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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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The act of offering to a deity for the purpose of doing homage, winning favor, or securing pardon; that which is offered or consecrated. The late generic term for "sacrifice" in Hebrew is , the verb being , used in connection with all kinds of sacrifices.

—Biblical Data:

It is assumed in the Scriptures that the institution of sacrifice is coeval with the race. Abel and Cain are represented as the first among men to sacrifice; and to them are attributed the two chief classes of oblations: namely, the vegetable or bloodless, and the animal or blood-giving (Genesis 4:3,4). After the Flood, Noah offered of "every clean beast, and of every clean fowl" (ib. 8:20). The building of altars by the Patriarchs is frequently recorded (ib. 12:7,8; 13:4,18; 21:33; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7). Abraham offers a sacrifice at which Yhwh makes a covenant with him (ib. ). In the history of Jacob a sacrifice is mentioned as a ratification of a treaty (ib. 31:54). He sacrifices also when he leaves Canaan to settle in Egypt (ib. 46:1). Abraham had been or believed he had been given the command to sacrifice his son (ib. ). These ancient offerings included not only the bloodless kind (ib. 4:3), but also holocausts (ib. 8:20, 22:13) and animal thank-offerings (ib. 31:54, 46:1).

Place of Sacrifice.

The primitive altar was made of earth (comp. Exodus 20:24) or of unhewn stones (ib. 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5), and was located probably on an elevation (see see ALTAR; HIGH PLACE). The story in Genesis proceeds on the theory that wherever the opportunity was presented for sacrifice there it was offered (Genesis 8:20, 31:54; comp. Exodus 24:4). No one fixed place seems to have been selected (Exodus 20:24, where the Masoretic text, = "I will have my 'zeker' [ = "remembrance"]," and Geiger's emendation, = "Thou wilt place my 'zeker,'" bear out this inference). This freedom to offer sacrifices at any place recurs in the eschatological visions of the Later Prophets (Isaiah 19:19,21; Zephaniah 2:11; Malachi 1:11; Zechariah 14:20,21), thus confirming the thesis of Gunkel ("Schöpfung und Chaos") that the end is always a reproduction of the beginning.

The Paschal Sacrifice.

Under Moses, according to the Pentateuch, this freedom to offer sacrifices anywhere and without the ministrations of the appointed sacerdotal agents disappears. The proper place for the oblations was to be "before the door of the tabernacle," where the altar of burnt offerings stood (Ex. 6), and where Yhwh met His people (ib. 29:42; Leviticus 1:3; 4:4; 12:6; 15:14,29; 16:7; 17:2-6; 19:21), or simply "before Yhwh" (Leviticus 3:1,7,12; 9:2,4,5), and later in Jerusalem in the Temple (Deuteronomy 12:5-7,11,12). That this law was not observed the historical books disclose, and the Prophets never cease complaining about its many violations (HIGH PLACE). The Book of Joshua (24:14) presumes that while in Egypt the Hebrews had become idolaters. The Biblical records report very little concerning the religious conditions among those held in Egyptian bondage. The supposition, held for a long time, that while in the land of Goshen the Israelites had become adepts in the Egyptian sacrificial cult, lacks confirmation by the Biblical documents. The purpose of the Exodus as given in Exodus 8:23 (A. V. 25) is to enable the people to sacrifice to their God. But the only sacrifice commanded in Egypt (ib. ) was that of the paschal lamb (see PASSOVER SACRIFICE). In the account of the Hebrews' migrations in the desert Jethro offers a sacrifice to Yhwh; Moses, Aaron, and the elders participating therein (ib. 18:12). Again, at the conclusion of the revelation on Sinai (ib. 24:5), Moses offers up all kinds of sacrifices, sprinkling some of the blood on the altar. At the consecration of the Tabernacle the chiefs of the tribes are said to have offered, in addition to vessels of gold and silver, 252 animals (Numbers 7:12-88); and it has been calculated that the public burnt offerings amounted annually to no less than 1,245 victims (Kalish, "Leviticus," p. 20). No lessthan 50,000 paschal lambs were killed at the Passover celebration of the second year after the Exodus (Numbers 9:1-14).

Private Sacrifices.

According to the Book of Joshua, after the conquest of Canaan the Tabernacle was established at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1, 19:51, 22:9). During the periods of the Judges and of Samuel it was the central sanctuary (Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 3:3, 14:3; comp. Jeremiah 7:12), where at certain seasons of the year recurring festivals were celebrated and the Hebrews assembled to perform sacrifices and vows (Judges 21:12,19; 1 Samuel 1:3,21; 2:19). But it seems that the people assembled also at Shechem—where was a sanctuary of Yhwh (Joshua 24:1,26)—as well as at Mizpeh in Gilead (Judges 11:11), at Mizpeh in Benjamin (ib. 20:1), at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15, 13:8, 15:21), at Hebron (2 Samuel 5:3), at Beth-el, and at Beer-sheba (Amos 4:4, 5:5, 8:14). They sacrificed at Bochim and Beth-el (Judges 3:5, 21:4). Private sacrifices, also, in the homes of the families, appear to have been in vogue, e.g., in the house of Jesse in Beth-lehem (1 Samuel 20:6), of Ahithophel at Giloh (2 Samuel 15:12), and of Job (Job 1:5, 42:8). Assisting Levites are mentioned (Judges 17:4-13). Gideon offered at Ophrah (ib. 6:11-20,26 et seq.); Manoah, at Zorah (ib. 13:16,19,20); Samuel, at Mizpeh, Ramah, Gilgal, and Beth-lehem (1 Samuel 7:9,10,17; 9:12,13; 10:8; 11:15; 16:25); Saul, at Gilgal (ib. 13:9 et seq.) and during his pursuit of the Philistines (ib. 14:32-35); David, on the thrashing-floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 6:17, 24:25); Absalom, at Hebron (ib. 15:7-9); Adonijah, near En-rogel (1 Kings 1:9); Solomon, "in high places" (ib. 3:2,3); and Elijah, in his contest with the prophets of Baal, on Mount Carmel (ib. ). Naaman took Palestinian soil with him because he desired to offer sacrifice to Yhwh in Syria (2 Kings 5:17,19). The Books of Chronicles throw a different light on this period. If their reports are to be accepted, the sacrificial services were conducted throughout in strict conformity with the Mosaic code (1 Chronicles 15:26, 26:8-36; 2 Chronicles 1:2-6, 2:3, 13:11). Enormous numbers of sacrifices are reported in them (2 Chronicles 15:11; 29:32,33).

In the Solomonic Temple, Solomon himself (though not a priest) offered three times every year burnt offerings and thank-offerings and incense (1 Kings 9:25); he also built high places. Down to the destruction of the Temple, kings, priests, and even prophets, besides the people, are among the inveterate disregarders of the sacrificial ritual of the Pentateuch, worshiping idols and sacrificing to them; e.g., Jeroboam with his golden calves at Dan and Beth-el (1 Kings 12:28; comp. 2 Kings 17:16), Ahimelech at Nob (1 Samuel 21:2-10), and even Aaron (Exodus 32:1-6 comp. Nehemiah 9:18). see BA'AL was worshiped (Hosea 2:10,15; 2 Kings 3:2; 10:26,27; 11:18; Judges 6:25; Jeremiah 7:9, 11:13, 32:29), as were Astarte, BAAL-BERITH, BAAL-PEOR, BAAL-ZEBUB, Moloch, and other false gods, in the cult of which not only animal and vegetable but even human sacrifices (Sacrifice, Critical View) were important features.

Attitude of Prophets.

The attitude of the literary prophets toward sacrifice manifests no enthusiasm for sacrificial worship. Hosea declares in the name of Yhwh: "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of Yhwh more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6; comp. ib. 8:13; 9:3,4; 14:3). Amos proclaims: "I [Yhwh] hate, I despise your feast-days; . . . if you offer me burnt offerings and your bloodless offerings, I will not accept them nor will I regard the thank-offerings of your fat beasts, . . . but let justice flow like water" (Amos 5:21-24, Hebr.; comp. 4:4,5). He goes so far as to doubt the existence of sacrificial institutions in the desert (ib. 5:25). Isaiah is not less strenuous in rejecting a ritualistic sacrificial cult (Isaiah 1:11-17). Jeremiah takes up the burden (Jeremiah 6:19,20; comp. 31:31-33). He, like Amos, in expressing his scorn for the burnt offerings and other slaughtered oblations, takes occasion to deny that the fathers had been commanded concerning these things when they came forth from Egypt (ib. 7:21 et seq.). Malachi, a century later, complains of the wrong spirit which is manifest at the sacrifices ("Malachi 1:10). Ps. emphasizes most beautifully the prophetic conviction that thanksgiving alone is acceptable, as does Psalms 69:31,32. Deutero-Isaiah ( 16) suggests the utter inadequacy of sacrifices. "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to Yhwh than sacrifice" is found in 1 Samuel 15:22 (Hebr.) as a censure of Saul; and gnomic wisdom is not without similar confession (Proverbs 15:8; 21:3,27; 28:9; Ecclesiastes 4:17). Some passages assert explicitly that sacrifices are not desired (Ps. 7-9, 51:17-19). Micah's rejection of sacrificial religion has become the classical definition of ethical monotheism (Mic. 6:6-8). Other Psalms and prophetic utterances, however, deplore the cessation of sacrificial services at the Temple and look forward to their reinstitution (Psalms 51:20,21; Joel 2:12,13; Jeremiah 31:14; 33:11,17,18). The apocalyptic character of some of these predictions is not disputable, neither is that of Isaiah 19:21, 56:7, 60:7. In Ezekiel's scheme of the restoration, also, the sacrifices receive very generous treatment (Ezek. -).

The Mosaic Sacrifices.

The Mosaic sacrificial scheme is for the most part set forth in Leviticus. The sacrifices ordained may be divided into the bloodless and the blood-giving kinds. This division takes into consideration the nature of the offering. But another classification may be made according to the occasion for which the oblation is brought and the sentiments and motives of the offerers. On this basis the sacrifices are divided into: (1) burnt offerings, (2) thankor praise-offerings, (3) sinor trespass-offerings, and (4) purificative offerings. Among the thank-offerings might be included the paschal lamb, the offering of the first-born, and the see FIRST-FRUITS; in the category of sin-offerings, the jealousy-offering. As a rule, the burnt, the expiatory, and the purificative offerings were animal sacrifices, but in exceptional cases a cereal sin-offering was accepted or prescribed. Thank-offerings might consist either of animal or of vegetable oblations.

