The Jewish Sacrificial Cultus
Animal sacrifice and the eating of animal flesh were closely intertwined in the Old Testament. One without the other was not possible. God was always against the idea of sacrifice and very much against the eating of animal flesh because both practices necessitated butchery and the murdering of animals. There are many passages in the Bible where God categorically rejects the idea that He ever commanded such barbaric rituals. Jeremiah 7:21-26 is just one such passage. But regrettably, this passage has come down to us in its three variant versions. All three however convey basically the same message, although in different words. Please first of all note the text as it stands in the New King James Bible – a version which is commonly accepted by most English translators:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.”
According to the priestly injunctions, there was a distinction between a “burnt offering” and a “fellowship offering.” A burnt offering was wholly burnt and consumed by fire on the altar. It was God’s “meal” or “food” and was offered in order to please God with a “pleasant aroma” of the barbecued meat. The fellowship sacrifice was presented in order that worshippers could feast on barbecued meat. Only a part of it was offered to God and the rest was consumed by participants. God however plainly says through Jeremiah that He never gave any commands concerning either a burnt offering or a sacrifice. That’s why he tells them that they may as well eat the whole lot themselves since He most certainly does not need the meal they offered Him. God says that He did not speak to their forefathers concerning these barbaric and sick rituals but He rather told them to walk “in all my ways.” His “all ways” most certainly excluded “burnt offerings and sacrifices” and God clearly made a contrast here. The lying pen of the scribes however inserted a passage in Leviticus 7:37-38 where God is directly contradicted and where we are told that God actually gave commands and regulations concerning burnt offerings and all other sacrificial rituals. God allegedly gave these commands on Mount Sinai with all other laws and commands. But God categorically denies this in Jeremiah 7. But the lying scribes did not only resort to lies in the days of Jeremiah, but they are also very much at work today. Gradually the NIV Bible, that is, the New International Version has become the most popular and most widely used Bible among Christians today. We can also clearly detect the lying pen of the scribes in the text of Jeremiah in this version. The scribes have opted to pull out of a hat only one little word which completely changes the context of the text. This “little lie” hides the truth and contributes to the deception of many people. I will quote only one sentence of the text since it is sufficient to show how this little word actually completely changes the context of the passage:
“…I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices…”
Here we find this little word “just” which deceives the reader and prevents him to detect the problem or detect a contradiction between this passage and that of Leviticus 7:37-38. This word does not exist in the Hebrew text. It is lacking in virtually all English bibles. Chances are that you are usually reading the NIV Bible and therefore I urge you to discard this “lying word” which was inserted by the lying scribes who comprised the International Committee in order to bolster their belief and conviction that it was actually God Himself who prescribed and commanded the sacrificial cult. We have seen the version of the New King James Bible which is generally the same rendering of virtually all English bibles since they, like New King James Bible, are based on the Hebrew Masoretic text which was compiled by the Jewish scribes called Masoretes in the 6th century of the Christian era. But there is another version which is to be found in the Eastern text or the Bible commonly called Peshitta. This version has preserved a different reading in the Aramaic and it is necessary to quote only the first two sentences since the rest of the passage is the same as that of the Masoretic text. The translation is that of Dr. George Lamsa who is actually the translator of the entire Peshitta Bible into English:
“…Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat which I did not command your fathers to eat. Neither did I command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices in the day when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
The Eastern text or the Peshitta Bible is believed by all adherents of the Eastern Christianity. The Patriarch of the East actually claims and maintains that their Peshitta Bible was directly handed to their ancestors by the very Apostles. You may not be aware but those who accept only this Peshitta version number into many, many millions. All Eastern Christians of the Near East, the Church of the East, the Roman Catholic Church in the East, the Monophysites, and the Indian Christians accept and acknowledge the canonicity and authenticity only of the Aramaic Peshitta Bible. The Assyrian Church, or as it is known, the ancient Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, was one of the major Christian churches in the world. Not until the 14th century was the church rivalled by any other church. It was the most powerful branch of Christendom in the Near East, Palestine, Arabia, Lebanon, Iran, India, and elsewhere. All these Christians use the Peshitta Bible and therefore their version of Jeremiah 7:21-26 clearly shows that God neither authorised the killing of animals for burnt offerings nor for eating of their flesh. But this text of Jeremiah is also preserved in another form and version. The words are quoted by no lesser authority than Jesus himself. The words are ascribed to Jesus in the Gospel of the Holy Twelve which is said to have been translated by Rev. Jasper Gideon Eusely in the late 1800’s. Here Jesus talks with the Pharisees about sacrifice and in order to condemn sacrifice and support his view he quotes the text of Jeremiah saying:
“Is it not written in the prophets, put your bloody sacrifice to your burnt offerings, and away with them, and cease ye from the eating of flesh, for I spake not to your fathers nor commanded them, when I brought them out of Egypt, concerning these things. But this thing I commanded saying: Obey my voice and walk in the ways that I have commanded you, and ye shall be my people, and it shall be well with you. But they harkened not nor inclined their ear.”
