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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 4

Verses 1-2

Introduction

The first three chapters form a whole. They are pronounced as an uninterrupted speech of the LORD to Moses. In these chapters it is about voluntary offerings, which are a soothing aroma for God.

The offerings that now come in Leviticus 4-5 are not voluntary. God commands these offerings. It is about sin, and in that case, God prescribes how and what is to be offered. There is also no freedom of choice as with the previous offerings. Nor are they offerings to a soothing aroma. Here he who offers the animal does not approach as a worshipper, as in the first three chapters, but as a sinner. Here it is not someone who is clean to have fellowship with the LORD, but someone who is guilty.

The sin offering is not for a sinner who lives without God, but for someone who is already a member of God’s people, but has sinned. A child of God can sin (1 John 2:1). This disrupts fellowship with the Father. In the sin offering God prescribes how fellowship can be restored. In the sin offering we see a picture of the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross through which sins can be forgiven (1 John 2:2).

In the sin offering seven different cases are distinguished, four in Leviticus 4 and three in Leviticus 5:1-13. The three cases in Leviticus 5 concern concrete, named sins. These sin offerings therefore bear more of the character of the guilt offering that is discussed in the remainder of Leviticus 5. Guilt arises when a commandment is transgressed.

In Leviticus 4 sin is not presented as transgression, but sin is everything that does not happen out of obedience to God: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Lawlessness does not mean ‘without law’, but means ‘without recognition of God’s authority over us’. Sin is not only murder and stealing, something that also people without God see as wrong, but everything that does not happen by faith (Romans 14:23; James 4:17). Sin is not only about what we do, it can also be something we fail to do. Sin is all that deviates from the Lord’s will.

Sin Without Intention

Here a new beginning is made, which can be seen from the words “then the LORD spoke to Moses”. These words are also at the beginning of the previous three offerings. Just as the previous offerings form a separate category, so too the following offerings, the sin offerings and guilt offerings, form a separate category.

From the first words the LORD speaks, it appears that He presupposes that a member of His people does not sin intentionally, but unintentionally. There is no offering for anyone who intentionally sins, who sins “defiantly” or “willfully”, that is to say, who rebels openly against God. Such a person shall be cut off from among his people (Numbers 15:30; Hebrews 10:26).

A believer can also sin consciously, but at the same time he hates the sin he commits. His new nature resists this. To succumb to a temptation in the consciousness that a sin is committed, is not yet a sinning in conscious rebellion against God, to defy Him. It is about falling into sin, not living in sin. There is talk of being “caught in any trespass” (Galatians 6:1).

It is a misconception to think that God does not charge someone an unconscious sin. That He does indeed see unconscious sin as sin is shown by the offering He has given for it.

Verse 3

The Anointed Priest

The anointed priest must be the high priest. He too can sin (Hebrews 5:3; Leviticus 9:7; Leviticus 16:6). If he sins, it does not only affect himself, but the whole people are guilty through his sin. The fellowship between God and His people has been broken. He is, after all, the representative of the people to God. Therefore, this case is on the same line as the second case, if the whole congregation of Israel sins (Leviticus 4:13-Ecclesiastes :).

The anointed priest must know best about the holiness of God. He must know better than anyone what sin means to God. Therefore, in this case a great offering must be brought, which speaks of a great insight into the work of the Lord Jesus. When the anointed priest sins, the blood of the offering is brought into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil (Leviticus 4:5-Joshua :). The blood is also done to the horns of the altar of incense. This also happens when the whole people have sinned (Leviticus 4:17-Job :), but not when a leader or anyone of the common people has sinned. Another difference between the first two sin offerings and the last two is that only in the first two cases the offering animal is taken outside the camp and burned there.

The anointed priest has to offer a bull for his sin. It is not mentioned, as in the other cases, that his sin first became known to him. In his relationship with God, he will immediately notice if this relationship is disturbed and that there must therefore be a sin which he has committed, albeit unintentionally.

