In the Torah we find numerous sacrifices being offered. There are multiple types of sacrifices, and contrary to popular belief not all of them are offered for sin. In this study, we'll look at the different kinds of sacrifices offered in the Torah.
There are five (5) classes offerings mentioned in the Torah. Let's look at each of them in turn, going straight through the book of Vayyiqra / Leviticus.
1 And YHWH called to Moshe and spoke to him from the Tent of Appointment, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Yisrael and say to them, 'When any man of you brings an offering to YHWH, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. 3 If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the Tent of Appointment, that he may be accepted before YHWH. – Leviticus 1:1-4 (SQV)
The first thing we need to do is define "offering" and how it differs from "sacrifice." Then we can move on to looking at our first type of offering: the burnt offering.
The word used here in verses 2 and 3 for "offering" is קרבן (Qorban). Now you may recognize this word in the form ofCorban from Mark 7. Here's the section in question:
10For Moses said, 'Honour thy father and thy mother;' and, 'Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:' 11But ye say, 'If a man shall say to his father or mother, "It is Corban," that is to say, a gift, "by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free." 12And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. – Mark 7:10-13 (KJV)
In this section, it is seen that the Pharisees had a practice of allowing someone to free themselves of the financial responsibility of taking care of their parents as long as they give a gift of "Corban." This refers to the Hebrew wordQorban, which is the word for offering. Basically, here they would allow a man to donate the money as an offering, and would be freed from the responsibility of taking care of his parents. However, it is interesting that Mark recorded the word of Qorban, so let's define it in Hebrew.
Qorban comes from the word קרב (qarab) which is a verb meaning "to come near." It is used in places such as Genesis 20:4, when we read, "Abimelech had not come near to her…" as well as in Exodus 28:1, "1Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him…"
So Qorban, then, as a noun, is defined as "that which is brought near." Literally, it means "offering" or something "brought near" to the altar. Simply put, a Qorban includes anything that is brought near and offered up to Elohim. Sacrifice, however, is not exactly the same.
The Hebrew word for "sacrifice" is זבח (zevach) which is derived from the verb zavach (same spelling, different vowels). Zavach is a verb meaning "to slaughter" and zevach is a noun meaning "that which is slaughtered." So simply put, a "sacrifice" is merely something that has been slaughtered. While Qorban (offering) refers to any offering in general, zevach (sacrifice) refers specifically to an animal that has been slaughtered. This includes an animal killed simply for food, not necessarily as a sacrifice to YHWH.
So now that we've established the difference between "sacrifice" and "offering," let's look the burnt offering. In Hebrew, this word is עלה (oh-lah). Olah comes from the verb alah (same spelling, different vowels) which means "to ascend" or "to climb." Some newer Bible translations do not call the olah a burnt offering, but rather "an ascending offering." Olah is literally "that which ascends" or perhaps more literally, the sacrifice that is offered to cause the offerer to ascend. The idea here is that the olah is offered to cause the person offering it to "ascend" and be brought closer to Elohim.
As is so common in the Torah, the physical teaches the spiritual. In the case of the olah, the smoke "ascends" as the whole offering burned upon the altar. Thus the physical aspect of the smoke "ascending" teaches the spiritual aspect that the offerer should be "ascending" in worship. The offering, if done correctly, was to be a "soothing aroma" to YHWH. The phrase "soothing aroma" in Hebrew is ריח ניחוח (rey'ach niy'cho'ach), meaning "smell/odor" and "soothing/pleasing" respectively. What is interesting here is that this is actually a wordplay in Hebrew. Reyach(aroma/smell) is derived from the word ruach, which means "spirit/breath/wind." Nichoach is derived from nuach, which means "to come to rest" or "to let down." So reading it in Hebrew, you would have רוח נוח (ruach nuach). See the pun?
Anyways, this essentially means "a soothing, calming aroma that is breathed in." Ever had a really stressful day? Try smelling some lavender or even an apple pie baking in the oven. Smells have a huge effect on us.
So the spiritual point of the burnt offering (olah) was to cause the offerer to "ascend" in worship, and for that worship to be a "soothing aroma" to YHWH. Speaking to 1st Century believers who were very familiar with Temple service and the offerings, Paul uses the analogy of the "soothing aroma" not once, not twice, but THREE times in his letters. Let's review those briefly before moving on.
14 Now thanks be to Elohim, who always leads us in triumph in Mashiach, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are a sweet aroma of Mashiach to Elohim, in those who are being saved, and in those who perish; - 2 Corinthians 2:14,15 (SQV)
1 Be therefore imitators of Elohim, as beloved children. 2 Walk in love, even as Mashiach also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to Elohim for a sweet-smelling fragrance. – Ephesians 5:1,2 (SQV)
16 For even in Thessalonike you sent once and again to my need. 17 Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit that increases to your account. 18 But I have all things, and abound. I am filled, having received from Epaphroditusthe things that came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to Elohim.– Philippians 4:16-18 (SQV)
Perhaps now Paul's statements make more sense? Let's continue our reading in Leviticus:
5 He shall slay the young bull before YHWH; and Aharon's sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the Tent of Appointment. 6 He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7 The sons of Aharon the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aharon's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 9 Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to YHWH.
10 But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect. 11 He shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before YHWH, and Aharon's sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar. 12 He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 13 The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to YHWH. 14 But if his offering to YHWH is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes. 17 Then he shall tear it by its wings, but shall not sever it. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to YHWH. – Leviticus 1:10-17 (SQV)
This section is fairly self-explanatory. I just want to quickly point out that the olah can be a bull, a sheep, a goat, or two pigeons/turtledoves.
Now let's look at the next type of offering, as shown in Leviticus 2.
1 And when a being presents a grain offering as an offering to YHWH, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. 2 He shall then bring it to Aharon's sons the priests; and shall take from it his handful of its fine flour and of its oil with all of its frankincense. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke as its memorial portion on the altar, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to YHWH. 3 The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aharon and his sons: a thing most set-apart, of the offerings to YHWH by fire. – Leviticus 2:1-3 (SQV)
The Hebrew word for "grain" here is מנחה (Miyn'chah). This word is derived from an unused root (meaning, from a word that does not appear in Scripture). This root is נח (nach), which means "to apportion" or "to set before." It is related to the word we looked at earlier, nuach, meaning "to rest" or "to let down." The minchah is described as a "grain" offering, because it is almost always a bloodless and voluntary offering. Rendered rather literally however, the word minchah actually means "gift" or "donation" in the sense that it is freely "apportioned" as an offering.
4 Now when you bring an offering of a grain offering baked in an oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil. 5 If your offering is a grain offering made on the griddle, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil; 6 you shall break it into bits and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. 7 Now if your offering is a grain offering made in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. 8 When you bring in the grain offering which is made of these things to YHWH, it shall be presented to the priest and he shall bring it to the altar. 9 The priest then shall take up from the grain offering its memorial portion, and shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to YHWH. 10 The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aharon and his sons: a thing most set-apart of the offerings to YHWH by fire.
11 No grain offering, which you bring to YHWH, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to YHWH. 12 As an offering of first fruits you shall bring them toYHWH, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar. 13 Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your Elohim shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
14 Also if you bring a grain offering of early ripened things to YHWH, you shall bring fresh heads of grain roasted in the fire, grits of new growth, for the grain offering of your early ripened things. 15 You shall then put oil on it and lay incense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 The priest shall offer up in smoke its memorial portion, part of its grits and its oil with all its incense as an offering by fire to YHWH. – Leviticus 2:4-16 (SQV)
As a quick side-note, the minchah cannot be leavened if it is to be offered in fire. It also MUST be salted.
The spiritual implication of the minchah is the offering of a gift to YHWH. This is not done as a command or requirement for sin or guilt, but rather out of the abundance of love for our Creator. While the minchah mentioned in most of the Torah is a grain offering, it is not exclusively so. In fact, in Gen. 4, when Cain and Abel bring their offerings, it describes Abel's as a minchah, even though he brought it from the flock. The point being that the offering Abel brought was a gift that he apportioned for YHWH.
1 Now if his offering is a slaughtering of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before YHWH. – Leviticus 3:1 (SQV)
The phrase, "slaughtering of peace" in Hebrew is two words: זבח (zevach) meaning "slaughtering" or "sacrifice" (as we looked at above) and שלמים (sh'lamiym) meaning "peace." It is a plural form of the word שלם (shelem), derived from shalam (same word, different vowels) which means "to make amends." It is a cognate (related word) to שלום (Shalom) which means "peace/wholeness/completeness." So with zevach shalamiym together, we have the phrase "slaughtering of amends" or more commonly, "peace offering."
The zevach shalamiym is offered voluntarily. An example of this is found in the law of the Nazirite Vow. If a person takes a Nazirite vow, then they are required to offer a peace offering at the completion of the vow. However, taking a Nazirite vow is a choice, and is done voluntarily. Thus the requirement for offering a peace offering because of the vow is voluntary as well. (The only known exceptions being Samuel and Samson, and possibly John the Baptizer, of whom we are told they were to be Nazirites from the womb).
The spiritual aspect is probably related to the more technical definition of shalamiym: wholeness. That is, the offering expresses a sense of well-being and wholeheartedness. In the case of the peace offering, both the priests and the offerer take part in eating it, while a portion of it is also offered on the altar; this makes the peace offering one of communal benefit. No one unclean may take part in it, however.
1 Then YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Yisrael, saying, 'If a person sins unknowingly in any of the things which YHWH has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, 3 if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to YHWH a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the Tent of Appointment before YHWH, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before YHWH. – Leviticus 4:1-4 (SQV)
The fourth class of offering is the sin offering. In Hebrew it is חטאת (cha'that), which is derived from the verb חטא(chata) meaning "to miss the mark/to go wrong."
Leviticus 4 further goes on to detail the different animals offered for different people, but we'll look at that in a moment.
The first thing to note is that the sin offering is offered only for sins committed unintentionally. There is no animal or grain sacrifice that is offered for intentional sins. Next, it is also noteworthy that a sin offering (as we define it in English) is offered not only in the case of sin (unintentional sin, that is) but in the case of anything that causes separation between an individual and the Creator. An example of this is found in Lev. 12, where a woman is required to offer a sin offering after giving birth. Now we know that the command to be fruitful and multiply was given in the Garden during a time of perfection. So we can reasonably infer that having children is in no way a sin. However, as Lev. 12 informs us, there is a time of separation after a woman gives birth due to her blood. This is what requires a chatat: that which causes separation.
Along the same lines, someone who completes a Nazirite vow must also bring a chatat. Has he committed a sin in completing a voluntary vow? Of course not! Rather, the very word nazir means "separated one" and thus, because he was "separated" he must offer a "sin offering."
The spiritual implications of this one seem to the largest of the offerings. Namely, the understanding that our sin causes separation. All sin causes separation, but not all separation is caused by sin. Regardless of the reason, a cleansing of sorts is required to reconcile us with Elohim.
As Lev. 4 & 5 (which will not be quoted here to save time and space) further explain, there are three major types of unintentional transgression that require a chatat. They are:
1. one who withheld testimony despite having heard an adjuration to testify - a type of negligence; (see Lev. 5:1)
2. various cases of being impure in a span of forgetfulness (and entering the sanctuary or eating sacred items); (see Lev. 5:2,3)
3. inadvertently violating an oath. (See Lev. 5:4)
For any of these, a chatat (sin offering) is required.
There are also varying degrees of offerings for the chatat based on the importance or status of the one needing to offer it. If the offerer is a priest, he must offer a bull. If the whole congregation, they must offer a bull. If a leader among the people, he must offer a male goat. If a common person, he must offer a female goat. However, for a common person, if he could not afford a goat, he could bring two pigeons/turtledoves. And if he could not even afford that, he could bring 1/10th of an ephah of flour. This was to ensure that everyone, even the very poor, would be able to afford the sin offering. The varying degrees are based on varying levels of importance within the community.
As a quick side note, YHWH has always provided for people, including the poor. The Torah tells us that the poor will not cease from the land (Deut. 15:11; also Matt. 26:11). Yet what happens when the poor, who own no fields or livestock, must offer a sin offering? The law stated in Lev. 19:9 states that the edges of the fields are not to be harvested, and that the grain is to be left for the poor. This ensures that the poor not only always have food, but that they also always have a way to make their offering.
Now the 5th and final offering type.
14 Then YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying, 15 "If a being acts treacherously and sins unknowingly against the set-apart things of YHWH, then he shall bring his guilt offering to YHWH: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by sheqels, in terms of the sheqel of the set-apart place, for a guilt offering. 16 He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the set-apart thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him. – Leviticus 5:14-16 (SQV)
The fifth type of offering is the guilt offering, sometimes called a trespass offering. In Hebrew it is אשם (ashawm). It is derived from the verb asham (same spelling, slightly different vowel) which means "to be guilty."
The guilt offering is offered when certain violations were made that could be valued. Primarily, there are three:
1. an unintentional misappropriation for personal use of sanctuary property. The violator makes full restitution and pays a penalty of one fifth (20%) in addition to the sacrifice; (see Lev. 5:14-16)
2. the contingency asham - when one has a doubt if he committed an unintentional transgression that, had be been certain he did transgress unintentionally, would require a chatat; (see Lev. 5:17-19) [In simpler terms, if you're unsure whether you had done something that would require a chatat, you would offer an asham "just in case."]
3. a trespass against Elohim in that one lied under oath, defrauding his fellow man concerning a deposit, loan, stolen article, found article, etc. (see Lev. 6:1-7)
Note again that each of these (save for the second one) requires 20% (1/5th) to be repaid along with what was taken. For the case of the second one, the so-called "contingency asham," we find that this would be offered if someone thought perhaps they were guilty, but were not certain. The point of this one being "better safe than sorry:" it is better to offer the proper offering that was not REQUIRED, than to not offer anything at all.
A spiritual lesson of the guilt offering can teach us a couple of things. Number one, the seriousness of sin, and how we can sin and not even know it. Number two, the importance of making things right with our neighbors. Notice that the asham can be offered in ONE instance of intentional sin: the third case we looked at above. Now I know I said earlier that there are no sacrifices for intentional sin. That is still true. For this guilt offering, it is VERY specific. It applies only to something that can be valued (if 20% has to be added to it, it must have a value).
In the case of this guilt offering, we see even more of YHWH's grace and mercy, as He allowed a guilt offering to be offered when repentance occurred. Provided what was defrauded of one's neighbor was repaid (along with an extra 20%), the guilt offering could be offered for this particular sin. Also a major difference in this scenario is that the offender must come forward himself, thus we know that repentance is a prerequisite. For the animal, the guilt offering could only be a ram.
These are all of the five major offerings. There are others, such as the azazel (scapegoat) for Yom Kippur, though it is never actually killed; and the parah adumah (red heifer) for those unclean by reason of the dead, but it is also classified as a chatat.
Lastly, we have one more sacrifice to examine, and it is by far the most important of them all: the sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah.
I personally believe there are elements of each one of the sacrifices present in the sacrifice of Yeshua. His offering was made to bridge the gap between Elohim and man, thus allowing us to "ascend" to worship Him. His offering was voluntary, and offered willingly. His offering covers guilt and sin, removing it completely.
But perhaps the most important factor of all of this, is that the sacrifice of Yeshua is able to remove any and all sin, including that which was committed intentionally. Just as John the Baptizer declared in John 1, Yeshua is the "Lamb of Elohim, who takes away the sins of the world!" It is only by the blood of Yeshua that all sin can be purged. And it is only through repentance and faith in Him that our sins can be removed.
Some may try to point out the Yeshua was a "human sacrifice" which is not allowed, according to Torah, but I think we should look at this in context. Nowhere does Scripture say that all human sacrifice is against Torah. Check out the following Scriptures and I'll clarify.
10There shall not be found among you anyone who causes his son or daughter to pass through the fire, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer. - Deut. 18:10
21"You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your Elohim: I am YHWH." - Lev. 18:21
So the context of these verses is not in relation to human sacrifice as a whole, but in murdering one's own children in sacrifice to false gods. If human sacrifice were so outrageous, why did Abraham not stop and ask YHWH, "What do You mean, offer my son as a burnt offering? Human sacrifice is wrong!"
Now I am in no way advocating human sacrifice. No one has a right to take the life of another individual, ESPECIALLY our children (hence why abortion is so evil; it is a sacrifice not to Molech, but to the god of Selfishness). So we are told that we cannot offer our children as sacrifices. And, seeing as how we are not permitted to murder, we cannot, by extension, offer human sacrifices of ANYONE, not just our children. Which makes Yeshua's statement that much MORE important:
18"No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." - John 10:18
Yeshua was not offered as a 'human sacrifice' as we think of it; rather, He laid down His own life of His own accord.
Now then, if even from the Fall of Man, we find that death is required to cover sin (an animal had to be killed to "cover" the nakedness of Adam and Eve, for example), then we would expect that pattern to continue. Indeed, we find just that: death atones. However, how is intentional sin supposed to be purged, if even the sin offering itself cannot purge anything besides unintentional sin? That's the kicker. This is why everyone needs Yeshua. When Hebrews 10:4 says, "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" it is not saying the sacrificial system was a lie. After all, the Torah DOES say that after offering the chatat (sin offering), the priest "makes atonement" for the offerer. Rather, the Book of Hebrews is dealing with the once-a-year atonement, when it was to be purged from the entire camp forever. The blood of bulls and goats (referring to the bull offered by the High Priest and the goat offered for the sanctuary per Lev. 16) does not take away ALL sins (intentional and unintentional). And even if it did, it had to be done year after year. But Yeshua, our Perfect High Priest, died once to remove sins for all time; a mission that was from the "foundation of the world" (Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).
I hope and pray this study has blessed you.
Be Berean. Shalom.