"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year."- Hebrews 10:3.

Is there justification within the Old Testament that the blood sacrificial system instituted by Yahweh simply taught the Israelites about the nature of sin, and consequently what should be done to fix it (AKA atonement) and didn't actually cause atonement?

I was thinking about Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac, where he soon realised that God will soon provide him a "better sacrifice" but I'm not sure if this fits.

  • 1
    Have you read the book of Leviticus? Leviticus presents that idea over and over.
    – oldhermit
    Jan 23, 2020 at 11:50
  • Uh yes. I just need a verse that tells me that the sacrifices were just teaching tools. Jan 23, 2020 at 12:46
  • In chapters 4-6, God repeatedly connects their offerings and the sprinkling of blood to the forgiveness of their sins. 4:19, 26, 31, 35, etc....
    – oldhermit
    Jan 23, 2020 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


Is there an Old Testament basis for Hebrews 10:3?

"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year."- Hebrews 10:3. Is there an Old Testament basis for Hebrews 10:3? Yes Paul, was alluding to the annual sacrifices for atonement of the people of Israel.Leviticus 16:34

Under the Mosaic Law, sacrifices were made, on the annual Day of Atonement, in order to effect reconciliation with God despite the sins of individuals and of the whole nation. Those sacrifices pointed to Jesus’ sacrifice, which completely atoned for mankind’s sins once for all time, giving people the opportunity to be reconciled with God.

Leviticus 16:29-34 (NASB)

An Annual Atonement

29 “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; 30 for it is on this day that [s]atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31 It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. 32 So the priest who is anointed and [t]ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on the linen garments, the holy garments."

33 "And make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so he did."


Certainly the NT emphasises the teaching aspect of the old ceremonial and sacrificial system in places like Heb 9:8, 9, 11-14, 10:1. The NT also states that this sacrificial system had no salvific value Heb 9:9, 10:4. But there are other places in the OT where similar ideas are stated:

  • Ps 51:16, 17 For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
  • 1 Sam 15:22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
  • Isa 1:11-13 What good to Me is your multitude of sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am full from the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I take no delight in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this of you— this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no more; your incense is detestable to Me— your New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations. I cannot endure iniquity in a solemn assembly.
  • Ps 40:6-8 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have opened. Burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll: I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.”
  • Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
  • Prov 15:8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
  • Prov 21;3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
  • Jer 6:20 What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.
  • Micah 6:6-8 With what shall I come before the LORD when I bow before the God on high? Should I come to Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Jesus quoted many of these texts in places such as Matt 9:9-12, 12:2-8, 9-14, 23:23, 24, Mark 12:33. The NT then goes on to emphasise that the ceremonial system's teaching value pointed to Christ as the Messiah and His atonement.

  • The sacrificial lamb represented Jesus (John 1:29, Rom 8:3, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19, Heb 9:12)
  • Jesus’ teaching is closely associated with water (in the laver), John 4:13, 14.
  • Jesus was the bread of life (John 6:35-51)
  • The light of the Menorah represented Jesus (John 8:12, 9:5)
  • Jesus was the door (John 10:7-9)
  • Jesus opened the curtain to the Most Holy Place (2 Cor 3:13-16, Heb 6:19, 9:3, 10:20)
  • The smoke from the altar of incense represents the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8, 8:3, 4)
  • The Ark of the covenant, especially the “mercy seat” represented the throne of God and its implied mercy (Ex 25:17-22, Heb 9:5, 4:16, Rom 3:23-25)
  • Jesus is represented as our great High Priest and intercessor in heaven (Heb 4:16, 7:25, 10:22, Rom 8:26, 34, 1 John 2:1, 2, 1 Tim 2:5, John 14:6)

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