Both Peshitta and this version speak dually – concerning sacrifice and meat eating. Neither of these two practices God actually commanded or sanctioned when He led them out of Egypt. In the early centuries of the Christian era the epistle of Barnabas was accepted by virtually all Church Fathers and Christians of their time as genuine and authentic. It was only later that its authenticity was questioned and finally rejected and is now classified with other apocryphal books. In chapter 2 verses 9-10 Barnabas writes:
“For so the Lord saith again to those heretofore: Did I at all command your fathers when they came out of Egypt concerning burnt offerings of sacrifices? But this I commanded them, saying, let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour, and love no spurious oath.”
Barnabas quotes this from the Old Testament of his day. Whoever wrote the epistle of Barnabas, could not have invented this passage anymore than I could invent a passage now that is not in our canonical bibles. The author would have been challenged by his opponents. It is therefore certain that this text was dropped later by the Masoretes in the 6th century and that’s why it is now not found in the Masoretic text or the bibles based on that text. The passage of Barnabas supports the passage of Jeremiah and also shows that God did not speak about sacrifice nor did He give them permission or injunctions concerning the fellowship sacrifices from which they could eat meat. The text of Leviticus 7 therefore must be a forgery and insertion by the lying scribes and priests. There is also another passage in the canonical Bible which clearly shows that God did not and could not have given any commands concerning the sacrificial cult. I will quote it from the Greek Septuagint Bible translated by Sir. Lancelot Brenton, since it was the Bible which agrees with the Old Testament passages quoted in the New. In Isaiah 43:22-24 God tells Israel:
“I have not now called thee, O Jacob; neither have I made thee weary, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the sheep of thy whole-burnt-offering; neither hast thou glorified me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with sacrifices, neither have I wearied thee with frankincense. Neither hast thou purchased for me victims for silver, neither have I desired the fat of thy sacrifices.”
These passages clearly contradict the passages inserted by the lying scribes and they plainly show that God never asked for nor did He ever give any commands concerning sacrifices and burnt offerings. In Isaiah 1:11-12 God says:
“Of what value to me is the abundance of your sacrifices? saith the Lord: I am full of whole-burnt-offerings of rams; and I delight not in the fat of lambs, and the blood of bulls and goats: neither shall ye come with these to appear before me; for who has required these things at your hands?” [Greek Septuagint Bible].
So many Christian commentators try to downplay this passage arguing that God did not reject sacrifices per se but rather He objected to sacrifices presented without respect and those which are not accompanied by faith and the corresponding holy life. But this is not true at all. If that is the case then God could not ask:
“who has required these things [sacrifices and burnt-offerings] from your hands?”
It certainly was not God. That God did not prescribe the sacrificial cult and that He never gave any commands concerning sin offerings and trespass offerings is clearly stated in Psalm 40:6-7:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have opened; whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin You did not require.”
But the lying pen of the scribes has written many passages where God allegedly demands and prescribes sacrificial victims and their blood in order to atone for sins of the Israelites. We again encounter the true sayings and the false as is the case with other subjects that we have already dealt with. In Psalm 51:16-17 the psalmist says to God in prayer:
“You do not desire sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not delight in burnt offerings. My sacrifice O God is a broken spirit; and broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”
Jesus himself pointed out on several occasions that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. The psalmist points out that God would not despise prayer as He despised sacrifice. In Isaiah 1 God clearly stated that He hates and despises burnt offerings and sacrifices and that He was disgusted with the fat and blood of slaughtered animals. It is very clear that the psalmist did not believe in a sacrificial system since he said that he would have offered sacrifices if God asked him to do it. But since God never asked for sacrifices he therefore would not offer the same. In Barnabas 2:12 we read:
“A sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit; a smell of pleasing aroma to God is a heart that glorifies Him that made it.”
