A commentary on the book of

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"Brethren, if a man be overtaken* in a fault, ye which are spiritual,

restore such an one in the spirit of meekness."--Gal. vi. 3
Ver. 1. And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and

is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do

not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
THE meaning is, "If a person sin in this respect," viz.

that he hear the oath of adjuration administered by the

judge, and is able to tell, having either seen or otherwise

known the matter about which he is to testify: if such a

man do not tell all he knows, he shall be reckoned guilty

of a sin.

"The voice of swearing" undoubtedly means here the

adjuration of a judge to a prisoner. The term (hlAxA)

employed here is the same as that used in 1 Sam. xiv. 24,

"Saul had adjured the people;" and in 1 Kings viii.

31, "If an adjuration be laid upon him," adjuring him to

speak out the truth; and Judges xvii. 2, "The eleven

hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee,

about which thou didst adjure;" and Prov. xxix. 24, "He

heareth an adjuration, and yet telleth not," The judge,

in a court of justice, was permitted to elicit information

*"Overtaken," is prolhfq^, hurried into sin ere he is well aware

(Bretsehneider). "Fault," is paraptwma, transgression, sin.

from the witness by solemnly charging him to answer and

tell all he knew, under penalty of a curse from God, if he

did not reveal the whole truth. It was in those circum-

stances that our Lord was placed before the High Priest

(Matt. xxvi. 63). He was then, surely, in the depths of

humiliation! For now he is called upon, under threaten-

ing of the curse of his own Father, to break that strange

silence, and tell all he knows--"I adjure thee by the living

God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son

of God.” And then it was that the Lamb of God no

longer kept himself dumb; but, bowing to the solemn

force of this adjuration, shewed the same meekness in

replying as before he had done in keeping silence. From

the depth of his humiliation he pointed upward to the

throne, and declared himself Son of God, and Judge of

quick and dead.

The sins mentioned in this chapter are chiefly sins

arising from negligence--sins which might have been

avoided, had the person been more careful.

The case of the witness, in ver. 1, is one where the

person omitted to tell particulars which he could have

told, or else, through carelessness, mis-stated some things.

Let us learn the breadth of God's holy law! Not a tittle.

fails. Let us learn the Holy Spirit's keen observation of

sin in us. Let us learn to be jealous over ourselves, and

seek to be of "quick discernment in the fear of the

Lord." Much sin is committed by omissions. Duties

partially done have in them the guilt of Ananias and

Ver. 2. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a

carcase of art unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or

the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden

from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
These, as well as ver. 3, are cases where others could

see the pollution, though the man himself might be

unaware of it at the time. They were, therefore, cases of

a public injury in some degree. Through inadvertency a

man might touch a carcase* of an unclean "beast" (hY.AHa),

the term used for the sort of animals most commonly met

with in every-day work. These are noticed first, as it

was most likely they would oftenest meet with them.

Then "cattle" in the fields or forests. Lastly, "creeping

things," such as the weasel, the mouse, or the lizard (xi.

30). Thus there is a gradation, greater, middle, and

smallest; as if to say to us, that any degree of pollution

is offensive to a pure and holy God. A true Israelite

ought to keep completely free from all that defiles, how-

ever trifling, in the eye of the world. Whatever sin God's

eye resteth on, that is the sin which the man of God

abhors. The man after God's own heart prays, "Cleanse

thou me from secret faults" (Ps. xix. 12). And, in refer-

ence to its being "hidden," yet still chargeable upon the

sinner, he exclaims, "Thou hast set our iniquities before

thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance" (Ps.

xc. 8).

Here, too, we learn that "sin is the transgression of

the law" (1 John iii. 4). It is not merely when we act

contrary to the dictates of conscience that we sin; we may

often be sinning when conscience never upbraids us. The

most part of a sinner's life is spent without any check on

the part of conscience--that being dead and corrupt, fallen

and depraved, responding to the man's lusts, rather than

to the will of God. Hence it is said here, that though

* Were dead bodies reckoned unclean on the ground that they are the fruit

of sin? The sting of death is, as it were, sunk into them; and so sin is proved to

be there.
“it be hidden from him,” he shall be unclean. He is

guilty, though his conscience did not warn him of the

guilt contracted.

Awful truth! We know not what we do! When the

Book is opened and read, what a record of unfelt guilt!

