The foregoing article on this subject contained a list of those sins that could not be atoned by the typical sacrifice. It was found that there were only three classes of sins of which it is declared that they could be atoned. The one class was comprised of sins committed unwittingly or through carelessness or oversight. The other class for which the sacrifice could avail was comprised of sins done under the influence of passion or temptation and thus not characterized by that settled and deliberate malice that marked the presumptuous sins. There was still a third class of sins for which the sacrifice availed, namely, the class comprised of the many moral infirmities and miseries that even the most devout Christians feel in themselves—such infirmities as imperfect faith, the failure on the part of the believer to yield himself to serve God with that zeal as he is bound, and the evil lusts of the flesh with which the believer has daily to strive. These are weaknesses that are found in the saintliest of men.
Regard was had to the sins that could not be atoned by the typical sacrifice. The question was raised whether it follows from the circumstance that these sins could not be covered by the blood of the symbolical offerings that they are sins unforgiveable in the true sense. This, it was shown, does not follow. Though these sins could not be forgiven symbolically, they could be truly forgiven and were also actually forgiven, if the offender received grace to truly repent. The sins of adultery and murder were forgiven to David king of Israel. The reason why these sins could not be symbolically forgiven was fully explained.
Attention must now be directed to the command that concerns the gifts for Jehovah’s altars. The question now to be answered is, “What might be offered?” The answer is to be found in the following scriptures, “Speak unto the children of Israel. . . . . Ye shall bring your offerings of the cattle, of the herd, and of the flock. . . . And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord. . . .” (Lev. 1:2, 5) “And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice. . . .” (Lev. 1:10) “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.” (Lev. 1:14).
The offering had to be, so it appears, from the herd and from the flock (oxen, sheep, and goats). If the offerer was too poor, he was allowed to come as supplied with a turtledove or a young pigeon.
It is first of all deserving of notice that not human but animal beings had to be taken. The question whether Jehovah explicitly forbade His people to refrain from selecting for His altar human beings must be answered in the negative. True it is that the Lord did say to His people, “Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do anyway hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not: then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.” (Lev. 20:1-5) From II Kings 23:10 and from Ezek. 16:20, 21, it would seem that the sin here denounced is the actual burning of offspring as a sacrifice to Molech. The passage in the book of Kings reads in part, “that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.” By many, however, this is explained of merely passing the children between two fires. But let it be that the practice denounced is one that consisted in the actual burning of offspring, even then the prohibition is to the effect that the offspring shall not be offered to Molech. Whether such offerings might be brought to Jehovah, the prohibition leaves undetermined. Yet the very circumstance that the selection of the victim was limited by the command to the animal kingdom is, certainly, equivalent to the prohibition that the victim be not taken from the class of humans.
The question why this was not allowed is not so easy to answer as one might think. It is not a question of whether a mere man can so atone for sin as to free himself and his fellow humans from sin’s penalty. He cannot. And there are several reasons for this.
Man is creature and therefore cannot merit with God. Though the service he renders be perfect, he remains an unprofitable servant. But aside from this, man is sinful. He therefore cannot through suffering satisfy the offended justice of God. Further, no mere man “can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin, so as to deliver others from it.” Finally, it is the soul that sinneth, that must die. But if a mere man cannot truly atone sin, neither can the animal. To quote one scripture, “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.” If the blood of bulls and of goats can as little take away sin as the blood of a human, why did Jehovah in selecting His gifts for the typical altar pass by the class of humans and take the animal? Why could not humans as well as animals be appointed to symbolically atone sin? Why could not the suffering and death of the former as well serve as a type of Christ’s satisfaction?
