There is a shameless affiliate link contained in this post. Proceed with caution 😉 I also need to warn the reader this is an exceptionally long post, covering a key concept in scripture…
I have to admit, Vayikra was one of those books in the bible that I used to dread. I have a lot of gratitude for my first Christian mentor, who cultivated a habit of weekly (aiming for daily) bible study in my youth. So, about three years into my renewed walk with Yeshua (Jesus ~ and more on THAT story in a different post) I decided it would be a good idea to read the whole bible in one year. This is a challenge that has blessed me each of the almost 6 times I have completed the task.
Not to detract from the point too much, but the last five or six years, I have kept up with the Torah portions each week alongside the Jewish people. And still, I find when we open the book of Leviticus (Vayikra), something in me groans….at least at first.
This year, something changed. Oh, pshaw, I am probably just maturing a bit…but seriously, there is something here, you can’t find anywhere else in all of scripture.
That something is this: In most of scripture, there is much allegory and illustration, and prophecy about the Messiah. In Leviticus, because he is our High Priest, we get first hand knowledge of what He is up to these days.
So, step inside the Mishkan if you will, and let’s check it out, together!
When we first enter the Outer Courts you will probably smell the distinct odor of the sacrifices. This would be relatively smelly, (have you ever drove past a packing house?)…can you hear the goats, the cattle lowing, the sheep – too scared to speak- the rustle of sacrifices waiting to happen?
Maybe it smells more like a barbeque, with the salt and the flour and the spices? And the yummy stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense (I have smelled three of these four ingredients in the “12 Oils of Scripture” Collection from Young Living, and one we aren’t sure if it is accurate…more on that in a later post, as well). Frankincense is pleasantly grounding, and calming. Maybe the incense table is out in the courtyard to help override the smell of all those animals? Or maybe, as Michael Pollan suggests in his book “Ominvore’s Dilemma,” maybe Moses (by way of the revelation from G-d) was a microbiologist? Maybe the incense was keeping all the bacteria, inherent to any butchering process, to a dull roar.
What I know is this: my husband had an opportunity about 5 years ago to slaughter a lamb (which we then roasted for our Passover seder). He said that it was a life changing experience, because, he had never connected the death of an animal to his own life before. He actually placed his hand on the lamb’s head before it died. And it looked him in the eyes.
I mean, really, in this day and age, we go to the supermarket to buy our already slaughtered meat in it’s attractive packaging. We are far removed from the whole process of raising the meat from birth, naming it even, and then ending it’s life so we can have dinner.
If we “saw” the impact of our sin on the sacrifice, would it motivate us to sin less? Or would it just make us feel ashamed?
And this is the message that has stood out to me while opening Vayikra this week. It is the message of korbanot ~ the sacrifices. I am still in a process of shedding my old, philosophical Greek mindset, and adopting a Hebraic mindset. Paul says, in his letter to the Romans (who were adept at Greek Philosophy, right?) “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of G-d.” (Chapter 12, verse 2)
Let’s see what the Hebrew has to show us:
The root of the word korbani/korbanot is H7126 qarav ~ to approach, to come near, to enter into, to draw near.
So, the sacrifices were designed to both “appease G-d’s wrath,” and a system of bringing us near to G-d, humbling ourselves so that He could be near us.
My good friend, Sarit Nachman, from Galilee, Israel, had this to say about it on March 16, 2016:
Now where we can find this word at the Hebrew scriptures:
The most famous example which comes in mind is at Numbers 18:6
במדבר פרק יח:
ו וַאֲנִי, הִנֵּה לָקַחְתִּי אֶת-אֲחֵיכֶם הַלְוִיִּם, מִתּוֹךְ, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–לָכֶם מַתָּנָה נְתֻנִים, לַיהוָה, לַעֲבֹד, אֶת-עֲבֹדַת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד.
Now on this verse two words are driven from the root letters Mem -Tav-Nun מ-ת–נ
מתנה- MATANA : which mean a gift
נתונים- Netunim: which means dwell into and another word for data, yet the meaning in context of the verse here is for the first meaning : dwelt into
See here is Adonai commanded to Moses after the great sin of the people of Israel with the golden calf, to “punish” Aharon here who built the golden calf, and his sons and his offspring for all generations, to be HIS PRIESTS and serve HIM in the holiness for all generations!
Yet, see the context here : the priesthood described here by ADONAI as two words which appear to contradict one another in human eyes: from one hand it’s described as gift and on the other, it’s described as work (the word AVODA עבודה see it here above at the verse copied from the Hebrew Bible).
