Adonai said to Moshe, “If anyone acts improperly and inadvertently sins in regard to the holy things of Adonai, he is to bring as his guilt offering for Adonai a ram without defect from the flock or its equivalent in silver shekels (using the sanctuary shekel as the standard), according to your appraisal of its value; it is a guilt offering.“-Leviticus 5:14-15
So far we have studied the first four sacrifices introduced to us in Leviticus.
They are the OLAH (Burnt Offering), the MINCHAH (Grain Offering), the ZEVAH (Peace Offering), and the HATTA-AT (Purification Offering).
Now, finally, from verse 14, we are introduced to the 5th and final Levitical sacrifice called the ASHAM in Hebrew and normally translated as the “Guilt Offering” which I (and others) feel is quite a misleading translation.
Understand that this sacrifice is totally different than the content of verses 1-13 in chapter 5 of Leviticus which dealt with the HATTA-AT.
In these first 13 verses, the situation is NOT that the worshipper misbehaved, rather unbeknownst to him, he had contracted an impurity.
It was the act of him NOT REALIZING he had become unclean that made him guilty.
Now the ASHAM more than the other four sacrifices is probably closest to what we think about when we think of the Levitical animal sacrifices.
In other words, the ASHAM is all about paying a penalty or reparations for a transgression committed.
Probably the word “reparation” is better than the word “penalty” because “reparation” carries with it the meaning that something is owed.
“Penalty” is more just like a “fine”, like if we get a ticket for speeding or parking our car in the wrong area.
One significant way the paying of reparations here in Leviticus is different than a fine we would pay for a traffic ticket is that the paying of reparations to the Lord LEADS TO RESTORATION AND FORGIVENESS.
However, what happens after paying our traffic ticket according to the rules of modern society?
The process doesn’t end there.
Our infraction becomes a part of our driving record which will then cause our insurance rates to go up.
The ASHAM was NOT about punishment.
The ASHAM sacrifice paid the reparations FOR THE WORSHIPPER.
It paid the debt He owed the Lord so that His relationship to the Almighty could be restored.
Therefore, based on this explanation, rather than call this offering “The Guilt Offering” as most Bibles do, I think it would be better to call this particular sacrifice “The Reparation Offering”.
At this stage, some of you may think I’m slicing the onion awfully sin by going into the detail I have for each sacrifice.
The whole point is to develop a fuller sense of just how complex and multi-faceted sin and forgiveness is.
When we step back and examine the five Levitical sacrifices, we are given mental “models” so to speak that enables us to see how are trespasses affect our relationship with the Lord.
For example, the OLAH and the MINCHAH gives us a model that is personal in nature.
These two sacrifices show us that a person is declared guilty by God because of who he is (his sin nature), not because of what he did.
On the other hand, the HATTA-AT (usually translated as “Sin Offering”) shows us the polluting effects of sin and how it is similar to being poisoned.
The blood of the animal in this case serves as the antidote to counteract the deadly effects of the poison that have entered our bloodstream.
Finally, the ASHAM or Reparation Offering gives us a “commercial” model of how sin affects us.
It show us that our sin creates a debt to God for which reparations must be paid via the blood of an innocent animal.
What the Lord is doing through the Book of Leviticus is teaching us the basic aspects of sin and its terrible consequences in easy-to-digest bite-sized chunks.
Understand that sin is ultimately a spiritual matter, and given our earthbound physical limitations as human beings, it is practically impossible for us to comprehend much about the spiritual world or heavenly truths unless the Lord breaks it down nice and easy for us, as He did by introducing the various kinds of sacrifices and rituals with their specific purposes to the Israelites.