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 Sin Offering (Leviticus 4:1-5:13)
The fourth Levitical offering is the Sin or Purification Offering. The basic purpose of the Sin Offering was to deal with the issue of mandatory offerings for sins committed unintentionally. In Leviticus 4:1, we have God’s second utterance. The first three offerings (i.e., Burnt, Meal, Peace), which were based upon God’s first utterance, were largely voluntary offerings, but the last two offerings (i.e., Sin and Trespass) are based upon the second utterance and concern mandatory sacrifices. These last two, then, are mandatory and atoning. While the first three offerings were already known from the previous revelation, these last two are totally new and revealed for the first time in the Mosaic Law. Realize, the knowledge of sin did not come until the Law was given and with that knowledge, the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering (1) were instituted (Romans 3:20;5:13;7:7-12. 1 Corinthians 15:56. Galatians 3:19-24. Acts 19:4).
Then the Lord spoke to Moses:“Tell the Israelites, ‘When a person sins by straying unintentionally from any of the Lord’s commandments which must not be violated, and violates any one of them— (Leviticus 4:1,2 NET)
Stating the nature of the sin, God says in Leviticus 4:2: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any one shall sin unwittingly. That is the issue-unwitting sin. Literally, the Hebrew means unwittingly in the sense of “unintentionally.” It is a sin that was committed through ignorance, error, or oversight.
The Hebrew word has for its root meaning “to wander,” “to go wrong,” “to make a mistake,” “to commit error.” It is a sin which arises from human infirmity or from the weakness of the flesh; it is a sin of weakness of flesh and blood; it is a sin of waywardness. This is unintentional sin, sin of ignorance or inadvertent sin, such as the sin of manslaughter (Numbers 35:11–23). It is a sin that was committed without premeditation (Num. 15:22–29). In other words, it is not a sin done in a spirit of rebellion; it is not a sin of presumption. This is in contrast with a sin committed with a high hand, a calculated sin of defiance against God, for which there is no sacrifice. The penalty for those kinds of sins was to be cut off or executed (Numbers 15:30–31. Psalms 19:13).
“ ‘But the person who acts defiantly, whether native-born or a resident foreigner, insults the Lord. That person must be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person must be completely cut off. His iniquity will be on him.’ ” (Numbers 15:30–31 NET)
The Hebrew word for sin here is chata, which literally means “to miss the mark.” When you miss the mark, of course, you also hit the wrong mark. Thus, this passage deals with sins that were not premeditated, but sins done out of ignorance, sins that a person just happened to fall into. Leviticus 4:2 goes on to say: in any of the things which Jehovah has commanded not to be done. In other words, we are dealing with sins, which were committed against a negative commandment, a violation of a negative commandment.
Similarly, the Greek word agnoemata (ἀγνοεματα), only used in Hebrews 10:26, or “errors” of the people, for which the High Priest offered a sacrifice on the great day of atonement, were not wilful transgressions or “presumptuous sins” (Psalms 19:13) committed against conscience and with a high hand against God. Again, those who committed such sins were cut off from the congregation as no provision was made in the Levitical constitution to forgive such sins (Numbers. 15:30, 31). But these were sins growing out of the weakness of the flesh, out of an imperfect insight into God’s law, out of heedlessness and lack of due circumspection (Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 5:15–19; Numbers 15:22–29) and afterward looked back on with shame and regret. Realize, there is always an element of ignorance in every human transgression, which constitutes it human and not devilish. While this does not take away sinfulness, it mitigates the sin to render its forgiveness possible under the Old Covenant. Compare the words of the Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), with those of St. Paul. ‘I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief’ (I Timothy 1:13).” (14)
The Hebrew word for Sin Offering is chataat. Literally, a Sin Offering is a purification offering. It is not the only one to deal with sin, as the fifth offering will also deal with sins, but the emphasis of the Sin Offering is on the purification from sin. It emphasizes the principle of sin and atonement for the guilt of sin. Again, the Sin Offering focuses on the sin itself; however, the Trespass Offering focused on the practice of sin (i.e., sins) with the emphasis on the harmful effects of sin. In addition, the Sin Offering emphasizes the harm done by transgressing the Law of Moses which brought the Curses of the Law on the transgressor (Deuteronomy 28:15-58).
There are four unique features of the Sin Offering:
- the scriptural discussion on the Sin Offering is twice as long as on all previous offerings,
- the first time that the Sin Offering is mentioned is in this passage,
- the Sin Offering then becomes the most important of the five offerings. (It was not mentioned or practiced before, but with this commandment of Moses, it becomes the most important sacrifice, needing to be offered up even during the festivals), and
- the sacrifice was killed and the fat and kidneys offered in the same place as the Burnt Offering. However, the body of the bullock was burned outside the camp at the fatty ashes pile. (9) This was a ceremonially clean place that was located in the Kidron Valley once the temple was built in Jerusalem. (Leviticus 4:12) (13).
A male or female animal without blemish according to the social status of the petitioner: (4) (Leviticus 4:3 – 5:13)
- Bull for the high priest (religious ruler),
- Bull for the congregation,
- Male goat for a civil leader or ruler including the king,
- Female goat for the common person, or
- Female lamb for the common person,
- Two Doves for the poor, or
- Two Pigeons for the poor,
- A tenth of an ephah of flour (1) for the very poor. (i.e., a Meal Offering of fine wheat flour without olive oil or frankincense) (5)
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),
- Gender – Male or Female (4), and
- Age – generally, the animal had to be one year old [e.g., a lamb at the peak of life and health]. Sometimes it could be as young as eight days old (Leviticus 22:27) and or as old as three years. (2)
There were eight sequential steps of the Sin Offering ritual:
- the presentation of the sacrifice at the door of the Tabernacle by the Altar (Leviticus 4:4, 15, 23, 28), (refer back to Required Sacrifices above for details)
- an identification of the sinner with the offering. (This was when the sinner laid his hands upon the head of the offering indicating the imputing of the sin of the worshipper to the sacrificial animal, the imputing of the righteousness of the sacrificial animal to the worshipper, and represented that the worshipper understood he deserved the death that the animal was soon to suffer in his place). (Leviticus 4:4, 15, 24, 29),
- the confession of the sin that occasioned the sacrifice (Leviticus 5:5),
- the killing of the sacrifice, which was done by the petitioner himself (Leviticus 4:4, 15, 24, 29),
- the sprinkling of the blood. (see Blood Manipulations immediately below for details),
- the remainder of the blood was poured out at the base of the Altar of Sacrifice (Leviticus 4:7, 18, 25, 30),
- the fat and the kidneys were burned on the Altar (Leviticus 4:8-10, 19, 26) (i.e., the fatty tail, the fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys, and the fat on their sinews, and the protruding lobe on the liver were burned to ashes. However, the smoke was NOT considered to produce a soothing aroma to God (i.e., our sins smell awful to God!) with one exception, the female goat offered for a common person. (Leviticus 4:31)
- the body of the bullock was burned outside the camp at the fatty ashes pile (Leviticus 4:11, 12, 21) outside the camp, a ceremonially clean place. This was located in the Kidron Valley once the temple was built in Jerusalem. (Leviticus 4:12) (13) However, the goat or lambs were not burned outside the camp but rather eaten by the priests under strict guidance (Leviticus 6:24-30). The priest would then keep the animal skin or hide (except in the case of a Sin Offering (1) for the sin of a High Priest where it was burned at the fatty ashes pile outside the camp (Leviticus 4:3-12)) (2) This was a ceremonially clean place that was located in the Kidron Valley once the temple was built in Jerusalem. (Leviticus 4:12) (13).
This procedure differed according to the social status of the petitioner.
- If it were a poor man’s offering, the blood was sprinkled around the Altar.
- If the offering were that of a tribal ruler or a common person, the blood was applied upon the horns of the Altar of Sacrifice (Leviticus 4:25, 30).
