The Old Covenant Book of Leviticus outlines five special Levitical fire offerings and sacrifices. The Burnt Offering is for the sanctification of the whole man in self-surrender to the Lord even unto death. The Meal Offering is the fruit of that sanctification. The Peace Offering is the blossoming of the possession and enjoyment of saving grace. The Sin Offering is for making amends for sin. The Trespass Offering was for the restoration of rights that had been violated.
“The New Testament views all the old covenant sacrifices as types of the death of Christ. The different sacrifices bring out different aspects of the significance of his death. Lambs sacrificed every morning and evening were the most typical victim, so Jesus is called ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Indeed he died at the time of the evening sacrifice.” (3)
The Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1:3-17)
While the Burnt Offering is the first of the Levitical offerings it is the oldest, and most common, of the offerings, found as early as the Book of Genesis. This was an offering with the worshipper voluntarily devoting his whole offering to God through the fire (Exodus 29:18). The Burnt Offering, olah in the Hebrew, literally meaning “to go up.” That is, the whole offering “went up in smoke”, providing a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord, with nothing returned to the worshipper which made the Burnt Offering distinct from other offerings. Parts of the other sacrifices were also burned on the Altar, but the Burnt Offering was totally consumed on the fire except for the hide of the animal and the crop of the bird. Otherwise, everything was totally burned to ashes with nothing left for anyone to eat.
Noah built an altar to the Lord. He then took some of every kind of clean animal and clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on. I will never again destroy everything that lives, as I have just done. “While the earth continues to exist, planting time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” (Genesis 8:20–22 NET)
‘You must make for me an altar made of earth, and you will sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I cause my name to be honored I will come to you and I will bless you. (Exodus 20:24 NET)
The purpose was to express total dedication to God (i.e., it was a consecration offering). (Exodus 18:11–12; Numbers 15:3). This was especially its meaning under the Mosaic Covenant. The Burnt Offering is sometimes referred to merely as “an offering made by fire.” In Deuteronomy 33:10, it is called in Hebrew kalil, the whole burnt offering. In actual practice, it was often preceded by a Sin Offering (1) or a Trespass Offering (1) (Leviticus 6:8–7:38).
The Burnt Offering is mentioned within the New Covenant in Mark 12:33 and Hebrews 10:6-8. But implicitly, it is found in Luke 2:23,24, which mentions that a Burnt Offering was required after childbearing. It is also implicit in Luke 17:14 when the healing of a leper apparently required a Burnt Offering.
The Burnt Offering was voluntary at the individual level for private practice, but it was mandatory for the following specific public occasions:
- daily sacrifice every morning and evening,
- weekly sacrifice on the Sabbath,
- monthly sacrifice for the first day of the month or the New Moon Offering,
- seasonally for the seven Holy Seasons or Feasts of Israel (1),
- annually for special annual offerings.
There was a division of labor between the worshipper and the priest. The labor for the worshipper involved five things. He had to:
- bring the animal,
- kill the animal,
- skin the animal,
- gut the animal, and
- butcher the animal. (2)
Meanwhile, the priest had to do three things. He had to:
- prepare wood for the fire,
- sprinkle blood on the Altar, and
- place the dismembered animal’s body on the fire. (2)
The animal to be sacrificed had to have the following four general characteristics. The animal had to be:
- ceremonially clean,
- utilitarian, meaning “usable for food” or sustenance,
- domesticated (i.e., those that obeyed their master’s will and more or less endeared to the offerer; although some wild game animals were permissible for food, no game animal was permissible for sacrifice with the exception of the young Pigeon since the very poor could capture these with their hands), and
- costly; the selection of the animal was based upon the social-economic status of the individual Jewish member of the commonwealth.
If the individual were wealthy, he had to offer an expensive sacrifice; if he were poor, he could offer a less expensive sacrifice, nevertheless, it would have to be costly relative to his social-economic status. As Moses deals with the specific animals allowed, the progression always goes from the most expensive to the least expensive as follows:
- Turtledove (Adult only)
- Pigeon (Young only)
The kinds of animals for the Burnt Offering and the details as to how they were offered closely parallel the Peace Offering.
In addition, the animal to be sacrificed had to meet the following three criteria:
- Condition – perfect without spot, blemish, disease, or deformity, (cf. Malachi 1:8 NET)
- Gender – Male, except for birds which can be either male or female (4), and
- Age – generally, the animal had to be one year old (i.e., at the peak of life and health). Sometimes it could be as young as a week old or as old as three years. Birds had to be adult Turtledoves or young Pigeons (2)
There were eight sequential steps of the Burned Offering ritual:
- the worshipper brought the animal to the entrance of the Tabernacle and stood near the North side of the Altar (Leviticus 1:3),
- the worshipper would lay his hands on the head of the animal (this was done if the animal came from a herd, but not if the animal came from a flock of birds) (Leviticus 1:4), (This represented that the worshipper understood he deserved the death that the animal was soon to suffer in his place.)
