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Q: What is a heave offering? Numbers 31 says the Midionite booty, which included virgins, were to be offered to the Lord as a heave offering. Any insight to this? Thanks.A: “Heave offering” is a term found mostly in the King James translation, but it does represent a unique Hebrew word for one type of offering. I believe that “heave offering” occurs in three places in the chapter that you mentioned: Numbers 31:29,41,52.
Many people have the mistaken assumption that all offerings were sacrificed to the Lord by being burnt on the altar. Actually there were seven different types of offerings (depending on how you count them) only one of which (i.e., the burnt offering) was sacrificed entirely to the Lord. The rest of the offerings had at least some portion given to the people or the priests. By far, the most common offering was the peace offering which had portions that went to the Lord, portions to the priest, and portions to the congregation to eat in a fellowship meal. You can read more about this on our web page entitled The Four Blood Sacrifices.
A “heave offering” refers to the part of the peace offering designated for the priests. These particular offerings were not burned on the altar or used by the rest of the congregation. It was called a “heave” or “wave” offering because of the manner in which the offering was (usually) physically manipulated when the offering was presented to the Lord. The word comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to lift” and refers to the offering being lifted before the altar to the Lord. The offering was then taken and used by the priest. Food would be eaten, animals kept as livestock, and maidens would be used as captured slaves or taken as wives.