The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Peace Offering

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. That is, the five sacrifices bring out different aspects and significance of His one sacrificial death on the cross. 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 Peace Offering (Leviticus 3:1-17)

The third Levitical offering is the Peace, Fellowship, or Communion Offering. The Hebrew name for the Peace Offering is zebach shlamim; literally, it means “sacrifices of peaces.” The second word, shlamim, comes from the well known Hebrew word shalom, which means “peace” or “to make peace.” This was a voluntary thanksgiving offering. It emphasized complete well being and harmony, not merely the absence of war. The uniqueness of this offering is that certain parts were burned on the Altar providing a sweet-smelling aroma to God, but the rest was given back to the petitioner. That is the one who offered it got most of it back. This was the believer’s way of participating in the blessings of the fellowship or communion with God and the community via a shared ceremonial meal. (2)

The Old Testament idea of peace (shalom) had ethical considerations of completeness, wellness, prosperity, friendship, and happiness. The peace offerings (shelamin) had right relations or harmony as their basic thought. The prominent and distinct feature of the ritual of the peace offering was the common meal afterward, signifying peace with God who was personified in His representative, the Levitical priest (Lev 7:15). The prophet, using the peace offering as a thing that will contrast and complement, spoke of Israel’s millennial bliss as “the work of righteousness will be peace” (Isaiah 32:17). (5)

The Peace Offering is not mentioned explicitly in the New Covenant. Implicitly, it is found in Acts 21:23–26 which deals with offerings at the conclusion of a vow and the Peace Offering in its votive form would be used for that purpose.

Occasions of the Peace Offering

The Peace Offering could be either for private or public occasions.

If it were a private occasion, it was voluntary in two forms either as thanksgiving and confessional offering or as a spontaneous freewill offering. While it was voluntary as a normal principle, it was a required offering for the individual as a fulfillment of a vow (Leviticus 7:12, 16). It was regularly preceded by a Burnt Offering (Leviticus 3:5).

If the occasion were public, then the Peace Offering was mandatory. For example, it was mandatory during the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:19), and it was mandatory during the ordination of a priest (Leviticus 9:4).

There are three motivations for the Peace Offering:

  • Thanksgiving offering in Leviticus 7:12–14; 22:29, and it is almost synonymous with the fellowship offerings of 2 Chronicles 29:31; 33:16; and Jeremiah 17:26. It was brought as an acknowledgment of God’s deliverance or blessing bestowed as an answer to prayer (Psalms 56:12–13; 107:22; 116:17-19; Jeremiah 33:11). This offering also included cakes of unleavened and leavened bread shared with the officiating priest. (Leviticus 7:12–14 NET)
  • Votive offering (Psalms 56:12,13), meaning-making a vow in Leviticus 7:16. It was a ritual expression of a vow in Leviticus 27:9–10. When a Nazirite fulfilled his vow, this is the sacrifice he would need to offer according to Numbers 6:17–20.
  • Freewill offering (Psalms 54:6) to express devotion and thanksgiving to God for some unexpected blessing in Leviticus 7:16 and 22:17–20.

Required Sacrifices

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; although some wild game animals were permissible for food, no game animal was permissible for sacrifice), and
  • costly; the selection of the animal was based upon the 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 economic status. As Moses deals with the specific animals allowed, the progression always goes from the most expensive to the least expensive as follows:

  • Bull
  • Cow
  • Male sheep or goat
  • Female sheep or goat

The kinds of animals for the Peace Offering and the details as to how they were offered closely parallel the Burnt Offering.

In addition, the animal to be sacrificed had to meet the following three criteria:

  • Condition – perfect without spot, blemish, disease, or deformity,
  • Gender – Male or Female (4), and
  • Age – generally, the animal had to be one year old [i.e., a lamb at the peak of life and health]. Sometimes it could be as young as a week old or as old as three years. (2)

Again, any male or female animal from flocks such as sheep and goats and herds of cattle without blemish were used based on the social status of the offerer, but not birds. Birds were not allowed for a Peace Offering, because a bird would not provide sufficient meat for a full, festive meal. (4)

There were eight sequential steps of the Peace Offering ritual.

