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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Leviticus 5

 

 

Verses 1-13

EXPOSITION

THE SIN OFFERING—continued (Leviticus 5:1-13). The subject of the next thirteen verses is still the sin offering, not the trespass offering, as has been supposed by some. The first six verses state three specific cases for which sin offerings are required, and the remaining seven verses detail the concessions made to poverty in respect to the offerings required. The cases are those of a witness, of one ceremonially defiled, and of one who had sworn thoughtlessly. The concessions granted are two: two turtledoves or young pigeons are allowed instead of a lamb, and the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour, without oil or frankincense, is allowed instead of the two turtle-doves or young pigeons. The latter concession is the more remarkable as the sacrifice by its means changes its character from a bloody to an unbloody offering.

Leviticus 5:1

The case of a witness on oath. If a man hear the voice of swearing, that is, if he was one of a number of persons adjured to speak according to the manner in which oaths were administered in Jewish courts of justice (see Matthew 26:63; 2 Chronicles 18:15), and he did not give evidence of what he had seen or heard, he had to bear his iniquity, that is, he was regarded as guilty; and as this was an offense which could be atoned for by a sacrifice, he was to offer as a sin offering a ewe lamb, or a female kid, or two turtle-doves, or two pigeons, or the tenth part of an ephah of flour. This injunction is a direct condemnation of the approved teaching of Italian moral theologians of paramount authority throughout the Roman Church, who maintain that, in case a crime is not known to others, a witness in a court of justice "may, nay, he is bound to, say that the accused has not committed it" (St. Alfonso de' Liguori, 'Theol. Mor.,' 4:154).

Leviticus 5:2, Leviticus 5:3

Two eases of a man ceremonially defiled. If he had touched a dead body or any other substance conveying uncleanness, and it were hidden from him, that is, if he had done it unwittingly, or from forgetfulness or neglect, had failed to purify himself immediately, he must offer his sin offering, as above.

Leviticus 5:4

The ease of a man who had neglected to fulfill a thoughtless oath. If he sware to do evil, or to do good, that is, to do anything whatever, good or bad (see Numbers 24:13), and failed to fulfill his oath from carelessness or negligence, he too must bring his offering, as above.

Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 5:6

In the four cases last mentioned there is first to be an acknowledgment of guilt, he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing, and then the sin offering is to be made. Confession of sin probably preceded or accompanied all sin offerings. The use of the word asham, translated trespass offering in Leviticus 5:6, and the character of the four cases have led many commentators to regard Leviticus 5:1-13 as dealing with the trespass offering rather than the sin offering. But if this were so, the words trespass offering and sin offering would be used synonymously in this verse, which is very unlikely, when they are immediately afterwards carefully distinguished. It is best to render asham "for his trespass," that is, in expiation of his guilt, as in the next verse, in place of a trespass offering.

Leviticus 5:7-13

If he be not able to bring a lamb. Sin offerings being not voluntary sacrifices but required of all that were guilty, and the four last-named cases being of common occurrence amongst the poor and ignorant, two concessions are made to poverty: two birds (one to be offered with the ritual of the sin offering, the other with that of the burnt offering), or even some flour (either three pints and a half or three quarts and a half, according as we adopt the larger or smaller estimate of the amount of the ephah), are allowed when the offerer cannot provide a lamb or a kid. There is thus typically set forth the freedom with which acceptance through the great propitiation is offered to all without respect of persons. The non-bloody substitute, being permitted only as an exception for the benefit of the very poor and only in the four cases above specified, does not invalidate the general rule that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

HOMILETICS

Leviticus 5:5

Confession of the sin committed

is required of the man who is allowed to offer a sin offering. It is likewise required before a trespass offering is accepted, as appears from Numbers 5:6, Numbers 5:7. "When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty, then they shall confess their sin that they have done."

I. TRADITIONAL FORM OF CONFESSION. "The sacrifice was so set, as that the offerer, standing with his face towards the west, laid his two hands between his horns and confessed his sin over a sin offering and his trespass over a trespass offering; and his confession was on this wise: ' I have sinned, I have done grievously, I have rebelled and done thus and thus; but I return by repentance before thee, and let this be my expiation '" (Lightfoot, 'Temple Service,' Numbers 8:1-26). "I beseech thee, O Lord; I have sinned, I have transgressed, I have rebelled, I have (here the person specified the particular sin which he had committed, and for which he wanted expiation); hut now I repent, and let this be my expiation" (Outram, 'De Sacrificiis,' I. Numbers 15:9). That some such form as this was used, according to the universal tradition of the Jews, we may conclude with tolerable certainty from the present passage in Leviticus and that in Numbers 5:6, Numbers 5:7.

II. THIS CONFESSION WAS INTENDED TO SPRING FROM FEELINGS OF REPENTANCE. All that could be enforced as a common and public discipline was the open confession of the sin. But no Israelite could have believed that the confession would be acceptable unless it proceeded from a penitent heart. This was left, as it must be left, to the individual conscience, but it was suggested and morally demanded by the injunction to confess.

III. THE OFFERING OF THE SIN OFFERING AND TRESPASS OFFERING WAS NOT THEREFORE AN EXTERNAL CEREMONY ONLY, BUT A SPIRITUAL PENITENTIAL ACT. As the offering of the burnt offering implied the spiritual act of self-surrender, and of the meat offering the spiritual act of submission, and of the peace offering the spiritual act of holy joy, so the offering of the sin and trespass offering implies the spiritual act of repentance, None of these sacrifices perform their work as opera operata, without reference to the religious state of the offerer's mind and soul.

