“If someone sins by doing something against any of the mitzvot of ADONAI concerning things which should not be done, he is guilty, even if he is unaware of it; and he bears the consequences of his wrongdoing.”-Leviticus 5:17
We are still in the thick of studying the 5th Levitical Sacrifice known as the ASHAM in Hebrew.
This is usually called the “Guilt Offering”, but I have decided to call it the “Reparation Offering”.
Recall that this sacrifice was all about making reparations for offenses committed with both FULL AWARENESS or UNAWARES.
Verses 5:14-16 dealt with the protocol for transgressions committed with FULL AWARENESS which we have already studied.
Now I want to start getting into the content from verse 17, which deals with those trespasses committed unawares.
This type of unintentional sin falls under the category of an INADVERTENT trespass.
However, from a Biblical perspective, “inadvertent” is different than how we would normally think of it.
When we think of the meaning of “inadvertent“, to us it means we had absolutely no knowledge or realization of what did.
Our trespass was a pure accident, like maybe we unintentionally used a really rude word when attempting to speak a foreign language but thought we were saying something else altogether.
In the Bible, “inadvertent” more refers to the level of seriousness of the sin committed and whether or not a person should have reasonably known that what he did was wrong beforehand.
The condition of the worshipper’s heart was also taken into consideration.
So we can see that the Biblical understanding, far from being black-and-white, is actually more subjective and more of an emotional matter.
Now take a look at the following piece of Scripture:
“He must bring a ram without defect from the flock, or its equivalent according to your appraisal, to the cohen for a guilt offering; the cohen will make atonement concerning the error which he committed, even though he was unaware of it; and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering — he is certainly guilty before Adonai.”-Leviticus 5:18-19
I’m going to say something that’s going to surprise you.
This particular type of ASHAM that we are now studying was NOT about the worshipper committing a transgression he later found about.
It wasn’t like the transgressor was unaware that a particular law or command existed, but then later found out about it.
He remained in a state of ignorance concerning his trespass.
So now you’re probably thinking, if the worshipper never knew that he had committed a trespass, if he never found out later that he had committed a sin, then how in the world did he know that he had to offer up an ASHAM or Reparation Offering?
Well, let me answer that question with another question?
Have you ever felt guilty for no particular reason at all?
You couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly it was you did wrong, but deep down inside you felt bad, like you had committed some sin.
You just felt guilty.
I know this might sound kinda weird, maybe a bit psychotic or emotionally unbalanced.
How in the world could somebody have guilty feelings but have absolutely no idea what he did to cause the guilt?
Well, in ancient times (and I suspect in our day as well), this was actually quite common.
One of the biggest fears that existed in both ancient Israel and the surrounding pagan nations was the possibility of having committed an offense against the Lord or the gods (from a pagan perspective) but having no idea what it was you did.
I imagine this could be similar to worrying about whether you might have accidentally said something rude to your boss and afterwards your worry turned into paranoia as you started to wonder whether you might now be in danger of getting fired or losing a promotion or whatever.
Well, a similar thing often occurred in the ancient world.
For no particular reason at all, a person would start to feel guilty due to some unknown trespass he may have committed against the Lord and then began worrying day and night about what terrible thing might happen to him because of his possible transgression.
Yet he had no idea what he had done wrong.
And there wasn’t a priest to tell him.
So that’s what this particular ASHAM was about (from verse 17).
It was for a SUSPECTED trespass.
The purpose was to assuage the person’s guilt for an offense he may have committed.
The worshipper is worrying that he MIGHT have sinned against “the things or property of the Lord”.
In order to be sure that God’s judgement isn’t poured out on him, he decides to offer up an ASHAM.
Notice the interesting detail that for this particular sacrifice, the transgressor is allowed to bring less of a sacrifice for the inadvertent or suspected trespass than if he had committed a trespass with full awareness.
Recall, that for trespasses committed with full awareness, a ram PLUS an additional 20% of the ram’s value in shekel coins was to be paid to the sanctuary.
However, for the suspected trespass where the person only feels guilt, he brings ONLY the ram, no additional 20% in shekels was necessary.
So, in a nutshell, the main purpose of this particular ASHAM or Reparation Offering was to soothe and calm that overly sensitive person who had become a nervous wreck worrying about what potential trespass or trespasses he may have committed against the Lord.
To be honest, after studying Leviticus quite thoroughly, in light of the myriad of rituals required to atone for the many kinds of sins, I can kind of understand how some folks in ancient Israel might have worked themselves into a fit of worry wondering whether they had done something to offend a most Holy God.
And I would say, modern believers do the same thing.
I myself sometimes worry about what I may have done to offend our Father and how my sin may be affecting my current relationship with Him.
When things don’t seem to be going well in my life, I sometimes wonder is this because of some unknown offense I may have committed against the Lord.
And the most terrifying worry of all is thinking about the eternal consequences I may face due to my trespasses.
The only difference between modern believers today and the ancient Hebrews is that in ancient Israel sincere confession and an animal sacrifice was constantly needed to deal with sin.
However, in our day, we have access to Yeshua, the one-time and permanent sacrifice.
If we accept the finished work of Yeshua in a true spirit of repentance, He becomes our ASHAM and we are forgiven.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
-1 John 1:9