  1. The worshipper brought the animal to the entrance of the tent of meeting.
  2. The worshipper pressed his hands on the animal’s head.
  3. The worshipper killed the animal.
  4. The priest would splash the blood of the animal over the Altar.
  5. The worshipper would butcher the animal.
  6. Parts of the animal were burned on the Altar by the priest providing a sweet-smelling aroma to God. (This included the kidneys, which were the symbol of one’s emotions (Job 19:27), and the fat including the fatty lobe of the liver, which symbolized the best of the offering; the best was given to God according to Genesis 45:18. Furthermore, Israelites were forbidden to eat any fat or blood (Leviticus 3:17)).
  7. The priest was entitled to keep certain parts of the animal: the skin, the right thigh or shoulder (to the officiating priest), and the breast (to all other priests). (Deuteronomy 12:12. 1 Corinthians 9:13,14)
    “This portion of the peace-offerings was strictly defined, and might not be altered or exceeded. The legal due, as we learn from Leviticus 7:28-36, was the breast, or brisket, and the right shoulder. [The right thigh or shoulder typifying the power and strength of the Messiah.] These were solemnly dedicated to the Lord (the former by being “waved,” that is, moved repeatedly in presentation to the Saviour and Preserver on earth; the latter, by being “heaved,” or once lifted up, to the Intercessor in heaven), and were then made over to the priests.” (9)
    “[Again,] …the right shoulder, considered the choicest part of the victim, was to be “heaved,” and viewed as holy to the Lord, only eaten therefore by the priest; the breast was to be “waved,” and eaten by the other priests.” (6)
    “But before this was done the fat had to be burned upon the altar, which was the appointed way of consecrating the whole sacrifice; and no portion could be lawfully appropriated till this rite was performed. The fat, or suet (for the rule referred only to the pure, internal fat, not to that which was mixed with the flesh), was thus offered, not simply because it was the most combustible part of the carcase, but because it was regarded as the best portion, the plain token of a perfect and well-nourished body. And as being God’s share, it was never to be eaten; upon its use the same restriction was laid as upon blood (Leviticus 3:17), with this difference, that, whereas the eating of blood was forbidden under all circumstances, the interdict on the consumption of fat applied only to animals sacrificed, or to such as were capable of being sacrificed.” (9) (See The Women of the Tabernacle (1) for a case where this requirement was violated repeatedly by Eli’s two sons resulting in their deaths)
  8. The worshipper, his family, their servants, Levites, and the poor ate the remainder of the sacrifice as a festive meal (Deuteronomy 12:18;16:11). If it were a thanksgiving or confessional offering, it was eaten the same day. If it were offered for other reasons, it was eaten the following day. All who ate of it had to be ceremonially clean, and all leftovers had to be completely burned.

Typological Meaning

The Peace Offering typifies the value of the Messiah’s death in terms of its communion. It typifies the Messiah’s procuring peace with God for the sinner (Romans 5:1).

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1 NET)
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 NET)

In addition, it typifies the fellowship of believers with God, once again, the concept of communion.

What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3,4 NET)

Waving or Elevating (Heaving)

