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The Levitical Offering system seems complex but is surprisingly straight-foward. In fact, there are many ways that these sacrifices still speak to our relationship with the Lord. Here's a chart that seeks to clarify what the sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus meant and how they were used in the life of the Children of Israel. (Also you can access the podcasts on these chapters by clicking on the passage that's listed with the title of each offering).

You can download this chart as a pdf here

 Chart of Old Testament Offerings

Kinds of Offering





Wave Offerings (Exodus 29)

Seeking to bring the Lord into what a person was doing.

Invocation of God to infuse the object and offeror with His blessings because of it being dedicated to Him.

An item was lifted up to the Lord and waved side to side and then used in its intended purpose. In cases where the worshipper was not a priest, it seems that the priest would hold the hands of the worshipper, while the worshipper held the item, and all of it was presented to the Lord (Num 6:19-20).

Many objects could be used in the wave offering, including various parts of an animal, metals used in the ornamentation of the tabernacle (Ex 38:24), oil used to purify a leper (Lev 14:12). The item was lifted up and waved back and forth with the idea that the Lord would interact with the offering, and when the worshipper used that item, they were communing with the Lord.

Heave Offerings (Exodus 29)

Not a specific kind of offering, but a specific procedure done to other offerings. Somewhat similar to Wave Offerings though these seem to be specifically for meat and specifically for offerings returned to the priests.

A way to dedicate an item to the Lord though also give it to the priests. Perhaps this was a way to sanctify gifts for priests and recognize that these gifts were really for the Lord, and not a simple act of generosity.

The item was lifted up to the Lord though probably up and down rather than side to side. The meat was cooked and then given to the priests (Lev 7:34).

The item was lifted up to the Lord (perhaps for similar reasons as the wave offering), and the item went to the priests to eat.

Drink Offerings (Exodus 29)

A daily offering made to God as worship and a desire to please Him.

The goal was to please the Lord. Numerous passages describe drink offerings as producing a “pleasing aroma” to God. It would seem that this is the intent.

The term “Drink Offering” is a misnomer because the item was never drunk, only poured. Oil or wine was poured over another sacrifice that was being made to the Lord.

Wine or oil was poured over another peace or burnt offering so that the smoke would be a pleasing aroma that would rise to the Lord. It was not poured over a sin or guilt offering.

Burnt Offerings (Leviticus 1)

A mandatory offering of a lamb made twice each day (morning and evening) on behalf of the nation to consecrate all the people to God. Also, on special days including the sabbath, new moon, and yearly feasts. For the individual worshipper, it was to be a voluntary offering of consecration which demonstrated a person’s complete dedication to the Lord.

Consecration to God. The most holy of all offerings. This was the offerings provided by Noah after getting off the ark. This would have been the offering of Isaac by Abraham in Genesis 22.

Worshipper identified with the animal. The entire animal was burned up. More than likely, this process gave the worshipper ample time to prayerfully consider his lack of consecration to the Lord and all the ways that this re-consecration ought to produce change within his life.

A bull, sheep, goat, turtledove or pigeon was burnt entirely on the altar. In the original instructions on Burnt Offerings, the animal had to come from the person’s own flock and be without defect. The item was sacrificed to the Lord and the hide was given to the priests.

Grain Offerings

(Leviticus 2)

A voluntary offering of thanks and praise. Came as the result of the personal effort of the worshipper to obtain the grains, process it into fine flour, etc.

Gratitude to God. More than likely, this offering often included the worship of the entire family as they would work together to get the grain, mill it into fine flour then form it into baked cakes.

Grain offerings accompanied burnt offerings, given afterwards in praise of God hearing the worshipper. They also occurred alone as grain offerings, or they could be brought by the worshipper to the Lord in the form of cakes baked in a pan.  

The institutional offering was given twice a day. The grain had to be fine flour as opposed to coarsely ground flour. When given by an individual, it had to be the first fruits. Also had to include frankincense and oil. Plus, salt was added to demonstrate fellowship and commitment.

Peace Offerings (Leviticus 3)

A voluntary offering of celebration of peace, reconciliation and fellowship we have with the Lord. Three types: Thank, Votive and Freewill. Thank offerings expressed thanks for an unexpected blessing. Votive Offerings were thanks for a blessing in response to a vow (hence “vow”-tive offering). Freewill offerings were given as praise the Lord just from a heart of gratitude. Also used in times of dedication (1 Kings 8:63) and spiritual renewal (2 Chron 29:31-36).

Fellowship with God in the form of an offering and communal meal with the priests.

A bull, cow, goat, or lamb was sacrificed and the people and the priests would eat it together. A grain offering was also presented to the Lord, which was kept for the priests.

A portion of the sacrifice was burned to the Lord, but another portion was given back to the worshipper for a celebratory meal with the priests. The portion that was to be burned was placed on top of the other offerings (sin first, then burnt, then peace). Likewise, the breast was offered as a Wave Offering, and the thigh was a Heave Offering (cf Leviticus 7:30-34). Thank offerings were to be eaten that same day (Lev 7:15). Votive offerings could be eaten the first and second day (Lev 7:16-18).

Sin Offerings (Leviticus 4)

A mandatory offering required to atone for sins and obtain forgiveness from the Lord. Also, sin offerings were made on behalf of all the people on the 1st of each month (Num 28:15, 29:5), the 15th of each month (Num 28:22), the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29, Num 29:11), on each of the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Expiation (removal) of the offense of sin.

An animal was sacrificed in place of the sinner. It demonstrated the truth and reality of God’s command to Adam in Genesis 2:17 that sin results in death. The worshipper was recognizing that their sin deserved their death, and they were giving this animal as a substitute.

Bulls, goats, lambs, turtledoves, pigeons and even flour could be offered. The worshipper laid his hands upon the animal that was to be sacrificed. He would confess his sins and the animal would be killed. When the offering was for the High Priest or the entire congregation, the animal was taken outside the camp and burned.

Guilt Offerings (Leviticus 5 & 6)

A mandatory offering required to deal with sins against someone else who was harmed by the sinful action.

Restoration over the damage of sin.

An animal was sacrificed in the same manner as the Sin Offering, however the worshipper was required to pay the damages, plus 20% restitution, to the person harmed.

If the sin was against the Lord, the priest would establish the cost of restitution plus 20%. If the sin was against a person, the damages were restored plus 20%.

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