The Trespass Offering
Arthur G. Clarke
I. Other Names
Guilt offering; debt offering; Hebrew 'asham'; 'ashmah'. Lev. 5. 14 to 6. 7; 7. 1-7; Num. 5. 5-8.
II. Relevant Scriptures
Ps. 69; Isa. 53. 5, R.V.M.; Gospel of Matthew.
III. Primary Purpose
Expiation of guilt and reparation for injury done. Emphasis is upon the wrong committed rather than upon the particular person committing; contrast the sin offering.
IV. Typical Significance
The cross of Christ is viewed as making full amends to God for man's trespasses, compensating Him for the moral havoc wrought by the sin of the first Adam. Whatever God could claim of honour and obedience, of worship and service, He has received again from man in Christ. Moreover both God and man are actual gainers by the work of the cross; God is for ever glorified and believing man for ever blessed.
V. Atoning Blood
This met both the debt of sin, Matt. 6. 12; Luke 7. 41, 42, and the dishonour done to God's name. It marked the penalty, which was death, for deranging God's governmental order.
VI. Appointed Sacrifice
In all cases a ram without blemish was required. It was to be of a value according to the estimate, first of Moses ('thy', v. 15), later of the priests. The standard of values was the silver shekel of the sanctuary, by which God's rightful dues were always measured, Lev. 27. 25; Exod. 30.13, instead of the shekel in common use. Tradition places the minimum value of the ram at two shekels. The tenderest conscience would fall short in knowledge of Jehovah's holy requirements. Our widest understanding can never be the standard of judgment in the matter of sin. God's estimate alone stands; His Word alone affords true guidance. There was no concession whatever to poverty in cases of specific trespass, for the character of offences here enumerated was the same whatever the offender's social rank.
Salt; see corresponding remarks under the meal offering.
VIII. Special Categories
Classed according to the nature of the offence.
(i) Wrongs committed against God. These appear under two headings.
a. Trespasses in holy things, 5. 15, 16. In such cases restitution plus one-fifth followed expiation by the sacrifice. The added fifth equalled a double tithe and was by ancient custom an acknowledgement that the whole had been rightly forfeited; see Gen. 47. 18-26. Only offences due to inadvertence or ignorance are provided for (see remarks under the sin offering) and would include the withholding of what was properly due to God, such as tithes and firstfruits, or eating by mistake portions allotted to the priests, thereby sinning both against God and against His servants, Mai. 3. 8, 9. The trespasses in holy things committed by Christians arc (alas) only too common. How often in our public and private devotions the door is opened to distracting thoughts and barren responses, unrecognized, it may be, at the time. Our holiest seasons are quickly marred by the intrusions of the flesh. It is comfort¬ing to know that Christ's death as the trespass offering has answered to God for these and that His work as our High Priest on high also concerns them, Exod. 28. 38.
b. Trespasses in forbidden things, 5. 17-19. Here restitution is not mentioned. Though committed in ignorance the offender was 'certainly guilty before Jehovah', v. 19, R.v.
(ii) Wrongs committed against man, 6. 1-7. In these instances restitution plus one-fifth preceded expiation by the sacrifice. Wrongs must be remedied as well as punished. Punishment alone of the offender would still leave the injured party suffering loss, whilst reparation alone, which might satisfy man's claim, would not restore the sinner's disrupted relations with God apart from the removal of the guilt. There was to be no delay in making due amends, 6. 5, A.V.M. A better rendering of verse 4 is 'When he hath so sinned and acknowledges his guilt then . . .'. Offences under this section involved failure in responsibility, wrongs not deliberate and premeditated so much as those committed under sudden temptation or stress and later troubling the conscience leading to a voluntary acknowledgement of guilt, 6. 4. Contrast the far heavier amercement in cases disclosed in a court of justice on the evidence of witnesses, Exod. 22. 1-9. Offences against one's neighbour are not only morally wrong but are an affront to God, 6. 2. Wrongs specified are:
a. Denying a trust. Under this head would be included undue retention of things borrowed. As an up-to-date application Dr. Bonar instances books and umbrellas!
b. Defrauding a partner.
c. Disowning a theft or robbery.
d. Deceiving in trade, which appears to take in any form of dishonesty or extortion, Luke 19.10.
e. Detaining a find. All these offences were much aggravated if the wrongdoer has denied them at the time with an oath, thus calling upon God to witness a he. For laws as to lost property see Deut. 22. 1-3; Exod. 23. 4.
IX. Sacrificial Ritual
Similar to that for the sin offering, 7. 7, but with a difference in the manner of applying the blood of atonement. It was scattered upon the walls of the altar instead of being smeared on the horns and poured out at the base, cf. 7. 2 with 4. 30, 34.
X. Allotted Portions
(i) Jehovah's Share. The choice fat with kidneys and caul and the fat tail, 7. 3-5. Regarding the last see notes under the Peace Offering, paragraph X. All was burnt on the altar, ascending as incense. Let it be repeated that even while the Saviour was on the cross bearing the penalty of our trespasses, God took delight in the personal excellencies of His beloved Son.
(ii) Priest's Share. In the case of trespasses in holy things, the amerced sum plus one-fifth, and in all cases the flesh of the sacrificed ram were allotted to him. The flesh could be eaten by all members of the priestly family if ceremonially clean, but they were to do so in a holy place, that is, within the tabernacle enclosure, 6. 26 with 7. 7. Thus was maintained close fellowship within the priesthood and with God. 'It is most holy', 7. 6; compare Sin Offering notes. As a holy priesthood, 1 Pet. 2. 5, Christians should 'eat', that is, partake of a brother's trespass in the sense of bearing the burden with him until its removal, Gal. 6. 1, 2. There should be the exercise of priestly intercession in the spirit of Dan. 9.
(iii) Neighbour's Share. As the injured party he received the restored principal plus one-fifth compensation for temporary loss of use, etc. By the cross our Saviour, as already pointed out, has restored to man abundantly more than Adam by his sin ever lost. As another has said 'In Christ the believer is not simply brought back to die point where Adam began in innocence, but he now has an unassailable standing before God in righteousness for evermore'.
(iv) Offender's Share was nothing whatever. He had an abundant portion in the Peace Offering (which see) and joyfully feasted with family and friends, but as a guilty one bringing a sin offering or a trespass offering fasting was more becoming in token of sorrowing repentance.
XI General Remarks
It should ever be remembered that things morally wrong under the Law are also morally wrong for Christians. There can be no communion with God on the part of a would-be worshipper so long as anyone has aught against him, Matt. 5. 23, 24. Under the Law absolute remission of sins could not be proclaimed to God's people, but in the Gospel there is such an announcement, Acts 13. 38, 39. Forgiveness was indeed promised by Jehovah, Lev. 5. 16, 18; 6. 7, but only on the ground of Christ the antitype's later and all-sufficient sacrifice of Himself, Rom. 3. 25. God lays emphasis on the need of compensation for any loss caused to others by our misdeeds. In the trespass offering of a defiled Nazarite, Num. 6. 12, R.V., and in the cleansing of a leper, Lev. 14. I2ff, there was some modification in the ritual compared with the regular trespass offering. The two offerings for sin (sin offering and trespass offering) though last in order of institution were invariably first in order of application. Even so they are the first views of Christ's offering apprehended by the Christian. A careful comparison of the sin offering and the trespass offering is most instructive.
(For the sake of space the BRIEF COMPARISONS have been held over for the next issue).