The Levitical Offerings

The Non-Savour Offerings. The Sin and Trespass Offerings.

The Sin Offering. Lev. 4; 5. 1-13; 6. 24-30.
The sweet-savour offerings, the burnt, meal and peace offerings were for the worshipper. We must recognize the fact that the instructions concerning the offerings were given to a people who had been redeemed and who had voluntarily entered into a covenant with Jehovah to obey His commands and observe His law, Exod. 19.8. This solemn covenant was ratified by the sprinkling of the blood of burnt and peace offerings on the altar, on the book of the law and upon the people, Exod. 24.3-8. But subsequent history tells the sad story of failure and sin among a chosen and privileged people. The exercised individual could bring his sweet savour offering to express his thanksgiving and worship. But God in His mercy and grace provided a means in the sin and trespass offerings whereby those that had sinned against God and their fellow-man could be forgiven and reconciled. There are many points in common between sin and trespass, but also divergences. To sin means to miss the mark, to come short. To trespass means to go beyond, to offend, become guilty. Sin is failure to come up to a Divine standard; trespass brings guilt and demands reparation. When God says, “thou shalt not”, man says, “I will”. One is the root, the other the fruit. Man is not merely a sinner because he sins, but rather sins because he is a sinner. The sin offering is concerned with what man is; the trespass offering with what man does.

1. The Four Classes of People, and their offerings.
The Anointed Priest. Aaron and his sons. The Whole Congregation. Collective sin. The nation. The Prince or Ruler. Judges and kings. Prophets. The Common People. Ordinary members of the congregation. There was a different offering and ritual for each group, teaching us that while all are guilty, greater light or position brings greater responsibility. Note: The priest and the congregation are linked together.

2. The Specified Offerings are for:

(i) Priest or Congregation-a bullock.
(ii) Prince or Ruler-a male kid, a he-goat.
(iii) People – female kid, 2 turtle doves, a handful of flour.

The relative values of the different offerings teaches us the degrees of the seriousness of sin, depending on the status of the person. If the priest or ruler goes astray, many are led astray. The sins of Moses, Aaron and David were far more serious than that of an ordinary person. David caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. The fall of a preacher, teacher, elder or a whole assembly could have far reaching consequences. The testimony could be ruined for a lifetime or longer. Even of the high priest in our Lord’s time He said to Pilate, “He that delivered me unto thee (i.e. Caiaphas) hath the greater sin”, John 19. 11.

3. The Procedure.
(1) For the Priest and the Congregation.

(a) The offerer lays his hands on the head of the bullock, indicating identification and the transfer of sin to the sacrifice. In the burnt offering, acceptance is transferred to the offerer, but in the sin offering, guilt is transferred to the sacrifice. “My faith would lay her hand, On that dear head of thine; While like a penitent I stand, And there confess my sin.”

(b) The offerer personally slays the sacrifice.

(c) The blood is sprinkled 7 times before the veil (not inside the Holiest as on the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16), on the horns of the golden incense altar, and the rest of the blood is poured out at the base of the brazen altar. Thus the way of access to God, of worship and intercession is cleansed by blood.
(d)The fat and the inward parts are burnt on the brazen altar as a sweet savour, 4.31. The expression “sweet savour” occurs only once, but thank God for that once! Christ was made sin for us, 2 Cor. 5.21, but He himself was undented and sinless.

(e) The burning outside the camp. This is the fire which consumes in judgement, rather than that which causes a sweet savour to ascend to God for His delight. It was not just burned anywhere outside but “over the ashes poured out”, i.e. at the place where the burnt offering ashes were poured out. The consuming offering for sin found its basis upon the ashes which evidence the prior acceptance by God of the burnt offering. Of course, those ashes of the consumed sin offering are hidden soon from sight when the next consignment of ashes of the evening sacrifice are brought in the morning. Where then is the sin? Hidden from sight, along with its ashes. We read that, “Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” in fulfilment of the type, Heb. 13. 11-12.

(2) For the Prince or the Ruler. The second grade or class of the sin offering was for a prince or a ruler who had sinned. When his sin was known he brought a kid of the goats, a male without blemish, 4. 22-23. The same procedure was followed for the offering of a ruler as for the priest or the whole congregation, with the exception that the blood was not sprinkled before the veil nor on the horns of the golden altar. Also the body was not burned outside the camp. It was eaten by the officiating priest in the court of the Tabernacle, 6. 26. It was not shared like the peace offering. The lone priest sadly eating the sin offering in the holy place illustrates an important principle today. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such as one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted”, Gal. 6. 1. Both Ezra and Daniel confessed the sin of the people as their own, Ezra 9. 5-15; Dan. 9. 3-19.

(3) The Common People. The third grade or class of sin offering was for one of the common people. Here there was a variety of offerings depending on the person’s ability who brought it. 4. 27-5. 13. It could be a goat, 4. 28, or a lamb, 4. 32, and was to be a female without blemish. For those not able to offer a lamb, two turtle doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering were to be offered. Note again another link with the burnt offering. But for the very poor the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour was acceptable, 5. 11. It was not the meal offering of chapter 2 since there was no oil or frankincense put on it, it was a non-sweet savour sin offering.

