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Monday, December 4th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

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An offering made to God on his altar, by the hand of a lawful minister. A sacrifice differed from an oblation; it was properly the offering up of a life; whereas an oblation was but a simple offering or gift. There is every reason to believe that sacrifices were from the first of divine appointment; otherwise they would have been a superstitious will-worship, which God could not have accepted as he did. See ABEL . Adam and his sons, Noah and his descendents, Abraham and his posterity, Job and Melchizedek, before the Mosaic law, offered to God real sacrifices. That law did but settle the quality, the number, and other circumstances of sacrifices. Every one was priest and minister of his own sacrifice; at least, he was at liberty to choose what priest he pleased in offering his victim. Generally, this honor belonged to the head of a family; hence it was the prerogative of the firstborn. But after Moses this was, among the Jews, confined to the family of Aaron.

There was but one place appointed in the law for the offering of sacrifices by the Jews. It was around the one altar of the only true God in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, that all his people were to unite in his worship, Leviticus 17:4,9 Deuteronomy 12:5-18 . On some special occasions, however, kings, prophets, and judges sacrificed elsewhere, Judges 2:5 6:26 13:16 1 Samuel 7:17 1 Kings 3:2,3 18:33 . The Jews were taught to cherish the greatest horror of human sacrifices, as heathenish and revolting, Leviticus 20:2 Deuteronomy 12:31 Psalm 106:37 Isaiah 66:3 Ezekiel 20:31 .

The Hebrews had three kinds of sacrifices:

1. The burnt-offering or holocaust, in which the whole victim was consumed, without any reserve to the person who gave the victim, or to the priest who killed and sacrificed it, except that the priest had the skin; for before the victims were offered to the Lord, their skins were flayed off, and their feet and entrails were washed, Leviticus 1:1-17 7:8 . Every burnt offering contained an acknowledgment of general guilt, and a typical expiation of it. The burning of the whole victim on the altar signified, on the part of the offerer, the entireness of his devotion of himself and all his substance to God; and, on the part of the victim, the completeness of the expiation.

2. The sin offering, of which the trespass offering may be regarded as a variety. This differed from the burnt-offering in that it always had respect to particular offences against law either moral through ignorance, or at least not in a presumptuous spirit. No part of it returned to him who had given it, but the sacrificing priest had a share of it, Leviticus 4:1-6:30 7:1-10 3 . Peace-offerings: these were offered in the fulfillment of vows, to return thanks to God for benefits, (thank-offerings,) or to satisfy private devotion, (freewill-offerings.) The Israelites accordingly offered these when they chose, no law obliging them to it, and they were free to choose among such animals as were allowed in sacrifice, Leviticus 3:1-17 7:11-34 . The law only required that the victim should be without blemish. He who presented it came to the door of the tabernacle, put his hand on the head of the victim, and killed it. The priest poured out the blood about the altar of burntsacrifices: he burnt on the fire of the altar the fat of the lower belly, that which covers the kidneys, the liver, and the bowels. And if it were a lamb, or a ram, he added to it the rump of the animal, which in that country is very fat. Before these things were committed to the fire of the altar, the priest put them into the hands of the offerer, then made him lift them up on high, and wave them toward the four quarters of the world, the priest supporting and direction his hands. The breast and the right shoulder of the sacrifice belonged to the priest that performed the service; and it appears that both of them were put into the hands of him who offered them, though Moses mentions only the breast of the animal. After this, all the rest of the sacrifice belonged to him who presented it, and he might eat it with his family and friends at his pleasure, Leviticus 8:31 . The peace offering signified expiation of sin, and thus reconciliation with God, and holy communion with him and with his people.

The sacrifices of offerings of meal or liquors, which were offered for sin, were in favor of the poorer sort, who could not afford to sacrifice an ox or goat or sheep, Leviticus 5:10-13 . They contented themselves with offering meal or flour, sprinkled with oil, with spice (or frankincense) over it. And the priest, taking a handful of this flour, with all the frankincense, sprinkled them on the fire of the altar; and all the rest of the flour was his own: he was to eat it without leaven in the tabernacle, and none but priests were to partake of it. As to other offerings, fruits, wine, meal, wafers, or cakes, or any thing else, the priest always cast a part on the altar; the rest belonged to him and the other priests. These offerings were always accompanied with salt and wine, but were without leaven, Leviticus 2:1-16 .

