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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Leviticus 6

 

 

Verse 7

4

THE GUILT OFFERING

Leviticus 5:14; Leviticus 6:7; Leviticus 7:1-7

As in the English version, so also in the Hebrew, the special class of sins for which the guilt offering is prescribed, is denoted by a distinct and specific word. That word, like the English "trespass," its equivalent, always has reference to an invasion of the rights of others, especially in respect of property or service. It is used, for instance, of the sin of Achan (Joshua 7:1), who had appropriated spoil from Jericho, which God had commanded to be set apart for Himself. Thus, also, the neglect of God’s service, and especially the worship of idols, is often described by this same word, as in 2 Chronicles 28:22; 2 Chronicles 29:6, and many other places. The reason is evident; for idolatry involved a withholding from God of those tithes and other offerings which He claimed from Israel, and thus became, as it were, an invasion of the Divine rights of property. The same word is even applied to the sin of adultery, {Numbers 5:12; Numbers 5:27} apparently from the same point of view, inasmuch as the woman is regarded as belonging to her husband, who has therefore in her certain sacred rights, of which adultery is an invasion. Thus, while every "trespass" is a sin, yet every sin is not a "trespass." There are, evidently, many sins of which this is not a characteristic feature. But the sins for which the guilt offering is prescribed are in every case sins which may, at least, be specially regarded under this particular point of view, to wit, as trespasses on the rights of God or man in respect of ownership; and this gives us the fundamental thought which distinguishes the guilt offering from all others, namely, that for any invasion of the rights of another in regard to property, not only must expiation be made, in that it is a sin, but also satisfaction, and, so far as possible, plenary reparation of the wrong, in that the sin is also trespass.

From this it is evident that, as contrasted with the burnt offering, which preeminently symbolised full consecration of the person, and the peace offering, which symbolised fellowship with God, as based upon reconciliation by sacrifice; the guilt offering takes its place, in a general sense, with the sin offering, as, like that, specially designed to effect the reinstatement of an offender in covenant relation with God. Thus, like the latter, and unlike the former offerings, it was only prescribed with reference to specific instances of failure to fulfil some particular obligation toward God or man. So also, as the express condition of an acceptable offering, the formal confession of such sin was particularly enjoined. And, finally, unlike the burnt offering, which was wholly consumed upon the altar, or the peace offering, of the flesh of which, with certain reservations, the worshipper himself partook, in the case of the guilt offering, as in the sin offering, the fat parts only were burnt on the altar, and the remainder of the victim fell to the priests, to be eaten by them alone in a holy place, as a thing "most holy." The law is given in the following words: {Leviticus 7:3-7} "He shall offer of it all the fat thereof; the fat tail, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the loins, and the caul upon the liver, with the kidneys, shall he take away: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar for an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a guilt offering. Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in a holy place: it is most holy. As is the sin offering, so is the guilt offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith, he shall have it."

But while, in a general way, the guilt offering was evidently intended, like the sin offering, to signify the removal of sin from the conscience through sacrifice, and thus may be regarded as a variety of the sin offering, yet the ritual presents some striking variations from that of the latter. These are all explicable from this consideration, that whereas the sin offering represented the idea of atonement by sacrifice, regarded as an expiation of guilt, the guilt offering represented atonement under the aspect of a satisfaction and reparation for the wrong committed. Hence, because the idea of expiation here fell somewhat into the background, in order to give the greater prominence to that of reparation and satisfaction, the application of the blood is only made, as in the burnt offering and the peace offering, by sprinkling "on the altar (of burnt offering) round about". {Leviticus 7:1} Hence, again, we find that the guilt offering always had reference to the sin of the individual, and never to the congregation; because it was scarcely possible that every individual in the whole congregation should be guilty in such instances as those for which the guilt offering is prescribed.

Again, we have another contrast in the restriction imposed upon the choice of the victim for the sacrifice. In the sin offering, as we have seen, it was ordained that the offering should be varied according to the theocratic rank of the offender, to emphasise thereby to the conscience gradations of guilt, as thus determined; also, it was permitted that the offering might be varied in value according to the ability of the offerer, in order that it might thus be signified in symbol that it was the gracious will of God that nothing in the personal condition of the sinner should exclude anyone from the merciful provision of the expiatory sacrifice. But it was no less important that another aspect of the matter should be held forth, namely, that God is no respecter of persons; and that, whatever be the condition of the offender, the obligation to plenary satisfaction and reparation for trespass committed, cannot be modified in any way by the circumstances of the offender. The man who, for example, has defrauded his neighbour, whether of a small sum or of a large estate, abides his debtor before God, under all conceivable conditions, until restitution is made. The obligation of full payment rests upon every debtor, be he poor or rich, until the last farthing is discharged. Hence, the sacrificial victim of the guilt offering is the same, whether for the poor man or the rich man, "a ram of the flock."

It was "a ram of the flock," because, as contrasted with the ewe or the lamb, or the dove and the pigeon, it was a valuable offering. And yet it is not a bullock, the most valuable offering known to the law, because that might be hopelessly out of the reach of many a poor man. The idea of value must be represented, and yet not so represented as to exclude a large part of the people from the provisions of the guilt offering. The ram must be "without blemish," that naught may detract from its value, as a symbol of full satisfaction for the wrong done.

But most distinctive of all the requisitions touching the victim is this, that, unlike all other victims for other offerings, the ram of the guilt offering must in each case be definitely appraised by the priest. The phrase is, {Leviticus 5:15} that it must be "according to thy estimation in silver by shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary." This expression evidently requires, first, that the offerer’s own estimate of the value of the victim shall not be taken, but that of the priest, as representing God in this transaction; and, secondly, that its value shall in no case fall below a certain standard; for the plural expression, "by shekels," implies that the value of the ram shall not be less than two shekels. And the shekel must be of full weight; the standard of valuation must be God’s, and not man’s, "the shekel of the sanctuary."

