There are three kinds of peace-offering: (1) the thank-offering (); (2) the votive-offering (); and (3) the free-will offering (). The thank-offering is a response to acts of divine beneficence; the votive and the free-will sacrifices are connected with the expectation of benefit; but the significance of the thank-offering is wider than that of the other two. The votive offering is prompted by a feeling of gratefulness at the fulfilment of a petition; while the free-will sacrifice, which has the character of complete voluntariness, has its origin not so much in the gratitude elicited by a happy experience as in the spontaneous motive of piety.

Usually Private Sacrifices.

Peace-offerings were usually private sacrifices, their characteristic feature being the fact that the worshipers entered into a common feast; but they were probably offered on high occasions also. Ezekiel suggests that the kings furnish animals for the assembled people (Ezek. xlv. 17), and regards the common meal as the center of the entire cult; for he speaks of "eating upon the bamoth" (ib. xviii. 6, xxii. 9; Deut. xii. 18, xiv. 26). P does not know of this. Other instances of the public peace-sacrifice are the offering of the ram at the installation of the priests (Ex. ix.), and the annual offering of two lambs along with two loaves of new wheat bread at Pentecost (Lev. xxii. 19). These last were originally local offerings; in later times they were presented in the Temple for the whole people. Sometimes guests were invited, and the poor, the stranger, and the Levite, as well as the male and female servants, could join the domestic circle (Deut. xii. 17-18, xvi. 11; comp. Ps. xxii. 27); but only Levitically clean persons could participate in the meal (Lev. vii. 19-21). The meals were in general of a joyful character, wine being freely indulged in. Meat that was unconsumed might not be profaned. That which was left over from the "praise-offering" had to be consumed on the same day (ib. verse 15); the residue of the other communal sacrifices had to be disposed of on the second day; and all that then remained had to be disposed of outside the camp on the third day (Lev. vii. 16 et seq., xix. 6).

It is difficult to determine whether Yhwh was regarded as the guest at these sacrificial meals, or the sacrificers were considered guests of God, to whom the sacrifice was being devoted. Inasmuch as community was expressed at these sacrifices by reciprocal giving and accepting, God must have been considered as more than a mere guest. He awards inthe meal His divine gifts as a recompense for the honor received from the community in the offering of its best. Dillmann ("Die Bücher Exodus und Leviticus," pp. 483-489, 491, Leipsic, 1897) thinks that the sacrifice mentioned in Lev. vii. 11, 20, 21, 29 was not a sacrifice destined "for the Lord," but a "peace and amity offering" (see also Wellhausen, "Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels," p. 7, note).

Through the common-meal sacrifice the members of the family or gens (I Sam. xx. 6), as likewise an army at the beginning of a campaign, were brought into communion with God. R. Smend ("Alttestamentliche Religionsgeschichte," p. 124) refers to the fact that among the Arabs the assembly, after the completed slaughter of the sacrifice, stands silently about the altar; it is the moment when the deity approaches the altar to take its part of the sacrifice (see Wellhausen, "Skizzen," part iii., p. 122, Berlin, 1887). Again, God may be supposed to be the host at the sacrificial meal, since the gifts of which the meal has been prepared are His property, and the house in which the assembly is held belongs to Him (I Sam. ix. 22; Jer. xxxv. 2). The participants in the meal are actually invited by God according to Zeph. i. 7 and Ezek. xxxix. 17 et seq.

Cleansing of Participants.

