Chapter 5 (Strange Offerings) pages 107-118

NB - Lev 5:1-13 represents a strange and unusual series of offerings that seem to ‘jut out’ from the overall flow of legislation which runs from 1:1 through to 6:7. Though the sin offering instructions naturally close at 4:35 and the guilt offering instructions begin at 5:14, these verses represent a problem insomuch as they combine and split offerings into different ones and generally confuse what would appear to have been a relatively straightforward ‘rule book’.

For instance, 5:6 tells us that the guilt offering to be presented is a sin offering, 5:7 tells us that the guilt offering is split into a sin offering and a burnt offering and 5:11 tells us only that the offering is a sin offering which secures forgiveness even though no blood is shed.

The reader may, therefore, find it easier to proceed to a description of the guilt offering before attempting to understand this section.

But, like North (page 107), I’m of the opinion that this legislation is an extension of the sin offering details that we’ve looked at in the previous section - but it needs to be remembered that the three different solutions outlined above which read fairly differently are, in fact, just one solution to one type of sin (Lev 5:1-4) dependent upon the material prosperity of the offender rather than three solutions to three different types of sin.

Wenham makes an interesting observation under his comments on the guilt offerings of 5:14ff. He notes that the phrase ‘guilt offering’ mentioned in 5:1-13 (page 104)

‘ other contexts can mean “reparation” or “guilt” and [that]...In Lev 5:7...It seems translate the first phrase “as his reparation”...rather than “as his guilt offering” for birds are never offered as a guilt offering’

If this is the case, then the problem with the phrase ‘guilt offering’ appearing within the passage is resolved and each one can be considered to be a sin offering.


The introductory remarks to the subsequent teaching require the most comment, after which North’s exposition of ‘proportional payments’ is quite perceptive on a number of issues.

North quotes Lev 5:6-7 and 5:11-12 to begin and notes (page 107) that

‘This was a special form of purification [sin] offering that applied to a specific kind of sin: a sin of omission (vv.2-4)’

Quite intriguingly, North doesn’t include the offence of 5:1 which appears not to be a sin of omission at all. Wenham’s commentary, which the reader is referred to in the footnote, speaks of v.1 as also being a sin of omission, concluding that the phrase (5:1)

‘...he shall bear his iniquity’

refers to (page 100) the

‘...fulfilment of the curse, pronounced against witnesses who fail to come forward (Judg 17:2; Prov 29:24). When the man starts to see the curse coming true, he feels guilty and then brings his offering’

Wenham’s two proof texts, though, don’t necessarily show what he’s trying to convey, the former simply referring to a curse that’s pronounced upon a thief by the victim of the crime and it never mentions the ‘public adjuration’ to testify that Lev 5:1 talks about. The probability is, though, that Prov 29:24 is referring to the ‘public adjuration’ that the Israelites regarded as ‘the curse’ but, in that case, the ‘curse’ accompanies the appeal to come forward and does not occur afterwards, neither is there any indication that judgment poured out is what would make the offender come forward to offer sacrifice.

Previously (page 92-3), Wenham has pointed out concerning the offences that

‘The common factor in these sins is that someone knows he ought to do something, but then forgets about it, it slips his memory...’

showing in the footnote that the italicised phrase is his rendering of the RSV’s ‘it is hidden from him’ informing the reader that

‘The context shows that forgetfulness is the cause of the sin’

That may be so with regard to the offences mentioned in v.2-4, but the phrase is missing from v.1 and, as Wenham notes (page 100), the phrase that does occur here, ‘he shall bear his iniquity’

‘...commonly refers to sin and its punishment’

What Lev 5:1 appears to be saying is that hearing a public adjuration to testify and not bearing witness will not be accepted as being inadvertent but that the consequences of that action will have to be borne by the sinner, even though God will allow the sin to be forgiven and cleansed. Therefore, the offender can’t offer a vague offering in the Tabernacle and so have his sin forgiven, he must publicly (v.5 - like the other offences)

‘...confess the sin he has committed...’

and, in so doing, open himself up to the consequences of his own action.

There’s a difference in Scripture between sin’s forgiveness and its judgment as can be seen in the case of David’s illicit relationship with Bathsheba (an action in which David should have lost his life for having committed murder). The judgment spoken of through Nathan the prophet (I Sam 12:7-12) still came to pass even when David confessed his sin (12:13a) and Nathan, on behalf of the Lord, forgave it (12:13b-14).

Therefore, the four criteria of sin that the levitical commands will go on to rectify are not all inadvertent sins - the first represents an action in which the consequences of a man’s deliberate act of the will must be borne even though their sin can be forgiven through an atoning sacrifice.


North’s next sentence also needs a comment. He writes (pages 107-8) that

‘A purification offering was required to purify the tabernacle or the temple, so that the worshipper could enter into the presence of God’

I have dealt in the previous section with North’s assertion (based here, I presume, upon Wenham) that the sin offerings were only able to cleanse the Tabernacle of the Israelites’ sin and the reader should refer to these.

