God revealed to Moses his plans for the Tabernacle, which would be the focus of worship for the children of Israel. Leviticus 1-7 describes the various offerings/sacrifices that would be offered on the altar at the entrance to the enclosed area surrounding the tent where God dwelt. Moses describes four different types of sacrifices that could be offered to God.

Since Jesus died on the cross, and the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, the Tabernacle sacrifices no longer need to be offered to God because Jesus satisfied all the requirements of human salvation. However, they are worth studying, because they point to the fuller deliverance that Jesus provided. We can't fully understand what Jesus achieved unless we understand what the Levitical offerings did, and how they did it. Leviticus does not spell out in detail what the various offerings achieve and how they do it. We need a three-agent view of the universe to fully understand what they accomplished and why they made a difference.

Sacrifice or Offering

Most English translations of Leviticus use the word "sacrifice" to describe the actions to be undertaken in the Tabernacle. However, the word "sacrifice" creates confusion, because people assume it refers to a death of an animal on an altar. What Moses was describing was different and more complicated. It involves several steps by different people. Likewise, this word leads to the idea that Jesus' deliverance was fully achieved by his death, when in reality, his resurrection and ascension are equally important.

The Hebrew word used throughout Leviticus in this context is "qorban" (Lev 2,3). It is related to a verb meaning "bring near". It describes something that is being brought near, sometimes to the altar of God as an offering. For this reason, I will use the word "offering" when analysing the instructions in Leviticus 1-7. The person brings near an animal, or some grain, and offers it to God.

There is a sacrifice involved in an offering, but the animal that dies does not make the sacrifice. The cost is born by the person who brought the animal or the grain. When they offer it to God, they lose something that is valuable to them, and they don't get it back. On the other hand, the priest who actually places the offering on the altar does not bear any cost. He actually receives some free food, so it is not a sacrifice for him, which is interesting given that Jesus is the high priest who offered his life.

Types of Offering

Leviticus 1-7 describes four different types of offering. The names used in many English translations are not very helpful. In this section, I will review and describe their names. In subsequent sections, I will analyse each offering to identify what it achieves and how it does that.

  1. Ascending Offering (olah)
    Most translations use the expression "burnt offering" for the offering described in Leviticus 1. This is misleading because it focuses on the burning of the offering. People assume that the offering works because the animal is burnt, but that is the wrong focus.

    The Hebrew word "olah" means "step" or "stairs". It comes from a verb for "ascending". In this context, it refers to the smoke ascending to God. It could be called a "smoke offering", but that would be misleading because it is the pleasing smell/odour that goes up to God, and the word smoke could indicate an unpleasant smell. Therefore, I have chosen to refer to it as an ascending offering, using the literal meaning of the Hebrew word "olah".

    English translations usually refer to the offering described in Leviticus 2 as a "grain offering" because it is a product of grain (flour or bread) that is offered. However, the Hebrew word "minchah" literally refers to a "gift" or a "donation", so I have chosen to refer to it as a "gift offering". It is actually a different form of the Ascending Offering that provides a pleasant odour for God.

  2. Wellbeing Offering (selamim)
    The offering described in Leviticus 3 is often referred to as a "peace offering", but the Hebrew word is "shelem". It is closely connected to the word "selamim", which means peace, but takes a broader meaning that includes "wellbeing, safety, completeness", so I have chosen to call it a "wellbeing offering" to capture this broader meaning.

  3. Decontamination Offering (hattat)
    Leviticus 4 is often translated as describing a "sin offering". The Hebrew word is "chattah", which means sin or offence, but John Goldingay calls it the "decontamination offering" in his First Testament. Although this is a big word, it is a good label because it describes what the offering does, so I have decided to use it.

  4. Reparation Offering (asam)
    The final offering is the Reparation Offering. This is possibly a different form of the Decontamination Offering. The Hebrew word used is "ashamaw", which refers to an "offence", but it can also mean "compensation" or "ransom".

I will describe these four offerings in the next few sections. Leviticus has a chapter about each one, but more instructions about them are given in chapters 6 and 7.

An offering is a process. It is not just the death of an animal. Each offering has several steps. Some are the same, but other steps vary according to the offering.

1. Ascending Offering (olah)

The ascending offering involves the slaughter of an animal. The type of the animal depends on what the bringing of the offering can afford. Some will bring a young bull or ram, but poor people can bring a couple of doves. Taking into account the wealth of the person bringing it is common to all the offerings.

The Ascending Offerings has several steps.

The process is similar if the offering is a bird, except that the priest kills the bird by pinching its head off, and it is not divided into parts because it is too small.

Several things should be noted about the Ascending Offering.

My Confusion

I grew up on a sheep farm in New Zealand. In the spring, when lambs are born, we would have about 2000 ewes giving birth. Although they were watched carefully, about twenty would die each spring due to various natural causes. Once the lambs had grown up, we would have 4000 sheep on the farm. Some of these would die from time to time for various reasons. The law required that dead sheep be disposed of within two weeks. This was an unpleasant task. These days the carcasses are buried in deep pits that have been dug in the ground. When we were young, we did not have the machinery to do this, so for a while, Dad tried to burn the carcases of the sheep that died. My brother and I would assist with this task, making sure that the carcasses burnt up as much as possible.

We would pluck the wool of the dead sheep because it could be sold, once it was scoured clean. We would then transport the carcase to the site where we burnt them. We used a couple of metal harrows to keep the carcase off the ground. Four of five carcases would be burnt at the same time.

I learned that getting the carcass of a sheep to burn is a very difficult task. We had to put an accelerant like kerosene on the sheep to start the fire burning, because otherwise, it would just go out. Only when the fire was really hot, and the fat started to melt and drop onto the fire, would it burn strongly. Even then, the fire would go out if we did not watch to ensure that it had plenty of fuel.

The other problem is that when the carcass is burnt with its entrails still inside, it creates a terrible stink. The smell was vile. This is why I was always puzzled when I began to read that the offerings in Leviticus would make a pleasant smell for Yahweh. I could not understand how he would enjoy such a vile smell. It doesn't make sense.

Having studied Leviticus more carefully, I now realise that the entire carcass was not placed on the altar. According to the instructions in Leviticus, only the best parts of the carcass are placed on the altar. The fat is placed on the wood. When the fire gets hot, the fat will melt and become the fuel of the fire. The fire will burn clear and hot. A cold fire produces a lot of smoke with a dirty smell. A hot fire produces clear smoke that does not have a dirty smell. I can see how this would be pleasing to Yahweh.

The priest places the lumps of meat on the altar beside the burning wood, so it will cook. When it is ready to be eaten by the priests, it will be removed from the fire, so it does not burn. So the offering process will produce the smells of meat cooking and the fat burning hot and fast. This smell is very different from the smell that I remember from burning the carcasses of dead sheep. The smell from the altar would be more like the smell that I get when I am cooking beef steak on a gas-fired barbecue. This is a pleasant smell that makes me feel hungry. I can see how this smell would be pleasing to Yahweh.

Expiation or Atonement

The interesting thing about the Ascending Offering is that there is no mention of sin. It is not an offering for sin. A person brings the ascent offering as a way of expressing their love for the Lord. Yet, Leviticus 1:4 declares that the ascent offering makes atonement/expiation for the person offering it. This is odd. If the offering was not for dealing with sin, why does it produce expiation or propitiation? Leviticus provides a different offering for providing expiation for sin, whatever that means, so why would it have another offering that is not for sin, but which also makes expiation? To resolve this conundrum, we need to analyse the Hebrew word translated "atonement" or "expiation/propitiation".

The Hebrew word "kipper" is hard to translate. When Tyndale made the first English translations, he made up the word atonement for this word and its equivalent in the New Testament. It originated with a Middle English phrase "at onement" which means "in harmony". It describes reconciliation between humans and God. The problem with this word is that it confuses the process of the offering with the outcome. Leviticus does claim that the offerings described establish reconciliation with God. They are just a step towards that objective.

