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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Leviticus 5

 

 

Verse 14

E.—TRESPASS OFFERINGS

Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7

Note.—In the division of chapters in the Hebrew Bible this section is rightly all included in Leviticus 5.

14And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 15If a soul commit a trespass [do a wrong[FN1]], and sin through ignorance [inadvertence[FN2]] in [taking from[FN3]] the holy things of the Lord; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with [according to[FN4]] thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering; 16and he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done [sin that he hath committed[FN5]] in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.

17And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity 18 And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with [according to4] thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance [inadvertence2] 19wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord.

Leviticus 6:1-2.And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass [do a wrong1] against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour, in that [and deny to his neighbor that[FN6]] which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship [or a pledge[FN7]] or in [omit in] a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived [oppressed[FN8]]his neighbour; 3or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it [denieth it6] and sweareth falsely: in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: 4then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully [oppressively8] gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, 5or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.[FN9] 6And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with [according to[FN10]] thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: 7and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Leviticus 5:15. תִמְֹעל מַעַל. The word being different from the אָשָׁם so frequently recurring in this chapter in a technical sense, it is better to change the translation. Otherwise commit a trespass is a sufficiently good translation, as no English word embodies the idea of secrecy or stealth conveyed by the original.

Leviticus 5:15. בִּשְׁגָגָה = through inadvertence. See Note 1 on Leviticus 4:2.

Leviticus 5:15. מִקָּדְשֵׁי יי֞ a constructio prægnans = taking, or diminishing from the holy things.

Leviticus 5:15. בְּעֶרְכְּךָ. The preposition often has the sense given in the A. V. with but according to (as in the next word but one) seems here the better rendering. The evident sense is that the ram was to be of a certain value, and this was to be determined by an estimation. The restitution for the harm done, with its added fifth, is prescribed in the following ver, and does not come into view here. The Sam. text preserves the exact form of the Hebrew, but all the ancient versions, while changing the form of expression, give the sense according to; they also neglect to translate the ךָ = thy.

Leviticus 5:15. בְּעֶרְכְּךָ. The preposition often has the sense given in the A. V. with but according to (as in the next word but one) seems here the better rendering. The evident sense is that the ram was to be of a certain value, and this was to be determined by an estimation. The restitution for the harm done, with its added fifth, is prescribed in the following ver, and does not come into view here. The Sam. text preserves the exact form of the Hebrew, but all the ancient versions, while changing the form of expression, give the sense according to; they also neglect to translate the ךָ = thy.

Leviticus 5:16. This is the only place in Lev. in which חטא is rendered by any other word than sin in the A. V. This should be conformed to the usage.

Leviticus 6:2. כִּחֵשׁ construed with a double ב of the person and of the thing, = to deny a thing to a person. The word means to lie ( Leviticus 19:11, etc.), but the other rendering expresses more exactly the sense here, and is the more usual.

Leviticus 6:2. אוֹ־בִתְשׂוּמֶת יָד= a thing given in pledge, a pawn, different from the trust just before. The construction is with the same verb, and is sufficiently expressed without the special translation of ב, so that the in of the A. V. may be omitted throughout.

Leviticus 6:2. עָשַׁק lit. to press, to squeeze, hence to oppress. A new verb being hero introduced the construction with the series of ב ends. The derived noun עשֵׁק, Leviticus 6:4, bears the same sense = that which has been oppressively obtained.

Leviticus 6:5. The Heb. word meaning either trespass or trespass offering, the marg. of the A. V. is hardly accurate in writing “Heb. in the day of his trespass.”

