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Chapter 6

The Burnt-Offering, the Sin- and Trespass-Offering, and the Peace-Offering

‘And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.’—Hebrews 10:11, 12.

The Idea of Substitution

The question whether or not sacrifices were to cease after the coming of the Messiah is differently answered in the Jewish synagogue, some arguing that only thank- and peace-offerings would then be brought, while the majority expect a revival of the regular sacrificial worship.5050It has been matter of controversy whether or not, in the first years after the destruction of the Temple, solitary attempts were made by enthusiasts to offer sacrifices. My own conviction is, that no such instance can be historically established.

But on one point the authorities of the old synagogue, previous to their controversy with Christianity, are agreed. As the Old Testament and Jewish tradition taught that the object of a sacrifice was its substitution for the offender, so Scripture and the Jewish fathers also teach that the substitute to whom all these types pointed was none other than the Messiah.

It has been well remarked, that the difficulties of modern interpreters of the Messianic prophecies arise chiefly from their not perceiving the unity of the Old Testament in its progressive unfolding of the plan of salvation. Moses must not be read independently of the Psalms, nor yet the Psalms independently of the Prophets. Theirs are not so many unconnected writings of different authorship and age, only held together by the boards of one volume. They form integral parts of one whole, the object of which is to point to the goal of all revelation in the appearing of the Christ. Accordingly, we recognize in the prophetic word, not a change nor a difference, but three well-marked progressive stages, leading up to the sufferings and the glory of Messiah. In the Proto-Evangel, as Genesis 3:15 has been called, and in what follows it, we have as yet only the grand general outlines of the figure. Thus we see a Person in the Seed of the woman; suffering, in the prediction that His heel would be bruised; and victory, in that He would bruise the serpent’s head. These merely general outlines are wonderfully filled up in the Book of Psalms. The ‘Person’ is now ‘the Son of David’; while alike the sufferings and the victory are sketched in vivid detail in such Psalms as 22, 35, 49, and 102; or else in Psalms 2, 72, 89, 110, and 118—not to speak of other almost innumerable allusions.

Christ our Substitute

One element only was still wanting—that this Son of David, this Sufferer and Conqueror, should be shown to be our Substitute, to whom also the sacrificial types had pointed. This is added in the writings of the prophets, especially in those of Isaiah, culminating, as it were, in Isaiah 53, around which the details furnished by the other prophets naturally group themselves. The picture is now completed, and so true to the original that, when compared with the reality in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can have no difficulty in recognising it; and this not so much from one or other outline in prophecy or type, as from their combination and progressive development throughout the Scriptures of the Old Testament, considered as a connected whole.

As already stated, such early works as the Targum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum frankly adopt the Messianic interpretation of these prophecies. The later Rabbis also admit that this had been the common view of the Jewish fathers; but, on account of ‘the sages of the Nazarenes, who apply it to that man whom they hanged in Jerusalem towards the close of the second Temple, and who, according to their opinion, was the Son of the Most Blessed, and had taken human nature in the womb of the Virgin,’ they reject that interpretation, and refer the prediction of suffering either to some individual, or mostly to Israel as a nation. But so difficult is it to weaken the language in which the Messiah’s vicarious sufferings are described—not less than twelve times in Isaiah 52:13 to 53—that some of their commentators have been forced to admit it, sometimes almost unconsciously. The language of Isaiah has even crept into the following Messianic hymnal prayer for the Passover:

‘Haste, my Beloved; come, ere ends the vision’s day;

Make haste, and chase Thyself the shadows all away!

“Despised” is He, but yet “extolled” and “high” shall be;

“Deal prudently, ” “sprinkle nations, ” and “judge” shall He.’

Thus, if by the universal consent of all who are unprejudiced sacrifices point to substitution, substitution in its turn points to the Person and Work of the Messiah.

It has already been explained that all sacrifices were either such as were offered on the ground of communion with God—the burnt- and the peace-offering; or else such as were intended to restore that communion when it had been dimmed or disturbed—the sin- and the trespass-offering. Each of these four kinds of sacrifices will now have to be separately considered.