- If the offering was for the high priest and the congregation of Israel, the priest took the blood into the Holy Place and sprinkled the blood seven times toward the veil, then applied the blood on the horns of the Altar of Incense, and poured out the remaining blood at the base of the Bronze Altar (Leviticus 4:6,7;17,18).
- If on the Day of Atonement, on this one and only occasion, the blood was sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat. (This sprinkling of the blood upon the Mercy Seat would provide the blood for the very poor, who, when they offered a Sin Offering, were allowed to bring a bloodless offering. Nevertheless, the poor man’s sins were covered by blood because his Meal Offering that was used as a Sin Offering was placed upon the Burnt Offering, thereby coming in contact with blood. Furthermore, on the Day of Atonement, one goat was offered up for the whole nation, with the animal’s blood sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat; on that occasion, then, the sins of the very, very poor were also taken care).
In summary, the distinctive purpose of the Sin Offering: to atone for sin and provide forgiveness for specific unintentional or non-defiant sins, where no restitution was required. God accepted the blood of the animal as a ransom payment for the particular sin which occasioned it and, by so doing, diverted His wrath from the sinner and, ultimately, to the Messiah on the cross. Many of the Feasts of Israel require a sin offering as indicated in the table immediately below:
The Red Heifer Sacrifice (Numbers 19:1-22)
While not part of the aforementioned Sin Offering, it is another purification offering for sin and hence was included in this article (Numbers 19:9). The red heifer ceremony’s function was the production of ash for the water used to remove ritual impurity contracted through contact with a corpse, bones, or a grave (Numbers 19:11-22).
“ ‘Then a man who is ceremonially clean must gather up the ashes of the red heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They must be kept for the community of the Israelites for use in the water of purification—it is a purification for sin. (Number 19:9)
“ ‘Whoever touches the corpse of any person will be ceremonially unclean seven days. (Numbers 19:11 NET)
“ ‘This is the law: When a man dies in a tent, anyone who comes into the tent and all who are in the tent will be ceremonially unclean seven days. And every open container that has no covering fastened on it is unclean. And whoever touches the body of someone killed with a sword in the open fields, or the body of someone who died of natural causes, or a human bone, or a grave, will be unclean seven days. “ (Numbers 19:14–16 NET)
The Red Heifer to be sacrificed had to meet the following four criteria:
- Color – Red hair (reddish-brown).
- Condition – Perfect without blemish or defect, and never yoked (cf. Malachi 1:8),
- Gender – Female (4),
- Age – Young (Hebrews 9:13 NET), 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 eight days old (Leviticus 22:27) and or as old as three years. (2)
There are ten sequential steps of the Red Heifer Sacrifice ritual:
- the Israelites brought a red heifer to a priest (not the high priest) (Numbers 19:2),
- the priest would take the red heifer outside the camp (Numbers 19:3),
- the red heifer would be slaughtered before the priest (Numbers 19:3),
- the priest would use his finger to sprinkle the blood seven times directly in front of the tent of meeting (Numbers 19:4),
- the red heifer would then be burned to ashes before the priest outside the camp included burning the skin, flesh, blood, and offal (dung) (Numbers 19:5). (This would NOT provide a sweet-smelling aroma to God),
- the priest would throw cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet wool into the fire while the red heifer was burning (Numbers 19:6),
- the priest must wash his clothes in water and bathe himself in water and may return to camp but will be ceremonially unclean until evening (Numbers 19:7),
- the one who burns the red heifer must wash his clothes in water and bathe himself in water but will be ceremonially unclean until evening (Numbers 19:8),
- a man who is ceremonially clean must gather up the ashes of the red heifer and placed them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. The ashes of the red heifer must be stored for the community of Israelites and resident foreigners to use in the “water of purification” for the removal of corpse contamination sin (Numbers 19:9-22. Numbers 31:19-24), and
- the man that gathered the ashes of the red heifer must wash his clothes and will be ceremonially unclean until evening (Numbers 19:10).
