There is no doubt that the origin of sacrifices is to be referred to the very earliest ages of humanity, where also the Mosaic history places it (Ge 4:3 sq.; 8:20; 22:2; 31:54; 46:1; comp. Hottinger, De Origine Sacrific. Patriarch. [Marb. 1706]). While men as yet made little distinction between the sensible and the supernatural, they sought to acquire or fix the favor of their gods, or to express their gratitude for their gifts, by thank offerings, usually of some kind of food, since they attributed to their gods the wants of men (Le 21:6; Le 22:25; Nu 28:2; comp. Pliny, 2, 5, p. 73 [ed. Hard.]; Homer, Iliad, 4, 48; Aristoph. Aves, 1516 sq.; comp. Pauly's Real-Encyklop. 4, 839 sq.). (On the meaning and kinds of offerings, see Melancthon, in the Apol. A. C. p. 253 sq. A contracted view is taken by Sykes, Ueber d. Natur, Absicht u. Urspr. d. Opfer [Halle, 1778]. There is a vain attempt to philosophize, by Rosenkranz, in the Hall. Encykl.vol. 3, § 4, p. 74; comp. Baader, Ueber eine kunft. Theorie d. Opfers und Cultus [Munich, 1836]; Bahr, Symbol. 2, 288 sq.) The sensualism of an early age expressed itself, too, in supposing a god to be pleased with the odor of sacrifices (Le 1:9,13; Nu 15:7 sq.; Lucian, Icaromen. 27). The sacrifices were usually of such food as men themselves most enjoyed, and of the greatest excellence in their kind (1Sa 15:15; Ps 66:15), and were either raw or prepared in such a way as to be most palatable. Hence doubtless the use of salt (q.v.). Perhaps the first offerings were productions of the vegetable kingdom (Plato, Leg. 6, 782), and then honey, milk, etc., animals not being offered until later (Theophr. in Porphyr. Abstinent. 2, 5, and 28:33; comp. Plato, Leg. 6, 782; Ovid, Fasti, 1, 337; Pausan. 8, 2, 1). For the history informs us that man began with vegetable food, and afterwards to eat flesh (comp. Ge 1:29; Ge 9:3; see Schickedanz, De Natura Sacrif V.T. ex Seculi Morib. repetend. [Francf. 1784], and in the Symbol. Duisb. 2, 2, 493 sq.), and perhaps the sacrifice of animals may have led to the burning of the sacrifices on altars. (See iin general Gedicke, Verm. Schriff. p. 229 sq.; Wolf, Verm. Schrift. u. Aufs. [Halle, 1802], p. 243 sq.; Saubert, De Sacrfic. Vet. Collectanea [Jen. 1659]; Meiner, Krit. Gesch. der Religion, 2, 1 sq.; Baur, Symbol. u. Mythol. 2, 2, 284 sq.) It is commonly supposed that the first offerings were of immediate divine appointment (Deyling, Observat. 2, 53 sq.), but this is not affirmed in the Mosaic history (comp.
Wolf, Hominies Mose Vetustiores Sponte Sacrafecisse, etc. [Lips. 1782]), and is rejected by some as anthropopathism. The views of those who seek definite dogmatic relations in the first sacrifices, as Tholuck (2te Beil. zum Br. a.d. Hebr. p. 69), do not belong to historical criticism, but to dogmatic"theology (see also the Zeitschr. f. wissensch. Theol. 1863, 3).