Symbolism of the Burnt-offering

I. The burnt-offeringOlah, or also Chalil (Deut 33:10; in Psalm 51:19 literally rendered ‘whole burnt-offering).—The derivation of the term Olah, as wholly ‘ascending’ unto God, indicates alike the mode of the sacrifice and its meaning. It symbolised the entire surrender unto God, whether of the individual or of the congregation, and His acceptance thereof. Hence, also, it could not be offered ‘without shedding of blood.’ Where other sacrifices were brought, it followed the sin- but preceded the peace-offering. In fact, it meant general acceptance on the ground of previous special acceptance, and it has rightly been called the sacrificium latreuticum, or sacrifice of devotion and service.5151In the historical books the term Olah is, however, used in a more general sense to denote other sacrifices also.

Thus day by day it formed the regular morning and evening service in the Temple, while on sabbaths, new moons, and festivals additional burnt-offerings followed the ordinary worship. There the covenant-people brought the covenant-sacrifice, and the multitude of offerings indicated, as it were, the fulness, richness, and joyousness of their self-surrender. Accordingly, although we can understand how this sacrifice might be said to ‘make atonement’ for an individual in the sense of assuring him of his acceptance, we cannot agree with the Rabbis that it was intended to atone for evil thoughts and purposes, and for breaches of positive commands, or of such negative as involved also a positive command.

The burnt-offering was always to be a male animal, as the more noble, and as indicating strength and energy. The blood was thrown on the angles of the altar below the red line that ran round it. Then ‘the sinew of the thigh’ (Gen 32:32), 5252The ‘sinew of the thigh’ was neither allowed to be eaten nor to be sacrificed. the stomach and the entrails, etc., having been removed (in the case of birds also the feathers and the wings), and the sacrifice having been duly salted, it was wholly burned.

The skins belonged to the ministering priests, who derived a considerable revenue from this source. The burnt-offering was the only sacrifice which non-Israelites were allowed to bring.5353If they brought a ‘peace-offering,’ it was to be treated as a burnt-offering, and that for the obvious reason that there was no one to eat the sacrificial meal. Of course, there was no imposition of hands in that case.

The Emperor Augustus had a daily burnt-offering brought for him of two lambs and a bullock; and ever afterwards this sacrifice was regarded as indicating that the Jewish nation recognised the Roman emperor as their ruler. Hence at the commencement of the Jewish war Eleazar carried its rejection, and this became, as it were, the open mark of the rebellion.

Symbolism of the Sin-offering

II. The sin-offering.—This is the most important of all sacrifices. It made atonement for the person of the offender, whereas the trespass-offering only atoned for one special offence. Hence sin-offerings were brought on festive occasions for the whole people, but never trespass-offerings (comp. Num 28, 29). In fact, the trespass-offering may be regarded as representing ransom for a special wrong, while the sin-offering symbolised general redemption. Both sacrifices applied only to sins ‘through ignorance,’ in opposition to those done ‘presumptuously’ (or ‘with a high hand’). For the latter the law provided no atonement, but held out ‘a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.’ By sins ‘through ignorance,’ however, we are to understand, according to the Rabbis, not only such as were committed strictly through want of knowledge, but also those which had been unintentional, or through weakness, or where the offender at the time realised not his guilt. The fundamental difference between the two sacrifices appears also in this—that sin-offerings, having a retrospective effect on the worshippers, were brought at the various festivals, and also for purification in such defilements of the body as symbolically pointed to the sinfulness of our nature (sexual defilement, those connected with leprosy, and with death). On the other hand, the animal brought for a trespass-offering was to be always a male (generally a ram, which was never used as a sin-offering); nor was it lawful, as in the sin-offering, to make substitution of something else in case of poverty. These two particulars indicate that the trespass-offering contemplated chiefly a wrong, for which decided satisfaction was to be made by offering a male animal, and for which a definite, unvarying ransom was to be given.

