Two Types of Biblical Offerings

by Rich Robinson | November 01 2008

With the Day of Atonement just last month, and with many of us thinking of Thanksgiving this month, we wanted to present a biblical look at sacrifices for sin, as well as for giving thanks.

Hebrew Terms

Sin Offerings

There were two offerings for sin: Hattat (sin offering) and Asham (guilt offering).

Thanksgiving Offerings

The peace or fellowship offering included two offerings for thanksgiving: Todah and Nedavah.

Who, What, and How

Sin Offerings

The offering depended on the person giving it: For the High Priest or entire “congregation” it was a bull; for a tribal leader, a male goat. Others could give a female goat or lamb; those who were poor could offer doves or pigeons; if very poor, 1/10 ephah of flour.

Where the blood was sprinkled also depended on the person: for the High Priest, on the veil covering the Holy of Holies (except on the Day of Atonement, it was sprinkled on the mercy seat). For others the blood was sprinkled in the outer courtyard on the altar of burnt offering. Remaining blood was poured out by the altar of burnt offering and the fat portions burned.

If offered for a priest, the rest of the animal was burned outside the camp; if offered for an ordinary person, the priest could eat the remainder.

Guilt offering

Only rams (male lambs) were offered regardless of person. Blood was thrown against the altar of burnt offering; the fat and entrails were burned. The priest could eat the remainder.

Thanksgiving Offerings

The peace or fellowship offering included two offerings for thanksgiving: Todah and Nedavah.

Both offerings enabled the worshipper to choose from cattle, sheep or goats. Fat and certain other parts were burnt, with the skin, breast and right thigh reserved for the priest. The remainder could be enjoyed by the family and their friends.

Tanakh (Old Testament) Examples

Sin Offerings

Hattat: The most well-known example of the hattat in the Old Testament is in the ceremony of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, found in Leviticus 16.

“So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness” (Leviticus 16:16).

Asham: The famous Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53, predicting the redemptive ministry of the Messiah, mentions this sacrifice: “When You make His soul an offering for sin . . .” (Isaiah 53:10). The word for “offering” is asham.

Thanksgiving Offerings

Todah: Jonah’s prayer from within the belly of the great fish included a hope of deliverance to be followed by thanksgiving and a sacrifice (todah): “But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). In the following verse, God commands the fish to deposit Jonah onto dry land.

Nedavah: When the Ziphites and King Saul were in hot pursuit of David, David says, “I will freely sacrifice [literally, with a freewill offering I will sacrifice] to You; I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good” (Psalms 54:6). Why is he offering this sacrifice? Because “He has delivered me out of all trouble . . .” (verse 7).

New Testament References

(While these offerings are not explicitly mentioned by name, the concepts behind them are.)

Sin Offerings

Messiah’s blood cleanses us from sin:  “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin*: He condemned sin in the flesh. . . .” (Romans 8:3).

*The NIV says “to be a sin offering.” (cf: Hebrews 9:13, 14-22, 1 Peter 2:22-25)

Thanksgiving Offerings

The idea of the peace offering is found throughout the New Testament. A particularly close connection with Jesus Himself occurs in Ephesians 2:14: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division. . . .” (cf: Colossians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 10:16)

In Rabbinic Literature

“In the Time to Come all offerings will be abolished but the thank-offering will never be abolished” (Leviticus Rabbah 27:12).

This idea, one of several among the rabbis concerning the place of sacrifices in the messianic age, probably means that sin will be no more, so there will be no more need for sin offerings. But thanksgiving to God will go on forever.

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