Offerings, in which they set at liberty a bird or a goat, were not strictly sacrifices, because there was no shedding of blood, and the victim remained alive.

Sacrifices of birds were offered on three occasions: 1. For sin, when the person offering was not rich enough to provide an animal for a victim, Leviticus 5:7,8 2 . For purification of a woman after childbirth, Leviticus 12:6,7 . When she could offer a lamb and a young pigeon, she gave both; the lamb for a burnt offering, the pigeon for a sin offering. But if she were not able to offer a lamb, she gave a pair of turtles, or a pair of young pigeons; one for a burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering. 3. They offered two sparrows for those who were purified from the leprosy; one was a burnt offering, the other was a scape-sparrow, as above, Leviticus 14:4 , etc Leviticus 14:1 27:34 .

For the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, see PASSOVER .

The perpetual sacrifice of the tabernacle and temple, Exodus 29:38-40 Numbers 28:3 , was a daily offering of two lambs on the altar of burnt offerings; one in the morning, the other in the evening. They were burnt as holocausts, but by a small fire, that they might continue burning the longer. The lamb of the morning was offered about sunrise, after the incense was burnt on the golden altar, and before any other sacrifice. That in the evening was offered between the two evenings, that is, at the decline of day, and before night. With each of these victims was offered half a pint of wine, half a pint of the purest oil, and an assaron, or about five pints, of the finest flour.

Such were the sacrifices of the Hebrews-sacrifices of divine appointment, and yet altogether incapable in themselves of purifying the soul or atoning for its sins. Paul has described these and other ceremonies of the law "as weak and beggarly elements," Galatians 4:9 . They represented grace and purity, but they did not communicate it. They convinced the sinner of his necessity of purification and sanctification to God; but they did not impart holiness or justification to him. Sacrifices were only prophecies and figures of the sacrifice, the Lamb of God, which eminently includes all their virtues and qualities; being at the same time a holocaust, a sacrifice for sin, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving; containing the whole substance and efficacy, of which the ancient sacrifices were only representations. The paschal lamb, the daily burnt-offerings, the offerings of flour and wine, and all other oblations, of whatever nature, promised and represented the death of Jesus Christ, Hebrews 9:9-15 10:1 . Accordingly, by his death he abolished them all, 1 Corinthians 5:7 Hebrews 10:8-10 . By his offering of himself once for all, Hebrews 10:3 , he has superseded all other sacrifices, and saves forever all who believe, Ephesians 5:2 Hebrews 9:11-26; while without this expiatory sacrifice, divine justice could never have relaxed its hold on a single human soul.

The idea of a substitution of the victim in the place of the sinner is a familiar one in the Old Testament, Leviticus 16:21 Deuteronomy 21:1-8 Isaiah 53:4 Daniel 9:26; and is found attending all the sacrifices of animals, Leviticus 4:20,26 5:10 14:18 16:21 . This is the reason assigned why the blood especially, as being the very life and soul of the victim, was sprinkled on the altar and poured out before the Lord to signify its utter destruction in the sinner's stead, Leviticus 17:11 . Yet the Jews were carefully directed not to rely on these sacrifices as works of merit. They were taught that without repentance, faith, and reformation, all sacrifices were an abomination to God, Proverbs 21:27 Jeremiah 6:20 Amos 5:22 Micah 6:6-8; that He desires mercy and not sacrifice, Hosea 6:6 Matthew 9:13 , and supreme love to him, Mark 12:33 . "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams," 1 Samuel 15:22 Proverbs 21:3 Matthew 5:23 . See also Psalm 50:1-23 . Then, as truly as under the Christian dispensation, it could be said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," Psalm 51:17 . The Jews, without these dispositions, could not present any offering agreeable to God; and he often explains himself on this matter in the prophets, Psalm 40:6 Isaiah 1:11-14 Hosea 6:6 Joel 2:12-18 Amos 5:21,22 , etc.

The term sacrifices is sometimes used metaphorically with respect to the services of Christians; implying a giving up of something that was their own, and a dedication of it to the Lord, Romans 12:1 Philippians 4:18 Hebrews 13:15,16 1 Peter 2:5 .

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Sacrifice'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​ats/​s/sacrifice.html. 1859.
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