Again Barnabas quotes a passage from the Old Testament which was not preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic text and therefore most of the English bibles. In Psalm 50 God points out that He does not want burnt offerings which the Jews presented daily as His food. God categorically says that He does not eat flesh and that He does not drink blood but that He wants only spiritual sacrifices – praise and thanksgiving. The text is controversial even though the context clearly shows that most translators render it wrong. I guess they do so because they are influenced by the traditional concept that God was pleased with whole-burnt-offerings since it was presented to Him as a “pleasant odour.” I will quote the text as it stands in the New King James Bible:
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! I will not reprove you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before me. I will not take a bull from your house, no goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High…Whoever offers praise glorifies me” [verses 7-14, 23].
Most translators understand the statement to be in the negative and therefore use the words “I will not reprove you.” The Hebrew text however could be also rendered “Will I not reprove you?” If we apply the words “I will not reprove you” and if we should understand that God was pleased with all their burnt-offerings which they continually presented to Him, why then did He refuse to take them and why does He say that He does not eat flesh or drink blood? If God had no problem with their sacrificial cult why then did He introduce the text by saying that He will speak to His people and testify against them? The context of the text necessitates the interrogative statement:
“Will I not reprove you?” If this is however denied then the only other possible way to understand the text is in a manner that some translators do who add a clause “for the lack” and make it read thus:
“I will not reprove you for the lack of sacrifices or your burnt offerings which are continually before me.”
Either way the text shows that God condemned the sacrificial cult and that the only sacrifice He wants is actually the sacrifice of “thanksgiving” and “praise.” God does not only say that He will not accept their slaughtered animals but He also directly contradicts several lying insertions of the lying scribes where it is directly and plainly stated that God actually eats the flesh and drinks the blood of the victims offered as whole-burnt-offerings. In Leviticus 1:9, 13 and 17 we are told that the burnt offerings and the fat thereof are sweet savour [KJV] to God. Other translations render this phrase: pleasing aroma, sweet odour, pleasant fragrance. The word sweet savour comes from word number #5207 in Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary and is defined: pleasant, delight. According to this text the fat and blood were to be a delightful fragrance to God. In Exodus 29 we are told how often the meal for God was to be presented. Please note the following text:
“Now this is that which you shall offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering. And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat [meal: see Center Reference] offering of the morning and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle” [King James Bible, verses 38-42].
This morning and evening offering had nothing to do with expiation for sin. They were completely consumed on the altar. They were daily food or meal for God. The wine was to be His drink. In this meal God supposedly delighted. It was a sweet odour to His nostrils. In Leviticus 3 we find the following statement:
“...and he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks...and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD...and the priest shall burn it upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire unto the LORD...all the fat is the LORD’s. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood” [King James Bible].
This text tells us that all the fat belonged to God. It was to be presented to Him as a meal which was to “delight” His appetite. The Israelites were forbidden to eat blood. This is because the blood of animals was offered as a drink to God along with wine libations. In Ezekiel 44:7 it is explicitly stated that God’s bread [food] was fat and blood. The following verse is from the King James Bible:
“In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer MY BREAD, the FAT AND THE BLOOD.”
In Leviticus 1:2 [The Bible for Today] states:
“Sacrifices to please me must be completely burnt on the bronze altar. Bulls or rams or goats are the animals to be used for this sacrifice.”
In a footnote we are told:
“Sacrifices to please me: These sacrifices have traditionally been called “whole burnt offerings” because the whole animal was burnt on the altar. A main purpose of such sacrifices was to please the LORD with the smell”.
It also points out that the word goat in Hebrew actually means male goat. It is important for you to realise that the Hebrew word for “ram” and “he-goat” is one and the same. Thus it is evident from all these texts that burnt offerings were presented to God so that He may partake of a meal and nourish Himself. Its smell was to delight Him. The true Prophets who protested against the sacrificial cult most definitely did not recognise Leviticus 1-7. They most definitely did not believe that fat and blood were to be presented to God as His food, bread or meal. Neither did they recognise the priests who believed they offered daily bread [food, meal] to God. That priests offered bread to God can be verified from the following texts:
“They [priests] shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy...No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and, the holy” [Leviticus 21:6, 21-22 King James Bible].
No priest with any blemish was allowed to present a meal offering to God. He however was allowed to join God in His meal and eat the “bread of his God.” In Isaiah 1:11 God explicitly states that fat of the sacrifice does not please Him. He claims that He does not delight in it. But the deceived Jews believed that the fat and blood was the sweet odour to His nostrils. In Isaiah 43:23 [Greek Septuagint] God says that He did not desire the fat of their sacrifices. God does not depend on food and drink. He is transcendent - self sufficient. Can’t you realise that the self-sufficient and immortal being cannot possibly depend on food for nourishment? If God was dependent on fat and blood of the animals then He would have starved to death when they were not presented to Him.
