Question:

During the dediction of the temple, offerings were brought. What happens to burnt offerings? Are they consumed by the fire, does the high priest eat a portion, is any eaten, or is it all consumed by fire?


Answer:

The Mosaical Law contained a variety of offerings (Leviticus 7:37). Sin offerings were given when a person unintentionally sinned (Leviticus 4). Guilt (or trespass) offerings were given when a person sinned unintentionally and had the possibility of making restitution for his sin (Leviticus 5:1-6:7). The purpose of the grain offering is never directly stated, but it appears to be used to express thankfulness to God (Leviticus 2; 6:14-23). It was offered at first harvest and in combination with other sacrifices, perhaps to show thankfulness for forgiven sins. Peace offerings were to show fellowship between the worshiper and God (Leviticus 3). When combined with other sacrifices, the peace offering was always done last as sin must be atoned before fellowship can exist with God. Burnt offerings are related to the sin and guilt offerings (Leviticus 1). It was offered for the atonement of sin (Leviticus 1:4), but the one making the offering could chose what was being offered. All the offerings involved burning portions, but the burnt offering was given wholly to God (Deuteronomy 33:10). Only the skin of the animals offered were kept (Leviticus 7:8). Dedication offerings were given when articles of the tabernacle or temple were put into service or when a person became a priest.

The burnt offering and grain offering were to be done on a daily basis for the nation. The sin offering, guilt offering, and dedication offerings were done as needed for the individual. The burnt offering, grain offering, and peace offering were offered by individuals at appointed occasions, such as feasts, as the fulfillment of a vow, or as a freewill offering (Numbers 16:3; 29:39).

Burnt, grain, and peace offerings were subcategories of a freewill offering. When a individual offered a burnt offering, grain offering, or peace offering he was allowed to choose to offer whatever he desired within certain guidelines. For example, money and goods were given as freewill offerings (Ezra 1:4-6; 8:28); however, money gained from prostitution could not be accepted as fulfillment of a vowed offering (Deuteronomy 23:18). Even words of praise were considered to be freewill offerings (Psalms 119:108). Obviously, items that were not sacrificial animals were not burnt, in whole or in part. Instead, they were used in God's service. II Chronicles 31:14 speaks of a man appointed to oversee the usage of freewill offerings.

Jesus' death upon the cross is described as a combination of offerings. His death is called a sin offering (Hebrews 9:24-10:3; 13:10-14). If you recall that offerings which were burnt were said to be a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord (Leviticus 1:17; 2:2; 3:16), you can see then that the Lord's death was also a "burnt offering" even though he was not burnt (Ephesians 5:2). This is because Jesus voluntarily gave himself wholly over to God to appease God's wrath.

In the same way, Christians are expected to be a whole (or burnt) offering to God when we dedicate our lives in the service of God (Romans 12:1-2).


Special Rules for Vowed Sacrifices

Peace offerings, grain offerings, and burnt offerings could be vowed to God. When the vow was fulfilled, the offering had to be made (Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:1-4). Just about anything that belonged to a person could be vowed to God: people (Leviticus 27:2-8), livestock (Leviticus 27:9-13), homes (Leviticus 27:14-15), or property (Leviticus 27:16-25) are given as examples. Most vowed offerings could be redeemed, or bought back, and most of Leviticus 27 deals with how to determine the redemption price. However, certain things could not be redeemed: sacrificial animals (Leviticus 27:9-10), firstborn clean animals because they already belong to the Lord (Leviticus 27:26), or anything that a man sets apart for destruction, whether man, animal, or property (Leviticus 27:28). Anyone whom the Lord has set apart for destruction cannot be redeemed as they are under a death sentence (Leviticus 27:29). By implication, firstborn children also could not be redeemed if they are vowed because they already belong to God (Exodus 13:2, 12-15). In addition, anything vowed once and redeemed, could not be redeemed if it was vowed a second time.

Obviously, anything vowed as a burnt offering is vowed for destruction. It cannot be redeemed. If it is a sacrificial animal, it will be offered up to God. Everything else becomes most holy and belongs to God (Leviticus 27:28). For example, property that becomes vowed for destruction, whether on purpose or by selling it before it is redeemed, becomes the property of the priests (Leviticus 27:20-21). Other things would be put into service for God.

This is how Samuel, the firstborn son of a Levite (I Chronicles 6:16, 28), came to serve the Lord (I Samuel 3:1). His mother made a vow that if she was given a child, the child would be given to the Lord (I Samuel 1:11). Though Leviticus 27 allows for vowed children to be redeemed, a firstborn child already belongs to God and hence cannot be redeemed.

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