“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 4:3
We are continuing on with our study of the HATTA-AT sacrifice or “Purification Offering”.
One thing we find about the nature of sin is that it is so serious that the ritual purification procedures differ depending on the trespasser’s status or position within the community of Israel.
The procedures change depending on whether the trespasser was the High Priest, a tribal leader, or a common citizen.
There is even a different antidote if Israel, the nation as whole, transgresses against the Lord.
Here in chapter 4, the procedures for three levels of Hebrew society are established: the High Priest, all Israel, a tribal leader, and a common person.
Let’s take a look at the HATTA-AT or purification procedures the High Priest had to undergo if he unintentionally sinned against the Lord.
First, understand that the words “cohen” or “anointed priest” in verse 3 are referring to the High Priest.
Actually, we should know this from the word “anointed” because the High Priest is the only priest who is consecrated with oil for service.
Since the High Priest’s job is to serve as a mediator between God and man, it is a dangerous thing if he sins because he puts the entire congregation of Israel in danger as well.
The principle established here is that if the High Priest sins, his transgressions result in all of Israel becoming polluted (leaders of congregations take note).
Let me make something clear here though.
I’m not talking about the High Priest committing personal sins of bad behavior.
I’m talking more about transgressions he committed while carrying out his duties as High Priest.
There were other types of sacrifices that dealt with personal sins.
Since the High Priest’s duties were carried out on behalf of the people, if he messed up, the people ended up bearing as much guilt as the High Priest due to his error.
Since the High Priest was at the top of the pecking order representing all of Israel before the Lord, he had to sacrifice the most expensive and valuable animal.
This nuance is somewhat different than the OLAH (burnt offering).
With the OLAH, the types of animals permitted varied from a bull all the way down to a bird and it had nothing to do with the degree of one’s sinful nature so to speak, it was based on what a person could reasonably afford.
A bull was the most expensive and a bird was the cheapest.
However, with the HATTA-AT or Purification Offering, things were different.
In the Purification Offering, the type of animal offered up was directly connected to the trespasser’s position in society.
The higher the position, the more expensive AND larger the animal had to be.
Thus the High Priest was obligated to use the priciest and biggest animal offering which was a 3-year old bull.
The procedures were similar to what occurred when an OLAH or Burnt Offering was offered up.
The 3-year old bull was brought into the Tabernacle Courtyard where the High Priest would perform SEMIKHAH or the laying on of hands.
Recall that this signifies the guilt of the transgressor is being transferred from him to the animal.
The High Priest then killed the animal and collected its blood into a ritual vessel.
The blood was then taken into the tent of meeting where the High Priest dipped his finger into the bull’s blood and sprinkled it 7 times onto the PAROKHET (the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies).
Understand that the High Priest was NOT standing in the Holy of Holies during these procedures.
He was standing in the Holy Place.
Finally, the High Priest dabbed some blood onto the horns of the Altar of Incense that was standing next to the vail that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
The remaining blood was then poured out at the foot of the Brazen Altar.
Now there was only one other time that the High Priest performed this type of “blood ritual”.
Can you guess when it was?
The answer is on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
However, the big difference between what happened here with the Purification Offering and Yom Kippur, was that on Yom Kippur, the High Priest actually went inside the Holy of Holies.
The biggest takeaway I get from today’s lesson is that if you’re a leader of some sort whether of a congregation or a Bible study leader, as a representative of the Lord and His Word, your sins and misbehavior will not only affect you but affect those who have decided to put themselves under your leadership.
Think of the shame and embarrassment that ensues when a popular religious leader is caught doing something not fitting as a representative of God and His Word.
It hurts everybody involved.