Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Korban Asham (Sacrifices 8)

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,

and attentiveness is better than the fat of rams.

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

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Sin-Eater vs. The Sin-Bearer (Sacrifices 7)

In the last post I mentioned that it is the korban chatat and the korban asham (guilt or trespass) offerings which resonate most with Christians, even if they don't have much familiarity with them from studying Leviticus.  Most Christians believe, and rightly so, that Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice was the fulfillment of these two "bloody", atoning, Old Testament sacrifices. Before we look in-depth at the korban asham, I want to expound upon the theme of atonement represented in the sin offering and the guilt offering.  Plus, at the end of the last post I teased that in this one I'd expound more fully on the aspect of "unintentional" sin being atoned for in these two types of sacrifice.  This post will do that as well.

It is extremely important that, as Christians, we understand the role of blood in the Bible.  Leviticus 17:11 makes plain that "the life of the flesh is in the blood." In the Old Testament and as a scarlet thread running through the New, blood was the means of atonement, being made right with God.  In the times of the Tabernacle and Temple, blood was also used to consecrate holy things, those used in Temple service. See Exodus 29:20-21 and Hebrews 9:21.  Leviticus 17:11 was only partially quoted above.  Here is the entire verse.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.

Let's start with birth.  Now, in the modern Western world this seems weird to most of us, but according to the teachings of the Torah, when a woman gave birth she was considered to be "ceremonially unclean", just as when she was having her monthly period. (Leviticus 12:2,7) Do you recall in the last post the korban chatat was offered after a woman gave birth?  That is why.  There was a certain number of days a woman had to wait until the korban chatat could be offered at the Tabernacle or Temple, and it varied based on whether she birthed a boy or a girl.  (I'm not going to rabbit trail off onto that topic as it is another topic for another post.) So, the miracle of human life began in ceremonial impurity, and if nothing else this illustrated that man is incapable of spiritual cleanness.  Because of the Fall of Man, we are all literally "born in sin".  Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, who gave birth to the only sinless human to ever live, fulfilled this ceremonial requirement by appearing at the Temple to offer the korban chatat (Luke 2:21-24).

Leprosy was also a condition that encompassed a variety of skin diseases, under the heading of the Hebrew word "tzara'at".  Those with skin diseases, especially those with long-term or permanent skin diseases, were ceremonially unclean.  They had to dwell outside the encampment of Israelites, or outside the city wall of Jerusalem.  They were ostracized in this way.  They even had to shout out "Unclean, unclean" to protect those who might get too close, from catching their disease.  In cases where the condition was not permanent, the sin offering would be made.  He or she would also be immersed into a special bath called the mikvah.  In this ways the person would be purified and able to rejoin the rest of the community.  Water and blood are symbols of cleansing in both the Torah and the New Testament.  (John 19:34)

Most of my readers are Christians.  So, the following will be familiar to you.  But, for the sake of some, these points are too important to be glossed over.

Sin separates us from God, and we are born in sin, hopelessly alienated from God.  Sin warps the soul and spirit, thoroughly contaminates and (left unaddressed) results in death, not just physical, but more importantly, spiritual.  This is why Paul states (Romans 6:23) that "the payment for sin is death."  God's prescribed remedy for sin has always been substitutionary death.  Where do we first see this?  In the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-4; Hebrews 11:4).  We see it again when Noah disembarked from the ark (Genesis 8:20).  We see it yet again at the first Passover, where the blood of the slain lamb is smeared on the doorposts of each home.  We see the shedding of blood for the atonement for sins formalized as part of God's Torah/Law at Mt. Sinai, in Leviticus 4 - 9.