In the spiritual application, every believer is an anointed priest. If a believer discovers that he has sinned, it is the work of the Lord Jesus as the Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). As soon as he perceives his sin, he will confess it and not wait until the evening to confess it. He will also consciously think about the fact that for that sin the Lord Jesus had to die. That will bring about deep humiliation.

Verse 4

The Sin Offering Has to Be Slain

The anointed priest has no choice when it comes to the offering he has to bring for his sin. The offering must be a bull. A bull is a great offering. In the picture, it assumes that the anointed priest has a great insight into what this bull represents. It represents how the Lord Jesus accomplished the great work with the power of a Youth and that He had to accomplish that work for this sin as well. The priest must be aware of this.

He must bring his offering animal “to the doorway of the tent of meeting”. The sin of the anointed priest has consequences for the service in the tent where God meets His people. He must bring it “before the LORD”. If we have sinned, we must confess it before God. We must once again realize that the Lord Jesus had to come under God’s judgment for that sin, and had to die. We must, as it were, go back to the cross to see what the Lord Jesus had to suffer in order to work reconciliation for this sin.

The placing of the hand on the head of the sin offering expresses the unification with the offering. For the worshipper in the previous chapters, the laying on of hands means that he is made one with the acceptability of the offering animal. In the sin offering it means that the animal is identified with the unacceptability of the one who offers the animal. The sinfulness of the sinner is transmitted in picture to the offering.

After this unification the bull has to be slain. The anointed priest does that himself. After all, he has sinned. It suggests that we become aware again: what happened to the Lord Jesus happened in my place. The picture of slaying shows that every sin results in death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As long as there are excuses for the sin committed, the confession is not complete.

Verses 5-7

The Blood of the Sin Offering

By the sin of the anointed priest, the way to the sanctuary is blocked. By sprinkling the blood, the way to and in the sanctuary is sanctified again. Also, because of his sin it is not possible to offer fragrant incense. The blood at the horns of the altar of fragrant incense clears the way to bring again fragrant incense. Fragrant incense speaks of prayers (Psalms 141:2). This relates to the mediating work of the anointed priest, to his approach to God for the benefit of the people. That way will also be cleared again. There can again be strength – of which the horns speak – from prayer, from intercession.

The rest of the blood is poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. The people may come to the altar of burnt offering. That way is also free. The poured-out blood speaks of the Lord Jesus that “He poured out Himself to death” (Isaiah 53:12), for life is in the blood. “But when Christ appeared [as] a high priest … not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-2 Kings :).

Everything is connected to “the tent of meeting”, the name that indicates that God wants to come together with His people here. This has been made impossible by sin and is made possible again by the death and blood of the sin offering.

Verses 8-10

The Fat of the Sin Offering

The burnt offering altar can be used again. The fat of the sin offering can be put on it. This is the only thing of the sin offering that comes on the altar of burnt offering. It speaks of the power, the energy with which the Lord Jesus did the work as the sin offering, and that is pleasant for God, “for a soothing aroma” to Him (Leviticus 4:31).

Verses 11-12

Outside the Camp

The bull must not only be slain, it must also be burned, outside the camp, so outside the place where God lives, on a clean place. The Lord Jesus did not die an ‘ordinary’ death. He was taken out of Jerusalem by the people and died there under the judgment of God about the sins. He has been forsaken of God.

None of God’s children who died has ever been forsaken by God. Martyrs could die at the stake singing because God was with them. But the Lord Jesus died, while He Himself has borne the sins of all who believe in Him “in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24) and was “made sin” for them by God (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is what He prayed in Gethsemane on His face that the cup should pass from Him. But He is also perfect then and says to His Father: “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). His perfect obedience brings him to Golgotha. That is why this place is a clean place at the same time.

The Lord Jesus is made sin. God has “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, … condemned sin in the flesh”, His flesh, on the cross (Romans 8:3), that is to be the sin offering. The sin offering must be burned outside the camp, far from the place where God dwells. It means that God is not with Him, but against Him, in the three hours of darkness when He bears the sins and is made sin.

