The sacrifice offering (Lk 2:24-2:24)

“They offered

A sacrifice,

According to

What is stated

In the law

Of the Lord.

‘A pair of turtledoves,

Or two young pigeons.’”

 

καὶ τοῦ δοῦναι θυσίαν κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Κυρίου, ζεῦγος τρυγόνων ἢ δύο νοσσοὺς περιστερῶν.

 

Luke said that Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice (καὶ τοῦ δοῦναι θυσίαν), according to what was stated in the law of the Lord (κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Κυρίου).  They were offering a pair of turtledoves (ζεῦγος τρυγόνων) or 2 young pigeons (ἢ δύο νοσσοὺς περιστερῶν.).  Leviticus, chapter 12:5-8, said that when the days of purification were completed, the new mother had to bring a lamb and a pigeon to the entrance of the tent of meeting for a sin offering and a burnt offering.  If she could not afford a lamb, she could bring two pigeons or two turtledoves, which was the case here, since Mary was giving the offering of a poor person.  The priest then made atonement on her behalf to make her clean.  Thus, the unclean mother’s birth had to become clean with a burnt and sin offering, since childbirth was considered an unclean action.  Her period of uncleanness was much longer than merely touching a dead unclean animal.

The role of the prince in these offerings (Ezek 45:16-45:17)

“All the people

Of the land

Shall join

With the prince in Israel,

In making this offering.

But this shall be

The obligation

Of the prince

Regarding

The burnt offerings,

The grain offerings,

The drink offerings,

At the festivals,

The new moons,

The Sabbath,

All the appointed festivals

Of the house of Israel.

He shall provide

The sin offerings,

The grain offerings,

The burnt offerings,

The peace offerings,

To make atonement

For the house of Israel.”

The prince in Israel would be responsible for providing the animals and grains for the sacrifices and sin offerings at the various festivals. All the people of the land would join with the prince for these offerings. However, it was the obligation of the prince to make sure that there were animals, grains, and oils available for these burnt offerings, grain offerings, and the drink offerings at all these religious festivals, including the new moons and the Sabbath. The prince was to provide for these various offerings, including the peace offerings, in order to make atonement for the house of Israel.

The seven days of sin offerings (Ezek 43:25-43:27)

“‘For seven days,

You shall provide daily

A goat

For a sin offering.

Also,

A bull

With a ram

From the flock,

Without blemish,

Shall be provided.

Seven days

Shall they make atonement

For the altar.

They will cleanse it.

They will so consecrate it.

When these days

Are over,

Then from the eighth day

Onward,

The priests shall offer

Upon the altar

Your burnt offerings

With your peace offerings.

Then I will accept you.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh gave Ezekiel this first week of instructions about the altar. During this week, each day they had to provide an unblemished goat, bull, and ram from their flock. During these 7 days, they were to make atonement for the altar, by cleansing and consecrating it. After these 7 days were over, the priests would then be able to offer their burnt offerings and peace offerings on this altar at any time.  Yahweh said that he would then accept these offerings.

Phinehas (Sir 45:23-45:25)

“Phinehas

Son of Eleazar

Is the third in glory.

He was zealous

In the fear of the Lord.

He stood firm,

When the people turned away.

In the noble courage of his soul,

He made atonement for Israel.

Therefore a covenant of peace

Was established with him.

He should be the leader of the sanctuary.

He should be the leader of his people.

He with his descendants

Should have the dignity

Of the priesthood forever.

Just as a covenant

Was established with David,

Son of Jesse,

Of the tribe of Judah,

That the king’s heritage

Passes only from son to son,

So the heritage of Aaron

Is for his descendants alone.”

This story of Phinehas was based on Numbers, chapter 25. It is strange that Sirach has given him such an important place. In fact, Sirach says that he ranks 3rd behind Moses and Aaron. Phinehas was the grandson of Aaron via Eleazar, the son of Aaron. However, his claim to fame was that he stopped a plague among the Israelites by killing a fellow Israelite who was having sex with a Midianite woman at Peor. Thus he made atonement for the Israelites who were involved in intermarriage situations with the Midianites. Yahweh rewarded Phinehas with a perpetual covenant of friendship. He then became the leader of the future sanctuary so that his descendants would be priests forever. However, he already was in the line of Aaron. This covenant was like the later covenant with David and his descendants. Thus the descendants of the Phinehas often became the head high priest of Jerusalem.

The sacrifices of the anointed Levitical Aaron (Sir 45:14-45:17)

“Aaron’s sacrifices

Shall be wholly burned.

This will be done

Twice every day continually.

Moses ordained him.

He anointed Aaron

With holy oil.

It was an everlasting covenant for him.

It was for his descendants

As long as the heavens continue.

They were to minister to the Lord.

They were to serve as priests.

They were to bless his people

In his name.

He chose him out of all the living

To offer sacrifice to the Lord.

He was to offer incense

With a pleasing odor

As a memorial portion,

To make atonement for your people.

In his commandments,

He gave him authority.

He gave him statutes.

He gave him judgments.

He was to teach Jacob the testimonies.

He was to enlighten Israel with his law.”

Sirach says that the sacrifices of Aaron should be completely burned, twice a day, continually. Moses had ordained Aaron and anointed him with oil, as it was indicated in Exodus, chapter 29. The Lord had an everlasting covenant with Aaron and his descendants as long as the heavens existed. They were to be the priests that ministered to the Lord. They were chosen out of all the living in the world to offer this memorial sacrifice with sweet smelling incense in order to make atonement for their people. In fact, Aaron was the brother of Moses. In the Mosaic commandments, the Lord gave Aaron and his descendants’ authority, statutes, and judgments so that they could teach and enlighten Jacob about the Israelite law.

Law and sacrifice (Sir 35:1-35:5)

“Whoever keeps the law,

Makes many offerings.

Whoever heeds the commandments

Makes an offering of well-being.

Whoever returns a kindness

Offers choice fine flour.

Whoever gives alms

Sacrifices a thank offering.

To keep from wickedness

Is pleasing to the Lord.

To forsake unrighteousness

Is atonement.”

Sirach reminds us of the connection between keeping the law and offering the sacrificial rites. If you keep the law, you are like offering many sacrifices. If you keep the commandments, you are making the equivalent of a well-being or peace offering. When you return a kindness to someone, offer them the choice flour. If you give alms, you are like making a thanksgiving sacrifice. Whenever you keep from wickedness, you are pleasing to the Lord. When you stay away from unrighteousness, you are making an atonement for your sins. Keeping the law is like offering sacrifices.

The sacrifice for the dead in hope of the resurrection (2 Macc 12:43-12:46)

“Judas Maccabeus also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver. He sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he was not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.”

Judas Maccabeus took up a collection from each man so that he had 2,000 silver drachmas, about $50,000 USA. He sent this money to Jerusalem for a sin offering. This is where the text becomes interesting. This biblical author accounts for the resurrection. This is a clear indication that he or they believed in the resurrection of these dead soldiers. Why pray for the dead if they do not rise? If you fall asleep in godliness, they will have a splendid reward. In fact, they made atonement for the dead so that they could be delivered from sin. This is the only text that indicates that you can affect the dead after they have died. This is often viewed as a justification for purgatory since something can happen to the dead before they are fully resurrected. The Latter Day Saints, Mormons, also believe that people can be saved after their death. Clearly this is a prayer or atonement for a person who has died, not a living person. Here is the mention of the resurrection a little over 100 years before the time of Jesus of Nazareth.