Still more to emphasise the distinctive thought of this sacrifice, that full satisfaction and reparation for all offences is with God the universal and unalterable condition of forgiveness, it was further ordered that in all cases where the trespass was of such a character as made this possible, that which had been unjustly taken or kept back, whether from God or man, should be restored in full; and not only this, but inasmuch as by this misappropriation of what was not his own, the offender had for the time deprived another of the use and enjoyment of that which belonged to him, he must add to that of which he had defrauded him "the fifth part more," a double tithe. Thus the guilty person was not allowed to have gained even any temporary advantage from the use for a while of that which he now restored; for "the fifth part more" would presumably quite overbalance all conceivable advantage or enjoyment which he might have had from his fraud. How admirable in all this the exact justice of God! How perfectly adapted was the guilt offering, in all these particulars, to educate the conscience, and to preclude any possible wrong inferences from the allowance which was made, for other reasons, for the poor man, in the expiatory offerings for sin!

The arrangement of the law of the guilt offering is very simple. It is divided into two sections, the first of which {Leviticus 5:14-19} deals with cases of trespass "in the holy things of the Lord," things which, by the law or by an act of consecration, were regarded as belonging in a special sense to Jehovah; the second section, on the other hand, {Leviticus 6:1-7} deals with cases of trespass on the property rights of man.

The first of these, again, consists of two parts. Leviticus 5:14-16 give the law of the guilt offering as applied to cases in which a man, through inadvertence or unwittingly, trespasses in the holy things of the Lord, but in such manner that the nature and extent of the trespass can afterward be definitely known and valued; Leviticus 5:17-19 deal with cases where there has been trespass such as to burden the conscience, and yet such as, for whatsoever reason, cannot be precisely measured.

By "the holy things of the Lord" are intended such things as, either by universal ordinance or by voluntary consecration, were regarded as belonging to Jehovah, and in a special sense His property. Thus, under this head would come the case of the man who, for instance, should unwittingly eat the flesh of the firstling of his cattle, or the flesh of the sin offering, or the shew bread; or should use his tithe, or any part of it, for himself. Even though he did this unwittingly, yet it none the less disturbed the man’s relation to God; and therefore, when known, in order to his reinstatement in fellowship with God, it was necessary that he should make full restitution with a fifth part added, and besides this, sacrifice a ram, duly appraised, as a guilt offering. In that the sacrifice was prescribed over and above the restitution, the worshipper was reminded that, in view of the infinite majesty and holiness of God, it lies not in the power of any creature to nullify the wrong God-ward, even by fullest restitution. For trespass is not only trespass, but is also sin; an offence not only against the rights of Jehovah as Owner, but also an affront to Him as Supreme King and Lawgiver.

And yet, because the worshipper must not be allowed to lose sight of the fact that sin is of the nature of a debt, a victim was ordered which should especially bring to mind this aspect of the matter. For not only among the Hebrews, but among the Arabs, the Romans and other ancient peoples, sheep, and especially rams, were very commonly used as a medium of payment in case of debt, and especially in paying tribute.

Thus we read, {2 Kings 3:4} that Mesha, king of Moab, rendered unto the king of Israel "a hundred thousand lambs, and a hundred thousand rams, with the wool," in payment of tribute; and, at a later day, Isaiah {Isaiah 16:1, R.V} delivers to Moab the mandate of Jehovah: "Send ye the lambs for the ruler of the land unto the mount of the daughter of Zion."

And so the ram having been brought and presented by the guilty person, with confession of his fault, it was slain by the priest, like the sin offering. The blood, however, was not applied to the horns of the altar of burnt offering, still less brought into the Holy Place, as in the case of the sin offering; but {Leviticus 7:2} was to be sprinkled "upon the altar round about," as in the burnt offering. The reason of this difference in the application of the blood, as above remarked, lies in this, that, as in the burnt offering, the idea of sacrifice as symbolising expiation takes a place secondary and subordinate to another thought; in this case, the conception of sacrifice as representing satisfaction for trespass.

The next section (Leviticus 5:17-19) does not expressly mention sins of trespass; for which reason some have thought that it was essentially a repetition of the law of the sin offering. But that it is not to be so regarded is plain from the fact that the victim is still the same as for the guilt offering, and from the explicit statement (Leviticus 5:19) that this "is a guilt offering." The inference is natural that the prescription still has reference to "trespass in the holy things of the Lord"; and the class of cases intended is probably indicated by the phrase, "though he knew it not." In the former section, the law provided for cases in which though the trespass had been done unwittingly, yet the offender afterward came to know of the trespass in its precise extent, so as to give an exact basis for the restitution ordered in such cases. But it is quite supposable that there might be cases in which, although the offender was aware that there had been a probable trespass, such as to burden his conscience, he yet knew not just how much it was. The ordinance is only in so far modified as such a case would make necessary; where there was no exact knowledge of the amount of trespass, obviously there the law of restitution with the added fifth could not be applied. Yet, none the less, the man is guilty; he "bears his iniquity," that is, he is liable to the penalty of his fault; and in order to the reestablishment of his covenant relation with God, the ram must be offered as a guilt offering.

It is suggestive to observe the emphasis which is laid upon the necessity of the guilt offering, even in such cases. Three times, reference is explicitly made to this fact of ignorance, as not affecting the requirement of the guilt offering: (Leviticus 5:17) "Though he knew it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity"; and again (Leviticus 5:18), with special explicitness, "The priest shall make atonement for him concerning the thing wherein he erred unwittingly and knew it not"; and yet again (Leviticus 5:19), "It is a guilt offering: he is certainly guilty before the Lord." The repetition is an urgent reminder that in this case, as in all others, we are never to forget that however our ignorance of a trespass at the time, or even lack of definite knowledge regarding its nature and extent, may affect the degree of our guilt, it cannot affect the fact of our guilt, and the consequent necessity for satisfaction in order to acceptance with God.

