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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 5

 

 

Verses 1-6

Leviticus 5:1-6. Sins for which Offerings are Necessary.—The first case is that of one who, when evidence in a trial is called for under a curse, deliberately conceals what he knows (there is no "unwittingly" here); the crime of silence is paralleled with ceremonial uncleanness. The second case is that arising from contact either with an unclean animal or from other defilement. Further details of these taboos are given in Leviticus 12-15, and a harsher law is found in Numbers 19:13; Numbers 19:20. The third case is that of one who finds that he has not carried out an oath uttered in rashness or thoughtlessness (cf. Psalms 15:4). Guilt is regarded as following on discovery; confession must then be made, and the animal to be offered is the same as in Leviticus 4:28; Leviticus 4:32. Confession is mentioned only here and in Numbers 5:7; it is made by the priest for the whole nation on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21). These verses break the order of thought; they join moral to ritual cases of guilt, and they make no difference between guilt and sin offerings; the directions as to ritual are simpler than in what precedes and follows; and there is no distinction of classes; the offering stated is that for the common people in Leviticus 4. The fact that guilt and sin offerings are identical in Leviticus 14:12 ff., and the absence of the mention of guilt offering in Leviticus 9, suggests that the guilt offering was not known in the earlier sections of P, and that the differentiation in Leviticus 4 and Leviticus 5 is a later development. The two kinds of offerings, however, are mentioned together in 2 Kings 12:16.


Verses 1-13

Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 5:13. The Sin Offering.—This, and the guilt offering, whose ritual follows, are unknown before the Exile, save as fines (2 Kings 12:16, Amos 2:8). Ezek. mentions both, but is conscious of no difference between them. Probably the distinction between them grew up gradually (see on Ezekiel 5:14 ff.). The ritual is derived partly from that of the burnt offering and peace offering; partly from other old rites. No idea of substitution seems to be implied (though it is true that a ritual tablet from Babylonia states that idea very clearly; "the life of the kid has he given for his own life, its head for his head," etc.), since the sin offering is "most holy," a term which could not be applied to the offerer; a meal offering is included, as if the sacrifice were thought of originally as an offering of food; and the sacrifice is offered for sins not demanding death, though the victim is always killed, and by the worshipper. [Observe also that were the sacrifice substitutionary, the chief point would be the slaughter. But it was rather the manipulation of the blood.—A. S. P.] On the other hand, the conception of a gift or payment in return for a wrong done is prominent throughout. The offerer has no more share in his offering than in the case of the burnt offering, though the priest has. This becomes clearer when it is seen that "sin" is used, not of deliberate disobedience or defiance of Yahweh's moral law, but more particularly of ritual or ceremonial mistakes or defilement committed through inadvertence or ignorance. The sin offering often accompanies other sacrifices; in Ezek., the consecration of the altar (Ezekiel 43:19). While the later legislation thus purifies the sacrificial ritual from anything that could remotely savour of irreverence, it is very far from the standpoint of Psalms 51; it simply perpetuates, for good and evil, the primitive conception of sin as an infraction of the restrictions or "taboos" imposed on human conduct by the deity. The main characteristics of the sin offering are the killing of the victim by the worshipper and the pouring out of the blood, as in the burnt offering; the flesh is burnt outside the camp or eaten by the priest, i.e. it is "most holy." The manipulation of the blood, however, is more complicated (cf. Leviticus 4:5 ff.), and different kinds of animals are to be offered, according to the rank of the offerer—High Priest, congregation, ruler, private person, or the poor. The seven times repeated sprinkling of the blood "before Yahweh" (Leviticus 4:6) recalls the ritual of ch. 16; both may well be among the latest developments of Priestly legislation.


Verses 7-13

Leviticus 5:7-13. Concessions to Poverty in the case of sin offerings. This section takes up the last verses in Leviticus 4. ("Guilt offering" in Leviticus 5:7 should be "sin offering" as is shown by Leviticus 5:8 f.) If the offerer cannot afford a lamb, two turtle doves or young pigeons may be offered. Only one of these is properly a sin offering; but another, for a burnt offering, has to be given as well, as one would hardly be enough. Part of the blood is sprinkled on the side of the altar, part poured out at the base (cf. Leviticus 4:7). If not even this can be afforded, a small meal offering will be accepted as a sin offering. A tenth of an ephah would form about 6 pints. Oil and frankincense are the natural accompaniments, as in Leviticus 2:15. These concessions are doubtless because the "sin" is of an "unwitting" character. Whether the offerer or the priests is to decide as to the kind of victim, is not stated.


Verses 14-19

Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7. The Trespass or Guilt Offering.—This is of two kinds, though the principle of amendment is the same. The first kind is stated vaguely; committing a trespass (the word means acting unfaithfully or treacherously; it is coupled with sinning "unwittingly" in Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 5:17). The offence consists in treating what is Yahweh's as if it were not Yahweh's, i.e. in-correctness, really unintentional, connected with some offering. If not unintentional, the penalty is different (Numbers 15:30). The offerer is not said to kill the guilt offering; though elsewhere, the offerer's act of killing is carefully mentioned, and it seems to be implied in Leviticus 7:2. The second case is intentional—trickery in a matter of deposit or pledge (RVm), or theft, or "oppression," or keeping another's property, or falsehood; all these are trespasses against Yahweh, and as such must be atoned for by a trespass or guilt offering. This offering consists in restitution and, in the first case, amends; the restitution is a ram; the amends is one fifth of the value of the ram. In the second case, the object held back is itself restored with an addition of one-fifth of its value; and a ram is offered to Yahweh as well. The "amends" necessitates a valuation; this is to be made in "sanctuary shekels" (see on Leviticus 27:16-25). Leviticus 5:17-19 seems to add nothing to the preceding; there is no mention of "amends," and "guilt offering" is spoken of, with reference to the subjects of sin offering in Leviticus 4. Perhaps it is an older fragment; cf. Ezra 10:19, where for the sin of marrying foreign wives, a ram is offered by the people "for their guilt." In the case of trespass against one's neighbour, the procedure is parallel; in this case, the restitution is mentioned before the ram of the guilt offering. But the latter is as necessary as the former; all morality is the concern of Yahweh, and in every trespass He is injured. This is one of the few references to social morality in P. The earlier prophets refer to little else, and Ezekiel, in ch. 18, confines his catalogue to non-ritual offences, to be purged only by repentance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 5:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-5.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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