The Exodus and Conquest
[Exodus - Joshua]
The five main offerings
The Israelites have now been at Sinai for about a year. Israel is to be the earthly representation of God’s kingdom and as
such must be holy (set apart) in all that she does. From the newly constructed Tabernacle of the Congregation, God gives
Moses His laws governing the administration of their lives, which are to be so regulated as to establish Israel as God’s holy
people and to instruct her in holiness.
As part of their religious ritual, there are to be five main offerings. These are specified and regulations concerning them
given. They are:
Burnt Offering -
Voluntary, atonement for unintentional sin in general
Grain Offering -
Voluntary, recognition of God’s goodness and provision
Fellowship Offering -
Voluntary, thanksgiving and fellowship
Sin Offering -
Mandatory, atonement for specific unintentional sin
Guilt Offering -
Mandatory, atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution
As instructed by God, Moses ordains Aaron and his sons as priests. The ordination process involves a sin offering, a burnt
offering and a ram offering for ordination, followed by a period of seven days in which they are to stay at the entrance of
the tabernacle. After seven days their ministry begins with a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement for
themselves and for all the people.
The rules concerning priesthood are very strict, and when two of Aaron’s sons break the rules they are executed by God.
They are taken outside the camp to be mourned by their relatives, but Aaron and his remaining two sons are not permitted
to leave the tabernacle. A stark lesson for the priests.
To keep Israel pure as the representation of God’s kingdom, laws for cleanliness are given. They are concerning: clean and
unclean food; purification after childbirth; regulations about infectious skin diseases and mildew; cleansing from infectious
skin diseases and mildew; and discharges causing uncleanness.
Aaron is instructed in the procedure for the Day of Atonement, which is to become an annual holy day for the Jews – Yom
Kippur. This involves a bull offering for himself, the priest and his household, and two goats, one as a sin offering for all the
people and the other as a scapegoat. Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, representing the transfer of
all the sins of Israel to the goat; then the goat is led out of the camp and released into the wilderness, taking Israel’s sins
Moses is instructed to give the law concerning blood to Aaron, his sons and all the people. No one other than a priest is
permitted to make a blood sacrifice in the tabernacle, and no one is permitted to consume blood. Blood of any animal is to
be drained before the animal is eaten.
Laws are given concerning all manner of sexual relations (Ch 18) as well as a few various moral laws (Ch 19) and
punishments for sin (Ch 20).
Regulations for priests, offerings and feasts
Rules are given that are applicable only to priests, as well as rules concerning unacceptable sacrifices.
Rules are also given concerning observance of appointed feasts: Sabbath, Passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits,
Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The rules are then given for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The
shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before
More civil laws
Punishments are given for blasphemy, murder, and killing of a neighbour’s animal. The level of punishments in general is to
be appropriate for the offence: “an eye for an eye”.
Sabbath and Jubilee years
The laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years are given.
The Sabbath year is every seventh year when the land is to be rested from farming, but the Israelites can feed from crops
that naturally grow on the land.
The Jubilee year is every fiftieth year when all land is returned to its owner and all Israelite slaves freed. Consequently,
land is bought and sold on the basis of how many years are left before the Jubilee year. God says, ‘The land shall not be
sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.’
Provision is also to be made for redemption of the land when an owner has had to sell but later has the means to redeem
it, either of himself or by a kinsman redeemer.
Blessings and curses
The people are told that if they observe God’s Sabbaths, respect His sanctuary and obey His commandments, then their
crops will be abundant and they will live without fear and in peace. But if they do not do these things, then the
consequences will be terrible and increase all the time they do not repent, until they are eventually taken captive by their
enemies. Yet He will not forget them in the land of their enemies, and will wait for their repentance to honour His covenant
with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Offerings vowed to the Lord
Rules are given for things vowed to the Lord in kind. A value is put on them, whether they be people, animals or houses,
and provision is made for their redemption should circumstances deem it necessary.