Although Jewish and Christian scholars disagree about whether the sacrifices were to cease after the coming of the Messiah, as Edersheim points out, all agree that the object of a sacrifice was substitution for the offender (The Temple – Its Ministry and Service, p. 90). He also notes that the Jewish fathers along with the Scriptures that all these substitutionary sacrifices pointed to none other than the Messiah. This understanding is especially expressed in the proto-rabbinic biblical Aramaic commentaries or Targumim (e.g. Tarum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum; ibid., p. 92). Later rabbinic sages, in light of the rise of Christianity, were loath to accept this interpretation and, to this day, pretend it was never the belief of their ancient predecessors.
As the Tanakh progresses, the concept of the substitutionary sacrifice as it relates to the sinner and to the Messiah expands and unfolds. The unity of the Tanakh in this regard and its progression of revelation on this subject must be taken into consideration when studying the sacrifices listed in Leviticus and the rest of the Torah if we are to understand completely the biblical concept of substitutionary sacrifice as well as the Messianic prophecies. The concept of sacrifice in the Tanakh point us prophetically in progressive stages to the sin atoning death of the Messiah on behalf of sinners. Such passages in the Tanakh as Pss 2, 22, 35, 69, 72, 89, 110, 118 along with Isa 52:13–53:12 (many other scriptural passages could be cited here as well) point undeniably to the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah including his suffering and glorification. The apostolic writers understood these prophecies and how Yeshua fulfilled them perfectly (e.g. Isa 52:13–53:12 cp. Heb 9:11–15; 10:4–7, 1; etc.), and this understanding forms the basis for the New Testament, which the authors thereof refer to as The Testimony of Yeshua (Rev 1:9; 6:2; etc.).
Brief Overview: Six Types of Offerings (Heb. korban) Offered on the Altar (Lev 1-7)
Burnt or Elevation (Heb. Olah) Offering (Lev 1:3–17)
The olah or ascending offering signified the offerer giving himself up totally, wholly ascending or complete surrender to Elohim. The priests offered up this sacrifice up twice daily—the morning and evening (Exod 29:38–42; Num 28:1–8). This offering was always a male animal whose blood was to be sprinkled around the altar. The offerer was to lay his hands on the head of the animal before it was slaughtered symbolizing substitutionary atonement for sins. The offering would be accepted as a sweet aroma by Elohim.
The daily burnt offering was made in conjunction with a meal or grain offering and a wine libation (Exod 29:38–42; Num 28:1–8). Burnt offerings (along with the grain offering and wine offering or libation) were also made on the weekly Sabbath, at the new moon, on the all of the biblical feasts. These burnt offerings (including the one offered on Passover day) were in addition to the twice daily burnt offerings. This was a perfect prophetic picture of Yeshua’s death on the cross and of the communion cup, which memorializes our Savior’s death.
Meal, Grain or Meat, (Heb. Minchah) Offering (Lev 2:1–16; 6:14-23)
This offering was brought in conjunction with the burnt and peace offerings or by itself. The name minchah implies a gift, present or a tribute to a superior and proclaimed the offerer’s acknowledgement that his life is in Elohim’s hands. This offering was made of finely ground flour mixed with oil, salt and frankincense (and water) and could contain no leavening or honey. When part of the burnt offering, it was combined with the drink offering or wine libation, which was poured out on the altar (Exod 29:38; Num 28:5–7).
It was brought by people too poor to afford anything else as a trespass offering (Lev 5:11).
Fine flour represents Yeshua and oil points to the Set-Apart Spirit of Elohim. This offering could be baked or fried. If fried it was done so in oil and broken into three pieces with oil poured over it. This offering speaks of Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection with which the believer must identify when he eats the elements of communion.
Sin (Chatat) Offering (Lev 4:1–35; 6:24–30)
This offering was made for general sin (violation of any of YHVH’s commandments), and not specific or special offences (as was the case with the trespass offering). The sin offering symbolized general redemption or atonement for the individual offender (including rulers, priests or common people) or for the whole congregation of Israel, and like the trespass offering, was for only for sins committed in ignorance, unintentionally or because of weakness as opposed to wilful sin or presumptuous sin In all cases, the offender would lay his hands on the head of the animal victim before it was slaughtered as a symbolic act of transferring the person’s sin guilt to the animal.
