Sometimes newspapers or televised news programs issue a retraction when they publish facts that are wrong. Sometimes they catch their own mistake and other times people write or call in to complain. I just listened to my Sunday morning sermon and as soon as I heard a particular line I couldn’t believe I had said that.
In Sunday’s sermon “Go and Do Likewise” I outlined the history of the Samaritans. The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 721 B.C. and those Jews not carried off by Assyria were separated from the Southern Kingdom, or Juah, where Jerusalem and the Temple were located. In the discussion of The Good Samaritan and the account of the Samaritan woman at the well, I said that animal sacrifice did take place at the temple during the first century. As soon as I heard that this morning I thought “Why would I say that?”
Animal sacrifice, conducted by the Levitical priests at the altar, took place until the Roman destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Historical accounts from the time period claim that the priests were sometimes sloshing around ankle deep in blood. Modern archaeology confirms that the number of animal bones disposed of inside the city walls was unusually high considering the agricultural society. (source) Pilgrims came from far and wide to offer sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple. It was a lucrative business. Remember that time Jesus went into the Temple and turned over the moneychangers tables? Matthew 21 recounts Jesus scolding those doing business and saying “It is written my house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers.” Those merchants were in business supplying the animals being offered as sacrifice. If you were traveling from northern Africa or Asia minor it would be easier to buy animals after you get there than bring them with you, sacrificing from your own flock or fold. They turned Temple worship into a business (which is why some object to a coffee shop or bookstore being located inside the church). On the day of Jesus’s crucifixion, the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. That veil separated the holy place in the Temple from the most holy, or the Holy of Holies. The High Priest in the first century was still entering the Holy of Holies each year on the Day of Atonement.
I have known all of these things for a long time. I must have confused what I know about first century Temple worship with what is happening today in Jerusalem. The Western wall is all that remains of the first century Temple at the Temple Mount. The animal sacrifice may begin again at some point in the future so that when the antichrist appears he can put a stop to it. If you do not subscribe to a pre-tribulation rapture account of the end times, you may disregard that last sentence. At any rate, there is not an animal sacrifice taking place today in Jerusalem but there certainly was at the time Jesus ministered on the earth in the flesh. I will make this correction again on Sunday morning in person. I haven’t received any emails or phone calls so maybe no one else noticed. I noticed.
A second note, perhaps minor compared to the first, is what I said about Rehoboam. The kingdom of Israel was divided during his reign. Jeroboam and Rehoboam were both sons of Solomon. Jeroboam was evil, Rehoboam flip-flopped a few times. The division of the kingdom, though, had been prophesied while Solomon still reigned over Israel as a whole. It was for his sins, and the sins of the entire nation as he led them away from God, that Israel was judged. When Jeroboam led an invasion of Judah, he and his brother became the instruments of that judgement. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians, Judah later fell to Babylon, and there would not be an independent sovereign nation of Israel again until 1948.