The Levitical Offerings

The Levitical Offerings

Archie Naismith, M.A.

During his recent visit to Canada, Mr. Archie Naismith, M.A. supplied the Editor with an excellent series of articles on the Levitical Offerings. Formerly our brother was a missionary in India; he is now encouraging and fortifying God’s people in the homelands with oral and written ministry.

I. Introduction

The prescribed offerings were an integral part of Jewish ritual and associated with the moral and ceremonial cleansing of God’s earthly people. In them is contained the provisions God made for Israel as a nation, as a society and as individuals. They were part of the old conditional covenant between Jehovah and the chosen race at Sinai. The “bringing in of a better hope,” the ratification of the new covenant of which Jesus, the Son of God, is Mediator and Surety, eliminated the ceremonial of the old covenant while maintaining the moral standard required by a God of infinite holiness. The atoning death of Christ on the cross accomplished what all those sacrifices could never bring about and met fully the claims of divine righteousness.

“Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away one stain.
But Christ the heavenly Lamb took all our guilt away,
A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.”

“The blood of Christ” is a predominant feature in the gospel as set forth in Paul’s letter to the Romans and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but the contexts are different. In Romans sin is considered as guilt, and the scene is set in a court of justice. In Hebrews sin is viewed as defilement, and the background is the sanctuary of God. In Romans the believer is justified by the blood of Christ and his sins are forgiven: while in Hebrews he is sanctified by the blood and his conscience and life are cleansed.

The Book of Exodus registers the birth of the nation of Israel, recounts its redemption from Egypt’s slavery and from sin’s penalty by blood (Chapter 12) and by power (Chapter 14), describes the ratification of the nation’s covenant with Jehovah by blood (Chapter 24), and depicts a people in the enjoyment of redemption and liberty providing a sanctuary in the wilderness for God to dwell among them. Leviticus resumes the nation’s progress and declares the way of approach to a holy God on the ground of sacrifice and through the mediation of consecrated priests. The opening chapters set forth God’s requirements as well as His provisions in the various offerings, their ritual and their laws; and these are followed by regulations for the purification of those who are physically and ceremonially unclean.

The types of offerings are mentioned in connection with Israel’s approach to a holy God. Five of those are described in more detail than the others and occupy the first seven chapters of the Book of Leviticus. These are — the Burnt Offering, or holocaust (called in Deut. 33:10 and Ps. 51:19 a whole burnt offering), the Meal Offering, or present, the Peace Offering which often took the form of a thank-offering (Lev. 7:12), the Sin Offering, and the Trespass Offering. These are usually termed the Levitical offerings because of the prominence assigned to them in that book.

The Drink Offering, or libation —a liquid offering, as the name implies — is also mentioned in Leviticus (23:13, 18, 37) in connection with the Feasts of Jehovah. Other references to it are found in Exodus (29: 40, 41; 30:9) and Numbers, especially in verses 5-10 of chapter 15, where details are given of the quantities of wine and oil to be measured when offered with the animals in the burnt offering, in life (Phil. 2:17) and in death (2 Tim. 4:6). The epithets applied to other offerings indicate either their nature or the manner of their presentation. Such are the freewill or voluntary offerings (Lev. 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; Num. 15:3, etc.), wood offering (Neh. 10:34; 13:31), and wave and heave offerings which are frequently mentioned.

In considering first those in the earlier chapters of Leviticus, the careful student will observe that three of them, the Burnt, Meal and Peace offerings, are offerings made by fire and also of a sweet savour (very fragrant) unto Jehovah. He will also have distinguished between the Meal offering (“Meat offering” in the A.V.) and the other four, as composed of ingredients from the vegetable kingdom and not involving the slaying of a victim or the shedding and sprinkling of blood. He will further have noticed that in one offering only, that for trespass or injury inflicted, there is no choice as to the category of the animal victim; it must be a ram without blemish (Lev. 5:15, 18).

In two portions of Scripture —Psalm 49:6 and Hebrews 10:5-6, 8 —four of the offerings are mentioned altogether three times. The one omitted is the trespass offering.

Before we proceed to the study of these offerings, we might find a simple outline in tabular form helpful in conveying at a glance their distinctive features.

Name of the Offering





Burnt Offering

That which Ascends



Devout worship

Meal Offering

A present



Holiness in life

Peace Offering





Sin Offering

Sin and its Penalty




Trespass Offering





O unutterable exchange! The Sinless One is condemned, the guilty go free; the Blessed bears the curse, the cursed bears the blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is covered with shame, and the shame is covered with glory.

—Lefevre, 1512