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Answering The Atheist
May 14, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 20

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Does God desire animal sacrifices? Some verses indicate yes (Genesis 4:4; 8:20-21; 15:9-10; Exodus 20:24; 29:11-37; Leviticus 1:5; 23:12-18; Numbers 18:17-19; Deuteronomy 12:27), but other verses indicate no (Psalm 40:6; 50:13; 51:16; Isaiah 1:11; 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; Micah 6:6-7). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
God's eternal purpose and desire for man was never realized in the sacrifice of animals. Did God command animal sacrifices? Yes. Did God have a purpose for the sacrifices? Yes. Was God's plan that the animal sacrifices continue perpetually? No.

The sacrifices were used to demonstrate to man the seriousness of sin, the need for purity, and the joy of obedience. Unfortunately, there were times when the people of God viewed the sacrifices as rituals, rather than a teaching tool employed by God to bring them to Christ. When it is said that God did not desire sacrifices or burnt offerings, usually these are contrasted with faithful obedience and service before the Lord from the heart which He did desire, or the ritualistic service which He was receiving from the Jews. Consider:

  • "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:6-8)

  • "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

  • "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High." (Psalm 50:13-14)

  • "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? Says the LORD. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats... Wash yourrselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:11, 16-17)

  • etc.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible