This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Pre-Sinaitic Sacrifices (Part 3)

Our conclusion, therefore, respecting the ante-Mosaic sacrifices, is, that they were the medium of intercourse with God adapted to the expression of the religious feelings of the offerer. Hence they were chiefly eucharistic, but not entirely destitute of the expiatory element. This conclusion is confirmed by an examination of the occasions on which the patriarchs built their altars and offered their victims. If any feeling was predominant in the bosom of Noah when, beside the vacant ark, he reared his altar and laid thereon oblations “of every clean beast,” (Genesis 8:20,) it was one of gratitude to that mercy which had made his family the sole survivors of a drowned world. In the smoke of that great sacrifice curling up toward heaven, Ararat witnessed a thank offering rather than a sin offering, though the heart of the offerer may not have been destitute of a sense of unworthiness and sinfulness. For it is reasonable to suppose that Noah intended the effect which his sacrifice actually produced in the mind of God. That effect was clearly piacular. “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake.” Genesis 8:21. Abraham offered his first victim, as we interpret the altar-building, (Genesis 12:7; 13:18, 25,) not when some unusual sense of sinfulness was felt, but when he had received for his seed the promise of Canaan. But when he is twice convicted of prevarication — first to Pharaoh and then to Abimelech — through the faltering of his faith in the protecting power of Providence, we search in vain for the sacrifices offered in atonement for these sins. The same is true of Isaac’s similar offence against the truth. Genesis 26:7-11. In that critical hour in Jacob’s history when he retired alone by the Jabbok, the very fact that he was destined on the morrow to meet his injured brother must have brought vividly to his memory that act of fraud by which he had so deeply wronged him. Yet no altar was built, no victims from his numerous flocks were selected to expiate his sin. Not till the hairy Esau had returned to the shaggy fastnesses of Mount Seir did Jacob build an altar to the El-Elohe-Israel. Genesis 33:20.

The argument of Richard Watson, (Institutes, vol. ii, p. 171,) from the ante-Mosaic distinction of clean and unclean animals, does not demonstrate the expiatory character of the early sacrifices. The argument derived from the prohibition of eating blood because it is the life of the animal, (Genesis 9:4,) together with Job’s reference in his burnt offering to the sin of his children, (Job 1:5,) renders it probable, but by no means conclusive, that the patriarchs distinctly apprehended the necessity of a vicarious atonement for sin. But we cannot, on the ground of these inferences, announce it as a positive truth; nor can we, with Keil, assert that “we never meet with any allusion to expiation in the pre-Mosaic sacrifices of the Old Testament:” for while there is no undisputed instance of forgiveness through sacrifice, there may be an allusion to expiation in the circumstances just cited.

— Commentary on Leviticus.

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