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The general distinction of the trespass from the sin offering has already been pointed out: in the trespass offering the idea of the harm done was more prominent, in the sin offering that of the sin committed. Accordingly the trespass offering was usually accompanied by “amends for the harm”—a fifth (a double tithe) being added as penalty. In case the person against whom the wrong was done was already dead without a kinsman to receive the compensation, the amends and penalty were to be paid to the priest ( Numbers 5:8). The ritual differed in several respects from that of the sin offering: the blood was treated as in the burnt and peace offerings; the only victim here allowed was a ram; there was no gradation either in the victim or the ritual according to the rank of the offender; nor were any alternative offerings allowed in case of poverty. The reason for the last provision results necessarily from the nature of the offering. Elsewhere we find the same trespass offering prescribed for unchastity with a slave ( Leviticus 19:20-22), and in later times offered by those who, on the return from the captivity, had taken strange wives ( Ezra 10:19); the same also (not a “ Hebrews -lamb,” as in the A. V.) is commanded with a some what different ritual on occasion of declaring the cleansing of a leper ( Leviticus 14:12; Leviticus 14:21), and also with a ram of a year old for the victim in case of unintentional defilement by a dead body during a Nazarite vow ( Numbers 6:9-12).

Three cases are specified which demand a trespass offering—the first two having reference more directly to wrong done towards God ( Leviticus 5:15-19), and the third, including several varieties of offence, having reference to wrong done to men ( Leviticus 6:2-7).

Leviticus 5:14. And the LORD spake.—This formula marks a fresh communication and distinctly separates the trespass offering from the sin offering which has occupied the whole of the previous communication from Leviticus 4:1. The whole law of the trespass offering is not, however, contained in this communiction, but only that part of it relating to wrongs done toward God. Wrongs done toward man are the subject of a separate communication ( Leviticus 6:1-7).

Leviticus 5:16-17. The first case of the trespass offering.

Leviticus 5:15. Through inadvertence, as in Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22.

In taking from the holy things.—See Textual note3. The holy things were the first-fruits, tithes, or gifts of any kind connected with the service of the sanctuary or the support of its priests, by the withholding of which the Lord is said to suffer loss. The restitution and penalty are mentioned Leviticus 22:14 without mention of this offering, which is presupposed.

A ram.—The invariable trespass offering (except in the special cases Leviticus 14:12; Numbers 6:12) which does not at all appear in the list of victims for the sin offering in Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 5:13.

According to thy estimation.—See Textual note4.—The pronoun thy must be considered as used impersonally; or if it be taken personally, then it is addressed to Moses, and of course to any one to whom this duty should afterwards belong in his place.

Shekels.—The Vulg. and many commentators understand the plural to stand for two, as the A. V. has explained the plural in Ezekiel 47:13; others, as Aben- Ezra, Abarbanel, etc, understand it less definitely as meaning at least two shekels. The notion of Oehler (p478) and Keil (in loc.) that the value of the ram was purposely left indefinite, that there might be room to vary it according to the gravity of the trespass, although advocated by Michaelis (Art244), is clearly wrong. It is opposed to the fundamental idea of all sacrifice, which excludes such correlation; and is entirely unnecessary, since the compensation and forfeit ( Leviticus 5:16) were separately required. Moreover, the variation in the value of the ram would be very small in comparison with the variation in trespasses. The text was intended to fix the lowest limit of the value of a ram that could be allowed, and the estimation was for the purpose of determining whether he came up to the standard. “The plural is plainly to be understood as meaning two shekels, or at least two shekels.” Knobel.

Shekel of the Sanctuary.—See Exodus 30:13; Exodus 38:24, etc.

Leviticus 5:16. And he shall make amends.—He shall give the first-fruits or tithes, or whatever he had withheld or taken from sacred dues, or its value. And shall add the fifth part thereto as a penalty or forfeit.—Theodoret here refers to the example of Zaccheus. The justice of such additional payment is everywhere recognized in the Hebrew and all other laws. It is in this, and not in the ram, that the penalty is proportioned to the offence. This having been done, and reparation made, then, with the ram, the priest shall make an atonement.

On the ritual of this sacrifice see Leviticus 7:1-6.

Leviticus 5:17-19. The second case of the trespass offering.

This second case probably differed from the first as sins of commission differ from those of omission. The formula by which the trespass is expressed is substantially the same as in Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27 in regard to the sin to be expiated by the sin offering. From its connection, and from its being expiated by the trespass offering, it is supposed to include all those transgressions against the theocratic law which could be compensated by money or other payment; yet in this case alone no mention is made of compensation, partly because it was evident from the foregoing that it was required when it could be given, and partly because it included also cases in which pecuniary compensation could not be given, but punishment must be inflicted in some other way. (See Leviticus 19:20.) Lange, however, urges that this omission is a serious difficulty against the view of the trespass offering which has here been given. He considers that the trespass offering relates to participation in guilt in contradistinction to an original offence, and thinks this is indicated by the description of these sins as “sins of ignorance.” He says “these sins of ignorance belong specifically to the category of participation in guilt.” It must be remembered, however, that all sins for which any offering was allowed were “sins of ignorance,” or rather of inadvertence.

