The Sacrificial System
A sacrificial system is aimed to enable the sinful people to live close to the Holy One of Israel.
Different sacrifices prescribed by Moses address different facets of human wrongdoing.
The most important are the sacrifices presented on the Day of Atonement.
Regulations concerning the offering of sacrifices.
It is placed between Ex 40 - God came to dwell in the temple - and Lev 8-9 - the consecration of the priests.
The sacrifices are central to Israel’s relationship with God;
The priests duty is to oversee the offering of the sacrifices.
Lev 1:2-6:7; 7:22-34 - addressed to laity;
Lev 6:8-7:21 - addressed to the priests.
2. Five types of sacrifices
(1) burnt offering - for the laity (Lev 1:2-17); for the priests Lev 6:8-13;
(2) grain offering - for the laity (Lev 2:1-16); for the priests (Lev 6:14-23);
(3) fellowship (peace) offering - for the laity (Lev 3:1-17); for the priests (Lev 7:11-21);
(4) sin (reparation for the sin or purification) offering - for the laity (Lev 4:1-5:13); for the priests (Lev 6:24-30),
and (5) guilt (reparation) offering - for the laity (Lev 5:14-6:7); for the priests (Lev 7:1-10).
General Pattern for Animal Sacrifices
The action of the Israelite worshiper;
The action of the priest.
The lay person’s action:
1. Bringing the animal to the tabernacle courtyard (Lev 1:3);
2. Laying a hand on the animal’s head (Lev 1:4) - a symbol of ownership, of identification; transference of sin when two hands are placed on the animal (Lev 16:20-22)
3. Slaughtering the animal (Lev 1:5);
The priest’s action:
4. Collects the blood from the animal and sprinkles the bronze altar (Lev 1:5) - the blood symbolises life; used to purify is an antidote to the deathly consequences of sin.
5. The whole animal, or part of it, is placed on the altar to be consumed by fire (Lev 1:6-9);
Priests or Israelites
6. Eating the meat that is not burned up (Lev 6:26-29)
The Five Types of Sacrifices
1. The burnt offering (Lev 1:2-17; 6:8-13)
The most important;
The entire animal was burned upon the altar;
A costly animal (Lev 1:3,10) but the poor could offer less (a dove Lev 1:14).
Intendent to gain divine favor (Gen 8:20-21; Lev 1:9).
The animal offered as a burnt offering is presented as an alternative to the death penalty imposed by God for human sin (Lev 1:4).
By paying this “ransom”, the worshiper appeases God’s righteous anger against his or her own sin and uncleanness.
It restores the broken relationship between God and humans.
It is often used in establishing covenants (Gen 8:20-9:17; 22:1-19; Ex 24:3-11).
2. The grain offering (Lev 2:1-16; 6:14-23)
The only one not involving animals.
Fine flour - ‘baked’ Lev 2:4-7 or “unbaked” (Lev 2:1-2)
Part of it is burned, rest of it is given to the priests.
Grain offering - “Minha” means “gift” or “tribute”.
It can refer to the money given by a lesser king to a greater king for a peaceful relationship (Judg 3:15-18; see 1 Kings 4:21)
It is viewed as a gift to God in recognition of his divine sovereignty.
The priests receive it as God’s representative.
3. The peace offering (Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-21).
Most of the meat from the sacrificial animal is retained by the worshiper for a festive meal.
Certain portion are set apart for God - kidneys and liver is burned on the altar (Lev 3:5, 16) -
and the priests - the right thigh for the officiating priest, the breast is shared among the other priests (Lev 7:28-34).
The peace offering can express
Thankfulness (Lev 7:12-15) - the meat has to be eaten on the same day;
Fufil a vow
Serve as a freewill offering (Lev 7:16-21) - the meat can be eaten on the second day. On the third day it has be burned up.
Peace offering is also known as fellowship offering (Lev 3:1,3,6).
Selamim [shelamim] and salom [shalom] can be linked together.
The peace offering acknowledges God as the source of true peace - ‘sacrifice of well-being’.
