Leviticus 4:2
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IV.

(2) If a soul shall sin.—It will be seen that whilst the three previous kinds of offerings, viz., the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-17), the meat offering (Leviticus 2:1-16), and the peace offering (Leviticus 3:1-17), are spoken of as familiarly known and practised among the Israelites before the giving of the Law, the sin offering and the trespass offering are here introduced as a new injunction. We have here no more the voluntary formula, “If any man of you bring,” &c. (Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 3:1), as you are in the habit of bringing; but “if a soul shall sin . . . let him bring for his sin offering a young bullock,” &c.

Through ignorance.—He did it inadvertently, and at the time of its committal did not know that it was a transgression; but recognised it as a sin after he did it. (Comp. Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:18; Leviticus 22:14.) According to the practice which obtained during the second Temple, the sin here spoken of, for which the sin offering was brought, was (1) a sin committed through ignorance, or involuntarily, as opposed to a sin committed with a set purpose (comp. Numbers 15:30); (2) a sin against a negative command; (3) a sin consisted in acts, not in words or thoughts, as is deduced from the expression “and shall do against any of them;” and (4) of acts of such a nature, that if committed intentionally they would subject the sinner to the awful punishment of excision. (See Numbers 15:29-30.)

Leviticus 4:2. If a soul sin through ignorance — The next kind of sacrifices appointed were for the expiation of particular sins, and are therefore called sin-offerings. The first sort of these were for sins of ignorance. These must necessarily be understood of such as exceeded common daily infirmities; for if every such sin had required an offering, it had not been possible either for most sinners to bear such a charge, or for the altar to receive so many sacrifices, or for the priests to manage so laborious a work. And for ordinary sins, they were ceremonially expiated by the daily offering, and by that on the great day of atonement, Leviticus 16:30. Through ignorance — Or error, either not knowing his act to be sinful, as appears by comparing Leviticus 4:13-14, or not considering it, but falling into sin through the power of some sudden temptation, as the Hebrew word signifies, <19B967>Psalm 119:67. In short, the doing any thing expressly forbidden, whether heedlessly or by surprise, was a sin of ignorance; and that whether committed by the high-priest, by the whole body of the community, by their rulers, or by any one of the people. In order, it seems, 1st, To excite the Israelites to greater diligence in the study of their laws and religion, a sin-offering was imposed by way of fine upon those who sinned through ignorance or inadvertence. And, 2d, The sin-offering was required in these cases to show them that to disobey God in any instance, or in any respect whatever to neglect or fall short of their duty, would expose them to the divine wrath, unless an atonement was made for them. It is observable that the apostle calls such sins the errors of the people, (Hebrews 5:2,) distinguishing them from wilful transgressions. They were confined to things of a ritual nature, or to such particular cases wherein the plea of ignorance could be admitted. For as to notorious violations of the moral law, ignorance could be no excuse, because these were known by the light of reason, and therefore could not be reckoned sins of ignorance, but presumptuous sins; and for them no expiatory sacrifice was admitted, Numbers 15:30.4:1-12 Burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and peace-offerings, had been offered before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai; and in these the patriarchs had respect to sin, to make atonement for it. But the Jews were now put into a way of making atonement for sin, more particularly by sacrifice, as a shadow of good things to come; yet the substance is Christ, and that one offering of himself, by which he put away sin. The sins for which the sin-offerings were appointed are supposed to be open acts. They are supposed to be sins of commission, things which ought not to have been done. Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment: yet what had been omitted at one time, might be done at another; but a sin committed was past recall. They are supposed to be sins committed through ignorance. The law begins with the case of the anointed priest. It is evident that God never had any infallible priest in his church upon earth, when even the high priest was liable to fall into sins of ignorance. All pretensions to act without error are sure marks of Antichrist. The beast was to be carried without the camp, and there burned to ashes. This was a sign of the duty of repentance, which is the putting away sin as a detestable thing, which our soul hates. The sin-offering is called sin. What they did to that, we must do to our sins; the body of sin must be destroyed, Ro 6:6. The apostle applies the carrying this sacrifice without the camp to Christ, Heb 13:11-13.If a soul shall sin - The sin-offering was a new thing, instituted by the Law. The older kinds of sacrifice Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 3:1 when offered by individuals were purely voluntary: no special occasions were prescribed. But it was plainly commanded that he who was conscious that he had committed a sin should bring his sin-offering. In the abridged rules for sin-offerings in Numbers 15:22-31, the kind of sin for which sin-offerings were accepted is contrasted with that which cut off the perpetrator from among his people (compare Leviticus 4:22 with Leviticus 4:30). The two classes are distinguished in the language of our Bible as sin through ignorance and presumptuous sin. The distinction is clearly recognized in Psalm 19:12-13 and Hebrews 10:26-27. It seems evident that the classification thus indicated refers immediately to the relation of the conscience to God, not to outward practices, nor, immediately, to outward actions.

