New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Lev 5:1 ‘If anyone sins, in that he hears the a legal call to testify, he being a witness, whether he has seen or known, if he doesn’t speak, then he shall bear his iniquity-
Sins of omission, of turning a blind eye, are just as culpable as sins of commission. If we are witnesses, we will bear witness; we will naturally. We have to; and note how Lev. 5:1 taught that it was a sin not to bear witness / testify when one had been a witness. This may well be consciously alluded to in the language of witness which we have in Lk. 24:48. We each have the witness of the Lord's resurrection in ourselves (1 Jn. 5:10).

Lev 5:2 Or if anyone touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean animal, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and it is hidden from him, and he is unclean, then he shall be guilty-
Haggai comments that it was easier to be made unclean than to be made clean; touching holy things didn’t impart holiness to a person, whereas touching unclean things made people unclean (Hag. 2:11-14). It’s easy to be made unspiritual by association with unspiritual things, the things which are dead, which have no spiritual life in them, which are going nowhere- hence Paul alludes to this by saying “Touch not the unclean thing” in the context of appealing for believers to quit worldly associations (2 Cor. 6:17). However, on the other hand, this is no proof for the wrong idea of ‘guilt by association’. The Lord Jesus touched lepers in order to heal them.

Lev 5:3 Or if he touches the uncleanness of man, whatever his uncleanness is with which he is unclean, and it is hidden from him; when he knows of it, then he shall be guilty-
Sins of ignorance still needed to be atoned for. Sin is a felt offence against God, whether or not we were aware of it at the time. If we accidentally step on someone’s foot and they don’t tell us about it until tomorrow, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t hurt them at the time. The sins we committed before baptism, in ignorance, were still felt by God and need atonement- which is available freely through being “in Christ”. David asked to be forgiven for the sins he committed which he didn’t know about (Ps. 19:12 cp. Ps. 90:8). We should pray the same. But this means we are asking for forgiveness for sin which we haven’t specifically repented of. We should likewise forgive others for their sins which although we so clearly feel them, they themselves don’t realize they have committed them. We can, if we wish, insist that we shall only forgive those who repent to us of their sins. But the problem with that approach is that as we forgive others, the basis we choose upon which to relate to them, so we will be forgiven (Mt. 6:12). If we trust we are forgiven for sins we aren’t conscious of, even though they are very clear to God and felt by Him, then we ought to forgive others for their sins even when they don’t perceive (at this point in their spiritual journey) that they have sinned.

Lev 5:4 Or if anyone swears rashly with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatever it is that a man might utter rashly with an oath, and it is hidden from him; when he knows of it, then he shall be guilty of one of these-
LXX speaks in harsher terms of the man who swears rashly: "That unrighteous soul, which determines with his lips to do evil or to do good...". The idea would be that even a desire to do good was rendered unrighteous through the huge sin of swearing rashly. It would seem that Jephthah's rash vow falls in this category. He need not have performed it, had he been aware of the legislation here. Or perhaps he intentionally chose not to perform it. Maybe he rose up to a higher level than the following the letter of the law here; or maybe like Saul wishing to slay his son Jonathan, there was a death wish against his daughter. These questions are intentionally left open in the inspired text, as there is some designed benefit from our reflection upon them. 

Lev 5:5 It shall be, when he is guilty of one of these, he shall confess that in which he has sinned-
The normal Hebrew word translated "praise" is also translated "confess" in the context of confessing sin (Lev. 5:5; 16:21; 26:40; Num. 5:7). Contrition of heart because of appreciating our own failures is therefore one way of praising Yahweh's Name. So often does the word "praise" occur in the context of praising the Name of Yahweh, or the praising of "the God of Israel", i.e. Yahweh. Praise is related to the realization that sin has been forgiven. Hezekiah's praise on realizing God's mercy to him was expressed in a desire to walk in quiet fellowship with God for the rest of his life. There is no suggestion that praise was some kind of ecstatic exuberance of emotion

Lev 5:6 and he shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh for his sin which he has sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin-
"His sin... he has sinned... his sin" labours the fact that sins of ignorance are really sin. And must be dealt with. It emphasized the gravity of what had been done; that God was especially interested in how man responds once he becomes aware of his failures. And that is an abiding principle.  

