Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Offering is anything presented to God as a means of conciliating His favor: which being in the Jewish, as well as in all other religions, considered as the one thing needful, offerings accordingly have always constituted an essential part of public worship and private piety.
Offerings have been divided into three kinds: those which are designed to procure some favor or benefit; those which are expressive of gratitude for bounties or mercies received; those which are meant to atone for sins and to propitiate the Deity. Among the Hebrews we find a complex and multiform system of offerings extending through the entire circle of divine worship, and prescribing the minutest details. A leading distinction separates their offerings into unbloody and bloody. Used in its widest sense the term offering, or oblation, indicates in the Hebrew ritual a very great number of things—as the firstlings of the flock, first-fruits, tithes, incense, the shew-bread, the wood for burning in the temple. The objects offered were salt, meal, baked and roasted grain, olive-oil, clean animals, such as oxen, goats, doves, but not fish. The animals were required to be spotless, and, with the exception of the doves, not under eight days old, younger animals being tasteless and innutritious. The smaller beasts, such as sheep, goats, and calves, were commonly one year old. Oxen were offered at three years of age; in Judges () one is offered which is seven years old. As to sex, an option was sometimes left to the offerer, as in peace and sin offerings; at other times males were required, as in burnt sacrifices, for, contrary to classical usage, the male was considered the more perfect. In burnt offerings and in thank offerings the kind of animal was left to the choice of the worshipper, but in trespass and sin offerings it was regulated by law. If the desire of the worshipper was to express his gratitude, he offered a peace or thank offering: if to obtain forgiveness, he offered a trespass or sin offering. Burnt-offerings were of a general kind. Hecatombs or large numbers of cattle were sacrificed on special occasions (see; ). Offerings were also either public or private, prescribed or free-will. Sometimes they were presented by an individual, sometimes by a family; once, or at regular and periodic intervals. Foreigners were permitted to make offerings on the national altar. Offerings were made by Jews for heathen princes. In the case of bloody offerings the possessor, after he had sanctified himself, brought the victim, in case of thank-offerings, with his horns gilded and with garlands, etc. to the altar, where, laying his hand on the head of the animal, he thus, in a clear and pointed way, devoted it to God. Having so done, he proceeded to slay the victim himself; which act might be and in later times was, done by the priests, and probably by the Levites. The blood was taken, and according to the kind of offering, sprinkled upon the altar, or brought into the temple and there shed upon the ark of the covenant and smeared upon the horns of the altar of incense, and then the remainder poured forth at the foot of the altar of burnt-offerings. Having slain the animal, the offerer struck off its head, which, when not burnt, belonged either to the priest or to the offerer. The victim was then cut into pieces, which were either all, or only the best and most tasty, set on fire on the altar by the priests or the offerer, or must be burnt without the precincts of the holy city. The treatment of doves may be seen in , sq.; 5:8. In some sacrifices heaving and waving were usual either before or after the slaying.
The place where offerings were exclusively to be presented was the outer court of the national sanctuary, at first the Tabernacle, afterwards the Temple. Every offering made elsewhere was forbidden under penalty of death. The precise spot is laid down in; , 'at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.' The object, of these regulations was to prevent any secret idolatrous rites from taking place under the mask of the national ritual; and a common place of worship must have tended considerably to preserve the unity of the people, whose constant disagreements required precautions of a special kind (). The oneness, however, of the place of sacrifice was not strictly preserved in the troubled period of the Judges, nor indeed till the time of David (). Offerings were made in other places besides the door of the Tabernacle (; ). High places, which had long been used by the Canaanites, retained a certain sanctity, and were honored with offerings (; ). Even the loyal Samuel followed this practice (;; ), and David endured it (). After Solomon these offerings on high places still continued. In the kingdom of Israel, cut off as its subjects were from the holy city, the national temple was neglected.
Under the load and the multiplicity of these outward oblations, however, the Hebrews forgot the substance, lost the thought in the symbol, the thing signified in the sign; and, failing in those devotional sentiments and that practical obedience which offerings were intended to prefigure and cultivate, sank into the practice of mere dead works. Hereupon began the prophets to utter their admonitory lessons, to which the world is indebted for so many graphic descriptions of the real nature of religion and the only true worship of Almighty God (;; , sq.;;; , sq.; comp.; , sq.; ).
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Offering'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/o/offering.html.