Here's that part about unintentional sin.  There was no Torah-prescribed sacrifice for intentional sin.  Do you find that curious?  The Lord God, through the Torah, did not want to create the impression a man could buy the freedom to intentionally sin, by having a sin offering ready. This did not mean that intentional sin was to be ignored, or that it could not be forgiven.  However, it was not condoned; no space was carved out for it. From Leviticus 4:

28When he becomes aware of the sin he has committed, he must bring an unblemished female goat as his offering for that sin. 29He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30Then the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar.…

Did you catch the detail I did not mention yesterday?  In both the korban chatat (sin offering) and the korban asham (guilt offering) the one bringing the unblemished sacrifice was not only required to place his hands on the head of the animal to symbolically transfer his sins to the innocent animal; he was then required to slay it himself.  In this life-for-life exchange, God accepted the substitutionary death in place of the sinner, who in sincerity and faith performed these actions.

As my friend Jennifer exclaims when a profound scriptural truth smacks her right between the eyes of her heart...."WHOOOAAAAAA!"  I have to stop and tell you a story from my past.  In college, I would often attend a church on Sunday nights called Tabernacle Baptist.  It was a conservative Baptist church, but it "allowed" some charismatic expression.  There was this older man whose nickname was Sunshine. When the preacher made a profound point, he would leave his seat and go running around the sanctuary, whooping and hollering, for a couple of circuits.  Then, he'd return to his seat. The joy of the truths of God just overwhelmed him that way.  It is amazing how often I think of Sunshine, when I get hit in the heart with God's truth.

Hallelujah!  Do you SEE it?  

In Torah, just as in the New Testament, there is no forgiveness apart from the shedding of the blood of an innocent substitute (Hebrews 9:22).  Blood cleanses the defilement produced by sin and death, removing them from the sinner.   However, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ goes beyond the Old Testament sacrifices of chatat and asham, which functioned as "a copy and shadow of heavenly things" (Hebrews 8:5).  These sacrifices foreshadowed the more perfect sacrifice to come.  The blood of bulls or goats or birds could never fully remove our sins, since they did not represent the very life of God Himself, poured out on our behalf!  Only Jesus, God's own one-of-a-kind {"monogenes"* in the Greek) Son could forever cleanse us and make us right with God.  Jesus' sacrifice, the blood of the Everlasting Covenant, has perfected forever and for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10 and 13:20).

Yeshua haMashiach, Jesus Christ, is our Sin-Bearer.  

Despite mankind's spiritual enslavement to sin, despite pervasive spiritual death, there is a longing in almost every human heart to be clean from sin.  Either that deceiver, the Enemy, tells the one enslaved this is not possible, or leads him/her down a false path, or the person loves sin more than the longing to become clean.  I think this is well-illustrated by the centuries-old folklore of the Sin-Eater.  Francine Rivers wrote a magnificent work of fiction about this very practice, The Last Sin-Eater.  According to Wikipedia - - - 

"A sin-eater is a person who consumes a ritual meal in order to spiritually take on the sins of a deceased person. The food was believed to absorb the sins of a recently dead person, thus absolving the soul of the person. Sin-eaters, as a consequence, carried the sins of all people whose sins they had eaten."

Isn't that profoundly sad?  Such deception.  And, the Sin-Eater, almost always a man, was a profoundly sad individual, shunned, and treated as a leper.

The world does not need a Sin-Eater.  It needs The Sin-Bearer.  One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Revelation 5.  It pictures the Lamb of God presenting Himself before the throne of God the Father, having completed his substitutionary work on our behalf. Let me close by sharing with you some of those verses.  If you know Jesus as Savior, rejoice with me in them.  If you do not, I pray you will take that step today. Oh, sing a NEW song!  

You can find out how here: 

When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song:

“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals,

because You were slain,

and by Your blood You purchased for God

those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

10You have made them to be a kingdom

and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign uponb the earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. 12In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessing!”

13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To Him who sits on the throne

and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power

forever and ever!”

14And the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.c

Revelation 5:8-14 (BSB)

*The Greek word, monogenes, translated "only begotten" in the King James Version, only appears once in the Bible.  It is a one-of-a-kind word to describe a one-of-a-kind Savior.