How can God who is immortal depend on mortal food? For whatever is sustained by causes and things external to itself, must be mortal and on the way to decay, when anything on which it lives begins to be wanting. How can God who is far transcendent from us and who lives in unapproachable light, whose face no mortal can see, who has no physical body that can be touched, whose very angels are “flame of fire” - be possibly nourished on things pertaining to the body, that that which is mortal should support that which is immortal? The deceived Jews completely failed to understand God’s character. They refused to worship Him on His terms but rather chose to worship Him in the exact manner the pagans worshipped their gods and goddesses. You may agree that God did not actually consume the fat, blood, grain, oil and whatever else was offered to Him. You may believe that He only enjoyed the pleasing aroma of the sacrifice. You may think that burnt offerings and incense were presented to Him in order to give Him some pleasure and delight. Whoever wrote the text of Genesis 8:20-22 must have believed that the aroma from the sacrificed victims Noah supposedly sacrificed delighted the nostrils of God so much that He actually regretted the act of destroying the Earth with its life.
Can you really think that God who knows the end from the beginning, who is absolutely perfect Being can be actually a subject to temporal pleasure and sensual enjoyment? Can He really be soothed and made gentle by a scent which is soon passing away? For if God can be overcome by pleasure and delight then He also must be subject to its opposite - sorrow, pain and grief. God however should be free from passions and weakness of the mortals if we believe that He is everlasting and immortal. Moreover, every kind of pleasure is in a way a flattery to the mortal body and is related to the well known five senses. But if God above feels the five senses He then also must have a physical body which relates to them. If God can appreciate the sweet fragrance arising in smoke towards heaven, then He should also be annoyed by the stench arising from the Earth.
Just what pleasure and delight could God possibly get from burnt offerings? Does He delight to see an innocent creature slaughtered and bled to death? Does His ear take pleasure in continually hearing their cries and moans? Does He delight in seeing the rivers of blood? Does He delight in seeing stomachs cut open - blood and excrement gushing out? Does He delight to see the heart of a dead animal still bounding with the life left in it and the trembling, palpitating veins in the viscera? Even we humans are moved with sympathy and grief when we witness the slaughter of innocent animals. The children cry and resist their slaughter. Try to spend a day in the modern slaughterhouse where thousands of innocent animals are slaughtered, butchered and cut to pieces. I wonder if the smell of all the bloody mess would really delight your appetite. Since we who are evil do not delight in the butchery of animals but kill them and eat their flesh only because we are slaves to our savage lusts, how then can we even think that God who is the source of love, kindness, tenderness and compassion could possibly delight and take pleasure in burnt offerings or other kinds of sacrifice?
Since God Himself insisted that sacrifices, burnt offerings and incense did not please and delight Him, why then continue to believe that He actually instituted these pagan, barbaric rites? But someone will say that the burnt offerings were presented to God in order to calm His wrath and to appease Him. But why should God change His mind and angry state just because someone kills a bull, lamb, goat or pair of doves? What “magic” is there in their fat, blood or smell to cause Him to forget the wrong and evil one has done against Him? Was this sacrifice to be some kind of a bribe? Does God need “toys” like a little child in order to cool His fits of rage? Those who believed so and actually presented burnt offerings in order to appease God were grossly deceived and totally failed to understand the perfect nature, justice and ethics of God. In Numbers 28:2 God allegedly said:
“My offerings and the bread of my offerings made by fire for a sweet savour to me they shall observe, to offer to me in their due season.”
In 28:6 it is alleged that this system was commanded by God on Mount Sinai:
“It is a regular burnt-offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.”
In these two chapters [28 and 29] we find a detailed description of sacrifices and drink offerings which were to be presented on Sabbaths and annual Sabbaths - New Moons, Passover, Unleavened Bread Festival, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles. After listing all these additional sacrificial victims God allegedly stated:
“These things you shall do to the LORD at the time of your feasts, besides your vows and your freewill offerings and your burnt offerings and your meal offerings and your drink offerings” [Numbers 29:39].