Most English versions translate "kipper" with the words "expiation", "atonement" or "propitiation". The problem is that these are religious words that carry meanings that are not in the Hebrew word "kipper", so we get a distorted understanding because we assume that Leviticus is saying more than it contains. We must avoid imposing religious/theological meanings on the word that go beyond its actual sense. The verb "kipper" is a denominative verb, which means that it is derived from a related noun. We can deduce some of its meaning by understanding the parent noun. The noun "kipper" is a ransom gift. This noun is not used in Leviticus. In Exodus 30:12, it refers to a ransom paid by the children of Israel to God. In Numbers 35:31, it describe a payment made in exchange for his life by a murderer. It is used in a bad way in 1 Samuel 12:3 to describe a bribe. The related verb "kipper" means "cover", "clean", purify" or "remove a contaminant". It does not mean "reconcile" or "forgive". This verb is used throughout the description of the offerings in Leviticus. In the case of the Ascending Offering, there is not sin to remove, so "cover" could be a better translation, because in addition to being an act of worship, it proves spiritual protection for the people of God.

The laity never eats an offering that has an atoning function; only the priests can eat from it. If an offering is for the sins of the priests, they cannot eat from it. Priests and people are not to benefit from their sins. This distinction helps distinguish offerings that have an atoning/cleansing problem.

Feasting is always connected with non-kipper offerings (Num 10:10).

What is Achieved

The Ascending Offering achieves three things for the people of God.

  1. Worship/Attraction
    The Ascending Offering is primarily an expression of worship of Yahweh. The offering produces a pleasing smell for God to enjoy. However, it is not just a smell. The smell represents the worship of the person bringing the offering at considerable cost to themselves, and the priests whose lives are devoted to serving God by making regular offerings. Bringing an offering to Yahweh would be an act of worship for the giver.

    The purpose of the Ascending Offering was to attract God's attention and presence. It was an invitation to him to come to bless his people (Ex 20:24). God is drawn down to his people. It ensures his presence in the tabernacle. The core role of the offering is attraction.

    The Ascending Offering is a non-atoning offering.

  2. Food for Priests
    The priests and their families receive meat and bread to eat. They do not have any land of their own, so they cannot grow their own food. They do not have any other source of income. The priests and their families live on the meat and bread that are brought in the various offerings brought by the people of God. The meat must be eaten within three days of being offered. Any meat not used up within three days must be burned (Lev 7:16-17). The pots used for cooking must be kept separate from normal use (Lev 6:26-29).

  3. Spiritual Protection
    Through the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the spiritual powers of evil gained authority over humans on earth. When the children put Passover blood on their doorposts, they were protected from the destroyer who killed the firstborn of Egypt. This defeat of the powers of evil enabled them to escape from Egypt. The victory continued when the Egyptian army was destroyed in the Red Sea, but the spiritual powers of evil did not give up. They continued to harass God's people as they travelled through the wilderness.

    The Tabernacle offerings provided an effective method of spiritual protection for the children of Israel. This protection was not possible, but it was the best protection possible prior to the death of Jesus and the total defeat of the spiritual powers of evil on the cross.

    The fall placed humans under the power of the spiritual powers of evil. They demanded blood as the ransom price for setting them free. To live in peace, the children of Israel need to pay a ransom in blood to the spiritual powers of evil who had enslaved them. Prior to the cross, the blood of animals was the ransom they would accept. Unfortunately, this price was not one-off and complete. The ransom price had to be paid again and again. That was painful, but it was worth it to escape the control of the powers of evil. The benefit was that the ransom price was "acceptable" to the spiritual powers of evil (Lev 1:4).

    This spiritual protection had a significant economic cost for the children of Israel because some of the best livestock (without flaws), which were essential for their agrarian economy, had to be killed in their prime. Killing their best animals just as they reached maturity was a big setback for a small-time farmer. Giving up such a valuable animal would be rarely painful for them. Because the offering brings spiritual protection, "covering" is a good translation of "kabar". The offering is a ransom price that provides spiritual covering against the spiritual powers of evil. This is why Leviticus 1:4 says that the Ascending Offering makes kipper (covering) because it provides spiritual protection.

    The blood belongs to God, because it is life. He loves life, so he does not seek bloodshed. The spiritual powers of evil love death, so they demand bloodshed at every opportunity. The Ascending Offering was one way the children of Israel could escape their harassment by offering them the blood that they demanded.

    The priest did not burn the blood and offer it to God. Rather he splashed a little on the side of the altar and poured out the rest of the blood on the ground all around the altar at the entrance to the tabernacle courtyard (Lev 1:5). This is the place where the spiritual powers of evil gathered, so this is where blood was offered to them. When Abel killed Cain, the ground cried out for blood (actually, it was the spiritual powers of evil who demanded it (Gen 4:10). So when they are given a ransom price of blood, it is not treated in a special way, but just poured on the ground. They don't get any special treatment. Something for God goes up, while something for them goes down.

Grain Alternative

A grain offering described in Leviticus 2 is a non-animal version of the Ascending offering. The Hebrew word "minchah" used to name the offering literally means "gift". The offerings can take two forms: raw flour or bread that had been baked in an oven. This offering had the same role as the Ascending offering, but it was an option for people who had access to grain and not livestock. I presume that it was a cheaper option than offering a bull or a sheep for those who were poor. However, it was pleasing to God.

According to the letter to the Hebrews, the priests of the tabernacle are expected to bring both "gifts and offerings" to God (5:1,8:3,9:9). When an offering does not have an atoning function, it is called a "food gift" (isseh).

The steps involved in making a grain offering were similar to those for an Ascending Offering, but there were some differences.

A couple of points should be noted. The grain offering has two purposes.

2. Wellbeing Offering (selemin)

The Hebrew word is "selemin" is closely connected to the word "shalom", which means peace, but it takes a broader meaning that includes "wellbeing, safety, and completeness". The offering is an expression of thanks to Yahweh for his blessing on a person's life.

The process for offering a Wellbeing Offering is very similar to the Ascending Offering, so I will just outline the differences.

Three things should be noted. The Wellbeing Offering has four purposes.

The ascending offering represents food for God. The Wellbeing Offering provides food for the people. Together, these offerings represent a shared meal, and feasting between God and the people.

Passover is a form of communal Wellbeing Offering. It is not a substitutionary death. The blood was not put on an altar by a priest. A lamb was not offered at the tabernacle during subsequent Passover celebrations. They were a unique type of wellbeing celebration. The motivation was thanksgiving for deliverance. It was a joyous celebration, not mourning for sin.

The word kipper is not used when describing the Wellbeing Offering.

3. Decontamination Offering (hattat)

Leviticus 4 describes a Decontamination Offering that was used when someone strays from God's way unintentionally, inadvertently, or by mistake, and their sin becomes known to them.

Different offerings are specified depending on who has sinned and the seriousness of their sinning.

The sins of a high priest or a leader do more harm than those of ordinary people, so a more costly sacrifice is required when they sin.

These offerings are for unintentional sins only. These are sins that are done by mistake. The person does something without realising what they are doing is wrong. They have gone astray and made a mistake. Perhaps they did not know their action was prohibited by the Torah. Perhaps they did not understand the consequences of their actions.

The offering is made when the sin is made known to them.

These sins are deliberate actions, but the person did not realise they are sinning. Leviticus does not give a list of unintentional sins.

The Decontamination Offering apples to a very limited range of sins, as there are few that would be genuinely unintentional.


The Decontamination Offering has the following steps.

Holy of Holies

When the Decontamination Offering is brought by an Anointed Priest who has sinned, or on behalf of the entire community of Israel for a common sin, the form of offering is different as some blood is taken into the Holy of Holies.

This practice suggests that the sin of the anointed priest and a common sin committed by the entire community are far more serious than those of the ordinary people, and even leaders. A situation where these offerings are necessary should be rare.

