12 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days. 13 And you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, thirteen bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old; they shall be without blemish; 14 and their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each of the thirteen bulls, two tenths for each of the two rams, 15 and a tenth for each of the fourteen lambs; 16 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering and its drink offering.
17 “On the second day twelve bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 18 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 19 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
20 “On the third day eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 21 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 22 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
23 “On the fourth day ten bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 24 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 25 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering and its drink offering.
26 “On the fifth day nine bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 27 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 28 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
29 “On the sixth day eight bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 30 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 31 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offerings.
32 “On the seventh day seven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old without blemish, 33 with the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 34 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering.
35 “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly. You shall not do any ordinary work, 36 but you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish, 37 and the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 38 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering.
39 “These you shall offer to the Lord at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.”
40 So Moses told the people of Israel everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses. – Numbers 29:12-40 ESV
Reading through chapter 29, it’s impossible not to be staggered by the sheer number of offerings God required the people of Israel to make. This chapter only covers the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which was the first month of the civil year. When the people came into the land this would be the time of year when they had the most leisure time, because it would fall between the harvest and the next planting. So, God seemed to fill it with a wider array of sacrifices and solemn occasions.
But in this one chapter alone you have outlined the observances for the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the month, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day, and the Feast of Booths on the fifteenth day. In that one month alone the people would sacrifice 73 bulls, 17 rams, 120 male lambs, and 10 male goats.
That doesn’t include all the other sacrifices that were to be made on various days of the month on an annual basis. In fact, if you look at chapters 28 and 29, it would appear that the yearly offerings, made at the peoples’ expense, without taking into account a vast number of voluntary vow and trespass offerings, would have added up to 15 goats, 21 kids, 72 rams, 132 bulls, and 1,101 lambs. So, the total of animals sacrificed at public cost would have been an incredible 1,241. Then if you take into account the huge quantity of lambs slain at Passover each year, the number goes out the roof. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, in the time of Christ, the number of lambs sacrificed at Passover in a single year would have been in the vicinity of 255,600. That is an incredible amount of animals.
Think of the cost to the people. These were not the runts of the litter they were sacrificing, but the very best they had to offer. They were sacrificing their breeding stock, all those animals who were free from disease or disfigurement. Any animal they offered to God had to be completely free from blemish. They were required to provide only the very best. In an agriculturally based society, this was an expensive proposition. And it was mandatory. No options. No excuses. So what’s the point? What does all this blood and sacrifice have to do with us? In The Expositors Bible Commentary, Ronald Allen says this:
“As we, the modern readers of Numbers, think scripturally, this overwhelming emphasis on sacrificial worship has one intent: to cause each reader to think of the enormity of the offense of our sin against the holiness of God, thus driving the repentant sinner to the foot of the Cross. All sacrifices—whether of the morning or evening, of Sabbath or New Moon—have their ultimate meaning in the death the Savior died. Apart from his death, these sacrifices were just the killing of animals and the burning of their flesh with attendant ceremonies. After his death, sacrifices such as these are redundant—indeed, offensive—for they would suggest that something was needed in addition to the Savior’s death. But before his death, these sacrifices were the very means God gave his people in love to help them face the enormity of their sin, the reality of their need for his grace, and—in some mysterious way—to point them to the coming cross of Savior Jesus.”
Thousands of lambs could never add up to the one sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. But they can reveal the incredible cost of sin, and that sin required a payment. The shedding of blood.
In fact, we can say that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified by sprinkling with blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. – Hebrews 9:22 NLT
Every one of the sacrifices God required the Israelites to make was meant to foreshadow and point to the final sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:20). They were intended to be a temporary solution to mankind’s ongoing problem with sin and the penalty of death that accompanied it. And the author of Hebrews points out the temporary and imperfect nature of the sacrificial system.
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. – Hebrews 10:1 NLT
He went on to reveal the built-in limitations of animal sacrifices. While they could offer a temporary means of atonement, all they could really do was remind people of their ongoing struggle with sin. And he pointed out the reason for their ineffectiveness.
For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebrews 10:4 NLT
The sacrificial system was never intended to be a permanent solution to the problem of sin. The very fact that the offerings were required on a repetitive and perpetual basis reveals that they were like treating a terminal disease with a bandaid.
The whole reason Jesus Christ came to earth was to bring about a permanent solution to the death sentence hanging over the heads of a sinful humanity.
Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). – Hebrews 10:8 NLT
Yes, God had been the one to institute the whole sacrificial system, but it was never meant to be the final solution. Jesus was always intended to be the one true sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world.
God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. – Hebrews 10:10 NLT
That holy sacrifice was presented by God Himself, and it cost Him dearly.
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT
He sacrificed His precious Son on mankind’s behalf. He gave the best He had to atone for the sins of humanity. And, as a result, those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial and substitutionary death, have forgiveness of sin. And we do not need to offer any more sacrifices. Jesus Christ accomplished it all with the sacrifice of His life in our place. No more blood needs to be shed. No more lives need to be sacrificed. And the author of Hebrews points out the remarkable nature of this once-for-all-time gift.
Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. – Hebrews 10:11-12 NLT
No more sacrifices are needed. Why? Because Jesus’ death paid the death we owed and now God has forgiven and forgotten our sins.
“I will never again remember
their sins and lawless deeds.” – Hebrews 10:17 NLT
The Israelites, who were destined to keep on sinning, were also required to keep on sacrificing so that they might receive a temporary reprieve from their well-deserved judgment. But for all those who are in Christ, “when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices” (Hebrews 10:18 NLT).
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.