On Dr. Michael Brown’s web site (Link has been discontinued) we have the following:

“As I wrote in Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, 113: According to verse 12, the priest will “take a handful of it [i.e., the flour] as a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar on top of the offerings made to the Lord by fire.” Then (verse 13) “the priest will make atonement for him.” In other words, the priest, in his capacity as mediator for the people, and having mingled the flour with the blood sacrifices that were already upon the altar, would make atonement for his fellow Israelite.”





I must say that he is on shaky ground here with his interpretation. I will just point out that Rabbi Skobac's view, that the flour is in the place of the blood, is exactly the one taken by Professor Milgrom in his work on Leviticus page 306. (Neither he nor I would accept him as an 'authority', but I think that it is quite clear that our view is not 'outside' of an objective reading of the text accepted by top scholars.)

I think we need to examine this issue. We all agree that the flour offering was burnt on the alter; however we have a disagreement as to whether the flour alone caused the atonement and forgiveness (that this sacrifice clearly does what is stated in verse 13) or whether it was caused by the mixture of the flour with sacrificial atonement blood. There are two possibilities:

  1. There is no mixture of flour with blood (as Rabbi Skobac argues) which would make Dr. Brown’s  contention false
  2. There was a mixture with sacrificial atonement blood.


This second case does not prove that this mixture causes the atonement (unless a verse stating that this mixture does can be found.) The view taken by Milgrom and Skobac could still be correct even if this was the case. However with regards to the argument it would at least be a draw on this issue.


For the answer, we need only look at what the Torah says with regards to the use of blood in sacrifices.

The clearest verse about the use of sacrificial atonement blood is in Leviticus 17. There we see that the atonement of the blood comes from it being placed on the alter. The question is was this atonement blood at any time, placed in the same place as the flour was burnt. (For the moment I will ignore the issue of if the inner alter or the outer alter were used for the blood and discuss it as if there was only one alter in use.)


We know from Leviticus 5 that the flour was placed on the top of the alter and burnt on a fire there.


In the Torah there are 4 types of animal sacrifices, two are for sins, Chatas and Ashem, and two are voluntary, Shlamim and Olah. (The Rabbis indicate that the Olah did have some uses in atonement of sin, but there is no clarity in that.) In each sacrifice, we are told in detail what to do, including what to do with the blood. Let us examine the sacrifices and see if any of the sacrificial atonement blood makes it to the top of the alter where the flour was placed.


  1. The blood from the Olah is sprinkled around the alter on the walls (1:5, 11, 15).
  2. The blood for the Shlamim is placed in the same manner as the Olah. (3:2, 8, 13)
  3. The Chatas for the Kohen and the Congregation is first sprinkled on the curtain and then placed on the corners of the alter, with the rest of it poured out at the base of the alter. (4:6-7, 17-18 )
  4. The Chatas of the ruler and for an individual is only placed on the corners of the alter, and then spilled out at the base of the altar. (4:25, 30, 34)
  5. For the Chatas on a sliding scale (of which the flour offering was a part.) For an animal or bird the blood is sprinkled on the walls of the alter, and then the rest spilled out (5:9)
  6. The blood from the Asham is dealt with like that of the Olah (7:2)
  7. For the Yom Kippur sacrifices the blood is either sprinkled on the curtain and/or on the corners of the altar. (16)


In no case do we see that the blood is placed where any sin sacrifices are burnt. The pieces from the Olah that are placed on the alter are long after the life blood has left it and in any case we see that they are washed first. (1:9)

From this we MUST conclude that at no time is the meal offering ever in contact with the sacrificial atoning blood. This, of course, should make sense since were there to be any amount of this blood spilled on the fire, it would extinguish the fire itself. We must, therefore, conclude that, as Skobac and Milgrom state, it is the flour alone, being burnt on the alter that is bringing the atonement.


© Moshe Shulman 2006

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