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 4", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 5", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

Rivers, F. (2014). The last sin eater. Tyndale House Publishers.

Purification - - The Korban Chatat - - Sin Offering (Sacrifices 6)

When I wear perfume, I choose an essential oil made by DoTerra, called Purify.  It is a clean and (to me) intoxicating blend of lemon peel, Siberian fir, citronella, tea tree and cilantro oils.  I love it!  I also love to diffuse the oil throughout our home.  It makes everything smell clean and fresh.   

We are progressing through our learning about the five types of sacrifices (korbanot) in a certain order, and that is the order they are revealed in Leviticus 1-7.  Thus far, we have studied three of the five, the first three revealed by God as He instructed Moses - - the burnt offering, the grain offering and the peace offering.  Next, as we will discover in today's post, comes the purification (also called the sin) offering and then, finally, the guilt offering.

Now, here's a curious thing.  God revealed to (taught) Moses the five offerings in the order mentioned above (starting in Leviticus 1).  But, let me ask you something.  When it came to the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood and their first practice of making these sacrificial offerings, which offering did they offer first?  Both when they were ordained (a lengthy process), in Leviticus 8, and then when they made their first official offerings as priests of the Most High God, they offered the same sacrifice first.  Go look in Leviticus 9 and see what you find.  (Hint: look at verse 8.)

Here is the verse, because I know you won't go look it up, lol.

8So Aaron approached the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sin offering for himself.

He offered this offering on behalf of himself, and then which of the five categories of offering did he offer first on behalf of the Israelites? Seven verses later - - - 

15Aaron then presented the people’s offering. He took the male goat for the people’s sin offering, slaughtered it, and offered it for sin like the first one.

Leviticus 9:15

So, by instruction from God, the sin offering was given as the fourth offering; but, in practice, we see it offered first.  Why do you suppose that is?

It is helpful to remember that the entire sacrificial system points toward Jesus Christ, Yeshua haMashiach (in Hebrew).  In short, the first three offerings represent the sinless life Jesus lived, because they are offerings of devotion, offerings made out of a sincere love for God and for one's fellow man.  And, Jesus lived a life of sinless devotion.  He is the only man who has or who ever will.  At the end of His earthly life, He became our atonement, taking away our sin and our guilt.  Hallelujah!

However, in human practice of these offerings in the Old Testament, sin separated the people from God.  As with each Christian's acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, sin had to be dealt with.  This is why the Aaronic priests of the Tanakh (Old Testamen) offered the sin and the guilt offerings first.  There is no meaning in, or God's acceptance of, "devotion" offerings, if sin separates us from God. 

It would be helpful at this point to define "sin".

If you are part of an evangelical church, you may have heard that "sin" means "to miss the mark", such as when an archer shoots an arrow and fails to hit a bulls-eye or to hit the target at all.  From where did that description come?  The Hebrew word for "sin" is "chattaah", which means (you guessed it) "to miss the mark".  But, WHAT mark?  The word "torah" (is very closely related to the words pictured below.  Look at the Hebrew.  They all have the same root.


Evangelicals often call the Torah, the Law, a "schoolmaster" or an "instructor".  In short, God's Law, the Torah, show us what it means to live a perfect life, which Jesus Christ lived.  Sin is what it means to fall short of doing that, because no man except for Jesus has kept the whole Law.  (The "falling short" aspect reminds me of a dean of women in college who once prayed for the Lord to "forgive us our falling shorts", which was a catalyst for many silent chortles and spasms of laughter among the collegiate faithful.  She was thinking of Romans 3:23, I guess.  But, I digress....)

