The burnt offering (ʿōlâ) is the most common offering in the Old Testament. It is referred to more times than any other kind of sacrifice. All public events in Israel were celebrated with the burnt offerings. In Scripture, the burnt offering first appears in Genesis 8:20, long before Sinai. When Moses gave instructions concerning the details of the burnt offering, much was already understood, so that lack of full disclosure leaves gaps in our understanding. This, of course, can be said about all of the different kinds of sacrifices.
A unique feature of the burnt offering is that the sacrifice was completely consumed (except for the hides) on the altar and not just select portions, as in the case of other sacrifices. The idea of totality is marked by it being rendered also as a whole (burnt) offering (Deut. 33:10; Ps. 51:19). The two words burnt and whole are integral. The words join together to imply whole-hearted dedication. Neither priest nor laity share in eating this offering; it is the Lord’s entirely.
The theme of devotion associated with this offering is demonstrated by several narrative passages in the Old Testament. For example, God told Abraham, Take your son, your only son, Isaac... Sacrifice him (Gen. 22:2). This was the supreme test for Abraham. This offering of Isaac was termed a burnt offering. Also, after the Israelites were defeated by the Benjamites, they showed a renewed devotion (and repentance?) by a daylong fast and burnt offerings (Judg. 20:26). When Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings to the Lord at Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon there and said, Ask whatever you want me to give you (1 Kings 3:4-5; cf. Gen. 8:20-22).
Total devotion does not go unrewarded. And, it is rea-sonable to conclude that a never-ending fire to consume a complete burnt offering thoroughly on the altar symbolizes a never-ending attachment to God.
That Jesus Christ is all that the burnt offering means is both mirrored and anticipated in Psalm 40:6-7 [7-8] (cf. Heb. 10:5-7): Burnt offerings... you did not require. Then said I, Here I am, I come.... Animal sacrifices gave no pleasure to God by themselves; they gave pleasure in what they reflected and anticipated. Christ’s zeal was in character with the purpose of the burnt offering. His zeal exceeded Jeremiah’s who said, his [God’s] word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones (Jer. 20:9). Jesus had no tolerance for the money changers in His Father’s house. His devotion is particularly accentuated in the garden of Gethsemane. There, at the point of physical collapse and death, sweating drops of blood, Jesus prayed unwaveringly for deliverance from that cup of death so that He might die, not there, but on the cross to accomplish His Father’s will. at Gethsemane, see J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962).
Next Moses proceeds to give details regarding the grain offering. The grain offering is a thing most holy of the offerings, a description, most holy, that describes the room in the Tent-Sanctuary where only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. It too, like the burnt, fellowship and sin offerings are labeled gifts or (qorbän) . The worth of a gift (qorbän) presented by vassals to their lords indicates the vassal’s measure of respect. To seek favor from a sovereign without bringing a prized gift would be an act of impertinence. The prophet Malachi railed at priests for bringing sick, lame and diseased animals as gifts to God for, after all, God is a great God whose name will be great among the nations. They would have never dared to offer such gifts to human office holders (Mal. 1:8). While not all Israelites, of course, can offer expensive gifts, it is ultimately the attitude of the worshipper that counts. On two occasions (see Num. 9:2 and 2 Chron. 29:34), normal expectations of the ceremonial law are set aside as conditions warranted when the heart is right with God.