Part 1 of 5: The Sacrifice of Propitiation

Posted By Thomas Perez. July 16th, 2011 at 7:44pm. Copyright 2011.

A. General Introduction:

Note: All Citations for this entire study (Part 1-5) can be found in Part 5

“Sacrifice and offering are activities and concepts endemic to the human race. The first act of worship outside the Garden of Eden was the presentation of offerings and sacrifices to Yahweh (Gen 4:1-4a). Though some would deny this. According to one recent blog, such a denial of sacrificial importance was noted; thus causing doubt in many concerning the sacrificial offering of Jesus.

Here are some of those quotes:

“The promise of divinely appointed progeny that will overcome evil is well-known in Gen.3:15, and though sectarian interpretation has caused dissension on which specific one this text refers to, surely the promise is partially fulfilled in each one that God sends to lead humankind in the divine way.”

“The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 expresses the whole history of religion in a nutshell. First of all, there is not the slightest hint that God commanded either Cain or Abel to bring an offering. But they did, and by so doing started the wicked paradigm of sectarianism. Engaging in ritual practices that were never commanded, legislated, or exemplified are results in sectarian intolerance, which breeds violence. With the invention of religion we have the invention of fratricide.”

“It seems irrational when you think about it, but that’s the rationale behind war as well as crime, and every established church accepts “just” war.”

“The faith of Cain, according to Genesis 4, is the source of much good in the world, the whole configuration of civilization, agriculture, industry, even animal husbandry, art and music. With all the civilization, though, it could not prevent violence, as Lamech’s experience shows. In fact, Lamech is proud of his violence. He appeals to God’s protection of Cain from those who would take revenge on him in vaunting terms. If the punishment on the one who kills Cain for his fratricide is sevenfold, the punishment for taking Lamech to account be eleven times greater! That’s how justice in this world of Cainish faith works, and all established religion is Cainish.”

“It’s all based on Cain’s invention: human sacrifice.”

“All faiths that make killing a man or child the central pillar of belief are merely extensions of the faith of Cain. They may cover it in beautiful words (and so did the Canaanites), under exquisite ceremonies, and in highly philosophic theologies, but it all boils down to the same thing. Cain sought salvation from his sin, which lay at the door, by engaging in human sacrifice. The text of Genesis 4 shows that God did not accept that. Unless God is a God who changes, He does not accept it today either. Cannibalism is ritualized in many cultures, but even without the word of revelation the darkest human mind is capable of understanding that it is wrong to eat your brother. And yet established religion and politics as well as economics are based on precisely that.”


My apologetic defense against this sort of rhetoric is to simply stress that it was not the heel of a human sacrifice alone that was bruised, because that would simply make Jesus another human being (of which He was/is as stated in Col 2:9). But moreover than that, this Jesus was also God in human incarnation – thereby fulfilling the fulness of time (John 7:42, Acts 13:23, Rom 1:3, Gal 3:19, 4:4-5) This is what the Gospels teach. This is what the book of Acts teaches. This is what the epistles teach, and this is what Revelation teaches. For it is the faith and heart of our very salvation.

However. there are some who would use the excuse of Institutionalized Religion to justify their belief in a denial of a substitutionary offering. Some would even claim that this is not of God but is of the religion of man. Institutions do not create truth. Truth is found in the Torah, the Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, & the Revelation, thus fulfilling the fulness of time….

Furthermore to indicate that Genesis 3:15 as partially fulfilled in each one that God sends to lead humankind in the divine way is to undermine the Gospel of I Cor 15:1-4, and to believe another ideology and spirit (but I believe its the latter). Moreover, it should not be the ceremonial aspects, theological ideologies, or philosophic rhetoric that should be criticized here, but rather, the idea of another vain attempt to down play the purpose of the sacrifice and free will offering of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed that He came to lay His life down for His sheep.