Actually, sin is no laughing matter.  God makes clear in the Bible how He hates it.  And, why?  Because it separates Him from those He loves.  In living the Christian life, our individual process of sanctification, we become more and more discerning of sin, especially our own sin.  We become increasingly aware that we may sin at any time.  Sin is the hallmark of our old nature, ever with us, constantly warring with the new nature we received when we accepted Christ Jesus as Savior, and had all of our sins forgiven, washed away, remembered by God no more.  Sin ever seeks to diminish us, to take the glory from God. The apostle Paul describes the "O Wretched Man That I Am Battle" inside the believer, in Romans 7:14-25.

Wouldn't it have been wonderful if, after becoming one with Christ, our old nature was forever banished from us?  However, that is not "real life here below Heaven".  Sin is like a cancer, a silent enemy, always looking for opportunities to derail, up-end, marginalize and, if we let it, destroy us in this life.  Thank God our eternity in Heaven with our Savior is assured! 

Ok, now to examine the Korban Chatat.  This offering worked in concert with the fifth category of offerings, the guilt offering.  Together, these two picture the confession of both the sins of the heart AND the sinful actions which follow inward sins.  The major focus of the Chatat offering is purification, cleansing while a key element of the Asham offering is restitution/reconciliation.  But, lest we get confused, let's focus only on the Korban Chatat for now.

This offering was, yes, offered for unintentional sins committed.  However, it was broader than that.  (That is the reason I titled this post "Purification".)  A sin offering was also offered on occasions such as when a person defiled himself by touching a corpse (Numbers 6:14), or for after a woman gave birth (Leviticus 12:16), or for ritual impurities such as coming into contact with a leprous person (Leviticus 14:19.) Purification cleanses away defilement.  The Purification Offering removed the defilement which occurred when the people broke God's Torah. 

This type of sacrifice was also offered in the fulfillment of Nazarite vows.  I'm not going to launch into an exposition of what a Nazarite vow was, although I will point out that the apostle Paul, after the ascension of Christ back to Heaven, made a Nazarite vow and kept it, ending the vow period by going to the Temple and making a sin offering, a Korban Chatat.  This is recorded in Acts 18 and also in Acts 21.  To many Christians this story is quite troublesome, because it seems to not jive with the all-sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice. In other words, WHY would Paul, who seemed to understand the gospel quite well, go offer a Temple sacrifice, after his conversion?  I will attempt to deal with that question in a future post.  But, let's not digress.

What types of items were featured in the sin offering?  The requirement varied, based on who committed the sin.  The more authority the person carried, the greater the offering.  So, for example, when a member of the priesthood sinned, the offering was of a bull, a very expensive offering.  Or, when a king sinned, the offering requirement was a male goat.  When an "everyday Israelite" sinned, the requirement varied according to that person's wealth (or lack thereof): a lamb, one or two doves, grain/flour.

Sin offerings were also offered on the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. This occurred from Leviticus 9 and on through until the last Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  It is the Korban Chatat and the Passover Lamb sacrifice (a peace offering) which are most closely associated with the work of Jesus Christ, during Passion Week, the week of His death, burial and resurrection.   

We read in Leviticus 4 that the animal offered for a sin offering had to be the most perfect specimen available, one "without blemish".  The animal would be brought to the altar and the sinner would put his hands on its head, which symbolized transferring his sins onto the animal.  Then, the animal would be killed, which would take place on the north side of the altar.  The blood would be handled in a specific way, as well as the fat of the animal.  Then, usually, the carcass of the animal would be burned up away from the Temple, "outside the camp".  (Compare Hebrews 13:12.)

Have you thought about how the sinner must have felt, to see a beautiful, innocent animal pay the ultimate price, for his sins?  How much more should our hearts be stricken, when we contemplate how Jesus Christ died, bearing the wrath of a holy God, for us?  "...and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

As I am about to wind up this post, you may have noticed I underlined the word "unintentional" several paragraphs back.  Did you wonder about this?  I'll have more to say about that in the next post.


