A new section of the book of Leviticus begins in chapter 4. The chapter opens with the formula “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying”. This formula or equivalent is used at the beginning of the book and again in 5.14, indicating the first two major sections. 1.1 to 3.17 detail the sweet savour offerings, while 4.1 to 5.13 detail the first of two non-sweet savour offerings. The second, the trespass offering, is detailed from 5.14 to 6.7 in two distinct sections similarly divided by the above formula, the first dealing with trespass “in the holy things of the Lord” 5.14-19, and the second with trespass against “his neighbour” 6.1-7. While this general division between sweet savour and non-sweet savour offerings is certainly the case, there is an aspect of “sweet savour” even in the sin offering in 4.31. As will become apparent, God is well pleased when even the humblest believer appreciates he has deviated from the Divine ideal and brings his offering to atone for it.
Another fundamental difference between the two sets of offerings is the fact that the first three, the burnt offering, the meal offering and the peace offering, are voluntary, while the latter two, the sin offering and the trespass offering, are obligatory. As far as the burnt offering is concerned the language is clear: “If any man of you bring an offering…ye shall bring …” 1.2, while in the case of the sin offering it is stated that “if a soul shall sin … let him bring …” 4.2,3.
The primary purpose of the sin offering is the expiation of sin and the consequent forgiveness of the offender to bring him back into fellowship with God. While God is here dealing with a redeemed people, the possibility of them sinning and the consequent need for forgiveness is emphasised. The repetition of the phrase “it shall be forgiven him” 4.26,31,35; 5.10,13, is confirmation of the forgiveness granted. The absence of this phrase in relation to the anointed priest, when it is included for all others, is very telling and will be discussed in due course. In this connection Leckie1 has said, “In the burnt offering it is atonement with a view to acceptance, whereas in the sin offering it is atonement with a view to forgiveness.”
1 Leckie, Albert. “The Tabernacle and the Offerings”. Precious Seed Publications, 2012.
The emphasis in the sin offering, however, is not on the offence itself but on the offender, including the anointed priest, the whole congregation, a ruler and one of the common people. The gravity of the sin is related to the dignity of the office. Similarly, the offering is commensurate with the responsibility of the offender. There is a parallel with the variety of persons involved in the Gospel of Mark when the Lord Jesus in the upper room says, “This is My blood of the new testament (‘covenant’ J.N.D.), which is shed for many” Mk.14.24.
The sin is delineated as “through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord” 4.2. The sin is not deliberate violation but inadvertent activity, perhaps through negligence or carelessness, cf. Num.15.22-29. Presumptuous sins are not covered in this connection. In the case of presumptuous sin the language is clear: “that soul shall be cut off from among his people” Num.15.30,31; an example of this is given in vv.32-36 of that chapter.
The fact that God is interested in making provision for sins of ignorance is indicative that He takes sin more seriously than do His creatures. While the sin may be committed in ignorance, it is still sin! “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” Isa.55.8,9. God’s claims and throne are thus far higher than the estimate of man. God wants to ensure that the relationship between Himself and His people is righteously observed.
Clarke2 has pointed out that “the heinousness of a sin of ignorance lies not so much in the nature of the act as in the state of heart capable of it without knowing it is sin. It may be even counted as good, Acts 3.17; cf. 1Tim.1.13 with Acts 26.9. Sins of ignorance abound where conscience is most hardened against the truth. For instance, the Jews rejected the testimony of the Scriptures, Jn.5.39,45-47; of John the Baptist, Matt.21.32; and of Christ’s own walk, words and works, Jn.5.36,38,40. Ignorance is culpable, for it is the duty of man to learn and comply with God’s requirements. Men tend to regard ignorance as synonymous with guiltlessness, conscientiousness with blamelessness, but Paul’s experience shows this is not so. Even in national law ignorance is not a permissible plea.
2 Clarke, Arthur G. “The Sin Offering”. Precious Seed, Vol. 11, Issue 3, 1960.
“We read of no specific sin offerings before the giving of the Law, but burnt offerings, meal offerings and drink offerings were known, Gen.8.20;22.2,7; 35.14; Rom.3.20; 4.15; 5.13. The burnt offering sometimes included the idea of an offering for sin, Job 1.5; 42.8; such was Abel’s sacrifice, Gen.4.4,7. The priestly house was the first group in Israel to know a sin offering, namely at their consecration, Lev.8.14-17. Observe that, chronologically, their consecration preceded chapters 1 to 7.”
