“If an individual sins by mistake, he is to offer a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. The cohen will make atonement before Adonai for the person who makes a mistake by sinning inadvertently; he will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven — no matter whether he is a citizen of Israel or a foreigner living with them. You are to have one law for whoever it is that does something wrong by mistake.”-Numbers 15:27-29
In Numbers Chapter 15, we’ve been dealing with the sacrifices for congregational sins, in other words, those offenses for which God held the whole community of Israel accountable.
However, from verse 27, the context now switches its focus over to unintentional or inadvertent sins committed by individuals.
For unintentional sins committed by individuals, only a HATA-AT (Purification Offering) in the form of female goat was to be brought to the priest for sacrifice.
It was NOT necessary to offer up an OLAH (Burnt Offering) and the MINCHAH (Grain Offering) as was required for the congregational offering.
Notice also that even the GER (foreigner) was required to offer up the HATA-AT sacrifice for unintentional sins.
However, remember that since the GER only had to obey the negative prohibitions of the Law, compared to the native born Hebrew who had to obey both the negative and the positive commands of the Torah, the probability that the GER would have to offer up a HATA-AT for committing an unintentional sin were much lower compared to the native-born Israelite.
Having said that, if the GER so chose (of his own free will) to observe the positive commandments such as the Biblical Feasts, he was permitted to do so but he had to do it right.
In the GER‘s case, I can imagine that what often happened is that the GER decided to go ahead and observe one of the positive commands of the Torah and since he had not been trained in proper Torah protocol from birth, unwittingly messed up somewhere.
Afterwards, when his Israelite brethren informed him of the unintentional sin he had committed, he then had to go ahead and offer up a HATA-AT (consisting of a female goat).
Let’s move on by taking a look at verses 30-31.
“But an individual who does something wrong intentionally, whether a citizen or a foreigner, is blaspheming Adonai. That person will be cut off from his people. Because he has had contempt for the word of Adonai and has disobeyed his command, that person will be cut off completely; his offense will remain with him.”
In these verses, we are introduced to intentional sins or those high-handed sins for which there was no Levitical sacrifice available that could atone for them.
And again, we see this same law applies equally to both the GER and the native-born.
Since there was no sacrifice that could be made to atone for high-handed sins, the only thing the perpetrator had to look forward to was divine retribution usually expressed in our Bibles as being “cut-off“.
This means being cut off not only from the congregation of Israel but being cut off from God Himself.
This is eternal damnation folks and it’s scary as hell.
The word for “cut-off” in Hebrew is KARET.
Essentially, what KARET comes down to is that the punishment for the high-handed sin was usually administered by God Himself, NOT men.
Unless specifically instructed by God to do so, the guilty individual was not stoned or jailed by other men for intentional sins.
For the most part, God would supernaturally administer the punishment.
What forms of punishment might we be talking about?
One could come down with a fatal disease and die at a very young age.
One might be poverty-stricken all the days of his life.
One might die childless.
During Bible times, this was actually the most feared punishment because according to ancient Hebrew superstition at the time, a man’s soul lived on through his male children.
There are literally a million ways God could exact judgement for a high-handed offense committed against Him.
Probably the worst part of being subjected to KARET was going through life knowing you were cursed, knowing there was no remedy for this curse, and not knowing when exactly you would be punished and not knowing what form the punishment would take.
Next time we meet, we’ll see a chilling example of KARET where God instructed the men of Israel to mete out the punishment for a high-handed Torah offense.