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A Bound SheepScripture describes the creation of the entire universe in one chapter (Genesis chapter 1) and then takes most of three whole books (Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) to describe the construction of the tabernacle and the sacrifices that were to be performed there.

Should we disregard a significant portion of G-d's Word because Messiah fulfilled the sacrifices or because the Temple no longer stands? Are the sacrifices irrelevant in the daily lives of modern believers?

When we are encouraged by leaders in our congregations to do something or to believe something in regards to Scripture, we should always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11)... the whole of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and see whether what that spirit is telling them to do is in agreement or disagreement with Scripture.

Let's walk together through Scripture and see what it says about sacrifices. As we take this walk, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).

Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Bolded text or other emphases in the Scriptural references are the author's.

What Does Sacrifice Mean?



1. giving up of something valued: a giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance
2. something valued and given up: something valuable or important given up as a sacrifice
3. loss in giving up something valued: a loss incurred by giving away or selling something below its value
4. religion offering to god: an offering to honor or appease a god, especially of a ritually slaughtered animal or person
5. religion something or somebody offered to god:something or somebody offered to honor or appease a god

Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


"An offering to... appease a god"?


pacify: to say or do something in order to make somebody less angry or aggressive, especially by giving in to demands that have been made

Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


Is this what the sacrifices are all about?

G-d is angry with our sin and we have to bring Him something to make Him less angry?

While this might be a common idea among unbelievers, we should never think such a thing of G-d!


Why the Sacrifices?

G-d stated that He desired to dwell among His people Israel (Exodus 25:8) but G-d is holy (Hebrew: qadosh).

In fact, G-d is holy, holy, holy! (Isaiah 6:3)

In order for the absolutely Holy G-d to dwell among His people, He required a holy place [miqdash] which was the tabernacle [mishkan]. Once the glory of G-d was in the tabernacle nobody (not even Moses!) could get in (Exodus 40:34-35). This is because humans are not holy as G-d is holy.

The Israelites had to be prepared in a special way to approach their Holy G-d and the sacrifices provided the way for them to do so. For more details see our article Why the Sacrifices.

For now, let's continue to see what Scripture says about the Sacrifices. Let's start with the Hebrew words of the Tanakh...



There are several words translated from Hebrew into English as "offering" or "sacrifice".



The Hebrew word קרבּן (qorban- Strong's #7133) is a masculine noun1 is usually translated as "offering" or "sacrifice"2 but it literally means "the thing of approach". Qorban comes from a Hebrew root verb (qarab) that means "to approach" or "to come near".3 It's used 80 times in 76 verses. The plural form of qorban is qorbanot.

In order to qarab [approach] G-d we need a qorban [a "thing of approach"].

This word is first used in Leviticus chapter 1 to describe the offerings associated with the tabernacle and the Levitical service.

"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. (Leviticus 1:2)


When any person brings a "thing of approach" to the LORD they should bring that "thing of approach" from animals of the herd or the flock.


Qorban is last used by the prophet Ezekiel to describe the Temple during the millennial reign of Messiah.

The double hooks, one handbreadth in length, were installed in the house all around; and on the tables was the flesh of the offering. (Ezekiel 40:43)


During the Messiah's millennial reign the Temple will have the qorban of the herd and flock in it once again.

Qorban means the "thing of approach". Its purpose is to bring the person close to G-d.

There are different types of qorbanot described in Scripture and each has a different purpose and process by which it is brought.



The Hebrew word עלה (olah- Strong's #5930) is a feminine noun4 translated as "burnt offering"5. It comes from a root word (alah) that means "to go up"6. When an olah is offered it goes up (alah) in smoke and is wholly consumed. Olah is found in 260 verses of the Tanakh.

The first time olah is used is in the story of Noah after the Flood subsides and he leaves the ark.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20)


Noah took seven pairs of clean birds and animals onto the ark (Genesis 7:2). After the Flood, he sacrificed one of every clean animal and every clean bird and offered them up as an olah: a burnt offering that was completely consumed.


The last time olah is found in Scripture is in the writings of the prophet Micah.

My people, remember now What Balak king of Moab counseled And what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, So that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD. With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:5-8)


Micah points out that G-d desires for His people to have the proper attitude rather than bring burnt offerings with the wrong attitude. It is not the burnt offering that makes a person acceptable before G-d.

Olah simply means "that which goes up": an offering that is completely consumed and which "goes up" in smoke.



The Hebrew word מנחה (minchah- Strong's #4503) is a feminine noun7 translated as "offering" or "sacrifice" but literally means "that which is bestowed" or "that which is apportioned": a gift or a present.8 It is found in 193 verses of the Tanakh. This is the first word translated in Scripture as "offering".

It is found in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4.

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:3-5)


The last time this word is used is in Malachi chapter 3:

"He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years." (Malachi 3:3-4)


In some future time, G-d will purify the Levites so that they may present Him with gifts in a righteous manner.

Minchah means "a gift" or "a present".



The Hebrew word זבח (zebach- Strong's #2077) is a masculine noun9 often translated as "sacrifice" but it literally means "slaughter".10 This word comes from a Hebrew root verb (zabach) which means "to slaughter".11 Animals that are "sacrificed" are "slaughtered" but so are animals that are not intended for sacrifice and are intended simply for food. This word is found 157 times in 148 verses of the Tanakh.

This word is first used in Genesis 31 in the story of Jacob and Laban.