Purpose of the Decontamination Offering

The Decontamination Offering has four purposes. The decontamination offering does not deal with all sins, but only those that contaminate the tabernacle. The reasons behind this are explained in a section called Pure and Impure below.

4. Reparation Offering (asam)

The final offering described in Leviticus 5:14-6:7 is the Reparation Offering. The Hebrew word used is "asam", which means guilt, but can also mean reparation or compensation. Leviticus specifies the situations in which it applies.

The first set of sins that need reparation are sins done with mistaken understanding. They intended to take the action, but the consequences were unintended. This is why the sinner is liable to God. These sins are less serious than many, but slightly more serious than the ones dealt with by the Decontamination Offering. The latter were done without intention, so there is no guilt. These sins bring liablility, because they were deliberate actions, although the consequences were not foreseen.

The person who commits these is "liable" to God. The word liable is a financial term. There is a debt to God that must be repaid (Lev 5:19). The debt is incurred because the person has contaminated the tabernacle, where God dwells.

The person who is guilty of these sins must confess their fault (Lev 5:5). Repentance and confession are sufficient to cleanse the person. Leviticus promises that they will be forgiven (Lev 5:10,11).

They must bring a female sheep or goat to the priest to be offered as a Decontamination Offering to remove the contamination of the tabernacle. Poor people can bring two doves or two pigeons (Lev 5:7). Those who are really poor can bring some fine flour (Lev 5:11).

With are related set of sins, the sinner has the option of making payment by way of reparation.

The sinner person who has liability to God can make a financial donation to the tabernacle that is of equivalent value to the animal for the Reparation Offering as repentance. He also had to make a reparation offering because his sin had contaminated God's home (Lev 6:7).


The process is similar to the Decontamination Offering. The Reparation Offering has four purposes.


There is an allowance for poverty. If the person cannot afford an animal, they must bring two young turtle doves or pigeons (Lev 5:7). One bird is for a Decontamination Offering, and the other is for an Ascending Offering (Lev 5:7).

If the sinner cannot afford two birds, they are able to bring a couple of litres of flour (Lev 5:11). The priest takes a fistful, mixes it with oil and frankincense and places it on the bronze altar. The remainder of the grain will belong to the priests for their food. This offering is effective without any shedding of blood, so it suggests that the person's confession is sufficient to make peace with God.


The Israelites were small farmers, so sacrificing an animal would be a significant economic burden. It would not be something that they could do every few months. They would only need to make a Decontamination or Reparation Offering before they go up to the tabernacle for one of the regular feasts. I suspect that most families would only be able to give up a prime animal from their flock or herd every few years at most. Israel had more than a million people, so animals would be offered all the time, but each family would only make an offering infrequently. It would not be something they could do every time they sinned.

Pure and Impure

The Old Testament describes a range of things that are unclean. To understand the role of the Decontamination Offering, we must understand the process by which things become unclean and how they can be purified. We also need to understand how human actions can contaminate the tabernacle where God lives.

The Hebrew word for unclean/impure is "tame", and the world for clean is "taher."

In some ways, the English word "unclean" as it is a negative, ie "not clean". We think of the opposite of clean as "dirty, which is not quite correct. The best way to think about the verb "tame" is as "be polluted".

The Hebrew word" "taher" means "pure". Something that is pure is not contaminated or polluted in any way. Pure gold contains no contaminating metals. It is only gold. In the same way, things are pure (taher) if they are not polluted. They are not a mixture.

To understand the use of the words in the Torah, we need to understand how pure things and people can be polluted to become impure (tame). Most modern commentators don't understand this problem because they operate in a two-agent world (God and people). Once we understand that we live in a three-agent world (God, people, evil spiritual powers), we will realise that the spiritual powers of evil influence people and things in the physical world that we live in.

I believe that things that have become impure (tame) have been polluted in some way by the spiritual powers of evil. The Israelites did not have the fullness of the Spirit, so they did not have the gifts of discernment. They could not discern the presence of spiritual evil on people or things. God had to give them rules so they would no which things were impure, because they might have been polluted by the spiritual powers of evil.

They might not all be polluted all the time, but the rules operated conservatively by identifying things that could possibly be polluted with spiritual evil. That way, the people would no how to avoid them and what to do if there was a risk they had been polluted by contact with impure things.

Not Religious Terms

Religious people assume that clean and unclean are religious terms. When talking about unclean, they often say "ceremoniously unclean". This religious approach creeps into most English translations of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not a religious book. It is a spiritual book. This means that clean and unclean are spiritual terms, not religious terms. The Hebrew word for unclean is "tame". It means foul or dirty. The word translated as clean is "taher". It is much stronger than clean. It means pure, clear or bright. It is used to describe pure gold.

We need to think about what makes things pure and other dirty. Everything God created is pure and good. Unfortunately, the spiritual powers got hold of his creation (through a human mistake) and everything they touched they corrupted and made foul. In the Old Testament, unclean (tame) means spiritually impure, ie contaminated by the spiritual power of evil. The opposite word "taher" means spiritually pure.

The laws dealing with clean and unclean describe things that Israel the children of Israel must avoid because they are polluted by demonic powers. Their problem was that they did not have the gift of spiritual discernment because the Holy Spirit had still not been given. Therefore, God had to give them blanket rules listing things to avoid because they were affected by evil.

Cause of Impurity

The modern world holds a materialistic worldview that assumes that the physical world we can observe is all that exists. Most Christians reject this materialism, but many hold a pseudo-materialistic worldview, because they assume the physical and spiritual realms are almost totally separate. The spiritual world is "up there" with God, and the physical world is "down here" where we live. We will go into the heavenly spiritual realm when we die, but in the meantime, we must live in this physical world, with the Holy Spirit popping in from time to time. This Christian, pseudo-materialistic worldview is wrong and dangerous.

The truth is that the spiritual realms and the physical realm are intimately twined together. There is constant interaction between the two. However, they don't just operate in parallel. Every person and object in the physical realm is in contact with something in the spiritual realm. And the spiritual realm is curved, so that physical objects/people in two different places can be touched by the same spiritual entity in the spiritual realm at the same time. For example, when an Israelite offered a child to Molech in his temple, the tabernacle, which was many miles away, was contaminated by it (Lev 20:3). The evil powers working in the Molech temple could touch the tabernacle while they worked.

The evil spiritual powers that operate in the spiritual realm are always trying to push into the physical realm to do harm. Whenever a physical person, object, building or place experiences an intervention from the evil powers in the spiritual realm, they are left with a residual that contaminates them, even after the evil attack has finished and the evil spirits have departed. For example, If evil spirits spend time in a house where people are doing evil, an unclean residue remains, even when the people and the spirits they carried have moved on. This is why some houses need prayer to be decontaminated.

When evil spirits are allowed to penetrate the physical realm, it unlocks authority for them. They don't always take advantage of this vulnerability, because they often lack the resources to take up every opportunity that is open, but they leave their contamination as a marker so other spirits can see the opportunity and take it up at a later date, when a serious intervention fits better with their plans.

The residue remains even when the spirits have withdrawn from their intervention into the physical realm to go and infiltrate in another place. Explains why a site where a person has been murdered often feels dark, and why flowers don't grow and birds don't sing in a place where evil has been perpetrated.

I think it is better, like the scriptures, to refer to the residue as unclean rather than evil, because the evil spirits have often gone, and what they have left has no evil power. Rather, it is a marker indicating that they might return and attack if they get an opportunity. The residue they have left is unclean/impure, rather than evil, because it has no power in itself. It just opens the way to evil power. Spirits can be evil, but their residue is simply unclean. It only becomes evil when a spirit intervenes directly.

Activity by angels and the Holy Spirit has the opposite effect. The Holy Spirit often leaves a sweet fragrance behind. This is why a cathedral or old church feels different, even to someone who does not believe in God. Note: faeces and urine are not considered to be polluted in the Torah, even though we would think that they are dirty. They are not spiritually polluted.

