Today we begin Leviticus Chapter Four.
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James version, click here.
Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra’el: ‘If anyone sins inadvertently against any of the mitzvot of Adonai concerning things which should not be done, if he does any one of them, then, if it is the anointed cohen who sinned and thus brought guilt on the people, he is to offer Adonai a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he committed.'”-Leviticus 4:1-3
We have just finished studying the first three Levitical sacrifices called the OLAH (Burnt Offering), the MINCHAH (Grain Offering), and the ZEVAH (Peace Offering).
Recall that these first three offerings had nothing to do with atoning for specific sins committed against the Lord.
Rather, these offerings made us acceptable so that we can approach the Lord.
Or to use modern evangelical language, these three sacrifices atoned for our sin natures but NOT our sinful behavior.
However, finally, today, we are going to deal with that class of sins scholars term “EXPIATORY SACRIFICES” (I know scholars love to use big, ridiculous fancy words that nobody else in the world but they can understand).
Simply put, “EXPIATORY SACRIFICES” refers to that class of offerings designed to atone for specific trespasses committed against the Lord.
Notice in verses one and two that the instructions being given are coming directly from the mouth of the Lord to Moses.
This was not a proclamation from somebody in authority but the very words of HASHEM Himself.
Also notice that this sacrifice is concerned with dealing with UNINTENTIONAL sins committed.
The sense of “UNINTENTIONAL” in this chapter leans more towards the idea of the sin being accidental.
The usual title for the sacrifice we are introduced to in chapter 4 is “Sin Offering”.
In Hebrew, this would be HATTA-AT.
However, based on what the HATTA-AT was really all about, I believe the translation “Sin Offering” is really quite misleading.
Why do I say that?
I say that because the real purpose of the HATTA-AT was to purify the trespasser because He had committed a sin, not to atone for the sin itself.
Are you getting that?
It is NOT the action being addressed.
Rather it is the polluted condition of the sinner being addressed due to a wrongful action committed.
It is assumed the that PRIOR to committing the offense, the person in question was in a clean or unpolluted state.
However, AFTER committing an offense, he has now been infected with uncleanness and is now in a polluted state.
So before actually offering a sacrifice to pay for the transgression committed, the trespasser has to offer up a sacrifice to become cleansed from the polluted state he got himself into because he sinned.
See, when a person sins, TWO things occur: that person becomes unclean or polluted AND he goes into debt before the Lord.
So one sacrifice has to be offered to achieve purification for the offense committed against a most Holy God.
And another sacrifice has to be offered to actually pay for the wrongful act committed.
The sacrifice that has to be offered up to achieve purification is what is introduced here in Leviticus Chapter 4 and is usually translated into “Sin Offering”, but based on what it really does it should be translated as a “PURIFICATION OFFERING”!
In fact, from here on out, I think I’m going to refer to the HATTA-AT as a “PURIFICATION OFFERING”!
Do you remember the lesson we did together on the difference between a “functional translation” and a “literal translation”?
Here’s the thing.
The term “sin offering” is a functional translation.
See, the problem we face is that there is no equivalent word for HATTA-AT in any other language in the world.
So the only thing translators can do is restate the purpose or function of the HATTA-AT in English (or any other language for that matter).
From a functional perspective, since the HATTA-AT repairs or purifies the polluted condition of the person who committed a sin, it is usually called a “Sin Offering“.
But this is misleading because technically speaking, the HATTA-AT is NOT an offering to atone for a wrongful action that has been committed.
It serves to purify the worshipper of his impure condition that resulted because of the transgression committed.
The conclusion of the matter?
We should call the HATTA-AT the “Purification Offering” instead of the “Sin Offering”.