The deep underlying objection to the korbanot comes from Greek and Roman ideology, not the Torah, which is given by God. Paganism, as we have already discussed in Concepts in Exodus, is man’s way of making sense of the world. Mankind saw that there were violent forces and he needed them not to do harm to him, so these forces (powers) were given names and called “gods.”
When you were a farmer, you wanted the earth god to favor you. You didn’t want any trouble from the river god that caused floods. So, pagan sacrifices were given to appease these gods who had control (they thought) over these forces. Humans could avoid the wrath of these gods by given them what they wanted or needed. If that didn’t work, you appeased another god to help. The Torah korbanot were different. They were not “for” God because he doesn’t need them. They were for the people. They taught concepts about the Messiah and the Redemption. The animal was part of the ceremony that taught the worshiper about themselves, sin and mercy. It taught that the worshiper deserved death, but God has spared them. It teaches mercy and the blood was real, and it shakes a person. But the korbanot are also related to the concept of a “Lord’s Supper” and a meal consecrated to God. They were a meal that renewed the covenantal bond that was established at Mount Sinai between the Lord and Israel.
Kirk Douglas is an actor. In 1991 he survived a helicopter crash with an airplane in a “near death experience.” He couldn’t understand why he survived. He realized he had more to give to the world. Up till then, he played games but now he began to study the Torah and take life more serious (He is Jewish). Likewise, in the Temple, the scene of blood and the “near death experience” there was meant to get the person to think “this could have been me except for the mercy of God.” The korbanot were designed to by God to have an impact on the worshiper.
Some korbanot were given and it had nothing to do with sin, but it taught about sin and death. A “near death experience” was meant to move the worshiper to a higher spiritual level. The worshiper was to “slaughter” their animal instincts. It is interesting to note that the place for the slaughtering in the Temple was called the “Beit ha Mitbechaim” which means “the house of/to life.” The korbanot taught life.
The name of God used in the korbanot is Yehovah. We will have a teaching on this name and how to pronounce it at the end of Concepts in Leviticus. This name transcends time because it means “I existed in the past, I will be now, and I will be in the future.” The title “Elohim” is not used because this refers to Yehovah as a “judge.” If Yehovah used that title in the Temple it would lead one to think that a “bribe” was possible, like in paganism. Yehovah refers to God as existing outside of time. We will have more on this name later.
This will help us understand how forgiveness takes place. If a man sinned “yesterday” and repented “today”, how can that undo what he did yesterday? If we understood that Yehovah exists outside of time, then time is not an issue. The korban was to “spill over” into secular life when people “compartmentalized” religious concerns, placing “ritual” above social and moral issues, and the Temple became a hindrance (Hos 6.6). The korbanot remind us of our mortality on one hand, and our mission to “repair” (tikun) the world.
Lev 6.8 to 8.36 is the Torah portion called “Tzav” meaning “Command.” It is interesting to note that God doesn’t tell Moses to “Speak” to Aaron and his sons, or “teach” Aaron and his sons, but “command” Aaron and his sons. Why does it say command? This is connected to the Korban Olah (burnt offering) which is totally consumed on the altar. The worshiper derived no benefit from it, not even a few “bites.” People need to be commanded so that it counter-balances the evil desires of the heart. People are willing to obey God as long as it doesn’t cost them.
Lev 6.9-13 tells us about the command to offer the Tamid, or “continual” offering in the morning and the afternoon, everyday without excuse. We have a command here to “take up the ashes.” We must realize that the menial work in human eyes may be seen y God in the highest esteem. Little, unglorified acts yield a great reward from the Lord. We should never demean the simple chores. So, we learn that the first task that Aaron and his sons are commanded to do is the removal of the ashes from the altar. We can learn a spiritual lesson from “taking out the garbage” so to speak here. With all the loftier duties in the Mishkan and Temple, this is also a lofty work. We should not let things “go to our heads.” It would be natural for Aaron and his sons to think that they were “special” but they are told that the first thing they must do everyday it to “take out the trash.”
Another command we are told is that they were not to let the fire go out on the altar. That means when it rained, snowed, or had high winds or whatever, that fire was not to go out. In the same way, we must also guard against letting the fire go out in our hearts when the hard rain, snow or high winds of life come. This is having a complacent heart, neither hot nor cold (Zeph 1.12; Prov 20.27; Rev 3.16). The kohanim were to watch this fire and to make sure the Tamid was totally consumed on the altar.
Sometimes the High Priest or his designate would come before sunrise to check the altar fire. If a priest was not awake and watching over this fire he would take coals from the altar and set his garments on fore (Rev 16.15). The Tamid ceremony itself is discussed at length in the Mishnah tractate “Tamid.” The services in the Mishkan/Temple is a “continuation” of what began on Mount Sinai and the covenant and continues with Yeshua.
The fire on the altar began by the hand of God in Exo 3.1-2 at Sinai, then Lev 9.24 in the Mishkan, and later in the First Temple in 2 Chr 7.1. The Temple was eventually destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. When the Second Temple was built, the fire on the altar was not started by Yehovah. It remains to be seen whether the the altar fire in the Third Temple (during the Birth-pains) will be started by the hand of God. The lesson is, we should not let the fire that was started by the Lord go out in our lives.
In Lev 6.14 to 7.38 discussed the “Torah” or “Law” of the Korban Mincha (bread) offering, Korban Chinnuch (ordination offerings), the Korban Chatat (sin offering), the Korban Asham (guilt offering) and the Korban Shelem (peace offerings). We have gone over these previously. For more information, go to our Temple 101 and Temple 201 series on this site.
In Part 10 we will pick up here by discussing the role of the kohanim in relation to the concepts of Tahor and Tamai (ritually clean and unclean).