And, now, we come to the fifth category of sacrifices, the second of the propitiation sacrifices, the korban asham. The word "asham" can be translated as "guilt, trespass, restitution, compensation". This korban (sacrifice) is mentioned in several places, but most notably in Leviticus 5:14-19 and Leviticus 7:1-7.
Of all the five types of sacrifices, the korban asham is the most complex in its application. The asham offering can be thought of as a "supplemented chatat offering." Like the korban chatat (sin sacrifice or purification sacrifice), the korban asham was required as an atoning sacrifice; but, the asham was for certain types of more egregious, unintentional sins - - sins which severely harm the fellow man and one's own good name.
Of all the offerings, this one "cost the most", reflecting the severe degree of the offenses committed. There was also an element of restitution associated with this offering, because of the sinner's guilt at having harmed another (as well as God Himself). Accordingly, a 20% fee ("the fifth part") was added. Say a person stole $100 from another. $120 would be paid back to that person, and an asham offering would be made. In cases where there was no damage or harm to another human, the 20% would be given in addition to the asham offering, and the priests would be the recipients.
Jesus alluded to this offering and reiterated this principle in Matthew 5:23-24 when he required the repentant sinner to first go make things right with his brother (restitution plus 20% would have been understood) and then go present himself at the altar (to make the asham offering).
The procedure on the part of the repentant sinner was similar to that for the chatat offering, described in the last post. The offered animal was always to be a ram. However, the at the time of the laying on of the hands, the act in Hebrew called semikhah, the offender had to verbally confess his sin over the animal. And, the only portion of the asham offering, the ram, burned on the altar was the fat of the animal; the remainder was for the priests to eat, as long as it was eaten in a holy section of the Temple. Best I can determine, the carcass of this sacrificed animal was not burned outside the camp, as was the case with the sin offering.
Leviticus 5 lists the six, seemingly unrelated, instances when a Korban Asham was required. One of them, the Asham Taluy (vs. 17-19), is particularly open-ended. This is when the penitent is unsure whether he has committed a sin necessitating an asham sacrifice or not. The term literally means, "sins without knowing".
There was a story that circulated among the female collegians when I was at university. It was said that the wife of the chancellor, who taught in the Home Ec division, admonished her pupils thusly. When determining if a garment needed washing, the rule should be, "If it's doubtful, it's dirty." This memory comes to mind when I consider the Asham Taluy.
I confess that describing these five categories barely "scratch the surface" of the knowledge of Old Testament korbanot (sacrifices). There were over 100 different sacrifices offered in the two ancient Temples! I have learned that there is a tremendous amount of information about these that I do not know. As we come to the close of this sacrifices study, there are some things important to remember:
1. The sacrifices themselves took a back seat to the heart attitude of the one making the offering. The most key verse to illustrate that truth is found in 1 Samuel 15:22-23a - - -
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obedience to His voice?
Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice,
23For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance is like the wickedness of idolatry.
It is still true today. The many "religious" things people do are not what make them right with God. Instead, He seeks a heart that is contrite, humble and that seeks Him through the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The sacrifices will return. Because the Temple will return.
Right now, all the plans are in place for the 3rd Temple to be built. (The First and Second Temples were destroyed in 586 BC and 70 AD, respectively.) Only two things are lacking: an opportunity to access the location on the Temple Mount (that area is currently controlled by the Muslim WAQF), and a red heifer, whose ashes will be used to purify the priesthood.
When the 3rd Temple is built, sacrifices will resume. According to Scripture, this will take place either during the 7-year Great Tribulation, or the Temple will be rebuilt shortly before that period begins. As Jews will be controlling what goes on in this Temple, it is reasonable to assume that all five categories of sacrifices will resume. Many Bible scholars believe, however, that many Jews will turn to their true Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua), during those last days.
There could be a whole host of posts written about what the Bible says about this 3rd Temple and about the next one. Many Bible scholars believe the 3rd Temple I described above, and which will be desecrated by the False Messiah of the Great Tribulation, will be utterly destroyed in the devastation that occurs in the latter half of that tribulation period. However, the New Testament is not clear about the fate of that Temple, even though it is mentioned three times in the New Testament.
The prophet Ezekiel, in his book, describes vividly a Fourth Temple, which many believe will be "the millennial Temple", during that 1000-year period Jesus Christ rules and reigns upon the Earth. The prophet received the information about this structure and surrounding areas in a vision which featured "a man whose appearance was like bronze"; many have postulated this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. In the vision, Ezekiel was given 318 precise measurements of the Temple. This Temple has not yet been built, but it will be, because God's Word never fails. AND it is much too large to fit on the present Temple Mount. I could go on and on about this Temple, but won't at this time. I do want to point out a very important feature. While the Temple Ezekiel describes differs in several very important ways from any previously existing Jewish Temple, it does have an altar. Ezekiel 45:13-25 gives some pretty specific instructions concerning that altar of sacrifice.
3. Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach, is all in all. His coming and His finished work changed everything. As He said in Matthew 5:17 - - -
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Of the four gospels, the one that points out the most how Jesus' work fulfilled the Mishkan (Temple) is the gospel of John. I invite you to read the Addendum from the Hebrews4Christians link, given in the sources, because this blog post has gone on long enough.
"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 5", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries