Leviticus 4:13
And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;
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(13) And if the whole congregation.—As the whole Church, in its corporate body, is no more exempt from human frailty than its highest spiritual chief, the law now prescribes the sin offering for the congregation (Leviticus 4:13-21). The case here assumed is that of the whole congregation having ignorantly committed some act which at the time of its committal they believed to be lawful, but which they afterwards discovered to be sinful. The two terms respectively rendered in the Authorised Version by congregation and assembly denote the same body of people, and are used interchangeably, so that the same congregation or assembly which inadvertently committed the sin afterwards recognised it. (Comp. Numbers 15:24-26.) An instance of such a national and congregational sin is recorded in 1Samuel 14:32, where we are told that the Israelites, after smiting the Philistines, “flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground, and the people did eat them with the blood.” According to the ancient interpretation, however, which obtained at the time of Christ, “the whole congregation of Israel” and “the assembly” here spoken of denote the great Sanhedrin, the representatives of the people, who, through error, might proclaim a decree calculated to mislead the nation, thus accounting for the apparent discrepancy between this passage and Numbers 15:22-26.

Leviticus 4:13-14. The whole congregation — The body of the people, or the greater part of them, their rulers concurring with them. A bullock — But if the sin of the congregation was only the omission of some ceremonial duty, a kid of the goats was to be offered, Numbers 15:24.4:13-21 If the leaders of the people, through mistake, caused them to err, an offering must be brought, that wrath might not come upon the whole congregation. When sacrifices were offered, the persons, on whose behalf they were devoted, were to lay their hands on the heads of the victims, and to confess their sins. The elders were to do so, when the sacrifices were offered for the whole congregation. The load of sin was supposed then to be borne by the guiltless animal. When the offering is completed, it is said, atonement is made, and the sin shall be forgiven. The saving of churches and kingdoms from ruin, is owing to the satisfaction and mediation of Christ.Congregation ... assembly - Each of the Hebrew words signifies the people in a collected body. It does not appear that there is any difference between them in the connection in which they are here used. 13-21. if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance—In consequence of some culpable neglect or misapprehension of the law, the people might contract national guilt, and then national expiation was necessary. The same sacrifice was to be offered as in the former case, but with this difference in the ceremonial, that the elders or heads of the tribes, as representing the people and being the principal aggressors in misleading the congregation, laid their hands on the head of the victim. The priest then took the blood into the holy place, where, after dipping his finger in it seven times, he sprinkled the drops seven times before the veil. This done, he returned to the court of the priests, and ascending the altar, put some portion upon its horns; then he poured it out at the foot of the altar. The fat was the only part of the animal which was offered on the altar; for the carcass, with its appurtenances and offals, was carried without the camp, into the place where the ashes were deposited, and there consumed with fire. The whole congregation; the body of the people, or the greater part of them, their rulers concurring with them. And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance,.... That is, all Israel, or the greatest part of them, as Gersom interprets it, through the ignorant teaching of the judges, who by their instruction cause the people to err, and commit sins of ignorance, as Baal Hatturim on the place observes, and Maimonides elsewhere (g); wherefore Jarchi, and some others, by the congregation of Israel understand the sanhedrim, or the bench of judges, consisting of seventy one. Ainsworth remarks on the words, that the church may err:

and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly; congregation or church, so that they do not know that it is a sin which they have committed:

and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord, concerning things which should not be done; transgressed negative precepts:

and are guilty; of sin, though as yet they know it not.

(g) Hilchot Shegagot, c. 12. sect. 1.

And if the {f} whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;

(f) The multitude does not excuse the sin, but if all have sinned, they must all be punished.

