There was a big question as to whether the different offerings were still to be given after the Messiah had made Himself known to the Jews. Many thought that only the thank- and peace-offerings were necessary because they had been taught that the object of a sacrifice was its substitution for the offender. The Jewish fathers had taught that the substitute to whom all these types pointed was none other than the Messiah Himself. Therefore, those who recognized Jesus as being the True Messiah felt that now He was the one True Ultimate Sacrifice for their sins, and they did not need to keep sacrificing animals for sins.
In the text below, we will examine each of the different kinds of sacrifices separately. Each of them had the purpose of either being offered on the ground of communion with God, or else the sacrifice was intended to restore that communion when it had been dimmed or disturbed.
The Hebrew name for this was Olah, or also Chalil. The name 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 symbolized the entire surrender unto God, whether of the individual or of the congregation, and also symbolized God’s acceptance of the sacrifice. If there were other sacrifices brought, this particular one followed the sin-offering, but came before the peace-offering.
It could not be offered without the ‘shedding of blood’. This offering was the basis of all the other offerings. The offering itself meant general acceptance from God based on the ground of previously getting forgiveness of sin and that offering being accepted by God.
The burnt-offering was always to be a male animal, which was the more noble and indicated strength and energy. The blood was thrown on the angles of the altar below the red line that ran around it. Then the “sinew of the thigh”, the stomach and entrails, and also any tails and feathers had to be removed. Then the sacrifice was duly salted and wholly burned. The skins belonged to the ministering priests who could then sell them and generate revenue for their family needs.
The burnt-offering was the only sacrifice in which non-Israelites were allowed to participate. 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 recognized the Roman Emperor as their ruler. At the beginning of the Jewish War, Eleazar rejected this offering, and it became known as the open mark of the rebellion.
This was the most important of all sacrifices. It made atonement for the whole person of the offender, whereas the trespass-offering only atoned for one special offense. Sin-offerings were brought on festive occasions for the whole people, but never a trespass-offering.
The trespass-offering might be regarded as representing ransom for a special wrong, while the sin-offering symbolized general redemption. Both of the sacrifices only applied to sins that were done ‘through ignorance’, and not those done ‘presumptuously’, or on purpose. The law provided no atonement for ‘presumptuous’ sins, so the person could only fear judgment or fiery indignation for whatever sin they committed. The term ‘through ignorance’ that the Rabbis used, though, meant committing a sin in the following ways: through want of knowledge, unintentionally, through weakness, or committing a sin in which the offender didn’t realize his guilt at the time. A person pretty much had to be in direct rebellion against God to commit a ‘presumptuous’ sin. The difference in these two was in the condition of the person’s heart. A person who loved God but was weak and committed sins would be different from one who was just rebelling against God and didn’t care about doing the right thing.
There were fundamental differences in the two sacrifices for the offerings, also. The sin-offerings were brought at the various festivals, and also for purification in defilements of the body, such as sexual, bodily diseases like leprosy, or touching a dead person. This offering was for sin or something that had already happened or been committed.
The animal brought for a trespass-offering was to always be a male, generally a ram, because they were never used as a sin-offering. There was no substitution that could be made because of poverty. This was made for a wrong that had been committed that there must be definite ransom made from God for that particular person. An example of this offering would be the Nazarite whose vow had been interrupted in Numbers 6:12.
The most important thing to remember with any of the offerings was that they could only atone if there was true repentance from the person’s heart.
All sin-offerings were either public (congregational) or private (individual). The public offerings always used male animals and the private offerings used females, except the bullock for the high-priest’s sin of ignorance, and the kid for the same offence as a ‘ruler’. They were further divided into fixed, which were the same for rich and poor alike; and varying, which ‘ascended and descended’ according to the circumstances of the offerer. Fixed sacrifices were all those for sins that were done through ignorance against any of the prohibitory commands of the Rabbis; 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’. Varying sacrifices were those for lepers; for women after childbirth; for having concealed a ‘thing known’; for having unwittingly sworn falsely; and for having either unwittingly eaten of what had been consecrated, or a person having gone into the Temple in a state of defilement.
There were also ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ sin-offerings, which made the distinction of whether 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 priests and within the sanctuary; the latter were to be wholly burnt without the camp or city. In both cases, though, the ‘inwards’ were always first burned on the altar of burnt-offering. Neither oil or 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
The sin-offering was different for the different incomes and classes of the people. For the sin of the high-priest or a huge sin of the people a bullock must be brought in and sacrificed. This was the highest kind of sin-offering. The next important was the ‘kid of the goats’ that was offered on the Day of Atonement and other festivals, or for a ruler who had sinned in ignorance, for the whole congregation if a person had committed a secret sin without the whole knowing about it, and lastly, at the consecration of the Temple.
The next in importance was a female kid of the goats for individual Israelites. Then there was a ewe lamb for a Nazarite and a leper. The lowest grade of sin-offering was that of turtle-doves or young pigeons. Basically there was some kind of sin-offering that every person could offer no matter how poor or rich.
The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled, not thrown. In the case of a private Israelite, it was sprinkled (either jerked or dropped successively) on each of the four horns of the altar of burnt-offering, beginning at the southeast corner and making a complete trip around. Then the rest of the blood was poured at the bottom of the altar through two funnels that eventually led into the Kedron Valley.
When offering bullocks and goats, whose carcasses 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 times towards the Most Holy Place, to indicate that the covenant-relationship itself had been endangered and was about to be re-established, then touched the horns of the altar with the blood.
The most solemn of sacrifices were those on the Day of Atonement. Here the high priest was arrayed in his fine linen garments and stood before the Lord Himself within the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of all the people. Every spot of blood from a sin-offering that got on any garment was considered defiled, that is it was loaded with sin and had to be destroyed. Also all the vessels that were used for these sacrifices had to be either broken or scoured to completely disinfect them and remove the blood entirely from them.
As the priests were to partake of these offerings while they were in the Temple, this may have symbolically represented God accepting the sacrifice of that person.
The trespass-offering was provided for certain sins that were committed through ignorance. Jewish tradition stated that this was where a man afterwards voluntarily confessed himself guilty. The Rabbis arranged this class into those for a doubtful trespass, and those for a certain trespass. The people who were afraid that they may have trespassed and didn’t know it could bring a sacrifice every day if they chose to do so, and some of the more extreme people did this. The certain trespass was one that a person was absolutely certain that he needed to present an offering to God so that he could be atoned for.
In the next text, we will cover the other two kinds of offerings – The Peace-Offering and The Meat-Offering.