William Kelly Major Works Commentary - Leviticus 4:1 - 4:35

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William Kelly Major Works Commentary - Leviticus 4:1 - 4:35


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Leviticus Chapter 4



THE OFFERINGS FOR SIN AND TRESPASS.

Now we come to a new and necessary class of offerings. Unlike those which have hitherto occupied us, they were not voluntary nor for a sweet savour. They were compulsory, to clear the conscience, to make reparation, and to vindicate God's honour injured by wrongs in His people to God or man. Forgiveness was sought and secured thereby; and as it was needed by all from the highest to the lowest, so it was imperative on each guilty individual, and no less by the assembly as such when it had failed corporately.

The sacrificial character was preserved at least as carefully in these offerings for sin, etc., as in the Holocaust or in the Thank offering. The notable principle of transfer was ineffaceably maintained in both classes. It was the provision on God's part for those hopelessly lost otherwise. Grace has given Christ for saints as well as sinners; the love of God goes out fully to both, if the form differ as it must. Alike they are typical of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus; alike they attest through faith in His death man's acceptable approach to God, his guilt effaced. But the application of the transfer is as notably different; for in the sacrifices of sweet savour the transfer is from the acceptance of the offering to that of the offerer, in those for sin or guilt the offerer's evil was transferred to the offering. For in very deed Christ's own self bore our sins in His body upon the tree. Cf. also Eph_5:2.

How does divine mercy shine in either case! Each is most admirable, both are requisite to present an adequate insight into the work of Christ. Yet are they but shadows, not the very image; and they leave much unexpressed which even Himself left among other things for the Holy Spirit to guide His disciples into, when His work of redemption accomplished on earth and His session in heavenly glory should prepare them to receive all the truth. But where is Christendom now? where are those who boast highly of themselves, and slight the inspired word of God?

"Safety" is all but universally the evangelical measure of the gospel; some add "certainly," others "enjoyment" too. But the system of all in their respective way is utilitarian. They make man's wants the horizon of their faith, and can dimly see "the salvation of God," as scripture habitually presents His mind, because it is filled with His glory in His Christ. Salvation accordingly goes far beyond these human thoughts of safety. The once sinful woman, now penitent (whose faith drew her into the Pharisee's house to stand weeping behind the Lord as He reclined at meat, lavishing on His blessed feet every mark of sorrow, love, and reverence), was as "safe" when she entered as when she left. But only before leaving she knew from Him that her sins, her many sins, were forgiven; and when unbelievers questioned His title to forgive, He added, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace." Is not this much more than safety? It is salvation. With this feet in Luke observe the Lord's teaching in Luke 15. The prodigal son in his rags was "safe" enough assuredly when the father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. But it was salvation according to God's gospel, when the best robe was put on him, and the slain fatted calf was eaten with glad hearts, yet to the joy far deeper in Him Who created it than in the prodigal with all who shared it. And the Son was just the One thus to make known the Father's love. How miserably short of the truth fall the Creeds and Catechisms and Articles of man! and this because in them Christ is not all.

So in these offerings revelation begins, not (as man would) with that which his misery and guilt stand in need of, but with the witnesses, as far as could then be consistently imparted, of Christ's perfectly acceptable work, and positive excellency, and sweet savour to God, made over fully and for ever and now to the believer. It is the more striking that Leviticus should open thus from God's side; because, in point of fact, defiled and guilty man had to commence with his offering for sin or trespass.

Without the removal of the delinquency by the prescribed offering it would have been lack of conscience in man, and a wrong to God instead of honouring Him. Where all was thus cleared righteously, he was free and encouraged to let out his heart Godward by presenting the offerings of sweet savour. The reader of the N. T. may see in the opening verses of Eph. 1 a characteristically high expression, yet analogous to this. For instead of rising as Rom. 3 does from the remission of sins by the blood of Christ to the bright triumph of faith in constant grace, the hope of glory, and even boasting in God Himself, as Rom. 5 shows, we have the God and Father of our Lord Jesus beginning with His eternal purpose, and blessing the Christian with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, and then descending to point out the possession of redemption in Him through His blood, the remission of offences.

