The Way of Truth
Study 8: The Background of Sacrifice
In the last lesson we saw how Allah worked in the life of Ibrahim (pbuh). We saw Allah’s promise to Ibrahim and how that promise was to be fulfilled by one of the descendants of Ishaq, Ibrahim’s son by his wife Sarah. In this present lesson we shall continue our study of Ibrahim and see how Allah worked in another area of his life. We shall examine the practice of the annual Sacrifice or Qurban (sometimes rendered Kurban, Korban, or Korbani) and how it was initiated through Allah’s command to Ibrahim. We shall also see how Qurban fits into Allah’s promise to Ibrahim.
Qurban was begun at the time of Prophet Ibrahim
According to the Injil and the Taurat, the practice of Qurban began with Ibrahim. Allah commanded Ibrahim to take his son and sacrifice him before Allah. Ibrahim began to carry out Allah’s command. We find in the Injil that Ibrahim even believed Allah was able to raise his son from the dead and give him back alive (Hebrews 11:17-19). Just as he was about to sacrifice his son however, Allah told Ibrahim to stop and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son. Allah saw Ibrahim was obedient. Allah was not primarily interested in sacrifice but in faith and obedience. Rather than accepting Ibrahim’s sacrifice Allah provided his own sacrifice. With Ibrahim, then, the practice of Qurban was begun.
Detailed rules for Qurban were given to Prophet Musa
The practice of Qurban was given more definite form and came into wide practice through the rules Allah gave to Musa (pbuh). Allah had from the very beginning commanded that disobedience or sin result in death. Yet, we have seen that Allah loves his creation and desires that none of them should be destroyed. As a result of his love we saw how at different times and for different people Allah made special grace arrangements. Through those arrangements and by faith in Allah and his promise people were saved from the just punishment their sins deserved. Such arrangements, however, were only temporary. We find in Qurban a more universal arrangement for obtaining forgiveness from sin. It was available to all men. We saw a similar thing in the last lesson, how Allah made a universal promise to Ibrahim. Thus, we find two possibilities through which all men have the possibility of obtaining Allah’s grace. First was the promise to Ibrahim and second was Qurban. We shall see, in fact, that these two things, according to Allah’s perfect plan, worked together so that men might receive grace. For the present, however, let us examine Qurban more closely.
Through Qurban man saw how terrible his sin was, and the ugly results it brought. He saw that the result of sin was death and that as the Injil says,
…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment… (Hebrews 9:27)
Allah commanded that when any person sinned they were to give Qurban. Instead of the sinner himself dying, his innocent sacrifice would be killed, it’s blood spilled out on the altar and the animal’s death accepted by Allah as payment for the sin. The regulations for such Qurban were as follows.
- To recognize and admit one’s sin and the need to obtain Allah’s forgiveness.
- To find an animal perfect and without blemish for sacrifice.
- To believe Allah that through this arrangement sin would be forgiven.
- To offer the sacrifice at the temple or Allah’s “holy house” and sprinkle the blood on the altar.
The priests at the Temple were given responsibility for testing of the animals to make sure there were perfect. After offering the Qurban the meat was burned, except for small portion given to the priest. Through this procedure it was believed that a person’s sins were forgiven.
In the Taurat there are two main types of Qurban recorded
Allah commanded Musa to institute two types of Qurban. The first was given at the birth of a child. On the 40th day for boy or the 80th day for the girl the family was to offer a lamb and a turtledove for sin. After that initial Qurban, whenever a person broke one of the laws given by Musa he was obligated to present a Qurban or endure the consequences of the sin himself. As Allah accepted a substitute for Ibrahim’s son, so also in Musa’s time he allowed men to substitute in animal in place of their own death. In fact, we see a similar thing way back during the time of Adam and Hawa when Allah sacrificed an innocent animal to save man from the results of his own sin. Allah used the skin of the animal to clothe Adam and Hawa in order to cover their shame. As the Injil says about Qurban,
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)
In Qurban the animal’s throat is cut and the blood spilled out and sprinkled on the altar. For the one who admitted his sin and repented, Allah accepted the life of that innocent animal instead of the sinner’s own life.
The Qurban commanded by Musa was not complete
What is the significance of all this? We must note primarily two things. First, Qurban as given to Musa was not meant to be perfect and complete, but rather was a symbol of a perfect Qurban arrangement to come. The Qurban of Musa was never complete for several reasons. For the majority of people who were poor, giving Qurban was very difficult or impossible. They simply could not afford the animal to be sacrificed. On the other hand, those who were rich and could afford the Qurban were often prevented from buying an animal because their income was not halal. This arrangement of Qurban was never complete or finished. After giving a Qurban the worshipper was always faced with the fact that he would again sin thereby always necessitating a future Qurban. There would be an unending cycle of sin and sacrifice as long as the person lived. Finally, many people who lived far away from the temple found it impossible to go and offer sacrifice according to the law. Thus, the Qurban of Musa was not the final answer for man’s sin.