When you read between the lines of such citations of denial; the first thing that probably comes to mind is the concept of an all encompassing theistic God, rather than a personal God who became flesh once in human history, in time, thus placing Himself in motion. And thus once placed in motion & time, man can now boldly approach the throne of grace because of the very act of the incarnation – fulfilling its purpose in birth, life, death, & resurrection. 

Anyway, moving right along…

Noah’s first act of worship after the great flood subsided was the presentation of ‘burnt offerings on the altar’ (Gen. 8:20). Before his call Abram was acquainted with sacrifice and offering. Soon after obeying the Lord’s command, he built an altar at the oak of Moreh (12:6) where the Lord had revealed Himself. He built another altar between Bethel and Ai and called upon the name of Yahweh (12:8; 13:3f.), and another at Hebron by the oaks of Mamre (13:18). Three months after the Israelites came out of Egypt, God called them together at Sinai. There He gave them the Torah, which included instructions for worshiping Him by presenting sacrifices and offerings (Ex. 19-Num. 10:10).

“For God’s new people, as well as for the ancestors of Israel and for primeval humankind, sacrifice and offering restored broken relationships between God and mankind and between men and women. The close relationship between this healing function of sacrifice and offering and the violent expulsion and separation of human beings from the Creator (Gen. 3:24) is emphasized by the writer’s close placement of Gen. 3:22-24 and 4:1-4a. Radical rejection is pictured in 3:22-24; some kind of reconciliation and gesture of good will through the offering of sacrifice (4:1-4a) indicates a major function and meaning of sacrifice for the author of Genesis…Sacrifice and offering are as old as religion, and it appears that religion is as old as humankind (Gen. 4:26).” [E.E. Carpenter, ISBE, s.v. “Sacrifices and Offerings in the OT”, p.260]

B. Sacrifice outside the Mosaic Covenant

The phenomena of sacrifice in some of the Early Cultures

More remote from Israel

“Wholesale slaughter of animals has a similar motif in southern India, e.g. the buffalo sacrifices at the Malayalam devil dances, and the Madiga festivals for the goddess Mahalashari and other deities…” [SDFML:963, human sacrifice by the Khonds of southern India, p.994; Vedic India practiced sacrifice of oxen, WR:Eliade:247]

“The Shang’s faith [2000-1500 BC] was shamanism. The Wu–who were seers, medicine men, and sorcerers–and their associates–the diviners (people who told fortunes or predicted the future)–were the mediums between the supernatural world and the human world. They also served as scribes and clerks, ceremonial dancers, musicians, and even high-ranking officials. Moreover, they were proto-type intellectuals, who could not only write and keep accounts, but who were also archivists and historians. Because the cosmos of shamans is full of spirits of all kinds, the Shang state religion was mainly concerned with offering food and entertainment to male and female ancestors of the ruling house; to deceased great men; and to the deities of the mountains, water, rivers, wind and stars.” [OWC:106, Eliade cites human sacrifice in China.]

Africa: “In all of Africa, the concept of ‘feeding’ gods, ancestors, charms, and all manner of beings or objects associated with the supernatural powers is basic for any comprehension of the nature of sacrifices and the act of sacrificing. Because of the closeness of the supernatural to the everyday world, its beings are thought of and approached much in the manner in which human beings are thought of and acted toward. Therefore, just as human beings become weak and irritable, lose power, and feel frustrated, thus perhaps becoming dangerous is they do not receive sustenance, so supernatural beings must be properly provided with the food they need if they are to function as aids to men, and are not to turn on those to whom they look for provision of their needs.” [SDFML:964]

MesoAmerican/Andean: “Sacrifices of human beings, animals, and goods were widely practiced in the area of the ancient Andean civilizations. No ceremony, private or public, was performed without a bloody sacrifice and offerings. The Chibcha kept children in the temples and killed them when they reached puberty.” [SDFML:964]

“Sacrifice was the central moment of the cult. In Yucatec it was called p’a chi (opening of the mouth), from the practice of rubbing the mouth of the god’s statute with blood. Only seldom were the victims animals. Human sacrifices were preferred…During penitential rites, all people would bleed themselves, and in order to make the wounds more memorable they would use the spine of a stingray” [WR:Eliade:53, Aztecs did ritual cannibalism, p.55]