- the priest would declare if the animal was acceptable (Leviticus 1:4), (Note the priest would examine the animal, not the person since we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). That is, inspection is all about the Holiness and purity of the sacrifice, not the worshipper)
- the worshipper would kill the animal (except for the bird which was killed by the priest) (Leviticus 1:5),
- the priest would sprinkle the blood against the Altar, round about on all four sides (Leviticus 1:5),
- the worshipper would skin and butcher the animal (Leviticus 1:6),
- the priest would put wood on the fire in the altar and arrange the head and the fat on this wood (Leviticus 1:7,8)
- the worshipper would wash the intestines (thus removing the dung) and legs with water (Leviticus 1:9),
- the priest would then place the entire animal on the altar and burn it to ashes providing a sweet-smelling aroma to God, (Leviticus 1:9), and
- the priest would then keep the animal skin or hide. (2)
The sacrifices are arranged according to their frequency: first, come the daily burnt offerings (Numbers 28:2–8); second, the weekly sabbath offering (Numbers 28:9–10); third, the monthly offerings (Numbers 28:11–15); finally, the once-yearly offerings arranged in chronological sequence (Numbers 28:16–29:38).
The daily sacrifices consisted of two burnt offerings: one lamb … in the morning [9:00 AM], the other lamb … in the evening [3:00 PM] (Numbers 28:4,8). This last phrase, in the evening, literally ‘between the evenings’, is used for the time when the Passover lambs had to be slain (cf. Numbers 9:3. Leviticus 23:5) and probably means late afternoon. On Sabbaths and festivals, when additional sacrifices were appointed, they were offered in the time between the regular morning and evening sacrifices. Numbers 28:23 suggests they were presented immediately after the morning sacrifice.
A sin offering (1) of a goat was required on all festivals apart from the sabbath, and this would probably have been offered before the additional burnt offerings (cf. Numbers 6:16; Leviticus 9; 16, etc.). Note that Numbers 28–29 is concerned with the quantity of the sacrifices, not their timing. (3)
“(Cumulative Totals)” (3)
It should also be noted that the number of sacrifices is cumulative. Thus on the sabbath, both the daily sacrifice of two lambs and the sabbath sacrifice of two lambs were offered (Numbers 28:10). On the first day of the seventh month, the daily sacrifice of two lambs, the usual first-day sacrifice of two bulls, one ram, seven lambs, and the special first-of-the-seventh-month sacrifice of one bull, one ram, and seven lambs were offered. Every burnt offering had to be accompanied by the appropriate cereal and libation offerings: a bull by a cereal offering made with three-tenths of an ephah of flour and ½ hin of oil, a ram by one made of two-tenths of an ephah of flour and a third hin of oil, a lamb by one-tenth ephah of flour and 1/4 hin of oil. The corresponding drink offerings of wine were a half, a third and a quarter hin (Numbers 28:12–14; cf. Numbers 15:4–10).
Consequently, every year the priests sacrificed a minimum of 113 bulls, 32 rams, and 1086 lambs and offered more than a ton of flour and a thousand bottles of oil and wine! (3)
For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship. For otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers would have been purified once for all and so have no further consciousness of sin? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4 NET)
Imagine, never a day without the death of animals dying in our place. A constant reminder of sins that could never be taken away by animals but could only be temporarily covered.
Typological Meaning of the Burnt Offering
Jesus the Messiah willingly offered Himself to God as a consecration offering dying in our place. Jesus performed this while satisfying all of the Levitical requirements for the burnt offering sacrifice.
I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. (John 5:30 NET)
For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. Now this is the will of the one who sent me—that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father—for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38–40 NET)
Going a little farther, he threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NET)
As a substitute, Jesus the Messiah is the ideal of consecrated service, for His will was always in complete submission to the Father’s. Thus he was an Offering of a “sweet-smelling savor,” such as was the Burnt Offering. Of Him, the Father could say, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
Now in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight.” (Mark 1:9–11 NET)
Furthermore, Jesus the Messiah demonstrated what God our Father desires of us His children. That is, to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. By accepting Him as our “Burnt Offering” we identify ourselves with Him and confess that He died as our substitute.
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1 NET)
Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2 NET)
Four General Characteristics of the Sacrifice that were Met by Jesus:
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be Ceremonially Clean
Jesus committed no sin, had no sin within Himself, and never knew sin; therefore, He qualified to be our sacrificial offering.
He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22 NET)
And you know that Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (1 John 3:5 NET)
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be our Sustenance
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NET)
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48–51 NET)
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53–58 NET)
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26–28 NET)
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be Obedient to God His and our Heavenly Father
So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. “Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. “Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:5-7 NET)
He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 NET)
So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5:19 NET)
but I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Get up, let us go from here.” (John 14:31 NET)
For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. (John 12:49 NET)
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. (John 14:10–11 NET)
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be Precious and Priceless to God the Father
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:16–18 NET)
After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.” (Matthew 3:16–17 NET)
Three Criteria of the Sacrifice that were Met by Jesus:
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be perfect without spot, blemish, disease, or deformity
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with people. (Luke 2:52 NET)
You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or gold, but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ. (1 Peter 1:18–19 NET)
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be a Human Male
“Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us. ”When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus. (Matthew 1:23–25 NET)
Jesus was, is, and ever shall be at the Peak of Life and Health
So when Joseph and Mary had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39–40 NET)
So Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years old. He was the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, (Luke 3:23 NET)
An altar (1) with four sides and four horns. A future cross at Golgotha with four points. Four meaning the sacrifice is effectual for salvation to the four corners of the World (North, East, West, South)! Now that is Good NEWS! Hallelujah!)
