Sacrifice, in the Old Testament, 2


V. The Mosaic Sacrificial System.

1. The Covenant Sacrifice:

The fundamental function of Moses' work was to establish the covenant between Israel and God. This important transaction took place at Sinai and was accompanied by solemn sacrifices. The foundation principle was obedience, not sacrifices (Ex 19:4-8). No mention is made of these at the time, as they were incidental--mere by-laws to the constitution. The center of gravity in Israel's religion is now shifted from sacrifices to obedience and loyalty to Yahweh. Sacrifices were helps to that end and without obedience were worthless. This is in exact accordance with Jer 7:21 ff. God did not speak unto the fathers at this time about sacrifices; He did speak about obedience.

The covenant having been made, the terms and conditions are laid down by Moses and accepted by the people (Ex 24:3). The Decalogue and Covenant Code are given, an altar is built, burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen are slain by young men servants of Moses, not by priests, and blood is sprinkled on the altar (Ex 24:4 ff). The blood would symbolize the community of life between Yahweh and Israel, and consecrated the altar. The Law was read, the pledge again given, and Moses sprinkled the representatives of the people, consecrating them also (Ex 24:7 f). Ascending the mount, they had a vision of God, held a feast before Him, showing the joys and privileges of the new relationship. The striking feature of these ceremonies is the use of the blood. It is expiatory and consecrating, it is life offered to God, it consecrates the altar and the people: they are now acceptable to God and dare approach Him and feast with Him. There is no idea of God's drinking the blood. The entire ritual is far removed from the crass features of common Semitic worship.

2. The Common Altars:

In the Covenant Code, which the people accepted, the customary altars are not abolished, but regulated (Ex 20:24 ff). This law expressly applies to the time when they shall be settled in Canaan. `In the whole place where I cause my name to be remembered,' etc. (Ex 20:24 margin). No need to change the reading to "in every place where I cause," etc., as the Wellhausen school does for obvious reasons. All the land was eligible. On such rude altars sacrifices were allowed. This same law is implied in De 16:21, a passage either ignored or explained away by the Wellhausen school (see Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, 200 f). Moses commanded Joshua in accordance with it (De 27:5 ff). Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah and many others used such altars. There were altars at Shechem (Jos 24:1,26), Mizpah in Gilead (Jg 11:11), Gilgal (1Sa 13:9). High places were chiefly used until the times of Hezekiah and Josiah, when they were abolished because of their corruptions, etc. All such altars were perfectly legitimate and in fact necessary, until there was a central capital and sanctuary in Jerusalem. The customary burnt offerings and peace offerings with the worshipper officiating were the chief factors. Heathen sacrifices and the use of heathen altars were strictly forbidden (Ex 22:20 (Hebrew 19); 34:15)

3. The Consecration of Aaron and His Sons:

The altar used at the consecration of Aaron and his sons was a "horned" or official altar, the central one. The offerings were a bullock, two rams, unleavened bread, etc. (Ex 29:1-4), and were brought to the door of the sanctuary. The ritual consisted of Aaron laying his hand on the bullock's head, designating it as his substitute (Ex 29:10), killing it before the tent of meeting (Ex 29:11), smearing some blood on the horns of the altar, and pouring the rest at its base (Ex 29:12). The blood consecrated the altar, the life was given as atonement for sins, the fat parts were burned upon the altar as food for God, and the flesh and remainder were burned without the camp (Ex 29:13-14). This is a sin offering--chaTTa'th--the first time the term is used. Probably introduced by Moses, it was intended to be piacular and to "cover" possible sin. One ram was next slain, blood was sprinkled round about the altar, flesh was cut in pieces, washed and piled on the altar, then burned as an offering by fire ('ishsheh) unto God as a burnt offering, an odor of a sweet savor (Ex 29:15-18). The naive and primitive nature of this idea is apparent. The other ram, the ram of consecration, is slain, blood is smeared on Aaron's right ear, thumb and great toe; in the case of his sons likewise. The blood is sprinkled on the altar round about; some upon the garments of Aaron and his sons (Ex 29:19-21). Certain parts are waved before Yahweh along with the bread, and are then burned upon the altar (Ex 29:22-25). The breast is offered as a wave offering (tenuphah), and the right thigh or shoulder as a heave offering (terumah). These portions here first mentioned were the priests' portion for all time to come, although this particular one went to Moses, since he officiated (Ex 29:26-30). The flesh must be boiled in a holy place, and must be eaten by Aaron and his sons only, and at the sanctuary. What was left till morning must be burned (Ex 29:31-34). Consecrated to a holy service it was dangerous for anyone else to touch it, or the divine wrath would flame forth. The same ceremony on each of the seven days atoned for, cleansed and consecrated the altar to the service of Yahweh, and it was most holy (Ex 29:35-37). The altar of incense is ordered (Ex 30:1), and Aaron is to put the blood of the sin offering once a year upon its horns to consecrate it.

4. Sacrifices before the Golden Calf:

When the golden calf was made an altar was erected, burnt offerings and peace offerings were presented. From the latter a feast was made, the people followed the usual habits at such festivals, went to excess and joined in revelry. Moses' ear quickly detected the nature of the sounds. The covenant was now broken and no sacrifice was available for this sin. Vengeance was executed on 3,000 Israelites. Moses mightily interceded with God. A moral reaction was begun; new tables of the Law were made with more stringent laws against idols and idol worship (Ex 32:1-35).

5. The Law of the Burnt Offering (`Olah):

At the setting-up of the tabernacle burnt and meal offerings were sacrificed (Ex 40:29). The law of the burnt offering is found in Le 1:1-17. Common altars and customary burnt offerings needed no minute regulations, but this ritual was intended primarily for the priest, and was taught to the people as needed. They were for the statutory individual and national offering upon the "horned" altar before the sanctuary. Already the daily burnt offerings of the priests had been provided for (Ex 29:38-42). The burnt offering is here called qorban, "oblation."