The lying pen of the scribes has introduced and sanctioned a system that was identical to that of the pagan nations. God however clearly stated that He never spoke to them on Mount Sinai after He led them out of Egypt concerning burnt-offerings and sacrifices and He categorically states that He never caused them to worship Him with burnt-offerings and sacrifices. Prophet Micah was a good and a righteous man. If God really and truly commanded that His “bread” be offered to Him as a “pleasing aroma” then most certainly he would have done so. However, Micah clearly says that He would not offer any burnt-offering to God since that is not what God wants and that is not what He asked His people to do. In Micah 6:6-8 the righteous prophet says:
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with whole-burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah asked a good and valid question: how and with what should he appear before God in order that his worship would be pleasing and acceptable to Him? If God really and truly commanded the Israelites to honour Him with whole-burnt-offerings and various sacrificial gifts and to please and delight Him with all the “fat and blood” of calves and rams then Micah would have done so. If Micah came before God with calves and rams and the pleasant aroma of their fat at least then the Christian commentators could not say that the burnt-offerings were presented by a sinful person without respect and a corresponding holy life. But Micah knew better. He just like all holy and righteous prophets knew that the sick and disgusting sacrificial cult was never instituted by God and that is why he says that he would never kill and burn neither humans in sacrifice nor an animal victim.
Micah clearly points out that God had plainly shown to humanity what He wants and in what He delights. What God wants us to do is diametrically opposed to the pagan and barbaric sacrificial rituals where innocent creatures of God are cruelly immolated. But there was another hand that wrote a psalm and obviously the person whose hand wrote this psalm did not agree with Micah. This person delighted in and was very proud to worship God with burnt-offerings and to delight Him with “fat animals” and the “incense of rams.” Please note Psalm 66:13-15:
“I will go into your house with burnt-offerings; I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. I will offer burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats.”
This person relied on the lying passages of the Jewish Pentateuch and this person believed that the temple in Jerusalem was God’s House where He actually lived in the darkest room called “Holy of Holies.” But Micah did not believe in this and he would not offer any burnt-offerings to God. He knew that those who slaughtered animals and presented “fat animals” did so “unlawfully” and in fact transgressed God’s Law by murdering innocent and beautiful creatures of God. In Proverbs 21:27 we find this statement: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; because they bring it in an unjustified way” [The Aramaic Peshitta].
“Tainted is the sinner’s sacrifice; the hand that offers it is stained with guilt” [Knox Version].
“The sacrifices of the ungodly are abomination to the Lord, for they offer them unlawfully” [The Greek Septuagint].
The author clearly understands that those who offer sacrifices are stained with blood and guilt and through that act become sinful and ungodly. God very much hated the violence and the immolation of His creatures and that is why He abhors the burnt-offering. In Isaiah 6:18 God says:
“For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering” [King James Bible].
“For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong with violence or a burnt offering” [The Amplified Bible].
“For I, Jehovah, love judgement, hating plunder in burnt offering” [The Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible, by J.P.Green].
The Hebrew word “gazel” implies “violence force” and therefore the text literally translated would read: For I, Yahweh, love ethics. I hate brutality in burnt-offering.” In Proverbs 15:18 we are told that to God “sacrifice” is an abomination while the prayer is His delight. We are told that those who offer sacrifices are “wicked” while those who offer their prayers in sacrifice are “just:”
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to Yahweh; but the prayer of the just is His delight.”
In Ecclesiastes 5:1 we read:
“Keep your foot when you go to the house of God; for to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools too ignorant to know that they are doing evil” [The Amplified Bible].
“Be careful about going to the Temple. It is better to go there to learn than to offer sacrifices like foolish people who don’t know right from wrong” [Good News Bible].
A righteous and a wise man knows that he goes to the temple to learn and give God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Micah was such a wise man and therefore he would not offer any sacrificial victim. The fools however go to the temple to present burnt-offerings – fat and blood – and in doing so they do not realise that they are doing a wicked and an abominable thing. The author of Psalm 66 was one of such fools who was proud to present “fat animals” and the “sweet aroma of rams.” In Isaiah 66:2-3 God categorically states that any Israelite who resorts to the worship of sacrifice with the so-called “clean” animals is no better in His sight than the pagans who resorted to human sacrifice and the sacrifice of animals that the Jews regarded as unclean and abominable.
To God a Jew or an Israelite who sacrificed a “bull” was as guilty as a pagan who sacrificed a “human.” Please read very carefully and prayerfully this very powerful passage. I give it to you as it stands in the New International Version: “This is the one I esteem, he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck…They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations.” Please note: God esteems or is pleased with those who are humble and of contrite spirit but He is appalled with those who sacrifice bulls or lambs. To him they are as guilty as those who sacrifice humans and dogs. God clearly shows that the sacrificial cult was of their “own way” and therefore most certainly an abomination to Him.