This offering involved a bull or a lamb offered on the altar and eaten by the priests. Sin speaks of man’s sinful nature leading to sinful (unintentional) deeds for which man (including believers) needs atoning on an ongoing basis (1 John 1:9).
Trespass or Guilt (Asham) Offering (Lev 5:14–19; 6:5–7; 7:1–7)
This offering was made for specific transgressions committed in ignorance, weakness or unintentionally as a result of one voluntarily confessing his guilt. If one were too poor to bring a lamb, he could bring two turtle doves or pigeons, or on minchah or meal offering.
Peace or Fellowship (Shelam) Offering (Lev 3:1–7; 7:1–36)
This was a joyous sacrifice intended to celebrate one’s happy fellowship with Elohim through covenantal relationship. It’s as if YHVH is the guest of honor at the meal. It was offered voluntarily out of thanksgiving or in honor of a vow made to Elohim (Lev 7:12, 16). The peace offering may be what the psalmist had in view when he speaks of a sacrifice given in grateful fellowship with Elohim (Pss 54:6; 116:12).
This was a voluntary offering expressing the offerer’s desire to express thanks to Elohim and to seek friendship or communion with him. The priests and the offerer consumed the flesh of this offering in a meal that also included unleavened bread with oil and fine flour. This offering was a sign of a healthy and loving relationship between the offerer, the priests and Elohim.
Drink Offering (Gen 35:14; Exod 29:40–41; Num 28:7–10, 14–15, 24, 31)
This offering was poured out upon an existing offering such as the twice daily burnt offering. This offering can signify consecrating to Elohim or pouring one’s life out for his service (Phil 2:17).
Leviticus 1:5, He shall kill. In ancient Israel, a sinner was kill the animal to be sacrificed as an atonement for his sin. This act reinforced upon the individual’s heart and mind the gravity of his sin and the consequences there of upon an innocent animal, which symbolically pointed to the death of Yeshua, the Lamb of Elohim, upon the cross, who had to die for each person’s sins. If killing an innocent animal brings grief to a person’s heart, then how much more the death of Yeshua, the Son of Elohim?
Sprinkle.Heb. word zaraq means “to scatter, sprinkle, toss, throw, scatter abundantly, strew.” The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificed animal on and around the altar of sacrifice (and elsewhere in the tabernacle as well) is mentioned numerous times in the Torah (e.g. Exod 24:6; 29:16; Lev 1:11; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:6,17; 5:9; 7:2). The blood was even sprinkled on the people (Exod 24:8), and on Aaron and his sons (Exod 29:20–21). This is a prophetic picture of Yeshua bleeding, while dying on the cross and shedding his blood as an atonement for our sins. Yeshua’s sprinkling his blood on the cross fulfilled the sprinkling of blood under the sacrificial system in the following ways:
- On the altar, which is a picture of the cross (Exod 24:6–8).
- All around the altar (Exod 29:12–16) including on the earth beneath the altar (Lev 7:2). Yeshua’s blood covered himself and the entire area around the cross.
- On the high priest’s garments (Exod 29:20–21). Yeshua is our Great High Priest who was covered in his own blood during his crucifixion.
- The blood was sprinkled seven times for perfection (Lev 4:6–7). Yeshua bled from seven areas of his body (his head, back, two hands, two feet, and his side).
- At the bottom of the altar (Lev 4:6–7). Yeshua’s blood would have dripped down and pooled at the base of the cross.
- On the side of the altar (Lev 5:9). The cross was entirely covered in blood.
- Sprinkled seven times before the door of the tabernacle (Num 19:4). Yeshua died (probably on the Mount of Olives) on the hill of Golgotha (or Calvary) in view of temple in Jerusalem just outside the city gates (Heb 13:12).
