Leviticus 5:17
And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) And if a soul sin.—To guard the Israelites most effectually against making profane use of anything dedicated to the sanctuary and its service, it is here further enacted in Leviticus 5:17-19, that a trespass offering is to be brought when a man only suspects that he had used things which belonged to the Lord, though he can no longer remember what particular holy property it was, which he used for his own purpose. In the canonical exposition, which obtained during the second Temple, of these sacrificial laws, the trespass offering enacted here is called “The Doubtful Offering,” in contradistinction to the one enacted in Leviticus 5:14-16, which is called “The Certain Offering.”

These things.—That is, the holy things of the Lord specified in Leviticus 5:15.

Though he wist it not, i.e., is uncertain about it. Thus, for instance, he might be in doubt whether or not his transgression consisted in not delivering the first-fruit to the sanctuary, or in having used some other sacred property. (Comp. Genesis 20:5, &c, 2Samuel 20:1, &c.)

Yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.—Still, he feels that he may be guilty of the transgression, and consequently is burdened with the weight of his iniquity. (See Leviticus 5:1.)

Leviticus 5:17. The former law concerns the alienation of holy things from sacred to common use; this may concern other miscarriages about holy things and holy duties, as may be gathered from Leviticus 5:19, where this is said to be a trespass against the Lord, not in a general sense, for so every sin was, but in a proper and peculiar sense.

5:14-19 Here are offerings to atone for trespasses against a neighbour. If a man put to his own use unwittingly, any thing dedicated to God, he was to bring this sacrifice. We are to be jealous over ourselves, to ask pardon for the sin, and make satisfaction for the wrong, which we do but suspect ourselves guilty of. The law of God is so very broad, the occasions of sin in this guilty of. The law of God is so very broad, the occasions of sin in this world are so numerous, and we are so prone to evil, that we need to fear always, and to pray always, that we may be kept from sin. Also we should look before us at every step. The true Christian daily pleads guilty before God, and seeks forgiveness through the blood of Christ. And the gospel salvation is so free, that the poorest is not shut out; and so full, that the most burdened conscience may find relief from it. Yet the evil of sin is so displayed as to cause every pardoned sinner to abhor and dread it.Though he wist it not - Ignorance of the Law, or even of the consequences of the act at the time that it was committed, was not to excuse him from the obligation to offer the sacrifice. 17-19. if a soul sin … though he wist it not, yet is he guilty—This also refers to holy things, and it differs from the preceding in being one of the doubtful cases,—that is, where conscience suspects, though the understanding be in doubt whether criminality or sin has been committed. The Jewish rabbis give, as an example, the case of a person who, knowing that "the fat of the inwards" is not to be eaten, religiously abstained from the use of it; but should a dish happen to have been at table in which he had reason to suspect some portion of that meat was intermingled, and he had, inadvertently, partaken of that unlawful viand, he was bound to bring a ram as a trespass offering [Le 5:16]. These provisions were all designed to impress the conscience with the sense of responsibility to God and keep alive on the hearts of the people a salutary fear of doing any secret wrong. Any of these things, to wit, concerning holy things, of which he is yet speaking, though with some difference and addition, as it may seem. The former law concerns the alienation of holy things from the sacred to a common use; and this may concern other miscarriages about holy things and holy duties, as may be gathered from Leviticus 5:19, where this is said to be a trespass against the Lord, not in a general sense, for so every sin war, but in a proper and peculiar sense.

Though he wist it not; for if he did it knowingly, he must die, Numbers 15:30.

And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord,.... Respecting holy things:

though he wist it not; or did not know that he had transgressed a negative command:

yet he is guilty, and shall bear the iniquity; be chargeable with guilt, and is liable to punishment, and must make an atonement and satisfaction for it; see Luke 12:48.

And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall {i} bear his iniquity.

(i) That is, remembers after that he has sinned when his conscience accuses him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
(b) 17–19. if any one sin, and do any of the things which the Lord hath commanded not to be done] The description of the sin in this case is the same as that in Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27. In what respect do these sins (which here require a Guilt-Offering) differ from those in ch. 4 for which a Sin-Offering is prescribed? The difference is indicated in the words ‘though he knew (‘wist’ A.V.) it not.’ They are not the same as the Heb. expression rendered unwittingly (concerning his ignorance A.V.), for in Leviticus 5:18 they occur as a further qualification of a thing done ‘unwittingly.’ The sins of ch. 4. are those of which a person becomes conscious (Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 4:28). In such case he must offer a Sin-Offering. But the case here supposed is that of one who fears that he has been guilty of some infringement of the Divine commands, but cannot specify it.

He brings a ram as Guilt-Offering (in the same manner as in the preceding case (15, 16)), but no restitution is demanded as the amount cannot be estimated, since the offence remains unknown. This sacrifice was called by the Jews (’âshâm tâluy), lit. a suspended Guilt or Trespass-Offering. It was a voluntary offering, and relieved a troubled conscience. It is recorded of one pious Jew that he brought a sacrifice of this kind every day except on the day following the Great Day of Atonement.