In All Cases Repentance Was Necessary

However, in reference both to sin- and to trespass-offerings, the Rabbinical principle must be kept in view—that they only atoned in case of real repentance. Indeed, their first effect would be ‘a remembrance of sins’ before God (Heb 10:3). All sin-offerings were either public or private (congregational or individual). The former were always males; the latter always females, except the bullock for the high-priest’s sin of ignorance (Lev 4:3), and the kid for the same offence of a ‘ruler’ (Lev 4:22). They were further divided into fixed, which were the same in the case of rich and poor, and varying, which ‘ascended and descended’ according to the circumstances of the offerer. ‘Fixed’ sacrifices were all those for sins ‘through ignorance’ against any of the prohibitory commands (of which the Rabbis enumerate 365);5454They also mention 248 affirmative precepts, or in all 613, according to the supposed number of members in the human body. for sins of deed, not of word; or else for such which, if they had been high-handed, would have carried the Divine punishment of being ‘cut off’ (of which the Rabbis enumerate 36).

The ‘varying’ sacrifices were those for lepers (Lev 14:21); for women after childbirth (of which concession to poverty Mary, the mother of Jesus, availed herself) (Luke 2:24; Lev 12:8); for having concealed a ‘thing known’ (Lev 5:1); for having unwittingly sworn falsely; and for having either unwittingly eaten of what had been consecrated, or gone into the Temple in a state of defilement. Lastly, there were ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ sin-offerings, according as the blood was applied to the altar of burnt-offering or brought into the inner sanctuary. In the former case the flesh was to be eaten only by the officiating priest and within the sanctuary; the latter were to be wholly burnt without the camp or city.5555According to the Talmud, if doves were brought as a sin-offering, the carcases were not burned, but went to the priests.

In both cases, however, the ‘inwards,’ as enumerated in Leviticus 4:8, were always first burned on the altar of burnt-offering. Neither oil nor frankincense were to be brought with a sin-offering. There was nothing joyous about it. It represented a terrible necessity, for which God, in His wondrous grace, had made provision.

The Sin-offering Differed with the Rank of the Offerer

It only remains to explain in detail two peculiarities connected with the sin-offering. First, it differed according to the theocratic position of him who brought the sacrifice. For the high-priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:3), or when he had sinned, ‘to the rendering guilty of the people’ (Lev 4:3), that is, in his official capacity as representing the people; or if the whole congregation had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:13); and at the consecration of the priests and Levites a bullock was to be brought. This was the highest kind of sin-offering. Next in order was that of the ‘kid of the goats,’ offered for the people on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:5), and on the other festivals and New Moons (Num 28:15, etc.; 29:5, etc.); also for the ruler who had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:23); for the congregation if aught had been committted by any individual ‘without the knowledge of the congregation’ (Num 15:24); and, lastly, at the consecration of the Tabernacle (Lev 9:3, 15). The third kind of sin-offering consisted of a female kid of the goats5656It is not very easy to understand why goats should have been chosen in preference for sin-offerings, unless it were that their flesh was the most unpalatable of meat. for individual Israelites (Lev 4:28, etc.; 5:6), and of a ewe lamb for a Nazarite (Num 6:14) and a leper (Lev 14:10).

The lowest grade of sin-offering was that of turtle-doves or young pigeons offered at certain purifications (Lev 12:6; 15:14, 29; Num 6:10); or else as a substitute for other sacrifices in case of poverty—in extreme cases something resembling to, or ‘as a meat-offering’ being even allowed (Lev 5:11-13).

The Blood to be Sprinkled

Secondly, the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled, not thrown. In the case of a private Israelite, it was sprinkled, that is, either jerked or dropped successively on each of the four horns5757The ‘horns’ symbolized, as it were, the outstanding height and strength of the altar. of the altar of burnt-offering—beginning at the south-east, thence going to the north-east, then the north-west, and finishing at the south-west, where the rest of the blood was poured at the bottom of the altar through two funnels that conducted into the Kedron.

