THE PENTATEUCH PART III: LEVITICUS
Lesson 1: Chapters 1:1-2:16
Divine Instruction in the Ritual of Sacrifice Part I
Lord of mercy,
We, Your holy covenant people, come humbly to You in sacred time and sacred space to offer You prayer, praise, and worship - authentic worship that has been faithfully passed down to us from Jesus to St. Peter and the Apostles to Christ's present vicar, Pope Benedict, and the bishops of the universal Church. We thank You, Lord, for Your promise to preserve Your Church through centuries of trial and turmoil, and we are ever mindful that the duty of maintaining right worship and the mission to continue to spread the Gospel of salvation now rests with our generation. Please come Most Holy Spirit, our teacher and advocate; guide us as we study Your revelation of authentic worship and how authentic holiness was defined for the first corporate covenant that was the precursor to our own New Covenant in Christ Jesus. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
But the Law has found its fulfillment in Christ so that all who have faith will be justified.
In fact, according
to the Law, practically every purification takes place by means of blood; and
if there is no shedding of blood, there is no remission.
Summary of the Book of Leviticus
|Biblical Period||The Twelve Tribes of Israel / The Sinai Covenant|
|Focus||Sacrifice and Consecration||Sanctification|
|Covenant||The Sinai Covenant & the Aaronic Covenant|
|Division||Sacrificial & Liturgical Rites||Moral and Religious Holiness|
|sacrifices & offerings||investiture of the priests||laws of ritual purity||national atonement & reconciliation||for the people||for the priests||for liturgical worship||in Canaan||vows|
Laws of sacrifice
(atonement of sins and restoration of fellowship with God)
Laws of holiness ensuring covenant continuation
(continued fellowship with God)
|authentic worship||authentic holiness|
|Location||Mt. Sinai (Mt. Horeb)|
The rituals of sacrifice and worship defined by divine revelation in the Law of the Sinai Covenant are the theological foundation of the atoning work of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant and are the basis of Christian faith and doctrine. In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote that the fulfillment or goal of the Law is Jesus Christ (Rom 10:4-11), and in his letter to the Galatians he explained that the old Law was a tutor (paidagogos) to lead men and women to Christ: So the Law was serving as a slave to look after us, to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But now that faith has come we are no longer under a slave looking after us; for all of you are the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ (Gal 3:24-27).(1)
It was St. Paul's teaching as an expert in the old Law, having studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), that for all the centuries the Israelites had been living under the Law of the Sinai Covenant God was instructing His people in the theological aspects of His eternal plan for man's salvation. This instruction was necessary so that when the Redeemer-Messiah came into the world to fulfill God's divine plan those previously laid images of the theological concepts of sacrifice and atonement could be fulfilled in a way that the people of God would recognize and understand. The people of the Sinai Covenant knew exactly the necessity of sacrifice and the importance of expiation of sin in order to be restored to fellowship with God that Jesus accomplished on the altar of the Cross because they had been living out those rituals of sacrifice and atonement for centuries under the old Law. As St. James and the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem reported to St. Paul on his last visit to the holy center of Old Covenant worship in ca. 58 AD, the Jews who were well versed in the old Law were among the first to come to recognize Jesus as the Redeemer-Messiah (Acts 21:18-20). They embraced the New Covenant because they saw all the old rites of sacrifice, atonement, purity laws, festivals and Levitical rituals that had been the center of Israel's life for centuries fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection, of Jesus of Nazareth. In the ascension of God the Son, who as both unblemished sacrificial victim and eternal High Priest, He takes His place to represent His covenant people in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 5:6; Heb 8:1-3), they understood that Jesus fulfilled the old Law and opened the gates of heaven for the first time since the sin of Adam, making the gift of eternal life possible for mankind—a gift that not possible living under the power of the old Law that only convicted man of sin without the power to remove it (Rom 6:20-23; CCC 1026, 1963).
Those rituals of the Law that defined authentic worship in sacrifice, atonement, and restoration of fellowship for the Old Covenant children of Israel were given by God to Moses in the third part of the five-part book of Moses that Jews call the "Torah," meaning "instruction," and which Christians know by the Greek title the "Pentateuch," meaning "five-part book." The focus of divine instruction in this section of the Torah/ Pentateuch is revealed in the Hebrew word, wayyiqra', which is also the historic Hebrew title for the third part of the Torah: "And He called." The Hebrew title was inspired by the first words of the first sentence: "Yahweh called (summoned) Moses...." These words signaled the beginning of Moses' instruction in authentic worship through divine revelation in the same way God called Moses into His presence and instructed Moses in the expanded Law of the Ten Commandments and in the plan for the Sanctuary—the sacred space in which the covenant people's service to God as a liturgical people was to be carried out (Ex 24:12; 25:8). Authentic worship in the first corporate covenant in salvation history was to be experienced in both sacred time and sacred space, creating a rhythm of life that would set the Israelites apart from all other peoples on earth: I am Yahweh your God. You will not make idols for yourselves; you will not erect statues or cultic stones, or erect carved stones in your country, for you to worship: for I, Yahweh, am your God. You will keep my Sabbaths and revere my Sanctuary. I am Yahweh (Lev 25:55b-26:2).
The English title "Leviticus" comes from St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation. It is a title that St. Jerome derived from the Greek Septuagint title Levitikos, meaning "pertaining to the Levites." From rabbinic tradition, the modern Jewish Tanach entitles this part of the Torah: torat kohanim or torat hakkohamim, which means "instruction for the priests."
When the Israelites arrived at Mt. Sinai in Midian, newly liberated by Yahweh from service to the Egyptian Pharaoh, God announced to Moses that He was taking the Israelites as His servants who, as a holy people and a nation of priests, were destined to become the vehicle of salvation for the other nations of the world (Ex 19:3-5). Initially the Israelites enthusiastically accepted this exalted status, declaring: 'Whatever Yahweh has said, we will do' (Ex 19:8). However, when the people came face to face with the shocking realization that their priestly status resulted in exposure to an all powerful deity who revealed His glory in a terrifying and apparently dangerous display (Ex 19:12-25), they began to reject their priestly national status in two separate stages.