The sacrificial offering was “wholly consumed” meaning “burned to ashes.” Anything that has been reduced to ashes can never be burned again. That is, the judgment has been fully executed with none remaining. This represents the total annihilation the sinner deserves and the total consecration God expects from his followers.
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. “Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. “Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.’ ” When he says above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you did not desire nor did you take delight in them” (which are offered according to the law), then he says, “Here I am: I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first to establish the second. By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:3–10 NET)
But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:4–7 NET)
The burnt offering provided a soothing aroma to God as it ascended. From God’s perspective, He was sensing in that smell the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus followed by His ASCENSION to Heaven! Including the joy brought in the presence of God’s angels (i.e., the joy brought to God our Father in whose presence the angels live) by the salvation of lost sinners! (Luke 15:10)
and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a soothing aroma; it is an offering made by fire to the Lord. (Exodus 29:18 NET)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2 NET)
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 (NET)
I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent. (Luke 15:7 NET)
Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2 NET)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:8–9 NET)
An interesting story from the Old Covenant connecting burnt offerings with the ascension.
The Lord’s messenger said to Manoah, “If I stay, I will not eat your food. But if you want to make a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, you should offer it.” (He said this because Manoah did not know that he was the Lord’s messenger.) Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Tell us your name, so we can honor you when your announcement comes true.”The Lord’s messenger said to him, “You should not ask me my name, because you cannot comprehend it.”Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the Lord. The Lord’s messenger did an amazing thing as Manoah and his wife watched. As the flame went up from the altar toward the sky, the Lord’s messenger went up in it while Manoah and his wife watched. They fell facedown to the ground. The Lord’s messenger did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. After all this happened Manoah realized that the visitor had been the Lord’s messenger. (Judges 13:16–21 NET)
Recall the selection of the animal was based upon the social-economic status of the individual Jewish member of the commonwealth. Typologically these various animals represent the stages of a believer’s spiritual maturity, including their understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice, as they seek the Lord. Note that in Leviticus the sacrificial animals are listed from the perspective of God looking from the Mercy Seat outward from the Holy of Holies to the approaching believer entering the Outer Courts of the Tabernacle of Moses. However, I will list them here from the perspective of the believer entering the Outer Court of the Tabernacle of Moses growing in spiritual maturity as they approach God our Father at the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies.
The Five Phases of our Spiritual Growth (1) in the Burnt Sacrifices (Philippians 3:10–11 NET):
- Pigeon (1) (Isaiah 38:14) – My aim is to know him,
- Turtledove (1) (Luke 3:22)- to experience the power of his resurrection,
- Goat (1) (Leviticus 16:7-10) – to share in his sufferings,
- Sheep (1) (John 1:29. Revelation 5:6) – and be like him in his death,
- Bull (1) (Hosea 10:11,12) – and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The Tabernacle of Moses Series:
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part I: The Outer Court
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part II: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part III: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part IV: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part V: The Most Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part VI: The Priestly Garments
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part VII: Our Great High Priest
Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – Introduction
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Burnt Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Meal Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Peace Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Sin Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Trespass Offering
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) This article has been primarily adapted from: Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 180, p. 10). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.
(3) Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
(4) The male animal represents this sacrifice is for God’s benefit. Recall, Adam, a male, was made for God’s benefit.
“It follows that I show for what purpose God made man himself. As He contrived the world for the sake of man, so He formed man himself on His own account, as it were a priest of a divine temple, a spectator of His works and of heavenly objects. For he is the only being who, since he is intelligent and capable of reason, is able to understand God, to admire His works, and perceive His energy and power; for on this account he is furnished with judgment, intelligence, and prudence. On this account he alone, beyond the other living creatures, has been made with an upright body and attitude, so that he seems to have been raised up for the contemplation of his Parent. On this account he alone has received language, and a tongue the interpreter of his thought, that he may be able to declare the majesty of his Lord. Lastly, for this cause all things were placed under his control, that he himself might be under the control of God, their Maker and Creator. If God, therefore, designed man to be a worshipper of Himself, and on this account gave him so much honour, that he might rule over all things; it is plainly most just that he should worship Him who bestowed upon him such great gifts, and love man, who is united with us in the participation of the divine justice.”
Lactantius. (1886). A Treatise on the Anger of God. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), W. Fletcher (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 271). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
Eve, a female, was made for the man Adam’s benefit and hence when female animals are prescribed in other sacrifices then it is for mankind’s benefit.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” (Genesis 2:18 NET)