The Korban ?

Lamb of God c. 1635-1640 by Francisco de Zurbarán

This is another one of those times when things get lost in translation. English has no equivalent word for korban, so the English reader never makes the connections that are present in the Hebrew. There is never a deeper understanding of the intimacy of the korban sacrifices.

Korban, depending on whether it is a noun or verb, can mean: offerings, sacrifices, oblations, or intimate, innermost parts of the body, or near kinsman or neighbor, or hand to hand combat. It is hard to translate all those meanings and still hold the cohesion of the word. To get a feel for the word here are some examples of how it is translated.

FYI: Red words indicate these that are korban in the Hebrew. It’s a little hard to go back and forth between the Hebrew and the English because some times the English leaves the word out completely.

In Leviticus 2, the unleavened bread or matzah bread is called the korban throughout the passage. In the Hebrew it is the korban minchah ma’afeh, or korban offering that is baked.

“When you bring a cereal offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil. Lev. 2:4

It is not just the matzah that is korban so are the animals.

“If his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD, Lev. 3:12 

The insides of the animal sacrifice.

Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. Ex. 12:9

Ehud presents a korban tribute to Eglon. The meaning was that this tributes was to enable some kind of relationship between the Moabite kingdom and the Children of Israel.

And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people that carried the tribute. Judg. 3:18

Later in Ezekiel the people are condemned for bringing a korban to the high places of the tree worship i.e. Christmas.

For when I had brought them into the land which I swore to give them, then wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and presented the provocation of their offering; there they sent up their soothing odors, and there they poured out their drink offerings. Ezek. 20:28

Non-Sacrificial Uses

We get an even better feeling for the word looking at the passages where Korban occurs in a non-sacrificial sense all over the Old Testament.

Sarah laughed to her inner self, or korban.

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” Gen. 18:12

Those who are inside Sodom and Gomorra.

Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Gen. 18:24

To have fellowship between God or men.

. . . he shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place which he shall choose within one of your towns, where it pleases him best; you shall not oppress him. Deut. 23:16

The sojourner who is among you shall mount above you higher and higher; and you shall come down lower and lower. Deut. 28:43

But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” Josh. 9:7

So the people of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; Judg. 3:5

The Children of Israel felt a need to have some kind of physical presents with them in battle.

And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 1Sam. 4:3

Hand to hand combat, a very close up and personal way to kill.

But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beer-sheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. 2Sam. 17:11

Intimacy with God

The korban sacrifices were meant to open an intimate conversation with the Lord God of Israel, a meeting between ones inner most self and the Creator. Translating it as simply a sacrifice puts the attention on the victim, and not on the relationship it was to open.

And they brought the ark of God, and set it inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 1Chr. 16:1 

And they set aside the burnt offerings that they might distribute them according to the groupings of the fathers’ houses of the lay people, to offer to the LORD, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so they did with the bulls. 2Chr. 35:12

Jeremiah speaks of a time when their ruler shall issue from amidst them, and I will cause him to draw near.

Their prince shall be one of themselves, their ruler shall come forth from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? says the LORD. Jer. 30:21

This korban was a way to open your inner most self to a relationship with the Lord God of Israel.
The writer to the Hebrews uses this idea to explain that our intimate  relationship with God can now be more perfect. We now have a more perfect korban, through which we can if we choose draw closer to our God.

(for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Heb. 7:19

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Heb. 10:1 

Corban in the New Testament

This is one of those passages in the New Testament that was “hard to understand” largely because an English reader has no concept of korban.

9   And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!  10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’;  11 but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) —  12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,  13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:9-11

Messiah admonishes the people that giving to God without consideration of taking care of your responsibilities, is no way to get close to God.

Draw Near to God

The temple is now gone, there are no more korban sacrifices to be made. All that was literal must now in the Kingdom be spiritual.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. James 4:8

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Rom. 12:1  

. . . and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1Pet. 2:5

To live a sacrificial life, our morning prayer should be how may I serve the King?

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