The wave offering was part of a peace offering made by an Israelite to God that the priest would physically wave over the altar before God. After this, it would be granted to the priests for their use as they served The LORD.
The Bible is packed with references to offerings and sacrifices, all rich in meaning. We know that all of the sacrifices and offerings in the Old Testament were done out of obedience to God’s Word and by His gracious design. This included the wave offering. Let’s take a closer look at the purpose and significance of this interesting element of the peace offering.
Offerings in the Bible
In the Old Testament, sacrifices were God’s way for His people to deal with their sins, for them to be cleansed and reconciled to Himself. There were also offerings of praise and thanksgiving. In all, there were five types of offerings, each one with its own meaning and purpose – and some made at meaningful times, such as the ninth hour.
In the New Testament, Christ, the Lamb of God, is the ultimate sacrifice, a single offering, God’s perfect plan to reconcile man to God once and for all. In response to this precious gift, Christ-followers are called to be living sacrifices offering themselves to God in worship. He is self-existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over all – He is worthy.
The Five Offerings in the Old Testament
- Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1)
This offering involved laying a hand on the head (symbolizing the transfer of sin) of an unblemished animal so it could make atonement for the individual and then killing it before the LORD. Its whole body would then be burnt on the altar.
- Grain Offering (Leviticus 2)
This offering was a voluntary offering of thanksgiving to The LORD. It would happen at the same time as a burnt offering or other sacrifices. Most of the grain offering would be allocated to the priests for their use after a small portion would be burnt at the altar.
- Peace Offering (Leviticus 3)
This offering was another voluntary act of worship between an individual and God. Representing the reconciliation between man and God, Israelites would again lay hands on the unblemished animal before giving it as a food offering on the altar. The wave offering was a type of peace offering (Leviticus 10:14).
- Sin Offering (Leviticus 4)
This animal sacrifice was a means to atone for the sins committed unknowingly and unintentionally, including offense to others.
- Guilt Offering (Leviticus 5)
Leviticus 5 continues with an emphasis on sins of omission and provides further details about the animal sacrifice as a means to appease guilt and atone for sin.
Some argue that animal offerings weren’t fair to the animal – but I would rather be unfair to an animal than sit under sin with no hope for atonement.
Offerings in the New Testament
Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Here we see God’s ultimate plan, Christ (God in the flesh), the perfect sacrifice, a single offering for anyone who accepts Him. With an understanding of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, this picture of a single offering that covered all sins is breathtaking! By His death and resurrection, He has covered all.
Romans 12:1 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
In response to salvation, Christians are called to present themselves as an offering to The LORD as an act of worship. Christians are to dedicate their lives to the One who has had great mercy on them.
The Wave Offering in the Bible
Exodus 29:26-28 ESV “You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the Lord, and it shall be your portion. And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the Lord.
Leviticus 10:14 ESV But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel.
The wave offering was an offering made to God that would then be released for use by the priests. The people were never to forget that their offerings were for God alone. The priests were never to forget that it was God who provided for them. While he used the offerings of the Israelites, the Levites’ provision was clearly a blessing from God.
These passages refer to meat but wave offerings also included bread, gold, oil, grain, gourds (often offered as first-fruits wave offerings).
Another significant mention of the wave offering is the wave offering of the Levites themselves by Aaron in the following passage. Here the wave offering is symbolic, a statement to make it clear that the Levites would belong to God and would serve Him with their whole lives. They were dedicated to God; waved before Him and set apart to do the work He had planned for them. They weren’t living lives of hypocrisy.
Numbers 8:11 ESV and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the Lord.
Is the Wave Offering Significant for Christians Today?
Wave offerings haven’t been practiced since the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 BC. Since Christ is the fulfillment of the law and our perfect sacrifice, it is pointless for believers to practice any of the Old Testament sacrifices. We have new life with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The closest parallel we can draw regarding the wave offering is the image of Aaron waving the tribe of Levi before The LORD. In 1 Peter, Peter addresses the believers reminding them of their standing before God: a royal priesthood set apart for God’s possession. Christians are to offer themselves to God as an offering, in service, in worship.
1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
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