The meal being holy, the guests were, of course, required to make themselves holy by cleansing themselves; for impurity excluded them from participation (Lev. vii. 16-18, xix. 5-8; I Sam. xx. 26). The people washed and changed their garments. Sometimes they borrowed festive vestments from the priests, not so much that they might appear well before God, but because something of the sanctity of the sacrifice attached to the garments, and to wear them in daily life would be not only a profanation, but, under certain circumstances, a menace to the life of the wearer. Therefore, in olden times festive garments were identical with vestments for ritual use. Those who could not change their garments at least washed themselves—probably after the meal also. Rings, which had frequently the significance of amulets, were worn in honor of the deity (Gen. xxxv. 4; Hos. ii. 14, 15). It is probable that along with meat there was also bread, both leavened and unleavened (I Sam. x. 3; Amos iv. 5; Judges vi. 19). With meat salt was, of course, used, just as oil was used with meal, and bread and wine with the meal in general. Since the meal was a communion between human participants and also with God, it is obvious that God received cooked meat as did also the sacrificial guests (see Wellhausen, "Prolegomena," p. 68). Gideon, in fact, pours the broth over the stone (Judges vi. 20). The concept that God enjoyed the sacrifice was deeply rooted in the minds of the people, as is shown by the fact that, even after the naïve notions regarding sacrificial rites had disappeared, the sacrifice was still designated as "bread of God" and "bread of the fire-offering unto God" (Lev. iii. 11, xxi. 22). What difference there was between "zebaḥ" and "shelem" is not clear. In Josh. xxii. 29 shelamim are differentiated from the zebaḥim. In Ex. xxiv. 5 and I Sam. ii. 15 the two kinds of sacrifice are treated alike. Their use evidently varies. Wellhausen (l.c. p. 70, note 2) surmises that the shelamim were more solemn sacrifices than the zebaḥim. It may be that the share God had in them was also different.

Various Sacrifices.

Orelli holds ("Opfer," in Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." 1904, xiv. 392) that the shelamim are a covenant of friendship (Gen. xxxiv. 21), and express community between God and His own and of God's own among themselves. Hamburger ("R. B. T." 1884, p. 802, s.v. "Opfer") considers that the peace-offering signifies kindness, as of a friend or confidant (Ps. vii. 5; comp. Prov. vii. 14). Guthe ("Kurzes Bibelwörterbuch," p. 486, Tübingen, 1903) says that according to P, which classifies the sacrifices, the shelamim are a form of compensation to Yhwh for the favors of the harvest. As early as Ezekiel, however, the peace-offering had acquired the character of atonement (Ezek. xlv. et seq.), although P does not mention it (Benzinger, "Arch." 1894, pp. 445-446).

Karl C. W. F. Bähr (in "Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus," ii. 368-386, Heidelberg, 1839) derives "shelem" from = "to pay to God the praises due to Him" (comp. Ps. lvi. 13, lxi. 9, lxv. 2, lxvi. 13; Job xxii. 27; Prov. vii. 14; Nah. ii. 1). This sacrifice, therefore, would imply payment of what either has been vowed or is due to God (Ps. l. 14, 23; cxvi. 14, 17; Jonah ii. 10; Hos. xiv. 3). Bähr also considered "tamim" a form analogous to "shelamim" (pp. 135, 370; comp. Job xxi. 23). The relation between man and God is made complete; the disparity is removed: this is "shalom" = "peace." Every grace of God makes man a debtor. The offering of the first-fruits is counted among shelamim, as is also the offering of the vow, which was made not at its assumption, but at its fulfilment (Num. vi.; see also Dillmann, "Die Bücher Exodus und Leviticus," p. 491).

Different Views on the Sacrifice.

Kurtz ("Das Mosaische Opfer," pp. 129-154, Mitau, 1842; idem, "Der Alttestamentliche Opfercultus," ib. 1862) maintains that means "to be perfect," "to make perfect." The sacrifice, therefore, has for its purpose a "restitutio integra," a rehabilitation of the person. Besides, divine benefits cause one to feel that the grace received is undeserved. God shows by His gracious deeds that He maintains His part of the covenant. The thank-offering is to restore the right relation under the consciousness that man on his part has been derelict. The free-will offering and the vow-offering are always mentioned together: their rituals, too, are identical in essential points as differing from the thank-offering. "Peace-offering" is a term covering the different kinds of sacrifices, but it is a thank-offering.

