Verses of Leviticus 5
Leviticus 5:5 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
THE SIN AND TRESPASS-OFFERINGS COMPARED
Lev 5:5-6. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing. And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
IN the words before us, the terms “sin-offering.” and “trespass-offering” are used as signifying precisely the same thing: and in the 11th and 12th verses the trespass-offering is thrice mentioned as “a sin-offering.” But they are certainly two different kinds of offering; though learned men are by no means agreed respecting the precise marks of difference between them. Indeed, almost all who have undertaken to explain them, confess, that they are not satisfied with what others have written upon the subject. The difficulty seems to lie in this; that the sin-offering seems to have respect to a lighter species of sin, and yet to require the more solemn offering; whilst the trespass-offering relates to considerably heavier offences, and yet admits of an easier method of obtaining forgiveness: for in the trespass-offering, pigeons or turtle-doves might be offered, or, in case of extreme poverty, a measure (about five pints) of flour: but in the sin-offering no such abatement, no such commutation, was allowed. This leads many (contrary to the plain letter of the Scripture) to represent the sin-offering as relating to the lighter, and the trespass-offering to the heavier, transgressions. But we apprehend that sufficient stress has not been laid on some peculiarities respecting the trespass-offering, which give by far the most satisfactory solution to the difficulties that occur in it. As for those things which the sin-offering has in common with the burnt-offerings or peace-offerings, we forbear to touch upon them, they having been already noticed in our discourses on those subjects: nor shall we enter very fully into the trespass-offering, because that is reserved for a future occasion [Note: See Discourse on Lev 5:17-19.]. We shall contract our present discussion into as short limits as possible, by omitting all that would lead us over ground already trodden, and fixing our attention on those few points, which will mark the peculiar features of these offerings, together with their distinctive differences.
Compare them together—
They agree in many things, each requiring that the blood of an animal should be shed and sprinkled as an atonement for sin. But they also differ very materially,
In the occasions on which they were offered—
[The sin-offerings were evidently presented on account of something done amiss through ignorance or infirmity [Note: See the whole fourth chapter.]: but the trespass-offering was for sins committed through inadvertence or the power of temptation. Among these latter were sins of great enormity, such as violence, and fraud, and lying, and even perjury itself [Note:, 4 and chap. 6:2, 3.]. There must of course be very different degrees of criminality in these sins, according to the degree of information the person possessed, and the degree of conviction against which he acted. It might be that even in these things the person had sinned through ignorance only: but, whatever circumstances there might be to extenuate or to aggravate his crime, the trespass-offering was the appointed means whereby he was to obtain mercy and forgiveness.]
In the circumstances attending the offerings—
[In the sin-offering, there was particular respect to the rank and quality of the offender. If he were a priest, he must offer a bullock; which was also the appointed offering for the whole congregation: if he were a ruler or magistrate, he must offer a kid, a male; but if he were a common individual, a female kid or lamb would suffice. The blood of the victim, in the priest’s offering, was to be sprinkled before the veil, and to be put upon the horns of the altar of incense; whilst the blood of the ruler’s, or common person’s sacrifice, was not sprinkled at all, nor put on the horns of the golden altar, the altar of incense; but was put on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering only, (that is, the brasen altar,) and poured out at the bottom of that altar.
In the trespass-offering, no mention is made of a bullock for any one, but only of a female kid or lamb: even turtle-doves or young pigeons might be presented; or, in the event of a person not being able to afford them, he might offer about five pints of flour, which would be accepted in their stead [Note:, 7, 11.]. This is the excepted case which St. Paul refers to, when he says, “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood [Note: Heb 9:22.].” Now thus far it does appear, that the heavier sins were to be atoned for by the lighter sacrifices: and this is the source of all the difficulty that expositors find in the subject. But there were three things required in this offering, which had no place in the sin-offering, namely, confession of the crime, restitution of the property, and compensation for the injury. Suppose a person had “robbed God” by keeping back a part of his tithes, (whether intentionally or not,) as soon as it was discovered, he must present his offering, confess his fault, restore what he had unjustly taken, and add one-fifth more of its value [Note: Lev 6:5.], as a compensation for the injury he had done. The same process was to take place if by fraud or violence he had injured a man [Note: If the person injured could not be found, restitution was to be made to the priest, as God’s representative. Num 5:6-8.]. This gives a decided preponderance to the trespass-offering: and shews, that the means used for the expiation of different offences bore a just proportion to the quality of those offences.]
We shall now proceed to state,
What they were both designed to teach us—
The spiritual instruction to be derived from the sacrifices themselves, and the particular rites that accompanied them, we pass over, for the reasons before assigned. But there are some lessons of an appropriate nature which we may dwell upon to great advantage:—
Sin, however venial it may appear to us, is no light evil—
[There are many branches of moral duty which are regarded as of but little importance. Truth, though approved and applauded as a virtue, is almost universally violated in the way of trade, and that too without any shame or remorse. Who that has ever bought or sold a commodity of any kind, has not seen that character realized, “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth” of the good purchase he hath made [Note: Pro 20:14.] ? He must know little of the world, or of himself, who does not know, that “as a nail sticketh between the joints of the stones, so does lying between buying and selling [Note: Ecclus. 27:2.].” Nor is honesty deemed at all more sacred than truth. Persons who would not rob or steal, will yet run in debt, when they know that they have not the means of satisfying their creditors. They will also defraud the revenue by every device in their power; purchasing goods that have not paid the customs, avoiding stamps where they are positively enjoined, and withholding, where they think they can do it without detection, the taxes which by law they are bound to pay. Such is the morality of many, who yet would be very indignant to be called thieves and liars. But God has given them no such licence to dispense with his laws; nor do they applaud such conduct when they themselves are the victims of deceit and fraud. Let them know therefore, that however partial they may be in estimating their own character and conduct, God “will judge righteous judgment:” and that, if sins of ignorance and infirmity were not pardoned without an atonement, much less shall such flagrant sins as theirs. It is true, they may plead custom; but before they venture to rest upon that plea, let them be well assured that God will accept it.]