Lev 5:7 If he can’t afford a lamb, then he shall bring his trespass offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, to Yahweh; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering-
AV "His trespass which he hath committed" labours the point that sin of ignorance really is still sin. The usual order of the description of the offerings is sin offering, then burnt offering [speaking of dedication promised after the receipt of forgiveness] and then the peace offering, celebrating peace with God through forgiveness and commitment to the dedicated life, spoken of in the burnt offering.

Lev 5:8 He shall bring them to the priest, who shall first offer the one which is for the sin offering, and wring off its head from its neck, but shall not sever it completely-
A.V. mg. stipulates that if the offering was a bird, "pinch off the head with the nail" - as if a nail used in the process, perhaps for nailing the parts to the wood (cp. the nailing of the Lord Jesus to the cross).

Lev 5:9 He shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering-
"The base of the altar" points ahead to the significance of the blood at the foot of the cross of the Lord Jesus. See on Lev. 4:30.

Lev 5:10 He shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the ordinance; and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin which he has sinned, and he shall be forgiven-
The sin offering always preceded the burnt offering, which represented dedication to God. Before we can acceptably dedicate ourselves to God in any enterprise or aspect of our lives, we must first be right with God, cleansed from our sins; for good works alone cannot compensate for the sin we have committed.

Lev 5:11 But if he can’t afford two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he shall bring his offering for that in which he has sinned, the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it, neither shall he put any frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering-
Even within the bird offerings there was a gradation. Turtledoves were larger than pigeons and more valuable, but they are only in Israel at certain times of the year (Song 2:12; Jer. 8:7); whereas pigeons are in Israel all year round, were easier to catch and were therefore cheaper. The various possible levels within God's law reflect our opportunities to serve on different levels, just as the good soil of the sower parable brings forth different amounts. Some will make more of God's truth than others. The very existence of these levels, rather than a simple binary demand of obedience / disobedience, pass / fail, of itself inspires us to serve God as extensively as we can. For who can be a minimalist in response to His love.

Lev 5:12 He shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as the memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, on the offerings of Yahweh made by fire. It is a sin offering-
The "memorial portion" of the offerings was to serve as a reminder to God, as it were, of the covenants which He "remembered". He of course doesn't forget His covenant but ever remembers it (Ps. 105:8 etc.), yet He is presented in human terms as having His memory rekindled, as it were, by human prayer, faith, situations and sacrifices so that He "remembers the covenant" (Gen. 8:1; 9:15; Ex. 2:24; 6:5; Lev. 26:42,45; Num. 10:9 and often). The regular sacrifices were such a "memorial" or 'reminder'- both to God and to His people. The place of prayer, regular sacrifice of giving, breaking of bread at the "memorial meeting" etc., are all equivalents for us under the new covenant.   

Lev 5:13 The priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin that he has sinned in any of these things, and he will be forgiven; and the rest shall be the priest’s, as the grain offering-
God thirsts for relationship with us, and doesn’t want human poverty to mean that we can’t get atonement. In Bible times, religion was the hobby of the wealthy; yet God wants relationship with all. Although it was a principle that shedding of blood was required for forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22), God was prepared to allow a non-blood sacrifice if this was all a person had to offer. Aware of this, Heb. 9:22 says that “almost all things” under the Law were cleansed by the shedding of blood- but not literally all, because the writer knew that there was this possibility of offering flour offerings instead of the required animal. The fact God is prepared to make concessions to human weakness shouldn’t lead us to any spirit of minimalism in how we consider sin or the standards of God’s holiness.

Lev 5:14 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
As explained on Lev. 1:1, Leviticus is largely teachings specifically addressed to the Levites, so the unwitting sin with "holy things" (:15) refers specifically to the Levites making unintentional errors. 

Lev 5:15 If anyone commits a trespass, and sins unwittingly, in the holy things of Yahweh; then he shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh, a ram without blemish from the flock, according to your estimation in silver by shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering-
No animal actually is without blemish. God recognizes that we will not attain perfection in this life, but we are to do our best towards it; and His love imputes righteousness to us, counting us as unblemished because of our status in Christ. For only Christ was the sacrifice totally without moral blemish (1 Pet. 1:19).

