Updated: Oct 9, 2022
Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:2-8
Part 1: The Prominence Of Sheep
Terry Harman, D.Min., PhD
The Prominence of Sheep
Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:2-8 JPS 1917
38 Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar: two lambs of the first-year day by day continually.39 The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at dusk. 40 And with the one lamb a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mingled with the fourth part of a hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink-offering. 41 And the other lamb thou shalt offer at dusk, and shalt do thereto according to the meal-offering of the morning, and according to the drink-offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 42 It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak there unto thee.
Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than any other animal. Over five hundred times the Bible mentions sheep, lamb, and lambs. The numerous depictions of sheep in the Bible grows out of the agrarian society of the near eastern culture where sheep played a prominent part of daily life. Sheep were essential a source of food to eat, leather and wool to produce clothing. Sheep symbolically to refer to God’s people or to illustrate spiritual realities in our life. Sheep are one of the animals used in four of the five primary Levitical sacrifices. In this lesson the focus will be on the often-overlooked daily offering of two sheep. One in the morning at the third hour and the second one in the evening at the ninth hour.
The Trouble with Sacrifice
The sacrificial system of the Bible immediately creates discomfort and tension between Jews and Christians any time the conversation leads to this subject. This tension has caused deep wounds, suspicions, and persecution over the centuries.
For others, any mention of the word sacrifice conjures up images of a barbaric system of ancient peoples. I do not believe I can bridge the chasm between Christianity and Judaism. My hope is to shed some light on the Hebrew meaning of the English word for sacrifice and then offer the reader practical insights on the importance of another misunderstood and often overlooked daily sheep offering of the Tamid.
The Hebrew word korban is translated as sacrifice in several English versions of the Bible. Using sacrifice misses the meaning being the Hebrew and obscures the intention behind the behavior. Korban would be better translated as offering. Korban comes from the root word “karab” which means “to approach” or to “draw near.”
This action word is more than moving physically near someone or something. Korban involves the heart and intentions of the person. Korban speaks to the motivations of the person. Korban understood as offering becomes a tangible way a person expresses their intention of desiring to drawer closer to God, to be in relationship with the divine. The act of bringing an offering to Mishkan at the altar of burnt sacrifice represented a sincere desire to draw closer to God. Examples of the intention of korban as a way of approaching a holy God are found in both the Old and New Testaments.
Psalm 51:8 JPS 1917
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.”
1 Chronicles 21:24 JPS 1917
“And King David said to Oran: Nay, but I will buy it for the full price; for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer a burnt-offering without cost.”
James 4:8 KJV
“Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”
James 4:8 Amplified Version
“Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He
will come close to you.”
Was bringing a sacrifice the only way men and women could approach God? Was the sacrificial system the only avenue to gain intimacy with the God of the Bible?
Maimonides, the medieval Jewish philosopher, understood the sacrificial system of offerings as a decision by God to permit an accommodation or concession to the psychological weaknesses of humans.
The Israelites were influenced by the pagan cultures surrounding them. One of the common ritual in the nations surround the Israelites was the belief that offering sacrifices to the god was a way to commune with their deities. As such, Maimonides suggests it would be natural for the newly formed nation of Hebrews to believe making a sacrifice was a means to approaching the deity in a favorable manner. Gradually, God gradually brought his people from being physically delivered from the land of Egypt to the place whereby his people psychologically and spiritually could approach him with their heart not with the sacrifice of a living creature.
A casual reading of the prophets reveals Israel struggled with the meaning behind the sacrificial accommodation.
Malachi 1:7-10 Net Bible “You are offering improper sacrifices on my altar, yet you ask, ‘How have we offended you?’ By treating the table of the Lord as if it is of no importance! For when you offer blind animals as a sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not wrong as well? Indeed, try offering them to your governor! Will he be pleased with you or show you favor?’ asks the Lord who rules overall. But now plead for God’s favor that he might be gracious to us. “With this kind of offering in your hands, how can he be pleased with you?” asks the Lord who rules overall. ‘I wish that one of you would close the temple doors, so that you no longer would light useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord who rules overall, “and I will no longer accept an offering from you.”
1 Samuel 15:22 Net Bible “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams.
Modern Jewish and Christian Viewpoints
The sacrificial system using animals no longer exists today because the Romans destroyed the Second Temple known as Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. Some Jews take the approach that reading and studying the portions of scripture that reference the sacrificial procedures is a substitute, especially during Yom Kippur, until the 3rd Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system is re-instituted.
Rabbinical commentators suggest that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, prayer, or the sacrifice of the heart “new sacrifice” or way to draw closer to God or seek forgiveness for sins against God.
Christians take a completely different approach by interpreting the destruction of the Second Temple and the ending of the sacrificial system because it was replaced by the work accomplished through Jesus’s death on the cross and his literal resurrection from the grave. Jesus “fulfilled” or became the “substitutionary offering” that replaced the former animal sacrifices for sin. In General, Christians believe the old sacrificial system is now void and believers can come directly to Jesus for forgiveness of sin.
Since my reading audience is comprised of the curious, historical buffs, Jews, and Christians, I will offer my humble attempt to discuss various verses in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Brit Chadasha (New Testament or Covenant). It will be the reader’s responsibility to determine if I am offering a legitimate examination of the subject or if I am completely off base in my study of the subject of the daily offerings. Every reader must decide on their own what they keep and what the dismiss.
Not all offerings are created equal. There were different types of ritual offerings within the sacrificial system of Israel: public offerings and private offerings (Tractate Tamid, 3:1.1), blood offerings and non-blood offerings (Leviticus 1-5), voluntary offerings (Leviticus 1 - 3) and mandatory offerings (sin and guilt Leviticus 4 and 5), offerings to atone for sin and offerings that had nothing to do with sin.
Keep in mind this study is limited to the daily Tamid offering. If you want a detailed study The Tabernacle Man You Tube page offers several teaching videos for better understand. Please go to my You Tube page at: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheTabernacleMan