Numbers 15:22
And if you have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the LORD has spoken to Moses,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) And if ye have erred, and not observed.—Rather, And if ye shall err and not observe.

Numbers 15:22. Have erred, and not observed all these commandments — If the whole body of the people be guilty of any neglect of the public ceremonies of religion, or of any deviation from any of the rites instituted concerning the outward service of God, (for of these only Moses seems here to speak,) which might happen involuntarily, and through ignorance, then the following method is prescribed to expiate the sin of such omissions or deviations upon their being known. It may be observed, however, that this plea of ignorance could not be admitted except in cases that were liable to obscurity. The law in Leviticus 4:13, which appears partly similar to this, probably speaks of some positive miscarriage, or the doing what ought not to have been done; whereas this speaks of an omission of something which ought to have been done.15:22-29 Though ignorance will in a degree excuse, it will not justify those who might have known their Lord's will, yet did it not. David prayed to be cleansed from his secret faults, those sins which he himself was not aware of. Sins committed ignorantly, shall be forgiven through Christ the great Sacrifice, who, when he offered up himself once for all upon the cross, seemed to explain one part of the intention of his offering, in that prayer, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. It looked favourably upon the Gentiles, that this law of atoning for sins of ignorance, is expressly made to extend to those who were strangers to Israel.The heavy punishments which had already overtaken the people might naturally give rise to apprehensions for the future, especially in view of the fact that on the approaching entrance into Canaan the complete observance of the Law in all its details would become imperative on them. To meet such apprehensions a distinction is emphatically drawn between sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4:13 ff) and those of presumption Numbers 15:30-31. The passage deals separately with imperfections of obedience which would be regarded as attaching to the whole nation Numbers 15:22-26, and those of individuals Numbers 15:27-30.22. if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, &c.—respecting the performance of divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies that constitute the holy service. The law relates only to any omission and consequently is quite different from that laid down in Le 4:13, which implies a transgression or positive neglect of some observances required. This law relates to private parties or individual tribes; that to the whole congregation of Israel. To wit, those now spoken of, those which concern the outward worship and servicc of God, or the rites or ceremonies belonging to it. And herein principally this law may seem to differ from that Leviticus 14:13, which speaks of some positive miscarriage, or doing that which ought not to have been done about the holy things of God, whereas this speaks only of an omissiou of somcthing which ought to have been done about holy ccrcmonies. But besides this, that law, Leviticus 4:13, concerns the whole congregration of Israel, as it is there expressed, but this concerns only the congregation, or a congregation, as it is here expressed, Numbers 15:24, i.e. any particular congregation of Israelites, whether of a whole tribe meeting together by their representatives, or a lesser congregation, such as there were to be many in Canaan; and the words rendered all the congregation may be, and are by some here, rendered every congregation. And by virtue of this law, as some suppose, the Israelites newly after their return from the captivity offered twelve bullocks, one for each tribe, Ezra 8:35. And if ye have erred,.... Gone astray from the law of God, and any of its precepts; every sin is an error, a missing of the mark, a wandering from the way of God's commandments. Jarchi, and the Jews in general, interpret this of idolatry, but it rather respects any deviation from the law, moral or ceremonial, especially the latter:

and not observed all these commandments which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses; in this chapter, more particularly concerning the meat offerings and drink offerings, and the quantity of them, to be brought along with their burnt offerings and peace offerings, and concerning the cake of the first dough to be heaved before the Lord and given to the priest.

And if ye {f} have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the LORD hath spoken unto Moses,

(f) By oversight or ignorance, read Le 4:2,13.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22–26. Errors of the whole congregation. No detailed instances are given; but such errors might consist in some mistake or omission in ritual, or some miscarriage of justice discovered too late; or the error might not be traceable, but the occurrence of some public catastrophe or trouble would be assumed to be a divine punishment for a mistake which had been committed.

22–31. Propitiation for inadvertent transgressions—(a) Numbers 15:22-36 committed by the congregation as a whole; (b) Numbers 15:27-29 by individuals. To these is added the provision that deliberate transgressions cannot be atoned for (Numbers 15:30-31). Another set of laws relating to inadvertent transgressions, apparently dating from a different period, is found in Leviticus 4, Leviticus 5; it is more elaborate, dealing with four classes of persons—the high priest, the congregation, a prince, and a private individual.Verse 22. - And if ye have erred. The absence of the usual formula, "and the Lord spake unto Moses," is singular, because what follows has reference not to the enactment just made, but to the whole Law. Perhaps it is a part of the thoroughly unscientific and inartificial character of the Mosaic legislation that a principle of extreme importance and wide application is appended to an insignificant matter of ceremonial. Provision is here made for the forgiveness of sins due to ignorance and oversight - a provision which was sorely needed, considering the great complexity of the Law, and the bad training they had for the accurate observance of it (Deuteronomy 12:8). A similar provision had been made in Leviticus 4. The two, however, differ, inasmuch as this contemplates sins of commission, while this contemplates sins of omission. "As for the assembly, there shall be one law for the Israelite and the stranger,...an eternal ordinance...before Jehovah." הקּהל, which is construed absolutely, refers to the assembling of the nation before Jehovah, or to the congregation viewed in its attitude with regard to God.

