Day 9: Trespass offering.
‘‘And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekels of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering…’’ Lev. 5:14-15
Additional reading: Exo. 30: 13; Lev. 4:2; 22:14 – 16; 27: 25; Num. 5:5 – 8; Ezra 10:19
Is it possible for someone to commit trespass against the LORD? What about my neighbour? How then does one commit trespass, and if one does what are the remedies? But before this, what is trespass?
The bible says as instructed by God: ‘‘…If a soul commit [ma al … a primitive root; properly to cover up; used only figuratively to act covertly, i.e. treacherously: – transgress, trespass, commit trespass, do a trespass, trespassing] a trespass [ma al … treachery, i.e. sin: – falsehood, grievously, sore, transgression, trespass, very], and sin through ignorance [segaga … a mistake or inadvertent transgression:- error, go, astray, sin ignorantly], in the holy things of the LORD…’’
To commit here means to cover up, but figuratively, it means to act covertly, i.e. treacherously. Interestingly, the word trespass as we have seen also means treachery. Commit and treachery are no doubt from the same root word ma al (Hebrew). To act covertly means to do something in the secret. While treachery itself means a disloyal action or behaviour that shows that one is not loyal to a person who trusts him. To sin in ignorance here simply means to make a mistake through our actions or act inadvertently — to do something without realising what one has done — a mistake you would say.
The second part of the statement says: ‘‘… in the holy things of the LORD…’’ So, in the holy things [qodes … a sacred place or thing; rarely abstract sanctity:- consecrated, consecrated thing, dedicated, dedicated thing, hallowed, hallowed thing, holiness, holy, most holy, holy day, holy portion, holy thing, most holy thing, saint, sanctuary] of the LORD…’’
Therefore, to commit a trespass and sin through ignorance in the holy things of the LORD would mean to do something — act in a disloyal way or express a behaviour that shows that one is disloyal to God but without realising that what one did was wrong. In the holy things of the LORD implies the abuse of Sanctuary (dedicated or holy) items used in the service of the LORD and embezzlement of tithes, offerings, first fruits and other hallowed things brought before the LORD.
Read this: ‘‘If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unwittingly in the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring his trespass or guilt offerings to the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued by you in shekels of silver, that is, the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass or guilt offering.’’ (AMP). ‘‘When a person betrays his trust and unknowingly sins by straying against any of the holy things of GOD, he is to bring as his penalty to GOD a ram without any defect from the flock, the value of the ram assessed in shekels, according to the Sanctuary shekels for a Compensation – Offering.’’ (MSG). ‘‘The LORD told Moses what the people must do to make things right when they find out they have cheated the LORD without meaning to: If this happens, you must either sacrifice a ram that has nothing wrong with it or else pay the price of a ram with the official money used by the priests.’’ (CEV). ‘‘if any of you sin unintentionally by failing to hand over the payments that are sacred to the LORD…’’ (GNB).
In order to atone for his sins, the offender was expected to bring a ram without defect before the priest. This was called the Compensation offering. He was also expected to make a restitution of 20 per cent in addition to the ram he was bringing before the priest. ‘‘Anyone else who accidentally does so, must pay for the food plus a fine of twenty percent. I warn you not to treat lightly the offerings that are brought by the people of Israel. Don’t let them become guilty of eating this sacred food. Remember — I am the LORD, the one who makes these offerings holy.’’ (Lev. 22: 14 – 16 CEV).’’ Again, ‘‘In addition, you must pay what you owe plus a fine of twenty percent. Then the priest will offer the ram as a sacrifice to make things right, and you will be forgiven.’’ (CEV).
Trespass offering was also required whenever a Jew offended a fellow Jew through an unacceptable behaviour. This was instituted to regulate the right kind of relationship built on trust, love and fear of the LORD amongst the Jews in camp. It constantly reminded them of God’s command to love their neighbours as they loved themselves. ‘‘When anyone sins by betraying trust with GOD by deceiving his neighbour regarding something entrusted to him, or by robbing or cheating or threatening him; or if he has found something lost and lies about it and swears falsely regarding any of these sins that people commonly commit… (Lev. 6:2 – 3 MSG). It was to check lies, deceit, stealing, theft and robbery, conversion of neighbours’ property and other fraudulent habits amongst God’s people. No one was to bear false witness against another, no one was to covert a neighbour’s good kept in his care, no one was defraud another in business, no one was to rob, steal or threaten a fellow.
This was considered a great sin not just against the immediate neighbour who was the victim, but against God Himself: ‘‘When anyone sins by betraying trust with GOD by deceiving his neighbour…’’ Also, ‘‘An offering is to be made if any of you sin against the LORD by refusing to return what another Israelite has left as a deposit or by stealing something from him or by cheating him.’’ (GNB). And another: ‘‘The LORD told Moses what the people must do when they commit other sins against the LORD: You have sinned if you robbed or cheat someone, if you keep back money or valuables left in your care, or if you find something and claim not to have it.’’ (CEV).
How did one sin against God by breaking the above law? Very simple; God is the Creator of all; therefore, any sin against anyone created in His image was considered a sin against God Himself. It could only be forgiven through restitution and atonement: ‘‘When this happens, you must return what doesn’t belong to you and pay the owner a fine of twenty percent. In addition, you must either bring to the priest a ram that has nothing wrong with it or else pay him for one. Then the priest will then offer it as a sacrifice to make things right and you will be forgiven for what you did wrong.’’ (Lev. 6: 4 – 6 CEV). So, it was a taboo for a Jew to defraud his brother in whatever form. It was a sin against God, which could only be forgiven through atonement and restitution.
In summary, then, the trespass offering compensated for injured parties. The death of Jesus Christ abolished the consequences of sin.
Meditation: How do I handle the holy things (tithes, offerings, etc) of the LORD? How often do I offend God by depriving my brother or sister of their rights? Can I be trusted with other people’s property?
Prayer: Let me be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit to love my neighbour as I love myself. And by loving my neighbour, I pray that I may see You.