Verses of Leviticus 5


Leviticus 5:17 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)


Lev 5:17-19. If a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass-offering unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred, and wist it not; and it shall be forgiven him. If is a trespass-offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord.

THE ceremonial law was intended to lead men to Christ, and was calculated to do so in a variety of ways. It exhibited Christ in all his work and offices, and directed every sinner to look to him. Moreover, the multitude of its rites and ceremonies had a tendency to break the spirits of the Lord’s people, and to make them anxiously look for that period, when they should be liberated from a yoke which they were not able to bear, and render unto God a more liberal and spiritual service. It is in this latter view more especially that we are led to consider the trespass-offering, which was to be presented to God for the smallest error in the observation of any one ordinance, however ignorantly or unintentionally it might be committed. In order to elucidate the nature and intent of the trespass-offering, we shall,


Shew the evil of sins of ignorance, and the remedy prescribed for them—

It is often said that the intention constitutes the criminality of an action. But this principle is not true to the extent that is generally supposed.
It is certain that ignorance extenuates the guilt of an action—

[Our Lord himself virtually acknowledged this, when he declared that the opportunities of information which he had afforded the Jews, greatly enhanced the guilt of those who rejected him [Note: Joh 9:41; Joh 15:22.]. And he even, urged the ignorance of his murderers as a plea with his heavenly Father to forgive them; “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do [Note: Luk 23:34.].” St. Peter also palliated their crime upon the very same principles; “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers [Note: Act 3:17.].” And St. Paul speaks of himself as obtaining mercy because what he had done was done ignorantly and in unbelief [Note: 1Ti 1:13.]: whereas if he had done it, knowing whom he persecuted, he would most probably never have obtained mercy.]

But it is equally certain that ignorance cannot excuse us in the sight of God—

[A man is not held blameless when he violates the laws of the land because he did it unwittingly: he is obnoxious to a penalty, though from the consideration of his ignorance that penalty may be mitigated. Nor does any man consider ignorance as a sufficient plea for his servant’s faults, if that servant had the means of knowing his master’s will: he rather blames that servant for negligence and disrespect in not shewing greater solicitude to ascertain and perform his duty.
With respect to God, the passage before us shews in the strongest light, that even the slightest error, and that too in the observance of a mere arbitrary institution, however unintentionally committed, could not be deemed innocent: on the contrary, it is said, “He shall bring his offering; he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord.” Much more therefore must every violation of the moral law be attended with guilt, because there is an inherent malignity in every transgression of the moral law; and because man’s ignorance of his duty, as well as his aversion to duty, is a fruit and consequence of the first transgression. Hence is there an eternal curse denounced against every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them [Note: Gal 3:10.].

It is yet further evident that ignorance is no excuse before God, because St. Paul calls himself a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor, yea, the very chief of sinners, for persecuting the Church, notwithstanding he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus [Note: Act 26:9 with 1Ti 1:15.]. And God declares that men perish for lack of knowledge [Note: Hos 4:6.], and that, because they are of no understanding, he will therefore shew them no favour [Note: Isa 27:11.].]

The only remedy for sins, how light soever they may appear to us, is the atonement of Christ—
[The high-priest was appointed particularly to offer for the errors of the people [Note: Heb 9:7 with Eze 45:19-20.]. And as soon as ever an error, or unintentional transgression, was discovered, the person guilty of it was to bring his offering [Note: The offering was to be of proper value according to the priest’s “estimation.” Lev 27:2-8.], and to seek for mercy through the blood of atonement. There was indeed a distinction in the offerings which different persons were to bring; which distinction was intended to shew that the degrees of criminality attaching to the errors of different people, varied in proportion as the offenders enjoyed the means of information.

If a priest erred, he must bring a bullock for an offering [Note: Lev 4:3.] ; if a ruler erred, he must offer a male kid [Note: Lev 4:22-23.] ; if one of the

common people erred, he must bring a female kid, or a female lamb [Note: Lev 4:27-28; Lev 4:32.], or, if he could not afford that, he might bring two young pigeons. And, to mark yet further the superior criminality of the priest, his offering was to be wholly burnt, and its blood was to be sprinkled seven times before the veil of the sanctuary, and to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense; whereas the offerings of the others were to be only in part consumed by fire; and their blood was not to be sprinkled at all before the veil, and to be put only on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering [Note: Lev 4:6-7; Lev 4:12 comp. with Lev 4:25-26; Lev 4:30-31.]. Further still, if a person were so poor as not to be able to afford two young pigeons, he might be supposed to have still less opportunities of information, and was therefore permitted to bring only an ephah of fine flour; part of which, however, was to be burnt upon the altar, to shew the offerer what a destruction he himself had merited [Note: 2.]. And this is the excepted case to which the Apostle alludes, when he says, with his wonted accuracy, that “almost all things are by the law purged with blood [Note: Heb 9:22.].”

But, under the Gospel, there is no distinction whatever to be made. We must now say, without any single exception, that “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” We need Christ as much to bear the iniquity of our holy things, as to purge our foulest transgressions [Note: Exo 28:38.]: there is no other fountain opened for sin [Note: Zec 13:1.], no other way to the Father [Note: Joh 14:6.], no other door of hope [Note: Joh 10:9.], no other name whereby we can be saved [Note: Act 4:12.]. Christ is “the Ram [Note: See the text.],” “caught in the thicket [Note: Alluding to Gen 22:13.],” if we may so speak, who must be our substitute and surety, whether our guilt be extenuated by ignorance, or aggravated by presumption.]

