What we are going to describe with the korbanot is what God calls “worship.” Abraham is going to Mount Moriah to offer a korban and says it is worship (Gen 22.5). Israel was to go three days into the wilderness to offer kornanot and “worship” the Lord (Exo 12.31). Israel will worship God with sacrifice and offering (Isa 19.21). Paul came to Jerusalem to offer korbanot and to worship (Acts 21.17-26, 24.11,17). How was a korban offered? Which animals were acceptable? Let’s look at the eleven steps needed in bringing a korban. The first step is called “Hava’a” and it means to bring a korban. Next comes the “Semicha” or the “laying on of hands.” Now, this is not a magical gesture establishing a “point of contact” between God and man. This is what is taught in Christianity and how man thinks. Semicha is not meant to symbolically imply that the korban is a substitute for the individual either. Instead, it is a solemn attestation that the korban has come from that particular individual who is performing the semicha on the korban.
Third, we have the “Vidui” or “confession.” After that we have the Shechita” or the slaughtering. Then the “Kabalaaah ha Dam” or the “receiving” of the blood. The the “Holacha” which means the “walking” of the blood. Next, the Shefichat Sherayim” which means the “pouring out” of the leftover blood. After that comes the “Hafsdhata Venituach” which is the “skinning and severing.” Then comes “Hadacha” or the “rinsing” and lastly the “Melicha Vehaktara” which is the “salting and burning.”
The animals that are acceptable as a korban are the ox or bull, the sheep, the goat and birds called “Torim” which are the mature turtledoves and “B’nai Yonah” or young turtledoves. There will be five steps to offering a bird. First we have “Melika” which is the “severing” of the head from the torso of the bird with the thumbnail. The priest that did this had to be very skilled, and had a long thumbnail. Then comes the Mitzvi ha Dam” which is the “pressing” of the blood. Then came the “Haktorat ha Rosh” which is the “burning of the head.” Then came the “Hashachal Beit ha Deshem” or the “disposal of the extra parts” and lastly came the “Haktarat Ha’of” which is the “burning” off the korban.
We will be using as a source the “Summary of the Laws of Korbanot” from the book “Vayikra” from Mesorah Publications, p. 326-334 in discussing the korbanot. This is one of the best sources you can have if you want a concise overview of these korbanot. There will be five main categories of korbanot listed in Leviticus. The Korban Olah is the burnt offering (Lev 1, 6.8-13, 8.18-21, 16.24). This can be a bull, ram or a male pigeon for the poor. This korban was consumed totally in the fire on the altar and had to be without defect. It is a voluntary act of worship and used for atonement for an unintentional sin in general. It can also be an expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God.
The next korban is called the Korban Mincha which is the grain (bread) offering. It is raw flour, deep mold or shallow mold, challah or wafers. There will be thirteen types of “bread offerings.” They are the Mincha Solet, Mincha Challah, Mincha Rekikin, Mincha Machvat, Mincha Marcheshet, Mincha Choteh, Mincha Chavitin, Mincha Chinnuch, Mincah Ha Omer, the Shtai Ha Lechem, Mincha Sotah, the Lechem Ha Pannim and the Mincha Nesachim.
The bread offerings will have certain elements. We have grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, baked bread (cakes or wafers), salt and no leaven or honey in most cases. These offerings will accompany the Olah and the Shelem (peace) offering, along with a drink offering These were voluntary acts of worship and the recognition of God’s goodness and provisions. Now, this sounds like a meal doesn’t it?
Next we have the Korban Shelem or peace offerings (Lev 3, 7.11-34). This can be any animal without defect from the herd or the flock, with a variety of breads. It is a voluntary act of worship involving thanksgiving and fellowship. It was the only korban eaten by the offeror and it is associated with a covenantal meal between the Lord and the offeror. Another name for this covenantal meal is a “Lord’s Supper.” The next korban is called the Korban Chatat or “sin offering” (Lev 4.1 to 5.13, 6.24-30, 8.14-17, 16.3-22). This was a young bull for the High Priest and the congregation. It was a male goat for a leader, a female goat or lamb for the common person. If poor, they could use a dove or a pigeon, If one was very poor, they could offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour (bloodless) It was a mandatory offering for an unintentional sin requiring restitution. It was also for cleansing from defilement and making restitution with a twenty percent fine. The last category of korbanot is called the Korban Asham or “guilt offering” (Lev 5.14 to 6.7, 7.1-6). It was a ram or a lamb and it was mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution and cleansing from defilement.
