Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 5:13. The Sin-Offering
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Leviticus 4:1-2. A general introduction like that in Leviticus 1:1-2. From here to Leviticus 6:7 a new class of sacrifices are prescribed, the Sin-Offerings and Guilt-Offerings, and the occasions on which they are to be brought are specified, while in chs. 1–3 nothing is said about when the sacrifices are to be brought; their ceremonial only is regulated. The Sin-Offering is for sins committed unwittingly (through ignorance A.V.); for sins committed presumptuously (Heb. with an high hand, Numbers 15:30) the punishment is ‘that soul shall be cut off from among his people.’ The same distinction is drawn in Psalms 19 where ‘hidden (‘secret’ A.V.) faults’ (Leviticus 4:12) are contrasted with ‘presumptuous sins’ (Leviticus 4:13). After this general statement, the material and manner of the offering are prescribed for four different classes: (a) the anointed priest (Leviticus 4:3-12), (b) the congregation (Leviticus 4:13-21), (c) a ruler (Leviticus 4:22-26), (d) any one of the common people (Leviticus 4:27-35). Cp. Numbers 15:22-29.
We may observe that the directions for disposal of the Sin-Offering, though very similar in all four cases, are not absolutely identical. In (a) and (b) some of the blood is to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense inside the tent of meeting; all the rest of the blood is to be poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt offering at the door of the tent of meeting; the fat is to be burnt upon the altar of Burnt-Offering; the whole bullock is to be burnt without the camp: in (c) and (d) some of the blood is to be put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering; all the rest is to be poured out at the foot of that altar; the fat is to be burnt upon the altar; there is no command given as to the remainder.
We notice that on no occasion is the whole burnt upon the altar, as in the case of the Burnt-Offering.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.3. the anointed priest] So called here and in Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16, Leviticus 6:22; ‘the high priest’ in Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28; ‘the chief priest’ 2 Kings 25:18; 2 Chronicles 19:11; 2 Chronicles 24:11; 2 Chronicles 26:20; 2 Chronicles 31:10; Ezra 7:5.
shall sin so as to bring guilt on the people] If the anointed priest, as the representative of the community towards God, bring guilt on the people, his offering must be the same as that for the community (Leviticus 4:13-21), ‘a young bullock without blemish’ (Leviticus 4:3, cp. Leviticus 4:14). ‘Young’ is interpreted traditionally ‘in his third year,’ or, according to some, older.
3–12. The high priest’s Sin-Offering, a bullock
And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock's head, and kill the bullock before the LORD.4–7. Cp. Leviticus 4:14-18. The first part of the ceremonial is like that of the Burnt-Offering. The disposal of the blood is different: the priest dips his finger into the blood, which has been caught in a bowl, and sprinkles it seven times before the veil of the sanctuary, i.e. the veil between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. He then puts some of the blood on the horns of the altar of incense with the finger (for each sprinkling and each touching the horns of the altar, tradition prescribes a separate dipping of the finger into the bowl), and, going outside the tent of meeting and back again to the west side of the altar, pours the rest (all the blood, Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18) at the base of the altar of Burnt-Offering.
The sprinkling of the blood before the veil, here ordered, is a later development of the ritual of Exodus 29:12, where it was merely to be put upon the horns of the altar. Thus we have here an example of ps. Cp. expressions in next v. and see App. on P.
 (secondary enactments) combined with the earlier strata. See further, pp. 174 ff.
And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock's blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:
And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, before the vail of the sanctuary.
And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.7. The ‘altar of sweet incense’ does not appear in Exodus 27-29 (Pg). It must therefore be ascribed to a secondary addition (p) to the groundwork of the Priestly Code. See App. on P, pp. 174 f.
 (secondary enactments) combined with the earlier strata. See further, pp. 174 ff.
before the Lord] The cloud was on the mercy-seat upon the ark in tie Holy of Holies; the sprinkling before the veil of the sanctuary was a sprinkling ‘before the Lord.’ The two phrases describe the same action.
at the base of the altar] The base (bottom A.V.) is mentioned only in connexion with pouring out the blood of the Sin-Offering in this ch., and in Leviticus 5:9, Leviticus 8:15 (= Exodus 29:12), Leviticus 9:9.
the altar of burnt offering] A designation which marks ps. In the legislation of Pg (see last note) there was no need for this distinction. There, accordingly, it was simply called ‘the altar’ (Leviticus 9:7-8 etc.) and so in Pt (ancient tôrôth; see App. on P, pp. 174 f.), e.g. in Leviticus 1:7 ff., Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 3:2 ff. etc.
 (secondary enactments) combined with the earlier strata. See further, pp. 174 ff.
And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,8–12. Cp. 19–21. The fat parts (the same as those reserved for the altar in the Peace-Offering) are then removed from the bullock, and burnt upon the altar of Burnt-Offering. All the remainder (even the whole bullock shall he carry forth in Leviticus 4:12 is traditionally interpreted as directing that the carcase should be carried out whole, and afterwards divided into pieces) shall be taken to a clean place (i.e. one free from ritual impurity) where the ashes (i.e. the ashes to which the Burnt-Offering, and other sacrifices burnt on the altar have been reduced by burning) are poured out (cp. Leviticus 1:16 and Leviticus 6:11) and there burnt on wood with fire (cp. Hebrews 13:11-12).
The traditional view of the sacrifice prescribed in Leviticus 4:3-12 is that it was necessary whenever the high priest had committed any offence in the discharge of his official duty as representative of the nation. In his ordinary life the high priest stands in the same relation to God’s law as any other member of the community, and may offer the same sacrifice as the ordinary Israelite. According to some commentators the ‘sin’ of Leviticus 4:3 refers to any offence whatever of the high priest committed in ignorance. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews points to the ideal high priest who is undefiled, separate from sinners (Leviticus 7:26), as distinguished from the high priest under the law, who, by reason of his infirmity, must offer sacrifice for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people (Leviticus 7:27, Leviticus 5:3).
And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,
As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.
And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,
Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.
And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;13–21. The Sin-Offering for the congregation, a bullock
When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.14. the assembly shall offer] The same Heb. word as that translated ‘assembly’ in Leviticus 4:13. See on Leviticus 4:20.
And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.15. the elders] This expression, common in JE and Deut., occurs in P here and in Leviticus 9:1, Joshua 20:4 only.
And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:
And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the vail.
And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.18. the altar which is before the Lord] The altar of sweet incense, see Leviticus 4:7.
And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.19. all the fat thereof] described fully in Leviticus 4:8-10; the parts which were offered in the Peace-Offering.
And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.20. the bullock of the sin offering] i.e. the bullock referred to in Leviticus 4:3-12; called ‘the first bullock’ in Leviticus 4:21.
Another law in Numbers 15:22-26 prescribes an offering to be brought by the whole congregation which differs from that here enjoined, viz. a young bullock for a Burnt-Offering with the accompanying Meal-Offering and Drink-Offering, and a he-goat for a Sin-Offering. The most probable explanation of the divergence is that the laws are from different sources.
Jewish tradition interprets ‘the congregation’ in this section as referring to the Sanhedrin, and ‘the assembly’ as meaning the children of Israel. If the Sanhedrin were to give a wrong decision on some point of observance, thereby causing the people who followed such decision to transgress, then the sacrifice enjoined in this section would be necessary. A short treatise of the Mishna (Horaioth) discusses decisions of this kind, and the circumstances under which the sacrifice of Leviticus 4:13-21 should be brought. This interpretation was probably prompted by a desire to reconcile this law with that of Numbers 15:22-26. But in Leviticus 4:13-21 the words ‘assembly’ and ‘congregation’ denote the same thing, the whole community. Note that in Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 4:21 the rendering ‘congregation’ of A.V. is corrected in R.V. to ‘assembly,’ the Heb. word ḳâhâl being the same as in Leviticus 4:13 where both R.V. and A.V. translate ‘assembly.’
And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.
When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;22–26. The Sin-Offering for the ruler, a he-goat
The blood in this case is not brought into the tent of meeting but put upon the horns of the altar of Burnt-Offering, and poured out at the base of the altar. The fat and inwards are removed and burnt on the altar as in the two preceding cases. An ordinary priest officiates.
Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:23. a goat] lit. a shaggy one of goats, i.e. a hairy goat, an expression used of female goats (Leviticus 4:28) as well as males. The phrase occurs, with the exception of Genesis 37:31, exclusively in Lev. and Ezek. of the animal brought as a Sin-Offering. Whether a particular breed with long hair is meant, or whether the long hair is due to age, seems doubtful, but the rendering of A.V. ‘kid of the goats’ is misleading.
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.24. where they kill the burnt offering] Cp. Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 1:11; on the side of the altar northward.
The Heb. word for ‘ruler’ is nâsî’, and is used of the princes of the tribes in Numbers 1:16; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 2:5 etc., Numbers 2:7, Numbers 34:18. Each of the spies sent in Numbers 13 was a nâsî’. The same word is used of the heads of the Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites, Numbers 3:24; Numbers 3:30; Numbers 3:35. A.V. has ‘captain’ in ch. 2, ‘chief’ in ch. 3, ‘prince’ in chs. 1, 7 and 34, ‘ruler’ in ch. 13. R.V. has ‘prince’ throughout. The word denotes one in authority over a tribe or over a portion of it. Comparing Ezekiel 34:24 ‘my servant David prince’ (nâsî’ Heb.) with Ezekiel 37:24 ‘my servant David shall be king,’ Jewish tradition infers that a king is meant in this passage.
And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.
And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;27–35. The Sin-Offering for one of the common people (Heb. ‘people of the land’), a she-goat or a lamb
The she-goat (Leviticus 4:28), according to Numbers 15:27, was to be of the first year. The lamb (Leviticus 4:32) was also to be a female. The ritual is the same for both animals, and like that of the offering of the ruler. The reason for treating the two in separate paragraphs is the same as in the case of the Peace-Offering.
Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.
And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.
And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.31. for a sweet savour unto the Lord] This expression occurs only here in connexion with Sin-Offerings.
And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.
And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:
And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.35. upon the offerings] ‘after the manner of’ R.V. mg. Either the portions are to be burnt upon the remains of sacrifices already offered, or in the same way as other fire-offerings.