THE PENTATEUCH PART II: LEVITICUS
Lesson 2: Chapters 3:1-5:13
Divine Instruction in the Ritual of Sacrifice Part II
Yahweh's Instructions for Individual Communion Sacrifices and the Different Classes of Sin Sacrifices
God of Mercy,
In Your mercy, Lord, You did not abandon us when we became separated from our spiritual union with You through the Fall of Adam. In that separation physical death, and sin's consequence of the second the more deadly "spiritual death," contaminated a humanity created to live forever in Your image and likeness. But through the redemptive work of Your Son and our Savior, Christ Jesus, You brought about through Christian baptism the spiritual re-birth that had the power to free mankind from the curse of the double death. Please come, Most Holy Spirit, and guide us in our study of the temporary measures set in place through blood sacrifice and atonement to give men and women, who lived before the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, the hope to be spared the second death and to eventually receive the promise of re-birth into the heavenly reality, living in eternal communion with the Most Holy Trinity. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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He is called by
two names, Jesus Christ: Jesus because he is a savior, Christ because he is a
priest. With this in mind the divinely inspired prophet Moses gave these two
titles to two men imminent above all, changing the name of his own successor in
the sovereignty, Auses, to Iesous, and giving his own brother, Aaron, the
surname Christos, that through these two chosen men he might represent at once
the high priesthood and the kingship of the one Jesus Christ who was to come.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 10.11
Note: Auses is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hosea (Hoshea), Joshua's name before Moses changed it to Yehosua in Hebrew; Iesous is Greek for Yehosua, or Jesus in English, and Christos/Christ means "anointed"'high priests were anointed.
That is why even the earlier covenant was inaugurated with blood, and why, after Moses had promulgated all the commandments of the Law to the people, he took the calves' blood, the goats' blood and some water, and with these he sprinkled the book itself and all the people, using scarlet wool and hyssop; saying as he did so: This is the blood of the covenant that God has made with you. And he sprinkled both the tent and all the liturgical vessels with blood in the same way. 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. Hebrews 9:18-22
The inspired writer of the Psalm 40 wrote about the Levitical offerings (korban) of the whole burnt offering ('olah), the grain offering (minhah) and the sin sacrifices (hatta't) in anticipation of the sacrifice of the Messiah: You wanted no sacrifice [korban] or cereal offering [minhah], but you gave me a body. You took no pleasure in burnt offerings ['olah] or sacrifice for sin [hatta't]; then I said, 'Here I am, I am coming,' in the scroll of the book it is written of me, to do your will, God. (Septuagint translation) Psalm 40:6-7
Everything was symbolic in the liturgical rites of the Old Covenant (1 Col 2:16-17; Heb 9:9). Spiritual realities were manifested through outward signs that pointed toward a greater perfection (Num 19:11-12; Rom 14:7-9; Heb 9:8-9, 13-14). This was especially important in the case of birth and death. Death was closely connected with sin and the curse of the second death (eternal separation from God), while birth was closely connected with redemption and a second birth through the mission of the promised Redeemer-Messiah who would undo the work of Satan and free man from his bondage to sin and death (Gen 3:15; Is 53:3-12; Jn 3:3, 5). All the cultic rites in Leviticus point to this promised future fulfillment in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Under the Sinai Covenant the people had no access to God. Under the New Covenant Jesus Himself is the way to the Father (Jn 14:6; Heb 10:19). The ceremonial expiation rituals which the covenant people were commanded to perform in Leviticus through animal sacrifice and the pouring out of the blood of the sacrificial victim on Yahweh's Altar of Burnt Offerings has been replaced by the unique sacrifice and the pouring out Jesus' blood on the altar of the Cross (Heb 9:14; Rom 3:24)'the redemptive work that reopened the gates of Heaven and the way to God (Heb 10:1, 19; Jn 14:6; Eph 2:18; CCC 536, 1026).
All sacrifices presented on Yahweh's Altar of Burnt Offerings were to be offered in a fire that was to be kept continually burning from the moment God Himself lit the fire on His holy altar (Lev 6:5-6/11-13; 9:23-24). The never-ending fire symbolized God's never-ending faithfulness to His covenant people, and every sacrifice offered up in the holy fire pointed to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. That the 'olah (whole burnt offering) and the loyalty grain offering of the minhah we studied in Lesson 1 anticipated the Passion of the Christ is revealed in Psalm 40:6-7 and Hebrews 10:5-7. The inspired writer of Hebrews quotes the Septuagint translation of Psalm 40:6-7, which refers to the 'olah, the minhah, and the sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (hatta't) as foreshadowing the redemptive work of the Redeemer-Messiah. In Hebrews the inspired writer states: Bulls' blood and goats' blood are incapable of taking away sins, and that is why he said, on coming into the world: "You wanted no sacrifice or cereal offering, but you gave me a body. You took no pleasure in burnt offerings or sacrifice for sin; then I said, 'Here I am, I am coming,' in the scroll of the book it is written of me, to do your will, God." He says first You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the cereal offerings, the burnt offerings and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to do your will. He is abolishing the first sort to establish the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ made once and for all (Heb 10:4-10). It was always God's plan that the bloody body of the Messiah was to be the acceptable sacrifice to remove the stain of sin upon the souls of men and women that the Old Covenant blood and grain sacrifices were incapable of removing (CCC 1963).
