The Burnt Offering: Part 2

Its Pattern

Animals  Ashes 

In part 1 of the Burnt offering we considered its purpose: we saw that it concerned approaching God, finding acceptance with God, knowing the atonement God provided and finally seeing the offering ascending as a sweet savour of rest unto God. We also saw the application to our lives, namely that God has provided all our needs in Jesus.

In part 2 we look at the pattern of the offering, that is how the offering was enacted. We must note that God laid out very specific and definitive instructions as to how it should be done, from the dissection of the animal to the disposal of the ashes. The Burnt Offering (alongside the Meal/Grain & Peace Offerings)  was voluntary. However having decided to bring such an offering the person had to do so according to the exact instructions laid out in this book.

Men and women cannot approach God unless it is according to His appointed ways. For us, living this side of Pentecost, that means we can only come to God through Jesus (Jn.14:6) and not through any effort or merit of our own, nor by any other person be it priest, pastor, pope  or any system of belief.

 In the details of how the offering was carried out  we see something further of the glorious person and work of Jesus, and its application to us.

And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. 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 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And if his offering of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that on the fire which is upon the altar: But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

(I) the Animals

(a) Their scope

.....If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd......and if his offering of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats......and if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.


As we read Lev. 1 the one thing that strikes us is that the offerer could bring alternate animals as their burnt sacrifice. Of the Herd (v3), of the flocks, sheep or goat (v10), or of the fowls of the air (v.14). These were the only ones specified, no other animal would have been accepted.

The question then is: why did God allow alternative animals to be used for the Burnt offering? Looking at other scriptures such as Lev.14:20-22, we can conclude that this was provision for all of society. People brought what they were able to afford. If they were poor then the fowls were acceptable. Everybody was included. No one was excluded from approaching God.

This tells us that the gospel is for the ‘whosoever’. No one is excluded from the Gospel invitation. It is for everyone, whether or not they respond to the call is another matter, but God has made provision for every human to come to Him through the merits of His precious Son.

The parable of the wedding invitation highlights this especially Mtt.22:1-14. We read that the king made ready and sent the invitation out. After many made excuse not to come the king sent out the invitation to those in the highways. Whatever else we learn from that parable it is clear that provision was made for any who would respond. It is worthy of note that at the end of the parable one was found without the correct attire (v11), and was cast out, showing again that we must come God’s way, and be clothed in Christ’s righteousness and not with a garment of our own choosing.

In the book of Revelation we see visions of heaven and we see people who have been redeemed around the throne, Rev.7:9-12. There were people from every nation, kindreds and people and tongues. God’s salvation reaches to every strata of human society. Just think, that around the throne of God there will be people from every distinct nation, ethnic group, family group and language group! Our God is a great inclusive God, if only men and women would turn to Him!

(b) Their singularity

The next point in the Burnt Offering to note is that the animal had to be male (v3, 10). In other offerings female animals could be brought, (e.g.Lev.3:6) but not so here. It had to be a male. So we ask: what significance do we draw from this fact?

Turning to I Cor. 11 we read that in God’s order of creation the male is that of headship. Christ is the head of man, the man is the head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. We take this one step further, we said in the previous study that the offerer, by laying hands on the animal, was showing identification. The animal was substituted for the person bringing the offering.

We return to the theme of Christ our representative, for here we see that Christ is now seen to be the representative of the whole human race, that is our federal head. He not only identified Himself with us as individuals but also identified Himself with the human race as a whole.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Rom. 5:12-19

We see that Adam, the first federal head, disobeyed and consequently plunged the whole of humanity into sin. Sin entered the race as a result. Then sin has passed on all humans. This is what is meant by original sin, we inherit a sinful nature as a result of being a part of Adam’s race by natural birth.

In contrast we see that because Jesus obeyed then, as many were made sinners by Adam’s transgression, the free gift has come upon all, by Christ’s obedience. So those who are justified and have been born from above are made righteous. Two heads, two births: by first birth we are born into a sinful nature, but by second birth we are born out of it.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

I Cor. 15:42-49.

In his masterly argument on the resurrection Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. The first Adam was made a living soul, Jesus the last Adam a life giving spirit. Adam never gave life to himself, he received it when God breathed on him the breath of life. (Gen.2:7). Jesus however doesn’t receive life, He gives it for He is THE life (Jn14:6). We first received natural life by being Adam’s descendent, but receive spiritual life by being in Christ.

Adam -the first man is of the earth, Jesus -the second man is from heaven. We first bare the earthly image, but in Christ we shall bare the heavenly. In both considerations we see that Paul shows that both Adam and Christ are federals heads of humanity. Everyone starts off in Adam, and on new birth we are translated into Christ (Col.1:13)

Adam the first head handed the human race over to sin, Christ on the other hand came to rescue us from that. As Isaac Watts puts it:

Where He displays His healing power
Death and the curse are known no more;
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

(c) Their significance

We have in another study, click here,  looked at the typological significance of the animals used.

