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וַיִּקְרָא • V'yikra
(“And He Called”)
The Third Book of Moses,
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The Sacrifices in Leviticus[1]

There are five main types of sacrifices, or offerings, in Leviticus. The burnt offering (Leviticus 1; 6:8–13; 8:18-21; 16:24), the grain offering (Leviticus 2; 6:14–23), the peace offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11–34), the sin offering (Leviticus 4; 5:1–13; 6:24–30; 8:14–17; 16:3–22), and the trespass offering (Leviticus 5:14–19; 6:1–7; 7:1–6). Each of these sacrifices involved certain elements, either animal or fruit of the field, and had a specific purpose. Most were split into two or three portions — God’s portion, the portion for the Levites or priests, and, if there was a third, a portion kept by the person offering the sacrifice. The sacrifices can be broadly categorized as either voluntary or mandatory offerings.

Voluntary Sacrifices

There were three voluntary offerings. The first was the burnt offering, a voluntary act of worship to express devotion or commitment to God. It was also used as an atonement for unintentional sin. The elements of the burnt offering were a bull, a bird, or a ram without blemish. The meat and bones and organs of the animal were to be totally burnt, and this was God’s portion. The animal’s hide was given to the Levites, who could later sell it to earn money for themselves.

The second voluntary offering was the grain offering, in which the fruit of the field was offered in the form of a cake or baked bread made of grain, fine flour, and oil and salt. The grain offering was one of the sacrifices accompanied by a drink offering of one-quarter hin (about a quart) of wine, which was poured into the fire on the altar (Numbers 15:4–5). The purpose of the grain offering was to express thanksgiving in recognition of God’s provision and unmerited goodwill toward the person making the sacrifice. The priests were given a portion of this offering, but it had to be eaten within the court of the tabernacle.

The third voluntary offering was the peace offering, which consisted of any unblemished animal from the worshiper’s herd, and/or various grains or breads. This was a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fellowship followed by a shared meal. The high priest was given the breast of the animal; the officiating priest was given the right foreleg. These pieces of the offering were called the “wave offering” and the “heave offering” because they were waved or lifted over the altar during the ceremony. The fat, kidneys, and lobe of the liver were given to God (burnt), and the remainder of the animal was for the participants to eat, symbolizing God’s provision. The vow offering, thanksgiving offering, and freewill offering mentioned in the Old Testament were all peace offerings.

Mandatory Sacrifices

There are two mandatory sacrifices in the Torah. The first is the sin offering. The purpose of the sin offering is to atone for sin and cleanse from defilement. There were five possible elements of a sin sacrifice — a young bull, a male goat, a female goat, a dove/pigeon, or 1/10 ephah[GN] of fine flour. The type of animal depended on the identity and financial situation of the giver. A female goat was the sin offering for the common person, fine flour was the sacrifice of the very poor, a young bull was offered for the high priest and the congregation as a whole, and so on. These sacrifices each had specific instructions for what to do with the blood of the animal during the ceremony. The fatty portions and lobe of the liver and kidneys were given to God (burnt); the rest of the animal was either totally burned on the altar and the ashes thrown outside the camp (in atoning for the high priest and congregation), or eaten within the tabernacle court.

The other mandatory sacrifice was the trespass offering, and this sacrifice was exclusively a ram. The trespass offering was given as atonement for unintentional sins that required reimbursement to an offended party, and also as a cleansing from defiling sins or physical maladies. Again, the fat portions, kidneys, and liver were offered to God, and the remainder of the ram had to be eaten inside the court of the tabernacle.

The sacrifices in the Torah pointed forward to the perfect and final sacrifice of Messsiah. The sacrifices were “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah” (Colossians 2:17). Yeshua-followers today recognize His atoning death on the cross as the only needed sacrifice for sin, offered once for all (Hebrews 10:1–10). His death opened the “holy place” for us (Hebrews 10:19–22) so that we can freely enter God’s presence and offer our “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15; cf. 9:11–28; 4:14—5:10).

The Burnt Offering[2]

The burnt offering, also called elevation-offering or olah-offering,[10] is one of the oldest and most common offerings in history. It’s entirely possible that Abel’s offering in Genesis 4:4 was a burnt offering, although the first recorded instance is in Genesis 8:20 when Noah offers burnt offerings after the flood. God ordered Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, in a burnt offering in Genesis 22, and then provided a ram as a replacement. After suffering through nine of the ten plagues, Pharaoh decided to let the people go from bondage in Egypt, but his refusal to allow the Israelites to take their livestock with them in order to offer burnt offerings brought about the final plague that led to the Israelites’ delivery (Exodus 10:24-29).