Animal sacrifices were generally accompanied by bloodless offerings, and in many cases by a libation of wine or a drink-offering also. Bloodless offeringswere, however, brought alone; for instance, that of the showbread and the frankincense offering on the golden altar. Another classification might be (1) voluntary or free-will offerings (private holocausts and thank- or vow-offerings) and (2) compulsory or obligatory offerings (private and public praise-offerings, public holocausts, and others).

The Materials of Sacrifices.

The sacrificial animals were required to be of the clean class (Genesis 7:23; Leviticus 11:47, 14:4, 20:25; Deuteronomy 14:11,20). Still, not all clean animals occur in the specifications of the offerings, for which were demanded mainly cattle from the herd or from the flock; viz., the bullock and the ox, the cow and the calf; the sheep, male or female, and the lamb; the goat, male or female, and the kid. Of fowls, turtle-doves and pigeons were to be offered, but only in exceptional cases as holocausts and sin-offerings; they were not accepted as thank- or praise-offerings nor as a public sacrifice. Fishes were altogether excluded. The bullock formed the burnt offering of the whole people on New Moon and holy days, and for inadvertent transgressions; of the chiefs at the dedication of the Tabernacle; of the Levites at their initiation; and of private individuals in emergencies. It was the sin-offering for the community or the high priest, for the priests when inducted into office, and for the high priest on the Day of Atonement. In cases of peculiar joyfulness it was chosen for the thank-offering. The ram was presented as a holocaust or a thank-offering by the people or by their chiefs, the high priest or ordinary priests, and by the Nazarite, never by an individual layman. It was the ordinary trespass-offering for violation of property rights. The kid was the special animal for sin-offerings. It was permitted also for private burnt offerings and for thank-offerings; but it was never prescribed for public burnt offerings. The lamb was employed for the daily public holocausts, and very commonly for all private offerings of whatever character. The pigeon and turtle-dove served for burnt offerings and sin-offerings in cases of lustrations. They were allowed as private holocausts, and were accepted as sin-offerings from the poorer people and as purification-offerings; but they were excluded as thank-offerings, nor did they form part of the great public or festal sacrifices.

The bloodless oblations consisted of vegetable products, chief among which were flour (in some cases roasted grains) and wine. Next in importance was oil. As accessories, frankincense and salt were required, the latter being added on nearly all occasions. Leaven and honey were used in a few instances only.

Qualities of Offerings.

Concerning the qualification of the offerings, the Law ordained that the animals be perfect (Deuteronomy 15:21, 17:1; specified more in detail in Leviticus 22:18-25), the blind, broken, maimed, ulcerous, scurvied, scabbed, bruised, crushed, and castrated being excluded. This injunction was applied explicitly to burnt (Leviticus 1:3; 9:2,3; 23:18), thank- (ib. 3:1,6; 22:21), and expiatory offerings (ib. 4:3,23,28,32; 5:15,18,25; 9:2,3; 14:10) and the paschal lamb (Exodus 12:5). To offer a blemished animal was deemed sacrilegious (Deuteronomy 17:1; Malachi 1:6,7,8,9,13). In most cases a male animal was required; but a female victim was prescribed in a few cases, as, for instance, that of the sin-offering of the ordinary Israelite. In other cases the choice between male and female was left open, e.g., in private thank-offerings and offerings of the firstlings. For pigeons and turtle-doves no particular sex is mentioned.

As to the age of the victims, none might be offered prior to the seventh day from birth (Leviticus 22:27). Mother and young might not be slaughtered on the same day (ib. 22:28). The first-born males were to be killed within the first year (Deuteronomy 15:19 et seq.). Burnt offerings and sin- and thank-offerings were required to be more than one year old, as was the paschal lamb (Exodus 12:5, 29:38; Leviticus 9:3; 12:6; 14:10; 23:12,19; Numbers 6:12,14; 7:17,23,29; 15:27; 28:3,9,11,19,27). For doves and pigeons no age was set. Sometimes the sacrifice called for an animal that had neither done any work nor borne any yoke, e.g., the RED HEIFER (Numbers 19:1-10; Deuteronomy 21:3,4). The animal was required to be the lawful property of the sacrificer (2 Samuel 24:24; Deuteronomy 28:19; Ezra 6:9; 7:17,22; I Macc. 10:39; II Macc. 3:3, 9:16; Josephus, "Ant." 12:3, § 3).

Liquid Sacrifices.

The ears of corn (Leviticus 2:14) presented as a first-fruits offering were required to be of the earlier and therefore better sort, the grains to be rubbed or beaten out; the flour, as a rule, of the finest quality and from the choicest cereal, wheat. The offering of the wife suspected of adultery was of common barley flour. As to quantity, at least one-tenth part of an ephah or an omer of flour was used. It was mixed with water, and in most cases was left unleavened; it was then made into dough and baked in loaves or thin cakes. The oil had to be pure white olive-oil from the unripe berries squeezed or beaten in a mortar. It was usually poured over the offering or mingled therewith, or it was brushed over the thin cakes. Sometimes, however, the offering was soaked in oil. The frankincense was white and pure. The wine is not described or qualified in the Law. "Shekar" is another liquid mentioned as a libation (Numbers 28:7); it must have been an intoxicating fermented liquor, and was prohibited to priests during service and to Nazarites. Salt was used with both the blood-giving and the bloodless sacrifices (Leviticus 2:13); its use is not further described. Leaven and honey were generally excluded, but the former was permitted for the first new bread offered on Pentecost and for the bread and cakes at every praise-offering; the latter, when offered as a first-fruits offering.

Of the necessary preparations the chief was "sanctification" (Joel 1:14; 2:15,16; 4:9; Mic. 3:5; Nehemiah 3:1; Psalms 20), consisting in bathing, washing, and change of garments, and in conjugal abstinence (Genesis 35:2-4; Exodus 19:10,14,15; 33:5,6; Joshua 3:5, 7:13). These laws were amplified with reference to the officiating PRIEST (Exodus 30:17-21, 30-32).

Times of Sacrifice.

No particular time of the day is specified for sacrifices, except that the daily holocausts are to be killed"in the morning" and "between the two evenings" (Exodus 16:12; 29:39,41; 30:8; Numbers 28:4). When the gift had been properly prepared, the offerer, whether man or woman, brought (Leviticus 4:4,14; 12:6; 14:23; 15:29) it to the place where alone it was lawful to sacrifice—"before Yhwh," or "to the door of the tent of meeting," e., the court where the altar of burnt offering stood. To offer it elsewhere would have been shedding blood (Leviticus 17:3-5,8,9). The injunction to offer in the proper place is repeated more especially in regard to the individual class of sacrifice (Leviticus 1:3; 4:4,14; 6:18; 12:6; 13:2,8,12; 15:29; 19:21). The victim was killed "on the side of the altar [of holocausts] northward" (Leviticus 1:11, 4:24, 6:18, 7:2, 14:13). When the offering, if a quadruped, had been brought within the precincts of the sanctuary, and after examination had been found qualified, the offerer laid one hand upon the victim's head (Leviticus 1:4; 3:2,8,13; 4:5,15). On the scape-goat, the high priest laid both of his hands (ib. 16:21). This "laying on of hands" ("semikah") might not be performed by a substitute (Aaron and his sons laid hands on the sin- and burnt offerings killed on their own behalf; see Leviticus 8:14,18). After the imposition of his hand, the offerer at once killed the animal. If presented by the community, the victim was immolated by one of the elders (ib. 4:15). Priests might perform this act for the offering Israelites (2 Chronicles 30:15-47; 35:10,11), though the priestly function began only with the act of receiving the blood, or, in bloodless offerings, with the taking of a handful to be burned on the altar, while the Israelite himself poured over and mixed the oil. The priests invariably killed the doves or pigeons by wringing off their heads (Leviticus 1:15, 5:8).

The Blood.

The utmost care was taken by the priest to receive the blood; it represented the life or soul. None but a circumcised Levite in a proper state of Levitical purity and attired in proper vestments might perform this act; so, too, the sprinkling of the blood was the exclusive privilege of the "priests, the sons of Aaron" (ib. 1:5,11; 3:2,8,13). Moses sprinkled it when Aaron and his sons were inducted; but this was exceptional (ib. 8:15,19,23). In holocausts and thank-offerings the blood was sprinkled "round about upon the altar" (ib. 1:5,11; 3:2,8,13). In the sin-offering, the later (ib. 7:2) practise seems to have been to put some of the blood on the horns of the brazen altar, or on those of the golden altar when that was used, or even on parts of the holy edifice (ib. 4:6,7,17,18,25,30,34). The same distinction appears in the case of turtle-doves and pigeons: when burnt offerings, their blood was smeared on the side of the brazen altar (ib. 8:15; 16:18,19); when sin-offerings, it was partly sprinkled on the side of the altar and partly smeared on the base. The animal was then flayed, the skin falling to the priest (ib. 1:6, 7:8). In some Sin-Offerings the skin was burned along with the flesh (ib. 4:11,12,20,21; comp. ib. 4:26,31,35). If the entire animal was devoted to the flames, the carcass was "cut into pieces" (ib. 1:6, 8:20). The bowels and legs of the animals used in the burnt offerings were carefully washed (ib. 1:9, 8:21, 9:14) before they were placed on the altar. Certain offerings or portions thereof had to pass through the ceremony of waving, a rite which is not further described in the Bible (Sacrifice, in Rabbinical Literature).

Waving and Heaving.

Another ceremony is mentioned in connection with the waving, viz., the heaving. This ceremony, likewise not further described, was observed with the right shoulder of the thank-offering, after which the part belonged to the priest. The sacrificial rites were completed by the consumption by fire of the sacrifice or those parts destined for God.

