You’re guilty when you don’t know it
- 1 If you defy an order to testify in a legal dispute about what you did or didn’t see, you’re guilty. You’ve sinned, and you’ll suffer the consequences.
- 2 If you touch something you’re not supposed to touch, such as a dead wild animal, dead livestock, or dead critters that once crawled on the ground, you’ve become ritually unclean1 even if you don’t realize it. You’re guilty.
- 3 If you touch any part of a person that is ritually unclean,2 you’re unclean even if you don’t realize it. You’re guilty.
- 4 If you mouth off with a foolish promise to do something you don’t intend to do, whether it’s for good or bad, you’re guilty of sinning even if you didn’t realize it at first. If you come to your senses and realize you did wrong, you’re still guilty.
How to get forgiven
- 5 In any of these situations, when you finally realize what you did was wrong, you’ve got to acknowledge it. Confess you’ve sinned.
- 6 To get rid of your guilt, you need to bring an offering to the LORD: one of your female sheep or goats. This will be a sin offering. The priest will offer the sacrifice to atone for your sin and to get you back on track with the LORD.
- 7 If you can’t afford a lamb, bring two birds3—either doves or pigeons. Sacrifice one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering.4
- 8 Take them to the priest. He’ll offer the first one as a sin offering. He should kill it by popping its head at the front of the neck, but not popping it off.
- 9 The priest should splash some of the blood on the sides of the altar and then drain the rest at the base of the altar. That’s what you do for a sin offering.
- 10 The second bird is a burnt offering, so the priest will follow procedures for that sacrifice. These offerings will atone for your sin and put you back on track with God. You won’t be guilty anymore. You’ll be forgiven.
- 11 If you’re not able to sacrifice two birds, you can bring two quarts (about two liters) of fine flour. That will become your sin offering. Don’t add any olive oil or incense to this offering.
- 12 Give it to the priest. He’ll scoop out a handful5 and burn it on the altar. This is a sin offering to the LORD that goes up in smoke.
- 13 With this, the priest makes the atonement for your sin, and all is forgiven. The priest keeps the rest of the flour, as he does with a grain offering.
Sin at the worship center
- 14 The LORD gave these instructions to Moses:
- 15 If you accidentally mishandle or do anything else wrong with something related to the worship center,6 which belongs to the LORD, you need to bring the LORD a guilt offering.7 Bring a male goat—a ram. Make sure there’s nothing wrong with it. Or, instead of sacrificing the ram, you can bring the ram’s value in silver. Follow the currency weights used by the worship center.8
- 16 If you damage anything at the worship center, pay to have it fixed; make full restitution. Then add 20 percent and give it to the priest. The priest will take the ram and sacrifice it as a sin offering. This will atone for your sin, and you’ll be forgiven.
- 17 If you accidentally break one of the LORD’s rules, you’re guilty even if you don’t realize it. And you’ll be held accountable.
- 18 Take a healthy ram to the priest. This will be your guilt offering. Make sure there’s nothing wrong with the ram. The priest will sacrifice it to atone for your accidental sin. You’ll be forgiven.
- 19 This is a guilt offering, and you absolutely were guilty as sin.
A person ritually unclean was not supposed to touch another person or go to the worship center because they ritually defiled whatever they touched. Israelites were able to get ritually clean again by following a set of procedures that included bathing, washing their clothes, getting sprinkled with “water of purification” (Numbers 19), and waiting for a stretch of time, often seven days.
This refers to bodily fluids such as semen or menstrual discharge (Leviticus 15:16, 25).
Birds didn’t cost anything to people who knew how to catch them.
The writer doesn’t say why it takes two sacrifices: a sin offering and a burnt offering, each with different procedures. Scholars speculate that it may have taken both birds and both offerings to accomplish what one offering did through a larger animal. Blood of the first bird would have been sprinkled on the sides of the altar (Exodus 4:5-7). That blood ritually purifies the altar and atones for the sin, making the person right with God again. But there’s hardly anything left of the bird to burn after that. The second bird was burned on the altar (Exodus 1:14-17) perhaps to help provide a respectable amount of flesh for the altar. But these are educated guesses.
The rest of the flour goes to the priest (Exodus 2:2-3; 5:13).
This could involve going into the tent sanctuary, where only priests were allowed. Or not following proper steps for sacrificing an animal. Or perhaps damaging the property.
In older lingo, the guilt offering was called the trespass offering, as in, “Forgive us our trespasses” or sins. In fact, scholars can’t seem to figure out what the difference is between a “sin offering” and a “guilt offering.” One guess is that guilt offerings are more serious and often involve making restitution. Leviticus 5:14-7:7 talks about when a person needs to make a guilt offering. Leviticus 7:1-10 talks about how to make the sacrifice.
One shekel was not always the same as another shekel. Some weighed less. People of Israel followed the worship center’s guidance about currency weights and values.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
If we witness a crime today, we can be subpoenaed as a witness in court and be jailed if we refuse to testify or if we lie in giving testimony. There were no such provisions in the law of the Israelites. However, God told Moses that anyone who defies an order to step up and testify as a witness in a legal dispute was guilty of sin and would suffer the consequences. What do you think these consequences might have been? And what consequences do you think would be fair?
Chapters 11–15 of Leviticus will deal with laws of impurity—what makes a person ritually unclean, or unworthy to touch another person or to enter the worship center because they will ritually defile whatever they touch. Meanwhile, chapter 5 of Leviticus shows how someone who is ritually unclean can become ritually clean again. It also offers remedies for someone who makes promises without intending to follow through. But the writer talks about the remedies first and then the problems. That seems backwards. Why would you guess the writer approached it the way he did?
Anyone who entered the worship center needed to be on their best behavior. Entering while being ritually unclean was a big no-no. But other bad behavior could also spell trouble with a capital T. Take a look at how the Israelites dealt with people who caused trouble in the worship center. What do you think about that?
LIFE APPLICATION. According to Leviticus 5:17, “if you accidentally break one of the LORD’s rules, you’re guilty even if you don’t realize it. And you’ll be held accountable.” Have you ever broken a law or regulation in all innocence? If so, how did you feel when you realized that you had done something wrong? How did you deal with your guilt?