Spiritual Contamination

A range of activities or things are unclean or impure because they have been contaminated by the spiritual powers of evil. This pollution leaves people vulnerable to spiritual attack, if they are not cleansed. The Torah delineates the following categories of spiritual contamination. The cure for the contamination varies according to its seriousness, so I have categorised them according to the nature of the decontamination.

1. Warfare — Risky Situation

When soldiers are engaged in fighting a war, they will be in close contact with people from nations that are controlled by the spiritual powers of evil. Fighters will often be angry or frightened, so they will be vulnerable to spiritual attack. Evil spirits might move across from the other side to God's side.

Soldiers who have killed an enemy ore touched someone who was killed must stay outside the camp for seven days (Num 31:23). They are to decontaminate themselves on the third and seventh days and decontaminate their clothes. There decontamination is done by washing with water (Num 31:24).

All captured loot must be purified. Gold or other metals must be passed through fire to decontaminate it. Everything else must be cleansed by passing through water (Num 31:21-23).

2. Risky Situations Due to Possible Pollution

These situations are purified by the passing of time and washing with water.

Dead body

When a person dies, the evil spirits they carry look for somewhere to go. They will often move over to those who touch the dead body. When a person dies, any evil spirits they carried will look for a place to go, so people should be careful around dead bodies (Lev 21:1-3). Therefore, avoiding dead bodies was a way of avoiding evil spirits. A person who touches a corpse or fresh grave will be impure for seven days (Num 19:14). They can purify themselves with water containing some special ashes (Num 19:1-13).

Vessels and ovens that come in contact with something dead or an impure animal are considered to be impure until evening (Lev 19:31-36). The passing of the hours makes them pure again. Sometimes, water can be used to purify them (Lev 19:37).

Seminal Emissions and Sexual Relations

The spiritual powers of evil hate new life, so they can sometimes try to do harm before conception. When a couple of sexual relations, they are considered impure until evening. They should bathe in water to purify themselves (Lev 11:18). If the man discharges semen, he is impure until evening and must wash himself and his clothes in water (Lev 11:16).


This risk is also due to the link with new life and birth. For a woman who is menstruating, anything that she touches is considered to be impure until evening (Lev:15-23). A man who has sexual relations with her is considered to be impure for seven days (Lev 15:24). In each case, passing time is sufficient to purify the object or person.

Impure Animals

The law specified a list of impure animals, but impure animals existed before the law was given. Noah took impure animals onto the ark (Gen 7:2,8). That raises an interesting question. Where did they come from? When God finished creating the animals, he said that they were good (Gen 1:24). The answer is that God had given authority on earth to Adam and Eve. They were tricked into submitting their authority to the spiritual powers of evil, and then could not get it back.

So during the 1000-plus years between creation and the flood, the spiritual powers of evil had a free hand to work on earth. At first, there were not many people to attack, so they concentrated their power on corrupting and perverting some of the animals and plants. The evil angels do not have the ability to create new specifies, as God did. However, they could modify the genetic material of existing species to make new ones. The animals that they had modified are referred to as impure.

These impure animals were the work of evil angels, so there was a risk that they were still attached to them. The children of Israel were warned not to eat these animals, as if they did, they might take on the evil spirits that are attached to them. Leviticus 11:1-28 gives a complete list of impure animals, birds and fish. Many of the impure animals are destructive scavengers. They enjoy eating rotten bodies of sick and dead animals. This reflects the nature of the evil spirits that modified them. They also love destruction. They do not have the power to create anything, but they love to scavenge on God's creation.

Anyone who touches the corpse of an impure animal is impure until evening. The passing of the hours purifies them (Lev 11:24). Anyone who carried the corpse of an impure animal must wash their clothes as well as waiting until evening (Lev 11:25).

Low Risk

These situations are all low risk because there are not enough evil spirits to take advantage every time they occur. Therefore, time and water are sufficient to remove any decontamination they might have left behind. These impurities can be washed off with water. Some commentators refer to them as "minor impurities". These impurities are contagious. I presume that if an evil spirit attacked a person, they could jump to a person that they encountered if they were more vulnerable.

3. Pollution that Affects the Tabernacle

The tabernacle was in the middle of the Israelite camp and was surrounded by various tribes. It belonged to the people, so there was a spiritual link between each family and the tabernacle. The people and the tabernacle touched the same place in the spiritual realms, so that when a family did something wrong that gave access to the powers of evil, both they and the tabernacle were contaminated. It was like they were connected by a spiritual wormhole. The consequence of this connection was that the actions of the people contaminated the tabernacle with the same unclean residue as the person taking the action. When people engaged in particular activities, they allowed the spiritual powers of evil to penetrate further into the camp towards the tabernacle. It seems that if these powers got too close, they could contaminate the tabernacle with their unclean residue (Lev 16:16).

The tabernacle belongs to God and the people. If the spiritual powers of evil get access to a person, they get access to the tabernacle, because part of it belongs to the person.

The powers of evil would not usually choose to enter the tabernacle if they penetrated it, because they would be overwhelmed by God's strong presence, but if they were able to unlock sufficient access points, they might feel they could attack with enough force and ugliness that God would choose to leave (Lev 18:26-30). If the contamination of the tabernacle became too strong, God might become uncomfortable in the tabernacle and move away.

Losing God's presence would be a huge disaster for the children of Israel. To prevent this from happening, God arranged for the tabernacle to be cleansed once a year. This annual cleansing ensured that the tabernacle remained a pleasant place for God to dwell. He also provided solutions for people who took these actions.

Some of them were sinful, but many were not. The solutions were more complicated. The person had to be purified. A Decontamination Offering or Reparation Offering had to be made to purify the tabernacle and its furniture. Leviticus lists several ways that the tabernacle could be contaminated. Some commentators call these "major impurities". These impurities reside on both the person and the tabernacle, or its furniture.

Child Birth

Child birth is a risky situation (Lev 12). The spiritual powers of evil hate new lives, so there is sometimes a risk that they will attack the mother and harm the new baby. There is no sin here. It would be an undeserved evil attack. It seems that if the spiritual powers of evil can gain access to a woman during childbirth, it affects the tabernacle.

Abnormal Genital Discharge

Abnormal discharges can sometimes be the result of a spiritual attack. For a woman, it might consist of permanent bleeding (Lev 15:25-30). For a man, it might be a continuous discharge of fluid (Lev 15:1-15). In both cases, the attack would contaminate part of the tabernacle.

Scale Disease

Skin disease was often the first sign that someone was under attack by evil spirits. Therefore, avoiding someone with a skin disease was a means of spiritual protection. People with particular types of skin diseases were considered impure (Lev 13). Gaining access to a person's skin also allowed the spiritual powers of evil to contaminate the tabernacle.

Scale in a house has the same effect (Lev 14:33-45). In serious cases, the house might need to be demolished.

Priest and Corpse

If a touches a corpse, they become impure like every other person. The difference is that the contamination spread to the tabernacle.

Unintended Sins

Leviticus 5:1-4 lists some unintended sins, which also contaminate the tabernacle.

Leviticus 6:1-4 lists sins of deception that allow theft of property. These sins contaminate the tabernacle.

Stealing can be downgraded by repentance (Lev 5:17)

Sex with a bonded maid servant (Lev 19:20-23). She will be freed.


These actions and sins that affect the tabernacle require a more complicated three-step solution for impurities that affect the tabernacle, because they reside in two places: the person's body and the tabernacle.

Where the problem has no associated sin (most of them), a Decontamination Offering cleansed the tabernacle. A Decontamination Offering was made to cleanse the tabernacle before it was first used, when no sins had been identified (Exodus 29:36-37). If the problem is the result of sin (such as the unintended ones listed above), a Reparation Offering will cleanse the tabernacle. In this situation, the person has a liability to God because their actions have contaminated his house. They are responsible for purifying it again. This offering was not a compensation for sin.

