LEVITICUS - CHAPTER 5
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000, 2004 James Melough
Before beginning our study of
this chapter it is necessary to note that verses 1-13 are understood by many to
be a continuation of the instructions relative to the sin offering; the
instructions for the trespass offering beginning with verse 14. Others,
however, understand the whole chapter to have reference to the trespass
offering; and a third view is that since the sin nature and the sins it produces
are so closely related, there is here a blending together of the two. The view
of the present writer is that verses 1-13 relate to the sin offering, with a
blending together of the trespasses produced by the old sin nature because the
two are virtually inseparable, the instructions relative to the trespass
offering beginning with verse 14.
"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
The New English Bible
rendering of this verse is, “If a person hears a solemn adjuration to give
evidence as a witness to something he has seen or heard and does not declare
what he knows, he commits a sin and must accept responsibility.” Clearly this
is deliberate sin. He refuses to give evidence that would establish the guilt
of a wrongdoer, or the innocence of one falsely accused.
A practical application of
this may be made to the professed believer who refuses to testify to others of
the salvation that is to be found in Christ, and only in Him. His declaration
of the gospel would reveal the guilt of the unbeliever, and confirm the
justified state of the believer,
"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 it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty."
"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."
The unclean carcase represents
all that is of the flesh, which is itself unclean, defiling, and antagonistic to
all that is of the Spirit.
I am certain that there is
some specific sin being portrayed symbolically in a man’s touching the dead
carcase of unclean beasts, cattle, or creeping things, and in his touching the
uncleanness of man, but regret that I am unable to determine what that sin may
be, and must therefore leave these two verses without comment. The general
reference may be to involvement with things which might not in themselves be
considered sinful, but which nevertheless impede spiritual progress, e.g.,
sports, hobbies, music, art, theater, etc.
"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."
The New American Bible
renders this verse, “If someone, without being aware of it, rashly utters an
oath to do good or evil, such as men are accustomed to utter rashly, and then
recognizes that he is guilty of such an oath,” then he shall be guilty.
“...to do evil” is not to be
understood in its literal sense: the phrase “to do evil, or to do good” is
simply another way of saying “if he swears to do anything.”
This refers to making vows,
and not keeping them, e.g., promises to do good, or to refrain from doing evil.
We break many of our promises to God and men.
“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 all of these cases, except
that of verse 1, the sins were committed in ignorance, and were sins which the
man later became aware of, as is made clear by the words “if it be hid from him,
when he knoweth of it.” Whether committed deliberately, as in verse 1, or
ignorantly as in the other cases, the first step to forgiveness was confession -
an unchanging principle relative to forgiveness of sin in any age. And it
applies to sinner and saint alike, for the first step to the cleansing of a
sinner is his confession that he is a sinner; and the first step to the
restoration of a saint to communion with his heavenly Father, is to confess that
he has sinned.
The female speaks of the
willing submission of Christ to the Father’s will, even unto death, the death of
the cross. The lamb points to Him as the Lamb of God’s own providing as
declared by John, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the
world,” John 1:29. The kid of the goats points to Christ as the One Who was
willing to be made sin so that we might be made righteous, as it is written,
“For he hath made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made
the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Its being said that “the
priest shall make an atonement for him” reminds us that when Christ acted as
Priest, and “offered Himself without spot to God,” Hebrews 9:14, He made
atonement for our sins.
“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.”
As noted already, the
financial state of the Israelite points symbolically to the spiritual state of
the believer, the literal poverty of the Israelite portraying the spiritual
poverty (his lack of apprehension of spiritual things) of the believer, that
penury being due either to his being a new Christian, or to carnality.
No matter how feeble the
comprehension of the believer, he will eventually become aware of having sinned,
and of how to deal with that sin so that his communion with his heavenly Father
can be restored.
The birds (creatures of
heaven), as in chapter one, portray Christ as the heavenly One, the bird
presented as a sin offering depicting Him as being made sin so that we might be
made righteous; and the one offered as a burnt offering portraying Him as the
One Whose sacrifice was first for the Father’s glory, and then for man’s
redemption. For additional details on the offering of birds, please review the
notes on 1:14-17.