There is another preliminary remark which it seems well to point out in the offerings for sin. In none is there more stringent requirement of holiness. Like the Minchah or Meal offering, those for sin might have been thought rather lower from representing, one, the concrete person of our Lord in His life, the other, His identification with the consequences of our sins in divine judgment. Both are called, and they only, "most holy." See Lev_2:3, and Lev_6:17, compared with Lev_6:25; Lev_6:29, Lev_7:1; Lev_7:6. So, even when the body of the victim was carried forth without the camp and burnt with fire, all the inward fat was burnt on the brazen altar. How perfectly this separation to God at all cost was verified in Christ suffering for our sins, though all His life and services bore unswervingly the stamp of holiness! Therein indeed the Son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him in such a sort and to such a depth as He never was before, and could never be again, though the entire course here below was to the glory of His Father. No wonder that God thereon glorified Jesus in Himself, and this immediately, before He receives the kingdom and returns to introduce it visibly in power.

THE SIN OFFERING FOR THE HIGH PRIEST.

In this chapter four cases demanded a Sin offering. The first two had no limit in the consequence entailed. It was all over without that for the entire people of God; for in both cases the communion of the whole camp was interrupted: in the second because the whole assembly of Israel had sinned and were guilty; in the first, because the high priest had sinned, which had the same result for all as for himself. We shall see how grace provided against that which was in itself ruinous. In the last two cases of the chapter the ill result did not go beyond the individual concerned.

"And Jehovah spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin inadvertently against any of Jehovah's commandments that ought not to be done, and do any of them; if the anointed priest sin to the trespass (or, guilt) of the people, let him offer, for his sin which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish to Jehovah for a sin offering. And he shall bring the bullock to the entrance of the tent of meeting before Jehovah; and he shall lay his hand upon the head of the bullock, and slaughter the bullock before Jehovah. And the anointed priest shall take of the blood of the bullock, and bring it into the tent of meeting. And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle of the blood seven times before Jehovah, before the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before Jehovah, which is in the tent of meeting; and he shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And all the fat of the bullock of the sin offering he shall take off from it: the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is on the inwards, and the two kidneys and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the net above the liver which he shall take away as far as the kidneys, as it is taken off from the ox of the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of burnt offering. And the skin of the bullock, and all its flesh, with its head, and with its legs and its inwards and its dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall it be burnt" (vers. 1-12).

As the law, we are told by divine authority (Heb_7:12), made nothing perfect, so it spoke of nothing perfect for the most guilty. It was exactly a ministry of death and condemnation. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The law, being a system of human righteousness, could not be but partial. It was the test of fallen man, not the transcript of God, nor yet the rule of the new creation. It provided, as we see here, for no more than inadvertent or unwitting sin. If this were all that the gospel meets, who could be saved? No more is here contemplated (ver. 2).

Then comes from ver. 3 the particular case of the anointed or high priest. If he should sin to make the people guilty - this is the true force of the phrase, and the real effect of his sin in the ways of Jehovah. "According to the sin of the people" as it stands in the A.V. seems doubly defective, and scarcely in fact an intelligible proposition, unless one consider it to mean tantamount to the sin or rather guilt of the people as a whole; which, though true in itself, hardly appears to be intended here. The R. V. gives the meaning. If the anointed priest "sin so as to bring guilt on the people," i.e. without their sinning.

As the high priest represented the people, so his acts brought, not only blessing on them, but also the guilt of his sin. How blessedly in contrast is the High Priest of our confession, a great High Priest, passed through the heavens as He is, Jesus the Son of God! For though tempted in all respects in like manner, it was apart from sin, not merely from sinning. Sin was absolutely excepted. In Him was no sin; on the contrary He was holy (and graciously so), harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens.

But if the anointed should sin, as indeed was not infrequently the case, "let him offer for his sin which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish to Jehovah for a sin offering." It must be the largest offering. Option was not permissible. He must bring this victim, and no other. "And he shall bring the bullock to the entrance of the tent of meeting before Jehovah; and he shall lay his hand upon the head of the bullock, and kill the bullock before Jehovah" (ver. 4). As Jehovah's command had been infringed, the high priest must bring the prescribed animal before Him to the appointed place, and there slay it before Him, with his hand laid on its head: the token of transferring the guilt to the victim - how precious for the sinner!

