The fact that Hebrew has seventeen different words translated 'Offering' in English suggests that offerings were an integral and important part of Hebrew culture. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states there is a relationship between the grammar and vocabulary of a culture and the way that culture views the world[1]. The archetypical example usually given is the large number of words that the Eskimos use for snow[2]; although that example is now challenged for veracity[3]. Notwithstanding the secular examples there can be no doubt as to the thorough and detailed treatment that 'Offering' receives at the hand of the Hebrew linguists.

In order to provide easy reference and comparison; the 'bare facts' regarding the Biblical words rendered 'offering' are going to be presented in tabular format; some comments and observations regarding them will then follow in prose.

Word Meaning per Strong's, BDB or Thayer Occurrences per King James Concordance
H4503 - minchâh From an unused root meaning to apportion, that is, bestow; a donation; euphemistically tribute; specifically a sacrificial offering (usually bloodless and voluntary): - gift, oblation, (meat) offering, present, sacrifice Offering (149), present(22), offerings(16),presents(6), gifts(6), oblation(5), sacrifice(5)
H5927 - ‛âlâh A primitive root; to ascend, intransitively (be high) or active (mount); used in a great variety of senses, primary and secondary, literally and figuratively: - arise (up) Went (161), Go(130), Come(104), Came(83), brought(65), offered(38), bring(35), offer(34), gone(22), get(18), goeth(11), ascended(10), cometh(10), ascend(9), offering(9), taken(9), gat(7), cheweth(6), rise(6), carry(4), climb(4), going(4), mount(4), take(4), bringeth(3), carried(3), chew(3), increased(3), offereth(3), put(3), raised(3), spring(3), took(3) + others
H5930 - ‛ôlâh Feminine active participle of H5927 (to ascend); a step or (collectively stairs, as ascending); usually a holocaust (as going up in smoke): - ascent, burnt offering (sacrifice), go up to. Burnt offering (185)
H5262 - nesek From H5258(to pour out); a libation; also a cast idol: - cover, drink offering, molten image. Drink offering (47), Drink(10), molton(4)
H8641- terûmâh from H7311(to be high - or raise); a present (as offered up), especially in sacrifice or as tribute: - gift, heave offering ([shoulder]), oblation, offered (-ing). Oblation(29), Heave offering(19), Offering(11), Heave(9), Gifts(1)
H2403- chaṭṭâ'âh From H2398(to miss); an offence (sometimes habitual sinfulness), and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice, or expiation; also (concretely) an offender: - punishment (of sin), purifying (-fication for sin), sin (-ner, offering). Sin offering (112), Sin (102), Sins(72), punishment(3), purification(2)
H2409 - chaṭṭâyâ' (Chaldee); from a root corresponding to H2398(to miss); an expiation: - sin offering. Sin Offering(1)
H8573- tenûphâh From H5130 (to quiver of vibrate); a brandishing (in threat); by implication tumult; specifically the official undulation of sacrificial offerings: - offering, shaking, wave (offering). Wave offering(14), offering(8), wave(4), shaking(2)
H801- 'ishshâh The same as H800(fire), but used in a liturgical sense; properly a burnt offering; but occasionally of any sacrifice: - (offering, sacrifice), (made) by fire. Offering made by fire(52), fire(12)
H5071- nedâbâh From H5068 (to impel); properly (abstractly) spontaneity, or (adjectively) spontaneous; also (concretely) a spontaneous or (by inference, in plural) abundant gift: - free (-will) offering, freely, plentiful, voluntary (-ily, offering), willing (-ly, offering). Freewill offering(15), free(2), freely(2), voluntary(2), willing(2)
H5069 - nedab (Chaldee); corresponding to H5068 (to impel); be (or give) liberal (liberally): - (be minded of . . . own) freewill (offering), offer freely (willingly). Freewill(2), Freewill offering(1)
H7133- qorbân From H7126(to approach); something brought near the altar, that is, a sacrificial present: - oblation, that is offered, offering Offering(66), Oblation(11)
H817 - 'âshâm From H816 (to be guilty); guilt; by implication a fault; also a sin offering: - guiltiness, (offering for) sin, trespass (offering). Trespass offering(33), Trespass(9), Sin(3)
H819 - 'ashmâh Feminine of H817; guiltiness, a fault, the presentation of a sin offering: - offend, sin, (cause of) trespass (-ing, offering) Trespass(11), sin(4), Trespas Offering(1) (Lev 6:5)
H2076 - zâbach A primitive root; to slaughter an animal (usually in sacrifice): - kill, offer, (do) sacrifice, slay. Sacrifice(85), offer(37), kill(3), slew(3), slain(2), offering(1)
H4469 - mamsâk From H4537(to mix); mixture, that is, (specifically) wine mixed (with water or spices): - drink-offering, mixed wine. Mixed wine(1), drink offering(1)[4]
H6999 - qâṭar A primitive root (rather identical with H7000(to enclose) through the idea of fumigation in a close place and perhaps thus driving out the occupants); to smoke, that is, turn into fragrance by fire (especially as an act of worship): - burn (incense, sacrifice) (upon), (altar for) incense, kindle, offer (incense, a sacrifice). Burn(59), incense(58), burnt(25), burned(19), burneth(2), offered(2)
G4374 - prospherō From G4314(forward) and G5342(to carry) (including its alternate); to bear towards, that is, lead to, tender (especially to God), treat: - bring (to, unto), deal with, do, offer (unto, up), present unto, put to. Brought(15), offered(14), Offer(10), bring(2), offering(2)
G4376 - prosphora From G4374; presentation; concretely an oblation (bloodless) or sacrifice: - offering (up). Offering(8), offerings(1)

