What Is An Offering By Fire To The Lord?


In this blog post, we will continue our study of Numbers Chapter 15 beginning with verse 3 on making an offering by fire to the Lord. Let’s read it together.


And you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the Lord, from the herd or the flock.”


As we enter verse 3, we find that all the animal sacrifices are considered as an “isheh” type of offering and accompanied by an offering of grain, oil, and some libation (liquid) offering.


Now, just WHAT is an isheh sacrifice? Well, this has stumped Rabbis and Christian scholars alike. Often it is translated as a burnt offering, but that is off the mark because the Hebrew word for the VERY specific type of sacrifice called a burnt offering is “Olah.”


Others translate this as “as an offering by fire.” And this is probably a little closer to the idea. Some think it should be rendered as a “food offering.”


In reality, we can’t be sure of the original intent; but, Rabbis from before the time of Christ treated this term more as meaning a “gift.” Or, in the context of how it was practiced, “a gift of food that was burned up by fire.”


So, any animal sacrifice was a type in which either the priests, or the worshipper, or both could keep a portion of the sacrifice as food for themselves, and it had to include a sacrificial offering of grain, oil, and often wine.


Now, forgive me for getting a little deep into the technicality of the exact nature of this isheh sacrifice, but we need to get used to the fact that there were SEVERAL precise types of sacrifices, each for different purposes, just as we find several different covenants, each with different uses.


One sacrifice did not abolish the others, and neither does each new Covenant God made with Israel abolish the others. The a convinced that the reason for the several variations of sacrifices was to teach us the multi-faceted nature of sin and it’s consequences.


Modern Christianity has wanted to make sin a very simple matter:


  • A sin is a sin a sin;
  • Implying that whether you commit genocide on people, or steal a car, or lie to your mother, it’s all the same thing to God.


That is decidedly not right, and the Torah methodically and explicitly shows us that some sins and some evils are worse than others in God’s eyes. And the method of explaining this to us is using the reasons and rituals for each of the various kinds of sacrifices.


Let’s not let that statement of “producing a pleasing odor to the Lord” in verse 3 slide by us. I’ve talked about this before and asked you to be on the lookout for it.


It was an ancient belief way before the Israelites were ever around that at least part of the purpose for the burning up of animals on an altar was to create smoke that rose upward into the nostrils of whatever god or goddess worshiped.


While we can take this as a metaphor in retrospect for the Lord being pleased over the obedience to His divine laws, I can assure you that the minds of the Israelites were thinking PRECISELY what their pagan neighbors were thinking: that YHWH was getting pleasure from the actual smell of the smoke.


And this is important because we must not think that just because God declared Israel, a holy people that they automatically thought or behaved in a holy or obedient manner. They operated from the general beliefs of the world of which they were part in that era. God was only in the beginning phase of a long-term re-education process of His people.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s lesson. In my next blog post, we will continue studying Numbers 15 and we are going to read all about the wine offering and its meaning.


Have A Blessed Day!
Monique Hrebeniuk





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