"And the anointed priest shall take of the blood of the bullock and bring it into the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle of the blood seven times before Jehovah, before the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before Jehovah, which is in the tent of meeting; and he shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering which is at the entrance of the tent of meeting" (vers. 5-7). Without or within the sanctuary what is done is "before Jehovah." He is the One Who has to be vindicated. Blood is brought not only "to" but "into" the tent of meeting, and sprinkled before the veil of the sanctuary. Only on the solemn and single day of atonement did the high priest go with incense within the holiest and sprinkle of the blood upon the mercy-seat and before it. Here it was only within the holy place, where he put of the blood upon the horns of the golden altar; and all the rest of the blood was poured out at the base of the brazen altar.

"And all the fat of the bullock of the sin offering he shall take off from it," etc. Just as was done with the ox of the sacrifice of Peace offerings (8-10, compared with Lev_3:3-5), so the priest was to burn it on the brazen altar: a blessed witness, not only in the blood but in the fat, of the intrinsic acceptability of Christ sacrificed for us and our sins. These were shadows most instructive: His the one offering infinitely agreeable to God, everlastingly efficacious for us that believe on Him.

Still there is the witness not less plain that it was a Sin offering; and so we read in vers. 11, 12 what quite differs from the eating of the Peace offering. "And the skin of the bullock, and all its flesh, with its head and with its legs, and its inwards and its dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall it be burnt." There too does it differ from the Burnt offering which was burnt within the court on the brazen altar. The Sin offering must be burnt without the camp: holy, most holy, but thoroughly identified with the sin thereon confessed. How it was all more than verified - enhanced on every side to the highest degree - in Him Who suffered for our sins!

THE SIN OFFERING FOR THE CONGREGATION.

The first of these compulsory offerings attested the specially representative place of the anointed priest. His sin involved the whole congregation of Israel. Communion for all was at once interrupted. Now we learn in the second case of the Sin offering that the high priest was identified with the congregation in its collective defilement. It was not so ordinarily when an individual sinned, no matter how high his position, though this too had its effect as we shall see. But in the former cases there was a suspension of communion for all; and the requisite Sin offering must be to restore.

"And if the whole assembly of Israel err [or, sin inadvertently] and the thing be hid from the eyes of the congregation, and they have done any of all the commandments of Jehovah which should not be done, and are guilty; and the sin wherein they have sinned against it is become known; then the congregation shall present a young bullock for the sin offering, and bring it before the tent of meeting. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before Jehovah; and the bullock shall be slaughtered before Jehovah. And the anointed priest shall bring of the bullock's blood into the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before Jehovah before the veil. And he shall put of the blood on the horns of the altar that is before Jehovah, which is in the tent of meeting; and he shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the door of the tent of meeting. And all its fat shall he take off from it and burn it on the altar. And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock of the sin offering, so shall he do with this. And the priest shall make atonement for them; and it shall be forgiven them. And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn it as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering of the congregation" (vers. 13-91).

Jehovah would have the sin judged in every case; but in every case He provides for its removal from before Him. There was, there could be, no respect of persons in His sight. Yet He makes a difference according to position, and especially in the anointed one who represented all. How blessed for us that He Who bore all our sins in His own body, before He entered into the holies for us, is there now not only to sustain us in our weakness and represent us in His perfectness, but as the Advocate for us with the Father if any one sin! It was He Who when here was tempted in all things in like manner, sin excepted. "Such a high priest became us" is the wonderful word of God, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens: no need ever had He as the high priests, His types, to offer up sacrifices for any sin of His. All the more was He alone competent to act efficaciously for those of others; and this He did once for all, having offered up Himself, a Son perfected for ever. But the assembly - ah! this is another matter. They indeed could sin, and sin as a whole. For this He made atonement, as we see here in the shadow, that it might be forgiven them. It may be noticed that in the counterpart of the great priest this assurance is omitted. That his sin when atoned for was forgiven him cannot of course be doubted; but the omission points to the only One Who had no sins to be forgiven, though He be the One Who made atonement for all.