Native North America: “The presentation of valued or holy objects and materials to deities and spirits, to induce or compel these latter to bestow their favors on the giver of such objects, is a common practice among Northern American Indians. Individual men and women were constantly offering sacrifices to spirits, ghosts, deities, plants, and so forth; these consisted of bits of food thrown into the fire, pollen and down offerings, beads, pinches of tobacco, among other things. A man or woman digging plans to be used as medicine in the eastern United States always left tobacco at the spot, in payment–if not, the cure would not be efficacious. Groups also sacrificed together; probably the two best know such group sacrifices are the Seneca (Iroquois) White Dog ceremony, and the Morning Star ceremony, in which a female captive was sacrifices, of the Skidi Pawnee” [SDFML:964, also note self-torture in Plains Indian sun-dance, offering the joints of one’s fingers, and ritual cannibalism of war prisoners]

Ancient Greeks: “Sacrifice to the Olympian gods was indeed a smoke offering…The gods, for their part, needed the meat savor; they grew desperate without it.” [WR:Eliade:121; blood sacrifices were used to ward off attacking spirits; voluntary human scapegoat–drowning or stoning–for the city]

Israel’s neighbors and background


“The main concern in Mesopotamian sacrificial practice was undoubtedly the care, and especially the feeding, of divine images. This view of sacrifice was fundamentally influenced by the idea that deities were represented by man-made images, and led to a much greater concern with the image’s own mundane needs than with the person and requirements of the deity as such. As a result, sacrifice in Mesopotamia was a rather more down to earth affair in comparison with the concepts of sacrifice repeatedly advocated by the OT writers.” [Selman, STB:90]

“Another very important aspect of the feedings of the gods was the food and drink offerings regularly provided for the spirits of the dead. Much Mesopotamian religion was animistic in character, and particularly as far as ordinary people were concerned, religion was probably more about placating the spirits and demons rather than the major gods who had temples and images of their own. When a person died, it was believed that his spirit entered the underworld, the place where ‘dust is their food and clay their sustenance’. It was therefore necessary to provide the spirits of the deceased with a more satisfying diet, for it this responsibility was neglected, the spirits might return to earth hungry and thirsty.” [STB:91]

“When Marduk hears the words of the gods, His heart prompts (him) to fashion artful works.

Opening his mouth, he addresses Ea To impart the plan he had conceived in his heart:

“Blood I will mass and cause bones to be. I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name. Verily, savage-man I will create. He shall be charged with the service of the gods

That they might be at ease!” [The Creation Epic/Enuma Elish, ANET:68a]

“Then I let out all to the four winds And offered a sacrifice.

I poured out a libation on the top of the mountain. Seven and seven cult-vessels I set up,

Upon their pot-stands I heaped cane, cedarwood, and myrtle. The gods smelled the savor,

The gods smelled the sweet savor, The gods crowded like flies about the sacrificer.”

[The Epic of Gilgamesh, ANET:95a]

“‘Servant, obey me.’ Yes, my lord, yes. ‘Bring me at once water for my hands, and give it to me: I will offer a sacrifice to my god.’ Offer, my lord, offer. A man offering sacrifice to his god is happy, loan upon loan he makes. ‘No, servant, a sacrifice to my god will I not offer.’ Do not offer (it), my lord, do not offer (it). You may teach a god to trot after you like a dog when he requires of you, ‘celebrate my ritual’…” [Dialogue of Pessimism, IX, ANET:438]

Mesopotamian sacrifice is never burned, and never eaten by the community of lay worshipers. [STB:99]


“After the offerings had been placed on the altars and purified, the highest-ranking priest opened the doors of the sanctuary at the exact moment in which the sun appeared on the horizon, accompanied by hymns that were intended to propitiate the awakening of the god who lived within the temple. This marked the beginning of the most important and solemn phase. The priest entered the dark- ness of the sanctuary, barely lit by torches, and opened the door of the shrine containing the statue of the god. The deity then revealed himself to the eyes of his officiant, privileged by his sight of the idol in which the god allowed himself to be seen.