The second section of the law of the guilt offering {Leviticus 6:1-7} deals with trespasses against man, as also, like trespasses against Jehovah, requiring, in order to forgiveness from God, full restitution with the added fifth, and the offering of the ram as a guilt offering. Five cases are named (Leviticus 6:2-3), no doubt as being common, typical examples of sins of this character.

The first case is trespass upon a neighbour’s rights in "a matter of deposit"; where a man has entrusted something to another to keep, and he has either sold it or unlawfully used it as if it were his own. The second case takes in all fraud in a "bargain," as when, for example, a man sells goods, or a piece of land, representing them to be better than they really are, or asking a price larger than he knows an article to be really worth. The third instance is called "robbery"; by which we are to understand any act or process, even though it should be under colour of legal forms, by means of which a man may manage unjustly to get possession of the property of his neighbour, without giving him due equivalent therefore. The fourth instance is called "oppression" of his neighbour. The English word contains the same image as the Hebrew word, which is used, for instance, of the unnecessary retention of the wages of the employee by the employer; {Leviticus 19:13} it may be applied to all cases in which a man takes advantage of another’s circumstances to extort from him any thing or any service to which he has no right, or to force upon him something which it is to the poor man’s disadvantage to take. The last example of offences to which the law of the guilt offering applied, is the case in which a man finds something and then denies it to the rightful owner. The reference to false swearing which follows, as appears from Leviticus 6:5, refers not merely to lying and perjury concerning this last-named case, but equally to all cases in which a man may lie or swear falsely to the pecuniary damage of his neighbour. It is mentioned not merely as aggravating such sin, but because in swearing touching any matter, a man appeals to God as witness to the truth of his words; so that by swearing in these cases he represents God as a party to his falsehood and injustice.

In all these cases, the prescription is the same as in analogous offences in the holy things of Jehovah. First of all, the guilty man must confess the wrong which he has done, {Numbers 5:7} then restitution must be made of all of which he has defrauded his neighbour, together with one-fifth additional. But while this may set him right with man, it has not yet set him right with God. He must bring his guilt offering unto Jehovah (Leviticus 6:6-7); "a ram without blemish out of the flock, according to the priest’s estimation, for a guilt offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven: concerning whatsoever he doeth so as to be guilty thereby."

And this completes the law of the guilt offering. It was thus prescribed for sins which involve a defrauding or injuring of another in respect to material things, whether God or man, whether knowingly or unwittingly. The law was one and unalterable for all; the condition of pardon was plenary restitution for the wrong done, and the offering of a costly sacrifice, appraised as such by the priest, the earthly representative of God, in the shekel of the sanctuary, "a ram without blemish out of the flock."

There are lessons from this ordinance, so plain that, even in the dim light of those ancient days, the Israelite might discern and understand them. And they are lessons which, because man and his ways are the same as then, and God the same as then, are no less pertinent to all of us today.

Thus we are taught by this law that God claims from man, and especially from His own people, certain rights of property, of which He will not allow Himself to be defrauded, even through man’s forgetfulness or inadvertence. In a later day Israel was sternly reminded of this in the burning words of Jehovah by the prophet Malachi: {Malachi 3:8-9} "Will a man rob God? yet ye rob me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with the curse: for ye rob me, even this whole nation." Nor has God relaxed His claim in the present dispensation. For the Apostle Paul charges the Corinthian Christians. {2 Corinthians 8:7} in the name of the Lord, with regard to their gifts, that as they abounded in other graces, so they should "abound in this grace also." And this is the first lesson brought before us in the law of the guilt offering. God claims His tithe, His first fruit, and the fulfilment of all vows. It was a lesson for that time; it is no less a lesson for our time.

And the guilt offering further reminds us that as God has rights, so man also has rights, and that Jehovah, as the King and Judge of men, will exact the satisfaction of those rights, and will pass over no injury done by man to his neighbour in material things, nor forgive it unto any man, except upon condition of the most ample material restitution to the injured party.

Then, yet again, if the sin offering called especially for faith in an expiatory sacrifice as the condition of the Divine forgiveness, the guilt offering as specifically called also for repentance, as a condition of pardon, no less essential. Its unambiguous message to every Israelite was the same as that of John the Baptist at a later day: {Matthew 3:8-9} "Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father."

The reminder is as much needed now as in the days of Moses. How specific and practical the selection of the particular instances mentioned as cases for the application of the inexorable law of the guilt offering! Let us note them again, for they are not cases peculiar to Israel or to the fifteenth century before Christ. "If anyone deal falsely with his neighbour in a matter of deposit"; as, e.g., in the case of moneys entrusted to a bank or railway company, or other corporation; for there is no hint that the law did not apply except to individuals, or that a man might be released from these stringent obligations of righteousness whenever in some such evil business he was associated with others; the guilt offering must be forthcoming, with the amplest restitution, or there is no pardon. Then false dealing in a "bargain" is named, as involving the same requirement; as when a man prides himself on driving "a good bargain," by getting something unfairly for less than its value, taking advantage of his neighbour’s straits; or by selling something for more than its value, taking advantage of his neighbour’s ignorance, or his necessity. Then is mentioned "robbery"; by which word is covered not merely that which goes by the name in polite circles, but all cases in which a man takes advantage of his neighbour’s distress or helplessness, perhaps by means of some technicality of law, to "strip" him, as the Hebrew word is, of his property of any kind. And next is specified the man who may "have oppressed his neighbour," especially a man or woman who serves him, as the usage of the word suggests; grinding thus the face of the poor; paying, for instance, less for labour than the law of righteousness and love demands, because the poor man must have work or starve with his house. What sweeping specifications! And all such in all lands and all ages, are solemnly reminded in the law of the guilt offering that in these their sharp practices they have to reckon not with man merely, but with God; and that it is utterly vain for a man to hope for the forgiveness of sin from God, offering or no offering, so long as he has in his pocket his neighbour’s money. For all such, full restoration with the added fifth, according to the law of the theocratic kingdom, was the unalterable condition of the Divine forgiveness; and we shall find that this law of the theocratic kingdom will also be the law applied in the adjudications of the great white throne.

