The transition from the last verse of Leviticus 3 to the first verse of Leviticus 4 is significant and is marked by the reintroduction of the phrase, “The Lord … spake unto him (Moses).” This expression began the book (1:1) and introduced the first three offerings. Its recurrence here suggests a new subject is being revealed to Moses – the sin and trespass offerings. These offerings are not “sweet savor” offerings. We will notice that they differ from all that has gone before in several ways. But the other three offerings must precede the sin offering because if Christ was not all that was typified in the first three offerings, then He would not have been able to be the sin offering.
The Contrast Explained
The sin offering contrasts with:
The Passover – In the Passover and its sacrifice, we are looking at redemption. But a redeemed people will have to know restoration when they sin. This is the value of the sin offering.
The Sweet Savor Offerings – The key word which linked together the first three or sweet savor offerings, was the word, “approach.” What is prominent now in the sin offering is “atonement.”
The Trespass Offering – The sin offering and trespass offering are similar and yet distinct. In the former, we are dealing with the “doer” and in the latter with the “deed.” In the sin offering we are looking at restoration and the claims of God; in the trespass offering we are looking at restitution and the harm done to man.
All of this may seem to be vast in its scope, yet all was fulfilled and accomplished by one Man and one sacrifice. It takes all the types to begin to give us insight into all that Christ has done by His one act of obedience.
The Confession of Sin Expressed
“If a soul shall sin” (Lev 4:2). This is the first mention of sin in Leviticus. We have been through three chapters detailing three distinct offerings; but no mention has been made of sin as yet. This is the first sacrifice which deals with the issue of sin against God. There are many words in the OT for “sin,” but this one, chatta, means “missing mark” or “falling short of a standard.”
The divine standard for actions is expressed in verse 2. It is not man’s opinion or standards. It is God’s. But notice that a more accurate marginal reading is, “against all the commandments … do against one of them.” The unity of the law is hinted at here. James expressed this as well (James 2:10).
Notice that when it is the priest who sins (v 3) there is no mention of ignorance. His nearness to God precluded any thought of ignorance. The standard for sin, although not the consequences, was the same for the priest as for one of the common people (v 3). No longer is it a voluntary offering. The Spirit of God speaks in the imperative, “Let him bring … a young bullock.” Notice as well that he had to bring it to the door of the Tabernacle. There was no attempt to cover up his failure. Exposed before God as well as others, he brought his offering “before the Lord.”
The priest was to lay his hand upon the bullock’s head and to kill the victim before the Lord (v 4). There is in the ritual of the hand being placed on the animal’s head, the thought of transfer; but perhaps it is more than simply the transfer of guilt and sin. The sinner himself became completely identified with the victim. Acts of sin make me aware of my “sinnership.” I see the forgiveness of my sins, but also God’s judgment on all that I am as a sinner.
The Cost of Sin Exacted
It is significant that there are more mentions of “the blood” in Leviticus 4 than any other chapter in the Bible (15 times). The chapter with the most frequent mentions in the NT is Hebrews 9.
Notice first of all:
The Bullock – It was to be without blemish. Valuable and unique, the sacrifice was to be costly. Sin is costly. It was a young bullock, full of potential and strength. Cut off in the prime of its life, its death was by the hand of the sinner, the priest. All was calculated to impress the offerer with the awfulness of sin.
The Blood of the Bullock – As the knife came down on the victim, its blood was shed, reinforcing to the sinner that his sin had occasioned the death of an innocent victim. In the sin offering, the stress is on “all the blood” (v 7). In the burnt offering it was all the victim; in the meal offering, it was all the frankincense; in the peace offering all the fat. But it is the blood which is prominent here. A life must be given! We shall see that in the case of the priest, the blood was found in at least seven places.
The Best of the Bullock – The word for “fat” (v 8) is different from the word used in ch 1:8 (suet). The word here means the best or choicest of the animal. This fat was removed and placed on the altar, linking it with the burnt offering, the meal offering, and the peace offering. In this manner, God was testifying to the inward purity and perfection of His Son, even while He was suffering for sin. Later God will underline this by stating that the sin offering was “most holy” (ch 6:25).
The Burning of the Bullock – The bullock was to be burned. In the case of the priest it was taken outside the camp and consumed in a holocaust of fire. It was totally engulfed in the fire of God’s wrath. Not only was God showing the condemnation of sin in its burning, but the curse of sin in that it had to be outside the camp.
To be continued