“If a person touches something unclean, whether the carcass of an unclean wild animal, a domestic animal or a reptile, he is guilty, even though he may not be aware that he is unclean. If he touches some human uncleanness, no matter what the source of his uncleanness is, and is unaware of it, then, when he learns of it, he is guilty.”-Leviticus 5:2-3
We are in the midst of studying verses 1-13 of Leviticus chapter 5.
This particular section deals with the HATTA-AT or Purification Offering in response to unintentional sins of omission that are committed.
Last time we covered the situation about someone hearing a public proclamation but withholds information from the authorities about the incident that could have shed useful light on the situation.
The next example we are presented with that I’d like to examine today is what happens when a person comes into contact with something unclean or impure.
In verse 2, we are given the following three categories of unclean things:
a) The carcass of a WILD animal
b) The carcass of a domesticated animal
c) The carcasses of crawling critters (reptiles or snakes etc).
Notice the commonality between all these categories: they are all DEAD things.
The idea being put forth here is that the person in question becomes unclean by coming into contact with an impure object but is unaware of it.
The sin of omission committed is that the person in question was running around in an an unclean state contaminating things around him unawares without doing anything about it.
Being in a state of unawareness about his uncleanness is the “sin” being committed here.
Notice I put the word “sin” in quotation marks.
I did this because it was brought to my attention by a kind reader (Thanks Marisa!) that being in a state of uncleanness is technically speaking really NOT a sin.
Rather, uncleanness is a state of being that makes one ritually unfit to offer a sacrifice or enter the temple.
If being unclean was really a sin, then giving birth to children would be a sin, and a husband having sexual relations with his own wife would also be a sin!
But of course, we all know that this is NOT the case.
Later when we get into the purification rituals required following the birth of a child etcetera, I will explain more about the technical difference between uncleanness and sin.
However, just know that although the particular trespass we are discussing here falls under the category of “Sins of Omission”, technically speaking “uncleanness” is NOT a sin.
Let’s move on.
So how could one come into a state of uncleanness and be unaware of it?
Let’s say you were walking around outside and accidentally stepped on an unclean reptile whose carcass got stuck to the sole of your sandal.
And then unawares you went back to your living quarters where a few minutes later one of your children pointed to your feet and yelled out “YUK, you’ve got some dead animal stuck to your shoe!“
Now you have to go perform a HATTA-AT purification ritual.
However, this is a rare example.
More often than not this sin involved eating cattle or sheep from a sacrifice (the ZEVAH) that although normally acceptable for food had somehow become unclean.
Maybe the sacrifice was defective in some way from the get go, like for example you ate some meat that was actually killed by a wild beast but didn’t find out until after eating some of it.
The next example deals with human impurity.
For example, a man can become unclean if he touches his wife immediately after her giving birth and not allowing for the allotted time to pass so she can perform the required purification ceremony.
We will study this later but immediately upon giving birth, a woman is considered to be in an unclean state.
A woman during her cycle is also considered unclean.
Thus, if a man touched her during this time, he would also become unclean and when he found out about it later, he would have to perform a HATTA-AT ritual.
Now there is another kind of impurity considered to be the severest type of uncleanness, but it isn’t mentioned here.
I’m talking about the impurity that results from touching a human corpse.
The reason it isn’t mentioned here is because the impurity that results from touching a dead human body IS SO SEVERE that a whole other set of different purification rituals are required when that happens.
Now are you catching the principle being developed here?
Whether a person is guilty or not HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT THE PERSON WAS AWARE OF HIS TRANSGRESSION.
The point is SOMETHING THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE WASN’T or SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DONE WAS.
It doesn’t matter whether the individual in question was aware or not.
Let’s carry this idea a little further.
The fact that someone is unaware by nature that he was born a sinner (even though it wasn’t his fault), doesn’t make him any less guilty than if he was aware.
From the Lord’s perspective, that person is still guilty.
A person who has never heard the gospel is in the SAME CONDITION as the person who has heard and rejected it.
BOTH are guilty because awareness or unawareness has no bearing on the matter.
The same principle that was in effect during the Moses’ time, remains in effect today!