It can be seen from the above that whilst there is a great breadth of meaning behind the word 'offering' there are also some dominant themes; at least if one assumes that frequency of repetition denotes centrality of thought.

Firstly we have the picture of smoke ascending. Sometimes the focus is upon the ascension of the smoke (‛ôlâh, ‛âlâh), sometimes it is upon the nature of the smoke(qâṭar) and sometimes upon the fire that causes the smoke to arise ('ishshâh). The commonest of the words (‛ôlâh) can even be rendered holocaust and focuses upon the fact that the sacrifice was complete. To use a modern idiom 'everything had gone up in smoke'.

The next family of words focuses upon the implied relationship between the person offering the gift and the God to whom it is given. Thus minchâh dwells upon the fact that the gift is a portion belonging to the other. The fact that the gift is given to one higher than the giver is then shown through terûmâh . The Greek word prospherō stresses that the gift is given towards someone and then the Hebrew qorbân stresses that the result is that the two are brought closer together.

The third group stresses the motivation or cause of the offering. The largest member of the group is chaṭṭâ'âh which is the sin offering. I was particularly struck here that the word literally means 'sin'; so as our Sin Offering became sin for us then the sin offering of the Hebrews was described as: 'sin' for them. The group also includes the closely related guilt offering 'âshâm and 'ashmâh but also the freewill or voluntary offering nedâbâh and nedab.

The final group looks to the nature or mode of the sacrifice itself. The Hebrew differentiates between pouring a drink(nesek), waving or brandishing and object(tenûphâh) or the slaying an animal (zâbach). The Greek rather just focuses upon the fact that the object is being presented (prosphora). All however stress that something is being done to dedicate this object to God.

It is almost impossible to summarize so much information without necessarily blurring much of the distinction that has deliberately been made. However I would suggest that we should see the offering as first and foremost something which is designed to rise to God. We should see it as something which belongs to Him as of right but something which we are to bring towards Him and which will result in us being closer to him. Some of this may spring from our own sense of sinfulness or guilt and gratitude over His Son's dying for our sins but it should also arise spontaneously from a desire to give something to God. The Old Testament teaches at least three different methods of offering; the New focuses upon the fact that whatever it is it should be done for and to God.


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