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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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The word generally rendered burnt-offering [This is one of a large class of expressions in which a hyphen ought to be introduced. The R. V. is no better than the A. V in this respect.] in the A. V. is Olah (עלה ). The verb Alah, whence it is derived, is rendered to burn in Exodus 27:20, Leviticus 2:12; Leviticus 24:2, and to offer in a few other passages; but the original meaning of the word in the Active Voice is to ascend, hence in the Causative Voice it signifies to make to ascend, or cause to go up. Some scholars have held that the best rendering for olahwould be alter-offering, because the offering was lifted up and placed up on the altar. this interpretation, however, has not been generally accepted. The Vulgate rendering (derived from the Greek) holocausta, that which is wholly burnt, and the German Brandopfer, signifying burnt-offering, fall in with our own rendering, but they are descriptions rather than translations. The fact that flame ascends, and that 'the sparks fly upwards,' furnishes us with the true solution of the name. The Olah, when turned into a cloud of vapour by the action of the fire, ascended into the heavens, and was gradually dispersed amidst the upper air; and whilst beholding this striking sight, the offerer, who had identified himself with the victim by the pressure of his hands, realised his acceptance by God, who dwelleth in the heavens. The best rendering of the word would be an ascending-offering. Ari as Montanus rendered it ascensio.

The word is used frequently, both in the Levitical ritual and in the historical books. Its first occurrence is in Genesis 8:20, where Noah is said to have offered burnt-offerings on the altar. We next meet with it in Genesis 22:2-13, where Abraham is told to offer up Isaac as a burnt-offering. It is also used in Job 1:5; Job 42:8, where the patriarch is described as offering for his sons, and where his friends are ordered to make an offering. The Levitical law, however, drew a clearer distinction between the two. The word is first used in connection with the people of Israel in Exodus 24:5 in this important passage we are told that Moses 'sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed Peace-offerings unto the Lord,' the first kind being wholly burnt, and the last. eaten; and it was with the blood of these offerings that the people and the Book of the Covenant were sprinkled. this transaction was previous to the appointment of the Aaronic priesthood. The making of the Covenant was a national, not a sacerdotal work; moreover, it had not to do directly with sin, for neither the burnt-offering nor the Peace-offering were sin-offerings; they represented acceptance rather than pardon. [Though these were closely related.]

Passing by the historical books, we find olah used in a few other passages, namely, Psalms 51:19; Psalms 66:15; Isaiah 57:6; Isaiah 66:3; Ezekiel 43:18; Ezekiel 43:24; and Amos 5:22.

The most general renderings for the verb alah in the LXX are ἀναβαίνω, ἀναφέρω, ἀναβιβάζω, and ἀνάγω; the noun olah is almost always rendered either ὁλοκαύτωμα, or ὁλοκαύτωσις, i.e. that which is wholly burnt.

Calil (כליל ), that which is complete, is used of the whole burnt-offering in Leviticus 6:22-23; Deuteronomy 33:10; 1 Samuel 7:9; and Psalms 51:19.

on examining the N.T., we do not find the substantive applied directly to Christ through its Greek representatives, but the idea of ascending or going up, from which the burnt-offering received its Hebrew name, and which is so fully sustained in the Greek verbs above-mentioned, reappears in relation to the Lord's work in various ways, which may be briefly noticed.

With regard to the word ἀναβαίνω, it may be deemed fanciful to refer to our Lord's expression, 'Behold, we go up to Jerusalem' (see Matthew 20:18; Mark 10:32-33; Luke 18:31; Luke 19:28), because it was the ordinary and natural phrase to use when describing a journey to that city which was the Crown of the Holy Land. Yet it may be noticed that no site could be more aptly marked out as the altar of earth on which the Great Offering should be consummated. It had probably been the scene of sacrifice as early as the time of Abraham; it lies 'beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,' 2400 feet above the Mediterranean, which washes the western shore of the land, and 3700 feet above the Dead Sea, which lies in leaden solitude in a cleft between the torrid mountains of Judah and the long purple wall of Moab.

Our Lord's ascension or 'going up' to his Father in heaven is described by the word ἀναβαίνω in John 20:17, and Ephesians 4:9-10.

The sacrificial word ἀναφέρω is also used of our Lords being 'carried up' into heaven in Luke 24:51; whilst it is applied to his offering of Himself in Hebrews 7:27. It is also adopted with reference to the offering up of a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), and of spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

The word ἀνάγω is used only twice in the Epistles, namely, in Romans 10:7, and Hebrews 13:20, in both of which passages it is adopted to express the bringing of Christ up from the dead - an essential element in the Lord's appointed work.

It may be gathered from these passages that whilst the slaying of the victim, which was to be a male without blemish, represented Christ's devotion of Himself to death, and while the pouring forth of the blood up on the altar foreshadowed the atonement wrought by virtue of his death, the ascent of the slain animal in the form of a cloud of smoke into the heavens typified the bringing of Christ up from the grave, and his ascension to the right h and of God. But since the offerer, by pressing his h and up on the victim before slaying it in the presence of God, identified himself with it, he must be considered as symbolically going through the same process as it had to undergo. So also the Christian, identifying himself with his Saviour by faith, is 'crucified with Christ,' dies with Him, is buried with Him, rises with Him under the influence of the Spirit of life, and is seated with Him in heavenly places, his life of devotion being compared to an offering made by fire, an odour of a sweet savour unto God.

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Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Burnt-Offering'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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