The Burnt Sacrifice of the Herd
Leviticus 1:3-9
If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish…

Having given general instructions concerning the great business of sacrifice, the Most High descends to particulars, and here describes the burnt sacrifice of the herd. These particulars contain specific directions -


1. It must be a male.

(1) Females were not only admitted for burnt offerings under the patriarchal dispensation, but upon one memorable occasion even prescribed (see Genesis 15:9). The ceremonial distinction between male and female was not then, probably, so strongly defined as afterwards it became under the Law. Under the gospel it is abolished (Galatians 3:28).

(2) The male is the stronger animal; and the horns, in the ox, which are symbols of power, are more developed in the male. The male, therefore, would represent the excellence of strength.

(3) Thus Christ, as the "Power of God," would be preindicated (1 Corinthians 1:24). By his sacrifice of himself he destroyed him that had the power of death, and became the "power of God unto salvation" to every believer (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18).

2. It must be without blemish.

(1) The rabbins reckon no less than fifty things, any one of which would, in their judgment, render an animal unfit for sacrifice; five in the ear, three in the eyelid, eight in the eye, etc.; but they trifle outrageously. Any obvious defect or redundancy of parts would mar it for sacrifice, and so would any disease by which it might be afflicted.

(2) This reminds us that Christ, who is accepted of God as our Sacrifice, is without deficiency or redundancy, weakness or malady (1 Peter 1:19). In everything perfect.

(3) We are further taught that the best should be given to God. The best thoughts; the best affections; the best gifts; the best service.


1. With a view to procuring the acceptance of his offering.

(1) His gift must be offered freely. "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will." The sacrifice of himself, which Christ offered for us, was voluntary (Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:6, 14). God expects the homage of the heart (John 4:23, 24).

(2) It must be offered at the door of the tabernacle. The altar was at the door. We enter the heavens through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-21). The Jewish sacrifices were never resumed after the destruction of their city and temple, for they hold it unlawful to sacrifice anywhere out of Jerusalem. Yet they will not see that the antitypes have come, and that the types are therefore no longer necessary.

(3) He must lay his hand upon its head. This action expressed,

(a) That the offerer confessed himself a sinner deserving to be sacrificed.

(b) That he ceremonially transferred his guilt to a substitute in anticipation of the Great Substitute promised who should truly bear the punishment of sin (1 Peter 2:24).

(c) That he trusted in the mercy of God through the vicarious sufferings of Messiah (Daniel 9:26).

2. With a view to the making an atonement for his sin. The direction is

(1) That he should kill the bullock "before the Lord." The Shechinah was there in the most holy place. The transaction is between the Lord and the soul of the sinner. In all worship we should realize the presence of the Lord.

(2) "He shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into his pieces." This operation was here performed, not by the priest, but by the offerer. In the time of the temple this was done by the priests, who were then more numerous and better skilled in the proper mode of doing it. For this service they claimed the skin (Leviticus 7:8; 2 Chronicles 29:34).

(3) People and priests alike were concerned in the Great Sacrifice on Calvary. It was done with "wicked hands" (Acts 2:23).


1. With respect to the blood.

(1) They were to sprinkle with it round about the altar. The altar upon which Jesus was offered was, in its more restricted sense, the hill of Calvary. On that hill his precious blood was literally sprinkled.

(2) The position of the altar is noted, viz. "by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." In the wider sense the altar on which Jesus suffered was this planet, which is, as it were, the entrance or vestibule of the great temple of the universe, of which the heavens are the holy places (see Hebrews 4:14).

2. With respect to the water.

(1) Water is one of the great purifiers in the kingdom of nature, and is therefore used as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, the Great Purifier in the kingdom of grace (John 7:38, 39). So a controversy about baptism with water is described as a "question about purifying" (John 3:25).

(2) With water the priest was to wash the inwards and the legs. The inwards were a type of the soul; and God requires "truth in the inward parts," in the "thoughts and intents of the heart." Every pollution, also, connected with our "walk and conversation" must be laved away. To express this truth Jesus washed his disciples' feet.

3. With respect to the fire.

(1) It was "put" upon the altar. This does not say that it was kindled by the priest. The fire was of God's own kindling (see Leviticus 9:24; Leviticus 10:1, 2).

(2) It was, however, fed with fuel by the priests. Human agency cooperates with Divine even in the most sacred things (Philippians 2:12, 13).

(3) The parts of the sacrifice were laid in order on the wood. The quarters were laid together in their relative positions. So with the head, the fat, and the inwards. Thus the whole animal was consumed. Our whole being should be offered to God in the flames of love (Deuteronomy 6:5). - J.A.M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.

WEB: "'If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall offer it at the door of the Tent of Meeting, that he may be accepted before Yahweh.

The Burnt Sacrifice
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