Kalisch ("A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Book of Leviticus," part i., pp. 241-249, London, 1867) says that the shelamim were "safety-offerings." They were connected with what was deemed essential to happiness and a secure existence. The rendering "peace-offering" is vague, and is admissible only on condition that peace is understood to be equivalent to safety, and also that the frame of mind in which the sacrifice is offered is considered. The explanation as "praise-offering,"he says, is not plausible, viz., that God, the priest, and the offerer, on receiving a portion of it, conclude a mutual alliance. The social element connected with the shelamim intimates that it is of later origin than the rest; for it presupposes a degree of legal and political organization considerably in advance of primitive times. Fatness seems to be the leading characteristic of the offering; and fatness is typical of abundance and prosperity. During long periods, also, peace-offerings were employed for the ratification of solemn covenants, treaties, and alliances; and the common meal which followed on such occasions, according to Eastern notions and customs, was peculiarly appropriate.

Victims and Ritual.

The victims of the sacrifice were oxen, sheep, and goats, but not pigeons (Lev. vii. 12; ix. 4, 18; Num. vii. 17). The principle that the animal must be unblemished was not rigidly insisted upon; and the female animal was allowed equally with the more valuable male (Lev. iii. 6, xxii. 23). The "'olah," the "ḥaṭṭat," and the "'asham" (sin-offering) had to be killed on the north side of the altar, but the shelamim might be slain in any part of the court. The reason evidently lay in the fact that these were brought at certain seasons in such large numbers that the space on the north side of the altar was not large enough.

The ritual comprised the imposition of hands, the killing of the victim, and the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar. Of the sacrifices, the fat pieces were dedicated to God (Lev. iii. 3); to the priests were given the breast and the right shoulder (ib. vii. 30, 32; I Sam. ix. 24); to the worshiper, the remainder. The parts assigned to the priest constituted the wave-offering ("terumah"; Ex. xxix. 24, 26), and were waved backward and forward in a line with the altar. According to Orelli, this movement was a symbolical expression of the reciprocity of the giving and receiving on the part of God and the sacrificer (Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Enyc." 1904, xiv. 392). They were waved toward the four sides of the world (see Rashi on Ex. ii. 9; Baḥya on Lev. viii.; and Levi ben Gershon on Lev. iii.). The wave-offering symbolized that the person dedicated himself to God, who dwells as much above as among His people (Hoff, "Die Mosaischen Opfer," p. 23, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1857). Kurtz suggests that the offering was waved vertically as well as toward the four quarters of the world.

A Distinctly Sacrificial Meal.

Onḳelos calls the "tenufah," or heave-offering, , i.e., "separation," "that which is separated for God," the parts being lifted up as if presented to God. The heave-offering consisted of the right shoulder of the animal, and belonged to the officiating priest (Lev. vii. 34). This, together with the breast, might be eaten by the priest and his family in any clean place (Lev. x. 14). While the other sacrifices are devoted entirely to God, or to God and His ministers, the peace-offering is distinctly a sacrificial meal. In respect to ritual, the peace-offering has certain acts in common with the rest, viz., the imposition of hands, the sprinkling of blood on the altar, and the burning of the fat portions; but the person offering it is considered to be in good standing, and not laden with sin as in the case of the other kinds of offering.

For the atoning effect of the peace-offering see Bähr, l.c. ii. 379; for Philo's spiritual explanation of the eucharist or thank-offering see J. Drummond, "Philo Judæus," ii. 319, London, 1888; and for a rationalized account of the sacrifice see Maimonides, "Moreh," iii. 26, 32, 46; idem, "Yad," Ma'ase ha-Ḳorbanot, i. 11.

  • M. M. Kalisch, 'A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Book of Leviticus, London, 1867;
  • I. H. Kurtz, Das Mosaische Opfer, Mitau, 1842;
  • idem, Der Alttestamentliche Opfercultus, Mitau, 1862;
  • K. C. W. F. Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, Heidelberg, 1837;
  • J. C. L. Hoff, Die Mosaischen Opfer, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1857;
  • J. Benzinger, Arch. Freiburgim-Briesgau, 1894;
  • A. Dillmann, Die Bücher Exodus und Leviticus, Leipsic, 1897;
  • J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, Berlin, 1895;
  • Orelli, in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. s.v. Opfer, Leipsic, 1904;
  • Maimonides, Moreh, vol. iii.
E. C. L. Gr.
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