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In All Cases Repentance Was Necessary
However, in reference both to sin- and to trespass-offerings, the Rabbinical principle must be kept in view--that they only atoned in case of real repentance. Indeed, their first effect would be 'a remembrance of sins' before God (Heb 10:3). All sin-offerings were either public or private (congregational or individual). The former were always males; the latter always females, except the bullock for the high-priest's sin of ignorance (Lev 4:3), and the kid for the same offence of a 'ruler' (Lev 4:22). They were further divided into fixed, which were the same in the case of rich and poor, and varying, which 'ascended and descended' according to the circumstances of the offerer. 'Fixed' sacrifices were all those for sins 'through ignorance' against any of the prohibitory commands (of which the Rabbis enumerate 365); * for sins of deed, not of word; or else for such which, if they had been high- handed, would have carried the Divine punishment of being 'cut off' (of which the Rabbis enumerate 36).
* They also mention 248 affirmative precepts, or in all 613, according to the supposed number of members in the human body.
The 'varying' sacrifices were those for lepers (Lev 14:21); for women after childbirth (of which concession to poverty Mary, the mother of Jesus, availed herself) (Luke 2:24; Lev 12:8); for having concealed a 'thing known' (Lev 5:1); for having unwittingly sworn falsely; and for having either unwittingly eaten of what had been consecrated, or gone into the Temple in a state of defilement. Lastly, there were 'outer' and 'inner' sin-offerings, according as the blood was applied to the altar of burnt-offering or brought into the inner sanctuary. In the former case the flesh was to be eaten only by the officiating priest and within the sanctuary; the latter were to be wholly burnt without the camp or city. *
In both cases, however, the 'inwards,' as enumerated in Leviticus 4:8, were always first burned on the altar of burnt-offering. Neither oil nor frankincense were to be brought with a sin- offering. There was nothing joyous about it. It represented a terrible necessity, for which God, in His wondrous grace, had made provision.
The Sin-offering Differed with the Rank of the Offerer
It only remains to explain in detail two peculiarities connected with the sin-offering. First, it differed according to the theocratic position of him who brought the sacrifice. For the high-priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:3), or when he had sinned, 'to the rendering guilty of the people' (Lev 4:3), that is, in his official capacity as representing the people; or if the whole congregation had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:13); and at the consecration of the priests and Levites a bullock was to be brought. This was the highest kind of sin-offering. Next in order was that of the 'kid of the goats,' offered for the people on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:5), and on the other festivals and New Moons (Num 28:15, etc.; 29:5, etc.); also for the ruler who had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:23); for the congregation if aught had been committted by any individual 'without the knowledge of the congregation' (Num 15:24); and, lastly, at the consecration of the Tabernacle (Lev 9:3,15). The third kind of sin-offering consisted of a female kid of the goats * for individual Israelites (Lev 4:28, etc.; 5:6), and of a ewe lamb for a Nazarite (Num 6:14) and a leper (Lev 14:10).
The lowest grade of sin-offering was that of turtle-doves or young pigeons offered at certain purifications (Lev 12:6; 15:14,29; Num 6:10); or else as a substitute for other sacrifices in case of poverty- -in extreme cases something resembling to, or 'as a meat-offering' being even allowed (Lev 5:11-13).
The Blood to be Sprinkled
Secondly, the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled, not thrown. In the case of a private Israelite, it was sprinkled, that is, either jerked or dropped successively on each of the four horns * of the altar of burnt-offering--beginning at the south-east, thence going to the north-east, then the north-west, and finishing at the south- west, where the rest of the blood was poured at the bottom of the altar through two funnels that conducted into the Kedron.
On the other hand, when offering bullocks and goats, whose carcases were to be burned without the camp, the officiating priest stood in the Holy Place, between the golden altar and the candlestick, and sprinkled of the blood seven times * towards the Most Holy Place, to indicate that the covenant-relationship itself had been endangered and was to be re-established, and afterwards touched with it the horns of the altar of incense.
* Seven was the symbolical number of the covenant.
