Chapter 6 (Guilt, Reparation or Trespass Offering) pages 119-134
North opens the chapter with the statements (page 119)
‘Some sins are committed in ignorance. The two greatest sins in history were committed by some of the participants in ignorance: the fall of man - Eve was ignorant (I Tim 2:13b) - and the crucifixion of Christ: the Roman soldiers were ignorant (Luke 23:34)’
His first point about Eve is difficult. North’s proof text reads
which, I’m sure I don’t have to tell the reader, means nothing. The entire verse
‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve’
is equally elusive. Perhaps North means to direct his readers to I Tim 2:14? Here we read that
‘...Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor’
But there’s a mile of difference between being deceived and being ignorant. Besides, the original record of the incident has Eve as stating to the serpent (Gen 3:2-3)
‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die”’
which is hardly ignorance.
Eve knew the commandment of God that both she and the man were forbidden to eat of one specific tree in the garden but she chose of her own freewill to consume something that was forbidden. That cannot be labelled as ignorance!
His second point concerning the soldiers, however, caused me to see something that I’d long misunderstood. I’ve always believed that when Jesus said (Luke 23:34)
‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’
He was referring to the crowds that had gathered to watch Him being crucified, but, having had a chance to consider the context, I now see that this cannot be true. The subject matter of the passage (which runs from v.32-7) is the action of the soldiers who were doing what their superiors had ordered to be done. It certainly couldn’t refer to the criminals (v.32-33) who were being crucified with Him and it can’t refer to the Jews who had come to watch because they knew full well that Jesus was the Christ - besides, Jesus’ words are referring to what’s currently taking place rather than what has occurred before Pilate sometime before (and, before anyone grabs at this verse to justify some course of anti-Semitic action, let me add that no Scripture justifies anti-Semitism in the New Testament - even though the Jews were the worst oppressors and persecutors of the early Church that were around in their day, no retaliatory actions are justified before God).
Therefore, Jesus is petitioning God to forgive the soldiers because of their ignorance and, it can only be assumed, God will hear His prayer because of their state of mind. But, if this is the case, if Eve had transgressed the commandment of God ‘in ignorance’, a similar fate could have befallen her - that is, she could have received forgiveness and healing because she hadn’t understood that she was doing wrong. According to the Levitical law, a sin committed in ignorance could be atoned for whereas a deliberate transgression of the type of sin committed by Eve could not.
That’s why the judgment of God on the three players in the ‘original sin’ scene (Gen 3:14-19) doesn’t teach ignorance but deliberate sin. North is in error, therefore, when he asserts that the original sin was committed in ignorance and, by implication, was not Eve’s fault.
North, referring to the transgression in the matter of the holy things (Lev 5:15) continues with the statement (page 120) that
‘To be restored to the legal status he had enjoyed before the transgression, the trespasser had to offer a sacrifice. The transgression had been individual. The judicial implication of the passage is this: the sanctions God would apply to the transgressor would be personal, not corporate’
Achan committed a ‘breach of faith’ with regard to the ‘holy things of YHWH’ (Lev 5:15, Joshua 7:1) by coveting and taking a garment from Shinar, silver and gold (Joshua 7:21). The two precious metals of his acquisition should have been put in to the Lord’s Treasury (6:19, 24) but, instead, he stashed them away under his tent (7:21).
Did God apply ‘sanctions’ that were ‘personal, not corporate’?
On the contrary.
Because of Achan’s personal sin, the nation of Israel could not stand against her enemies (7:1-5). It doesn’t follow that personal sin only affects the personal relationship of the offender before God, but it has corporate implications for the society that the individual finds himself in.
We could go on to look at the example of David in numbering Israel (I Chronicles chapter 21) and how his individual sin caused judgment to fall upon the nation (21:11-14) but this would be to go beyond the constricting phrase of Lev 5:15, that the sin had to do directly with using something set apart for the Lord for an intended purpose that was against God’s will for it.
But, as we’ve seen, individual sacrilege can effect corporate judgment as in the case of Achan.
On page 120 we read the sentence
‘A 20 percent penalty was applied to the transgression of a holy thing’
which North repeats and expands (page 121) when he writes
‘A transgression of holy things in ignorance required a 20 per cent penalty plus the offering of a ram (vv.15-16). In contrast, a transgression of God’s commandment in ignorance required only the sacrifice of the animal (v.18)’
going on to note (page 121) that
‘This seemingly minor distinction becomes the basis of the analysis of the present chapter...’
The actual solution is one that needn’t take much more than a handful of sentences, let alone a further 10 pages (121-130)! Very simply, the reason why no payment is required in the latter case is because you can’t calculate 20% of something if it has no material value. For instance, if a person should inadvertently neglect to lay his hand on the head of his burnt offering, how can you effectively work out what 20% of ‘not laying hands on the sacrifice’ is in monetary terms? North’s (page 122)
‘God did not impose a 20 percent payment in addition to the sacrifice of a ram for the violation of a commandment (Lev 5:17-18)’
is misguided. It’s not that God did not impose a 20% payment but that God did not require damages to be paid which would have represented the value of the transgression plus 20%. This fact should have led North to realise that the offence could not be assessed in monetary terms.