Then Jacob offered [zabach] a sacrifice [zebach] on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. (Genesis 31:54)


This was not a sacrifice to G-d. It was the slaughter of an animal for a meal to consummate an agreement between Jacob and Laban.


Zebach is last used in Zephaniah chapter 1.

Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests. Then it will come about on the day of the LORD'S sacrifice That I will punish the princes, the king's sons And all who clothe themselves with foreign garments. (Zephaniah 1:7-8)


This passage speaks of G-d's coming judgment against the nation of Judah. The picture is one of G-d having prepared a meal for His guests to eat while they watch Him destroy "those who have turned back from following the LORD, And those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him" (verse 6).

In the context of the Levitical sacrifices (throughout Leviticus and Numbers), zebach is used almost exclusively in reference to the peace offering (discussed below). The zebach/slaughtered animal was brought as food to eat as part of the peace offering. Here is an example of how it is used in that sense:

'Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar.' (Leviticus 3:1-2)


The Hebrew phrase in this verse זבח שׁלמיהם (zebach sh'lamim) is translated into English as "sacrifice of peace offerings".

Zebach simply means "a slaughtered animal" for whatever purpose.



The Hebrew word חטאת (chata'at- Strong's #2403) is a feminine noun12 translated as "sin" or "sin offering".13 Chata'at comes from the root word chatah which means "to sin" but literally means "to miss the mark" (as in archery). This does not imply that a person hit the target but was off the bullseye by just a bit. It means to miss by falling short of the target altogether. This word is used in 269 verses of the Tanakh.

Chata'at is first found in the story of Cain and Abel.

If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)


The first time chata'at is used in the sense of "sin offering" is in Exodus during the consecration of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood:

"But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering. (Exodus 29:14)


The bull that is slaughtered is given as a sin offering.

The last time chata'at is used in the sense of "sin offering" is written by the prophet Ezekiel.

He said to me, "This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt offering and the sin offering and where they shall bake the grain offering, in order that they may not bring them out into the outer court to transmit holiness to the people." (Ezekiel 26:20)


Here G-d is describing the future Temple to Ezekiel. He is describing special rooms where the priests will boil the guilt offering and the sin offering to avoid accidentally sanctifying the people.

This passage also mentions guilt offerings.



The Hebrew word translated as "guilt offering" is אשׁם (asham- Strong's #817). It is a masculine noun14 that is used in 41 verses of the Tanakh. Like chata'at can mean both "sin" and the "sin offering", asham can mean both "guilt" and "guilt offering".

The first use of asham is found in Genesis regarding the story of Isaac and Abimelech. Isaac asks Rebekah to tell everyone that she is his sister. Abimelech sees Isaac caressing his wife and confronts him:

Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us." (Genesis 26:10)


The first use of asham as a "guilt offering" is found in the book of Leviticus.

He shall also bring his guilt offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin. (Leviticus 5:6)


For more details regarding "atonement" see What Scripture Says About Atonement.


The last time asham is used in the sense of "guilt offering" is written by the prophet Ezekiel... the same verse as the last instance of "sin offering".

He said to me, "This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt offering and the sin offering and where they shall bake the grain offering, in order that they may not bring them out into the outer court to transmit holiness to the people." (Ezekiel 26:20)


A guilt offering is an offering to atone for sins of stealing things from the altar, for when you are not sure whether you have committed a sin or what sin you have committed, or for breach of trust.15


Although there is a striking similarity between the Hebrew word asham and the English word "ashame" there do not appear to be any etymological connections between the two words.



The Hebrew word תמיד (tamid- Strong's #8548) is a masculine noun16 translated as "continual" or "regular"17 but literally means "that which continues" or "that which stretches".18 It is also used in reference to the "continual offerings" or the "regular sacrifice" (e.g. Daniel 8, 11, and 12). Tamid is used 109 times in 102 verses of the Tanakh. It is sometimes translated into English as an adverb: e.g. "continually", "always", at "all times".

Tamid is first used to describe the "bread of the Presence".

"You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times." (Exodus 25:30)


The table of show-bread was to have the bread upon it at all times.


The last time tamid is used in Scripture is by the prophet Habakkuk.

Will they therefore empty their net And continually slay nations without sparing? (Habakkuk 1:17)


The last time it is used in reference to an offering, however, is found in the writings of the prophet Daniel:

"From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. (Daniel 12:11)


Daniel marks a period of time beginning when the tamid (the continual offering in the Temple) is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up.


Tamid simply means continual.


Seasoned With Salt

In describing the qorbanot, Scripture tells us that every qorban should be offered with salt:

Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings [qorbanot] you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)


After describing the qorbanot and the laws for each of them, Leviticus chapter 7 concludes with this:

This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering and the ordination offering and the sacrifice of peace offerings, which the LORD commanded Moses at Mount Sinai in the day that He commanded the sons of Israel to present their offerings to the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai. (Leviticus 7:37-38)


Let's examine each of these qorbanot separately and in more detail... starting with the olah.



1. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions (BDB) [back]
2. New American Standard(r) Updated Edition Exhaustive Concordance (NASEC) of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright (c) 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All Rights Reserved [back]
3. NASEC [back]
4. BDB [back]
5. NASEC [back]
6. NASEC [back]
7. BDB [back]
8. NASEC [back]
9. BDB [back]
10. NASEC [back]
11. ibid [back]
12. BDB [back]
13. NASEC [back]
14. BDB [back]
15. Qorbanot: Sacrifices and Offerings, taken 4/19/2011 from [back]
16. BDB [back]
17. NASEC [back]
18. BDB [back]

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