The Sin Offering
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of Yahweh concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
The law of the Sin Offering can be summarized thus:
The anointed priest .... a bullock
The whole congregation a bullock
A ruler a goat kid (male)
A commoner a goat kid (female), or a lamb (female).
'...sins of ignorance are referred to, and must be atoned for by sacrifice. This is an interesting consideration. If we look back twenty, or ten, or even five years, we shall realize -- if we have grown in our knowledge of God that much of what we did at that time was tainted with the sin of ignorance. We see now where we were then limited in our spirit and attitude and understanding.
And we can be quite sure, though we cannot see it now, that if we continue to study and meditate upon the Word of God, in another five or ten years (if we are still in this present probation) we shall be able to look back and discern many of our present limitations and shortcomings that we are blind to today. And so it continues throughout our life. We live under the constant shadow of sins of ignorance, and we must constantly pray for God's mercy on them.
There must be a constant growth of knowledge and understanding in the ways of God and the spirit of Christ. For each added day of life and opportunity that is given us, more will be expected of us in character and labor and understanding. Woe betide that slothful servant who has not been using all his time in labour and preparation for his Lord!
We must overcome -- not to absolute perfection, because that for us is impossible -- but to perfection within the framework of the definition of Scripture, and the merciful appointments of God. Perfection is required by God. In His holiness He can tolerate no less. And in His love He has provided for it -- by our constant effort toward perfection, and by the constant washing and repurifying in the blood of Christ. Every sin must be washed away in that blood. Every sin must be repented of and repudiated. We must stand pure before God to be accepted.
We are so constituted in weakness that we do not and cannot even know all our sins. Every thought out of harmony with the perfection of God and with absolute truth is sin. In the imperfection of our mind and knowledge and weakness of the flesh, we cannot help but constantly sin -- constantly fall short of perfection. But He has graciously provided for this too:
"The Spirit also helpeth our infIrmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. . ."
-- we do not know, we cannot know, to perfection what we should pray for -- what sins of weakness and ignorance and incompleteness and partial comprehension we should pray to be forgiven for and cleansed from. We are slowly learning, slowly advancing toward the goal of perfect understanding--
". . . we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered, and He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit."
For deliberate sin, there was and is no forgiveness. But some sins which we would consider deliberate were forgiven -- so we cannot judge others. The sabbath day gatherer of sticks was put to death; David's murder and adultery were forgiven.
Only God knows where to draw the line as to what is deliberate rebellion, and what is weakness for this poor erring flesh. For ourselves, we must always bear in mind the danger, remembering with trembling that God will not be mocked. He will not for a moment tolerate rebellion. Whenever we do anything we know is wrong, however small it may be, we are treading on the loose gravel of the edge of the precipice of no return--
"God is not mocked" ."God hath no pleasure in fools."
For others, we must always be prepared to forgive and receive, and leave the final judgment to God Who knows each heart. **
Law if a priest sins in ignorance
3 If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto Yahweh for a sin offering.
'Young bullock' - Messiah was cut off in his prime
A sin offering differed from the burnt offering in several particulars. It was called for when "a soul sinned through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things that ought not to be done" (Lev. 4:2). If a priest sinned in the same way: or if it was the case of the whole congregation sinning ignorantly, then when the sin was discovered, they were to "bring a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering".
The question has been asked, Why should a sin of ignorance require atonement? I have indeed known of a stout revolt against the whole doctrine of sins of ignorance, and a disposition to reject Moses on the ground of them. This is not reasonable. If it had been a case of punishing a man for unconscious transgression, there might be some difficulty experienced. But it is not a case of that sort, but of the reverse sort, namely, of providing a way of escape from a false position.
A false position is a false position, whether known or not. Reason must recognize this: if the will of God be that certain things be not done, then the man who does them does things that are displeasing, whether he know it or not. His ignorance does not make a displeasing thing pleasing, though it will modify the light in which he may be regarded as an unintentional offender.
A presumptuous doing of it -- a doing of it in the full knowledge of what he is doing, and with the full intention that his act shall be an act of enmity as hurtful as he can make it, ensures condign punishment, as we have seen. But a doing of it in ignorance that he is doing wrong is mercifully treated: provision is made for rectification or justification. A sin offering is required. The sin is not ignored, for sin there has been, though ignorant sin, for sin is the breaking of the law of God in any matter. ***
'...though the anointed priest was but one person yet he received mention first and his offering was exactly the same as that specified for the whole of the nation put together [v13,14]. As far as this schedule was concerned he (the individual) and they (the multitude) were" on a par, being to all intents and purposes interchangeable.
We now ask: Did this assignment of values hold good throughout the Law?
The answer is, Yes. .. the High Priest was always (ideally) the epitome of the entire nation, except on those occasions when, for some special purpose, the Law wished to draw a distinction between him and the people.
Law and Grace Ch 2.
4 And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Yahweh; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock's head, and kill the bullock before Yahweh.
5 And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock's blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:
6 And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood 7 times before Yahweh, before the vail of the sanctuary.
7 And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before Yahweh, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8 And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
9 And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,
10 As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.
11 And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,
12 Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.
The offerings not to be eaten but burnt, and whose blood was to be presented in the tabernacle, were those offered for sins of ignorance; while those to be eaten, were for sin in general. The bringing of the blood into the tabernacle and the burning of the bodies, would seem to express intenser repudiation than the eating of the flesh. And yet the intenser repudiation was for the class of sin that men are liable to consider the most venial -- sins of ignorance.
What is the explanation of this? Is it so that unconscious sin is more hateful to God than that which is known and confessed? It would not be difficult to think so. When a man knows his faults, disowns them and struggles against them, his friends bear with him more easily than if he offends regularly in a line of things of which he is not aware.
