion on the altar (Leviticus 2:2,9). What was left of the offering went to the priests as food (Leviticus 2:3,10; 6:16-18; 7:9-10).

The Peace Offering

This was the offering a Jew was to bring to celebrate the fellowship and peace he enjoyed with God. Like the Burnt Offering and the Grain Offering, this offering was voluntary. The sacrifice had to be an animal without blemish from the herd or the flock, but it could be a male or a female (Leviticus 3:1,6-7,12). The Peace Offering also required the Jew to bring either unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil (Leviticus 7:11-12). Furthermore, he was to bring leavened bread (Leviticus 7:13).

After the Jew had laid his hand on the head of the animal in ceremonial fashion, he killed the animal. The priests caught the blood in a basin and sprinkled the blood all around the altar (Leviticus 3:2,8.13). Next, the dismembering began as the animal’s fat, kidneys, whole fat tail, and fatty lobe attached to the liver were removed and burned on the altar (Leviticus 3:3,4,9,10,14-15). The animal’s breast went to the priests, and the right thigh went specifically to the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:31-33). The priest also received one of the cakes (Leviticus 7:14).

As for the rest of the remains, everything else went to the Jew who had brought the sacrifice. This was the only offering in which the offerer received a portion (Leviticus 7:15-21). When King Solomon dedicated the temple, he sacrificed 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings (1 Kings 8:62-66).

The Sin Offering

This was the offering a Jew would bring when he had somehow unintentionally violated a part of the law and been made aware of his violation at a later date. The offering was mandatory, not voluntary, because the law had been transgressed. The animal to be sacrificed depended upon who had committed the sin. If the sinner was Israel’s High Priest, he had to bring a young bull without blemish (Leviticus 4:3). If the sin had been committed by the entire nation, a young unblemished bull was to be brought as well (Leviticus 4:13-14). If the sinner was an individual ruler, he was to bring a male kid goat without blemish (Leviticus 4:22-23). If the sinner was a common citizen, he was to bring either a female kid goat without blemish or a female lamb without blemish (Leviticus 4:27-28;32-33).

Whichever animal was brought, there was always the ceremonial laying of hands on the animal’s head. (The elders performed the duty for the nation.) Then the animal was killed, drained of its blood, and dissected. In all cases, the animal’s fat, kidneys, fatty lobe above the liver, and fat tail were burned on the altar. In the cases of a High Priest or the nation, the rest of the animal’s carcass (the hide, head, legs, entrails, etc.) was taken outside the camp and burned (Leviticus 4:11,12,21). In the cases of a ruler or a common citizen, the officiating priest was allowed to take the animal’s flesh as food.

As for the animal’s blood, the officiating priest would catch it in a basin. In the cases of a High Priest or the nation, the priest would dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle blood seven times before the veil that separated the Holy of Holies room from the rest of the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 4:5-6). He would also put some of the blood on the four horns of the altar of incense that sat just in front of the veil (Leviticus 4:7). In the cases of a ruler or a common citizen, the blood would only be placed on the four horns of the altar of incense. Finally, in all cases, the priest would pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar upon which the bull had been offered (Leviticus 4:7).

The Trespass Offering

This was the offering a Jew would bring when he had committed a trespass against either his fellow man or the holy things of the Lord. Like the Sin Offering, this offering was mandatory. While it’s true that every trespass was a sin, not every sin was a trespass. A trespass was a specific type of sin in which the offending party invaded, disregarded, or violated the property rights of another. The Trespass Offering was similar to the Sin Offering in that some trespasses were committed unintentionally (Leviticus 5:17-19). However, it differed from the Sin Offering in that some trespasses were committed very much intentionally (Leviticus 6:1-7).

Committing a trespass against one’s fellow man could be done in a wide variety of ways, including lying to a neighbor, extorting something from a neighbor, or refusing to return a found item (Leviticus 6:1-3). Committing a trespass against the holy things of the Lord could include failing to make one’s required sacrifices to the Lord, failing to pay vows made to God, failing to celebrate the law’s mandated holy days, or failing to pay one’s tithes under the law.

The animal to be sacrificed for a trespass offering was a ram without blemish (Leviticus 5:15,18; 6:6). This was true whether the trespass had been made against an individual or God. Special accommodation was made, though, if the sinner was a leper or a Nazarite. In those cases, the animal could be a male lamb (Leviticus 14:10-14; Numbers 6:6-12).

The distinctive feature of the trespass offering was that it also required restitution on the part of the sinner. This restitution had to be presented to the priest before the animal was presented. The restitution amounted to the monetary equivalency of the offense (paid in shekels of silver) plus an additional one-fifth (20%) as a fine (Leviticus 5:14-16). Also, the sinner had to confess his sin (Leviticus 5:5; Numbers 5:5-7).

Once the restitution had been presented, the sinner brought his animal to the priest, ceremonially laid his hand upon its head, and killed it. The blood was drained and sprinkled all around the altar (Leviticus 7:2). Then the animal’s fat, fat tail, fat that covered the entrails, fat on the flanks, fatty lobe attached to the liver, and kidneys were removed and burned upon the altar (Leviticus 7:1-5). Leviticus 7:6 also seems to indicate that the priests were allowed to eat the remains that weren’t burned upon the altar.

(It should be noted that commentators and expositors are not consistent on the question of whether Leviticus 5:1-13 belongs to the section on the Sin Offering or the section on the Trespass Offering. Some speculate that there is even an intentional overlapping of the two sections, with some of the 13 verses referring to the Sin Offering and others referring to the Trespass Offering. Whatever the correct interpretation is, the verses allow for the sinner to bring an offering of a female from the flock, a lamb, a kid goat, two turtledoves, two young pigeons, or one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour. This wide variety of options was no doubt intended to ensure that the sinner could bring an appropriate sacrifice irregardless of his or her monetary situation.)  



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