Easton's Bible Dictionary
The offering up of sacrifices is to be regarded as a divine institution. It did not originate with man. God himself appointed it as the mode in which acceptable worship was to be offered to him by guilty man. The language and the idea of sacrifice pervade the whole Bible.
Sacrifices were offered in the ante-diluvian age. The Lord clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals, which in all probability had been offered in sacrifice (Genesis 3:21). Abel offered a sacrifice "of the firstlings of his flock" (4:4; Hebrews 11:4). A distinction also was made between clean and unclean animals, which there is every reason to believe had reference to the offering up of sacrifices (Genesis 7:2, 8), because animals were not given to man as food till after the Flood.
The same practice is continued down through the patriarchal age (Genesis 8:20; 12:7; 13:4, 18; 15:9-11; 22:1-18, etc.). In the Mosaic period of Old Testament history definite laws were prescribed by God regarding the different kinds of sacrifices that were to be offered and the manner in which the offering was to be made. The offering of stated sacrifices became indeed a prominent and distinctive feature of the whole period (Exodus 12:3-27; Leviticus 23:5-8; Numbers 9:2-14). (see ALTAR.)
We learn from the Epistle to the Hebrews that sacrifices had in themselves no value or efficacy. They were only the "shadow of good things to come," and pointed the worshippers forward to the coming of the great High Priest, who, in the fullness of the time, "was offered once for all to bear the sin of many." Sacrifices belonged to a temporary economy, to a system of types and emblems which served their purposes and have now passed away. The "one sacrifice for sins" hath "perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Sacrifices were of two kinds: 1. Unbloody, such as (1) first-fruits and tithes; (2) meat and drink-offerings; and (3) incense. 2. Bloody, such as (1) burnt-offerings; (2) peace-offerings; and (3) sin and trespass offerings. (see OFFERINGS.)
Noah Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language
1. (n.) The offering of anything to God, or to a god; consecratory rite.
2. (n.) Anything consecrated and offered to God, or to a divinity; an immolated victim, or an offering of any kind, laid upon an altar, or otherwise presented in the way of religious thanksgiving, atonement, or conciliation.
3. (n.) Destruction or surrender of anything for the sake of something else; devotion of some desirable object in behalf of a higher object, or to a claim deemed more pressing; hence, also, the thing so devoted or given up; as, the sacrifice of interest to pleasure, or of pleasure to interest.
4. (n.) A sale at a price less than the cost or the actual value.
5. (n.) To make an offering of; to consecrate or present to a divinity by way of expiation or propitiation, or as a token acknowledgment or thanksgiving; to immolate on the altar of God, in order to atone for sin, to procure favor, or to express thankfulness; as, to sacrifice an ox or a sheep.
6. (n.) Hence, to destroy, surrender, or suffer to be lost, for the sake of obtaining something; to give up in favor of a higher or more imperative object or duty; to devote, with loss or suffering.
7. (n.) To destroy; to kill.
8. (n.) To sell at a price less than the cost or the actual value.
9. (v. i.) To make offerings to God, or to a deity, of things consumed on the altar; to offer sacrifice.