“Tell the people of Israel, ‘When you have come into the land where you are going to live, which I am giving to you, and want to make an offering by fire to Adonai — a burnt offering or sacrifice to fulfill a special vow, or to be a voluntary offering, or at your designated times, to make a fragrant aroma for Adonai — then, whether it is comes from the herd or from the flock, the person bringing the offering is to present Adonai with a grain offering consisting of two quarts of fine flour mixed with one quart of olive oil, and one quart of wine for the drink offering. This is what you are to prepare with the burnt offering or for each lamb sacrificed.'”-Numbers 15:2-5
In verse 3 we encounter a type of sacrifice called an “offering by fire”
The exact nature of this offering has baffled both Jewish and gentile scholars alike for the longest time.
In Hebrew, this type of offering is called ISHEH and was to be offered together with some grain, oil and liquid.
Given this term’s clear phonetic connection to the word ESH which means “fire“, most English Bibles will render this word as “fire offering“, “burnt offering” and I’ve even seen it referred to as “fire food“.
I think to call it a “burnt offering” is to invite confusion simply because we already have a sacrifice called the Burnt Offering (OLAH in Hebrew) which we studied in Leviticus.
Although there is some debate concerning what was the original intent of this offering, the majority opinion of the Jewish sages up until the time of Yeshua was that this offering was to be considered a gift of food to the Lord that was burned up by fire.
In this sense, the renderings of “fire food” or “fire offering” seems appropriate.
Since this type of sacrifice was accompanied by offerings of grain, oil and wine, we know that the one offering up the sacrifice, whether a priest or common citizen, was allowed to keep a portion of the meat as food for themselves.
Now you may be wondering is it really a big deal and is it really necessary to go into such technical detail about what this and the other offerings are all about?
My answer is YES it is a big deal and here’s why.
The reason for the many variations of offerings and sacrifices was to teach us just how complex, insidious and multifaceted sin itself can be.
Think about it like this.
Just as all the covenants of God presented to us in the Bible are each for different purposes and do NOT cancel themselves out, the same goes for the many different sacrifices we encounter in Torah.
Each one is a for a different purpose to teach us about an important detail or aspect of our relationship with ADONAI.
This is where Christianity and the gentile church has gotten it completely wrong with their teaching that “a sin is a sin is a sin“.
That is decidedly NOT true.
Committing murder is not on the same level as ripping off a candy bar.
Through the different sacrifices and offerings, the Torah breaks down for us and teaches us that there are degrees and levels of seriousness when it comes to sin.
Let’s move on and take a look at that part of verse 3 where it says the purpose of the sacrifice was to “to make a fragrant aroma for Adonai”.
We’ve touched on this before but let me say it again: to the ancient Israelites “making a fragrant aroma for Adonai” was not taken metaphorically.
They really believed that their God Adonai had nostrils that smelled the odor emanating from the smoke and it pleased Him.
In this sense, the mindset of the Israelites was the same as their pagan neighbors.
The pagans also believed that one of the main purposes for burning up animals on sacrificial alters was to create smoke that would tickle the nostrils of their gods and goddesses.
Yes, the Israelites had been chosen and separated from the rest of the world by their God, but in many ways they still held to the current belief system of the world around them at the time.
It was going to take a while for God to remold and educate His People so that in lifestyle, word, and deed, they would be transformed into a people reflecting His Perfect Holiness.
Finally, take a look at verse 5:
“For a ram, prepare one gallon of fine flour mixed with one-and-one-third quarts of olive oil; while for the drink offering, you are to present one-and-one-third quarts of wine as a fragrant aroma for Adonai.”-Numbers 1:5
Do you remember what the scouts brought back from the Land of Canaan?
Let me give you a hint, it was an object that perfectly symbolized the fertileness of the Land of Canaan.
That’s right, I’m talking about that whopping cluster of grapes that legend has it was so big two men and a pole were needed to carry it.
Well, here’s the point I want to make.
Don’t you find it interesting that God here emphasizes the need for wine as part of the sacrificial ritual immediately after the rebellion in which the scouts brought back fruit that symbolized how good and fertile the land was?
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“I have given them your word,
and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
— just as I myself do not belong to the world.
I don’t ask you to take them out of the world,
but to protect them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world,
just as I do not belong to the world.
Set them apart for holiness by means of the truth
— your word is truth.
Just as you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world.
On their behalf I am setting myself
apart for holiness,
so that they too may be set apart
for holiness by means of the truth.”