(2) If a soul shall sin.—It will be seen that whilst the three previous kinds of offerings, viz., the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-17), the meat offering (Leviticus 2:1-16), and the peace offering (Leviticus 3:1-17), are spoken of as familiarly known and practised among the Israelites before the giving of the Law, the sin offering and the trespass offering are here introduced as a new injunction. We have here no more the voluntary formula, “If any man of you bring,” &c. (Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 3:1), as you are in the habit of bringing; but “if a soul shall sin . . . let him bring for his sin offering a young bullock,” &c.
Through ignorance.—He did it inadvertently, and at the time of its committal did not know that it was a transgression; but recognised it as a sin after he did it. (Comp. Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:18; Leviticus 22:14.) According to the practice which obtained during the second Temple, the sin here spoken of, for which the sin offering was brought, was (1) a sin committed through ignorance, or involuntarily, as opposed to a sin committed with a set purpose (comp. Numbers 15:30); (2) a sin against a negative command; (3) a sin consisted in acts, not in words or thoughts, as is deduced from the expression “and shall do against any of them;” and (4) of acts of such a nature, that if committed intentionally they would subject the sinner to the awful punishment of excision. (See Numbers 15:29-30.)
According to the sin of the people.—That is, he having in ignorance committed the same sin as the common people, to which he is as liable as they. From the phrase “against any commandments of the Lord” in the preceding verse, as well as from Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10-15, it is evident that the sin of ignorance here alluded to does not refer to the inadvertent neglect of his official duty, which devolves upon the high priest as the spiritual head of the people, but to any offence whatsoever ignorantly committed. According to the marginal reading, to make the people guilty, or more literally, to the guilt of the people, which is equally admissible, the meaning of the passage is, that he by committing a sin causes the people to transgress, inasmuch as his example is followed by them; or that, in virtue of the intimate connection which subsisted between the representative of the nation and the people, the sin of the one was the sin of the other. (Comp. Leviticus 10:6; 1 Chronicles 21:3.)
A young bullock.—Literally, a steer, the son of a bull. The sacrificial rules which obtained at the time of Christ minutely defined the respective ages of the bullock: the steer, the son of a bull, and the calf. The bullock or ox which was brought as a sacrifice had to be three years old: “the steer the son of a bull” rendered in the passage before us, and in the Authorised Version generally, by “a young bullock” (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 16:3; Leviticus 23:8, &c.), had to be two years old; whilst the calf had to be of the first year.
Before the Lord.—As the Lord was enthroned on the mercy-seat between the cherubim (Exodus 25:22) in the holy of holies, the phrase “before the Lord” is. used for the place in front of the holy of holies, where the altar of incense, the shewbread, and the golden candlestick stood (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 28:35; Exodus 30:8; Exodus 34:34, &c.), and towards which the blood was sprinkled.
Before the vail of the sanctuary.—This phrase is simply explanatory of the former phrase. As the vail separated the holy of holies, where the shechinah dwelt, from the holy place, the words are simply used as another expression for “before the Lord.” This clause has, however, been variously interpreted from time immemorial. As before is not in the original. but is supplied in the translation, some have maintained that the vail itself was sprinkled; whilst others, who, with the Authorised Version, regard the whole phrase to mean “before the vail,” declare that the blood was sprinkled on the floor of the sanctuary in front of the vail.
This process, too, was peculiar to the sacrifice of the sin offering. The altar was placed in the holy place before the vail which separated off the holy of holies (Exodus 30:1-6). According to the practice which obtained in the time of Christ, the priest began by putting the blood first on the north-east horn, then on the north-west, then on the south-west, and, lastly, on the south-east horn. He dipped his finger in the blood of the bowl at the sprinkling of each horn, and wiped his finger on the edge of the bowl between the separate sprinklings, as the blood which remained on his finger from one horn was not deemed fit to be put on the other.
And shall pour all the blood.—That is, all the remaining blood. The bulk of the blood which remained, after expending the small quantity on the horns of the incense altar inside the sanctuary, the priest poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering, which stood outside the holy place. At the time of the second Temple, there were at the southwest horn of this altar two holes, like two nostrils, through which the blood ran into a drain conveying it into the brook of Kedron.
Without the camp.—During the time of the second Temple there were three places for burning: one place was in the court of the sanctuary, where they burnt the sacrifices which were unfit and rejected; the second place was in the mountain of the house called Birah, where were buried those sacrifices which met with an accident after they had been carried out of the court; and the third place was without Jerusalem, called the place of ashes. It is this place to which the Apostle refers when he says, “for the bodies of those beast whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:11-12).
And burn him on the wood with fire.—Whilst special wood was required for the burning of those victims which were consumed in the court of the sanctuary (see Leviticus 1:7), the sacrifices which were taken outside the city could be burnt with any wood, or even straw or stubble. All that was insisted on was that it should be burned with fire, as the text before us has it, but not with cinder, coals, or lime.
And bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.—Better, before the tent of meeting. (See Leviticus 1:3.) This no more means that the whole congregation or the thousands of Israelites are all to lay hold of the victim, and carry it to the appointed place of slaughter, than the phrase in Leviticus 4:12 signifies that the high priest is himself to carry the bullock. It is the regular Hebrew idiom, which denotes that the people are to cause the sacrifice to be carried. We should have deemed it superfluous to explain this well-known mode of expression had it not been that mistaken arguments have been deduced from it.
And is guilty.—Rather, and acknowledges his guilt, as the Authorised Version rightly translates it in Hosea 5:15. (Comp. also Zechariah 11:5.) This sense is not only required by the disjunctive particle or, with which the next verse begins, but by the fact that the declaration in the present rendering, “When men sin they are guilty,” is a truism. The sinner is guilty whether he sins advertently or inadvertently. The case here supposed is that the prince had himself come to the knowledge that what he had done was a sin, and had acknowledged it as such.
A kid of the goats.—The expression here used (sāêr) properly denotes the rough, shaggy-haired he goat, and is distinguished from athud (literally, ready, vigorous), which occurs in conjunction with it (Numbers 7:16-17; Numbers 7:22-23), and which is also translated goat in point of age. The sāêr, or the shaggy or longer haired he-goat, here used is the older buck of the goat, whose hair has become long with age; whilst the athud is the same animal, younger and more vigorous. Hence the former was never killed for food, or used for burnt or thank offerings at the festivals (Leviticus 16:9; Leviticus 16:15; Leviticus 23:19; Numbers 28:15; Numbers 28:22; Numbers 28:30; Numbers 29:5; Numbers 29:11; Numbers 29:16), and at the consecration of the priests and sanctuary (Leviticus 9:3; Leviticus 9:15; Leviticus 10:16), whilst the latter was killed for food (Deuteronomy 32:14; Jeremiah 51:40), and hence, like the bull, the ram, and the lamb, was regularly presented as burnt and thank offerings (Numbers 7:17; Numbers 7:23; Numbers 7:29, &c.; Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 34:6; Ezekiel 39:18; Pss. 1. 9, 13, Ixvi. 15). It will be seen that the first difference in the sin offering of a prince is that he is to bring a longhaired he-goat, and not a bull.
And be guilty.—Rather, and acknowledges his guilt. (See Leviticus 4:22.)
A kid of the goats.—Better, a shaggy-haired she-goat without blemish. The expression is feminine in the Hebrew. The female was of less value than the male, and was therefore more suitable to the circumstances of the ordinary people.