I am studying with a man who is very eager and has read Genesis on his own. A question that he asked was regarding sacrafice? How did the people know to sacrifice? Was there something given to them from God directing them? Also, question was asked how long before Jesus did the prohecies about him begin? Thanks.
The simple answer is that the Jews knew to offer sacrifices because they were told to do so by God. God gave them extremely detailed instructions for the various burnt, grain, sin, built, fellowship and other offerings in Leviticus. The Jews were expected to follow these instructions to the letter. The more complicated answer is that to some extent God accomodated the kinds of ideas which were already in existence among the Jews and their neighbors when he gave them a system of sacrifice. The peoples around them understood the idea of offering a sacrifice as an appeasement to their "gods." God told his people that "the life of every creature is in its blood." Therefore, the symbolic meaning of these sacrifices was obvious. They were intended to teach the people the gravity of their sin and the cost to make atonement for those sins. The prophecies of the Messiah go all the way back to the book of Genesis. Genesis 3 has a prophecy of the Messiah, as does Genesis 49 and others. These were from about 1800 BC. There were also prophecies of the Messiah in Exodus. For example, God told Moses that he would "raise a prophet like you from among your brothers." This prophecy comes from about 1400 BC. The most famous messianic prophecies are from a later date. The prophecy in Psalm 22 that the messiah would be pierced in hands and feet comes from David, and was written about 1040-1000 BC. The prophecies in Isaiah about the virgin being with child (Isaiah 7), the Messiah coming from Galilee (Isaiah 9) and about the Messiah being wounded for our transgressions (Isaiah 53). Daniel’s prophecy that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem about AD 30 (Daniel 9) is from about 557 BC. Zechariah’s prophecy of the Messiah coming into Jerusalem on a donkey and of his being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver comes from about 516 BC. There are other prophecies, but this should give you a general feel for the time span between the prophecies and their fulfillment. John Oakes