Leviticus 5
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
Leviticus 5:1-13 [47]. Three cases in which a Sin-Offering must be brought

For the reasons which have led critics to assign Leviticus 5:1-6 to a source other than that of 4. see App. 1 (a).

1. The first case. A man who has either seen a crime perpetrated (e.g. one stealing another’s property), or heard something that would assist in detecting the criminal, is bound to declare what he knows when a solemn appeal is made in his hearing (he heareth the voice of adjuration). If he do not utter it (i.e. if he remain silent though capable of bearing witness) then he is guilty and a Sin-Offering is necessary. Note the reply of Jesus to the high priest’s adjuration after having remained silent (Matthew 26:63).

bear his iniquity] incur the punishment due to such transgression.

The mother of Micah (Jdg 17:2 R.V. mg.) uttered an adjuration when eleven hundred pieces of silver were stolen from her. She lifted up her voice (according to the custom of those times which was for a long time preserved among the Arabs) calling in the name of God on anyone who knew anything about the matter to reveal it. This appeal her son heard, and in response acknowledged himself to be the thief. The appeal might be made by the person wronged to the bystanders, or if an appeal were made to a judge, he might utter an adjuration. According to the traditional interpretation, the text refers to a case brought into court. In Proverbs 29:24 reference is made to one who is silent when thus appealed to: the words of A.V. ‘he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not’ should be rendered ‘he heareth the adjuration and uttereth nothing’ (as R.V. with marg. ref. to Leviticus 5:1).

This is different from the previous and following cases in which the sin is committed unwittingly.

Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
2, 3. The second case—when anyone unwittingly touches an unclean thing. By ‘beast’ is meant a wild animal, by ‘cattle’ one of the herd or of the flock (Leviticus 1:2).

unclean creeping things] swarming things; cp. Leviticus 11:29; Leviticus 11:31. On the distinction between ‘creeping’ and ‘swarming’ things, and the confusion in the renderings of EVV, see Intr. to Pent. App. II, pp. 209 f., and HDB. i. 518.

the uncleanness of man] Particular cases are specified in chs. 12–15. For all contact with uncleanness, washing the clothes and bathing the body in water are prescribed in the chapters referred to and also in Leviticus 11:24-40. The same purification is ordered for eating unclean food in Leviticus 17:15, and in the following verse is added—if he does not wash and bathe, he shall bear his iniquity, i.e. if the proper purification is omitted he is liable to punishment. The cases supposed in Leviticus 5:2-3 are those where, through ignorance, the purification has been omitted, and a sacrifice is necessary to avert punishment. The traditional explanation is that a Sin-Offering is necessary if, while unclean, a person has done something which may be done only by those who are clean, such as eating of the holy things etc., but there is nothing in the text to support this view. The Sin-Offering seems to be required from anyone in the condition described in Leviticus 17:16, of whom it may be said ‘he shall bear his iniquity.’

Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.
4. The third case—when anyone utters a rash oath or vow.

swear rashly] The Heb. verb occurs in the Pi‘el form (baṭṭç) only here and Psalm 106:33; in sound it resembles the first part of βαττολογήσητε in Matthew 6:7. To take an oath or vow lightly, without considering its purport, is a breach of the 3rd commandment, and when he knoweth of it (i.e. reflects on, or is reminded of, what he has thoughtlessly uttered), he will acknowledge his guilt, and bring a Sin-Offering. It is not clear whether the offering not only makes atonement for the sin of rash swearing but also procures release from the obligation incurred by the rash oath.

to do evil, or to do good] i.e. to perform any act whatever.

Each of the four verses forms a complete sentence with protasis and apodosis in the text of R.V. and A.V., but all four verses should be taken as forming one long protasis to which Leviticus 5:5 is the apodosis. The translation would then be as follows: 1 If anyone sin … if he do not utter it, but bears his iniquity; 2 or if anyone touch … things, [and it be hidden from him, and he be unclean and guilty;] 3 or if he touch the uncleanness … wherewith he is unclean, and it be hid from him, and he knoweth of it, and is guilty; 4or if anyone swear … oath, and it be hid from him, and he knoweth of it, and is guilty in one of these things: 5then it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that.… The words in brackets are omitted in LXX.; ‘in one of these things’ at the end of Leviticus 5:4 seems strange, and may be a repetition of the phrase in Leviticus 5:5.

And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
5. The LXX. omit the first clause of Leviticus 5:5 as far as ‘these things’ (this may be due to confusion of the phrase with the identical one at the end of Leviticus 5:4 ‘one of these things’). The confession is to be made when he lays his hand on the Sin-Offering (cp. note on Leviticus 1:4).