(1) Ritual for the Offerer (Leviticus 1:3-17).

This may have been from the herd or flock or fowls, brought to the tent of meeting; hands were laid (heavily) upon its head designating it as the offerer's substitute, it was killed, flayed and cut in pieces. If of the flock, it was to be killed on the north side of the altar; if a fowl, the priest must kill it.

(2) Ritual for the Priest (Leviticus 1:3-17).

If a bullock or of the flock, the priest was to sprinkle the blood round about the altar, put on the fire, lay the wood and pieces of the carcass, wash the inwards, legs, etc., and burn it all as a sweet savor to God. If a fowl, he must wring the neck, drain out the blood on the side of the altar, cast the crop, filth, etc., among the ashes, rend the wings without dividing the bird and burn the carcass on the altar.

(3) General Laws for the Priest.

The burnt offering must be continued every morning and every evening (Ex 29:38 f; Nu 28:3-8). At the fulfillment of his vow the Nazirite must present it before God and offer it upon the altar through the priest (Nu 6:14,16): on the Sabbath, two lambs (Nu 28:9); on the first of the month, two bullocks, one ram and seven lambs (Nu 28:11); on the day of first-fruits, the same (Nu 28:27); on the 1st day of the 7th month, one bullock, one ram, seven lambs (Nu 29:8); on the 15th day, 13 bullocks, two rams, 14 lambs, the number of bullocks diminishing daily until the 7th day, when seven bullocks, two rams, 14 lambs were offered (Nu 29:12-34); on the 22nd day of this month one bullock, one ram and seven lambs were offered (Nu 29:35-36). Non-Israelites were permitted to offer the `olah, but no other sacrifices (Le 17:8; 22:18,25).

(4) Laws in Deuteronomy 12:6,13,14,27; 27:6.

Anticipating a central sanctuary in the future, the lawgiver counsels the people to bring their offerings there (De 12:6,11); they must be careful not to offer them in any place (De 12:13), but must patronize the central sanctuary (De 12:14). In the meantime common altars and customary sacrifices were allowable and generally necessary (De 16:21; 27:6).

6. The Law of the Meal Offering (Minchah):

The term "meal offering" is here confined to offerings of flour or meal, etc. (the King James Version "meat-offering"), and was first used at the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Ex 29:41). These must not be offered on the altar of incense (Ex 30:9); were used at the completion of the tabernacle (Ex 40:29); and always with the morning and evening burnt offerings.

(1) Ritual for the Offerer (Leviticus 2:1-16).

It must be of fine flour, with oil and frankincense added, and brought to the priest; if baked in the oven, unleavened cakes mingled with oil, or wafers and oil; if of the baking pan, fine flour mingled with oil parted into pieces and oil thereon; if of the frying pan, the same ingredients. Leaven and honey must never be used as they quickly become corrupt. Every offering must be seasoned with salt. If of the first-fruits (bikkurim), it should consist of grain in the ear, parched with oil and frankincense upon it.

(2) Ritual for the Priest (Leviticus 2:1-16).

This required him to take out a handful with the oil and frankincense thereon and burn it as a memorial upon the altar. The remainder was holy and belonged to the priest. Of the cakes, after bringing them to the altar, he was to take a portion, burn it and appropriate the remainder; the same with the first-fruits.

(3) General Laws for the Priest (Le 6:14-18 (Heb 7:1-28-Heb 11:1-40), etc.).

He might eat his portion without leaven in the holy place. At his anointing Aaron offered his own oblation of fine flour--1/10 of an ephah, one-half in the morning and one-half in the evening. If baked, it must be with oil. This meal offering must all be burnt; none could be eaten. With the sin offerings and guilt offerings every meal offering baked in any way belongs to the priest (Le 7:9-10; 10:12; Nu 18:9). The meal offerings accompanied the other offerings on all important occasions, such as the consecration of Aaron (Le 9:4,17); cleansing of a leper (Le 14:10,20-21,31); feast of first-fruits (Le 23:13); Pentecost (Le 23:16); set feasts (Le 23:37). Special charge was given to Eleazar to care for the continual meal offerings (Nu 4:16). The Nazirite must offer it (Nu 6:15,17). When the tribes presented their offerings, meal offerings were always included (Nu 7:13,19, etc.); when the Levites were set apart (Nu 8:8); with vows of freewill offerings (Nu 15:4,6); with the sin offerings (Nu 15:24); at all the several seasons (Nu 28:5 through Nu 29:39). A special form was the "showbread" (bread of memorial). Twelve loaves were to be placed in two rows or heaps of six each on a pure table in the holy place, with frankincense on each pile or row. These were to remain for one week and then to be eaten by the priests. They were an offering of food by fire, though probably only the frankincense was actually burned (Le 24:5 f).

7. The Law of the Peace Offering:

The peace offerings indicated right relations with God, expressing good-fellowship, gratitude and obligation. The common altars were fitted for their use (Ex 20:24), as feasts had been thus celebrated from time immemorial. At the feast before God on the Mount, peace offerings provided the food (Ex 24:5); also before the golden bull (Ex 32:6). The wave offerings and heave offerings were portions of these.

(1) Ritual for the Offerer (Leviticus 3:1-17).

The offering might be a bullock, a lamb, or a goat, either male or female, latitude being allowed in this case. The ritual was the same as in the case of the burnt offering (see above).

(2) Ritual for the Priest (Leviticus 3:1-17).

Blood must be sprinkled on the altar round about, the caul, the liver and the kidneys must be taken away and the fat parts burned on the altar; the fat tail of the lamb must also be burned. These portions were offerings of food by fire to the Deity. The ritual for a goat was the same as for a bullock.

(3) General Laws for the Priest (Le 6:12 (Heb 5:1-14); Heb 7:1 ff).

