Sin Offerings and Guilt Offerings

Leviticus 4:1-5:26

Two more types of offerings are discussed in this week’s portion, and they are intimately related. To begin with, they are both mandatory offerings, required under specific circumstances, connected to the transgression of God’s laws.

 

Sin offerings are required when an individual commits a sin against God unintentionally. The text delineates different sin offerings for different people: a bull for the priest or the elders, a he-goat for the ruler and a she-goat or female lamb for an individual who sins. The sinner must place his hands upon the animal as it is slaughtered. Its blood is dabbed on the horns of the incense altar, and what remains is poured on the base of the sacrificial altar. In the case of the bull-offerings, the blood is also sprinkled towards the curtain of the Holy of Holies. The innards of the animal are then burnt upon the altar, and in some cases, the entire animal is then burned outside the camp. Thus the sinner is granted forgiveness.

 

The Israel Bible points out that the elders are required to bring their sin offering for cases where the entire community sins due to a mistaken ruling. This reinforces the unity of the nation, demonstrating that the members of the community are collectively responsible for one another.

 

In some cases, such as contact with spiritually contaminated objects or inadvertently broken vows, the precise make-up of the sin offering varies according to the means of the sinner. A wealthy man brings a female sheep or goat, a poorer individual may bring a bird, while a truly destitute person can bring a grain offering.

 

The guilt offerings are set for specific transgressions: violating the sanctity of God’s altar, breach of trust, or when a person is unsure whether he has sinned or which sin he has committed. The guilt offering consists of an unblemished ram  whose value must suit the transgression. In all cases where the transgression involved actual theft, restitution must be made and a fifth must be added to the value of what was stolen, before the guilt offering can provide expiation.

 

Among the violations for which one must bring a sin or guilt offering are unfulfilled or false vows. The Israel Bible points out, this is so significant that the Yom Kippur prayer service begins with a prayer to nullify any oaths we may have made or will make so that they are not broken. This teaches us how important it is to be careful with our speech.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think some sins can be atoned for at a “variable rate” based on what the sinner can afford, while others have specific sacrifices required?

 

Comments ( 8 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • I think that Hashem wants everyone to be able to atone for their sins. While a goat or a ram may not be a very high price to a rich man, it may well mean hardship and suffering if a poor man had to come up with that kind of offering to atone for his sins. That hardship would not only affect the poor man, but it would also hurt his family.
    Also, if only the rich could afford the sacrifices to make atonement, then the poor would be shut out completely and that would be a harsh punishment just for being poor.

    • This is an excellent comment. It is the heart the Lord looks upon. Hashem would not want the poor to sacrifice more than rich due to sin. All have sinned and fall short so why should the rich be the only ones to afford to atone for wrong doing. That would give them a ticket to sin.

    • Mark

      In Isaiah 64 we read, "We have all become like an unclean thing, And all our virtues like a filthy rag" – if even our virtues are no better than filthy rags, then how can any of us hope to atone for our sins before a holy, infinite G-d? Not to mention that there has been no temple and therefore no atonement offering for almost two thousand years. It would seem that Hashem has not made it possible for ANYONE, let alone everyone, to be able to atone for his/her sin, and therefore we all need help in this regard, we all fall short, whether rich or poor.

  • Theresa

    Please help me understand a woman’s responsibility for sin and the sin offering. Last week the was a mention of Adam compared to ish. Unfortunately, I cannot read Hebrew and need a transliteration to assist me to know who the passages apply to, man or woman.

    • Diana Brown

      I am just learning Hebrew also. Start with learning the aleph bet, the vowel sounds and use this website to help you with the transliteration. The Hebrew words have a root/shoresh of three consonants. They are in the middle of the word. The beginning and ending consonant show you whether the word is in a noun form, it’s gender, whether the word is singular or plural, etc. Takes time but you can do it!
      Here is the website I use…I hope it helps you also…http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib//tan/index.htm

      • Diana Brown

        Oy! I forgot to share the catchest aleph bet song I could find to help me sing the sound of each of the 22 consonants. I just love the tune…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzjHjXe-2XU

  • Diana Brown

    I think we are limited as humans of completely understanding why sin offends our God so much that animals, innocents have to die for what we do or fail to do. Sin is lawlessness, sometimes willful and sometimes unwittingly. I think King David understood sin and repentance better than anyone. His Psalms 32:2 and 5 and Psalm 51:2/66:18/119:11 and 133 show me that all sin on any level has to be dealt with before the world is redeemed. I count little sins and big sins but David seems to say all sin is counted the same because sin is a choice which comes from your heart. The variable rate sinners could afford in this portion and specific sacrifices to atone for the national sins were allowed by God according to our understanding at the time. Eventually, I pray we will all want to serve Him and not offend Him. He will take away our bent to sinning if we really want Him to.

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