"The absence of atoning blood from this last class was met by its association with the daily burnt offering, the memorial handful being burnt upon the never-dying altar fire”, (A. G. Clarke). Divine grace thus makes provision for the poorer Israelites, 5.7-13. Christians young in experience or those feeble in faith whose understanding of Christ in the sin offering is vague or incomplete may be symbolized here.

Five times in this section we read the words, ‘it shall be forgiven him”. What a joy to an Israelite to hear these words from God and to have such assurance.

The Trespass Offering. Lev. 5. 14-6. 7. 1-7; Isaiah 53. 10.
The trespass offering is closely linked with the sin offering but there are differences. In the case of the sin offering proper no specific act of sin is mentioned. It is simply said that the person has sinned-through ignorance and against the commandments of God 4. 2, 13, 22, 27. In the case of the trespass offering, the person brought his offering in respect of particular and specified sins, 6. 2-7. In the latter case the specific offence is not only against God but also against our fellow-man. David, in Ps. 51. 4 said: “Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight”. But he also sinned against Uriah, Bathsheba and all Israel. The trespass offering has to do with the injury sin has caused and involves restitution and reparation to the injured party. Sin is the most costly thing in the universe! To understand this we would need to explore three fathomless oceans: (i) Human suffering since the Fall, (ii) Divine suffering of the Saviour on the Cross. (iii) Eternal sufferings of the lost in Gehenna, and the lake of fire.

Three Areas of Trespass and Injury are Listed:

  1. In the Holy things of the Lord i.e. against God Himself, 5. 15.
  2. In things forbidden in the commandments of the Lord, 5. 17.
  3. In injury to one’s neighbour, 6. 2.
  4. These are the areas involved in the Fall and in all subsequent transgression.

The Requirements of the Trespass Offering. The trespass or guilt offering was not a voluntary offering but was obligatory. It was three-fold:

(1) A ram for expiation. There was no choice here. The ram was the leader of the flock, and was a costly offering. Sin offerings were graded from a young bull to a handful of fine flour. But here, one animal must suffice; it must be a ram without blemish. The first mention of a ram is found in Genesis 22. 13. A ram caught in a thicket by its horns. It was a thorn crowned ram. The ram signifies strength, determination and it acted as the guardian of the flock.

There is to be a valuation, then a restitution by payment of reparation money. Moses makes the valuation. This is not left to the offender. The standard is the silver shekel of the sanctuary, the symbol of inflexible divine justice. No counterfeit coin or short weight was acceptable. The full value was paid in silver.

Then a fifth part is added, that is a double tithe, or 20% interest. Here is an important principle. Simple repayment would not suffice. It was not just law, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Grace is suggested by this, grace abounding developed in the “much more” of Romans 5. Contrast all this with erroneous views of a limited atonement. In the Person of Christ there is an infinite salvation procured.

The Ritual of the Trespass Offering. The details of the sacrifice of the ram are not mentioned in chapter 6. These are outlined later in the law of the trespass offering in chapter 7.

The procedure was the same as for the sin offering. This is one of God’s significant silences. In chapter 6 our attention is fixed on the injury inflicted by the offender and the necessity of restitution.

Five Trespasses against His Neighbour. Note the prominence “lying” takes in this list. It is mentioned three times. This is common today; there is a lack of truth and candour.

(1) Things delivered to a person to keep for another. He betrays his trust and lies concerning it. This may be compared to a person in a position of trust. A bank clerk or book-keeper who embezzles funds today; see Eph. 4. 25.

Trespass in business partnerships. We may compare this with a Christian who trusts his brother and who then gets hurt. Where there is nothing in writing, there is no redress.

Things taken away by violence. Compare the instance of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings 21.

One who deceives his neighbour. Here some hard treatment of a weaker trusting brother is involved. Fraudulent bankruptcy might be an example today.

One who finds something which was lost, and lies concerning it. He swears falsely. Dishonesty is aggravated by perjury.

These are all very plain blunt cases, but who can say that they do not happen in daily life, even among the Lord’s people?

When the trespass was in the holy things of the Lord, the sacrificial ram was offered first, 5. 15, but when it was against man, it was not offered until restitution and compensation was paid to the injured party, 6. 1-7. In chapter 7. 1-5 there is a precious link with the burnt offering. The ram is killed in the same place, and the fat and the inward parts are burnt on the altar. If there is sin or trespass among God’s people, they find acceptance in the One who became sin for us, and who is accepted by God on their behalf. The rest of the animal is eaten by the officiating priest in a holy place, as in the two lesser sin offerings. But there is no community of feasting here. The individual lonely priest is eating by himself, a very different experience from the joyful fellowship of the peace offering.

Summary of the Trespass Offering, Man is a transgressor against God, His Word, and his fellow-man. The believer too can be guilty of trespass.

The costliness of sin. A valuable sacrifice is required.

The infinite value of the work of Christ. He not only paid our debt making due reparation, but His work added much more as represented by the 20% added.

Christ is the guilt offering, Isa. 53. 10 RV., and the trespass offering, Ps. 69. A-He added that which He took not away.


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