The fat was to be burned on the altar of burnt offering. If it was a thank offering (zebhach ha-todhah), it must have unleavened cakes with oil, cakes mingled with oil and fine flour soaked. Cakes of leavened bread might be offered, and one cake was to be a heave offering to the priest. The flesh was to be eaten that day, none was to be left till morning (Le 22:30). If it was a votive offering (zebhach nedher) or a freewill offering (zebhach nedhabhah), it might be eaten on the first and second days, but not on the third day; it should then be an abomination (Le 7:18 f). If eaten then by anyone, that person was to be cut off from the community. Of all peace offerings the wave-breast and heave-thigh belong to the priest (Le 7:29-34), the remainder was to be eaten by the worshippers. At Aaron's consecration an ox and a ram were the peace offerings (Le 9:4,18,22). The priest's portion was to be eaten in a clean place by the priest's family (Le 10:14). When Israel should have a central sanctuary, all were to be brought there (Le 17:4-5). When they had no central place, the common altars would suffice. All peace offerings must be made in an acceptable manner (Le 19:5). Votive offerings must be perfect (Le 22:18-22), but certain imperfections are allowable in freewill offerings (Le 22:23). At Pentecost two he-lambs of the first year could be offered as peace offerings (Le 23:19). The Nazirite at the end of his separation must offer one ram for a peace offering with unleavened bread (Nu 6:14,17), and the hair shaved from his head must be burned under the peace offerings (Nu 6:18). This hair was regarded as a thing having life and offered as a sacrifice by other nations. The various tribes brought peace offerings (Nu 7:1-89, passim), and at the feast of trumpets the people were to rejoice and blow trumpets over the peace offerings (Nu 10:10). Some further regulations are given (Nu 15:9 f).

8. The Law of the Sin Offering:

The sin offering was a sacrifice of a special kind, doubtless peculiar to Israel and first mentioned at the consecration of Aaron and his sons. It is not then spoken of as an innovation. It was of special value as an expiatory sacrifice.

(1) At the Consecration of Aaron and His Sons (Ex 29:10 ff).

A bullock was killed before the altar, some blood was put upon the horns of the altar by Moses, the rest was poured out at the base. The fat of the inwards was burned upon the altar, the flesh and skin were burned without the camp. Every day during the consecration this was done (Ex 29:36).

(2) The Law of the Sin Offering (Le 4:1-35; 24:1-23-30, etc.).

(a) The Occasion and Meaning:

Specifically to atone for unwitting sins, sins of error (sheghaghah), mistakes or rash acts, unknown at the time, but afterward made known. There were gradations of these for several classes of offenders: the anointed priest (Le 4:3-12), the whole congregation (Le 4:13-21), a ruler (Le 4:22-26), one of the common people (Le 4:27-35), forswearing (Le 5:1), touching an unclean thing (Le 5:2) or the uncleanness of man (Le 5:3), or rashly sweating in ignorance (Le 5:4). For conscious and willful violations of the Law, no atonement was possible, with some exceptions, for which provision was made in the guilt offerings (see below).

(b) Ritual for the Offerer (Le 4:1-5,13, etc.):

The anointed priest must offer a bullock at the tent of meeting, lay his hands upon it and slay it before Yahweh. The congregation was also required to bring a young bullock before the tent of meeting, the elders were to lay hands upon it and slay it before Yahweh. The ruler must bring a he-goat and do the same. One of the common people might bring a she-goat or lamb and present it in the same manner. If too poor for these, two turtledoves or young pigeons, one for a sin offering and one for burnt offering, would suffice. If too poor for these, the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour without oil or flankincense would suffice.

(c) Ritual for the Priest (Le 4:1-5,13, etc.):

He must bring the bullock's blood to the tent of meeting, dip his finger into it and sprinkle blood 7 times before the veil of the sanctuary, and put some on the horns of the altar of incense, but most of the blood must be poured out at the base of the altar. The fat must be burned upon the altar, all the rest of the carcass must be carried to a clean place without the camp and burned. In the case of the whole congregation, the ritual is the same. In the case of a ruler, the blood is to be put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, not the altar of incense. In the case of one of the common people, the ritual is similar to that of the ruler. In both the latter cases the carcass belonged to the priest. If a bird, the priest must wring off its head, sprinkle some blood on the side of the altar and pour the rest at the base. Nothing is said of the disposal of the carcass. If of fine flour, the priest must take out a handful and burn it upon the altar, keeping the remainder for himself. The use of fine flour for an expiatory sacrifice is evidently exceptional and intended to be so. Though life was not given, yet necessity of life--that which represented life--was offered.

(d) General Laws for the Priest (Le 6:24-30):

The sin offering was to be slain in the same place as the burnt offering. It was most holy, and the priest alone might eat what was left of the ram, pigeon or flour, in the holy place. Whatever touched it was to be holy, any garment sprinkled with the blood must be washed in a holy place, earthen vessels used must be broken, and brazen vessels thoroughly scoured and rinsed.

(e) Special Uses of the Sin Offering:

(i) Consecration of Aaron and His Sons:

The consecration of Aaron and his sons (Le 8:2,14-15) was similar to that of Le 4:11-12, only Moses was to kill the offering and put the blood on the horns of the altar. On the 8th day a bull-calf was offered (Le 9:2), and the congregation offered a he-goat (Le 9:3). In this case Aaron performed the ceremony, as in Le 4:11-12. Moses complained that they had not eaten the flesh of the calf and goat in the sanctuary, since that was requisite when the blood was not brought into the sanctuary (Le 10:16-20).

(ii) Purifications from Uncleannesses:

Purifications from uncleannesses required after childbirth a young pigeon or turtledove (Le 12:6-8). The leper must bring a guilt offering (a special kind of sin offering), a he-lamb (Le 14:12-14,19); if too poor for a lamb, a turtledove or young pigeon (Le 14:22,31). Special use of the blood is required (Le 14:25). In uncleanness from issues a sin offering of a turtledove or young pigeon must be offered by the priest (Le 15:15,30).

