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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 4

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-35



The sin offering was for sins of ignorance, or inadvertence. These are things that we do not realize are sin and we easily fall into such things unintentionally. Why do we do this? Because we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam which leads even a believer into things he does not approve of. This gives him the struggle of Romans 7:1-25, as expressed in verse 19, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” We are not responsible for having the sinful nature, for we were born with it, but we are responsible for letting it express itself. Therefore, when one in Israel realized that he had sinned, however unintentional it had been, he must bring an offering to God.

Under law there was no sacrifice for the sins of willful disobedience. Numbers 15:30; Numbers 15:30 says, “But the person who does anything presumptuously that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people.” Thus there was no sacrifice for David's sin (Psalms 51:16). Under grace today, how wonderful the difference, for “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So that we must distinguish between the literal application of these sacrifices to Israel, and the spiritual significance for them for us today.


The sin of a priest was especially serious, because he was a representative of the people Godward. That sin must not be covered, but judged. Therefore the priest must offer a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. As with the burnt offering, he was to lay his hand of the head of the bull and kill it before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle. Then he was to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary and also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense. This sprinkling was not the same as with the burnt offering, however, for that blood was sprinkled around the altar of burn offering, outside.

Some of the blood of the sin offering for the anointed priest was sprinkled in front of the veil of the sanctuary, some put on the horns of the altar of sweet incense, and the rest poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. We shall see that, in the case of the sin of a ruler or of one of the common people (vv. 22, 27) the blood was sprinkled as it was with the burnt offering, but in the case of the sin of the whole congregation of Israel (v. 13) the blood was sprinkled just as in the case of the sin of a priest.

The reason for this seems to be that the priest was the spiritual representative of the people and he had access into the sanctuary: therefore the sanctuary was “purged by blood” on his account. The case of the sin of the whole congregation is evidently connected in such a way with the priest as their representative that a similar ritual was necessary.

Again the fat was to be removed, the two kidneys and the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and these burned on the altar of burnt offering, as God's portion. But nothing of this offering was to be eaten by the offerer. All was to be carried outside the camp and burned where the ashes were poured out.

This was not a voluntary offering, but one required because of the priest's sin: therefore it was not a “sweet savor” offering, for it speaks of Christ suffering from God under the curse of our sins, in a place of total rejection “outside the camp.” This was true of all the sin offerings of which the blood was taken into the sanctuary (Hebrews 13:11), which included that for the priest and that for the whole congregation (vv. 6-6; 17-18). However, one day in the year, the great day of atonement, the high priest took the blood of the sin offering, not only into the first room of the holy place, but inside the veil, in the holiest of all, where he sprinkled the blood before and on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:1-17). The body of the animal was burned outside the camp.

It might be that the whole congregation of Israel became involved in a sin that they did not at the time realize was sin. Their ignorance did not excuse them, however. When the sin was brought to their attention, then a sin offering was required. The connection of this with the sin of the priest seems very clear, for the instructions as to the sacrifice are just the same, except that it is the elders of the people who were to lay their hands on the head of the bull before its slaughter, for the elders represent the people.

This offering for the whole congregation appears to teach us that at the cross sin in its entirety was fully judged, not only individual sins. This would be a further reason for the animal being burned outside the camp, with the blood brought into the sanctuary to make atonement. This sin offering aspect of the sacrifice of Christ is emphasized in the Gospel of Mark.

FOR A RULER (vv. 22-26)

A ruler was not a spiritual representative, as the priest was, yet he was in authority over the common people, so that his sin and that of one of the common people (v. 27) required the same treatment, except that a male goat was required for the ruler, a female for the subject. As to the priest and the whole congregation there was a marked difference.

Still, the ruler is typical of Christ, who willingly took the responsibility for our sins as though they had been His own. Indeed, when He is considered as King, Matthew writes of Him, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

The male kid of the goats was used because the ruler is objectively the authority. Again he was to lay his hand on its head and kill it at the door of the tabernacle. As with the burnt offering, the priest was then to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the copper altar and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of this altar. Then he was to burn all its fat on the altar. Thus his sin was forgiven. This does not speak of eternal forgiveness, but governmental, that is, for the time being, but it is typical of the value of the sacrifice of Christ as obtaining eternal forgiveness.


In the case of the sin of ignorance on the part of one of the common people, the instructions were just the same as for a ruler, except that a female animal was required, and also that either a sheep or a goat was acceptable. The female was appropriate for a subject, for the female speaks of a subjective character, rather than objective, as in the case of a ruler. The goat is typical of Christ as Substitute, the lamb speaking of His lowly submission in sacrifice. The necessity of all of these offerings and the instructions concerning them should make a very real impression on the heart of every believer, for in this way we learn the horror of sin in God's sight and the infinite greatness of the sacrifice of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/leviticus-4.html. 1897-1910.
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