Sacrificial meals were ordained in the cases where some portion of the sacrifice was reserved for the priests or for the offering Israelites. The bloodless oblations of the Israelites, being "most holy," were eaten by the males of the priests alone in the court of the sanctuary (ib. 7:9,10), those of the priests being consumed by fire on the altar. In other sacrifices other provisions for these meals were made (ib. 7:12-14). The repast was a part of the priest's duties (ib. 10:16-18). Public thank-offerings seem to have been given over entirely to the priests (ib. 23:20), with the exception of the see FAT. In private thank-offerings this was burned on the altar (ib. 3:3-5,9-11,14-16; 7:31), the right shoulder was given to the priest (ib. 7:31-34, 10:14-15), the breast to the Aaronites (ib. 7:31-34), and the remainder was left to the offering Israelite. The priests might eat their portions with their families in any "clean" place (ib. 10:14). The offering Israelite in this case had to eat his share within a fixed and limited time (ib. 7:15-18, 19:5-8), with his family and such guests as Levites and strangers, and always at the town where the sanctuary was (for penalty and other conditions see ib. 7:19-21; Deuteronomy 12:6,7,11,12; 1 Samuel 9:12,13,19). Participation in the meals of idolatrous sacrifices was a fatal offense (Exodus 34:14,15; Numbers 25:1-3; comp. Psalms 106:28,29).

Compound Sacrifices.

The vegetable- and drink-offerings accompanied all the usual holocausts and thank-offerings on ordinary days and Sabbaths, and on festivals (Numbers 15:3) of whatever character (Exodus 29:40,41; Leviticus 7:12,13; 23:13,18; Numbers 15:3-9,14-16; 28:9,20,21,28,29). The kind of cereal oblation offered varied according to the species of the animals sacrificed, and the amount was increased in proportion to the number of the latter (Leviticus 14:21; Numbers 15:4,12; 28:5,9,12; 29:3,4,9,10,14,15). However, a cereal oblation ("minḥah") might under certain circumstances be offered independently, e.g., the SHOWBREAD, the first sheaf of ripe barley on Pesaḥ, the first loaves of leavened bread from new wheat on Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16,17,20; Numbers 28:26), and the sin-offering of the very poor (Leviticus 5:11-13). The minḥah with the burnt offerings and thank-offerings was always fine wheaten flour merely mingled with oil; it is not clear whether this minḥah was burned entirely (ib. 14:20; comp. ib. 9:16,17). If it was presented alone as a free-will offering or as a votive offering, it might be offered in various forms and with differentceremonies (ib. 2:2; 5:12; 6:8; 7:9,10; also; 6:12-16; 7:12-14; 27:10,11). The mode of libation is not described in the Law; but every holocaust or thank-offering was to be accompanied with a libation of wine, the quantity of which was exactly graduated according to the animal, etc. (Numbers 15:3-11). Water seems to have been used at one time for "pouring out" before Yhwh (1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 23:16). As to the spices belonging to the sacrifices, four are named in the Torah, BALSAM and FRANKINCENSE being the more important ("stacte, and onycha, and galbanum . . . with pure frankincense," Exodus 30:34).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The sacrifices treated of in the Law were, according to tradition, the following: (1) the holocaust ("'olah"); (2) the meal-offering ("minḥah"); (3) the sin-offering ("ḥaṭat"); (4) the trespass-offering ("asham")—these four were "holy of holies" ("ḳodesh ha-ḳodashim"); (5) the peace-offerings ("shelamim"), including the thank-offering ("todah") and the voluntary or vow-offering ("nedabah" or "neder"). These shelamim, as well as the sacrifice of the first-born ("bekor") and of the tithe of animals ("ma'aser" and "pesaḥ"), were less holy ("ḳodashim ḳallim"). For the 'olot, only male cattle or fowls might be offered; for the shelamim, all kinds of cattle. The ḥaṭat, too, might consist of fowls, or, in the case of very poor sacrificers, of flour. For the trespass-offering, only the lamb ("kebes") or the ram ("ayil") might be used. Every 'olah, as well as the votive offerings and the free-will shelamim, required an accessory meal-offering and libation ("nesek"). To a todah were added loaves or cakes of baked flour, both leavened and unleavened.

Acts of Sacrifice.

Every sacrifice required sanctification ("ḥakdashah"), and was to be brought into the court of the sanctuary ("haḳrabah"). In the animal offerings the following acts were observed: (1) "semikah" = laying on of the hand (or both hands, according to tradition); (2) "sheḥiṭah" = killing; (3) "ḳabbalah" = gathering (receiving) the blood; (4) "holakah" = carrying the blood to the altar; (5) "zeriḳah" = sprinkling the blood; (6) "haḳṭarah" = consumption by fire. For the sacrifices of lesser holiness the victims might be slaughtered anywhere in the court; for the ḳodesh ha-ḳodashim, at the north side of it only. Zeriḳah, in all cases except the sin-offering, consisted of two distinct acts of sprinkling, in each of which two sides of the altar were reached. In the case of the sin-offering, the blood was as a rule smeared with the fingers on the four horns of the brazen altar, but in some instances (e.g., in the case of the bullock and the goat on Yom ha-Kippurim) it was sprinkled seven times upon the curtain of the Holy of Holies and smeared upon the four horns of the golden altar. Offerings of the latter class were on this account called the "inner" sin-offerings. The remainder of the blood of these was poured out at the base of the west side of the brazen altar; in other oblations, on the south side.

The haḳṭarah consisted in flaying the carcass and cutting it into pieces, all of which, if it was an 'olah, were burned on the altar; in the case of other offerings only a few prescribed parts, which were called the "emorim," were burned. If an 'olah consisted of a fowl, the acts of offering were as follows: (1) "meleḳah" = wringing the neck so as to sever both the esophagus and the trachea; (2) "miẓẓuy" = the pressing out of the blood against the wall; (3) "haḳṭarah" = burning. When a fowl was sacrificed for a sin-offering the procedure was as follows: (1) "meleḳah" = wringing the neck, but less completely, only one "siman" being severed; (2) "hazzayah" = sprinkling the blood; and (3) the "miẓẓuy."

Preparation of Minḥah.

In the preparation of the meal-offering some differences were observed. Most of such offerings were of the finest wheat flour, the minimum quantity being fixed at an "'issaron" (= one-tenth ephah). One log of oil and a handful of incense were added to every 'issaron. Mention is made of the following minḥot: (1) "minḥat solet," the meal-offering of flour, of which a handful ("ḳomeẓ") was placed on the altar; (2) "me'uppat tanur" = baked in the oven (e., consisting either of cakes ["ḥallot"] or wafers ["reḳiḳin"], both of which were broken into pieces before the ḳomeẓ was taken from them); (3) "'al ha-maḥabat" = baked in a flat pan; (4) "'al ha-marḥeshet" = baked in a deep pan; (5) "minḥat ḥabitim" (this consisted of one-tenth ephah of flour mixed with three logs of oil, formed into twelve cakes, and baked in pans, six of which cakes the high priest offered by burning with a half-handful of incense in the morning, and the other six in the evening; Leviticus 6:12 et seq.); (6) "minḥat 'omer" (= "second of Passover"; 'Omer), consisting of one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour, incense, and oil (ib. 23:10; comp. ib. 2:14); (7) "minḥat ḥinnuk," the dedication meal-offering (similar to minḥat ḥabitim, with the difference that only one log of oil was used, and the whole was burned at once [ib. 6:13; Maimonides, "Yad," Kele ha-Miḳdash, 5:16; Sifra, Ẓaw, 2:3; Sifra, ed. Warsaw, 1866, p. 31b; Rashi on Men. 51b; comp. Men. 78a; Hoffmann, "Leviticus," pp. 230 et seq.]); (8) "minḥat ḥoṭe," the meal-offering of the very poor, when compelled to offer a "ḳorban 'oleh we-yored"; (9) "minḥat soṭah," the jealousy meal-offering (Numbers 5:15); (10) "minḥat nesakim," the meal-of-fering of the libations (ib. ).


"Haggashah," the carrying to the "ḳeren ma'arbit deromit" (Leviticus 6:7; Hoffmann, c. p. 150), the southwest corner of the altar, of the vessel or pan in which the minḥah had been placed, was the first act. The second, in the case of the meal-offering of the priests ("minḥat kohen"), was the burning. In other cases, (1) the "ḳemiẓah" (taking out a handful) followed upon the haggashah, and then ensued (2) the putting of this handful into the dish for the service ("netinat ha-ḳomeẓ bi-keli sharet"), and finally (3) the burning of the ḳomeẓ ("ḥaḳṭarat ḳomeẓ"). At the 'omer-and the jealousyminḥah (6 and 9 above), "tenufah" (waving) preceded the haggashah.

Burnt offerings, meal-offerings, and peace-oblations might be offered without specific reason as free-will offerings ("nedabot"); not so sin- and trespass-offerings, which could never be nedabot. A sin-offering might be either "kabua'" (fixed) or a"ḳorban 'oleh we-yored" (e., a sacrifice dependent on the material possessions of the sacrificer; the rich bringing a lamb or a goat; the poor, two doves; and the very poor, one-tenth of an ephah of flour). This latter ḳorban was required for the following three sins: (1) "shebu'at ha-'edut" or "shemi'at ḳol" (Leviticus 5:1, in reference to testimony which is not offered); (2) "ṭum'at miḳdash we-ḳodashim" (unwittingly rendering unclean the sanctuary and its appurtenances; ib. 5:2,3); and (3) "biṭṭuy sefatayim" (incautious oath; ib. 5:5 et seq.; Shebu. 1:1,2). In the last two cases the ḳorban was required only when the transgression was unintentional ("bi-she-gagah"); in the first, also when it was intentional ("be-mezid"). The offering of the leper and that of the woman after childbirth were of this order ("Yad," Shegagot, 10:1).

