Leviticus 5:1
And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
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(1) And hear the voice of swearing.—Better, because he heard the voice of adjuration, and might be a witness, whether he hath seen the offence or known of it, if he doth not tell it. Having laid dawn in the former chapter the regulations about the sin offering, and having shown how these regulations are to be carried out when the offence against the Divine law is inadvertently committed by the spiritual head of the people, by the whole congregation, by the sovereign ruler of the nation, and by the individual members of the community, the lawgiver now proceeds to set forth in Leviticus 5:1-13 of this chapter the trespass offering which every Israelite is to bring when he has violated certain precepts here specified. The first instance adduced is that of failing to come forward as witness after the judicial adjuration has been uttered. It was the duty of every member of the community to aid the authorities in maintaining the integrity of the Divine law. Hence, when an offence was committed which the constituted tribunals were unable to bring home to the offender for want of evidence, a solemn adjuration was addressed by the judge to individual members, to a district, or to the whole community. If after such an adjuration, anyone who was cognizant of the offence failed to come forward to testify what he knew, he was considered in the sight of God as participating in the transgression which he had thus concealed. It is with reference to this law that we are told, “whoso is partner with a thief, hateth his own soul, he heareth cursing and betrayeth it not,” i.e., he hears the adjuration of the judges, and yet stifles his evidence, and thus becomes a partner with the culprit. An instance of this adjuration is recorded in Matthew 26:63, where the high priest said to Jesus, “I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the son of God,” and it was in recognition of the solemn obligation of this adjuration that Jesus answered the question.

Then he shall bear his iniquity.—Better, and he beareth his iniquity; that is, he is sensible that he bears the load of this guilt, he has become conscious of his sin, without which he could not bring the sacrifice here prescribed. The phrase, “and he beareth his guilt,” has the same meaning as and “he,” or “they are guilty” in Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22, &c. Unlike the sins committed inadvertently, spoken of in the preceding chapter, where the sin offering is prescribed, the guilt here described is that of designed and culpable silence, and of deliberately concealing a crime.

Leviticus 5:1. And hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness — The meaning seems to be, If a person sin, in not revealing the voice of swearing, which he has seen, that is, been a witness to, or been present when it was said, or known by sufficient information from others. But it must be observed, that the word, אלה, alah, here used, probably means cursing, blasphemy, or execration, and that either against one’s neighbour, or against God. This seems to be principally intended here, if not also, as many suppose, false swearing, for the crime spoken of is of so high a nature, that he who heard it was obliged to reveal it, and prosecute the guilty. Some think the expression ought to be rendered, The voice of adjuration, or being adjured in the name of God, when he is called to be a witness in a cause, to speak the truth. For in those countries the judges were wont to demand, in court, of accused persons or witnesses, in the name of God, to declare the whole truth; and this laid the same obligation upon them, as the administering an oath now does with us. See instances of this, Numbers 5:21; 1 Kings 8:31; 1 Kings 22:16; Proverbs 29:24; Matthew 26:63. Whether he hath seen or known — That is, according to this last sense of the expression, if he be adjured to declare what he can say of the matter in question, whether upon his own knowledge, or from information of credible persons. If he do not utter it — If he suppress the truth, or be guilty of prevaricating, or dissimulation. He shall bear his iniquity — That is, the punishment of his iniquity; for the word עונ, gnavon, has frequently that meaning. Let him not think it is no offence to suppress the truth, when so solemnly called upon to declare it. He is unclean and guilty, and in token of his repentance let him offer such a sacrifice for his sin as is prescribed, (Leviticus 5:6,) which belongs to this and all the following cases. The expression, Shall bear his iniquity, is very emphatic, and imports that guilt, like a grievous burden, shall lie heavy upon him. Houbigant, however, an acknowledged critic, prefers the former interpretation.5:1-13 The offences here noticed are, 1. A man's concealing the truth, when he was sworn as a witness to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If, in such a case, for fear of offending one that has been his friend, or may be his enemy, a man refuses to give evidence, or gives it but in part, he shall bear his iniquity. And that is a heavy burden, which, if some course be not taken to get it removed, will sink a man to hell. Let all that are called at any time to be witnesses, think of this law, and be free and open in their evidence, and take heed of prevaricating. An oath of the Lord is a sacred thing, not to be trifled with. 2. A man's touching any thing that was ceremonially unclean. Though his touching the unclean thing only made him ceremonially defiled, yet neglecting to wash himself according to the law, was either carelessness or contempt, and contracted moral guilt. As soon as God, by his Spirit, convinces our consciences of any sin or duty, we must follow the conviction, as not ashamed to own our former mistake. 3. Rash swearing, that a man will do or not do such a thing. As if the performance of his oath afterward prove unlawful, or what cannot be done. Wisdom and watchfulness beforehand would prevent these difficulties. In these cases the offender must confess his sin, and bring his offering; but the offering was not accepted, unless accompanied with confession and humble prayer for pardon. The confession must be particular; that he hath sinned in that thing. Deceit lies in generals; many will own they have sinned, for that all must own; but their sins in any one particular they are unwilling to allow. The way to be assured of pardon, and armed against sin for the future, is to confess the exact truth. If any were very poor, they might bring some flour, and that should be accepted. Thus the expense of the sin-offering was brought lower than any other, to teach that no man's poverty shall ever bar the way of his pardon. If the sinner brought two doves, one was to be offered for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering. We must first see that our peace be made with God, and then we may expect that our services for his glory will be accepted by him. To show the loathsomeness of sin, the flour, when offered, must not be made grateful to the taste by oil, or to the smell by frankincense. God, by these sacrifices, spoke comfort to those who had offended, that they might not despair, nor pine away in their sins. Likewise caution not to offend any more, remembering how expensive and troublesome it was to make atonement.Special occasions are mentioned on which sin-offerings are to be made with a particular confession of the offence for which atonement is sought Leviticus 5:5.

