Leviticus 4:13
Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly so that they violate any of the LORD's commandments and incur guilt by doing what is forbidden,
Atonement for the Penitent, as Illustrated in the Sin OfferingR.M. Edgar Leviticus 4:1-35
All Sin Must be AbhorredJ. Spencer.Leviticus 4:2-35
Errors and Oversights in All Our LivesT. Gataker.Leviticus 4:2-35
Ignorance in SinningW. H. JellieLeviticus 4:2-35
Involuntary OffencesLeviticus 4:2-35
Man's Incompetency to Deal with SinC. H. Mackintosh.Leviticus 4:2-35
On Sins Committed in IgnoranceThe Preacher's Hom. Com.Leviticus 4:2-35
Sins of IgnoranceJ. Cumming, D. D.Leviticus 4:2-35
Sins of InfirmityS. Mather.Leviticus 4:2-35
Sins of InfirmityA. Willet, D. D.Leviticus 4:2-35
Sins UnperceivedA. A. Bonar.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Best are not Free from ImperfectionSpurgeon, Charles HaddonLeviticus 4:2-35
The Bible Tells of Sin and its CureLeviticus 4:2-35
The Sin and Trespass-OfferingsJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-OfferingSpurgeon, Charles HaddonLeviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-OfferingA. Jukes.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-OfferingDean Law.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-OfferingE. F. Willis, M. A.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-OfferingB. W. Newton.Leviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-Offering; Or, Expiation and ForgivenessLeviticus 4:2-35
The Sin-Offering; Or, God Just and JustifierLady Beaujolois DentLeviticus 4:2-35
Access for All: Comparison and ContrastW. Clarkson Leviticus 4:3, 13, 22, 27
Gradations in GuiltW. Clarkson Leviticus 4:3, 13, 22, 27
Collective Guilt Unconsciously IncurredW. Clarkson Leviticus 4:13, 14
Multitude no Excuse for OffenceBp. Babington.Leviticus 4:13-21
Responsibility of Communities and NationsS. H. Kellogg, D. D.Leviticus 4:13-21
Sin Offering for the CongregationJ.A. Macdonald Leviticus 4:13-21
Some Difference Between the Sacrifice of the Priest and that of the PeopleA. Willet, D. D.Leviticus 4:13-21
The Whole Congregation Sinners Through IgnoranceR.A. Redford Leviticus 4:13-21
The congregation of Israel sustained a twofold character, viz. a political and an ecclesiastical; for it was at once a Nation and a Church. Here we have -


1. The commandments of the Lord concern nations.

(1) Nations are constituted under the control of his providence. We see this in the account of their origin at Babel (Genesis 11:6-8). In the teaching of prophecy (Genesis 9:25-27; Genesis 17:4, 6, 16). In the inspired review of their history (Acts 17:26).

(2) God has ever held nations responsible to him (Job 12:18; Jeremiah 27:6; Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:32).

(3) The Hebrew nation more especially so. He raised them up in pursuance of his promise to their fathers. He preserved them in Egypt. He brought them forth with an outstretched arm. He gave them a code of laws at Sinai. He gave them possession of the land of Canaan. In visible symbol he guided their government. (Psalm 147:19, 20; Romans 9:4, 5).

2. Therefore nations may sin against him.

(1) Where a law is there may be transgression (1 John 3:4). God has not left himself without witness (Acts 14:17).

(2) The Gentile nations sinned in throwing off their allegiance to the true God and joining themselves to idols. They have in consequence sunk into the most abominable immoralities (Romans 1:21-32).

(3) The Hebrews followed the bad example of their neighbours.

(a) In asking a king to be like them (1 Samuel 8:7, 8).

(b) In their idolatries (1 Kings 12:26-30; 2 Kings 21:11).

They became demoralized by licentiousness and violence (Isaiah 1:4).


1. The commandments of the Lord concern Churches.

(1) The Church of God in the noblest sense is a grand unity existing throughout the universe and throughout the ages. This is the corporation against which the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matthew 16:18).