If it be answered that the reason is the moral imperfection of man, one could reply that imperfection was the very mark of the type. To illustrate, Aaron in his capacity of high priest was a type of Christ. And Aaron, to be sure, was a man with moral infirmities. He therefore needed daily to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s. “For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, Who is consecrated for evermore.” (Heb. 7:28) If now, despite their moral imperfection, mere men were made priests, why was not also the victim for the altar taken from the class of humans? One reason is, to be sure, that such an arrangement would have necessitated a continuous slaughter of humans not willed by Jehovah. The other reason is that a sinful human, in order to do service as a symbolical sacrifice, would himself first have to be symbolically unsinned. But if the victim for the altar were that depraved human, where would be the blood to unsin it (the expression unsin was taken from scripture)? A depraved victim could not certainly be unsinned, that is, purged from its sin, by its own blood. But aside from this, a victim that itself had first to be unsinned, would be one by nature depraved. Such a creature, surely, could not be allowed to symbolically atone sin. How could believers in connection with a sacrifice of this character have received witness that they were righteous; and how could they through such a sacrifice have given expression to the faith that was in them—the faith, namely, that, though ill-deserving and condemnable, they were clothed by their redeemer-God with a salvation doing credit to His righteousness. So it is plain, that, had the victim been a sinful human, the usefulness of the symbolical sacrifice would have been destroyed. And as to the high priest, the sole reason that he had access to the holiest place is that, before venturing into the presence of God, he first cleansed himself (symbolically) from his sin by the blood of the sacrifice.
The statement, “Imperfection is the mark of the type,” is one that must be used with caution. Considered by itself and apart from the sinful men whose duty it was to perform it, the typical-symbolical service of the old covenant was as a type of the heavenly, a thing of perfection. This statement applies to every detail of this service. God’s things, His institutions, are always good. But whereas sinful men corrupt everything they touch, defile every institution of God that takes on an appearance in their persons, the empirical appearance of God’s things is often evil. So, too, the typical-symbolical service of the old covenant. The imperfections that marked this service rose from the sinful men that performed it. This service then was by itself a thing perfect. It was this in the sense that it fully answered its purpose. And it did so as the victim for the altar was an animal, thus a creature irrational and non-moral, and therefore, though not, to be sure, ethically holy, yet free from guilt and moral corruption. How solicitous Jehovah was that the victim offered in sacrifice be dissociated in the mind of the offerer from all corruption appears from His insistence that it be selected from the class of clean animals and be free from any manifest physical defect. If, according to the Hebrews (chap. 9:22), almost all things were by the law purged with blood—almost all things: the people and the priest, the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry—it follows that the blood that purged had to be made to stand out before the mind of men as a thing by itself pure.
But how could the animal—a non-moral and irrational creature—be presented as a substitute for man and represent man in its being offered in sacrifice? Such a substitution can take place only, of course, in a sacrifice that is typical-symbolical. But even in such a sacrifice, the affinity between the offerer and the victim must be close, if the atonement is to be vicarious.
Now the fact is that in the sacrifice of the old covenant the affinity between the offerer and the victim was close; and it was this firstly on account of the similarity in origin and in structure between the animal and man’s physical nature. This similarity is so marked as to warrant the statement that the animal was created in man’s image. As to the similarity in origin between the two, if God brought forth the animal from the earth, He formed man as to his lower nature of the dust of the ground. Both the animal and man therefore nourish their mortal frames with the yield of the soil. Besides, the animal as well as man has a soul-life. The animal, too, can remember. It has intelligence. It is capable of such emotions as joy, grief, and anger. It can feel guilt. Yet, it was not any animal that might be taken. To make the gap between the offerer and the victim as small as possible, the selection was limited to the herd and the flocks and to such fowls as the pigeon and the turtle-dove, thus to the class of tame domesticated animals. It was precisely these creatures that stood in closest relation to the physical nature of the offerer. The milk of the goats was to him drink. And the flesh of all these animals was to him food. In a certain sense, therefore, these creatures might be regarded as of one flesh with the offerer. But however close the connection between the animal and man may be, it was in the symbolical sacrifice only that the one could serve as the substitute of the other. The true sacrifice called for a substitute that could be no one less than Christ. He, the eternal Son of God, and, as such, infinitely exalted above man, brought himself down to man’s level and, assuming man’s nature, became literally flesh of man’s flesh, and, sin excepted, was thus found in all things like to His brethren, that He might be, in their behalf, a suitable offering, as well as High Priest. Having offered Himself He was made higher than the heavens. And because He continueth ever, He has an unchangeable priesthood. “Wherefore He is able also to save to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” The perfection of the victim for God’s typical altars was but shadow. It consisted merely in the victim’s being free from every manifest physical defect. But the perfection of Christ was true moral goodness, a holy beauty, the radiance of which marked Him in the memory of His followers as the “only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” But, in the words of the sacred writer, “such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needed not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.”