Lev 5:16 He shall make restitution for that which he has done wrong in the holy thing, and shall add a fifth part to it, and give it to the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and he will be forgiven-
"Done wrong" is "for the harm that he has done". I find this wonderful; a sin of ignorance, an unintentional mishandling of Divine things, causes "harm"- to the sensitive soul of God Himself. A French proverb says that to understand all (as God does) is to forgive all; but it also means to be hurt by all so much the more. Just as little children assume their parents are insensitive and mere rocks of strength and provision, so we can fail to appreciate our Heavenly Father's sensitivity. Love, promises, covenant relationship, feeling for others, revealing yourself to the object of your love- this is all part of what it means for this sensitive God to enter covenant relationship with us. See on Lev. 19:12.

Lev 5:17 If anyone sins, and does any of the things which Yahweh has commanded not to be done; though he didn’t know it, yet he is guilty, and shall bear his iniquity-
The Lord Jesus
Christ knew from Isaiah 53 that He was to bear Israel's sins, that the judgments for their sins were to fall upon Him. Israel ‘bore their iniquities’ by being condemned for them (Num. 14:34,35; Lev. 5:17; 20:17); to be a sin bearer was therefore to be one condemned. To die in punishment for your sin was to bear you sin. There is a difference between sin, and sin being laid upon a person. Num. 12:11 brings this out: “Lay not the sin upon us… wherein we have sinned”. The idea of sin being laid upon a person therefore refers to condemnation for sin. Our sin being laid upon Jesus therefore means that He was treated as if He were a condemned sinner. He briefly endured within Him the torment of soul which the condemned will feel.

Lev 5:18 He shall bring a ram without blemish from of the flock, according to your estimation, for a trespass offering, to the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him-
This looked ahead to the unblemished character of the Lord Jesus. The offering of sacrifices "without blemish" uses a word which is used about Abraham and Noah being "without blemish" (AV "perfect") before God (Gen. 6:9; 17:1). Although the word is used about the sacrifices, it is really more appropriate to persons- "you shall be perfect with Yahweh your God" (Dt. 18:13), "serve Him in sincerity (s.w. "without blemish")" (Josh. 24:14). The idea, therefore, was that the offerer was invited to see the animal as representative of himself. Our lives too are to be as "living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1). And yet in practical terms, no animal is without blemish. They were to give the best they could, and God would count it as without blemish; as He does with us. David frequently uses the term in the Psalms about himself and the "upright", even though he was far from unblemished in moral terms.

Israel were not to grow some crops, or raise some animals, just for God, and others for themselves. They were not to make this difference. They were to give Him e.g. lambs "out of their flock"; not enforcing a difference between that which is for God and that which is for ourselves. In other words, they were not to make a difference between spiritual and personal life; it is us, our daily lives and situations, which God wishes to be part of.

Concerning the thing in which he sinned and didn’t know it, and he will be forgiven-
We note that the legislation about the cities of refuge likewise reflected God's special concern about unintentional sin. He recognizes that there are different kinds of sin. And in this we see His sensitivity, for the other legal codes at the time saw everything in black and white terms of obedience or disobedience to legal statutes. The word for "didn't know it" or "unintentionally" is s.w. 'deceived' (Job 12:16). It could be that God also recognizes that some are deceived into sin, and therefore treats those who lead into sin more severely than those who are led into sin. Likewise the New Testament condemns false teachers, but seems to be more acceptive of the falsely taught, the misguided. 

Lev 5:19 It is a trespass offering. He is certainly guilty before Yahweh’-
"Certainly guilty" continues the great emphasis upon the fact that atonement and forgiveness was still required even for sins of ignorance. The hurt to God had still been caused. Repentance was still needed. Otherwise there would be a disinterest in learning God's ways, a preference to remain in ignorance. Whereas once we grasp that sins of ignorance are still culpable sins, we will rather be motivated to learn all we can of God's ways. If we love God, we will want to please Him, we will want to know what He wishes from us, we will desire to learn His ways.