(2) This invisible Church has visible representatives on this earth. The congregation of Israel was such a representative (Acts 7:38; collate Psalm 22:22 with Hebrews 2:12). Now under the gospel these representatives are many. There is a Church where two or three are met together in the name of Jesus.

2. These Churches are responsible to God.

(1) They have to maintain the purity of faith (Titus 3:10; 2 John 1:10; Jude 1:3; Revelation 2:13).

(2) They have to maintain purity of discipline, viz. by persuasion, by admonition, and by expulsion of incorrigible offenders. Excision in the Jewish Church was accompanied by the infliction of death; for the laws of the nation and those of the Church were one (Exodus 31:14; Numbers 15:34, 35). Now it means withdrawment from the companionship of the offender (Matthew 18:17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; 2 Timothy 3:5).


1. Communities are punished in this world.

(1) This is evident from the nature of the case. There is no future resurrection of communities. Disintegration to a community is its utter extinction.

(2) Nations meet their punishment in adversities which are ordered by Providence. These are the sword (1 Samuel 12:9-15); the pestilence (Deuteronomy 28:21); the consequence is famine, and wasting, possibly, unto extinction. God stirs up one nation against another to punish its pride (Isaiah 41:2, 25; Isaiah 45:1-4; Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 1:21-32).

(3) Churches have their punishment in this world. It may come in the form of spiritual leanness. In abandonment to apostasy (Isaiah 66:3, 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). The candlestick may be taken out of its place (Matthew 21:41-43; Revelation 2:5).

2. Punishment may be averted by sacrifice.

(1) Sacrifices of the Law were concerned with communities. The text furnishes an example. The community may be civil. It may be ecclesiastical. When sacrifice is accepted, no punishment is inflicted. This is the import of the assurance, "It shall be forgiven them."

(2) The sacrifice of Calvary is no less concerned with communities. Churches feel it as well as individuals. Nations feel it as well as Churches. Churches and nations also should plead it far more than they do.

3. There is no mercy for willful sin.

(1) To avail ourselves of the benefits of atonement, there must be repentance. This was expressed when the elders of the congregation, on behalf of their constituents, laid their hands upon the bullock (see verse 15). The gospel of this is obvious.

(2) There must also be faith. The faith expressed in the laying on of hands was carried further in the sprinkling of blood (see verses 16, 18). The vail was a type of Christ, who is our "Way" to God, the "Door" to us into the temple of the Divine Presence (Hebrews 10:19, 20). The blood sprinkled upon the vail set forth the laying of our sin upon him who thereby consecrates for us the way. He also is our altar of incense upon whom the blood of our guilt is laid, and by whose intercession we are rendered acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5).

(3) Judgment is reserved for the obstinate. When a Church becomes apostate and will not repent, it must be destroyed. Such was the case with Judaism, which was removed amidst the slaughter of the destruction of Jerusalem. Such will be the doom of the Babylonish harlot (Revelation 18:4-8). And what hope is there for nations when they become infidel? If sins of ignorance cannot be forgiven without a sin offering, what must be the fate of communities guilty of presumptuous sins! - J.A.M.