But Jehovah would have His people exercised in conscience as to any sin of theirs when it became known; and so the congregation was to present a young bullock for the Sin offering and to bring it before the tent of meeting (ver. 14). As all could not lay their hands upon the victim's head, the elders of the congregation were directed to lay their's representatively (15). When it was killed before Jehovah (for sin ever refers to God), the anointed priest was called to act on behalf of the congregation as in his own case, not so in those that follow: any priest was competent ordinarily, here the high priest only. And he must bring of the bullock's blood into the tent of meeting (16), dip his finger in it, and sprinkle it seven times before Jehovah before the veil, as for his sin (17). He must as then put of the blood on the horns of the golden altar that is before Jehovah; for the communion of all had to be restored. It is the more in striking distinction from the individual cases, because in all the others the blood of the sin offering that remained was all poured out at the bottom of the brazen altar (18). And there all the fat was burned, not outside but on the altar (19), and with the same particularity as in the Sin offering for the anointed priest (20). There was thus the fullest witness to the intrinsic holiness of the victim; while verse 21 carefully shows how thoroughly it was identified with the sin of the congregation, and burnt on a clean place outside the camp, where as a whole the carcase was carried. The word for burning even was carefully varied as before to suit the twofold truth.

What wondrous forethought such minute differences indicate! What jealousy for the honour of the Great Priest, so long before the time of His manifestation! and for that of the incomparable sacrifice of Himself, so acceptable to God, and efficacious for sinners! Not only is the book the authentic and the genuine writing of Moses, but it approves itself to be the work of God through him. Who but He Himself could have foreseen all?

THE: SIN OFFERING FOR THE RULER.

There is an important difference which presents itself here. The guilt attaches to the party concerned; others are not involved. The first case is that of a ruler, or principal man.

"When a ruler sinneth and through inadvertence doeth any of all the things which Jehovah his God hath commanded not to be done, and is guilty; if his sin wherein he hath sinned come to his knowledge, he shall bring his offering, a buck of the goats, a male without blemish. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the goat, and slaughter it at the place where they slaughter the burnt offering before Jehovah; it is a sin offering. And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour out its blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering. And he shall burn all its fat on the altar, as the fat from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall make an atonement for him from his sin; and it shall be forgiven him" (vers. 92-26).

Peculiar care is taken to impress a chief with his responsibility. In his case only do we hear of Jehovah "his God." His position honourable and public renders his offence the more serious. For Israel were bound to own their God with them in the world, and making one to differ from another in a way that the nations never conceived (Eph_2:12). In his measure he was to rule as well as walk in the fear of God.

Nevertheless it was not of the same large consequence as when the high priest sinned or the whole congregation, which demanded a steer. For the ruler a buck of the goats was enough, but an unblemished male was requisite. No latitude was left in any respect or degree more than in the graver cases. As there was nothing to hinder his compliance, so his God would have the sin felt and judged, when it came to his knowledge.

The ruler brought his offering then, and laid his hand on its head, and killed it in the place where they killed the Holocaust before Jehovah. It was for sin; and death alone could expiate sin, the victim's death for him who, by his hand laid on its head, transferred his guilt by God's provision to the slain beast. Whatever the difference in the form, they every one agreed in this; and they all pointed to Him Who knew no sin, yet Whom God made sin for us, that we might become divine righteousness in Him.

But it will be noticed that the priest was to take of the blood with his finger, and put it on the horns of the brazen altar, as well as pour the rest of the blood at the bottom of the same. No more was needed than to meet the individual's need, even though a prince, at the altar which is the means of the individual's approach to Jehovah. Only his communion had been interrupted as it was now restored. Had it been either the high priest or the congregation as a whole, the golden altar would have been defiled, and the blood must have been sprinkled on its horns. Here the brazen altar being alone in question, the blood was put there accordingly, and the individual Israelite, even if a ruler, returned to the enjoyment of his privileges.

It is of all moment to appreciate the contrast the Epistle to the Hebrews establishes for the Christian by Christ's work. It is done once and for ever. There is no repetition. Not only is the believer now sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, but he is perfected by it in perpetuity, i.e. without a break. This is due exclusively to the absolute and everlasting efficacy of Christ's sacrifice. Less than this would be His dishonour, which God would not tolerate. Would that believers now knew what a standing His blood has given them!

