Christ in Leviticus, the Offerings

The Bible from Genesis to Revelation beautifully weaves the story of God’s salvation plan within its pages. Genesis informs us about man’s fall into sin and God’s plan to redeem humanity (Genesis 3:15). Then, Exodus goes on to tell us about how God delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 20:2) and chose Israel as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” to be set apart from all other nations (Exodus 19:6). Finally, Leviticus shows Israel how they can become the holy nation God called them to be.

When reading the Old Testament, many skip right over Leviticus, claiming it is outdated and does not apply to us today. However, understanding Jewish sacred worship in Leviticus helps us shine a light on the New Testament, giving it a deeper, richer meaning. Leviticus is often called “God’s Instruction Manual for Worship.” After all, God created us to be worshipers, and the offerings in Leviticus are about worship. As you will see, Leviticus’s sacrifices, rituals, and ceremonies point us right to Christ.


Leviticus begins with Moses talking to God from outside the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place. Although God’s desire was to commune with His people, they could not approach Him because He was holy, and they were not. God wanted His people to be closer to Him than outside the Tabernacle; He wanted them to be in His tent. In the book of Leviticus, God shows Israel how they can begin to atone for their sin and enter His presence.

“Be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 11:45, Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 20:7

Moses divides Leviticus into two main themes. First, it details the sacrifices which show the Israelites how to gain access to God. Secondly, it describes the laws and festivals, which show the Israelites how to maintain fellowship with God. Here, we will focus on the sacrificial system.


God began to lay down the divine principle of sacrifice in Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with animal skins, but not without cost. Animals had to die to provide their cover. This first sacrifice demonstrated that sin must be paid for: innocent blood had to be shed for the guilty. Sacrifice is the currency that pays for man’s sin. It is how sinful man can approach a holy God. God further developed this principle of sacrifice when He approved Abel’s offering of a first-born animal but not Cain’s offering because it was not a blood sacrifice.

The Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadows the ultimate sacrificial death of Jesus. Old Testament sacrifices were inadequate, covering up sins rather than washing them away. However, Jesus offered one sacrifice, and it was enough. It was all that was needed for eternity ( Hebrews 10:12).

God made a way for the Israelites to draw near to Him through sacrifice. These sacrifices were called offerings. The noun “offering” is the Hebrew word “corban” which is related to the verb that means “to draw near.” When a person made an offering to God, they drew closer to Him. Their offering was a type of worship. There are five different types of offering in the Hebrew sacrificial system.

Burnt Offering

Leviticus 1, 6:18-13, 8:18-21, 16:24

Burnt Offering

The Israelites would make a burnt offering to God for various reasons: including asking for forgiveness, expressing thanks, or renewing their relationship with God. To make an offering, the Israelite would find a male bull, ram, or bird, then kill it, and finally, present it at the Tabernacle gate. The animal could not have any defects, and it had to be a whole animal.   

Once the offeror presented the sacrifice, the priest placed the animal on the altar. The offeror laid his hands on it to identify with the sacrifice and show thankfulness that the animal took the offeror’s place on the altar of sacrifice.

“The righteous suffered for the unrighteous” (1st Peter 3:18).  

Unlike other offerings, the burnt offering was voluntary. The fire completely consumed the burnt offering on the altar, leaving nothing but ashes.

The burnt sacrifice offering illustrates how we should approach God in worship. Like the offeror in ancient times, we don’t have to worship God; we choose to worship Him. Our worship is a voluntary, complete surrender to God. We are the living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him (Romans 12:1). Like the smoke of the sacrifice, our worship rises like a sweet aroma to God.

The burnt offering points us directly to Christ. Jesus completely surrendered to God and even to death on the Cross. Like the sacrificial animal, Jesus did not have any defects. He took our place on the Cross, the righteous for the unrighteous. He “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). Because Jesus died on the Cross as our innocent, flawless substitution, we don’t have to offer animal sacrifices over and over again.

Grain Offering

Grain Offering

Leviticus 2, 6:14-23

The grain offering consisted of grains and olive oil mixed;  the offering was split between God and the priest. The priest would reject grain offerings mixed with yeast because yeast represented sin, and the offering had to be free from sin.

The grain offering, by itself, was not enough. It could never be offered alone; it always had to accompany a blood offering. Once the offeror made the blood offering, the grain offering became acceptable to God.

As with the burnt offering, the grain offering was a voluntary act of worship. It was also the recognition of God’s goodness and provision.

Like the grain offering without yeast, Jesus was without sin. Jesus is our sinless sacrifice. Because of what He did for us on the Cross, we now can present ourselves to God mixed with sin without fear of being rejected.

Peace Offering

Peace Offering

Leviticus 3 7:11-34

The peace offering was for thanksgiving, a vowel payment, or free expression of a worshiper’s goodwill towards God. It was the only offering that could be any breed of an animal without defect. The offering was to be the best part of the animal; the rest of the animal could be eaten. The peace offering was also voluntary, and the only offering that could be eaten.

The peace offering is a type of the personal relationship that Christ’s followers have with God and the unity they have with each other because of Christ’s death on the Cross. Colossians 1:20 tells us that Christ made peace with His blood, and Ephesians 5:2  says that He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Sin Offering

Leviticus Chapters 4 and 5

Sin Offering

Sin offerings provided atonement for sin. Atonement in Hebrew is the word kippurim. Kippurim comes from the verb kaphar, which means to cover over. Because humanity’s very nature is sinful, man must make things right with God. Atonement is how humanity does just that.

A sin offering provided atonement for both sins committed in ignorance and unintentional sin (Leviticus 4:27-28). Unlike the burnt, grain, and the peace offering, the sin offering was mandatory. For personal atonement, a person desiring atonement could make the offering at any time. Also, a priest made a sin offering on behalf of the whole of Israel on the Day of Atonement and Pentecost, two feasts we cover in Finding Jesus in the Feasts of the Old Testament.  

The offeror brought a live animal to the altar, and the sinner laid hands on its head. Then the animal was slain, and the priest put blood on the horns of the altar. The priests sprinkled the blood inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and whatever blood was leftover, at the base of the altar. The innocent animal’s body was then burnt outside of camp.

Jesus is our sin offering. Like the sin offering in ancient Israel, Jesus’ sin offering was mandatory – He had to be delivered to his enemies. In the same way as the blood of the innocent sacrifice was sprinkled inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, Jesus’ blood has sprinkled our hearts clean so we can approach God with confidence (Hebrews 10:22).

Guilt Offering

Leviticus 5 and 6

Guilt Offering

The guilt offering also provided atonement for sin. But instead of covering sin committed in ignorance or unintentionally like the sin offering, the guilt offering covered sin committed intentionally, such as deceit, fraud, lying, or stealing (Leviticus 6:2-3) or a sin related to the Lord’s holy things (Leviticus 5:14).  

An offeror could make this offering anytime they committed an unintentional sin. The guilty party would bring the priest a ram without defect, and the priest would make atonement for them. The wrongdoer also had to make restitution to the owner. The idea was that the wrongdoer had to make things right.

Jesus taught us this as well when He said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Jesus is our guilt offering. Christ redeemed us by paying the ransom for our sins. We were redeemed from our sinful life with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1st Peter 1:18-19). Jesus made things right with God for us. Because of what He did, we now have peace with God.

The sacrificial system put in place in Leviticus was only temporary. It could not wholly remove man’s sin. However, the Cross put an end to the sacrificial system once and for all. Jesus’s sacrifice satisfies all of God’s holy requirements, and because of what He did on the Cross, we can now enter into His Holy presence.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

Hebrews 13:15



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