A second law (Numbers 15:17-21) appoints, on the ground of the general regulations in Exodus 22:28 and Exodus 23:19, the presentation of a heave-offering from the bread which they would eat in the land of Canaan, viz., a first-fruit of groat-meal (עריסת ראשׁית) baked as cake (חלּה). Arisoth, which is only used in connection with the gift of first-fruits, in Ezekiel 44:30; Nehemiah 10:38, and the passage before us, signifies most probably groats, or meal coarsely bruised, like the talmudical ערסן, contusum, mola, far, and indeed far hordei. This cake of the groats of first-fruits they were to offer "as a heave-offering of the threshing-floor," i.e., as a heave-offering of the bruised corn, in the same manner as this (therefore, in addition to it, and along with it); and that "according to your generations" (see Exodus 12:14), that is to say, for all time, to consecrate a gift of first-fruits to the Lord, not only of the grains of corn, but also of the bread made from the corn, and "to cause a blessing to rest upon his house" (Ezekiel 44:30). Like all the gifts of first-fruits, this cake also fell to the portion of the priests (see Ezek. and Neh. ut sup.).

To these there are added, in Numbers 15:22, Numbers 15:31, laws relating to sin-offerings, the first of which, in Numbers 15:22-26, is distinguished from the case referred to in Leviticus 4:13-21, by the fact that the sin is not described here, as it is there, as "doing one of the commandments of Jehovah which ought not to be done," but as "not doing all that Jehovah had spoken through Moses." Consequently, the allusion here is not to sins of commission, but to sins of omission, not following the law of God, "even (as is afterwards explained in Numbers 15:23) all that the Lord hath commanded you by the hand of Moses from the day that the Lord hath commanded, and thenceforward according to your generations," i.e., since the first beginning of the giving of the law, and during the whole of the time following (Knobel). These words apparently point to a complete falling away of the congregation from the whole of the law. Only the further stipulation in Numbers 15:24, "if it occur away from the eyes of the congregation through error" (in oversight), cannot be easily reconciled with this, as it seems hardly conceivable that an apostasy from the entire law should have remained hidden from the congregation. This "not doing all the commandments of Jehovah," of which the congregation is supposed to incur the guilt without perceiving it, might consist either in the fact that, in particular instances, whether from oversight or negligence, the whole congregation omitted to fulfil the commandments of God, i.e., certain precepts of the law, sc., in the fact that they neglected the true and proper fulfilment of the whole law, either, as Outram supposes, "by retaining to a certain extent the national rites, and following the worship of the true God, and yet at the same time acting unconsciously in opposition to the law, through having been led astray by some common errors;" or by allowing the evil example of godless rulers to seduce them to neglect their religious duties, or to adopt and join in certain customs and usages of the heathen, which appeared to be reconcilable with the law of Jehovah, though they really led to contempt and neglect of the commandments of the Lord.

(Note: Maimonides (see Outram, ex veterum sententia) understands this law as relating to extraneous worship; and Outram himself refers to the times of the wicked kings, "when the people neglected their hereditary rites, and, forgetting the sacred laws, fell by a common sin into the observance of the religious rites of other nations." Undoubtedly, we have historical ground in 2 Chronicles 29:21., and Ezra 8:35, for this interpretation of our law, but further allusions are not excluded in consequence. We cannot agree with Baumgarten, therefore, in restricting the difference between Leviticus 4:13. and the passage before us to the fact, that the former supposes the transgression of one particular commandment on the part of the whole congregation, whilst the latter (Numbers 15:22, Numbers 15:23) refers to a continued lawless condition on the part of Israel.)

But as a disregard or neglect of the commandments of God had to be expiated, a burnt-offering was to be added to the sin-offering, that the separation of the congregation from the Lord, which had arisen from the sin of omission, might be entirely removed. The apodosis commences with והיה in Numbers 15:24, but is interrupted by מעי אם, and resumed again with ועשׂוּ, "it shall be, if...the whole congregation shall prepare," etc. The burnt-offering, being the principal sacrifice, is mentioned as usual before the sin-offering, although, when presented, it followed the latter, on account of its being necessary that the sin should be expiated before the congregation could sanctify its life and efforts afresh to the Lord in the burnt-offering. "One kid of the goats:" see Leviticus 4:23. כּמּשׂפּט (as in Leviticus 5:10; Leviticus 9:16, etc.) refers to the right established in Numbers 15:8, Numbers 15:9, concerning the combination of the meat and drink-offering with the burnt-offering. The sin-offering was to be treated according to the rule laid down in Leviticus 4:14.

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