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
We are now studying the 5th and final Levitical sacrifice known as the ASHAM in Hebrew and what I have chosen to call the “Reparation Offering” because this sacrifice was all about paying off the debt one owed to the Lord due to one’s sin.
So what exactly was the purpose of the ASHAM?
Well, verse 14 tells us clearly that the ASHAM is to pay for trespasses “in regard to the holy things of Adonai”.
Other Bibles will use the phrase “sins against the Lord”.
What this is talking about are UNINTENTIONAL or inadvertent sins against the Lord’s sacred property.
As we get deeper into the Torah, we’re going to find that many of the laws and rituals we are studying here will be further fleshed out and expanded on in the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy and the ASHAM is no exception.
This is why it is important to get a solid grounding of what’s being taught here in Leviticus first, or your eyes will just glaze over when we get to the other parts of the Scripture dealing with these sacrifices.
I can understand now why Leviticus is the first book a Jewish child will study in Shabbat school.
It’s like learning the basic multiplication tables that unlock the key to understanding the rest of Scripture.
A great deal of commentary has been written by the ancient Rabbis concerning what exactly the “Lord’s sacred property” consisted of.
This brings me to another point I need to mention.
I notice that there seems to be quite a bit of scathing criticism out there leveled at the Talmud which is based on the commentary written by these ancient Hebrew sages.
These rabbis are accused of being self-important and as men who tried put their authority above Scripture and even altered God’s commands.
Look, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge these men.
For the most part, these sages were doing the best they could to understand and carry out the Lord’s commands, some of which were quite hazy in their explanation.
I think we should have a more sympathetic outlook towards what was generally a sincere and honest attempt to try and define the many commands in Scripture.
They went through the same struggles that we go through now in trying to properly understand Scripture.
So keeping that in mind, I want to share some of their thoughts on what they believed were some examples of “inadvertent sins against the Lord’s sacred property“.
Some of the possibilities these ancient scholars categorized as “inadvertent sins against the Lord’s sacred property” are as follows:
-a non-priest eating food set aside only for the priests
-priests eating food in their homes that was offered as a sacrifice but should ONLY have been eaten at the Tabernacle
-failing to fulfill certain types of vows
-failing to present a prescribed tithe at the sanctuary for some types of dedication ceremonies
When Leviticus chapter 5 is carefully examined, you’ll find that the list of inadvertent sins seems to be split into two types.
Inadvertently sinning against the Lord WITH AN AWARENESS OF WHAT ONE WAS DOING…
inadvertently sinning against the Lord WITHOUT AN AWARENESS OF WHAT ONE WAS DOING.
In addition, it’s important to understand that what was particularly deadly about this class of sins is that they were transgressions DIRECTLY against God.
Of course, all sins are transgressions against the Lord because by definition every sin in some way breaks the Lord’s commands and Laws.
However, the trespasses being referred to in verses 14-16 are of a particularly serious nature since they concern sins “in regard to the Holy things of Adonai”.
In fact, a different Hebrew word than usual is used for the word sin in Leviticus 5:14.
That word is MA-AL.
It is the same word used to describe the most serious sins in the Torah such as adultery or idolatry.
It is common to find phrases like the “MA-AL of adultery” or the “MA-AL of idolatry” in Scripture.
We’ll even have an instance of a king of Judah committing a MA-AL by personally burning incense to the Lord which was a duty that only the priests were permitted to do.
Unfortunately in our English Bibles, all of the different Hebrew words used to describe the variety of transgressions against the Lord are lumped into the one word “sin”.
Because of this, we miss the rich nuances that are apparent in the original Hebrew text.
We’ll also find that different rituals are required to atone for the sin depending on whether the transgression against the Lord was known immediately or not realized until some time after.
However, just understand that in verses 14 to 16, we are dealing with those sins against the Lord’s sacred property that the perpetrator committed with FULL AWARENESS of what he was doing.
From verse 17 is when we’ll get into those transgressions that were committed unawares, which is what we’ll talk about a little later.