On the ritual of sacrifice among the Hebrews in general, see Lightfoot, De Ministerio Templi, in his Works, and in Ugolino, vol. 9, ch. 8; Carpzov, App. p. 699 sq.; Outram, De Sacrif: Lib. (Lond. 1677), vol. 2 (only the first book relates to the Jewish sacrifices); Reland, Antiq. Sacr. 3, 1; Bauer, Gottesdienst-Verfass. 1, 80 sq.; Rosenmulller, Excursus 1, ad Leviticus; Gramberg, Relig. Ideen, 1, 94 sq.; Scholl, in the Wurtemberg. Stud. 1, 2, 152 sq.; 4, 1, 3 sq.; 5, 1, 108 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. 2, 189 sq.; Kurtz, Das mos. Opfer (Mitau, 1842). The Jewish views of the ritual of sacrifice are especially set forth in the tracts Sebachim, Menachoth, and Temura, in the fifth part of the Mishna. From these and the rabbins extracts are given by Otho, Lex. Talm. p. 621 sq. The entire Babylonish Gemara to the tract Sebachim, and the Tosiphta to the same tract, are found in Hebrew and Latin in Ugolini Thesaur. vol. 19. Many parallels and explanations are found in the Phoenician table of offerings discovered some years since in Marseilles, and published, with a commentary, by Movers (Breslau, 1847). (On the offerings of other Eastern and Western nations, see Flugel, Volkel, and Wachter, in the Hall. Encykl. 3, § 4:p. 77 sq.)
The law adopted as a model the sacrifices already long in use, and gives exact directions as to the kinds of sacrifices and the ceremonies of offering. (We cannot here discuss the question of how much of this law was Mosaic. In answer to the view of De Wette, Von Bohlen, George, and others that the greater part had a still later origin, see Bleek, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1831, 3, 491 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. 2, 192 sq.) This law of offerings may be summed up thus:
1. The subjects to be sacrificed, in the proper sense of the word, which were laid, that is, on the burning altar of Jehovah, must be borrowed as well out of the vegetable as the animal kingdom. (In the wider sense of offering, even tithes, first fruits, and incense are included. Comp. the offering of wood, Ne 10:35.) Hence there is a distinction between offerings without blood (מנָחוֹת, menachoth, προσφοραί, δῶρα) and offerings with blood (זַבָחַי ם, zebachim, θυσίαι). See 1Sa 2:29; 1Sa 3:14; Ps 40:7; Heb 8:3. The latter were considered the more important. But salt, a mineral, was added to every distinct sacrifice of either kind. The vegetable products offered were both solid and fluid; of the former, roasted grain, flour, cakes with olive oil (the cakes always without leaven or honey), and incense as an accompaniment, formed the meat offerings (the מַנחָה, minchah, in the proper sense); of the latter, wine formed the drink offerings (נֶסֶך, nesek). The animals offered must be clean, and such as were fit for food (Josephus, Ant. 12, 5, 4; comp. Ge 8:20), and must be tame beasts, as cattle (Bochart, Hieroz. 1, 326 sq.), goats, sheep, and sometimes turtle doves and young pigeons, but never fishes. They must be altogether free from deformity (spotless, perfect, ἄνουμος, τέλειος, Le 22:20 sq.; comp. Mal 1:8,14; Herod. 2:38; Plutarch, Orac. Def. p. 49; Ovid, Met. 15, 130; Virgil, Aen. 4, 57; Pliny, 8, 70; Athen. 15, 674; Tertull. Apol.c. 14; with the passage in Plutarch may be compared Polluc. Onom. 1, 1, 1 29; Schol. ad Aristoph. Acarn. p. 785; on the expressions in Le 22:20 sq., see Bochart, Hieroz. 1, 594 sq.; 4 comp. Baldinger, praes. Hottinger, De Victim. Integritate 1 et Mysterio [Heidelb. 1731]). Except the doves, they must be at least eight days old, because younger flesh is unfit for food (Ex 22:30; Le 22:27), the smaller cattle being usually yearlings (sheep, goats, 4 calves, Ex 29:38; Le 9:3; Le 12:6; Le 14:10; Le 23:12,18 sq.; Nu 15:27; Nu 28:9 sq.), while the larger were young, perhaps usually three years old (yet Jg 6:25 mentions a bull of seven years as a sacrifice; comp. Pliny, 8, 77; Herod. ii, 38). The sex of four-footed beasts for sacrifice was sometimes indifferent (as in thank and sin offerings; comp. Le 3:1,6; yet in all public offerings the Mishna requires males, Temzura, 2, 1), and sometimes males were required, as in burned offerings; for the male sex was considered the superior. The choice of the kind of beast was free in the burned offerings and thank offerings (Le 1:2; Le 3:1,6), but was determined by law in the trespass and sin offerings (Le 4:3). Human sacrifices, as heathenish (Le 18:21; Le 20:2 sq.; De 12:31), were avoided by the pious Israelites (Ps 106:37), although their sacred history contained an example of the purposed sacrifice of a son by his father (Genesis 22), and in the unsettled days of the judges a daughter fell under the sacrificial knife of her superstitious father (Judges 11). On the human sacrifices of other nations, see Baur, Mythology, 2, 2, 293 sq.; Wachsmuth, Hellen. AIterth. 