“Waving or elevating the offering apparently had several purposes. In most cases, and always when animal meat and fat constituted the sacrifice, the ritual marked a change in ownership of the sacrifice from the offerer to God, and its consecration for the presiding priest’s meal (Leviticus 7:24–36) Major sacrifices such as the purification, holocaust, burnt, and “sin” offerings were not elevated because they already belonged to Yahweh. Moreover, the priest lifted only those parts of the carcass that he would eat (the breast and right shank), not the parts returning to the worshipper. Exceptions to these conditions exist in the grain offerings in Leviticus 23; Numbers 5, all of which depart from the norm by being of barley rather than wheat and by lacking oil and incense. Also dissimilar is the offering for the person with scale disease, which cannot be paid in silver, unlike reparation offerings in other contexts. The elevation offering could occur at various points of the ritual cycle: with grain offerings at the beginning (Leviticus 23:15) and with meat and mixed offerings in the middle (Exodus 29:23–26; Numbers 5:25; Leviticus 14:12) or at the end (Exodus 29:27–28; Lev. 9:21) of the ceremony. Notably, the elevation offering marks the transition to the ritual exit (through blessing) in the inaugural service of the priest (Leviticus 9:21), perhaps to signify his new right to preside at all sacrifices. The elevation of the offering thus marked important transitions in the ritual, especially prior to its climax.” (16)

Hebrew terumah, (Exodus 29:27) means simply an offering, a present, including all the offerings made by the Israelites as a present. This Hebrew word is frequently employed. Some of the rabbis attach to the word the meaning of elevation, and refer it to the heave offering, which consisted in presenting the offering by a [single] motion up and [then] down, distinguished from the wave offering, which consisted in a repeated movement in a horizontal direction, a “wave offering to the Lord as ruler of earth, a heave offering to the Lord as ruler of heaven.” The right shoulder, which fell to the priests in presenting thank offerings, was called the heave shoulder (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). (7)

“The parts assigned to the priest constituted the wave-offering (“terumah”; Exodus 29:24, 26), and were waved backward and forward in a line with the altar. According to Orelli, this movement was a symbolical expression of the reciprocity of the giving and receiving on the part of God and the sacrificer (Herzog-Hauck, “Real-Enyc.” 1904, 14:392). They were waved toward the four sides of the world (see Rashi on Exodus 2:9; Baḥya on Lev. 8; and Levi ben Gershon on Lev. 3.). The wave-offering symbolized that the person dedicated himself to God, who dwells as much above as among His people (Hoff, “Die Mosaischen Opfer,” p. 23, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1857). Kurtz suggests that the offering was waved vertically as well as toward the four quarters of the world.” (17)

“To wave an offering is to swing, sway, or move to and fro while physically presenting something in worship to the Resurrection and the Life through this action.” (8) “The wave offering was waved, not from right to left, but back and forth toward the altar and the priest, symbolizing that the offering was being given to God.” (13)

While there is some disagreement on the waving or heaving terminology, the act of heaving (i.e., waving back and forth) portrays the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, we have reminders in the water Baptism (1) and the Lord’s Supper (1) (i.e., Eucharist or Communion).

The waving to the four corners of the world (North, East, West, South) represents that Jesus died for everyone, everywhere, and at every time since the fall of man on Earth! Now that is Good NEWS! Hallelujah!

Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:12–15 NET)
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me." For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NET)

Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant

Topical Index of Hal’s Blogs (1)

(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. 16). 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 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) 

(5) McCune, R. (2009). A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: The Doctrines of Man, Sin, Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Vol. 2, p. 193). Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

 (6) M’Clintock, J., & Strong, J. (1894). Wave-Offering. In Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Supplement—A–Z (Vol. 12, p. 889). New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers.

(7) Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

(8) Hamilton, M. W. (2000). Elevation Offering. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 392). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

(9) Deane, W. J. (1889). Samuel and Saul: Their Lives and Times (pp. 21–22). New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company.

Hal Warren

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Through an interdenominational ministry dedicated to helping the local church build men for Jesus, Hal trained men, the leaders of men’s ministries, and provided pulpit supply. Before that, he was a Men’s Ministry Leader and an Adult Bible Fellowship teacher of a seventy-five-member class at a denominational megachurch. Presently, Hal desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Hal and his wife have five adult children, several grandchildren, and with more grandchildren on the way! He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God, that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home. 

Topical Index of Hal's Blogs

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