Leviticus 6:1-7. The third case of the trespass offering.

From the formula of Leviticus 6:1 this appears as a separate divine communication, on account of the different character of the sins enumerated. All sin is indeed against God, yet those which follow belong to that class of offences against Him which also work harm to men.

The first three verses contain an enumeration of specific wrongs; Leviticus 6:4-5 provide for amends for the harm done with the added penalty; and Leviticus 6:6-7 for atonement by means of the trespass offering. This communication bears the fame relation to the foregoing which Leviticus 5:1-13 bears to chap4.

Leviticus 6:2. If a man deny to his neighbor that which was delivered him.—פִּקָדוֹך is a deposit, a thing entrusted to be kept. The sin in this case would consist either in denying the receiving it at all, or denying that it was received in trust, or refusing to restore it.

A pledge.—This differs from the former in not being simply a trust, but a security, a pawn. It is not separately mentioned in Leviticus 6:4.

Leviticus 6:3. Sweareth falsely.—When he denies that he has found a lost thing, and is put upon his oath, he swears to his lie, עַל־שָׁקֶר. This false swearing refers also to all the wrongs mentioned before, and the guilt of the false oath, added to the wrong done, brings the offence into the category of sins against the Lord.

Leviticus 6:5. In the day of his trespass offering.—The amends for the wrong done was to be made to the person wronged at the same time that the offender sought the divine forgiveness. The penalty for the wrong and the ritual of the offering are the same as in chap5.

In Exodus 22:1-9 a series of wrongs is enumerated much like those here mentioned with the general law that the restitution should be double ( Leviticus 6:4; Leviticus 6:9), while in particular cases it rose to four and five-fold. The distinction between the penalty as given there and here appears to lie in the fact that there the offender was only brought to any restitution by a conviction “before the judges” ( Leviticus 6:9); while here, although it is not distinctly so declared yet, every thing implies that the acknowledgment of the wrong is voluntary. There is no mention of conviction, and the whole connection is with sins of inadvertence or impulse which were afterwards acknowledged, and for which forgiveness was sought by the offender.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

I. From the law of the trespass offering it is clear that guilt was not removed by the mere act of compensation (with penalty added) for the harm done; nor, on the other hand, could an atonement be offered for that guilt until such compensation had been made. Here are brought, out the two principles which everywhere, under the old and the new dispensation alike, are concerned in the forgiveness of transgression. There must be both the desire, as far as possible, to make amends for the harm done; and there must be also the sacrifice divinely appointed for “the covering” of the sin. Neither of these can avail alone, because both are essential to that state of holiness, that conquest over the evil, by which alone man can be at one with God. The sacrifice of Christ is all-sufficient for the forgiveness of sin; but the sinner can only avail himself of its benefits when, Christ-like, he himself seeks to conquer the evil.

II. Wrong done to man is itself sin against God. It is impossible to separate the command to love God from that of loving our neighbor also. 1 John 3:20-21.

III. In those sins against others for which atonement was provided in the trespass offering, there was the additional sin of a false oath. This was certainly a moral offence—a sin in the full sense of the word. In view of this, it is impossible to look upon the offences for which sacrifices were appointed as mere ceremonial or theocratic offences. They everywhere appear as true sins, moral transgressions, and this is most clearly shown by including the false oath among them.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

There is no true repentance for wrong done to man which is not accompanied by restitution—and none for having taken from the things of the Lord, or for having failed to give all that should have been given to Him, except in restoring it in overflowing measure; yet while this may make amends for the harm done, forgiveness of the sin must still be sought through propitiation.