Every part of the animal is burned to ashes. ‘Burn’ means a different thought than “to offer … up in smoke” in the previous chapters and also here in Leviticus 4:10. ‘To offer up in smoke’ is in connection with the pleasure of God; “to burn” is in connection with God’s wrath.

Burning’ happened in my place. I have to realize that well when I have sinned again. Again and again I have to realize
that by nature all my thoughts are sinful: the head is burned,
that my walk is sinful: the legs are burned,
that my feelings are spoiled by sin: the entrails are burned,
that everything that emanates from me is only filth: the refuse is burned.
I have earned the judgment, but the Lord Jesus, as the innocent Offering, has undergone it for me.

“Outside the camp” also has an application for us. This is clear from Hebrews 13. There is talk of sin offerings whose “bodies … are burned outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11). The camp in that verse is a reference to Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God; therefore sin offerings should be burned outside and not inside. Parallel to this, the Lord Jesus suffered as a sin offering not inside Jerusalem but outside, outside the gate, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12). Immediately thereafter it says: “So, let us go out to Him, outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13). Jerusalem has become an unholy place and that has become visible because the Jewish system threw the Holy One out of the city.

Therefore, from that moment until today the believers are called upon to leave – that means: to break with – everything that is so unholy, that there is no place in it for the Holy and Just. To remain in the picture, we can say: in such an unholy camp the believer no longer feels at home, so he is called to leave it and go to the Lord Jesus.

It can still be said of ‘the camp’ that it is a picture of Christianity in its outer form. It is the picture of the religion where great emphasis is placed on outward things, where a mediating priesthood is maintained, but where there is no place for the Christ of the Scriptures. From Hebrews 13 we can learn that the position of the New Testament believer is threefold: he is at the altar (Hebrews 13:10), in the sanctuary, and outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-1 Chronicles :).

For all Christian congregations where the characteristics of the camp are seen, the command today is also for the individual to go out to Him. To be connected to a glorified Lord in heaven goes hand in hand with being connected to a Christ reproached on earth. Moses also chose “the reproach of Christ” because he considered it “greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

Verses 13-21

If the Whole Congregation of Israel Has Sinned

We get a second case of sin for which a sin offering must be made, and that is the case when the whole congregation of Israel has sinned. There is something here that is not mentioned in the case of the sin of the anointed priest, and that is that “the matter escapes the notice of the assembly”. In the Christian church sin is often not noticed because God’s Word is not read. But our ignorance of the Word of God doesn’t make us less guilty. If the opening of God’s Word opens the eyes to a sin, a sin offering must be brought.

The sin offering for the sin of the whole congregation corresponds in many ways to the sin offering for the anointed priest. In both cases the fellowship of the whole people with God is broken. The way to God in the sanctuary must be cleared by the blood, as must the service at the altar of incense. The animal also needs to be burned outside the camp.

The sin of the whole assembly can be applied to the situation in Corinth. There is sin there, which has tainted the entire church. God came there with His discipline (1 Corinthians 11:30). They have a case of immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 5:1). Perhaps it is hidden first, as is written here in Leviticus 4:13. But God makes it known (Leviticus 4:14).

We must be open to God telling us that we, as a local church, do things that in His eyes are sin. We can wrongly exclude someone from or accept someone into fellowship, that is, we wrongly maintain someone in the midst of the believers or refuse to accept someone who does belong there.

In Joshua 7 we see a case where the sin of one man, Achan, is charged to the whole congregation (Joshua 7:1). God takes care that sin is made known and is removed from among them.

On behalf of the whole people, the elders put their hands on the head of the bull (Leviticus 4:15). Because of this, the sin of the whole people passes, as it were, to the animal and reconciliation can be done. Not only does the offering correspond to the offering for the anointed priest, but also the acts performed correspond to the acts performed when the anointed priest has sinned.

