Further thoughts and teaching on the Guilt, Reparation or Trespass Offering

As North has split the passage 5:14-6:7 into 2 chapters, what has been included under the next chapter’s ‘Further Teaching’ may be of equal relevance to the reader.

The Purpose of the Guilt, Reparation or Trespass Offering

Is 53:10 states that the Christ was to make Himself a guilt offering even though some translations make it sound as if what’s being talked about here is a sin offering - the Hebrew word is definitely the one used in Leviticus 5:14-6:7 to denote the guilt offering.

[There are various interpretations as to the intention of the verse as many of the Hebrew words employed are ambiguous. I’ve taken the straightforward and normally accepted meaning of the words but the reader would do well to refer to Motyer for a full - and rather technical - discussion]

The simple meaning is that the Christ would be the fulfilment of the guilt offering and that He would offer Himself willingly (the ‘He makes Himself’) to effect full and final ‘atonement’ for all those things that the Levitical regulations could only point towards.

Notice that, in the Levitical passages, it’s the unblemished ram that makes atonement and not the restitutionary payment (even though this was a necessary element that had to occur before atonement could be secured - more on this in a moment).

We see, in 5:14-16, the need for purification from misusing or misappropriating the things which belonged to the Lord and, in 6:1-7, the need for purification from actions that were deliberate acts of the will but which the transgressor had been convicted of and who had now voluntarily come to restore what had been violated before being found out (see under the ‘Further Teaching’ in the next chapter). All these are forgiven and dealt with in Christ so long as there’s an acknowledgement of guilt and restitution offered.

That’s why the phrase exists in the prayer that Jesus taught to His disciples (Mtw 6:12 - my italics) which petitions God to

‘...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

and why Jesus emphasised to the disciples (Mtw 6:14 - my italics) that

‘...if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you...’

In a very real sense, to receive the forgiveness that Christ’s fulfilment of the guilt offering imparts to us, there is a necessary action required on the part of the recipient.

But I want to dwell a few moments on the guilt offering of Lev 5:17-19 which we’ve already seen was brought about to pacify the over sensitive consciences of the Israelites (in the comments on North’s text). It says of the Old Covenant (Heb 9:9) that

‘...gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper’

and that (Heb 9:14), under the New Covenant

‘...the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, [will] purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God’

noting also (Heb 10:22) that

‘...our hearts [are] sprinkled clean from an evil conscience’

There’s no longer any reason for any man or woman to suffer from regret after they’ve come to Christ. Though we will always know that our former lives were displeasing and offensive to God (I Cor 15:9), Christ has provided the way through the cross - in fulfilment of the levitical guilt offering - to cleanse a guilty conscience.

According to the shekel of the sanctuary

On three occasions (Lev 5:15,18, 6:6 - my italics) we find a similar (though not identical because of the type of required sacrifice) phrase

‘...he shall bring...a ram...valued by you in shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary...’

the last two of these Scriptures adding the phrase

‘...valued by you at the price for a guilt offering’

which indicates that the offering had to reach a level of value (as it would have been on the open market?) as determined by the priests and below which the animal could not be accepted as being of sufficient worth to make atonement for the transgressor.

[It should be noted that the ‘shekel’ mentioned was, at this point in Israel’s history, simply a weight of silver and not a coin as it later came to be in the nation. It has been estimated at weighing the equivalent of around 11 grams (two-thirds of an ounce) but the actual weight is difficult to be precise about]

This certainly seems to be the easiest way of taking the Scriptures but Wenham notes (page 107) that

‘...convertible into shekels on the sanctuary standard (v.15)...is obscure. The traditional Jewish explanation is that the ram must be worth at least two shekels...’

before proposing that the intention of the passages is (page 107 - my italics) that

‘If the man could not bring a ram as a reparation offering, he had to bring an equivalent amount of silver instead

We have already seen that, with regard to the sin offering, there was atonement possible when no blood was shed for the poorest of the Israelites among the nation (Lev 5:11-13) but we’ve not come across a place where there was an option that, even though a ram may be offered, a value of silver (or some other product) could be substituted and (Lev 5:16,18, 6:7) that

‘...the priest shall make atonement for him’

It seems necessary to interpret the passage as implying what I described at the beginning - unless it was the practice to convert the shekel valuation into an animal which was then sacrificed to make atonement.

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