Slaughter (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H2076
Original Word: zabah?

Usage Notes: "to slaughter, sacrifice." This word is a common Semitic term for sacrifice in general, although there are a number of other terms used in the Old Testament for specific sacrificial rituals. There is no question that this is one of the most important terms in the Old Testament; zabah? is found more than 130 times in its verbal forms and its noun forms occur over 500 times. The first time the verb occurs is in Gen. 31:54, where "Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount." In Exod. 20:24 the word is used in relation to the kinds of sacrifices to be made.

While there were grain and incense offerings prescribed as part of the Mosaic laws dealing with sacrifice (see Lev. 2), the primary kind of sacrifice was the blood offering which required the slaughter of an animal (cf. Deut. 17:1; 1 Chron. 15:26). This blood was poured around the altar, for the blood contained the life, as stated in Lev. 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life" (rsv). Since the blood was the vehicle of life, it belonged to God alone. Because the blood is the life, and because it is given to God in the process of pouring it about the altar, it becomes the means of expiating sin, as an offering for sin and not because it becomes a substitute for the sinner. Zabah? is also used as a term for "slaughter for eating." This usage is closely linked with "slaughter for sacrifice" since all eating of flesh was sacrificial among ancient Hebrews. The word carries this meaning in 1 Kings 19:21: "And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh… and gave unto the people, and they did eat."

Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H2077
Original Word: zebah?

Usage Notes: "sacrifice." This noun occurs more than 160 times in biblical Hebrew. The "sacrifice" which was part of a covenant ritual involved the sprinkling of the blood on the people and upon the altar, which presumably symbolized God as the covenant partner (see Exod. 24:6-8). Another special "sacrifice" was "the sacrifice of the feast of the passover" (Exod. 34:25). In this case the sacrificial lamb provided the main food for the passover meal, and its blood was sprinkled on the doorposts of the Israelite homes as a sign to the death angel.

The "sacrifice" of animals was in no way unique to Israelite religion, for sacrificial rituals generally are part of all ancient religious cults. Indeed, the mechanics of the ritual were quite similar, especially between Israelite and Canaanite religions. However, the differences are very clear in the meanings which the rituals had as they were performed either to capricious Canaanite gods or for the one true God who kept His covenant with Israel.

The noun zebah? is used of "sacrifices" to the one true God in Gen. 46:1: "And Israel took his journey with all that he had… and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac" (cf. Exod. 10:25; Neh. 12:43). The noun refers to "sacrifices" to other deities in Exod. 34:15: "Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice" (cf. Num. 25:2; 2 Kings 10:19).

The idea of "sacrifice" certainly is taken over into the New Testament, for Christ became "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, rsv). The writer of Hebrews makes much of the fact that with the "sacrifice" of Christ, no more sacrifices are necessary (Heb. 9).

Usage Number: 3
Strong's Number: H4196
Original Word: mizbeah?

Usage Notes: "altar." This word is used more than 400 times in the Old Testament. This frequent use is obviously another direct evidence of the centrality of the sacrificial system in Israel. The first appearance of mizbeah? is in Gen. 8:20, where Noah built an "altar" after the Flood.

Countless "altars" are referred to as the story of Israel progresses on the pages of the Old Testament: that of Noah (Gen. 8:20); of Abram at Sichem (Gen. 12:7), at Beth-el (Gen. 12:8), and at Moriah (Gen. 22:9); of Isaac at Beersheba (Gen. 26:25); of Jacob at Shechem (Gen. 33:20); of Moses at Horeb (Exod. 24:4); of Samuel at Ramah (1 Sam. 7:17); of the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:20; 1 Kings 8:64); and of the two "altars" planned by Ezekiel for the restored temple (Ezek. 41:22; Ezek. 43:13-17).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words