The Levitical Offerings
This is the sixth article on the Levitical offerings by Archie Naismith, M.A. These articles not only give us an understanding of the laws governing the offerings, but they provide us with divine illustrations of the work of Christ for us on the cross.
VI. The Trespass Offering
Every trespass is a sin but every sin is not a trespass: hence in the trespass offering, but not in the sin offering, amends must be made for the wrong done. The typical significance of the various offerings already considered has involved the use of theological terms which require definition. Though some of the terms are used interchangeably and sometimes regarded as synonyms, there are distinctions in meaning and use which must be made in the interests of clarity.
What is meant by Propitiation? In the Authorized version the word is the equivalent of a sacrifice offered used only in the N.T. — in 1 John as in appeasement and in Romans 3:25. In its three occurrences the Greek word relates it to the Mercy Seat. In English the term signifies the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift or sacrifice. Atonement is a kindred term used frequently in the Pentateuch to translate a Hebrew word that means ‘covering.’ It is a ‘making at one’ and refers to the act or sacrifice that makes possible the sinner’s reconciliation to God. Expiation, a word not found in our A.V., but used in some recent versions instead of “propitiation,” is payment of the penalty for a transgression committed or an injury inflicted. Propitiation has in view the person wronged, expiation the wrong done.
Reconciliation is the removal of hostility by providing a way of approach by sinners from enmity to God to His pardon and favour. It also implies the penitent approach to God by the transgressor on the ground of atonement made. Substitution is a term not found in Scripture, though its connotation is brought out in several statements such as “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
Reparation, with its cognate term “restitution,” is associated largely with the trespass offering in which the offerer must make amends and give satisfaction for injury done to another. The Hebrew word for Restitution, used four times in Exodus 22, means “making whole” or “making good” something taken or acquired wrongfully from another. The same Hebrew word is translated “amends” in Leviticus 5:16 in the context of the trespass offering where it implies restoration to the rightful owner, or payment to the person wronged of the equivalent of the wrong done.
Three pairs of these terms may be descriptive of what concerns the trespass offering, the first in each pair being related to the offering, the second in each to the offerer. These are — Expiation and Reparation: Atonement and Amends: Substitution and Restitution.
In Isaiah 53:10 — “when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” — the Hebrew word ‘Asham’ (offering for sin) is the word translated “trespass offering” in Leviticus, Numbers and Ezekiel. It means “guilt” or “guilt offering.” The reference in that verse, as in the whole of Isaiah 53, is to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the perfect “trespass offering,” our guiltless and guileless Redeemer “restored what He did not steal” (Ps. 69:4 — R.S.V.).
The Offering in every case of ‘trespass,’ irrespective of the status or wealth of the guilty person, must be a ram without blemish, to be valued ‘according to the shekel of the sanctuary.’ The ram is a type of Christ in His maturity and energy. There must be a ram in the flock to ensure a progeny, and it is significant that He Who was cut off out of the land of the living without generation “shall see His offspring” and “prolong His days.” In Genesis 22 the ram caught in the thicket was a substitute for Isaac. In Leviticus 8, at the ordination of the priests, one ram was offered as a burnt offering, and the flesh of the other ram was eaten by Moses and Aaron and the priests. Jesus, the Son of God, offered Himself instead of us, and every believer is in God’s “holy priesthood” and can feed upon Him Who is the anti-type of the ram of consecration.
The Offerer must bring with his offering that which he had wrongfully appropriated or the equivalent of the injury inflicted, to be valued according to the shekel of the sanctuary, God’s standard of moral and spiritual values. The guilty offerer must add to what he brought as restitution a fifth of its value, a double tithe. One tithe was for the injury done to a holy God and the other tithe was paid to his injured neighbour. The amount thus restored, with 20% of its value added, then became the property of the person wronged, and when these conditions were fulfilled, the guilty person was forgiven.
Two main spheres of guilt — in the holy things of God and in dealings with neighbours — were covered by the trespass offering. Trespass against a holy God meant ‘robbing God’ of what was His due in offerings, tithes and firstfruits. The prophet Malachi, the LORD’S messenger, brought against his people the indictment that they were defiling God’s altar by offering on it polluted bread and animals that were lame and sick. In addition to that, they were withholding their tithes and other offerings that were His due. On account of this God was withholding His blessings. To receive God’s overflowing blessing, that He longed to bestow, they must bring their trespass offerings and prove their penitence by restoring what they had withheld, adding to it a fifth of its value (See Mal. 1:7, 8; 3:8, 9).
Jehovah had commanded in His righteous law His people’s wholehearted love to Himself and love to their neighbour equal to their love of self. A modern example of restitution to fellow-men who have been wronged or defrauded is the remittance of “conscience money.” Our daily papers give instances of this from time to time. Not long ago a man over 80 sent 2 pounds to the Constabulary of the district in which he spent his youth to make amends, with interest, for his theft of a policeman’s helmet which he had stolen some 60 years before. He calculated that its value then was less than 1 pound. The recipients of that ‘conscience money’ wrote to the elderly gentleman acknowledging the amount he had sent and assuring him of their forgiveness.
Various forms of trespass against a neighbour are defined in Leviticus 6:1-7. Each one mentioned is also a “breach of faith against the LORD.” The varieties of guilt requiring the trespass offering, with amends for wrong done, are
1. Misappropriation of a deposit entrusted to a person:
2. Fraud on sale or purchase of property by charging more or paying less than the real or market value:
3. Unjust acquisition of money or property by oppression of employees in withholding all or part of the amount due.
4. Extortion by menaces and threats — a form of blackmail:
5. Refusal by the finder to return lost property to its rightful owner:
6. Libel, or defamation of character, occasioning loss of employment or prestige:
7. Perjury in bearing false witness against a neighbour:
8. Injury by violence involving loss of health or limb.
What a wonderful provision the LORD thus made for His people’s spiritual and social welfare! It was good for the whole congregation and helpful both to the guilty person and to the one wronged. If the principles it contains were followed today, how beneficial it would be to the individual Christian, to the local church and to the testimony of the gospel!