Leviticus 5:7-13

The sacrifices to be offered as sin offerings are specified, nor may they be multiplied. They do not differ according to the heinousness of the offense which they are to atone for, but according to the means of the offerer. The moral reason of this was probably to prevent the idea arising that the costliness of the sacrifice might compensate for the greater sin, and that men might sin the more if they were willing to Fay for it by more sacrifices. The difference in the sacrifice appointed for each class might serve to point out that a sin is greater in a man of prominent position than in a man of less influence, owing to its effects upon a larger circle. The concession made to the poor shows that none are to be shut out from communion with God for their want of worldly means. The expiation must be made, that the sinner may recover his covenant relations with God; but it shall be of such a nature that none shall be prevented from making it by their poverty. Here then is a foreshadowing of the free grace of God in the gospel dispensation. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and. milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1). "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

Leviticus 5:1-13

Guilt removed.

The Psalmist cried out, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." To dwell upon the manner in which sin may be committed, and to try to deepen our sense of its flagrancy, is not a pleasant employment, but it is highly necessary. And, blessed be God! a rainbow of cheerful hope spans the dark cloud of transgression; the same page that speaks of sin tells also of forgiveness.

I. This chapter reminds the Israelites of several ways in which, without having been resolutely determined upon, sin might result. Through silence and concealment of knowledge (Leviticus 5:1), through defilement by contact with uncleanness of man or beast (Leviticus 5:2), or through rash declarations (Leviticus 5:4), it was possible inadvertently to transgress the laws of God. SIN ASSUMES MANY FORMS. It may be of the voice or the finger, by word or deed. It may be by forcible repression of the truth or by careless voluble utterance. It may be incurred in connection with the noblest or the lowest parts of God's creation. This thought should beget constant watchfulness in speaking and acting. We can never be sure of preserving ourselves from contamination with evil. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." The abolition by the gospel of ceremonial restrictions has rather increased than diminished the strictness of the universally obligatory precepts, making them more searching in character. Our Lord taught that there may be adultery in a look, murder in a thought.

II. We find one law applicable to these different cases, one sentence pronounced, one ordinance appointed. THE IMPORTANT FACT COMMON TO ALL FORMS OF SIN IS THAT THEY INVOLVE THE OFFENDER IN GUILT. About the particular sin we need not trouble so much as about the fact of transgression and consequent demerit. "He shall bear his iniquity" (Leviticus 5:1). "He shall be unclean and guilty" (Leviticus 5:2). Jehovah can no longer look upon his subject with favour; sin places him under a cloud, mars him in the sight of God. Only ignorance can keep a man at ease under such circumstances. The awakened soul exclaims, "I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord." The peace of the wicked is like the calm that often precedes the tempest. It is the office of the Word of God to convince the ungodly of their hard speeches and ungodly deeds, and the question the preacher loves to hear is that which shows that the arrow has reached its mark, when the agonized sinner inquires, "What must I do to be saved?"

III. "By the Law is the knowledge of sin," but to leave the matter here would be to subject the transgressor to intolerable anguish. THERE IS A TWOFOLD METHOD OF EXPIATION, to restore communion with God. There must be confession of blameworthiness. "I have sinned against heaven and before thee." "He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing" (Leviticus 5:5). This acknowledgment by the individual is due to the majesty of God, and is the first step towards obliterating the injury caused by sin. The forces of government have not henceforth to fear assault by the criminal; once arrayed against him in hostile phalanx, they now wear a milder look. The rebel has voluntarily put the yoke of submission upon his neck, and this public token goes far to countervail the damage suffered by the king's honour. And, secondly, there must be the presentation of an atonement by the priest. The transgressor is not holy enough to appease offended Deity himself; an unblemished offering is demanded, which must be slaughtered by God's servant and its blood sprinkled upon the altar, and the other rites of a sin offering duly performed. It is not sufficient to acknowledge and repent of our misdeeds; we want a sin offering, the Lamb of God, so that we can make mention of his righteousness and enjoy the atoning virtue of his precious blood. It is not the offender but the priest who makes atonement (Leviticus 5:6). Apart from our great High Priest, our prayers, confessions, vows, and. gifts are of no avail. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me."

IV. Either a lamb or a kid, two turtle-doves or pigeons, or a homer of fine flour would be accepted as a propitiatory offering. No CLASS OF THE COMMUNITY IS DEBARRED FROM AN ATONEMENT BY LACK OF MEANS. Regard is here paid to the resources of the humblest ranks. The same end is attained under the gospel by providing a way of salvation accessible to all, suited to the illiterate and the learned, the men of substance and the poor. And in each case the forgiveness is complete. "It shall be forgiven him." The deed done cannot be undone, but its consequences may be averted. God treats the believer as if he had never sinned; his iniquities are cast behind the back of Deity and remembered no more. Fears are banished, fellowship is resumed. With every subsequent transgression the same course must be adopted. Whilst in the world stains are frequent, and frequent must be our resort to the crimson tide that flows from the cross of Christ. What unity of plan and procedure is visible in the Law and the gospel!—S.R.A.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

Leviticus 5:1-13

The trespass offering.