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 4", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Salt Covenant (Sacrifices 5)

There’s a folktale of a king who had three lovely daughters.  He knew he would need to select one of them to rule after him.  He decided to make the determining factor for this momentous decision which daughter loved him the most.  So, he asked each one of them.  The first said, “Father, I love you more than gold and silver.”  The second replied, “Father, I love you more than diamonds and rubies.”  The third said, “I love you more than salt in my soup.”  His majesty had been feeling pretty good, on hearing from his two older daughters, but the answer from his youngest enraged him.  Accordingly, he banished her from the kingdom.  Shortly thereafter, a salt shortage hit the kingdom. Soon, the people were crying out for salt, as their bodies began to suffer the consequences of salt deficiency.  Upon hearing of this bad situation, the younger daughter returned, to find her father very ill.  As she comforted him beside his sickbed, he recognized the truth of her words of love, and he gave to her the kingdom.

Legends and folktales endure because at their essence there is some kernel of truth.  In this story, the importance of salt is emphasized.  We find in the Bible that salt is elevated there too.  Let’s start with the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  The verse appears in similar form in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, and Luke 14:34.)  Here is Mark’s version from the NLT (New Living Translation):

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its saltiness, with what will you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus used salt as a learning aid?  I’ve heard sermons about this, and most of them refer to the preserving properties of salt, and/or the healing properties of salt.  It is true that the Body of Christ, we who follow Him as Savior, serve as a positive influence in this world in those ways.  But, in addition, I believe Jesus was heartening back to the salt covenant of the Old Testament, by using salt as the metaphor here.

Let’s look at the verses in the Old Testament which inform us about the salt covenant and the use of salt in the korbanot (offerings).

First, in Leviticus 2:13 -

And you shall season each of your grain offerings with salt. You must not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offering; you are to add salt to each of your offerings.

Further along, Numbers 18:19, a salt covenant was made between the LORD and the Aaronic priesthood.

All the holy offerings that the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and to your sons and daughters as a permanent statute. It is a permanent covenant of salt before the LORD for you and your offspring.

So, as a result of the commands for the Temple korbanot, all of them were offered with salt.  And, in both cases, the “covenant of salt” was mentioned. (Salt was also added to incense that was offered on the altar.)

Ezekiel 43:24 and 2 Chronicles 13:5  are also pertinent references to the study of Salt Covenant.

In 2 Chronicles 13, we read about the epic battle between King Abijah of Judah against King Jereboam of Israel.  Before going into battle, where his forces slew 500,000 of Israel’s warriors, King Abijah referenced the salt covenant God made with the descendants of David.  Verse 5 - - - 

Do you not know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt

Here the reference is made to the salt covenant being between God and King David and his descendants (of which Jesus was one, of course.)

We first see salt mentioned as important in Job 6:6-7 - - - 

6Is tasteless food eaten without salt, 

or is there flavor in the white of an egga?

7My soul refuses to touch them; 

they are loathsome food to me.

“Loathsome food” ... interesting.  And, wouldn’t you think he would have said, “my tongue refuses to touch them”?  But, no, he said my SOUL refuses....

A covenant, biblically speaking, was a strong, enduring, legally-binding promise, initiated by God. We have examined here three major touch points in Scriptures, concerning salt being used to symbolize specific covenantal relationships with God: the Aaronic priesthood, the line of Davidic kings and the covenantal relationship between Christ and His Church. (In Matthew 5:13, He says “You are the salt of the earth...”)

The truth is that God does not get overly specific in Scripture as to why He chose salt to symbolize these important covenantal truths.  But, I do think we can draw some logical conclusions.

1.  Salt endures and preserves.

Several years ago, I went through a “prepper” phase, where I hoarded non-perishable foodstuffs in our basement.  Fortunately, “the end of the world as we know it” has not occurred, which would require desperate action to stay alive.  However, I will tell you that the 100 or so rolls of toilet paper I had stored up certainly made 2020 less anxious for our family, but I digress.... My point is that there are several canisters of salt down there.  Kosher Salt and Sea Salt “do not go bad”, despite that it has an expiration date on the canister.  

