Sermon on the Mount, The Emmaus View

Appendix D: Sacrifices of dedication (Version 1.4)

The Bible contains several commissioning sacrifice scenarios that, whilst not always obvious, nevertheless show a distinct consistency of form, being, or implying, the appropriate peace offering for either a leader or a priest.

When Abram entered the service of God Most High, Melchizedek supplied bread and wine, but it is reasonable to assume that Abraham supplied his guest meat (cf. Gen 18:1-8), a calf, the offering of a priest (Lev 4:3) and of necessity prepared in accord with the Noahic covenant’s peace offering.

Isaac’s blessing of Jacob saw Esau commissioned to serve his brother through a sacred act within the sacrificial context of eating meat (Gen 27:1-27). As a goat was expected to pass for game and its skin to confer the scent of Esau (Gen 27:9, 27), it is likely that Esau’s game offerings were wild goats.

When God moved Joseph into service, by having him flung into a pit, it again involved the telltale slaughter of an animal (Gen 37:29), a male goat slaughtered in a parody of the sin-covering purpose of sacrifice.

When Judah surrendered his authority to Tamar, it was to provide a guarantee that she would receive a young goat, the appropriate offering of a leader (Gen 38:17, Lev 4:22-23).

With Gideon the context becomes more obviously sacrificial, for when he received his call to service (Judges 6:18-20), he began to emulate Abraham, by detaining the angel for a peace offering. He took a young goat and the reference to broth tells us he boiled the meat (cf. Isa 65:4, 1 Sam 2:12-17). However, in Gideon’s idolatrous village, a peace offering would have brought a curse (Lev 7:20), so the angel guided him to offer the meat with its broth, converting them into a burnt offering instead. Similarly, when the angel came to commission Sampson, Manoah began to emulate Abraham and again with a young goat (Judg 13:16-19). In Manoah’s unclean land, a peace offering was again inappropriate, so the angel refused to eat and requested a burnt offering instead.

A burnt offering of three bulls, three portions1 of flour and a skin of wine marked Samuel’s dedication (1 Sam 1:24), a bull for a priest replacing the goat for a leader (Lev 4:3, 22-23) and the number probably significant. Samuel commissioned Saul in the context of a peace offering (1 Sam 9:19-10:1). On the journey that followed he partook in, what appears to be, the commissioning of priests to serve at Abraham’s three altars (1 Sam 10:3). They carried three young goats, three loaves and a skin of wine. When David set off to serve Saul it is with the same elements, and presumably to be used for a similar purpose (1 Sam 16:17-20).

To these Biblical allusions to the offering of a goat, one may add a tradition, preserved in Qumran’s Genesis Apocryphon2, that the first animal Noah offered was a goat.

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1 A bull, three-tenths of an ephah of flour and a half-hin of wine were a standard burnt offering (Num 15:9).

2 “Translation of 1Q Genesis Apocryphon,” Col 10. [Cited 25 May 2009] Online: http://www.religiousstudies.uncc.edu/jcreeves/1qapgen.htm.