On the other hand, when offering bullocks and goats, whose carcases were to be burned without the camp, the officiating priest stood in the Holy Place, between the golden altar and the candlestick, and sprinkled of the blood seven times5858Seven was the symbolical number of the covenant. towards the Most Holy Place, to indicate that the covenant-relationship itself had been endangered and was to be re-established, and afterwards touched with it the horns of the altar of incense.

The most solemn of all sacrifices were those of the Day of Atonement, when the high-priest, arrayed in his linen garments, stood before the Lord Himself within the Most Holy Place to make an atonement. Every spot of blood from a sin-offering on a garment conveyed defilement, as being loaded with sin, and all vessels used for such sacrifices had either to be broken or scoured.

Quite another phase of symbolic meaning was intended to be conveyed by the sacrificial meal which the priests were to make of the flesh of such sin-offerings as were not wholly burnt without the camp. Unquestionably Philo was right in suggesting, that one of the main objects of this meal was to carry to the offerer assurance of his acceptance, ‘since God would never have allowed His servants to partake of it, had there not been a complete removal and forgetting of the sin’ atoned for. This view entirely accords with the statement in Leviticus 10:17, where the purpose of this meal by the priests is said to be ‘to bear the iniquity of the congregation.’ Hence, also, the flesh of all sacrifices, either for the high-priest, as representing the priesthood, or for the whole people, had to be burnt; because those who, as God’s representatives, were alone allowed to eat the sacrificial meal were themselves among the offerers of the sacrifice.

Symbolism of the Trespass-offering

III. The trespass-offering was provided for certain transgressions committed through ignorance, or else, according to Jewish tradition, where a man afterwards voluntarily confessed himself guilty. The Rabbis arrange this class into those for a doubtful and for a certain trespass. The former were offered by the more scrupulous, when, uncertain whether they might not have committed an offence which, if done high-handed, would have implied being ‘cut off,’ or, if in ignorance, necessitated a sin-offering. Accordingly, the extreme party, or Chassidim, were wont to bring such a sacrifice every day! On the other hand, the offering for certain trespasses covered five distinct cases, 5959Leviticus 5:15; 6:2; 19:20 (in these three cases the offering was a ram); and Leviticus 14:12 and Numbers 6:12 (where the offering was a he-lamb). The Word of God considers every wrong done to another, as also a wrong done against the Lord (Psa 51:4), and hence, as needing a trespass-offering. which had all this in common, that they represented a wrong for which a special ransom was to be given.

It forms no exception to this principle, that a trespass-offering was also prescribed in the case of a healed leper (Lev 14:12), and in that of a Nazarite, whose vow had been interrupted by sudden defilement with the dead (Num 6:10-12), since leprosy was also symbolically regarded as a wrong to the congregation as a whole, 6060Hence the leper was banished from the congregation. while the interruption of the vow was a kind of wrong directly towards the Lord.

But that this last was, at the same time, considered the lightest kind of trespass appears even from this—that, while ordinarily the flesh of the trespass-offering, after burning the inwards on the altar of (Lev 7:3), was only to be eaten by the officiating priests within the Holy Place, the lamb offered for such a Nazarite might be eaten by others also, and anywhere within Jerusalem. The blood of the trespass-offering (like that of the burnt-offering) was thrown on the corners of the altar below the red line.

The Peace-offering

IV. The most joyous of all sacrifices was the peace-offering, or, as from its derivation it might also be rendered, the offering of completion.6161It always followed all the other sacrifices.

