“‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting.”-Leviticus 4:13-14
The “HATTA-AT Purification Offering” is different than the first three sacrificial offerings which are the OLAH (Burnt Offering), the MINCHAH (Grain Offering), and the ZEVAH (Peace Offering) in that it is the only sacrifice that assigns certain specific sacrificial animals and procedures to each class of person.
Recall that there are the following four levels of society in order of importance for the HATTA-AT Purification Offering:
The High Priest,
A Tribal Leader
A Common Person
The reason the High Priest was so important is because he was the mediator between God and the people of Israel.
As the mediator, he was capable of causing the most damage to the relationship between God and Israel when he sinned.
His trespasses didn’t just affect him.
They affected the entire nation of Israel.
So in the High Priest’s case, the sacrificial animal had to be the most expensive and the biggest which was a 3-year old mature bull.
We also saw that only certain fats from the bull were to be burned up on Brazen Altar, and that no part of the bull was to be used by either priests or common folk alike for food.
The remains of the bull had to be taken OUTSIDE THE CAMP and completely burned up on a common wood fire.
The idea was that the bull had to be completely disposed of because it was a substitute for the High Priest.
Another small point that is good for you to remember for reference purposes is that the Red Heifer sacrifice is very similar to how the High Priest performed the Purification Offering.
Let’s move on by taking a look at the next highest class of people and the ritual they had to perform for the HATTA-AT (Purification Offering).
I’m talking about the whole congregation of Israel.
After the High Priest, the sins committed by corporate Israel were viewed as most serious.
This does NOT mean that every individual Israelite sinned at the same time.
Rather, it is the sinful behavior and ungodly decisions of the majority that brought judgement upon the whole group.
Notice how this is different than modern western Christianity which tends to view sin as only a personal or individual matter.
The assumption is that the negative consequences from the sins you commit will ONLY affect you.
And vice versa, it is assumed that the sins of others will NOT affect you.
This is different than the Hebrew mindset.
The ancient Hebrews and even Jews today have always held a strong sense of both group and individual responsibility.
When we study the Scriptures, we see the Lord removing Israel from the land and exiling them because the majority or the chief decision makers did what was wrong from the Lord’s perspective and brought God’s wrath upon the whole nation.
The innocent suffered along with the guilty.
There are many examples in Scripture of those who suffered harsh consequences due to the sins of other members of the group.
We’re also told that in the end times, entire nations will be judged by God based on how those nations treated Israel.
So it seems like God will hold everybody responsible, as a group, for the actions of the nation as a whole.
Understand that I’m not talking about “being saved” or “salvation” here.
That is a personal matter based on a personal decision one makes to accept the Lord.
Your whole family (or nation for that matter) can be unbelievers…but if you accept the Lord, you will be singled out and escape eternal separation from the God of Israel.
Having said that, I think our modern western culture places too much emphasis on individualism.
We have this tendency to distance ourselves from the group or community.
However, although the Lord may see and judge us as individuals in terms of salvation, he also sees us as part of a group, a group that can be subjected to divine wrath if the majority of its members rebel against the Lord.
So in Leviticus chapter 4, were are presented with the God-ordained order of importance.
In terms of order of importance, the High Priest came first.
After that, the Lord placed importance and responsibility on the group as a whole followed by the tribal leaders and then the common person.