The Offerings of Leviticus: 7. Trespass Offering

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
A fresh intimation from Jehovah introduces the proper Trespass offering. ““ And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, “If any one commit a perfidy, and sin inadvertently in the holy things of Jehovah, then he shall bring his trespass offering to Jehovah, a ram without blemish out of the flock, according to thine estimation by shekels of silver after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering. “And he shall make restitution for what he hath done amiss in [lit. from] the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering; and it shall be forgiven him” (vers. 14-16).
We may discern another shade of evil met in the Trespass offering as compared with the more general and public one for sin. The word for the latter is chata which literally signifies departure from right; whereas asham, which is translated trespass expresses guilt. It was an act of treachery (maal) in the holy things of Jehovah, though supposed to be done not presumptuously but through inadvertence. Still, though not a moral wrong before the eyes of others, it was a secret perfidy against Him with Whom they stood in holy relationship, and guilt was contracted thereby. Hence for one who had failed thus in his responsibility a ram without blemish was required in every case. Compare also Lev. 19:20-2220And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. 21And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. 22And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the Lord for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him. (Leviticus 19:20‑22), where the offense, though morally wrong also, is viewed as guilt against Jehovah, and the ram of atonement was required as in Num. 5:5-105And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 6Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; 7Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. 8But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him. 9And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. 10And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his. (Numbers 5:5‑10), whereas in Num. 6, as a modified case, a lamb was offered. We shall see appended to this first instance an added provision in vers. 17-19; but there is no difference allowed in the victim Jehovah required. A new ordinance follows which in the English is so strangely relegated to chap. 6, but in the Hebrew text continues the fifth chapter as vers. 20-26, and treats of a trespass done to a neighbor, a failure in responsibility which Jehovah counted an act of treachery against Himself; but there also an unblemished ram must be brought by the guilty soul. We may and surely ought to inquire why this animal and no other was suitable to meet the occasion.
Now, in setting apart Aaron and his sons to Jehovah for their priestly place and functions, we know that a ram of consecration had its distinctive importance. There were indeed two rams, one of which was for an olah or Burnt offering, that followed the bullock slaughtered for a Sin offering. But the special feature of that rite was the second ram, the ram of consecration, the blood of which was not only sprinkled like that of the first ram on the altar round about, but, before that, Moses was directed to put of it, first on the tip of Aaron's right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot, and then on those of his sons also.
The ram accordingly was the fitting animal to offer for the inverse question of desecration; and such was just the aspect of evil which was met in the Trespass offering. It was not simple wrong for which the Sin offering was provided, but treachery in relation to Jehovah. And this is confirmed (ver. 15) by Moses' “estimation in silver by shekels after the shekel of the sanctuary.” For as gold typifies divine righteousness in God's presence, silver figures His grace rather, as we may see in the atonement money for the children of Israel, and indeed wherever it appears.
There was another element distinctive of the Trespass or Guilt offering. “He shall make restitution for what he hath done amiss in the holy thing.” More than this; as Jehovah commanded the tithe of the Israelite's increase as blessed of Him, so He demanded as the fine of the Trespass offering the fifth part, or a double tithe. All this was to go to the priest; which again keeps up the relative character already seen. “And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering; and it shall be forgiven him.”
The appendix which follows adds words even more precise as to ignorance and worthy of all attention.
“And if any one sin or do against any of all the commandments of Jehovah what should not be done, and hath not known, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock according to thine estimation for a trespass offering unto the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his inadvertence wherein he sinned inadvertently, and knew it not; and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering: he is certainly guilty before Jehovah” (vers. 17-19).
Here while inadvertence is stated plainly, the case goes beyond this. But though the ram was the normal victim required for this character of evil, the demand was modified where the ritual failure differed. Thus for the leper's cleansing (Lev. 14) a lamb was to be offered as a Trespass offering, and the priest put its blood on the person of him that was being cleansed, as Moses did on Aaron and his sons on the day of their consecration, where the oil followed the blood (vers. 12-18). Then came the Sin offering (ver. 19), and after it the Burnt offering. Thus the distinction of Trespass and Sin is made clear, whatever be the “great controversy” as to the difference among theologians, and the uncertainty of their sound to this day. And it is intelligible why in the consecration of the priests the Sin offering (whether bullock or calf) was brought, but no Trespass offering, any more than on Atonement Day, the tenth of the seventh month.
We may see too, in the visions of God vouchsafed to Ezekiel of the coming kingdom on the earth, there is provision for the Burnt offering, the Sin offering, the Trespass offering, and the sacrifice of the Oblation (40:38, 42; 42:13; 44:29). The Epistle to the Hebrews is in no way at issue; for it treats of the abolition of these shadows for the Christian only. Vain self-sufficiency denies the future hopes of Israel in Jehovah's mercy, and, counting itself the sole object of grace, seeks the exaltation proper to Israel, and loses its own special privileges of suffering with Christ while awaiting glory on high.
It is distinctly laid down that, though the person in question “hath not known, yet is he guilty.” Jehovah would exercise His people in the sense of what was due to His relationship and their privilege who had the sign of His presence in their midst. He would have them read or hear His word with serious spirit and submissive heart. It was no matter of conscience, or of open immorality, such as the Sin offering was prescribed for; but perfidy in respect of those commandments of Jehovah in their favored position toward Him.
Hence the necessity of diligent heed to His statutes and judgments. Ignorance was no tenable excuse. They were Israelites, and Jehovah had imposed commandments with which they were responsible to comply. If any one did not know, yet was he guilty. Indifference to His requirements must have been the antecedent state; and what is this in His eyes? What did it detect in the Israelite? Was Jehovah to be blind, because he failed to know what was plainly written in His law, though not in the ten words? He was guilty, and must bear his iniquity (avon). Therefore was be to bring an unblemished ram from the sheep according to Moses' estimation for a Trespass offering unto the priest. Neither inadvertence nor ignorance availed to screen his guilt or do away with the offering indispensable for it. But it should be forgiven him that thus offered. Even with greater energy is the language here, “It is a trespass offering: trespassing he trespassed before Jehovah.” Man otherwise might have readily excused it.