King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Leviticus 4

The sin-offering of ignorance for the priest. (1-12) For the whole congregation. (13-21) For a ruler. (22-26) For any of the people. (27-35)

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The sin-offering of ignorance for the priest

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:

3 If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.

4 And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the LORD.

5 And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:

6 And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, before the vail of the sanctuary.

7 And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

8 And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,

9 And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,

10 As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.

11 And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,

12 Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.

For the whole congregation

13 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 the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;

14 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.

15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.

16 And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:

17 And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the vail.

18 And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

19 And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.

20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

21 And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.

For a ruler

22 When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;

23 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:

24 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.

25 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.

26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.

For any of the people

27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;

28 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.

29 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.

30 And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.

31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.

32 And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.

33 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.

34 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:

35 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Ignorance. To be ignorant of what we are bound to know is sinful: and for such culpable ignorance, these sacrifices, prescribed in this and the following chapter, were appointed. Ch. — Not to be done. Hence the Rabbins admit sins of ignorance, only against the negative precepts. But when God forbids one thing, he commands the contrary; and we may sin by ignorance against any of his ordinances. If the ignorance be voluntary, it enhances the crime; and Aristotle well observes that drunkards, who do an injury, are to be doubly punished, because their fault is voluntary in its cause, (ad Nicom. iii. 7). But if the ignorance were perfectly involuntary, and inculpable, no sacrifice was required; so that God here speaks only of that sort of ignorance which involved some degree of negligence. This fault could not be forgiven without interior good dispositions. The sacrifice only reached to the cleansing of the flesh, (Heb. ix. 13,) or to screen the culprit from the severity of the law and of the magistrates; (C.) though they might help the inward dispositions of the heart, and thus contribute to obtain God’s pardon. Orig. S. Aug. q. 20. The difference between peccatum and delictum, is not perfectly ascertained. Some think the former word denotes sins of malice, and the latter those of ignorance. Tirinus maintains the contrary, as a more costly sacrifice, he says, is required for the latter. H.

Ver. 3. Anointed. That is, “the high priest.” Sept. Inferior priests were not anointed, except the sons of Aaron, at the beginning. C. — Ignorance in such a one is greatly to be avoided, as it tends to scandalize the people. H. — The same ceremonies are prescribed, as on the day of expiation; only the priest did not enter the most holy place. — Offend, in some smaller matter. If he engaged his brethren in the crime of idolatry, he should die. Deut. xiii. 15. C. — Before the solemn unction, he might be expiated, like one of the princes. M.

Ver. 3. Calf. Heb. par, does not specify the age. C.

Ver. 5. The blood. As the figure of the blood of Christ shed for the remission of our sins; and carried by him into the sanctuary of heaven.

Ver. 6. Seven. A number consecrated in Scripture, (C.) and not superstitious. W. — Apuleius (Met. xi.) mentions it. Septies submerso fluctibus capite. C. — Sanctuary, or most holy place. M.

Ver. 12. Ashes of the victims. They were first laid beside the altar of holocausts. By this ceremony, the priest begged that his sins might be removed from the sight of God, (M.) by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, who suffered out of the gate of Jerusalem. Heb. xiii. 13. The high priest was obliged to offer this sacrifice himself, to expiate his own sin, as well as that of the people. Heb. ix. 7.

Ver. 13. Multitude assembled. Sept. add, “be involuntarily ignorant, and no one of the congregation perceive the truth, (or word,) and shall transgress, by commission or omission, one of all the precepts of the Lord.” Such was the offence of Saul and the people. 1 K. xiv. 33. On these occasions, the elders were to put their hands on the victim, to acknowledge the general offence, if it were not of too heinous a nature to be expiated by sacrifice. See Deut. xiii. 12.

Ver. 22. A prince. King, magistrate, general, chief of a tribe, or great family; in a word, one elevated above the rest (Nasi); as appears, Num. i. 4. vii. 2.

Ver. 24. He. Sam. and Sept. read, “they shall have,” referring it to the priests.

Ver. 26. Him. Moses does not here specify what was to be done with the flesh. But (C. vi. 26,) he commands it to be given to the priests. C. — In the sacrifices for the sins of the multitude, or of the priest, all was consumed; to express a greater detestation of such offences, (T.) and that the priests might derive no benefit from them. Theod. q. 3. S. Tho. i. 2. q. 102. a. 3. W. — Those who offered these victims received no part of them again, nor were oil or incense used; as all delicacies must be rejected by penitents. T.

Ver. 27. The land. A rustic or plebeian. M. — The offences of such might be expiated by the sacrifice of a goat, ewe, lamb, ram, two pigeons, or flour. C. v. 7. xi. 15. C.

Ver. 29. Of, &c. One Heb. MS. the Sept. and Syriac read, “in the place in which he shall slay the holocaust.” The Sam. has they slay, both here and v. 24. and 33, which seems the truer reading. Kennicott.

Ver. 35. For a. Heb. may be “according to, like (H.) upon, besides, after the holocausts.” C. See C. iii. 5.