The corpse-decontamination ritual performed by a priest involved the ashes of a red heifer (or cow) mixed with spring (i.e., flowing or “living”) water and sprinkled upon persons or objects to be purified as described in Numbers 19:1–22 and applied in Numbers 31:19–24 in the case of soldiers and captives returning from war. (6)
Israelites other than Men of War (Numbers 19:17-19), Men of War (Numbers 31:19-24), Nazirites (Numbers 6:9-12), and priests (Ezekiel 44:26,27) required separate purification offerings for corpse contamination (6) Priests were defiled if they came near a dead person but were only allowed to be defiled for the death of their father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister (Ezekial 44:25).
If a corpse-contaminated person did not partake of the prescribed purification using the water of purification, then that person remained ceremonially unclean and cut off from among the community because they have polluted the sanctuary of the Lord (Numbers 19:20).
There are five sequential steps for the cleansing of corpse uncleanliness for individuals that were NOT Men of War, Nazirites, or priests:
- a vessel was filled with fresh running water with ashes from the Red Heifer, burnt for the purification of sin, mixed with this water and then poured over the unclean person (Leviticus 19:17),
- a ceremonially clean person took hyssop, dipped it in the water, and sprinkled it on the tent, on all its furnishings, and on the people who were there, or on anyone who touched a bone, or one killed, or one who died, or a grave (Leviticus 19:18),
- on the third day (1), a ceremonially clean person sprinkled the unclean person. The person who sprinkled the water of purification had to wash their clothes, and the person who touched the water of purification was unclean until evening. Whatever, the unclean person touches was unclean, and the person who touches it will be unclean until evening (Leviticus 19:19),
- On the seventh day (1), a ceremonially clean person sprinkled the unclean person thus purifying them. The person who sprinkled the water of purification had to wash their clothes, and the one who touched the water of purification was unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touched was unclean, and the person who touches it will be unclean until evening (Leviticus 19:19), and
- The purified person had to wash their clothes, bathe in water, and they were ceremonially clean in the evening (Leviticus 19:19).
There are six sequential steps for the cleansing of Men of War
- Those that killed anyone or touched any of the dead remained outside the camp for seven days (Numbers 31:19),
- They purified themselves and their captives on the third day, and on the seventh day (Numbers 31:19),
- They purified each garment and everything that is made of skin, everything made of goat’s hair, and everything made of wood (Numbers 31:20),
- Everything that could withstand fire was passed through fire (e.g., Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, and lead) to become ceremonially clean; in addition, it was purified with the water of purification (Numbers 31:22,23).
- Anything that could not withstand fire was passed through the water of purification only (Numbers 31:23),
- Their clothes were washed on the seventh day, and then they were ceremonially clean, and could re-enter the camp.’ ” (Numbers 31:24)
There are ten sequential steps for the cleansing of unintentional defilement of a Nazirite’s consecrated head caused by inadvertently coming near a corpse:
- steps 1-5; perform the five steps for the cleansing of corpse uncleanliness for those that are not priests (Numbers 6:9),
- step 6; he must shave his head on the seventh day of his purification (Numbers 6:9),
- step 7; he must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting on the eighth day (Numbers 6:10),
- step 8; the priest will offer one for a purification offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because of his transgression in regard to the corpse (Numbers 6:11),
- step 9; he must reconsecrate his head on that day (Numbers 6:11),
- step 10; he must rededicate to the Lord the days of his separation and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass (reparation) offering, but the former days will not be counted because his separation was defiled (Numbers 6:12 NET).
There are seven sequential steps for the cleansing of intentional defilement for priests caused by coming near an immediate family member’s corpse (i.e., father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister):
- steps 1-5; perform the five steps for the cleansing of corpse uncleanliness for those that are not priests (Ezekiel 44:26),
- step 6; after a priest has become ceremonially clean, they must count off a period of seven days (Ezekiel 44:26), and
- step 7; on the day the priest re-enters the sanctuary, into the inner court to serve in the sanctuary, he must offer a sin offering (Ezekiel 44:27 NET).