Regard must now be had to still another general prescription concerning the victim, namely, that before its blood be shed, the offerer should lay his hands upon its head. This prescription is found in the instructions for all bloody sacrifices. The one exception is the instruction for the trespass offering. This offering had so much in common with the sin offering that the regulation would be understood to be applicable to both. The import of this rite (the rite of the imposition of hands) can be unmistakably determined from the following scripture, “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgression in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and the goat shall bear upon him all the iniquities.” (Lev. 16:21) It must not be supposed (so I wrote in a previous article) that we have to do here with an empty form, that by the imposition of hands absolutely nothing was laid upon the head of the goat and that consequently this creature did not actually bear upon him all the iniquities of the people. Were this true, there would be absolutely nothing in the entire transaction that could serve as shadow, symbol, type. To illustrate, if the existence of the bread and wine of holy communion be denied, what would there be in this sacrament that could serve as symbols of the flesh and blood of the Savior? Nothing at all. So it is in respect to the rite under consideration. Besides, if the above-cited scripture affirms in unequivocal language that Aaron, through his confessing over him (the goat) all the iniquities of the people, put them (the iniquities) upon the head of the goat and further that “the goat shall bear upon him all the iniquities” it will not do for anyone to maintain that actually nothing was put upon the head of this creature and that actually it bore upon him nothing. What was put upon the goat by the imposition of hands was the guilt of their iniquities—guilt, that is, the obligation to suffer the penalty of their sins, not the real penalty (the animal is incapable of suffering this)—the penalty of a spiritual death or its equivalent and the descent of the soul into the abyss of outer darkness—but the penalty of sin as it consists in physical death. That this death is not the real wages of sin is evident from this that the godless, too, approach a physical resurrection and will thus reappear in a body of which their soul will never be divested.
Now whereas the animal also dies a physical death it was appointed to stand in the offerer’s room to momentarily free him, through its dying in the offerer’s stead, from this death. But even the freeing of this death was devoid of reality, as is evident from this that the sacrifices had daily to be presented at the sanctuary and that when the offerer’s hour of death would strike, those sacrifices could not avail. Only He Who is the resurrection and the life can truly atone sin and thus truly free also from this death. What then did the rite under consideration import? And the answer: the actual transference of guilt from the offerer to his animal substitute.
Some Bible students, among others, Schultz, flatly deny that the rite in question had this import. Wrote he, “By the laying on of hands the sin is not transferred to the victim. In itself this is merely a general act of dedication. By this act the person who dedicates confers his own dignity on another. And by the laying on of his hand, the sacrificer dedicates each victim, as his own property, to some higher object, that object of course, varying according to the intention with which he offers the sacrifice. Thus in the case of a sin offering he dedicates it as a means of atonement for himself, in order that it may be the bearer and instrument of his repentance. . . . Besides, in the law the death of the victim does not constitute the atonement. It is merely the means by which the life (blood) of the victim is appropriated to God. It cannot therefore be regarded as in any sense a vicarious punishment” (Schultz, Old Testament Theology, Vol. I, p. 391).