Land Contamination

There types of sin have more serious consequences. They actually contaminate the land, so an offering that purifies the temple is not sufficient to deal with the problem that they create. Three types of sin fall into this category.

The Torah does not provide an offering to deal with these sins. They make the land impure, and their is no sacrifice that can purify the land.

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it (Num 35:33).

The only solution is community exclusion of the person (spiritual death) (Lev 20:1-18; Num 18:30-31). This seems harsh, but it keeps the evil spirits that controlled the sinner away from the rest of the people.

If the people who commit these sins are not excluded from the tribes, the land will eventually spew all the people out (Lev 18:24-29; Ex 22:3.4,6,12; 36:17:18)). When the people are sent into exile, the land will be cleansed because the evil spirits will travel out of the land with them (Lev 26:34-335.43). An empty land becomes an evil-spirit-free land.

The only exception to this tough requirement is the situation of an unsolved murder. There is a process for the elders to purify the land if no one can be held accountable (Deut 21:1-9). This is not a sacrifice because it does not take place at an altar, and no priests are involved. The cow does not shed blood.

Jesus and Impurity

Jesus changed the situation with regard to things that are contaminated and become impure.

Jesus totally changed the situation for dealing with the impurity of people and things. However, he could not cleanse the land if people continued sinning, so Israel was exiled from their land by the Romans.

Day of Cleansing

One of the important annual celebrations that God commanded Israel to fulfil is usually called the Day of Atonement. The Hebrew expression is "yom kippur". Translating the Hebrew word "kippur" as "atonement" smuggles too much religious baggage into the word. Words like "propitiation" and "expiation" have the same problem. The word means "covering/cleansing", so we will understand what is happening on this day better, if we think of it as the Day of Cleansing.

Leviticus 23:26-32 gives the date on which this occasion is to be celebrated. It was to be a holy day, a day of total rest from work (Sabbath), when the people were to humble themselves. The celebration is to be held once a year (Ex 30:10; Lev 16:34).

Leviticus 16 gives a detailed description of what must happen on this day.

Main Activities

The key actions on the Day of Cleansing were as follows.

Several important points should be noted about the Day of Cleansing.

Incense Enough

When the High Priest went into the holy of holies, he offered a cloud of incense to God. That kept him safe in the presence of God. The incense was all God needed from him to be acceptable. He did not need to appease God with blood or some other sacrifice to be acceptable.

Covering and Cleansing

The High Priest put blood on the cover of the covenant box and the golden altar. This was not done to appease God, but to cleanse them from the effects of the people's impurities. Many English translations use the word "atonement", but the Hebrew word is "kipper". As noted, it means to cleanse or cover. The covenant box and the golden altar are physical things, so they could not commit sins, so they didn't need their sins to be atoned for.

Leviticus 16:16 refers to the "impurities" of the people needing to be cleansed because the tabernacle dwelt in the midst of the people's impurities. The Hebrew word is "toomah", which means impurity or uncleanness. Because the people were often impure, it seems that the tabernacle also picked up some spiritual impurity during the year, despite frequent Decontamination and Reparation Offerings (I presume this impurity gave the spiritual powers of evil a right to come closer).

The tabernacle did not need to be atoned for, because it does not sin, but it did need to be cleansed of the impurity that had affected it. The blood of the bull and the goat offered as a Decontamination Offering spiritually cleansed the tabernacle. Like the blood of the Passover, the blood on the covenant box and the golden altar was a warning to the spiritual powers of evil to stay away from the tabernacle and its furniture.

Blood cleanses and purifies when sprinkled on physical objects that may have been subject to spiritual contamination (Lev 16:19). The Hebrew word translated "cleanse" is "taher", which literally means to be made bright, and by implication, to make pure or make clean. Hebrews 9:22 confirms that "almost all things are purified/cleansed with blood".

Leviticus 16:30 summarises the objective of the Day of Cleansing. The objective of making a covering over the people is to “cleanse/purify them from all their wrongdoings so they will be clean/pure before Yahweh. They come before Yahweh in the tabernacle, so it is purified on the Day of Cleansing.

Azazel and the Wilderness

The second goat is for Azazel. Many English translations call this goat the scapegoat, but the correct translation of the Hebrew word "azazel" is debated. The most common view is that Azazel was the name of a ruler-demon who controlled the wilderness areas. The wording of Leviticus 16:8 suggests two contrasting spiritual beings: Yahweh and Azazel.

Deuteronomy 8:15 describes it as "the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions, and its thirsty ground". For the Israelites trekking through it towards the Promised Land, it was a dangerous place where they came under intense spiritual attack. The tabernacle offerings provided protection for them. Azazel was probably the controlling spirit organising these attacks.

Depravities and Transgressions

The High Priest confessed the depravities and transgressions of the Israelites over the head of the goat for Azazel. These are really strong words. The Hebrew word translated depravity is "avon", which comes from a root meaning twisted or bent. It means depravity, perversity or iniquity. The Hebrew word translated transgression is "pasha", which comes from a root meaning breaking away. It means transgression or rebellion. These words indicate serious perversity and rebellion, which is quite different from the sins dealt with by the Decontamination Offering and the Reparation Offering. They were for sins committed by mistake or without realising something was being done wrong. Hebrews calls them sins committed in ignorance (Heb 9:7). The sins confessed over the goat for Azazel were really different of a different order, because they were done deliberately by people choosing to disobey God.

Examples of these serious sins could be hatred, anger, cheating, pride, etc. They were not dealt with by regular tabernacle offerings because they were more serious than the Decontamination Offering could deal with. Instead, they are placed on the head of this goat, which is sent out into the wilderness to die. A domestic goat would not survive being sent into a wilderness where predators abound.

The Goat was assigned to Azazel, who is a demonic ruler of the spiritual powers of evil that operated in the wilderness. The depravities and transgression were sent back to him, because he was responsible for them. The spiritual forces he controlled were constantly harassing the children of Israel and persuading them to rebel against God. The reason that they rebelled was that their spiritual protection was incomplete, and the powers of evil were able to manipulate them.

God sent these serious depravities and transgressions back where they came from. Because he understood why they had fallen, he was willing to forgive them. All he required from them was a Decontamination Offering to remove any residual influence of the spiritual powers of evil from the tabernacle.

The Day of Cleansing could not deal with serious sins that polluted the land (sexual immorality, bloodshed, and idolatry). The only solution for these most serious sins was community exclusion. If that was not carried out, the entire people would eventually be exiled from the land. Allowing the land a set of Sabbaths would purify it from the influence of the spiritual powers of evil.

Order and Timing

The order and timing of activities are not clear in Leviticus 16. The chapter describes the various animals that must be selected first (Lev 16:3,7-10). The rest of the chapters describe various offerings and activities. One possibility is that the priest killed the bull, the ram and the goat, before he washed and changed his garments, as it would be difficult to slaughter them without getting blood splattered on his special clothes. The other possibility is that other priests helped him with the slaughter process so he did not get dirty.

It is not clear when the ram bought by the people is killed and offered. It might have been left until the goat had been sent into the wilderness and the priest had changed his clothing. Or the ram might have been killed at the same time as the bull, and its fat offered as an Ascending Offering throughout the day, along with the bull's fat.

The text suggests that the priest slaughtered the goat after he had been into the tabernacle with the bull's blood, but that might not be right. He might have slaughtered the bull and the goat together and then taken their blood into the tabernacle one after the other.

An entire day was allocated for the activities, so there was no need for the priest to do them in the quickest possible way. He had time to go in and out of the tabernacle twice, once with the bull's blood and once with the goat's blood. The order has no effect on the significance of what happened.

Fit for Purpose

The Old Testament offerings were effective (Heb 9:13), but their effect did not last because the spiritual powers of evil are tricky and refuse to give up in the face of setbacks. The tabernacle offerings fulfil their purpose, but not permanently, so they have to be repeated again and again (Heb 10:1). The effect of the Day of Cleansing was not permanent either, but it was sufficiently effective that it only needed to be repeated once a year. And I presume that timetable had a margin for safety.