This was, indeed, a season of happy fellowship with the Covenant God, in which He condescended to become Israel’s Guest at the sacrificial meal, even as He was always their Host. Thus it symbolised the spiritual truth expressed in Revelation 3:20, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ In peace-offerings the sacrificial meal was the point of main importance. Hence the name ‘Sevach,’ by which it is designated in the Pentateuch, and which means ‘slaying,’ in reference to a meal. It is this sacrifice which is so frequently referred to in the Book of Psalms as the grateful homage of a soul justified and accepted before God (Psa 51:17; 54:6; 56:12; 116:17, 18). If, on the one hand, then, the ‘offering of completion’ indicated that there was complete peace with God, on the other, it was also literally the offering of completeness. The peace-offerings were either public or private. The two lambs offered every year at Pentecost (Lev 23:19) were a public peace-offering, and the only one which was regarded as ‘most holy.’ As such they were sacrificed at the north side of the altar, and their flesh eaten only by the officiating priests, and within the Holy Place. The other public peace-offerings were slain at the south side, and their ‘inwards’ burnt on the altar (Lev 3:4, 5). Then, after the priests had received their due, the rest was to be eaten by the offerers themselves, either within the courts of the Temple or in Jerusalem (Deut 27:7). On one occasion (1 Kings 8:63) no less than 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were so offered. Private peace-offerings were of a threefold kind (Lev 7:11): ‘sacrifices of thanksgiving’ (Lev 7:12), ‘vows,’ and strictly ‘voluntary offerings’ (Lev 7:16). The first were in general acknowledgment of mercies received; the last, the free gift of loving hearts, as even the use of the same term in Exodus 25:2, 35:29 implies. Exceptionally in this last case, an animal that had anything either ‘defective’ or ‘superfluous’ might be offered (Lev 22:23).

What Constituted Peace-offerings

Peace-offerings were brought either of male or of female animals (chiefly of the former), but not of pigeons, the sacrifice being, of course, always accompanied by a meat- and a drink offering (Lev 7:11, etc.). As every other sacrifice, they needed imposition of hands, confession, and sprinkling of blood, the latter being done as in the burnt-offering. Then the ‘inwards’ were taken out and ‘waved’ before the Lord, along with ‘the breast’ and the ‘right shoulder’ (or, perhaps more correctly, the right leg). In reference to these two wave-offerings we remark, that the breast properly belonged to the Lord, and that He gave it to His priests (Lev 7:30), while Israel gave the ‘right shoulder’ directly to the priests (Lev 7:32). The ritual of waving has already been described, 6262The pieces were laid on the hands as follows: the feet, and then the breast, the right shoulder, the kidneys, the caul of the liver, and, in the case of a thank-offering, the bread upon it all. the meaning of the movement being to present the sacrifice, as it were, to the Lord, and then to receive it back from Him.

The Rabbinical suggestion, that there was a distinct rite of ‘heaving’ besides that of ‘waving,’ seems only to rest on a misunderstanding of such passages as Leviticus 2:2, 9; 7:32; 10:15, etc.6363The ‘heave’ is, in reality, only the technical term for the priest’s ‘taking’ his portion.

The following were to be ‘waved’ before the Lord: the breast of the peace-offering (Lev 7:30); the parts mentioned at the consecration of the priests (Lev 8:25-29); the first omer at the Passover (Lev 23:11); the jealousy-offering (Num 5:25); the offering at the close of a Nazarite’s vow (Num 6:20); the offering of a cleansed leper (Lev 14:12); and ‘the two lambs’ presented ‘with the bread of the firstfruits,’ at the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:20). The two last-mentioned offerings were ‘waved’ before being sacrificed. After the ‘waving,’ the ‘inwards’ (Lev 3:3-5, etc.) were burnt on the altar of burnt-offering, and the rest eaten either by priests or worshippers, the longest term allowed in any case for the purpose being two days and a night from the time of sacrifice. Of course, the guests, among whom were to be the Levites and the poor, must all be in a state of Levitical purity, symbolical of ‘the wedding garment’ needful at the better gospel-feast.