What can we learn from it?
במדבר פרק יח
א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ וּבֵית-אָבִיךָ אִתָּךְ, תִּשְׂאוּ אֶת-עֲוֹן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ; וְאַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ אִתָּךְ, תִּשְׂאוּ אֶת-עֲוֹן כְּהֻנַּתְכֶם.
On the very chapter, Numbers 18:1 at the Hebrew verse the word AVON עוון mentioned which mean in Hebrews Transgression.
There are three levels of sins in Torah by the degree of deed:
Avon עוון (misdemeanor) which is the lowest degree
Cheth חטא (sin) which is the middle degree
Pesha פשע (crime) which is the extreme degree
The types of sacrifices made by the priests were made accordingly to the commandments of Adonai on the book of Leviticus which is a manual for the levitical priests for handling the sacrifices according to the types of transgressions made by the people of Israel and if it’s a transgression with intent or not. There are transgressions with lesser punishment or more. All according to the true judgment by the priests who were not only the mediators between Adonai and ISRAEL HIS PEOPLE, but also were the judges according to HIS DECREE at the five books of Moses.
Also the usual sacrifices were made were for: the daily sacrifices קורבן תמיד which was made each day, twice a day, one at evening and one at the morning and in Hebrew named KORBAN HATAMID which means the everlasting sacrifice.
The first of each month sacrifice, which was made as the priest were given the report of the first moon by witnesses, the Shabbat sacrifices, and the 3 main feast sacrifices on Pesach(Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (tabernacle).
Can you Imagine the amount of sacrifices made the priest for all those events who are known as PUBLIC SACRIFICES and also the PRIVATE SACRIFICES as all kinds mentioned on the purity laws at the book of Leviticus and others? Their work עבודה AVODA was overwhelming. That’s why Adonai named it as WORK but on Numbers 18:6 mentioned here above it’s also named as MATANA for the priesthood was given from Adonai as a gift for Israel to be redeemed from all their sins/ crimes/transgressions, by their sacrifices who were given back to Adonai by the priests including the High Priest Cohen Hagadol Aharon.
Aharon was the one who sinned greatly by building the golden calf and he confessed to Adonai his guilt by his brother Moses, so after the pleading for mercy to Adonai by Moses not to wipe out HIS PEOPLE ISRAEL who fell at the great crime of the golden idol and Aharon among them, Adonai had made a decree for Aharon and his seed for all generations to bear the sin(Avon עוון as. mentioned here above on Numbers 18:1) of Aharon by serve Adonai in HIS HOLY TENT OF MEETING and both Temples afterwards and the Third Temple which will built by Messiah and in it sacrifices will be made by the priests from the seed of Aharon from the house of Tzadok.
(see on Ezekiel 43:19 and Ezekiel 48:11).
So the word MATANA מתנה comes also from the adjective NETINA נתינה in Hebrew which means GIVING. The bible is filled with hebrew words driven from the root letters Mem-Tav-Nun מ-ת-נ as: Vayiten ויתן (and he gave) / Natan (given)/etc.
The giving is a gift! The priesthood is a gift for bearing transgressions by sacrifices! Adonai as the compassionate and long suffering Living Eternal God made it possible for all who worship HIM In spirit and truth (John 4).
I am sensing that there is a connection here…G-d takes the leader of the sinners (in the Golden calf incident) and puts them in charge of the Mishkan and the korban! Why?
One could say that it is like my grandmother used to say, “idle hands are the devil’s playground,” and Haha, she also used to say “many hands makes light work!” So, the work of the sacrifices were redeeming the Levites time, and how they spent their days. But we also see in the Hebrew that the work was a gift. This gift brought the Levites near, near to G-d and near the people, thus drawing the people to G-d as well.
This is like, in today’s terms, the Head Boss of the Mafia becoming saved, and then leading all of his people into a lifestyle of prayer and sacrifice! Wouldn’t that be something!
According to wikipedia this book of scripture was named Leviticus because it means “relating to the Levites.” (/lɪˈvɪtɪkəs/; from Greek Λευιτικόν, Leuitikon, meaning “relating to the Levites“) I wish they had opted to name it korban because it shows us how to draw near to G-d. This is just one more way, that our minds could be renewed…
Last year, during the cycle of Vayikra, my good friend, Izzy Avraham, from www.HolyLanguageInstitute.com encouraged everyone to read this book imagining Yeshua as the High Priest in the story. That suggestion has made a profound difference in my understanding, and I encourage you to do the same! Happy Reading
Any other nuggets about the sacrifices? Leave a comment below!