God was most definitely displeased and in fact appalled with the sacrificial cult of the Israelites and all other pagans for that matter. God emphatically states that Israel’s statutes which they have devised are “strange” that is, something “forbidden” and He says that those who sacrifice animals and eat of its flesh He will just not accept. Please note Hosea 8:11-13 as it stands in the Greek Septuagint Bible translated by Sir. Lancelot Brenton:
“Because Ephraim has multiplied altars, his beloved altars are become sins to him. I will write down a multitude of commands for him; but his statutes are accounted strange things, even the beloved altars. For if they should offer a sacrifice, and eat flesh, the Lord will not accept them.”
How much more clear and emphatic does God need to be before you could actually believe Him? Just one more thing I wish to say in this chapter concerning sacrifices. It will show that the lying pen of the scribes was indeed at work. In 1 Kings 8:5 we are told that when the Temple was completed and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies, Solomon sacrificed “so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.” But apparently the author of 2 Chronicles 7:5, 8 was both able to count them and record them. He says that Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats - during the space of SEVEN DAYS. In verse 7 we are told that the altar itself was insufficient for this occasion so Solomon dedicated the middle part of the front court for the purpose of burning the holocausts. The animals had to be killed, their blood poured at the altar, their carcases skinned, the flesh washed, and then the bodies burned on the altar. Twelve sheep and goats and two bulls would have to be killed and prepared and also completely consumed by fire EVERY MINUTE for 24 hours a day and for SEVEN DAYS STRAIGHT. An impossible task indeed.
Sacrifice in the Desert
The Jewish Pentateuch plainly reveals that Moses and others presented burnt offerings and sacrifices in the desert. There are many passages which irrefutably claim this. They did so since Yahweh allegedly commanded the Israelites to present all the bloody sacrifices which are in detail described in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. Then in 7:37-38 as a conclusion we read: “These, then, are the regulations for the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the ordination offering and the fellowship offering, which Yahweh gave Moses on Mount Sinai on the day he commanded the Israelites to bring their offerings to Yahweh, in the Desert of Sinai.” Thus we are told that already on Mount Sinai and therefore in the very beginning of their wanderings through the desert, Yahweh gave his regulations concerning burnt offerings and various sacrifices.
Exodus 24:3-8 plainly states that after Moses wrote all the commands and regulations in the Book of the Covenant that he built an altar on which burnt offerings and fellowship offerings were presented. Leviticus 17 also plainly shows that Yahweh commanded the Israelites to present all their sacrifices at the entry of the Tent of Meeting. Many passages clearly show that sacrifices were offered to Yahweh in the desert with the approval of Yahweh and Moses. But elsewhere in the Bible we are told that this was not the case. Prophet Amos quotes Yahweh as saying the following in Amos 5:21-27:
“I hate, I despise your FEAST DAYS, and I will not smell the SAVOUR of your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me your burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your harps. But let justice run down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Did you offer to me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? But you carried the tabernacle of Malcolm and Chiun your idol, the star which you made a god to yourselves. Therefore I will cause you to go into captivity” [Lamsa’s Translation from Peshita].
It is very plain that celebrations which Yahweh condemns are connected with Jewish religious festivals. Professor Heaton in connection with this text states:
“The verbs resound with impassioned repudiation: I hate...despise...take no delight in...will not accept...will not look upon...will not listen. The pilgrim-feasts and sacred assemblies at the sanctuaries, with their burnt offerings, cereal offerings, peace offerings, psalms and music, are REJECTED WITHOUT QUALIFICATION AND WITHOUT SUGGESTION THAT THEY CAN BE MADE ACCEPTABLE TO YAHWEH BY BEING REFORMED AND REINTERPRETED. It is often suggested that Amos could not have totally repudiated the worship of the sanctuaries and must have had in mind a purified cult for the future. But according to the prophet, Israel had no future. That is the whole burden of his message, UNLESS the people stopped seeking the sanctuaries and started to seek God and goodness: let justice roll down like a stream [v24]. The moral alternative to the cult of the sanctuaries had been clear, Amos asserts, from the very beginning of Israel’s Mosaic faith. The answer to the question of v.25 is EMPHATICALLY ‘NO’. Whether or not Amos was historically accurate in this claim is neither here nor there; that was his conviction” [The Hebrew Kingdoms, p. 276].
