An Overview of the Sacrificial System and Its Relevance to YOU

Leviticus 1–7

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.

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Overview of the Book of Leviticus/Vayikra

Outline of Leviticus

Leviticus is divided into to several main parts. Chapters one to 16 deal with laws of sacrifice and purification. In the second section (chapters 17–25), Elohim sets forth his demands for holy living that his people might maintain a right relationship with him. Chapter 26 lays out the blessings and curses for obedience to YHVH’s commands. The final chapter of the book ends with some miscellaneous laws. The following is an overview of Leviticus chapter-by-chapter.

  • The five main offerings (Lev 1–7)
  • The ordination of priests (Lev 6:8–7:38)
  • Laws of cleanliness (food, childbirth, diseases, etc.) (Lev 11–15)
  • Day of Atonement (Lev 16–17)
  • Moral laws regulating relationships between humans (Lev 18–20)
  • Regulations for priests, the offerings of the annual feasts (Lev 21:1–24:9)
  • Punishment for blasphemy, murder, etc. (Lev 24:10–23)
  • The Sabbatical year, Jubilee, land laws, slavery (Lev 25)
  • Blessings and curses (Lev 26)
  • Regulations pertaining to vows made to YHVH (Lev 27)

Themes and Main Points of Leviticus

  • Leviticus stands at the center of the Torah, and there’s a reason for this, since it shows man how to come into relationship with Elohim by addressing the sin issue and showing man the upward path of holiness and righteousness. 
  • Holiness (or being set-apart) is the key theme of Leviticus. This includes the set-apartness of YHVH and the need for man to become set-apart as well if he is to come into a relationship with the Almighty (Heb. kadosh, Lev 11:44). Leviticus lays out the terms are laid out by which an unholy, profane, polluted or sinful people can come into a spiritual and even contractual and marital relationship with their holy, morally pure and sinless Creator. It also delineates the terms of the contract including penalties for its violation and blessings for adherence to it.
  • Leviticus carries on to completion the giving of the Torah-law, which started in Exodus 20, and which firmly established the Torah as Israel’s binding covenant with Elohim and the legally binding document that would govern that nation. The Torah literally became the nation of Israel’s constitution. 
  • This book, for the first time in detail, shows man the way of expiation (or atonement) and forgiveness of sin, thus prophetically pointing the way in major detail to Yeshua the Messiah, the Lamb of Elohim, who was yet to come and who would ultimately take away men’s sin once and for all (without the continual need of animal sacrifices) by his sacrificial death on the cross.
  • The narrative of Leviticus covered probably only a month.
  • Leviticus is the first book of Torah that rabbinic Jews start teaching their young children, since they believe that those who are pure in heart (i.e. children) should be engaged in the study of purity (i.e. the laws of purification and atonement, which is the central themes of Leviticus).
  • Even today, Leviticus remains the foundation for Jewish life, since it includes the laws pertaining to diet, the biblical feasts, sex, marriage, family purity, and our relationship with our fellow man. 
  • The emphasis the modern rabbinic Jews place on Leviticus is evidenced by the fact that the tabernacle service found in this book is at the heart of the modern Jewish synagogue prayer service, and forms the basis for their daily devotions. Jewish liturgical prayer is largely based on the tabernacle sacrificial system  as outlined in Leviticus.
  • The offerings and other ceremonies revealed in Leviticus serve to show the holiness of YHVH.
  • Leviticus teaches us that YHVH can only be approached through proper and prescribed protocols.
  • In Leviticus, spiritual set-apartness (holiness) is symbolized by physical perfection. All blemishes or defects symbolize man’s spiritual defects, which break his spiritual wholeness. Therefore, the religious system in Leviticus required:
  1. Perfect animals for sacrifices (Lev 1–7).
  2. Priests without physical deformity (Lev 8–10).
  3. A woman to be ritually purified from hemorrhaging after childbirth (Lev 12).
  4. Ritual purification from sores, burns, baldness (Lev 13–14).
  5. Ritual purification from a man’s bodily discharges (Lev 15:1–18).
  6. Ritual purification after a woman’s menstrual cycle (Lev 15:19–33).

All of these ritualistic requirements point to one thing: the holiness of Elohim and man’s need to put off sin and the defilement of the flesh, which causes pollution and profaneness, thus separating us from a set-apart, pure and perfect Elohim. This teaches man to strive to reach higher spiritual levels and not to be content with the mundane, fleshly, earthly level of his own human existence, but to reach for the heavens where Elohim abides.