As to why the Israelite should
have had to offer one bird for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt
offering, the explanation is that the sin offering obviously represents Christ
as the One Whose sacrifice has atoned for all our sins, those committed after
conversion, as well as those committed while we were unbelievers; but relative
to the burnt offering, it is instructive to note that in 1:3 the correct
rendering of “of his own voluntary will” is “for his acceptance,” and so here,
Christ’s sacrifice is not only to put away our sins: it is also for our
acceptance. With our sin atoned for, we are accepted again into communion with
our heavenly Father.
“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
“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.”
The officiating priest
offering the first bird for a sin offering, continues to portray Christ offering
Himself without spot to God to make atonement for our sins. The head portrays
the fact that the Lord had full knowledge of all that lay before Him as a result
of His incarnation; but the small bird’s head reflects the relatively small
grasp of spiritual truth comprehended by the believer represented by the
Israelite who could afford only the offering of poverty.
5:10. “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.”
Since this second bird was for
a burnt offering, the details and the application are exactly the same as in
5:11. "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."
This is undoubtedly what is
referred in Hebrews 9:22, "Almost all things are by the law purged with
blood...." for this is the only bloodless sin offering mentioned in Scripture.
It is the offering of extreme poverty (which speaks of deep spiritual ignorance
on the part of a believer). He sees only that Christ has died for his sins, but
without appreciating, except in the most elementary degree, the value of
Christ's blood. "No oil," signifies that there is no illumination of the Holy
Spirit; while "no frankincense," signifies no worship. Such an offerer
represents one newly saved, or one whose carnality has resulted in failure to
make any progress in spiritual things beyond the simple knowledge that Christ
has died for his sins.
It is to be noted however,
that it was burnt on top of the continual burnt offering which burned
continuously on the brazen altar, so that it was in fact associated with a
5:12. “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.”
"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 (what
remains after burning the memorial handful) shall be the priest's, as a meal
As already noted, the High
Priest represents Christ; and the officiating priest represents what we become
the moment we trust Christ as Savior, so that in the remnant of the meal
offering given the priest as his food is demonstrated the fact that the Christ
Who has made atonement for all our sins is the same Christ Who is also now our
spiritual food set before us in the written Word.
No matter how dull the
apprehension of spiritual truth, every true believer is nevertheless a royal
priest, and as such has his portion of spiritual food. The tenth part speaks of
his being under God's government, for in biblical numerology ten is the number
of God as Governor of all, while twelve is the number of those under His
government, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church built upon the
foundation of the doctrine of the twelve Apostles.
Only the offerings for the
priest and the congregation were burned outside the camp in a clean place, and
only their blood was put on the horns of the golden altar. In the case of the
others, the blood was not taken into the Holy place, nor was the carcase burnt:
it was the food of the officiating priest and his male relatives, see 6:26.
From the offering of the extremely poor Israelite therefore, the portion of the
officiating priest was of corresponding lesser value. Spiritual poverty results
in a man's receiving a much smaller portion from his reading of the Word, for it
is to be remembered that the typological picture here is of either an immature,
or of a carnal saint who has sinned, so that he is to be viewed not only as an
offerer but also as a priest.
Verse fourteen begins the
instructions relative to the trespass offering.
5:14. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”
5:15. “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:”
“... in the holy things of the
Lord” defines this trespass as being related to our worship or service, or both,
which raises the question, How can there be sin connected with these seemingly
holy activities? It seems almost impossible. But it isn’t. It is in these
very activities that we can sin very grievously. How?
Let’s look for a moment at our
worship. First, generally, we may sit at the Lord’s Table looking as though we
are worshiping, when in reality our minds may be occupied with many things other
than the Lord Jesus Christ. That is one form of trespass.
We may sit at the Lord’s Table
harboring evil thoughts against a fellow believer. We may come to the Lord’s
Table without having examined ourselves, and without having confessed, repented
of, and forsaken every known sin. These are other forms of trespass in the holy
things of the Lord.
The brethren who participate
audibly may consciously or unconsciously be trying to impress those sitting at
the Lord’s Table. They may perhaps be speaking at the impulse of the flesh
rather than of the Holy Spirit. There are many ways in which we may be guilty
of grievous trespass in this holy activity.