The Old Testament offerings could not make people perfect, but that was not their purpose. It is not fair to expect them to complete a task that only the Holy Spirit can do. The purpose of the tabernacle offerings was to provide protection from the spiritual powers of evil, and they did that well. They could not do it perfectly, but they did the job well enough to allow God to accomplish his purposes for his people. The tabernacle sacrifices were fit for purpose. 

Why Blood?

When I spill blood from a cut on my hand or face, it stains the garment it drips on. The stain is very hard to get out. Therefore, I have always been puzzled by the way blood is used to cleanse things in the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, which I have studied in detail in an attempt to get an understanding of how cleansing with blood works.

For impurities that pollute the tabernacle, the remedy is cleansing with blood. We need to understand how people and things become impure, and why blood has this effect (see Pure and Impure above).

Blood Demanded

The key to understanding why blood cleanses is recognising the human situation. When Adam and Eve sinned and trusted the deceiver, they placed themselves under his authority. Because God had given them authority over everything on earth, this was a huge disaster, because it gave the spiritual powers of evil authority over the earth. This meant that God could not rescue humans from their situation without getting their permission.

The spiritual powers of evil demanded the lives of all humans in their power. This was clever, because if they could wipe humans out, they would have free rein on earth. They demanded the shedding of blood as a ransom payment for setting humans free. As the ones with ownership authority over humans, they had the right to decide what the ransom payment should be. It seems that they accepted the animal blood offered in the Tabernacle as a down payment for the blood of his Son that God had agreed to eventually give them.

The blood offered on the bronze altar was a partial ransom payment to the spiritual powers of evil, so the tabernacle offering set the people free from the immediate consequences of their sins. However, the people could not be completely transformed until the Holy Spirit was poured out, so during Old Testament times, they kept falling back into sin. This is why the tabernacle offerings had to be repeated again and again.

The people urgently needed the full and final ransom that Jesus would pay when he died on the cross. His death and the blood that he shed satisfied the demands of the spiritual powers of evil, so they had to give up their authority over humans and over the earth. His death was a terrible defeat for them.

Why Blood Cleanses

Whereas waiting and washing were enough to deal with minor impurities, but spiritual contamination of the tabernacle is much more serious because the spiritual powers of evil can do terrible harm if they were not controlled. Prior to the cross, when they were defeated by Jesus, the best way to restrain them was by offerings in the tabernacle. The tabernacle could be cleansed by the sprinkling of blood. The spiritual powers of evil could be appeased by the blood that was poured out beside the bronze altar at the entrance to the tabernacle courtyard when they brought their offerings to the priests.

The Leviticus offerings are based on the reality that "life is in the blood" (Lev 17:11).

Blood combines the physical and the spiritual. This means that it operates in both the physical and the spiritual realms. It is physical, but contains life which is spiritual. It functions in both realms.

When God created Adam, he breathed life into his nostrils. God is spirit, so his breath was spiritual. This spiritual life went into Adam's lungs and was absorbed into his blood. The life of God, which is spiritual, was absorbed into his blood through his lungs. His blood then carried life that came from God. Animal life is different, because God did not breathe in them when he created them.

Blood that has been offered in obedience to God carries good life, which pushes into the spiritual realms and squeezes out the unclean spiritual residue that has been deposited on an object or place by the spiritual powers of evil. When blood was sprinkled on the covenant box and the horns of the golden altar, the life in the blood seeped into the spiritual world in the place where the tabernacle linked to it. This removed the unclean residue that the spiritual powers of evil have put in place and closes any authority they think they have gained.

A Decontamination Offering was often made after the birth of a child (Lev 12:6-8), persistent menstrual bleeding (Lev 15:25,30), sometimes for a house that was contaminated (Lev 14:48-53) or a person with malignant skin disease (Lev 14:21-22,30-31). The blood removed the unclean residue the spiritual powers of evil had left behind in the tabernacle by getting access through the impurity on the person’s body.

In these situations, the person may not always have been attacked by an evil spirit, but the people in Old Testament times did not have the gift of discernment to know. So it was best to make the offering for cleansing with blood in case they had. The Torah rules were based on a conservative strategy of playing on the safe side.

We don’t need to sprinkle blood on objects and places these days, because we sit with Jesus at God’s right hand, far above all spiritual authority, so we can command them to leave a place or thing, and we can speak life into it to push out the unclean spiritual residue they have left. Hebrews 9:22 says that all things were cleansed by blood.

God always had a Plan

God has a coherent plan for bringing deliverance to the world. Each new covenant that he established was not designed to replace the old because it had failed, but an extension of the previous covenant to gain additional benefits for him and his people. The new covenant that Jesus established by his death and resurrection was the ultimate fulfilment of his plan.

God does not make mistakes, and he knows what he is doing, so his covenants did not fail. Each one achieved what he expected it to do. Each one prepared the way for the next one.

The Rainbow covenant established with Noah gave God the authority to intervene when evil got out of hand. Placing a constraint on evil was a limited gain, but it was a start.

The covenant with Abraham created a people for God, but they did not yet have a land. He lived a wandering life, so he was relatively safe from spiritual attack if he stuck with God. Abraham created one nation, but God wanted all the people of the world.

The covenant with Moses established a land for the people with laws that enabled them to live in peace with each other in close quarters. By coming together in his way, they became vulnerable to spiritual attack, but the Tabernacle offerings provided spiritual protection for them if they stayed loyal to God. This covenant was a huge advance, but Moses only got one piece of land, whereas God wanted the entire earth. The Holy Spirit was active, but only on a few special people, mostly prophets. God wanted a broader range of ministries.

Jesus' ministry achieved everything that God needed done on earth and in the spiritual realms to achieve his purposes. This covenant was complete. Nothing was lacking, and nothing still needed to be done.

  1. Jesus' death on the cross defeated the spiritual powers of evil by shedding the blood that they demanded as a ransom for setting humans free. The soldier pierced his side, and the blood ran down onto the ground where they wanted it. The blood was for the powers of evil, not for God. If Jesus had to die to appease God, he would have died in the temple, and his blood would have been put on the altar, but he died outside the city, where the powers of evil controlled the situation.

    Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).
    Once he had paid the ransom they demanded, they lost their authority over humans and over the earth.

  2. God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead (Col 1:19). The spiritual powers of evil were happy to give up their authority over humans in return for killing the Son of God. They believed that by killing him, God's plans would be totally defeated. However, God foiled them by raising Jesus from the dead. From their point of view, this was a massive disaster because they had given up authority over the people of the world to destroy the Son of God, which seemed like a good deal, but then Jesus was raised, so they lost out twice, and were left powerless. They can never recover from this defeat.

  3. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, so he was not allowed to be a priest while living on earth (Heb 8:4). Rising from the dead qualified Jesus to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who had neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb 7:3). Having become a priest in this order, Jesus was qualified to enter the heavenly holy of holies and bring an offering to God. He did not need to cleanse the heavenly tabernacle because it was already holy.

  4. Ten days after he was raised from the dead, Jesus ascended into the spiritual realms to be with God, the Father. He passed "through the heavens" (Heb 7:14) and became a High Priest who can sympathise with our weakness. In him, we can boldly approach the throne of grace and obtain mercy and forgiveness. In response to Jesus' request, God agreed to have mercy and forgive everyone who trusts in him (Heb 7:15-16). He takes away our shame by saying that we are "OK".

    Jesus keeps on asking for mercy on our behalf. He has faced the same battles that we face and understands how difficult it is to serve God through the intense spiritual battle that is taking place on earth. He defends us from every accusation of the enemy.

  5. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father, who appointed as King of Creation, far above all rule and every authority in both the spiritual and earthly realms (Heb 1:3; Eph 1:20-23).

