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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 4

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

Directions concerning sin-offerings; which were intended for sins committed through ignorance, either by the priest himself, Leviticus 4:1-12 , or by the whole congregation, Leviticus 4:13-21 , or by a ruler, Leviticus 4:22-26 , or by a private person, Leviticus 4:27-35 .

Verse 1

Leviticus 4:1. The Lord spake unto Moses The laws contained in the first three chapters, seem to have been delivered to Moses at one time. Here begin the laws of another day, which God delivered from between the cherubim.

Verse 2

Leviticus 4:2. If a soul sin through ignorance The next kind of sacrifices appointed were for the expiation of particular sins, and are therefore called sin-offerings. The first sort of these were for sins of ignorance. These must necessarily be understood of such as exceeded common daily infirmities; for if every such sin had required an offering, it had not been possible either for most sinners to bear such a charge, or for the altar to receive so many sacrifices, or for the priests to manage so laborious a work. And for ordinary sins, they were ceremonially expiated by the daily offering, and by that on the great day of atonement, Leviticus 16:30. Through ignorance Or error, either not knowing his act to be sinful, as appears by comparing Leviticus 4:13-14, or not considering it, but falling into sin through the power of some sudden temptation, as the Hebrew word signifies, <19B967>Psalms 119:67. In short, the doing any thing expressly forbidden, whether heedlessly or by surprise, was a sin of ignorance; and that whether committed by the high-priest, by the whole body of the community, by their rulers, or by any one of the people. In order, it seems, 1st, To excite the Israelites to greater diligence in the study of their laws and religion, a sin-offering was imposed by way of fine upon those who sinned through ignorance or inadvertence. And, 2d, The sin-offering was required in these cases to show them that to disobey God in any instance, or in any respect whatever to neglect or fall short of their duty, would expose them to the divine wrath, unless an atonement was made for them. It is observable that the apostle calls such sins the errors of the people, (Hebrews 5:2,) distinguishing them from wilful transgressions. They were confined to things of a ritual nature, or to such particular cases wherein the plea of ignorance could be admitted. For as to notorious violations of the moral law, ignorance could be no excuse, because these were known by the light of reason, and therefore could not be reckoned sins of ignorance, but presumptuous sins; and for them no expiatory sacrifice was admitted, Numbers 15:30.

Verse 3

Leviticus 4:3. If the priest The high-priest, who only was anointed. His anointing is mentioned, because he was not complete high-priest till he was anointed. Do sin Either in doctrine or practice, which it is here supposed he might do. And this is noted as a character of imperfection in the priesthood of the law, Whereby the Israelites were directed to expect another and better high-priest, even one who is “holy, harmless, and separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26. According to the sin of the people In the same manner as any of the people do; which implies that God expected more circumspection from him than from the people. But the words may be rendered, to the sin or guilt of the people, which may be mentioned as an aggravation of his sin, that by it he commonly brings sin, and guilt, and punishment upon the people, who are infected or scandalized by his example. A young bullock The same sacrifice which was offered for all the people, to show how much his sin was aggravated by his quality. Sin-offering Hebrew, sin, which word is often taken in that sense.

Verse 4

Leviticus 4:4. On the head To testify both his acknowledgment of his sin, and faith in God’s promise for the expiation of his sins through Christ, whom that sacrifice typified.

Verse 5

Leviticus 4:5. To the tabernacle Into the tabernacle; which was not required nor allowed in any other sacrifice, possibly to show the greatness of the high-priest’s sin, which needed more than ordinary diligence in him, and favour from God, to expiate it.

Verse 6

Leviticus 4:6. Seven times A number much used in Scripture, as a number of perfection; and here prescribed, either to show that his sins needed more than ordinary purgation, and more exercise of his faith and repentance, both which graces he was obliged to join with that ceremonial rite. Before the veil The second veil, dividing between the holy place and the holy of holies, which is generally called the veil of the sanctuary.

Verse 12

Leviticus 4:12. The whole bullock So no part of this was to be eaten by the priests, as it was in other sin-offerings. The reason is plain, because the offerer might not eat of his own sin-offering, and the priest was the offerer in this case, as also in the sin-offering for the whole congregation below, of which the priest himself was a member. Shall be carried forth Not by himself, which would have defiled him, but by another whom he shall appoint for that work. Without the camp To signify either, 1st, The abominable nature of sin, especially in high and holy persons, or when it overspreads a whole people. Or, 2d, The removing of the guilt or punishment of that sin from the people. Or, 3d, That Christ should suffer without the camp or gate. Where the ashes are For the ashes, though at first they were thrown down near the altar, (Leviticus 1:16,) yet afterward they, together with the filth of the sacrifices, were carried into a certain place without the camp.

Verses 13-14

Leviticus 4:13-14. The whole congregation The body of the people, or the greater part of them, their rulers concurring with them. A bullock But if the sin of the congregation was only the omission of some ceremonial duty, a kid of the goats was to be offered, Numbers 15:24.

Verse 15

Leviticus 4:15. The elders Who here acted in the name of all the people, who could not possibly perform this act in their own persons.

Verses 17-18

Leviticus 4:17-18. And sprinkle it It was not to be poured out there, but sprinkled only; for the cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ was sufficiently represented by sprinkling. It was sprinkled seven times Because God made the world in six days, and rested the seventh. This signified the perfect satisfaction Christ made, and the complete cleansing of our souls thereby. The altar Of incense; Which is before the Lord That is, before the holy of holies, where the Lord was in a more special manner present.

Verse 20

Leviticus 4:20. For a sin-offering That is, for the priest’s sin-offering, called the first bullock, Leviticus 4:21.

Verses 22-24

Leviticus 4:22 ; Leviticus 4:24. A ruler Of the people, or a civil magistrate. Where they kill the burnt-offering So called by way of eminence, to wit, the daily burnt-offering. It is a sin-offering And therefore to be killed where the burnt-offering is killed; whereby it is distinguished from the peace- offerings, which were killed elsewhere.

Verse 26

Leviticus 4:26. It shall be forgiven Both judicially, as to all ecclesiastical censures or civil punishment; and really, upon condition of repentance and faith in the Messiah to come.

Verse 28

Leviticus 4:28. A female Which here was sufficient, because the sin of one of those was less than the sin of the ruler, for whom a male was required.

Verses 33-35

Leviticus 4:33-35. He shall slay it Not by himself, but by the hands of the priest. Burn them The fat; but he useth the plural number, because the fat was of several kinds, as we saw, Leviticus 4:8-9. Hebrew, upon the offerings, together with them, or after them; because the burnt-offerings were to have the first place.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 4". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-4.html. 1857.
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