The Trespass Offering Compensation in Christ
Leviticus 5:1-19; 6:1-7; 7:1-7
The trespass offering is the final Levitical sacrifice required of the Israelite. Although it is similar to the sin offering (Lev. 7:7), there are a number of differences. The sin offering deals with sin against God; the trespass offering emphasizes sin against God and man. The sin offering deals with the nature of sin; the trespass offering emphasizes the acts of sin. The sin offering deals with the guilt of the sinner; the trespass offering emphasizes injury against both God and man. The sin offering deals with atonement (expiation of guilt); the trespass offering emphasizes the satisfaction and reparation for the wrong committed.
Some commentators teach that the trespass offering begins in Leviticus 5:14, because the first thirteen verses in chapter five seem to be a continuation of chapter four in reference to the sin offering. This could be since the sin offering is mentioned in verses 6, 7, 9, and 11. However, in this study all of chapter five will be examined in reference to the trespass offering.
The word trespass (Heb. asham) means guilt. It denotes being guilty of infringing or violating the rights of others, whether it be God or man. The classic illustration of trespassing is seen during hunting season. What hunter has not seen the sign on private property that read — “No hunting: trespassers will be prosecuted!”? By crossing over the fence or passing by the sign, one is guilty of violating the property rights of another and could have the force of the law brought against him. So it is with the one who trespasses against God’s law!
The Trespasser’s Sin
The Israelite was to present his trespass offering for sins committed in three areas. There were the sins committed against self (5:1-13). The first sin was concealing the truth (v. 1). In a Jewish court of law, the judge could adjure (summon to testify) individuals under oath concerning evidence they might know in a case being tried. If the person refused to tell what he had seen or heard, withholding vital information, or lied under oath, he was guilty of concealing truth. He was considered to be guilty of trespassing until the proper atonement was made for his sin.
During Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas, the high priest, he adjured Him, “. . . tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered Caiaphas with a prophetic statement concerning His return at the Second Coming (Mt. 26:63-64).
An application can be made to the Christian as well. James states that a believer who “knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17).
The second sin was contamination by touching (vv. 2-3). The Israelite was guilty of contamination by touching a dead animal or man, an unclean leper, or a person with a discharge from his body. This disqualified him for worship even though he might be unconscious of his action. An unclean person was unable to worship before God, because he was an offense to His holiness. Thus sin and trespass offerings were required to purify the worshiper before he could come near the sanctuary in worship.
The third sin was careless talk (v. 4). If the Israelite took an oath which he later forgot or chose not to fulfill, he was guilty of sin. It made no difference whether it was a good or an evil oath; once reminded, it must be kept.
There are many illustrations of this in Scripture: Jephthah’s rash vow of sacrifice to God (Jud. 11:30, 34); Saul’s rash vow concerning eating (1 Sam. 14:24); and Peter’s vow not to deny Christ (Mt. 26:33-34). The believer is to watch his words, for he will be held accountable before God (Mt. 12:36-37).
Before the Israelite could be restored to fellowship with God, confession of sin (v. 5) was necessary. He must admit to the priest any of the sins mentioned above with a penitential attitude and a contrite heart.
The Old Testament is filled with illustrations of true confession and contrition over sin. Two stand out very vividly: David’s sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51:4); and Achan who transgressed by taking the accursed thing (Josh. 7:20-21).
Like Achan, if the believer tries to hide his sin, he not only brings defeat to his own life but also affects those close to him. The Christian is to confess his sin, make restitution, and God will forgive him (1 Jn. 1:9).
Although confession was necessary, it did not remove the guilt of sin. A trespass offering had to be made in order for the guilt to be removed.
Next, there were the sins committed against God (5:14-19). So far in this chapter, Moses has revealed sins that required both a sin and a trespass offering, but here the focus is on sins which require only the trespass offering.
There are two types of transgressions which could be made against holy things. First, a person could sin unintentionally (5:15) by personally using those things dedicated to God, such as tithes (Lev. 27:30; Dt. 14:22), first fruits of the harvest (Ex. 34:26), or first born of cattle and sheep (Dt. 15:19). These gifts were used to maintain both the priests and temple. Second, he could know the commandment but be unaware of breaking it (5:17).
Notice, the sin was committed ignorantly (5:15), either by mistake or forgetfulness, and unknowingly (5:17). No trespass offering was provided to cover presumptuous sins, where the individual rebelled against God’s law deliberately breaking His commandments (Num. 15:30-31; Heb. 10:26-28).
