What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Genesis 15:10 and 17 show us a small portion of the ancient practice of making serious covenants. Those making the covenant prepared a sacrifice by dividing animals or fowl in two, then both parties passed between the divided carcasses. This symbolized the seriousness of their intentions in that the divided carcasses represented what would happen to them if they did not keep their oath! They placed their lives at risk. The carcasses were then burned, symbolizing their acceptance.
The smoking oven and burning torch symbolize God. In many instances in the Bible, God represents Himself through the image of fire (i.e., the burning bush and the pillar of fire). The sacrifice in Genesis 15 is interesting in that only God passes between the divided carcasses because, in reality, this is an oath of only one party, God, to keep His promise. In this specific case, Abraham has agreed to nothing, but God has bound Himself with utmost seriousness to meet the requirements of His promise in full. This promise will be fulfilled only because of God's character and grace.
The 14th thus signifies the ratification of the promise by sacrifice, and the 15th, what it accomplishes by providing visible evidence of God's faithfulness (e.g., the Israelites go free).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to justify changing from the normal Pentecost counting pattern used when Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
Some, realizing their argument for always keeping Wavesheaf Day within the Days of Unleavened Bread is still quite weak, have leapt on another rationalization and conclusion from a series of assumptions read into Joshua 5:10-11. These assumptions have led them to the conclusion that, since Leviticus 23:14 states that the Israelites were not to eat bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain from their new spring harvest until they had brought their sheaf offering to God, and since Joshua 5:11 records that the Israelites ate of the produce of the land on the day after Passover, it means they must have made a wavesheaf offering.
However, major assumptions in their argument have led them to a wrong conclusion:
First Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites waved the sheaf following a harvest of Canaanite grain. This must be read into the context because this is nowhere stated. In fact, neither the words "wave," "waved," "waves" nor "wavesheaf" or "wave offering" appear in the entire book of Joshua. In addition, the context makes no mention of the burnt or meal offerings that were to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13). Finally, it does not mention the erection of an altar. This is no minor element because it would have been the first altar established after entering the Promised Land.
Second Assumption: This was a year Passover fell on a Sabbath. How do they know that? No one knows it! Nobody knows with absolute certainty what year Israel entered into the Promised Land, let alone the exact day this offering was supposedly made! They have no calendar date from which to offer proof. The argument is built on a series of "ifs" centered on the assumption that the Israelites were required to wave the sheaf before they could eat of the harvest of the land.
Third Assumption: Israel was required by God—forced by law—to make the wavesheaf offering before they could eat the grain from a Canaanite planting. This assumption is drawn from Leviticus 23:10, 14. Taken alone, these scriptures may lead one to think the wavesheaf had to be done immediately. However, where does God say that it had to be done immediately or that they could not eat of the produce of the land upon entering it? He says nothing of the sort as they approached the land. We will see that the Israelites not only did not have to make a wavesheaf offering of Canaanite grain before eating of the land's produce, but that they did not do so, and further, doing so would have been sin to them.
Fourth Assumption: God would accept an Israelite offering derived from crops they had not planted on their own land. Exodus 23:14-16 explicitly states that their offerings had to come from grain that the Israelites themselves had sown in the field. Any grains they would have harvested after entering the land would have come from what the Canaanites had sown. This makes all the difference in the world when we consider the spiritual significance of sowing and harvesting. Does God's Spirit produce the heathen—the unconverted—person's spiritual harvest?
II Samuel 24:24 shows that David clearly understood another principle involved here. The one making the offering must have done the labor and made the sacrifices necessary to produce the offering and render it acceptable to God. Offerings that cost the offerer nothing are not acceptable.
Where are the labor and sacrifice involved in Israel's supposed wavesheaf offering? Offering from Canaan's harvest was not acceptable for Israel to give because it cost them nothing. In short, God wants offered to Him what He has first given to us. When God loves us and we then return love to Him, it is acceptable because He first loved us (I John 4:19) and shed His Spirit abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). When we offer love to Him, it is His own love, providence, the fruit of His Spirit that we have labored to produce, returning to Him.
Fifth Assumption: God would accept an offering of polluted things. The context in Leviticus 22:19-25 specifically covers animal offerings, but the principle applies to grain offerings as well, as the explanation of the fourth assumption indicates. No animals with blemishes of explicit nature are permitted to be the food of God. In verse 25, God says that nothing from the foreigner's hand is acceptable "because their corruption is in them." God states, "They shall not be accepted on your behalf."
