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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 5

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


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

Directions concerning trespass-offerings. Both this and the sin-offering were intended to make atonement for sin, but the former was more general: The latter was to be offered only in some particular cases. If a man sinned, by hearing and concealing blasphemy, Leviticus 5:1 ; By touching an unclean thing, Leviticus 5:2 , Leviticus 5:3 ; By swearing, Leviticus 5:4 ; He was to offer a lamb or kid, Leviticus 5:5 , Leviticus 5:6 ; Or two young pigeons, Leviticus 5:7-10 ; Or fine flour, Leviticus 5:11-13 ; Or a ram, if he had embezzled holy things, Leviticus 5:14-19 .

Verse 1

Leviticus 5:1. And hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness The meaning seems to be, If a person sin, in not revealing the voice of swearing, which he has seen, that is, been a witness to, or been present when it was said, or known by sufficient information from others. But it must be observed, that the word, אלה , alah, here used, probably means cursing, blasphemy, or execration, and that either against one’s neighbour, or against God. This seems to be principally intended here, if not also, as many suppose, false swearing, for the crime spoken of is of so high a nature, that he who heard it was obliged to reveal it, and prosecute the guilty. Some think the expression ought to be rendered, The voice of adjuration, or being adjured in the name of God, when he is called to be a witness in a cause, to speak the truth. For in those countries the judges were wont to demand, in court, of accused persons or witnesses, in the name of God, to declare the whole truth; and this laid the same obligation upon them, as the administering an oath now does with us. See instances of this, Numbers 5:21; 1 Kings 8:31; 1 Kings 22:16; Proverbs 29:24; Matthew 26:63. Whether he hath seen or known That is, according to this last sense of the expression, if he be adjured to declare what he can say of the matter in question, whether upon his own knowledge, or from information of credible persons. If he do not utter it If he suppress the truth, or be guilty of prevaricating, or dissimulation. He shall bear his iniquity That is, the punishment of his iniquity; for the word עונ , gnavon, has frequently that meaning. Let him not think it is no offence to suppress the truth, when so solemnly called upon to declare it. He is unclean and guilty, and in token of his repentance let him offer such a sacrifice for his sin as is prescribed, (Leviticus 5:6,) which belongs to this and all the following cases. The expression, Shall bear his iniquity, is very emphatic, and imports that guilt, like a grievous burden, shall lie heavy upon him. Houbigant, however, an acknowledged critic, prefers the former interpretation.

Verses 2-3

Leviticus 5:2-3. If it be hidden from him If he did it unawares, yet that would not excuse him, because he should have been more circumspect to avoid all unclean things. Hereby God designed to awaken men to watchfulness against, and repentance for, their unknown, or unobserved sins. He shall be unclean Not morally, for the conscience was not directly polluted by these things, but ceremonially. When he knoweth As soon as he knoweth it, he must not delay to make his peace with God. Otherwise he shall be guilty For his violation and contempt of God’s authority and command.

Verse 4

Leviticus 5:4. If a soul swear Rashly and unadvisedly, without consideration, either of God’s law or of his own power or right, as David did, 1 Samuel 25:22: so the following word, לבשׂא , lebattee, rendered pronouncing, properly signifies, Psalms 106:33. The meaning is, Whosoever shall, in a passion or otherwise, make an oath to do a person an injury, or to do him a kindness, and afterward, forgetting his oath, shall fail in the performance, so soon as he recollects himself he shall make atonement for his offence. In the case of threatening private revenge, or to do evil in any other way, the oath ought to be recalled, as being a thing in itself unlawful. But the person who thus rashly uttered that oath was involved in guilt, and needed to have his sin expiated. And for a similar reason he was punishable, if with an oath he promised to do any thing that was not in his power. It may also be understood of a person’s making a vow to do something either beneficial or hurtful to himself, as to fast, or afflict himself. For that is the sense of swearing to do evil, or to his own hurt. And it be hid from him That is, if through forgetfulness he neglect punctually to perform what he promised on oath. When he knoweth it, he shall be guilty in one of these As soon as he recollects himself, and comes to the knowledge of such an omission, he shall be obliged to expiate his offence by sacrifices, being guilty in one of these; that is, in one of the things which are forbidden to be done.

Verse 5

Leviticus 5:5. In one of these things In one of the three forementioned cases, either by sinful silence, or by an unclean touch, or by rash swearing. He shall confess Before the Lord, in the place of public worship. And this confession is not to be restrained to the present case, but, by a parity of reason, and comparing of other scriptures, to be extended to other sacrifices for sin, to which this was a constant companion.

Verse 6

Leviticus 5:6. His trespass-offering But how come confession and sacrifice to be necessary for him that touched an unclean thing, when such persons were cleansed with simple washing, as appears from Leviticus 11:0., and Numbers 19:0.? This place speaks of him that being so unclean did come into the tabernacle, as may be gathered by comparing this place with Numbers 19:13; which if any man did, knowing himself to be unclean, which was the case there, he was to be cut off for it; and if he did it ignorantly, which was the case here, he was, upon discovery of it, to offer this sacrifice.

Verse 7

Leviticus 5:7. Not able Through poverty. And this exception was allowed also in other sin-offerings. For a sin-offering Which was for that particular sin, and therefore offered first before the burnt-offering, which was for sins in general; to teach us not to rest in general confessions and repentance, but distinctly and particularly, as far as we can, to search out, and confess, and loathe, and leave our particular sins, without which God will not accept our other religious services.

Verses 9-10

Leviticus 5:9-10. It is a sin-offering This is added as the reason why its blood was so sprinkled and spilt. According to the manner Or order, appointed by God. The priest shall make an atonement Either declaratively, he shall pronounce him to be pardoned; or typically, with respect to Christ.

Verse 11

Leviticus 5:11. The tenth part of an ephah About six pints. He shall put no oil, neither frankincense Either as a fit expression of his sorrow for his sins, in the sense whereof, he was to abstain from things pleasant; or to signify, that by his sins he deserved to be utterly deprived both of the oil of gladness, the gifts, graces, and comforts of the Holy Ghost, and of God’s gracious acceptance of his prayers and sacrifices, which is signified by incense, <19E102>Psalms 141:2.

Verse 15

Leviticus 5:15. A trespass Against the Lord and his priests. Through ignorance For if a man did it knowingly, he was to be cut off, Numbers 15:30. In the holy things In things consecrated to God, and to holy uses; these were many, and by various ways a man might be guilty, even unwittingly, with respect to them; such as tithes and first-fruits, or any thing due or devoted to God, which possibly a man might either withhold, or employ to some common use. A ram A more chargeable sacrifice than the former, as the sin of sacrilege was greater. With thy estimation As thou, O priest, shalt esteem or rate it; and at present, thou, O Moses, for he as yet performed the priest’s part. And this was an additional charge and punishment to him; besides the ram, he was to pay for the holy thing which he had withheld or abused, so many shekels of silver as the priests should esteem proportionable to it.

Verse 17

Leviticus 5:17. The former law concerns the alienation of holy things from sacred to common use; this may concern other miscarriages about holy things and holy duties, as may be gathered from Leviticus 5:19, where this is said to be a trespass against the Lord, not in a general sense, for so every sin was, but in a proper and peculiar sense.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 5". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-5.html. 1857.
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