SIN OFFERINGS WERE FOR SINS DONE IGNORANTLY or in error, and did not cover sins done wilfully or knowingly. When an Israelite had unwittingly done "somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord," he was not held responsible until it "come to his knowledge." As soon as he was made aware that he had done wrong, he was to bring an offering "for his sin which he hath sinned." Lev. 4:27,28. But, as stated, sin offerings did not in any way avail for transgression done knowingly. Sins of this nature were called trespasses, and demanded a different kind of treatment.
Ordinarily, a trespass is a wilful sin, knowingly committed, a deliberate "stepping over." It might at times be unwittingly committed, but in such cases it was held that the man not only might have known better, but that he should have known better, and that he therefore was responsible for his ignorance. The Hebrew word for trespass offering, asham, might well be translated guilt or debt offering. It denotes a greater degree of guilt than the sin offering, though the sin itself may be no greater.
There are some sins which partake of the nature of a trespass. They are partly sin and partly trespass. A person may to some degree be ignorant of the wrong he has done, and yet not be entirely ignorant of it. It is doubtless for this reason that some transgressions mentioned in the first part of the fifth chapter of Leviticus are spoken of as both sins and trespasses. To these belong the withholding of information (verse 1), the touching of any unclean thing (verse 2), the touching of the uncleanness of man (verse 3), and swearing rashly (verse 4). In these cases the sinner was commanded to bring a "trespass offering unto the Lord for his sin which he had sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats for a sin offering." Verse 6. It will be noted that the offering is called both a trespass and a sin offering. In verse 7 it is called a trespass offering. In verse 9 it is called a sin offering. Some Bible commentators treat these offerings as sin offerings; others count them as trespass offerings. In view of the fact that they are called both sin and trespass offerings, we may consider them as a kind of intermediate offering between the two, and call them sin-trespass offerings.
A person who sinned in any of the above-mentioned things was to bring a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats for a sin offering. Verse 6. If he was unable to bring a lamb, he might bring a turtledove or a young pigeon. The blood was sprinkled upon the altar of burnt offering and the rest of the blood poured out at the foot of the altar, the same ritual as in the Bin offerings mentioned in the preceding chapter. Verses 7-9.
If the sinner was unable to bring a turtledove or a young pigeon, he might bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He was not, however, permitted to put oil or frankincense thereon. The reason for this is given: "It is a sin offering." The priest, in offering this, took a handful of flour and burnt it for a memorial upon the altar. The remnant belonged to the priest the same as in the meat offering. Verses 11-13.
We are here face to face with a rather remarkable development. Ordinarily a sin offering should be a blood offering, that is, the life of some animal must be taken and the blood sprinkled. Here, however, the offering of a tenth part of an ephah of flour is accepted. It is definitely stated that the priest should take a handful of this flour and burn it on the altar, "and the priest shall make atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him." Verse 13. Lest any should think that this is an ordinary meat offering, it is twice stated, "it is a sin offering." Verses 11,12. It seems clear, therefore, that in this case at least, a sin offering was accepted that did not contain blood, yet made atonement for sin.
This calls attention to the statement found in the twenty-second verse of the ninth chapter of Hebrews, "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." While it is true in general that in the typical service there could be no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, we are not to forget the exemption here noted. The American Revised Version says, "According to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." The adverb "almost" probably qualifies both the clauses, so that according to the American Revised Version the statement might be read: "I may almost say all things are cleansed with blood," and "I may almost say apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." That is, the rule that there is no remission without shedding of blood, holds good, though in the types there is the exception here mentioned.
A similar situation confronts us with reference to the red heifer discussed in the preceding chapter. There was no immediate application of blood in the cleansing process there mentioned, but only of water and ashes. Yet it was a purification for sin, a sin offering. Num. 19:9.
It is not our contention that sins are ever forgiven without the sacrifice on Calvary. The death of Christ is necessary for our salvation. It is, however, significant that in the above-mentioned types atonement and forgiveness of sin were sometimes accomplished without immediate and direct use of blood.
In searching for an application of this in the Christian economy, may we not believe that it signifies and applies to such persons as have no direct or definite knowledge of the Saviour and yet are living up to all the light they have, doing God's will as far as they understand it? May it not signify such heathen as have never heard of the name of Jesus and yet to a greater or lesser extent partake of His spirit? We believe that there are those who have never heard the blessed name of the Master, who know nothing of Calvary or of the redemption wrought for them on the cross, who have exhibited the Christ spirit and will be saved in the kingdom of heaven. To such, we believe, it applies.
The first case mentioned in the fifth chapter of Leviticus, verse one, is that of withholding information when under oath. "If a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity." The "voice of swearing" is called the "voice of adjurations" in the American Revised Version, and has reference to the oath administered in a Jewish court. When Christ was on trial, "The high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure Thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Matt. 26:63. Under these circumstances Christ could not keep silence, but answered: "Thou hast said." He felt compelled to answer when the adjuration was invoked, though He previously had "held His peace." Verses 63,64.