If one thinks this is of small consequence, then perhaps it would be good to review what happened to Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, when they foolishly used coals from a profane or common fire as they made the offering on the incense altar. God did not think it insignificant when they offered fire He considered unfit for His altar. He struck them dead as a lesson to all those who are less concerned about purity of worship than they should be.
Israel was symbolically under the blood of Jesus Christ and had made the covenant with God. This rendered them a holy people consecrated for God's use and glorification. Because they were chosen by God and holy, their offerings, as long as they were without blemish and not from the stranger's hand, were acceptable to Him.
Israel had no acceptable harvest to offer in Joshua 5. In fact, under the circumstance, Israel was required by law not to make an offering!
Sixth Assumption: Israel was permitted to make an offering of any kind. This is a big one, reinforcing all the other objections against the common interpretation that Joshua 5:10-11 permits or demands a First Day of Unleavened Bread waving of the sheaf and beginning of the count.
In reality, upon entering the land, offerings involved in the worship of God were specifically forbidden by Him until certain things were first accomplished. Through Moses, God instructs in Deuteronomy 12:1, 5-14:
These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. . . . [Y]ou shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His habitation; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (emphasis added)
This instruction supersedes Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29—and especially for the purposes of this article, Leviticus 23:10, 14, where God commands, "When you come into the land. . . ." From those two verses, one could easily assume that the Israelites were to begin keeping those days and all their offerings immediately upon entering. However, Deuteronomy 12, written within the last month before entering the Promised Land, puts a hold on doing these things immediately upon entering the land (Deuteronomy 1:3). Deuteronomy 12 makes clear that they were not free to follow the Leviticus 23 instructions until certain matters were accomplished.
Deuteronomy 12 paves the way for Israel, at God's command, to establish a headquarters, a national, central place for the worship of the Lord God at the site of His choosing. Further, God adds that they were actually to be dwelling in the land, to be at rest, and to be dwelling in safety from their enemies. Also included within these instructions, though not specifically mentioned, is that the Tabernacle, the altar, the laver, and all the interior furniture had to be erected and in place.
Please pay special attention to what Moses says while the Israelites are still in the wilderness: "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today" (verse 8), referring to making offerings any old place that was convenient. In addition, Israel actually had to be living in the land, not marching around it fighting wars. They had to be in a settled circumstance—so settled that they were in safety. Obviously, this eliminates a wavesheaf offering and its accompanying burnt and meal offerings from happening in Joshua 5.
The place God ultimately chose and in which Israel erected the Tabernacle was Shiloh. This was not accomplished until Joshua 18:1: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them." This was the first sign that things were almost ready so they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. However, some land had yet to be apportioned. The land for seven tribes plus the allocation of cities to the Levites and the cities of refuge had yet to be settled. The final apportioning is recorded in chapters 18-21. Thus, many of the tribes were not yet dwelling and at rest at the beginning of Joshua 18.
The official announcement that all was in place appears in Joshua 21:43-45:
So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
From the time they crossed the Jordan and entered the land, seven years passed before they were free to offer what Deuteronomy 12 forbade and what some claim occurred in Joshua 5.
Seventh Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites were so irresponsible as to disregard God's clear instruction given through Moses while they were still wandering. Does the Scripture anywhere speak badly of Joshua? In Joshua 1:6-9, God specifically seeks out Joshua to exhort him to be courageous, not turning to the right or left regarding what he had been instructed as Moses' right-hand man. That Joshua did just this is verified in Joshua 11:15: "As the Lord had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses." At the end of his life, he is as firm as ever (Joshua 23-24).
Joshua 22:25-30 provides a telling example of how deeply the command not to make any sacrifices except where God had placed His name was burned into all of Israel's heart at that time. When it was found that Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, which had settled on the east side of Jordan, had erected what appeared to be a sacrificial altar, the remaining tribes almost entered into civil war to stop them! A fuller explanation revealed they had erected, not an altar, but a monument dedicated as evidence of the East Bank tribes' unity with God and the other tribes of Israel on the west side. They were not about to make offerings anywhere except where God commanded.
The Israelites did not make the wavesheaf offering when they came into the land.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty
Related Topics: Burnt Offering
| Canaanite Grain
| Faulty Assumptions
| Grain Offering
| Grain Offering, Requirements for
| Joshua 5, Faulty Assumptions about
| Meal Offering
| Nadab and Abihu
| Offering, Burnt
| Offering, Meal
| Offerings, Food and Drink
| Offerings, Polluted
| Offerings, Poor Quality
| Offerings, Quality
| Pentecost, Counting to
| Sacrifice, Blemished
| Sacrifice, Polluted
| Sacrifice, Unblemished
| Wavesheaf Offering
| Wavesheaf Offering, Requirements of
The thought here is similar to Isaiah 59:1-2: God has set His will against something that He has commanded. Did He not command the sacrifices? Yes, He did. They are a significant part of the book of Leviticus, and there are some of them in the book of Deuteronomy. He has commanded the people to sacrifice, and indeed, they are sacrificing, but now He comes back and tells them, "They do not mean a thing to Me."
It is not really that the sacrifices mean nothing to Him. Rather, the problem is with the people making the sacrifices; they cause them to be meaningless, both to God and to them, even as their prayers are meaningless. So He has set His will not to accept the offerings they are making.
John W. Ritenbaugh
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
I Corinthians 11:17-34 encapsulates the solution to a tragic story of gluttony, drunkenness, class distinction, and party spirit—all within the framework of the "love feasts" of a Christian congregation! Why were some guilty of these sins? Because, despite being converted, some of them neither loved God nor their brethren, which a reading of the entire epistle reveals.
To what does Paul refer them to correct their abominable behavior? To the Passover service and Christ's death! Christ's death is the supreme example of unselfish and sacrificial service in behalf of the undeserving guilty. It is the highest, most brilliant example of love.
Out of a beneficent good will, the Father and the Son freely gave of themselves for the sake of our well-being. For those of us still in the flesh, this beneficent goodwill results in our forgiveness, forging a foundation from which the same approach to life can begin to be exercised. When we can properly judge ourselves in terms of what we are in relation to Their freely given sacrifices, it frees us, not only to conduct life as They do, but eventually to receive everlasting life too.
Job confesses in Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Though Job was among the most upright of men, all his life he had held a wrong evaluation of himself in relation to God and other men. Yet when God allowed him to "see" himself, as He did the apostle Paul in Romans 7, Job was devastated, his vanity crushed, and he repented. Now, he was truly prepared to begin to love.
"Do this in remembrance of Me" has a couple of alternative renderings that may help us understand more clearly. It can be rendered more literally, "Do this for the remembering of Me," or "Do this in case you forget." God does not want us to let this sacrifice get very far from our minds. It is not that He wants maudlin sentimentality from us. Instead, He wants to remind us that it represents the measure of His love for us as well as of our worth to Him, that we always bear a right sense of obligation, not as an overbearing burden, but a wondering awe that He would pay so much for something so utterly defiled.
We are admonished to remember not merely the personality Jesus, but the whole package: His connection to the Old Testament Passover; His life of sacrificial service; His violent, bloody death for the remission of the sins of mankind; the sacrificial connection to the New Covenant; and who He was, our sinless Creator! This act becomes the foundation of all loving relationships possible to us with God and His Family because it provides us reason to hope that our lives are not spent in vain. In addition, it motivates us to do what we failed to do that put us into debt in the first place—to love.
Paul admonishes in verse 29, "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." To eat the bread or drink the wine in an unworthy manner is to treat His sacrifice with casual, disrespectful ingratitude—a better translation might be "without due appreciation, especially as shown by one's life." It means that the person who does this is not showing much love in his life because he is barely aware of his sins and the enormous cost of forgiveness.
Such a person is not really free to love because he is still wrapped up in himself. When we take Passover, let us strive to remember that our fellowship at that special time is with Him. The others there to participate in the service are at that time only incidental to our relationship with Christ. The focus is on Christ and our unpayable debt and subsequent obligation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation
2 Corinthians 4:16
Once fellowship with God is established through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that is not enough. This fellowship must be built upon. For it to continue, it has to be renewed day by day. In other words, sacrificing has to continue. Our relationship with God, then, is not constant because we are not unchanging as God is. Our attitudes fluctuate, our faith increases or decreases, and our love, joy, and peace ebb and flow in their intensity.
Sacrifice, whether it be the sacrifice of Christ or our own personal sacrifice, plays a major role in all of this because these things are not constants within us, so they have to be renewed daily. We can conclude that a sacrifice is then either a means of reconciling or a means of strengthening what already exists—a necessary means of becoming or continuing at-one-ment with God.
