A question from, though not confined to Samuel’s times: The people were called to bring their offerings to the tabernacle at the three major pilgrimage feasts, but people then had to make a list of offerings they are going to bring with them to the tabernacle for the next feast or could they go to a local Levite or a local priest and ask them to make offerings for them? E.g. One lamb etc. for such and such guilt committed on a date, and some flour and oil for such and such gratitude, then add them up for the inter-feast period and bring them to the tabernacle or could they resolve the Levitical matters locally? How about sanctifying the unclean? You could not wait until the next feast. Thank you very much.
Let us quickly review the major feasts and offerings.
Abib or Nisan [our March or April]: This first feast of the Jewish year was actually two in one; Passover and the feast of unleavened bread in commemoration of the angel visiting every Egyptian family and slaying the firstborn, but passing over the homes of the Israelites. It was also to commemorate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
Iyar [our June] was the feast of Pentecost [fifty days after the feasts of Abib]: for offering firstfruits of their crops after the wheat harvest.
Tishri [our October] included several observances: Feast of Trumpets or New Moon was a time for commemorating the Jewish (civil) New Year. On the 10th of Tishri was the Day of Atonement. It was a day of confession for sins and repentance. The high priest made a sin offering for all the people. Five days later was the Feast of Booths in observance of the wandering in the wilderness.
Only once a year the children of Israel assembled for a sin offering. It was a statute unto the Israelites “to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year” (Lev. 16:34). It also seemed that the substance of the offering depended very much on the occasion.
Sin offerings could be made at any time during the year for individuals. For example, when a woman gave birth she was to wait a certain number of days and then “bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering” (Lev. 12:1–8 NIV). As for offerings regarding sores, etc. the requirement was “two male lambs and one ewe lamb a year old, [and] three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil” (Lev. 14:10 NIV). So during the time of the Levitical priesthood, the offering was specific. Also, since they all lived in a community, there was no problem going to the priest at the tabernacle.
However, after settling in a wide area on both sides of the Jordan, a journey to the place of the tabernacle became more difficult. Therefore, to meet the needs of the people there were forty-eight cities where priests abode (See Num. 35:1–8; Josh. 21:4, 13–19). It was the priests who made sin offerings for individuals. So, in answer to your question, it seems that the people could make expiation for sins or uncleanness locally after they had settled in the land.
Whenever considering sacrifices, we should always remember their purpose. Until the time of Christ it was a discipline, as well as a foreshadowing of things to come. They were for thanksgiving, for appreciation of God’s providence, and to recognize His sovereignty. They were also a teaching medium: only the best could be given, indicating that we must always give our best to God. It was a giving of life: we must give ourselves totally to God, nothing withheld. It was not the sacrifices that God really wanted, but the whole person, the consecrated mind and body, the total obedience. As the scribe said to Jesus, “There is one God; and … to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifice:” These words were in keeping with the requirements for salvation because Jesus replied, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:32–34). David declared, “You are not pleased by sacrifices, or I would give them. You don’t want burnt offerings. The sacrifice God wants is a broken spirit. God, you will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for sin” (Ps. 51:16–17 NCV).
Paul summed it up very well when he said, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Rom. 12:1–2 NLT).