Now, before we move on any further, we want to take the time and discuss a little known aspect of the korbanot and how they were related to the concept of a “covenantal feast” called a “Zevach” and how these korbanot will relate to the concept and application of the celebration of the covenantal bond between Yehovah and his people accomplished at Mount Sinai, called a Lord’s Supper. We will be using as a source a book called “The Temple-Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now” by Joshua Berman, p. 128-145. Understanding what we are going to present will be crucial in our understanding of the Temple and the korbanot. You will soon see how an understanding of this concept will help us understand why the believers in the first century continued to offer korbanot and why they regarded them so highly, even after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. You will also have a better understanding as to why the korbanot and the Temple will be reinstated after Yeshua returns.
One of the main words in Hebrew that you will see when looking at the portions of Scripture dealing with the korbanot will be the word “zevach.” It is a synonym for korban. In a general, non-sacrificial sense, this word means a feast that is centered around the consumption of meat. Adonijah tried to take the throne from from his father. He slaughtered (va-yizbach) sheep and oxen and made a feast for is supporters in 1 Kings 1.9. Elisha took twelve oxen and slaugthered them (va-yizbachehu) to make a feast (1 Kings 19.21). A woman at Ein-Dor slaughtered a veal calf (va-tizbachehu) to give a feast to Saul (1 Sam 28.24). Now, if the word zevach in a general sense means a feast, then how does this word in a sacrificial sense relate to korban? Who is it that is feasting when a zevach is offered in the Temple?
One of the most ancient acts practiced between entities who are entering into a covenant is the shared meal. In the modern day political world, this can be what is called “state dinner.” After all the diplomatic haggling is done and negotiated, the parties will mark the newly agreed on “covenant” or agreement with a huge and very expensive meal. In the Bible, a covenant between two parties was according to a certain ritual and observed like this. When Abimelech proposed to Isaac that they enter into a “brit” (covenant), Isaac affirmed it by preparing a feast (gen 26.28-30). Laban wanted to part ways with Jacob on friendly terms so they made a covenant. They erected a stone monument and had a meal (Gen 31.44-46). After coming to terms, Jacob had a larger feast (Gen 31.54). The Hebrew used in this verse is very interesting and helpful in our understanding. It says, Jacob then slaughtered an animal” but it reads “va-yizbach Ya’akov zevach.” The verb “slaughtered” and the object “animal” are both derivatives of the root “Z, V, Ch.”
Remember, the central sanctuary, either the Mishkan or the Temple, was the covenantal center of the people of God, both Jew and non-Jew. We have now seen where the word zevach and korban have a relation around the concept of a brit, or covenant. The Temple was the place to remember the covenant at Sinai. This covenant was renewed and made alive on an ongoing basis. Israel rededicates themselves as partners in this covenant when they go there for worship, so we can see how the word zevach and korban are conceptually related. The korbanot express a connection between partners to a brit. As Israel rededicated themselves to the covenantal partner in Yehovah, they bring zevachim to the covenant center (the central sanctuary). These are celebratory feasts that makes anew the covenantal bond. Now, a real feast included wine. Berman says, “With this in mind, the analogy of korban as feast is further buttressed by the requirement that the offering of every korban include the presentation of loaves and wine (Exo 29.40; Lev 23.13; Numbers 15.1-14).”
The zevach, therefore, is a covenantal and celebratory feast in the Temple service. This idea is supported by other things as well. One aspect of the Temple service that bothers some people is that the korbanot are referred to as “God’s bread” or they were a “pleasing odor to God.” Some say that this is only figurative because God doesn’t smell or eat, so why say it? The solution is in our understanding of the word zevach as a covenantal feast. God isn’t physical and when the Scriptures talk about any sensual reaction or attribute of Yehovah in a korban, it is to bring out the idea that the zevach is an experience that is shared by Yehovah with his people. Berman writes, “Man, literally, and God, figuratively, partake in the same feast.”
The word zevach also helps us understand the site where the covenantal feast is brought, the altar. If the expiation of sin was the only purpose of the altar, we would see it referred to as the “mekhaper” which means “that which brings atonement.” But the Bible uses the word “mizbe’ach” which means the “site where the zevach is brought.” It has the same root in Hebrew. The name of the altar (mizbe’ach) teaches us the central concept or idea that the korbanot are zevachim, celebratory feasts.
In Part 3 we will pick up with more on the concept of the korbanot, zevachim and the Temple and begin with the feasting on Mount Sinai.