  • Leviticus reveals that those with certain diseases or ailments had to leave the camp (symbolic of leaving YHVH’s Presence—like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden after they had sinned). Israelites could be readmitted to the camp (symbolic of returning to YHVH’s Presence) only after certain protocols had been performed and the person had been pronounced whole by the priests.
  • In Exodus 19:6, YHVH’s call for Israel to become a kingdom of priests. As such, they were to be a light to the nations and, in a sense, to evangelize the world by showing Elohim’s glory to those nations around them (Deut 4:4–8). Israel was to be YHVH earthly representation of YHVH’s kingdom on earth. Leviticus showed Israel how to walk in a set-apart (kadosh or holy) manner before YHVH and the world—how to be in the world, though not of the world, as Yeshua taught his disciples in John 17:11, 14.

All Was Overseen by the Priests

The priests oversaw and controlled the sacrifices, rituals, ceremonies, the rest of the tabernacle service as well as the day-to-day life of the Israelites.

It was their job to establish Israel as a kadosh nation, and to instruct Israel in spiritual cleanliness and set-apartness (holiness), to preserve them spiritually, and to present them to YHVH as a pure and righteous people. YHVH has given the same responsibility to the five-fold ministry that he has raised up to operate within the spiritual body of redeemed believers today (Eph 4:11–16). This new, royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9) is comprised of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who have the purpose of “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah” (Eph 4:12–13).

Holiness—The Dominant Theme of Leviticus and the Bible 

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The Sacrificial System, Yeshua and the Saint

There’s so much in the first few chapters of Leviticus, that I hardly know where to start. Here are a few of my notes on this wonderful section of Scripture. —Natan

Leviticus 1:5, He shall kill. The sinner must kill the animal to be sacrificed as an atonement for his sin. The reinforces 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, Continue reading


 

A Riddle: What is as bitter as wormwood and as sweet as honey at the same time?

I got this email question the other day from Rick who teaches about the Tabernacle of Moses in his church. Allow me to share my answer with all of you. — Natan

While teaching on the offerings when I presented the “meal offering” I had a few questions. Since the meal offering was fine flour, green ears, frankincense, oil, or salt, I mentioned that there was not supposed to be any leaven or honey put on the sacrifice. Questions follow;

  1. Why couldn’t honey be put on the offering?
  2. I was also asked “no shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”? I think I know why this is, and that is, that this is a meal offering of fellowship and not for trespass or sin offering. Am I correct in my thinking?

I have looked for the answers to both these and can’t seem to find the answers to either. Can you help? I appreciate your answers to questions I have had so far and am thankful that I have someone that I can call on. I think I have as much curiosity about a deeper study as my class does. Any help, I would be grateful.

Honey is sweet  and delightful to the taste and such has nothing to do with the death or is not an attribute of Yeshua’s death. His atoning death for sin was not a sweet or delightful thing and is therefore not an apt symbolic prophetic representation of his horrific death on the cross! That’s why I believe it was a prohibited ingredient for the meal offering.
The meal or grain offering (it was like matzah) was part of the twice daily (olah-tamid) sacrifices and was baked on the altar of sacrifice, which represented Yeshua’s death on the cross. In fact, Yeshua was crucified during the evening sacrifice at about 3:30PM. The meal offering was also part of the fellowship or peace offering and didn’t represent Yeshua’s death per se. It was as barbecue among friends celebrating a reconciled relationship (now that our sins are forgiven and we’re redeemed and can come into the presence of YHVH in right relationship). Thus, the meal offering was part of both both the expiatory and fellowship aspects of the sacrificial system. Why is that? This is because there are two aspects to Yeshua’s death on the cross: the blood/wine and his body/the bread—which are the communion elements we take during the Passover seder meal as per Yeshua’s command. First, our sins are  remitted by his shed blood, not by his  broken body. His blood is for atonement of sin—it paid the legal debt of our sin. His body, on the other hand, was for our healing (“by his stripes we are healed”). Now that our sin debt has been paid, we can be healed by his life flowing through us unhindered by sin. His body also resurrected. Bread is the staff of life. Our sins are washed away by his blood, but his body or His Word brings us life and resurrection once redemption has occurred. This is why the meal offering was part of the sacrificial and fellowship offerings. It speaks not to redemption, but to life in Yeshua now that we’re redeemed. This is what the communion elements represent. Together, they speak both to the idea of redemption from sin and new life as a result. HalleluYah!
Answer to the riddle: The death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah!

 

Leviticus 1–7 An Overview of the Sacrificial System

 

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.).

