Leviticus 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Leviticus 4)

Verse 1

[1] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

The Lord spake unto Moses — The laws contained in the three first chapters, seem to have been delivered to Moses at one time. Here begin the laws of another day, which God delivered from between the Cherubim.

Verse 2

[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:

If a soul sin — This must necessarily be understood of more than common daily infirmities; for if every such sin had required an offering, it had not been possible either for most sinners to bear such a charge, or for the altar to receive so many sacrifices, or for the priests to manage so infinite a work. And for ordinary sins, they were ceremonially expiated by the daily offering, and by that on the great day of atonement, Leviticus 16:30.

Through ignorance — Or, error, either not knowing his act to be sinful, as appears by comparing Leviticus 4:13,14, or not considering it, but falling into sin thro' the power of some sudden passion or temptation, as the Hebrew word signifies, Psalms 119:67.

Things which ought not to be done — The words may be rendered, in or about every, or any of the commandments of the Lord which should not be done; or, which concern things that should not be done, namely, in any negative commands. (And there is great reason why a sacrifice should be more necessary for these, than for other sins, because affirmative precepts do not so strictly and constantly bind men as the negative do.) Then he shall offer according to his quality, which is here to be understood out of the following verses.

Verse 3

[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.

If the priest — That is, the high-priest, who only was anointed after the first time. His anointing is mentioned, because he was not compleat high-priest 'till he was anointed.

Do sin — Either in doctrine or practice, which it is here supposed he may do. And this is noted as a character of imperfection in the priesthood of the law, whereby the Israelites were directed to expect another and better high-priest, even one who is holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26.

According to the sin of the people — In the same manner as any of the people do; which implies that God expected more circumspection from him, than from the people. But the words may be rendered, to the sin or guilt of the people, which may be mentioned as an aggrevation of his sin, that by it he commonly brings sin, and guilt, and punishment upon the people, who are infected or scandalized by his example.

A young bullock — The same sacrifice which was offered for all the people, to shew how much his sin was aggravated by his quality.

Sin-offering — Heb. sin, which word is oft taken in that sense.

Verse 4

[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.

On the head — To testify both his acknowledgment of his sin, and faith in God's promise for the expiation of his sins through Christ, whom that sacrifice typified.

Kill the bullock — By one of the priests, whom he should cause to do it.

Verse 5

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

To the tabernacle — Into the tabernacle; which was not required nor allowed in any other sacrifice, possibly to shew the greatness of the high-priest's sin, which needed more than ordinary diligence in him, and favour from God to expiate it.

Verse 6

[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.

Seven times — A number much used in scripture, as a number of perfection; and here prescribed, either to shew that his sins needed more then ordinary purgation, and more exercise of his faith and repentance, both which graces he was obliged to join with that ceremonial rite.

Before the veil — The second veil dividing between the holy of holies, which is generally called the veil of the sanctuary.

Verse 7

[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.

All the blood — All the rest; for part was disposed elsewhere.

Verse 12

[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.

The whole bullock — So no part of this was to be eaten by the priests, as it was in other sin-offerings. The reason is plain, because the offerer might not eat of his own sin-offering, and the priest was the offerer in this case, as also in the sin-offering for the whole congregation below, of which the priest himself was a member.

Shall be carried forth — Not himself, which would have defiled him, but by another whom he shall appoint for that work.

Without the camp — To signify either, 1. The abominable nature of sin, especially in high and holy persons, or when it overspreads a whole people. Or, 2. The removing of the guilt or punishment of that sin from the people. Or, 3. That Christ should suffer without the camp or gate.

Where the ashes are — For the ashes, though at first they were thrown down near the altar, Leviticus 1:16, yet afterwards they, together with the filth of the sacrifices, were carried into a certain place without the camp.

Verse 13

[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;

The whole congregation — The body of the people, or the greater part of them, their rulers concurring with them.

Verse 14

[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.

A bullock — But if the sin of the congregation was only the omission of some ceremonial duty, a kid of the goats was to be offered, Numbers 15:24.

Verse 15

[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.

The elders — Who here acted in the name of all the people, who could not possibly perform this act in their own persons.

Verse 17

[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.

And sprinkle it — It was not to be poured out there, but sprinkled only; for the cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ was sufficiently represented by sprinkling. It was sprinkled seven times: seven is a number of perfection; because God made the world in six days, and rested the seventh. This signified the perfect satisfaction Christ made, and the compleat cleansing of our souls thereby.

Verse 18

[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.

The altar — Of incense: Which is before the Lord - That is, before the holy of holies, where the Lord was in a more special manner present.

Verse 20

[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.

For a sin-offering — That is, for the priest's sin-offering, called the first bullock, Leviticus 4:21.

Verse 24

[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.

The burnt-offering — So called by way of eminency, to wit, the daily burnt-offering.

It is a sin-offering — And therefore to be killed where the burnt-offering is killed; whereby it is distinguished from the peace-offering, which were killed elsewhere.

Verse 26

[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.

It shall be forgiven — Both judicially, as to all ecclesiastical censures or civil punishment; and really, upon condition of repentance and faith in the Messiah to come.

Verse 28

[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.

A female — Which here was sufficient, because the sin of one of those was less than the sin of the ruler, for whom a male was required.

Verse 33

[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.

He shall slay it — Not by himself, but by the hands of the priest.

Verse 35

[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.

Burn them — The fat; but he useth the plural number, because the fat was of several kinds, as we saw Leviticus 4:8,9, Heb. upon the offerings, together with them, or after them; because the burnt-offerings were to have the first place.