Leviticus 5 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Leviticus 5)

Verse 1

[1] And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.

And hear — And for that is, as that particle is often used. For this declares in particular what the sin was. Or, namely, that of cursing, or blasphemy, or execration, as the word commonly signifies, and that either against one's neighbour, or against God. This may seem to be principally intended here, because the crime spoken of is of so high a nature, that he who heard it, was obliged to reveal it, and prosecute the guilty.

He hath seen — Been present when it was said.

Or known — By sufficient information from others.

His iniquity — That is, the punishment of it; so that word is oft used, as Genesis 19:15; Numbers 18:1.

Verse 2

[2] Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.

If it be hidden from him — If he do it unawares, yet that would not excuse him, because he should have been more circumspect to avoid all unclean things. Hereby God designed to awaken men to watchfulness against, and repentance for, their unknown, or unobserved sins.

He shall be clean — Not morally, for the conscience was not directly polluted by these things, but ceremonially.

Verse 3

[3] Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.

When he knoweth — As soon as he knoweth it, he must not delay to make his peace with God.

Otherwise he shall be guilty — For his violation and contempt of God's authority and command.

Verse 4

[4] Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.

If a soul swear — Rashly, without consideration either of God's law, or his own power or right, as David did, 1 Samuel 25:22.

To do evil — To himself, to punish himself either in his body, or estate, or something else which is dear to him. Or rather to his neighbour.

And it be hid from him — That is, he did not know, or not consider, that what he swore to do, was or would be impossible, or unlawful: When he discovers it to be so, either by his own consideration, or by information from others, whether it was good or evil which he swore to do.

Verse 5

[5] And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:

In one of these things — In one of the three forementioned cases, either by sinful silence, or by an unclean touch, or by rash swearing.

He shall confess — Before the Lord in the place of public worship. And this confession is not to be restrained to the present case, but by a parity of reason, and comparing of other scriptures, to be extended to other sacrifices for sin, to which this was a constant companion.

Verse 6

[6] And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.

His trespass-offering — But how comes confession and a sacrifice to be necessary for him that touched an unclean thing, when such persons were cleansed with simple washing, as appears from Leviticus 11:25,28,32,40,43, and Numbers 19:7,8,10,19? This place speaks of him that being so unclean did come into the tabernacle, as may be gathered by comparing this place with Numbers 19:13, which if any man did, knowing himself to be unclean, which was the case there, he was to be cut off for it; and if he did it ignorantly, which is the case here, he was upon discovery of it to offer this sacrifice.

Verse 7

[7] And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.

Not able — Through poverty. And this exception was allowed also in other sin-offerings.

For a sin-offering — Which was for that particular sin, and therefore offered first: before the burnt-offering, which was for sins in general; to teach us not to rest in general confessions and repentance, but distinctly and particularly, as far as we can, to search out, and confess, and loath, and leave our particular sins, without which God will not accept our other religious services.

Verse 9

[9] And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.

It is a sin-offering — This is added as the reason why its blood was so sprinkled and spilt.

Verse 10

[10] And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.

According to the manner — Or order appointed by God.

The priest shall make an atonement — Either declaratively, he shall pronounce him to be pardoned; or typically, with respect to Christ.

Verse 11

[11] But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.

The tenth part of an ephah — About six pints.

He shall put no oil, neither frankincense — Either to distinguish these from the meal-offerings, Leviticus 2:1, or as a fit expression of their sorrow for their sins, in the sense whereof they were to abstain from things pleasant; or to signify that by his sins he deserved to be utterly deprived both of the oil of gladness, the gifts, graces and comforts of the Holy Ghost; and of God's gracious acceptance of his prayers and sacrifices, which is signified by incense, Psalms 141:2.

Verse 13

[13] And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.

As a meal offering — As it was in the meal-offering, where all, except one handful, fell to the share of the priests. And this is the rather mentioned here, because in the foregoing sacrifices, Leviticus 4:3, etc. Leviticus 4:13, etc. the priest had no part reserved for him.

Verse 15

[15] 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 shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering:

A trespass — Against the Lord and his priests.

Through ignorance — For if a man did it knowingly, he was to be cut off, Numbers 15:30.

In the holy things — In things consecrated to God, and to holy uses; such as tithes and first-fruits, or any things due, or devoted to God, which possibly a man might either with-hold, or employ to some common use.

A ram — A more chargeable sacrifice than the former, as the sin of sacrilege was greater.

With thy estimation — As thou shalt esteem or rate it, thou, O priest; and at present, thou, O Moses, for he as yet performed the priest's part. And this was an additional charge and punishment to him; besides the ram, he was to pay for the holy thing which he had with-held or abused, so many shekels of silver as the priest should esteem proportionable to it.

Verse 17

[17] And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.

The former law concerns the alienation of holy things from sacred to common use; this may concern other miscarriages about holy things, and holy duties, as may be gathered from Leviticus 5:19, where this is said to be a trespass against the Lord, not in a general sense, for so every sin was; but in a proper and peculiar sense.