The Scriptures tell us that the life of the flesh is in the blood, and that YHVH has given it to us upon the altar as an atonement for sins, for it is the blood that makes atonement for our soul (Lev 17:11). Additionally, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sins (Heb 9:22). All the religions of the world (including rabbinic Judaism), except those that have faith in Yeshua, are bloodless and have no provision to save man from his sins.
Six Types of Offerings (Heb. Karban) Offered on the Altar (Lev 1–7) in More Detail
(Some of this information is derived from Matthew Henry’s Commentary; The Law of the Offerings by Andrew Jukes; The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament; and from The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash).
Burnt or Elevation (Heb. Olah) Offering (Lev 1:3–17)
This offering involved the burning of the entire animal. This was not a partial burning with what remained to be eaten by the priests and/or worshippers. The burning of the animal prophetically pictures the sufferings of Yeshua, the Son of Elohim, for the sins of the world. The burning of the animal was but a faint representation of the punishment that all sinners deserve and that which unrepentant sinners will experience in the lake of fire at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:11–15). Yeshua took that punishment upon himself at the cross.
Here are some examples of how the burnt offering pointed to Yeshua (and how he fulfilled it):
- The animal sacrificed was a clean or kosher male bull, ram, goat, or pigeon or turtledove, that was without blemish. Similarly, Yeshua was the perfect and proper Lamb of Elohim who was, in his sin-free state, without spiritual defect.
- The owner of the animal was to offer it of his own free will. Messiah willingly offered himself for us, and, conversely, a sinner, of his own free will, must confess his sins and receive Yeshua as his atoning sin sacrifice.
- The sacrifice was to be offered at the door of the tabernacle—another picture of Yeshua—where the brazen altar was located, for the sinner was unworthy to enter the tabernacle. This shows that without the shedding of blood—without faith in Yeshua’s shed blood to pay for one’s sins—the sinner can have no communion with YHVH. Similarly, a sinner must come to Yeshua, who was sacrificed outside of the camp or temple (Heb 13:13).
- The offerer was to lay his hand upon the head of the animal to be sacrificed signifying a transfer of guilt for sin to the innocent animal, so that now the animal represented himself and was making atonement for him. Redeemed believers must identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua to have salvation and eternal life (Rom 6:3–14; Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 5:17). It is possible that the significance of the individual offerer laying only one hand upon the offering speaks to the idea that only one sinner was seeking atonement, while the high priest laying both hands on the head of the azazel goat (Lev 16:21) signifies atonement not only for the individual, but for the whole nation (i.e. hands, plural), since the high priest was acting as a representative for the whole nation.
- The animal was to be killed before YHVH signifying that the sinner’s flesh must be crucified with its corrupt affections and lusts. The offerer slaughtered the animal while the priest sprinkled the blood on the altar. The offerer would then skin the animal and wash its parts before giving it to the priest to lay on the altar for it to be totally burned up.
- The priests’ sprinkling the blood upon the altar is significant, for the Scriptures teach us that the life of the animal is in the blood, and that it is the blood that makes an atonement for sin (Lev 17:11). It is Yeshua’s blood shed at the cross when spiritually sprinkled on sinners that atones for their sins.
- The animal was to be divided, laid on the altar and burned. This pictures the intense sufferings of Yeshua prior to and while on the “altar” of the cross.
- This offering was a sweet savor to YHVH, even as the offering of Yeshua was well-pleasing to the Father (Isa 53:10).
- This burnt or olah offering could be offered in times of joy, celebration or spiritual rededication (2 Chron 29:20–24) as a gift to express joy and reverence to YHVH (Gen 8:20; 1 Sam 6:14). The olah could also accompany petitions for Elohim’s intervention in time of need (Judg 21:4; Jer 14:12). In all these cases, there is an overriding awareness for the need to give homage and honor to a righteous and set-apart Elohim. This offering was a freewill pointing to the spiritual truth that each person to be a true follower of Elohim must willingly “offer” up himself in obedience and self abnegation to the Almighty as living sacrifice (Rom 12:1 cp. Heb 13:15–16).