This principle obtained with reference to the fixed sin-offerings: offenses which when committed intentionally entailed excision required a sin-offering when committed inadvertently, except in the case of see BLASPHEMY and in that of neglect of CIRCUMCISION or of the Passover sacrifice. The latter two sins, being violations of mandatory injunctions, did not belong to this category of offenses, which included only the transgression of prohibitory injunctions, while in blasphemy no real act is involved ("Yad," c. 1:2). Of such sin-offerings five kinds were known: (1) "par kohen mashiaḥ" (Leviticus 4:3 et seq.), the young bullock for the anointed priest; (2) "par ha-'alem dabar shel ẓibbur" (ib. 4:13 et seq.), the young bullock for the inadvertent, unwitting sin of the community; (3) "se'ir 'abodat elilim" (Numbers 15:22 et seq.), the goat for idolatry—these three being designated as "penimiyyot" (internal; see above); (4) "se'ir nasi," the he-goat for the prince (Leviticus 4:22 et seq.); (5) "ḥaṭṭat yaḥid," the individual sin-offering—these last two being termed "ḥiẓonot" (external; Zeb. 4b, 14a) or, by the Mishnah (Leviticus 11:1), "ne'ekelot" (those that are eaten; "Yad," Ma'ase ha-Ḳorbanot, 5:7-11).

The trespass-offerings ("ashamim") were six in number, and the ram sacrificed for them was required to be worth at least two shekels: (1) "asham me'ilot" (Leviticus 5:14 et seq.); (2) "asham gezelot" (ib. 5:20 et seq.; in these two, in addition, "ḳeren we-ḥomesh" [= principal plus one-fifth] had to be paid); (3) "asham taluy," for "suspended" cases, in which it was doubtful whether a prohibition to which the penalty of excision attached had been inadvertently violated (ib. 5:17 et seq.); (4) "asham shipḥah ḥarufah" (ib. 19:20 et seq.); (5) "asham nazir" (Numbers 6:12), the Nazarite's offering; (6) "asham meẓora'" (Leviticus 14:12), the leper's offering. In (5) and (6) the sacrifice consisted of lambs.

Vegetable Sacrifices.

In reference to the vegetable or unbloody oblations, it may be noticed that the Talmud mentions certain places where the grapes for sacrificial wine were grown (Men. 8:6), e.g., Kefar Signah. On the strength of Proverbs 23:31 and Psalms 75:9 (A. V. 8) some have contended that only red wine was used (but see Bertinoro on Men. 8:6). Salt was indispensable in all sacrifices, even the wood and the libations being salted before being placed on the altar (Men. 20b, 21b).

While the text of the Pentateuch seems to assume that in the laying on of hands one hand only was employed, rabbinical tradition is to the effect that both were imposed and that with much force (Men. 95a; Ibn Ezra on Leviticus 5:4; but Targ. Yer. says the right hand only). This semikah had to be performed personally by the offerer; but in case the latter was an idiot, a minor, deaf, a slave, a woman, blind, or a non-Israelite, the rite was omitted. If two partners owned the animal jointly, they had to impose their hands in succession. Only the Passover sacrifice ("pesaḥ") and those of the first-born and the tithe were exceptions to the rule that individual sacrifices were to include semikah. Communal offerings, except that mentioned in Leviticus 4:13 et seq., and the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21), were exempt. In the case of the former the act was performed by the elders; in that of the latter, by the high priest. R. Simon is given as authority for the statement that in the case of the goat offered as a sacrifice for idolatry (Numbers 15:34) the elders were required to perform the laying on of hands (Men. 92a).

The position assumed by the offerer during this ceremony is described in Tosef., Men. 10:12 (comp. Yoma 36a). The victim stood in the northern part of the court, with its face turned to the west; the offerer, in the west with his face likewise to the west. Maimonides asserts that in the case of the ḳodesh ha-ḳodashim the offerer stood in the east looking westward ("Yad," Ma'ase ha-Ḳorbanot, 3:14). The offerer placed his two hands between the animal's horns and made a confession appropriate to the sacrifice. In the case of a peace-offering, confession would not be appropriate, and in its stead laudatory words were spoken ("Yad," c. 3:5). The holakah (by this term is denoted the carrying of the pieces of the dismembered victim [Zeb. 14a, 24a; Men. 10a] as well as the carrying of the blood to the altar) is not mentioned in the Bible as one of the successive acts of the sacrifices. However, as the slaughtering might take place at the altar itself, this act was not absolutely required: it was an "'abodah she-efshar le-baṭṭeah," a ceremony that might be omitted. The blood was collected by a priest in a holy vessel called the "mizraḳ." The holakah, it was generally held, might be performed by priests only, though R. Ḥisda (Zeb. 14a) thinks that laymen were permitted to undertake it.


Where terumah or heaving was prescribed, the part subject to this rite was moved perpendicularly down and up, or up and down. In tenufah or waving the motion was horizontal from left to right or vice versa (Men. 5:6; see Rashi on Exodus 29:24). The killing might be done by laymen as well as by priests ("Yad," c. 5:1 et seq.); minute directions concerning the place of its performance were observed ("Yad," c.; see Ey-zehu Meḳoman, Zeb. ). In the Second Temple a red line was marked on the altar five ells from the ground below or above which, as the case required, the blood was sprinkled (Mid. 3:1). Regulations concerning the localities, three in number, where parts of the victim, or the entire carcass under certain eventualities, had to be burned, were prescribed (Zeb. 12:5).

Under the name "ḥagigah" were known free-willofferings of the shelamim class presented by individuals, mostly at festivals (Ḥag. 1:2,5).

The defects which in Talmudic law disqualified the victims were minutely described (see "Yad," Issure ha-Mizbeaḥ). While in the Bible the incense consisted of four ingredients, the Rabbis add seven others, making the total number eleven (Ker. 6a; Yoma 3:11; Yer. Yoma 41d; comp. "Yad," Kele ha-Miḳdash, ).

Sacrifice in the Haggadah.

According to the Shammaites, the two lambs of the daily "tamid" (Numbers 28:3) indicate by their name that the sacrifices "press down" (), e., diminish, the sins of Israel. The Hillelites connect the term with the homonym (= "to wash"), and contend that sacrifices wash Israel clean from sin (Pes. 61b). Johanan ben Zakkai held that what was wrought for Israel by the sacrifices was accomplished for the non-Israelites by philanthropy (B. B. 10b); and when the Temple was destroyed he consoled his disciple Joshua by insisting that good deeds would take the place of the sin-offerings (Ab. R. N. ).

The sacrificial scheme was the target at which gnostics and other skeptics shot their arrows. God, it was argued, manifested Himself in this as a strict accountant and judge, but not as the author of the highest goodness and mercy. In refutation, Ben 'Azzai calls attention to the fact that in connection with the sacrifices the only name used to designate God is Yhwh, the unique name ("Shem ha-Meyuḥad; Sifra, Wayiḳra, [ed. Weiss, p. 4c], with R. Jose b. Ḥalafta as author; Men. 110a; Sifre, Num. 143). Basing his inference on the phrase "for your pleasure shall ye offer up" (Leviticus 22:29, Hebr.), Ben 'Azzai insists also that sacrifices were not planned on the theory that, God's will having been done by man, man's will must be done in corresponding measure by God: they were merely expressive of man's delight; and God did not need them (Ps. 12, 13; Sifre, c.; Men. 110a).

Speculating on the exceptions which the minḥah of the sinner and that of the jealousy-offering constitute, in so far as neither oil nor incense is added thereto, Simeon ben Yoḥai points out that the absence of these components indicates that the offering of a sinner may not be adorned (Tos. Soṭah 1:10; Men. 6a; Soṭah 15a; Yer. Soṭah 17d). The name of the 'olah indicates that the sacrifice expiates sinful thoughts ("go up into one's mind"; comp. Job 1:5; Lev. R.; Tan., Lek Leka, ed. Buber, 13; for other comments of similar purport see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 2:104). The defense of the Law for having forbidden the participation of non-Israelites in the communal sacrifices while it permitted the acceptance of their free-will offerings (Sifra, Emor, [ed. Weiss, p. 98a]), was not a matter of slight difficulty. A very interesting discussion of the point is found in the appendix to Friedmann's edition of the Pesiḳta Rabbati (p. 192a), in which the non-Jew quotes with very good effect the universalistic verse Malachi 1:11.

Functions of the Several Offerings.

To bring peace to all the world is the purpose not merely of the peace-offerings, but of all sacrifices (Sifra, Wayiḳra, [ed. Weiss, p. 13a]). It is better to avoid sin than to offer sacrifices; but, if offered, they should be presented in a repentant mood, and not merely, as fools offer them, for the purpose of complying with the Law (Ber. 23a). God asked Abraham to offer up Isaac in order to prove to Satan that, even if Abraham had not presented Him with as much as a dove at the feast when Isaac was weaned, he would not refuse to do God's bidding (Sanh. 89b). The sacrificial ordinances prove that God is with the persecuted. Cattle are chased by lions; goats, by panthers; sheep, by wolves; hence God commanded, "Not them that persecute, but them that are persecuted, offer ye up to me" (Pesiḳ. de R. Kahana 76b; Lev. R. ). In the prescription that fowls shall be offered with their feathers is contained the hint that a poor man is not to be despised: his offering is to be placed on the altar in full adornment (Lev. R. ). That sacrifices are not meant to appease God, Moses learned from His own lips. Moses had become alarmed when bidden to offer to God (Numbers 28:2): all the animals of the world would not suffice for such a purpose (Isa. 10). But God allayed his apprehension by ordaining that only two lambs (the tamid) should be brought to him twice every day (Pes. 20a, 61b). Salt, which is indispensable at sacrifices, is symbolic of the moral effect of suffering, which causes sins to be forgiven and which purifies man (Ber. 5a). God does not eat. Why, then, the sacrifices? They increase the offerer's merit (Tan., Emor, ed. Buber, p. 20). The strongest man might drink twice or even ten times the quantity of water contained in the hollow of his hand; but all the waters of the earth can not fill the hollow of God's hand (Isa. 12).

Symbolic Interpretations.

