Burnt-offering (עוֹלָה, olah', from עָלָה, alah', to ascend; Chald. עִלתָּא), a sacrifice which owed its Hebrew name to the circumstance that the whole of the offering was to be consumed by fire upon the altar, and to rise, as it were, in smoke toward heaven. There was in use also the poetical term כָּלַיל kalil', perfect (De 33:10; 1Sa 7:9; Ps 51:19; comp. Jg 20:40); Chald. גּמַירָא; Gr. ὁλοκαύτωμα (Mr 12:33; Heb 10:6; also ὁλοκαύτωσις, seldom ὁλοκάρπωσις or ὁλοκάρπωμα, in Philo ὁλόκαυστον, holocaust), entire burnt-offering, alluding to the fact that, with the exception of the skin, nothing of the sacrifice came to the share of the officiating priest or priests in the way of emolument, it being wholly and entirely consumed by fire. Such burnt- offerings are among the most ancient (Philo, 2:241) on record (Hesiod, Theogn. 535 sq.). We find them already in use in the patriarchal times; hence the opinion of some that Abel's offering (Ge 4:4) was a burnt-offering as regarded the firstlings of his flock, while the pieces of fat which he offered were a thank-offering, just in the manner that Moses afterward ordained, or, rather, confirmed from ancient custom (Leviticus i, sq.). It was a burnt-offering that Noah offered to the Lord after the Deluge (Ge 8:20). Throughout the whole of the book of Genesis (see 15:9, 17; 22:2, 7, 8, 13) it appears to be the only sacrifice referred to; afterward it became distinguished as one of the regular classes of sacrifice under the Mosaic law. As all sacrifices are divided (see Heb 5:1) into "gifts" and "sacrifices for sin" (i.e. eucharistic and propitiatory sacrifices), of the former of these the burnt-offering was the choicest specimen. Accordingly (in Ps 40:8-9, quoted in Heb 10:5), we have first (in ver. 8) the general opposition as above of sacrifices (θυσίαι, propitiatory) and offerings (προσφοραί); and then (in ver. 9) "burnt-offerings," as representing the one, is opposed to "sin-offering ," as representing the other. Similarly, in Ex 10:25 (less precisely), "burnt-offering" is contrasted with "sacrifice." (So in 1Sa 15:22;
Ps 1; Ps 8; Mr 12:33.) On the other hand, it is distinguished from "meat-offerings" (which were unbloody) and from "peace-offerings" (both of the eucharistic kind), because only a portion of them were consumed (see 1Ki 3:15; 1Ki 8:64, etc.). In accordance with this principle, it was enacted that with the burnt-offering a "meat-offering" (of flour and oil) and "drink-offering" of wine should be offered, as showing that, with themselves, men dedicated also to God the chief earthly gifts with which He had blessed them (Le 8:18,22,26; Le 9:16-17; Le 14:20; Ex 29:40; Nu 28:4-5). See each of these terms in its alphabetical place.
Originally and generally all offerings from the animal kingdom seem to have passed under the name of olah, since a portion at least of every sacrifice, of whatever kind — nay, that very portion which constituted the offering to God — was consumed by fire upon the altar. In process of time, however, when the sacrifices became divided into numerous classes, a more limited sense was given to the term עוֹלָה, it being solely applied to those sacrifices in which the priests did not share. and which were intended to propitiate the anger of Jehovah for some particular transgression. Only oxen, male sheep or goats, or turtle-doves and young pigeons, all without blemish, were fit for burnt-offerings. The offerer in person was obliged to carry this sacrifice first of all into the fore-court as far as the gate of the tabernacle or temple, where the animal was examined by the officiating priest to ascertain that it was without blemish. The offerer then laid his hand upon the victim, confessing his sins, and dedicated it as his sacrifice to propitiate the Almighty. The animal was then killed (which might be done by the offerer himself) toward the north of the altar (Le 1:11), in allusion, as the Talmud alleges, to the coming of inclement weather (typical of the Divine wrath) from the northern quarter of the heavens. After this began the ceremony of taking up the blood and sprinkling it around the altar, that is, upon the lower part of the altar, not immediately upon it, lest it should extinguish the fire thereon (Le 3:2; De 12:27; 2Ch 29:22). SEE SACRIFICE. In the Talmud (tract Zebachim, sec. 