We’ve been reading here in Leviticus about various offerings to be made to God in the Mosaic sacrificial system. I thought it might be helpful to provide scholarly definitions of these various offerings. Below is are definitions of these offerings from “Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary”.
“SACRIFICIAL OFFERINGS — offerings brought periodically (sometimes daily; Ex. 29:38; Heb. 10:11) to God in Old Testament times by which people hoped to atone for their sins and restore fellowship with God. The Bible depicts us as sinners abiding in death and destined for death. We abide in death because we are separated from fellowship with God and unable to restore that life-giving fellowship (Rom. 5:12; 8). The sentence of death hangs over us because of our identity with Adam’s fall (Rom. 5:14), our enmity toward God, and our constant sinning (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10). Ultimately, this will result in physical death and eternal suffering in hell.
God, however, provided a method by which our penalty can be paid and fellowship with God can be restored. This method is the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9–10). This perfect offering was anticipated throughout the Old Testament by various sacrificial offerings. These Old Testament sacrifices were effective only when offered in faith in the promised sacrifice (Gen. 3:15; Heb. 9:8–9; 10:8–9, 16–17).
The first sacrifices were the offerings of Cain and Abel. Only Abel’s offering was a true sacrifice made in faith because Abel recognized his unworthiness and the divine promise of a true and perfect redeemer (Gen. 4:3–5; Heb. 1:4). The sacrifice of Christ is most clearly and fully anticipated in the Mosaic system of sacrificial offerings. The following specific sacrificial offerings were provided for in the Mosaic Law:
Burnt Offering. This kind of offering was described as “that which goes up (to God).” It was termed “whole” (Lev. 6:22) because the entire offering was to be burnt upon the altar. It was termed “continual” (Ex. 29:38–42) to teach the nation of Israel that their sinfulness required a complete and continual atonement and consecration. This sacrifice, offered every morning and evening, pointed to Christ’s atoning death for sinners (2 Cor. 5:21) and His total consecration to God (Luke 2:49). The burnt offering spoke of Christ’s passive obedience and His submission to the penalty required by human sinfulness. It also refers to His perfect obedience to God’s law by which He did for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.
Cereal Offering (see Meal Offering).
Drink Offering. An offering of liquid, such as wine (Ex. 29:40).
Fellowship Offering (see Peace Offering).
Grain Offering (see Meal Offering).
Guilt Offering (see Sin Offering).
Heave Offering (see Peace Offering).
Meal Offering. This offering is translated meat offering in some versions, but since this offering was bloodless and meatless, it is more meaningfully rendered meal (NKJV) or grain (NIV); sin offering (NRSV) cereal offering. Meal offerings were prepared and presented to God as a meal, symbolically presenting the best fruits of human living to God to be consumed or used as He desired (Heb. 10:5–10). A notable exception to this is that poor people could present meal offerings as sin offerings.
In the meal offering a person presented to God a vicarious consecration of the perfect life and total property of another (Christ). There is no ground in this offering for human boasting as though the offerer were received by God on the grounds of human effort. Rather, the recognition of the person’s unworthiness is emphasized by the fact that meal offerings must be accompanied by a whole burnt offering or a peace offering (Lev. 2:1; Num. 15:1–16). Both offerings were made to atone for human sin.
Meat Offering (see Meal Offering).
Peace Offering. This sacrificial offering was also called a heave offering and a wave offering. This was a bloody offering presented to God (Lev. 3:1; fellowship offering, NIV). Part of the offering was eaten by the priest (representing God’s acceptance) and part was eaten by worshipers and their guests (nonofficiating priests or Levites and the poor, Deut. 12:18; 16:11). Thus, God hosted the meal, communing with the worshiper and other participants. This sacrifice celebrated covering of sin, forgiveness by God, and the restoration of a right and meaningful relationship with God and with life itself (Judg. 20:26; 21:4).
There were three kinds of peace offerings: (1) thank offerings in response to an unsolicited special divine blessing; (2) votive (vowed) offerings in pursuit of making a request or pledge to God; and (3) freewill offerings spontaneously presented in worship and praise.
Sin Offering. This bloody offering, also known as a guilt offering, was presented for unintentional or intentional sins for which there was no possible restitution (Lev. 4:5–13; 6:24–30). If the offering was not accompanied by repentance, divine forgiveness was withheld (Num. 15:30). Expiation or covering (forgiveness) of sin was represented by the blood smeared on the horns of the altar of incense or burnt offering and poured out at the base of the altar.
The size and sex of the beast offered depended on the rank of the offerers. The higher their post the more responsibility they bore. The penalty for all sin, death, was vicariously inflicted on the animal. Guilt for the worshiper’s sin was transferred symbolically through the laying on of the offerer’s hands.
Thank Offering (see Peace Offering).
Trespass Offering. This was a bloody offering presented for unintentional or intentional sins of a lesser degree and for which the violater could make restitution (Lev. 5:15). The sprinkling of the blood on the sides of the altar rather than on its horns gave further evidence that this offering addressed sins of a lesser degree. Special provisions were made for the poor by allowing less valuable offerings to be substituted in this kind of sacrifice.
The amount of restitution (money paid) was determined by the officiating priest. Restitution declared that the debt incurred was paid. Significantly, Christ was declared a trespass offering in Isaiah 53:10 (guilt offering, NIV). He not only bore the sinner’s penalty and guilt but made restitution, restoring the sinner to right standing with God.
Wave Offering (see Peace Offering).”
Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. 1995 (R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison & Thomas Nelson Publishers, Ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.