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Vayikra/Leviticus 1:2 When a man shall bring an offering from yourselves to the L-rd ...
Words and grammar play a particular part in this text. The word - a particle with a set of context-dependent meanings such as 'if', 'that', 'because' and 'for' - here seems to be most appropriately translated 'if' or 'when'. While the older KJV uses 'if' - "If any man" - most of the modern translations use 'when' - "When any man". 'When' marks what the commentaries describe as the "casuistic" nature of the text; while 'if' implies that the situation may or may not happen, with an underlying hope that it won't, 'when' suggests that it is only a matter of time, that it will happen. As the offerings in question are voluntary offerings, it is in fact certain that they were offered in quantity. Baruch Levine points out that the word , "is a generic term for anything presented to G-d when one approaches His sanctuary." In fact, archaeology tells us that the word korban was often inscribed upon vessels and other items used to either prepare or be offerings in their own right.
Targum Onkelos changes the word to , from 'man' or 'mankind' to 'person'; Onkelos is perhaps unhappy at limiting the bringing of offerings to men alone (the word 'enosh' generally signifies a person of either gender) or wants to avoid the connection to 'Adam' as the first man. The Sages disagree with him, as they comment. "Rabbi Berekiah said: 'Man' alludes to the first Adam. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: Let your offering be like the offering of Adam, who, since all things were in his ownership offered nothing acquired by robbery or violence, so you too, offer nothing acquired by robbery of violence; and if you do this, 'It shall please the L-rd better than a bullock' (Ps 69:2)" (Vayikra Rabbah 2:7). Rashi confirms this by pointing out that voluntary offerings may be brought by both Jews and non-Jews, so that here refers not just to mankind in general, but is also a proper noun referring to Adam as the first man and prototype of all mankind.
The classical commentators are concerned to confirm the point that the offering must be wholly owned by the person who brings it. The Sages of the Talmud state that "When any man of you brings an offering to the L-rd and this is not his ... it is a precept fulfilled through a transgression" (b. Sukkah 30a).Ibn Ezra, quoted by Michael_Carasik, cites HaShem Himself on the matter: "An offering must be something that is 'yours', not robbed from someone else. After all, 'I the L-RD love justice, I hate robbery with a burnt offering' (Isaiah 61:8)". The prophet Malachi repeats this concern not only over the ownership but also the quality of the offerings: "You profane [My Name] when you say, 'The table of the L-RD is defiled and the meat, the food, can be treated with scorn ... and you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; and you offer such as an oblation ... A curse on the cheat who has an unblemished male in his flock, but for his vow sacrifices a blemished animal to the L-RD!'" (Malachi 1:12-14, JPS). The Sforno explains how important this principle is by making the connection to another prophet: "When a man brings an offering ... when he sacrifices himself through confession and submission, akin to, 'So we will offer the words of our lips instead of calves' (Hosea 14:3)". The physical offering is a token of the spiritual offering of the person themselves.
The New Covenant Scriptures bring all the threads together. In Rav Sha'ul's letter to the Romans, he describes the first man - who sinned - and the new man who corrected the sin of the first. "Therefore sin came into the world through one man ... who was a type of the one who was to come ... For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:12,14,19, ESV). In his Corinthian correspondence, Sha'ul identifies the men: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22, ESV). How are we to understand this? Simply that Yeshua brought a sacrifice, from among the people - that is, from mankind, Himself as the token of mankind. He owned this offering, His own physical body, and voluntarily gave His life to be totally korban - devoted to G-d. Like the first Adam, who was the first representative of man, Yeshua was the second or 'last' Adam: "The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45, ESV).
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews explains that the offering that Yeshua made was distinctly different from those offered by the Israelites through the Levitical priests. "But when the Messiah appeared as Cohen Gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), He entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And He entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood, thus setting people free forever" (Hebrews 9:11-12, CJB). Not only was the venue different - the heavenly tabernacle rather than the earthly copy - Yeshua brought not the blood of an animal sacrifice, which He would have owned twice-over, once as the 'local' human owner and once as part of the G-dhead who own everything, but His own blood. And, as the text then goes on, Yeshua's offering was also different because it only needed to be made once: "Further, He did not enter heaven to offer Himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then He would have had to suffer death many times - from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, He has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of Himself" (9:25-26, CJB). Because He brought the offering "of Himself", the offering was a permanent offering; it could not be offered again because once an offering has been offered it no longer belongs to the original owner but to G-d.
As two final points of comparison, just as offerings were stamped or marked with the word korban to show that they were dedicated to the L-rd, so Yeshua also bears the name of the L-rd: "On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and L-rd of lords" (Revelation 19:16, ESV). The vessel which was used to hold the sacrifice - the physical body, holding the blood - is marked to show His total dedication to G-d. Lastly, the sacrifice that Yeshua made was not "casuistic", dependent or conditioned upon some event; it was pre-determined before the world was created. His sacrifice was not 'if' but 'when'; "when the appointed time arrived, G-d sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4, CJB). He came to the cross-roads of the ancient world, at the cross-roads of time, to be the pivotal and unique event in all history, reconciling us to G-d through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. One from among us, the Man for all Times.
Further Study: Romans 5:12-19; 1 Timothy 2:5-6
Application: Have you seen Yeshua as the fulfillment of Moshe's words, as the Messiah and Saviour of not just Israel but the whole world? If not, then it's high time you did! Yeshua said that "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32, CJB). This is the truth; see it and be free!
© Jonathan Allen, 2011
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