First, they rejected direct contact with God by begging Moses to assume the role of covenant mediator and to spare them the terrifying experience of coming into Yahweh's presence by speaking directly to God himself on their behalf (Ex 20:18-19). This request was the beginning of their distancing themselves from God—a priest cannot serve God unless he is willing to serve in His Divine Presence. The final rejection of their role as Yahweh's priestly people was the Israelite's covenant failure in the sin of the Golden Calf. It was the event that removed the Israelites from their national priestly status—a status which was based on every first-born son from every Israelite family in all twelve tribes serving Yahweh in the ministerial priesthood (Ex 13:1-2). In the rebellion that followed the destruction of the Golden Calf the firstborn sons who failed to rally to Moses' call were dispossessed of their priestly role, resulting in Israel's loss her priestly nation status. One single tribe — the Levites who had rallied to Moses and suppressed the rebellion — took the place of the Israelite first-born sons as God's lesser ministers (Ex 32:26-29; Num 3:11-13).
Despite the catastrophic events surrounding the sin of the Golden Calf—the loss of national priestly status and the breaking of the covenant—Moses' intersession saved the people and their covenant with Yahweh. God reinstated the covenant but removed Himself from direct contact with the people—the people would only see God's glory reflected on the face of Moses, the covenant mediator (Ex 34:29-35). This distancing, however, did not negate Israel's covenantal role as a witness to the other nations of the world in their public works (liturgy) of worship in sacred time and sacred space and the obligation to live as a holy people. The Book of Leviticus contains the instructions for living out both these covenant obligations and can be divided into two main sections: the laws pertaining to sacrifice and liturgical rites and the laws pertaining to personal and national holiness.
The liturgy of authentic sacrifice and worship described in the Book of Leviticus was to be celebrated in Yahweh's holy Sanctuary with signs and symbols that pointed the way to authentic New Covenant worship inaugurated by Jesus Christ, the Redeemer-Messiah. In the liturgy of the Holy Mass these same signs and symbols have been transformed into the signs and symbols of the Eucharistic sacrifice:
The time frame: The Book of Exodus (part II of the Pentateuch) ended with Moses erecting the Sanctuary structure and its Tabernacle on the 1st day of the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt (Ex 40:17) and with God's Glory Could taking possession of the Tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35). The Book of Numbers (part IV of the Pentateuch) begins on the 1st day of the second month of the second year when the Israelites began to depart from Mt. Sinai to begin their journey to the Promised Land. The month between is the month in which the main body of instructions for the sacrifices and liturgical rites in the Sanctuary were given to Moses by divine revelation; although some of the instructions may have been given as the Sanctuary was being constructed since it is unclear if the reference to the "Tent of Meeting" in Leviticus 1:1 refers to the completed Tabernacle possessed by God's glory or the temporary "Tent of Meeting" (Ex 33:7). Leviticus begins with no introduction and is a continuation of the events of Exodus 40:34-35.
The Covenant Treaty of Sinai was a 3-fold covenant, which can be expressed in its simplest terms as a covenant of creed, code, and cult:
The laws contained in the Decalogue and the Book of the Covenant, the book in which Moses wrote down all the divine commands he received from God (Ex 24:4; 34:27-28), instructed the people in what to believe and in what to do/ not to do. The Book of Leviticus contains the people's instruction in the cult of the covenant: how to engage in authentic worship as a liturgical people.
There were three basic categories of offerings for to Yahweh:
See the chart in the appendix to this lesson.
The first section of Leviticus in chapters 1-7 contains the laws and methods pertaining to the liturgical and sacrificial rites for altar sacrifices that are acceptable to Yahweh in His Sanctuary. Chapters 1-3 identify the three main types of sacrifices that can be offered regularly by individual covenant members and their families:
These offerings could be presented on a variety of occasions as private gifts or as public gifts during communal festivals, and they could be voluntary or obligatory depending on the reason for the offering.
Chapters 4-5 pertain to individual covenant members, their leaders, and the covenant community as a whole when offering sacrifices to expiate for inadvertent sins in violation of covenant Law or sins against another member of the community in which reparation can be made:
These were obligatory sacrifices that were to be offered in atonement for transgressions of the Law committed through omission or through inadvertent (unintentional) violations—no sacrifice could remove intentional sins (Num 15:22-31). Through these sacrifices atonement was made by the shedding of the blood of the victim. The shedding of the victim's blood served to cover the sins of the covenant member who had offended God and His covenant. As a result of expiation being made for the sins committed, fellowship could then be restored with God and with the community as a whole (Lev 17:11).