Typological Meaning of the Sin Offering
The key typological meaning is the death of the Messiah as a satisfactory, substitutionary sacrifice to provide forgiveness of sins. The basic typological meaning is the Messiah as our sin-bearer. It typifies redemption for the sinner, the Messiah as our atonement, and forgiveness of sin through His blood.
But the hide of the bull, all its flesh along with its head and its legs, its entrails, and its dung—all the rest of the bull—he must bring outside the camp to a ceremonially clean place, to the fatty ash pile, and he must burn it on a wood fire; it must be burned on the fatty ash pile. (Leviticus 4:11–12 NET)
This is where the sin offering differs from the Burnt offering. In the case of the Burnt Offering where the entrails, head, and legs were washed, there is no mention of “offal,” which is the animal’s dung. Dung represents our sins. In the sin offering for the congregation, the hide, legs, entrails, and offal are taken outside the camp and burned, releasing an unpleasing odor, until it became ashes. Anything that has been reduced to ashes can never be burned again. This means the judgment has already gone through it with no judgment remaining. Thus signifying that Jesus “wholly consumed” all the just judgments of God’s wrath in His own body and blood (1), paying in full the sin-debt we incurred. Consequently, our sins are “wholly consumed” when we get saved. All sins past, present, and future. Hallelujah!
We have an altar that those who serve in the tabernacle have no right to eat from. For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, to sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp. (Hebrews 13:10–12 NET)
Jesus died outside of the walls of Jerusalem. He carried our sins which were completely burned up until they were all gone in the fires of God’s judgment! That is why Paul could state with absolute certainty that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NET)
Only the Sin Offering of a “female” goat for the common person provided a soothing aroma to God as it ascended (Leviticus 4:27-35). When female animals are prescribed in sacrifices then it is for mankind’s benefit. (4) “Common person” meaning for the benefit of everyone and not just the elite. “Goat” meaning for lost humanity as Jesus Christ revealed that on the day of judgment, God will separate believers, whom He identifies as sheep, from nonbelievers, whom He identifies as goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Standing behind this statement is a shepherding practice common to the ancient world (Ezekiel 34:17). (10 ) 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) This is the only sin offering that had this typology and hence the only one that brought a soothing aroma to God as it ascended.
Then he must remove all of its fat (just as fat was removed from the peace offering sacrifice) and the priest must offer it up in smoke on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord. So the priest will make atonement on his behalf and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31 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)
Animal Skin or Hide
The animal hides were saved and given to the priest (2). These hides point back to the Garden of Eden when the Lord God made garments of animal skin to clothe them. This event was the first indication that a blood sacrifice is necessary to pay the price for Adam’s transgression (1). The skins providing testimony to the efficacy of the sacrifice and the High Priest (pre-incarnate Jesus in this case) conducting the sacrificial ritual to “cover” sins by the death of animals. Ultimately to abolish sin through the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! (1)
The Lord God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 NET)
However, when the High Priest sinned and the requisite sin offering (1) given, the skins are not saved but instead burned. Burned indicating the High Priest had failed to be the proper coverage for the nation of Israel and also, could not cover himself but rather must depend on God to restore the covering through the burnt offering (Leviticus 4:3-12). Note when Jesus offered Himself upon the cross as our sacrifice that His body, including His flesh or hide, was not allowed to see decay (i.e., destroyed). This signified that both the sacrifice (Jesus) and the High Priest (Jesus) (1) were effective in removing our sin and all our sins and giving us God’s righteousness! Hallelujah!
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 NET)
Typological Meaning of the Red Heifer Sacrifice
The Book of Hebrews uses the image of the red heifer ceremony to picture Christ’s cleansing believers of the effect of “dead works.” Dead works are the counterfeit of good works and refer to the futile attempt to do things in our ability to please God. Good works are those done with God’s grace (favor) and God’s ability (mercy) through faith based on the fact that God is fully pleased with us IN CHRIST (Ephesians 2:8,9. Colossians 2:6).