The Book of Leviticus contains ten torot (plural, from the root torah, meaning "instruction"). These divine instructions given to Moses comprise a decalogue of cultic ritual life just as the Decalogue of the Ten Commandments provided guidance in what to believe and how to live within the covenant God formed with the children of Israel. Leviticus chapters 1-2 identified two of the three main types of voluntary altar sacrifices that could be offered regularly by individual covenant members, by leaders of the community, and by the entire covenant community on Yahweh's Altar of Burnt Offerings: the olah (whole burnt offering), and the minhah (gift/grain offerings). Individual voluntary offerings could be presented on a variety of occasions as gifts during daily liturgical services or as gifts during communal festivals. These voluntary sacrifices prefigured the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
How is the "whole burnt offering" ('olah) related to Jesus Christ and to us?
How is the "loyalty gift" (minhah) related to Jesus Christ and to us?
Leviticus chapter three addresses the third type of voluntary offering in Israelite worship: the communion sacrifice known as zevah ha-shelamim, "the sacred gift of peace/ greeting." The most important aspect of the communion sacrifice was the sacred meal shared between God, the offerer, the priests and the covenant community. To understand this sacrifice against the background of the two previous voluntary sacrifices it is necessary to define each component of the composite Hebrew term zevah ha-shelamim. The offering of zevah always refers to a blood sacrifice. The Hebrew word ha-shelamim means "the peace;" shelamim is a plural word derived from the Hebrew word shalom, which means "peace," "well-being," "wholeness." According to the Jewish Publication Society's commentary on Leviticus the preferred rendering of zevah ha-shelamim is "sacred offering of greeting," a translation that reflects on the role of the sacrifice in the cult of worship to restore communion with Yahweh through a sacred meal (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 14).(1)
Within the "peace offerings" of the zevah ha-shelamim there were several types of communion sacrifices that were eaten in a sacred meal by the offerer, the priests, and the covenant community:
All of the communion sacred meals looked forward to the coming of the promised Redeemer-Messiah, the redemption of God's people, and the shared sacred banquet of the righteous with God and the heavenly assembly. It became a tradition that when the Messiah came all sacrifices would cease with the exception of the todah, the peace offering of "thanksgiving": According to rabbinic teaching, it would continue to be offered in the messianic era, when the rest of the sacrificial system was no longer operative (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 43).(3)
During important celebrations like the annual liturgical festivals, especially the pilgrim feasts like Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles the shelamim sacrifice was often combined with other sacrifices, especially with the whole burnt offering of the 'olah. Most frequently, however, the zevah ha-shelamim was offered as a personal covenant member's sacrifice (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 14).
The zevah ha-shelamim was offered in a different form from the voluntary 'olah (whole burnt offering) discussed in chapter one and the minhah (loyalty gift) grain offering discussed in chapter two. Some of the same categories of animals were used as for the 'olah, and blood from the sacrificial victim was included in both sacrifices. However, the blood was offered in different ways, yet in the same spirit'providing the means by which a covenant member was able to "draw near" to God. Despite the similarities, as you read chapter three please notice that there were differences between the ritual blood sacrifice of the 'olah as opposed to the zevah.
Please read Leviticus 3:1-7: Divine Instructions for the zevah
ha-Shelamim (the Communion Sacrifice) in Offering Animals from the Herd
3:1'"If his [a person = nepes/nephes] sacrifice is a communion sacrifice [zevah ha-shelamim], and if he offers [korban] an animal from the herd, be it male or female, whatever he offers [korban] before Yahweh must be unblemished. 2He will lay his hand on the victim's head and slaughter it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The priests descended from Aaron will then pour [splash = zarak] the blood all around the altar. 3He will offer [korban] part of the communion sacrifice [zevah ha-shelamim] as food burnt for Yahweh: the fat covering the entrails, all the fat on the entrails, 4both kidneys, and the fat on them and on the loins, the mass of fat which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 5The priests descended from Aaron will then burn this on the altar, in addition to the burnt offering ['olah], on the wood of the fire, food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh.
 = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 261; zarak = Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, page 201).
In this section of instruction God defines restoration of fellowship through animal sacrifice and a sacred meal. Only animals from the flock or herd will be acceptable sacrifices for the communion rites.
Question: What was the acceptable voluntary communion
sacrifice from the herd? How was this sacrifice different from the individual
covenant member's voluntary 'olah (whole burnt offering) in chapter one?
Answer: The communion sacrifice could be an unblemished male or female from the herd, but the individual's 'olah had to be an unblemished male.