Chapter 6 addresses the priest's liturgical obligations in the sacrificial rites:
Chapter 7 concludes the section on ritual offerings and sacrifice with additional instruction for the priests:
All the instructions in chapters 1-7 identify what was acceptable as offerings and sacrifice presented to Yahweh on His altar and the priests' role in presenting authentic worship. The instructions given to Moses in chapters 1-7 basically outline the main components of the entire sacrificial system of the Sinai Covenant as it was administered by Aaron and his sons, the ordained high priest and chief priests of the Sinai Covenant.(2)
All the sacrifices in Leviticus are in addition to the foremost sacrifice of the covenant people - the communal sacrifice of the 'olat ha-Tamid, the observance of which God gave as a divine command in Exodus 29:38-44:
The Communal 'Olat ha-Tamid: whole burnt perpetual daily sacrifice
|What offered and by whom||Who received||Bloody or bloodless||Voluntary or compulsory/ purpose|
|The community as a whole offered a single unblemished male lamb in the morning liturgy of worship and a second in an afternoon worship service to be completely consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offerings with wheat flour mixed with oil, a red wine libation, and the priest’s minhah offering of broken unleavened bread.||God received the whole sacrifice consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offerings.||Blood ritual of splashing the blood of the sacrifice around the altar and the ritual of pouring out the wine libation at the foot of the altar||Compulsory daily sacrificial offering of the covenant community for forgiveness of sins and the blessings of covenant continuation - to be offered by all generations in covenant with Yahweh so long as the Sinai Covenant endured.|
Words and phrases that are repeated frequently in Leviticus:
Please read Leviticus 1:1-9: Instruction for an
Individual's Whole Burnt Gift Offering ['Olah] from the Herd
1:1Yahweh summoned Moses and, speaking to him from the Tent of Meeting, said, 2'Speak to the Israelites; say to them, "When any of you ['adam]* brings an offering [korban] to Yahweh, he can offer [korban] an animal either from the herd or from the flock. 3If his offering [korban] is to be a burnt offering ['olah] from the herd, he must offer [he must bring] an unblemished male; he will offer [bring] it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, to make it acceptable to Yahweh. 4He must lay his hand on the victim's head, and it will be accepted as effectual for his expiation. 5He will then slaughter the bull before Yahweh, and the priests descended from Aaron [the priests, the sons of Aaron] will offer the blood. They will pour [splash=zarak] it all round the altar which stands at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 6He will then skin the victim [burnt offering = 'olah] and quarter it. 7The priests descended from Aaron [the priests, the sons of Aaron] will put a fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8The priests descended from Aaron [the priests, the sons of Aaron] will then arrange the quarters, the head and the fat on the wood on the fire on the altar. 9He will wash the entrails and shins in water, and the priest will burn it [as incense the whole of it] all on the altar as a burnt offering ['olah], food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh."
[ ] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 258).
* the Hebrew word 'adam includes both men and women covenant members and is equivalent to the Hebrew word nefesh/ nephesh, which can mean "person" and is used in Lev 2:1 and 4:2, etc. (Milgrom, Leviticus, page 145).
Leviticus 1:1-2a: Yahweh summoned Moses and, speaking to him from the Tent of Meeting said, 2'Speak to the Israelites; say to them.... It is unclear whether these instructions were given to Moses from the temporary "Tent of Meeting" set up outside the camp (Ex 33:7) or from the newly constructed Tabernacle that Moses could not enter because the glory of God completely filled the sacred space (Ex 40:35). In any case, the instructions given to Moses for the liturgical rites of the Sanctuary were given by divine revelation just as the commands for building the Sanctuary were given by divine revelation.
The word 'olah is used seven times in the Hebrew texts of Leviticus chapter 1 and the word korban is used six times; the word korban is used a total of 38 times in Leviticus). All of the instructions in chapter 1 address the sacrifice known as the 'olah, the "whole burnt" blood sacrifice of animals that individual Israelites could bring as korban to God in order to "draw near" to Yahweh at His holy altar. These animals were offered as an acceptable gift to Yahweh in which the whole animal was consumed on the altar fire; hence the designation "whole-burnt offering."
In the Old Covenant rites of sacrifice and worship an acceptable sacrifice made the offerer acceptable to God. The acceptable sacrifice of the 'olah could be selected from one of three categories of animals:
Question: It the rites of New Covenant worship does
the acceptable sacrifice make the offerer acceptable to God?
Answer: Absolutely. It is the acceptable sacrifice of Jesus Christ the unblemished Lamb of God who makes the worship of New Covenant believers authentic and acceptable to God.
2'Speak to the Israelites; say to them, "When any of you brings an offering [korban] to Yahweh... As the Hebrew word implied, the offering of the korban literally allowed the Israelites to "draw near" to God. The sacrificial victim could be offered by an individual Israelite to Yahweh from either the herd (cattle or oxen) or from the flock (sheep or goats) or from two kinds of birds (turtle dove or pigeon). The gift (with the exception of the hide in the case of animals and the crop and feathers of birds) was consumed in the fire of Yahweh Altar of Burnt Offerings in the Sanctuary courtyard.
Leviticus 1:3-4:3If his offering [korban] is to be a burnt offering ['olah] from the herd, he must offer an unblemished male; he will offer [bring] it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, to make it acceptable to Yahweh. 4He must lay his hand on the victim's head, and it will be accepted as effectual for his expiation. ... Here the individual offerer's free-will whole burnt offering is identified as a sacrifice of expiation, in Hebrew kaphar (singular; plural = kippur). The literal meaning of the Hebrew word kaphar/ kippur is "to cover over" in the sense of "to expiate," "atonement," "reconcile," "to make propitiation" (Brown-Driver-Biggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, page 496).
Since the fall of Adam in Eden God has used blood, the source of the life of every creature, as the vehicle for expiation of sin (Lev 17:11). Atonement through blood sacrifice is the means by which someone who has offended God and broken covenant with Him can be restored to favor. The animal offered in sacrifice to expiate (kippur) sins became the ransom (kopher) for the life of the offender. The different types of sacrifices that can be offered in atonement to expiate sins will be given in chapters 4-5; however, the individual's whole burnt offering is not meant to expiate for known personal sins of inadvertence against the covenant or against another person. Instead, the free-will offering is the necessary protection or "cover" for the offerer when approaching God's altar if he is guilty of sins of which he is unaware (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, pages 6-7). God's instructions to Moses concerning how the Israelites were to approach the mountain of God in Exodus 19:12-13, and 21-25 made it clear that to approach God's in a sinful state, whether one was aware or unaware of sin, was a dangerous act.