"Had they known, they would not have crucified the

Lord of glory;" but yet their act was the blackest of

sins. Who can tell what pages there may be in the Book

of Remembrance?*
Ver. 3. Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever unclean-

ness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid

from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
This last clause is equivalent to "If it be hid from him,

though he afterward come to know it." "The unclean-

ness of a man" is such as the leprosy or a running issue


Again the lesson is enforced, that unconscious as our

depraved souls may be of the presence of sin, sin may

have polluted us, and separated between us and God. We

are guarded against the deceitfulness of sin. We need to

be told of sin by others. Our coming afterwards to know

our sin, may often be by means of our brethren's reproofs,

and their quicker discernment of evil. Hence it is written,

“Exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day, lest

any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”

(Heb. iii. 13).

Ver. 4. Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil,

or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce

with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it,

then he shall be guilty in one of these.
* Francis Quarles truly, though quaintly, says of a sin of ignorance,--

"It is a hideous mist that wets amain,

Though it appear not in the form of rain."
More literally, "If a person swear; blabbing with his

lips"--rashly uttering his vow. The careless way of

doing even what is right is here condemned. Incon-

siderateness is a heinous crime, for the man is appealing

to God; and especially so when the thing vowed is evil.

The case of man inadvertently swearing to do evil, is a

case like Jephthah's. Jephthah meant good, but it turned

out to be evil of a flagrant nature. The clause, "And it

be hid from him," is equivalent to "And did not rightly

understand the thing about which he swore." There is a

solemn lesson taught us in regard to the mode of doing

even right things. Approach the Holy One with fear

and reverence. But alas! how plentiful is the flow of

hidden sin committed in our dedications to God, or in

resolutions to be his, expressed to him in prayer and

praise. Even in saying or writing "God willing" (D.V.),

this secret sin may be oftentimes chargeable upon our

unconscious souls.

"In one of these," i.e. any of the cases mentioned--the

adjuration; touching the dead body, or other uncleanness;

and rash vows.
Ver. 5, 6. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of

these things, that he shall confess that he bath sinned in that

thing. And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord,

for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a

lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest

shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
The first thing that strikes us here as very noticeable

is the injunction, "He shall confess that he hath sinned."

Abarbinel, on the sixteenth chapter, says, that confession

necessarily accompanied every sacrifice for sin. But we

have not met this duty before, in the express form of a

command, because hitherto the sins brought to the altar

were open and admitted sins.* But here the sins are

"hidden;" and therefore the offerer must openly confess

them, that so God may be honoured--"That thou mightest

be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou

judgest" (Psalm li. 4). This is the end of confession;

it vindicates God, proclaiming him just in the penalty he

inflicts. We see this in Achan's case, when Joshua said,

"My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of

Israel, and make confession unto him, and tell me now

what thou hast done; hide it not from me" (Josh. vii.

19). It is thus that, when we truly confess, we become

witnesses for God--we testify that we have come to see

the sin and its evil, which he declared that his pure eye

saw. The original uses a word for confess, which in

another form means to praise (hDAvat;hi and hdAOh); and

in the New Testament as well as the Old, the two acts

are often reckoned the same.† The tribute to the holiness

of the Lord, paid in confession, is praise to his name.

We decrease; he increases.

"He shall bring his trespass-offering." Some suppose

that there were on this occasion, first the trespass-offer-

ing, and then a sin-offering. But not so: it ought to be

rendered, "He shall bring his offering;" the word MwAxA

being used not as a specific term, but as a general term

for any offering on account of sin. And it is thus that it

is used by Isaiah (liii. 10), "When. thou shalt make his

soul an offering for sin" (Owp;na MwAxA MywitA).

The offering is to be "a female from the flock." It

* There is no doubt but that the laying on of the hand on the animal's head

involved confession of sin. So common was confession, that John the Baptist's

practice of insisting on confession of sin from all that came to his baptism excited

no opposition. They were thus naturally led to understand what he meant by

telling them to lay their sins on the "Coming one."

† See the same use of e]comologou?mai.

is a less glaring sin than some others, such as chap. iv.

1-27, and therefore a female, and a young one, is taken.

And either a female kid, or a female lamb, may be chosen;

the object being to fix the offerer's attention upon the

blood shed for his sin, and not upon any quality in the

victim, as might have been the result, had only, the lamb

been allowed. His sin and its atonement is all that must

engage the offerer.