The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” actually means to “ascend,“ literally to “go up in smoke.” The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, “a soothing aroma to the Yehovah”[GN] (Leviticus 1:9). Technically, any offering burned over an altar was a burnt offering, but in more specific terms, a burnt offering was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide) in an effort to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man. With the development of the law, God gave the Israelites specific instructions as to the types of burnt offerings and what they symbolized.

Leviticus 1 and 6:8-13 describe the traditional burnt offering. The Israelites brought a bull, sheep, or goat, a male with no defect, and killed it at the entrance to the tabernacle. The animal’s blood was drained, and the priest sprinkled blood around the altar. The animal was skinned and cut it into pieces, the intestines and legs washed, and the priest burned the pieces over the altar all night. The priest received the skin as a fee for his help. A turtledove or pigeon could also be sacrificed, although they weren’t skinned.

A person could give a burnt offering at any time. It was a sacrifice of general atonement—an acknowledgement of the sin nature and a request for renewed relationship with God. God also set times for the priests to give a burnt offering for the benefit of the Israelites as a whole, although the animals required for each sacrifice varied:

The ultimate fulfillment of the burnt offering is in Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. His physical life was completely consumed, He ascended to God, and His covering (that is, His garment) was distributed to those who officiated over His sacrifice (Matthew 27:35). But most importantly, His sacrifice, once for all time, atoned for our sins and restored our relationship with God.

The Grain Offering[3]

A grain offering is a type of sacrifice described in the Torah (Leviticus 2) that the Israelites offered to God. A grain offering would have most likely been one of wheat or barley, depending on what was available. While other sacrifices had very specific instructions from God as to how they were to be offered, the rules governing grain offerings had some flexibility.

A grain offering could be given to God either uncooked or cooked in an oven or pan (Leviticus 2:1; 4—5). The requirements for the grain offering were that it had to be finely ground and have oil and salt in it (Leviticus 2:1, 4, 13). It could not have any yeast (also called leaven) or honey in it (Leviticus 2:11). When a person brought a grain offering to the priests, a small portion of it was offered to God, with some frankincense, on the altar. The rest of the grain offering went to the priests (Leviticus 2:10). No specific amount of grain was required for an offering; people were free to give what they had.

The grain offering is described as “a most holy part of the food offerings presented to the Lord” (Leviticus 2:10b). Grain offerings would often be presented after a burnt offering, which was an animal sacrifice God required for the atonement of sin. Blood had to be shed for the remission of sins to take place, so a grain offering would not serve the same purpose as a burnt offering. Instead, the purpose of a grain offering was to worship God and acknowledge His provision. The burnt offering, which had strict regulations and could have nothing added to it, aptly represents the fact that we take no part in our atonement for sin. The grain offering, however, could be somewhat “personalized” in its presentation. It was to be given out of a person’s free will, just as our worship is our free will offering to God today.

It’s interesting to note that during the Israelites’ forty years of wilderness wandering grain would have been quite scarce. This made grain offerings more costly and precious for the people to offer to God. Giving a grain offering in those circumstances represented the Israelites’ complete dependence on God to provide for their needs each day. Until the Temple is rebuild in the Kingdom Period when Yeshua returns to reign physically over the earth, we can not do sacrifices as they did in when the Temple stood. But, if the grain offering is similar to our offering of worship, it’s interesting to consider: how much does our worship today cost us?

The Drink Offering[4]

The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was that given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40. One-quarter hin, about one quart, of wine was poured out into the altar fire for each lamb sacrificed (Numbers 15:4-5). A ram sacrifice required one third of a hin (Numbers 15:6), and a bull required one half (Numbers 15:10).

It has been speculated that the offering of an animal, grain, oil, and wine—the smoke making a “soothing aroma to the Yehovah”—is a metaphor for providing food for God, an important cultural requirement in the Middle East. What we do know is that the pouring out of a drink offering is a metaphor for the blood Yeshua spilled on the cross. Yeshua spoke to this directly in Luke 22:20 when He instituted the New Covenant. He picked up a cup of wine and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Yeshua’s sacrifice fulfills the need of a drink offering until He returns, His blood literally pouring out when the soldier pierced His side with a spear (John 19:34).