Furthermore, in that it was particularly enjoined that in the estimation of the value of the guilt offering, not the shekel of the people, often of light weight, but the full weight shekel of the sanctuary was to be held the invariable standard; we, who are so apt to ease things to our consciences by applying to our conduct the principles of judgment current among men, are plainly taught that if we will have our trespasses forgiven, the reparation and restitution which we make must be measured, not by the standard of men, but by that of God, which is absolute righteousness.

Yet again, in that in the case of all such trespasses on the rights of God or man it was ordained that the offering, unlike other sacrifices intended to teach other lessons, should be one and the same, whether the offender were rich or poor; we are taught that the extent of our moral obligations or the conditions of their equitable discharge are not determined by a regard to our present ability to make them good. Debt is debt by whomsoever owed. If a man have appropriated a hundred pounds of another man’s money, the moral obligation of that debt cannot be abrogated by a bankrupt law, allowing him to compromise at ten shillings in the pound. The law of man may indeed release him from liability to prosecution, but no law can discharge such a man from the unalterable obligation to pay penny for penny, farthing for farthing. There is no bankrupt law in the kingdom of God. This, too, is evidently a lesson quite as much needed by Gentiles and nominal Christians in the nineteenth century after Christ, as by Hebrews in the fifteenth century before Christ.

But the spiritual teaching of the guilt offering is not yet exhausted. For, like all the other offerings, it pointed to Christ. He is "the end of the law unto righteousness," {Romans 10:4} as regards the guilt offering, as in all else. As the burnt offering prefigured Christ the heavenly Victim, in one aspect, and the peace offering, Christ in another aspect, so the guilt offering presents to our adoring contemplation yet another view of His sacrificial work. While, as our burnt offering, He became our righteousness in full self-consecration; as our peace offering, our life; as our sin offering, the expiation for our sins; so, as our guilt offering, He made satisfaction and plenary reparation in our behalf to the God on whose inalienable rights in us, by our sins we had trespassed without measure.

Nor is this an over refinement of exposition. For in Isaiah 53:10, where both the Authorised and the Revised Versions read, "shall make his soul an offering for sin, " the margin of the latter rightly calls attention to the fact that in the Hebrew the word here used is the very same which through all this Levitical law is rendered "guilt offering." And so we are expressly told by this evangelic prophet, that the Holy Servant of Jehovah, the suffering Messiah, in this His sacrificial work should make His soul "a guilt offering." He became Himself the complete and exhaustive realisation of all that in sacrifice which was set forth in the Levitical guilt offering.

A declaration this is which holds forth both the sin for which Christ atoned, and the Sacrifice itself, in a very distinct and peculiar light. In that Christ’s sacrifice was thus a guilt offering in the sense of the law, we are taught that, in one aspect, our sins are regarded by God, and should therefore be regarded by us, as debts which are due from us to God. This is, indeed, by no means the only aspect in which sin should be regarded; it is, for example, rebellion, high treason, a deadly affront to the Supreme Majesty, which must be expiated with the blood of the sin offering. But our sins are also of the nature of debts. That is, God has claims on us for service which we have never met; claims for a portion of our substance which we have often withheld, or given grudgingly, trespassing thus in "the holy things of the Lord." Just as the servant who is set to do his master’s work, if, instead, he take that time to do his own work, is debtor to the full value of the service of which his master is thus defrauded, so stands the case between the sinner and God. Just as with the agent who fails to make due returns to his principal on the moneys committed to him for investment, using them instead for himself, so stands the case between God and the sinner who has used his talents, not for the Lord, but for himself, or has kept them laid up, unused, in a napkin. Thus, in the New Testament, as the correlate of this representation of Christ as a guilt offering; we find sin again and again set forth as a debt which is owed from man to God. So, in the Lord’s prayer we are taught to pray, "Forgive us our debts; so, twice the Lord Himself in His parables" {Matthew 18:23-35 Luke 7:41-42} set forth the relation of the sinner to God as that of the debtor to the creditor; and concerning those on whom the tower of Siloam fell, asks, {Luke 13:4} "Think ye that they were sinners (Greek ‘debtors,’) above all that dwelt in Jerusalem?" Indeed so imbedded is this thought in the conscience of man that it has been crystallised in our word "ought," which is but the old preterite of "owe"; as in Tyndale’s New Testament, where we read, {Luke 7:41} "there was a certain lender, which ought him five hundred pence." What a startling conception is this, which forms the background to the great "guilt offering"! Man a debtor to God! a debtor for service each day due, but no day ever fully and perfectly rendered! in gratitude for gifts, too often quite forgotten, oftener only paid in scanty part! We are often burdened and troubled greatly about our debts to men; shall we not be concerned about the enormous and ever accumulating debt to God! Or is He an easy creditor, who is indifferent whether these debts of ours be met or not? So think multitudes; but this is not the representation of Scripture, either in the Old or the New Testament. For in the law it was required, that if a man, guilty of any of these offences for the forgiveness of which the guilt offering was prescribed, failed to confess and bring the offering, and make the restitution with the added fifth, as commanded by the law, he should be brought before the judges, and the full penalty of law exacted, on the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!" And in the New Testament, one of those solemn parables of the two debtors closes with the awful words concerning one of them who was "delivered to the tormentors," that he should not come out of prison till he had "paid the uttermost farthing." Not a hint is there in Holy Scripture, of forgiveness of our debts to God, except upon the one condition of full restitution made to Him to whom the debt is due, and therewith the sacrificial blood of a guilt offering. But Christ is our Guilt offering.

He is our Guilt offering, in that He Himself did that, really and fully, with respect to all our debts as sinful men to God, which the guilt offering of Leviticus symbolised, but accomplished not. His soul He made a guilt offering for our trespasses! Isaiah’s words imply that He should make full restitution for all that of which we, as sinners, defraud God. He did this by that perfect and incomparable service of lowly obedience such as we should render, but have never rendered; in which He has made full satisfaction to God for all our innumerable debts. He has made such satisfaction, not by a convenient legal fiction, or in a rhetorical figure, or as judged by any human standard. Even as the ram of the guilt offering was appraised according to "the shekel of the sanctuary," so upon our Lord, at the beginning of that life of sacrificial service, was solemnly passed the Divine verdict that with this antitypical Victim of the Guilt offering, God Himself was "well pleased". {Matthew 3:17} Not only so. For we cannot forget that according to the law, not only the full restitution must be made, but the fifth must be added thereto. So with our Lord. For who will not confess that Christ not only did all that we should have done, but, in the ineffable depth of His self-humiliation and obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, paid therewith the added fifth of the law. Said a Jewish Rabbi to the writer, "I have never been able to finish reading in the Gospel the story of the Jesus of Nazareth; for it too soon brings the tears to my eyes!" So affecting even to Jewish unbelief was this unparalleled spectacle, the adorable Son of God making Himself a guilt offering, and paying, in the incomparable perfection of His holy obedience, the added fifth in our behalf! Thus has Christ "magnified this law" of the guilt offering, and "made it honourable," even as He did all law. {Isaiah 42:21}

And, as is intimated, by the formal valuation of the sacrificial ram, in the type, even the death of Christ as the guilt offering, in one aspect is to be regarded as the consummating act of service in the payment of debts Godward. Just as the sin offering represented His death in its passive aspect, as meeting the demands of justice against the sinner as a rebel under sentence of death, by dying in his stead, so, on the other hand, the guilt offering represents that same sacrificial death, rather in another aspect, no less clearly set forth in the New Testament; namely, the supreme act of obedience to the will of God, whereby He discharged "to the uttermost farthing," even with the added fifth of the law, all the transcendent debt of service due from man to God.

This representation of Christ’s work has in all ages been an offence, "the offence of the cross." All the more need we to insist upon it, and never to forget, or let others forget, that Christ is expressly declared in the Word of God to have been "a guilt offering," in the Levitical sense of that term; that, therefore, to speak of His death as effecting our salvation merely through its moral influence, is to contradict and nullify the Word of God. Well may we set this word in Isaiah 53:10, concerning the Servant of Jehovah, against all modern Unitarian theology, and against all Socinianising teaching; all that would maintain any view of Christ’s death which excludes or ignores the divinely revealed fact that it was in its essential nature a guilt offering; and, because a guilt offering, therefore of the nature of the payment of a debt in behalf of those for whom He suffered.

Most blessed truth this, for all who can receive it! Christ, the Son of God, our Guilt offering! Like the poor Israelite, who had defrauded God of that which was His due, so must we do; coming before God, confessing that wherein we have wronged Him, and bringing forth fruit meet for repentance, we must bring and plead Christ in the glory of His person, in all the perfection of His holy obedience, as our Guilt offering. And therewith the ancient promise to the penitent Israelite becomes ours, {Leviticus 6:7} "The priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven; concerning whatsoever he doeth so as to be guilty thereby."


Verses 8-13

THE CONTINUAL BURNT OFFERING

Leviticus 6:8-13

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: the burnt offering shall be on the hearth, upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereon. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes whereto the fire hath consumed the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning thereon, it shall not go out; and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning: and he shall lay the burnt offering in order upon it, and shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out."

Leviticus 6:8-13 we have a "law of the burnt offering" specially addressed to "Aaron and his sons," and designed to secure that the fire of the burnt offering should be continually ascending unto God. In chapter 1 we have the law regarding burnt offerings brought by the individual Israelite. But besides these it was ordered, Exodus 29:38-46, that every morning and evening the priest should offer a lamb as a burnt offering for the whole people, -an offering which primarily symbolised the constant renewal of Israel’s consecration as "a kingdom of priests" unto the Lord. It is to this, the daily burnt offering, that this supplementary law of chapter 6 refers. All the regulations are intended to provide for the uninterrupted maintenance of this sacrificial fire: first, by the regular removal of the ashes which would else cover and smother the fire; and, secondly, by the supply of fuel. The removal of the ashes from the fire is a priestly function; hence it was ordained that the priest for this service put on his robes of office, "his linen garment and his linen breeches," and then take up the ashes from the altar, and lay them by the side of the altar. But as from time to time it would be necessary to remove them from this place quite without the tent, it was ordered that he should carry them forth "without the camp unto a clean place," that the sanctity of all connected with Jehovah’s worship might never be lost sight of; though, as it was forbidden to wear the priestly garments except within the tent of meeting, the priest, when this service was performed, must "put on other garments," his ordinary, unofficial robes. The ashes being thus removed from the altar each morning, then the wood was put on, and the parts of the lamb laid in order upon it to be perfectly consumed. And whenever during the day anyone might bring a peace offering unto the Lord, on this ever-burning fire the priest was to place also the fat, the richest part, of the offering, and with it also the various individual burnt offerings and meal offerings of each day. And thus it was arranged by the law that, all day long, and all night long, the smoke of the burnt offering should be continually ascending unto the Lord.

The significance of this can hardly be missed. By this supplemental law which thus provided for "a continual burnt offering" to the Lord, it was first of all signified to Israel, and to us, that the consecration which the Lord so desires and requires from His people is not occasional, but continuous. As the priest, representing the nation, morning by morning cleared away the ashes which had else covered the flame and caused it to burn dull, and both morning by morning and evening by evening, laid a new victim on the altar, so will God have us do. Our self-consecration is not to be occasional, but continual and habitual. Each morning we should imitate the priest of old, in putting away all that might dull the flame of our devotion, and, morning by morning, when we arise, and evening by evening, when we retire, by a solemn act of self-consecration give ourselves anew unto the Lord. So shall the word in substance, thrice repeated, be fulfilled in us in its deepest, truest sense: "The fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually: it shall not go out" (Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:12-13).

