Propitiatory Sacrifices include both trespass-offering and sin-offering. SEE SACRIFICE. In this place we are to examine the disputed question what the Israelites held before them as their object in offering their beasts of sacrifice; that is, whether they wished merely to offer a gift to the offended Deity (Welker, p. 288), or (as Michaelis. los. Rit. p. 64, urges) it was considered as a municipal penalty, a kind of fine; or, finally, as a substitute for the sinners presenting it, who had themselves properly deserved death. The last is the view of many rabbins (see Outram, De Sacrific. p. 251 sq.) and Church fathers (Theodor. Quaest. 61 ad Exodus; Euseb. Delm. Ev. i, 10, etc.), and lately of Bauer (Theol. d. N.T. 4:124 sq.), De Wette (Bibl. Theol. p. 98 sq.; comp. Opusc. p. 23 sq.), Gesenius (Zu. Is. ii, 189), Hengstenberg (Christol. i, 265), Scholl (in Klaiber's Stud. etc. V, ii, 143 sq.), and Tholuck (2. Beit. z. Brief. c. d. Hebr. p. 78 sq.; comp. Collul's Bibl. Theol. i, 270 sq., for many others). This meaning of the sin-offerings seems at first view the most natural, significant, and most accordant with ancient testimonies. Yet Klaiber (Studien der Wurtemb. Geistl. VIII, ii, 10 sq.) has recently combated it with acuteness, and Bohllr (Symbol. ii, 277 sq.) has offered several objections to it. Many other interpretations, some very monstrous, but offered with philosophical pretension, are referred to by Scholl (op. cit. p. 133 sq.). Early opposition to the usual view is found in Sykes (Vebs. iub. die Opfer, p. 128 sq.) and Steudel (Glaubenslehre, p. 256 sq.). Certainly some of the grounds on which it is often based are of no weight. The formula in Le 4:20, "And the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them," repeated in 26:5, 10, or that in Le 5:13, "And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him," or the similar words in the 18th verse, do not make it certain that a substitution is to be thought of in the case of the sin-offering. The laying of the hand on the animal, too, though on the day of atonement (Le 16:21) it certainly implies the laying of guilt upon it, does not in general determine this point, since it was also customary in other sacrifices. Further, that the sin-offering was considered unclean, which would only be possible in case the uncleanness of sin were considered to have passed over to it, is not to be inferred from Ex 29:14; Le 16:28, etc. (as Klaiber has well shown), but would seem to contradict Le 4:12; Le 6:27 (see below). On the other hand,
(1.) Le 17:11, unless it be interpreted in a very forced manner, can scarcely be understood to mean anything else than that the life of the sacrifice, which is in the blood, and is poured out with the blood, was offered instead of the life of him who presented it. It is not necessary to lay stress upon the rendering of כַּפֵּר (kipper, to expiate, to atone); but the parallelism between the nephesh or "life of the flesh" and the nephesh or soul for which it is given as an atonement is certainly not without force.
(2.) The sprinkling of the blood of the sin-offering shows that the mere death of the sacrifice, and the burning of pieces of its flesh on the altar, were not the object here as in other sacrifices. What other meaning could the sprinkling have than that in the blood the life is sprinkled, scattered, and so utterly destroyed? The pouring-out of the blood was not in this case, as elsewhere, merely a means of killing the animal, but was the real object in view. But it could only become an object when the sprinkling of the blood symbolizes the Substitution of the sacrifice for the offerer, who has forfeited his life by sin.
(3.) The idea that one man could suffer as a substitute for another (and hence, according to the Israelitish view, even be punished by God in his stead) is not only expressed by 2Sa 12:15 sq.; 24:10 sq.; Isa 53:4 sq. (not Pr 21:18), but the representation of a transmission of guilt appears in Deuteronomy 21, especially verse 8; in the symbolic meaning of the covenant-sacrifice (Jer 34:18 sq.; comp. Ge 15:17), and in the ritual service with the scapegoat (Le 16:21). See especially also Isa 43:3, where, too, the word כֹּפֶר (kophesr, ransomo), so common where the sin-offerings are mentioned, is used. (Klaiber is right in saying that כַּפֶּר, kipper-, from כָּפִר, kaphar, properly means cover; and hence points out the removal of guilt, without determining the method. Yet it remains noteworthy that this word kepher [covering over], elsewhere only used in the sense of expiation, is used here when the subject is penal substitution. Was it so easy and natural for the Israelites to view expiation as an act of substitution?) Nor must we omit to remark that חַטֵּא (chitteh [Ge 31:39], meaning properly to atone for) is used for making compensation, and Klaiber's explanation of the passage is awkward.
(4.) There can be no doubt that the representation of expiatory substitution by sacrifices was prominent among other ancient nations (Herod. 2, 39; Caesar, Bell. Ga 6:16; Ovid, Fast. 6:160; Porphyr. Abstin. 4:15). The remark of De Wette, Tholuck, and Scholl that the remnants of the sin- offerings were accounted unclean seems to have no great weight, since the eating of pieces of flesh from most of sin-offerings might be urged for the contrary view; and certainly that idea did not appear in the case of the trespass-offerings (see Bahr, op. cit. p. 393 sq.).
On the offering of men for propitiation, in case of public misfortune (2Ki 3:27) among the Greeks. comp. Schol. in Aristoph. Plut. 454; Wachsmuth, Hele Aterth. ii, 550 sq. The self-offerings of the Romans belong here too. Kindred is the illegal hanging of the children of Saul (2Sa 21:6 sq., comp. Lassaulx, Die Siihnolfer der Griechen und Rbmer [Wurzburg, 1841]).
(5.) Lastly, a circumstance which speaks strongly for the common explanation of these sin-offerings is that all others which have been suggested are far less natural, simple, and appropriate. We need not refer especially to the homely interpretation of Michaelis. The idea that blood passed for the principle of sensuality, and hence of sin, and that thus the shedding of blood became the symbol of the putting-away of sins, does not appear in the Old Test., nor, indeed, in the New. Steudel's supposition is that the gracious acceptance by God of the offering of reconciliation was the essential element, and that the various forms of sacrifice were only intended to impress on the mind the abominable nature of sin and to lead to a true repentance; but this view is strangely barren. Klaiber supposes that clean animals without blemish were to awaken in the worshipper the sense of the law's requirement from him and of his imperfection. But this leaves out of sight all the peculiar forms appropriated to the sin-offering, and dwells on a single circumstance which was common to all the other sacrifices, and not even confined to sacrifices. It is impossible to sacrifice the common view, which is quite satisfactory, in favor of such schemes as these. The interpretation of Menken has been sufficiently answered by Bahr (op. cit. p. 292 sq.). SEE PROPITIATION.