If you are poor and cannot afford to bring an animal, you may bring two doves or two pigeons. One of these will be a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness, and the other will be a sacrifice to please me.

Give both birds to the priest, who will offer one as a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness. He will wring its neck without tearing off its head, splatter some of its blood on one side of the bronze altar, and drain out the rest at the foot of the altar. Then he will follow the proper rules for offering the other bird as a sacrifice to please me.

You will be forgiven when the priest offers these sacrifices as the price for your sin.

If you are so poor that you cannot afford doves or pigeons, you may bring two pounds of your finest flour. This is a sacrifice to ask my forgiveness, so don’t sprinkle olive oil or sweet-smelling incense on it. Give the flour to a priest, who will scoop up a handful and send it up in smoke together with the other offerings. This is a reminder that all of the flour belongs to me. By offering this sacrifice, the priest pays the price for any of these sins you may have committed. The priest gets the rest of the flour, just as he does with grain sacrifices. (Leviticus 5:7-13)

God did not want money to stand in the way of people coming to him. The poor were not to be excluded from forgiveness just because they were poor.

Sacrifices of animals in an agrarian society were sacrifices of wealth—the equivalent of taking money out of the bank and setting it on fire. It was not an easy thing for anyone to do—and God understood how hard it was. Therefore, how much a person sacrificed depended upon how much they could afford. The rich offered the most: large animals. The further down the economic scale, the smaller and less valuable the offerings became. At the lowest level, just a little flour would suffice. The poorest of the poor could still manage a handful of flour because God had made it a law that fields could not be harvested completely: enough grain had to be left for the poor to glean (Leviticus 23:22).

Blood was not the key to a good sacrifice. Attitude was. For a person to stay alive, something must die, whether it was the animal that provided the steak dinner, or the wheat plant whose seeds were ground up to make bread. In either case, the picture of the sacrifice is preserved: a death gives life.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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