The fact that the anointed priest is dealt with first, indicates the seriousness of a priestly leader being guilty of sins. Small sins in great men have big consequences. Interestingly, it does not say in the case of the anointed priest that his sin is one of ignorance, as it does of the others in vv.13,22,27. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” Mal.2.7. If anyone should know the Law, it is he. There is really no excuse for ignorance. The apostle Paul is equally clear that God’s people should not be ignorant today. Time and again he uses the phrase, positively or negatively, “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren …” 1Cor.10.1 (relative to the past); 1Cor.12.1; Rom.11.25 (relative to the present); 1Thess.4.13 (relative to the future).
The high priest’s sin would entail interrupted communion with God for the congregation of Israel, because they would have no fit representative to appear before God for them. The atoning blood was, therefore, brought into the place of his high priestly service.
The ritual involved in his case is delineated in detail. It involves the following steps:
Bringing a young bull without blemish “unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord” Lev.4.4
Laying or placing his hand upon the bullock’s head
Killing it before the Lord
Taking the blood into the holy place of the tabernacle, and there sprinkling some of it seven times in the direction of the vail that divided off the holy of holies within which the ark was placed, and smearing some of it on the horns of the golden altar of incense
Pouring out the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offering (note the reference to the “altar of burnt offering” – not the “brazen altar”) in the court of the tabernacle
Burning all the internal fat upon the altar of burnt offering as was done for the peace offering (note the important link with the peace offering)
Carrying the whole of the remainder of the animal outside the camp to a clean place “where the ashes are poured out” (double reference) and “burnt on the wood with fire” 4.12.
The Bullock – v.3
The events delineated all have spiritual significance for God’s people today. The young bullock is indicative of vigour and strength and pictures the Lord in the vigour of His manhood undertaking His ministry for God on behalf of His people. No task was too great, no effort too demanding and all was completed to the blessing and the satisfaction of His people and the pleasure of God. He could say, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” Jn.17.4. The Father’s delight could not be contained; the heavens must be burst asunder, “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Mk.1.11. In addition, the perfection of the Lord is seen in the fact that the young bullock must be without blemish. Holiness marked every aspect of His Person and movements. His sinless life gave character and value to His vicarious death.
The Laying on of His Hand – v.4a
The placing of the priest’s hand on the bullock’s head was indicative of a double transference: of the priest’s sin to the animal and of the animal’s value to the offerer. The former is emphasised in the sin offering, while the latter is emphasised in the burnt offering. Thus identification by the laying on (leaning) of his hand upon the victim’s head signified the transference of guilt to the appointed substitute. In contrast, in the burnt offering there was transference of the offering’s acceptableness to the offerer.
This laying on of the priest’s hand was also done “before the Lord”. The repetition of this phrase is important in the overall context of the sin offering:
4.4 – “And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before theLord”;
4.4 – “kill the bullock before theLord”;
4.6 – “shall sprinkle of the blood seven times before theLord”;
4.7 – “shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before theLord” and repeated similarly for the other offerers, 4.15,17,18,24.
The Lord was cognisant of all the details and deeply interested in the activity of the offerers. If sin is to be atoned for, then it must be on a righteous basis and fully consistent with the transparent holiness of God. Indeed the priest had to lean hard on the animal, indicating an awareness of the seriousness of sin and the value of the sacrificial victim to remove it.
The Killing of the Bullock – v.4b
The killing of the bullock was a clear recognition that sin could only be atoned for in death. The animal’s death was really that of the offerer, that is, what he deserved, “The wages of sin is death ...” Rom.6.23; the death of Christ was tantamount to the believer’s death and this is confirmed by the fact that “we be dead (‘have died’ J.N.D.) with Christ” Rom.6.8. This provides the righteous basis for communion with a holy God.
The Blood – vv.5-7
The ritual with the blood is full of significance. Three things were done with the blood, two of them in the holy place and one in the court of the tabernacle:
Firstly, the blood had to be sprinkled “seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary”. The sphere in which the priest moved on behalf of the people had to be appropriately cleansed with blood from the sacrificial victim. No further access would have been admissible without this cleansing. The Lord Jesus has by His blood inaugurated for the believer “a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” Heb.10.20. This gives access into the presence of God. The completeness of the sanctification is seen in that it was sprinkled seven times. The throne of God has been satisfied righteously and fully.