The most solemn of all sacrifices were those of the Day of Atonement, when the high-priest, arrayed in his linen garments, stood before the Lord Himself within the Most Holy Place to make an atonement. Every spot of blood from a sin-offering on a garment conveyed defilement, as being loaded with sin, and all vessels used for such sacrifices had either to be broken or scoured. Quite another phase of symbolic meaning was intended to be conveyed by the sacrificial meal which the priests were to make of the flesh of such sin-offerings as were not wholly burnt without the camp. Unquestionably Philo was right in suggesting, that one of the main objects of this meal was to carry to the offerer assurance of his acceptance, 'since God would never have allowed His servants to partake of it, had there not been a complete removal and forgetting of the sin' atoned for. This view entirely accords with the statement in Leviticus 10:17, where the purpose of this meal by the priests is said to be 'to bear the iniquity of the congregation.' Hence, also, the flesh of all sacrifices, either for the high-priest, as representing the priesthood, or for the whole people, had to be burnt; because those who, as God's representatives, were alone allowed to eat the sacrificial meal were themselves among the offerers of the sacrifice.
Symbolism of the Trespass-offering
III. The trespass-offering was provided for certain transgressions committed through ignorance, or else, according to Jewish tradition, where a man afterwards voluntarily confessed himself guilty. The Rabbis arrange this class into those for a doubtful and for a certain trespass. The former were offered by the more scrupulous, when, uncertain whether they might not have committed an offence which, if done high-handed, would have implied being 'cut off,' or, if in ignorance, necessitated a sin- offering. Accordingly, the extreme party, or Chassidim, were wont to bring such a sacrifice every day! On the other hand, the offering for certain trespasses covered five distinct cases, * which had all this in common, that they represented a wrong for which a special ransom was to be given.
* Leviticus 5:15; 6:2; 19:20 (in these three cases the offering was a ram); and Leviticus 14:12 and Numbers 6:12 (where the offering was a he-lamb). The Word of God considers every wrong done to another, as also a wrong done against the Lord (Psa 51:4), and hence, as needing a trespass-offering.
It forms no exception to this principle, that a trespass-offering was also prescribed in the case of a healed leper (Lev 14:12), and in that of a Nazarite, whose vow had been interrupted by sudden defilement with the dead (Num 6:10-12), since leprosy was also symbolically regarded as a wrong to the congregation as a whole, * while the interruption of the vow was a kind of wrong directly towards the Lord.
But that this last was, at the same time, considered the lightest kind of trespass appears even from this--that, while ordinarily the flesh of the trespass-offering, after burning the inwards on the altar of (Lev 7:3), was only to be eaten by the officiating priests within the Holy Place, the lamb offered for such a Nazarite might be eaten by others also, and anywhere within Jerusalem. The blood of the trespass-offering (like that of the burnt-offering) was thrown on the corners of the altar below the red line.
IV. The most joyous of all sacrifices was the peace-offering, or, as from its derivation it might also be rendered, the offering of completion. *
* It always followed all the other sacrifices.
This was, indeed, a season of happy fellowship with the Covenant God, in which He condescended to become Israel's Guest at the sacrificial meal, even as He was always their Host. Thus it symbolised the spiritual truth expressed in Revelation 3:20, 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.' In peace-offerings the sacrificial meal was the point of main importance. Hence the name 'Sevach,' by which it is designated in the Pentateuch, and which means 'slaying,' in reference to a meal. It is this sacrifice which is so frequently referred to in the Book of Psalms as the grateful homage of a soul justified and accepted before God (Psa 51:17; 54:6; 56:12; 116:17,18). If, on the one hand, then, the 'offering of completion' indicated that there was complete peace with God, on the other, it was also literally the offering of completeness. The peace- offerings were either public or private. The two lambs offered every year at Pentecost (Lev 23:19) were a public peace-offering, and the only one which was regarded as 'most holy.' As such they were sacrificed at the north side of the altar, and their flesh eaten only by the officiating priests, and within the Holy Place. The other public peace-offerings were slain at the south side, and their 'inwards' burnt on the altar (Lev 3:4,5). Then, after the priests had received their due, the rest was to be eaten by the offerers themselves, either within the courts of the Temple or in Jerusalem (Deut 27:7). On one occasion (1 Kings 8:63) no less than 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were so offered. Private peace-offerings were of a threefold kind (Lev 7:11): 'sacrifices of thanksgiving' (Lev 7:12), 'vows,' and strictly 'voluntary offerings' (Lev 7:16). The first were in general acknowledgment of mercies received; the last, the free gift of loving hearts, as even the use of the same term in Exodus 25:2, 35:29 implies. Exceptionally in this last case, an animal that had anything either 'defective' or 'superfluous' might be offered (Lev 22:23).