But, more than this, the reason for the offering of Lev 5:17-19 needs to be understood. Wenham should be followed here (page 107-8) when he writes
‘...the discovery that he has done wrong comes through his conscience. He feels guilty...This then is an instance of a suspected trespass against sacred property...Someone suspects he has sinned, but does not know exactly how. In this uncertainty he fears the worst, and therefore a reparation offering must be brought, a ram or its equivalent (in money) [this last phrase will be dealt with below on the page ‘Further Teaching’]...However, since the sin was only suspected, not known, there was no restitution of sacred property involved. This sacrifice served then to pacify over-sensitive Israelite consciences’
Because the offender is suspicious that he’s inadvertently transgressed (whether the actual transgression has no material value or he is being troubled by the stirrings of a guilty conscience that won’t go away - Lev 5:17’s ‘though he does not know it’), he offers sacrifice for his own peace of mind - and you can’t have 20% of an unspecified or unknown amount!!
Notice also Lev 14:12,21 where the leper (or ‘ex-leper’) sacrifices a guilt offering probably for the same reason, there being no material item that restitution can be made for.
North comments (page 122 - my italics) that
‘Under the Mosaic Covenant, an inadvertent violation of God’s commands was settled by paying the victim whatever he had lost as a result of the transgression’
But, by committing a ‘breach of faith’ with regard to the ‘holy things of the Lord’, the transgressor is offending no-one but God alone. When North expects restitution to be made ‘to the victim’ he’s not seeing the object of the offence - the only ‘victim’ in the circumstances would have been God.
Besides, as God’s representative, the priest receives the restitution payment (Lev 5:16) not any human ‘victim’ (North consistently capitalises Deity. Therefore his ‘victim’ is necessarily human) that may have suffered loss by his offence.
Of course, it’s possible that ‘holy food’ could have been eaten which rightfully belonged to the priest - in this extremely rare possibility, perhaps restitution was to be made to the priest on his behalf?
Pages 121-130 contain a lot of teaching concerning the labels ‘common’, ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ and in which I, personally, found such a mixture of quality that I could summarise sections and sentences under the headings ‘good’, ‘poor’ or ‘incomprehensible’ (some of the words used seem to be labels that carry with them a meaning that the ‘insider’ knows but which, often, doesn’t make much sense to me in the context in which it appears - perhaps it’s just because I’m English?!). I find it extremely difficult to pull sentences out at random from these pages to comment on when there’s not always supporting contexts around them.
I do want to specifically comment on North’s statement, though (page 126), that
‘That which pertains to the sacred is formally under the authority of an ordained church officer’
which is incorrect. That which has been chosen by God to serve His purpose (whether under the authority of ordained clergy or not) is sacred. It appears (and I may be doing North a great injustice here) that he cannot envisage anything beneficial happening unless someone, somewhere who has been recognised as being a leader within some denomination or other has the matter ‘under his authority’. Certainly, he sees the church building as the place where sacred rites take place but he has never mentioned (up to this point) the possibility of, for instance, communion being taken within the family home and it being just as relevant as the ‘church meeting’ celebration.
Actually, his statement (page 125 - my italics) mentions the contrast between
‘...a communion meal held during a worship service in church and a family meal eaten at home by a Christian family. Both meals are equally religious...But only one meal is sacramental: the church’s communion meal’
and may show his feelings on the matter - that he cannot accept that a family meal can be sacred and able to be set apart for the Lord’s special use and purpose.
I need to define the three labels mentioned in the first sentence of the previous section as I understand them. That way, if the reader of North’s book wants to compare his understanding with mine then it will be easy for him to do so.
Common - that which God has created. As Paul writes (I Tim 4:4)
‘For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’
Therefore, most objects that we see around us are inherently neutral until they are used for a specific purpose - and even then may remain neutral as they’re being used.
Sacred - that which has been set apart for God or for His service and/or use. A common object that is devoted to the use of God therefore becomes sacred. This is true even when we’re talking about false or demonic gods - those religions have their own ‘sacred’ objects which are simply common items that have taken on a sacred use.
Profane - that which is set apart for God (or false gods) but which is used for an alternative purpose. It doesn’t have to be used for an illegal purpose, just for a purpose that contradicts the purpose for which it was consecrated to God.
Of course, this is too simplistic for, personally, I would say that life is sacred - all life that was created on this earth through the six-day Creation is, in my opinion, sacred to some degree - especially mankind who were created for God’s specific purpose of ruling over the earth with God’s authority and on His behalf (Gen 1:26,28).
This would be the necessary standpoint of most ‘pro-life’ campaigners and of objectors to the continuing experiments in the field of genetic engineering.
So, although, the labels that I’ve defined seem quite ‘neat’, there are probably many overlapping or grey areas that need some thought.
Finally, to North’s statement (page 131) that
‘There is remarkably little discussion of the ascension of Christ in modern orthodox theology’
I would say a very loud ‘absolutely’ - which is why I included a section on my web site to try to remedy the imbalance. His statement, though (page 133) that
‘This is one application of the doctrine of the bodily ascension of Christ: overcoming death in history’
is puzzling. The resurrection speaks of the overcoming of death, the ascension of sovereignty and rule as can be seen from my previously cited web page.
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