“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who … offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13,14).
by Tom Ruggirello
In studying the sacrifices offered in Israel’s tabernacle, the student can be easily overwhelmed by the many occasions calling for different offerings. Sometimes it is helpful to step back to get a broad view of the various
kinds of sacrifices. With that in mind, a chart is included in this issue as a color insert. The two-sided chart displays the four types of offerings
(printed in green) and a comparative study of Leviticus 8, 9, and 16 (printed in blue).
Due to a lack of space, the four types of offerings are not specifically addressed in this issue. The comparative study of Leviticus 8, 9, and 16 is addressed in the following article. This article will focus on the various uses of sin offerings and their antitypical meanings.
Six Sin Offering Categories
Sin offerings are divided into six divisions (see the green chart for each division). The last division, described as “trespass offerings,” is subdivided, depending on the severity of sin. Sin offerings were never described as sweet-smelling aromas to God. This indicates He takes no
pleasure in sin or the need for its atonement. Only the kidneys, liver, and fat were burned on the Brazen Altar. The two organs were for purification, showing that the offering was for the purification of sin. The rapidly burning fat illustrates a consuming zeal.
It is helpful to note two things when seeking antitypical applications: whose sins were being addressed, and what was done with the blood. For example, when a priest laid his hands on the head of a sin offering, he was indicating
the sacrifice was for himself. Antitypically this relates to the Gospel Age Church, the spiritual priesthood (see 1 Peter 2:5,9). When the blood was brought into the Holy or Most Holy, a Gospel Age application can also be expected.
When a ruler or an individual Israelite brought a sin offering, they placed their hands on the head of the animal and the blood always remained in the Court. This suggests a kingdom application.1 This will be discussed in greater detail as this examination progresses. An apparent exception to these general rules was during the Consecration of the Priesthood ceremony (Leviticus 8) and on the 8th Day ceremony (Leviticus 9). These exceptions are addressed later.
(1) These offerings are examined in Chapter VI of Tabernacle Shadows, “Sacrifices Subsequent to the Day of Atonement.”
Atonement Day Sin Offering
A common area of study among Bible Students is the Atonement Day sin offerings found in Leviticus 16. This ceremony was unique. It differed from other sin offerings in that the blood of the bullock and Lord’s goat were not only sprinkled in the court but also taken into the Holy and Most Holy. No other blood was taken into the Most Holy. The sin offering sacrifice was in two parts. The bullock atoned for the sins of Aaron and his house, while the goat atoned for the sins of the people of Israel.
When describing the blood being sprinkled on the horns of the Incense Altar in the Holy, one important word is in the plural. “And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it (the Incense Altar) once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements” (Exodus 30:10). The word “atonements” is plural. Bro. Anton Frey describes the reason for this. “The blood of the goat was evidently caught in the same basin as had been the bullock’s, or at least the two bloods were mixed, to make up that which was designated “the blood of atonements” … i.e. the (co-mingled) blood of the bullock and the goat, which blood was then to accomplish the “reconciliation” of God’s sanctuary and court.”2
The plural indicates that the Atonement Day offerings were for more than one class. The bullock atoned for the priesthood (Leviticus 16:6,11), while the Lord’s goat was for the people (Leviticus 16:15). We see the same double application when we examine the antitype. The atonement work provides the satisfaction of justice first for the Church and Great Company during the Gospel Age, pictured by Aaron and his house. Atonement will then be applied on behalf of the world of mankind in the kingdom, pictured by the nation of Israel.
The Atonement Day blood was first sprinkled on and before the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy (16:14,15), then placed on the horns of the Incense Altar in the Holy (Exodus 30:10), and finally on the horns of the Brazen Altar in the Court (Leviticus 16:18). This sprinkling of blood in all three areas of the tabernacle indicates a dual age application. Putting blood on the Incense Altar indicated that the atoning blood would make the prayers and praise of the saints acceptable to God (Revelation 8:3). Offerings in the court, made in either age, are likewise acceptable because of the atonement.
The Apostle Paul makes a clear reference to the two Atonement Day sin offering animals. “For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us, therefore, go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:11-13). This reference to the Atonement Day animals illustrates how the larger work of atonement will be to reconcile mankind to God. The sin offerings of Leviticus 8, 9, and 16 are considered in the following article.
Sin Offering for Personal Sins of a Priest — Leviticus 4:3-12
“If the anointed priest shall sin … then let him offer … a young bullock without blemish unto Jehovah for a sin offering” (Leviticus 4:3).
When an individual priest committed an unintentional sin, he was to bring a sin offering. In this case, a bullock was required. He would lay his hands on its head and kill it. Its blood was then taken into the Holy and sprinkled seven times toward the Second Veil, then put on the horns of the Incense Altar. The remainder was poured out at the base of the Brazen Altar (Leviticus 4:6,7).
