Leviticus 4, the Sin Offering

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Helen, Oct 29, 2002.

  1. Helen

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    Aug 29, 2001
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    Chapter 4 opens with an interesting indication about sin itself:

    The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands --…’”

    Sin is here defined as transgressing the Lord’s commands. As Paul says in Romans 7:7, ”I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” Therefore it should be stated here, at the beginning, that although Jesus said the root of sin is in the heart, sin itself is the transgression of a law given by the Lord. This is the biblical definition as found here at the beginning of Leviticus 4.

    As we read through this chapter, the interesting thing is that all of the sacrifices are for unintentional sins. I had to smile when I thought about this. Was it presumed that no one would sin intentionally? That made no sense. Then I realized why all the laws and decreed punishments existed for this theocracy. We have gone through some and will go through many more – but there are the intentional sins, among other things. The intentional sins get punished. The unintentional sins could be atoned for through sacrifices.

    Was this true atonement? The only time we don’t read that atonement and forgiveness are specifically granted is when the anointed priest sins unintentionally. The directions for the sacrifice are given (verses 3-12), but there is o word about atonement or forgiveness.

    However, when the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally, is made aware of it, and sacrifices according to the directions given, ”In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.”

    When a leader sins unintentionally, and then finds out, if he sacrifices according to the directions given, ”the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.”

    And if a single member of the community sins unintentionally and then realizes it and sacrifices according to the direction given, ”the priest will make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven.”

    Now, if Christ is the only means of atonement and forgiveness through HIS work, why do we read this here?

    Hebrews 9 answers this question, and for that reason a good part of it is quoted here:

    When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

    For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

    In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

    It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

    The essence of the animal sacrifices for sin, then, were as foreshadowings of the reality of Christ – and a shadow of the reality of heaven. Thus, in the character (or name) of Christ – the Promise of God to supply and provide atonement and forgiveness – the obedience in sacrificing did provide true atonement and true forgiveness; for the full dependence was again on God.

    Whereas the first three offerings (the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the fellowship offering) were voluntary acts of worship, the sin offering was mandatory for atonement of unintentional sins.

    As a further note, this was evidently already known to some extent in cultures before this. If we go to Job, which is probably the oldest complete book in the Bible, dating around the time of Peleg (as we can judge from the names of the places mentioned and the age of Job at his death – given in the early Alexandrian LXX but not in the Masoretic), we see the following in chapter 1, verses 4-5:

    His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

    Once again we see evidence that God’s requirements were known long before Moses, but it was through Moses they were written down for all to see and refer to. The mistake is often made when referring to the “Law of Moses” in thinking that Moses himself was the one through whom the Lord first gave the law. But biblical evidence says that most the law was known long before Moses. It was at the time of Moses, however, that it was written down, thus becoming known as “the Law of Moses.”

    Lastly, as you read through this chapter, note which different sacrifices are ordered for which people. It is interesting.
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Oct 10, 2001
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