Book of Leviticus Chapter Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Sin Offering
This is a continuation of Chapter 4's look at unintentional sin—actions and thoughts typically ignored by people until God points them out to us. Verse 1: "Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt." Many keep quiet when they witness a sin, a crime. The reason for silence is often not concern for the person who did wrong, though in some cases it might be. Not telling may be to avoid being called a "rat," keeping out of trouble with the perpetrator, their relatives, the police or a gang. God is well aware of our thoughts, actions and motives and He wants us to trust the Lord, who said, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). When you testify in Court or otherwise speak about events, don't bend the truth. It's much less stressful to do what Jesus said in Matthew 5:37—"Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,'(be)'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." Keep it simple and tell the truth.
There are lots of people in the world who legally work with and touch dead people or animals—funeral directors, taxidermists, medical examiners, veterinarians, fishermen and many more. Here in Verse 2, the people of Israel were taught, "if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty." If my pet dies, I will pick it up and tenderly carry it to a place of burial, feeling sad, but not guilty before God. For me, I did the right thing in touching it, whereas this verse is addressed to the people of Israel at the time of Leviticus. This was God's LAW for THEM, and when God reveals His will for YOUR life, act on it, even if others are not called to act in the same way you are. And notice John 19:38-40, where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were under Jewish Law, touched and buried the dead body of Jesus. They did a good thing and were not condemned for it.
Again, the emphasis in these chapters is inadvertent sin. I did it, I was not fully aware of it, it was revealed to me, and I am guilty. That's what Verse 3 says: "Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort his uncleanness may be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty." All were aware of "leprosy" at that time, and it was considered to be a chief example of "human uncleanness." The actions of Jesus in places like Matthew 8:3 & context become even more surprising, as we read that Jesus calmly and publicly "touched" a leper, initiating a healing that caused the man to wonderfully be "cleansed." We are all unclean and can rejoice that God is reaching out to touch and heal you and me right now.
These verses contain examples of the careless words and deeds that characterize humanity and lead to trouble, as continued in Verse 4: "Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty in one of these." David the King had an interesting understanding of the human "heart," and he called out in Psalm 19:12—"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults," or in other translations, "secret sins." He knew what it was like to cover sin and when he seemed to get away with it, to think, "I'm not such a bad person after all"—until he was confronted. That's what happened when he covered up and justified his actions in relation to Uriah and Bathsheba, until Nathan the prophet confronted him in 2 Samuel 12:1-12. David, to his credit, did not have Nathan killed, which, as king, he could have done, but instead, in 2 Samuel 12:13, he said what we should: "I have sinned against the Lord." That's what Leviticus 5:5 teaches—"So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned."
Confession is right, but it can be difficult, embarrassing and it likely will bring problems, as it did for David, in the continuation of 2 Samuel 12. Verses 6-7 of this chapter continue: "He shall also bring his guilt offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin. 7 But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord his guilt offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering." Note here the provision made for the poor, who likely did not have an ox, lamb or goat, but could bring "two young pigeons."
We live in a wonderful time in history, in which the reality of the sacrificial death of Christ has been revealed to the world. In Verse 8, "He shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer first that which is for the sin offering and shall nip its head at the front of its neck, but he shall not sever it." We can know through Scripture that God's Son IS the offering given for our sins, and we also know He IS the High Priest we go to for mercy and forgiveness. In Verse 9, "He shall also sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar: it is a sin offering." Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, "So shall He sprinkle many nations...and what they had not heard they shall consider" (Isaiah 52:15). Our Lord is the Priest, King and Atoning Sacrifice for all those willing to have faith in Him.
One of the gentle doves shed its blood in Verse 9 and the second was destroyed in Verse 10, picturing the death of the Messiah, who shed His blood and died so we can be forgiven: "The second he shall then prepare as a burnt offering according to the ordinance. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it will be forgiven him." And now for the financially destitute we have Verse 11—"But if his means are insufficient for two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then for his offering for that which he has sinned, he shall bring the tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall not put oil on it or place incense on it, for it is a sin offering." And we can recall Jesus' words in John 6:35—"I am the bread of life." When we get to Verse 15, see that remnants of the grain offering belong to the priest, noting that God provides for those who surrender their lives to Him.
God is our Judge, the Author of the Law that condemns, but also our Savior who gave His life for us. Verses 12-13: "He shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as its memorial portion and offer it up in smoke on the altar, with the offerings of the Lord by fire: it is a sin offering. 13 So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin which he has committed from one of these, and it will be forgiven him; then the rest shall become the priest’s, like the grain offering." It's reasonable to come to God with fear because He is the all-powerful One who can destroy us eternally. An old saying is: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, we become part of His team, and even more, we are adopted into the family of God. We are His—We are safe—We are forgiven.
We are sinners in the sight of God and are all guilty, including the ones who sin deliberately, but this section of Scripture is especially important because it tells us that we often sin without comprehending what we have done. Blessedly we have a Remedy when we finally repent and trust in the Lord. Verses 14-15: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 15 'If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the Lord’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering.'" Sin is expensive, more than we think, and since money is important to almost everybody, it's not surprising that a monetary value is placed on sin to help us understand. Verse 16 is significant because we should not be surprised when life takes back from us more than we wrongly took: "He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the holy thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him." Restitution plus interest makes perfect sense. Always remember when you suffer loss, that Jesus Christ paid the price with interest for you and me.
Verses 17-19: "Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. 18 He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. 19 It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the Lord." Scripture is clear, as previously observed, that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," and Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law... I did not come to destroy but to fulfill..." (Matthew 5:17-20). He fulfilled the Law. He is our High Priest, Savior, King, Lord, Friend, and much more than we can imagine. When you've done wrong, own up to it, tell the Lord, trust in Him, and with His help, change your ways. In His grace, He receives Your act of faith—you are forgiven.
Lord, I have sinned. I have taken what was not mine and said words I should not have spoken. Worst of all, my sin is against God. I am sorry, Lord. Jesus Christ is full payment for my sin and I thank You that I am forgiven, but I also accept the consequences that may result from what I did. I am Yours, Lord. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.