(d) Their sacrifice

God took great care in detailing the way the priests had to dissect and offer up the animal. It was a dissection and not a butchery. Let us consider the process carefully. Concentrating on the offering of the herd. (vv.3-9) Firstly the offerer had the responsibility of killing the animal (v5). Everyone is responsible for the death of Jesus; as well as the actual authorities who arrested and passed sentence on Jesus whole, it was us as individuals that placed Him on that accursed tree. His love for us was so  great that He suffered the agony of Calvary for each and every person that has or ever will be born. In coming to Jesus we need to acknowledge that it was because of ‘my sin’ that put Him there. It has often been said that if there had been only one person who needed salvation, then Jesus would have died for that one alone! Such is His love, such is our guilt. Having being forgiven so much let us love so much too.
Secondly, the blood of the animal was sprinkled upon the altar and at the door of the Tabernacle(v5 Again it must be remembered that this offering had nothing to do with sins; they were dealt with by the sin and trespass offerings. The Burnt offering was essentially to do with a person’s standing before God, or justification, as mentioned in part 1. In other words this deals with THE SIN , ie the state of sin rather than sins, the individual acts.
Blood speaks to God, as is seen after Abel’s murder (Gen.4:10) Later on in Leviticus God makes this statement .
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Lev. 17:11

In the NT we read that we have come to…

…Jesus the mediator of the new Covenant and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.


The blood of bulls and goats cannot make a person stand right before God, they were mere shadows pointing to Jesus. Only the blood of Jesus could bring our justification.  The topic of the blood of Jesus is vast and needs a complete series in its own right, just to say here that  His blood shed speaks to God of His life poured out  for our redemption, for our justification as well as for our cleansing.(Ro.3:24-26; I Jn.1:7) Once the animal was flayed it was dissected and its parts laid upon the altar for burning. (vv.8-9). We note that it was the offerer who had to perform this dissection, before the priest laid it all on the altar. Once more indicating that the responsibility of the sacrifice’s death was the offerer. It cannot be stressed too much how that all of us are responsible for Jesus' death, and indeed have to face up to this. It was the priests’ responsibility to burn the animal. Only the blessed Trinity could make that once and for all eternal sacrifice. Whilst we must acknowledge that we were responsible, because of our rebellion, for Jesus' death, it was only the Godhead that could effect our salvation, and that Jesus as the Great High priest offered Himself through the Spirit as our sacrifice. (Heb.9:14The text highlights the Head, fat, inwards and legs for special mention. We also note that wood had to be laid in order as well. In scripture wood is usually taken as a symbol of humanity. Jesus became a man, He was the God-man, our representative, and at Calvary was our substitute. The head speaks of the mind and Christ’s mind was one of humility, He humbled Himself to become a man (Phil.2:1-6; The inwards speaks of the will, Jesus emptied Himself and did the will of His father (Phil.2:7-8a; and the legs speak of the walk, Jesus was obedient unto the death of the cross (Phil.2:8b); the burning of the animal was a sweet savour by which we learn that Jesus was exalted far above all. (Phil.2:9-11

(e) Their skin

The skin also  had a special significance. It was the only part of the sacrifice that was not laid on the altar, and the only part that the priests had for themselves. Lev.7:8. The text says specifically……the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering

The skin would have become garments for the priests. They were clothed with the sacrifice. What a picture this is of what Christ has done! In Romans Paul is very careful to tell us that we are justified freely because of the blood of Jesus, Rom.3:24-26. The priest by putting on the skin would be identified with the animal’s death. As he unfolds the gospel in that epistle Paul tells us of being identified with His death, that is co-crucified with Him, to be no longer slaves to sin and to the Law, but servants of righteousness. (Rom. 6-7). Then later on in Romans Paul tells us to put on Christ (Rom.13:14).

This identification with Christ is vital. He identified Himself with us by taking on our flesh, it was so that we could be identified with him and become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Cor 5.21; Rom 10:4)

(II) The ashes

Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.

Once the animal was prepared it was wholly burnt on the altar of burnt offerings. What was left after it had been consumed were the ashes, and even they had laws as to their disposal.

(a) Their source

But first what caused the animal to be burnt? It was the sacred fire on the altar. The  thing to note was that this fire had to be keep burning day and night, it was never to go out. Lev6:12f The priests were responsible for keeping the fire going.  The sole purpose of the fire was to burn the offering, and turn them to ashes whenever a person brought a sacrifice.

Now this tells us that in the Old Covenant the sacrifices had to be repeated, and had to be made continually for they could never take away sin, nor make the offerers perfect. Heb.9:8-13;10:1-4.  it was only when Jesus came, died and was resurrected that anyone could truly be justified and set free from sin. The fire came from God Lev.9:24. It was God who smote Jesus Isa.53. Man had his responsibility for putting Him on a cross, but ultimately it was the Father who made Jesus an offering for sin.

(b) Their scattering

The ashes were then finally scattered. They were placed on the east side of the altar. Then after having put on his linen garment the priest would take the ashes and scatter then outside the camp. There are three thoughts here for our consideration.

Firstly, the ashes were what was left of the offering. It was the physical evidence that an offering had been made and that God had accepted it. The evidence that God has accepted the one and only eternal sacrifice for sin is that Jesus now sits on the right hand of God.

Lifted up was he to die;
'It is finished!' was his cry;
Now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah!! What a Saviour!

Philip Bliss

Secondly, the ashes were placed on the east side of the altar before there removal to outside the camp. If we remember that the Holy of Holies was on the west side of the tabernacle, then we are reminded of this verse from the Psalms:

For as the heaven is high above the earth so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west  so far has He removed [=distanced]  our transgressions from us.

Finally, the ashes were taken outside the camp, here we are reminded of the writer to the Hebrews

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.  Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well please

Jesus was identified with us in our sinful and lost state. we are now exhorted to be identified with Him in bearing His reproach.