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The Sin Offering

Leviticus 4

George Davison

Leviticus 1-7


In the opening chapters of Leviticus, more is said about the sin offering than about any other, yet in the law of the offerings there is more said about the peace offering than the others. These things are of note. The sin offering is placed after the sweet savour offerings - the burnt offering speaking of the work of Christ glorifying God that He might establish the pleasure of God according to His will; the meal offering which speaks of the features of the life of Christ in the spotless, sinless Manhood that marked Him; and the peace offering (to be considered in the fourth address). The offerings were to be of such a character that a righteous and holy God could be thus glorified, 'He offered Himself by the eternal Spirit without spot unto God' (Heb.9:14). This came to light in His life, that He was without spot and thus He became such an offering whereby God has been eternally glorified.

Had it not been that sin was in the world, the Lord would never have needed to become a burnt offering, and it is doubtful whether He would ever have become a meal offering. There would be no reason for Christ to come into the world in Manhood if man had not sinned. Thus we now consider the main reason why He did come into sinless, perfect Manhood, the reason why He did walk consistently under the eye of God, and why at the end of the sinless pathway, He died as an acceptable offering to God. Sin was the reason of it all. Christ dealt with this question once and for all, and so successfully, as the New Testament assures us, that unto all them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation. This 'without' is the most negative term that can possibly be found in the Greek language (J.N.D.). It is also used in Rom. 3:21: "But now righteousness without the law is manifested....." - man is totally without righteousness under the law.

The sins of saints are in view in the sins spoken of in this offering, not the sins of unbelievers. The Lord is not presented initially as the Saviour, but the Advocate. The people were before God as a result of the calling out of Egypt. Already having a priest, the initial approach to God is not pictured, instead it is along the lines of "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous" (1 John 2:1). The people already stood in relation to God ceremonially, but in the very features that are given us in these offerings, reference is still made to the cross of Christ, and the means that God has to deal with sins, whether it be when we first come to Him seeking salvation or when we come to Him as saints seeking restoration.

The Sin of the Common Man (Leviticus 4:27-35)

While not a ruler or leader of the people of God, nor the company as a whole, nor yet knowing much about the anointed priest drawing near into the presence of God, all saints belong to the company of the saints of God, and all are God's people in this world. All of the saints are of equal status under the eye of God. If one should sin, "through ignorance....." (saints of God never commit wilful sin, for which there is no forgiveness; but we may through inadvertence at a weak moment sin against God (1 John 2:1), but it is in inadvertence or ignorance), ".....against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty....." (that is sins of commission, the things which we ought not to have done but have done, rather than sins of omission, those things which we ought to have done, but have not; thus here definite offences are in view, which we can so easily be guilty of if we allow the flesh to work within us and to spring out into evidence, for the flesh can do nothing but sin, it is not subject unto the law of God, neither can be - Rom. 8:7), 

".....or if his sin, which he hath sinned comes to his knowledge....." (that is always the first work of Christ's advocacy, to convince us that we have sinned, and the next step is to assure us that He is there to deal with it), ".....he shall bring of his offering a kid of the goats".

The first recorded instance of God dealing with sin publicly is in Ex.12, and there we are told that the people of Israel could take either from the sheep or from the goats (v. 5). In the sheep we have the willingness of the Lord to die for sin and in the goat we have the ability of the Lord to die for sin. There is but one offering here, a kid of the goats, as though God would impress upon us the work that our Lord Jesus Christ has done is able to deal with that sin, is able to remove it. 

Further the offering is to be a female without blemish. A female offering presents the work of Christ manward; 'Christ died for me' we can say. It is my sin, my relief, my peace and my restoration, that is in view. God wants us to consciously be free from that sin and to know that Christ has died to cleanse us and to restore us. Peter, on the resurrection morn was perhaps the first to gain of the advocacy of Christ after the Lord had died upon the cross. "He restoreth my soul" (Ps. 23:3) is the thought.

The offerer was to bring this kid of the goats for his sin which he had sinned. Straight away, the matter is presented on our side, how it affects us, the need of relief on our side, and the great provision that God has made in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no suggestion that the man may not have an offering, it does suggest in other offerings that he may not have a bullock, hence he can bring a sheep; it also suggests he may not have a sheep, so he can bring a goat; and also that if he has not a goat, he can bring a bird; and even if he cannot bring a bird, he can bring a handful of fine flour, as though God would say, there is no excuse whatsoever, there is always something there to bring, the offering is always available. But here, in the sin offering for a common man, there is to be only one possible offering.

Similarly to the burnt offering, there is to be the laying of the offerer's hand upon the animal's head. We are to be identified with the sin offering, without this we cannot be identified with all the wonderful effects of the burnt offering. In both cases, the identification of the offerer with the offering is in view. If God accepts the offering, He accepts the offerer who put his hand upon it. If God rejects that offering, He rejects that offerer. Substitution is in view. What happens for the sin offering happens for the offerer.