2, 549 sq.; and on those of the apostate Israelites, SEE MOLOCH. The slanderous statement that the Jews slaughtered strangers and drank their blood arose about the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (see Josephus, Apion, 2, 8; Ghillany, Die Menschenopfer der alten Heb. [Nuremberg, 1842]; Hall. Lit. Zeit. 1844, No. 220-223). The legal and regular circle of sacrificial beasts is explicable from the agricultural pursuits of the Israelites: oxen, goats, and sheep were the usual stock of farmers, and corn, oil, and wine were the chief productions of the soil for the commonest wants of life. The addition of doves springs from the fact that scarcely any creatures with life suitable for sacrifice could be found save among birds, and doves were the most common domestic birds. But why not chickens; and why, according to the rabbins, could not chickens be kept in the holy city? (comp. Eskuche, De Gallis et Gallinis ad Aram Jovoe non Factis [Rint. 1741]). SEE FATTED FOWL. Each person was required to furnish his own sacrifices, and those who lived near enough drove them from their own herds. But later there arose in Jerusalem traders in beasts for sacrifice (victimarii ngotiatores; Pliny, H.N. 7, 10; Mishna, Shekal. 7, 2), and at the time of Jesus a regular market for this purpose stood in the vicinity of the Temple (q.v.).
2. The place where alone sacrifices might be presented was the court of the national sanctuary — the tabernacle first and afterwards the Temple (De 12:5 sq., 11), and every offering elsewhere was to be punished with death (Le 17:4 sq.; De 12:13; comp. 1Ki 12:27). The place is more exactly called "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Le 1:3; Le 3:17; Le 4:4,14); and, according to the Mishna (Sebach. c. 5), the offerings were slain, part on the north side of the altar, part, the less holy, at any place in the court indifferently (comp. Plato, Leges, 10, 910). These regulations were designed to prevent the idolatrous worship which might have been concealed under the mask of the legal ritual.. Besides, the common place of worship must have had a beneficial influence on the spirit of a nation so torn into factions (comp. 1Ki 12:27). This common place of sacrifice was not always observed in the time of the judges, nor even of David (1Ki 3:2-3). Sacrifices were made away from the tabernacle (Jg 2:5; 1Sa 7:17; 1Ki 1:9), especially on high places (Jg 6:26; Jg 13:19; Ho 4:13). Even the law-abiding Samuel did this (1 Samuel l.c.), and David tolerated it (1Ki 3:2 sq.). These sacrifices on high places lasted after Solomon's time, even under theocratic kings. In the kingdom of Israel the common place of sacrifice was abandoned. In the time of the judges the irregularity sprang from the confusion of jurisdiction and the unsettled condition of the people, everywhere pressed by their enemies; yet it is, on the whole, probable that such entire exclusiveness of locality was not so severely demanded by the Mosaic law as later, after the unfortunate consequences of private and voluntary sacrifices were seen.
3. The purpose of the sacrifices was special — either to thank God for benefits received, or to propitiate him because of sins and errors. Hence the distinction of thank offerings and sin and trespass offerings. The burned offerings had a more general tendency (comp. the division of sacrifices in Philo, Opp. 2, 240; see Scholl, in Klaiber's Studien, 4, 1, 36 sq.). The Hebrew sacrifices are enumerated, though not defined with exactness, in Nu 15:3 sq.; De 12:6; Jer 17:26. On the classes of Carthaginian sacrifices, see Movers (Phoniz. p. 19, 41). These various offerings produced great variety of ceremonies, as now in the masses of the Roman Catholics. On great public festivals, great collective offerings like hecatombs are mentioned (1Ki 8:5,63 sq.; 2Ch 29:32 sq.; 30:24; 35:7 sq.; comp. Herod. 7:43; Xenoph. Hell. 6, 4, 29; Sueton. Calig. 14; Capitol. in Maxim. et Balbin. c. 11).