(iii) On the Day of Atonement:

On the Day of Atonement (Le 16:1-28) Aaron must take a bullock for himself and house, two he-goats for the people, present the goats at the sanctuary, cast losts, one for Yahweh, as a sin offering, the other for Azazel, to be sent into the wilderness. The bullock was killed, sweet incense was burned within the rail, blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before it 7 times. The one he-goat was killed and a similar ceremony was performed. Blood must be put on the horns of the altar and sprinkled 7 times about it. The other goat was presented, hands were laid on it, the sins of all confessed and put upon the goat, and it was sent into the wilderness. The carcass of the bullock and he-goat were burned without the camp. At the feast of first-fruits a he-goat was offered (Le 23:19).

(iv) Other Special Instances:

Other special instances were: in the case of defilement, the Nazirite must offer a turtledove or young pigeon on the 8th day after contraction (Nu 6:10 ff); when the days of the separation were fulfilled a ewe-lamb with the other offerings (Nu 6:14) was to be offered; the twelve tribes included in each case a he-goat for sin offering (Nu 7:16 ff); at the consecration of the Levites a young bullock (Nu 8:8,12). For unwitting sins of the congregation a he-goat was to be offered (Nu 15:24-25). If one person erred, a she-goat was permitted (Nu 15:27). A sin offering was required at the feast of the new moon (Nu 28:15), at the Passover (Nu 28:22), at Pentecost (Nu 28:30), on the 1st day of the 7th month (Nu 29:5), and on the 10th, 15th-22nd days (Nu 29:10-38). The ceremony of the red heifer (Nu 19:1-10,17) was a special sin offering for purification purposes only. It was of ancient and primitive origin. The young cow was brought without the camp and was slain before the priest's face, blood was sprinkled 7 times before the sanctuary, the entire carcass with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet was burned, the ashes gathered and laid without the camp in a clean place to be kept for the water of impurity. It was to purify after contact with the dead. In the case of the unknown homicide (De 21:1-9) a young unbroken heifer was brought to a running stream, its neck was broken, the elders washed their hands over the heifer in the presence of the priests, declaring their innocence. Thus the bloodshed was expiated. The action was a judicial one, but essentially vicarious and expiatory and had doubtless a primitive origin.

9. The Guilt Offering:

The guilt offering (the King James Version "trespass offering") (Le 5:14 through Le 6:7) was a special kind of sin offering, always of a private character and accompanied by a fine. It expressed expiation and restitution. The classes of sin requiring a guilt offering with reparation in money are: (1) a trespass in the holy things done unwittingly; (2) anything which the Law forbade depriving God or the priest of their due; (3) dealing falsely, with a neighbor in a deposit, or pledge, or robbery, or oppression; (4) swearing falsely regarding anything lost; (5) seduction of a betrothed bondmaid (Le 19:20-22). The first two of these are unwitting sins, the others cannot be. The clear statement is made in another place that sins done with a "high hand," i.e. in rebellion against the covenant and its provisions, can have no sacrifice (Nu 15:30). Is this a contradiction, or a later development when it was found that the more stringent law would not work? (See J. M. P. Smith, et al., Atonement, 47 f.) Neither conclusion is probable. These conscious sins are of a kind that will admit of full reparation because against rights of property or in money matters. The sin offering makes atonement toward God, the restitution with the additional one-fifth makes full reparation to man. No such reparation can be made with such sins described as committed with a "high hand." In the case of seduction, rights of property are violated (compare Nu 5:5-8; De 22:29).

(1) The Ritual (Leviticus 5:14 through 6:7).

A ram proportionate in value to the offense and worth at least two shekels is required. The ritual is probably the same as that of the sin offering, though no mention is made of the laying on of hands, and the blood is not brought into the sanctuary, but sprinkled about the base of the altar, the fat and inside parts being burned, and the flesh eaten by the priests in a holy place.

(2) Special Laws: Leper, Nazirite, etc.

The leper, when cleansed, on the 8th day must bring a guilt offering of two he-lambs and one ewe-lamb; the priest must wave one he-lamb before Yahweh, kill it, and smear blood on the right ear, thumb and toe of the leper. The guilt offering belongs to the priest (Le 14:12-20). If the leper were too poor for two lambs, one sufficed, with a corresponding meal offering, or one turtle-dove and a young pigeon (Le 14:21-22). The Nazirite, if defiled during his period of separation, must bring a he-lamb for a guilt offering (Nu 6:12). All guilt offerings were the priests' and most holy (Nu 18:9).

10. The Wave Offering:

The wave offerings were parts of the peace offerings, and the custom was seemingly initiated at the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Ex 29:24-27), when the breast and bread were waved before Yahweh. Le 7:30,34 fixes the law. It must be brought from the peace offerings of the offerer himself. At Aaron's consecration Moses put the breast, etc., on Aaron's hands and waved them before Yahweh (Le 8:27). On the 8th day Aaron did the waving (Le 9:21). The priests were to eat it in a clean place (Le 10:14 f) . The leper's he-lamb was to be waved by the priest, before being offered (Le 14:12); the lamb of the guilt offering also (Le 14:24). At the feast of first-fruits the sheaf must be waved before Yahweh (Le 23:10-11,15); two loaves also (Le 23:17,20). Of the Nazirite the priest took the boiled shoulder, a cake and a wafer, put them on the Nazirite's hand and waved them before Yahweh (Nu 6:19 f).

