My last post was about Cain and Abel, and the first official act of worship recorded in The Bible. I discussed the fact that there is no recorded instruction from Yehovah to sacrifice or offer anything of value; actually, there isn’t even any instruction to worship. In the end we had to conclude that we really don’t know very much about this first recorded act of worship. Anything beyond the written word is pure speculation. We’re left with the words of Yehovah, that if Cain does well he will be accepted, and by those words we can extrapolate that if we do well we, too will be accepted. I actually take great comfort in those words because there is grace in them. As long as I’m doing the best I know how to do to “rule over sin”, our Father in Heaven will accept my acts of worship, just like He accepted Abel’s act of worship.
Offerings and sacrifices must have continued because Noah “made burnt offerings” after he and his family were delivered from the flood (Gen 8:20). The word here is “’olah” a different word than that used when describing the offerings of Cain and Abel. “’Olah” describes only a burnt offering which is fully consumed by fire. Once again we have no record that Yehovah asked for these offerings. However, since Yehovah established His covenant – that He would never again destroy the earth by flood – after these offerings, it’s safe to assume that Yehovah accepted animal sacrifice as a form of worship from Noah. Of course, it was also after these offerings that Yehovah made all the animals afraid of humans and told Noah that he could eat them. Is it possible that Noah’s offering of animals which were saved along with Noah’s family was not really okay but only kind of okay? At this time, there’s no way for me to answer my own question, so all I can do is wonder.
Another intriguing aspect of this section is the way the animals are described; they are described as “clean”. How did Noah know the difference between clean and unclean? Before the flood animals weren’t considered food, so what does “clean and unclean” have to do with anything? While I hate assuming, we have to do so when reading chapter 7. Yehovah tells Noah to take 7 of the “clean animals” with him instead of 2. I assume that “clean” was defined for Noah, but we don’t actually see that. My theory is that Moses decided it didn’t need to be described here since he’d already explained it to the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai and written it in another scroll. Since he was writing this for his people, maybe he didn’t think it necessary to add the definitions of clean and unclean here. This is just my theory. Perhaps my readers have others; I’d love to discuss them.
There are approximately 1000 years between the first recorded “offering” and Noah’s, perhaps a little more or less. When he made the offering there were only 8 people in the entire world. Noah was thankful that he and his family had survived and wanted to honor Yehovah, the One who saved them. He worshiped the savior of his family with burnt offerings which the savior (Yehovah) seemed to accept. After all, a covenant was made with all of creation because of Noah’s faithfulness to obey the Creator, and while I think the offering was only partially accepted, I see mercy in even that partial acceptance. Our Father knows our hearts are evil from our youth (Gen 9:21) and yet He loves us enough to see our imperfect worship as worship none-the-less. There are consequences to our incorrect actions, even those done in ignorance, but Yehovah knows we’re trying because we love Him, too. Later on He even gave people a way of atoning for “unknown sin”, but we’ll get to all that soon enough. For now it’s enough to know that our worship is accepted because our Father knows we love Him, so we can worship Him even in our imperfection.