Summary: Sacrifice and offering symbolize the worship of a people who fall short, who find forgiveness and, finding it, enjoy fellowship with the LORD. In these chapters a variety of sacrifices and offerings speak of that relationship.
RULES FOR SACRIFICES
“If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty” (Lev. 4:27).
Sacrifice and offering symbolize the worship of a people who fall short, who find forgiveness and, finding it, enjoy fellowship with the LORD. In these chapters a variety of sacrifices and offerings speak of that relationship.
Definition of Key Terms
Sacrifices. Animal sacrifice was an element in Old Testament worship before God gave the Law to Moses. God Himself made history’s first sacrifice, killing two animals to provide clothing for Adam and Eve after they sinned (cf. Gen. 3:21).
The sacrifices described in Leviticus 1–7 go beyond sacrifice for sin. The burnt offering symbolized complete dedication, and the fellowship offering symbolized intimate relationship. Each sacrifice called for the worshiper to lay his hands on the head of his offering, identifying himself with it in surrender of life to God.
What a healthy reminder for us. Jesus gave His life that we might be forgiven. But, as His people now, we should not live the life He redeemed for ourselves. Instead we should gladly commit ourselves to live for the LORD in dedication and holiness.
God gave Moses detailed instructions for the community on burnt offerings (1:1–17), grain offerings (2:1–16), fellowship offerings (3:1–17), sin offerings (4:1–5:13), and guilt offerings (v. 14–6:7) (see chart on page 72). God then gave Moses instructions for the priests who made these offerings (v. 8–7:21). Israel was not to eat animal fat or blood (vv. 22–27), and was to give parts of sacrificed animals to the priests (vv. 28–38).
Understanding the Text
“Bring as your offering” Lev. 1:1–17. The whole burnt offering was a voluntary sacrifice. It symbolized the commitment of the worshiper to God. It is an expression of thanks, an indication of the worshiper’s desire for fellowship with the LORD.
The shedding of blood speaks of atonement—of a covering for sin. But one thing set this offering apart. The entire animal, not just part of it, was to be consumed by fire.
For you and me too, dedication is voluntary. Salvation is ours when we accept Christ, the one Sacrifice of whom the entire Old Testament system speaks. But we have responded to Jesus fully only when we decide to dedicate our lives to the LORD too. Paul was probably thinking of the Old Testament whole burnt offering when he wrote in Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship.”
“His offering is to be of fine flour” Lev. 2:1–16. The grain offering was to be ground fine, not whole or coarse. And it was to be mixed with olive oil, crushed from the fruit of that tree with great stones.
This offering, which was to be prepared by the worshiper, symbolizes the work of our hands. Atonement was by animal sacrifice, reminding us that nothing a person can do is sufficient to pay for his sins. Blood must be shed, a life surrendered. The grain offering reminds us that once atonement is made, what we do does count. We can use our redeemed life to work for Christ and His kingdom.
“A fellowship offering” Lev. 3:1–17. The Hebrew word is shalom, “peace.” The basic sense of this powerful Hebrew term is “wholeness” or “well-being.” The fellowship offering is a celebration of the inner harmony and peace experienced by a person who is right with God. As such it was an expression of thankfulness and joy (cf. 7:12–13).
The family of the worshiper ate parts of the sacrificed animal together. The symbolism is powerful, picturing the family as guests at God’s table. To be served food in the Middle East was an honor and a mark of friendship. By serving food the host became obligated to protect his guests. Thus the fellowship offering reminds us how complete God’s welcome is. We find wholeness and well-being in the presence of our God. And He fully commits Himself to those who approach Him with faith.
Sacrifices and Offerings
Offering Scripture Procedure Disposal Symbolism
Whole Burnt(animal) Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13 Num. 28:1-8 Lay hands on head of sacrifice. Kill it on N. of altar. Blood poured on altar, rest of animal burned. Total commitment of the worshiper to the LORD.
Cereal (grain, cakes) Lev. 2; 6:14-23 Food preparation by offerer, brought to priest. Handful is burned, rest goes to the priests. Gift of personal talents to enrich commitment.
Fellowship *(animal) Lev. 3; 7:11-16 Lay hands on head of sacrifice. Kill it at door of tabernacle. Blood poured on altar, part burned, part to priests, part eaten by offerer’s family Communal meal as guests of God, thus under His protection.