Finally, there were the sins against man (6:1-7). There are five specific areas in which an Israelite could sin against his fellow man. The first sin is distrustfulness, if a man “lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep” (6:2). This could refer to something a neighbor has loaned an individual, left with him to care for while he is gone, or a trust made with a neighbor. The individual could misplace, mistreat, or misappropriate the item and be guilty of trespassing against his fellow man (Ex. 22:7-11). In the New Testament Paul teaches the Christian, “. . . it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
The second sin is dishonesty between partners, by lying “in fellowship” (6:2). This is referring to honesty in social and business dealings such as unscrupulous transactions, intentionally cheating a partner out of his part of the business or profit, or failure to pay one’s obligation whether it be in a business loan or things one charges (Lev. 19:35-36). The believer today is required to “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17), and not to be “slothful in business” (Rom. 12:11).
The third sin is to acquire by despoiling, that is, taking from one’s fellow man “by violence” (6:2). This refers to robbery either directly, through twisting the law to one’s benefit, or by use of one’s prestige, power, or position. The classic illustration is when Ahab took Naboth’s vineyard (1 Ki. 21:1-25). The believer is to have nothing to do with violence or associate with violent people.
The fourth sin is to be guilty of deception. A man is guilty if he has “deceived his neighbor” (6:2), meaning he has gotten something by oppressing him. This is done in a number of ways such as being two-faced, through extortion, or by withholding something rightfully due an individual, like his wages.
The fifth sin is denial of one’s property. If a man has “found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely” (6:3; cp. Ex. 22:11; Dt. 22:2-3). Here is the epitome of covetousness when one tries to beat his neighbor out of something he found or borrowed of his.
Notice, the phrase sin through ignorance is not mentioned in this third section. When the individual sins against his fellow man, it is deliberate. These sins can be summed up in the following proverb: “These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).
Although these five specific sins are against one’s fellow man, they are still sins against God (6:2). Two incidents in Scripture illustrate this: when David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13; cp. Ps. 51:4); and the prodigal son confessed to his father, “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight” (Lk. 15:21). Thus, by sinning against one’s neighbor, it is truly against God.
A Christian cannot have a true walk with God and defraud his neighbor. The true character of a believer is seen in his conduct toward others (Eph. 4:17-32; 5:15-16).
The Trespasser’s Sacrifice
The law required that the Israelite bring his trespass (guilt) offering to the Lord for sins against himself (5:6-13). The type of offering varied depending upon the individual’s wealth. He could bring a female lamb or goat (5:6), but if poverty prevented such an offering, two turtledoves or two young pigeons were acceptable (5:7). Two birds were required since one was offered as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering (5:7; cp. 1:14-17).
The offering of fowl was handled somewhat differently from the animal sacrifices. The offerer was not required to lay hands upon the head of the bird, nor kill it; that was the priest’s ministry. The bird was killed by wringing off its head (5:8). The crop and feathers were removed and cast on the ash heap near the east side of the altar, then the bird was cleaved down the center spreading it open (but not divided) [5:8] in order to remove the insides. Some blood was sprinkled on the altar and the rest wrung out at the bottom for a sin offering (5:9).
If the Israelite were too “poor” and could not afford the very inexpensive offering of two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then, and only then, he could offer a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering. But it must be offered without oil or frankincense showing it lacked the same character of other offerings (5:12).
The oil and frankincense were removed from the meal offering for these reasons. First, it was a poor man’s offering. Oil and frankincense represented costly ingredients which must not be added. Second, it was a sin offering. Oil and frankincense, which represent fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit and prayer, must be omitted from the offering. Third, this is a sin offering and must not be embellished with the taste of oil nor the fragrance of frankincense. The bland flour would impress upon the offerer an aversion toward sin.
In His mercy and grace, God made exceptions even for the poor; poverty was not to prevent the Israelite from receiving pardon for his sin. So it is today! Rich or poor, it makes no difference, all can have their sins pardoned through Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice once offered (Heb. 9:28) as a sin and trespass offering. It was not by silver or gold, but through His precious blood (1 Pet. 3:18) that He has provided reconciliation with God the Father.