11. The Heave Offering:

Heave offerings also are parts of the peace offerings, and refer particularly to what is lifted up, or separated unto the service of Yahweh. They are first mentioned at the consecration of Aaron (Ex 29:27-28). The offering consisted of the right shoulder or thigh and was the fixed due of the priest (Le 7:32,34) One cake of the peace offering must be heaved (Le 7:14). The offering must be eaten in a clean place (Le 7:14) by the priest's family only (Le 10:14-15). Of the Nazirite's offering the heave thigh also went to the priest (Nu 6:20). When the Israelites should come into the promised land to eat bread, they must offer a heave offering of the dough, a cake (Nu 15:19-20,21). The law is repeated in Nu 18:8,11,19, and the Levites are to receive a tithe of the heave offerings of the people (Nu 18:24). They were in turn to offer up a tithe of this to the priests (Nu 18:26-32). A portion of the spoil of Midian was a heave offering (Nu 31:29,41). Deuteronomy commands that all heave offerings be brought to the central sanctuary and eaten there (Nu 12:6,11).

12. Drink Offerings:

Jacob poured oil on the stone he had set up (Ge 28:18) in honor of the Deity and consecrated the spot. Jacob later (Ge 35:14) set up a pillar where God had revealed Himself and poured drink offerings and oil upon it. Probably wine was used. Drink offerings accompanied many of the sacrifices (Ex 29:40-41). None could be poured upon the altar of incense (Ex 30:9). At all set feasts the Drink offerings must be presented (Le 23:13,18,37). The Nazirite was not exempt (Nu 6:15,17). Wine and oil must accompany all votive and freewill offerings (Nu 15:4-5,7,10,24); the continual burnt offering (Nu 28:7-8); sabbaths (Nu 28:9-10) and all the other set feasts (Nu 28:14-31; 29:6-39, passim). That drink offerings were common among the heathen is shown by De 32:38.

13. Primitive Nature of the Cultus:

The cult is thoroughly in keeping with and adapted to the age, and yet an ideal system in many respects. The ethical side is in the background, the external has the emphasis. No sacrifices will avail for a breach of the covenant between God and the people. The people thoroughly believed in the efficacy of the blood. It secured atonement and forgiveness. Their religious life found expression in the sacrifices. God was fed and pleased by the offerings by fire. Many of the customs are ancient and crude, so that it is difficult to imagine how such a primitive system could have been arranged and accepted afterward by the people who had the lofty ethical teachings of the prophets in their hands.

VI. Sacrifices in the History of Israel.

1. The Situation at Moses' Death:

The tribes were outwardly consolidated, and a religious system was provided. Some of it was for the rulers, much for the people and much for the priests alone. The various laws were given in portions and afterward compiled. No one expected them to be observed until the nation had a capital and central sanctuary. Even then not every detail was always possible. They were not observed to any extent in the wilderness (Am 5:25), as it was impracticable. Even circumcision was neglected until the wanderers crossed the Jordan (Jos 5:2). The body of the system was not in full practice for 300 or 400 years. The ritual, as far as it could be observed, served as an educational agency, producing in the minds of the worshippers proper conceptions of the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the proper spirit in approaching God.

2. In the Time of Joshua:

Lay or common altars were in accordance With Ex 20:24; De 16:21; 27:7. In the days of Joshua, the Passover was celebrated (Jos 5:10 f). At Ebal an altar was erected, burnt and peace offerings were presented (Jos 8:30-32). The tabernacle was set up at Shiloh with a horned altar doubtless (Jos 18:1), and the cult was observed to some extent. Concerning the altar on the east side of the Jordan, see ALTAR.

3. The Period of the Judges:

Canaanitish altars were abundant with their corrupt and licentious cults of the Nature-gods. Israelites with their common altars would naturally use the high places, when possible. The stationary altars of the Canaanites were of course unlawful. The inevitable tendency would be to imitate the worship of the Canaanites. They were rebuked and threatened for this, and, weeping, offered sacrifices at Bochim (Jg 2:1-5). Gideon rebuilt an altar of Yahweh and offered a bullock as a burnt offering (Jg 6:25-26). The kid prepared for the angel was not first a sacrifice, but its acceptance as a gift was indicated by its being burned (Jg 6:19 f). Jephthah offered up his daughter as a burnt offering, believing such a sacrifice well-pleasing to Yahweh (Jg 11:31,39). Manoah and his wife prepared a kid for a burnt offering, a meal offering accompanying it (Jg 13:16 f). At the time of the civil war with Benjamin the ark and statutory altar seemed to be at Beth-el, where they offered burnt and peace offerings (Jg 20:26). The feasts at Shiloh imply at least peace offerings (Jg 21:19).

4. Times of Samuel and Saul:

Common lay altars and customary sacrifices were still much in use. The official altar with the statutory individual and national offerings appears to be at Shiloh. El-kanah sacrifices and feasts there yearly (1Sa 1:3 f). Such feasts were joyous and tended to excesses, as drunkenness seemed common (1Sa 1:13 f). All Israel came thither (1Sa 2:14); the priests claimed their portion, seizing it in an unlawful manner before the fat had been burned, or the flesh had been boiled (1Sa 2:13-17). This shows that such ritual as was prescribed in Lev was practiced and considered by the people the only lawful custom. Was it in writing? Why not? Guilt offerings were made by the Philistines when smitten by tumors (1Sa 6:3,1,8,17). There were five golden mice and five golden tumors. Crude as were their ideas of a guilt offering, their actions show familiarity with the concept. Burnt offerings were used on special occasions and in great crises, such as receiving the ark (1Sa 6:14 f), going to war (1Sa 7:9 f; 1Sa 13:9-12), victory (1Sa 11:15), etc. Saul met Samuel at a sacrificial feast in a small city (1Sa 9:12-13) on a high place. At Gilgal there were burnt and peace offerings (1Sa 10:8; 15:15,21). Saul offered burnt offerings himself (1Sa 13:9-12), but his fault was not in offering them himself, but in his haste and disobedience toward Samuel. "To obey is better than sacrifice," etc., says Samuel (1Sa 15:22), recognizing the fundamental principle of the covenant and realizing that ceremonies are in themselves worthless without the right spirit. The same truth is reiterated by the prophets later. To prevent the eating of flesh with the blood Saul built a special altar (1Sa 14:32-35). Family and clan sacrifices and feasts were evidently common (1Sa 16:2-5).