Secondly, the blood was then put on “the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord”. The altar is called elsewhere the “golden altar”, e.g. Ex.39.38; 40.26. The fact that incense is emphasised here is, therefore, significant. It speaks of the righteous access to God’s presence and in particular the prayers of His people, Rev.8.3, and their intimacy of fellowship. The access to the throne of grace is also thus emphasised, Heb.4.16.
The third use of the blood was at the brazen altar. The priest was to “pour all the [remaining] blood … at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering” v.7. If the priest was going to act for the people at the brazen altar, he must be qualified to do so. By pouring the blood at the base of the altar the righteous foundation of approach was laid for the entire congregation. Similarly, the blood of Christ is sufficient for every sinner without exception who is prepared to appreciate the value of the sacrifice offered at Calvary to meet his every need. The fact that the burnt offering is referenced gives additional emphasis to the requirement for complete devotion, once the sin has been forgiven.
The Fat – vv.8-10
Instructions for offering the fat of the bullock are next outlined. “All the fat is the Lord’s” Lev.3.16. The fat came from a variety of sources, but was all burnt “upon the altar of the burnt offering”. Again, we note it is not here called “the brazen altar”. The link with the burnt offering in this case indicates that it was wholly for God. The fat came from three sources:
Firstly, the inwards: “the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards” v.8. This is a lovely picture of the delight and pleasure that the Lord Jesus brought to His Father. The heart of Christ and the will of Christ were ever in full consonance with that of the Father. “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: Yea, Thy law is within My heart” Ps.40.8.
Secondly, “The two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks” v.9a. The kidneys speak of affection and nearness. The deep intimacy between the Father and the Son is thus expressed. As the Son of God, the Lord Jesus could say to the Father “We are one” and again “I and My Father are one” Jn.17.22; 10.30. There could be no greater depth of union, relationship and fellowship than what is expressed in these words.
Thirdly, “The caul (fat) above the liver … shall he take away” v.9b. Caul fat is used for a variety of purposes in normal cuisine and may speak of the superabundance of the glories of the Lord Jesus, all laid on the altar for God. These would cover a vast spectrum of truth including His official glory, His moral glory, His manhood glory, the glory of His death, the glory of His resurrection and so on – see an earlier volume in this series3.
3“The Glory of the Son”. Assembly Testimony Publication, 2007.
All this was similar to what was done for “the sacrifice of peace offerings” v.10. The lesson is clear. If fellowship, as pictured in the peace offering, between God and His people and between each believer is going to be maintained, then sins must be atoned for and relationships established on righteous grounds.
The Burning – vv.11,12
What was left of the whole bullock was then burned “without the camp”: the skin, its flesh, head, legs, inwards and its dung. All was to be carried forth to a “clean place, where the ashes are poured out” (see Lev.6.11, i.e. the ashes of the burnt offering) and burned on “wood with fire”. We note that the ashes of the burnt offering were also to be carried “without the camp unto a clean place” Lev.6.11. Several features are of interest:
Firstly, we see that nothing was left of the bullock. All was burned. There was no possibility of eating it. The priest’s sin had been transferred to it and he dare not indulge in benefitting from his misdemeanours.
Secondly, the nature of the burning is interesting. The word for burning used here is different from that used in the burnt offering. There the word means to ascend as a sweet savour. Here the idea is to burn up utterly, consume completely, with nothing to be left. When the priest saw the carcase reduced to ashes he knew that his sin had been put out of sight. The lesson for today is that every Divine demand and requirement relative to sin was met in the sacrifice of Christ.
Thirdly, the burning was to be done “without the camp”. Sin was to be removed from the sphere where the people lived and worshipped. Sin in the camp meant estrangement from God. There is the additional factor that the Lord Jesus was to suffer “without the gate”. How precious to note that “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” Heb.13.10-13.
Fourthly, we also observe that the burning was to be done on “wood with fire” to ensure complete consumption, in a “clean place” where the ashes of the burnt offering were poured out. While it was the bullock of the sin offering, a “clean place” with a link to the burnt offering, must be used. The ashes of the sin offering are thus mingled with the ashes of the burnt offering, indicating that fresh dedication could now be undertaken in service for the people, cleansing having been righteously effected.
There is no mention at the end of the paragraph dealing with the anointed priest that his sin would be forgiven, as is stated in relation to all the others. He knew that if God’s command was followed explicitly, that would automatically be the case. So it is today: God’s people are not called to ask for forgiveness, but to engage in confession: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1Jn.1.9.