The Qurban commanded by Musa had an important purpose
Yet, the incompleteness of Musa’s Qurban was not as bad as might at first seem. The real purpose of Musa’s Qurban was to show people that sin result sin death and that a righteous Allah must demand the penalty of sin. It also shows that Allah the merciful and loving allows a substitution for the payment of the penalty. Also, the Qurban of Musa’ served as a sign or symbol to point people to a perfect final Qurban. A Qurban Allah himself would provide. The Qurban of Musa was insufficient to free its followers of their sins but it served to point them to a future Qurban that Allah, through the prophets, was predicting would come.
Allah’s promise of grace to Ibrahim was closely related to Allah’s command to give Qurban
We find here that the concepts of Qurban and Allah’s grace to Ibrahim unite. Allah promised that through one of the descendants of Ibrahim and Ishaq all of mankind would be blessed. This was to be Allah’s final grace arrangement available to all of mankind. He also promised that Allah, the almighty merciful Allah, would himself provide a final perfect Qurban. As he provided an animal for Ibrahim to offer instead of his son so he would provide a sacrifice for all mankind so we, through Allah’s grace, would not have to suffer the consequences of our sin. As we examine Allah’s word we find that these two great promises are in actuality not two but one and the same. Allah’s grace was to be available to all men through one of the descendants of Ibrahim and Ishaq and also through Allah’s perfect Qurban he would provide. These two, according to the perfect plan all of Allah, are actually one and the same. It was that very descendant of Ibrahim and Ishaq who was to be the perfect Qurban. We find the “who” was specified when Allah promised Ibrahim that through a descendant of Ishaq all men would be blessed. We see a the “how” of the same promise given when Allah commanded Ibrahim to offer his son as the sacrifice and then provided a sacrifice himself. Allah specified to Ibrahim the “who” and the “how” of his plan to provide grace for all mankind. Let us look now that what Scripture has to say about this final perfect Qurban that Allah was to provide.
Allah’s final Qurban was to be perfect
We find that the predictions of this final perfect Qurban of Allah is one of the major themes of the Taurat, Zabur and other scriptures. We have seen how the animals used in Qurban were to be perfect. In the same way, the perfect Qurban Allah was to send also had to be perfect and without sin. In the book of the prophet Shaya it is written,
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Shaya 53:9-11)
All men, being sinners, are responsible for their own sin and hence cannot bear the punishment for anyone else’s sins. Allah’s perfect Qurban, however, being without sin, was able to take on himself the penalty of others sins. It is written,
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by Allah, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Shaya 53:4-6)
The birth of Allah’s final Qurban was to fulfill prophecy
Besides being without sin, it was also revealed through the prophets where the birthplace of Allah’s Qurban was to be,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
Thus, the one who was to be Allah’s perfect Qurban was to be born in the little town of Bethlehem.
We have seen that, as the one who was to fulfill the promise given to Ibrahim, the coming Qurban was to be from the family of Ibrahim through Ishaq. In later prophecies this was even more closely specified. According to the Zabur,
Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness– and I will not lie to Dawud– that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” (Zabur 89:35-37)
We see that the Qurban of Allah who was to make Allah’s grace available to all men was to be from the line of Dawud.
The prophet Shaya also prophesied concerning the one to come that he was to be born of a virgin,
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Shaya 7:14)
He was to be born without human father through the power of Allah. This was necessary to allow him to be sinless. As descendants of Adam all other men are sinners inheriting their sinful nature from Adam. As the Injil says,
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– (Romans 5:12)
As sons of Adam we have already seen how we’re all infected by the same disease –sin. Only the one who was to be Allah’s Qurban would be without that disease, because only he would be born without human father.
The life and works of Allah’s final Qurban was to fulfill prophecy
We looked at prophecies concerning the birth of Allah’s final Qurban. Let us look briefly at one dealing with his life. In the book of the prophet Shaya it is recorded of him,
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, (Shaya 61:1-2)
The coming promised Qurban would do many signs and wonders during his life. He would heal, work miracles, and help the poor and oppressed. These miraculous signs would be one more way by which people would know he was Allah’s promised one.
The above are but a few of the made prophecies concerning Allah’s coming Qurban. We shall examine more these later. At the present that us merely note in closing that this final Qurban, his coming into the world, his life and death for the sins of others, was all according to the perfect plan and will of Allah. It is written,
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (Shaya 53:10)
It was Allah’s perfect plan that through this Qurban sinful men might be saved and the promise given to Ibrahim might be fulfilled. We shall be looking in the next lesson at how and by whom all these prophecies were fulfilled.
1. Who offered up the first Qurban?
2. Which of the following was true,
A. Allah accepted Ibrahim’s sacrifice
B. Allah provided a substitute for Ibrahim’s sacrifice.
3. Give three of the four conditions for Qurban as given to Musa.
4. According to the Law of Musa how often was a person obliged to give Qurban?
A. Once in his lifetime
B. Once the first day of each year
C. After each sin.
5. Name two reasons which could hinder someone from being able to follow Musa’s laws for Qurban:
6. According to the Injil (Hebrews 9:22), what is necessary for the forgiveness of sins?
7. Allah’s prophesied final perfect Qurban was to be,
A. Sinful like all other men
C. Sinful but repentant
8. Where was Allah’s prophesied final perfect Qurban to be born?
9. What was to be unusual about the final Qurban’s mother?
10. Describe the relationship between the promise given to Ibrahim and the command of Qurban given to Ibrahim.