5. Days of David and Solomon:

The common altars and those on the high places were still in use. The central sanctuary at Shiloh had been removed, first apparently to Gilgal, then to Nob, and later to Gibeon. David's and Saul's families kept the feast of the new moon, when peace offerings would be sacrificed (1Sa 20:5,24-29). The sanctuary at Nob had the shewbread upon the table (1Sa 21:4 ff) according to Ex 25:30. When the ark was brought up to Jerusalem, burnt offerings and peace offerings were offered according to the Law (2Sa 6:17-18; 1Ch 16:2,40). Ahithophel offered private, sacrifices at Shiloh (2Sa 15:12). David offered up burnt offerings, meal offerings, and peace offerings when purchasing the threshing-floor of Araunah (1Ch 21:23-26). The statutory horned altar at this time was at Gibeon (2Ch 1:6; 1Ch 21:29), but was soon removed to Jerusalem (1Ch 22:1). In the organized sanctuary and ritual, Levites were appointed for attendance on the shewbread, meal offerings, burnt offerings, morning and evening sacrifices, sabbaths, new moons and set feasts (1Ch 23:28-31), attempting to carry out the Levitical laws as far as possible. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon offered burnt offerings, meal offerings, and peace offerings in enormous quantities (1Ki 8:63; 2Ch 7:4-7); also burnt offerings and peace offerings with incense triennially (1Ki 9:25). The ritual at the regular seasons, daily, sabbaths, new moons, set feasts, etc., was observed according to the Levitical Law (2Ch 2:4; 8:13). Was it written?

6. In the Northern Kingdom:

The golden calf worship was carried on at Dan and Beth-el, with priests, altars and ritual (1Ki 12:27 f). The high places were in use, but very corrupt (1Ki 13:2 ff). A common altar was in use on Mt. Carmel (1Ki 18:30,32). Many others were known as Yahweh's altars (1Ki 19:10). The system was in full swing in Amos' time (Am 4:4-5) at Beth-el and Gilgal and probably at Beer-sheba (Am 5:5). Amos bitterly satirizes the hollow, insincere worship, but does not condemn the common altars and sacrifices, as these were legitimate. With Hosea the situation is worse, the cult has been "canonized," priests have been fed on the sin or sin offerings of the people, and the kingdom soon perished because of its corruption.

The high places were still in use and not denounced yet by the prophets (1Ki 3:2; 2Ki 14:4; 15:4,35). Worship was not fully centralized, though tending in that direction. In the days of Abijah the temple cult was in full operation according to Moses' Law (2Ch 13:10 f). Asa removed many strange altars and high places because of their corruption (2Ch 14:3), but not all (2Ch 15:17; 20:33).

7. In the Southern Kingdom to the Exile:

In the days of Jehoiada priests and Levites were on duty according to Moses (2Ch 23:18; 24:14b; 2Ki 12:4-16). Sin and guilt offerings were in sufficient numbers to be mentioned, but the money went to the priests. Kautzsch (HDB, V) and Paterson (HDB, IV), with others, think these offerings were only fines and altogether different from those of Le 4:1-35; 5:1-19. Such a statement is wholly gratuitous. The guilt offerings must be accompanied by fines, but not necessarily the sin offerings. The passage speaks of both as perfectly familiar and of long standing, but details are lacking and there can be no certainty in the matter, except that it proves nothing regarding a ritual of sin and guilt offerings existent or non-existent at that time. Kautzsch's and Paterson's motives are obvious. Having reversed the history and put the ritual law late, they must needs make adjustments in the records to have them agree. In the days of Ahaz, the regular offerings were observed for priests, kings and people (2Ki 16:13-15). Hezekiah destroyed many high places (2Ki 18:4). When repairing the temple, many sin offerings were presented to expiate the terrible sins of the previous reigns and the desecration of the temple (2Ch 29:21-24); and so, also, burnt offerings (2Ch 29:27 f), peace offerings and thank offerings, etc., in large number (2Ch 29:31-35; compare Isa 1:10-17). The Passover was celebrated with peace offerings (2Ch 30:1-2,15,22), oblations and tithes (2Ch 31:12); courses of Levites were established (2Ch 31:2), and the king's portion (2Ch 31:3). All the common altars were abolished as far as possible, and worship centralized in Jerusalem (2Ch 32:12). Reversed by Manasseh (2Ch 33:3 f), the high places were again used (2Ch 33:17). Josiah purged Jerusalem (2Ch 34:3), and on the discovery of the Book of the Law, with its rule regarding a central sanctuary, that law was rigidly enforced (2Ch 35:6-14). The reformation under Josiah did not change the hearts of the people, and the rule followed in spite of all the efforts of Jeremiah and other prophets.

8. In the Exilic and Post-exilic Periods:

That the cult was entirely suspended in Jerusalem from 586 to 536 BC seems certain. There is no support for G. F. Moore's statement (EB, IV) that an altar was soon rebuilt and sacrificing was carried on with scarcely a break. On the return of the exiles an altar was soon built and the continual burnt offerings began (Ezr 3:2 f), and likewise at the Feast of Tabernacles, new moons and set feasts (Ezr 3:4-7). Darius decreed that the Israelites should be given what was needed for the sacrifices (Ezr 6:9 f). The band under Ezra offered many sin offerings on their return (Ezr 8:35). At the dedication of the temple many burnt and sin offerings were made for all the tribes (Ezr 6:17). Those who had married foreign wives offered guilt offerings (Ezr 10:19). The firman of Artaxerxes provided money for bullocks, rams, lambs, with meal offerings and drink offerings (Ezr 7:17). Under Nehemiah and after the formal acceptance of the Law, a more complete effort was made to observe it. The shewbread, continual burnt and meal offerings, sabbaths, new moons, set feasts, sin offerings, first-fruits, firstlings, first-fruits of dough, heave offerings of all trees, wine and oil, etc., were carefully attended to (Ne 10:33-37) and were in full force later (Ne 13:5,9). There is no hint of innovation, only a thoroughgoing attempt to observe laws that had been somewhat neglected.