But what most concerns me here is North’s assertion that, somehow, Israelites could gain access into the presence of God under the Old Covenant. Perhaps North just wasn’t thinking straight when he came to write the sentence (I hope so) but it’s a standard truth that God dwelt solely within the Holy of Holies and that no man could come within that area except the High Priest - and He only had the right of access once a year to secure the forgiveness of sins on the Day of Atonement. But, when the veil of separation was ripped from top to bottom upon Christ’s death, it could be plainly seen that the way into God’s presence had now been opened for all mankind to enter through the work of Christ on the cross.

For a lengthy proof of this see the web page here under part two section one (Man - Created to have Fellowship).


North also states that the reason for a female animal being required to atone for the sins mentioned in this passage is because (page 108)

‘Laymen were regarded as the social brides of God, so their representative sacrifices had to be female’

quoting James Jordan as proof of this assertion. Unfortunately, there’s no Scripture to back this up. Certainly, in the New Testament, Rev 19:7 and 21:9 lend weight to this argument but it needs to be shown that this was how the Israelites were regarded by God or how the Israelites regarded themselves at this point in history - but, at this present time, I can think of no proof text.


Concerning the right of the Israelite to bring an offering which matched his wealth, North notes (page 108 - my italics) that

‘The word of the individual regarding his ability to pay was acceptable to the priest unless there was evidence to the contrary

Again, point not proven. We’re not told whether the priest had any right to question the wealth of the offerer - even if he did have evidence to the contrary - and therefore his statement is not able to be accepted.

While it may have been the practice of the Priesthood to assess the offerer’s wealth or object to the offerer’s sacrifice on the grounds of compelling evidence to the contrary, it may have only ever been a matter of an Israelite’s conscience before God to make that decision and to bear his own sin if he deliberately chose a cheaper substitutionary offering than he was able to afford.

We simply have no way of knowing what the practice was, therefore North’s statement is not able to be accepted. But North is quite correct when he states (page 108) that

‘...self-government under God was the operational assumption of the laws of sacrifice. God delegated considerable authority to the individual to decide how much he could afford to pay...’

which removes responsibility from out of the hand of the Levite and into the hand of the offerer.


From here onwards (bottom of page 108 to 118) there’s a good discussion of taxation systems as applied both to the Israelite kingdom and to what would be expected from a ‘Kingdom government’ today - there are also some good insights into the make up of secular taxes and their implications.

Most of this is good - with notable exceptions which I shall go on to comment on provided that I haven’t already dealt with them in a previous section. North’s assertions about the tithe being a compulsory contribution laid upon the New Testament Church occur in many of the chapters previously dealt with and I decided to include a separate section at the end of part one that will deal with differing types of ‘giving’ that should answer all this teaching.


North’s note 8 on page 110 (my italics) reads

‘In the fall of 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of England was forced to resign...The Conservative Party had suffered a serious decline in popularity as a result of [a] decision to add a kind of head tax to the existing property tax’

Well, being an American and not living in the UK, we can forgive North’s inaccuracy. The ‘head tax’ was actually introduced in place of the property tax - and it eventually was replaced by a tax that was still based upon ‘heads’ but apportioned out respective of the price of the property that the ‘head’ lived in. His final note

‘Had she not strongly opposed England’s entry into the European Community, she might have retained her office’

may be a comment from the western side of the Atlantic but the projection of an attitude that showed no real care for the population in general over a number of years was what, in my opinion and the opinion of a great many others, finally led to the Conservative party realising that their only chance of securing another electoral victory was if they chose a new leader.


North believes (page 116) that there is

‘...greater responsibility on the part of those possessing greater wealth’

and (page 114) that

‘...the rich man has sinned in the face of greater blessings from God’

The problem is that North sees the man who’s prospered as being more morally responsible for his actions than a poorer man - whereas the previous chapter of Leviticus actually teaches that it’s the position of authority within the society that makes a leader more culpable for sinning before God (Cp the offerings for the ruler - Lev 4:22-26 - with that of the ‘common people’ - Lev 4:27-35).

What’s being discussed in 5:1-13 is not social standing but the ability to pay - as North correctly points out over a series of pages.

Each person who had a similar social standing (that is, they had little or no authority over fellow men and women) had to pay the price of their sin based upon the affluence of their life, not upon any greater or lesser responsibility that was supposed to be mirrored by their possessions.


North has forgotten the nature of the sin offerings when he writes (page 117) that

‘...had the poor man been expected to pay a rich man’s obligation, he would have lost sight of the reality of differing sins: any sin would bankrupt him...Why not commit really serious infractions if the end result in history is the same for great and minor infractions, ie bankruptcy and enslavement? To impose an impossibly high penalty on all crimes or sins is to make it equally expensive to commit all crimes or all sins’

thinking, by his reasoning, that the sin offering was intended for offences committed by a defiant act of the will. With the notable exception of Lev 5:1 (previously cited), the sin offerings could only deal with inadvertent sin, not that which was intentional.

There was no offering possible for straightforward cases of adultery or murder (though see Lev 19:20-22 which outlines an unusual case that could be dealt with by a guilt offering). The Bible cried out that the people who practice such things must bear the consequences of their own actions though the guilt offering, as will be seen, did provide a way of forgiveness for the robber or liar provided that restitution was made regardless of the person’s material wealth.

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