For centuries, salt was used and is still used as a preservative for food, particularly for meat.  Though a distasteful thought, salt was also used in mummification, again, as a preservative.

2.  Salt enhances flavor and gives a picture of establishing the covenant.

Our English word “salary” comes from an ancient word meaning “salt money”.  Salt has long been associated with making agreements.

In other extra-biblical Near East sources, we find salt playing a key role at covenantal meals, where it was eaten by the parties involved to “seal the deal”.  That tradition still endures in some Eastern cultures today.

In Malachi 1:1-12 the altar of God is referred to twice as a table, “the table of the Lord”.  Even today, at the Sabbath table, a ceremony is performed where the Sabbath bread is dipped in salt, as a reminder of the eternal attribute of God, His changelessness.  What He has vowed, He will fulfill.  What He has promised, He will keep.  His words will stand past the end of time.

In summary, while the salt covenant is never explicitly spelled out in the Bible, we can deduce from the characteristics of salt, its value and the contexts in which the salt covenant is mentioned that it has a great deal to do with God’s promises to His chosen.   Blessed be His name, forever!


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 3", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

Friday, January 22, 2021

Korban Mincha - - Grain Offering (Sacrifices 4)

Welcome back.  Obviously, I have been on quite the hiatus.  I've been doing a lot of study, focusing on that, as opposed to actually writing.  I regret this break occurred right smack in the middle of my Sacrifices series. But the past is the past, and all I can do from this point is to move forward.  I pray you will forgive my lapse.

As it has been over 4 months since my last post on this topic, (or any topic) let's do a brief review.

The entire sacrificial system was instituted by God to allow mankind to draw near to Him, to approach Him.  To stand before the Almighty in the Temple was to experience the joy of being near God.  I saw this meme the other day and want to share it with you.

Not to digress, but stop and consider the enormity of that for a moment.  The privilege of having a relationship with Yeshua haMashiach, Jesus Christ, the Savior, still astounds me.  We have that ongoing relationship because His Holy Spirit lives within us who belong to Him.

Before Pentecost, that level of access to God was not available.  The sacrificial system was God’s ordained avenue for man to approach Him, to draw close to God.

We have studied two types of offering thus far (out of 5), the burnt offering, which was completely burned up and whose aroma was a pleasing offering to God, and the peace offering, which was the only completely voluntary offering, the only one not commanded.  While the whole burnt offering animal was completely consumed by fire, the peace offering was treated differently.  Part of the animal was burned on the altar, part of it was consumed by the priests and the rest was eaten by the giver and his family in a joyful communal meal.

Today, we will focus on the third type of offering, and that is the grain offering, also known as the Korban Mincha, a word that means “gift”.  None of these first three types of offering we are studying (burnt, peace, grain) were offered as atonement offerings or as put another way, sacrifices for sin. They were brought to the LORD in His holy dwelling place (Tabernacle/Temple) as ritual gifts offered to God out of a glad and willing heart.  All three of these types of offerings were voluntary.

We first see mention of sacrifice of grain offered by Cain, (of all people!) in Genesis 4:2-4.

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, while Cain was a tiller of the soil. 3So in the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the LORD, 4while Abel brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock.

And the LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but He had no regard for Cain and his offering. So Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell.

You may have heard the above passage exegeted (interpreted) to elevate the meat offering above the grain offering.  Obviously, this story pre-dates Leviticus, where God gave His commands about the various types of offerings.  However, if you read it carefully, you will find that Cain was rejected for bringing “some”, while Abel brought “the best”.  Big difference, and a key theme in the korbanot later instituted in Leviticus.  In all cases, God commanded that “the best” was to be brought, and only the best.  Plus, “heart attitude” in bringing the offering was of paramount importance.  (Reflect on the story Jesus told of “the widow’s mite”, in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44.)