And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
6. his guilt offering] The Heb. word ’âshâm, guilt, here and in Leviticus 5:7 is also translated guilt (trespass A.V.) offering in Leviticus 5:15-16; Leviticus 5:18, Leviticus 6:6 (for the attitude of the Heb. mind which led to this ambiguity in the sense of ’âshâm see Kennett, etc. Conceptions of Righteousness and Sin, p. 8). But the offering here brought is described as a Sin-Offering, and the two birds of Leviticus 5:7 are intended the one for a Sin-Offering, and the other for a Burnt-Offering. Moreover the substitute for the offering of Leviticus 5:7-10 (Leviticus 5:11-13) is twice called a Sin-Offering. In the regulations for the Sin-Offering (Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27, Leviticus 5:2-4) the bringer of a Sin-Offering is described as guilty (’âshçm), and from 2 Kings 12:16 (‘money for the guilt offerings,’ A.V. ‘trespass money,’ Heb. késeph’âshâm) it appears that Guilt-Offerings were sometimes brought in money. It seems that in these verses the Sin-Offering is regarded as a fine due from one who is guilty, and the clause might be translated ‘and he shall bring as his guilt-fine unto the Lord,’ and similarly in Leviticus 5:7. From the LXX. rendering in Leviticus 5:7 it is possible, but by no means certain, that they read ‘he shall bring his Sin-Offering for that wherein he hath sinned.’ If this reading be adopted, the unusual meaning of’ âshâm will be confined to Leviticus 5:6.

for his sin which he hath sinned] more literally, as his penalty which he has incurred by sin.

And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
7. The similarity between this alternative offering for a poor man and that of Leviticus 1:14-17 is obvious.

And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder:
8. and wring off] as in Leviticus 1:15. It has been thought that the last clause of the v. refers still to the neck, indicating that in this case the head of the bird was not to be wholly separated from the body. But it seems better to take that clause to have the same reference as in Leviticus 1:17, and to mean that the body was not to be divided.

And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.
9. he shall sprinkle] The same word as in Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 4:17, but the sprinkling is not done with the finger, nor is the blood put on the horns of the altar, but upon the side of it. Two birds are brought; the one that is burnt represents the part of the Sin-Offering offered to the Lord, the other the remainder which was the priest’s portion.

And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.
10. according to the ordinance] i.e. as prescribed in Leviticus 1:14-17.

But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.
11. he shall put no oil upon it] as in the jealousy offering (Numbers 5:15).

11–13. A further concession in the case of extreme poverty: 1/10th of an ephah of fine flour is allowed as a substitute for the animal sacrifice. This is treated as a Meal-Offering but described as a Sin-Offering (Leviticus 5:11-12). See Rob.-Sm. Rel. Sem.2 p. 242, note 3, with a reference by Frazer to an instance where an offering of rice is called ‘eating the soul of the rice,’ so that the rice is viewed as a living creature. For approximate amount of an ephah see on Leviticus 6:20.

Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: it is a sin offering.
12. upon the offerings] ‘after the manner of’ R.V. mg. Either it is placed upon the offerings which have been brought during the day, or it is burnt in the same way as other fire-offerings. Cp. Leviticus 4:35.

And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.
13. the remnant shall be the priest’s] ‘the remnant’ is not expressed in Heb. but is supplied by the LXX. It might be supposed that a priest would not be so extremely poor as to bring this offering; tradition however provided that if he did, the whole was to be burnt on the altar, according to Leviticus 6:23.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering:
Chs. Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7. The Guilt-Offering

Three cases where a Guilt-Offering should be brought are here specified:

(a) 15, 16; if part of what is due to the Lord has been withheld.

15. commit a trespass] The Heb. word (mâ‘al) here and in Leviticus 6:2 is different from that which is rendered ‘be guilty,’ ‘bring guilt,’ and ‘guilt offering’ (trespass offering A.V.) in Leviticus 4:3 to Leviticus 5:7 (’âshâm). It means ‘to deal deceitfully.’

in the holy things of the Lord] i.e. by keeping back what is His due (e.g. tithes or firstfruits). The offender shall make restitution of what he has kept back unwittingly, adding a fifth part, and shall also bring as a Guilt-Offering a ram of sufficient value estimated after the shekel of the sanctuary. According to tradition this shekel was double the value of the ordinary shekel, but see A. R. S. Kennedy’s Art. Money, in HDB. iii. 422, or Lev. (Cent. Bible) p. 58, where he makes it to be ‘the so-called Phœnician silver shekel of 224 grains, and its value about 2 Samuel 9 d.’ It thus would weigh but little more than the Jewish shekels now extant.

according to thy estimation] also in Leviticus 5:18 and Leviticus 6:6.

in silver by shekels] i.e. the ram must be worth at the least two shekels. According to Tal. Bab. (Zebâḥîm 90 b) it must be two years old.

And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.
And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.
(b) 17–19. if any one sin, and do any of the things which the Lord hath commanded not to be done] The description of the sin in this case is the same as that in Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27. In what respect do these sins (which here require a Guilt-Offering) differ from those in ch. 4 for which a Sin-Offering is prescribed? The difference is indicated in the words ‘though he knew (‘wist’ A.V.) it not.’ They are not the same as the Heb. expression rendered unwittingly (concerning his ignorance A.V.), for in Leviticus 5:18 they occur as a further qualification of a thing done ‘unwittingly.’ The sins of ch. 4. are those of which a person becomes conscious (Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 4:28). In such case he must offer a Sin-Offering. But the case here supposed is that of one who fears that he has been guilty of some infringement of the Divine commands, but cannot specify it.

He brings a ram as Guilt-Offering (in the same manner as in the preceding case (15, 16)), but no restitution is demanded as the amount cannot be estimated, since the offence remains unknown. This sacrifice was called by the Jews (’âshâm tâluy), lit. a suspended Guilt or Trespass-Offering. It was a voluntary offering, and relieved a troubled conscience. It is recorded of one pious Jew that he brought a sacrifice of this kind every day except on the day following the Great Day of Atonement.

And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him.
It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the LORD.
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