by Mark Huey
The Torah portion Vayikra begins the Book of Leviticus, and serves as the Hebrew name for the entire text. Chs. 1-7 detail sacrificial laws for individuals, for the congregation of Israel, and for priests. This is followed by chs. 8-10 describing the worship in the completed Tabernacle. Chs. 11-17 focus on the laws of clean and unclean, purity and purification, and conclude with the institution of the Day of Atonement. Chs. 18-26 compose laws of marriage, personal and social ethics, the appointed times, land tenure, and national welfare. The final chapter of Leviticus, ch. 27, deals with oath making and tithes.
If you will recall from Pequdei’s closing verses from the end of Exodus, the Tabernacle was completed and the glory of God took up residence in the midst of Israel (Exodus 40:34-38). Now that the means to offer sacrifices were available, a description of the sacrificial system is given. Please note how the Pentateuch is not necessarily narrated for us in absolute chronological order, because if this were the case, then Exodus 40 should be followed by Numbers 7, which records the consecration of the Tabernacle. Instead, the different books of the Pentateuch have been organized for us the way they have because of theological and literary reasons.
With the Tabernacle now in place at the end of Exodus, the Book of Leviticus begins by describing the sacrificial system which would be able to cover the sins of the Ancient Israelites. In our parashah for this week, the differentiations between the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering are described. There is also some clarification between unintentional sins and intentional sins, and how different people are supposed to handle the different offerings in order to receive forgiveness. One of the verses that immediate jumped out at me, when I started reading Vayikra, was Leviticus 1:4:
“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.”
In contemplating all the different offerings, and the distinctions between the intentional and unintentional sins, seen in Vayikra, I thought about a number of things. Making free will offerings to God was an expected “given” among the Ancient Israelites. These offerings were to be presented before the Lord as a token of their appreciation of His goodness toward them. Perhaps, I reckoned, the people knew that as limited mortals they were not necessarily in right relationship with an Eternal God, and so they would feel led to just give something to Him. Such an innate desire to offer up the best of one’s flocks or herds as burnt offerings, or simply a sacrifice to please the Lord, might salve one’s conscience for a short time.
Early in our Torah reading, we encounter the Hebrew word qorban, used for “offering,” and simply means “offering, oblation” (BDB):
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering [qorban] to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering [qorban] from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD’” (Leviticus 1:2-3).
Apparently, there is not a completely accurate English word to describe all the things that qorban could fully entail. The term qorban is derived from the root qarav, basically meaning “come near, approach, enter into” (TWOT). When an Israelite brought forth a qorban offering, it was designed by God to draw His people closer to Him. The physical act, of offering up a farm animal that had economic value, was a far greater “sacrifice” than simply taking the time to pray or observe the daily worship of the Tabernacle. There was a realized cost associated with offering up one’s prized agricultural possession. Some of the individual’s “treasures” or assets were losing their lives.
Millennia later, Yeshua described how one could tell where a heart was located. He taught, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
When one of the Ancient Israelites would make an offering of a prized animal, the individual was tangibly displaying his or her desire to be in communion with the Creator, frequently having to make restitution for some kind of sin or error committed. And on another level, by offering a living animal as a covering for sin, the message of substitution would be visibly communicated. The one who was offering up the animal had to identify with it, by laying his hands upon it right before it is killed:
“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 1:4-5).
In the Book of Leviticus, now that the Tabernacle was constructed and the sacrificial altar was erected, the priests had the venue and the God-given directions on how to properly offer sacrifices. Here in Vayikra, we are reminded once again that our Creator has required a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin. As it will be later stated, animals’ lives will have to be offered before God in order to (temporarily) cover the errors committed by humans (Leviticus 17:11).
The next thing that really seemed to catch my attention, in reading through Vayikra this week, was the overwhelming reminder that various Israelites were frequently having to lay their hands on the heads of animals being sacrificed. By doing so, they were having to identify with these animals, and recognize that the shed blood of the animals were, in essence, covering for punishment that was rightfully theirs.Whether one was offering a bull, lamb, or goat, the laying on of hands was standard procedure. Consider the following passages from our selection:
“He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:2).
“If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:7-8).
“Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar” (Leviticus 3:12-13).
“He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the LORD. Then the anointed priest is to take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting, and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil of the sanctuary” (Leviticus 4:4-6).
What you also might have noticed is that after the identification with the animal by the laying on of hands, the person making the confession has to watch it being killed, and then witness its blood sprinkled. This method of covering for sin should have left a lasting impression on the one who has brought the live animal to the priest. Even if one became somewhat desensitized to seeing animals killed, the animal still had economic value—an economic value which in some way was being thrown away as a punishment for improper deeds.
It is difficult for us living in the Twenty-First Century to often identify with what is recorded in much of Leviticus. Most of us have never even seen a farm animal slaughtered, and then butchered so that we might enjoy some fresh, homegrown meat. But if you ever have seen this occur, then you should vividly remember how, as the blood drained from the animal, its life force leaves. By the laying on of hands for identification purposes, and then watching the blood being sprinkled around the altar and various places, the qorban achieves its purpose to bring some person a covering for sins.
From Shadow to Reality
For the most part, in order to really study the sacrificial system as described in this parashah, I had to turn to the Rabbinical authorities for answers. My examination did not uncover too many Messianic interpretations of these procedures, and evangelical Christian sources are often most concerned about what the sacrificial system meant within the religious milieu of the Ancient Near East. While such historical information is good, what does a Torah portion like Vayikra really communicate to Messianic Believers today?
I simply remembered how the Apostolic Scriptures have some excellent things to say about the sacrificial system seen in the Torah. The author of Hebrews summarizes the need for the ultimate sacrifice, only available through the shed blood of the Lamb. He asserts how the animal sacrifices of the Torah, because they have to be repeated over and over again, do not provide the permanent covering for sins that the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua provides for us:
“For the Law, since it has…a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD”’ [Psalm 40:6-8]. After saying above, ‘SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them’ [Psalm 40:6] (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL’ [Psalm 40:7]. He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua the Messiah once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD [Psalm 110:1], waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET [Psalm 110:1]. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:1-14).
Here, the author of Hebrews reminds his audience of the need for a sacrifice, so that one can draw near to the Lord. And of course, what we find in this passage is that Yeshua Himself willingly became the offering for those who believe in Him, inaugurating a Melchizedkian priesthood before the Father in Heaven. In this post-resurrection era, animal sacrifices would at best be redundant reminders of how He had to come and provide a permanent sacrifice for sinful humanity. Our author plainly tells us, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV).
The challenge for us is that, by faith, we must believe the report that the Messiah has come and has died for our sins—providing permanent restitution that the animal sacrifices of Vayikra could not provide. We have to believe that He is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, waiting for that day when His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet. We have to identify with Him, lay our hands upon His head, and let His blood atone for our sins. For many, confessing their sins before the Lord is very difficult, as it forces them to recognize that they are yet to be perfected. We are limited mortals in need of the mercy of an Eternal God!
As you consider the varied offerings of Vayikra, we need to pray for others who need to accept the precious blood of the Messiah of Israel and His willing sacrifice! We need to pray that as people read through these chapters of Leviticus, they might recognize how animal sacrifices can only go so far. (Click to Source)
 Leviticus 1:1-17.
 Leviticus 2:1-16.
 Leviticus 3:1-17.
 Leviticus 4:1-35.
 Leviticus 5:1-6:7.
 Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 898.
 Leonard J. Coppes, “qarav,” in TWOT, 2:811.
For the finest & safest pet foods and accessories on the planet, at affordable prices, please visit HERE.