The book of Leviticus (chapters 1 – 5) in the OT describes five major sacrifices: burnt, meal (a.k.a. meat), peace, sin, and trespass. Only the meal-offering requires no animal sacrifice because it is a sacrifice offered from the “fruit of the ground.” Of the remaining four, the burnt offering must be male, the peace and sin offerings can be male or female, and the trespass offering must be female.
Why Male and Female?
Where the male sacrifice symbolized Christ specifically, the female sacrifice symbolized the common people because in describing humanity, Scripture notes that men are ultimately “born of a woman” (Job 14:1; Matthew 11:11). So, a female sacrifice symbolized all of humanity.
Symbolism Behind the Sacrifices
The burnt offering represented the complete sacrifice of Christ for the sins of mankind and His complete atonement for them, so the animal offered had to be male to represent the Savior. The peace offering, depending on the intent of the giver, represented making peace with God or rejoicing in the peace of God. Since that was open to anyone, a male or female sacrifice was allowed.
The sin offering had to be a male when offered for a “ruler of the people” (Leviticus 4:22-23). A ruler of the people was a priest, a king or a judge. Christ is all of these things, so sacrifices made for them had to be male to represent Christ. A male or a female animal could be sacrificed for anyone else doing a sin offering, since forgiveness of sin is open to all.
The trespass offering required the sacrificial animal to be female. This is because the trespass offering was specifically for personal sins. Christ was tempted as we are, yet without sin. He had no personal sins but we have plenty. Since personal sin is the plight of all humanity, a female sacrifice representing the common man is required.
So Many Sacrifices! Not any Hope
What you come away with is that there are A LOT of sacrifices and not one to cover everything. Not only that, but sacrifices had to be done over and over again. Not one completely settled man’s sin debt before God. We can safely say the the priests’ work was never done! This was the point God was making with all these sacrifices. It’s what He wanted the people to see.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)
The One Thing Missing
There is only One Who can make a sacrifice that covers all of our sins once for all:
(10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
(12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
Of all the furnishings God prescribed for the Tabernacle of the Congregation, one is conspicuous by its absence: a chair. There is none, because the priests’ work was never done. No animal sacrifice would ever suffice. But the sacrifice of Christ covers it all. Because His work is finished, He has earned the right to be seated at the right hand of the Father!
No More Sacrifices!
Whenever an OT sacrifice was given, the one giving it always placed his or her hand on the animal being sacrificed to identify themselves with it. By faith in Christ, we are eternally identified with Him before God:
(12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
(13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
We have no further need of sacrifices to atone for our sins because the sacrifice of Christ Himself is sufficient for all!
[Source for details on the sacrifices: http://www.learnthebible.org/male-and-female-sacrifices.html]