Read Leviticus 4
The Sin Offering
4 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—
3 “‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the Lord. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the Lord. 5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and carry it into the tent of meeting. 6 He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. 7 The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the Lord in the tent of meeting. The rest of the bull’s blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering—all the fat that is connected to the internal organs, 9 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys— 10 just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed as a fellowship offering. Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the internal organs and the intestines— 12 that is, all the rest of the bull—he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it there in a wood fire on the ash heap.
13 “‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt 14 and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting. 15 The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull’s head before the Lord, and the bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord. 16 Then the anointed priest is to take some of the bull’s blood into the tent of meeting. 17 He shall dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it before the Lord seven times in front of the curtain. 18 He is to put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is before the Lord in the tent of meeting. The rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 He shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, 20 and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the community, and they will be forgiven. 21 Then he shall take the bull outside the campand burn it as he burned the first bull. This is the sin offering for the community.
22 “‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, when he realizes his guilt 23 and the sin he has committed becomes known, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. 24 He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and slaughter it at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Lord. It is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 26 He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the leader’s sin, and he will be forgiven.
27 “‘If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt28 and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect.29 They are to lay their hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30 Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 31 They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.
32 “‘If someone brings a lamb as their sin offering, they are to bring a female without defect. 33 They are to lay their hand on its head and slaughter it for a sin offering at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered. 34 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 35 They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the lamb of the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.
In this chapter, Moses continues to explain the reason and purpose for a sin offering. Leviticus 4 discusses the duties of the priest, the Israelites, a leader, and any member of the community when they sin and must perform a sin offering. Moses received instructions from God in the tent of meeting for the offerings mentioned in Leviticus because in the Old Covenant only priests were able to enter the holiest parts of the temple to sacrifice an animal. Priests, also known as Levites, could enter the temple to make a sacrifice because at that time God was separated from mankind due to sin. The sin originates from the fall in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowing the root of our sin explains the laws that God gave Moses for the animal sacrifices, such as the sin offering.
The first twelve verses of Leviticus 4 walk through the details of how a priest is to make an animal sacrifice for a sin offering before God. Priests performed a separate ritual of cleansing for their sin, which shows the important role of sacrifices in the temple. The Levitical priest had great accountability before the Lord and was judged accordingly to a stricter measure. As the chapter continues the next audience is the “whole Israelite community.” Their directions for the sin offering were like a priest, but they had more people involved in the sacrifice.
The priest and Israelites both used a bull and the “anointed priest” in both atonements was in charge of the placement of the blood from the bull. A leader and any member of the community are explained in the remainder of Leviticus 4. The atonement for their sin is now a goat. A male goat is used for a leader’s sin and a female goat is used for the sin of a person in the Israelite community. The distinction between animals is not the focal point of this chapter, but it is the atonement of every person’s sin by the blood of an animal. Every purpose behind an offering is a foreshadowing of the good that is to come. What do you think is the good that is to come? Read verse 3 closely and ask yourself what the “young bull” is representing?
Reading this through the lens of the Gospel, the “young bull” is representing Jesus. Jesus is the Savior who the people of Israel were expectantly waiting for because He put to death the law and gave every sinner the freedom of life in Him if they chose to believe that he died on the cross for their sins and rose so that they may have eternal life. We have this same gift of Salvation if we chose to believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Levites and every Israelite in Leviticus 4 were living hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus, so their only form of sanctification and salvation at the time was an animal sacrifice. When Jesus came to save the Jew and Gentile from their sin, He came upright, holy, and sinless. An animal could never equate to the righteousness that Jesus displayed while he walked this earth until the point of his death on the cross and resurrection.
In Leviticus 4, a sin offering provided temporary forgiveness for their sins, but it was not until Jesus came that sins could be fully and eternally forgiven. The priest stood as the mediator between God and an Israelite in this passage. This was a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden because God, who is sinless, could not live among sin with us. We know that Leviticus 4 points towards the coming of Jesus as the Savior of the world who would reconcile the Israelites to God without the need for a priest. The sin offering in this passage reveals the forgiveness that God extends to us and provides hope for the eternal salvation we, as believers, have in Jesus. Our eternal hope in Jesus is seen in Leviticus 4 through Jesus as the animal who would come as the mediator between our sin and a perfect God and who invites us to live in Heaven with Him for eternity.
- How would you describe Jesus in light of how he has shown up in your life?
- Do you believe Jesus paid the ultimate price for your sins when he died on the cross and rose again?
- If your answer was “yes” to the question above, how are you living your life free of the law and in freedom of the eternal life you have in Jesus? If “no,” then what is holding you back from believing and following Jesus?
By the Way
Hebrews 9:13-14 is a cross reference to Leviticus 4:3. The sin offering mentioned in Leviticus is symbolic of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for our sins. Hebrews outlines the same sin offering that is instructed in Leviticus by mentioning that the animal sacrifices show an external cleanliness, but Jesus would purify the heart through “the blood of Christ.” These two passages reveal how the only true form of salvation is through Jesus’ death and resurrection that saved us from every sin. Rejoice today in the hope we have in Jesus whose death and resurrection has us set free from the law of animal sacrifices and has given us new life in Christ.
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