Leviticus 2 gives the details on the grain offering, the korban mincha.

It could be offered by itself, as a "stand-alone" offering; or, it could be offered in conjunction with another type of offering.  In the case of the very poor, it could be offered in lieu of a more expensive meat offering.  And, the Torah specified that every Olah (burnt) or Shalem (peace) offering was to be accompanied by a grain offering.  The same was true for the offerings made at the Jewish festivals.

The grain offering, the least expensive and the simplest korban to bring, was primarily of either wheat or barley flour (the Omer, brought on the second day of Passover was barley flour because the wheat harvest was not yet ripe), It was required the grain or the baked bread be unleavened.  (The grain or bread was, however, salted.  More about that in the next post.)  Leaven was not allowed on the altar, as it was widely considered a “type” or picture or representation of sin. For this reason, the bread was usually offered after having been baked, to prevent natural leavening from occurring.

The korban mincha could be offered three times a day in alignment with the Temple’s routine of sacrificial services and with daily prayers.  In fact the name of this offering is the same as the name for the afternoon prayers, offered by the priests (kohanim) at the Temple.  The grain was combined with oil and frankincense.  The priest would offer small handfuls of the grain on the altar and would use the rest of the offering for his family.   If a baked product was offered, the priest would offer the “memorial portion” (“three fingers worth”) on the altar and keep the rest for his own sustenance.  The offerer did not partake of the grain offering.

As another reminder, the Levitical priests were supported by the various korbanot (offerings) brought by the people.  In addition, the people obeyed God's command (Exodus 25-27:19) to bring them terumah (supportive offerings of wine, grain, produce, etc.)  God ordained it this way so that these men could provide for their families while devoting themselves whole-heartedly to the study of God, the teaching of His statues, and the operation of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple.)  Interestingly, Levites did not make war, as did the other tribes.  They were not awarded a separate land allotment in the Promised Land, but were, rather, allotted certain cities/areas within each tribe's allotment.  The Levites were the Army of God, and He was their provision.

Note that in the King James Version, the grain offering is referred to as a “meat offering”.  However, in the 1600s, when that translation was written, “meat” did not refer to “flesh”, as it does today.  The word meant “food in general”.

If you read Leviticus 2 when I mentioned it earlier, you saw reference to salt and its inclusion in this sacrifice.  In the next post, I want to share with you about salt and its importance in the sacrificial system.


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 3", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

“The Happy Meal: the obligation to bring meal offerings as directed”, by Jack Abramovitz.

An Introduction to Masechet Menachot, by Rabbi Jay Kelman.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Zevachim Shelamim - - He is our Peace (Sacrifices 3)

A couple of weekends ago my extended family had a wedding. What a privilege it was to attend, to celebrate with family via the ceremony and the wedding supper afterwards!  It has been common in families for generations to commemorate a marriage with a celebratory meal. Have you ever thought about why? One of the most universal conventions of humankind has been to commemorate with a shared meal, around a table, the sealing of a bond. In addition to wedding suppers, think presidential "state dinners". 

Ponder with me about altars. In the Christian church service, what takes place there? And....why THERE? Marriage, baby dedication, communion ritual, people announce their decision to follow Christ, people gather to pray, ordination of church leaders, to name a few. 

 One of my favorite, recently-discovered vocal artists is Steffany Gretzinger, who has a song, "Remember", in which she sings "You took the altar, and made it a table." From ancient times the altar has been considered a touch point between heaven and earth, a gate, a mystical portal between this earthly realm and the heavenly. In the Jewish sacrificial system, anything that touched the altar became ritually set apart, consecrated to God, and entered His presence. The whole of the sacrifices were celebratory, covenantal feasts. 