Heaton states that verse 25 should be given a negative answer - that is, no, they did not offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to Yahweh in the wilderness. The Good News Bible renders this phrase in the following manner:
“People of Israel, I did not demand sacrifices and offerings during those forty years that I led you through the desert”.
The Bible for Today reads:
“Israel, for forty years you wandered in the desert, without bringing offerings or sacrifices to me”. The speech of Stephen makes abundantly clear that the answer should be ‘NO.’ Stephen said:
“God turned his back on his people and left them. Then they worshipped the stars in the sky, just as it says in the Book of the Prophets, ‘People of Israel, you didn’t offer sacrifices and offerings to me during those 40 years in the desert. Instead, you carried the tent where the god Molech is worshipped, and you took along the star of your god Rephan. You made those idols and worshipped them. So now I will have you carried off beyond Babylonia” [Acts 7:42-43 The Bible for Today].
The Good News Bible translates this text as follows:
“So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘People of Israel! It was not to me that you slaughtered and sacrificed animals for forty years in the desert. It was the tent of the god Molech that you carried, and the image of Rephan, your star god; they were idols that you have made to worship. And so I will send you into exile beyond Babylon”.
After the Israelites made the golden calf in the desert [2 months after exodus from Egypt], Yahweh altogether abandoned them and henceforth they began to worship in the pagan manner. In the Jewish Pentateuch a different version is given. Yahweh supposedly cooled off from His wrath through the intercession of Moses. But there is a sure way we can determine whether the Israelites really offered sacrifices to Yahweh in accordance with the regulations spelled out in Leviticus 1-7 and other passages of the Jewish Pentateuch. Leviticus 17 explains that every sacrifice that the Israelites offered to Yahweh had to be brought to the altar which was situated at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The priests alone were allowed to officiate at the altar. They were to slaughter the victim and sprinkle the blood against the altar. Then they were to burn the fat for a “pleasing aroma to Yahweh.” Whenever a sin offering was made by the priest, which was a daily and constant service “the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh,…even the whole bullock shall he [the priest] carry forth WITHOUT THE CAMP unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood of fire” [Leviticus 4:11-12]. The Sanctuary was situated in the midst of the camp. We have already seen that the camp was larger than 10,000km2. Thus the priests were required to drag the bullock “without the camp” - that is, OUTSIDE OF THE CAMP - some 50+ kilometres away from the Sanctuary. There were myriads of other sacrifices the priests had to perform as described in Exodus 29 and the first 7 chapters of Leviticus. Likewise, every woman who gave birth was required to present a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon for a sin offering at the end of her purification period. The Jewish Pentateuch says that all those who were 20 and over died in the wilderness except Joshua and Caleb. But since the census in the 40th year shows that the number was basically the same as in the 2nd year - you can imagine how many births there must have been and how many sacrifices the priests would have offered for each woman at the end of her purification period. It is estimated that at least two million died in the desert and therefore there must have been additional two million births to compensate for the loss. These births distributed over the period of 40 years would have resulted in some 300 births per day.
The priests would have therefore been required to offer some 300 sacrifices each day for the women who needed their purification rites performed. This was in addition to all other sin offerings, free will offerings, fellowship offerings, and the daily sacrifices presented each morning and evening. In addition the priests had to burn incense and clean the Holy Place, eat the flesh of the holy offerings in the Holy Place, prepare shewbread and replace it. They also had to make special perfumes and myriads of oblations - bread and cakes which accompanied many sacrifices. Just think for a moment. If it took one priest to kill, clean, wash, burn, and sprinkle the blood against the altar just 15 minutes, he could only perform 48 such sacrifices in the space of 12 hours. To accomplish this task in this space of time he could not take even a moment off. But imagine if the priest had to stop his job in order to go to the toilet. He would have to walk more than 50 kilometres each way to relieve himself - if he could ever make the distance. The priest would not have time to perform any work whatsoever - since, most likely, he would have to make again the same trip on the next day to the outside of the camp for his daily needs. Therefore it follows that even if there were many priests they could never manage to present all the myriads of sacrifices already described. But the crux of the matter is this: the Jewish Pentateuch clearly says that originally there were only 5 priests in the desert - Aaron and his four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Shortly after their ordination Nadab and Abihu were killed.