Verses 17-19. Sins of commission may be atoned for by the trespass offering as well as sins of omission.



Leviticus 5:17(Ch. 5:14-6:7)

(Note: In the original the division of verses in the Hebrew text is followed; but we have thought it better to keep to the arrangement adopted in our English version. - Tr.)

The Trespass-Offerings. - These were presented for special sins, by which a person had contracted guilt, and therefore they are not included in the general festal sacrifices. Three kinds of offences are mentioned in this section as requiring trespass-offerings. The first is, "if a soul commit a breach of trust, and sin in going wrong in the holy gifts of Jehovah." מעל, lit., to cover, hence מעיל the cloak, over-coat, signifies to act secretly, unfaithfully, especially against Jehovah, either by falling away from Him into idolatry, by which the fitting honour was withheld from Jehovah (Leviticus 26:40; Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 22:16), or by infringing upon His rights, abstracting something that rightfully belonged to Him. Thus in Joshua 7:1; Joshua 22:20, it is applied to fraud in relation to that which had been put under the ban; and in Numbers 5:12, Numbers 5:27,it is also applied to a married woman's unfaithfulness to her husband: so that sin was called מעל, when regarded as a violation of existing rights. "The holy things of Jehovah" were the holy gifts, sacrifices, first-fruits, tithes, etc., which were to be offered to Jehovah, and were assigned by Him to the priests for their revenue (see Leviticus 21:22). חטא with מן is constructio praegnans: to sin in anything by taking away from Jehovah that which belonged to Him. בּשׁגגה, in error (see Leviticus 4:2): i.e., in a forgetful or negligent way. Whoever sinned in this way was to offer to the Lord as his guilt (see Leviticus 5:6) a ram from the flock without blemish for a trespass-offering (lit., guilt-offering), according to the estimate of Moses, whose place was afterwards taken by the officiating priest (Leviticus 27:12; Numbers 18:16). שׁקלים כּסף "money of shekels," i.e., several shekels in amount, which Abenezra and others have explained, no doubt correctly, as meaning that the ram was to be worth more than one shekel, two shekels at least. The expression is probably kept indefinite, for the purpose of leaving some margin for the valuation, so that there might be a certain proportion between the value of the ram and the magnitude of the trespass committed (see Oehler ut sup. p. 645). "In the holy shekel:" see Exodus 30:13. At the same time, the culprit was to make compensation for the fraud committed in the holy thing, and add a fifth (of the value) over, as in the case of the redemption of the first-born, of the vegetable tithe, or of what had been vowed to God (Leviticus 27:27, Leviticus 27:31, and Leviticus 27:13, Leviticus 27:15, Leviticus 27:19). The ceremony to be observed in the offering of the ram is described in Leviticus 7:1. It was the same as that of the sin-offerings, whose blood was not brought into the holy place, except with regard to the sprinkling of the blood, and in this the trespass-offering resembled the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings.

The second case (Leviticus 5:17-19), from its very position between the other two, which both refer to the violation of rights, must belong to the same category; although the sin is introduced with the formula used in Leviticus 4:27 in connection with those sins which were to be expiated by a sin-offering. But the violation of right can only have consisted in an invasion of Jehovah's rights with regard to Israel, and not, as Knobel supposes, in an invasion of the rights of private Israelites, as distinguished from the priests; an antithesis of which there is not the slightest indication. This is evident from the fact, that the case before us is linked on to the previous one without anything intervening; whereas the next case, which treats of the violation of the rights of a neighbour, is separated by a special introductory formula. The expression, "and wist it not," refers to ignorance of the sin, and not of the divine commands; as may be clearly seen from Leviticus 5:18 : "the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his error, which he committed without knowing it." The trespass-offering was the same as in the former case, and was also to be valued by the priest; but no compensation is mentioned, probably because the violation of right, which consisted in the transgression of one of the commands of God, was of such a kind as not to allow of material compensation. The third case (Leviticus 6:1-7) is distinguished from the other two by a new introductory formula. The sin and unfaithfulness to Jehovah are manifested in this case in a violation of the rights of a neighbour. "If a man deny to his neighbour (כּחשׁ with a double ב obj., to deny a thing to a person) a pikkadon (i.e., a deposit, a thing entrusted to him to keep, Genesis 41:36), or יד תּשׂוּמת, "a thing placed in his hand" (handed over to him as a pledge) "or גּזל, a thing robbed" (i.e., the property of a neighbour unjustly appropriated, whether a well, a field, or cattle, Genesis 21:25; Micah 2:2; Job 24:2), "or if he have oppressed his neighbour" (i.e., forced something from him or withheld it unjustly, Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14; Joshua 12:8; Malachi 3:5), "or have found a lost thing and denies it, and thereby swears to his lie" (i.e., rests his oath upon a lie), "on account of one of all that a man is accustomed to do to sin therewith:" the false swearing here refers not merely to a denial of what is found, but to all the crimes mentioned, which originated in avarice and selfishness, but through the false swearing became frauds against Jehovah, adding guilt towards God to the injustice done to the neighbour, and requiring, therefore, not only that a material restitution should be made to the neighbour, but that compensation should be made to God as well. Whatever had been robbed, or taken by force, or entrusted or found, and anything about which a man had sworn falsely (Leviticus 6:4, Leviticus 6:5), was to be restored "according to its sum" (cf. Exodus 30:12; Numbers 1:2, etc.), i.e., in its full value; beside which, he was to "add its fifths" (on the plural, see Ges. 87, 2; Ew. 186 e), i.e., in every one of the things abstracted or withheld unjustly the fifth part of the value was to be added to the full amount (as in Leviticus 5:16). "To him to whom it (belongs), shall he give it" אשׁמתו בּיום: in the day when he makes atonement for his trespass, i.e., offers his trespass-offering. The trespass (guilt) against Jehovah was to be taken away by the trespass-offering according to the valuation of the priest, as in Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:16, and Leviticus 5:18, that he might receive expiation and forgiveness on account of what he had done.