What this author does with the prescription contained in Lev. 16:21 (Aaron shall lay both his hands. . . .putting them [the iniquities of the people] upon the head of the goat) is hard to say. All that he could do with it, is to ignore it. And this he actually did. It is deserving of notice that in addition to denying the true import of the rite in question, he also denied that the death of the animal offered in sacrifice was in any sense a vicarious punishment. The statement occurs (in the above excerpt), “It (the death of the victim) cannot therefore be regarded as in any sense a vicarious punishment.” Otherwise said, the animal offered in sacrifice did not by its death pay for the offender’s sin, did not therefore die in his stead and as his representative (symbolically). That such should have been the contention of this Bible student, was to be expected. For he who denies the true import of the rite of the imposition of hands, must, to be consistent, at once deny that in dying the victim was suffering the penalty of the offender’s sin. This author’s positive view on the sacrifice is known from the following language from his pen, “When God is really angry with His people or with an individual, He demands satisfaction. In many cases this is to be got only through the working out of His anger. Then the guilty person falls under the ban, is destroyed out of the land of the living. . . . But when it is not a case of divine anger, that is, when a man has erred through weakness without any contempt of covenant statutes, it is quite a different matter. Then it is not a question of averting God’s anger or of working itself out. But for breaking the statute the sinner has to make such satisfaction as has been provided for in the covenant itself, and has been graciously accepted by the covenant God. This satisfaction is the sin offering, which is a ransom, a redemption. Hence the root-idea of the propitiatory sacrifice is that the sinner acknowledges his sin, seeks reconciliation, and gives actual expression to his repentance by the surrender of his property. It is an acknowledgment that God is right and that the sinner is wrong. It gives to the offended majesty of the divine claim a satisfaction which, it is true, is only of value because God accepts it, because He is willing to be reconciled” (p. 394, Vol.2).
Thus, according to the view here broached, the satisfying of the offended majesty of God was not done through the victim’s dying for the sin of the offender, but through the offender’s acknowledging his sin, through his seeking reconciliation, and through his giving actual expression to his repentance by the surrender of his property. This view has it then that the offender appeased God through his act of repentance with the result that God, responding to his expression of sorrow, forgave him and received him back into His fellowship. And the sacrifice was simply a means of which the offender availed himself to give expression to his repentance. Other significance it had not. Such is the view of the Old Testament sacrifice prevalent among modernist Bible students and theologians. And such, in a somewhat modified form, is also their view of the sacrifice of Christ. This can be expected. For the sacrifice was a type, and as a type it preached Christ. Christ and His cross therefore must and will be the realization of whatever speech the type is held to have uttered or to have been the embodiment of. A wrong view of the sacrifice must go hand in hand with a wrong view of Christ’s atonement.
If some (the modernist Bible students) deny the true significance of the rite of the imposition of hands, others view the rite as a symbolical transference not only of the guilt but even of the subjective feelings of the offerer to the victim and thus attach to it a meaning that it cannot very well have. So Fairbairn, “What then,” wrote he, “in the case of the bloody sacrifices, did the offerer possess which did not belong to the victim? What had the one to convey to the other? Primarily, and indeed always, guilt. This, as we have already shown, was the grand and fundamental distinction between the offerer and the victim.” So far, so good. But the author continues, “besides this, however, other things in the offerer might also be symbolically transferred to the sacrifice, according to the more special design and object of the sacrifice.” What other things they were that, according to this author, might also be symbolically transferred, may be known from the following language, “And when the law entered with its more complete sacrificial arrangements, appointing sin and trespass offerings as a distinct species of sacrifice, there can be no doubt that in these would more especially be represented the sense of guilt on the part of the offerer, while in the peace or thank offerings it would be the other feelings, those of gratitude and trust, which were primarily expressed.” Now it is hard to see how a subjective feeling (the author mentions faith) could be transferred to an animal sacrifice. Even when it is held that this was done symbolically, the matter does not become any more understandable. What may a symbolical transference of faith from one to another, in this case from a rational to an irrational being, be? It is, of course, true that the sacrifice, that is, the act of sacrificing, was the medium through which the believing offerer gave expression to his faith. This has been made plain in a previous article. But this, certainly, cannot imply that the offerer conveyed his faith to the victim by the laying on of hands. Faith is, indeed, expressed by action; but faith cannot possibly be transferred. But in all likelihood the author did not mean to say this. For in the sequence of his delineation, he expressed himself thus, “As his substitute, presented to God in his stead, it (the sacrifice) might be made to embody and express whatever feeling toward God had a place in his bosom—not merely conviction of sin and desires of forgiveness, but also such feelings as gratitude for benefits received, or humble confidence in the divine mercy and lovingkindness.” It is indeed very true that the Old Testament believer’s act of sacrificing is to be regarded as the embodiment of all the hallowed feelings that had place in his bosom.
