And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
THE SIN OFFERING (Leviticus 4; Leviticus 5:1-13). At the time of the Mosaic legislation, burnt offerings and meat offerings were already in existence, and had existed from the time of the Fall. A beginning, therefore, is made with them, and the regulations of the peace offerings naturally follow, because these sacrifices succeed in order to the burnt and meat offerings, and because sacrifices in some respects of the same nature as peace offerings had previously existed under a different name (cf. Exodus 10:25 with Exodus 24:5, and see above notes on chapter 3). The sin and trespass offerings, therefore, are left to the last, though, owing to their meaning, they were always offered first of all, when sacrifices of all three kinds were made together. They are the means of ceremonially propitiating God when alienated from his people, or from any individual member of it, by sin, which they legally atone for. The need of expiation is implied and suggested by the offering of the blood, both in the burnt sacrifice and the peace offering (cf. Job 1:5). But this was not sufficient; there must be a special sacrifice to teach this great truth as its primary lesson. The sin offering typifies the sacrifice of our Lord JESUS CHRIST upon the cross, as the great Sin Offering for mankind, whereby the wrath of God was propitiated, and an expiation for the sins of man was wrought, bringing about reconciliation between God and man.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
Verse 2. - If a soul shall sin. The conditions to be fulfilled in presenting a sin offering differed according to the position held by the offerer in the state. If it were the high priest, he had
(1) to offer a young bull in the court of the tabernacle;
(2) to place his hand upon it;
(3) to kill it;
(4) to take the blood into the holy place of the tabernacle, and there sprinkle some of it seven times in the direction of the vail that divided off the holy of holies within which the ark was placed, and to smear some of it on the horns of the golden altar of incense;
(5) to pour out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle;
(6) to burn all the internal fat upon the altar of burnt offering;
(7) to carry the whole of the remainder of the animal outside the camp, and there to burn it. If it were the congregation that made the offering, the same conditions had to be fulfilled, except that the elders of the congregation had to lay their hands on the animal. If it were a ruler, the animal offered was to be a male kid, and the priest, instead of taking the blood into the sanctuary, was to smear it on the horns of the altar of burnt sacrifice in the court. If it were an ordinary member of the congregation, the animal was to be a female kid, or ewe lamb, which was to be dealt with in the same manner; or in some cases two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering (whose blood was all sprinkled round the inner side of the altar), the other for a burnt offering (which was to be treated according to the ritual of the burnt offering), or even the tenth part of an ephah of flour (without oil or frankincense), a handful of which was to be burnt, and the remainder delivered to the priest for his consumption. The moral lesson taught to the Jew by the sin offering was of the terrible nature of sin, and of the necessity for an expiation for it in addition to penitence. Mystically he might see that, as the blood of bulls and goats could not of its own virtue take away sin, there must be an offering, foreshadowed by the sacrifice of the animals, which should be effectual as these were symbolical The type is fulfilled by the atonement wrought by Christ's blood shed on the cross (see Hebrews 10:1-21). Further, the ceremonial cleansing of the sinful Israelite by the sin offering in the old dispensation foreshadows the effect of baptism in the new dispensation, for, as Calvin has noted in his Commentary, "As sins are now sacramentally washed away by baptism, so under the Law also sacrifices were expiations, although in a different way." If a soul shall sin through ignorance. The expression, "through ignorance" (bishgagah), is intended to cover all sins except those committed "with a high hand," or defiantly, whether the agent was ignorant that they were sins or was led into them by inconsiderateness or infirmity (cf. Psalm 19:12, 13, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins"). A better translation of bishgagah would be by want of consideration, or by inadvertence. Our Lord could say, even of those who crucified him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do;" and therefore even for them a sin offering might be made and be accepted. But for deliberate and determined sin the Law has no atonement, no remedy. The words, shall do against any of them, i.e., against the commandments, would be better rendered shall do any of them, i.e., the things which ought not to be done. There is no exact apodosis to this verse; it is a general heading to the chapter.
If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.