  6. Jesus threw the powers of evil out of their place in the spiritual realms where they had operated (Rev 12:7-12). Prior to the cross, they were able to go into God's presence and accuse his people of sinning and demand that they be allowed to punish them. They lost that role when Jesus ascended into God's presence. This is part of Jesus' intercession on our behalf.

  7. Jesus poured the Holy Spirit out on his people. He released a much fuller manifestation of spiritual gifts. He released a broader range of ministries to strengthen the church (Acts 2:32-33; Eph 4:7-12).

  8. Jesus organises the holy angels to support his people in their activities and ministry for him (Heb 1:14). Jesus' ministry and the new covenant that he established completed each of the tasks that the earlier covenants had started (1-4) and provided several additional benefits for God's people (5-8).

Jesus Blood

Many Christians believe that Hebrews teaches that Jesus took his blood into the spiritual Holy of Holies when he ascended, but I can't find that in the scriptures, which suggests that something is wrong with the idea. Heb 13:12 is clear that he shed his blood outside the gate of the city.

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
He did not keep any of the blood that flowed in a vessel, as the priests would have done in the tabernacle, so he had no blood to take into the spiritual Holy of Holies. Jesus was dead, so he was not able to gather any of his blood in a jar, even if he had wanted it preserved.

At the point of his death, Jesus could not capture blood to offer to God as he was not a priest (due to being born of Judah). And he did not tell any of his followers to do it, although some were of the priestly line. Jesus' blood was poured out on the ground at Golgotha, just like the blood was poured on the ground by the bronze altar outside the entrance of the tabernacle. The spilt blood was the payment of the ransom demanded by the spiritual powers of evil. They wanted life, not blood, but demanded blood as a way of taking life.

The Old Testament priests offered blood as it contained life. They could not offer their own lives, as they were not willing to die. Hebrews says that Jesus offered his own life to God when he went into the Holy of Holies. God does not want blood; he wants life. He wants our lives and redeemed us so we can live the full lives he created us to live. God is all about life, not blood.

Jesus' ministry was a process just like the offerings described in Leviticus. Dying was just the first step in the process that ended with him offering himself to God in the spiritual Holy of Holies. Once raised, he became a priest after the order of Melchizedek and could enter the Holy of Holies.

Hebrews teaches us that Jesus offered himself when he entered the presence of God. The phrase offered himself is used numerous times in the book (Heb 7:27; 8:3; 9;14; 9:25; 9:28;10:10): It never says that he offered his blood. Heb 9:12 says that he" entered by his blood" and gained redemption for us (we needed to be redeemed/ransomed from the spiritual powers of evil).

He entered the Most Holy Place once for all through his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
His blood was shed on the cross and dropped onto the ground. Jesus was made perfect by this suffering, which allowed him to become a priest and go into the Holy of Holies.

Heb 9:14 says that his "blood cleanses our consciences (from the accusations of the spiritual powers of evil) but that "he offers himself unblemished to God" by the power of the Holy Spirit (ie the resurrection).

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
When Jesus rose again, he had a spiritual body. I presume that it had the spiritual equivalent of blood (whatever that means), but it was not offered, apart from his entire being and life. He went into the heavenly holy of holies and offered his entire human life to his Father, a life that culminated in his suffering and death. His life was a worthy offering, so his Father was pleased with him and offered mercy to the people who belong to him (Heb 8:12).

Ironically, the Old Testament priests never presented blood to God in the holy of holies. In Leviticus, the word "present/bring" is applied to the person bringing the animal or grain and giving it to the priest. The priest enters behind the curtain and splatters blood on the covering of the covenant box and on the horns of the golden altar, but he does not put it on top of the altar as an offering. In contrast, the fat of the animal is placed on the fire on the bronze altar and the smoke rises to Yahweh as a pleasant odour, ie the fat is offered to him for a pleasant odour, but the blood is not. Burning blood has an unpleasant smell. Blood cleansed the tabernacle and paid a down payment on the ransom demanded by the spiritual powers of evil.

Hebrews focuses on what the blood of Jesus achieves, not where it goes. The main thing it does is deliver us from the spiritual powers of evil (Heb 4:14-16) and thereby cleanse our consciences because they can no longer accuse us before God or in our hearts (Heb 9:14).

God Does Not Need Blood

God does not need blood. Why would he want it? He wants to rescue us so we can live our lives for him, as Jesus lived for him.

If God was unable to rescue us from the spiritual powers of evil because we refuse to be rescued, he could just disappear us (unless he wanted to torture us for our unwillingness to be rescued, but that would make him an ugly God). God created the universe and sustains all existence and life by his power, so if he became frustrated with me, he could remove me at any time, simply by stopping sustaining my life and letting me disappear from existence. If I have become so bad that God does not think that I am worthy of existence, he does not need to kill me. He can simply discontinue my existence. He does not need my blood.

On the other hand, the spiritual powers of evil are vicious haters who love destroying life. They like blood because it means death. That is why they demand blood as the ransom price for setting us free from our bondage to them. They are the ones who demanded blood because they assumed that no one would be willing to give it, especially for others. They were surprised because Jesus willingly died on the cross and shed his blood to meet their demand, so we could be set free to become the people of God. When he had risen again and ascended into the presence of God and offered his life to him. Paul explains the nature of Jesus' offering to God in Eph 5:2.

Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Jesus offered his life of obedient love to God. This was a sweet-smelling aroma, equivalent to the effect of the incense

offered on the golden altar in the tabernacle.

Hebrews Promises

I have gone through Hebrews and identified every verse that promises something that Jesus has done or will do. I put them in a spreadsheet and sorted them into themes. The following table shows the results.


Phrase Promised

Rescued from Sin


purged our sin


taste death for everyone


bring many sons to glory


pay ransom for sin


eternal redemption


redemption of trespasses


do away with sin





great salvation




delivers from a life of bondage to death


eternal salvation




save to the utmost



merciful high priest


sympathise with our weaknesses


mercy at the throne of grace in time of need


mercy, forget sins


appear in God's presence for us

Made Holy


sanctified from sin


sanctified through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus


suffered outside the camp to sanctify

Clean Conscience


purge conscience, so we can serve the living God


full assurance of clear conscience

Established New Covenant


we are partakers in Christ


better covenant, better promises


better covenant, better promises


mediate new covenant

Future Looking

Law on our hearts


law on hearts


law on our hearts



rest ceased from work


eternal inheritance

Intercession and Help


make intercession


aid those being tempted

King with a Kingdom


destroy the devil by taking the power of death


throne forever, king


waiting for enemies to be made a footstool


all things subject to him


receive a kingdom

The writer to the Hebrews has a strong emphasis on rescuing us from sin. He died outside the camp, shedding his blood to pay the ransom price demanded by the spiritual powers of evil.

Sanctification is mentioned several times, not in the sense of being perfected over time, but in the sense of being cleansed by Jesus' death. A couple of verses speak about our consciences being cleansed. This is important because the accusation of the enemy about our guilt can be an obstacle to following Jesus.

Salvation is a big theme in Hebrews. The problem is that this has become a word with religious meaning, so we have lost sight of what the Greek word "sozo" actually means. It refers to being rescued or delivered from peril/harm. God has delivered us from our slavery to the spiritual powers of evil, which put us in terrible peril. Deliverance is probably a better translation of "sozo". It also means healing from disease.

The main feature of Jesus' character is that he is merciful. He has lived on earth, so he understands how difficult it is to escape from the stronghold that the powers of evil have over us. He gladly sets us free, and continues to intercede with God for us if we fail. He sends the Holy Spirit and his angels to help us in our struggles to serve him. Our ultimate goal is rest with him. In the interim, he puts his laws on our hearts so we can serve him and establish his Kingdom on earth.

Not to Appease God

A common belief among Christians is that the tabernacle sacrifices were necessary to allow God to be in relationship with his people. They assume that God is so holy that he cannot interact with sinful people in any way, so sacrifices were essential to appease his anger so he could come near the people he had chosen. Reading the Old Testament, it is clear that God has never had a problem interacting with sinful people. The initiative was always with God.

