Thursday, January 18, 2007

Leviticus 4

Leviticus 4: Rules for Sin Offerings

Synopsis

This chapter outlines rules for offerings that are to be brought to the LORD when someone sins unintentionally. If someone, I don’t know, doesn’t know that stealing is wrong, and steals something, and then finds out that stealing is wrong, this is the offering that must be made, to atone for the sin.

You’ll notice, in the chapter, that there are different rules for what must be sacrificed for an unintentional sin, depending on who committed it: the “anointed priest”, the entire community, a leader, or a community member. I’m going to take the rules in this chapter in reverse order, to really emphasize that aspect.

  • When a member of the community is made aware of an unintentional sin that he has committed, he is to bring a female goat or lamb, without defect, to the place of the burnt offering, lay his hand on its head, and slaughter it.
  • The priest is then to take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar, and pour the rest out at the base.
  • The priest will then remove the fat, using the same rules as for the fellowship offering, outlined in Chapter 3, and burn it on the altar.
Again, similar to the rules for a Fellowship Offering, these rules state what to do with some of the sacrificed animals, but not the rest. I’m still assuming that the rest belongs to the priest.

  • When a “leader” is made aware of an unintentional sin, he is to bring a male goat, without defect, to the place of the burnt offering, lay his hand on its head, and slaughter it.
  • The priest is then to take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar, and pour the rest out at the base.
  • The priest will then remove the fat, using the same rules as for the fellowship offering, outlined in Chapter 3, and burn it on the altar.
Notice that, in this case, the leader is to bring a male goat, whereas a member of the community was to bring a female goat or lamb. The reason? A male animal was worth more, to the Israelites. They could sell a male for more than a female, and a male was more useful for breeding than a female. A leader’s sin is more important than a member of the community’s sin, because a leader’s sin can lead others to sin. Therefore, a leader’s sin requires a bigger sacrifice than a member of the community’s sin.

  • When the entire Israelite community is made aware of an unintentional sin, they are to bring a young bull to the Tent of Meeting. The elders of the community are to lay their hands on its head, and it will then be slaughtered.
  • The “anointed priest” is then to bring some of the blood into the Tent of Meeting, and sprinkle it before the LORD seven times, in front of the curtain.
  • The priest is then to take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar, and pour the rest out at the base.
  • The priest will then remove the fat, using the same rules as for the fellowship offering, outlined in Chapter 3, and burn it on the altar.
  • Once this is done, he is to take rest of the bull outside the camp, to a place that is “ceremonially clean”—where the ashes are thrown—and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap.
When it says the “anointed priest”, I believe this is the High Priest, but I may be mistaken; it may be referring to any priest. Also, I’m not sure if the rules for making a place “ceremonially clean” are outlined anywhere; if so, we’ll get to them later.

Once again, the sacrifice is made bigger, because the sin is bigger. Now it is an entire bull which must be sacrificed. Notice also, though, that in this case, the remains of the bull, after the sacrifice is made, is to be disposed of, outside the camp.

  • When the “anointed priest” is made aware of an unintentional sin, he are to bring a young bull to the Tent of Meeting. He is to lay his hand on its head, and slaughter it.
  • He is then to bring some of the blood into the Tent of Meeting, and sprinkle it before the LORD seven times, in front of the curtain.
  • He is then to take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar, and pour the rest out at the base.
  • He will then remove the fat, using the same rules as for the fellowship offering, outlined in Chapter 3, and burn it on the altar.
  • Once this is done, he is to take rest of the bull outside the camp, to a place that is “ceremonially clean”—where the ashes are thrown—and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap.
Notice that the sacrifice demanded when the “anointed priest” sins is the same as the sacrifice for the entire Israelite community! When the “anointed priest” sins, it’s just as serious as if the entire nation of Israel sins. This is partially because the priest represents the entire Israelite community before God. It’s also because he serves as a leader before the entire community; just as the sin of a community leader is more serious than the sin of a community member, the sin of the “anointed priest” is more serious than anyone else’s sin, because he is to be the spiritual leader of the people.

Thoughts

This is an important chapter, because it emphasizes that even though you’re unaware that you’ve committed a sin, you still committed it. The chapter makes it quite explicit:

If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. (verse 13)

When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the LORD his God, he is guilty. (verse 22)

If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty. (verse 27)


If you break one of the LORD’s commands, even if you didn’t realize you were committing a sin, you were, and it has to be atoned for.

In the Christian’s case, all sins are covered by the death of Christ, even the ones we don’t know about. It’s humbling, though, to realize that when I get to heaven, I’ll find out about a slew of sins I didn’t even realize I was committing, that Christ was punished for.
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