But we must not forget that in this part of the law, as in all else, we are pointed to Christ. This ordinance of the continual burnt offering reminds us that Christ, as our burnt offering, continually offers Himself to God in self-consecration in our behalf. Very significant it is that the burnt offering stands in contrast in this respect with the sin offering. We never read of a continual sin offering; even the great annual sin offering of the day of atonement, which, like the daily burnt offering, had reference to the nation at large, was soon finished, and once for all. And it was so with reason; for in the nature of the case, our Lord’s offering of Himself for sin as an expiatory sacrifice was not and could not be a continuous act. But with His presentation of Himself unto God in full consecration of His person as our Burnt offering, it is different. Throughout the days of His humiliation this self offering of Himself to God continued; nor, indeed, can we say that it has yet ceased, or ever can cease. For still, as the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary, He continually offers Himself as our Burnt offering in constantly renewed and constantly continued devotement of Himself to the Father to do His will.

In this ordinance of the daily burnt offering, ever ascending in the fire that never went out, the idea of the burnt sacrifice reaches its fullest expression, the type its most perfect development. And thus the law of the burnt offering leaves us in the presence of this holy vision: the greater than Aaron, in the heavenly place as our great Representative and Mediator, morning by morning, evening by evening, offering Himself unto the Father in the full self-devotement of His risen life unto God, as our "continual burnt offering." In this, let us rejoice and be at peace.


Verses 14-23

THE DAILY MEAL OFFERING

Leviticus 6:14-23

"And this is the law of the meal offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the Lord, before the altar. And he shall take up therefrom his handful, of the fine flour of the meal offering and of the oil thereof, and all the frankincense which is upon the meal offering, and shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour, as the memorial thereof, unto the Lord. And that which is left thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: it shall be eaten without leaven in a holy place: in the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it. It shall not be baken with leaven. I have given it as their portion of My offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as the sin offering, and as the guilt offering. Every male among the children of Aaron shall eat of it, as a due forever throughout your generations, from the offerings of the Lord made by fire: whosoever toucheth them shall be holy. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, This is the oblation of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the Lord in the day when he is anointed; the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meal offering perpetually, half of it in the morning, and half thereof in the evening. On a baking pan it shall be made with oil; when it is soaked, thou shalt bring it in: in baken pieces shalt thou offer the meal offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord. And the anointed priest that shall be in his stead from among his sons shall offer it: by a statute forever it shall be wholly burnt unto the Lord. And every meal offering of the priest shall be wholly burnt: it shall not be eaten."

As there were not only the burnt offerings of the individual Israelite, but also a daily burnt offering, morning and evening, presented by the priest as the representative of the collective nation, so also with the meal offering. The law concerning this daily meal offering is given in Leviticus 6:19-23. The amount in this case was prescribed, being apparently the amount regarded as a day’s portion of food-"the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour," half of which was to be offered in the morning and half in the evening, made on a baking pan with oil, "for a sweet savour unto the Lord." Unlike the meal offering of the individual, it is said, "by a statute forever, it shall be wholly burnt unto the Lord Every meal offering of the priest shall be wholly burnt; it shall not be eaten." This single variation from the ordinance of chapter 4 is simply an application of the principle which governs all the sacrifices except the peace offering, that he who offered any sacrifice could never himself eat of it; and as the priest in this case was the offerer, the symbolism required that he should himself have nothing of the offering, as being wholly given by him to the Lord. And this meal offering was to be presented, not merely, as some have inferred from Leviticus 6:20, on the day of the anointing of the high priest, but, as is expressly said, "perpetually."

The typical meaning of the meal offering, and, in particular, of this daily meal offering, which, as we learn from Exodus 30:1-38, was offered with the daily burnt offering, is very clear. Every meal offering pointed to Christ in His consecration of all His works to the Father. And as the daily burnt offering presented by Aaron and his sons typified our heavenly High Priest as offering His person in daily consecration unto God in our behalf, so, in the daily meal offering, wholly burnt upon the altar, we see Him in like manner offering unto God in perfect consecration, day by day, perpetually, all His works for our acceptance. To the believer, often sorely oppressed with the sense of the imperfection of his own consecration of his daily works, in that because of this the Father is not glorified by him as He should be, how exceedingly comforting this view of Christy For that which, at the best, we do so imperfectly and interruptedly, He does in our behalf perfectly, and with never-failing constancy; thus at once perfectly glorifying the Father, and also, through the virtue of the boundless merit of this consecration, constantly procuring for us daily grace unto the life eternal.


Verses 16-18

THE PRIESTS’ PORTIONS

Leviticus 6:16-18; Leviticus 7:6-10; Leviticus 7:14; Leviticus 7:31-36

AFTER the law of the guilt offering follows a section {Leviticus 6:8-30; Leviticus 7:1-38} with regard to the offerings previously treated, but addressed especially to the priests, as the foregoing were specially directed to the people. Much of the contents of this section has already passed before us, in anticipation of its order in the book, as this has seemed necessary in order to a complete exposition of the several offerings. An important part of the section, however, relating to the portion of the offerings which was appointed for the priests, has been passed by until now, and must claim our brief attention.

In the verses indicated above, it is ordered that of the meal offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings, all that was not burnt, as also the wave breast and the heave shoulder of the peace offerings, should be for Aaron and his sons. In particular, it is directed that the priest’s portion of the sin offering and the guilt offering shall be eaten by "the priest that maketh atonement therewith"; {Leviticus 7:7} and that of the meal offerings prepared in the oven, the frying pan, or the baking pan, all that is not burned upon the altar, according to the law of chapter 2, shall be eaten by "the priest that offereth it"; and that of every meal offering mingled with oil, or dry, the same part "shall all the sons of Aaron have, one as well as another". {Leviticus 7:9-10} Of the burnt offering, all the flesh being burned, the hide alone fell to the officiating priest as his perquisite. {Leviticus 7:8}

These regulations are explained in the concluding verses of the section Leviticus 7:35-36 as follows, "This is the anointing portion of Aaron, and the anointing portion of his sons, out of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, in the day when he presented them to minister unto the Lord in the priest’s office; which the Lord commanded to be given them of the children of Israel, in the day that he anointed them. It is a due forever throughout their generations."