Question: In the celebration of the Mass how is the
individual covenant member made ready to approach God, forgiven sins of inadvertence
and sins for which the covenant member may be unaware (both classified as
venial sins)? Is it dangerous for New Covenant believers to approach God in
the Eucharist if their soul is stained with mortal sin as it was dangerous for
the Old Covenant believer to approach God's holy altar in a state of sin? Read
1 Cor 11:26-34 and quote the significant passages in St. Paul's instructions on
receiving the Eucharist. Also see CCC 1394, 1413-1415, 1854-55, 1857, 1859,
1863, 1874, 1876.
Answer: Before the Mass begins the individual believer should kneel and in an examination of conscience examine the condition of his soul. If he finds that he has committed a mortal sin he must not go forward to receive the Eucharist but must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, if his sins are venial he should be prepared to confess those sins in the Penitential Rite of the Mass. In the Penitential Rite the covenant member confesses his/her venial sins with the congregation, asking God's forgiveness. If he has confessed in good conscience, he will receive God's forgiveness in the healing powers of the Eucharistic for the confessed venial sins and for any venial sins of which he is unaware. Self examination and confession of sins is a necessary step in preparation for going forward and approaching God's altar in holiness to receive the gift of Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul addressed the dangers of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. He cautioned that everyone who is unworthy "is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord." He went on to say that "Everyone is to examine himself," taking the time to discern sins and "only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup" because the person who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ with a sinful soul or who partakes "without recognizing the Body" (without believing that Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Living Bread and the Precious Blood) is eating and drinking to his own condemnation—to his own judgment.
Verses 3 through 9 give instructions on the proper means of bringing the 'olah offerings of cattle or oxen from the herd to make it acceptable to Yahweh, which verses 10-13 address how to bring an animal from the flock and verses 14-17 give instruction on the offering of turtle doves and pigeons.
Question: According to the instructions Moses
received what were the different steps that were necessary for offering a whole
burnt offering on God's altar from the three categories of animals?
+ The offerer must slaughter the victim (also see 1 Sam 1:25).
* It should be noted that these are domesticated animals raised by the offerer, probably including the birds which belonged to the dove family of birds. Two kinds of doves were domesticated during Biblical times and raised for food (Is 60:8; Josephus, The Jewish Wars 5.4.4; Mt 21:12; Jn 2:14).
** The hide of the animal reverted to the officiating priest (Lev 7:8/6:38).
Question: In the first mention of a sacrificial
offering in Genesis 4:4 what did Abel offer to Yahweh?
Answer: He offered lambs and their fat.
Question: What was the significance of the offerer
laying hands upon the beast before it was slaughtered?
Answer: In laying hands upon the animal, the essence of the person was bound up in the life of the victim who died vicariously in his or her place—the life of the offerer becoming an acceptable sacrifice to God.
The laying-on-of-hands on the head of the victim was required for all animal sacrifices except perhaps the birds. In the Bible the laying-on-of-hands denotes a transfer:(4)
Leviticus 4:33; 5:5-6; 16:21; Numbers 5:7; Psalm 32:5 connect the laying-on-of-hands with the public confession of sins over the body of the animal victim in a sin sacrifice. Since the time of the Sinai Covenant (and perhaps earlier) the public confession of sin has been part of the sacraments of the people of God. Jesus gave the Apostles the power to bind and loose sins, which means they had to hear the sins of the repentant believer publically (Jn 20:22-23, and St. James, the first Christian bishop of Jerusalem, told the faithful to confess their sins to one another (Jm 5:16).
Question: Is public confession of sins still part of
the sacraments of New Covenant faith?
Answer: Yes, in the Penitential Rite of the Mass we declare publically that we are sinners, and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we confess our sins publically to Christ in the presence of His representative the priest.
Question: In the offering of the New Covenant
sacrifice are we uniting ourselves to the life of the victim and at the same
time offering our lives to God in the sacrifice of the Mass? See Rom 12:1.
Answer: Yes. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross in 30 AD is present on the altar of every Catholic Church throughout the world after the priest speaks the words of consecration in the sacrifice of the Mass. In receiving Christ in the Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the New Covenant believer has united him/herself physically and spiritual to Jesus Christ, sacrificial victim and High Priest of the New Covenant. St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome that we must remember that we are presenting our bodies to God as part of the sacrifice: I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God, that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.
Question: What is significant about the instruction
that only the sons of Aaron were qualified to offer the sacrifice on God's
altar, repeated three times in verses 5-8?
Answer: Without an authentically ordained priesthood the sacrifice could not be valid.
Question: What is the importance of a validly
ordained priesthood in the New Covenant? See CCC 1411.
Answer: The requirement is the same—only a validly ordained priesthood can speak the words of consecration over the offering acceptable to God for God the Holy Spirit to bring the person of Jesus Christ to the altar as both the sacrifice and the sacred meal.
The ordination of the New Covenant ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church is an authentic ordination in which the physical touch of Jesus Christ upon the Apostles has been passed down by the Apostles to the next generation and to each succeeding generation in an unbroken line of New Covenant ministerial priests who preside over authentic worship at the New Covenant altar.
Leviticus 1:9: He will wash the entrails and shins in water, and the priest will burn it [as incense the whole of it] all on the altar as a burnt offering ['olah], food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh." The phrase food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh is part of the vocabulary of ritual sacrifice, expressing God pleasure in the self-surrender of the offerer (see Gen 8:21; Ex 29:18, 25, 41; Lev 1:9, 13; Num 28:2; also see 1 Sam 15:22; Ps 51:16; Amos 5:21).
Please read Leviticus 1:10-13: Instruction for an
Individual's Whole Burnt Gift Offering from the Flock
1:10"If his offering [korban] is to be of an animal from the flock, of a lamb or a goat to be offered as a burnt offering ['olah], he must offer an unblemished male. 11He will slaughter it on the north side of the altar, before Yahweh, and the priests descended from Aaron will pour [spalsh=zarak] the blood all around the altar. 12He will then quarter it, and the priest will arrange the quarters, the head and the fat on the wood on the fire on the altar. 13He will wash the entrails and shins in water, and the priest will burn it all on the altar as a burnt offering ['olah], food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh."
[ ] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 258-59).
As in the whole burnt offering of the bull, the whole burnt offering from the flock must also be male.
According to the Mishnah all sacrifices of animals of the flock were to take place on the north side of the altar. Since the members of the covenant community with their animals were waiting their turn to approach the altar, it was necessary to separate the animals into different groups within the Sanctuary courtyard.
Question: The acceptable victims for the 'olah,
(whole burnt offering) were cattle, sheep, goats, turtle doves and pigeons.
Where have these five kinds of animals been listed as God's acceptable
sacrifices in Genesis?
Answer: These are the kinds of animals God commanded Abraham to offer in sacrifice in the covenant formation ceremony in Genesis 15:9.
Question: The kinds of animals are the same but what
Answer: The 'olah victims had to all be males (with the exception of the birds), but in Abraham's sacrifice the animal from the herd was a heifer and the goat was a she-goat, only the sheep was a male ram.
Please read Leviticus 1:14-17: Instructions for the Whole
Burnt Gift Offering of the Poor
1:14"If his offering [korban] to Yahweh is to a be a burnt offering ['olah] of a bird, he must offer [korban] a turtle dove or a young pigeon. 15The priest will offer it at the altar and wring off its head, which he will burn on the altar; its blood must then be squeezed out on the side of the altar. 16He will then remove the crop and the feathers and throw them on the eastern side of the altar, where the fatty ashes are put. 17He will then split it in half with a wing on each side, but without separating the two parts. The priest will then burn it on the altar, on the wood which is on the fire, as a burnt offering, food burnt as a small pleasing to Yahweh."'
[ ] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 259).
The offering of the acceptable birds was considered to be the sacrifice of the poor (Lev 5:7-8). It was the sacrifice Joseph and Mary offered at the Temple for Mary and Jesus' purification ceremony (Lev 12:1-8; Lk 2:22-24).
Please read Leviticus 2:1-3: Instruction Concerning an
Individual's Grain Offering of Wheat flour
2:1'"If anyone [nefesh/nephesh] offers [korban] Yahweh a cereal offering [minhah], his offering [korban] must consist of wheaten flour on which he must pour wine [Hebrew text read "oil"= shemen] and put incense. 2He will bring it to the priests descended from Aaron; he will take a handful of the wheaten flour , some of the oil and all the incense, and this the priest will burn on the altar as a memorial ['azkarah], as food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. 3The remainder of the cereal offering [minhah] will revert to Aaron and his sons, an especially holy portion of the food burnt for Yahweh.
[ ] = (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English vol. I, pages 259-60).
The Hebrew word nefesh/ nephesh refers to the life-force of a creature and the entire essence of a person. In translations it is often translated as "soul" or "person" (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, page 659). The Hebrew word 'azkarah means "to remember/remind, memorial" (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, page 272).
The minhah grain offering in chapter 2 was a bloodless sacrifice, but it was offered on an altar consecrated in blood (Lev 8:15). Grain offerings commonly accompanied blood sacrifices (Ex 29:39; Lev 6:7-8/14-15; 12-16/ 19-23; 23:13; Num 15:1-12). Individual grain offerings were never presented with other offerings when amounts of grain were specified with another form of sacrifice, for example in the case of the Tamid sacrifice that specified a tenth of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil and wine libation to accompany the sacrifice (Ex 29:38-40). In all cases the acceptable sacrifice was an animal raised by the offerer or a grain offering that was the product of the labor of the offerer—the sacrifice offered to Yahweh was intended to have a personal connection to the offerer.(5)
God gave Moses the instructions for an individual's grain offerings in five different forms:
The prophet Malachi wrote that God accepts all offerings made with a pure heart, including grain offerings (Mal 1:11). Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD) echoed this view when he wrote: God does not rejoice in sacrifices even if one offers hecatombs, for all things are his possession; yet though he possesses [all], he needs none of them, but he rejoices in the will to love him and in men that practice holiness, and from these he accepts plain meal or barley (or "barley ground or unground") and things of least price, holding them most precious rather than those of highest cost (Special Laws I.271). Philo regarded the gains offering as surrogate blood offerings to Yahweh; however, his reference to barley offerings probably refers to the required offering of the first of the barley harvest on the Feast of Firstfruits during the holy week of the feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14) or for personal gifts of Sanctuary endowments.(6)
Question: Do you see any similarities to offerings
presented in New Covenant worship?
Answer: The Old Covenant practice is similar to the way our offerings have a personal connection to us—our monetary offerings, a blessing from God and earned from honest labor is given as gifts to God to support the mission of the Church and to unite a part of us to the liturgy of worship.
Please read Leviticus 2:4-16: Instructions for the
Presentation of a Wheat Offering
2:4"When you offer [korban] a cereal offering [minhah] of dough baked in the oven, the wheaten flour must be prepared either in the form of unleavened cakes mixed with oil, or in the form of unleavened wafers spread with oil. 5If your offering [korban] is a cereal offering [minhah] cooked on the griddle, the wheaten flour mixed with oil must contain no leaven. 6You will break it in pieces and pour oil over it. It is a cereal offering. 7If your offering [korban] is a cereal offering [minhah] cooked in the pan, the wheaten flour must be prepared with oil. 8You will bring Yahweh the cereal offering [minhah] thus prepared and present it to the priest; he will take it to the altar. 9And from the cereal offering [minhah] the priest will take the memorial ['azkarah] and burn it on the altar, food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. 10The remainder of the cereal offering [minhah] will revert to Aaron and his descendants: it is especially holy since it is taken from the food burnt for Yahweh. 11None of the cereal offerings [minhah] which you offer to Yahweh must be prepared with leaven, for you must never include leaven or honey in food burnt for Yahweh. 12You may offer [korban] them to Yahweh as an offering of first-fruits [to Yahweh as a first-fruits], but they will not make a pleasing smell if they are burnt on the altar. 13You will put salt in every cereal offering [minhah] that you offer [korban], and you will not fail to put the salt of the covenant of your God on your cereal offering [minhah]; to every offering [korban] you will add an offering of salt to you God. 14If you offer Yahweh a cereal offering [minhah] of first-fruits, you will offer [korban] it in the form of roasted ears of wheat or of bread made from ground wheat. 15You will add oil to it and put incense on it; it is a cereal offering [minhah]; 16and from it the priest will burn the memorial ('azkarah) with some bread and oil (and all the incense) as food burnt of Yahweh."'