It is such a case as is here under consideration. The man is under oath or adjuration; he "is a witness," and has been asked "whether he hath seen or known" of the transgression. He refuses to answer; he does "not utter it." In that case "he shall bear his iniquity." Verses two and three refer to touching anything unclean, of "whatsoever uncleanness it be." The man may have done it unwittingly; it may have been "hidden from him," but "when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty."
The fourth case is that of a man who swears "rashly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall utter rashly with an oath." A.R.V. When he knows of it, he also "shall be guilty." Verse 4.
In each of these cases, the appropriate offering was to be brought by the sinner for his transgression, "and it shall be forgiven him." It is sometimes urged that God in olden times did not require confession and restitution in order to grant forgiveness, but only asked the sinner to bring the required sacrifice. The ritual of the trespass offering should correct that impression. Confession was definitely required. "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 which they have done." Num. 5:6;7.
A general confession, however, was not sufficient. "It shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing." Lev. 5:5. This statement is definite and decisive. He is not only to confess, but he is to confess that he has sinned in "that thing." It is "that thing" that counts. Only as he thus confesses can he receive the atonement.
In cases where fraud was involved, confession was not enough, even though the confession was specific. There must also be restitution. This restitution consisted of one fifth of the sum involved besides the principal. "He shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed." Num. 5:7. In case it was not possible to restore the sum to the man against whom the trespass had been made, either because of death or otherwise, and there were no near relatives, the recompense was to be made to the priest. Verse 8. This restitution was in addition to the ram of the trespass offering.
From this consideration it is clear that God demanded more of His people than the bringing of an offering. He demanded confession and restitution. If it still be urged that nothing is said of repentance, the obvious answer is that God here deals with the outward acts of worship only. Had repentance been demanded as a requisite for forgiveness, it would have been possible for a priest to deny a sinner atonement even though the man had otherwise complied with God's ordinance. It would have left with the priest the decision regarding whether the man had really repented or not. This is too dangerous a power to give any man. So God wisely reserved that to Himself. If any doubt remains as to what God demands by way of repentance, and how the people understood God's demand, read the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, especially 1Kings 8:46-53. Or listen to David's supplication: "Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Ps. 51:16,17. Israel had abundant occasion to know that what God wanted was not sacrifice, but a broken and contrite heart. Had they wanted to, they could have made their worship both beautiful and spiritual, as doubtless some did.
There were other occasions that demanded both a trespass and a sin offering, and hence belong to the category now considered. One of these was the cleansing of lepers. After being examined by the priest and proclaimed clean, the leper was restored to society and citizenship by a special cleansing ceremony described in Leviticus 14:1-8. Another ceremony was necessary, however, to restore him to church fellowship and permit him to take part in the sanctuary service. This is recorded in verses 9-32. The leper was to provide a trespass offering as well as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt and meal offering. The trespass offering, the lamb, was killed, and the blood sprinkled, not on the altar, but put upon "the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot: and the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand." Verses 14,15. After that the priest was to take oil and "sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord." Verse 16. He was then to anoint the leper, doing with the oil as he had with the blood. The priest was to put it "upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering: and the remnant of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord." Verses 17,18. After this the priest was to offer the sin and the burnt offering. If the leper was poor, he might substitute for the two lambs, two turtledoves or young pigeons, "such as he is able to get." Verses 21,22. This statement occurs several times in the narrative. God asked only that which the man was able to provide.
It is significant that leprosy demanded a trespass as well as a sin offering. Are we to draw the conclusion from this that leprosy is the result of known transgression? We do not think so. It is better to believe that the ritual in the case of leprosy is merely illustrative of the fact, that there are sicknesses which result from wilful transgressions and which cannot be charged to mere ignorance. Such is undoubtedly the case, though it would be hazardous for man to pronounce finally in any specific case.
Another occasion that called for a trespass offering was the defiling of a Nazarite during the period of his separation. If this occurred, he was to "bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled." Num. 6:12. Note the statement that even though atonement was made for him, yet "the days that were before shall be lost." Forgiveness may be had, yet in many cases there is a definite loss. This agrees with the New Testament statement: "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." 1Cor. 3:15. The man is saved, but he suffers loss.
The ritual of the trespass or guilt offerings is the same as for the sin offerings. The animals were killed in the same place and the fat burned on the altar of burnt offering in the same way. Lev. 7:1-5. The priests were commanded to eat the sin offerings as provided in Leviticus 6:24-30, and the same held good for the trespass offerings. "Every, male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in a holy place: it is most holy. As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it." Lev. 7:6,7.
One distinction between the sin and the trespass offering is that of the sprinkling of the blood. In the sin offering, the blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering. Lev. 4:25,30,34. This is not mentioned concerning the trespass offering. According to Leviticus 7:2, the blood of the trespass offering was sprinkled round about upon the altar, the same as the blood of the burnt and peace offerings. It is thought by some that the statement: "As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them" (Lev. 7:7), has reference to the sprinkling of the blood. In that case, the blood of the sin offering as well as that of the trespass offering would he sprinkled round about upon the altar and also put on the horns of the altar. However, it appears that the "one law" has special reference to the eating of the flesh. In the absence of any clear statement concerning this, we conclude that the blood of the sin offering was put upon the horns of the altar, that of the trespass offering sprinkled round about upon the altar, and that in both cases the remainder was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering.