Chapter 1

The Burnt Offering

  • The first major section of Leviticus (1:1- 7:38) deals with the institution of the sacrificial system and the priesthood. The sacrifices were either for atonement (the whole burnt offering, sin offering, and guilt offering) or for worship (grain offering and peace offering). Each one taught theology through hands-on approach. Priests were required to officiate in the sacrificial worship at the Tabernacle, to instruct God’s people in the revelation given to Moses at Mount Sinai, and to represent the people before God, such as on the Day of Atonement (Ch. 16). Priests were provided for by receiving a portion of the offerings.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

    • The Lord called Moses to the tent of meeting and told him to give the Israelites the following instructions:

      • When someone brings an offering from their livestock, it can be from either their herd of cattle or their flock of sheep or goats.”

        • Guzik writes, “The sacrificial system was an essential element of the Mosaic covenant, because it was impossible to live up to the requirements of the law. Sin was dealt with through sacrifice… This was not the beginning of God’s sacrificial system. Adam knew of sacrifice (Genesis 3:21), as did Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-4), and Noah (Genesis 8:20-21)…The idea of sacrifice to the gods was not unique to Israel. Other nations and cultures practiced sacrifice, often ultimately involving human sacrifice. The universality of sacrifice is evidence that the concept was know to man before the flood, and was carried to different cultures from the survivors of the flood in Noah’s day.”

        • “Because sacrifice was already known to Israel, these instructions to the priests are not particularly new – they are mostly a clarification of a foundation that was already known to Israel through the traditions of their fathers…God had a wise timing in bringing the law of the sacrifices at this time. Before the Tabernacle of Meeting was built, there was no one place of sacrifice, and the procedures for sacrifice couldn’t really be codified. But now with the completion of the Tabernacle, Israel could bring their sacrifice to one place and follow the same procedures for each sacrifice.”

      • “If the animal to be sacrificed is from the herd it has to be a male with no defects (unblemished). Bring it to the Tabernacle entrance, lay your hand on its head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place so that you will be purified, making you right with Him (making atonement). Kill the young bull, then Aaron’s sons (the priests) will present the blood by sprinkling it on the sides of the altar in front of the Tabernacle entrance. Skin it, cut it into pieces, then Aaron’s sons will build a fire on the altar and place the pieces of the offering on it. The person bringing the offering must wash the internal organs and legs with water, then the priest will burn the entire thing as a burnt offering- a special gift which has a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

        • “The Hebrew word (‘olah- ‘what goes up’) implies the ascent of the animal in flame and smoke. Except for its hide, given in payment to the officiating priest (7:8), this offering was burned completely on the altar (1:9). It’s purpose was to satisfy God’s wrath against sin, ceremonially cleansing the worshiper and restoring him or her to fellowship with God (Romans 3:25; 8:3; II Corinthians 5:18-21)… In the dry, bursh-encrusted hills of southern Palestine, cattle were much more difficult to raise than sheep or goats. This meant a bull without defect was an animal of great value…This act (the laying of hands on the animal’s head) signified that the animal’s death represented the death of its owner)” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

        • “It was not enough that the victim merely died. The one receiving atonement had to actively identify himself with the sacrifice. In the same way, it is not enough to know that Jesus died for the sins of the world. The one who would receive His atonement must “reach out” and identify himself with Jesus.” (Guzik)

        • “Hebrew qorban, ‘offering,’ is a generic term for anything presented to God at the sactuary. Archaeological excavations at various sites in Israel have uncovered objects inscribed with the term qorban. The term is transliterated in the NT as Corban (Mark 7:11). The ‘herd’ (Hebrew- baqar) was the most valuable cateogry of sacrificial animals; it is always listed first.” (HCSB commentary)

        • The HCSB commentary also notes, “The ‘pleasing aroma’ of the burnt offering coveys the idea that God accepted the sacrifice.”

      • “If the animal to be sacrificed comes from the flock (a sheep or goat) it must be a male with no defects. Kill it on the north side of the altar and the priests will sprinkle the blood on all the sides of the altar. Cut it into pieces, wash the internal organs and legs, then the priest will arrange the pieces on the altar and burn the whole thing as a burnt offering- a special gift and pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

        • “Permission to offer lesser animals was to make the animal, and therefore atonement, more affordable to common Israelites. The method of offering these animals closely parallels (the only difference is that it is not skinned) the offering of the bulls outlined in 1:3-9.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • “If you give a bird as a burnt offering to the Lord it has to be either a turtle dove or a young pigeon. The priest will take it to the altar, wring off its head, drain its blood against the side of the altar, and remove the crop and feathers (throwing them in the ashes on the east side of the altar), tear it open (holding it by the wings), and burn it on the altar- it’s a special gift and pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

        • “Birds were plentiful, cheap, and easy to catch. This meant that atonement and worship through sacrifices were not only for the rich and priviledged; the poor were also included.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

        • “ At the same time, the sacrifice had to correspond with what one could afford. It was wrong for a rich man to only offer a bird as a burnt offering. Therefore, when God made His offering for sin, He gave the richest, most costly thing He could – Himself.” (Guzik)