But if guilt could and was actually transferred from offerer to victim by the imposition of hands, why cannot this rite also be viewed as a transference of faith and gratitude? And the answer: guilt is an obligation. Being such, it can be transferred from one to another. Faith and gratitude, on the other hand, are part and parcel of the one who believes and is thankful. They therefore allow of no transference. Yet, in conveying the obligation to suffer for the penalty of his sins from himself to his animal sacrifice by the laying on of hands, the believing offerer, from the nature of things, at once gave expression, through this act, of his penitence, of his faith in the pardoning mercy of Jehovah his Redeemer-God, of his thirst for pardon, and of his gratitude for mercy already shown him.
It is deserving of notice that this laying on of hands, was common to all the bloody sacrifices. Or perhaps it is just as well to say that what is deserving of notice is that every offering—the peace and praise as well as the sin and trespass offerings—were bloody. What it shows is that he only could have fellowship with God, whose sins were covered (by the blood) and who approached the throne with the confession in his heart and upon his lips that by himself he was unworthy on account of his guilt. Only he in whose heart this confession has place, can have peace—the peace of God that surpasses all understanding—and is praising God.
There remains one more direction of a general kind, applicable to all the sacrifices of blood. This direction concerns the killing of the victim, and the action of blood after it was shed. The victim was slain before the altar not by the priest but by the offender. Through this doing, the offender declared that the reason of the death of the victim was the offender himself, his guilt—a guilt that he had transferred from himself to his innocent victim. The blood was collected by the priest, and by him was sprinkled—on ordinary occasions—upon the altar round about; but on the day of atonement, also upon the mercy seat in the inner, and the altar of incense in the outer department of the tabernacle. If the offering was for the priest, it was sprinkled seven times before the veil of the holies and in addition was put on the horns of the altar of incense. If it now be considered that behind the veil stood Jehovah’s throne—the ark of the covenant—enveloped by the symbol of His presence—the cloud—, if it be understood further that the altar was the meeting place between Jehovah and the offender, it will be seen that this sprinkling of the blood before the veil and upon the altar round about, was an act by which the priest appeared with it before the face of the Lord. And the Lord had regard to this soul or blood, in token that the victim had indeed by its suffering and death symbolically satisfied His offended majesty and thus was received by Him as a covering for the sin of the offender. But if this transaction is to be fully appreciated, the blood of the victim and the officiating priest must be thought of as one. Then it will be seen that the priest appearing with the blood of the victim before the face of Jehovah was a type of Christ’s entering through His own flesh and blood into the holy place and obtaining an eternal redemption for His people.
The fat and caul and kidneys of the victim were placed upon the altar and burnt. These parts represented the entire animal and were indicative of its life, health, and vigor. This burning was declared to be a sweet savor unto Jehovah. So, too, Christ. In sacrificing Himself, in His suffering and dying for the sins of His people, He was a sweet savor to God. He was this in that He offered Himself under the impulse of a pure love of God. By this love, holy zeal, he was consumed,—consumed on the altar of service. Of this His love, the fire consuming the fat of the sacrificial victim, was the type.
When the offering was for the high priest, the flesh (not the fat and the caul, these, as was said, were burnt upon the altar), together with the head and legs had to be carried outside the camp and burned. But if the offering was for a common priest or Levite or for a common member of the theocracy, the flesh was eaten by the officiating priest instead of carried outside the camp and burned. The question is what this burning of the flesh outside the camp and this eating of the flesh by the priest signified. This rite indicated that the sin of the offender had been completely taken away, removed, so that no trace of it remained.