We close with a few particulars about meat-offerings. These were either brought in conjunction with burnt- and peace-offerings (but never with sin- or with trespass-offerings) or else by themselves. The latter were either public or private meat-offerings. The three public meat-offerings were: the twelve loaves of shewbread, renewed every Sabbath, and afterwards eaten by the priests; the omer, or sheaf of the harvest, on the second day of the Passover; and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost. Four of the private meat-offerings were enjoined by the law, viz: (1) the daily meat-offering of the high-priest, according to the Jewish interpretation of Leviticus 6:20; (2) that at the consecration of priests (Lev 6:20); (3) that in substitution for a sin-offering, in case of poverty (Lev 5:11, 12); and that of jealousy (Num 5:15). The following five were purely voluntary, viz. that of fine flour with oil, unbaken (Lev 2:1); that ‘baken in a pan’; ‘in a frying-pan’; ‘in the oven’; and the ‘wafers’ (Lev 2:4-7). All these offerings were to consist of at least one omer of corn (which was the tenth part of an ephah) (Exo 16:36). But any larger number under 61 omers might be offered, the reason of the limitation being, that as the public meat- offerings enjoined on the feast of Tabernacles amounted to 61, 6464See Relandus, p. 353. This, however, only when the feast fell on a Sabbath. all private offerings must be less than that number.

In all baken meat-offerings, an ‘omer’ was always made into ten cakes—the symbolical number of completeness—except in that of the high-priest’s daily meat-offering, of which twelve cakes were baken, as representative of Israel. Finally, as the Rabbis express it, every meat-offering prepared in a vessel had ‘three pourings of oil’—first into the vessel, then to mingle with the flour, and lastly, after it was ready—the frankincense being then put upon it. The ‘wafers’ were ‘anointed’ with oil, after the form of the Hebrew letter caph, or the Greek letter kappa, as they explain, ‘to run down in two parts.’6565   The subjoined Rabbinical table may be of use:
   Requiring the addition of oil and frankincense: Of fine flour unbaken; baken in a pan; baken in a frying-pan; baken in the oven; the ‘wafers’; the high-priest’s daily and the priest’s consecration offering; the flour from the ’sheaf’ offered on the second day of the Passover.
   Requiring oil without frankincense: all meat-offerings, accompanying a burnt- or a peace-offering.

   Requiring frankincense without oil: The shew bread.

   Requiring neither oil nor frankincense: The two loaves at Pentecost; the jealousy-offering; and that in substitution for a sin-offering.

When presenting a meat-offering, the priest first brought it in the golden or silver dish in which it had been prepared, and then transferred it to a holy vessel, putting oil and frankincense upon it. Taking his stand at the south-eastern corner of the altar, he next took the ‘handful’ that was actually to be burnt, put it in another vessel, laid some of the frankincense on it, carried it to the top of the altar, salted it, and then placed it on the fire. The rest of the meat-offering belonged to the priests.6666Except in the meat-offering of the high-priest, and of priests at their consecration; the exception in both cases for the obvious reason already referred to in explaining sacrificial meals. Similarly, the meat-offerings connected with burnt-sacrifices were wholly consumed on the altar. Every meat-offering was accompanied by a drink-offering of wine, which was poured at the base of the altar.

Large Number of Priests Needed

So complicated a service, and one which enjoined such frequent sacrifices, must always have kept a large number of priests busy in the courts of the Temple. This was especially the case on the great festivals; and if the magnificent Temple could hold its 210,000 worshippers—if the liturgy, music, and ritual were equally gorgeous—we cannot wonder that it required, multitudes of white-robed priests properly to discharge its ministry. Tradition has it, that on the Day of Atonement no less than five hundred priests were wont to assist in the services. On other feast-days even more must have been engaged, as it was a Rabbinical principle, ‘that a man should bring all his offerings, that were either due from him or voluntarily dedicated, at the solemn festival that cometh next.’ In other words, if a man incurred a sacrifice, or voluntarily promised one, he was to bring it when next he came to Jerusalem. But even this provision showed ‘the weakness and unprofitableness thereof,’ since in all ordinary cases a long time must have elapsed before the stain of guilt could be consciously removed by an atoning sacrifice, or a vow performed. Blessed be God, the reality in Christ Jesus in this, as in all other things, far out-distances the type! For we have always ‘liberty to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus’; and ‘if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!’

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