The Daily Sacrifice in the Mosaic Covenant

In another essay, we read about the Mosaic Covenant, and how the golden calf incident at Mt. Sinai changed the terms of the covenant from easy to difficult: the Lord imposed a lot of sacrificial laws on Israel. And in a different essay, we read about the daily sacrifice of the Tabernacle/Temple – the morning and evening sacrifices that so beautifully allude to our Eucharistic sacrifice.

Summary: God swore a covenant with Moses on Mt. Sinai, which was a simple, reasonable set of laws that typified covenantal practices of that time and place (cf Ex 20:1-23:33). Among them was a simple law against idolatry:

20 "Whoever sacrifices to any god, save to the LORD only, shall be utterly destroyed. (Ex 22:20)

After receiving these covenantal laws from God, Moses read the laws to the Israelites, who twice swore to live by them (cf Ex 24:3-8). Moses then went back up Mt. Sinai and Israel promptly offered sacrifice to Apis, the Egyptian fertility god – the infamous golden calf incident. At first, God told Moses He would destroy them, per the above law that they just (twice) swore to follow. But Moses asked for mercy and God showed Israel mercy. He did, however, punish them in a different way: He established a very elaborate set of ceremonial laws involving a tabernacle, an Ark, an altar, a priesthood and a sacrifice (cf Ex 25-30). The sacrifice mentioned in Exodus was a daily one and was the only continual sacrifice mentioned in Exodus, which Moses received from the Lord on Sinai. (There were also special, one-time sacrifices mentioned for the initial consecration of the first priests and the first altar.)

This essay will look at that daily sacrifice (Hebrew: Tamid) in more detail. We will see how the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled them, and how they were a type of the Eucharistic sacrifice. First note, however, that the book of Leviticus, which follows Exodus, enumerates quite a few laws of sacrifice for many occasions and special feast days. These were not revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, but were revealed to him later, at “the tent of meeting.” The tent of meeting was outside of the encampment of Israel; Moses would enter it and God, in the visible form of the Cloud of Glory (Shekinah) would “stand” outside the tent and speak to Moses:

9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, every man at his tent door. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Ex 33:9-11)

“As a man speaks to his friend.” Let that idea sink in a bit! Here at the tent of meeting is where Moses heard the additional and very complicated other laws of sacrifice, enumerated in Leviticus. This tent of meeting was the initial place of sacrifice until Israel completed the Tabernacle, which then replaced the tent of meeting. I mention this to note that there were other sacrifices in the Mosaic law, but the Tamid was the foundation of them all, the one revealed to Moses on Sinai.

The daily Tamid sacrifice is mentioned in Exodus:

38 "Now this is what you shall offer upon the altar: two lambs a year old day by day continually. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer in the evening; 40 and with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a libation. 41 And the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, and shall offer with it a cereal offering and its libation, as in the morning, for a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the LORD. 42 It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak there to you. (Ex 29:38-42)

These daily morning and evening sacrifices were offered up every day, for a millennium. First at the tent of meeting, then in the Tabernacle, finally in Solomon’s Temple – they ended with the destruction of Temple in 70 A.D. They were replaced by the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the new covenant, which they typified.

The morning & evening sacrifices consisted of four items: a lamb, flour, oil, and wine. Let’s look at the lamb. As noted in the above text, the lambs were to be yearlings, that is, less than one year old. (Any older and it’s no longer a lamb, it’s a sheep.) Furthermore, the lamb was to be unblemished, i.e., pure white with no defects or discolorations. The above text does not say this, but the sacrificial laws are repeated in Numbers, where this criteria was specified:

3 And you shall say to them, This is the offering by fire which you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a continual offering. 4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer in the evening; 5 also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a cereal offering, mixed with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the LORD. 7 Its drink offering shall be a fourth of a hin for each lamb; in the holy place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. 8 The other lamb you shall offer in the evening; like the cereal offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the LORD. (Nm 28:3-8)

Verse 3 states the daily sacrificial lambs were to be both male and without blemish. Why lambs? I don’t know. Elsewhere, Scripture portrays sacrificial lambs as docile creatures who offered no resistance when they were led to slaughter. They gave the appearance of a willing sacrifice, which is analogous to our Lord, the Lamb of God.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. (Is 53:7)

Requiring the sacrificial lamb to be male also points to Jesus, the Son of God. Requiring the lamb to be unblemished aligns with Jesus’ innocence – He was sinless. It is because of this daily sacrifice, the fundamental of Israel’s worship of God, that Jesus is called the Lamb of God; it was a type of His redemptive sacrifice. The daily sacrifice of the lambs ended after He offered up His once-for-all sacrifice.

26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest [Jesus], holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. (Heb 7:26-27)

We note the daily sacrifices demanded flour and wine. The flour was mixed with oil; this flour/oil mixture was to symbolize bread – this was a food offering of bread, wine, and lamb. (FYI a “hin” of wine or oil was roughly equivalent to a quart or liter today.) A food offering like this symbolized a shared meal between God and the priest, in addition to the sacrificial meaning. Needless to say, this offering of bread and wine pointed to the future Eucharistic dimension of our Lord’s sacrifice. Jesus is not only the Lamb of God, but He is also the bread and wine whom we must eat.

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."… 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:51,53-56)

Finally, we note the daily sacrifice was a burnt offering. The lamb was slaughtered, its blood sprinkled on the altar, then it’s body was laid upon the altar and burned, along with the flour and oil. The wine was poured out on the ground. The burnt offering is described as a pleasing odor to the Lord. The image is of smoke rising, up to the heavens where God is pleased by the odor of the earthly sacrifice. This ancient, vertical imagery pointed to Jesus’ sacrifice, which was truly pleasing to the Father, as He ascended to heaven where He offered Himself:

24 For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (Heb 9:24)

In summary: The daily sacrifices of ancient Israel, offered every morning and evening, typified the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. They pointed to the future fulfillment in the Eucharistic sacrifice which is offered not as a punishment for our infidelity as were the OT sacrifices, but as our participation in and communion with the one great sacrifice and feast of our Lord.

29 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29)

6b I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,… 8 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; 9 and they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!" 14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev 5:6, 8-14)


Post-script: Closely related to this Tamid sacrifice was the annual Passover sacrifice, which is described HERE.