Friday, September 18, 2009

Burnt Atonement

The Book of Leviticus appears to come out of nowhere. Exodus ends with the completion of the Tabernacle. Then, Leviticus begins with God going right into a list of laws without providing any background as to where the Israelites are or why God is providing these additional laws after He had already provided a law set which everybody agreed to follow in Exodus.

Some of the commandments in Exodus are essentially copied in Leviticus, while in Exodus are changed in Leviticus. In addition to those seemingly inspired by the laws Exodus, there are many additional commandments, including some which were not even hinted at within the laws of the covenant in Exodus. It seems that God is changing the terms and conditions on the fly, as we will see in our studies of Leviticus.

Burnt Atonement
As Hebrews 10:1 tells us, the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament) was a shadow of the good things yet to come in the future with Jesus and the Kingdom of God. However, there is a huge omission of the New Testament. The burnt sacrifices foreshadowed by the Old Testament have been completely neglected by the New Testament. Not only is this amazing due to the fact that burnt offerings permeate the Old Testament text, but also because it was considered a critical component in one method of atonement for sins, as we will see in this study of Leviticus 1.

In Leviticus 1:3-9, you will find the instructions on how to make a burnt offering of a bull. Notice that the person making the burnt offering must put his hand on the head of the bull, and that physical act essentially transfers the person's sin to the bull so that the bull's sacrifice will make atonement for that person. Some may say that this was a foreshadowing of the transferring of sins to Jesus. However, there is no required confession or stated belief that the bull has taken the sins of the sacrificer. Instead a physical connection is made to transfer the guilt. Nobody ever is recorded as putting their hands on Jesus' head, and nobody is asked to do so.

Then notice how the sacrifice is prepared: slaughtered, skinned, cut into pieces, washed, and then completely burned on the altar. That burnt offering completes the atonement process. Strangely, at least from the perspective of foreshadowing, Jesus was never chopped up and burned.

With the preparation you see how the priests were to sprinkle some of the blood of the sacrifice altar where the sacrifice was to be made. Last I checked, neither Jesus nor any priest ever sprinkled Jesus' blood anywhere.

Finally, in the last verse you see that the smell of the burnt sacrifices and offerings is pleasing to God. Just so that there is no doubt, God mentions that the smell of burnt offerings and sacrifices are pleasing to Him no fewer than 39 times in the Law. The pleasing aroma reference is exclusively used in reference to burnt offerings and sacrifices (and there were many other types of sacrifices and offerings). It is not the actual sacrifice or offering, but the burnt smell which pleases God, and pleases Him greatly!

Oddly in contrast, in the New Testament Ephesians 5:1-2 and Philippians 4:18 make reference to fragrant offerings which were not burnt, the former being about Jesus and the latter referencing gift that Paul had received from a church. Both references stray far from their physical, smoky origin.

Leviticus 1:10-13 goes on to describe similarly how to make a burnt offering of sheep or goats. Implicitly, this is for atonement as well, although the part about putting your hand on its head is missing. Also a new requirement of slaughtering the offering on the north side of the altar is added. There is no New Testament mention of the north in regards to Jesus. If this was not foreshadowing, why would God add such a seemingly meaningless requirement? Possibly this is tied into astronomical roots.

Once more, we see that the burnt aroma is pleasing to God.

Leviticus 1:14-17 concludes the chapter with how to make a burnt offering of doves or pigeons. Again, implicitly this would be for atonement but does not mention laying a hand on its head. The bird's blood is drained on the side of the altar. In a strange twist, the bird's crop is not burned, but rather thrown into the ashes on the east side of the altar.

Again, we see that the burnt aroma is pleasing to God.

As we have seen in the study, there are many details in these atonement offerings which are inconsistent as foreshadowing details of Jesus. Even if we step back from the details and look at the big picture, examining what is common to each of these atonement variations, we find two things. First, blood is put on the sides of the altar. Second, the aroma of a burnt offering on the altar is what pleases God. Remarkably, neither of these two critical components are included in Jesus' sacrifice.

A foreshadowing need not match in every detail to be accurate. However, consistently repeated themes and components would and should be expected to be part of the foreshadowed prophesy, and thereby they would be obvious witnesses to the foreshadowed event. In the absence of a toasted Jesus, it is not surprising that the Jews greeted the Jesus story with skepticism.

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