[ ] = literal translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English vol. I, pages 260-61).
The oil that is part of the offering is olive oil.
Question: What are the different ways in which a grain offering can be burned on the altar and how are they to be presented? There are five categories of an individual's grain offerings.
Question: What prohibitions were included in these
Answer: None of the cereal offerings were to be prepared with leaven (a symbol of sin), nor was honey to be included as a burnt offering (although it could be offered in the category of a vassal payment as a first-fruits offering).
Every bread offering was broken before being placed on the altar. The command to salt every sacrifice was understood to include the animal sacrifices offered on the altar (see Ez 43:23-24).
Question: What did the salt symbolize in an offering
and what effect did the salt have on the fire? See
2 Kng 2:20;
Answer: Salt was a symbol of purification and stability. Food was preserved with salt and salt expressed the stability of the covenant between God and Aaron's line and God and His people. The salt would have caused great billows of white cloud to rise from the altar fire—a symbol of God accepting the "sweet smelling" sacrifice of His covenant people.
Question: In verses 3 and 10 the portions which
reverts to the priests is deemed "especially holy." Why? See Ex 29:37.
Answer: In the Bible there is a distinction between what was "holy" and what was "especially holy." It was especially holy because the priests were sharing God's portion of the sacrifice and anything that belonged to God sanctified everything it touched.
These sacrifices were to be offered as "memorial portions." The Septuagint uses a Greek word that means "memorial." The Hebrew word 'azkarah (az-kaw-raw') means "to cause to remember." It is from the root verb zakar, meaning "to remember." The logical question is if this is a "memorial portion," what does it memorialize? Scholars have made several suggestions, but there is no consensus as to the meaning:
Perhaps the "memorial" embraced all three suggested meanings. Mixed with olive oil and offered up in the altar fire with sweet smelling frankincense, the grain offering provided a "pleasing aroma" to evoke a favorable response from God. The term "memorial portion" is only used with offerings of fine flour, including the flour offered with sin sacrifices and for the twelve unleavened bread cakes called the "bread of the Presence" that were placed on the golden table in the Sanctuary Holy Place (Lev 2:9, 16; 5:12; 6:15/8; 24:7). The term "memorial portion" is only used outside of Leviticus in Numbers 5:15 and 26 where the "remembrance" is in recalling the possible sin of the person accused and where God is the final judge. In that case the flour memorial offering was not mixed with oil nor was incense to accompany the offering when it was burned on the altar.
Question: When in the Gospels did Jesus offer broken bread
as a "memorial" sacrifice? What connection can be made to the minhah as
a memorial offering?
Answer: At the Last Supper: Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19; also see 1 Cor 11:24-25). The grain offering of the unleavened bread and the wine become the blood sacrifice offered to God as a memorial of Christ's Passion in offering Himself on the altar of the Cross for the sins of mankind. We "remember" Christ's sacrifice and actively live our covenant bond by receiving Christ in the Eucharist and God "remembers" His faithful covenant people who are journeying to salvation, nourished spiritually by the life of His Son.
As in the case of all the individual covenant member's sacrifices offered to Yahweh, the 'olah whole burnt offerings of the animals and the wheat grain gift/loyalty offerings of the minhah placed on Yahweh's altar were the product of the offerer's ownership and labor from the material blessings God had given to him/her. The personal sacrifices of covenant members provided a unique symbolic bond between the offerer and the sacrifice, representing the covenant member's submission and obedient self-sacrifice to Yahweh and the covenant.
Although the instructions seemed to be very detailed in these two kinds of altar sacrifices, there are parts that are missing that were instructions given privately to the priests. Those instructions confined to the priests became the sacred oral Tradition of worship and liturgy and included the prayers that were recited over the various sacrifices, the recipe for the sacred incense, and other observances of ritual worship. Many of those instructions of the Oral Law are contained in the Mishnah of the Jewish Talmud.
The Hebrew Terms Identifying Offerings, Gifts, and Sacrifices
Any gift to Yahweh that allowed the offerer to "draw near" to God was korban whether the korban (offering/ gift) was an 'olah "whole burnt" offering (Lev 1:3), a minhah "tribute gift offering" (Lev 2:1), a korban of the first fruits of the grain harvest (Lev 2:14), or a zevah ha-selamim, a blood sacrifice that restored fellowship with Yahweh (Lev 3:1). The Hebrew word korban is used forty times in Leviticus, thirty-one times in chapters 1-7. God's acceptance of the korban was not determined by the value of the gift but was determined by the humility of the giver and the degree of his respect for God when he offered the best he had to give according to his station in life. The prophet Malachi berated priests who "despised" God's name by bringing korban of "polluted food" to His altar in the form of blind and diseased animals offered for sacrifice, something they would never dare to offer to human rulers (Mal. 1:6-10). That acceptable korban was judged by the heart of the giver is illustrated by Jesus' stern rebuke of the Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 15:1-9 and 23:1-32. In Matthew 15:5-6 Jesus spoke of their unacceptable korban using the Greek word doron (the word the Septuagint Greek Old Testament translation used in place of the Hebrew word korban) when He rebuked them for neglecting the care of their elderly parents by claiming it was more appropriate to give an offering to God than to supply their parents' needs.
In Scripture outside of Leviticus, Sanctuary endowments (Num 7:10-86), offerings from the spoils of war (Num 31:50-52) and the gifts for the building the second Temple (Neh 10:35; 13:31) were all classified as korban. The only exception was the offering for a sin of reparation in which the offerer of the sacrifice made restitution to Yahweh and to the person he sinned against; this sacrifice is not identified as korban (Lev 5:14-26; Vasholz, Leviticus, page 33, note 16). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus referred to making restitution for sins against another person when He said: So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar [you offer (prosphero) your gift (doron) on the altar] and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering [doron] there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering [the offering (prosphero) your gift (doron)(Mt 5:23-24).(7) It seems one cannot "draw near" to God though the korban (in Greek doron) unless one is first reconciled with one's brothers and sisters in the human family.
However, it is not as easy to determine the differences in the other Hebrew terms translated offerings/gifts/sacrifices in our English Bible texts: 'olah (chapter 1), minhah (chapter 2) and zevah (chapter 3). It is difficult to determine the differences between these Hebrews terms and to identify what each sacrifice constituted. The term minhah/ minchah/ minah, used as a specialized term for "grain offering" in Leviticus chapter two, is used more times in Leviticus than anywhere else in the Old Testament (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 39). However, it is a term that is not limited to grain offerings. It is the same term used for Abel's blood sacrifice (Gen 4:3-4). Of the three terms minhah is the broader category, referring generally to anything voluntarily brought to the altar as a donation to God (and indirectly to His priests). In most Bible translations this word is rendered "grain offering," "cereal offering," or "meal offering." The term "meal offering" is somewhat inexact since every sacrificial offering, with the exception of a holocaust /whole burnt offering completely consumed on the sacrificial altar, was in one form or another part of a sacred meal.
Minhah can also be translated as "gift" or "tribute" and can refer to both a "gift" in the secular sense or in the sacred. Jacob's gift of livestock to Esau is called a minhah (Gen 32:14/15, 18/19, 21/22) and in other places in Scripture it is the word used for a tribute to a king or leader (Judg 3:15; 1 Kng 5:1; Ps 72:10). In the sacred sense minhah is a "gift" offering to Yahweh. The word minhah is used exclusively in the sacred sense in Leviticus (i.e., in Lev chapter 2 fourteen times: 2:3, 4, 5, 7, 8 [twice], 9, 10, 11, 13 [twice], 14 [twice], and 15). In the sacred sense of minhah the Biblical text specifies that nefesh/ nepesh, the giver's entire person/ soul—the entire essence of person—is the agent of the offering (Lev 2:1) along with the concept of 'azkara, "to remember/remind"a memorial" (Lev 2:2, 9, 16). These concepts suggest that the purpose of the minhah confirms and renews the covenant relationship between Yahweh and the offerer who is commanded be respectful to God and to not to appear before Yahweh "empty-handed" (Ex 23:15; 34:20; Dt 16:16). It is for this reason that scholars like Dr. Kiuchi suggest the translation of minhah should be rendered "loyalty offering" as in the sense of a tribute to God the great King from His loyal vassals (Kiuchi, Leviticus, page 68).
The minhah is an offering that fulfills three purposes:
The minhah "gift/ loyalty offering" or "tribute offering" to Yahweh primarily became a grain offering after the tribes settled in the Promised Land and began to produce crops. Grain offerings that were the product of the labor of a covenant member were a fitting offering to God since most of the Israelites were by then no longer pastoralists but were instead agriculturalists who were permanently settled on the land God provided for the tribes of Israel. Therefore, from the time the tribes were settled and took up agriculture up to the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, most tithes and gift offerings given to the holy Sanctuary/Temple (other than the required offering of the firstborn animals) were in the form of cereal offerings. Scripture reflects this change in that the routine term for bringing gifts to be dedicated to Yahweh after the conquest became associated only with grain offerings. However, it should also be noted that the grain offering, although it belongs in a separate category from animal blood sacrifices, is nevertheless often paired with the burnt offering ('olah), and a grain offering could be substituted as the destitute person's equivalent to a sin offering (Lev 5:11-13).
The Hebrew word zevah/ zevach/zebah, usually rendered as "sacrifice," refers only to blood sacrifices. This term is found most commonly associated with blood sacrifices in which the fatty parts of the victim were burned on the altar, the blood poured out around the altar and the flesh of the victim eaten in a sacred meal shared with God (by the priests if a covenant member's individual sin sacrifice or by the priests and the offerer if a communion sacrifice).
There is, however, a degree of interconnection among the various terms used for sacrifices and offerings that complicates division into categories. The interlinking terms among the various kinds of sacrifices and offerings reveal the highly complex nature of the rituals of sacrifice in the divine cultic commands found in the Book of Leviticus. What links the various terms and sacrifices is the concept of the offering/ sacrifice being united to the person of the offerer and his obligations to Yahweh and to the covenant. His link to the covenant as a member of the community was the perpetual sacrifice of the 'olah ha-tamid, the holocaust of the twice daily sacrifice of the unblemished male Tamid lamb—the sacrifice to Yahweh that was to continue so long as the Sinai Covenant endured.(8)
Questions for group discussion:
St. Paul wrote to the Jewish and Gentile Christians of the Church at Colossus in Greece: Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of annual festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ (Col 2:16-17).
Question: In Old Covenant liturgy of worship the minhah, expressed in the free-will individual loyalty offerings, the zebah offerings of the individual blood sacrifices for sin and communion (eaten in a sacred meal), and the 'olah communal whole burnt offering of Tamid lambs ('olat ha-tamid) were symbols of what was to come. How did these ancient sacrificial offerings prefigure the present reality in the liturgy of the New Covenant people of God in the sacrifice of the Mass? What is the sacrifice that was totally consumed for the sake of the covenant people symbolized by the Tamid Lamb? What is the sacred "remembrance" sacrifice of the broken bread offered with the zebah selamim (blood sacrifice of peace)—a sacrifice eaten in a sacred meal? What are the communal grain and wine offerings, and how is sin expiated and communion restored for the New Covenant people of God?