Please read Leviticus 3:6-17: Divine Instructions for the
Zevah ha-Shelamim (the Communion Sacrifice) in Offering Animals from the
3:6"If it is an animal from the flock which he offers as a communion sacrifice to Yahweh, be the animal that he offers male or female, it must be unblemished. 7If he offers a sheep, he will offer it before Yahweh, 8he will lay his hand on the victim's head and slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting; the priests descended from Aaron will then pour [splash = zarak] its blood all around the altar. 9Of the communion sacrifice he will offer the following as food burnt for Yahweh: the fat, all the tail taken off near the base of the spine, the fat covering the entrails, all the fat on the entrails, 10both kidneys, the fat on them and on the loins, the mass of fat which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 11The priest will then burn this on the altar as food, as food burnt for Yahweh. 12If his offering is a goat, he will offer it before Yahweh, 13he will lay his hand on the victim's head and slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting, and the descendants of Aaron will then pour [splash = zarak] its blood all around the altar. 14This is what he will then offer of it as food burnt for Yahweh: the fat covering the entrails, all the fat on the entrails, 15both kidneys, the fat on them and on the loins, the mass of fat which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. 16The priest will then burn these pieces on the altar as blood burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. 17All the fat belongs to Yahweh. This is perpetual law for all your descendants, wherever you may live: that you will not eat either fat or blood."'
Question: How was the selection of the animal from
the flock like the voluntary whole burnt offering of the 'olah and how
was it different?
Answer: Like the offering of the voluntary 'olah, the animal from the flock for a communion offering could be a sheep or a goat, but unlike the voluntary whole burnt offering, which had to be male, the communion offering could be a male or a female from the flock or herd.
The sacrificial ritual of the communion sacrifice was similar to the offering of the individual covenant member's whole burnt offering except that the communion sacrifices were limited to only two classes of animals'those animals from the herd or from the flock'(the birds that were acceptable as a covenant member's voluntary whole burnt offerings, were not an acceptable sacrifice for a communion offering) and only the choice parts of the animal were burned on the altar fire as God's portion of the sacrifice. As in the 'olah sacrifice, the blood of the victim was sprinkled around the altar (zarak/sarak), not "poured out" as is suggested in the New Jerusalem translation. It is the same liturgical term used in the sprinkling of the congregation in the covenant ratification ceremony in Exodus (24:6, 8) and in water purification sprinkling rites (sprinkling blood ritual in Lev 1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13; 7:2; 8:19, 24; 9:12, 18; 17:6; water purification sprinkling in Num 19:13, 20).
Question: The ritual of the offerer laying his hands
upon his voluntary whole burnt offering symbolized the transfer the gift to God
of the essence of the offerer' life being united to the sacrificial victim. What
was the significance of the "laying-on-of-hands" upon the victim in the
Answer: For a communion sacrifice the ritual of the laying-on-of-hands denoted the offerer transferring his gratitude and thanks expressed to God through the giving of the life of the animal. The offerer laid all his feelings of gratitude upon the head of the innocent and unblemished beast whose blood was shed for him in the presence of God.
Question: What was the significance of burning only
the fatty parts and the kidneys of the communion sacrifice on the altar? Why
was the tail of the sheep burned?
Answer: The tail of sheep is mentioned because the common species of sheep in the Near East have broad tails filled with fat. The fat and the kidneys were considered to be the choice parts of the animal.
Yahweh's final command concerning the communion rite was in verse 17: All the fat belongs to Yahweh. This is perpetual law for all your descendants, wherever you may live: that you will not eat either fat or blood.
Question: This is the second time the prohibition
against consuming blood (including bloody animal flesh) was given as a command
to Yahweh's covenant people. When was this prohibition first given and under
what circumstances? See Gen 9:4.
Answer: After Noah and his family disembarked the Ark and offered sacrifices to Yahweh, God blessed them and repeated to them the original blessings He had given Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28-30). Then, for the first time gave man permission to kill the animals and to eat their meat but with the prohibition: you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it (Gen 9:4).
This covenant prohibition against consuming blood, or raw meat, or eating the fat of a sacrificed victim was to be repeated nine times (Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:25-27/15-17; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23-28 and 15:23).
Question: What was the penalty for violating this
covenant prohibition? See Lev 7:25-27/15-17.
Answer: The penalty was excommunication from the covenant people. In the wilderness experience this judgment was a virtual death sentence.
In the communion sacrifice peace with God was celebrated in a sacred banquet in which God shared a meal with His people (Lev 7:11-38/ 7:1-24; 22:21-25; Num 15:7-10). A shared meal signified peace and fellowship between the parties who "break bread" together. The most vital parts of the animal were offered to God on his holy altar, including the animal's blood. God shared choice portions of the sacrifice which the offerer had given Him with the priests in general and the officiating priest in particular. The remainder of the animal was shared with the offerer, his family, and other covenant members. The "peace" Yahweh extended to His people through the sacred meal maintained covenant continuation (as in the communion meal after the covenant ratification ceremony in Ex 24:9-11). The meal was cooked and eaten in the courtyard of the Sanctuary in front of the Tabernacle in which God dwelt in the midst of His people; it was a sacred space that was a copy of the heavenly Sanctuary (Ex 25:8).
Non-covenant members were not permitted to take part in the communion feast or any other covenantal meal (Ex 12:45-49). Additional instruction on the priests' role in the three types of communion rituals and the sacred communion feasts will be given in chapter seven.
