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Reference: Offerings, The


The sacrifices described in the O.T. show the ground and means of approach to God. They are all typical, having no intrinsic value, but they foreshadowed Christ, who, as antitype, fulfilled them all. The principal offerings are four: the Burnt offering, the Meat offering, the Peace offering, and the Sin offering, with which the Trespass offering may be associated. This is the order in which they are given in the opening chapters of Leviticus, where we have their significance presented from God's side, beginning with Christ in devotedness to God's glory even unto death, and coming down to the need of guilty man. If the question be of a sinner's approach to God, the sin offering must necessarily come first: the question of sin must be met for the conscience before the one who approaches can be in the position of a worshipper.

The offerings, in one respect, divide themselves into two classes, namely, the sweet-savour offerings, presented by worshippers, and the sin offerings, presented by those who having sinned needed to be restored to the position of worshippers. But even in the sin offering the fat was burnt on the brazen altar, and it is once said to be for a sweet savour (Le 4:31), thus forming a link with the burnt offering. The sweet-savour offerings represent Christ's perfect offering of Himself to God, rather than the laying of sins on the substitute by Jehovah.

The various kinds and the sex of the animals presented in the sin offerings are proportioned to the measure of responsibility in Lev. 4, and to the offerer's ability in Lev. 5. Thus the priest or the whole congregation for a sin offering had to bring a bullock, but a goat or a lamb sufficed for one of the people. In the sweet-savour offerings the offerer was left free to choose a victim, and the different value of the animals offered gave evidence to the measure of appreciation of the sacrifice: thus if a rich man brought a sheep instead of a bullock, it would show that he undervalued the privileges within his reach.

The blood was sprinkled and poured out: it might not be eaten; the blood was the life, and God claimed it: cf. Le 17:11. The fat of the offerings was always to be burnt, for it represented the spontaneous and energetic action of the heart of Christ godward. Ps 40:7-8. Leaven, which always signifies what is human and hence evil (for if the human element is introduced into and works in the things of God it is evil), might never be burnt on the altar to God, nor be in any of the offerings except in one special form of the meat offering (Le 23:16-21), and in the bread accompanying a peace offering. Le 7:13. Honey was forbidden in the meat offering, as denoting mere human sweetness. Salt was to be added to the meat offering and used in the corbans. Le 2:13; Eze 43:24. Salt is preservative and gives a savour. Nu 18:19; 2Ch 13:5; Col 4:6. The breast of the victim may be taken as emblematic of love, and the shoulder of strength.

The principal Hebrew words used in reference to the offerings are:

1. Olah, Alah, from 'to make to ascend.' Translated burnt offering.

2. Minchah, from 'a present, gift, oblation.' Translated meat offering. Others prefer to translate it meal offering.

3. Shelem, from 'to be whole, complete,' to be at peace, in friendship with any one. Translated peace offering. The ordinary form is plural, and may be rendered 'prosperities offering.'

4. Chattath, from 'to sin.' Constantly translated sin offering.

5. Asham, from 'to be guilty.' Translated trespass offering.

6. Tenuphah, from 'to lift up and down, wave.' Translated wave offering.

7. Terumah, from 'to be lifted up.' Translated heave offering.

As to the burning of the sacrifices different Hebrew words are employed. Besides the word alah, mentioned above, the word qatar is commonly used for burning on the altar: it signifies 'to burn incense,' 'to fumigate.' But where the carcase of the sin offering was burnt, the word used is saraph, which signifies 'to burn up, consume.' Thus what ascends as a sweet savour is distinguished from what is consumed under the judgement of God.

THE BURNT OFFERING. This is typical of Christ presenting Himself according to the divine will for the accomplishment of the purpose and maintenance of the glory of God where sin was taken account of. In the type the victim and the offerer were essentially distinct, but in Christ the two were necessarily combined. The burnt offering, where not specifically prescribed, was brought for a man's acceptance. The expression "of his own voluntary will " in Le 1:3 is better translated, "He shall offer it for his acceptance." The victim might be a male of the herd, or a sheep or a goat of the flock, or be turtle doves or young pigeons, according to the ability of the offerer, or the appreciation he had of the offering. These offerings were different in degree, but the same in kind. The male is the highest type of offering: no female is mentioned in the burnt offering.

After the offerer had laid his hands on the victim, he killed it (except in the case of birds, which the priest killed). From Leviticus 1 it would appear that the offerer also flayed it, cut it in pieces, and washed the inward parts and legs in water; but the expressions can be taken in an impersonal sense, 'Let it be flayed,' etc., and these acts may have been done by the priests or the Levites. (The Levites flayed the sacrifices in 2Ch 29:34, when the priests were too few.) The priest sprinkled the blood round about upon the altar, and, except the skin which was the priest's, the whole of the animal was burnt as a sweet savour on the altar. It made atonement for the offerer, who found acceptance in its value. It was typical of Christ's perfect offering up of Himself, being tested in His inmost parts by the searching fire of divine judgement. Lev. 1. (This aspect of the cross is seen in such passages as Php 2:8; Joh 10:14-17; 13:31; 17:4; Ro 5:18, etc.)

Leviticus 6 gives the law of the burnt offering. "It is the burnt offering because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it . . . . it shall not be put out." This refers to the morning and evening lambs; they formed a perpetual burnt offering. Ex 29:38-41. It is to be remarked that it was "all night unto the morning" (although it was perpetual), doubtless to point out that Christ is for Israel ever a sweet savour to God, even during the present period of Israel's darkness and forgetfulness. Aaron had to put on his linen garments to remove the ashes from the altar to 'the place of ashes' beside the altar: he then changed his dress and carried the ashes outside the camp. The ashes were the proof that the sacrifice had been completely accepted (Ps 20:3, margin. In 'the morning' Israel will know that their acceptance and blessing is through the work of their Messiah on the cross. The daily sacrifice was offered by the priest as acting for the whole nation, and presented typically the ground of its blessings and privileges. Hence faith made much of it. Ezr 3:3; Da 8:11,13,26; 9:27.

THE MEAT OFFERING. In Lev. 2 the intrinsic character of this offering is given, though in offering the burnt offering a meat offering was added. Here was no blood-shedding, and consequently no atonement. The burnt offering typified the Lord Jesus in devotedness to death; the meat offering represents Him in His life

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