In his ignorance, he supposes himself perfectly acceptable, while all the time it may be he is making it the hardest work in the world to endure him. We are probably not far wrong in supposing that this is how it is with our imperfect selves towards God, and that there is a special meaning in the declaration that He "hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities",
How often may we grieve Him by our want of perfect loyalty: by our forgetfulness of Him: by our failure in meekness and gentleness and mercy; by the weakness of our love, the poverty of our worship, the feebleness of our service--while all the time, perhaps, we think the Laodicean thought that we, are spiritually" rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing", and highly acceptable in His sight.
...This may enable us to understand why, in the Mosaic type, sins of ignorance should be the subject of a more energetic purgation than those in which the humbled confessor voluntarily recognized his offence.
The practical application has much in it, both of fear and comfort. Sins of ignorance were not forgiven till known and repudiated in sacrifice. Here arises the necessity for what Paul recommends when he says, "Examine yourselves", and "prove your own selves"; and John, "purify yourselves"; and James, "cleanse your hearts". If we go on in ignorance of what is acceptable to God in our character, how can we expect to obtain the forgiveness that comes only on confession?
On the other hand, how comforting to know that when we have discovered and confessed our shortcomings, and come to God with Christ, the crucified, in our hands and hearts, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity", even sins of ignorance also -- so trying to divine holiness. There is ground for even a higher degree of comfort than this.
If the Lord prayed for his murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", what may not those hope for from the divine clemency who love and fear him when they read the beautiful words of Psa. 103?
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust .... As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our iniquities from us."
We are taken one step higher in the words of Rom. 8:26:
"The Spirit itself helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (that is, by Christ, verse 34).
Here is a mixture of human helplessness and distress, and divine provision and recognition, that appeals to every enlightened man's experience of what he needs in the imperfect state through which he is passing in this age of faith and weakness. It is all in harmony with the compassionate foreshadowing, yet holy requirements, of the Mosaic service. ***
Law if the congregation sins in ignorance
13 And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of Yahweh concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;
14 When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.
15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before Yahweh: and the bullock shall be killed before Yahweh.
16 And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:
17 And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before Yahweh, even before the vail.
18 And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before Yahweh, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
19 And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.
20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
21 And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.
'...while a male goat was specified for a ruler, a male sheep was not permitted in his case as an alternative, though for a commoner a female of either goat or sheep was allowed [v27,28].
We now ask: Was the omission of the male sheep (i.e. ram) from his schedule an accident or oversight?
A glance at the law of the Trespass Offering - a variant form of Sin Offering - assures us that this could not have been so. Under that law the ram had a special role to fill. Its exclusion from the schedule of the Sin Offering proper was therefore intentional, and part of a coherent plan...
...while a goat could be offered by both a ruler and a commoner alike, yet for the ruler the goat had to be a male, and for the commoner a female.
We now ask: Was this distinction deliberate, or capricious?
It was clearly deliberate. The concession made to the commoner (that he could offer a sheep instead of a goat) still stipulated that he was to offer a female, thus laying stress on the fact that for a commoner a female, and a female only, was permissible (cf. Lev. 5: 6).
We now ask: Why was this distinction so carefully made?
A simple answer suggests itself The Law was thereby intimating that, in keeping with his inferior rank, a commoner had to offer an inferior sacrifice.
This begs a third question: Did the Law in fact consider a female inferior to a male?
On that matter there can be no doubt. With that consistency which is the hall-mark of a rational system, the Law elsewhere treated the female as decidedly inferior. The law of the firstborn took no cognizance of females at all (Exod. 13: 12-13, etc.); in the law of redemption the female was rated as inferior in cash-value (Lev. 27); in the law of vows she was treated as inferior in status (Num. 30).
The conclusion is inescapable. The persons specified as offerers under the law of the Sin Offering were arranged in descending order of theocratic rank, and correspondingly the offerings prescribed for them were arranged in descending order of value. So rational indeed was the basis of this particular schedule that the fixed rule can be abstracted from it that in standard cases the rank of the offerer determined the value of the Sin Offering prescribed for him.
Law and Grace Ch 2.
A superficial view would say there is nothing to forgive in such a case. But the fact is the offence exists though the man did not intend it, and is therefore righteously the subject of disapprobation.
Even a man dealing with men, feels and recognizes this in matters of trespass. A neighbour may infringe your rights unintentionally. If on knowing it, he makes reparation, all is well: justice is not felt on either side to be violated in the requirement of the reparation. But if reparation is refused, then a sin of ignorance becomes one of contumacy, and the subject of penalty.
It will be found on reflection to be a fitting and a beautiful thing that God should hold sin to be sin, even though done in ignorance: for otherwise His law would be at the mercy of human whim, and human ignorance would become the standard of action. Yet were He to deal with ignorant sin as He deals with knowing sin, the moral discernments with which He has endowed us would be violated. That He should hold the sin to be sin, yet that He should hold the sinner responsible only when his sin comes to his knowledge, and then offer forgiveness by atonement, is all in harmony with the perfect justice and wisdom and goodness that belong to the divine character.
It is an illustration of the doctrine proclaimed and illustrated on many another page of the Bible outside the Law of Moses: that "times of ignorance, God winks at" (Acts 17:30); that where there is blindness, there is no accountability (John 9:41); that only where there is knowledge does the ground of condemnation exist (Jas. 4:17; John 3:19; Luke 12:47); that where there is great privilege, there is great responsibility (John 15:22-25); that, in a word, to whom much is given, of them is much required (Luke 12:48). ***
***Law of Moses Ch 25
24 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before Yahweh: it is a sin offering.
25 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.
26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of Yahweh concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
28 Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.
29 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.
30 And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.
31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto Yahweh; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.
32 And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.
33 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.
34 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:
35 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto Yahweh: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.