Before we move on to chapter 6 of Leviticus which begins dealing with the ritual procedures for each of the FIVE major sacrifices, I wanted to go ahead and do a quick review of what we’ve studied so far.
The five major sacrifices are as follows:
This sacrifice in English is usually called the “Burnt Offering”. But that is what scholars call a “functional translation”. If we were to translate OLAH literally it would come to something like “Near Offering” or “Ascending Offering”. The idea is to picture the smoke ASCENDING upwards towards the sky where the Lord resided. One characteristic of this offering is that the sacrificial animal was completely burned up on the Brazen Altar and it is classified as a PERSONAL OFFERING meaning that this offering is made by an individual on behalf of himself.
This OLAH or “burnt offering” was the most common of all the offerings and was offered up EVERY DAY IN THE MORNING AND EVENING and a whole range of domesticated animals were acceptable for the burnt offering.
Purpose of the OLAH
The purpose of this regular every morning and every evening sacrifice was to maintain a harmonious relationship with the Lord. It was NOT offered up to atone for a sin that a worshipper had committed. Think of a servant bringing a gift to a king in order to be in his good graces.
The MINCHAH is the “Grain Offering” and to be specific it was the SEMOLINA, the best part of the head of grain, that was offered up. The SEMOLINA was ground up, turned into a ball of dough, and then tossed onto the altar to be burned up. So technically speaking, the MINCHAH was also considered to be a “Burnt Offering”.
There is one major difference between the OLAH and MINCHAH outside of the fact that one is an animal sacrifice and the other a grain sacrifice. With the OLAH, the burnt offering, the WHOLE ANIMAL was placed on the bronze altar to be completely burned up. However, with the MINCHAH, the grain offering, only a small portion of the grain was to be burnt up on the altar, the remainder was to be used for food.
Purpose of MINCHAH
The MINCHAH was practically always offered up together with the OLAH and its purpose was similar to the OLAH. They both were essentially gifts to the Lord. However, they were required gifts. So it was more like paying tribute. First, the OLAH is offered to first establish peace between the worshipper and the Lord. Afterwards, as a reinforcing measure, the MINCHAH is offered to keep the Lord’s attention and get Him to look favorably upon the worshipper.
IMPORTANT: Together, the OLAH and the MINCHAH sacrificial offerings were offered up to atone for an inherent corruption in mankind that causes tension between man and the Lord. In other words, these offerings were provided to atone for MAN’S SIN NATURE and NOT any specific sinful actions he may have committed.
The full title of this offering is the ZEVAH SHELAMIM and is normally called the “Peace Offering”. Like the OLAH and the MINCHAH, it had nothing to do with specific infractions committed.
The ZEVAH represents a lower class of offering than the OLAH or the MINCHAH because with the OLAH and MINCHAH sacrifices, ONLY the priests were allowed to use or benefit from some part of the sacrificial offering. However, the meat from the ZEVAH could also be shared with BOTH the worshipper and the priests.
Purpose of the ZEVAH
The ZEVAH was usually offered up in the three following ways:
For example, if an Israelite found himself in a troubling situation and he didn’t know why, he would offer up a ZEVAH as a general confession of his sinful condition and unworthiness.
This type of ZEVAH was offered up to get the Lord to get you out of a sticky predicament and in return you promised to do something for him. For example, you might say something like “Lord, if you get me out of this student loan debt, then I promise to tithe all my earnings to Israel to help them build the 3rd temple” or something like that.
This kind of ZEVAH was presented out of the benevolence or religious impulse of the heart of the giver, and NOT in fulfillment of any obligation, promise, or vow. It was a spontaneous expression of gratitude and appreciation for all that the Lord had done in your life. Free-will offerings were made especially on great feast-days such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Most Bibles will universally call this sacrifice the “Sin Offering” but I have opted to call it the “Purification Offering”.
Purpose of the HATTA-AT
The purpose of this sacrifice was not to pay off the debt one accrued because of his sin but to neutralize the toxic effects that resulted BECAUSE of the sin committed. It is like the sinner has become infected with a powerful poison and the chances of his survival are now quite precarious. The HATTA-AT was the antidote to neutralize the effects of that poison.
This is the reason why I have chosen to call this offering the “Purification Offering”, because it purifies one from the toxic effects of his sin.
This is normally called the “Guilt Offering” but I have decided to call it the “Reparation Offering”. This sacrifice gives us a “commercial” model of how sin affects us. It show us that our sin creates a debt to God for which reparations must be paid via the blood of an innocent animal.
PURPOSE OF THE ASHAM
This sacrifice paid the reparations owed FOR THE WORSHIPPER because of his sin. It paid the debt he owed the Lord so that His relationship to the Almighty could be restored. When the gentile mind thinks of the Levitical animal sacrifices, this offering is probably closest to what he has in mind.
-The OLAH, MINCHAH, and ZEVAH had NOTHING to do with the commission of sins. These first three sacrifices did NOT deal with specific trespasses against the Lord per se. Rather these sacrifices dealt with mankind’s corrupt nature before a Holy God.
-Sin is much more complex and multi-faceted than the Gentile church has made it out to be. The church has made a great error in saying that ALL sins are the same before a Holy God. Leviticus teaches us the exact opposite.