Such corporate failure would involve the whole camp, interrupting the communion of all. The detailed ritual is identical to the above, except that the congregation is represented by “the elders” in the laying on of their hands on the head of the bullock. They are regarded as the responsible element, as is the case in the local church today, for example in Acts 20.17-38. In this case the anointed priest acts on behalf of the people in the matter of what is done with the blood. In addition, the fact of forgiveness is explicitly stated in v.20.
Rule entails public responsibility, so an elder’s sin was more serious than that of a commoner. In this case the offering is a kid of the goats, a male without blemish. The wise man records that “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A greyhound; a he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up” Prov.30.29-31. The Lord Jesus as the “he goat” is comely in His going. When John the Baptist looked upon Jesus as He walked he said, “Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” Jn.1.36,37. The self-effacing ministry of John led to the disciples following the comely Christ.
In this case the blood was not taken into the holy place (the ruler or prince did not function there as did the priest) but was put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering with the remaining blood poured out at the “bottom of the altar of burnt offering” v.25. The altar where he presented his offering had to be appropriately sanctified to permit further access to the presence of God. The blood at the base provided a righteous standing for the presentation of his offering. The brazen altar marked the limit of the individual Israelite’s approach to God, so the blood was applied here only.
While all the fat was still burned on the altar, (the word for “burn” here means ‘to turn into fragrance by fire’) the rest of the animal was not burned “without the camp”. Instead, “the priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it” Lev.6.26. The location for eating it is particularly specified, “… in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation”. The lesson is clear: the sin of a ruler is not to be mulled over in the homes of God’s people, but taken into the sanctuary of God.
In many ways the ritual here is similar to that for the ruler. However, the animal in this case is either a female kid of the goats, vv.27-31, or a female lamb, vv.32-35. The passive submission of the Lord Jesus is exemplified in the fact that both the species are female. The lamb emphasises the same truth. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” Isa.53.7. Again the priest has to eat it in “the holy place” Lev.6.16.
The fact that the sin offering is still in view is made abundantly clear, not only by the formula in 5.14, which breaks up the book of Leviticus into sections, but by the explicit statement, “it is a sin offering” vv.9,12. The details for the sin offering given here are unique in the sense that specific sins are mentioned in vv.1-5, as distinct from persons, and a variety of offerings are delineated in vv.6-13. It is because of these differences that expositors have found this a difficult section to understand. There seems to be an element of wilful sin as well as sins of ignorance, and this is in contrast to all the details in chapter 4, where all were sins of ignorance and no particular sin was mentioned. This is perhaps the reason for the mention of a trespass offering, in addition to the sin offering. The Revised Version translates “trespass offering” in vv.6,7 as “guilt offering” in the text and as “for his guilt” in the margin. The latter perhaps indicates more clearly the burden of the passage.
The Sins Covered – vv.1-5
There are three different sins mentioned in this section, based on hearing, touching and swearing.
“If a soul sin, and hear” – v.1
In this case the “soul” has heard the voice of swearing. He is then called to be a witness, as to whether he has heard it or not. He is reluctant to “utter it”, that is, to give witness to the fact that he has heard it, so that in refusing to give appropriate testimony, he has sinned and “shall bear his iniquity”. As Leckie4 has helpfully pointed out there is “an element of ignorance and an element of wilfulness … there was an element of ignorance in that he did not commit the offence and there was an element of wilfulness in that he refused to testify”.
4 Leckie, Ibid.
“If a soul touch any unclean thing” – vv.2,3
In v.2 the uncleanness arises from touching the dead body of a wild beast, a domesticated animal or a creeping thing. In v.3 the problem arises from touching the uncleanness of man. In these cases there seem to be sins of ignorance involved, “and it be hid from him”. When the sin is known, a trespass offering has to be offered for a sin offering. Leckie5 suggests again that an element of wilfulness is evident, in that the Israelite did not avail himself of the water of cleansing as detailed in Lev.11.32.
“If a soul swear” – vv.4,5
The case addressed is that of an Israelite making a rash vow: “If any one swear rashly with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall utter rashly with an oath” R.V. Without realising all that was involved, he therefore sins by making a rash vow and failing to keep his vow; once more there is an element of ignorance and wilfulness. The conclusion we reach is that there is evidence of rashness in these verses in contrast to the sins of ignorance of Leviticus chapter 4.
Alternative Offerings – vv.6-13
It is not immediately clear whether these verses apply only to the sins of 5.1-5 or to the sin offering of the common people. On balance, it seems best to apply them to the common people, since provision is being made for those with lesser means. The sin is no less serious, but the economic condition of the offerer is taken into account. The details for the anointed priest, the congregation and the ruler would not seem to permit a lesser offering than that specified. However, the common people might not have the means to bring a female kid of the goats or a female lamb, 4.28,32. In that case the alternative offerings specified here would be permissible.
A Female Lamb or a Kid of the Goats – v.6
If this was available to the sinning Israelite nothing less would do. God expects the best from us. Only if this was beyond his means would an alternative be allowed. The procedure detailed would then be undertaken, 4.28-35.
Two Turtledoves or Two Young Pigeons – vv.7-10
If the economic circumstances of the Israelite did not permit him to bring a female lamb or goat, then two turtledoves or two young pigeons had to be brought. Doves are associated with mourning, Isa.38.14, and purity, Mk.1.10. Pigeons have a homing instinct. Our Lord Jesus ever remembered He was on the way back to the Father, Jn.16.28. One of the birds was to be used for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Both birds were to be brought to the priest, who would then perform the appropriate ritual. The bird for the sin offering was taken first. The priest was to “wring off his head from his neck, but … not divide it asunder” v.8. The blood was then to be sprinkled “upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood … wrung out at the bottom of the altar” v.9.
The bird for the burnt offering was to be offered “according to the manner”, which presumably refers to the ritual undertaken for the burnt offering, Lev.1.14-17.
The Tenth Part of an Ephah of Fine Flour – vv.11-13
The poorer Israelite still could bring this bloodless offering. There was to be no oil or frankincense put upon it. These ingredients were part and parcel of the meal offering, speaking of the anointing of the Lord Jesus with the Holy Spirit and the fragrance of His life Godward. They would be inappropriate in the context of the sin offering, otherwise giving the sinning Israelite the false idea of acceptance and fragrance from sinful behaviour.
A priestly handful was then to be burned as a memorial on the altar where the fire was burning, having consumed the burnt offering. This provided a righteous basis on which sins could be forgiven. The memorial of the offering was to be eaten by the priest as a meal offering. The absence of atoning blood from this last offering was met by its association with the daily burnt offering.
The fundamental lesson from the law of the sin offering is that of holiness. This is seen in the repetition of “holy” six times in vv.25,26,27 (twice),29,30. The word “holy” only occurs a total of sixteen times in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7, and six of them are here. Holiness is emphasised in a variety of particulars. The first is the link with the burnt offering, “In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy” v.25. The burnt offering speaks of the complete devotion of a life yielded to God and in particular of the total submission of the life of the Lord Jesus, delighting to do the Father’s will. While holiness marked the sinless life of the Saviour, equally holy was the death of Christ, on account of sin when He was the sin-bearer, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” 2Cor.5.21. Indeed, apart from His inherent holiness, His death for sin would not have been effective.
The second reference to holiness is in the context of the priest eating the body of the sacrificial victim. It had effectively been made sin with the offerer’s sin having been ceremonially transferred to it. It was not to be eaten in the home of the priest; it was to be consumed in the “holy place … in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation”. This is a picture of the ascended Christ in the sanctuary of God’s presence, feeling the effects of His people’s sin and making appropriate provision as their “Advocate with the Father” 1Jn.2.1.
Holiness was also associated with anything that touched “the flesh” of the sacrificial animal, v.27. Sanctified hands were required in the pursuance of this Divine ritual. Sanctified clothes were necessary too; even a garment that had blood inadvertently sprinkled on it had to be washed in the “holy place” v.27, lest any blood that had been associated with sin should find its way into the general congregation of Israel and become profane. The preciousness of Christ’s blood should never be under-estimated; its value can never be over-emphasised, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.18,19.
Even the earthen vessel where the flesh was boiled had to be broken lest some blood had penetrated the pores, and if a copper pot was used it had to be scoured and rinsed with water to ensure no contamination. Again the reason is clear: there should be no possibility of the blood used for remission of sin coming into contact with anything unclean or unholy. God is preserving the holiness necessary for renewed communion.
All the priests, a picture of believers generally, could eat of the sacrificial victim brought by the ruler or the common people. It must be done in the holy place. The sins of God’s people should not be exposed in believers’ homes, but rather brought into the sanctuary of God’s presence. The sin offering for the anointed priest or for the congregation must not be eaten; it had to be “burnt in the fire” v.30.
The sin offering is mentioned no less than one hundred and eighteen times in the Old Testament: sixty of these in the book of Leviticus, thirty-five in Numbers and fourteen in Ezekiel (all in relation to Ezekiel’s temple in chapters 40-46); the remaining nine are in four other books: Exodus (three references), 2Chronicles (three times), Ezra (twice) and the Psalms (once). It has an important part to play in relation to the Day of Atonement in Leviticus chapter 16 where it is mentioned no less than ten times: in vv.3,5,6,9,11 (twice),15,25,27 (twice).
On this day Aaron had to take a sin offering for himself and one for the people. The sin offering for himself consisted of a young bullock, v.3. That for “the congregation of the children of Israel” was to be “two kids of the goats for a sin offering” v.5. The ritual for himself is summarised in v.6 and expanded in vv.11-14. The ritual for the congregation is summarised in vv.7-10 and expanded in vv.15-22. Aaron had to make atonement for himself before he could make atonement for the people. The great High Priest of Hebrews chapter 4 has no need of the former and has fully undertaken the latter!
The Sin Offering for Aaron
The blood of the bullock for Aaron was sprinkled upon the mercy seat eastward and seven times before it. The blood on the mercy seat was for the eye of God. The blood before it was for the standing of the priest to give him access into the immediate Divine presence. His own sins must be atoned for before he could act on behalf of the congregation.
The Sin Offering for the Congregation
The fact that in this case there were two kids of the goats for one sin offering is of great importance. Each goat was dealt with very differently. Initially the two goats were presented before the Lord. Lots were then cast and one goat was chosen “for the Lord” and the other “for the scapegoat” v.8. “Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness” Lev.16.9,10.
The blood of the first goat was taken into the inner sanctuary and sprinkled, as was done before, for himself. Thereafter he was to use the blood to reconcile (the same word is used in v.16 and translated “make an atonement for”) “the holy place … the tabernacle … and the altar” v.20. The sanctuary precincts, wherein the priests functioned, required reconciliation!
Thereafter Aaron laid his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed “over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and [sent] him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” vv.21,22.
There are thus two aspects to the one sin offering. In the one case the eye of God is satisfied by the blood on the mercy seat and on the other hand the sins of the people are expiated by the confession over the head of the live goat and its bearing “all their iniquities to a land apart from men” v.22, J.N.D.
Equally, the work of Christ has a double significance. On the one hand the throne of God has been completely satisfied by an accomplished work. Propitiation has effected eternal satisfaction to the throne of a holy God. It is helpful to observe firstly the place of propitiation. How precious to read, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (mercy seat) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” Rom.3.25. Secondly the Person Who is the propitiation should be noted, “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” 1Jn.2.2. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” 1Jn.4.10. Thirdly, the accomplished work of propitiation should be highlighted. There is no limitation to the work of Calvary; it was for “the sins of the whole world”. “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation (propitiation) for the sins of the people” Heb.2.17.
On the other hand the same work of Calvary satisfies every need stamped on the human heart and makes it possible for a holy God to remain holy and yet justify the ungodly. Our sins have been laid on the head of aholy Substitute so that God can say, “… their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” Heb.8.12.
It is very searching that the sin offering was required for the whole spectrum of God’s people. No matter their hierarchy, provision needed to be made for all. Examples of each are given elsewhere in Scripture.
Nadab and Abihu were among the anointed priests who sinned, Leviticus chapter 10. The sons of Eli are another example, 1Samuel chapter 2. The congregation sinned in the wilderness, Hebrews chapter 4, and in particular at Kadesh, Numbers chapter 14, and when they journeyed from Mount Hor they murmured against God and against Moses, Numbers chapter 21. Aaron, Exodus chapter 32 and David, 2Samuel chapter11, rulers of the people, engaged in grievous sin. David also sinned in the manner of bringing the ark back with a good motive but a wrong method, 2Samuel chapter 6; the latter is as important as the former. Miriam, Numbers chapter 12, and Achan, Joshua chapter 7, each as one of the common people, sinned and brought the whole congregation into trouble.
The lesson is clear: none of God’s people is exempt. It is well to heed the caution of the apostle, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” 1Cor.10.12. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” Gal.5.17.
It is good to know that no matter the persons involved or their societal standing, God has made righteous provision for all of His people to remain in communion with Him.