the whole congregation.., sin.
Israel was taught by this law, as we are, that responsibility attaches not only to each individual person, but also to associations of individuals in their corporate character, as nations, communities, and — we may add — all societies and corporations, whether secular or religious. Never has a generation needed this reminder more than our own. The political and social principles which, since the French Revolution in the end of last century, have been, year by year, more and more generally accepted among the nations of Christendom, are everywhere tending to the avowed or practical denial of this most important truth. It is a maxim ever more and more extensively accepted as almost axiomatic in our modern democratic communities, that religion is wholly a concern of the individual; and that a nation or community, as such, should make no distinction between various religions as false or true, but maintain an absolute neutrality, even between Christianity and idolatry, or theism and atheism. It should take little thought to see that this modern maxim stands in direct opposition to the principle assumed in this law of the sin-offering; namely, that a community or nation is as truly and directly responsible to God as the individual in the nation. But this corporate responsibility the spirit of the age squarely denies. Not that all indeed, in our modern so-called Christian nations have come to this. But no one will deny that this is the mind of the vanguard of nineteenth-century liberalism in religion and politics. Many of our political leaders in all lands make no secret of their views on the subject. A purely secular state is everywhere held up, and that with great plausibility and persuasiveness, as the ideal of political government; the goal to the attainment of which all good citizens should unite their efforts. It is not strange, indeed, to see atheists, agnostics, and others who deny the Christian faith, maintaining this position; but when we hear men who call themselves Christians — in many cases, even Christian ministers — advocating, in one form or another, governmental neutrality in religion, as the only right basis of government, one may well be amazed. Will any one venture to say that this teaching of the law of the sin-offering was only intended, like the offering itself, for the old Hebrews? Is it not rather the constant and most emphatic teaching of the whole Scriptures, that God dealt with all the ancient Gentile nations on the same principle? The history which records the overthrow of those old nations and empires does so, even professedly, for the express purpose of calling the attention of men in all ages to this principle, that God deals with all nations as under obligation to recognise Himself as King of nations, and submit in all things to His authority. So it was in the case of Moab, of Ammon, of Nineveh, and Babylon; in regard to each of which we are told, in so many words, that it was because they refused to recognise this principle of national responsibility to the one true God, which was brought before Israel in this part of the law of the sin-offering, that the Divine judgment came upon them in their utter national overthrow. How awfully plain, again, is the language of the second Psalm on this subject, where it is precisely this national repudiation of the supreme authority of God and of His Christ, so increasingly common in our day, which is named as the ground of the derisive judgment of God, and is made the occasion of exhorting all nations, not merely to belief in God, but also to the obedient recognition of His only-begotten Son, the Messiah, as the only possible means of escaping the future kindling of His wrath.

(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)

Note how a multitude of offenders excuseth no, offence: but if even the whole congregation should sin through ignorance, yet a sin-offering must be offered by them all, and their number yieldeth no excuse. Great was the number of sinners when God sent the flood, but their number defended them not. So in Sodom and Gomorrah the offenders were many. Ten tribes of twelve fell away from God and became idolaters. Broad is the way that leadeth to hell, and many find it, going to hell, though they be many, &c. Secondly, observe with yourself the praise (hid from your eyes) and see the state of many a man and woman do evil. The matter is hid from their eyes in God's anger, and albeit they lie at the pit's brink of destruction, yet they see it not, feel it not, are not troubled with it. Because, indeed, they never sit and take an account of themselves and their works, laying them to the rule of the word: which if they did, conscience would quickly bite and spy, and speak of a misdoing. The godly do this at last, and therefore you see it here in your chapter, a time of knowing to them, as there was a time of hiding. Pray we ever for this grace, that we sleep not in death: I mean in sin, that leadeth to death, but that we may awake and stand up from the dead, and Jesus Christ vouchsafe us light, to amendment of life, and eternal comfort and safety.

(Bp. Babington.)

1. It is said when the sin which they have committed is known this was not rehearsed before in the sacrifice of the priest to show that the priests for the most part do sin wittingly, but the people through ignorance.

2. In the other sacrifice the priest alone was to put his hand upon the head of the sacrifice; but here the elders are to lay on their hands both in their own name and of all the people.

3. Here is added ver. 20, and the priest shall make atonement for them, which was not expressed before, because the priest before offered sacrifice for his own sin, and so could not be a mediator for himself. Herein the priest interceding for the people was a type of Christ who is the only effectual Intercessor both for sin of priest and people.

4. This congregation here offending may represent the synagogue of the Jews who put Christ to death, crying, "Crucify Him"; but they did it of ignorance as St. Peter saith: "and now I know, brethren, that through ignorance ye did it," and as here a sacrifice is appointed after the people came to the knowledge of their sin, so there St. Peter exhorteth the people to acknowledge and confess their sin, "repent and turn, that your sins may be put away"; and as here the elders put their hands upon the sacrifice, so the elders, rulers, and governors, had their hand in Christ's death.

(A. Willet, D. D.)

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