Offerings were sometimes public (comp. Herod. 6:57; Xenoph. Athen. 2, 9), sometimes private, sometimes prescribed, sometimes voluntary; the latter were sometimes family sacrifices (1Sa 1:21; 1Sa 20:6). One person had sacrifices offered for another, as the Catholics with masses (Job 1:5; Job 2 Macc. 3:32). Not only the Israelites, but the heathen, were permitted to sacrifice to Jehovah (Nu 15:14; Nu 2 Macc. 3:35; 13:23; Philo, Opp. 2, 569; Josephus, Apion, 2, 5; Mishna, Shekal. 7, 6), and the Jews even made sacrifices for heathen princes on the altars of Jehovah (1 Macc 7:33; Josephus, Ant. 12, 2, 5). Originally they were offered only for the living, sometimes when death was near (Sir. 38:11); but after the resurrection became a general belief sacrifices for the dead arose (2 Macc. 12:43). There is, indeed, no other instance, and perhaps they never were customary, especially as they are not in harmony with the law (see Grotius, ad loc.). The polemic writers against the Catholic masses for the dead repudiate them indignantly (Chemnitz, Exam. Concil. Trid. p. 736 sq. [ed. Francf.]; Pfaff, Num ex 2 Macc. 12:39 sq. adstrui possint Missce et Preces pro Defunctis [Tubing. 1749]), or suppose that the narrator forged the account (Hyper. in the Miscell. Duisburg. 1, 453).
4. In the sacrifice of offerings with blood the owner himself (see Hottinger, De Function. Laic. circa Victim. [Marburg, 1706]), after being cleansed and sanctified (1Sa 16:5; Job 1:5; comp. Josephus, Apion, 2, 23; Hesiod, Opp. p. 724 sq.; Ovid, Metam. 10, 434 sq.; Tibul. 2, 1, 11; Herod. 2, 37), led the beast to the altar (Le 3:1,12; Le 4:14; Le 17:4). Among the Greeks and Romans the horns of the beast were gilded (Homer, Iliad, 10, 294; Odys. 3, 384, 426; Plato, Alcib. 2, c. 20; Virgil, Aen. 9, 927; Macrob. Sat. 1, 17, p. 29, ed. Bip.) and crowned (comp. Ac 14:13; see Ovid, Metam. 15, 131; Lucian, Sacrif. vol. 12; Lycophron. Alex. p. 327; Statius, Theb. 4, 449; Pliny, 16, 4; Strabo, 15, 732; Athen. 15, 674; see Wetstein, 2, 543; Walch, Dissert. ad Acta Apost. 3, 200). That this custom prevailed among the Jews, at least with the thank offerings, is less clear from Josephus (Ant. 13, 8, 2) than from the Mishna (Bikkurim, 3, 2 sq.; comp. in general Lakemacher, Observ. 1, 79 sq.). The owner laid his hand upon the head of the beast (Le 1:4; Le 3:2; Le 4:4,15,24; Le 8:18; comp. the Egyptian custom, Herod. 2, 40). If the sacrifice was that of a community, the elders performed this duty (Le 4:15); but when the offering was public, i.e. in the name of the whole people, the ritual mentions this imposition of the hand but in one case (16:21; comp. the Mishna, Menach. 9, 7; yet see 2Ch 29:23), this ceremony being the formal consecration of the beast to Jehovah; not the laying of the penalty due to sin upon the sacrifice, as Bochart thinks (Hieroz. 1, 330), for the ceremony occurs in the case of the thank offering. According to the rabbins, a regular form of words was used in laying the hands on the victim (Maimon. Hilch. Korban, 3, 9); then it was slain (Le 3:2; Le 4:4,15,24; Le 8:15,19), but this might be, and in later times actually was, done by the priests (2Ch 29:24); perhaps even by the Levites, but 2Ch 30:17 does not prove this. Among the Romans, officers called popae or victimarii slew the victim (Bochart, Ilieroz. 1, 330). The blood was then taken up, and in different sacrifices variously sprinkled or poured out by the priest (Hottinger, De Function. Sacer. circa Victim. [Marb. 1706]). According to the varying character of the offering, the blood was sprinkled, or brought into the Temple and there sprinkled upon the ark of the covenant, and put on the horns of the altar of burned offering, and the remainder thrown out at the foot of the altar of burned offering. The sacrificer (yet comp. 2Ch 29:34) then took off the skin of the victim (Le 1:6), which belonged, when not burned (4:1), either to the priests (7:8; only said of the burned offering) or to the offerer (comp. the directions in the Talmud-Mishna, Sebach. 12, 2 sq.). So, too, among the Carthaginians (see the lists of offerings found in Marseilles, 3, 4, 8, 10). In Sparta the skins of public sacrifices belonged to the kings (Herod. 6:57). The victim was cut to pieces (Le 1:6; Le 8:20), which were, in various sacrifices, either all (as the burned offerings), or certain specially valued pieces (in all other offerings; comp. Isa 1:11; Strabo, 15, 732; Catull. 40, 5), burned by the priest upon the altar. In the latter case the flesh belonged to the priests or to the sacrificer, or must be burned outside of the city. (On the ceremony of offering the doves, see Le 1:14 sq.; 5, 8; comp. Hottinger, De Sacr. Avium [Marb. 1706].) The ceremonies of heaving and waving took place in some sacrifices either before or after the victim was killed. SEE HEAVE OFFERING; SEE WAVE OFFERING.
