Friday, January 19, 2007

Leviticus 5

Leviticus 5: Examples of unintentional sins


In Chapter 4, we read the rules for sacrifices that were required for unintentional sins. In this chapter, we see some examples of that. I say “examples” because I don’t think this is meant to be an exhaustive list.

However, the first example given is actually an intentional sin:
  • If a person hears a public charge to testify about something he has seen or heard, and does not speak up, “he will be held responsible” (verse 1).
The Israelites were to hold truth in high regard, and this was especially important when it came to trials. God was very concerned that innocent people not be found guilty, and that guilty people not be let off for their crimes, in the justice system.

The next few examples, however, are for unintentional sins. Doing any of the following is an unintentional sin:
  • Touching anything ceremonially unclean, such as the carcass of a wild, or other unclean, animal
  • Touching “human uncleanness”—this will be outlined in later rules
  • Thoughtlessly taking an oath to do something, “whether good or evil—in any matter one might carelessly swear about” (verse 4)
  • If an Israelite does any of these things, even though he didn’t realize it at the time, he is guilty of sin, and is to bring a female lamb or goat as a sin offering.
I’m especially interested in the mention of “thoughtlessly taking an oath”. Someone says “I swear I’ll bring you back that book next week!” and then doesn’t do it; he then is guilty of sin, and has to offer a sacrifice for it.

But what if you commit a sin and don’t have, or can’t afford, a lamb or goat?
  • If you they couldn’t afford a lamb or goat, they were to bring two doves or two young pigeons instead—one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
    • For the sin offering, the priest would wring the bird’s neck—not severing it completely—and sprinkle some of the blood on the sides of the altar. The rest would be drained at the base.
    • The other bird would then be burned as a burnt offering, “and make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven” (verse 10).
  • If they couldn’t afford two doves or two pigeons, they were to bring 2 litres of fine flour.
    • In this case, the person offering the flour was not to put oil or incense on it, because it was a sin offering.
    • The priest was to take a handful of it and burn it on the altar, and “[i]n this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering” (verse 13).
What I find interesting here is that the grain for a sin offering is not to have oil or incense mixed with it. I have a theory about why that might be, but it is, if you will forgive the pun, half-baked. In the sacrifices where oil and incense were to be mixed with the grain, the Bible talks about a fragrance, pleasing to the LORD. However, for a sin offering, there is nothing to be pleased about; this is a sad occasion, where someone has fallen short of the Glory of the LORD, and is being reminded of the fact. So I’m wondering if they were to leave oil and incense out of their sin sacrifices simply to remind them that this was a serious sacrifice?
  • If a person commits an unintentional sin in relation to the LORD’s holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from his flock.
    • In this case, however, he is looking for a ram of a specific value. For whatever offense he committed, he is to make restitution, and add a fifth to it. So, if he, for example, breaks a dish from the Tent of Meeting, worth $5, then he is to find a ram worth $6.
I used an example of breaking something, but that’s not the only type of offense this rule is concerned with. It says in verse 16 that “[h]e must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven” (emphasis added). I’m just not sure, however, how they would assign values to some of the duties that might have been neglected.

The final verses in the chapter seem, to me, to be a summary:
If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD. (verses 17–19)


I don’t really have any general thoughts on this chapter; I’ve already mentioned the parts that I find interesting.

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