James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Leviticus 4:1-7:38
THE SIN AND TRESPASS OFFERINGS
THE SIN OFFERING
The data for the sin offering is found in Leviticus 4:1-35; Leviticus 5:1-13 and Leviticus 6:24-30. As to the name of this offering, it will be seen that “sin” is mentioned here for the first time in connection with the law of the offerings. The idea of sin is included in the others, but it was not the predominating idea as it is here. There was atonement for sin in the other offerings, but rather for sin in man’s nature than the actual transgression in his life, while here the latter is brought into view. In Hebrew the same word applies for “sin” and “sin offering” as though the two were completely identified, or as though the offering were so charged with sin as to itself become sin. In this connection read Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:14 to see how this was also true in our substitute, Jesus Christ. Another matter of interest is that while the preceding offerings were all known more or less in other nations and before the time of Moses, this offering is entirely new and original with Israel. This shows that Israel enters on a new stage of existence in the sense that as a nation she has a truer conception of sin and the need of expiation than the other nations that received no special revelation from God.
For evidence that the other offerings existed before Moses and were not confined to Israel compare Genesis 31:54; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 32:6; and 1 Corinthians 10:6. This should strengthen our faith as showing man’s natural sense of spiritual need and desire for fellowship with God, and also as pointing back to an original revelation from God to man on the whole subject. God thus seems to have based the Mosaic ordinances upon His earlier revelations to man, correcting them where they had been corrupted, and adding to them where it was necessary to the progress of revealed truth.
Passing from the name of this offering to its nature, what kind of sin is referred to in 4:2? This shows that while ignorance might palliate it could not remove the guilt of sin; sin is sinful whether recognized by the sinner or not, and requires atonement just the same. (Compare Psalm 19:12; 1 Corinthians 4:4 R.V.) Observe the different sections of this law. What class of persons are first referred to (Leviticus 4:3-12)? After the priests, who are mentioned (Leviticus 4:13-21)? The congregation of Israel means the nation. What is the third class specified (v. 22-26)? The fourth class (Leviticus 4:27 to Leviticus 5:13)? In chapter 5 prescriptions were made for the common people (1) as to the nature of the offense (Leviticus 5:1-5) and (2) as to the nature of the offerings (Leviticus 5:6-13). In regard to these the higher the rank of the offerer the more costly must be his offering. Expressing that guilt is proportionate to privilege (compare 1 Kings 11:9; Jam 3:1). Note the responsibility for sin on the part of whole communities (compare here Psalms 2; Revelation 2, 3). It is just as important to note also that no one can be overlooked, however obscure. God demands from and provides an offering for the poorest and the neediest (Leviticus 5:11-13).
In this offering, where was the victim to be burned (Leviticus 5:12-19)? To make the burning without the camp more distinct from that of the altar, another Hebrew word is used (compare in this case Hebrews 13:10-13). The burning on the altar symbolizes the full surrender to and the acceptance by God of the offerer, while the burning without the camp symbolizes the sacrifice for the sin of the world on the part of Him who was “despised and rejected of men.”
THE TRESPASS OFFERING
The facts associated with the trespass offering are found in Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7 and Leviticus 7:1-10. It is hard to distinguish between the sin and trespass offerings because they almost necessarily overlap. Trespass means an invasion of the rights of others (compare Joshua 7:1; 2 Chronicles 28:20-22) and there are those who distinguish between the two offerings by saying that the sin offering represents sin as a principle, and the trespass offering sin as an act. Penalty is prominent in the first, and reparation or restitution in the second. Both find their fulfillment in Christ, who not only bore the penalty of but redressed every claim which God had upon the sinner.
The trespass offering had reference only to the sin of an individual and not the nation, as only an individual perhaps could make reparation. The victim in this case was the same for the poor as for the rich, a ram of the flock, indicating possibly that the obligation to repair the wrong cannot be modified to suit the condition of the offerer. Furthermore, notice that anything unjustly taken must not only be restored but a fifth must be added. In other words, no advantage must be gained by the trespass. Thus if the sin offering called for faith the trespass offering called for repentance. It is blessed to know that in our Lord Jesus Christ both God and man received back more than they lost.
There appear to be two distinct sections of this law of trespass offering. The first refers to trespass in the holy things of the Lord (Leviticus 5:14-19), and the second to trespass on the rights of man (Leviticus 6:1-7). By the “holy things of the Lord” are meant the eating unwittingly of the flesh of the firstling of one’s cattle, or using one’s tithe or any part of it for himself (compare Malachi 3:8; Malachi 3:10). The trespass on the rights of man included embezzlement, robbery, fraud, falsehood, etc. The order of proceeding in the latter instance was to confess the wrong, to make restitution and add one fifth, and to bring the guilt offering to God.
How comforting to know that Christ is the great antitype of all these offerings so far as we are concerned, that is, we who have believed on Him as our Savior and confessed Him as our Lord!
He is our burnt and meal offering in the sense that He is our righteousness. In Him we are fully surrendered to and accepted by God. He is our peace offering in the sense that in Him our life is in perfect fellowship with God. He is our sin offering, the One who has fully borne our sin, expiating our guilt. Finally, He is our trespass offering, rendering perfect satisfaction unto God and making reparation for all our offenses against Him in the com-pletest and to the fullest extent.
1. What view of sin is emphasized in the sin offering?
2. What peculiarity lies in the Hebrew word in this case?
3. What peculiarity is found in the history of the offering itself?
4. Is sin which is unrecognized sinful?
5. What is symbolized by burning without the camp?
6. Define the word trespass.
7. Distinguish between the sin offering and the trespass offering.
8. For what spiritual exercise did the trespass offering especially call?
9. Describe how Christ is represented by these offerings.
10. Have you received Him as your substitute Savior?
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OFFERINGS
In the lessons on the offerings we have seen what Christ is to us and what He has done for us as symbolized in them, but before we pass from the subject it might be well to touch on the response which the work of Christ should awaken in our hearts.
In Brooke’s Studies in Leviticus he quotes the following collect from the liturgy of the Church of England:
Almighty God, who hast given Thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life, give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that His inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life.
This expresses the two ways in which the lessons from the offerings should be applied by Christians.
We need to “always most thankfully receive His inestimable benefit.” In other words, we must by faith accept Christ as our five-fold offering, on the basis of which alone we are saved and have our standing before God. Morning by morning as we awaken let it be with the consciousness that in the burnt offering and meat offering of Christ we are accepted and blessed of God, that in His peace offering we have the right to commune with Him, that through His sin and trespass offering every defect is remedied and every fault will find pardon.
But then let us remember that we should also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life. After we have accepted Him and represented Him to God as our sacrifice by faith, then we can follow His example. But we are not in a position to do this before. If He is our example, then we may expect to find Him so in relation to each form of offering or sacrifice in which He has been revealed to us.
He is our burnt offering, a perfect dedication to God, but are we not also bidden in Him to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1)? He is our meal offering presented to God for the service of man, but we too are “every one of us to please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Romans 15:2). He is our peace offering, making and maintaining peace between God and us, but we are to be peacemakers, not in the sense in which He alone is our peacemaker but in that human sense in which we can bring man and man together and so be called children of God. He is our sin and trespass offering, and in this too we may follow His example. It is impossible that we should make atonement for sin as He did, but there is a sense in which we may “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
In other words, our lives are to reflect what we have received and are receiving from Christ, a surrendered will, a loving walk, a life of blessing, a heart of compassion, a spirit of patience. So, “with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).