OT Sacrifices: Whole Burnt Offering

The Major Sacrifices of the OT:

Whole Burnt Offering
Grain Offering (also the Drink Offering)
Peace Offering
Sin Offering
Trespass Offering

A couple words on sacrifice:

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is multi-dimensional. There is not one image that can fully display all that happened. Because of this there were multiple sacrifices given in the OT in order to picture the content of the sacrifice of Christ.

The sacrifice of Christ is the ultimate expression of Christ's self-emptying love. The extent of this love demonstrates for man the life of the Trinity ("if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father").

Just as the tabernacle is a picture of what is happening in heaven. We also have a sacrifice for us that is going on for us in heaven eternally. Jesus is eternally offering His perfect sacrifice to the Father on our behalf.

The Greek for offering is “anaphora”. In the Liturgy we are joining into the one eternal sacrifice that Christ made to the Father on the cross.

Whole Burnt Offering:

The purpose of this offering is not necessarily for forgiveness of sins but for an act of total commitment to God. It is an act of worship.

The details of this offering can be found in Lev. 1ff.

Here is a summary:

- male without defect (they were to give their best representing the giving of yourself completely to God). Different animals were allowed based on one's economic status: a bull, a sheep or goat, or a turtledove/pigeon.
- offer at the doorway of the tent
- the offerer was to lay his hand on the head of the animal in order make atonement on his behalf. (What is atonement?)
- the man would kill it
- priest would sprinkle the blood around the altar
- all would be offered except the skin
the skin would be given to the priest for clothing as a memorial of what was offered.


The keys to understanding this sacrifice is vs. 4 about atonement and the nature of the sacrifice as being total.

Atonement: an easy way to remember what atonement means is to break up the word: at-one-ment. It is an act that makes us one with God, or in communion with God. The offerer of this sacrifice would be saying to God that he offers himself wholly and completely to God by placing his head and the most precious animal that he has and then offering the animal completely to God.

Lev. 17:11 “the life is in the blood” blood is then a symbol of life; to give blood is an expression of giving one’s life to the object of worship.

How does this offering of one's life to God make the man “at one” with God?

The offerer is joining into God’s action toward him. God has offered all to man and man offers back imperfectly all to God. This is critical to the understanding of atonement in Scripture. Some of inserted the pagan Greek understanding of atonement into the Judaic Biblical context. In pagan society one always feared a wrathful angry god. Events in life either went good or bad depending on the attitude of their god. The only way to placate this god was through some type of sacrifice. The greater, more dramatic the sacrifice the more hope an individual might have that the god would now be on their side.

The Biblical sacrifice was different than the pagan nations. It was an act of worship out of love or thankfulness for the self-giving love God was always displaying to mankind. The sacrifice of an animal was a way that man could offer a physical representation of self-giving love to God. These sacrifices were given context and structure under the Mosaic law to communicate this idea of true worship to people of Israel. By offering oneself to God through the best of herd or flock, man could mirror the love that was God giving. It was not an act of placating an angry but an act of communion.

Psa 51:16-19 displays this attitude. On one hand David says, "You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;You do not delight in burnt offering." But then he ends by saying that God will "be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar." The killing of an animal does nothing for God or man. The sacrifice mattered little unless it was accompanied with this self giving love that David calls "a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart." This is evidence that man has entered into the physical sacrifice with his heart and out of emptiness and brokeness he gives all to God in worship.

The key for this is that man can not have communion without sacrificial commitment.

This sacrifice is perfectly fulfilled in Christ. Just as the man was to offer the best that He had to God in order to represent the total offering of himself to God, God does the same through Christ.
God offers Himself to us through Christ, and ultimately as Christians when we offer ourselves now to God we do so through Christ. Man could not perfectly offer Himself to God totally due to sin. Yet Christ offers Himself back to the Father in total love on the cross. The cross expresses the eternal Trinitarian relationship of love. We are able to enter into this sacrifice of the cross by being placed in the physical body of Christ (The Church), and offer ourselves to the Father as we enter into the eternal Sacrifice of Christ each time we celebrate the Eucharist.

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.


This aspect of sacrifice is proclaimed in the Divine Liturgy. Throughout the Liturgy we offer ourselves totally to God. “let us commend ourselves and each other all our life unto Christ our God” (at least 5 times we say this)

Other times during the priestly prayers the priest makes it clear that we are offering ourselves totally to God.

During the offering the priest proclaims, “Thine own of thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all”.


This offering was offered by Mary and Joseph at the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Mary was performing this sacrifice 40 days after giving birth. According to the law, a woman became unclean after birth, and was so for 40 days. The whole burnt offering sacrifice was given at the end of this time period. Unclean did not necessarily mean sinful, but it meant that something was keeping this person from being part of the worship community. Obviously 40 days was a perfect time for a woman to recover from birth and once again enter normal society. The offering in effect said the woman was once again worshipping God with the people of God.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is Theistic Evolution Orthodox?

First Post

The Spiritual Condition of Infants (a review)