5. The yearly expense of sacrifices, both by individuals and the whole people, was not trifling; yet householders had at hand most of the necessary offerings, and wood was brought from the forests. (On the limits within which wood was obtained for Temple use in the later age, see the Mishna, Taanith, 4:5. For the trees used as sacrificial wood, see the tract Tamid, 2, 3.) Later, foreign princes who desired the favor of the Jews applied from their revenues a portion to public sacrifices (Ezr 6:9; Ezr 1 Macc. 10:39; 2 Macc. 3:3; 9:16; Josephus, Ant. 12, 3, 3). (On a peculiar festival of carrying wood, see Josephus, War, 2, 17, 6. It was held in the beginning of the month Elul).
6. As an expression of pious gratitude and of reverence towards Jehovah (Ps 66:15; Ps 110:3; Sir. 38:4; comp. Mt 8:4; Ac 21:26), sacrifices were presented in abundance by the Hebrews through all antiquity, and he who offered none was accounted irreligious (Ec 9:2; comp. Isa 43:23 sq.). Oaths were made by the offerings (Mt 23:18), and in descriptions of golden antiquity the ideally magnified splendor of the sacrificial ritual appears (Isa 19:21; Isa 56:7; Isa 60:7; Zec 14:21; Jer 17:26; Jer 33:18), while the want of sacrifice is among the terrors of threatened exile (Ho 3:4). Yet the Israelites often forgot in the symbol the higher affection of the heart, and their offerings became an opus operatum. Accordingly the prophets occasionally give warning against overvaluing sacrifices, and strive to call forth a pious disposition, as more pleasing to God than they are, since in them the heart feels nothing (Isa 1:11; Jer 6:20; Jer 7:21 sq.; Ho 6:6; Am 5:22; Mic 6:6 sq.; comp. Ps 40:7; Ps 1:6 sq.; 51:18 sq.; Pr 21:3; Mt 5:23 sq.; Sir. 35:1; comp. Plato, Alcib. 2, 150; Diod. Sic. 12, 20; Ovid, Heroid. 20, 181 sq.; Seneca Benef. 1, 6; comp. Siebelis Disput. p. 121 sq.). Such representations do not justify us in denying to the older Israelites the anthropopathic view of sacrifices, and forcing upon ancient simplicity an artificial doctrine. Yet this is done by Bahr (Symbol. 2, 198 sq.; comp. Hoff, Die mos. Opfer nach ihrer sinn- u. vorbildl. Bedeut. [Warsaw, 1845]), who, starting with the statement that offerings with blood were the germ of all (in reference to Le 17:11), finds in the Mosaic sacrifices the doctrine of symbolic substitution. "The offering and bringing near of the nephesh, or life, in the sacrificial blood upon the altar, as the place of the presence and revelation of God, is a symbol of the offering of the nephesh, or life, of the sacrificer to Jehovah. As this presentation of the blood is a giving up to death of the animal life, so must also the spiritual life of self, as opposed to God, be given up and die. But since the giving up is to Jehovah, the Holy One, it is not merely a ceasing, something negative, but a dying, which in the very act is a becoming alive," etc. Apart from all the assumption in this theory, it is entirely too artificial, one might say too Christian, for Israelitish antiquity. It is necessary, too, to assume that the sacrifices with blood were the original ones, which is not proven; and the doctrine cannot be extended without violence to any but sin offerings (see Kurtz, Mos. Opfr, p. 7 sq.), in which it cannot be denied that the idea of substitution is found. In the period after the exile arose the Essenes, who went further than the prophets, and retained of the outward ritual only the lustrations, not offering sacrifices at all (Josephus, Ant. 18, 1, 5). It is well known that all the ceremonial of sacrifice has been given up by the Jews, since they no longer possess the Temple mountain; yet the Samaritans still yearly offer seven lambs on Mount Gerizim at the Passover (Robinson, 3, 98 sq.). SEE OFFERING.
The fact that every individual who brought a sacrifice had to be present in the Temple when it was offered gave rise to the opinion that the daily morning and evening sacrifices which were brought for the whole congregation of Israel required that the congregation should be represented in the Temple at the offering of these national sacrifices. Hence the whole people was divided into twenty-four divisions or orders, corresponding to the divisions of the priests and Levites. Every division chose a number of representatives (מעמד אנשי), one of whom was appointed chief (המעמד), and in turn sent up some of them as a deputation to Jerusalem to represent the nation at the daily sacrifices in the Temple, and pronounce the prayers and blessings in behalf of the people while the sacrifices were offered. They had also to fast four days (i.e. the second, third, fourth, and fifth day) during the week of their representation. Those of the representatives who remained at home assembled in a synagogue to pray during the time of sacrifice. SEE TEMPLE.
It will be observed from the above notices that there was one grand point of difference between the Jews and the heathens: the sacrificial rites of the former were never stained with human blood, than which nothing could be conceived more abhorrent to all the attributes of Jehovah (Jephthah's daughter is no exception, for it cannot be proved with certainty that she was sacrificed; on the contrary, many interpreters think that she was solemnly dedicated to the service of God). But the testimony of innumerable writers proves that no heathen nation has been free from human sacrifices; such having occurred, even among civilized people, at some period of their history, especially on some great occasion, to expiate a great sin or avert some dreadful calamity. Even to this day among the Hinduls, whose tenets forbid blood shedding, human self-immolations, or sacrificial suicides, are common. Another point of difference is found in the animal sacrifices, which, among the heathens, were frequently of such as were particularly forbidden in the Mosaic law — unclean animals and beasts of prey; such as dogs offered to Hecate, swine to Mars (in the Suovetaurilia), and wolves to Apollo. Heathens in their sacrifices poured oil over the beast, which the Jews did not; they (the former) burned only a portion of the frankincense presented; the Jews burned all. The Greeks offered honey to the sun; in Jewish sacrifices it was forbidden; and the Sabian idolaters ate the blood of their sacrifices, which Maimonides thinks was one of the reasons why it was so particularly prohibited to the Jews. Their bread offerings also were leavened. Some points of similarity are to be found between the Jewish and heathen sacrifices. The heathens brought their victims to the temples, chose them without blemish, poured out libations of wine, cut the animal's throat, flayed and dissected it, caught the blood in a vessel, and poured it on and round the altar; and they used salt by mixing some with meal, and sprinkling it on the head of the animal, on which they also laid their hands. In the early times the sacrifice was burned whole, the skin being given to the priest; but later, part only was consumed and the rest given to the sacrificers (if it was an eatable animal) to feast upon. The thighs and fat were the share of the gods. The victims among the Greeks and Romans were crowned with garlands and adorned with fillets and ribbons, and the horns of large animals were gilded. None of these decorations are enjoined in the Jewish sacrifices. SEE SACRIFICE.