“The laying of hands on the statue and the recital of prayers preceded the sacred meal. This was composed of the offerings that had been placed on the altars, the actual possession of which was “turned,” as the Egyptians said, to the priests and other temple personnel, who used the food for their daily meals. The god received only that part which evaded the perception of the senses. The rest, composed of a denser physical reality, was for human consumption.

“The next phase involved tending to the actual person of the god, that is, his statue, which was treated as though it were a human being. It was washed, made up, and dressed in new clothes, which re- placed those it had worn the previous day. It should be noted that each of these acts was surrounded by precise ritual prescriptions, such as the offering of four strips of the finest-quality linen in four different colors: white, blue, green, and red. In certain circumstances the god was adorned with jewels and other symbolic objects connected to his typology. Finally, the priest who had opened the shrine and performed the entire ritual anointed the statue with oil and made an offering of grains of rice and resin. This was the end of the ceremony. All that remained was to close the door of the shrine once more and to reattach the seal, which would be broken the following day. While some final acts, such as the libation of water and burning of incense, were performed, darkness once again enveloped the shrine in which the statue of the god was kept.” [OT:TE:143f] Egyptian sacrifice is never burned, and never eaten by the community of lay worshipers. [OT:TE:143ff]

“The priests shave their bodies all over every other day to guard against the presence of lice, or anything else equally unpleasant, while they are about their religious duties; also, the priests wear linen only, and shoes made from the papyrus plant-these materials, for dress and shoes, being the only ones allowed them. They bathe in cold water twice a day and twice every night, and observe innumerable other ceremonies besides. Their life, however, is not by any means all hardship, for they enjoy advantages too: for instance, they are free from all personal expense, having bread made for them out of the sacred grain, and a plentiful daily supply of goose meat and beef, with wine in addition. Fish they are forbidden to touch; and as for beans, they cannot even bear to look at them, because they imagine they are unclean… They do not have a single priest for each god, but a number, of which one is chief priest, and when a chief priest dies, his son is appointed to succeed him.” (Herodotus, 2.37.2-5; trans. Aubrey de Selincourt, cited: OT:TE:123, fifth century BC)

“All the world, Volusius Bithynicus, knows what monsters are objects of reverence to the superstitious insanity of Egypt. One district adores the crocodile, another stands in awe of the snake-gorging ibis. The long-tailed ape, too, is a sacred being; its golden image glitters in the spot where the mutilated Memnon’s wizard chords make music, and where lies in ruin ancient Thebes with all her hundred gates. In one part whole towns worship the cat, in another the fish of the river, in yet another the hound, albeit Diana the huntress has not a single votary. But to profane leek or onion with a crunching tooth, that is an abomination. Devout indeed must be a people that has such deities sprouting in its kitchen- gardens!” (Juvenal, Fifteenth Satire, second century AD)


Ugarit (14-13th centuries BC)

A particularly bad scene…child sacrifice, cult prostitution, self-mutilation, etc…

But they had burnt offerings and community fellowship meals

Summary points:

Everywhere, every era, every conceivable object

Magic vs. Religion

Avoidance of misfortune vs. celebration of benevolence

So often abused…

Admission of a problem–the gap between God and humans “needs work”

C. Sacrifice in the Mosaic Covenant

How do we approach this?

The legal/cultic prescriptions (Pentateuch)

The worshiper’s heart (Psalms)

The prophetic rebuke and challenge to abuse (Prophets)

Inaugural sacrifices: (1) Covenant seal and (2) the Passover

“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Ex 24)

Special Case: Passover:

Initial in Exodus 12:

Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. 3 “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 ‘And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 ‘And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 ‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 ‘And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 ‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste-it is the Lord’s Passover. 12 ‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-I am the Lord. 13 ‘And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.

15 ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 ‘And on the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 ‘You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 ‘Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. 20 ‘You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'”

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

23 “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 “And it will come about when you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, that you shall observe this rite. 26 “And it will come about when your children will say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 that you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'” And the people bowed low and worshiped. 28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 “Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”

Perpetual in Deut 16

“Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 “And you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name. 3 “You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), in order that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 “For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning. 5 “You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the Lord your God is giving you; 6 but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. 7 “And you shall cook and eat it in the place which the Lord your God chooses. And in the morning you are to return to your tents. 8 “Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God; you shall do no work on it.

“What meaneth this?”

It was a sacrifice, not just a ritual–“‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 that you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ [Ex 12.26]

It is not a burnt offering, but a fellowship/peace (shared by covenant community) offering.

It LOOKS LIKE a consecration offering:

“On account of similarities with the ritual for the consecration of the Aaronic priests in Exodus 29, there is good reason to believe that a major purpose of the original Passover was the consecration of the Israelites as a holy nation (cf. Ex. 19.6). By offering the Passover sacrifice, smearing its blood on their doors, and eating its meat the Israelites set themselves apart as holy; they became the people of God. Consequently, they are delivered from the destructive power of the Destroyer who slew the firstborn of the Egyptians.” [STB:18]

The blood kept the Israelites from being ‘treated as’ the Egyptians–but God DID claim all the firstborn of theirs anyway:

“For all the first-born are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the first-born in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord.” (Num 3.13)

“For every first-born among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. (Num 8.17)

Routine sacrifices:

Festival offerings: “three times a year…” (plus!)

Passover/Unleavened bread

Firstfruits (first and best)


Spontaneous offerings: free-will and vows

Special Case: The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)

Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the Lord and died. 2 And the Lord said to Moses, “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 “Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 “He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash, and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on. 5 “And he shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 “Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household. 7 “And he shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8 “And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 “Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin offering. 10 “But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.

11 “Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself. 12 “And he shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. 13 “And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, lest he die. 14 “Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 “Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 “And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions, in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities. 17 “When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 “Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. 19 “And with his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times, and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it.

20 “When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 “Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. 22 “And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

And this shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls, and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31 “It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. 32 “So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on the linen garments, the holy garments, 33 and make atonement for the holy sanctuary; and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 “Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so he did.

“This day had a special symbolism. Two goats were taken to bear the people’s sins. One was killed as a sin offering; the other was sent off into the desert to bear away the sins of the people into an uninhabited place. The two goats thus symbolized both propitiation for sins by death and complete removal of the sins for which atonement was made. Many a person today who suffers from what is called a guilt complex could profit by a study of this ritual for the atonement and removal of sin. The theological expression of this glad release is in David’s psalm of praise (Ps 103:12): “As far as the east is from the west,/ so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (cf. Mic 7:19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea”).” [EBCOT, in.loc.]

Note: not a festival, no travel required, only day of fasting, priest like everybody else, “small” sacrifice for an entire nation, two pictures in one! [cf. Lev 14.7: ” Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields.”]

Holiness, purity, and grading:

Holiness and uncleanness were contagious–you were always being pulled in one direction or another:

“For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy. (Ex 29.37)

“they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean. (Lev 11.26) and Furthermore, anything that the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.'”( Num 19.22)

Holy “space” and sacrifice value showed seriousness:

“In the Levitical system, the graver the sin, the more potent the sacrifice required and the nearer it had to be brought to the presence of God by the one most conformed to the holiness of God, the high priest.” [STB:38]

Other aspects of sacrifice and Law:

Atonement (“propitiation”)

Ransom of the firstborn/Ransom of inheritance

Covenant mediator (Moses/Angels)

D. Sacrifice in the later books of the OT–the Heart behind the Law:

The issue of the heart in the Psalms

“To give thanks to God for a specific occasion of deliverance is the chief motive of sacrifice in Psalms.” [STB:41]

“I will sacrifice in his tabernacle joyful sacrifices; I will sing and make music to Yahweh” (Ps 27.6)

“How shall I repay to the Lord all his goodness to me?…To you I will sacrifice a thank-offering and on the name of the LORD I will call (Ps. 116.12, 17)

“And let them sacrifice thank-offerings, and recount his deeds in joyful song.” (Ps 107:22)

“In contrast to the substantial and significant group of psalms just described (i.e., thanksgiving), a petitionary motive is associated with sacrifice only rarely.” [STB:44]

Psalm 4.5: “Offer righteous sacrifices and trust in Yahweh”(!)