Verses 22-26

When a Leader Has Sinned

The third category of which the LORD speaks to Moses is a leader of the people who sins. The sin of a leader does not endanger the fellowship of all people with God. Therefore a smaller offering can be brought. Yet his sin is serious. The sin of a leader can be applied to the sin-owning by someone who has a responsible position among God’s people (cf. 1 Timothy 5:20). Such a person leads others. His example is of great importance. If he sins, it is a serious matter.

It is about a sin he committed unintentionally. This is evident from the words “if his sin which he has committed is made known to him” (Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 4:28). It may be that someone has made him aware of this. We could say that the service of foot washing was done to him (John 13:1-2 Samuel :).

It is not pleasant to point out sin to anyone. Yet it is a service. If we let sin exist in a person’s life without pointing it out, we actually hate him (Leviticus 19:17). Sin makes one unhappy, for it makes it impossible for him to have fellowship with God and his fellow believers.

The leader must confess his sin, openly. He does this by going to the priest at the altar with a sin offering. He must see how the animal is slain in his place. The blood is put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, but not brought into the sanctuary as in the case of a sin of the anointed priest or of the whole congregation.

That the blood must be put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering is because there too the peace offering is brought, which speaks of fellowship with God and with the other members of the people of God. That is what we have in the Table of the Lord. If anyone has sinned, fellowship with God and with each other is only possible again after confession and seeing the offering of Christ.

On the basis of the offering can be said: “And he will be forgiven” (Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31Leviticus 4:35). Then the joy of forgiveness comes back (Romans 4:6-Ruth :). With the Israelite, repetition of the offering is always necessary. He only knows the certainty of forgiveness after having brought an offering. When he commits a new sin, he must come with a new offering.

The Christian may know the certainty of the forgiveness of all his sins on the basis of the once for all accomplished work of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-2 Chronicles :). If he sins, Christ must not die again for him, but he must confess his sin. Then God is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9), on the basis of the once for all accomplished work of Christ.

Verses 27-35

Sin of Anyone of the Common People

The fourth category is sin committed by a common member of the people. In that case, such a person has the choice between a goat or a lamb. If such a person sins, he cannot hide behind ignorance or his own smallness. Sin, committed by whoever it may be, is an abomination to God. But the sinner, whoever he may be, is precious in God’s sight. That is why He has the right means for everyone to come clean before Him again. Every means speaks of the Lord Jesus. The distinction in offering represents the difference in insight that exists among the members of the people of God. It presupposes that every member has a certain insight.

If it is a personal sin, the fellowship of the people with the LORD is generally not interrupted. There is no talk of putting blood on the altar of incense, as is the case in Leviticus 4:7 and Leviticus 4:18, because these are situations where the fellowship of the whole people with God through sin is broken. The sin of the individual does not make the altar of incense unclean; it is not made unfit for use by the people.

The individual who has sinned loses the enjoyment of the blessing that is included in the congregation. Therefore, the blood of the sin offering is applied to the horns of the altar of burnt offering as the place of personal access to God.

The fellowship of the church as a body of worshippers is not interrupted by the sin of the individual, although it is defective and impeded. The LORD sometimes punishes the whole assembly when the sin of the individual remains hidden, as we see with Achan (Joshua 7:1). A healthy state in which God is not saddened or offended is characterized by strength. When conscience is active and the heart is interested in the blessing of God’s people, this will lead to finding the cause if there is weakness and loss. When sin is discovered and judged, the blessing returns.

There is another peculiarity with this sin offering that we do not have with the previous sin offerings. This is the fat that is sacrificed and that is a soothing aroma to the LORD. While every sin is awful in God’s eye, and the Lord Jesus, when made sin, is awful in God’s eye, all God’s pleasures rest upon Him at the same time.

When we remember that God has been so dishonored by sin and that the Lord Jesus, through His work on the cross, has paid the price for it, then God is glorified in that same work. Through sin man has robbed the honor of God. The Lord Jesus has done everything – which the fat speaks of – to restore what He has not stolen, that is the honor of God (Psalms 69:4). Therefore, His work is a pleasant or soothing aroma.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/leviticus-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.