In the Old Covenant the laying-on-of-hands denoted a transfer: of life-force, blessing, power, the essence of the offerer, or the authority of the person who laid hands upon another being transferred to that person, or the authoritative penalty imposed upon a person.
Question: When in the New Covenant was this sign employed by Jesus in His ministry? What does the sign of the laying-on-of-hands convey in the Church today? See Mk 6:5; 8:23; 10:16; 16:18; Acts 5:12; 8:15-19; 13:3; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2; 14:3; CCC 699, 1150, 1288, 1504, 1538, 1558, 1573.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
|Types of offerings||
Num 3:45-48; 18:13-19
Ex 25:1-2; 35:4-5, 29; 36:3; Ezra 7:16; 8:28-30
(voluntary and compulsory)
Lev chapters 1-7; 16; 23
|Reason||Owed for services rendered by God to His people||To support God's Sanctuary||Liturgical service and covenant continuation|
|Gifts / Offerer||First fruits of animals, sons, and harvest* presented to God by individuals.||Any gift for the Sanctuary presented by the people||Offerings to God made by individuals or presented by the priests for the whole community|
|Purpose||For the maintenance of the ministerial priesthood||Used by the priests for the Sanctuary and liturgical services||
A. first produce of the harvest
B. animals from the herd and flock
C. first-born sons redeemed by a redemption tax
2. olive oil
5. anything of value
A. Bleeding sacrifices from 5 kinds of animals:
|Who received||Priests and Levites||Priests on behalf of the Sanctuary||God or shared with God in a sacred meal|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
* First fruits of the grain was not consumed on the altar fire (Lev 2:12). First born sons were redeemed by a redemption tax (Ex 34:19-20; Num 3:46-47); first born animals were God's property. The first born clean beasts acceptable for sacrifice went to Sanctuary to be offered for communal sacrifices (Dt 15:19-20), and a portion of the animals went to the priests (Num 18:15-18). Unclean animals like the donkey could be redeemed or they were to have their necks broken (Ex 13:13; Lev 27:26-27; Num 18:15).
1. See CCC 1963 and Vatican II, Dei Verbum, chapter 4 article 15: The principal purpose of which the plan of the Old Covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all, and of the Messianic kingdom, and to announce this coming by prophecy (Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10) and to indicate its meaning by various types (1 Corinthians 10:12). These books, though they also contain some things which are incomplete and temporary, nevertheless show us true divine pedagogy.
2. Beginning in the late 8th century BC the Samaritan people adopted the worshiped of Yahweh with a priesthood and altar sacrifices, but Jesus mildly rebuked the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 when He told her that although she and her people worshiped Yahweh, they worshiped what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews. Without a validly ordained priesthood descended from Aaron offering valid sacrifices on Yahweh's one Altar of Burnt Offerings the Samaritans could not offer God acceptable sacrifices nor could they offer authentic worship. This prohibition remains in effect for the New Covenant people of God where a validly ordained priesthood must present the acceptable sacrifice of Christ on the holy altar to lead the congregation in authentic worship (CCC 1554-58, 1563-66).
3. Milgrom believes the bull was sacrificed between the entrance to the Sanctuary and the east side of the altar in the area where the people stood (Milgrom, Leviticus, page 147).
5. Centuries later this requirement was not obediently observed. Many of the covenant people were living in foreign lands and travel to Jerusalem from great distances to observe the three holy feasts of obligation made it impossible to provide animals raised by these pilgrims. It became permissible to purchase animals for sacrifice from other covenant members. Even this requirement was neglected as more and more Israelites gave up the occupation of animal herding to become agriculturalists and to pursue other professions. Imports of animals for Gentile nations became common, but the animals permitted within the walls of Jerusalem were limited to clean animals acceptable for sacrifice (Josephus, Antiquities 12.4 ). When the sale of animals suitable for sacrifice was permitted within the Temple precincts the priests took a cut of the profits and the approval of animals raised by the offerer became compromised by the lure of profits from those animals available from Temple sales (J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 49). Josephus suggested that the High Priest Annas/ Ananias profited from such sales (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.10.2 ). Jesus judged this practice a defilement of the Temple and the sacrificial system (Jn 2:15-16; Mt 21:12; Mk 11:15-17; Lk 19:45-46), fulfilling a prophecy of the prophet Zechariah that in the Messianic Age there would be no more traders in the Temple of Yahweh (Zec 14:21).
6. In pagan cultures the whole animal and grain offerings to the gods were not primarily burnt on the altar fire but were most often presented to the gods and eaten by the priests. The Hittites, Canaanites, Phoenicians and Greeks burned the animals' kidneys (Milgrom, Leviticus, page 205. Also see Daniel chapter 14). A pagan worshiper's offering was usually divided into three: one part burned on the altar, the second part for the priests and the third was received by the offerer. In Greek and Roman pagan worship fellowship with the gods was demonstrated in the eating of a meal as in the Sinai Covenant (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 50).
7. The Interlinear Bible: Greek-English, vol. IV, The Gospel of Matthew, page 11.
8. For more information on the differences in the Hebrews terms translated as "offerings," "gifts," or "sacrifices" see Biblical Archaeological Review, Oct 2004, "Sacrifices and Offerings," page 37.
Catechism references for Leviticus chapters 1-2:
CCC 1394, 1413-1415, 1854-55, 1857, 1859, 1863, 1874, 1876
1411, 1562-66; 1575-79, 1581, 1597
CCC 699, 1150, 1288, 1504, 1538, 1558, 1573
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.