Hence, it is plain that this use which was to be made of certain parts of certain offerings does not touch the question of the consecration of the whole to God. The whole of each offering is none the less wholly accepted and appropriated by God, that He designates a part of it to the maintenance of the priesthood. That even as thus used by the priest it is used by him as something belonging to God, is indicated by the phrase used, "it is most"; {Leviticus 6:17} expressive words, which in the law of the offerings always have a technical use, as denoting those things of which only the sons of Aaron might partake, and that only in the holy place. In the case of the meal offering, its peculiarly sacred character as belonging, the whole of it, exclusively to God, is further marked by the additional injunctions that it, should be eaten without leaven in a holy place; {Leviticus 6:16} and that whosoever touched these offerings should be; {Leviticus 6:18} that is, he should be as a man separated to God, under all the restrictions (doubtless, without the privileges), which belonged to the priesthood, as men set apart for God’s service. In the eating of their portion of the various offerings by the priests, we are to recognise no official act: we simply see the servants of God supported by the bread of His table.

This last thought, which is absent in the case of no one of the offerings, is brought out with special clearness and fulness in the ceremonial connected with the peace offerings. {Leviticus 7:28-34} In this case, certain parts, the right thigh (or shoulder?) and the breast, are set apart as the due of the priest. The selection of these is determined by the principle which marks all the Levitical legislation: God and those who represent Him are to be honoured by the consecration of the best of everything. In the animals used upon the altar, these were regarded as the choice parts, and are indeed referred to as such in other Scriptures. But, in order that neither the priest nor the people may imagine that the priest receives these as a man from his fellowmen, but may understand that they are given to God, and that it is from God that the priest now receives them, as His servant, fed from His table; to this end, certain ceremonies were ordained to be used with these parts; the breast was to be "heaved," the thigh was to be "waved," before the Lord. What was the meaning of these actions?

The breast was to be "heaved"; that is, elevated heavenward. The symbolic meaning of this act can scarcely be missed. By it, the priest acknowledged his dependence upon God for the supply of this sacrificial food, and, again, by this act consecrated it anew to Him as the One that sitteth in the heavens.

But God is not only the One that "sitteth in the heavens"; He is the God who has condescended also to dwell among men, and especially in the tent of meeting in the midst of Israel. And thus, as by the elevation of the breast heavenward, God, the Giver, was recognised as the One enthroned in heaven, so by the "waving" of the thigh, which, as the rabbis tell us, was a movement backward and forward, to and from the altar, He was recognised also as Jehovah, who had condescended from heaven to dwell in the midst of His people. Like the "heaving," so the "waving," then, was an act of acknowledgment and consecration to God; the former, to God, as in heaven, the God of creation; the other, to God, as the God of the altar, the God of redemption. And that this is the true significance of these acts is illustrated by the fact that in the Pentateuch, in the account of the gold and silver brought by the people for the preparation of the tabernacle, {Exodus 35:22} the same word is used to describe the presentation of these offerings which is here used of the wave offering.

And so in the peace offering the principle is amply illustrated upon which the priests received their dues. The worshippers bring their offerings, and present them, not to the priest, but through him to God; who, then, having used such parts as He will in the service of the sanctuary, gives again such parts of them as He pleases to the priests.

The lesson of these arrangements lies immediately before us. They were intended to teach Israel, and, according to the New Testament, are also designed to teach us, that it is the will of God that those who give up secular occupations to devote themselves to the ministry of His house should be supported by the freewill offerings of God’s people. Very strange indeed it is to hear a few small sects in our day denying this. For the Apostle Paul argues at length to this effect, and calls the attention of the Corinthians {1 Corinthians 9:13-14} to the fact that the principle expressed in this ordinance of the law of Moses has not been set aside, but holds good in this dispensation. "Know ye not that they which wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel." The principle plainly covers the case of all such as give up secular callings to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word, whether to proclaim the Gospel in any of the great mission fields, or to exercise the pastorate of the local church. Such are ever to be supported out of the consecrated offerings of God’s people. To point in disparagement of modern "hireling" ministers and missionaries, as some have done, to the case of Paul, who laboured with his own hands, that he might not be chargeable to those to whom he ministered, is singularly inapt, seeing that in the chapter above referred to he expressly vindicates his right to receive of the Corinthians his support, and in this Second Epistle to them even seems to express a doubt {2 Corinthians 12:13} whether in refusing, as he did, to receive support from them, he had not done them a "wrong," making them thus "inferior to the rest of the churches," from whom, in fact, he did receive such material aid. {Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:16} And if ever claims of this kind upon our benevolence and liberality seem to be heavy, and if to nature the burden is sometimes irksome, we shall do well to remember that the requirement is not of man, and not of the Church, but of God. It comes to us with the double authority of the Old and New Testament, of the Law and the Gospel. And it will certainly help us all to give to these ends the more gladly, if we keep that in mind which the Levitical law so carefully kept before Israel, that the giving was to be regarded by them as not to the priesthood, but to the Lord, and that in our giving outwardly to support the ministry of God’s Word, we give, really, to the Lord Himself. And it stands written: {Matthew 10:42} "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only he shall in no wise lose his reward."


Verses 24-30

THE SANCTITY OF THE SIN OFFERING

Leviticus 6:24-30

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering: in the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in a holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting. Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in a holy place. But the earthen vessel wherein it is sodden shall be broken: and if it be sodden in a brasen vessel, it shall be scoured, and rinsed in water. Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy. And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt with fire."