Remember, although animals were sacrificed on the altar, the korbanot were about life, not about death. The blood of the animal represented life, and was a vehicle to enable mortal man to draw near to God. The Hebrew word "zevach" means, in a general sense, a "feast of meat". In the parallel context with the korbanot, sacrifices, it means a "covenantal feast".  God, the Holy One of Israel, is the covenantal partner with the Jewish people (and later with all who believe on His Son). As the Jews would continually re-dedicate themselves to God, they would bring zevachim to the covenantal center, the Temple, for a covenantal feast, a feast to celebrate the rejuvenation of their bond with Him. 

The Hebrew word for "altar" is "mizbayach", which means "the place the zevach is brought". If the only purpose for the altar were atonement (as most Christians understand), you would think the word would be "makhaper", "place of atonement". The very name "mizbayach" in Hebrew represents the fullness of this touch point between God and man. 
Today, we are focusing on the zevachim shelamim (shared sacrifices of peace). See Leviticus 7:11-21. Shelamim (sh'lamim) is a plural word from the root "shalom". Even most Protestants know what the word "shalom" means. It is a customary Jewish greeting, meaning "peace". When Jesus greeted His disciples after his resurrection He said "shalom" - - "Peace be unto you". The shelamim are peace offerings, offered to express thanks or gratitude to God for his bounties and mercies, for His deliverance, or to mark the fulfillment of a vow.

Remember how the first korban we studied was completely burnt up? Well, this one is different. With the shelamim, part of the animal (the "choice fats) was burnt on the altar. Some of it (the brisket) was given to the priests for their use. The rest was shared - - eaten by the one making the offering and his family/friends, as a celebratory meal. Shelamim were the only category of sacrifice eaten by the one who offered it. The shelamim offering was a voluntary offering. It was also the only one of the five categories of sacrifices NOT commanded by God. (After all...are thanksgiving and gratitude true, if commanded?) Shelamim were never mentioned in Scripture in conjunction with transgression, expiation or atonement. 

I neglected to mention this in the post "The Approach". Well, actually, I had not learned it yet. So, I will mention it here. Did you know that loaves of bread and wine were presented at the offering of every Temple sacrifice?! (See Numbers 15:1-14 and Numbers 6:14-15) Think about the implications of that...."You took the altar, and made it a table.

Examples of shelamim we see in Scripture: 
1 Kings 19:21  Elisha prepared 12 oxen as a feast for the local people 
1 Samuel 28:24  The woman of Ein Dor prepared a "veal meal" for King Saul. 
Genesis 31:44   Joseph and Laban shared a covenantal meal. 
1 Samuel 11:15  Saul and his men 
1 Samuel 1:21-28 Hannah brought a peace offering as she fulfilled her vow to consecrate Samuel to God
Exodus 12:7-8  And...Passover.  

Now, when evangelical Christians think of the Passover sacrifice/meal, we think strictly of atonement, don't we?
However, although Jesus died, was buried and was resurrected during the Passover season, thereby securing our salvation, Passover was a type of peace offering.  How is this so?  The meat of the slaughtered animal was eaten by the family, and bitter herbs and unleavened bread were also eaten.  Did Jesus Christ become full atonement for us?  Yes, He did.  He also fulfilled the peace offering, by eternally making peace with God on our behalf.
{In the following passage, the ( ) words are mine, as are the underlined passages.}

But now, you (Gentiles) who were once far off have ben brought near 
through the shedding of the Messiah's blood.
For He Himself is our shalom - - 
He has made us both one and has broken down the m'chitzah (dividing wall)
which divided us
by destroying in His own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah (Law)
with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances.
He did this in order to create a union with Himself
from the two groups in a single, new humanity
and thus make shalom (peace),
and, in order to reconcile to God both (Jewish believers and Gentile believers) in a single body 
by being executed on a stake as a criminal
and thus in Himself killing that enmity.
Ephesians 2:13-16 (CJB)

"Nothing can separate what you bring together.  Now and forever, I will remember . . . "
                   "Remember", by Steffany Gretzinger


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 2", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries