SIN-OFFERING FOR SINS OF INADERTENCY
"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.
84 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
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.
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 85
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.
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
86 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
“it be hidden from him,” he shall be unclean. He is
guilty, though his conscience did not warn him of the
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
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."
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 87
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
"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
88 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
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.
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 89
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
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
90 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
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
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,
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 91
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-
"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.
92 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
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.
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 93
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
94 SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V
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-
SINS OF INADVERTENCY CHAP. V 95
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.