4. The purification offering (Lev 4:1-5,13; 6:24-30).
The blood of animal is used to cleanse sacred items within the tabernacle.
If the anointed priest or the whole community sinned the blood is placed on the horns of the golden incense altar in Holy Place (Lev 4:7, 18);
If a leader commits sin, the blood is put on the horns of the bronze altar in the courtyard (Lev 4:30, 34).
This offering is also known as sin offering.
Hatta’t means ‘sacrifice’ and ‘sin’.
Since, the blood is placed on the altar and not on person who committed sin, it indicates that the pollution being caused by the sinner is cleansed not the sinner himself.
When blood is placed on the people - in Exodus 24 - covenant and Lev 8-9 consecrating the priests - they are being cleansed and sanctified.
5. The reparation offering (Lev 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10)
Lev 5:15 - an animal without defect;
The animal is slaughtered;
Its blood is sprinkled against the altar;
The fatty portion are burned upon the altar (Lev 7:2-5)
The rest of the animal given to the priests - they alone can it that meat (Lev 7:6).
Another name for it is “guilt offering”.
Asham - can mean guilt but also “reparation” or “compensation”.
The sacrifice is probably intended to compensate God for wrongs committed against him (Lev 5:16; 6:5).
All those sacrifices seek to restore humans to a harmonious relationship with God.
The day of atonement (Lev 16:1-13)
The parts of the ritual
1. The purification of the sanctuary;
2. The sending away of the scapegoat;
3. The presentation of two burnt offerings.
High Priest is in the center of this ritual.
Purification of the Sanctuary
The high priest enters the Holy of Holies;
Sprinkles blood on and before the cover of the ark of the covenant, cleansing it and the Holy of Holies from pollution caused by sin.
This is done twice.
On the first occasion a bull is sacrificed as a purification offering - its blood atones for the sins of the high priest and his family;
On the second occasion one of two male goats is sacrificed - its blood atones for the sins of the whole community of Israel (Lev 16:15-16).
He also cleanses the Holy Place (Lev 16:18-19).
The remains of the bull and the goat are taken outside the camp and burned (Lev 16:27).
The man who did it washes himself before coming back to the camp (Lev 16:28).
Lev 16:21 - the high priest places both hands upon it and confess over it all sins of Israel;
The “scapegoat” is led into a desert (Lev 16:8-10);
The man who led the goat there washes himself before coming to the camp (Lev 16:26).
The burnt offering
Lev 16:3 - a ram provided by the high priest;
Lev 16:5 - a ram provided by the Israelites.
Both rams are offered as atonement for sins (Lev 16:23-24).
The day of atonement - Yum Kippur - was and remains probably the most important feast in Jewish liturgical calendar.
New Testament Connections
Jesus’ death understood as a unique sacrifice offered by a unique high priest.
Jesus Christ as a sacrifice
John 1:29, see 1 Peter 1:19
The ‘blood’ of Jesus - Acts 20:28; Rom 5:9; see 1 Peter 1:2; Hebr 9:14, 22; Mt 26:28.
“sacrifice of atonement” (Rom 3:25).
Hebr 9:26 - to do away with sin.
Apparently, God did not desire sacrifices. They were instituted due to human sins (Hebr 10:5-9).
Moreover, they could never atone for sins (Hebr 10:4);
Christ’s death was the ultimate sacrifice that ended all the sacrifices of the OT (Hebr 9:26).
Jesus as High Priest
Hebr 5:10; 7:11-22 - not in the order of Aaron but in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebr 7:26 - unlike other high priests he alone is blameless.
Hebr 8:5, 9:24 - Aaron serving in the copy;
Hebr 8:1-5 - Jesus in the real one.
The Aaronic high priest each year on the Day of Atonement had to purify the earthly tabernacle;
Jesus purified the heavenly temple once and for all (Hebr 9:23; 13:11-12).
Jesus is always in the heavily temple (Hebr 7:25).
Jesus also established a new priesthood, as so the Levitical priesthood and its regulations are over (Hebr 7:12, 18).
God’s justice and God’s love.
Motivated by love, God provides the sacrifice necessary to meet the demands of his own justice.