Further thoughts and teaching on the Strange Offerings

Policing their own nation

As previously noted, Prov 29:24 may be a reference to the ‘public adjuration’ of Lev 5:1 as it (Harrison pages 68-9)

‘...was frequently known as “the curse”...presumably because it consisted in part of a solemn denunciation of any witness who continued to be silent about the matter’

The meaning would therefore be that the thief’s partner would not come forward to testify against him when he heard the ‘public adjuration’ to do so, thus hindering justice being done. Such a person ‘hates his own life’ by creating a society in which the thief can walk free and therefore subjects himself to possible future treatment of his own making (where it could be right to say that the men and women within a society are responsible for shaping that society the way that it presently is by their reaction in the past).

God expected the individuals within the nation of Israel to police their own nation and come forward when they knew something about a sin that had been committed. We aren’t thinking here of the spreading of gossip or slander where a person or group of people can be proven guilty when they haven’t actually done anything wrong, but a commitment to relate what they know to the proper authorities (the judges of Israel) when a matter needs dealing with that affects, possibly, the standing of the nation before God.

It’s the flour that makes atonement?

Lev 17:11 is very specific when it says (my italics)

‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life

and this is reasserted in the New Testament in Heb 9:22 (my italics) where the author writes that

‘...under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins

It needs, therefore, to be asked how the offerings of Lev 5:11-13 can

‘...make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed...he shall be forgiven’

when there is no blood shed - indeed, no animal is so much as mentioned in the verses in connection with the sacrifice. There can be no doubt that this is considered to be a sin offering (5:11) and that the handful of flour that’s offered on the altar by the priest is representative of the blood which makes atonement for the transgressor.

Without any authoritative text, Harrison (pages 70-1) declares that

‘The burning of a memorial portion...gave the offering the status of a blood sacrifice, since the token was mixed with the other burnt sacrifices on the altar’

This is definitely going too far in the interpretation of the passage but it’s difficult to see any easy solution to the problem except to say the obvious - that God, on this occasion and in these circumstances, considered the offering of the flour as representative of the shed blood of an animal otherwise the poorest within Israelite society could not have received forgiveness of their sins and would have been exiled away from the nation and presence of God that dwelt within the Tabernacle.

It therefore seems to have become a law based upon God’s mercy rather than on an absolute principle that God was unwilling to alter.

The Purpose of the Strange Offerings

I tend towards the view that these three different grades of offerings for the same sin should be regarded as sin offerings, so the observations made there should equally stand when generalisations have been made.

Two points are worth making here, though.

Firstly, the second of the three offerings (5:7-10) is split into a sin offering followed by a burnt offering. As we saw under the burnt offering notes, this would be the expected order - the sin offering dealing with the sin before the burnt offering removes sins’ effects and therefore wipes any hindrance away from the offerer’s relationship with God.

Secondly, concerning the command of the cereal based offering that (Lev 5:11)

‘...he shall put no oil upon it, and shall put no frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering’

I suggested under the notes on the cereal offering, that the reason for the inclusion of both oil and frankincense for certain of the offerings could be a symbol of ‘joy’ using the Scripture Prov 27:9 to support this assertion.

If this is the case, then it would give us a reasonable understanding of why both frankincense and oil are forbidden to be offered here - a sin offering is a solemn occasion when sin is being dealt with. Though there may be good reason for joy after the offering has been accepted and atonement secured, there can be no rejoicing while the sin remains undealt with.

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