29 July 2015

Jewish Temple offerings

The book of Leviticus lists five types of offerings made in the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, some ritually prescribed and communal, others private and individual.  Since the Torah prescribed these, they were also offered in the Temple on Mount Gerizim in Shechem.

Burnt-offering:  These were the most common types of offerings in the Temple, with a certain number mandated as communal offering throughout the year.

The animal was slaughtered on the north side of the altar, as a libation of wine was poured over the altar.  The slaughtered animal’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, and then the entire carcass was burned; thus it was known as a whole offering. 

Every weekday, two lambs were sacrificed, one at Shacharit and one at Mincha.  In the succeeding lists, the sacrifices were divided between those two times.

On Shabbat, the burnt-offering was doubled at two lambs per sacrifice.

On Rosh Chodesh, two bulls and seven lambs were sacrificed as burnt-offerings, plus a goat kid for expiation of sins.

On Pesach, the sacrifice of the day was as usual, but the Pesach sacrifice itself, the one peculiar to the feast, was carried out after Mincha and before Arvit.  That which was not eaten in the individual homes was burned in the homes.

On each of day of Matzot, the burnt-offering was two bulls, one ram, and seven lambs, plus a goat kid for expiation of sins.

On Shavuot, the burnt offering is three bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs, plus two goat kids for expiation of sins.

On Yom Teruah, now better known as Rosh Hashanah, in addition to the two bulls and seven lambs, they sacrificed another bull, a ram, and seven additional lambs, plus a goat kid for expiation of sins.

On Yom Kippur, the burnt-offering was a bull, two rams, and seven lambs.  In addition, two goats were sacrificed, one being drive out into the wilderness, symbolically carrying away Israel’s sins, while the other was killed and burnt.

On the first day of Sukkot, the burnt offering was thirteen bulls, fourteen lambs, and fifteen rams, plus a goat kid for expiation of sins.  Every day of Sukkot was the same, except that one less bull was offered each succeeding day.  On Shemini Atzeret, the burnt offering was a bull, a ram, and seven lambs.

For various reasons, individuals offered animals for burnt-offering, such as first-fruits.  These could be a bull, a ram, a lamb, a goat, a turtledove, or a pigeon, depending on the wealth, or lack thereof, of the individual.

Grain-offering: Also known as a ‘gift-offering’; these offerings by individuals were wheat that had been baked, griddled, fried, or roasted into bread along with olive oil and salt but no honey or leaven.

Peace-offering:  This was supplied by an individual and could be an ox, a sheep, or a goat.  It differed from the burnt-offering in that only the fat and entrails were burnt; the rest of the meat went to the priest, except for what the worshipper ate during the following two days if it was a free-will offering.  Peace-offerings were accompanied by unleavened wheat cakes made with olive oil.  There were three types of peace-offering: Thank-offering, votive offering, and free will offering.

Sin-offering:  This was for the case of unintentional sins, and there were three levels.  The high priest had to offer a male bull.  Other leaders had to offer a male goat.  Common Jews, referred to as “Israelites”, offered a female goat, lamb, pigeon, or turtledove, or, only in the case of the very poor, a wheat-cake.  In the case of priests and Levites, the entire carcass had to be burnt; in the case of Israelites, the fat and viscera were burned while the priests got to keep the meat.

Trespass-offering:  Also called guilt-offering, this was for fraud committed in ignorance, and often involved money rather than food or drink, depending on the degree of seriousness.  In serious cases, the Torah prescribed a ram as a guilt-offering.

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