The words in connection with the goat serving for a sin-offering on the New Moon festival "for Yhwh" (Numbers 28:15) are explained in grossly anthropomorphic application. The goat is a sin-offering for God's transgression committed when He decreased the size of the moon (Sheb. 9a; Ḥul. 60b). The offerings of the sons of Noah were burnt offerings (Yer. Meg. 72b; Gen. R.; Zeb. 116a). The "illegitimate" sacrifices on high places, e.g., those by Elijah (1 Kings 18:30 et seq.), were exceptions divinely sanctioned (Yer. Ta'an. 65d; Yer. Meg. 72c; Lev. R.; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 27:5). The seventy bullocks of Sukkot correspond to the seventy nations; the single bullock on the eighth day, to the unique people Israel. God is like that king who, having entertained his guests most lavishly for seven days, commanded his son after their departure to prepare a very plain meal (Suk. 55b; Pes. 143b). Children, when learning the Pentateuch, used to begin with the third book because they that are pure should first occupy themselves with offerings that are likewise pure (Pes. 60b; Lev. R. ). God has taken care not to tax Israel too heavily (hence Leviticus 1:10,14; 2:1; 6:13). Indeed, one who offers only a very modest meal-offering is accounted as having offered sacrifices from one end of the world to the other (Malachi 1:11; Lev. R. ). By their position, coming after the laws prescribed for the other sacrifices, the peaceofferings are shown to be dessert, as it were (Lev.R. ). God provides "from His own" the minḥah of the sin-offering (Lev. R. ). The use of the word "adam" ("Adam" = "man"), and not "ish," in Leviticus 1:2 leads the offerer to remember that, like Adam, who never robbed or stole, he may offer only what is rightfully his (Lev. R. ).

Substitutes for Sacrifice.

The importance attaching to the sacrificial laws was, as the foregoing anthology of haggadic opinions proves, fully realized by the Rabbis. Unable after the destruction of the Temple to observe these ordinances, they did not hesitate to declare that, in contrast to the sacrificial law which rejected the defective victim, God accepts the broken-hearted (Psalms 51:19; Pes. 158b). With a look to the future restoration, they call attention to the smallness of the desert offerings, while delighting in the glorious prospect of the richer ones to come (Lev. R. ). The precept concerning the daily offering is given twice (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8), from which repetition is deduced the consolation for Israel in exile, that he who studies these verses is regarded as having offered the sacrifices (Pes. 60b; Lev. R. 7:3). The same thought is based on "the torah of the sin-offering" and "the torah of the trespassoffering" (Leviticus 6:18, 7:7; Men. 110a, b). Prayer is better than sacrifice (Ber. 32b; Midr. Shemuel 1:7; Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 2:217). Lulab and etrog replace the altar and offering (Suk. 45a, b). Blood lost when one is wounded replaces the blood of the 'olah (Ḥul. 7b). The reading of the "Shema'" and the "Tefillah" and the wearing of phylacteries ("tefillin") are equivalent to the building of the altar (Ber. 15a; comp. Ber. 14b; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 1:2). As the altar is called "table" (Ezekiel 42:22), the table of the home has the altar's expiatory virtue (Ber. 55a; Men. 97a). This was understood to have reference to "good deeds," such as hospitality shown to the poor (see Ab. R. N. ). The humble are rewarded as though they had presented all the offerings prescribed in the Law (Psalms 51:19; Soṭah 5b; Sanh. 43b; Pesiḳta Ḥadashah, in Jellinek, "B. H." 6:52). Prayer in the synagogue is tantamount to offering a pure oblation (Isaiah 66:20; Yer. Ber. 8d). The students engaged everywhere in the study of the Torah are as dear to God as were they who burned incense on the altar (Men. 110a). The precentor ("sheliaḥ ẓibbur") is regarded as officiating at the altar and sacrificing (; see Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." 4:386b; Yer. Ber. 8b). In the Messianic time all sacrifices except the thank-offering will cease (Pes. 79a; Lev. R. , ). Whoever observes the provisions made for the poor (Leviticus 23:22) is regarded as highly as he would have been if during the existence of the Temple he had been faithful in making his oblations (Sifra, Emor, 101c). To entertain a student in one's house is an act of piety as notable as the offering of daily sacrifice (2 Kings 4:9; Ber. 10b). To make a present to a learned man (a rabbi) is like offering the first-fruits (Ket. 105b). Filling the rabbi's cellars with wine is an equivalent to pouring out the libations (Yoma 71a). In their extravagant, apocalyptic fancy, the haggadot even describe a heavenly altar at which the archangel Michael ministers as high priest; but his offerings are the souls of the righteous. In the Messianic time this altar will descend from on high to Jerusalem (Midr. 'Aseret ha-Dibrot; see Tos. Men. 110; comp. another midrash of the same tenor, Num. R. ).

Totemistic Interpretation.

—Critical View:

Modern scholars, after Robertson Smith ("Rel. of Sem." 2d ed.) and Wellhausen ("Reste Alt-Arabischen Heidentums"), have abandoned the older views, according to which the sacrificial scheme of the Old Testament was regarded as the outflow of divine wisdom or divine mercy, disciplinary or expiatory in its effects, or as the invention of a man of great genius (Moses), who devised its general and specific provisions as symbols wherewith to teach his people some vital truths. Nor is the sacrificial code the outcome of a spontaneous impulse of the human heart to adore God and placate Him, or to show gratitude to Him. Sacrifices revert to the most primitive forms of religion—ancestral animism and totemism. The sacrifice is a meal offered to the dead member of the family, who meets his own at the feast. As the honored guest, he is entitled to the choicest portions of the meal. From this root-idea, in course of time, all others, easily discovered in the sacrificial rites of various nations, are evolved. The visitor at the feast will reward his own for the hospitality extended. Or it is he that has sent the good things: hence gratitude is his due. Or perhaps he was offended: it is he, therefore, who must be appeased (by expiatory rites). He may do harm: it is well to forestall him (by rites to secure protection or immunity).

Human Sacrifice.

The primitive notion of sacrifice is that it is a gift, which is the meaning of the Hebrew word "minḥah." During the period of cannibalism the gift naturally takes the form of human victims, human flesh being the choice article of food during the prevalence of anthropophagism. It is also that which by preference or necessity is placed on the table of the deity. Traces of human sacrifices abound in the Biblical records. The command to Abraham (Genesis 22) and the subsequent development of the story indicate that the substitution of animal for human victims was traced to patriarchal example. The BAN ("ḥerem") preserves a certain form of the primitive human sacrifice (Schwally, "Kriegsaltertümer"). The first-born naturally belonged to the deity. Originally he was not ransomed, but immolated; and in the Law the very intensity of the protest against "passing the children through the fire to Moloch" reveals the extent of the practise in Israel. In fact, the sacrifice of a son is specifically recorded in the cases of King MESHA (2 Kings 3:27), of Ahaz (ib. 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3), and of Manasseh (ib. 21:6). Jeremiah laments bitterly this devouring disgrace (3:24,25); and even Ezekiel (20:30,31) speaks of it as of frequent occurrence. Psalms 106:37,38 confesses that sons and daughters were sacrificed to demons; and in Deutero-Isaiah 57:5 allusions to this horrid iniquity recur. If such offerings were made to Moloch, some instances are not suppressed where human life was "devoted" to Yhwh. The fate of Jephthah's daughter presents the clearest instance of such immolations (Judgesxi. 30, 31, 34-40). That of the seven sons of Saul delivered up by David to the men of Gibeon (2 Samuel 21:1-14) is another, though the phraseology is less explicit. Other indications, however, point in the same direction. Blood belonged to Yhwh; no man might eat it (1 Samuel 14:32-34; Leviticus 17:3 et seq.). The blood was the soul. When animals were substituted for human victims, blood still remained the portion of the Deity. No subtle theological construction of a philosophy of expiation is required to explain this prominent trait (see S. I. Curtiss, "Primitive Semitic Religion," passim). The blood on the lintel (the threshold covenant) at the Passover was proof that that which the Destroyer was seeking—viz., life—had not been withheld. The rite of CIRCUMCISION (Exodus 3:24) appears to have been originally instituted for the same purpose.

As at every meal the Deity was supposed to be present and to claim His own, every meal became a sacrifice, and the killing of the animal a sacrificial act (see 1 Samuel 14); and so strong did this feeling remain, even after the lapse of centuries, that when the Second Temple was destroyed, the rigorists abstained from eating meat on the plea that as the sacrifices had been discontinued, all meat was rendered unfit for food (Tos. Soá¹­ah, end; B. B. 60b).

The donative character of the Hebrew sacrifices appears also from the material used, which is always something to eat or drink, the common dietary articles of the Israelites. The phrase "food of God" (Leviticus 21:6,8,17,21; 22:25; Ezekiel 44:7) proves the use for which such offerings were intended; and Ps. 13 also reveals this intention.

Early Stages.

Primitive Yhwh-religion seems at the very outset not to have favored an elaborate sacrificial ritual. In the desert but little grows. The first of the flock, the spring lamb (PASSOVER), in all probability, constituted the gift prepared, as was that described in Exodus 12, for the God residing on Sinai in unapproachable (e., holy) aloofness. The Canaanites, with whom later the Hebrews came in contact, had, as agricultural peoples, a more elaborate and lascivious sacrificial form of worship. From them the Hebrews adopted most of the features of their own priestly scheme, which, even as exhibited in the latest strata of the code, presents some remarkable elements disclosing a non-Hebrew origin (e.g., Azazel, the scapegoat, the red heifer).

This process of adaptation did not proceed without arousing the opposition of the Prophets. They were outspoken in their disapproval of sacrificial religion; and some of them made no concealment of their opinion that the sacrificial rites had no original connection with the worship of Yhwh. At all events, the sacrificial ordinances of the Book of the Covenant are simple, as, indeed, the historical glosses of the feasts at Shiloh would lead one to suppose (see Sacrifice, Biblical Data). Even Deuteronomy can not be said to have proceeded very far toward a detailed system. The one step taken therein was the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem, with the final official suppression of the see High Places, and the assignment of rank to the Levitical priests. The freedom to sacrifice thus received a severe check.

In P the system is developed in detail; and comparison with the Holiness Code (H) and with Ezekiel gives some notion of the manner of development. In Deuteronomy the prescribed offerings (firstlings, tithes, etc.) are "ḳodashim" (sacred), in distinction from votive and free-will offerings and from animals slaughtered for food (Deuteronomy 12:26); victims are taken from the flock and herd ("baḳar"); human sacrifices are inhibited (ib. 12:31); victims must be without blemish (ib. 17:1); the ritual is given of holocausts and other sacrifices (ib. 12:27), burning of fat, libations (ib. 32:38), offerings at feasts (ib. 16:1 et seq., ), tithes, priestly dues (ib. 12:17, 14:23, ), and firstlings (ib. 15:19 et seq.).

H is cognizant of 'olah (Leviticus 22:18), 'olah and zebaḥ (ib. 17:8), zibḥe shelamim (ib. 17:5, 19:5), todah (ib. 22:29), neder and nedabah (ib. 22:18,21); sacrifices are ḳodashim (ib. 22:2-15) and are the "food of God" (see above). In addition to the animals in Deuteronomy, "kebes" and "'ez" are enumerated; strict regulations for free-will offerings are elaborated (ib. 22:23); they must be brought to the holy place (ib. 17:3, and elsewhere); blood is prohibited as food (ib. 17:10); the flesh of shelamim must be eaten on the day of the sacrifice or on the following day (ib. 19:5 et seq.); that of the todah on the day itself (ib. 22:29).

Sacrifice According to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel deals almost exclusively with public sacrifices. He names two new species of offerings: ḥaṭṭat and asham. Minḥah is an offering of flour and oil (Ezekiel 46:5,7,11); a libation is also named (nesek; ib. 45:17). Birds are not mentioned. The terumah is a tax from which the sacrifices are provided by the prince (ib. 45:13-17). The morning tamid consists of one lamb, the Sabbath burnt offering, of six lambs and a ram with their appurtenances (ib. 46:4 et seq.); at the great festivals the prince provides shelamim also. The Levites appear as distinct from the priests (ib. 44:11; comp. ib. 46:2); the flesh is boiled in kitchens in the four corners of the outer court by Temple servants (ib. 46:21-24); and so forth (EZEKIEL).

P and Ezekiel do not harmonize as regards every provision. The former reflects conditions actually in force after the Exile. But it is a mistake to suppose that P is entirely new legislation, a copy of Babylonian institutions. The similarity of the sacrificial rites of Israel and Babylonia does not extend beyond some technical terms—which (see Zimmern in Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed.), moreover, often had different bearings in the two cults—and such other analogies as may be detected in all sacrificial systems. Prepresents many old priest-rituals ("torot"), probably in force for centuries at some older shrine or see HIGH PLACE.

Deep θεολσγούμενα do not underlie the system; problems of salvation from original sin, restitution, and justification did not enter into the minds of the priests that ministered at the altar in Jerusalem.

E. G. H.

Ancient Sacrifice.


The Samaritans, claiming to be the true Israelites whose ancestors were brought by Joshua into the land of Canaan, declare that every one of the sacrifices prescribed in the Pentateuch was punctiliously observed by their forefatherson Mount Gerizim, the blessed mountain. The latter was the only mountain on which an altar to Yhwh could be built and sacrifices brought, as it was claimed to be the place chosen by God for sacrifices according to Deuteronomy 12:13-14,18. The Samaritans consequently deny the fact, related in Ezra 4:1-3, that their ancestors applied to Zerubbabel for permission to help build the Temple of Jerusalem in order that they might bring their sacrifices there. The Samaritan Book of Joshua, while describing the prosperous state of the Israelites during the 260 years of "satisfaction," that is to say, from the reign of Joshua till the death of Samson, gives a few particulars of the sacrifices of the Samaritans of that time. It is stated (ch. ) that the Levites assisted the priests in the sacrificial ceremonies. The former were divided into sections. Some had charge of the daily burnt offerings and of the meal-offerings; others examined the animals to see if they had any blemish; others again served as slaughterers and sprinkled the blood of the victims on the altar; while still others were employed in waving the parts prescribed for the wave-offering. The morning burnt offering was brought before sunrise; the evening one, after sunset (comp. Pes. 5:1). During the time the sacrifice was being offered on the altar, the priest standing on the top of Mount Gerizim blew the trumpet; and the other priests, when they heard the sound, also blew trumpets in their respective places (comp. Tamid 3:8). Later, the sacrifices fell into disuse, prayers being substituted, a practise apparently borrowed from the Jews.

Cessation of Sacrifice.

As to the epoch in which the sacrifices ceased with the Samaritans, nothing can be established with certainty. The Samaritans themselves either are ignorant on the subject or do not care to disclose information concerning this historical event. In 1808 Corancez, consul-general of France at Aleppo, wrote to the high priest Salamah inquiring about the sacrifices and other observances of the Samaritans. Salamah's answer of July, 1808 (Corancez, in "Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits," 12:72), reads as follows: "The sacrifices are among the chief commandments of the Torah, and were observed on the mountain of Gerizim and not on Ebal during the time of 'satisfaction.' But after the epoch of grace and the Tabernacle had vanished, the priests substituted prayers for all the sacrifices, except the Passover lamb, which we still offer on the fourteenth of Nisan." Salamah's answer is somewhat vague: it is not likely that he wished to imply that the sacrifices ceased entirely at the end of the days of "satisfaction"; and the Samaritan historians themselves record that sacrifices were offered in their temple on Mount Gerizim in the time of Alexander the Great and that of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and even later (comp. Abu al-Fatḥ, "Kitab al-Ta'rikh," ed. Vilmar, pp. 96-97 et passim, Gotha, 1865).

In the Twelfth Century.

That the Samaritans offered sacrifices in the twelfth century is attested by Benjamin of Tudela and by the Karaite Judah Hadassi. The former, who visited the Samaritans of Nablus or Shechem, says ("Itinerary," ed. Asher, 1:33): "They offer sacrifices and burnt offerings in their synagogue on Mount Gerizim according to the prescription of the Law. They bring burnt offerings on the Passover feast and other holy days to the altar which they built on Mount Gerizim." Similarly Hadassi says ("Eshkol ha-Kofer," alphabet 96, end): "They still offer sacrifices to this day, according to the law of Moses, though they have no temple, and it is the priest who performs the ceremonies." It would seem from Joseph Bagi's "Ḳiryah Ne'emanah" (quoted by Wolf in "Bibl. Hebr." 4:1090) that the Samaritans had offered sacrifices up to his time, that is to say, the beginning of the sixteenth century, unless Bagi simply repeated the words of Hadassi. On the other hand, Mas'udi, the author of "Muruj al-Dhahab" (quoted by Sylvestre de Sacy in "Chrestomathie Arabe," 1:343), who lived in the tenth century, records that the Samaritans of his time had silver trumpets which they blew at the time of prayer; but he makes no mention of sacrifices. Neither do the Samaritan chroniclers speak of any sacrifices offered during the Middle Ages; they refer only to the trumpets and to the fact that under the incumbency of Aaron b. Amram (about the end of the eleventh century) the water of separation was prepared (Adler and Seligsohn, "Une Nouvelle Chronique Samaritaine," p. 97, Paris, 1903).

Modern Sacrifice.

It should be noted that Salamah's report is not strictly reliable even for the nineteenth century; for Corancez was informed by the Jews of Aleppo that, besides the Passover lamb, the Samaritans offered a special lamb in the course of the second day on Mount Ebal, and not on Gerizim (Corancez, c. 12:48). Moreover, the report is contradicted also by a statement of the Samaritan high priest of 1838 to Loewe, who visited Nablus in that year. In the course of conversation the high priest said: "We alone possess Mount Gerizim, and we alone offer sacrifices there" ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1839, No. 46). On another occasion the high priest said: "We complete the reading of the Pentateuch every year; and we celebrate the day on which the reading is terminated ["Simḥat Torah"] with burnt offerings on Mount Gerizim" (ib. No. 56). Salamah, in his letter of 1808 says that, according to the Law, the Passover lamb must be slaughtered on Mount Gerizim, but that for the past twenty years, access to the mountain having been refused them, the Samaritans have had to content themselves with slaughtering the animal in the interior of the town, turning their faces toward the sacred mountain. It seems, however, from Loewe's above-mentioned interview with the high priest, that the Samaritans regained admission to the mountain.

The Passover sacrifice, as celebrated at the present day, is described by Nutt ("A Sketch of Samaritan History," pp. 72, 73) as follows: "The lambs must be born in the month of Tishri [October] preceding and be without any blemish. On the previous day the Samaritans pitch their tents on the lower plateau of Mount Gerizim. At sunset of the following day [the fourteenth of Nisan] or in the afternoon, if that day falls on Friday, the lambs are slain, prayers being recited meanwhile, then stripped of their wool, cleaned, and sprinkled with salt, after which theyare well roasted in hermetically covered trenches. In either case the lambs are eaten hastily after sunset with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, all the participants having staves in their hands [comp. Exodus 12:9-11]. The men and the boys eat first, and afterward the women and girls; the remainder is consumed with fire."

The really remarkable feature of the Samaritan Passover sacrifice is that the people dip their hands into the blood of the slaughtered lamb and besmear therewith the foreheads and the arms of their children—a survival of the ancient rite prescribed in Exodus 13:9,16, and no longer understood by the Jews, for whom the tefillin took the place of this talismanic rite (see Stanley, "Lectures on the Jewish Church," 1:561; comp. S. I. Curtiss, "Ursemitische Religion im Volksleben des Heutigen Orients," 1903, index, s. "Blutbestreichung").

  • Besides the sources before mentioned in this article, Kirchheim, Karme Shomeron, pp. 19-20;
  • Sylvestre de Sacy, in Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits, 12:21-23.

M. Sel.

Antiquity of Sacrifice.


Judging from the various sentences referring to sacrifice scattered through the Talmud, sacrifice in itself has a positive and independent value. The institution is as old as the human race, for Adam offered a sacrifice ('Ab. Zarah 8a), and the Israelites offered sacrifices even before the Tabernacle was set up in the wilderness (Zeb. 116a). An altar has even been erected in heaven on which the angel Michael sacrifices (Men. 110a; Ḥag. 12b). There is a difference between thank- and food-offerings on the one hand and sin-offerings on the other, in that a person should take care not to commit any act obliging him to bring such offerings (Ḥag. 7a); one who does so must bring the offering in the proper frame of mind, showing sorrow and repentance, and confessing his sin; for if he does not fulfil these conditions his sacrifice is in vain (Ber. 23a). The sacrifice cleanses only through the blood that is sprinkled, the blood symbolizing the life of the one sacrificing, which, but for the substitution of the victim, would have to be surrendered in expiation of the sin (Zeb. 6a). The meal-offering, the sacrifice of the poor, has the same significance. Although this does not contain any blood, the poor person who sets it aside from his own food is regarded as if he had sacrificed himself (Men. 104b).

Prayer and Study Replace Sacrifice.

