Sacrifice - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words
Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H2077
Original Word: zebah?
Usage Notes: "sacrifice." This root with the meaning "to sacrifice" is represented in other Semitic languages: Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and Arabic. Zebah? continued to be used in Mishnaic Hebrew, and its use is greatly reduced in modern Hebrew, since there is no temple. The word is used 162 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and in all periods. The first occurrence is in Gen. 31:54: "Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount." The basic meaning of zebah? is "sacrifice." When a "sacrifice" had been slaughtered by the priest, he then offered it to God. The purpose was not just to create communion between God and man; rather, the "sacrifice" represented the principle that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Lev. 17:11; cf. Heb. 9:22). In the act of "sacrifice" the faithful Israelite submitted himself to the priest, who, in keeping with the various detailed regulations (see Leviticus), offered the "sacrifice" in accordance with God's expectations. The "sacrifices" are the Passover "sacrifice" (Exod. 12:27), "sacrifice" of the peace offering (Lev. 3:1ff.), "sacrifice" of thanksgiving (Lev. 7:12), and "sacrifice" of the priest's offering (qarban; Lev. 7:16). The zebah? was not like the burnt offering (‘olâ), which was completely burnt on the altar; and it was unlike the sin offering (h?at?t?a’t), where the meat was given to the priest, for most of the meat of the zebah? was returned to the person who made the "sacrifice". The fat was burned on the altar (Lev. 3:4-5), and the blood was poured out around the altar (Lev. 3:2). The person who made the zebah? had to share the meat with the officiating priest (Exod. 29:28; Lev. 7:31- 35; Deut. 18:3).
In view of the fact that the people shared in the eating of the zebah?, the "sacrifice" became a communal meal in which the Lord hosted His people. Zephaniah's message of judgment is based on this conception of "sacrifice": "Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests" (Zeph. 1:7). The Israelite came to the temple with the animal to be sacrificed. It was butchered, boiled, and eaten in the area of the sanctuary (1 Sam. 2:13). Apart from the sanctuaries, the Israelites also celebrated God's goodness together in their native villages. The story of Samuel gives several good illustrations of this custom (cf. 1 Sam. 9:13; 1 Sam. 16:2-3).
The prophets looked with condemnation on apostate Israel's "sacrifices": "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats" (Isa. 1:11). Hosea spoke about the necessity of Israel's love for God: "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:6). Samuel the prophet rebuked Saul with the familiar words: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). David knew the proper response to God when he had sinned: "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psa. 51:16-17).
The Septuagint gives the following translation: thysia ("sacrifice; offering"). The kjv gives these senses: "sacrifice; offering."