Libation (Lat. libatio, from libare, "to pour out;" literally any thing poured out) is used, in the sacrificial language of the ancients, to express an affusion of liquors poured upon victims to be sacrificed to a deity. The quantity of wine for a libation among the Hebrews was the fourth part of a hin, rather more than two pints. Libations were poured on the victim after it was killed, and the several pieces of it were laid on the altar, ready to be consumed by the flames (Le 6:20; Le 8:25-26; Le 9:4; Le 16:12,20). These libations usually consisted of unmixed wine (ἔνσπονδος, merum), but sometimes also of milk, honey, and other fluids, either pure or diluted with water. The libations offered to the Furies were always without wine. The Greeks and Latins offered libations with the sacrifices, but they were poured on the victim's head while it was living. So Sinon, relating the manner in which he was to be sacrificed, says, he was in the priest's hands ready to be slain, was loaded with bands and garlands; that they were preparing to pour upon him the libations of grain and salted meal (AEn. 2:130, 131). Likewise Dido, beginning to sacrifice, pours wine between the horns of the victim (AEn. 4). The wine was usually poured out in three separate streams. Libations always accompanied a sacrifice which was offered in concluding a treaty with a foreign nation, and that here they formed a prominent part of the solemnity is clear from the fact that the treaty itself was called σπονδαί. But libations were also made independent of any other sacrifice, as in solemn prayers, and on many other occasions of public and private life, as before drinking at meals, and the like. St. Paul describes himself, as it were, a victim about to be sacrificed, and that the accustomed libations of meal and wine were already, in a measure, poured upon him: "For I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2Ti 4:6). The same expressive sacrificial term occurs in Php 2:17, where the apostle represents the faith of the Philippians as a sacrifice, and his own blood as a libation poured forth to hallow and consecrate it: "Yea, and if I be offered, σπένδομαι, upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, ἐπὶ τῆ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ, I joy and rejoice with you all." The word libation was frequently extended in its signification, however, to the whole offering of unbloody sacrifices of which this formed a part, and which consisted not only in the pouring of a little wine upon the altar, but were accompanied by the presentation of fruit and cakes. Cakes in particular were peculiar to the worship of certain deities, as to that of Apollo. They were either simple cakes of flour, sometimes also of wax, or they were made in the shape of some animal, and were then offered as symbolical sacrifices in the place of real animals, either because they could not easily be procured, or were too expensive for the sacrificer. This custom prevailed even in the houses of the Romans, who at their meals made an offering to the Lares in the fire which burned upon the hearth. The libation was thus a sort of heathen "grace before meat." See Watson, Bibl. and Theol. Dict. 5.; Chambers, Cyclop. s.v.

Definition of liberation

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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