"The National Sin Offering," 1890 Holman Bible

Leviticus 1:1-6:7: Entering God’s Presence via the sacrifice of a contrite heart

None of these sacrifices or offerings of the Tabernacle or Temple of ancient Israel apply to us today, yet all of them apply to us today. That paradox comes to us because forgiveness for diverging from the Creator’s plan has always come to mankind the same way: the old way of life must die. Offerings of blood and food never accomplished that — and never were meant to.

So then, what’s the deal with all the detailed instructions in the Bible about killing animals, pouring and sprinkling blood, burning carcasses and bringing in offerings of produce? Yeshua the Mashiakh taught in parables, and the Word of God teaches through the parable of the Tabernacle.

The punchline of the parable: When we sin, something has to die. The offerings that involved death of the animal teach that the contrite person — humble and seeking change — is transformed on the approach toward God, ultimately coming face to face with the Creator by way of the blood of the perfectly pure and innocent presented at the Tabernacle doorway. This parable memorializes Heaven’s mercy in forgiving humanity’s oopsies, carelessness, wanton disregard and even rebellion against the LORD by the Offering that only needed to be offered “once for all” (Heb. 9:11–14; 10:8–10).

The book of Leviticus as well as the first parashah of the book are called ויקרא Vayiqra or Vayikra, which means “[and] he called.” This comes from Lev. 1:1: “then he [the LORD] called to Moshe.” This flows from Ex. 40:35, describing Moshe’s not being able to enter the Tabernacle after the cloud of the Presence entered it. The book of Shemot, or Exodus, ends with the exclusion of Moshe and everyone else from God’s Presence. The book of Vayiqra is God’s instructions for how to respond to His call to enter His presence.

People entering the tabernacle would be facing towards the west, while the LORD, on His mercy seat, would face the people looking east. We read in the Prophets how the sins of the people and even the priesthood became so bad that even the priests of God would turn their backs towards God, preferring to face towards the rising sun in worship (Ezek. 8:16).

When the Bible talks about sins, transgressions and iniquities, these are not synonyms. They each have a meaning.

When Jewish children start Torah study, they begin with the book of Vayiqra. The midrash attributed to the Holy One:

“Since children are pure and sacrifices are pure, let the pure come and occupy themselves with things that are pure.” (Leviticus Rabbah 7:3)

When many Christians read Leviticus, many think, as I did, Thank God we don’t have to do this anymore. They miss the pattern and the shadow of what was to come. From the moment that the children of Israel painted their doors with blood, it was all symbolic, it was all shadow. The blood on the doorpost did absolutely nothing in and of itself. The value of the blood on the doorpost was the faith behind it.

What we see in this calling is the calling to come in. God called out from His mercy seat in the Most Holy Place to Moshe and started to tell him how people can return to His presence.

The Hebrew word translated as sacrifice or offering is קָרְבָּן qorban (Strong’s lexicon No. H7133a). The purpose of the qorbanot (plural) was to allow the people to approach and come near to God. What we are really talking about is that the people want to come near to God and this tells us how to do it. Is it the blood, smoke, blood, or the fire? Is it the bread, the animal or the wine coming near? No, it’s the person offering it, via the symbol of the offering.

The presence of God is not something one can easily approach. No one can approach Him completely and live.

The gifts and sacrifices in and of themselves can’t clear the conscience. Gifts and sacrifices can’t make the worshipper perfect in conscience.

“ ‘I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High; Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.’ ” (Psalm 50:11–15 NASB)

“Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. ‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ says the LORD. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies ― I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.’ ” (Isaiah 1:10–13 NASB)

God doesn’t need any of the grain, animals or wine coming through the door. He also doesn’t need to tolerate the “trampling” of His courts or their heartless offerings.

God is not a slot machine that one just pulls the handle and wins the jackpot. The Tabernacle was not set up for the people to “pull God’s chain.”

Heb. 9:8–10:9 puts the Tabernacle and Temple in perspective. We will see just like we seen in Psalms and Deuteronomy that it’s all about loving God with one’s heart, soul, mind and strength and one’s neighbor as oneself.

I’d encourage you to read through the entire book of Hebrews in one sitting. It’s not something to drop into randomly.

Just as Yeshua taught in parables, the Tabernacle and even the Torah itself are parables in action. If you look at the parable but ignore the punchline, the parable is just a story or a pantomime.

Where do you place your trust, in the qorbanot and a human priesthood or in The Qorban and The High Priest they were patterned after?

The quote in Heb. 10:5–9 from Psalm 40:6–8 emphasizes that this was the intent and purpose of the Tabernacle and Temple from the first revelation on Sinai. The purpose of the offerings and sacrifices are to “bring near” the worshiper to God.

Men and women are made in God’s image and when we see God’s reflection in our fellow human beings, we should praise God. This is true even if a particular person, or a particular group of people frustrate us at times.

God sits on the mercy seat but He is not in it. There are cherubim in there but there’s no specific representation of God in the tabernacle or temple.

When you look at the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, it is a representation of a person. The words of God are in the Ark, just as they are supposed to be in the hearts of His people.

Everything in the tabernacle represents a work of the spirit. The law only works if the spirit of God transforms you in the process.

Categories of offerings

All the korbanot in the Bible fall into five categories: ’olah, minkhah, shelamim, khattat and ’asham. I will focus on the grain and salted offerings today.

Qorban ’olah (burnt offering) (Lev. 1:1–17; 6:8–13)

The ’olah offering means “that which rises or goes up. The Qorban ’olah is totally consumed by fire on the altar. None of it is eaten, it’s all consumed by fire.

Qorban minkhah (grain offering) (Lev. 2:1–16: 6:14–23)

This offering is also called a “memorial portion” (Lev. 2:9 NASB). The tradition today of pinching off a piece of challah bread before baking goes back to this instruction on setting aside part of the grain offering for the priests.

No leaven or honey was used in the qorbanot minkhah. It was not to be soured or sweetened.

“‘As an offering of first fruits you shall bring them to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar.’” (Lev. 2:12 NASB)

The רֵאשִׁית resheet (H7225, first) aren’t burned up on the altar. It’s not always literally the first, but it is always the best.

Is this a shadow of the Yeshua’s ascending to the Father alive and not dead?

Rather, בִּכּוּרִים bikkurim (H1061, firstfruits) were to be roasted in fire and comes from the crushed new heads of grain.

Another word that is related to resheet is the Hebrew word רִאשׁוֹן riʾshon (H7223), which means “former, first, chief.”

Both resheet and rishon share the root verb רֹאשׁ rosh (H7218), which means head. As Christ is equal with God as Creator of the heavens and the earth (John 1) and the Word made flesh, Yeshua is at the “head” of what is created.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col. 1:15 NASB)

As the “head” of creation, both the Creator and highest expression of creation, Yeshua is the “head” of mankind. This helps explain a seemingly bizarre discussion Paul has in his letter to the congregation in Colossae about head coverings:

“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1st Cor. 11:3 NASB).

Although Christ was a son of Adam, He was greater than Adam. That is why Christ is the head of creation, rather than Adam. In Eden, Adam willfully rebelled and took the fall for Eve, who was deceived, and became her “covering.” Yet, Adam couldn’t atone for what he led them and their descendants into.

Yeshua, the “second Adam” took the fall for mankind and became the “covering” for the mankind.

Salted offerings (Lev. 2:13)

Every minkhah offering was to be seasoned with salt. This was not for flavor. But in the Day of the LORD temple described in Ezekiel, even the animal offerings would get salt. Salt is a symbol of hospitality as we see in references to salt in the book of Ezra .

“are in the service of the palace” (Ezra 4:14 NASB)

“the salt of the palace [is] our salt” (Ezra 4:14 Young’s Literal Translation)

Salt as acts as a preservative. Salt and sugar have been used since ancient times to preserve food. A brine concentration can destroy the functions of most bad bacteria, yeasts and molds. Raw salt on meats and mummies draws water out of the flesh, drying the meat and depriving decomposing microbes of the water needed to survive.  Kosher salt is used to draw blood out of the meat.

Priests and David’s line were given an “everlasting covenant of salt” (Num. 18:19; 2Chron. 13:5).

The covenant with the Levitical priesthood and David’s descendants, namely Yeshua the Messiah, would be “everlasting.”

Salt was also used as an act of war to bring on desolation and barrenness on a land. The Tanak warns that if and when Israel becomes disobedient, the Land would become so desolate, foreigners visiting it would say:

“ ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’ ” (Deuteronomy 29:23 NASB)

An ancient practice in warfare was to sow the earth around a conquered city with salt, to destroy the area’s capability to support crops to feed people.

  • Abimelech, son of Israeli judge gone bad Gideon, did so at Shechem (Judges 9:45).
  • Elisha appears to have separated via a salt-water symbol Yericho (Jericho) from the curse of the first entrance into the Land (2Kings 2:20f.; Josh. 6:26).
  • Rome sowed the area of Carthage with salt after a protracted war back and forth.

In all these cases, they used salt to make a place that was very fertile and made it desolate and unsustainable.

Salt is also used to purify things and people. The qorbanot stand-ins for the people were purified of impurities via salt.

Yeshua also taught in parables using salt, likening it to “light of the world,” i.e., a testimony of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world, then to the purification of the Day of the LORD.

“ ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13 NASB)

“ ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ ” (Mark 9:49–50 NASB)

When people are “salted with fire” they are going through difficulty, persecution, testing, discipline, which is to draw out impurity and make one a better person than when the trial started. If we have salt in ourselves we are at peace with others, there’s no strife, malice, wickedness, etc. We need to get the “salt” of Heaven to suck out malice from our lives.

Chemistry is a parable. Salt is made from sodium and chlorine, which are poisons on their own. When sodium and chlorine are combined into salt, it’s a substance that is essential for life in small doses.

Paul used the salt offering parable similarly.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:5–6 NASB)

God has called all of us to be walking, talking tabernacles of His Spirit. We also need to get the “salt” of Heaven to suck out greed and materialism from our lives. We are to be living sacrifices to Yeshua.

We are to be like the korban, the pure innocents carried through the veil to the presence of God. We are riding on the grace of Yeshua, our great sacrifice.

When those things that are “disgusting” are burned up, that is the soothing aroma to God. That is why God calls for and takes pleasure in the offerings, including death of animals. These sacrifices are parables of transformation, forgiveness and salvation. The old disgusting parts of us are burned up, only the purity remains.

Thank you, Father, for having mercy on us and taking us in.

Summary: Tammy.

Banner image: “The National Sin Offering,” The Holy Bible. Illustration. Public domain (U.S.). Philadelphia, Penn.: A.J. Holman & Company, 1890. BreadSite.org via Wikimedia Commons.

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