Daly, Robert J. "Part 1: Sacrifice in the Old Testament. Chapter Two: The Burnt Offering." Christian Sacrifice: The Judaeo-Christian Background Before Origen. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1978, 33-86.
The burnt offering, which Daly identifies specifically as an offering of an animal which is entirely burned up on the altar, is the most important of the Old Testament offerings (Daly 1978, 33). Many of the sacrificial themes of early Christianity can be traced to the burnt offering.
As he did in chapter one, here Daly describes the various words used for burnt offerings in some detail (Daly 1978, 34ff). Daly takes the practice of burning a whole animal to belong specifically to the Canaanites, not to a nomadic or Mesopotamial origin (Daly 1978, 37). It was taken on by Israel at a slightly later time than the origin of practice in Cannan.
The function of the burnt offering is a matter of some speculation, as Daly notes (Daly 1978, 41). In the sacrificial codes we are told how to make the offering, but not what it should accomplish. Daly is able to identify a number of themes which emerge from an inspection of the passages discussing burnt offerings. They largely center around three themes, "sacrifice (1) as a gift to the divinity, or (2) as a means or expression of communion with God, or (3) as a means of propitiation of expiation" (Daly 1978, 42). Daly illustrates this through examination of a variety of passages.
Because of the importance of the sacrifice, the altar and, in particular, the fire maintained on the altar, was a matter of great significance. Daly notes the care with which fire on the altar is described (Daly 1978, 50). He proceeds to describe a number of related Old Testament passages.
Sacred fire had a long history in Israelite practice, being related to various annual or occasional observances as well as the daily offerings (Daly 1978, 54). Daly ties the concept repeatedly to primitive forms of sun-worship, indicating a gradual development of religious belief from a naturalistic view to a form of monotheism which adopts much of the culture of sacrifice we find in the Old Testament. He then discusses, in some detail, religious significance of sacred fire, seeing it as a means by which earth and heaven would be linked so as to give gifts to God. The fire "was seen as the symbol or even the mode of God's presence" (Daly 1978, 62).
The rites of incense provide another facet of the emphsis on fire and the presence of God. Daly considers these rites both as a form of sacrifice and in relation to other religions' practices (Daly 1978, 64ff). Oferings of incense were common not only in Israel but also in the surrounding nations. Daly suggests it may have been cosndiered a specially effective kind of offering (Daly 1978, 66). The smoke of the incense was commonly compared to the prayers sent up to God. "The time for offering incense in the temple was also a time of most solmen prayer and psalm singing" (Daly 1978, 68).
With any sacrifice, it is critical that it be accepted by God. All offerings were to be made according to specific instructions (Daly 1978, 70). Daly discusses the terminology of acceptable and unacceptable offerings in some detail.
Of some considerable importance is a cultural view of acceptance of a gift or offering. Daly notes, "Accepting a gift or tribute from someone means that the receiver acknowledges himself to be bound in some way or other by ties of favor to the donor" (Daly 1978, 78). The opposite would apply as well. For this reason, making an acceptable offering to God could be seen as a means of obtaining his favor. In Daly's understanding, the view of acceptance or rejection of sacrifices underlies much of the Old Testament teaching of the need for sacrifices (Daly 1978, 80). The critical issue in acceptance, asside from the specified forms of offering, was to be the repentant attitude of the one making the offering. This was acceptable to God (Daly 1978, 84).