If now, in order to obtain a clear view of the much canvassed difference between the sin-offerings and trespass-offerings,

(Note: For the different views, see Bhr's Symbolik; Winer's bibl. R. W.; Kurtz on Sacrificial Worship; Riehm, theol. Stud. und Krit. 1854, pp. 93ff.; Rinck, id. 1855, p. 369; Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.)

we look at once at the other cases, for which trespass-offerings were commanded in the law; we find in Numbers 5:5-8 not only a trespass against Jehovah, but an unjust withdrawal of the property of a neighbour, clearly mentioned as a crime, for which material compensation was to be made with the addition of a fifth of its value, just as in Leviticus 5:2-7 of the present chapter. So also the guilt of a man who had lain with the slave of another (Leviticus 19:20-22) did not come into the ordinary category of adultery, but into that of an unjust invasion of the domain of another's property; though in this case, as the crime could not be estimated in money, instead of material compensation being made, a civil punishment (viz., bodily scourging) was to be inflicted; and for the same reason nothing is said about the valuation of the sacrificial ram. Lastly, in the trespass-offerings for the cleansing of a leper (Leviticus 14:12.), or of a Nazarite who had been defiled by a corpse (Numbers 6:12), it is true we cannot show in what definite way the rights of Jehovah were violated (see the explanation of these passages), but the sacrifices themselves served to procure the restoration of the persons in question to certain covenant rights which they had lost; so that even here the trespass-offering, for which moreover only a male sheep was demanded, was to be regarded as a compensation or equivalent for the rights to be restored. From all these cases it is perfectly evident, that the idea of satisfaction for a right, which had been violated but was about to be restored or recovered, lay at the foundation of the trespass-offering,

(Note: Even in the case of the trespass-offering, which those who had taken heathen wives offered at Ezra's instigation (Ezra 10:18.), it had reference to a trespass (cf. vv. 2 and 10), an act of unfaithfulness to Jehovah, which demanded satisfaction. And so again the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:3.), when presenting gifts as a trespass-offering for Jehovah, rendered satisfaction for the robbery committed upon Him by the removal of the ark of the covenant.)

and the ritual also points to this. The animal sacrificed was always a ram, except in the cases mentioned in Leviticus 14:12. and Numbers 6:12. This fact alone clearly distinguishes the trespass-offerings from the sin-offerings, for which all kinds of sacrifices were offered from an ox to a pigeon, the choice of the animal being regulated by the position of the sinner and the magnitude of his sin. But they are distinguished still more by the fact, that in the case of all the sin-offerings the blood was to be put upon the horns of the altar, or even taken into the sanctuary itself, whereas the blood of the trespass-offerings, like that of the burnt and peace-offerings, was merely swung against the wall of the altar (Leviticus 7:2). Lastly, they were also distinguished by the fact, that in the trespass-offering the ram was in most instances to be valued by the priest, not for the purpose of determining its actual value, which could not vary very materially in rams of the same kind, but to fix upon it symbolically the value of the trespass for which compensation was required. Hence there can be no doubt, that as the idea of the expiation of sin, which was embodied in the sprinkling of the blood, was most prominent in the sin-offering; so the idea of satisfaction for the restoration of rights that had been violated or disturbed came into the foreground in the trespass-offering. This satisfaction was to be actually made, wherever the guilt admitted of a material valuation, by means of payment or penance; and in addition to this, the animal was raised by the priestly valuation into the authorized bearer of the satisfaction to be rendered to the rights of God, through the sacrifice of which the culprit could obtain the expiation of his guilt.

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