The concept of a shared meal where fellowship was restored between people and between people and their gods was a common practice in pagan worship, but it was the ritual of the blood sacrifice connected to the sacred meal which God shared with the offerer, His priests, and members of the covenant community that made the Israelite sacred banquet unique and all Israelite animal sacrifice unique. Sacrifices became sacred only after their blood came in contacted with God's consecrated altar (Milgrom, Leviticus page 383). The courtyard of Yahweh's holy Sanctuary was the only place where any animal could be killed (Lev 17:4) or offered for sacrifice (Lev 1:3; 4:4, 14; etc); it was the only place where sacrifice could be offered to Yahweh on His altar (Lev 17:1-6; 1 Sam 14:32-35).(4)
Question: How are the Old Covenant communion "peace offerings"
and the shared sacred communion meal related to Jesus Christ and to us? Please
apply these verses to your answer: Lev 7:11-15/ 7:1-5; Rom 5:1-2; Mt 26:26-29;
1 Cor 11:23-32; Eph 2:14-18; Col 1:20 and these terms: zevah ha-shelamim ("peace
offerings"), todah ("thanksgiving offering"), nedavah ("voluntary
offering"), and neder ("vow offering"). Hint: in Greek todah is
translated eucharistia. Greek was the language of the original texts of
New Testament Scripture and for centuries the official language of the early
Chapters 4-5: The Expiatory Sacrifices
The principal point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind. He has taken his seat at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent which the Lord, and not any man, set up. Every high priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer. Hebrews 8:1-3
St. John's vision in the heavenly Tabernacle: Then I saw, in the middle of the throne with its four living creatures and the circle of the elders, a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed. Revelation 5:6
The sacrificial instructions in Leviticus chapters 1-3 addressed covenant members' voluntary sacrifices according to wealth. Chapters four and five address the compulsory sacrifices for sin according to the covenant member's status and wealth within the covenant community in acceptable sin sacrifices for five categories of offerers:
Sins were reconciled with God through two principle forms of sacrifices: the hatta't and the 'asham. Sin could only be expiated through the shedding of the blood of the unblemished, acceptable sacrificial victim (Lev 11:17; Heb 9:22) in all cases except in the case of extreme poverty (Lev 5:11-12). In the Old Testament there was no single Hebrew word for sin, but the various words for sin can be divided into two categories: unintentional (venial) sins and intentional (mortal/ deadly) sins. The New Testament also classified sins into these two categories (1 Jn 5:16-17). "Deadly" sin is sin that can cost a person his eternal salvation by separating a person spiritually from God for eternity.
In the Old Covenant blessings were temporal and so were the punishment. In death the souls of both the righteous and the wicked sinner went to Sheol (the netherworld or Hades in the Greek: Ps 89:48; 139:7-8; Prov 5:5; 7:27; 15:11; Job 26:6; Wis 16:13) to await the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah (1 Pt 3:18-19). However, their status in Sheol was not the same as Jesus illustrated in His parable of pious elderly beggar Lazarus and the sinful rich man in Luke 16:19-31. As we are taught in our oldest Christian profession of faith, the Apostles' Creed, after His death on the Cross Jesus descended to Hades to preach the Gospel of salvation. This was not the Hell of the damned (which Jesus called Gehenna) but the spiritual prison of Sheol where the righteous dined in a banquet that promised the coming heavenly banquet and the wicked were tormented and purified of their sins. In Hades Jesus offered His message of salvation, even to the rebellious souls who refused to believe Noah and perished in the Great Flood (1 Pt 3:18-20). As St. Peter wrote: And so this was why the Gospel was brought to the dead as well, so that, though in their bodies they had undergone the judgment that faces all humanity, in their spirit they might enjoy the life of God (1 Pt 4:6). Also see CCC 633. In the New Covenant, however, blessings are eternal but so are the divine judgments (Mt 25:45-46; Jn 5:29). For additional information on the subject of Sheol/Hades see the Agape Bible study "The Eight Last Things: Crossing the Threshold to Eternity" in the Bible Studies menu on the website.
Please read Leviticus 4:1-12: The Ritual of the Personal Sin
Sacrifice for a High Priest
4:1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 2'Speak to the Israelites and say: "If anyone sins inadvertently against any of Yahweh's commandments and does anything prohibited by them, 3if the one who sins [hata] is the anointed priest, thus making the people guilty, then for the sin [hatta't] which he has committed he must offer Yahweh a young bull, an unblemished animal from the herd, as a sacrifice for sin [hatta't]. 4He will bring the bull before Yahweh at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, will lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before Yahweh. 5The anointed priest will then take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. 6He will then dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle [nazah] it seven times in front of the sanctuary curtain, before Yahweh. 7The priest will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of incense smoking before Yahweh in the Tent of Meeting, and will pour [shaphak] all the rest of the bull's blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offerings at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 8Of the bull offered as a sacrifice for sin, he will set aside all the fat: the fat covering the entrails, all he fat on the entrails, 9both kidneys, the fat on them and on the loins, the mass of fat which he will remove from the liver and kidneys' 10exactly as was done with the portion set aside in the communion sacrifice - and the priest will burn these pieces on the altar of burnt offerings. 11The bull's skin and all its meat, its head, its shines, its entrails and its offal, 12the whole bull he will then have carried out of the camp to a clean place, the place where the fatty ashes are thrown, and will burn it on a word fire; it must be burnt where the ashes are thrown."