Leviticus 5:1

Swearing - Adjuration. The case appears to be that of one who has been put upon his oath as a witness by a magistrate, and fails to utter all he has seen and heard (compare the marginal references. and Proverbs 29:24; Numbers 5:21).


Le 5:1. Trespass Offerings for Concealing Knowledge.

1. if a soul … hear the voice of swearing—or, according to some, "the words of adjuration." A proclamation was issued calling any one who could give information, to come before the court and bear testimony to the guilt of a criminal; and the manner in which witnesses were interrogated in the Jewish courts of justice was not by swearing them directly, but adjuring them by reading the words of an oath: "the voice of swearing." The offense, then, for the expiation of which this law provides, was that of a person who neglected or avoided the opportunity of lodging the information which it was in his power to communicate.If a man heard or knew of blasphemy, and concealed it, he must atone it, Leviticus 5:1. Or if he touch any unclean thing, and is made sensible of it, or have sworn rashly, he is guilty, must confess it, and offer a lamb or goat, female; in case of poverty, two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, one for a sin, and one for a burnt-offering, Leviticus 5:2-10. But if this were too much, the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour, without oil or frankincense, Leviticus 5:11-13. He that purloineth holy things must offer a ram, and the worth in silver, shekel according to the weight of the sanctuary, Leviticus 5:14-16. Sins of ignorance again mentioned, and a perfect ram, with the estimation, for a sin-offering, Leviticus 5:17-19.

And hear; and for that is, as that particle is often used, as Genesis 13:15 1 Chronicles 21:12, compared with 2 Samuel 24:13; for this declares in particular what the sin was. The voice of swearing; either,

1. Of adjuration upon oath, when the judge adjures a witness to speak the whole truth; of which see Matthew 26:63. But this seems too much to narrow the sense; and this and the other laws, both before and after it, speak of private sins committed through ignorance. Or,

2. Of false swearing before a judge. But that is expressly forbidden, Leviticus 6:3. Or rather,

3. Of cursing, or blasphemy, or execration, as the word commonly signifies; and that either,

1. Against one’s neighbour, as 2 Samuel 16:7; or,

2. Against God, as Leviticus 24:10,11; which may seem to be principally intended here, because the crime here spoken of is of so high a nature, that he who heard it was obliged to reveal it, and prosecute the guilty. And though God be not here mentioned, yet the general word is here to be understood of the most famous particular, as it is frequently in all authors, of which there are many instances.

Whether he hath seen; being present when it was said.

Or known, by sufficient information from others. He shall bear his iniquity, i.e. the punishment of it, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 19:15 Numbers 18:1. See of this phrase Leviticus 17:16 20:20 Isaiah 53:11.