Verses 3-12. - The case of the high priest. He is designated the priest that is anointed, in respect to which title, see notes on chapter 8. In case he sins in his representative character, his sin is such as to bring guilt on the people (this is the meaning of the words translated according to the sin of the people), and a special sin offering must therefore be made. He is to take of the blood of the animal sacrificed, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:... and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary. And put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense. This was a more solemn method of presenting the blood to the Lord than that used in the burnt offering; the offering of the blood, which was the vehicle of life, being the chief feature in the sin offering, as the consumption of the whole animal by the altar fire was in the burnt offering. In the burnt offerings and peace offerings the blood was thrown once on the altar of burnt sacrifice (see chapter Leviticus 1:5); now it is sprinkled, in a smaller quantity each time, but as often as seven times (the number seven symbolically representing completeness), before the vail which shrouded the ark. The altar of sweet incense is the golden altar, which stood within the tabernacle, in front of the vail. Perhaps the reason why the horns of the altar are specially appointed to have the blood placed on them is that they were regarded as the most sacred part of the altar, because they were its highest points, in which its elevation towards heaven culminated. The remainder of the victim's blood is to be poured at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, in the court of the tabernacle, to sink into the ground, because no more of it was wanted for ceremonial use. The internal fat is to be burnt upon the altar of the burnt offering, but not actually upon the smoldering burnt sacrifice, as in the case of the peace offerings; the sin offering preceding the burnt offering in order of time, while the peace offering followed it. The remainder of the animal is to be carried without the camp... and be burnt, because its flesh was at once accursed and most holy. It was accursed, as having been symbolically the vehicle of the sins laid upon it by the offerer; therefore it must not be consumed upon the altar of God, but be destroyed with fire outside the camp, typifying the removal from God's kingdom, and the final destruction of all that is sinful. But yet it was most holy, as its blood had been taken into the tabernacle, and had served as a propitiation; therefore, if it had to be burnt, it yet had to be burnt solemnly, reverently, and as a ceremonial act, in a place appointed for the purpose. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews notices that one of the points in which our Lord was the antitype of the sin offering was that he "suffered without the gate," "that he might sanctify the people with his own blood" (Hebrews 13:12), which was thus indicated to have been carried within the sanctuary, that is, into heaven.
And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock's head, and kill the bullock before the LORD.
And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock's blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:
And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, before the vail of the sanctuary.
And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,
As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.
And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,
Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.
And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;
Verses 13-21. - The case of the whole congregation. A nation may become guilty of national sin in different ways, according to its political constitution: most directly, by the action of a popular Legislature passing a decree such as that of the Athenian assembly, condemning the whole of the Mitylenean people to death (Thucyd., 3:36), or by approving an act of sacrilege (Malachi 3:9); indirectly, by any complicity in or condoning of a sin done in its name by its rulers. The ritual of the sin offering is the same as in the case of the high priest. The elders of the congregation (according to the Targum of Jonathan, twelve in number), acting for the nation, lay their hands on the victim's head, and the high priest, as before, presents the blood, by sprinkling it seven times before the Lord, even before the vail; and putting some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation. It is added that he shall thus make an atonement, or covering of sin, for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.
And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.
And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:
And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the vail.
And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.
And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.
When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;
Verses 22-26. - The case of a ruler or nobleman. The clause, Or if his sin... come to his knowledge, should be rather translated, If perhaps his sin come to his knowledge. He is to offer a kid of the goats, or rather a he-goat. The blood is not to be carried into the tabernacle, as in the two previous cases, but put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, which stood outside in the court, and, as a consequence of the blood not having been taken into the tabernacle, the flesh is not to be burnt outside the camp, but to be eaten by the priests in the court of the tabernacle (see Leviticus 6:26).
Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.
And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.
And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
Verses 27-35. - The case of a common man. He is to offer a kid of the goats, or rather a she-goat. The ritual is to be the same as in the previous case.
Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.
And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.
And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.
And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.
And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.
And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:
And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.