9. A Temple and Sacrifices at Elephantine:

At the time of Nehemiah and probably two or three centuries previous, there existed a temple on the island of Elephantine in the Nile. It was built by a Jewish military colony, and a system of sacrifices was observed. Just how far they copied the laws of Moses, and what were their ideas of a central sanctuary are uncertain.

Several Semitic tribes or nations practiced human sacrifices. It was common among the Canaanites, as is shown by the excavations at Gezer, Taanach, etc. They seemed to offer children in sacrifice at the laying of cornerstones of houses and other such occasions.

10. Human Sacrifices in Israel's History:

Among the Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans human sacrifices were all too common. The custom was not unknown to the Israelites. Abraham felt called upon to offer up Isaac, but was stopped in the act, and a lesson was given for all time. The abominable practice is forbidden by Moses (Le 18:21), where it is spoken of as a passing through the fire to Moloch, referring to Moabite and Ammonitish practices. Anyone practicing it was to be stoned (Le 20:2-5; De 12:31; 18:10). The rash vow of Jephthah resulted in the immolation of his daughter, but the incident is recorded as something extraordinary (Jg 11:31 f). The execution of Zebah and Zalmunna is a case of blood revenge, not sacrifice (Jg 8:18 ff). Nor is the slaughter of Agag in any sense a sacrifice (1Sa 15:32 f). The death of Saul's sons because of his breach of covenant with the Gibeonites was an expiatory sacrifice, to atone for the father's perfidy (2Sa 21:9). The Moabite king in desperation offered up his firstborn and heir to appease the anger of Chemosh, and the effect was startling to the Israelites (2Ki 3:27). Ahaz practiced the abomination in times of trouble (2Ki 16:3). Such sacrifices were intended to secure favor with the Deity or appease His wrath. Hiel's firstborn and youngest sons were probably sacrificed at the rebuilding or fortifying of Jericho (1Ki 16:34; compare Jos 6:26). Manasseh practiced the custom (2Ki 21:6), but it was stopped by Josiah (2Ki 23:10). Micah's words were probably applicable to those times of Ahaz or Manasseh, when they thought to obtain God's favor by costly gifts apart from ethical conditions (Mic 6:6-8). Isaiah refers to a heathen custom practiced by Israel of slaying the children in secret places (Isa 57:5), and Jeremiah represents it as practiced in his time (Jer 7:31; 19:5). Ezekiel denounces the same practice (Eze 16:20-21; 23:37).

11. Certain Heathen Sacrifices:

Heathen sacrifices are hinted at in the later books, such as swine, a mouse, a horse, a dog (Isa 65:4; 66:3,17; Eze 8:10; 2Ki 23:11). All such animals were unclean to the Hebrews, and the practice had its roots in some form of primitive totemism which survived in those heathen cults. They were little practiced among the Israelites.


VII. The Prophets and Sacrifices.

The prophets were reformers, not innovators. Their emphasis was on the ethical, rather than the ritual. They based their teachings on the fundamentals of the covenant, not the incidentals. They accepted sacrifices as part of the religious life, but would give them their right place. They accepted the law regarding common altars, and Samuel, David and Elijah used these altars. They also endorsed the movement toward a central sanctuary, but it is the abuse of the cult that they condemned, rather than its use. They combated the heathenish idea that all God needed was gifts, lavish gifts, and would condone any sin if only they bestowed abundance of gifts. They demanded an inward religion, morality, justice, righteousness, in short, an ethical religion. They preached an ethical God, rather than the profane, debasing and almost blasphemous idea of God which prevailed in their times. They reminded the people of the covenant at Sinai, the foundation principle of which was obedience and loyalty to Yahweh. If Joel is early, the cult is in full practice, as he deplores the cutting-off of the meal offering, or minchah, and the netsekh or drink offering, through the devastation of the locusts. He does not mention the burnt offerings, etc., as these would not be cut off by the locusts (Joe 1:7,13; 2:14). Joel emphasized the need for a genuine repentance, telling them to rend their hearts and not their garments (Joe 2:13).

Amos condemns the cult at Beth-el and Gilgal, and sarcastically bids them go on transgressing (4:4,5), mentions burnt offerings, peace offerings, thank offerings, and freewill offerings (4:4 f; 5:22), reminds them of the fact that they did not offer sacrifices in the wilderness (5:25), but demands rather righteousness and justice. There is nothing here against the Mosaic origin of the laws.

In Hosea's time the hollow externalism of the cult had become worse, while vice, falsehood, murder, oppression, etc., were rampant. He utters an epoch-making sentence when he says, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice," etc. (Ho 6:6). This is no sweeping renunciation of sacrifices, as such; it is only putting the emphasis in the right place. Such sacrifices as Hosea speaks of were worse than worthless. It is somewhat extravagant for Kautzsch to say, "It is perfectly futile to read out of Ho 6:6 anything else than a categorical rejection of sacrifices." Hosea recognizes their place in religion, and deplores the loss during exile (Ho 3:4). The corrupt cults he condemns (Ho 4:13 f), for they are as bad as the Canaanitish cults (Ho 4:9). Yahweh will spurn them (Ho 8:13; 9:4). The defection of the nation began early (Ho 11:2), and they have multiplied altars (Ho 12:11; 13:2). He predicts the time when they shall render as bullocks the "calves" of their lips (Ho 14:2 the King James Version).

Micah is as emphatic. The sacrifices were more costly in his day, in order the more surely to purchase the favor of the Deity. Human sacrifices were in vogue, but Micah says God requires them "to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God" (6:8). This does not in the least affect sacrifices of the right kind and with the right spirit.

