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Adam Clarke Commentary

Leviticus 4

Introduction

The law concerning the sin-offering for transgressions committed through ignorance, Leviticus 4:1 , Leviticus 4:2 . For the priest thus sinning, Leviticus 4:3 -12. For the sins of ignorance of the whole congregation, Leviticus 4:13 -21. For the sins of ignorance of a ruler, Leviticus 4:22 -26. For the sins of ignorance of any of the common people, Leviticus 4:27 -35.

Verse 2

If a soul shall sin through ignorance - That is, if any man shall do what God has forbidden, or leave undone what God has commanded, through ignorance of the law relative to these points; as soon as the transgression or omission comes to his knowledge, he shall offer the sacrifice here prescribed, and shall not suppose that his ignorance is an excuse for his sin. He who, when his iniquity comes to his knowledge, refuses to offer such a sacrifice, sins obstinately and wilfully, and to him there remains no other sacrifice for sin - no other mode by which he can be reconciled to God, but he has a certain fearful looking for of judgment - which shall devour such adversaries; and this seems the case to which the apostle alludes, Hebrews 10:26 , etc., in the words above quoted. There have been a great number of subtle questions started on this subject, both by Jews and Christians, but the above I believe to be the sense and spirit of the law.

Verse 3

If the priest that is anointed - Meaning, most probably, the high priest. According to the sin of the people; for although he had greater advantages than the people could have, in being more conversant with the law of God, and his lips should understand and preserve knowledge, yet it was possible even for him, in that time in which the word of God had not been fully revealed, to transgress through ignorance; and his transgression might have the very worst tendency, because the people might be thereby led into sin. Hence several critics understand this passage in this way, and translate it thus: If the anointed priest shall lead the people to sin; or, literally, if the anointed priest shall sin to the sin of the people; that is, so as to cause the people to transgress, the shepherd going astray, and the sheep following after him.

Verse 4

Lay his hand upon the bullock's head - See Clarke's note on Leviticus 1:4 .

Verse 6

Seven times - See Clarke's note on Exodus 29:30 . The blood of this sacrifice was applied in three different ways:1. The priest put his finger in it, and sprinkled it seven times before the veil, Leviticus 4:6 .2. He put some of it on the horns of the altar of incense.3. He poured the remaining part at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offerings, Leviticus 4:7 .

Verse 12

Without the camp - This was intended figuratively to express the sinfulness of this sin, and the availableness of the atonement. The sacrifice, as having the sin of the priest transferred from himself to it by his confession and imposition of hands, was become unclean and abominable, and was carried, as it were, out of the Lord's sight; from the tabernacle and congregation it must be carried without the camp, and thus its own offensiveness was removed, and the sin of the person in whose behalf it was offered. The apostle Hebrews 13:11 -13 applies this in the most pointed manner to Christ: "For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach."

Verse 13

If the whole congregation of Israel sin - This probably refers to some oversight in acts of religious worship, or to some transgression of the letter of the law, which arose out of the peculiar circumstances in which they were then found, such as the case mentioned 1 Samuel 14:32 , etc., where the people, through their long and excessive fatigue in their combat with the Philistines, being faint, flew on the spoil, and took sheep, oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground, and did eat with the blood; and this was partly occasioned by the rash adjuration of Saul, mentioned 1 Samuel 14:24 : Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening.The sacrifices and rites in this case were the same as those prescribed in the preceding, only here the elders of the congregation, i. e., three of the Sanhedrin, according to Maimonides, laid their hands on the head of the victim in the name of all the congregation.

Verse 22

When a ruler hath sinned - Under the term נשיא nasi, it is probable that any person is meant who held any kind of political dignity among the people, though the rabbins generally understand it of the king.A kid of the goats was the sacrifice in this case, the rites nearly the same as in the preceding cases, only the fat was burnt as that of the peace-offering. See Leviticus 4:26 and Leviticus 3:5 .

Verse 27

The common people - עם הארץ am haarets, the people of the land, that is, any individual who was not a priest, king, or ruler among the people; any of the poor or ordinary sort. Any of these, having transgressed through ignorance, was obliged to bring a lamb or a kid, the ceremonies being nearly the same as in the preceding cases. The original may denote the very lowest of the people, the laboring or agricultural classes.The law relative to the general cases of sins committed through ignorance, and the sacrifices to be offered on such occasions, so amply detailed in this chapter, may be thus recapitulated. For all sins and transgressions of this kind committed by the people, the prince, and the priest, they must offer expiatory offerings. The person so sinning must bring the sacrifice to the door of the tabernacle, and lay his hands upon its head, as in a case already referred to, acknowledging the sacrifice to be his, that he needed it for his transgression; and thus he was considered as confessing his sin, and the sin was considered as transferred to the animal, whose blood was then spilt to make an atonement. See Clarke on Leviticus 1:4 (note). Such institutions as these could not be considered as terminating in themselves, they necessarily had reference to something of infinitely higher moment; in a word, they typified Him whose soul was made an offering for sin, Isaiah 53:10 . And taken out of this reference they seem both absurd and irrational. It is obviously in reference to these innocent creatures being brought as sin-offerings to God for the guilty that St. Paul alludes 2 Corinthians 5:21 , where he says, He (God) made him to be sin (ἁμαρτιαν, a sin-offering) for us Who Knew No Sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God - holy and pure by the power and grace of God, in or through him. And it is worthy of remark, that the Greek word used by the apostle is the same by which the Septuagint, in more than fourscore places in the Pentateuch, translate the Hebrew word הטאה hattaah, sin, which in all those places our translation renders sin-offering. Even sins of ignorance cannot be unnoticed by a strict and holy law; these also need the great atonement: on which account we should often pray with David, Cleanse thou me from secret faults! Psalms 19:12 . How little attention is paid to this solemn subject! Sins of this kind - sins committed sometimes ignorantly, and more frequently heedlessly, are permitted to accumulate in their number, and consequently in their guilt; and from this very circumstance we may often account for those painful desertions, as they are called, under which many comparatively good people labor. They have committed sins of ignorance or heedlessness, and have not offered the sacrifice which can alone avail in their behalf. How necessary in ten thousand cases is the following excellent prayer! "That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to thy Holy Word." - Litany.

Leviticus 4


  1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
  3 If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.
  4 And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock's head, and kill the bullock before the LORD.
  5 And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock's blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:
  6 And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, before the veil of the sanctuary.
  7 And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
  8 And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
  9 And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,
  10 As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.
  11 And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,
  12 Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.
  13 And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;
  14 When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.
  15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.
  16 And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:
  17 And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the veil.
  18 And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
  19 And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.
  20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
  21 And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.
  22 When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;
  23 Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:
  24 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.
  25 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.
  26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
  27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
  28 Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.
  29 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.
  30 And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.
  31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.
  32 And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.
  33 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.
  34 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:
  35 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.

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