Hence it is that not in the Epistle to the Hebrews do we find provision for failure, but in the Gospel of John (13) and in 1Jn_2:1. It is not fresh sprinkling of Christ's blood, or repeated recourse to it; but according to the figure, washing the defiled feet in the water of the word, and according to the doctrine of the advocacy of Christ - Jesus Christ righteous as He is, and the propitiation for our sins. He pleads for us and works in us by the Spirit and word of God the self- judgment needed to restore the communion which one's sin interrupted; as we may see practically in Simon Peter with all its detail, and at length rich comfort and blessing, through grace.

We need, as Christians, both these truths fully held, without sacrificing one to the other. If we do not rest on the one offering of Christ in all its everlasting and uninterrupted efficacy, we cannot know the perfect clearance before God which the Epistle to the Hebrews claims for faith. If we do not bow to the doctrine of 1Jn_2:1 in accordance with John 13, how can we taste the grace that restores us to the enjoyment of the communion interrupted by a sin? Our God would have us enter into our portion as worshippers once purged; but as our Father He loves us too well to allow any thing in our walk unworthy of the grace wherein we stand. And here it is that the advocacy of the Saviour applies, to the cleansing of defilement by the way, while He abides as our righteousness and the propitiation too in all its value.

THE SIN OFFERING FOR ONE OF THE PEOPLE

It is full of interest to notice the care bestowed by Jehovah on the Sin offering for the ordinary Israelite. He marks the difference between him and a ruler or chief man, by demanding "a male without blemish" from the latter, "a female without blemish" from the former. They were to bring a kid of the goats; but there was this distinction; and Jehovah directed it. He provided in His goodness for both; but He did not leave it to man's discretion; He directed each how to efface the sin.

"And if one (a soul) of the people of the land sin through inadvertence in doing any of the things which Jehovah hath commanded not to be done, and be guilty; if his sin which he hath sinned come to his knowledge, then he shall bring his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and slaughter the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put [it] on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar. And all the fat thereof shall he take away, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet odour to Jehovah; and the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him" (vers. 27-31).

Jehovah would have the lowliest soul among His people feel that He entered into his concern about his sin, done unwittingly, and now troubling him when known. He therefore would impress it on his soul when he brought the unblemished female goat, by the stress even then laid on "for his sin which he sinned." For the gracious effect of the offering is felt all the more if the sin be also. To the ruler it was but "the goat," and "it" in ver. 24 though with "it is a sin offering" at the end. Here (ver. 29) it is "he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and slaughter the sin offering." Yet more striking is the consolation given to the poor Israelite in ver. 31; where he alone is expressly assured, that the fat burnt by the priest on the altar should be "for a sweet odour to Jehovah." "Before Jehovah" was said in the ruler's instance about slaying the offering (as it was yet more emphatically where the whole assembly sinned), and about the use made of the blood. But He deigned to consider the lowly man by the special expression of the mark of communion in the burning of the fat for him when the offering for his sin was made.

Nor is this all. For the poor man alone was there an alternative offering. He might have a difficulty in providing a goat, and yet might find a sheep or lamb more readily. Hence for him alone this was permissible.

"And if he bring a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and slaughter it for a sin offering in the place where they slaughter the burnt offering. "And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it-on the horns of the altar of burnt offering; and all the blood thereof shall he pour out at the bottom of the altar. And all the fat thereof shall he take away, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them on the altar with (or, upon) the fire offerings to Jehovah; and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin which he sinned, and it shall be forgiven him" (vers. 32- 35).

Here again we should not overlook the kindness of Jehovah in giving consolation. The blood of the lamb was no less efficacious as a figure than that of a goat. There was no loss incurred by the alternative. But in the dealing with the fat there is indeed the peculiar mention of burning on the altar "upon the fire offerings to Jehovah," as in Lev_3:5; although there it was a question of Peace offerings, here of an offering for sin. Gracious acceptance was implied, and not merely the removal of the sin or its forgiveness.