This point being clear, we proceed to,


Suggest such reflections as naturally arise from the subject—

A more instructive subject than this cannot easily be proposed to us. It leads us naturally to observe,


What a tremendous load of guilt is there on the soul of every man!

[Let but the sins, which we can remember, be reckoned up, and they will be more than the hairs of our head. Let these be added, which we observed at the time, but have now forgotten, and oh, how awfully will their numbers be increased! But let all the trespasses, which we have committed through

ignorance, be put to the account; all the smallest deviations and defects which the penetrating eye of God has seen, (all of which he has noted in the book of his remembrance,) and surely we shall feel the force of that question that was put to Job, “Is not thy wickedness great? are not thine iniquities infinite [Note: Job 22:5.] ?” If we bring every thing to the touchstone of God’s law, we shall see, that “there is not a just man upon earth who liveth and sinneth not [Note: Ecc 7:20.] ;” and that “in many things we all offend [Note: Jam 3:2; Pro 24:16.] ;” so that there is but too much reason for every one of us to exclaim with the Psalmist, “Who can understand his errors? O cleanse thou me from my secret faults [Note: Psa 19:12.] !” Let none of us then extenuate our guilt, or think it sufficient to say, “It was an error [Note: Ecc 5:6.]:” but let us rather humble ourselves as altogether filthy and abominable [Note: Psa 14:3.], as a mass of corruption [Note: Rom 7:18; Isa 1:5-6.], a living body of sin [Note: Rom 7:14; Rom 7:24.].]


How awful must be the state of those who live in presumptuous sins!

[The evil of sins committed ignorantly, and without design, is so great, that it cannot be expiated but by the blood of atonement: what then shall we say of presumptuous sins? how heinous must they be! Let us attend to the voice of God, who has himself compared the guilt contracted by unintentional, and by presumptuous sin; and who declares that, though provision was made under the law for the forgiveness of the former, there was no remedy whatever for the latter: the offender was to be put to death, and to be consigned over to endless perdition [Note: Num 15:27-31.]. Let none then think it a light matter to violate the dictates of conscience, and the commands of God; for, in so doing, they pour contempt upon God’s law, yea, and upon God himself also [Note: Num 15:27-31.]: and the time is quickly coming, when God shall repay them to their face [Note: Deu 7:10; Ecc 11:9.] ; and shall beat them, not like the ignorant offender, with few stripes, but, as the wilful delinquent, with many stripes [Note: Luk 12:48.]. Let this consideration make us cry to God in those words of the Psalmist, “Keep thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled and innocent from the great offence [Note: Psa 19:13.].”]


How desperate is the condition of those who make light of Christ’s atonement!

[Under the law, there was no remission even of the smallest error, but through the blood of atonement. Nor can any sin whatever be pardoned, under the gospel dispensation, but through the sacrifice of Christ Yet, when we speak of Christ as the only remedy for sin, and urge the necessity of believing in him for justification, many are ready to object, ‘Why does he insist so much on justification by faith?’ But the answer is plain: ‘You are sinners before God; and your one great concern should be to know how your sins may be forgiven: now God has provided a way, and only one way, of forgiveness; and that is, through the atonement of Christ: therefore we set forth Christ as the one remedy for sin; and exhort you continually to believe in him.’ Consider then, I pray you, what the true scope of such objections is: it is to rob Christ of his glory, and your own souls of salvation. Remember this, and be thankful, that the atonement is so much insisted on, so continually set before you. Pour not contempt upon it: for, if “they who despised Moses’ law died without mercy,” “of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing [Note: Heb 10:28-29.] ?” Yes, to such wilful transgressors, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation to consume them [Note: Heb 10:26-27.].”]


How wonderful must be the efficacy of the blood of Christ!

[Let only one man’s sins be set forth, and they will be found numberless as the sands upon the sea-shore: yet the blood of Christ can cleanse, not him only, but a whole world of sinners, yea, all who have ever existed these six thousand years, or shall ever exist to the very end of time: moreover, his one offering can cleanse them, not merely from sins of ignorance, but even from presumptuous sins, for which no remedy whatever was appointed by the law of Moses [Note: Act 13:39.]. What a view does this give us of the death of Christ! O that we could realize it in our minds, just as the offender under the law realized the substitution of the animal which he presented to the priest to be offered in his stead! Then should we have a just apprehension of his dignity, and a becoming sense of his love. Let us then carry to him our crimson sins [Note: Isa 1:18.], not doubting but that they shall all be purged away [Note: 1Jn 1:7.] ; and we may rest assured that, in a little time, we shall join the heavenly choir in singing, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever [Note: Rev 1:5-6.].”]

Verses of Leviticus 5


Consult other comments:

Leviticus 5:17 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Leviticus 5:17 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Leviticus 5:17 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Leviticus 5:17 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Leviticus 5:17 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Leviticus 5:17 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Leviticus 5:17 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 5:17 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Leviticus 5:17 - Geneva Bible Notes

Leviticus 5:17 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Leviticus 5:17 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 5:17 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Leviticus 5:17 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 5:17 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Leviticus 5:17 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Leviticus 5:17 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Leviticus 5:17 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)