The Sacrifices in the Old Testament
The sacrifice ceremonies, which were conducted in the sanctuary in the Old Testament times, were so difficult and complicated that nobody really knew them in detail except the priests who took charge of them. Not only that, but since the types, ways and names of the sacrifices were similar or overlapped, it was not easy to tell the difference.
Since it is hard to accurately classify or explain the sacrifice ceremonies of the Old Testament, let us take a look at some sacrifice ceremonies which appear several times in the Bible or can help our life of faith.
1. Sort by the purpose of sacrifice: sin offering, guilt offering, fellowship offering
1) Sin offering
It was a sacrifice offered to achieve atonement for an unintentional sin.
There was a sin offering for the atonement for the sin of the whole community of Israel or of the high priest, and a sin offering for the sin of an individual.
『“ ‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. . . . ’ ”』 Lev 4:3-12
『“ ‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering . . . ’ ”』 Lev 4:13-26
『“ ‘If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect.’ ”』 Lev 4:27-35
For the Israelites’ sins which they committed for the past one year and for the sin of the high priest, a sin offering was offered with a goat and a young bull on the Day of Atonement, the 10th day of the seventh month by sacred calendar (Lev 16:11-19). In the New Testament times, Jesus shed blood on the cross as the true sin offering to atone the sins of people.
『When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here . . . He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.』 Heb 9:11-12
2) Guilt offering
It was a sacrifice offered to achieve the forgiveness of a sin or to be forgiven of a sin that one committed by violating God’s law unknowingly regarding a holy thing or ownership.
For a guilt offering, a female lamb or a goat was offered for a person. However, he had a financial difficulty, he offered two doves or two young pigeons. When he could not afford even this, he offered a tenth of an ephah of fine flour as an offering.
3) Fellowship offering
It was a sacrifice offered to give thanks to God for forgiving a sin. A fellowship offering was offered when they wanted to give thanks to God for His grace or made a wish or a vow or voluntary offering. Thank offering, freewill offering, vow offering belonged to the fellowship offering. In the New Testament times, Jesus became a fellowship offering which made a peaceful relationship between God and us.
『For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!』 Ro 5:10
2. Sort by offerings: burnt offering, grain offering, drink offering
1) Burnt offering
A “burnt offering” is “olah” in Hebrew, which means “to cause to ascend along with the smoke to God.” It is to offer a sacrifice to God by burning animals.
This was the kind which the Israelites used the most when they gave an offering to God. A burnt offering was offered at every regular burnt offering, the Sabbath day and the feasts. When an individual or a group gave a sacrifice, they offered sheep, goats or bulls. But if anybody was too poor to offer these animals, he offered doves or pigeons as burnt offerings. Generally, a burnt offering was offered along with grain offering and drink offering.
A burnt offering was offered for an individual or a group to receive the forgiveness of sins and mercy from God’s anger through the aroma of the burnt offering. A burnt offering was a shadow which showed that Christ would be sacrificed as a sacrificial offering, carrying the sins of His people so that they would receive mercy from God’s anger and the forgiveness of sins. Through the sacrifices carried out for the forgiveness of sins in the earthly sanctuary in the Old Testament times, God showed the true sacrifice carried out in the heavenly sanctuary.
2) Grain offering
It was a sacrifice by burning flour, oil and incense, or making bread.
It was offered to promise a pure life to God. It was not offered alone, but along with other kinds of offering such as the burnt offering.
3) Drink offering
It was a sacrifice offered with a quarter of a hin of wine.
* Hin: An Egyptian word meaning “jar,” which is used as a liquid unit for measuring olive oil or wine. One hin is equal to 3.66 liters.
『. . . its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine.』 (Feast of Firstfruits) Lev 23:13
『. . . a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering.』 (Regular burnt offering) Ex 29:40
3. Sort by the way to present offerings: offering by fire, heave offering, wave offering
1) Offering by fire
It was a sacrifice offered by fire.
A burnt offering or a grain offering was offered by fire.
『“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire.”』 Lev 23:27
『“together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil–an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma . . . ”』 Lev 23:13
2) Heave offering
It was a sacrifice offered by lifting up an offering above the burning altar. It meant that the offering was offered to God first and then the priest received it from God.
『He is to bring one of each kind as an offering [heave offering, KJV], a contribution to the LORD . . .』 Lev 7:14
『. . . and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering [heave offering, KJV] from the threshing floor.』 Nu 15:19-20
3) Wave Offering
It was a sacrifice by waving offerings.
On the Feast of Firstfruits, a priest waved a sheaf of the first grain.
『“He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.”』 Lev 23:11