Ver. 7. And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring,

for his trespass which he hath committed, two turtle-doves, or

two young pigeons, unto the Lord; one for a sin-offering, and

the other for a burnt-offering.
Here, again, we see the God of Israel manifesting

himself to be that very Saviour who "preached glad

tidings to the poor." The two doves are allowed for

their sake.

But why two? Is this not equivalent to an intima-

tion that one turtle-dove or pigeon would not represent

the Saviour? Is this not attaching importance to the

mere material of the sacrifice? The answer to these

questions leads us to a very interesting view of the

Lord's tender regard to the feelings of the poor of his


There is no importance attached to the mere number,

considered in itself; for in chap. i. 15, there was only

one turtle-dove sacrificed; and it was sufficient as a

type, and equivalent to the one bullock or lamb. But

here and elsewhere, where two doves are offered, there is

a special reason why two are chosen. The one is always

for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering.

Now, in the sin-offering, when it was a lamb or the like,

there were portions left for the use of the priest, after

the sacrifice was offered; and these portions, received
and feasted on by the priest, were equivalent to a declar-

ation of the complete removal of the sin, since the priest

himself could thus fearlessly use them. But there was

no room for this being done when a turtle-dove was

offered. There were no portions for the priest to feast

upon. Hence, in order that the poor worshipper might

not lose this consoling part of the type, he is told to offer

a second turtle-dove as a burnt-offering. And in this

latter offering, the Lord himself directly receives all, and

pronounces all to be a "sweet savour" (chap. i. 17); so

that the poor saint gets even a more hearty assurance of

his offering being accepted, than does another who only

gets this assurance by means of the priest's receiving his

portion to feast upon, and seeing the priest's household

feast thereon.
Ver. 8, 9. And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that

which is for the sin-offering first, and wring off his head front

his neck, but shall not divide it asunder. And he shall sprinkle

of the blood of the sin-offering upon the side of the altar; and

the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the

There is some difference in the ceremony, observed

here in slaying the turtle-dove from that of chap. i. 14.

The head is to be wrung off, yet so as not to separate it

from the body. It would hang down upon the lifeless

body, the blood also dropping upon its white clean

plumage. Was it meant to be a type of Jesus bowing

his head as he gave up the ghost? His head, bleeding

with the thorns that had crowned him, dropped upon his

bosom as the sting of death entered his holy frame.

There may be a farther type. The Passover lamb, of

which not a bone was broken, prefigured Jesus as one

not a bone of whose body should be broken;" and yet,

at the same time, it prefigured the complete keeping and

safety of Christ's body the Church; as it is written, in

Psalm xxxiv. 20, "He keepeth all his bones; not one of

them is broken." So also here; the bowing of the

Saviour's head seems prefigured--not too small a circum-

stance for an Evangelist to record, and for the Father to

remember, regarding the well-beloved Son; but there

may also be herein a type of the glorious truth, that

Christ and his body the Church cannot be separated.

The head and the body must be left undivided.

In chapter i. 15, there is no mention of the sprinkling

of any of the blood upon the altar. But here some of

it is first sprinkled on the side of the altar, then the rest

wrung out at the bottom. The sprinkling on the altar's

side was quite sufficient to declare life taken; and as the

second dove would have its blood wrung out over the side

of the altar, there was a fitness in making this difference.

At the same time, it chews us how sprinkling a part or

pouring out the whole, express equally the same truth;

just as in baptism, the symbol is equally significant,

whether the water be sprinkled on the person or the

person plunged into the water.

Ver. 10. And he shall offer the second for a burnt-ofering, accord-

ing to the manner; and the priest shall make an atonement

for him, for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be for-

given him.
"Thus shall the priest make an atonement for him

[cleansing him] from the sin which he hath sinned."*

The poor saint has full and ample testimony given to the

completeness of his offering. The one great ocean

Christ ONCE suffered"--"one sacrifice " (Heb. x. 12)
* This seems to be the force of OtxF.AHame here and ver. 6. It is a constructio

praegnans, as in ver. 16, Nmi xFHA.
makes the bullock appear as insignificant as the turtle-

dove. The waves of the sea cover every shallow pool.

Ver. 11. But if he be not able to bring two turtle-doves, or two

young pigeons; then he that sinned shall bring for his offering

the tenth part of an ephah of fine four for a sin-offering: he

shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense

thereon; for it is a sin-offering.
The Lord descends even to the poorest of all, those

who had no lamb to spare. He provides for the Lazaruses

of Israel, and the widows who have but two mites remain-

ing, in the very spirit of love wherein Jesus spoke of them.