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.(Hebrews 9:13–14 NET)
Water represents the Word of God. Living water is water that is flowing juxtaposed to stagnant water. (John 4:11;7:38. Revelation 7:16,17)
“ ‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. (Ezekiel 36:24–25 NET)
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25–27 NET)
The female red heifer represents Jesus as an offering for all mankind to free us from slavery to the fear of death. (4)
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15 NET)
Cedar signified royal power and wealth (1 Kings 10:27). Thus the evergreen cedar symbolized growth and strength (Psalms 92:12; cf. Ezekial 17). (7)
A plant used for ritual cleansing purposes; a humble plant springing out of the wall (1 Kings 4:33), the extreme contrast to the cedar. (8)
He produced manuals on botany, describing every kind of plant, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls. He also produced manuals on biology, describing animals, birds, insects, and fish. (1 Kings 4:33 NET)
After a careful examination, Dr. Royle has come to the conclusion that the hyssop of the Bible is the caper-plant (Capparis spinosa of botanists); that the name of the plant in Arabic, azaf, corresponds with the Hebrew esobh; and that the shrub is fitted for all the purposes mentioned in the Scriptures. (12)
“The caper-bush belongs to the natural order Capparidaceæ, or the Caper family. The plants of this order have pungent, stimulant, and antiscorbutic qualities. The caper-bush grows in Lower Egypt, in the deserts of Sinai, and in Palestine. The localities in which the plant delights are barren soils, rocky precipices, and the sides of walls. The caper-plant grows on walls in many southern countries. I have gathered it on walls in Italy. Tristram saw it hanging from the walls of Jerusalem, also in steep rocks in the gorge of the Kidron. He also says that the variety called ægyptiaca has a trailing habit on the sandy plain between Jericho and Jordan, as well as at the south-east end of the Dead Sea, and on the plains of Shittim.” (12)
אֵזוֹב (ʾēzôḇ, “hyssop”) occurs ten times in the OT. (“Hyssop appears twice in the NT: in John 19:29, as the instrument for lifting the vinegar to Jesus’ lips when he was on the cross, and in Heb 9:19–20, where the people and the book are sprinkled with blood… Seven of the OT references are found in two rituals: cleansing a leper (Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52) and cleansing those defiled through contact with the dead (Num 19:6, 18). The other three references are the Passover (Exodus 12:22); King Soloman’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:33); and King David’s prayer for cleanings (Psalms 51:7). (11)
Scarlet (Red) Wool
In Hebrew, the word for red is “Adam” or “Edom.” Adam, one of the words for “man” and literally means “red-blooded man.” It is derived from the root word in Hebrew for blood: “Dam.” The wool comes from sheep and mankind is often likened to sheep in the Old and New Covenants.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.(John 10:14–16 NET)
Consequently, wool dyed red represents the sins of mankind.
Come, let’s consider your options,” says the Lord. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 NET)
Cedarwood, Hyssop, and Scarlet Wool Combined
Taken together, this symbolically represents mankind’s works from the grandest to the humblest are as dung before God and must be burned to ashes by the fire of His judgment!
We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6 NET)
A man must believe he is lost before he can be saved. One reason why many are not saved is because they do not believe they are lost. They fold their filthy rags of self-righteousness about them, instead of acknowledging that they are miserable sinners. D. L. Moody (9)
More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11 NET)
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. 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) Merrill, E. H. (1998). The Pentateuch. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 41). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
(6) Sprinkle, J. M. (2003). Red Heifer. In T. D. Alexander & D. W. Baker (Eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (p. 669). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
(7) Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Cedar. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 274). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
(8) Masterman, E. W. G. (1915). Hyssop. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 1445). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.
(9) Moody, D. L. (1875). Life Words from Gospel Addresses of D. L. Moody. (G. F. G. Royle, Ed.) (p. 6). London: John Snow & Co.
(10) Rathel, D. M. (2016). Goat. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
(11) Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 376). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
(12) Balfour, J. H. (1885). The Plants of the Bible (pp. 45–46). London; Edinburgh; New York: T. Nelson and Sons.