This was very much of the nature of the sin offering. Julius Bate translates the word ( אשם, asham) "guilt offering." Possibly the "sin offering" and the "burnt offering" may be here comprehended under the general expression, "trespass offering" (see Leviticus 5:7). We have here brought under our notice—

I. EXAMPLES OF the TRESPASS. Leviticus 5:1-4, Taken in order these are:

1. Concealing the truth when adjured.

2. Touching an unclean thing.

3. Swearing rashly.

II. PROVISIONS OF MERCY.

1. Confession must be made.

2. It must be accompanied with sacrifice.

3. The poor have special consideration.

The interchanging of these offerings, sin and trespass, sin and burnt, sin and meat, shows how they are intended to represent the same great subject under its various aspects. No one typical sacrifice could sufficiently body forth all the merits of that blessed Person who "made his soul a ( אשם, asham) trespass offering" (Isaiah 53:10).—J.A.M.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Leviticus 5:1

Fidelity in bearing witness.

The sinfulness of withholding evidence in a court of law is here formally and solemnly incorporated in the divine statutes. We may remind ourselves—

I. THAT WE SPEND OUR LIFE IN THE SIGHT OF MAN AS WELL AS UNDER THE EYE OF GOD. That we do everything in God's view is a truth the fullness and the greatness of which we cannot exaggerate. "Thou God seest me" should be as a frontlet for every man to wear between the eyes of his soul. But not unimportant is the truth that we act daily and hourly in the sight of man.

1. A very large proportion of our deeds is done obviously and consciously before man.

2. Many that we think are wrought in secret are seen by some unknown witness.

3. Many leave traces which point unmistakably to our agency. "Be sure your sin will find you out." Sooner or later, in unsuspected ways, our evil doings come under the eye of human observation, and under the ban of human condemnation.

III. THAT IT IS OFTEN OUR DUTY TO SCREEN AN OFFENDER FROM PUBLIC NOTICE. This is not in the text, but it belongs to the subject. He who would "do what wrong and sorrow claim" must sometimes "conquer sin and cover shame." There are many cases in which public justice does not demand inquiry and reprobation, but private consideration does call for tenderness and mercy (John 8:7). "Of some have compassion, making a difference" (Jud 1:22).

III. THAT IT IS OFTEN OUR DUTY TO BEAR WITNESS AGAINST A WRONG-DOER.

1. It is our duty to God, for he has ordained human justice. "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1-4). The Jewish judges had the right to adjure a witness to speak the truth in the name of the Supreme Judge ("hear the voice of swearing:" see 1 Kings 8:31; Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). If, therefore, under an oath we withhold what we know, we are disregarding a demand that comes indirectly and ultimately from God himself.

2. It is also our duty to society. The commonwealth of which we are members has a right to expect that we shall take our share in the necessary conviction and punishment of crime. When solemnly summoned to state what we know, and especially when an oath of the Lord is upon us, we are not free to keep back evidence, but are bound to disclose it.

3. It may be our duty to the offender himself. For it is better for him that he should bear the penalty due to his crime than that he should elude justice and be encouraged in transgression.

4. It is further our duty to ourselves, for if we are called on to bear witness, and if we undertake, or are even supposed to undertake, to speak all we know, and if then we suppress important testimony, we are consciously misleading those who hear; we are not "doing the truth," but are acting falsely, and are injuring our own soul thereby.

IV. THAT NEGLIGENCE IN SUCH SOCIAL OBLIGATIONS IS A SERIOUS OFFENSE IN the SIGHT OF GOD. It is sin. It is a thing to be repented of and to be forgiven.—C.

Leviticus 5:2, Leviticus 5:3

Shunning the impure.

We naturally ask, Why such stringent regulations as to everything of man or beast that was "unclean"? We may understand—

I. THE EXPLANATION (THE RATIONALE) OF THESE REQUIREMENTS.

1. The two main truths God was teaching his people were the divine unity, and purity of heart and life. The state of surrounding heathendom made these two lessons emphatically and particularly necessary.

2. God's method of teaching was pictorial: it was by rite, symbol, illustration. The world was in its religious childhood.

3. Under this method bodily ills naturally stood for spiritual evils; as wholeness of the body stood for health of the soul, so the sickness of the body answered to the malady of the soul, and the uncleanness of the one to the impurity of the other.

4. Hence would result the fact that the careful avoidance of the one would be an instructive lesson in the shunning of the other. Associating the two things so closely in their minds, commanded to shun most scrupulously all bodily uncleanness, taught to look at the least defilement as a transgression of the law, they would necessarily feel, with all desirable intensity, that every moral and spiritual impurity must be most sensitively avoided. Therefore such enactments as those of the text.

II. THEIR MORAL SIGNIFICANCE. They say to us:

1. That we should avoid all that is suggestive of impurity..

2. That we should shun everything which can, in any way or in the least degree, be communicative of spiritual evil.

3. That a stain upon the soul may be contracted without our own knowledge; "if it be hidden from him." This may be through books, friends, habits of speech.

4. That we should point out to the unwary their danger or their error.

5. That on the first intimation of error we should penitently return on our way.—C.

Leviticus 5:4

Redeeming promises.

The reference in the text is to inconsiderate oaths: the hasty undertaking, before God, to do some act of piety or kindness on the one hand (swearing "to do good"), or of retribution and permissible punishment on the other (swearing "to do evil"). It is contemplated that such pledges into which the Divine Being is introduced, rashly and thoughtlessly taken, may be overlooked and remain unfulfilled. We learn—

I. THAT THE FORMAL ASSOCIATION OF THE DIVINE BEING WITH ANY ACT LENDS TO IT AN INVIOLABLE SACREDNESS. That which is done before God, or with which his holy name is intentionally associated, must be regarded as peculiarly sacred: even if done impulsively and without due deliberation, an obligation is thereby incurred: "God's vows are upon us."

II. THAT IT IS WISE ON ORDINARY OCCASIONS NOT TO INCUR SUCH MULTIPLIED RESPONSIBILITY. Better to use the yea, yea, or nay, nay; the simple affirmation or denial with the lesser obligation than to strengthen our utterance with an oath, and so run the risk of more serious sin in non-fulfillment. Calm, quiet, unimpassioned words are Best for daily use. Reserve oaths for large occasions.

III. THAT SUCH RESPONSIBILITY AS WE DO INCUR WE MUST RELIGIOUSLY DISCHARGE. If we only affirm in our own name, but far more if we introduce the Divine name, we must see to it that we redeem our word. Negligence, on whatever grounds, though it be through sheer inadvertence—if "it he hid" from us—is culpable in the sight of God. Wherefore:

1. Study to avoid promising without a due sense of the bond that is entered into.

2. Take the earliest opportunity of redeeming your word, for good or evil.

3. Make an opportunity, if one does not soon offer.

4. Take necessary means of keeping the promise in remembrance; by natural, or (if necessary) by artificial means. We may infer—

IV. THAT IF SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY ATTACHES TO A PROMISE WITH WHICH GOD'S NAME IS ASSOCIATED, SO DOES IT TO ONE IN CONNECTION WITH HIS CAUSE. If we cannot vow, before him, to do any humblest thing without incurring added liability, neither can we undertake to serve in the affairs of his kingdom without similar obligation. A promise made to take any post or fill any office in the Church of Christ should be regarded as exceptionally sacred and. binding; neglect by inadvertence is wrong, sinful. We are bound to keep before our mind and on our heart anything with which God's name and cause are immediately connected.—C.

Leviticus 5:5-13

Pardon possible to all.

The requirements of the Law, as stated in these verses, speak of the possibility of pardon for every offender, if he be willing to submit himself to the wilt of God. We have—

I. CONFESSION OF SIX. "He shall confess that he hath sinned" (Leviticus 5:5). It is believed that confession was always required from the offerer when he laid his hand on the victim's head. It was a marked feature in the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement; it is expressly enjoined here. This was not only necessary from all, but possible to all; within every one's power: none would be unable, and none would be unwilling, but the impenitent who were unprepared for pardon.

II. AN OFFERING WHICH EVERY ONE COULD PRESENT. He that could do so was to bring a lamb or kid (Leviticus 5:6); he that could not might bring "two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons" (Leviticus 5:7); if this were beyond his means, he might bring a portion of "fine flour" (Leviticus 5:11). The costliness of the offering was thus graciously graduated to the circumstances of the offerer. And of so much importance did it appear to the Divine Legislator that the sacrifice should be within the reach of all, that he allowed a deviation from the otherwise unalterable rule that there must be the shedding of blood for the remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The very poor might bring flour (Leviticus 5:11), though, in order that there might be no mistake as to the import of it, it was specially prohibited to mix oil or frankincense with it (Leviticus 5:11).

III. A PLACE OF APPROACH OPEN TO ALL. The transgressor, convinced of his error, was to take his offering "unto the Lord," by taking it "to the priest." The priest at the door of the tabernacle was always approachable; never a day when he might not be found.

IV. INSTRUCTIONS THAT ALL COULD UNDERSTAND. There could be no' doubt or difficulty as to what precise things were to be done. What offering should be presented, whither it should be taken, what should be done with it,—all this was so explicitly and clearly laid down in the Law (Leviticus 5:6-12), that every Israelite who had the burden of conscious sin upon his soul, knew what he should do that the guilt might be removed, and that he himself might stand clear and pure in the sight of God.

In the gospel of Christ we have analogous but fuller advantages. We have—

1. Confession of sin. We must all say, as we all can say, "Father, I have sinned" (Luke 15:21). (See Romans 10:10; John 1:9.)

2. One offering that all can plead. No need of lamb, or goat, or turtle-dove, or even the humble measure of flour. The rich and the poor of the land may say, "Nothing in my hand I bring;" for they have but to plead the one Great and All-sufficient ,Sacrifice that has been presented, once for all (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 3:18), and they will find mercy of the Lord. The richest can do no more; the poorest need do no less.

3. An open throne of grace. "In Christ Jesus our Lord we have boldness and access with confidence" (Ephesians 3:11, Ephesians 3:12). No day nor hour when the way to the mercy-seat is barred; from every home and chamber the sin-laden, struggling soul finds its way thither: one earnest thought, and it is there!

4. Familiar knowledge of the will of God. Every unlettered man and untutored child may know what is "the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us." Our statute-book, our New Testament, makes it clear as the day that, if we would find forgiveness of our sin, we must not only confess our transgression, but have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by faith we shall be saved.—C.

HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD

Leviticus 5:1-13

Cases of concealment of knowledge and ceremonial uncleanness.

They are in some sense trespasses, although not properly under the head of trespass offerings. The ground of guilt is covenant relation violated. We may take this in its twofold aspect—

I. As revealing THE POSITIVE VALUE OF THAT COVENANT RELATION.

1. It separated from the unclean, and therefore enforced holiness.

2. It maintained society. Man's duty to his fellows was exalted. He must speak the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth; for we are members one of another.

3. It promoted vigilance and circumspection in conduct, both personal and relative. See that you are pure both in your intentional acts and in your circumstances; walk in wisdom towards them that are without.

II. The offering provided and the atonement possible in all cases, even the most minute, plainly said, GOD WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON; HIS LAW is LIBERTY." The covenant was not intended to be bondage; it was salvation, not destruction. If any man sin, there is forgiveness. But this waited to be gloriously illustrated when the perfect fulfillment of the Law was set forth in him who offered himself without spot, "able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God through him."—R.


Verses 14-19

EXPOSITION

THE TRESPASS OFFERING (Leviticus 5:14-19, Leviticus 6:1-7). The new heading with which Leviticus 5:14 begins indicates that it is here and not at Leviticus 5:1 that the section on trespass offerings commences. Sin offerings and trespass offerings are not distinguished from each other in Psalms 40:6; Hebrews 10:8; and the classification of the sins which require one or the other offering has caused great perplexity to commentators. It would appear that, primarily, the trespass offering was reserved for those cases in which reparation had to be made. Thus, if a man failed to pay his tithes and offerings to the Lord (Hebrews 10:14), he must bring his trespass offering; or if he refused to restore a deposit to his neighbours (Leviticus 6:2), he must bring his trespass offering; and his trespass offering is not received until he has made satisfaction to the party wronged, and paid, as a fine, one-fifth of the value of the thing that he had appropriated. But the class of crimes for which the trespass offering was required came to be enlarged by the addition of other eases, similar in character to the first, but not identical, whereby wrong was done to the Lord (as by transgressing his commands otherwise than by withholding tithes and offerings, Hebrews 10:17), or to man (as by wronging a female slave, Le 19:20, where the wrong is not estimated by money). These eases are distinguished with difficulty from those for which a sin offering is required. The same act might render it incumbent on a man to offer either a sin offering or a trespass offering, or both: the sin offering would teach the need of, and would symbolically effect, expiation for sin; the trespass offering would teach the necessity of, and would require at the offerer's hands, reparation for wrong. While the sin offering typified the expiation wrought upon the cross, the trespass offering typified the satisfaction for sin effected by the perfect life and voluntary death of the Saviour.

Leviticus 5:14, Leviticus 5:15

If a soul commit a trespass. Two previous conditions were required of the Israelite before he might offer his trespass offering.

1. He must make compensation for any harm or injury that he had done.

2. He must give to the injured party a fine equal to one-fifth (i.e; two-tenths) of the value of the thing of which he had deprived him, if the wrong was capable of being so estimated. In performing his sacrifice, he had

while the priest

The special lesson of the trespass offering is the need of satisfaction as well as of oblation, and thus it supplies a representation of one feature in the great Antitype, who was the "full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." Through ignorance (see note on Le Leviticus 4:2).

Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:16

Refer to sins of omission, offenses in the holy things of the Lord; that is, withholding tithes and offerings. The non-payment of tithes and offerings was looked upon as robbing Jehovah (Malachi 3:8), and therefore it is that a trespass offering, involving compensation, and not only a sin offering, is required to atone for the offense. The ram that is to be offered is to be of a value fixed by the priest (with thy estimation, i.e; according to the estimation of the priest), and the priest is to estimate it by shekels of silver; implying that its value must amount at least to shekels (in the plural), meaning two shekels (see Ezekiel 47:13, where "portions" means "more than one portion," i.e; "two portions"). The shekel is considered to be equal to 2s. 7d. The shekel of the sanctuary means the shekel according to its exact weight and value, while still unworn by traffic and daily use. Beside offering the rain, he is to make amends for the harm (or rather sin) that he hath clone in the holy thing, and.. . add the fifth part. The fifth part is probably appointed as being the same as two-tenths of the principal sum. Full satisfaction is the marked feature of the trespass offering. In Luke 19:8, "Zacchaeus stood, and said,… Behold, Lord,… if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore fourfold." He went far beyond his legal obligation in respect to compensation. (Cf. 2 Samuel 12:6, "He shall restore the lamb fourfold.")

Leviticus 5:17-19

Sins of commission may be atoned for by the trespass offering as well as sins of omission.

HOMILETICS

Leviticus 5:14-19

The trespass offering

differs from the sin offering in that it was not allowed to be presented until reparation had been made for the evil done by him who desired to offer it. Its special lesson to the Israelite was that satisfaction for sin is necessary for restoration to communion as well as sacrifice.

ITS TYPICAL LESSON. Satisfaction implies that there is a debt due which must be paid. The debt is due to God; the debtor is man. Christ took upon himself the payment of the debt, which man could not pay. tie paid it in two ways:

1. By bearing the punishment due for its non-payment by man.

2. By rendering in his own person that perfect obedience which man had failed to render, and by that failure had become a helpless debtor. Having compensated for man's disobedience by the perfect obedience of his life, he bore the punishment still due for that previous disobedience by the sacrifice of his death. Thus man's forgiveness became not only a matter of mercy on God's part, but of his justice. (See St. Ansehn's 'Cur Dens Homo?' and Archbishop Thomson's 'Essay on the Death of Christ' in 'Aids to Faith.')

HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR

Chapter 5:14-6:7

Restitution as inculcated in the trespass offering.

comp. Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:9; Luke 19:8; Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24. The trespass offering, in emphasizing the idea of restitution, is needful to complete the list of sacrifices. Without the just dealing this sacrifice demands, the personal consecration, fellowship, and atonement would savour of what was unreal and vain. God's mercy secures morality, and his Word condemns every desire to enjoy his grace and the fruits of injustice at the same time. Let us, then, notice—

I. THE POSSIBILITY OF WRONGING BOTH GOD AND MAN UNINTENTIONALLY. This passage presents this possibility. An Israelite might miscalculate the amount of his offerings, and find, on examination, that he has defrauded his God. This omission must be made good. Or again, he might commit, through want of thought, something God had forbidden, and for this sin of commission he must make restitution according to the estimation of the priest. The possibility of wronging a fellow-man unintentionally is too obvious to require illustration.

Of the first wrong we have, in these gospel times, an instance in defective liberality on the part of Christians. How many fail to calculate how much they owe to God! Systematic beneficence is a general principle, but it is applied only in the rough, and a faithful analysis will generally prove that God has been defrauded. We defraud God also in the matter of time and of work. We grudge him his own day; we give him stinted service. A quite appreciable defalcation under such heads as these might be made out against most of us.

Again, unintentional wrong is often done a neighbour in, for example, an unexpected failure in business. There are many, let us believe, who reach bankruptcy without intending it. They erred with the very best intentions, and through faulty management allowed their affairs to become hopelessly involved. But the loss suffered by a man's neighbours is not the less real because of his good intentions. Nor will these good intentions pass as good bills with the wronged neighbour's creditors.

II. LET US NOTICE THE POSSIBILITY OF DELIBERATELY WRONGING OUR NEIGHBOUR. We have intentional trespass against man brought out in the opening verses of the sixth chapter. We have here such sins contemplated as falsity in trust, robbery, oppression, and tergiversation about property which has been found. Here the intention as well as the act is at fault.

Our present mercantile immoralities afford ample illustrations. In fact, business qualities are regarded by many as consisting in the advantage which a man is able, legally, to take of his neighbour. Men, without sufficient courage to become highway robbers, can take advantage of a neighbour behind the hedge of some blundering act of parliament.

III. THE LAW OF MOSES DEMANDED RESTITUTION IN ALL THESE CASES AS A CONDITION OF PARDON. Unless the trespassers brought the amount of the defalcation, with a double tithe in addition, and the prescribed ram for a trespass offering, God refused them pardon and fellowship.

The case of Zacchaeus is in point. His interview with Jesus led to the desire of restitution arising naturally in his heart. "If 1 have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8). God's forgiveness is not independent of moral feeling. God will not forgive trespass so as to encourage the continuance of injustice. There must be restitution and compensation, or he will not grant pardon.

IV. AT THE SAME TIME, THAT RESTITUTION SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS MERITORIOUS, THE LAW REQUIRED A TRESPASS OFFERING IN ADDITION. There have been cases of restitution by bankrupts and other trespassers, but they are so blazed abroad in the newspapers, that the public is ready to set them down as meritorious, and almost supererogations. But the Divine Law excluded all possibility of boasting, by attaching a trespass offering to the restitution. A ram must be brought; confession of sin must be made over it in the usual fashion; it must be slain; its blood must be sprinkled as in the former cases; the choice portions are dedicated to God on his altar; and the remainder eaten by the priests.

All this was to show that, even for such an act as restitution, atonement was needful. It could not stand alone; it had no inherent merit; it was only tardy justice; and for the wrong there is need of atonement as well as reparation. And surely the same great truth meets us in the Christian life. Jesus as the Trespass Offering—and this is the phraseology employed in Isaiah 53:10 regarding him—must encircle us with his merits, even when we are conscientiously making restitution. It is as penitents we should do this. Even though the world glories in the reparation of wrong as something in its view most meritorious, the persons making reparation should do so in a penitent spirit, having regard always to the atoning merits of the Saviour.

V. THE COURAGE NECESSARY TO MAKE RESTITUTION MUST BE SUSTAINED BY THE FEARLESS PROCLAMATION OF GOD'S LAW. A certain antinomianism is encouraged, if not proclaimed, by a loose presentation of God's gospel. Immoralities are tolerated in commerce on the part of professing Christians, that go far to defeat the mission of Christianity. It is essential, in these circumstances, that we should cultivate the courage of men, and sustain their resolutions to be honest and just in making all possible restitution. God requires no less honesty in his gospel than he did in his Law. He never meant his pardon to be enjoyed along with the fruits of wrong-doing. These must be surrendered if it is to be enjoyed. "If it is absolutely impossible to be saved by the works of the Law, it is not less impossible to be saved without the works of faith, for faith without works is no faith at all." We must consequently think on "whatsoever things are honest" (Philippians 4:8), and remember our Saviour's words, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24).—R.M.E.

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

Leviticus 5:14-16

Trespass amended.