The Prophetic Significance of the Offerings

Along with the burnt offering there were five other types of offerings each representing different aspects of a follower of Yeshua dealing with sin in his life. They are listed in Leviticus and elsewhere in the Torah. They are:

  • the meal or cereal offering (Lev 2; 6:14–23)
  • the guilt or sin offering (Lev 4; 6:24–30)
  • the trespass offering (Lev 5:14–6:7)
  • the peace or wave offering (Lev 3; 7:11–21)
  • the drink offering (Exod 29:40;–41; 30:9; Lev 23:13; Num 6:17; 15:5, 7, 10, 24; 28:7–10, 15, 24; 29:16, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38)

In these offerings, there is great spiritual symbolism. For example, the oil, salt, flour, frankincense and baking over fire of the meal offering all point to Yeshua. In scriptural Continue reading


 

Overview of the Book of Leviticus/Vayikra

Outline of Leviticus

Leviticus is divided into to several main parts. Chapters one to 16 deal with laws of sacrifice and purification. In the second section (chapters 17–25), Elohim sets forth his demands for holy living that his people might maintain a right relationship with him. Chapter 26 lays out the blessings and curses for obedience to YHVH’s commands. The final chapter of the book ends with some miscellaneous laws.

  • The five main offerings (Lev 1–7)
  • The ordination of priests (Lev 6:8–7:38)
  • Laws of cleanliness (food, childbirth, diseases, etc.) (Lev 11–15)
  • Day of Atonement (Lev 16–17)
  • Moral laws regulating relationships between humans (Lev 18–20)
  • Regulations for priests, the offerings of the annual feasts (Lev 21:1–24:9)
  • Punishment for blasphemy, murder, etc. (Lev 24:10–23)
  • The Sabbatical year, Jubilee, land laws, slavery (Lev 25)
  • Blessings and curses (Lev 26)
  • Regulations pertaining to vows made to YHVH (Lev 27)

Themes and Main Points of Leviticus

Leviticus stands at the center of the Torah, and there’s a reason for this, since it shows man how to come into relationship with Elohim.

Holiness (or being set-apart) is the key theme of Leviticus. This includes the set-apartness of YHVH and the need for man to become set-apart (Heb. kadosh, Lev 11:44). Leviticus lays out the terms are laid out by which an unholy, profane, polluted or sinful people can come into a spiritual and even contractual and marital relationship with their holy, morally pure and sinless Creator. It also delineates the terms of the contract including penalties for its violation and blessings for adherence to it.

Leviticus carries on to completion the giving of the Torah-law, which started in Exodus 20, and which firmly established the Torah as Israel’s binding covenant with Elohim and the legal corpus that would govern that nation. The Torah literally became Continue reading


 

The Twice Daily Sacrifices Are a Picture of Our Daily Devotions

Exodus 29:38–42, In the morning…at twilight. (See also Lev 1:1–17 and Num 28:1–15.) This twice daily offering was known as the continual burnt offering (Heb. olah tamiyd), and was offered at the door of the tabernacle (verse 42). The word continual (Heb. tamiyd) means “continually.” The Hebrew word for burnt offering is olah meaning “ascent, stairway or steps,” and derives from the basic Hebrew verb, alah, meaning “to go up, climb or ascend.”

Prayer 16958564

In this offering, the fire consumes the entire animal, and the word olah refers to the smoke of this whole burnt offering ascending to heaven, which is a “sweet aroma” to YHVH (verse 41). The olah was an offering or gift (Lev 1:2, Heb. qorban) to YHVH and could be a bull, goat, ram, turtle dove or a pigeon as long as it was a perfect specimen without defect (Lev 1).

If an Israelite sinned, he could bring this gift-offering to the door of the tabernacle where he would place his hands upon the head of the animal, after which the priests would slaughter it, and sprinkle its blood around the altar of sacrifice just inside the door of the tabernacle (Lev 1:2, 4, 5). The meat was then prepared and arranged on the altar and entirely burnt (Lev 1:6–17). When the sinner laid his hands on the animal, it was as if he were transferring his sins onto the innocent, blemish-free animal, where upon YHVH accepted it as an atonement for the person’s sin (Lev 1:4).

The writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that this offering (along with all the other offerings in the sacrificial system) pointed to Yeshua, our Great High Priest, whose atoning death on the cross fulfilled all the types and shadows of the Levitical, sacrificial system (Heb 4:14–5:7; 7:1–10:18).

Besides the obvious antetypes pointing to Yeshua’s death on the cross, what else can we learn from the olah tamiyd offering rituals? What are the spiritual implications and the lessons to be learned for the redeemed believer living in the twenty-first century? Matthew Henry in his commentary on Numbers 28:1–8 sums it up very nicely: Continue reading