The Bible is full of imagery on a variety of topics. It is our “tavnit” or blueprint. With that said, it is not surprising that we see the idea of a zevach as a covenantal meal there in Exo 24.3-11. We see that the Lord has given the commandments and the people have agreed to them by saying, “All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!” After that came the the covenantal meal. We now know why the elders ate and drank after this. They have agreed to enter into this brit and so there was a celebration.
We see the idea that this meal at Sinai was seen as a zevach in Psa 50.5 where it says, “Gather my godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice (zevach).” This shows the concept of intimacy which existed at the time between the Lord and the Jewish people at this time. We also see that two types of korbanot were offered as this covenantal bond was made. Exo 24.5 says that olot and shelemim (peace offerings) were offered. We have touched on the olah previously and we will talk about the shelemim later.
Remember, the olah is offered on the altar and it is totally consumed. This shows complete dedication to God. Israel was showing their total commitment to God when offering the olah, as does a person when he offers an olah. The Korban Shelemim (plural) that were offered is the first mention in the Torah of this particular category. The laws of the shelemim are different from the others in this particular fashion. It is the only korban where the owner of the animal partakes of the meat. In the case of a korban olah the meat is entirely “burnt” on the altar. When a korban chatat (sin) or a korban asham (guilt) is given, sections are reserved for the officiating priest but none of it is left over for the offerer. We will look at the chatat and the asham later in this teaching.
The words used in relation to the korban shelem gives us some interesting things. While the word zevach can refer to any korban, it is used the most in regards to the korban shelem. In our passage in Exo 24, the Torah says that the olah offerings were brought, and then it says they slaughtered the zevachim as korban shelemim. In other words, the korban shelemim were zevachim (a feast of meat) and the korban olah were not. Sharing and coming together are essential elements of the korban shelemim.
In conjunction with the korbanot we will see that salt was used, but what did it symbolize? How many times have we seen salt on the dinner table, especially in a Jewish home? When a meal started, some will sprinkle salt on the bread. Lev 2.13 says that salt was added to every animal offering on the altar. Why does it say “the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering?” The term “salt covenant” appears in several other places. When God tells the priests they will receive certain portions of the offerings in place of land (Num 18.19), he says that the covenant of salt is an “everlasting covenant of salt.” In other words, the covenant at Sinai is going to be preserved before the Lord forever. That rules out the false teaching in Christianity and other religions that the Torah has been done away with. The reason that this teaching keeps going is because most people who say they believe in the God of Israel don’t really know what this God has said.
In another example of the usage of salt covenant, we see in 2 Chr 13.4-5 that Abijah stood and said in verse 5, “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” This verse is saying that God promised David a dynasty with a covenant of salt. Just like salt preserves, God will preserve the line of David.
When the Torah says that salt was to be sprinkled on every korban it tells us the same thing as these verses we have mentioned. Salt symbolized God’s everlasting promise to the priests and the line of David. When salt is placed on the korbanot, it also says that the bond between Israel and the Lord is forever. So much for another false teaching of Christianity and others that says the Lord has rejected Israel and has replaced it by the “church.” The korbanot, therefore, is a vehicle used by God to symbolize this covenant of salt because they (korbanot) are an ongoing rededication to God through the zevachim as celebratory feasts. This celebration takes place in the “house of God” which is the Temple. In a simple sense, when an offerer went to the Temple, they were going to God’s house to have a celebratory and covenantal feast with him and to get right with their Father.
We have talked about the Tamid offerings before. These offerings are offered two times daily and they are an olah. Num 28.1-6 tells us that a korban olah is offered on behalf of the entire kehilat (congregation). These offerings signify the total dedication of Israel to God. Why does it say in verse 6, “It is a continual burnt offering which was ordained on Mount Sinai as a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord?” The simple answer is, olot were offered on Sinai and the Lord does not want it ever to be discontinued. The idea of a covenant meal is seen. The olah of Sinai, which gave the idea that Israel wanted to enter into the covenant, is seen in the Temple as a picture of that commitment. When it says in Num 28.6 that the olah is a “soothing aroma” to God the Torah gives sensual abilities to God, but this is what is called an “anthropomorphism” which is a word that gives us the idea that God participates in the covenantal feasts and that is one reason they are called a “Lord’s Supper.”
The korbanot teach us about two things. They have expiatory aspects to it and they are symbols of a covenantal feast. One korban may have aspects that teach the expiation (to put an end to the guilt) of sin, while another carries the idea of a feast. The main symbolism of a korban chatat and a korban asham is to help the sinner recover and to move the person to be repentant. They are not referred to as the “food of God” nor does the owner eat any of it. On the other hand, they do have some similar characteristics of a covenantal feast, like bread and wine, and they do have salt.
The korban olah has other aspects to it that speak of a covenantal feast. The offerer does not partake of the korban olah because it is to symbolize a total dedication to God. But, it is a figurative feast for the Lord because it is often described as a “soothing aroma” to God, and God described it as “My food” in Num 28.2. But Berman says, “Of all the animal offerings, however, the shared meal par excellence is the korban whose very name is mentioned in conjunction with the word zevach-the korban shelemim. When a korban shelemim is offered, the owner partakes of the meat and shares it with others, while God considers it ‘food’ or ‘sustenance’ (Lev 3.10) and a pleasing odor.”
In Part 4, we will pick up with the concept of the Lord’s Supper and the eating of bread with the Lord, symbolized by the Shulchan ha Lechem ha Pannim or “the Table of the Bread of the Faces.”