The view that the sacrifice is such a substitute is clearly expressed in the prayer which R. Sheshet was wont to recite on the evening after a fast-day: "Lord of the World, when the Temple was standing one who sinned offered a sacrifice, of which only the fat and the blood were taken, and thereby his sins were forgiven. I have fasted to-day, and through this fasting my blood and my fat have been decreased. Deign to look upon the part of my blood and my fat which I have lost through my fasting as if I had offered it to Thee, and forgive my sins in return" (Ber. 17a). The study of the laws of sacrifice was regarded as a sacrifice in itself (Men. 110), and thereby one obtained forgiveness after the destruction of the Temple had rendered the offering of sacrifices impossible (Ta'an. 27b).

The thank- and food-offerings are more sacred than the sin-offerings. They are offered because it is not fitting that the table of man should be filled while the table of the Lord, the altar, is empty (Ḥag. 7a). There are, however, various sentences in the Talmud which show the different views as to the value of these sacrifices. According to one view they have an absolute value in themselves, and the sacrifices which a person brings are a meritorious work for which he will be rewarded by God. Thus King Balak of Moab was rewarded for his sacrifices to God by being permitted to become the ancestor of Ruth (Nazir 23b). Similarly the sacrifices which Israel offered to God are meritorious works by which it was distinguished from the other peoples (Meg. 12b), and God can not forget the sacrifices which Israel offered to Him in the wilderness (Ber. 32b). A sacrifice is meritorious in proportion to its value (Sanh. 43b). But the view is expressed also that the value of a sacrifice depends upon the spirit in which it is brought; it matters not whether a person offers much or little, so long as he offers it in a spirit pleasing to God (Men. 110a).

Subordination of Sacrifice.

A person must not imagine that his sacrifices are meat and drink for God nor that he has therewith fulfilled a wish of God and that therefore He will fulfil his wishes (ib.; this passage must be explained according to Maimonides, "Moreh," 3:46, contrary to Rashi). The study of the Law is regarded as more valuable than sacrifices (Meg. 3b). Similarly, philanthropy is worth more than all sacrifices (Suk. 49b), and a modest and humble disposition is equivalent to all kinds of sacrifices (Sanh. 43b). One who intends to give wine for the altar should give it to those who devote themselves to the study of the Law (Yoma 71a); and if one shows hospitality to a student of the Law, it is the same as if he had offered the daily burnt offerings (Ber. 10b). Prayer is regarded as a substitute for sacrifice (Ber. 6b; Suk. 45a); indeed, it is even more than sacrifice (Ber. 15a, b; 32b).

J. Z. L.

Expiatory Function of Sacrifice.

—In Theology:

The critical school contends, and on good grounds (Nowack, "Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologic," 2:223), that sin-offerings in the technical sense of the word were not recognized before Ezekiel. However, the distinction between "ḳodesh" and "ṭame" is drawn by the Prophets anterior to the Exile; and even in Samuel (1 Samuel 3:14, 26:19; 2 Samuel 24:25) the notion is expressed that by sacrifice sin may be atoned for ("yitkapper"), though the sacrifices named are meal-, meat-, and burnt offerings. In the question put by Micah's interlocutor, also, the thought is dominant that offerings, even of human life, may protect against the consequences of sin and transgression (Mic. 16:6 et seq.). That sacrifice had some bearing on sin was not, then, an unknown idea, even if there was no technical term therefor. In the progressive systematization of the sacrificial practises, with a view to placing them more and more under the exclusive control of the priesthood of the central sanctuary, specialization in the nomenclature and assignment of the offerings could not but ensue.Yet, in what sense the specific sin-offerings were credited with atoning power can not be understood without an antecedent knowledge of what constituted sin in the conception of those that first observed the sacrificial cult. "Clean" or "holy" and "unclean" are the two poles; and "holy" implies "set aside for the Deity"; e.g., an object which only the Deity's own may touch, or a precinct into which only the Deity's own may enter. Sin is an act that violates the taboo. As originally the sacrifice was a meal offered to the Deity at which He was to meet His own family (Sacrifice, Critical View), only such as were in the proper state of holiness might take part in this "communion service" (see PASSOVER). On the other hand, the Deity Himself would not accept the gift if the taboo was not respected. Contact with persons or things in an "unclean" state violated the taboo. Sin originally connoted a condition which rendered approach to the Deity impossible, and conversely made it impossible for the Deity to approach, to attend the family communion meal. To correct this the sacrifice was offered, e., brought near to ("ḳorban," "hiḳrib") the Deity, more especially the blood, which preeminently belonged to God, and that by the priest only. In this connection it must be remembered that slaughtering was primitively a sacrificial rite. Meat was not to be eaten unless the Deity had received His share, viz., the blood. This insistence is the motive of the otherwise strange prohibition to slaughter anywhere save at the door of the tent of meeting (Leviticus 17:3). The presumption was that all belonged to the Deity. Later literature expresses this idea as a spiritual verity (Ps. 1. 10-12; 1 Chronicles 29:14).

Connection with Taboo.

The idea itself is very old. It is dominant in the sacrificial scheme. All animals, as belonging to God, are taboo. Hence at first man is a vegetarian (Genesis 9). The right to partake of animal food is conditioned on the observance of the blood taboo; by killing an animal one taboo is violated; but if an equivalent one (the blood taboo) is kept inviolate, the sin is condoned. The blood is the animal's life; hence the equation "blood" = "animal." The Deity loses nothing by permitting the slaughtering if the blood is reserved for the altar or covered up (Leviticus 17:13). This throws light on the primitive implications of the root ("kafar," "kipper"), which has furnished the technical terminology for the Levitical and also for the spiritual doctrine of ATONEMENT.

Later, as in Assyrian, a signification synonymous with "maḥah" (to wipe off) and a meaning similar to "kisseh" (to cover up), its earlier connotation, were carried by the noun "kofer" (= "ransom"), in the sense of "one for another" ("nefesh taḥat nefesh" = "one life for another life"). The blood (= life), the kofer given to God, was for the life(= animal) taken from God. With this as the starting-point, it is not difficult to understand how, when other taboos had been violated, the sacrifice and the blood came to be looked upon as a "kapparah." The refined sense of the soul's separation from God which is to be offset by another soul (blood) is certainly not inherent in the primitive conception. Moreover, the sin-offering is never presented for grave moral offenses (see above); only such sins as refusal to give testimony, contact with unclean objects, and hasty swearing are enumerated (Leviticus 5:1 et seq.). That the three sins here specified are of the nature of violated taboos is recognizable. Trial and testimony are ordeals. "Ṭame" is synonymous with broken taboo. "Biṭṭe bi-sefatayim" in all probability refers to "taking the name in vain." Enunciating the "name" was violating the taboo.

In this connection the ceremony of laying on of hands is discovered to be only one of the many symbolic rites, abundant in primitive jurisprudence, whereby acquisition or abandonment of property is expressed. In the case of the sacrifices it implies absolute relinquishment ("manumissio"). The animal reverts thereby to its original owner—God.

This excursus into primitive folk-lore suggests at once the untenable character of the various theological interpretations given to the sacrificial institutions of the Bible. It will not be necessary to explain at length that the expiation of guilt—in any other sense than that given above, though perhaps with a more spiritual scope—is not the leading purpose of the Levitical sacrifices. Purification from physical uncleanness is an important function of sacrifices, but only because "unclean" has a very definite religious meaning (in connection with child-birth or with contact with a dead body, etc.). The consecration of persons and things to holy uses through the sacrifices is not due to some mysterious sacramental element in them; but the profane is changed into holy by coming in contact with what is under all circumstances holy, viz., the blood.

Symbolical Interpretation.

Christian theologians maintain that sacrificial worship was ordained as a twofold means of grace: (1) By permitting penal substitution. The sinner, having forfeited his life, was by a gracious provision permitted to substitute an immaculate victim, whose vicarious death was accepted by God; and this typified another vicarious sacrifice. (2) By recalling to man certain vital truths. This second theory is that of the symbolists, the classical exponent of which in modern times has been Bähr ("Symbolik des Mosaischen Kultus": "the soul placing itself at the disposal of God in order to receive the gift of the true life in sanctification"). The unblemished victim symbolizes the excellence and purity to which the offerer aspires. Other expositions of this kind are found in Oehler ("Theologic des Alten Testament"), Maurice ("The Doctrine of Sacrifice," London, 1879), and Schultz ("American Journal of Theology," 1900). This theology rests on the assumption that God is the direct author of the scheme, and that such analogies as are presented by the sacrificial rites of other nations are either copies of the Jewish rites or dim, imperfect foreshadowings of and gropings after the fuller light; or that Moses with supernatural wisdom devised the scheme to teach the ideas underlying his own laws in contradistinction to the similar legislations of other races.

That the Prophets had risen to a sublime conception of religion must be granted; but this does not necessitate the inference that the primitive basicideas of sacrifices (a gift to God as one of the clan at the communion meal, taboo, etc.) are not to be detected in the legislation and never were contained therein. The Prophets showed no enthusiasm for the system. Ritual religion always preserves older forms than spiritual religion would or could evolve.

The New Testament doctrine of sacrifice has clearly influenced this theological valuation of the Old Testament laws. The death of Jesus was held to be a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:14). Saving efficacy is imputed to the blood or the cross of Christ (Romans 3:25, 5:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Revelation 1:5). Jesus is the sin-offering (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 13:11; 3:18), the covenant sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17, 9:12 et seq.), the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). In the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:28) Jesus is the sin-bearer, the agency of sanctification (ib. 10:10); he is also the obedient servant (ib. 10:8,9) and the high priest (ib. 9:11 et seq., 23). Here the precedent is given of treating the Hebrew sacrifices typologically, e., as predictive, "expressing a need which they could not satisfy, but which Christ does, and embodying a faith which Christ justifies" (W. P. Paterson, in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," 4:348b).

Philo's Symbolism.