Meal or Grain (Meat, KJV, Heb. Minchah) Offering (Lev 2:1–16; 6:14–23)
The name minchah implies a tribute to a superior and proclaimed the offerer’s acknowledgement that his life is in Elohim’s hands. This offering was made of finely ground flour mixed with oil, salt and frankincense (and water). It was brought by people too poor to afford anything else.
These offerings contained no leaven, which is a picture of the sin of pride, malice and hypocrisy, nor did they contain honey, which is a picture of sensual pleasure. These character defects were not to be found in Yeshua, who, by contrast, was the epitome of humility, love and sincerity, and was free of all those evil works that leaven pictures. This offering was made of fine flour. The priests would grind grain into flour and then sift it consecutively through smaller and smaller sieves until only the purest and finest flour remained. This represents the purity of the character of Yeshua who, while in the flesh, was tested and tried in all points, but without ever sinning (Heb 4:15).
Pure olive oil was mixed in with the fine four along with frankincense, which denotes the fruits of the spirit mixed with wisdom and humility. Frankincense speaks of the prayer and intercession of Yeshua as the Mediator between his people and the Father. All the sacrifices were seasoned with salt, without which the unleavened bread would be unsavory. Without Yeshua, man’s life is unsavory, and without the saints full of Yeshua living on earth it would become an unsavory place (Matt 5:13).
This offering could be baked or fried. If fried it was done so in oil and broken into three pieces with oil poured over it. This offering speaks of Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection with which the believer must identify when he eats the elements of communion.
This is the offering that Cain brought to YHVH (Gen 4:4–5). The Scriptures say that Abel offered to YHVH the choicest portions of the animal reflecting his heartfelt commitment to obey YHVH, while Cain merely offered the fruit of the ground. YHVH rejected Cain’s offering as a mere religious formality lacking heartfelt commitment and true submission.
Peace or Fellowship (Heb. Shelamim) Offering (Lev 3:1–7; 7:1–36)
This was a voluntary offering expressing the offerer’s desire to express thanks to Elohim and to seek friendship or communion with him. The priests and the offerer consumed the flesh of this offering in a meal that also included unleavened bread with oil and fine flour. This offering was a sign of a healthy and loving relationship between the offerer, the priests and Elohim. There can be no peace between a man and his Creator until a man’s sin is first atoned for. This only can occur through the work of Yeshua, the Prince of Peace (Sar Shalom). Therefore, for the peace offering to occur, one had to be in a spiritual state of peace, good health or balance before Elohim with regard to sin. This teaches us that only when we are in a sin-free state can we have true fellowship with our Heavenly Father, and this occurs through the sacrificial work of Yeshua the Messiah and a man’s identification with or appropriation of that work to himself (of which immersion or baptism for the remission of sins is a picture [See Rom 6:3–6.]). In this regard, read Ephesians 2:14; Philippians 3:10; 2:5–8; 4:2; 2:14. What is one of Yeshua’s Messianic titles that speaks of his peacemaking mission? (See Isa 9:6.)
This offering is like that of the olah except that only the fat around the intestines, kidneys, liver, and the fat of the sheep’s tail were burned on the altar. The rest of the animal was shared by the priest and offerer. The priest received as their part the breast and right leg. The rest was shared by the worshipper, his family and guests. Whatever remained after three days was to be burned. This seems to prefigure the idea that from the time of Yeshua’s appearance on earth as the perfect atoning sacrifice for the men’s sins, men would have three days or three thousand years to become redeemed or saved from their sins. After that, the opportunity for salvation is closed. This would carry us forth three thousand years from Yeshua’s death and through the Millennial period just prior to the white throne judgment and the second death in the lake of fire.
Sin (Heb. Chatat) Offering (Lev 4:1–35; 6:24–30)
This offering involved a bull or a lamb offered on the altar and was eaten by the priests. It speaks of man’s sinful nature leading to sinful (unintentional) deeds, or sins committed in ignorance for which man (including believers) needs atoning on an ongoing basis (see 1 John 1:9). In the majority of cases, the chatat denoted a sin against man or against Elohim. Sin is disobedience to the will of Elohim and exploitation or disregard of the rights of other people. Sin was a serious matter and could only be atoned for by the creative act of YHVH’s mercy and forgiveness coupled with the sinner making restitution for the evil done.