 = literal translation: The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 263-64).
The verb hata ("to offend," "to sin") in non-cultic use can refer to human failure or error (i.e., Prov 8:36; 19:2), but in its cultic context the word refers to offenses against God and man (1 Sam 2:25) or sins against God'where it is used exclusively in the Pentateuch (i.e. Lev 5:2, 5, 10, 13; Num 15:27, 28). Used to indicate sin, hata can refer to unintentional as well as premeditated sin. The noun is the Hebrew word hatta't, which can be translated "sin offering" (Milgrom, Leviticus, page 229; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page xxxii). In Leviticus there are two different sacrificial rites under the heading of hatta't. The first is described in Leviticus 4:3-21 and the second in 4:22-5:13.
Yahweh's command for Moses to "speak" to the children of Israel or to Aaron and his sons is repeated twenty-four times in Leviticus (Lev 1:1; 4:2; 6:25; 7:23; 7:29; 9:3; 11:2; 12:2; 15:2; 16:2; 17:2; 18:2; 19:2; 21:1, 17; 22:2, 18; 23:2, 10, 24, 34; 24:15; 25:2; 27:2) and usually signals a significant change in the topic of instruction. It is also assumed to signal that a break in time occurred between each summons and the giving of the body of instruction.
It was understood that confession of the sin accompanied the ritual of the "laying-on-of-hands (Lev 5:5; Kiuchi, Leviticus, page 37). The Jewish theologian Philo of Alexander writes of the necessity of making an examination of conscious prior to offering the sacrifice (Philo, Special Laws I, 238). Only God can forgiven sin; it was the priest's role to mediate forgiveness.
Question: Read Numbers 15:27-31 and 1 John 5:16-17
and CCC 1963. Why was expiation for sins only applied to those who sinned
through inadvertence, committing unintentional sin out of ignorance or
Answer: No animal sacrifice, no matter how "perfect," was capable of atoning for intentional rebellion against the Law of God (mortal sin). Only "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29) would be the acceptable sacrifice for intentional sin.
Question: What was the purpose of an expiatory
Answer: To secure atonement and forgiveness from God for failures in observing the Law of the covenant. In securing forgiveness the person's guilt was removed and his ritual purity/sanctity was restored in obedience to God's command to be holy.
Question: Why did the personal sin of a high priest
become a communal sin for the covenant people? What was the high priest's role
in the covenant?
Answer: The high priest and the other chief priests were God's representative to the people, and also the covenant people's representative to God. The high priest stood before the congregation as the symbol of "redeemed man"— man as he was originally created before the Fall of Adam, created in the "image and likeness of God" (Gen 1:27) and the other anointed priests also stood as examples of holiness for the people to follow. Therefore, any personal sin of an anointed priest involved the whole covenant nation in sin.
Question: The prescribed sin sacrifice for a high
priest was a young bull. What should the personal sin sacrifice of a bull calf
have brought to mind for every high priest along with the implications of his
sin for the covenant people? See Ex 32:1-6, 19-29.
Answer: It should have reminded every high priest of the implications of Aaron's sin in making the idol of the Golden Calf which contributed to the sin and covenant breach of the children of Israel at Sinai.
Question: What implications are there for the sin of
the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas who brought forward false witnesses and
knowingly condemned the innocent man Jesus of Nazareth, the promised
Redeemer-Messiah and Son of God, to death? See Jn 11:50-54; Mt 26:59-66.
Answer: The Old Covenant people who rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Redeemer-Messiah were also implicated in His death along with Pilate and the Roman soldiers who carried out His execution.
Question: What is the connection for New Covenant
believers? How has expiation been made for those who offend God under the New
Covenant? See Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45;
Jn 1:29; Rom 5:8-11; 1 Tim 2:6;
Heb 9:12; 10:10, 14;
1 Pt 1:18;
CCC 440, 601, 603, 605, 622, 1436.
Answer: In the New Covenant expiation of sin is through the acceptable sacrifice of Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," a perfect sacrifice that reconciles us to God. Just as the high priest took the blood of his sacrifice into the Tabernacle to purge the earthly tent of impurities and restore its holiness, the Lord Jesus took His own blood into the heavenly Sanctuary before the presence of God to cleanse our sin, making us holy in God's sight forever (Heb 9:12; 10:10, 14). The application His sacrifice expiates venial sins in the sacrifice of the Mass and mortal sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance).
Question: The ritual of sacrifice for the sin
offering of a high priest is similar to the individual covenant members 'olah
("whole burnt offering") and the zevah ha-selamim (communion "offerings
of peace"), but what aspects of this ritual of sacrifice are significantly
different, especially in the blood ritual?
