“approaches with.” The Hebrew word is qarab (#07126 קָרַב), often translated “brings,” but in this context, the point is that the person “approaches” God with an offering when without it God would be unapproachable. It can be hard for the modern Christian to really understand the relationship that the average Israelite had with God because it is so different from the relationship believers have with Him today. One huge difference is about being “far” from God or “near” Him. The concepts of “far” and “near” are huge in the Old Testament but often veiled by translation. With no long-range communication in the biblical world such as telephones, getting to be “near” someone so that you could see them, hear them, and get access to them was a privilege and honor, and this was true of people and of God.
For the most part, the average Israelite was kept “far” from God, separated from Him by space and curtains (or walls), and anyone who violated those walls and spaces died (cp. Num. 1:51; cp. Num. 4:20; 8:19). The average Israelite could only regularly “come near” to God with an offering or sacrifice. However, in most English Bibles it can be hard to see the relationship between “coming near” to God and having an offering or sacrifice because Leviticus 1:2 usually reads that people “bring” an offering to God: “When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD…” (NASB). But the word “bring” can be translated “come near” and the verse could be translated, “If any man of you comes near with an offering.” So even the average Israelite was kept “far” from God by curtains, walls, and spaces. The curtains surrounding the courtyard of the Tabernacle were seven and a half feet high (2.3 meters), which was too high for the Israelites to see over (Exod. 27:18). They could only enter the courtyard when they brought an approach offering.
This distance between people and God meant that people thought and felt differently about God than we do today. Now, because of the work of Christ, non-Jews who were “far” from God are brought “near” (Eph. 2:13), and every believer—Jew and Gentile—can go right up to God and be “near” Him; indeed, everyone can approach the throne of grace and be “near” to God (Heb. 4:16).
“approach offering.” The Hebrew is qorban (#07133 קֹרְבָּן). Qorban began as the verbal noun derived from the verb qarab, and thus qorban derives its basic meaning from the word qarab, “to bring, to approach with.” This is why E. W. Bullinger called the qorban an “admittance offering.” Bullinger writes: “It is the present brought to this day in the East in order to secure an audience, or to see the face of the superior, and find access to his presence. Hence called today, ‘the face-offering.’ …Hence, Korban is essentially an admittance offering; securing the entrée.”a
Although qorban is usually simply translated “offering,” and indeed that is the simple meaning of the word that developed over time, the fact that it developed as a verbal noun from qarab, “bring, approach,” and the fact that God had to be approached with an offering, is good evidence that God’s original intent was that the qorban was an approach offering, allowing the offeror to come near to Him. “In the OT the noun qorbān, which belongs to the jargon of the priestly cult, probably derives much of its semantic content from the verb qārab/hiqrib.”b
The word qorban was clearly associated with approaching God in His Tabernacle/Temple, because it occurs 40 times in Leviticus, 38 times in Numbers, and 2 in Ezekiel (Ezek. 20:28 referring to Israel offering at a High Place, and Ezek. 40:43 referring to offerings at the Millennial Temple).c So out of 80 occurrences in the Bible, 78 of those are in Leviticus and Numbers. Hebrew lexicons tell us that qorban is the least specific Hebrew word for an offering, which is logical because being able to approach God was part of every offering. Although it is perfectly acceptable, and no doubt in some cases even preferred, to translate qorban simply as “offering,” doing so disassociates the offering from the reason that the offering was brought in the first place, which is found in the root word qarab: the qorban allowed the offeror to approach God, and come near to Him without danger of death. It is because of the clarity of “approach offering” that the REV translation usually has “approach offering” when qorban is in the Hebrew text.
[For more information and a more complete list of the feasts and sabbaths in Israel, see commentary on Lev. 23:2.]