Maybe the idea of sacrifice has come from a human interpretation of natural catastrophes falsely attributed to humanized gods who supposedly burned harvests, killed animals and men for some reason, and then apparently left without taking anything visible.
Confronted with such violent, impressive and senseless destruction, man could have tried to make sense of it by thinking:
1 - Either the gods too were in need of nourishment (in an imperceptible manner or maybe their nourishment was an invisible element from the body, since they themselves were invisible), and when they got hungry they came to claim it,
2 - Or the gods expected man to nourish them, and if he did not, or was late, they got angry and came to nourish themselves and punish man by the same occasion!
3 - Or as a kind of tribute/offering due to dominance.
So maybe he thought that if he killed animals or men and presented them to the gods by burning them or simply turning to the skies and making some gestures of submission or offering, maybe even speaking or chanting, the gods would be nourished and/or appeased, and would not come for him or his clan.
Here it comes again: The application of cause and effect.
All the death and destruction should have a reason in a mind operating by cause and effect.
By producing the "effect" himself (the killing and presenting the "nourishment" or tribute) man maybe hoped to satisfy the "cause" and prevent an uncontrollable, dramatic "effect".
Or else, why the totally useless act of killing and leaving to rot, or burn, if they had not seen the exact same thing during and after violent natural catastrophes and thought that's exactly what they should do (kill and leave them to the gods, or kill, burn and leave them to the gods) to prevent the gods from taking them violently.
Maybe they thought doing this on specific astronomical dates or configurations made their sacrifices more efficient or related to something or whatever.
They were imitating EXACTLY the manner in which harvests and lives were claimed in a natural catastrophe.
Since by sacrificing man had the sentiment of giving something to the gods, he had the right to think that they wanted it.
The next natural step was to give things if we were to ask for something... like paying in advance and hoping...
All of this speculation is to propose the following:
Sacrifice predates the revelation of the laws of monotheism which include that of sacrifice, since polytheists already practiced it.
Since we all agree that the gods of polytheisms are inexistent, it naturally follows that there were no gods to demand sacrifice from the sacrificing polytheists.
It naturally follows that the idea of sacrifice inescapably came from men and not the non-existing divinities.
Isn't it strange that long after, the only existing God Himself demands in detail and with the same gestures (wiping or "sprinkling" blood on stuff, etc.) something the non-existing gods of polytheisms were given, even if there is a significant upgrade to sacrifice only animals and not men? (Although Abraham's "devotion" or "obedience" or whatever "righteousness" was "tested" by a human sacrifice...) Gen. 22:2
To continue a man-made ceremony?
What about rejecting every false poytheistic practice?
Furthermore, rewinding to the supposed beginning of man, how should we look upon the "respect" of God for the sacrifice of Abel? Gen. 4:4 God never demands any sacrifice, so where does the idea come from?
Again a small problem of anachronism...
Of course we can always claim, "interpret", or "reveal" that God demanded sacrifice from the beginning but was not recorded, or that God put the idea of sacrifice as an intuition in man or that man was created integrating the notion of sacrifice... or... or...
Curiously, instead of:
- The creator finding the idea of destroying a part of creation to honor the creator totally surreal,
- The creator being insulted for being sent back His creation,
- The creator being outraged for being treated in the exact manner that the polytheistic, inexistent gods were treated,
- The creator irrevocably condemning the polytheistic ceremony of sacrifice,
The Creator Himself demands it ...
Since we can safely assume that God does not need the sacrifice personally but He still wants it and teaches Moses how to sacrifice, then there should be a reason or reasons for it.
If it is to judge devotion, then being given an insignificant part of what the person sacrificing owns is ridiculous, because instead of showing total devotion, it can only signify partial devotion and should be considered as an insult to God, even if what is given is the "best" insignificant part.
We know whatever we give God like love, respect, obedience and exclusivity, should be total.
How does periodically giving God a small amount of our material possessions fit in?
Maybe the non-material should be total, and the material should be limited...
Maybe the "mechanism" is all about "offering" the totality of the non-material things you cannot own anyway like devotion, respect, love, etc., to be offered all things you can definitively own and enjoy, and re-"offer" a part of the offered material back...
But when it comes to "offering" the totality of the material things you can own... well...
I have yet to understand the idea of sacrifice to the creator who has given us what we will be eventually sacrificing.
I think I never will.
If somebody takes a mirror and reflects a part of the sunlight back to the sun, is he sacrificing to the sun?
If we were not used to the idea of sacrifice, what would we think of it?
But maybe another reason for sacrifice is asking for things.
In this case it is mistaking God for a hyper market of goods and favors.
Maybe He is all of that and more since all humanity with its monotheists, polytheists and sects is sacrificing...
For different reasons...
Who am I to know?
How much more irrelevant or "man-dependent" can "an offering" get?