Answer: The blood ritual was expanded. In the individual covenant member's whole burnt offering and the communion sacrifice the blood of the animal was sprinkled against the Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard, but in the case of a sin sacrifice for a high priest some of the blood of the victim was collected in a chalice/bowl and was taken into the Tabernacle where the priest was to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times in front of the sanctuary curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies'the sacred space where the Presence of Yahweh rested above the Mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant. He was then to smear some of the blood on the horns of the golden Altar of Incense, which was already burning with sweet smelling incense. The remaining blood was to be ritually "poured out" at the foot of the Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard.
In the high priest's purification offering he was both the expiator and the expiated as he officiated in the ritual for the forgiveness of his own sin. The purpose of the seven-fold sprinkling rite (see Lev 4:6, 17; 16:14, 15, 19 and Num 19:4) was the fullness of consecration. The sprinkling of blood or oil or the mixture of blood and oil on an object and on people was part of the ritual of consecration:
Question: Where is the rite of sprinkling for
consecration present in New Covenant rituals?
Answer: The sprinkling rite recalls the renewal of our baptismal vows at certain timed during the liturgical year. It is also used in consecrations rites when holy water and chrism oil consecrate an altar.
Please read Leviticus 4:13-21: The Ritual of the Sin
Sacrifice for the Covenant People
4:13"If the whole community of Israel has sinned inadvertently and, without being aware of it has incurred guilt by doing something forbidden by Yahweh's commandments, 14once the sin of which it is guilty has been discovered, the community must offer a young bull, an unblemished animal from the herd, as a sacrifice of sin, and bring it in front of the Tent of Meeting. 15The elders of the community will then lay their hands on the bull's head before Yahweh, and the bull will be slaughtered before Yahweh. 16The anointed priest will then take some of the bull's blood into the Tent of Meeting. 17He will then dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle [nazah] it seven times in front of the curtain, before Yahweh. 18He will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar standing before Yahweh inside the Tent of Meeting, and then pour [shaphak] all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offerings at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 19He will then set aside all the fat from the animal and burn it on the altar. 20He will then deal with the bull as he did with the bull in the sacrifice for sin. It will be dealt with in the same way; and once the priest has performed the rite of expiation for the people, they will be forgiven. 21He will then have the bull carried out of the camp and will burn it as he burned the first one. This is the sacrifice for the sin of the community."
 = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 264-65).
Question: Why is it significant that the required sin
sacrifice for the entire community was a bull calf?
Answer: Like the sin sacrifice for a high priest, the sacrifice of the young bull was a reminder to the community of their complicity in the sin of the Golden Calf.
Question: When was the blood of the sin sacrifice
taken into the Tabernacle? See Lev 4:5-7, 16-18; 16:11-14, 17-20a, and 32-34.
Answer: The blood ritual within the Tabernacle was only performed by the high priest in his personal sin sacrifice, in the sin sacrifice for the covenant community, and on the Feast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a day of expiation for the high priest and the entire covenant community.
Sin that involved the personal sin of a high priest and/or the sin of the community as a whole had consequences that penetrated so deeply into the fabric of the covenant bond with Yahweh that it was necessary to purify and consecrate the Tabernacle, the inner and outer altars, and to cleanse the entire sacred space of the Sanctuary from the contamination of the sin. The personal sin of the high priest affected the entire covenant community (Lev 4:3). Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year to make expiation for the covenant people on Yom Kippur (the Feast of Atonement). He represented the covenant people to God and God to the covenant people. The Tabernacle represented the very presence of God and so that sacred space had to be in a continual state of ritual holiness for the priests, who entered the Holy Place daily to carry out their duties, to be effective in the ministerial duties.
Question: Why do you think the sprinkling rite inside
the Tabernacle in front of the curtain that covered the opening to
the Holy Place was repeated seven times in the ritual sin sacrifice for a high priest and the
covenant community (except on the Feast of Yom Kippur)?
Answer: In Scripture seven is the number of perfection, fullness, wholeness and spiritual perfection. By sprinkling the blood seven times in front of the curtain that shielded the Presence of God within the Holy Place, the priest symbolically showed that the removal of the offense was complete and that the tent was restored to its status of consecrated holiness.
Question: Why was blood smeared on the horns of the
Altar of Incense and sprinkled in front of the curtain?
Answer: The incense altar and the curtain were as close as most of the ministering priests could come to the presence of God, except during the Feast of Yom Kipper when the high priest took the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood on the Ark of the Covenant. In bringing the blood to the incense altar in front of the curtain that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the priest brought the blood of expiation as close to God as possible. The smoke of the incense altar also carried the prayers of the faithful to God in the heavenly sanctuary. The consecration by blood of this vehicle of communication was essential to Old Covenant worship.
Question: Why was the sin sacrifice of the high
priest and the community entirely consumed in fire outside the camp (Lev
Answer: A priest could not eat his own sin sacrifice, as he was required to eat a portion of the sin sacrifice of individual covenant members (Lev 6:17/24-23/30), nor could the community's sin sacrifice be eaten by the officiating high priest, since the he was included in the expiation rite as a member of the community. In these cases neither priest nor the people were to profit from the death of the representative animal.
Question: Every part of the animal victim of a high
priest's sin sacrifice and the communal sin sacrifice for the covenant people
was to be completely consumed by fire in a designated place outside the camp of
God. How can this part of the rite for the sin sacrifice for the community be
compared to Jesus' crucifixion? See Jn 19:17-20; Rom 6:18-21.