“God is honoured when people express their dependence on him in this way, acknowledging his power to save. It is because of the testimony and honour they bring to God that the practice of offering sacrifices of thanksgiving is particularly commended in Psalm 50.” [STB:47]

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

With verse 5:

“Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

And verse 14:

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.

“The contrast is therefore between a right and wrong use of sacrifice. Of itself, sacrifice is meaningless, possibly even harmful. But when it is offered with the aim of bringing glory and honour to God, it acquires positive value and meaning. The thank-offering is singled out as the sacrifice which most clearly fulfils this aim.” [STB:49]

Ps 69.30: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad- you who seek God, may your hearts live!

“The point is, however, that even the most costly sacrifices have their limitations. Their material aspects are subordinate to a deeper meaning, which is made explicit only by verbal means. Though sacrifice and singing are both essential to public worship, only the latter can actually declare the greatness of God’s name.” [STB:50]

Ps 51.16f: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

“On its own, it was a mute witness, and the mere presentation of material things had no intrinsic value. It was therefore a symbol, whose true value was measured by the purposes and motives with which the worshipper made his offering.” [STB:52]

“The lack of any clear reference to sacrificial atonement in the Psalter is remarkable.” [STB:54]

The prophetic rebuke and challenge

Hosea 6.6: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.”

I Sam 15.22f: “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.”

Hosea 8.11f: “”Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning. I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien. They offer sacrifices given to me and they eat the meat, but the LORD is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt.

Isaiah 1.10ff: “The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–I cannot bear your evil assemblies.Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you;even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Micah 6.6-8: “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

“There are four expressions the prophets use time and again to express what Yahweh looks for and fails to find in his people. They are justice, righteousness, steadfast love and faithfulness. Key texts in this regard are Ho. 2:19; Am. 5:24; Is. 1:26; 5:7,26; Mi. 6:8. It is clear that for the prophets the expression of these qualities in personal and communal life was the indispensable prerequisite for meaningful public religion. This is because the homage expressed by sacrifices was meant to be a symbol of a life of homage to Yahweh, and the homage he looked for was obedience to the moral laws which he had given to his people. They were grounded in his character, and so should characterize his people’s attitude towards him and towards one another…Sacrifice, at its best, was an expression of homage and obedience to Yahweh. It was an expression which he ordained. Such homage and dedication, if genuine, would be shown by a life lived in daily obedience to his moral requirements as well as the ritual ones. In other words, it was the way of life of the person who offered the sacrifice that Yahweh looked at, not merely the sacrifice itself.” [STB:72]

E. Its essential differences from other sacrificial systems:

One: No real Atonement in the other systems–the issue was ‘good fortune or bad’.

“Despite the existence of similarities between Israel and the rest of Syria/Palestine, there remain two major aspects of Israelite sacrifice for which no obvious parallels exists. The first is the various atonement sacrifices of the OT. Through some analogies have been proposed, they do not have the same significance as they do in the OT. Further, the nearest parallels are more concerned with the removal of evil than with meeting the personal moral standards of a supreme deity.” [STB:101]

Two: Not an attempt to manipulate the god:

“The idea of sacrifice as a gift, offered to God as his due and as an expression of honour and thanksgiving, is widespread in the Psalms. The notion that such a gift can be used to influence God, however, is strongly condemned (Ps. 50:8-13)…the idea that man could somehow gain credit with God, so as to expect some return for his outlay, is strongly condemned. All gifts made to God in a very real sense already belong to him.” [STB:55,53]

Three: No ‘care and feeding’ of Yahweh!