Two things reveal the meaning of this offering: it was for the sins of a priest, and blood was brought into the Holy. Both indicate a Gospel
Age picture. It also indicates that the priesthood is comprised of more than our Lord, who was sinless. In describing the sins of the church, the Apostle John wrote, “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1, 2).
“The fact that, for the typical priest, the sacrifice was a bullock (Leviticus 4:3) seems to say that these antitypical >priests’ of the Gospel Age would have a greater responsibility because of a far deeper comprehension and understanding of God’s will than any others.”3
(2) Anton Fry, Notes on the Tabernacle, page 610.
(3) Anton Fry, Notes on the Tabernacle, page 422.
Sprinkling the blood of the bullock toward the Second Veil is a recognition that the merit of Jesus, previously offered and pictured by the Atonement Day bullock, covers the sins of the Church. Being sprinkled seven times toward the Second Veil indicates that atonement will be available for each of the seven stages of the Gospel Age. Prayers continue to be heard, and sacrifices continue to be accepted throughout the age. When a sinning priest followed this procedure, it demonstrated a sincere and repentant heart. This provides a meaningful lesson whenever we sin. We must recognize the power of our Lord’s atonement and humbly repent, even from unintentional sins. This prescribed course will have a cleansing effect upon our hearts and lives.
Sin Offerings for Sins of the Congregation — Leviticus 4:13-21
“And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of Jehovah concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the
sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before Jehovah: and the bullock shall be killed before Jehovah” (Leviticus 4:13-15)
Bro. Anton Frey suggests a Millennial Age application to this. “It may be that the type was intended to show that during the Millennial Age, not only will the people — the whole world of mankind, then the antitypical Israel
— be individually responsible for their sins, but sometimes collectively as well!”4 He then cites the example of Israel suffering retributive atonement for the sin of Achan (See Joshua 7:1-5,17-19).
However, the blood of this sin offering was treated the same as for the sins of a priest. Like the priest’s offering, the sin offering for the congregation was also a bullock. The blood was taken into the Holy, sprinkled seven times toward the Second Veil, placed on the horns of the Incense Altar, and the remainder was poured at the base of the Brazen Altar. The only difference between this and the sin offering for the priests is that for the congregation, the elders placed their hands on the head of the bullock. This may suggest that the symbolism pertains to sins of Gospel Age congregations. An example of this may be the situation presented in 1 Corinthians 5.
If this is the correct application, it indicates that we can commit unintentional sins as a congregation. Notice these are sins committed
“through ignorance.” When the congregation becomes aware of their sin, they are then required to take action, with the elders playing a key role. This shows that ignorance does not justify sin, but God does take ignorance into consideration. A meaningful lesson we can glean is that we each have an individual responsibility to God. We cannot “follow the
crowd,” even when a crowd is a group of consecrated believers. If our conscience is properly educated, we will be able to make proper and
righteous decisions, even when feeling the peer pressure of a larger group.
Sin Offerings for Sins of a Prince — Leviticus 4:22-26
“When a ruler [H5387, or prince] hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of Jehovah his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty; Or if his sin, wherein he
hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish” (Leviticus 4:22,23).
Shortly after leaving Egypt, God commanded Moses to number the people and appoint leaders of each tribe (see Numbers 1:4-16).
“These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel” (Numbers 1:16). A special sin offering was prescribed when one of these “princes” committed a sin of ignorance. He was to offer a male goat. This is the first offering we have seen where the blood remained entirely in the Court. The blood was placed on the horns of the Brazen Altar and the remainder was poured at its base. Another distinction was that the priest ate a portion of the offering.
Following our general guidelines (i.e., who was the offering for and what was done with the blood?) would make this a kingdom picture. From Psalms 45:16, the term “princes” clearly applies to the Ancient Worthies. Although proven faithful and given a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35), this sin offering suggests they will not yet have reached the perfection of character. Even they will have much to learn, as this offering was for sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4:22, see R5073-4).
Following the general law of sin offerings, the priests were to eat a portion of the offering of both the princes and the individual Israelites (Leviticus 6:26,29, 7:7). Unlike the Atonement Day offerings that were presented to God, these offerings were presented to the priests, and for their edification. This shows the vital role the antitypical priesthood will play in raising up mankind. By presenting their offering to the priest, rather than directly to God, the role of the Mediator is being depicted.
Offering sustenance to the priesthood reveals part of the reward the antitypical priesthood will receive. Every sacrifice and self-denial
which our Lord and the saints will have made will be rewarded in seeing humanity lifted to human perfection. That is the recompense of their office, a sort of spiritual sustenance.