(13) Péter-Contesse, R., & Ellington, J. (1992). A handbook on Leviticus (p. 23). New York: United Bible Societies.
(14) Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 21, p. 99). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(I) Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah : A new translation (p. 742). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
(II) Malda, B. D. (Ed.). (2015). Come and Worship: Ways to Worship from the Hebrew Scriptures (p. 62). Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books: a division of Messianic Jewish Publishers.
(III) Sklar, J. (2013). Leviticus: An Introduction and Commentary. (D. G. Firth, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 101). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
(IV) Masterman, E. W. G. (1915). Barley. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 405). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.
(V) Balfour, J. H. (1885). The Plants of the Bible (p. 212). London; Edinburgh; New York: T. Nelson and Sons.
(VI) Eisenberg, R. L. (2004). The JPS guide to Jewish traditions (1st ed., p. 670). Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society.
(VII) Hannah, J. D. (1985). Exodus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 153). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
(VIII) Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
(IX) Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 9, p. 568). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.
(X) 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.
(XI) (2016). The Lexham Figurative Language of the New Testament Dataset. In J. R. Westbury, J. Thompson, K. A. Lyle, & J. Parks (Eds.), Lexham Figurative Language of the Bible Glossary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
(XII) Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 331). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
(XIII) Lindsey, F. D. (1985). Leviticus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 177). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
(XIV) Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 19, p. 617). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
(XV) Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 143). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.
(XVI) Wuest, K. S. (1961). The New Testament: an expanded translation (1 Co 5:6–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
(XVII) Thompson, J. A. (1974). Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 5, p. 147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
(XVIII) Keach, B. (1858). An Exposition of the Parables and Express Similitudes of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (pp. 239–240). London: Aylott and Co.
(XX) C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperCollins, 1974), pp. 236–37.
(XXI) Hall, K. D. (2000). Libation. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 807). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
(XXII) Rogers, A. (2017). Back to Bethel. In Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive (Ge 35). Signal Hill, CA: Rogers Family Trust.
(XXIII) The only other view of the younger Jesus is when He was 12 years old. Jesus’ parents had left Jerusalem thinking He was with some of the relatives, but after a day’s journey, they realized He was not. Upon returning to Jerusalem, they found Him in the temple, both learning and teaching the religious teachers of Israel! (Luke 2:42-52) This was one of the moments when Mary was reminded of things told to her when Jesus was born (Luke 2:27-32). His mission to save humanity would come not come without some cost to her as well (Luke 2:34,35). Jesus, while obeying the fifth commandment to honor His earthly father and mother (Exodus 20:12), answered to a higher authority – a higher call than just being a good son they could be proud of in their old age. This was Mary’s first of several friendly reminders that He would be controlled by no one but God – not even Mary, His mother would be allowed to derail the mission – as the mission was to set her free, too. Realize, Jesus emptied Himself of His power and authority as God to become a man (Philippians 2:6-8). He was not born with a genetic memory knowing all things in His soul (i.e., mind, will, and emotions). Yes, in His spirit, He was the creator of all the universe, including man. However, as the Great Shepherd leader, He became flesh and lived out life on this fallen planet to show us the way. That is, when He messed His diaper like a baby, He was NOT just faking it! Jesus came as the Second Man and Last Adam and accomplished what the First Adam was supposed to do – subdue all enemies of God (Genesis 1:28). He did it with no advantage over what the First Adam had available to him. Through studying the scriptures and mentoring by the Holy Spirit, His soul learned who, what and why He was, is, and ever shall be – this knowledge He already subconsciously had in His spirit. (Psalms 119:98-104. Luke 2:40) Jesus never stopped being the eternal God; however, He voluntarily limited Himself to being a Man submitted to God the Holy Spirit. God, the Holy Spirit, performed the miracles that God the Father wanted to be performed through Jesus while He was on Earth (John 14:10). This was available to the First Adam and now available to all that are in Him (John 14:12). All hail the God that became Man to save an undeserving wretch like me!!!