We need to add another factor to this. In the Old Testament, the gifts given to God are arranged in the order of their value: An animal is of greater value than a vegetable. Consider Cain and Abel's offering. Abel gave an acceptable one, while Cain gave one that was unacceptable for that circumstance. It might have been acceptable in a different circumstance. Nonetheless, the Bible arranges them in order of priority, as in Leviticus 1-3: A bullock is of greater value than a ram, which is of greater value than a kid or a dove. There is a principle here.
Let us step this up even higher. The offering of a son is of greater value than the offering of any animal. When Abraham offered Isaac, it was far greater in value than the offering of a lamb, ram, or even a bullock. In this case, God would not accept anything less than the very best. It had to be the offering of what was nearest and dearest to Abraham's heart. From this we learn that it is not just the intrinsic value of the gift, but also the relative cost to the giver to which God attaches the greatest importance of all. A widow's two mites can be a greater offering than all of the silver and gold a wealthy man can give.
From this, then, we can extract another principle: The greatest gift of all is self-sacrifice.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
Ceremonies identified Israel as a nation that was in the world but separate from all the other nations. It played a part in driving the Gentiles up the wall and building barriers between them.
What makes the spiritual family that God is drawing us into separate and distinct from the world? God makes it clear: It is the way we live, not ceremonies or rituals! Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:53).
God insured that the ceremonies could not be performed. He allowed the Temple and the altar to be destroyed, and scattered the Levites all over the world. Those three things were necessary for making sacrifices. In order to get the focus away from the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant, God made sure that they could not make those sacrifices. (1) They had to be made at the Temple. (2) They had to be made on one altar. And (3) it had to be done by the Levites, and, specifically, the family of Aaron.
God got that out of the way because He wants people to focus on the way His children live! And His children live according to His law. If you do away with His law, you cannot live according to His law. You cannot show the characteristics of God unless you know the way that He lives, and He lives according to His law, which describes Him.
Though God no longer requires ceremonies, this in no way means that the spiritual intent of those ceremonies is done away. Though we are no longer required to cut an animal's throat, bleed its blood out, and burn it on an altar—the intent, the stretching out of those principles, still applies.
Thus, Jesus said in Matthew 18:9, "If your eye offend you, pluck it out." Jesus requires sacrifices so that we do not sin. Paul also said, "Put to death therefore your members which are on earth" (Colossians 3:5). He restates this in Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 5:2.
The principle of sacrifice remains. This is why Jesus could say that not one jot or tittle of that law would pass until all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). In the book of Galatians, the laws of God are hardly even in question except as they pertain to justification. Those laws that define sin, which guide us in the way of God, are just as binding as they ever have been, and they will remain so because God is using them to prepare us to live at one with Him and His Family.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)
The subject involves food and drink offerings and various washings imposed until the time of reformation—not the entirety of God's law. In His mind's eye, whenever He gave them these rituals, there was a grandfather clause. A grandfather clause is stipulation attached to a law that causes it to expire either under certain conditions or at a certain time. These rituals were imposed until the time of reformation. This is the grandfather clause. These requirements, legally forced on the Israelites, were to last only for a certain period of time.
Jeremiah 7:22-24 says that when these people made the covenant with God, He did not speak about sacrifices. He only said, "Obey My voice." However, because they transgressed, something was added—imposed on them. It was as though these rituals were a penalty because they transgressed God's voice, yet it was to last only for a certain period of time.
This is similar in concept to what we have today when a convicted person is required to check in with a parole officer for a given number of years, sentenced to perform a certain number of hours of community service, or ordered to attend certain classes and to refrain from engaging in particular privileges for a stipulated period.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eighteen)
The Bible links thanks and praise so closely that they almost seem to be the same thing. They are not, but they are closely related. The reason they often appear together is that praise grows out of thanksgiving. The process goes from being grateful to God to extolling, lauding, commending, and acclaiming Him for His works, purpose, and nature.
Notice that Paul describes them as a sacrifice, giving up some cherished thing for the sake of another. We must give up time, energy, and effort to think about, thank, and praise God for the good He has done. We could have used this time, energy, and effort on ourselves or taken it for granted as owed to us as our right or privilege. Perhaps this magnifies what is wrong with Thanksgiving in America. Though not pagan, Americans still do not keep it in honor of God, as their conduct shows. It is thus a hollow shell of what it could be and should be to us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?
Find more Bible verses about Sacrifices:
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