Click here to join the effort!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Burnt-Offerings, sacrifices which owed their Hebrew name (olah, literally, 'what goes up,' from alah, 'to ascend'), to the circumstance that the whole of the offering was to be consumed by fire upon the altar, and to rise, as it were, in smoke towards heaven.
Such burnt-offerings are among the most ancient, if not the earliest, on Scriptural record. We find them already in use in the patriarchal times; hence the opinion of some, that Abel's offering (Genesis 4:4) was a burnt-offering as regarded the firstlings of his flock, while the pieces of fat which he offered was a thank-offering, just in the manner that Moses afterwards ordained, or rather confirmed from ancient custom (Leviticus 1 sq.). It was a burnt-offering that Noah offered to the Lord after the Deluge (Genesis 8:20).
Only oxen, male sheep or goats, or turtle-doves and young pigeons, all without blemish, were fit for burnt-offerings. The offerer, in person, was obliged to carry this sacrifice first of all into the fore-court, as far as the gate of the tabernacle or temple, where the animal was examined by the officiating priest to ascertain that it was without blemish. The offerer then laid his hand upon the victim, confessing his sins, and dedicated it as his sacrifice to propitiate the Almighty. The animal was then killed (which might be done by the offerer himself) towards the north of the altar (Leviticus 1:11), in allusion, as the Talmud alleges, to the coming of inclement weather (typical of the Divine wrath) from the northern quarter of the heavens. After this began the ceremony of taking up the blood and sprinkling it around the altar, that is, upon the lower part of the altar, not immediately upon it, lest it should extinguish the fire thereon (Leviticus 3:2; Deuteronomy 12:27; 2 Chronicles 29:22).
The next act was the skinning or flaying of the animal, and the cutting of it into pieces, actions which the offerer himself was allowed to perform (Leviticus 1:6). The skin alone belonged to the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:8). The dissection of the animal began with the head, legs, etc. and it was divided into twelve pieces. The priest then took the right shoulder, breast, and entrails, and placing them in the hands of the offerer, he put his own hands beneath those of the former, and thus waved the sacrifice up and down several times in acknowledgment of the all-powerful presence of God. The officiating priest then retraced his steps to the altar, placed the wood upon it in the form of a cross, and lighted the fire. The entrails and legs being cleansed with water, the separated pieces were placed together upon the altar in the form of a slain animal. Poor people were allowed to bring a turtle-dove or a young pigeon as a burnt offering, these birds being very common and cheap in Palestine. The mode of killing them was by nipping off the head with the nails of the hand.
Standing public burnt-offerings were those used daily morning and evening (Numbers 28:3; Exodus 29:38), and on the three great festivals (Leviticus 23:37; Numbers 28:11-27; Numbers 29:2-22; Leviticus 16:3; comp. 2 Chronicles 35:12-16).
Private and occasional burnt-offerings were those brought by women rising from childbed (Leviticus 12:6); those brought by persons cured of leprosy (Leviticus 14:19-22); those brought by persons cleansed from issue (Leviticus 15:14, sq.); and those brought by the Nazarites when rendered unclean by having come in contact with a dead body (Numbers 6:9), or after the days of their separation were fulfilled (Numbers 6:14).
Nor were the burnt-offerings confined to these cases alone; we find them in use almost on all important occasions, events, and solemnities, whether private or public, and often in very large numbers (comp. Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:9; 2 Chronicles 31:2; 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Chronicles 29:21; 2 Chronicles 29:21; Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:35). Heathens also were allowed to offer burnt-offerings in the temple, and Augustus gave orders to sacrifice for him every day in the temple at Jerusalem a burnt-offering, consisting of two lambs and one ox.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Burnt-Offerings'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/b/burnt-offerings.html.
the Third Week after Epiphany