13–21. The Sin-Offering for the congregation, a bullock

Verses 13-21. - The case of the whole congregation. A nation may become guilty of national sin in different ways, according to its political constitution: most directly, by the action of a popular Legislature passing a decree such as that of the Athenian assembly, condemning the whole of the Mitylenean people to death (Thucyd., 3:36), or by approving an act of sacrilege (Malachi 3:9); indirectly, by any complicity in or condoning of a sin done in its name by its rulers. The ritual of the sin offering is the same as in the case of the high priest. The elders of the congregation (according to the Targum of Jonathan, twelve in number), acting for the nation, lay their hands on the victim's head, and the high priest, as before, presents the blood, by sprinkling it seven times before the Lord, even before the vail; and putting some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation. It is added that he shall thus make an atonement, or covering of sin, for them, and it shall be forgiven them. The presentation, laying on of hands, and slaughtering, were the same as in the case of the other sacrifices (Leviticus 1:3-5). The first peculiarity occurs in connection with the blood (Leviticus 4:5-7). The anointed priest was to take (a part) of the blood and carry it into the tabernacle, and having dipped his finger in it, to sprinkle some of it seven times before Jehovah "in the face of the vail of the Holy" (Exodus 26:31), i.e., in the direction towards the curtain; after that, he was to put (נתן) some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of incense, and then to pour out the great mass of the blood, of which only a small portion had been used for sprinkling and smearing upon the horns of the altar, at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering. A sevenfold sprinkling "in the face of the vail" also took place in connection with the sin-offering for the whole congregation, as well as with the ox and he-goat which the high priest offered as sin-offerings on the day of atonement for himself, the priesthood, and the congregation, when the blood was sprinkled seven times before (לפני) the capporeth (Leviticus 16:14), and seven times upon the horns of the altar (Leviticus 16:18-19). So too the blood of the red cow, that was slaughtered as a sin-offering outside the camp, was sprinkled seven times in the direction towards the tabernacle (Numbers 19:4). The sevenfold sprinkling at the feast of atonement had respect to the purification of the sanctuary from the blemishes caused by the sins of the people, with which they had been defiled in the course of the year (see at ch. 16), and did not take place till after the blood had been sprinkled once "against (? upon) the capporeth in front" for the expiation of the sin of the priesthood and people, and the horns of the altar had been smeared with the blood (Leviticus 16:14, Leviticus 16:18); whereas in the sin-offerings mentioned in this chapter, the sevenfold sprinkling preceded the application of the blood to the horns of the altar. This difference in the order of succession of the two manipulations with the blood leads to the conclusion, that in the case before us the sevenfold sprinkling had a different signification from that which it had on the day atonement, and served as a preliminary and introduction to the expiation. The blood also was not sprinkled upon the altar of the holy place, but only before Jehovah, against the curtain behind which Jehovah was enthroned, that is to say, only into the neighbourhood of the gracious presence of God; and this act was repeated seven times, that in the number seven, as the stamp of the covenant, the covenant relation, which sin had loosened, might be restored. It was not till after this had been done, that the expiatory blood of the sacrifice was put upon the horns of the altar, - not merely sprinkled or swung against the wall of the altar, but smeared upon the horns of the altar; not, however, that the blood might thereby be brought more prominently before the eyes of God, or lifted up into His more immediate presence, as Hoffmann and Knobel suppose, but because the significance of the altar, as the scene of the manifestation of the divine grace and salvation, culminated in the horns, as the symbols of power and might. In the case of the sin-offerings for the high priest and the congregation, the altar upon which this took place was not the altar of burnt-offering in the court, but the altar of incense in the holy place; because both the anointed priest, by virtue of his calling and consecration as the mediator between the nation and the Lord, and the whole congregation, by virtue of its election as a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), were to maintain communion with the covenant God in the holy place, the front division of the dwelling-place of Jehovah, and were thus received into a closer relation of fellowship with Jehovah than the individual members of the nation, for whom the court with its altar was the divinely appointed place of communion with the covenant God. The remainder of the blood, which had not been used in the act of expiation, was poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering, as the holy place to which all the sacrificial blood was to be brought, that it might be received into the earth.
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