Sin Offerings for Individual Israelites — Leviticus 4:27-35
“And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of Jehovah concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned” (Leviticus 4:27,28).
The daily activities of the Israelites sometimes led to violating a commandment in ignorance. When this was made known the individual was required to bring an offering. Like the prince’s offering before, the individual, in cooperation with the priest, slew the animal at the Brazen
Altar while the priest has dealt with the blood. The blood remained in the Court, placed on the horns of the Altar, and poured at its base.
A similar lesson described in the sin offering of the prince is seen here. However, the prince was required to bring a male goat (Leviticus 4:23). But for the same type of sin, the common people were permitted to bring a female lamb or female goat (Leviticus 4:28,32). A female offering was considered a lesser offering than a male. How appropriate for God to
require greater accountability from those with greater knowledge and privilege. The prince had greater accountability than the common
Israelite. The priest, who brought a bullock, had even greater accountability than the prince. This was described by Jesus when he said, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48).
The kingdom sin offerings of mankind will not mean the Atonement Day sin offerings were inadequate to atone for sin. Rather, they indicate that every individual will be personally involved in erasing the negative effects of sin in one’s own heart. This individual responsibility is described in Acts 3:22. “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (see also Jeremiah 31:30).
Trespass Offerings — Leviticus 5:1-19, 6:1-7, 7:1-7
This category dealt with varying degrees of sin. It began with the lesser trespass of keeping silent when witnessing sin, inadvertent contact with uncleanness, or forgetting to keep an oath (Leviticus 5:1-4). For these, a female lamb or goat was required. However, if the individual was unable to bring a lamb or goat, two turtledoves or young pigeons, or even an ephah of fine flour (verse 11) was acceptable. Along with the offering, a personal confession was required (verse 5). How loving for God to consider the varying abilities of each individual. His primary interest is the sinner’s heart condition. This is reflected in the words of Proverbs 23:26. “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Requiring a confession of sin implies recognition of one’s failure, even in lesser cases. This is and will be, a healthy and necessary exercise in self-examination.
Two additional categories of trespass offerings were specified for more severe infractions and required the greater offering of a ram. The word translated “trespass” in Leviticus 5:15 is not the same word as in verses 1-4 where lesser sins are described. In verse 15, it means “treachery” or “grievously sore” (H4604). These were serious wrongs done against God (verses 14-19) or against one’s neighbor (6:1-7).
The same word (H4604) is used when describing Israel’s disobedience and breaking their covenant with God (see Leviticus 26:40). This word reveals how highly God values a covenant and commitments made to Him (see
Ecclesiastes 5:4). With these types of sin, the priest would determine the amount of payment to be made “after the shekel of the sanctuary”
(Leviticus 5:15). This illustrates that the judgments of the kingdom will be according to a divine standard conveyed by the sanctuary class. This is in marked contrast to man’s imperfect ability to judge right and wrong. In the kingdom, no such shortcoming will be evident. All judgments will be true and righteous.
After the priest determined a specific amount to be paid, an additional 20 percent was added (Leviticus 5:15,16). This trespass focuses on one’s ability or inability to remain faithful to a covenant relationship. That is why it is more grievous than others. A fundamental principle being expressed here is the importance of remaining faithful to a commitment. It is an important principle in this age and will certainly be part of the kingdom lessons that mankind will need to learn.
Unlike the sin offerings on the Atonement Day which were presented to God, these trespass offerings were given to the priests. This once again illustrates the role of Jesus and the Church whose work with the world will assist them in their walk up the Highway of Holiness.
The other part of the trespass offering was for sins against a neighbor. These are stipulated as intentional sins of stealing through violent acts, intentional deceptions, or swearing falsely (Leviticus 6:2-4). These again required the sacrifice of ram but, in addition, included full restitution for what was stolen, as well as an additional 20 percent. This category of sin is first described as a trespass against Jehovah (Leviticus 6:2), and then against the individual.
What Sin Offerings Reveal
Every sin, no matter how minor or grievous, is first a sin against God. He established the standard for what is righteous and pure. His love and wisdom dictate the approach of holding willful and egregious sins more accountable than sins of ignorance. This is something every believer should appreciate. One can only imagine the resulting chaos if God did not hold the standards He does. Therefore, although the penalties for sin have been difficult, there was no better long-term approach for the education of our race. We must understand and appreciate the unwavering righteousness of God.
As will be seen in the following articles, the Atonement Day sin offerings lay the groundwork for the eventual reconciliation of the world with God. When mankind realizes the blessing of a vital relationship with God, they will bring their heartfelt offerings and seek peace with Him. In these, God will take special delight!