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Adam Clarke Commentary

Leviticus 5

Introduction

Concerning witnesses who, being adjured, refuse to tell the truth, Leviticus 5:1 . Of those who contract defilement by touching unclean things or persons, Leviticus 5:2 , Leviticus 5:3 . Of those who bind themselves by vows or oaths, and do not fulfill them, Leviticus 5:4 , Leviticus 5:5 . The trespass-offering prescribed in such cases, a lamb or a kid, Leviticus 5:6 ; a turtle-dove or two young pigeons, Leviticus 5:7 -10; or an ephah of fine flour with oil and frankincense, Leviticus 5:11 -13. Other laws relative to trespasses, through ignorance in holy things, Leviticus 5:14 -16. Of trespasses in things unknown, Leviticus 5:17 -19.

Verse 1

If a soul sin - It is generally supposed that the case referred to here is that of a person who, being demanded by the civil magistrate to answer upon oath, refuses to tell what he knows concerning the subject; such a one shall bear his iniquity - shall be considered as guilty in the sight of God, of the transgression which he has endeavored to conceal, and must expect to be punished by him for hiding the iniquity to which he was privy, or suppressing the truth which, being discovered, would have led to the exculpation of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty.

Verse 2

Any unclean thing - Either the dead body of a clean animal, or the living or dead carcass of any unclean creature. All such persons were to wash their clothes and themselves in clean water, and were considered as unclean till the evening, Leviticus 11:24 -31. But if this had been neglected, they were obliged to bring a trespass-offering. What this meant, see in the notes on Leviticus 7 (note).

Verse 4

To do evil, or to do good - It is very likely that rash promises are here intended; for if a man vow to do an act that is evil, though it would be criminal to keep such an oath or vow, yet he is guilty because he made it, and therefore must offer the trespass-offering. If he neglect to do the good he has vowed, he is guilty, and must in both cases confess his iniquity, and bring his trespass-offering.

Verse 5

He shall confess that he hath sinned - Even restitution was not sufficient without this confession, because a man might make restitution without being much humbled; but the confession of sin has a direct tendency to humble the soul, and hence it is so frequently required in the Holy Scriptures, as without humiliation there can be no salvation.

Verse 7

If he be not able to bring a lamb - See the conclusion at Leviticus 1:16 (note).

Verse 8

But shall not divide it - See Clarke's note on Leviticus 1:16 .

Verse 10

He shall offer the second for a burnt-offering - The pigeon for the burnt-offering was wholly consumed, it was the Lord's property; that for the sin-offering was the priest's property, and was to be eaten by him after its blood had been partly sprinkled on the side of the altar, and the rest poured out at the bottom of the altar. See also Leviticus 6:26 .

Verse 11

Tenth part of an ephah - About three quarts. The ephah contained a little more than seven gallons and a half.

Verse 15

In the holy things of the Lord - This law seems to relate particularly to sacrilege, and defrauds in spiritual matters; such as the neglect to consecrate or redeem the firstborn, the withholding of the first-fruits, tithes, and such like; and, according to the rabbins, making any secular gain of Divine things, keeping back any part of the price of things dedicated to God, or withholding what man had vowed to pay. See a long list of these things in Ainsworth.With thy estimation - The wrong done or the defraud committed should be estimated at the number of shekels it was worth, or for which it would sell. These the defrauder was to pay down, to which he was to add a fifth part more, and bring a ram without blemish for a sin-offering besides. There is an obscurity in the text, but this seems to be its meaning.

Verse 16

Shall make amends - Make restitution for the wrong he had done according to what is laid down in the preceding verse.

Verse 19

He hath certainly trespassed - And because he hath sinned, therefore he must bring a sacrifice. On no other ground shall he be accepted by the Lord. Reader, how dost thou stand in the sight of thy Maker? On the subject of this chapter it may be proper to make the following reflections. When the infinite purity and strict justice of God are considered, the exceeding breadth of his commandment, our slowness of heart to believe, and our comparatively cold performance of sacred duties, no wonder that there is sinfulness found in our holy things; and at what a low ebb must the Christian life be found when this is the case! This is a sore and degrading evil in the Church of God; but there is one even worse than this, that is, the strenuous endeavor of many religious people to reconcile their minds to this state of inexcusable imperfection, and defend it zealously, on the supposition that it is at once both unavoidable and useful - unavoidable, for they think they cannot live without it; and useful, because they suppose it tends to humble them! The more inward sin a man has, the more pride he will feel; the less, the more humility. A sense of God's infinite kindness to us, and our constant dependence on him, will ever keep the soul in the dust. Sin can never be necessary to the maintenance or extension of the Christian life, it is the thing which Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy; and his name is called Jesus or Savior because he saves his people from their sins. But how little of the spirit and influence of his Gospel is known in the world! He saves, unto the uttermost, them who come unto the Father through him. But alas! how few are thus saved! for they will not come unto him that they might have life. Should any Christian refuse to offer up the following prayer to God? "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen." - The Liturgy.

Leviticus 5


  1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
  2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
  3 Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
  4 Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.
  5 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:
  6 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.
  7 And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
  8 And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder:
  9 And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.
  10 And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.
  11 But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.
  12 Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: it is a sin offering.
  13 And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.
  14 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  15 If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering:
  16 And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.
  17 And 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.
  18 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.
  19 It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the LORD.

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