Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Ignorance. To be ignorant of what we are bound to know is sinful: and for such culpable ignorance, these sacrifices, prescribed in this and the following chapter, were appointed. (Challoner) --- Not to be done. Hence the Rabbins admit sins of ignorance, only against the negative precepts. But when God forbids one thing, he commands the contrary; and we may sin by ignorance against any of his ordinances. If the ignorance be voluntary, it enhances the crime; and Aristotle well observes that drunkards, who do an injury, are to be doubly punished, because their fault is voluntary in its cause, (ad Nicom. iii. 7). But if the ignorance were perfectly involuntary, and inculpable, no sacrifice was required; so that God here speaks only of that sort of ignorance which involved some degree of negligence. This fault could not be forgiven without interior good dispositions. The sacrifice only reached to the cleansing of the flesh, (Hebrews ix. 13,) or to screen the culprit from the severity of the law and of the magistrates; (Calmet) though they might help the inward dispositions of the heart, and thus contribute to obtain God's pardon. (Origen; St. Augustine, q. 20) The difference between peccatum and delictum, is not perfectly ascertained. Some think the former word denotes sins of malice, and the latter those of ignorance. Tirinus maintains the contrary, as a more costly sacrifice, he says, is required for the latter. (Haydock)
Anointed. That is, "the high priest," Septuagint. Inferior priests were not anointed, except the sons of Aaron, at the beginning. (Calmet) --- Ignorance in such a one is greatly to be avoided, as it tends to scandalize the people. (Haydock) --- The same ceremonies are prescribed, as on the day of expiation; only the priest did not enter the most holy place. --- Offend, in some smaller matter. If he engaged his brethren in the crime of idolatry, he should die. Deuteronomy xiii. 15. (Calmet) --- Before the solemn unction, he might be expiated, like one of the princes. (Menochius)
Calf. Hebrew par, does not specify the age. (Calmet)
The blood. As the figure of the blood of Christ shed for the remission of our sins; and carried by him into the sanctuary of heaven.
Seven. A number consecrated in Scripture, (Calmet) and not superstitious. (Worthington) --- Apuleius (Met. xi.) mentions it. Septies submerso fluctibus capite. (Calmet) --- Sanctuary, or most holy place. (Menochius)
Ashes of the victims. They were first laid beside the altar of holocausts. By this ceremony, the priest begged that his sins might be removed from the sight of God, (Menochius) by virtue of Christ's sacrifice, who suffered out of the gate of Jerusalem, Hebrews xiii. 13. The high priest was obliged to offer this sacrifice himself, to expiate his own sin, as well as that of the people, Hebrews ix. 7.
Multitude assembled. Septuagint add, "be involuntarily ignorant, and no one of the congregation perceive the truth, (or word,) and shall transgress, by commission or omission, one of all the precepts of the Lord." Such was the offence of Saul and the people, 1 Kings xiv. 33. On these occasions, the elders were to put their hands on the victim, to acknowledge the general offence, if it were not of too heinous a nature to be expiated by sacrifice. See Deuteronomy xiii. 12.
A prince. King, magistrate, general, chief of a tribe, or great family; in a word, one elevated above the rest (Nasi); as appears, Numbers i. 4. and vii. 2.
He. Samaritan and Septuagint read, "they shall have," referring it to the priests.
Him. Moses does not here specify what was to be done with the flesh. But (chap. vi. 26,) he commands it to be given to the priests. (Calmet) --- In the sacrifices for the sins of the multitude, or of the priest, all was consumed; to express a greater detestation of such offences, (Tirinus) and that the priests might derive no benefit from them. (Theodoret, q. 3.; St. Thomas Aquinas, [Summa Theologiae] i. 2, q. 102, a. 3.) (Worthington) --- Those who offered these victims received no part of them again, nor were oil or incense used; as all delicacies must be rejected by penitents. (Tirinus)
The land. A rustic or plebeian. (Menochius) --- The offences of such might be expiated by the sacrifice of a goat, ewe, lamb, ram, two pigeons, or flour, chap. v. 7. and xi. 15. (Calmet)
Of, &c. One Hebrew manuscript, the Septuagint, and Syriac read, "in the place in which he shall slay the holocaust." The Samaritan has they slay, both here and ver. 24. and 33, which seems the truer reading. (Kennicott)
For a. Hebrew may be "according to, like (Haydock) upon, besides, after the holocausts." (Calmet) See chap. iii. 5.