Forgiveness Without Sacrifice – Part 02
In reading the Hebrew Testament, we often come to the understanding that the only form of atonement was an animal sacrifice, but this isn’t the case when we read the passage in Numbers 16:41-50, and in particular verse 46, where Moses directs Aaron to make atonement with incense.
41. But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord’s people.”
42. It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared.
43. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting,
44. and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
45. “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces.
46. And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!”
47. Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people.
48. And he took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked.
49. But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah.
50. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been checked.
We see that the Lord accepts the incense offering. In this case, atonement was made without the shedding of blood.
This appears to be the only situation where this occurred in the Hebrew Text.
Many scholars believe that it was because Aaron used the golden censer reserved for the Day of Atonement, but that doesn’t answer the question as to why such a means of atonement was acceptable in this case and not in others.
Our personal thoughts are that we are dealing with pure faith and God’s grace, much in the same way as repentance coupled with faith in Jesus Christ brings atonement or forgiveness. If so, then why the emphasis on animal sacrifice? We believe it’s because people didn’t want to stop killing and eating animals, and sacrificing them gave them an excuse.