The sin offering is to be killed in the place of the burnt offering. The two offerings are distinct, but they speak of the same work, the work of our Lord Jesus upon the cross. So why the link here? The burnt offering speaks of acceptance, the sin offering speaks judicially of the ending of sin in the sight of God for His own glory. God would impress upon us that His thoughts on dealing with sin, and the reason why He does deal with sin through His well beloved Son is not only that we might be relieved, but so that we might be restored once again into the wonderful sense of the burnt offering, "accepted in the Beloved". The sin offering brings restoration to the status of the burnt offering, to restore us into communion with God as "accepted in the Beloved". The communion comes in a little later on.

The priest is then to take of the blood thereof, with his finger, and put it on the horns of the altar. Just as that finger inscribed the commandments, now when one has offended against those commandments, the blood sprinkled finger is the answer to the claims of God. Again the altar is mentioned as "the altar of the burnt offering", God would always maintain the height of the calling and the grandeur of the work of Christ in calling it this, even though many sin offerings were offered there also. Thus blood of the sin offering is put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offerings. The horns speak of the strength of that altar, the strength of the claims of God, and the blood put upon the horns of the altar would assure us that the claims of God had been adequately met, that God's righteousness had been adequately maintained in such a way that God can holily and righteously pronounce this forgiveness. "Put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering" speaks therefore of the adequate answer in meeting the claims of God by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But now, in contrast to the burnt offering, all the remaining blood was to be poured out at the bottom of the altar. With the burnt offering, while the blood was put upon the horns of the altar, there is nothing said about the blood being poured at the bottom of the altar because there, primarily, it is the will of God and the pleasure of God that is in view. But here, while the will and the pleasure of God are in view on the one hand ("on the altar of burnt offering"), on the other hand there is the need of the sense of cleansing and renewal, and hence the rest of the blood is poured out at the bottom of the altar, it is on our side to give us a righteous standing, a cleansed standing, once more in the presence of God. It is (probably) this word that the Lord was referring to on the night when He instituted the Lord's supper. Literally, the words are "When the Lord took the cup and blessed it, handed it to the disciples saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is My blood, that of the [new] covenant, that shed for many for remission of sins" (J.N.D - Matt.26:27-28).

Now all the fat is to be removed, "as the fat is taken away, from off the sacrifice of the peace offerings". The peace offering has in view fellowship with God. The sin offering is thus burnt in the place of the burnt offering and the fat of that sin offering taken away and burnt upon the altar as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings. God would impress upon us that the reason He is dealing with sin is to bring again into our souls, and into the enjoyment of our souls, the wonderful sense of divine favour "accepted in the Beloved"; and what else can be the outcome of enjoying in our souls of divine favour, as accepted "in the Beloved" but to restore us to happy communion with God (fellowship and communion are exactly the same word). John writes that we may have fellowship with the Father and fellowship with the Son (1 John 1:3), thus we come in again to the sense of divine favour and go on with a resumed fellowship (resumed communion) that may have been momentarily broken through failure or sin inadvertently as we are passing on through this world. Would it not assure us of the desire of God to have us in communion with Himself, with the Father and with the Son? It is as though the Father Himself would say 'All provision is made to remove the failure that may come in, because I am desirous of having you always in communion with Myself'. God values the communion of His people and has made ample provision should something come in to break that communion, that once more it might be happily restored by a sin offering, killed in the place of the burnt offering, and the fat burned upon the altar as the fat of the peace offering.

Hence communion is restored and the priest burns the fat upon the altar "for a sweet savour unto the Lord". It is difficult for us to think of a sweet savour at a time when God is dealing with sin, sin is not a sweet savour to God, but the sweet savour that does come to light is that in dealing thus with sin, man is going to be brought into fellowship with God. This is the sweet savour to the heart of God, the restoration of one of His saints into happy communion with Himself, producing again a response to God in the linking and forming again of the enjoyment of the soul of communion with God.

Finally the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him. God is holy and righteous, He is "just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This is the thought simply worked out in regard to the type as John would assure us of, that God, through the work of the Christ, would seek to maintain us in happy fellowship with Himself and hence the provision in this sin offering, should any one of God's people sin inadvertently in this world.

The Sin of the Rulers (Leviticus 4:22-26)

"When a ruler hath sinned, and done through ignorance" (again) "against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done and is guilty..... he shall bring a kid of the goats, a male without blemish".

A ruler would be a leader amongst God's people, one that was perhaps outstanding publicly in the testimony. The failure of such a man is bound to have a more adverse effect upon the testimony of God than the sin of one of the common people; but whether one is a leader, or just takes one's place alongside all the people of God, sin has to be dealt with in the sight of God. The sin must be removed if God is to go on with that ruler and the ruler is to go on with his service for the Lord. So it says "or, if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge, he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish".

When it is just an ordinary man who is moving here for God, it is a female kid, speaking of clearance of their side, but when it is a ruler, one that is perhaps a little more outstanding in the Christian testimony, it is a male. There has to be the apprehension not only of what Christ has done for us in dealing with that sin, but what Christ has done for God, in dealing with that sin. There must be that apprehension not only of how that sin has affected self, but how that sin has affected the testimony as related to God. If a man gets his name written in a newspaper or booklet as being an outstanding man in service for God and then sins, there is a great hue and cry about Christianity, whereas they would not even take notice of a simple saint of God doing the same thing. The idea is how it affects the divine testimony, how if affects the rights and claims of God. So this time it is specified a male without blemish. The details of the laying on of hands, and the finger and the blood, etc., are identical as the case for a common man, the teaching is identical.

The Sin of the Whole Congregation (Leviticus 4:13-21)

This time it is the whole congregation of Israel who have sinned through ignorance, a much more serious event, not only one individual, but the sin that might have taken place in the whole company of God's people. This is a very serious thing indeed. We may take it down to ourselves and bring it down to small proportions, and apply it to a local company of God's people (not that the local company is the whole nation, it involves every saint of God), but it comes out in a collective way. If a whole company have sinned, come to some wrong judgment about something, they have to come to God and own to Him that they have come to a wrong judgment about that something, and offended against some or one of the claims of God.

This time for the whole company, the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood and sprinkle it "seven times before the Lord, before the veil". That holy place was the place the priest moved continually representing the company of God; and hence that blood is sprinkled before the Lord before the veil, for approach to God for the moment had been interrupted by this sin of the whole congregation that may have come in.

When David numbered the people, the whole company of God's people suffered as a consequence. Although David sinned, it lay upon the whole company as God dealt with it. The sin in relation to the golden calf was an extreme case, where it was more a wilful sin than a sin of ignorance; and it is quite possible that the Corinthian assembly had been guilty of a collective sin, in the very corrupt, loose way, that they were all apparently going on (there may have been some who were not, but as a company there they were in a very bad way collectively, under the eye of God. Hence, "for this cause, many are weak and sickly amongst you, and some sleep" - 1 Cor.11:30). But thank God for the offering, it was still there for them, and the blood sprinkled there before that veil would open up again the thought of access to God in this company cleansed, re-established, and restored into communion with God so that as a company of God's people they might once more go on with His service in this world.

The table, the lampstand, and the golden altar were there in that holy place and all the daily service connected with the people had been interrupted while this question of sin stood between them and God, but the blood sprinkled before the veil would mean that the way once again to God was opened up in the place, on behalf of the whole congregation of Israel. The blood was sprinkled before the veil representatively of the company for restoration.

The Sin of the Priest (Leviticus 4:3-12)

Finally we come to sin in the case of the priest that is anointed. There are four cases here, but the priest "if he sinned according to the sin of the people" should have shown better than to do what the people were doing. He brings for his offering "a young bullock without blemish, unto the Lord for a sin offering."

The priest must now apprehend in the largest possible way, the death of Christ in relation to sin, and hence this time it is a bullock brought to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The priest could not enter in through that door with some sin resting upon him. The mode of access right from the very outset must be dealt with. The priest that is anointed must take up the bullock's blood, bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation, and "the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary. He has approached the door of the tabernacle, he must now carry that blood right in, and so with the ruler, as with the anointed priest, the blood once more is sprinkled before the veil, and the result is access for that priest. It is once more opened out, in the question of that sin being settled and removed, and the priest is in full liberty to approach God.

There are many more details in this chapter, that we cannot, due to time, go into, but one of them, in relation to the failure of the priest is that we read "even the whole bullock shall he carry forth outside the camp unto a clean place where the ashes are poured out and burn him on the wood with fire where the ashes are poured out, shall he be burned". Now while the fat of that offering would ascend, the carcass of the sin offering for the priest was carried outside the camp and in this burning, it is burning as to totally consume it. A holy priest would be fully aware, not only of that initial failure that had marked him, but also of the removal of the man that had committed the sin, in the flesh, in all its liberty, that it had come under the judgment of God in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the common people may not have apprehended that, an anointed priest would apprehend it.


Whether in the anointed priest, a whole company, a ruler, or one of the common people, provision is made, that whatever failure comes in, it may be removed on the basis of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to restore us into happy communion, to open once more the way of approach to God that we might go on in our priestly service, being responsive to God in giving Him the praise and the worship He has sought from every one of us and which only can be produced initially and be maintained subsequently, on the ground of what Christ has done when He died upon Calvary's cross. If anyone has sinned, "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1), and we find that God is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.