I. To WITHHOLD FROM GOD HIS DUES IS SINFUL. The rigour of Leviticus may well sharpen that perception of sin which is so apt to become dim. God is wealthy, and yet will not submit tamely to robbery. Minute instructions were given concerning the offering of tithes, etc; for the use of his servants at the tabernacle, and for his glory; and to omit such offerings and to employ them in profane uses is here counted as acting covertly, as faithless dealing. For it was a condition of the covenant that the people should purchase their exemption from entire devotedness, by recognizing that it was incumbent on them to support those engaged wholly in God's service; and to neglect this condition was, in truth, a breach of trust. It is not less needful today that Christians should contribute of their substance to the carrying on of the work of the Church. Nor is it less important to call attention to the trespass committed by failing to present to God the emotion he claims. Many imagine that they are comparatively faultless if they abstain from open notorious wickedness, and they overlook their fatal omissions in the matter of religious service, affection, and faith. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart," etc. "Trust ye in the Lord for ever." Not to confess Christ is considered as denying him. Besides, it is in the passage before us assumed that the property which ought to have been devoted to the Lord has been consumed for personal enjoyment. And similarly, we may argue that the love and time and strength not used as required for God, are lavished upon other objects, and a wrong is done to our Father in heaven.

II. TO COMMIT A TRESPASS UNINTENTIONALLY DOES NOT PREVENT THE NECESSITY OF AN ATONEMENT. This is a lesson frequently enforced in the Law. "Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity" (verse 17). Evidences of the same Divine Law are visible in the consequences that follow mistakes in life, where accidental errors, wrong judgments, hasty steps, are productive of as injurious effects as if the word or action had been planned with utmost deliberation, and its result foreseen. Any other arrangement might augment men's carelessness, and prove in the end more harmful than the apparently inequitable law. We are taught the infinite importance that attaches to our actions, linked on as they are with a chain of invariable results. To sin is to run counter to widespreading principles; it is not a little matter that may be contemned; it makes a breach in the fortress of right and justice, and this breach must be repaired ere the offender can be regarded as on the side of the eternal verities. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." If not the transgressor, then an unblemished ram must be slaughtered as his substitute, that blood may cleanse the stain, and cover the transgressor from wrath. How easy is the way made under the gospel, whereby, after the sin offering of Christ, all our sins are forgiven us for his name's sake!

III. ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE WRONG DONE MUST BE FOLLOWED BY AN ENDEAVOUR To AMEND IT. The high priest is to value the "harm," and a fifth being added to the amount, the priest receives it as compensation. The offender has gained nothing by his sin. Sin never profits in the end. The restitution is thorough. We may reasonably distrust the sincerity of a repentance that is unaccompanied by reformation. When conscience money is brought, then the confession and desire of the offender to undo the evil wrought, as far as possible, are patent. The atonement and the restitution together procure the forgiveness of the supplicant. What avails it that men have learnt their "trespass," unless it lead to amendment? Knowledge is designed to be the forerunner of action. Like electricity, it furnishes light and moving power.—S.R.A.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

Leviticus 5:14-19

Trespass in sacrilege.

The verses now under consideration form a distinct matter of revelation, or were communicated to Moses at a separate time. This we infer from the opening words, "And the Lord spake unto Moses," comparing them with like expressions twice used already (see Le Leviticus 1:1; Leviticus 4:1).

I. WILFUL SACRILEGE WAS PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH.

1. It is fraud "in the holy things of the Lord."

The treasures of the temple of whatever kind were also holy things.

2. This was the crime of Achan.

3. This also was the crime of Ananias and Sapphira.

II. SACRILEGE THROUGH INADVERTENCY ADMITS OF REPARATION.

1. In cases that are undoubted.

2. In cases that are doubtful.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:16

Restitution to God.

The trespass for which "God spake unto Moses" that the children of Israel should make atonement, was an offense in which there was present the element of reparable wrong-doing. Something, it was contemplated, would be done which could be in some respects made good, and where this was possible it was to be done. In most cases this would refer to wrong done to man; but here we have the truth that God may be wronged, and that he condescends to receive restitution at our hands. We may look at—

I. SIN REGARDED AS A DEBT WHICH IS DUE TO GOD. Jehovah was sovereign Lord of the Hebrew commonwealth, and actual proprietor of all; anything withheld from those who were his ministers was a sacred due withheld, a debt undischarged. Our God is he:

1. Who has placed us under immeasurable obligation—by creation, preservation, benefaction, fatherly love, Divine interposition.

2. To whom we owe everything we are and have—our hearts and lives.

3. From whom we have withheld that which we shall never be able to pay: our reverence, gratitude, obedience, submission; "ten thousand talents" (Matthew 18:24). But there are some special defaults:—

II. ARREARS IS HOLY THINGS. "If a soul commit a trespass.; in the holy things of the Lord" (Leviticus 5:15). The Israelites were under many injunctions; they probably received professional instruction from the Levites, as well as religious teaching at home (Deuteronomy 6:7). But they might be betrayed into ignorance or fall into forgetfulness, and they might come short of their duty

They might ignorantly rob God in offerings and in tithes, as they even did intentionally (Malachi 3:8). We also may fall far short of what we should bring to God; we may take a totally inadequate view