There may be equally grievous
trespass also in service. One servant may be jealous of another. The
evangelist may become proud of the number of converts produced through his
preaching, as he may also become proud of his ability as an evangelist,
forgetting that it is God Who has given him that ability, which He could just as
easily have given to another.
Likewise the teacher may
become proud of his knowledge of Scripture, or of his ability as a speaker. An
elder may become arrogant and tyrannical in the use of his power as an
overseer. There are plenty of ways in which Satan may lead us to trespass “in
the holy things of the Lord.” And it is to be noted that the trespasses were
those committed “through ignorance,” but eventually brought to the notice of the
offender. We may be guilty of any or all of the trespasses mentioned above
without even being aware that we have trespassed! Such is the subtlety of Satan
in blinding us to sin.
Since many of the sins just
discussed have their root in pride, a guard against them would be to remember
that He who is Lord of all stooped to take the place of a servant, and we are
exhorted to emulate Him, as it is written, “Let this mind be in you, which was
also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be
equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of
a servant....” Philippians 2:5-7.
But God has provided a means
whereby the trespasser could be forgiven: in the OT age the guilty Israelite was
to “bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish.” That
unblemished ram (the leader of the flock) is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as
the sinless preeminent One, Who though Head of all creation, has been willing to
take our guilty place at Calvary so that our sins might be forgiven, and we
reconciled to God.
“... with thy estimation by
shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary,” is generally understood
to mean that the priest was to evaluate the worth of the ram, a value of two
shekels being the minimum acceptable worth of the animal being presented for
sacrifice as a trespass offering. This is the symbolic declaration of the truth
that those who would have their sins forgiven must have a certain measure of the
worth of Christ: they must comprehend that His death alone makes atonement for
sin. To believe that our own good works must be added to His sacrifice is
tantamount to saying that His sacrifice wasn’t enough, and that is to insult
Since silver is the biblical
emblem of redemption, and “after the shekel of the sanctuary” refers to what is
according to God’s standard, not man’s, the truth being declared is that sin is
to be judged according to God’s standard, not man’s; and the value of Christ’s
sacrifice is also to be evaluated according to that same holy standard.
5:16. “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.”
This trespass in the holy
things is different from the trespass mentioned in the next chapter, in that it
is difficult to see how such an offense could be measured in order to add the
fifth part by way of reparation, since almost invariably God, rather than man,
would be the aggrieved. But one explanation suggests itself. Upon discovering
that he had been guilty of such trespass, the individual would be very unlikely
to repeat the offense, but would rather be very careful to guard against
repetition of it, and from that perspective it might be said that God had gained
the equivalent of the fifth part, for five is the biblical number of
responsibility, and the offender, now conscious of having trespassed, would be
extra careful to fulfill his responsibility not to repeat the offense.
The offender’s having to add
the fifth part when making restitution is the reminder that sin is costly. Time
spent in sin will diminish the reward given the believer at the Bema.
Its being said that “the
priest shall make an atonement for him” continues to remind us that it is
Christ, our great High Priest, Who has made atonement for all our sins.
5:17. “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
(knew) it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.”
Since, in God’s sight, we are
just as guilty, though unaware of having sinned, as when we are aware of it, it
is necessary to constantly examine our lives in the light of God’s Word so as to
be preserved from such sins of ignorance, and so that such sin may be revealed
and dealt with as quickly as possible.
5:18. “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 (knew) it not, and it shall be forgiven him.”
5:19. “It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly
trespassed against the Lord.”
Having already discussed the
spiritual significance of the details repeated in these two verses, it is
necessary only to consider something relative to the fact that the offering was
to be a ram, a relatively costly animal. As noted already, the spiritual
equivalent of the Israelite’s financial status is our own comprehension of
spiritual things, so that the Israelite’s ability to bring a ram points to the
truth that the sin portrayed is that of a believer having the spiritual ability
to worship and serve with a degree of understanding beyond that of the immature
or carnal saint. The responsibility of such a believer is greater than that of
his immature or carnal brother or sister.
The ram was the only sacrifice
that could be brought for the sins listed in this section, the exclusion of the
offerings of poverty emphasizing that the sin here relates particularly to that
of a spiritually mature believer.