Leviticus 4 Laws for Sin Offerings

Mar 6, 2014  |  Leviticus, Old Testament  |  No Comments

Sin Offerings for Priests or Whole Congregation

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One of the first things that struck me about this passage is that sin offerings are to reconcile us to God when we sin unintentionally.  This is a rather shocking idea, since our tendency is to think of unintentional sin as not sin at all.  This helps drive home that God has a much higher standard than we normally think about.  Frankly, we just can’t meet it.  Until you understand God’s expectations, you cannot appreciate how important the free gift of salvation is.  Think about it – if a priest unintentionally sins, a bull must be sacrificed as a sin offering. Also, the priest’s sin also taints the people, so the guilt of the priest is shared with the people.  Isn’t amazing that our anointed priest, Jesus Christ, is without guilt?  Instead of inheriting guilt from our priest, He bears our guilt so that we may inherit His purity and walk in fellowship with the living God.

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For either a sin committed by an anointed priest or by the whole congregation, a sacrifice of a bull is required.  The details are very similar.

  • It must be a bull without blemish.
  • The priest must dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of sanctuary
  • The remaining blood must be poured at the base of the altar of burnt sacrifices
  • The kidneys, the liver and the fat surrounding the entrails must be burnt on the altar of burnt offerings.
  • All the rest of the bull must be taken outside the camp and burned in the ash heap.

Think of what a waste it must have seemed to burn the major part of the bull with no one benefiting.  This is, I think, an indication of the devastating waste of sin.  The price for recompense is high and no one benefits.  The only difference between the two types of offerings was in who laid their hands on the bull to be sacrificed – when it was the priest who sinned, he laid his hands on the bull, but when the congregation sinned, the elders, representing the people, laid their hands on the bull.

The result of the offering is that God forgives the sin.

Sin Offerings for Leaders and Individuals

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As I read this part of the passage, I wonder why God chose to change the details for sin offerings so subtly.  For a leader who unintentionally sins, when he realizes his guilt is to bring a male goat as an offering.  Unlike the sin offering for the priest or congregation, the blood is not sprinkled in front of the veil of sanctuary, but it is placed on the horns of the altar of burnt offerings and the remaining poured at the base of the altar.  Also, only the fat is burned, with no specification of what happens with the remainder of the animal.

For one of the common people, the sacrifice is a female goat or lamb.  Again, subtly different than for a leader.

Nevertheless, much of the procedure is common and the result is always the same.  Atonement is made for the unintentional sin.  The differences in the type of animal makes sense – a lower level leader or a common person don’t have the same level of responsibility, so a smaller, less expensive animal is an appropriate animal.

Although it is sometimes challenging to read through the details of the sacrifices, it helps remind us that we do not meet God’s exacting standards and that a blood sacrifice is required, and has been provided, by God himself.

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