All these events took place without any human acknowledgment of sin or blood offerings for transgressions.

We are sometimes taught that God hates sin and can't have anything to do with sinful people, but that is only half true. He does hate sin, but it is because of the harm it allows the spiritual powers of evil to do to people. But it is not true that he cannot have any contact with sinful people. He did it all the time throughout the scriptures. God rescued the children of Israel from Egypt and brought them to the promised land before any offerings had been made. He did not need sacrifices to allow him to intervene, even though the people continued to be obstructive and rebellious the entire way.

The tabernacle offerings were not needed to start or sustain a relationship with God. Rather, they were needed to keep the people and the tabernacle safe from the spiritual powers of evil who had dominated them as slaves in Egypt and wanted to get them back under control again. The offerings specified in Leviticus did that effectively.

The writer to the Hebrews refers to the offerings described in Leviticus throughout the letter. He describes how Jesus defeated the devil, but he never says that a blood offering was needed to appease God or to allow him to interact with his people. The idea that this is their purpose has to be read into the letter from elsewhere.

Blood and Covenants

When God first made a covenant with Abraham, he simply declared his commitment to Abraham and stated the promises he intended to keep (Gen 12:1-9).

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants"... Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath (Heb 6:13,14,17).
Initially, God made his promise to Abraham and swore by himself, by his own unchangeable authority. Unfortunately, God's promise was not enough for Abraham. He kept questioning God because he wanted greater certainty than God's word promised. God responded by confirming the covenant in the way that covenants were confirmed at that time, although it seems a bit odd in modern eyes (Gen 15:9-20). God said,
Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half (Gen 15:9-10).
The meaning of this action is explained in Jeremiah 34:18-19. They would cut some animals in half and place them across from each other. The two parties to a covenant would walk between the divided animals. This was a way of declaring an oath that if they broke the promises they were making, troubles would come on them. They were effectively putting a curse on themselves if they did not comply. They were declaring that if they did not keep the covenant, troubles would come upon them. If they broke the covenant, their blood would be shed.

When Abraham divided the animals and put them in place, birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abraham drove them away. The birds represent the powers of evil. Abraham deliberately drove them off. When night came, Abraham fell into a trance, and a great dark dread came on him (Gen 15:12). I presume this was an attack of doubt due to an attack by the spiritual powers of evil, but God showed what he was doing by confirming his promised with an oath.

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
A smoking firepot, which represented God, passed between the pieces of animals. This confirmed the covenant that God had made with Abraham in the way that covenants were confirmed in those days by passing through between the halved carcases. God confirmed the covenant with the blood of these animals.
On that day, the LORD made a covenant with Abram (Gen 15:18).
He effectively put a curse on himself if he did not keep his promises.

When God made his covenant with Moses, he acted first and rescued the people from Egypt without them making any commitment to him except to go along with plans. He made his covenant promises at Sinai and wrote his requirements on tablets of stone. That should have been enough for the people, but because they were people of the times, they needed a commitment in blood. Moses acceded to this demand and sprinkled the people with blood to conform to his covenant.

Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words (Ex 24:4-8).

The people agreed to keep the covenant that Moses had written down. Moses sprinkled the blood of the bulls on the people and the temporary altar to confirm the covenant with God. The people were placing an oath on themselves. They were saying that if they broke the covenant, their blood could be shed.

Even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people (Heb 9:18-19).

When Moses set up the tabernacle and ordained the priests to serve in it, he sprinkled them with blood after making an Ascending Offering and a Decontamination Offering to cleanse them ready for their task (Ex 29:21). The sprinkling of blood on their garments cleansed them from uncleanness. The tabernacle was the centre of covenant-affirming activities, so it was also a confirmation of their commitment to the covenant with God.

The new covenant established by Jesus was confirmed with blood. Jesus spoke of a "new covenant in his blood" (Luke 22:20).

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote about the blood of the covenant (Heb 10:29).
Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 12:24).
He entered the Most Holy Place once for all through his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption (Heb 9:12).
Hebrews refers to the "blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20).

The new covenant was confirmed with blood, but it was done in reverse. In the Old Testament, the blood represented the people's acceptance of God's covenant. The blood was sprinkled as agreement that if people broke the covenant, troubles would follow, and their blood would be shed.

The new covenant works the other way around. Jesus made the covenant promise to everyone who would heed his call. They don't have to promise that their blood can be shed if they don't keep the covenant. There was no curse, as win the Mosaic covenant. Instead, Jesus shed his blood before the covenant was mediated to pay the ransom that the spiritual powers of evil demanded. He didn't expect the people to put a curse on themselves that could be fulfilled if they broke the covenant. God did not put a curse on himself that could be claimed if he broke the covenant. Instead, Jesus took the curse on himself on the cross before the covenant was even mediated. By shedding his blood, he wore the curse for all future breaking of the covenant before it was even initiated.

This is the blood of the covenant. It was not a threat of future consequences if the covenant was broken. Jesus carried all the future curses of the covenant on the cross. Instead of the animals' blood representing negative consequences for dishonouring the covenant, Jesus' blood took all future curses and promised full blessings to the people of the covenant.

Missing from Leviticus

No Total Depravity

Leviticus does not assume that the people are totally depraved and cannot do anything to please God. The offerings specified are either acts of worship and thanksgiving or for dealing with unintentional sins or impurities picked up while going about life (having sex, having babies, menstruating). This suggests that most of the time, the people would serve God and only sin by mistake. As they go through the events of life, they will accidentally pick up impurity that has to be dealt with. The first seven chapters of Leviticus deal with offerings for things that are not that serious. There are numerous chapters dealing with uncleanness picked during life events such as childbirth without any active sinning. Given this emphasis, it seems that God did not see his people as depraved and impossible to keep safe.

Serious transgressions and depravities would only be dealt with once a year on the Day of Cleansing. This suggests that they would be relatively rare. Otherwise, a more regular remedy would be needed. Since none was given, it seems that God did not expect transgression to be a serious issue. Serious moral impurities, such as idolatry, bloodshed and sexual immorality, could not be dealt with by tabernacle offerings.

The fact that the goat carrying the transgression and depravities was sent to a demonic ruler in the wilderness suggests that God considers him to be their cause. He sends them back to where they come from, because it was the manipulation of the spiritual powers of evil that led people to engage in these 99erse behaviours. No sacrifice is made to God for these transgressions. He can have mercy without imposing any penalty because once the goat had gone, the people were cleansed.

No Penal Substitution

Penal substitution is missing from Levitical offerings and from the Day of Cleansing. The animals are brought by the people are not punished for their sins. Their blood is used for appeasing the spiritual powers of evil and for cleansing objects that are unclean. Their meat is food for the priests. Their fat is burnt to produce a sweet aroma for Yahweh. The animals are offered as an act of worship, so having to cover the cost of losing a valuable animal is not a punishment, but an act of thanksgiving and worship.

Leviticus required that all animals offered should be without blemish (Lev 22:17-22). This means that an animal cannot be hurt or mutilated in any way before it dies. If it was punished, it would have blemishes and not be an acceptable offering. Leviticus never says that the animal is an object of God's wrath. It never says that it is being punished. If it was abused or suffered unnecessarily, God would be offended.

The animals do not die as a substitute for the people who offer them. They placed their hand on the animal even when it was being given as Grain Offering or an Ascending Offering, which was not for sin, so it is not an indicator of substitution. The animals are not killed in the place of the people offering them because the unintentional sins they had committed did not require a death penalty.

The priest confessed the most serious transgression and depravities over the goat for Azazel. These were the worst sins, but the goat was sent into the wilderness. It was not punished. It was not killed, and its blood was not offered to God. The wilderness goat was not a substitute for the people who had sinned. It was a carrier. The people were forgiven their transgressions without paying any penalty.