What is the significance of the offerings described in Leviticus? In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they walk through the five offerings ancient Israelites made to Yahweh and see how the purpose of these practices sound a lot like the teachings of Jesus. Even here in Leviticus, Yahweh’s hope for his people is the same: love God and love your neighbor.
The death of the animal and its purging through fire and ascending is an image of what I need to undergo––purging that could take my life. But in taking my life, it transforms me to live in proximity to the source of real life … This offering takes me on a journey that I need to undergo myself, which is a burning away of what I call life to embrace what is true life.
In part one (00:00-9:01), Tim and Jon kick off our final conversation about the first movement of Leviticus. We recommend listening to the first two episodes in this series to best understand what we’re talking about in this episode. See episode one for our conversation about how Leviticus fits into the storyline of the Torah and episode two for what an atoning sacrifice is.
Our sins endanger us and our proximity to the God who is the source of all life. Atonement repairs the relationship, so we can stay in proximity to God—real life is being in communion with God.
This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
In part two (9:01-24:26), Tim and Jon discuss the five offerings described in the opening movement of Leviticus: the ascension offering, the gift offering, the peace offering, the purification offering, and the guilt offering.
The ascension offering is first in the list because it’s foundational to the other offerings. “Ascension” is our translation of the Hebrew name for this offering, olah, which simply means to go up, so named because the focal point of this offering was the smoke that would rise up from the burning offering toward Heaven. It was offered every morning and evening to mark the boundaries between day and night.
With most offerings, only part of an animal was burned up, and part was saved to feed the priest who offered it. However, the olah involved burning the entire animal, representing costly and total surrender to Yahweh, not unlike the woman who anointed Jesus by pouring an entire bottle of perfume on him (Matt. 26, Mk. 14, Lk. 7).
In Leviticus 9, the glory cloud of Yahweh descends on the altar and lights the fire for the first ascension offering, creating a way for the blameless animal to enter his presence—to re-enter Eden—as the smoke ascends to Yahweh on behalf of Israel.
The story symbolically captured in the ascension offering animates Jesus’ story—the one he saw himself living out and fulfilling. Followers of Jesus mimic this same pattern where our whole lives can become olahs, imagery Paul riffs on in 1 Corinthians 3 and Romans 12.
In part three (24:26-33:20), Tim and Jon explore the gift offering and the peace offering.
The gift offering, or minha, was an offering of grain, fruits, or vegetables. It was an offering of firstfruits, just like Cain’s (Gen. 4), to thank God for his provision.
The peace offering, tzebakh shelammim, gets its name because shelammim is from the same root word as the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, and it gives us a visual depiction of the biblical understanding of shalom. The person presenting the peace offering would place their hands on the animal, similar to the practice of the atonement offering, but it’s not a sacrifice of atonement.
In the peace offering, the presenter keeps all the valuable meat, shares some with the priest, and then throws a dinner party for widows, orphans, and the rest of their family. Shalom is not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of relational harmony and abundance. Many psalms reference the peace offering because of its beautiful depiction of shalom.
In part four (33:20-52:37), the guys talk about the final two offerings described in Leviticus.
The fourth offering, usually called the sin offering in English, is called the khatta’t in Hebrew. However, while the consonants in this Hebrew word are the same as the Hebrew word for sin (khata’a), its vowel pattern matches the Hebrew word khatte’, which means “to purify from sin’s effects.” This makes it clear that the name of the khatta’t offering refers to the process of purification from sin, not to the act of sin itself.
Finally, the guilt offering (asham) made restitution when someone misused or abused something of value to Yahweh or another person. The asham communicated a powerful principle we see throughout Scripture: when we wrong other humans, we also wrong Yahweh. Accordingly, in the asham, a person would repay the person wronged and then add an extra fifth of the value of what was destroyed and pay it to the temple.
The offerings show us that the ethics we find in Jesus’ teachings were not new when he arrived on the scene—Yahweh’s earliest guidelines for his people had everything to do with loving God and loving your neighbor.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Tyler Bailey. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by MacKenzie Buxman and Ashlyn Heise.
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