It is Jesus who, as Jehovah, arranges these types for the

comfort of his afflicted people.

The burnt-offering was never allowed to be of any

inanimate thing. For in that great type of the Saviour,

blood must flow. It must exhibit life taken, and the

sentence, "Thou shall surely die," executed. The sacri-

fice which was the groundwork of all the rest must exhibit

death. But this point being settled and established, any

danger of misapprehension is removed. Whatever may

afterwards be the varieties permitted in the forms of

offering, yet at the threshold the necessity for the shedding,

of blood in order to remission must be declared and tes-

tified (Heb. ix. 22). But now there is here a permission

granted--a permission which cannot be misunderstood,

since its application is limited to this one particular class

of persons, and for special reasons--a permission to bring

an offering of fine four, when the man is too poor to

bring two turtle-doves or young pigeons. This meat-

offering is expressly spoken of as not the strict and proper

offering, but merely a substitute for that better kind.

* Socinians in vain try to make a handle of this case; for if ever there

was an instance where it could be said, "Exceptio probat regulam," it is here.

And, as remarked by Magee, the poor man would look

forward to the day of atonement to complete what this

was a substitute for, He is then to take a handful of the

fine wheat of the land of his Israel. A few ears of the

wheat of that land would furnish enough; and every Israel-

ite had some family inheritance. An omer, or the tenth

part of an ephah, is the quantity; just the very quantity

of manna that sufficed for each day's support. Probably

the poor man, who needed to bring his offering for a sin

committed, was thus taught to give up just his food for

that day--fasting before the Lord.

As in the Jealousy-offering (Numb. v.), no oil or frank-

incense must be put upon it; for the very intention of it

is to present to the Lord the person and substance of the-

offerer (see chap. ii. 1) as altogether defiled--a mass of


No doubt this new kind of sin-offering is intentionally

permitted, in order to shew some things that the animal

sacrifice could not have shewn forth. It exhibits not the

soul only (that is taken for granted when the body and

substance are devoted), but all that belongs to the person

--his body and his property--as needing to be redeemed

by sacrifice, since it has become polluted. All is forfeited

--no frankincense of sweet savour on it, no oil of conse-

Ver. 12, 13. Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest

shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn

it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the

Lord: it is a sin-offering. And the priest shall make an

atonement for him, as touching his sin that he hath sinned in

one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant

shall be the priest's, as a meat-offering.
The memorial of this mass of sin is consumed in the


fire of wrath; but the priest takes his portion, in order

to shew that the sin is cleansed out from the mass.

Shall it not be thus at the resurrection morning? The

body now cleansed, and earth itself purged by fire? Then

is man fully redeemed; his soul, his body, his inheritance

or possessions. No sin left to bring in a secret curse! no

Gibeonite-blood lying hid in its bosom to bring on sudden

and unthought-of woes. No Achan-treasure in the tent-

floor, provoking the eyes of the Lord's glory.
In looking back on this chapter concerning sins of

inadvertency, how awful is the view it presents of the

Lord's jealousy! "His eyes are as a flame of fire;" and

he "judges not according to the hearing of the ear," but

according to the truth that remains untold. How great

the provocation that his own saints give to him daily, by

touching the unclean, and by other almost imperceptible

movements of the heart towards evil. "Woe is me! I

am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I

dwell among a people of unclean lips!" In such cases

we need to take for ourselves the counsel that Cain re-

jected when the Lord said, "If thou doest well (sinnest

not) shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not

well (sinnest), a sin-offering lieth at thy door" (txF.AHa

fbero) (Gen. iv. 7). How ancient is the grace of God!

How old is that gracious saying, "These things write I

unto you, that ye sin not; and if any man sin, we have

an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

and he is the propitiation for our sins."

In these ancient days, there was the same grace ex-

hibited to the sinner as there is under the New Testa-

ment. God held out forgiveness, full and immediate, in

order to allure the sinner, without delay, back to fellow-
ship with himself. And as now, so then, many abused

this grace. They used it not to cleanse their conscience,

but to lull it asleep. Of these Solomon is supposed to

complain,* in Prov. xiii. 6, "Wickedness perverteth the

sin-ofering" (txFA.Ha Jl.esaT;). Nevertheless, the truth of

God stood sure; "righteousness preserved the perfect."

* See Faber on Sacrifice.

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