Isaiah faces the same situation. There are multitudes of sacrifices, burnt offerings, blood of bullocks and goats, oblations, sweet incense, beasts, etc., but no justice, morality, love, truth or goodness. Thus their sacrifices, etc., are an abomination, though right in themselves (1:11-17; 61:8). The same is true of all pious performances today. It is probable that Isaiah worshipped in the temple (6:1,6). In his eschatological vision there is freedom to offer sacrifices in Egypt (19:19,21). The people are to worship in the holy mountain (27:13). Ariel must let the feasts come around (29:1).

Jeremiah maintains the same attitude. Your "frankincense from Sheba, and the sweet cane," burnt offerings and sacrifices are not pleasing to God (6:20; 14:12). They made the temple a den of robbers, in the streets they baked cakes to the Queen of heaven, etc. He speaks sarcastically, saying, "Add your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat ye flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers .... concerning .... sacrifices: but .... commanded .... saying, Hearken unto my voice," etc. (7:21-23). This was literally true, as we have seen above; the covenant was not based on sacrifices but on obedience. Such a statement does not deny the institution of sacrifices for those within the covenant who are obedient. It is no "subterfuge," as Kautzsch calls it, "to say that the prophets never polemize against sacrifice per se, but only against offerings presented hypocritically, without repentance and a right disposition, with blood-stained hands; against the opera operata of the carnally-minded, half-heathen mass of the people." This is exactly what they do, and they are in perfect harmony with the covenant constitution and with their own ethical and spiritual functions. Kautzsch can make such an extravagant assertion only by ignoring the fact that Jeremiah himself in predicting the future age of righteousness and blessedness makes sacrifice an important factor (33:11,18). Picturing possible prosperity and glory, Jeremiah speaks of burnt offerings and meal offerings, frankincense, thank offerings, etc., being brought into the house of Yahweh (17:26). (We are aware of the harsh and arbitrary transference of this passage to a later time.)

Ezekiel is called by Kautzsch "the founder of the Levitical system." He is said to have preserved the fragment of the ritual that was broken up in the exile. But his references to the burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings presuppose familiarity with them (40:38-42).

He assigns the north and south chambers for the meal, sin and trespass offerings (Eze 42:13). The cleansing of the altar requires a bullock and he-goat for a sin offering, with burnt and peace offerings with a ritual similar to Le 8:1 f (Eze 43:18-27). The Levites are to be ministers and slay burnt offerings and sacrifice for the people (Eze 44:11). The priest must offer his sin offering before he ministers in the sanctuary (Eze 44:27). They are to eat the meal, sin, and trespass offerings as in Eze 44:29. In Eze 45:1-25, the people are to give the wheat, barley, oil and lambs for meal, burnt and peace offerings, while the prince shall give the meal, burnt and drink offerings for the feasts, the new moons, sabbaths and appointed feasts. He is to prepare them to make atonement (Eze 45:13-17). In cleansing the sanctuary the Levitical ritual is followed with added details (Eze 45:18-20). The Passover requires the burnt offerings, sin offerings, and meal offerings with an extra amount of cereal. The priests prepare the prince's burnt offerings and peace offerings (Eze 46:2-4,6,9-12) for the sabbaths, new moons, etc. The daily burnt offerings (Eze 46:13-15) must have a sixth instead of a tenth part of an ephah, as in Le 1:1-17. The sin and guilt offerings are to be boiled in a certain place, and the meal offering baked (Le 1:17,17). Ezekiel varies from the Levitical Law in the quantity of the meal offering, picturing the ritual in a more ideal situation than Moses. The people are all righteous, with new hearts, the Spirit in them enabling them to keep the Law (36:26 f), and yet he institutes an elaborate ritual of purification for them. Does this seem to indicate that the prophets would abolish sacrifices entirely? It is strange reasoning which makes the prophets denounce the whole sacrificial system, when one of the greatest among them seeks to conserve an elaborate cult for the blessed age in the future.

In the second part of Isaiah, God declares that He has not been honored by the people with burnt offerings and meal offerings, etc., and that He has not burdened them with such offerings, but that He is wearied with their sins (43:23 f). Those foreigners who respect the covenant shall offer acceptable sacrifices (56:7) in the blessed age to come. The Servant of Yahweh is to be a guilt offering (53:10) to expiate the sins of Israel. Sacrifice is here for the first time lifted out of the animal to the human sphere, thus forging the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the glorious age to come there are to be priests and Levites, new moons, sabbaths and worship in Jerusalem (66:21,23).

Daniel speaks of the meal offering being caused to cease in the midst of the week (9:27).

Zechariah pictures the golden age to come when all nations shall go up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, which implies sacrifices. Pots are used, and all the worshippers shall use them in the ritual (14:16-21).

In Malachi's age the ritual was in practice, but grossly abused. They offered polluted bread (1:7), blind, lame and sick animals (1:13 f). Yahweh has the same attitude toward these as toward those in the times of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah (Mal 1:10 f). The Gentiles offer better ones (Mal 1:11). The Israelites covered the altar of Yahweh with tears by their hypocritical, non-ethical actions (Mal 2:13). They robbed God in withholding tithes and heave offerings (Mal 3:8). It is the abuse of the cult that is denounced here, as in all the other Prophets.

A special use of the term "sacrifice" is made by Zephaniah (1:7 f), applying it to the destruction of Israel by Yahweh. Bozrah and Edom are to be victims (Isa 34:6); also Gog and Magog (Eze 39:17,19).

In summing up the general attitude of the prophets toward sacrifices, even G. F. Moore in Encyclopedia Biblica admits: "It is not probable that the prophets distinctly entertained the idea of a religion without a cult, a purely spiritual worship. Sacrifice may well have seemed to them the natural expression of homage and gratitude." He might have added, "and of atonement for sin, and full fellowship with God."


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