The whole Israelite community was thus left with only two capable priests and their aged father Aaron who was over 80 years old. It is commonly supposed that all Levites were priests and that they all had a legitimate right to serve at the altar and present burnt offerings and other Jewish ritual sacrifices. This however was not the case. Most Bible scholars are aware of this fact and they are also aware that no Levite was allowed to serve at the altar or ever enter the Holy Place unless he belonged to the lineage of Aaron, the brother of Moses. The priestly duties were entrusted to Aaron and his four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Initially only these five were allowed to burn incense in the Holy Place and to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings at the sacrificial altar which was situated at the entrance of the Tabernacle. After the death of Abihu and Nadab - only Aaron and his two sons Eleazar and Ithamar were allowed access to the altar and the Holy Place. All other Levites were banned from the Holy Place and were forbidden to approach the altar. In fact, all Levites who were not of the lineage of Aaron were forbidden to even look at any holy object which was situated in the Tabernacle. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 4, on p. 854 gives us the following information on the subject:
“The priesthood was divided into three groups” (1) the high priest, (2) ordinary priests, and (3) Levites. All three descended from Levi. All priests were Levites, but by no means were all Levites priests…The sons of Aaron, who were set apart for the special office of priest, were above the Levites. ONLY THEY COULD MINISTER AT THE SACRIFICES OF THE ALTAR.”
The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary on p. 682 says:
“After the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood, it was considered an offense in Israel for anyone not officially consecrated as a priest to offer formal ritual sacrifices. The rebellion of Korah involved intrusion into the priesthood, EVEN THOUGH HE AND HIS ASSOCIATES WERE LEVITES.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, on p. 967 gives us this pertinent information:
“The rest of the tribe [of Levi] was subordinate to the Aaronic priests; only the descendants of Aaron could become priests. Even if the rest of the Levite tribe were resident at the place of sacrifice THEY COULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN ANY DIRECT WAY IN THE CULTIC PART OF THE RELIGION. The sacrificial responsibility of ancient Israel WAS EXCLUSIVELY THE RIGHT AND PRIVILEGE OF THE DESCENDANTS OF AARON.”
These quotations clearly show that biblical scholars are aware that there was a distinction between the priests who served at the sacrificial altar and all other Levites who could not offer sacrifices. Their understanding of course is based on the evidence provided in the Jewish Pentateuch. In Exodus 28 and 29, and Leviticus 8, we find a detailed account of how Aaron and his four sons were selected and anointed as priests. Moses himself performed the ceremony. After their consecration which lasted for seven days Moses commanded Aaron and his sons on the eight day to begin officiating as priests and to begin serving at the altar - killing and offering various sacrifices [Leviticus 9]. Exodus 28:1 explicitly states the following:
“Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me as a priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.”
Then in Numbers 3:10 we find the following information:
“So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
Only Aaron and his four sons were appointed priests. Only they had the access to the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and only they could offer sacrifices at the altar at the entrance to the Tabernacle. No other Levite had this right or privilege. In fact, when Korah argued with Moses against Aaronic monopoly Moses condemned him and he was killed. But who was Korah? Korah was the son of IZHAR. Izhar was the son of KOHATH. Kohath was the son of LEVI [For verification of this see Numbers 16 and Exodus 6:21, 24]. Korah therefore was a LEVITE but he certainly was not a priest. When Korah argued with Moses this is what Moses replied to him: “You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of LEVI. Then Moses said to Korah, hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that he has brought you near to himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of LEVI, with you? And ARE YOU SEEKING THE PRIESTHOOD ALSO?” [Numbers 16:7-10]. Korah was a Levite. But he had no right to priesthood.
He had no access to the Holy Place and could not even look at the holy objects from the Tabernacle unless they were first covered by the sons of Aaron. In Numbers 3 and 4 we find a detailed account as to what the Levites were appointed to do. Their main task was to carry the Tabernacle and all its utensils. But they had no right to dismantle the Tabernacle and to pack the utensils unless they were FIRST COVERED BY THE SONS OF AARON. In Numbers 4:15,20 we find this explicit command concerning all the Levites who were not of the Aaronic order:
“And when Aaron and his sons had finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy things, LEST THEY DIE. But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, LEST THEY DIE.”
All the descendants of Levi - whether through Gershon, Kohath, or Merari were banned from the Tabernacle and could carry the sacred objects of the Tabernacle only after they were covered by the sons of Aaron who alone acted as priests. Furthermore, all the other Levites could carry out their duties only under a supervision of the sons of Aaron. Therefore it is evident that Eleazar and Ithamaar with their old father could not have offered the myriads of sacrifices described in the Jewish Pentateuch by the lying pen of the scribes and that the prophet Amos and Stephen were right when they claimed that the Israelites were not offering sacrifices to Yahweh while wandering through the desert.