The Offerings of Leviticus: 12. Law of the Sin Offering

Leviticus 6:24‑30  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Lev. 6:17-23 (Or, 24-30)
The right division of chapters fails here again. As verses 1-7 of the A.V. (assigned to chap. 6) ought to belong to chap. 5, so verses 24-30 ought not to be severed from chap. 7:1-21, of which it forms the proper beginning. They all were expressly parts of one communication from Jehovah.
“And Jehovah spake to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, This [is] the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered, the sin offering shall be slaughtered before Jehovah: it [is] most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it; it shall be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting. Whatsoever toucheth the flesh thereof shall be holy; and if there be sprinkled of the blood thereof on a garment, that whereon it was sprinkled thou shalt wash in a holy place. But the earthen vessel wherein it was sodden shall be broken; and if it was sodden in a copper vessel it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water. Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it [is] most holy. And no sin offering whereof blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy [place] shall be eaten: it shall be burnt with fire” (vers. 17-23; or, 24-30).
No slight even in appearance could be tolerated in the Sin Offering. Undoubtedly it had a character as remote as possible from the Burnt Offering, as this was to impart acceptance, that was to get sacrificial quittance from positive sin. But the Sin Offering must be slaughtered before Jehovah in the place where the Burnt Offering was slaughtered. So indeed Christ alone was the adequate fulfillment of both in His death on the cross. Yet He was the last One in the universe to be thought of: grace alone gave Him, one with the Father and His dearest object throughout eternity. On earth too He became flesh. He was the Holy One of God. Yet never was holiness so proved and manifested as when God made sin for us Him Who knew no sin. Always absolutely separate to God from all evils and doing nothing but the things which pleased His Father, on the cross He gave Himself up without reserve to God and His glory, to suffer the judgment of sin, cost what it might; and it cost Him everything, even what was the extremest horror to Him Who, being His beloved Son, became His righteous Servant, the True and faithful Witness. What was it for Him, abandoned by disciples, rejected by Israel, crucified by Gentiles, to cry, “My God, my God, why forsakedst thou me?” He was made sin for us. This He has left us who believe to confess as the answer. No wonder that even of the type the descriptive word is “most holy” (vers. 18,22 or, 25, 29).
“The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it.” Singled out thus the offering points to none other than Christ; and here in His eating the Sin Offering is meant, not of course His work in suffering for sin, but His identification with him for whom the offering was presented. If holiness was conspicuous in the victim and righteousness in the judgment executed, what grace was in Christ thus making the offerer's sin His own? So we know in His advocacy with the Father “if any one sin” (1 John 2:1). His atoning death was not all. It is as alive again for evermore that the offering priest's eating the Sin Offering is realized in Christ; as here it was directed to be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting (26 A.V.).
The sanctifying power of this offering was strikingly attested in vers. 27, 28. “Whatsoever toucheth the flesh thereof shall be holy; and if there be sprinkled of the blood thereof on a garment, that whereon it was sprinkled thou shalt wash in a holy place. But the earthen vessel whereon it was sodden shall be broken; and if it was sodden in a copper vessel, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water.” It was for God on behalf of sinners. For no other, no common, purpose could it be. For vessels of earth or copper no trace must remain. To the offerer it brought forgiveness of the sin.
But ver. 29 lets us into a truth, larger far than ver. 26, though not to be compared for its depth. “Every male among the priests shall eat thereof.” This was not confined to the offering priest. All the priestly males were to eat of it. Those who have access to God are called to identify themselves with a brother's sin; as Christ does pre-eminently, so they too are to follow, strong in the grace that is in Him, confessing another's sin as their own. For if He loves them, did He not both wash them from their sins in His blood and make them a kingdom, priests to His God and Father? Here it will be observed that we have the repetition of “it is most holy.” Wise and opportune this is. For many a male among the priests might on the one hand forget to eat, as did even Eleazar and Ithamar (chap. 10:16-18); as others more profane still might grievously transgress in their eating like Eli's sons (1 Sam. 2:12-17), so that men abhorred the offering of Jehovah. Indeed “it is most holy,” and to be eaten only in a holy place.
Ver. 30 draws the line between these ordinary Sin Offerings, where the priests thus partook of them, and the more solemn cases wherein the victim was burnt in a clean place without the camp, the blood being carried into the sanctuary for propitiation. So it was, if either the anointed priest sinned, or the whole congregation, as in the earlier cases of Lev. 4. In neither did the priests eat; in both communion for all was interrupted and must be restored. And the contrast is yet more marked in the day of atonement, when the foundation was laid for all, priests and people, during the year. All fasted, none eat, on that day. There was another exception, characteristic of the wilderness and therefore only given in Num. 19, the institution of the bĂȘte noir of the Rationalists, which, perplexing them beyond most things, becomes the occasion for their rancorous abuse of God's word. For their principle of unbelieving, or as they say scientific, criticism blinds them, so that they can perceive neither its intrinsic truth nor its suited place. But there the Red Heifer stands, wholly burnt (save some of the blood previously sprinkled seven times before the tent of meeting) without the camp, and the ashes kept as a purification for sin. It has its own distinctive traits, full of instruction spiritually for us of heavenly calling as exposed to the defilement of the desert world through which we pass to the rest of God.
When therefore it was a question of propitiating blood brought into the sanctuary, there was no eating on the part of the priests. The victim was burnt without the camp. How brightly and on both its sides was this fulfilled in Christ, glorified within, crucified without! Our place is with Him in both respects. Where it was only the restoration of an individual, the priests were called to eat of the Sin Offering, as we now sympathize in loving intercession.