The presumptuous sinner, literally he who sinned "with a high hand," might or might not have committed such a crime as to incur punishment from the civil law: it was enough that he had with deliberate purpose rebelled against God (see Proverbs 2:13-15), and ipso facto was "cut off from among his people" and alienated from the divine covenant (see Leviticus 7:20; Exodus 31:14; compare Matthew 12:31; 1 John 5:16). But the other kind of sin, that for which the sin-offering was appointed, was of a more complicated nature. It appears to have included the entire range of "sins, negligences and ignorances" for which we are accustomed to ask forgiveness. sin-offerings were required not only when the conscience accused the offender of having yielded to temptation, but sometimes for what were breaches of the Law committed strictly in ignorance Leviticus 4:13, Leviticus 4:23, Leviticus 4:28; Leviticus 5:17, and sometimes on account of ceremonial pollution. They are thus to be regarded as protests against everything which is opposed to the holiness and purity of the divine Law. They were, in short, to be offered by the worshipper as a relief to the conscience whenever he felt the need of atonement.

Sin through ignorance - Sin through error; that is, through straying from the right way. See Psalm 119:67; Ecclesiastes 5:6.

2. If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord—a soul—an individual. All sins may be considered, in a certain sense, as committed "through ignorance," error, or misapprehension of one's true interests. The sins, however, referred to in this law were unintentional violations of the ceremonial laws,—breaches made through haste, or inadvertency of some negative precepts, which, if done knowingly and wilfully, would have involved a capital punishment.

do against any of them—To bring out the meaning, it is necessary to supply, "he shall bring a sin offering."

This must necessarily be understood of more than common sins and daily infirmities; for if every such sin had required an offering, it had not been possible either for most sinners to bear such a charge, or for the altar to receive so many sacrifices, or for the priests to manage so infinite a work. And for ordinary sins, they were ceremonially expiated by the daily offering, and by that on the great day of atonement, Leviticus 16:30.

Through ignorance; or, error; either not knowing his fact to be sinful, as appears by comparing Leviticus 4:13,14, or not considering it, but rashly and unadvisedly falling into sin through the power of some sudden passion or temptation, as the Hebrew word signifies, Psalm 119:67. Compare Job 19:4 Psalm 19:13.

Against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done: the words may be thus rendered, in or about every, or any of the commandments of the Lord which should not be done; or, which concern things that should not be done, to wit, in any negative commands. And there is great reason why a sacrifice should be more necessary for these than for other sins, because affirmative precepts do not so strictly and constantly bind men as the negative do; and if a man through ignorance have neglected them, he may yet recover his error, and fulfil them.

And shall do against any of them; then he shall offer according to his quality, which is here to be understood out of the following verses. Speak unto the children of Israel, saying,.... For this law concerning the sin offering, as the rest, only belonged to them, and such as were proselyted to them:

if a soul should sin through ignorance; sin is from the soul, though committed by the body; it is the soul that sins, Ezekiel 18:4 it includes, as Aben Ezra observes, both Israelites and proselytes; who sinned through ignorance either of the law, that such things were forbidden, or of having committed them, they being done unobserved, and through inadvertency; or were forgotten that they were done, or were done through error and mistake; these sins are what the apostle calls the errors of the people, their strayings out of the way through ignorance and inadvertency, Hebrews 5:2 such sins as a man is overtaken with unawares, and is drawn into at once through temptation and the prevalence of corruption; these are the errors and secret faults which David distinguishes from presumptuous sins, Psalm 19:12,

against any of the commandments of the Lord (concerning things which ought not to be done.) The Jewish writers (m) distinguish the commandments of the Lord into affirmative and negative, and make their number to be six hundred and thirteen; two hundred and forty eight are affirmative, according to the number of bones in a man's body, and three hundred sixty five are negative ones, according to the number of the days of the year; and they observe (n), it is only the transgression of negative precepts that is here meant, and for which a sin offering was to be brought:

and shall do against any of them; it must be something done, and not merely said: hence the Jews (o) say, that as the neglect of circumcision, and of the passover, does not come under this law, because they are affirmative precepts; so neither blasphemy, because there is nothing done, only something said: of these sins of ignorance, they give instances as follows; if any man eats the fat that is about the kidneys, thinking it is the fat that is about the heart; or that lies with a woman forbidden by the law, thinking her to be his wife; or that commits idolatry, by bowing to the idol, thinking that the law forbids sacrifice, incense, and libation, but not bowing; or that profanes the sabbath, thinking it is a common day (p).

(m) T. Bab. Maccot, fol. 23. 2.((n) Maimon. in Misn. Horayot, c. 2. sect. 3. Bartenora in Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 1. Gersom in loc. (o) Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 2. & Bartenora in ib. Maimon. Hilchot Shegagot, c. 1. sect. 2.((p) Maimon & Bartenora in Misn. Ceritot, ib.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through {a} ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:

(a) That is, of negligence or ignorance, especially in the ceremonial law: for otherwise the punishment for a crime is determined according to the transgression, Nu 15:22.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 2. - If a soul shall sin. The conditions to be fulfilled in presenting a sin offering differed according to the position held by the offerer in the state. If it were the high priest, he had

(1) to offer a young bull in the court of the tabernacle;

(2) to place his hand upon it;

(3) to kill it;