III. THE ATONEMENT WHICH MUST BE FIRST PRESENTED. First of all, there was the offering "not without blood" to be made: the ram must be brought by the offender, and" the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram.… and it shall be forgiven him." First, we must plead the atoning blood of the slain lamb, seeking and finding forgiveness through the Saviour's sacrifice. But this is not all; there is—

IV. THE RESTITUTION WHICH SHOULD SUBSEQUENTLY BE MADE. The Jew was required to "make amends for the harm he had done in the holy things," and not only to give an equivalent to that which he had withheld, but to "add the fifth part thereto;" he was not only to make up, but do more than make up for his default. We cannot and we need not attempt to act according to the letter of this injunction, hut we may and should act in the spirit of it, by letting our consciousness of past deficiency in the worship and the service of Christ incite us to multiplied endeavours in the future. In looking back we recall negligences to attend the sanctuary, to come to the table of the Lord, to worship God in the secret chamber of devotion; therefore let us seek his face and his favour with constancy and earnestness in the days to come. We have not served his cause and our generation according to the measure of his bountiful dealings with us; therefore let us open our hand freely, and give far more generously than we should otherwise have done to those various agencies of beneficence which are turning the wilderness of wrong into the garden of the Lord.—C.

Leviticus 5:17

Unconscious sin.

Is there not something here contrary to our generally received ideas respecting sin? Can a man sin "though he wast it not"? The text suggests—

I. THAT WE COMMONLY CONNECT WITH OUR IDEA OF SIN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF GUILT AT the TIME OF TRANSGRESSION. Sin is only possible to intelligent, responsible beings; it implies the power of discernment; it is usually followed by self-reproach; it seems, at first sight, to involve a consciousness in the soul of error and wrong-doing at the moment of commission. Hence men expect to be excused if they can say they did not know it was wrong at the time, etc.

II. THAT THIS THOUGHT ABOUT SIN IS BASED ON TRUTH. It is true:

1. That sin is a willful departure from rectitude: it is the soul consenting to commit some one of "those things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord." Where the will does not consent, there is no moral character in the act at all.

2. That the less there is of knowledge, the less there is of guilt (Luke 12:48).

3. That in the absence of all possible knowledge, there is entire freedom from guilt. "Where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15). Scripture confirms what our reason declares, that there can be no condemnation where there are no means of knowing "the commandments of the Lord." But we are hound to remember for ourselves, and to impress on others, the opposite aspect, viz.—

III. THAT THIS TRUTH IS SUBJECT TO VERY GRAVE QUALIFICATIONS.

1. Attainable knowledge not gained involves sin. The Jews ought to have known that it was obligatory on them, and highly beneficial to them, to be loyal to Jehovah, to be obedient to his servant Moses, to receive the exhortations of the prophets; their ignorance was culpable, and therefore their errors were sinful. So with their nonrecognition of Jesus Christ. So with our ignorance of that which is most binding on us and most beneficial to us. We ought to know that the service of Christ is the chief duty and the supreme blessing; in our ignorance is our guilt.

2. Needless forgetfulness is sin. It was criminal on the part of the Jews of the prophetic age to forget the merciful and mighty interpositions of God in earlier days; on the part of those of our Lord's day to forget the mighty works by which he proved himself to be the very Son of God. It is criminal on our part to forget those vital truths of which God's Word reminds us.

3. The blunting of our spiritual perceptions is sin. When we are blind to the truth which is before us, because our prejudice, or our pride, or our passion, or our worldly interests distort our vision, or because long continuance in folly has blunted our spiritual powers, we are guilty: we "know not what we do," even when we are crucifying a Messiah; but the guilt in the action lies chiefly in the existence of these enfeebled or perverted faculties, and, though we "wist not," yet we "are guilty" in the sight of God.

IV. THAT UNCONSCIOUS SIN CARRIES ITS PENALTY WITH IT. "He shall bear his iniquity." The penalty is threefold:

1. The displeasure of God—his condemnation.

2. Serious harm done to our own soul.

3. Awaking, soon, to the conviction that we have done grievous wrong to others,—it may be a reparable, but it may be an irreparable, wrong.—C.

HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD

Verses 14-chapter 6:7

The trespass offerings.

Distinguished as:

1. Being violations of rights of property, either religious or non-religious property.

2. Including a fine, apportioned by the priest, for restoration.

3. Without distinction of persons or circumstances.

4. The victim, a ram without blemish from the flocks, and the atonement both sacred as producing. Divine forgiveness, and secular as including pecuniary indemnity; the blood being in this case merely swung against the side of the altar, not smeared on the horns.

Leviticus 5:17

The unwitting trespass.

"Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity."

I. THE ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OF THE DIVINE LAW. It must be maintained:

1. As a revelation of the character of God.

2. As a basis on which the moral law is placed.

3. As a means of convincing man of sin, separating the idea of guilt from arbitrary, capricious, local, individual, emotional respects.

II. THE INFINITE FULNESS OF THE DIVINE COMPASSION.

1. Atonement is provided not only for sins repented of and confessed, but for offenses unwittingly committed. God is thus represented as the shield of his creature, amid, the working out of his inscrutable will in the universe.

2. The mind obtains wonderful peace when it is assured that all possible liabilities are foreseen and averted.

3. Forgiveness is not a mere doing away of sin in the conscience, but a removal of the burden from the life. The Law has nothing more against us.—R.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 5:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/leviticus-5.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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