Answer: Jesus' life was completely consumed at a designated place outside the city of Jerusalem (the camp of God) on the altar of the Cross. His sin sacrifice inaugurated a new community of covenant people liberated from the curse of sin.
Please read Leviticus 4:22-26: The Ritual of the Sin
Sacrifice for a Leader (or king) of the Covenant Community
4:22"When a leader has sinned and inadvertently incurred guilt by doing something forbidden by the commandments of Yahweh his God 23(or if the sin which he has committed is drawn to his attention), he must bring a he-goat as his offering, an unblemished male. 24He will then lay his hand on the goat's head and slaughter it on the spot where the burnt offerings are slaughtered before Yahweh. This is a sacrifice for sin; 25the priest will take some of the victim's blood on his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offerings. He will then pour [shaphak] the rest of its blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offerings 26and burn all the fat on the altar, as with the fat in the communion sacrifice. This is how the priest must perform the rite of expiation for him to free him from his sin, and he will be forgiven."
 = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 265).
This is part two in sacrificial rites under the heading of hatta't.
Question: What is different in the ritual expiation
for the sin of a leader of the community as opposed to the sin ritual for a
high priest or the covenant community?
Answer: The blood ritual is different. The blood of the victim is not taken into the Tabernacle, the blood is smeared on the horns of the altar in the courtyard, and then the blood is poured out at the base of the altar, unlike the whole burnt offering and the communion offering where the blood was sprinkled.
The difference in the application of the blood ritual was based on the difference in the condition of holiness for the individual leader or covenant member compared to a high priest or the entire covenant community. While the sin of a leader may lead the people into sin it is not the same as the failure of a high priest or the people as a whole who identify in a unique way with maintaining the covenant with Yahweh. Therefore, the entire Tabernacle did not have to be re-consecrated. The blood of the victim coming in contact with the holy altar made the sacrifice holy and acceptable to God as the offerer, identified with the blood of the victim, claims God's mercy through the atoning blood of the sacrifice and contact with the four corners of the altar horns'a blood rite that was also part of the ritual on the Feast of Yom Kippur'the Day of Atonement (Ex 30:10). In addition, to hold on to a horn of the altar was an appeal to God for clemency and refuge: 1 Kng 1:50-51; 1 Kng 2:28).
Please read Leviticus 4:27-35: The Rites of Sin
Sacrifices for a Private Individual
4:27"If one of the country people sins inadvertently and incurs guilt by doing something forbidden by Yahweh's commandments 28(or if the sins which he has committed is drawn to his attention), he must bring a she-goat as his offering for the sin which he has committed, an unblemished female. 29He will then lay his hand on the victim's head and slaughter it on the spot where the burnt offerings are slaughtered. 30The priest will take some of its blood on his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offerings. He will then pour [shaphak] all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. 31He will then remove all the fat, as the fat was removed for the communion sacrifice, and the priest will burn it on the altar as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. This is how the priest must perform the rite of expiation for him, and he will be forgiven. 32If he wished to bring a lamb as an offering for this kind of sacrifice, he must bring an unblemished female. 33He will then lay his hand on the victim's head and slaughter it as a sacrifice for sin on the spot where the burnt offerings are slaughtered. 34The priest will take some of the victim's blood on his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offerings. He will then pour [shaphak] all the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar. 35He will then remove all the fat, as was done for the sheep in the communion sacrifice, and the priest will burn it as food burnt for Yahweh. This is how the priest must perform for him the rite of expiation for the sin which he has committed, and he will be forgiven."'
 = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 265-66).
Question: What determined the different kinds of
animals required for a sin sacrifices? Also see 5:7-13.
Answer: The status and wealth of the person within the covenant community.
In the whole burnt offering the entire animal, with the exception of the hide was consumed on the altar fire, unlike the instructions given for the communion sacrifices (Lev chapter 7) in which the offerer cooked and ate parts of the animal not burned on the altar in a sacred meal in the Sanctuary courtyard with family and friends. In the case of a sin sacrifice (Lev 6:17-22/ 6:25-30) the officiating priest ate the parts of the animal that reverted to him in a sacred meal cooked in the courtyard of the Sanctuary. In the communion meal and the meal of the sin sacrifice it was considered to be a meal Yahweh shared from the sacrificed offered to Him.
Question: According to Yahweh's instructions to Moses
in the Law of the Sinai Covenant expiation can only be offered for
unintentional sins which are forgiven through the rites of the sin sacrifices.
What then was the significance of Jesus' first statement from the Cross
recorded in Luke 23:34a, which was prophesied in Isaiah 53:12?
Answer: From the Cross Jesus judged the sins of the Old Covenant people who condemned Him as unintentional sin (sin through ignorance) and therefore capable of being forgiven under the old Law when He said: Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.
Questions for group discussion:
Prior to the Sinai Covenant God made covenants with men and their families (Gen 6:18; 9:9-17; 15:18; 17:2-21). Sacrifice could be offered on altars wherever the head of the family decided to offer worship to Yahweh and there was no ordained priesthood. From the time of the Sinai Covenant sacrifice these practices were no longer acceptable. For the first time Yahweh established a corporate covenant'a covenant not with an individual and his family, but a covenant relationship with an entire people who were called to be a single covenant nation. Under the Law of the Sinai Covenant worship was limited to Yahweh's one Sanctuary and His one holy altar of sacrifice (later both the place of worship and the altar of Yahweh was later re-located to the Jerusalem Temple). Sacrifice and worship offered at any other altar or location was illicit and condemned by God (Dt 12:11-12; I Kng 11:36; 12:26-33 and 13:3-5; Jn 4:19-22).
Question: Under the New Covenant multiple animal
sacrifices were no longer necessary. Jesus Christ's one perfect sacrifice fulfills
what the Old Covenant scarifies only prefigured. However, is Yahweh's one
complete and perfect sacrifice still offered in association with one holy
Answer: Although every Catholic Church has an altar that symbolizes the table of the Last Supper, the empty tomb and the altar of the Cross, the authentic sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb of God is continually present before one altar'the altar in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 5:6). However, through the power of God the Holy Spirit in the words of consecration spoken by the authentically ordained priest of the New Covenant who stands before the earthly congregation "in the Person of Jesus Christ" repeating Jesus' words at the Last Supper, that same sacrifice offered in the Upper Room and later offered on the altar of the Cross in 30 AD, which is perpetually present in the heavenly Sanctuary, is made present on the consecrated earthly altars of the Church of Jesus Christ across the face of the earth. Those earthly altars become an extension of the heavenly altar in the heavenly Sanctuary. In that moment when our altar offerings of bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, heavenly and earthly liturgical worship are joined as One holy people in the saints of the Church glorified and the pilgrims of the earthly Church who are still making their journey to salvation.
The rites necessary for forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant offered that which was incomplete. As the inspired writer of Hebrews taught: Bulls' blood and goat's blood are incapable to taking ways sins... (Heb 10:4). He was echoing King David in Psalm 51:16-17: Sacrifice gives you no pleasure, burnt offering you do not desire. Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken, contrite heart you never scorn. The Old Covenant rituals of sin sacrifice prefigured the redemptive work of Jesus Christ but were incapable of completely cleansing the soul of sin. That is why heaven remained closed to souls until the redemptive work of Jesus Christ was completed in His resurrection (CCC 536, 1026).
Question: What are the rituals associated with the forgiveness of sins in the New Covenant? Why is it that Christ's ordained ministerial priesthood has the power in His name to forgive sins? See Lev 4:26, 35; 5:6, 13, 26/ 6:7; Jn 20:22-23).
Question: Often the Catholic and Eastern Rite Churches have been criticized for retaining elaborate ritual and liturgy and for the decorations in their churches including statues and expensive altar vessels, etc. According to what you have read in Exodus and Leviticus concerning God's commands for His holy earthly Sanctuary (Ex 25:1-27:21; 40:16-35), for the vestments and ordination of the Old Covenant ministerial priesthood (Ex 28:1-43; Lev 8:1-36) and in the commands concerning the ritual of worship and sacrifice in the Book of Leviticus, how does God appear to view ritual, liturgy and the physical appearance of the sacred space prepared for worship?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
1. The Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament gives this Hebrew word at least three different Greek renderings. The most frequent is "peace offering," which is echoed in St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate.
2. For references to the festival communion offering of the chagigah/hagigah in Scripture see Lev 23:6-8, Num 28:16-25, and Jn 18:28. In the Gospel of John 18:28, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin who had brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pilate to be sentenced to death protested that they would become ritually defiled if they entered the Praetorium and would be unable to eat their festival communion sacrifices to be offered that morning during the compulsory Sacred Assembly of the covenant community at the Temple worship service (Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). See the cultic regulations for this festival communion offering in the Jewish Mishnah: Hagigah. The chagigah/hagigah peace offerings were eaten in Jerusalem by the covenant people during the three pilgrim feasts (Mishnah: Hagigah 1:1-1:6). A person who became ritually defiled by entering a Gentile abode would remain unclean until sundown (Lev 22:7-8; Mishnah: Pesah). Since the communion meal was eaten at noon, the Jews entering the Praetorium would not be able to eat the shared communion meal with family and friends in the city of Jerusalem. The reference in Jn 18:28 could not be to the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice since that shared meal was the night before at sundown, and if a Jew had become ritually defiled on the day of the Passover sacrifice he would be ritually clean at sundown.
3. Feast of Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, page 58: The todah of Jesus vindicates the rabbinic dictum: "In the coming (Messianic) time, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice."
4. During the period at Sinai and during the years of wilderness wandering, God intended for the covenant people to be completely dependant upon Him for everything, including what they ate. When the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land they were still required to bring the sacrifices only to Yahweh's altar in His Sanctuary, but they were then permitted to slaughter and eat the meat of clean animals wherever they lived so long as they refrained from eating raw flesh or from drinking blood (Dt 12:13-16, 23-28).
Catechism references for Leviticus chapters 3:1-5:13:
699, 1288, 1538
1452, 1436, 1854-63, 1963
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.