He gave the best away anyway! (Num 19)

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Ps 50)

Four: Ethical vs. magical in nature

“This clearly distinguishes the Israelite worldview, which placed an ethical value on sacrifice, from the pagan worldview, which invested sacrifice with magical power” [AILCC:150]

“The purposes of the sacrificial practices of Mesopotamia seem much more limited in comparison with Israelite practice in the OT. The idea that sacrifice might establish or restore a sense of communion between the deity and the worshipper is not found in Mesopotamian texts, while the absence of any concept of the importance attached to blood rituals in Israelite sacrifice is quite striking. To satisfy the gods’ hunger and thirst and the worshippers’ need for blessing were quite sufficient motives for the offering of sacrifice.” [STB:96]

Five: More Detailed and centralized than the ANE

“Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to sacrifice it to the LORD-that man must be cut off from his people. (Lev 17.8)

Six: Simplicity and balance(!)–the extremes of Ugarit and Mesopotamia

Seven: The Passover has no analogue in ANE (for one reason, because there is no other Exodus!):

“Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (Deut 6.34)

Eight: Based on special, covenant relationship–not on “general religiosity”

Nine: Inclusiveness of lay worshippers as well as foreigners

The Nazarite vow of Numbers 6–men and women, rich or poor, no exclusions

“An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. 49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.” (Ex 12.48)

“And if an alien sojourns with you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he wishes to make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so he shall do. 15 ‘As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 ‘There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.'” (Num 15.14ff)

“In Israel, for example, sacrifice was often presented without the use of an altar, whereas in Mesopotamia sacrifice was often presented without the use of an altar. Also, sacrifice in Mesopotamia was usually performed by priests using the wide range of offerings already presented to the temples, whereas in Israel laymen had opportunity to sacrifice directly to God by bringing the victim to the altar and killing it there.” [STB:90]

Ten: The benevolence factor

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deut 14.28f)

Eleven: Strong Prohibitions against abuse (e.g., human sacrifice, self-mutilation)

The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. (Lev 20.1)

Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (Lev 19.28)

And it came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. (I Kgs 18.27)

You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. (Deut 14.1)

Twelve: “In spirit and in truth…” (the Psalmist and the Prophets)

Thirteen: A Theological system, not just ad hoc or purely concrete

Fourteen: Only the one God!

“The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: 3 Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it 4 instead of bringing it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD-that man shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood and must be cut off from his people. 5 This is so the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. 6 The priest is to sprinkle the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 7 They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’ (Lev 17)

“The monolatrous outlook of most of the OT writers, for example (probably to be distinguished from the views of the majority of ancient Israelites), resulted in a greater concern with Yahweh’s character and demands expressed through sacrifice than the rather vaguer requirements of the pantheon and spirit world thought to exist throughout much of the ancient Near East.” [STB:101]

Fifteen: Grace surrounding the Law!

The second set of stone tablets!

Aaron and the death of his oldest sons (Lev 10.16ff)

Variation in sacrifice costs (e.g., Lev 5)

The second-month Passover

David and the showbread

Atonement by incense/placement of Aaron in the plague of Korah/Dathan (Num 16)

The later Passovers (2 Chron 30,35)

Ruth, Rahab, etc., etc., etc.

F. So, What was OT sacrifice all about?

“God will dwell among us”

“So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. (Ex 29.44)

To “provoke” healing and reconciliation within the Covenant community!

“The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged. 8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him. (Num 5.5ff)

Ritual as expression of deepest cultural values

To differentiate Israel!

“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (Deut 4.5ff)

To show the richness and the costliness of the Ultimate Answer

“Out of all your gifts you shall present every offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the sacred part from them.’ 30 “And you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be reckoned to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor, and as the product of the wine vat. 31 ‘And you may eat it anywhere, you and your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 ‘And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the sons of Israel, lest you die.'” (Lev 18.29)

“But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chr 21.23)

A worshiper’s very livelihood…

The sheer frequency of the need…

The unchanging holiness of God…

The unchanging holiness of God…

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