And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sins ignorantly, when he sins by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord; to whom it is known to be such, before whom all things are naked, open, and well known:
to make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him; upon that atonement made by sacrifice; so the forgiveness of the sins of all the Lord's people proceeds upon an atonement made by the blood and sacrifice of Christ: full atonement of sin and free forgiveness are not contrary to each other.And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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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