The law required that the Israelite bring his trespass (guilt) offering to the Lord for sins against the holy things of the Lord (5:18). Here the trespass offering could only be a “ram without blemish out of the flock” (5:18). The procedure for offering the ram was very similar to that of the sin offering (7:7). The law of the offering is spelled out in Leviticus 7:1-7. The Israelite brought his ram to the court of the tabernacle, laid hands upon its head, confessed his sin over it, presented it to the priest, and then killed it. The priest caught its blood in a bowl and then sprinkled it on the inner sides of the altar (7:2) like that of the burnt and peace offerings. Notice, the blood of the trespass offering is not to be placed on the altar’s horns like that of the sin offering. Most likely the blood was not sprinkled on the horns to differentiate between the expiation provided in the sin offering and the satisfaction accomplished by the trespass offering. The kidneys, fat, and rump (7:3-4) were burned on the altar by the priest for a trespass offering (7:5). What remained of the sacrifice was for the priest and his sons as a provision in the ministry to be eaten in the tabernacle.
The law required that the Israelite bring his trespass (guilt) offering to the Lord for sins against his fellow man (6:6). But there is a change in the order of sacrifice and restitution in the trespass against man. Here the restitution is made to the individual first, then the sacrifice is offered. The reason is clear. When God is sinned against, the sacrifice comes first, since blood must be applied to atone for the sin. But when man is sinned against, restitution must be paid before the offering, for the offender can only be restored to fellowship with God after he has been forgiven of his fellow man (Mt. 5:23-24; 6:15).
Isaiah the prophet presents the Messiah as a trespass offering when he writes, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. When thou shall make his soul an offering for sin . . .” (Isa. 53:10). The word for offering is asham, the same word used in Leviticus 5-6 for trespass offering. In the above verse, Christ became a trespass offering to make restitution by paying the sinner’s debt to a holy God who had been violated. Thus, He provided the required compensation needed to satisfy God so as to reconcile man back to Him.
The ram is a type of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice, dying in the sinner’s place, paying the price and penalty for his sin. There is a twofold description of Christ’s substitutionary ministry in the New Testament. First, Christ came “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). The for means Christ died in the place of, or instead of the sinner. Second, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just, for the unjust, that he might bring us to God . . . ” (1 Pet. 3:18). Here, the for literally means in behalf of or for the benefit of, indicating that Christ suffered and died not only in the sinner’s place, but in his interest.
A beautiful type of Christ’s substitutionary ministry is seen in Abraham offering his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-14). As Abraham raised the dagger to thrust it through Isaac, the angel of the Lord stopped him. Abraham lifted his eyes to see a ram substitute caught in the thicket near the altar, which he then sacrificed as a burnt offering.
The Trespasser’s Satisfaction
Unlike other offerings, the trespass offering required that restitution be paid along with the ram sacrifice for sins against “holy things” (5:15-16), and his “fellow man” (6:5). The priest was to assess the value of the ram which was offered and the offender paid the restitution in silver shekels. The Israelite was required to replace whatever he had withheld from God or man, plus add a fifth of the appraised value (5:16) — that would be twenty cents on every dollar in our economy. The fifth was actually a double tithe paid to the priest or the individual offended. The Israelite could not be free from his sin until he offered the proper animal sacrifice and paid the silver restitution for his transgression. The Lord would then forgive the Israelite of “all that he hath done in trespassing therein” (6:7).
The Christian should make restitution whenever possible, whether it be against God or man. Some need to make restitution for robbing God in their giving, misuse of time, or abuse of a gift. Others need to make restitution for breaking a trust, destroying the good name of or slandering the character of their fellow man.
The testimony of Zacchaeus (Lk. 19) is a splendid illustration of restitution. Before conversion, he was the chief tax collector in Jericho and had become very rich by extorting high taxes from his countrymen for the Romans. But after conversion, Zacchaeus made restitution to those he had cheated without the urging of Jesus. He vowed to give half of his possessions to the poor, and promised to pay back fourfold to those he had extorted (Lk. 19:8). Remember that extortion was a trespass and required restitution of a fifth more (Lev. 6:5). But Zacchaeus considered it theft which required four to fivefold restitution (Ex. 22:1). Zacchaeus proves that when a man’s heart is right with God, he will make the required restitution to God and his fellow man.
I want to ask you a very personal question. While reading this article, did God impress upon you the need to make restitution with someone? Jesus gives very clear instructions on how we are to deal with trespasses against a brother (Mt. 18:15-35). Remember, “. . . if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:15). True blessing can only come when we are in proper fellowship with God and our fellow man.