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No. 107: Re-creation in the Ascension Offering

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 107
Copyright (c) 1998 Biblical Horizons
July, 1998

The following essay is tentative and exploratory, offered for your consideration.

It seems to me that the ritual of the Ascension Offering (incorrectly translated as Burnt Offering) of Leviticus 1 is a symbolic recapitulation of Genesis 1, which thereby portrays the sacrificial ritual as way of moving from a fallen to a new creation. If this notion prove correct, it will shed considerable light on all the sacrificial rituals, as well as on the work of Jesus Christ, whose death made the New Creation possible.

Day 1; Leviticus 1:4. God makes the world, which is formless, empty, and dark. The Spirit comes into the world, bringing light. I suggest that the sacrificial animal, made of earth (Genesis 1:24), not only represents man (made of earth), but also the cosmos of which man is the self-conscious aspect and representative. It appears to me that when the offerer lays his hand on the animal, this parallels the Spirit coming into the creation to work with it.

Day 2; Leviticus 1:5a. God puts a firmament between waters that are above it (in heaven) and waters below it (on the earth). The animal is slain. The animal, appointed as a covering (v. 4, mistranslated as "atonement"), becomes a firmament between God and man, covering man’s sins from God’s eyes. The killing of the animal creates the covering. It is only a death for sin that covers us in God’s eyes, placing a good firmament cover over us.

Day 3; Leviticus 1:5b-6. God creates dry land, the highest point of which is the Holy Mountain, which the altar symbolizes. Blood is dashed against the side of the altar, and dribbles down to its base, as the waters ran off the earth in Day 3 and at the Flood. Then the animal is skinned and cut into pieces. Now, on the second half of Day 3, God created fruit trees and grain plants, the foundations of wine and bread. These two parallel the blood and flesh of the animal, just as in the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine parallel the body and blood of Jesus. Later in Leviticus, God will discuss defilements of the flesh (chapters 11-16), and abominations of the blood (chapters 17-22). Thus, it appears to me that converting the animal into flesh and blood parallels making bread and wine plants on Day 3.

Day 4; Leviticus 1:7. God establishes His hearthfires on the firmament over the earth: sun, moon, and stars. The priests put the holy fire, which came from heaven (Leviticus 9:24) on the altar.

Day 5; Leviticus 1:8. The head and fat, the clean outer and inner parts of the animal, are placed on the fire and turned into smoke as food for God. As seems always to be the case, the link of the fifth element in a seven-fold sequence with Day 5 is problematic. I don’t see any way that head and fat correspond to birds and fishes! So I shall simply have to set this aside for now.

Day 6; Leviticus 1:9a. Animals and men are made from earth. The guts and legs, the unclean inner and outer parts, are baptized and then offered. These represent most fully the offerer, restored by baptism, and thus correspond to the creation of Adam and Eve on Day 6.

Day 7; Leviticus 1:9b. Sabbath. The offering ascends as food, as a soothing (restful) aroma to Yahweh.

Now, these are just preliminary observations. The seven-day pattern of Genesis 1 is recapitulated in Genesis 2, 3, & 4, and in Genesis as a whole, and numerous times in the instructions for the Tabernacle. All of these are background for Leviticus 1. Thus, if my initial thesis is correct, these other creational recapitulations will shed further light on Leviticus 1, providing refinements and new insights.