In the trespass offering the ritual of the blood was like that of the burnt or the peace offering—inferior to that of the sin offering. This shows that while wrong must of necessity involve sin, yet it does not, in itself considered, stand on the same footing as sin; the moral element in transgression is always the more important. One cannot indeed really offend against man without also offending against God; yet the offence which has God directly for its objective point must necessarily be more serious, since it involves a deeper tort than that which is directed only against man.

The sin offering was lessened by successive stages for the poor, and the very poor, that it might be brought within the reach of all; for all must have propitiation for sin; but the trespass offering is unvaried, the same for all; because if one cannot make amends for the wrong he has done, it must, be let alone,—an inferior gift cannot set things right.

Wrong, like sin, may be committed through inadvertence. Still it must be atoned for. Good intentions will not repair the wrong.

For sin done “with a high hand,” presumptuously, no sacrifice was provided, because the offender deliberately set himself in opposition to God; but for offences against Prayer of Manasseh, such as those here enumerated, some of which must have been done deliberately, a sacrifice is allowed, because even such intentional wrongs do not constitute the same attitude of opposition to God. They may be done, through passion or covetousness, without reflection upon their moral bearings. Therefore, on repentance, restitution, and propitiation, they may be forgiven.

Origen applies the law of trespass in abstracting from sacred things to the faithfulness required of the Christian minister in regard to gifts for holy uses committed to his trust; and then further to the hearing of God’s word as a sacred gift, for the use of which men are responsible, and for the misuse of which they become guilty.


Footnotes:

FN#1 - Leviticus 5:15. תִמְֹעל מַעַל. The word being different from the אָשָׁם so frequently recurring in this chapter in a technical sense, it is better to change the translation. Otherwise commit a trespass is a sufficiently good translation, as no English word embodies the idea of secrecy or stealth conveyed by the original.

FN#2 - Leviticus 5:15. בִּשְׁגָגָה = through inadvertence. See Note 1 on Leviticus 4:2.

FN#3 - Leviticus 5:15. מִקָּדְשֵׁי יי֞ a constructio prægnans = taking, or diminishing from the holy things.

FN#4 - Leviticus 5:15. בְּעֶרְכְּךָ. The preposition often has the sense given in the A. V. with but according to (as in the next word but one) seems here the better rendering. The evident sense is that the ram was to be of a certain value, and this was to be determined by an estimation. The restitution for the harm done, with its added fifth, is prescribed in the following ver, and does not come into view here. The Sam. text preserves the exact form of the Hebrew, but all the ancient versions, while changing the form of expression, give the sense according to; they also neglect to translate the ךָ = thy.

FN#5 - Leviticus 5:16. This is the only place in Lev. in which חטא is rendered by any other word than sin in the A. V. This should be conformed to the usage.

FN#6 - Chap6. Leviticus 6:2. כִּחֵשׁ construed with a double ב of the person and of the thing, = to deny a thing to a person. The word means to lie ( Leviticus 19:11, etc.), but the other rendering expresses more exactly the sense here, and is the more usual.

FN#7 - Leviticus 6:2. אוֹ־בִתְשׂוּמֶת יָד= a thing given in pledge, a pawn, different from the trust just before. The construction is with the same verb, and is sufficiently expressed without the special translation of ב, so that the in of the A. V. may be omitted throughout.

FN#8 - Leviticus 6:2. עָשַׁק lit. to press, to squeeze, hence to oppress. A new verb being hero introduced the construction with the series of ב ends. The derived noun עשֵׁק, Leviticus 6:4, bears the same sense = that which has been oppressively obtained.

FN#9 - Leviticus 6:5. The Heb. word meaning either trespass or trespass offering, the marg. of the A. V. is hardly accurate in writing “Heb. in the day of his trespass.”

FN#10 - Leviticus 6:15. בְּעֶרְכְּךָ. The preposition often has the sense given in the A. V. with but according to (as in the next word but one) seems here the better rendering. The evident sense is that the ram was to be of a certain value, and this was to be determined by an estimation. The restitution for the harm done, with its added fifth, is prescribed in the following ver, and does not come into view here. The Sam. text preserves the exact form of the Hebrew, but all the ancient versions, while changing the form of expression, give the sense according to; they also neglect to translate the ךָ = thy.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 5:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/leviticus-5.html. 1857-84.

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