Monday, April 24, 2006
Why Did God Ask for Animal Sacrifice?
Ever wonder why God asked the Israelites to sacrifice animals like cattle, sheep and goats? It’s not because God loves the smell of burning meat.
Moses explains to Pharaoh why the Israelites must be allowed to go out to the desert to offer their sacrifices to the Lord; their sacrifices would be “abominable” to the Egyptians (Ex. 8:25-27). In other words, Israel was to sacrifice to the Lord the very animals the Egyptians worshipped as gods.
In fact, we know that worshipping these gods was a major temptation for the Israelites. The Israelites end up worshipping a golden calf in Exodus 32.
God wanted Israel to renounce the gods of Egypt and worship Him as the one true God. No longer would Israel serve other gods – God wanted them to serve Him.
When Pharaoh refused to let the people go, God responded by sending 10 famous plagues on Egypt. The plagues symbolize judgment on the gods of Egypt.
● In turning the Nile to blood, God symbolizes his victory over Egyptians gods like Hapi, who governed the Nile (cf. Exodus 7:14-25).
● With the plague of the frogs, the frog goddess Heket is mocked (Ex. 8:1-15).
● The bull gods Apis and Hathor are judged in the destruction of the cattle (Ex. 9:1-7).
● With the plague of darkness, the sun god Re is defeated (Ex. 10:21-23).
But even after nine plagues Pharaoh refuses to let God’s firstborn son, Israel, go. Because of this God threatens the firstborn of the Egyptians, as He promised Moses he would. The Lord tells Moses that he will send his angel of death to slay the firstborn sons in Egypt and the firstborn male offspring of all livestock (Ex. 11:4-9).
Yet, God gives Israel a way to save their firstborn sons - the Passover (Ex. 12:1-27).
By slaying these animals God symbolically slaughters the gods of Egypt. The Lord explains, “I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Ex. 12:12). This is the event that finally breaks Pharaoh (Ex. 12:30-31). Moses leads God’s people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the desert.