(1) And hear the voice of swearing.—Better, because he heard the voice of adjuration, and might be a witness, whether he hath seen the offence or known of it, if he doth not tell it. Having laid dawn in the former chapter the regulations about the sin offering, and having shown how these regulations are to be carried out when the offence against the Divine law is inadvertently committed by the spiritual head of the people, by the whole congregation, by the sovereign ruler of the nation, and by the individual members of the community, the lawgiver now proceeds to set forth in Leviticus 5:1-13 of this chapter the trespass offering which every Israelite is to bring when he has violated certain precepts here specified. The first instance adduced is that of failing to come forward as witness after the judicial adjuration has been uttered. It was the duty of every member of the community to aid the authorities in maintaining the integrity of the Divine law. Hence, when an offence was committed which the constituted tribunals were unable to bring home to the offender for want of evidence, a solemn adjuration was addressed by the judge to individual members, to a district, or to the whole community. If after such an adjuration, anyone who was cognizant of the offence failed to come forward to testify what he knew, he was considered in the sight of God as participating in the transgression which he had thus concealed. It is with reference to this law that we are told, “whoso is partner with a thief, hateth his own soul, he heareth cursing and betrayeth it not,” i.e., he hears the adjuration of the judges, and yet stifles his evidence, and thus becomes a partner with the culprit. An instance of this adjuration is recorded in Matthew 26:63, where the high priest said to Jesus, “I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the son of God,” and it was in recognition of the solemn obligation of this adjuration that Jesus answered the question.
Then he shall bear his iniquity.—Better, and he beareth his iniquity; that is, he is sensible that he bears the load of this guilt, he has become conscious of his sin, without which he could not bring the sacrifice here prescribed. The phrase, “and he beareth his guilt,” has the same meaning as and “he,” or “they are guilty” in Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22, &c. Unlike the sins committed inadvertently, spoken of in the preceding chapter, where the sin offering is prescribed, the guilt here described is that of designed and culpable silence, and of deliberately concealing a crime.
And if it be hidden from him.—That is, if he, through carelessness, forgot all about it that he had contracted this defilement; as the Vulgate rightly paraphrases it, “and forgetteth his uncleanness.” The touching of a carcase simply entailed uncleanness till evening, which the washing of the person and his garments thus defiled sufficed to remove (Leviticus 11:24; Leviticus 11:31). It was only when thoughtlessness made him forget his duty, and when reflection brought to his mind and conscience the violation of the law, that he was required to confess his sin, and bring a trespass offering.
He also shall be unclean, and guilty.—Better, and he is unclean, and acknowledgeth that he is guilty. (See Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22.) The Greek Version, called the Septuagint, which is the most ancient translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, omits altogether the latter part of this verse, which is represented in the Authorised Version by “and if it be hidden from him, he also shall be unclean and guilty,” thus showing that the Hebrew manuscript, or manuscripts, from which this old version was made, had not this clause. This is, moreover, supported by the fact that it needlessly anticipates the summary formula of the next verse, which continues the subject, and where it appears in its proper place.
When he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.—Better, and he knoweth it, and feeleth that he is guilty. That is, he afterwards becomes conscious that he has contracted the defilement, and feels his guilt. (See Leviticus 5:2.)
To do evil, or to do good.—That is, anything whatsoever which is comprehended under the name good and evil, as these two categories are idiomatically used to embrace all human action. (Comp. Genesis 24:50; Genesis 31:24; Numbers 24:13; Isaiah 51:23.)
Whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath.—Better, that a man heedlessly utters with an oath. That is, anything that a man may rashly or thoughtlessly undertake to do, or to abstain from doing, with an oath.
And it be hid from him.—That is, if through this careless way in which it was done, he forgot all about it. (See Leviticus 5:2.)
When he knoweth of it . . . —Better, and he then considereth it, and acknowledgeth that he is guilty (see Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 5:2, &c.), in one of these things with regard to which a man may rashly swear that he will do or not do them, and contract guilt.
For it is a sin offering.—That is, because it is a sin offering, and not a Minchah or meat offering (see Leviticus 2:1), therefore it shall have no oil or frankincense, otherwise its distinguishing features as such would be destroyed.
According to the offering made by fire.—Better, upon the offering made by fire. (See Leviticus 4:35.)
And the remnant shall be the priest’s.—Better, and it shall belong to the priest. The word remnant is not in the original, and is better left out, since with the exception of the handful which he took out to burn upon the altar, the whole tenth part of the ephah of fine flour belonged to the priest. At the time of Christ, this only took place when the offerer was a layman. But when a priest committed the offence and brought the offering in question, the whole tenth part of the ephah of flour was burnt on the altar, as was done in the case of the meat offering.
And sin through ignorance.—If at the time of its committal he did not know that it was a transgression. (See Leviticus 4:2.)
In the holy things of the Lord.—That is, inadvertently keeping back the things which belong to the sanctuary, and to the service of the Lord, as, for instance, the tithes, the firstfruits, or not consecrating or redeeming his firstborn (Exodus 28:38; Numbers 5:6-8).
A ram without blemish.—For committing any of these transgressions presumptuously, the transgressor incurred the punishment of excision (Numbers 15:30; Hebrews 10:28); but when they were done unawares, he was to bring a ram as a sacrifice. According to the rules which obtained during the second Temple, it must be over thirty-one days in the second year of its age. It was of greater value than the female sheep. The sacrifice for a trespass in holy things, though ignorantly committed, was therefore more costly than for the sin of ignorance mentioned in Leviticus 5:6.
With thy estimation by shekels of silver.—That is, according to the valuation of Moses, to whom this was primarily addressed, the ram is to be so grown up as to be worth several, or at least two shekels. The act of valuing was transferred by Moses to the officiating priests. (See Leviticus 27:8; Leviticus 27:12; Numbers 18:16.) For the shekels of the sanctuary see Exodus 30:13.
And shall add the fifth part thereto.—Besides paying the principal, the fifth part of the value of the holy property thus restored is to be added to the original amount. According to the rules which obtained in the time of Christ, the principal was estimated as four-fifths of the whole, and the lacking one-fifth was added. Thus, for instance, if the offender had consumed holy things to the value of four shekels, he had to pay five shekels, the fifth being added to the four. This, according to our mode of reckoning, is one-fourth. No distinction is here made whether the offender be the high priest, a prince, or a private individual.
These things.—That is, the holy things of the Lord specified in Leviticus 5:15.
Though he wist it not, i.e., is uncertain about it. Thus, for instance, he might be in doubt whether or not his transgression consisted in not delivering the first-fruit to the sanctuary, or in having used some other sacred property. (Comp. Genesis 20:5, &c, 2 Samuel 20:1, &c.)
Yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.—Still, he feels that he may be guilty of the transgression, and consequently is burdened with the weight of his iniquity. (See Leviticus 5:1.)
With thy estimation.—That is, according to thy i.e., Moses’ valuation, the ram is to be worth two shekels. (See Leviticus 5:15.)
And wist it not.—Better, though he wist or knew not, the precise sacred thing which he used, as the same phrase is rendered in the preceding verse. That is, to be on the right side, the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning this error of inadvertence, though the offender is uncertain whether he actually committed the offence or not. Still, as the case is a doubtful one, he is exempt from the additional fifth part which the transgressor had to pay who indisputably committed this offence in ignorance. (See Leviticus 5:16.)