Of symbolism many indications are found in the homiletic haggadah (see above): the Tabernacle symbolizes Creation; the ten rods, heaven and earth, etc. (Yalḳ., Ex. 490). Its chief exponent in Jewish literature is Philo, who in his exposition of the sacrifices differs from the Halakah in some details. He ignores the rabbinical prescription of thirty days as the victim's minimum age (Parah 1:4), and he claims that pregnant animals might not be used for the sacrifice, extending thus to all victims a provision mentioned for the RED HEIFER (Parah 2:1). According to him, none but priests were permitted to slaughter the victim (Philo, ib. 2:241). He names only three classes of sacrifices: (1) holocaust (= "'olah"); (2) σωτήριον (= "shelamim"), like the Septuagint; and (3) περὶ ἁμαρτίας (= "haṭṭat"). The "todah" (ἡλεγομὲνη τῆς αἰνήσεως)he regards as a subdivision of the 'olah, while the "asham" he ranks with the ḥaṭṭat (ib. 2:246).

Philo devotes a treatise to the victims, the "animals that are fit for sacrifice." God selected the most gentle birds and animals. The perfection of the victims indicates that the offerers should be irreproachable; that the Jews should never bring with them to the altar any weakness or evil passion in the soul, but should endeavor to make it wholly pure and clean; so that God may not turn away with aversion from the sight of it ("De Victimis," § 2). In this way Philo construes every detail of the sacrificial ritual. Withal, he remarks that the "tribunal of God is inaccessible to bribes: it rejects the guilty though they offer daily 100 oxen, and receives the guiltless though they offer no sacrifices at all. God delights in fireless altars round which virtues form the choral dance" ("De Plantatione Noe," § 25 [ed. Mangey, 1:345]). To the eucharist (e., thanks-giving) he attaches special importance. This, however, consists not in offerings and sacrifices, but in praises and hymns which the pure and inward mind will chant to inward music (ib. § 30 [ed. Mangey, 1:348]). Josephus mentions only two classes of sacrifices: (1) holocaust and (2) χαριστέριον = "eucharistic" = "shelamim" ("Ant." 3:9, § 1).

Views of Maimonides and Naḥmanides.

The opinion of Maimonides appears to anticipate the views advanced by the most modern investigators. He in the first place refuses to follow the symbolists in finding reason for the details of the various sacrifices. Why a lamb and not a ram was chosen is, he says, an idle inquiry befitting fools, but not the serious-minded ("Moreh," , ). "Each commandment has necessarily a reason as far as its general character is concerned; but as regards its details it has no ulterior object." These details are devised to be tests of man's obedience. The sacrifices more especially are really not of Jewish origin. As during Moses' time it was the general custom among all men to worship by means of sacrifices and as the Israelites had been brought up in this general mode of religion, God, in order that they might not go from one extreme to the other (from ritualism to a pure religion of righteousness), tolerated the continuance of the sacrifices. As in Maimonides' days prayer, fasting, and the like were serviceable, whereas a prophet preaching the service of God in thought alone, and not in ceremony, would find no hearing, so in the days of Moses the sacrifices were permitted by God in order to blot out the traces of idolatry and to establish the great principle of Judaism—the unity and being of God—without confusing the minds of the people by abolishing what they had been accustomed to (ib. , ). The experience of Israel, led not by the shorter way, but by the circuitous route through the land of the Philistines (Exodus 13:17), he quotes as typical of the method apparent in the legislation concerning offerings. The sacrificial service is not the primary object of the Law; but supplications, prayers, and the like are. Hence the restriction of the sacrifices to one locality, by which means God kept this particular kind of service within bounds.

Naḥmanides (see his commentary on Leviticus 1:9) rejects this view in unsparing words, appealing to the Biblical examples of Abel and Noah, in whose days Egyptian and Chaldean idolatry was unknown, and who were monotheists and not idolaters, but whose offerings furnished a sweet savor for Yhwh. If sacrifices must have a meaning, he prefers to see in them a moral symbolism founded on the psychology of conduct. Every act is composed of thought, speech, and execution. So in the sacrifice the offerer must do and speak, while the burning of the kidneys, the seat of thought, refers to the intention.

Abravanel resumes Maimonides' argument and refutes those advanced by Naḥmanides (preface to his commentary on Leviticus). He cites a midrash (Wayiḳra Rabbah 22:5; see also Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 2:316) to the effect that as the Hebrews had become accustomed to sacrifices (idols) while in Egypt, God, to wean them from idolatry, commanded, while tolerating the sacrifices, that they should be brought to one central sanctuary. This is illustrated by a parable. A king noticed that his son loved to eat forbidden food, as carrion and animals torn to pieces. In order to retain him at his table,he directed that these things should be set before the son at home every day. This induced the prince to forego his evil habits. Hoffmann ("Leviticus," p. 88), speaking of Abravanel, charges him with having altered the text of the midrash, from which, as quoted in the commentary's preface, it would appear that sacrifices are placed in one category with ṭerefah and nebelah. Hoffmann cites another version of the fable, to the effect that on the king's table no forbidden food was found, and that this led to the prince's conversion. But Bacher (c.) gives Abravanel's version. Rabbi Levi, who is the author of the haggadah, may thus be said to have shared Maimonides' and Abravanel's views. The "Sefer ha-Ḥinnuk" (section "Terumah"), by Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona, discusses the purpose of the sacrifices. The troubles connected with their proper preparation and with bringing them to the Temple, etc., were planned to arouse the sinner to a sense of his shame. He repeats also the psychological symbolism explained by Naḥmanides ("Sefer ha-Ḥinnuk," ed. Warsaw, pp. 23 et seq.).

David Ḳimḥi suggests (see his commentary on Jeremiah 7:23) that the sacrifices were never mandatory, but voluntary ("God did not command that they shall offer up ["yaḳribu"], but merely gave contingent orders, 'if a man should offer up' ["adam ki yaḳrib"]").

Judah ha-Levi believes without equivocation in the divine wisdom and origin of the sacrifices. As Israel is the "chosen people" in the midst of whom alone prophets have arisen, as Palestine is the chosen land, and as both Israel and the land therefore are in closest affinity with God, so is Israel on this soil commanded to observe His law, central to which is the sacrificial cult. He spiritualizes the anthropomorphic expressions, contending nevertheless that the sacrifices revealed whether in Israel all was as it should be and all the component members had become united into a well-functioning organism. This was divulged by the divine fire that descended on the offerings ("My fires" = "created by My word" ["ishshai"]; "Cuzari," 2:26-28).

Views of Hoffmann.

According to Hoffmann (c. pp. 88 et seq.), the sacrifices are symbols of: (1) man's gratitude to God (illustrated in Abel's minḥah); (2) man's dependence on Him (Noah's offering; blood = life saved); (3) man's absolute obedience (Abraham's 'olah); and (4) man's confidence in God (Jacob's shelamim). They symbolize Israel's election to be, as it were, the camp within which God dwells. This is the only reward for Israel's fidelity: "Ye shall be My people and I will be your God" (see Ha-Levi, "Cuzari," 1:109). As the host of God, Israel must remain pure; and every Israelite must keep himself so as not to be cut off ("nikrat") from his people. Still, sins committed inadvertently are pardonable if man approaches God repentantly. That is the purpose of the sin-offerings. But there is no mortal who sinneth not; hence the Day of Atonement for Israel and all. Sacrifice is called "'abodah" = "service." It is "'abodah sheba-ma'aseh"= "ceremonial service," symbolizing the "'abodah sheba-leb" = "service in the heart," the tefillah prayer.

Hoffmann believes in the ultimate reestablishment of the sacrificial cult. The old synagogal prayer-books recognized the sacrificial service as essential; but as it was impossible to bring the offerings prescribed, they were remembered in prayer (MUSAF); for their study was as meritorious as their practise (see above). The prayer for the reestablishment of the altar, in which is included the petition "We-Hasheb Et ha-'Abodah"—the "Reẓeh" of the "Shemoneh 'Esreh"—is called the "'Abodah" (Ber. 29b; Shab. 24a; R. H. 12a; Meg. 18a; Soṭah 38b); for the body of the benediction was recited by the priests at the tamidim (Tamid 5:1; Ber. 11b) and by the high priest on the Day of Atonement after reading the Torah (Yoma 68b). Similar petitions for the reestablishment of the "'Abodah" are found in Lev. R. , Ex. R. , and Midr. Teh. to Psalms 17 Three times every day this or a similar prayer was to be recited. The enforced suspension of the real "'Abodah" was regarded as a punishment for Israel's sins (see the prayer "Mi-Pene Ḥaṭa'enu" in the Musaf for Rosh ha-Shanah).

Attitude of Rabbinical Judaism.

But the real attitude of rabbinical Judaism on the sacrifices is exhibited in Num. R. A pagan having inquired concerning the Red Heifer, an explanation was tendered by Johanan b. Zakkai, who referred to the analogous treatment of one possessed of an evil spirit. The pupils of the rabbi demurred to that explanation, saying: "Him thou hast driven off with a reed. What answer wilt thou give us?" "By your lives," exclaimed the teacher, "dead bodies do not render unclean, nor does water make clean; but God has decreed 'a statute I have ordained and an institution I have established'; and it is not permitted to transgress the Law." Rabbinical Judaism accepted the law of sacrifices without presuming to understand it. Reform Judaism omits from the prayer-book reference to the sacrifices, sanguinary ceremonies being repugnant to its religious consciousness; it holds that the Jewish doctrine of sin and atonement is not grounded on the sacrificial scheme.

  • Robertson Smith, Rel. of Sem. 2d ed., London, 1894;
  • Morrillier, in Revue de l' Histoire des Religions, Paris, 1897-98;
  • Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidentums, 2d ed., Berlin, 1897;
  • Tylor, Primitive Culture, 3d ed., London, 1891;
  • Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Babylonischen Religion, Leipsic, 1896;
  • Frazer, The Golden Bough, 2d ed., London, 1900;
  • Smend, Lehrbuch der Alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte, 2d ed., Freiburg, 1899;
  • Kalisch, Commentary to Leviticus, , London, 1867;
  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, Leipsic, 1894;
  • Benzinger, Arch. Freiburg, 1894;
  • Volz, Das Handauflegen, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1901;
  • Matthes, Handauflegen, ib. 1903;
  • Haupt, Babylonian Elements, in Jour. Bib. Lit.;
  • Hoffmann, Leviticus, Berlin, 1905;
  • commentaries on Leviticus by Dillmann and Knobel;
  • Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Kultus.
E. G. H.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Wave-Offering'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​w/wave-offering.html. 1901.
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