Spiritual Currents logo banner

Corban

By Brian V. Brown

Mark 7:11-12 NIV But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.

Sometimes I find it instructive to look at a particular word in my Bible study, just to mull it over and see what the writer intended to convey. So I'd like to share with you a word that I recently focussed on, which is found in the verse above – ‘Corban'. The Holy Spirit lead me on a tremendous journey as I considered the meaning of this unusual word, and meditated on it's implications. I'm not looking at the teaching of the context in which Jesus uses the word, but just at what the word intends to convey.

It is a Hebrew word used un-translated in the Greek of the New Testament, and is probably left that way simply because there was no Greek equivalent. It is only used once in the English Bible and Mark 7:11 (NIV) is the only place that it is quoted. It actually means ‘a gift' or ‘a sacrificial offering'. It is considered to be an offering to God of any sort – either with blood or without blood – particularly in fulfillment of a vow.

The Hebrew word "korban" comes from a Hebrew root meaning "close." The word "korban" literally means "that which has been brought close" and it refers to the sacrifice as something that enters into God's presence in the Sanctuary. title scroll

Josephus (the Jewish Historian), in his account of ‘The Jewish War' (Book 2, Ch 9), refers to the idea of ‘corban' like this:

"After this he (Pilate) raised another disturbance, by expending that sacred treasure which is called Corban upon aqueducts, whereby he brought water from the distance of four hundred furlongs"(*). Pilate infuriates the Jewish authorities by taking money – which is dedicated to God, and is thus ‘corban' – and using it to pay for building an aqueduct.

Let me paint a scenario . . .

Here I am, a Jew among the people of Israel. I have land, I have flocks – though I'm not overly rich. I am an observant Jew and practice the teachings of the Torah. The feast of Passover is not too far away and I must provide a lamb for sacrifice at the Temple. I examine my flock for a suitable lamb – one without defect or blemish, as Moses taught us in the Torah. I select a suitable one and declare that the lamb is ‘corban'. It is dedicated as a sacrificial offering and must not be used for anything else – not food for my family, or wool for clothing. Even though currently it is in my keeping, it is dedicated for the temple sacrifice – that is my vow.

The time comes for the sacrifice and I take my ‘corban' property to the priests. The lamb is killed, it's blood collected to signify that our sins have been covered – the technical term is ‘atoned for'. We are cleansed for another year.

This isn't to expiate or mollify an angry God. It's a sign to us that our sins deserve death – God, our Holy God, cannot look on sin. Therefore death is our sentence - "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV). But God loves us and accepts our sacrifice as an atonement (covering) for our sins. The perfect lamb dies on our behalf – in our place. So our ‘corban' lamb has paid the price for our sin.

With the idea of ‘corban' and sacrifice, let's read from Romans 12:1 NIV . . .

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

And from Leviticus 11:44 NIV . . .

I am the Lord your God, consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. ‘Be holy, because I am holy'.

Webster's dictionary definition of ‘holy' . . .

1. Set apart to the service or worship of God; hallowed; sacred; reserved from profane or common use.

2. Spiritually whole or sound; of unimpaired innocence and virtue; free from sinful affections; pure in heart; godly pious; irreproachable; guiltless; acceptable to God.

But when we compare ourselves with our holy, perfect God who is uncontaminated by sin, we are filthy – definitely ‘un-holy'. Because we are filthy, we cannot stand in God's presence – He cannot look at us. His judgment on sin is death, and, by God's standards, that judgment is correct

And it is by God's standard that He expects us to live.

C.S.Lewis – he wrote the Narnia books and was a great Christian commentator – when speaking of the time of his conversion, in his book, ‘Mere Christianity', wrote . . .

"For the first time, I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a Harlem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion."

Maybe, if we truly examined ourselves, we might come up with the same conclusions about ourselves as Lewis did about himself. I certainly did.

God cannot look at us – His judgment is death. Sounds a harsh judgment doesn't it? It's God's standards.

He created us for fellowship with Him, He sets the rules. He is sovereign. He is our heavenly Father and He still loves us – much as the same way any parent loves their child, and will make allowances for their child's demeanors. God's love for us is so great that His desire for us is that we are able to stand in His presence. We cannot make ourselves clean, holy and righteous. We can attain to it, but we fail.

We cannot make ourselves clean, holy and righteous

That's why He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be our substitute. He became the sacrifice in our place, the sacrifice so that we can be cleansed, redeemed – bought back from Satan's grip.

God the father declared that Jesus the Son was ‘corban'...

  • the sacrificial offering
  • set apart for God as our substitute
  • sacrificed on the Cross of Calvary,

...so that we might be made clean. So, as we accept by faith, what Jesus did for us, our Father looks at us through the spilt blood of Jesus. We are blood-washed, we are redeemed – but only if we have received Christ for ourselves.

Yes, it's a personal thing – between me and God, between you and God.

And yes, Jesus died for the whole of mankind. But will the whole world accept what He accomplished? Probably not! Not everybody walking this earth will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What will happen to those who won't is too much to contemplate.

Eternal life with Christ or eternal death with Satan. That's the awful choice!

What's your choice? That's one thing God gave to mankind at creation – freewill. The opportunity to freely choose. Of course, our Creator wants us to choose His way, but it must be our own choice. We were not created robots!

It's not for us to judge who will and will not accept Jesus as their Saviour. It is for us to present the Saviour to those around us – to be Christ's representatives, as it were.

God made a vow – that He would make a way. He made it back in Genesis, just after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit – and we're not told that it was an apple! His Son was to be the sacrifice, so that you and I might be justified – that our sin might be dealt with. Our Father declared Jesus to be ‘corban', so that we might gain eternal life

I find this an incredible truth – my name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, because Jesus made it possible. Is your name there?

Once a year, the High priest entered the Holy of Holies to apply the blood. The blood atoned for sin – covered sin – to enable the High Priest to come into God's presence. If sins were not properly covered, then the High Priest would die.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans (Romans 6:23 NIV) writes . . .

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Every year, this ritual was repeated.
  • Every year, an animal was sacrificed.
  • Every year, the high Priest entered the Holy of Holies.
  • Every year, the sins of the Children of Israel were atoned for.

It's not necessary now, because Jesus died for the whole world – that's you and me. He was the final sacrifice. It's for me to accept by faith. It's for you to accept by faith. Our relationship with God is now restored. Hallelujah!

That's why the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom the moment Jesus died – we now have direct access into God's presence. Jesus is our High Priest.

The Jews have not been able to repeat this ritual since AD 70, because the Romans destroyed the Temple. Is it possible that this was God's way of telling them that didn't need to offer the animal sacrifice any more – that there was now another way? And that other way was to receive Jesus as their final sacrifice.

peace with God

We don't need to repeat it – Jesus was sacrificed once for all. His spilt blood lasts for eternity – and that's a long time! We have peace with God. We are co-heirs with Jesus – the Lamb of God. Co-heirs of what? Co-heirs of the Kingdom of God, the eternal Kingdom. We are assured of eternal life, because Jesus is alive. Hallelujah!

Because our heavenly Father so loved each one of us, He made a vow – that Jesus was ‘corban', set aside, so that at the right time, he would be sacrificed for our sins and that our relationship with God might be restored.

* Translated by William Whiston (1667-1752)


All scripture quotations on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.
Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
www.zondervan.com

Back to Lessons page