Sin offerings were made for the priest, the rulers, and for the whole congregation. No person is infallible and above sinning no matter the office. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Whoever says he is without sin is doubtless guilty of the most heinous sin of all—the sin of pride, which tops the list of the “seven deadly sins” in Proverbs 6:16–19. YHVH calls pride an abomination! Beware of such people. As Matthew Henry states, such is of the spirit of Antichrist.
The ashes of the beast burned up in the sin offering were carried outside the camp to illustrate the detestable nature of sin and the fact that it needs to be removed far from us. Yeshua himself being the ultimate sin offering (Isa 53:5–12) and was offered as such outside the city walls of Jerusalem (Heb 13:11–13).
If leaders sinned causing the people to err, then an offering had to be brought for them so as not to bring judgment against the whole congregation.
The sinner was required to lay his hands upon the head of the beast to be sacrificed as if to transfer his guilt to the innocent animal, and leaders were to do this on behalf of the entire congregation. (Lev 4:15; 8:14,22; 16:21).
Sin cost the sinner something. Under the sacrificial system YHVH granted forgiveness to the repentant sinner, but there was still a price to pay. Restitution had to be made. The cost might be an animal from one’s flock, a monetary penalty, stoning, lashes or being put out of the camp of Israel. Sin always has a price to pay. When restitution is made, atonement is granted, and the sin is forgiven.
Matthew Henry says, “From all these laws concerning the sin-offerings, we may learn to hate sin, and to watch against it; and to value [Messiah], the great and true sin-offering, whose blood cleanses from all sin, which it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away. For us to err, with the Bible in our hands, is the effect of pride, sloth, and carelessness. We need to use frequent self-examination, with serious study of the Scriptures, and earnest prayer for the convincing influences of [the Spirit of Elohim]; that we may detect our sins of ignorance, repent, and obtain forgiveness through the blood of [Messiah].”
Trespass or Guilt (Heb. Asham) Offering (Lev 5:14–19; 6:5–7; 7:1–7)
This offering was for specific known sins or for “missing the mark” involving inadvertent sin caused by carelessness in areas that were not of utmost gravity.
The offering was for sins or wrongs committed against Elohim and one’s fellow man and amends for harm done. An act of evil was committed by which someone was injured. This sin involved not a state of being (what a person was), but an act of evil (what one had done ). The emphasis is not on the sinner, but on the act of wrong committed.
Restitution for a trespass sin involved paying money to the injured party, plus a penalty of one-fifth. This is different than the sin offering where no monetary damages were paid. This teaches us that when we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Creator, for the sinner was required to make amends with YHVH (by offering a sacrifice) and with his neighbor (by paying restitution).
The sinner also brought an offering of a ram without blemish, which the priests roasted and then ate in the set-apart place of the tabernacle.
Drink (Heb. Necek) Offering (Gen 35:14; Exod 29:40–41; Num 28:7–10,14–15, 24,31)
This offering was made of strong wine poured out upon an existing offering and prefigured the blood of Yeshua being poured out for us. The drink offering is the antetype of the wine of communion, of which the redeemed partake today to represent the blood of Yeshua. This offering can also signify consecrating one’s life to Elohim or pouring one’s life out for his service, even unto martyrdom, if necessary (Phil 2:17).
The drink offering was usually presented along with burnt and meal (cereal) offerings. Daily at the morning and evening burnt offerings, a drink offering was poured out to YHVH (Num 28:7–9). This occurred on the Sabbath, the new moons, Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot), Day of the First Fruits (Yom HaBikkurim), Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The drink offering was also a part of the ceremony that terminated the vow of the Nazarite.
Paul refers to himself being poured out like a drink offering to the service of YHVH while he was imprisoned (Phil 2:17 and 2 Tim 4:6).