And if a soul sin,.... The soul is put for the person, and is particularly mentioned, as Ben Melech says, because possessed of will and desire:

and hear the voice of swearing; or cursing, or adjuration; not of profane swearing, and taking the name of God in vain, but either of false swearing, or perjury, as when a man hears another swear to a thing which he knows is false; or else of adjuration, either the voice of a magistrate or of a neighbour adjuring another, calling upon him with an oath to bear testimony in such a case; this is what the Jews (r) call the oath of testimony or witness, and which they say (s) is binding in whatsoever language it is heard:

and is a witness; is able to bear witness to the thing he is adjured about:

whether he hath seen or known of it; what he has seen with his eyes, or knows by any means: of such a case, the Jews observe (t), that there may be seeing without knowing, or knowing without seeing, and in either case a man ought to bear witness:

if he do not utter it; tell the truth, declare what he has seen or known:

then he shall bear his iniquity; he shall be charged with sin, and be obliged to acknowledge his offence, and bring a trespass offering for it: it is said (u), that the witnesses are not guilty of the oath of the testimony, but in these ten cases; if they are required; if the testimony is concerning goods; if the goods are movable; if he that requires binds himself to pay for their testimony only, in case they bear witness; if they refuse after required; if they refuse in the sanhedrim; if the adjuration or oath is made there by the name of God, or his titles; if knowledge of the testimony goes before the oath; if he particularizes his witnesses in the time of the oath, or at the time of the requirement; and if the oath is in a language they understood.

(r) Misn. Sotah, c. 7. 1.((s) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 33. 1.((t) T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 33. 2. & 34. 1.((u) Maimon. Hilchot, Shebuot, c. 9. sect. 3.

And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or {a} known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.

(a) By which it is commanded to bear witness to the truth, and disclose the iniquity of the ungodly.

Leviticus 5:1-13 [47]. Three cases in which a Sin-Offering must be brought

For the reasons which have led critics to assign Leviticus 5:1-6 to a source other than that of 4. see App. 1 (a).

1. The first case. A man who has either seen a crime perpetrated (e.g. one stealing another’s property), or heard something that would assist in detecting the criminal, is bound to declare what he knows when a solemn appeal is made in his hearing (he heareth the voice of adjuration). If he do not utter it (i.e. if he remain silent though capable of bearing witness) then he is guilty and a Sin-Offering is necessary. Note the reply of Jesus to the high priest’s adjuration after having remained silent (Matthew 26:63).

bear his iniquity] incur the punishment due to such transgression.

The mother of Micah (Jdg 17:2 R.V. mg.) uttered an adjuration when eleven hundred pieces of silver were stolen from her. She lifted up her voice (according to the custom of those times which was for a long time preserved among the Arabs) calling in the name of God on anyone who knew anything about the matter to reveal it. This appeal her son heard, and in response acknowledged himself to be the thief. The appeal might be made by the person wronged to the bystanders, or if an appeal were made to a judge, he might utter an adjuration. According to the traditional interpretation, the text refers to a case brought into court. In Proverbs 29:24 reference is made to one who is silent when thus appealed to: the words of A.V. ‘he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not’ should be rendered ‘he heareth the adjuration and uttereth nothing’ (as R.V. with marg. ref. to Leviticus 5:1).

This is different from the previous and following cases in which the sin is committed unwittingly.Verse 1. - The case of a witness on oath. If a man hear the voice of swearing, that is, if he was one of a number of persons adjured to speak according to the manner in which oaths were administered in Jewish courts of justice (see Matthew 26:63; 2 Chronicles 18:15), and he did not give evidence of what he had seen or heard, he had to bear his iniquity, that is, he was regarded as guilty; and as this was an offense which could be atoned for by a sacrifice, he was to offer as a sin offering a ewe lamb, or a female kid, or two turtle-doves, or two pigeons, or the tenth part of an ephah of flour. This injunction is a direct condemnation of the approved teaching of Italian moral theologians of paramount authority throughout the Roman Church, who maintain that, in case a crime is not known to others, a witness in a court of justice "may, nay, he is bound to, say that the accused has not committed it" (St. Alfonso de' Liguori, 'Theol. Mor.,' 4:154). In the case of the sin of a common Israelite ("of the people of the land," i.e., of the rural population, Genesis 23:7), that is to say, of an Israelite belonging to the people, as distinguished from the chiefs who ruled over the people (2 Kings 11:18-19; 2 Kings 16:15), the sin-offering was to consist of a shaggy she-goat without blemish, or a ewe-sheep (Leviticus 4:32). The ceremonial in both cases was the same as with the he-goat (Leviticus 4:23.). - "According to the offerings made by fire unto the Lord" (Leviticus 4:35): see at Leviticus 3:5.
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