There may be much guilt attaching, where there is but little suspicion of it—
[It is supposed in the sin-offering, that priests, and rulers, and common individuals, and whole congregations, may have committed sins, without being aware that they have done so. And may not the same thing occur amongst us? Let ministers, the priests of God, look back; let them consider the nature of their office, the responsibility attaching to it, the multitudes who have been, and yet are, committed to their care; the consequences of a faithful or unfaithful discharge of their duty; let them then compare their lives and ministrations with the lives and ministry of Christ and his Apostles, or with the express injunctions of Holy Writ; will they find no sins which they have overlooked? Will they see no occasion for the atonement of Christ? Truly, if it were not for the hope of mercy which we have through his atoning blood, we should be of all men most miserable; so great is the guilt which the most diligent amongst us has contracted by his defective ministrations. Let rulers proceed to make similar inquiries respecting their diligence, their impartiality, their zeal: let them see whether they might not have promoted in many instances a more active co-operation for the suppression of evil, and for the propagation of true religion: will they see no cause for shame and sorrow, when they see how little they have done for God, and in what a degree they have borne the sword in vain? Let any private individual institute a similar inquiry into all the motives by which he has been actuated, the dispositions he has manifested, the tempers he has exercised, and the use he has made of his time, his property, his influence: will he find nothing to condemn? Lastly, let whole congregations or communities be made to examine the maxims embraced, the habits countenanced, and the conduct pursued among them: will there be no room for them to acknowledge a departure from the ways of God? Is society in such a state, that all which we see and hear will stand the test, if tried by the requisitions of God’s holy law?
Yet where are the consciences that are burthened with guilt? Where are the penitents applying to the blood of atonement? Are not the great mass of mankind, whether rulers or subjects, whether ministers or people, blessing themselves as having but little, if any, occasion to repent? Ah! well might David say, and happy would it be for us if it were the language also of our hearts, “Lord, who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from my secret faults [Note: Psa 19:12. See also Psa 139:23-24.] !” And let none think that his ignorance is any excuse for him before God: for our ignorance arises only from inconsideration: and God expressly warns us, that that plea shall avail us nothing [Note: Ecc 5:6.].]
The moment we see that we have sinned, we should seek for mercy in God’s appointed way—
[As soon as the fault or error was discovered under the law, the proper offering (whether sin, or trespass, offering) was to be brought: and, if the offender refused to bring his offering, his sin became presumptuous; and he subjected himself to the penalty of death [Note: Compare Num 15:27-31, with Heb 10:28.]. To infinitely sorer punishment shall we expose ourselves, if we neglect to seek for mercy through the atoning blood of Christ [Note: Heb 10:29.]. The declaration of God is this; “He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy [Note: Pro 28:13.].”
But let us beware of one delusion which proves fatal to thousands: we are apt to content ourselves with general acknowledgments that we are sinners, instead of searching out our particular sins, and humbling ourselves for them. Doubtless it is right to bewail the whole state of our souls: but he who never has seen any individual evils to lament, will have but very faint conceptions of his general depravity. We should therefore “search and try our ways:” and not only say with Achan, “I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel,” but proceed with him to add, “Thus and thus have I done [Note: Jos 7:20.].” This is the particular instruction given in our text: the person who had transgressed any law of God. whether ceremonial or moral, was, as soon as he discovered it, to “confess, that he had sinned in that particular thing.” O that we were more ready to humble ourselves thus! But we love not the work of self-examination: and the evils which we cannot altogether hide from ourselves, we endeavour to banish from our minds: and hence it is that so many of us are “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”]
We never can be truly penitent for sin, if we are not desirous also to repair it to the utmost of our power—
[Certain it is that no reparation for sin can ever be made to God. It is the precious blood of Christ, and that only, that can ever satisfy the offended Majesty of heaven. But injuries done to our fellow-creatures, may, and must, be requited. If we have defrauded any, whether individuals or the public, it is our bounden duty to make restitution to the full amount: and, if we cannot find the individuals injured, we should make it to God, in the persons of the poor. To pretend to repent of any sin, and yet hold fast the wages of our iniquity, is a solemn mockery: for the retaining of a thing which we have unjustly acquired, is, in fact, a continuation of the offence. Let us make the case our own, and ask, Whether, if a man had defrauded us, we should give him credit for real penitence, whilst he withheld from us what he had fraudulently obtained? We certainly should say, that his professions of repentance were mere hypocrisy: and therefore the same judgment we must pass on ourselves, if we do not to the utmost of our power repair every injury we have ever done. Look at Zaccheus, and see what were the fruits of penitence in him: “Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man, I restore him four-fold [Note: Luk 19:8.].” See also the effect of godly sorrow in the Corinthian Church; “What indignation against themselves, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge, yea, what a determination to clear themselves” of the evil in every possible way [Note: 2Co 7:11.] ! Look to it, beloved, that the same proofs of sincerity be found in you. Yet do not presently conclude that all is right, because you have made restitution unto man: (this is a mistake by no means uncommon:) the guilt of your sin still remains upon your conscience, and must be washed away by the atoning blood of Christ: that is the only “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness,” nor, till you are washed in that, can you ever behold the face of God in peace.]
Verses of Leviticus 5
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.