The Five Levitical Sacrifices and Christianity

I sometimes ask my students if they have tried to read the Bible all the way through. Some hands go up. When I ask them how far they get, most say that they stop somewhere in the third book: Leviticus.

The reason why Leviticus is difficult to read is that there are no stories in that book. It is entirely made up of laws. I know very few people who find enjoyment out of reading the owner’s manual to their car or a volume of local tort case laws. While this may be fascinating to some, to most it is drudgery.

But since all Scripture is of God, there are still things that we can take of value here. Even if we do not find it inspiring, the work is still inspired.

Today I would like to focus on the Five main Levitical Sacrifices.

The priests of the tribe of Levi would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. The five major sacrifices were the Holocaust Offering, the Grain offering, the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering, and the Guilt Offering.

The Holocaust was the Diving Offering. A person would present to the priests a lamb or goat for sacrifice. If you had many lambs, this was to be the best of your flock. Like Abel in the Genesis, it was a sign of your dedication to God. You would not give God your scraps. Instead, you gave Him what was of highest value to show that God came first. For us, we can ask ourselves if we have this same mindset. When you get your paycheck is your first thought about paying off your bills or perhaps paying for that weekend vacation? Or is your first thought, “How can I use this money to give glory to God and help others?”

Goats and lambs, however, were not cheap. If you were too poor to afford this as an offering, then you made an offering of grain. The Grain Offering was the offering of the poor. Even the poor need to acknowledge that any good thing they have comes from God, even though they are not expected to give as much as the rich. Offering the grain or the bread showed a thanksgiving on the part of the poor for all that God has given.

In the ancient world, table fellowship was a big deal. It is one of the reasons Jesus always asks to dine with the sinners. Even today, sharing a meal with someone is one of the most common social activities. We do it on dates, meetings with friends, and gather around the table for special holidays. Table fellowship was also a sign of peace and reconciliation. The Peace Offering was a meal eaten with others. If you were having a feud with your neighbor, you would invite them to a meal to bury the hatchet. You make peace in the community as a sing of God’s love for us.

The last two offerings deal with our sinfulness. The Sin Offering was a sacrifice made on behalf of the people as a sign of our repentance and God’s forgiveness. I just finished watching a show called One Piece. In that show, a character betrays their friends for the villain. Feeling awful about it, this person looks at their shoulder where they have the villain’s logo tattooed. In repentance, this person begins to stab at the tattoo, trying to remove it. This was done as a sign of how sorry they were for what they had done and how they are turning their back on their former way of life. That is what the Sin offering does.

But there is more. As a kid, if you hit a baseball through the window of old Mrs. Slobovovich’s house, you aren’t supposed to run and hide. You are supposed to go, knock on her door, and apologize. But asking for forgiveness is not enough. Their is still the matter of the broken window. You must offer to repair the damage. That is what the Guilt Offering is for.

God is a God of justice. This means that all sin must be punished. But if sin must be punished and I have sin in me, then this means that I will be punished. However, the Guilt Offering involves something called the Scapegoat. This is a goat or lamb that is brought before the community. All of the sins of the community are symbolically placed upon this animal. No, the punishment of sin will fall on the animal and not upon the community. The animal takes the blame, hence it is our scapegoat.

After looking at the above description of the Five Levitical Sacrifices, you may wonder why a Christian should care about them? After all, we do not do animal sacrificing anymore. So what advantage is there for us to know these?

Because all of these foreshadow Christ.

He is the Divine Offering. He is the best of us, the perfect sacrifices, the spotless Lamb for the Holocaust Offering.

At the Last Supper, He offers Himself in the form of bread, just as the poor did with the Grain Offering.

Also at the Last Supper, He had his disciples gathered around to share a meal of peace and reconciliation in that ultimate Peace Offering. This is also one of the reasons why we offer the sign of peace before receiving the Eucharist.

When He took the chalice, He said that this was the chalice of His Blood, which would be shed for us and for many for the forgiveness of our sins. In the shedding of His blood we have the Sin Offering.

When John the Baptist first sees Jesus, He does not call Him the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Second Person of the Trinity or Son of God. Instead, John proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus is our Scapegoat. He takes our sins upon Himself and pays the price of God’s justice so that we can be spared in His mercy.

If we carefully explore the Old Testament we will constantly find the Hidden Christ in its pages. And the more we discover Him there, the more we will discover Him in our daily life.

Copyright 2023, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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