Rav Sha'ul (Paul) took the metaphor further, twice using the image of a drink offering to describe his own service. In Philippians 2:17, he challenged the church in Philippi to live a life worthy of his dedication to them. In 2 Timothy 4:6, he sensed the end of his ministry, again comparing his efforts to wine poured out of a vessel onto an altar.

Peace Offering[5]

The modern idea of a peace offering, also known as a fellowship offering, is that of “a propitiatory or conciliatory gift.” A man who offends his wife will often visit a florist with the thought that bringing home flowers will help smooth things over—the bouquet will be a “peace offering” of sorts. Propitiate means “to make someone pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired,” and conciliatory means “intended to placate or pacify.” These definitions are interesting because the phrase peace offering has come to mean something completely different—almost the exact opposite—of what it originally meant in the Bible.

A peace offering in the Torah is described in Leviticus 7:11–21. It was a voluntary sacrifice given to God in three specific instances. First, a peace offering could be given as a freewill offering, meaning that the worshiper was giving the peace offering as a way to say thank you for God’s unsought generosity. It was basically just a way to praise God for His goodness. The second way a peace offering could be given was alongside a fulfilled vow. A good example of this was when Hannah fulfilled her vow to God by bringing Samuel to the temple; on that occasion she also brought a peace offering to express the peace in her heart toward God concerning her sacrifice—it was a way to say, “I have no resentment; I am holding nothing back in the payment of my vow.” The third purpose of a peace offering was to give thanksgiving for God’s deliverance in an hour of dire need. None of these three reasons to sacrifice had anything to do with propitiation, with appeasing God, or with pacifying Him.

In the Torah there are sacrifices intended to represent propitiation (Leviticus 1—2; 4) but with the understanding that God has always been a God of grace (see Ephesians 2:8–9). He does not expect us to appease Him with our works but only to confess our need and dependence on Him. This relationship, expressed by the sacrificial system, always looks forward to the sacrifice of the Messiah. Under the New Covenant, the Torah has been written on our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3), and the Holy Spirit of God gives us the power to live our lives accordingly (Romans 8:1–8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). The sacrifices we give now are spiritual (Hebrews 13:15) and living (Romans 12:1).

Most sacrifices in the Levitical system were not eaten by worshipers, but the peace offering was meant to be eaten—only a portion of the animal or grain brought to the altar was burned; the rest was given back to the worshiper and to the poor and hungry. The beautiful picture here is of God’s provision for His people, both physically and spiritually. His grace and goodness are present throughout the offerings. In the peace offering, God was providing what we need: a way to thank Him for His goodness and physical sustenance.

God is not interested in taking from us. That is not His heart at all. But the lie we so often believe is that our good actions bring about His goodness, and our sinful actions must be paid for in personal sacrifice. The peace offering shows that worshipers in Temple times were not any more responsible for their salvation than worshipers now. Throughout the ages, people have been tempted to think that sacrifices create God’s favor. This belief is evident in our modern understanding of a peace offering as a propitiation for wrongdoing. But only Messiah’s sacrifice creates favor with God and covers wrongdoing, and the sacrifices were a picture of that future provision.

Wave Offering[6]

The wave offering was the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord. Portions of the things offered were literally waved in the air before the Lord. The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the ordination ceremony of Aharon and his sons. This is the only instance where part of the wave offering was consumed by fire (Exodus 29:25). The remainder was “waved” to God but taken by Aharon, his sons, and Moshe.

Other instances of wave offerings include the breast of a peace offering (Leviticus 7:28-34), a lamb from the cleansing sacrifice of a healed leper (Leviticus 14:12), and two loaves of bread and two lambs of the sacrifice affiliated with the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9-15). The largest wave offering was of an entire tribe. Because of their loyalty during the episode with the golden calf (Exodus 32), God accepted the Levites in the service of His temple in place of the firstborn male of each Israelite family (Numbers 3:12).

A wave offering was a portion of a sacrifice presented to God, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat fed the families of the priests. The Levites served first the tabernacle and then the temple, fulfilling the obligation of the rest of the Israelites. Both were God’s provision for those who sacrificed themselves in service to Him.

Sin Offering[7]

A sin offering was a sacrifice, made according to the Mosaic Law, which provided atonement for sin. The Hebrew phrase for “sin offering” literally means “fault offering.” The sin offering was made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional sins. The ritualistic method of the sin offering and the animal to be offered varied depending on the status of the sinner. For example, a high priest who sinned unintentionally would offer a young bull. A king or a prince would offer a young male goat. People in the private sector would sacrifice a young female goat or lamb, unless they were too poor, in which case they were only required to offer two turtledoves or pigeons. Full details of the sin offering and the requirements associated with it are enumerated in Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15.

Again, the sin offering was sacrificed when a person sinned unintentionally by breaking one of the Lord’s commandments and later realized his guilt (Leviticus 4:27). Sin offerings were also part of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, as the high priest made two sin offerings: a bull for himself and a young male goat for the congregation (Leviticus 16:11, 15). In a sin offering, the live animal was brought to the altar, and the sinner was required to lay his hand on the head of the animal (Leviticus 4:29). Then the animal was killed, at which point the priest would take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar (verse 30). In some cases, some of the blood was also sprinkled inside the tabernacle (verses 6 and 17). Then all the rest of the blood was poured at the base of the altar (verse 34). The fat of the sin offering was removed and burned on the altar. In some cases, the body of the animal was burned outside the camp (verse 12); in other cases, the meat of the sin offering could be eaten by the priests. “In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven” (verse 35).

The sin offering was a poignant picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua for the sins of the world. He was a “lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; cf. Leviticus 4:32) whose precious blood was spilled after being publicly slain. Yeshua was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, just as the sin offering was to be burnt outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12; cf. Leviticus 4:12). Just as the sacrificial lamb makes atonement for unintentional sins, Yeshua’s blood made atonement for the sin of any person who realizes his guilt before God and asks for that atonement to be applied to him (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

Every person has violated God’s Torah in one way or another, whether we realize it or not. Humanity is sinful, and we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:23). It must have been painful for sinners under the Mosaic Law to slaughter an innocent animal when they knew they were the ones who had done wrong. In the same way, it is painful for us to admit our guilt and to know that the innocent and holy Son of God took the punishment for our sin. But this salvation God has provided, and it is the only way. Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Praise the Lord that sin offerings are no longer required, because we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Trespass/Guilt Offering[8]

The trespass offering (KJV, NKJV) or guilt offering (NIV, ESV, NASB) is described in Leviticus 5:14–19; 7:1–7; and 14:12–18. Two practical instances that would require a guilt offering are described in Leviticus 19:20–22 (a man sleeping with a slave who is engaged to another man) and Numbers 6:9–12 (a Nazarite who accidentally violates his vows). This offering should not be confused with the sin offering.

The trespass/guilt offering was required when a person unintentionally violated some of the Lord’s holy things. “Holy things” would normally refer to things that had been dedicated to the Lord—anything from the sanctuary itself to the portion of the offerings that were normally reserved for the priests. How this could happen inadvertently is not spelled out, but perhaps a person forgot to fulfill a vow, made some mistake in the fulfilling of it, accidently ate food that was reserved for the priests, or mistakenly ate a firstborn animal from his own flock. In these cases the offender had to bring a sacrificial animal (an unblemished ram or male lamb) to offer and also compensate the priests an extra 20 percent for what they had been deprived. (The priests and Levites were the recipients of many of the offerings that were offered to the Lord—this was the provision that the Lord made for their support as they had no land of their own.) The offender could also bring, instead of an animal, the price of the animal in silver. When a person with a very sensitive (perhaps oversensitive) conscience thought that he might have sinned against holy property, he could bring the trespass/guilt offering “just in case,” but in that situation no restitution was made to the priests.

The trespass offering was also brought when a person had committed a violation against another person. In this case the offender had to repay damages plus 20 percent in addition to making the animal sacrifice.

In a trespass offering, the ram or male lamb was slaughtered; the blood was splashed on the altar, and some of the blood was applied to the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe of the one making the offering. Then oil was applied to the same places, and the head of the one making the offering was anointed. Most of the sacrificial animal was burned; however, the priests were able to eat some portions while they were in the sanctuary.

The trespass or guilt offering is primarily about making reparations. It demonstrates the seriousness of violations against God (even accidental ones) and against one’s fellow man. An atoning sacrifice has to be made before God, and restitution has to be made to man. The trespass offering was a bloody demonstration of atonement and reconciliation, but it was also a demonstration of grace as provision was made for reparations for the wrongdoing. This sacrifice was not the final solution. It pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of Messiah by which sinners can be restored to fellowship with God and with each other (Hebrews 9:15).

The Daily Sacrifices

Exodus 29: 38 “Now this is that which you shall offer on the altar: two year-old lambs every day continually. 39 You are to offer one lamb in the morning, and the other lamb at twilight; 40 with the first lamb offer a tenth of an efah[GN] of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin[GN] of oil from pressed olives, and a drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. 41 Offer the second lamb at evening, the same way you offer the morning grain and drink offering — it will be a pleasant aroma, an offering made by fire to Yehovah. 42 Throughout your generations this is to be a regular burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before Yehovah. There I will meet with you, to speak there to you. 43 There I will meet with the people of Isra'el, and the place will be sanctified by My glory. 44 I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar. I will also sanctify Aharon and his sons to serve me as cohenim. 45 I will dwell among the people of Isra'el, and will be their Elohim. 46 They shall know that I am Yehovah their Elohim, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them. I am Yehovah their Elohim.

It will be well for us if we can remember that Yehovah our God is absolutely holy, and nothing that is not holy can come into His presence. Alternatively, because He is holy, He cannot dwell in the presence of anything that is not likewise holy. All the other sacrifices were intended to make people holy so they could commune with their holy God, but the twice daily perpetual sacrifice was to cleanse God’s dweling place, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, so that the Shekinah of Yehovah could dwell physically among His people.

Also known as the Perpetual Sacrifice

The first lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at dawn Mishnah: Tamid 3:2-3:3 The priests prepare the altar
[Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 6:1-6; Mishnah: Tamid 1:2]
The first lamb is sacrificed at 9AM Mishnah: Tamid 3:7; Edersheim, The Temple, chapter 7, p. 108 9AM is the first hour of prayer  [Acts 2:15] Temple gates open "Shacharit"(morning)
The second lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at noon
Mishnah: Tamid 4:1
Noon is the second hour of prayer [Acts 3:1; 10:9] "Minchah" (gift-offering)
The second lamb is sacrificed at 3PM Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3 (14:65);  Philo Special Laws I, XXXV (169) 3PM is the third hour of prayer; also called the hour of confession [Acts 3:1; 10:9] "Ma'ariv" (evening: our afternoon is the Jewish evening= next day began at sundown)
[3 hours of prayer see Mishnah Berakhot]

The Jewish day began at sundown. The daytime was divided into 12 seasonal hours, but the day division of hours was focused on the schedule of the Tamid sacrifice. In the first century AD the night was divided into 4 night watches of 3 hours each:
(1) from sundown to 9PM;
(2) from 9PM to 12 midnight;
(3) from 12 midnight to 3AM; and
(4) from 3AM to dawn.
   A trumpet call, known as the “cockcrow” signaled the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th watch. See “Weights and Measures.”

  1. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 2. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 3. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 4. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 5. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 6. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 7. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 8. Adapted from, accessed 24 February 2023. [BACK]

 9. Chart © Michal E. Hunt, “The Talmid Daily Sacrifice.”, 1998, Revised 2007. accessed 24 February 2023. Used by permission. [BACK]

10. “Elevaton offering” translates the single word עֹלָ֤ה (olah, ascent), following the example of the ArtScroll Chumash, which contains a detailed explanation of the translation choice.

עֹלָ֤הElevation-offering. An olah-offering may be brought by someone who has intentionally committed a sin for which the Torah does not prescribe a punishment or who failed to perform a positive commandment, by someone who had sinful thoughts that have not been carried out in deed, and by anyone who ascends to Jerusalem for the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. Similarly, it may be brought by anyone who wishes to raise his spiritual level.

There are various versions of the translation of olah, a word whose root, עלה,  connotes going up. According to Rashi and Radak, olah means an offering that is completely burned [apparently because it goes up in flames to God].

Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and R' Bachya hold that the name refers to the sin for which one generally brings the offering. It atones for sinful ideas or thoughts, which come up in a person’s mind or imagination.

R' Hirsch comments that the offering’s name reflects its purpose, which is to raise its owner from the status of sinner and bring him to a state of spitirual elevation.

Tanchuma (Tzav I) states that it is called olah because it is superior [עליונה]  to all other offerings [because it is voluntarily brought and is offered on the Altar in its entirety].

Our translation, elevation-offering, is literal and allows for all the above conotations. [BACK]



Originally posted on Friday, 24 February 2023

Page last updated on Wednesday, 03 May 2023 12:22 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

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