1, ch. 1) various laws are prescribed concerning this sprinkling of the blood of the burnt-offering; among others, that it should be performed about the middle of the altar, below the red line, and only twice, so that the priest must first take his stand east of the altar, sprinkling in that position first to the east and then to the west; which done, he was to shift his position to the west, sprinkling again to the east and west; and, lastly, only round about the altar, as prescribed in Le 1:5. The next act was the skinning or flaying of the animal, and the cutting of it into pieces — actions which the offerer himself was allowed to perform (Le 1:6). The skin alone belonged to the officiating priest (Le 7:8). The dissection of the animal began with the head, legs, etc., and it was divided into twelve pieces. The priest then took the right shoulder, breast, and entrails, and placing them in the hands of the offerer, he put his own hands beneath those of the former, and thus waved the sacrifice up and down several times in acknowledgment of the all-powerful presence of God (tract Cholin, 1, 3), The officiating priest then retraced his steps to the altar. placed the wood upon it in the form of a cross, and lighted the fire. The entrails and legs being cleansed with water, the separated pieces were placed together upon the altar in the form of a slain animal. Poor people were allowed to bring a turtle-dove or a young pigeon as a burnt-offering, these birds being very common and cheap in Palestine (Maimonides, Moreh Nevochim, 3, 46). With regard to these latter, nothing is said about the sex, whether they were to be males or females. The mode of killing them was by nipping off the head with the nails of the hand. The following kinds of burnt-offering may be distinguished.
1. Standing public burnt-offerings were those used daily morning and evening (Nu 28:3; Ex 29:38), and on the three great festivals (Le 23:37; Nu 28:11-27; Nu 29:2-22; Le 16:3; comp. 2Ch 35:12-16). Thus there were,
(1.) The daily burnt-offering, a lamb of the first year, sacrificed every morning and evening (with an offering of flour and wine) for the people (Ex 29:462; Nu 28:3-8).
(2.) The Sabbath burnt-offering, double of that which was offered every day (Nu 28:8-10).
(3.) The offering at the new moon, at the three great festivals, the great Day of Atonement, and feast of trumpets: generally two bullocks, a ram, and seven lambs. (See Nu 28:11-29:39.)
2. Private burnt-offerings were appointed at the consecration of priests (Ex 29:15; Le 8:18; Le 9:12), at the purification of women (Le 12:6,8), at the cleansing of lepers (Le 14:19), and removal of other ceremonial uncleanness (Le 15:15,30), on any accidental breach of the Nazaritic vow, or at its conclusion (Numbers 6; comp. Ac 21:26), etc.
3. But free-will burnt-offerings were offered and accepted by God on any solemn occasions, as, for example, at the dedication of the tabernacle (Numbers 7) and of the Temple (1Ki 8:64), when they were offered in extraordinary abundance. But, except on such occasions. the nature, the extent, and the place of the sacrifice were expressly limited by God, so that, while all should be unblemished and pure, there should be no idea (as among the heathen) of buying His favor by costliness of sacrifice. Of this law Jephthah's vow (if, as some think, his daughter be the sacrifice meant) was a transgression, consistent with the semi-heathenish character of his early days (see Jg 11:3,24). The sacrifice of cows in 1Sa 6:14 was also a formal infraction of it, excused by the probable ignorance of the people and the special nature of the occasion. In short, burnt- offerings were in use almost on all important occasions, events, and solemnities, whether private or public, and often in very large numbers (comp. Jg 20:26; 1Sa 7:9; 2Ch 31:2; 1Ki 3:4; 1Ch 29:21; 2Ch 29:21; Ezr 6:17; Ezr 8:35). Heathens, also were allowed to offer burnt-offerings in the temple, and Augustus gave orders to sacrifice for him every day in the temple at Jerusalem a burnt-offering, consisting of two lambs and one ox (Philo, Opp. 2, 592; Josephus, War, 2, 17, 2; Apion, 2, 6). See Reland, Antiq. Sacr. 3, 2, p. 294 sq.; Lightfoot, Minister. Templi, 8, 1; Bauer, Gottesd. Verfass. 1, 174 sq.; Sperbach, De Hebraeor. holocaustis (Viteb. 1769). SEE OFFERING.