(4) to take the blood into the holy place of the tabernacle, and there sprinkle some of it seven times in the direction of the vail that divided off the holy of holies within which the ark was placed, and to smear some of it on the horns of the golden altar of incense;

(5) to pour out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle;

(6) to burn all the internal fat upon the altar of burnt offering;

(7) to carry the whole of the remainder of the animal outside the camp, and there to burn it. If it were the congregation that made the offering, the same conditions had to be fulfilled, except that the elders of the congregation had to lay their hands on the animal. If it were a ruler, the animal offered was to be a male kid, and the priest, instead of taking the blood into the sanctuary, was to smear it on the horns of the altar of burnt sacrifice in the court. If it were an ordinary member of the congregation, the animal was to be a female kid, or ewe lamb, which was to be dealt with in the same manner; or in some cases two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering (whose blood was all sprinkled round the inner side of the altar), the other for a burnt offering (which was to be treated according to the ritual of the burnt offering), or even the tenth part of an ephah of flour (without oil or frankincense), a handful of which was to be burnt, and the remainder delivered to the priest for his consumption. The moral lesson taught to the Jew by the sin offering was of the terrible nature of sin, and of the necessity for an expiation for it in addition to penitence. Mystically he might see that, as the blood of bulls and goats could not of its own virtue take away sin, there must be an offering, foreshadowed by the sacrifice of the animals, which should be effectual as these were symbolical The type is fulfilled by the atonement wrought by Christ's blood shed on the cross (see Hebrews 10:1-21). Further, the ceremonial cleansing of the sinful Israelite by the sin offering in the old dispensation foreshadows the effect of baptism in the new dispensation, for, as Calvin has noted in his Commentary, "As sins are now sacramentally washed away by baptism, so under the Law also sacrifices were expiations, although in a different way." If a soul shall sin through ignorance. The expression, "through ignorance" (bishgagah), is intended to cover all sins except those committed "with a high hand," or defiantly, whether the agent was ignorant that they were sins or was led into them by inconsiderateness or infirmity (cf. Psalm 19:12, 13, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins"). A better translation of bishgagah would be by want of consideration, or by inadvertence. Our Lord could say, even of those who crucified him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do;" and therefore even for them a sin offering might be made and be accepted. But for deliberate and determined sin the Law has no atonement, no remedy. The words, shall do against any of them, i.e., against the commandments, would be better rendered shall do any of them, i.e., the things which ought not to be done. There is no exact apodosis to this verse; it is a general heading to the chapter. The same rules apply to the peace-offerings of sheep and goats, except that, in addition to the fat portions, which were to be burned upon the altar in the case of the oxen (Leviticus 3:3, Leviticus 3:4) and goats (Leviticus 3:14, Leviticus 3:15), the fat tail of the sheep was to be consumed as well. תמימה האליה: "the fat tail whole" (Leviticus 3:9), cauda ovilla vel arietina eaque crassa et adiposa; the same in Arabic (Ges. thes. p. 102). The fat tails which the sheep have in Northern Africa and Egypt, also in Arabia, especially Southern Arabia, and Syria, often weigh 15 lbs. or more, and small carriages on wheels are sometimes placed under them to bear their weight (Sonnini, R. ii. p. 358; Bochart, Hieroz. i. pp. 556ff.). It consists of something between marrow and fat. Ordinary sheep are also found in Arabia and Syria; but in modern Palestine all the sheep are "of the broad-tailed species." The broad part of the tail is an excresence of fat, from which the true tail hangs down (Robinson, Pal. ii. 166). "Near the rump-bone shall he (the offerer) take it (the fat tail) away," i.e., separate it from the body. עצם, ἁπ. λεγ., is, according to Saad., os caudae s. coccygis, i.e., the rump or tail-bone, which passes over into the vertebrae of the tail (cf. Bochart, i. pp. 560-1). In Leviticus 3:11 and Leviticus 3:16 the fat portions which were burned are called "food of the firing for Jehovah," or "food of the firing for a sweet savour," i.e., food which served as a firing for Jehovah, or reached Jehovah by being burned; cf. Numbers 28:24, "food of the firing of a sweet savour for Jehovah." Hence not only are the daily burnt-offerings and the burnt and sin-offerings of the different feasts called "food of Jehovah" ("My bread," Numbers 28:2); but the sacrifices generally are described as "the food of God" ("the bread of their God," Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8, Leviticus 21:17, Leviticus 21:21-22, and Leviticus 22:25), as food, that is, which Israel produced and caused to ascend to its God in fire as a sweet smelling savour. - Nothing is determined here with regard to the appropriation of the flesh of the peace-offerings, as their destination for a sacrificial meal was already known from traditional custom. The more minute directions for the meal itself are given in Leviticus 7:11-36, where the meaning of these sacrifices is more fully explained. - In Leviticus 3:17 (Leviticus 3:16) the general rule is added, "all fat belongs to Jehovah," and the law, "eat neither fat nor blood," is enforced as "an eternal statute" for the generations of Israel (see at Exodus 12:14, Exodus 12:24) in all their dwelling-places (see Exodus 10:23 and Exodus 12:20).
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