Leviticus 6:24-30 we have a section which is supplemental to the law of the sin offering, in which, with some repetition of the laws previously given, are added certain special regulations, in fuller exposition of the peculiar sanctity attaching to this offering. As in the case of other offerings called "most holy," it is ordered that only the males among the priests shall eat of it; among whom, the officiating priest takes the precedence. Further, it is declared that everything that touches the offering shall be regarded as "holy," that is, as invested with the sanctity attaching to every person or thing specially devoted to the Lord.

Then by way of application of this principle to two of the most common cases in which it could apply, it is ordered, first (Leviticus 6:27), with regard to any garment which should be sprinkled with the blood, "thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in a holy place"; that so by no chance should the least of the blood which had been shed for the remission of sin, come into contact with anything unclean and unholy. And then, again, inasmuch as the flesh which should be eaten by the priest must needs be cooked, and the vessel used by this contact became holy, it is commanded (Leviticus 6:28) that, if a brazen vessel, "it shall be scoured" and "then rinsed with water"; that in no case should a vessel in which might remain the least of the sacrificial flesh, be used for any profane purpose, and so the holy flesh be defiled. And because when an (unglazed) earthen vessel was used, even such scouring and rinsing could not so cleanse it, but that something of the juices of the holy flesh should be absorbed into its substance, therefore, in order to preclude the possibility of its ever being used for any common purpose it is directed (Leviticus 6:28) that it shall be broken.

By such regulations as these, it is plain that even in those days of little light the thoughtful Israelite would be impressed with the feeling that in the expiation of sin he came into a peculiarly near and solemn relation to the holiness of God, even though he might not be able to formulate his thought more exactly. In modern times, however, strange to say, these very regulations with regard to the sin offering, when it has been taken as typical of Christ, have been used as an argument against the New Testament teaching as to the expiatory nature of His death as a true satisfaction to the holy justice of God for the sins of men. For it is argued, that if Christ was really, in a legal sense, regarded as a sinner, because standing in the sinner’s place, to receive in His person the wrath of God against the sinner’s sin, it could not have been ordered that the blood and the flesh of the typical offering should be thus regarded as of peculiar and preeminent holiness. Rather, we are told, should we, for example, have read in the ritual, "No one, and, least of all, the priests, shall eat of it; for it is most unclean." An extraordinary argument and conclusion! For surely it is an utter misapprehension both of the so-called "orthodox" view of the atonement, and of the New Testament teaching on the subject, to represent it as involving the suggestion that Christ, when for us "made sin," and suffering as our substitute, thereby must have been for the time Himself unclean. Surely, according to the constant use of the word, in imputation of sin, of any sin, to anyone, there is no conveyance of character; it is only implied that such person is, for whatsoever reason, justly or unjustly, treated as if he were guilty of that sin which is imputed to him. Imputing falsehood to a man who is truth itself, does not make him a liar, though it does involve treating him as if he were. Just so it is in this case.

There is, then, in these regulations which emphasise the peculiar holiness of the sin offering, nothing which is inconsistent with the strictest juridical view of the great atonement which in type it represented. On the contrary, one can hardly think of anything which should more effectively represent the great truth of the in comparable holiness of the victim of Calvary, than just this strenuous insistence that the blood and the flesh of the typical victim should be treated as of the most peculiar sanctity. If, when we see the victim of the sin offering slain and its blood presented before God, we behold a vivid representation of Christ, the Lamb of God, "made sin in our behalf"; so when, in these regulations, we see how the flesh and blood of the offered victim is treated as of the most preeminent sanctity, we are as impressively reminded how it is written {2 Corinthians 5:21} that it was "Him who knew no sin," that God "made to be sin on our behalf." Thus does the type, in order that nothing might be wanting in this law of the offering, insist in every possible way on the holiness of the great Victim who became the Antitype; and most of all in the sin offering, because in this, where, not consecration of the person or the works, or the impartation and fellowship of the life of Christ, but expiation, was the central idea of the sacrifice, there was a special need for emphasising, in an exceptional way, this thought; that the Victim who bore our sins, although visibly laden with the curse of God, was none the less all the time Himself "most holy"; so that in that unfathomable mystery of Calvary, never was He more truly and really the well-beloved Son of the Father than when He cried out in the extremity of His anguish as "made sin for us," "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

How wonderfully adapted in all its details was this law of the sin offering, not only for the education of Israel, but, if we will meditate upon these things, also for our own! How the truths which underlie this law should humble us, even in proportion as they exalt to the uttermost the ineffable majesty of the holiness of God! And, if we will but yield to their teachings, how mightily should they constrain us, in grateful recognition of the love of the Holy One who was "made sin in our behalf," and of the love of the Father who sent Him for this end, to accept Him as our Sin offering, set forth in the consummation of the ages, "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." No more are offered the sin offerings of the law of Moses:

"But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,

Takes all our sins away;

A sacrifice of nobler name,

And richer blood, than they."

If, then, the law of the Levitical sin offering abides in force no longer, this is not because God has changed, or because the truths which it set. forth concerning sin, and expiation, and pardon, are obsolete, but only because the great Sin offering which the ancient sacrifice typified, has now appeared. God hath "taken away the first, that He may establish the second". {Hebrews 10:9} We have thus to do with the same God as the Israelite. Now, as then, He takes account of all our sins, even of sins committed "unwittingly"; He reckons guilt with the same absolute impartiality and justice as then; He pardons sin, as then, only when the sinner who seeks pardon, presents a sin offering. But He has now Himself provided the Lamb for this offering, and now in infinite love invites us all, without distinction, with whatsoever sins we may be burdened, to make free use of the all-sufficient and most efficient blood of His well-beloved Son. Shall we risk neglecting this Divine provision, and undertake to deal with God by and by, in the great day of iudgment, on our own merits, without a sacrifice for sin? God forbid! Rather let us go on to say in the words of that old hymn:

"My faith would lay her hand

On that dear Head of Thine,

While like a penitent I stand,

And there confess my sin."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Leviticus 6:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/leviticus-6.html.

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