Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Leviticus Ch.4 / 27 Ch.s


* 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)

#1-12 Burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and peace-offerings, had
been offered before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai; and
in these the patriarchs had respect to sin, to make atonement
for it. But the Jews were now put into a way of making atonement
for sin, more particularly by sacrifice, as a shadow of good
things to come; yet the substance is Christ, and that one
offering of himself, by which he put away sin. The sins for
which the sin-offerings were appointed are supposed to be open
acts. They are supposed to be sins of commission, things which
ought not to have been done. Omissions are sins, and must come
into judgment: yet what had been omitted at one time, might be
done at another; but a sin committed was past recall. They are
supposed to be sins committed through ignorance. The law begins
with the case of the anointed priest. It is evident that God
never had any infallible priest in his church upon earth, when
even the high priest was liable to fall into sins of ignorance.
All pretensions to act without error are sure marks of
Antichrist. The beast was to be carried without the camp, and
there burned to ashes. This was a sign of the duty of
repentance, which is the putting away sin as a detestable thing,
which our soul hates. The sin-offering is called sin. What they
did to that, we must do to our sins; the body of sin must be
destroyed, #Ro 6:6|. The apostle applies the carrying this
sacrifice without the camp to Christ, #Heb 13:11-13|.

#13-21 If the leaders of the people, through mistake, caused
them to err, an offering must be brought, that wrath might not
come upon the whole congregation. When sacrifices were offered,
the persons, on whose behalf they were devoted, were to lay
their hands on the heads of the victims, and to confess their
sins. The elders were to do so, when the sacrifices were offered
for the whole congregation. The load of sin was supposed then to
be borne by the guiltless animal. When the offering is
completed, it is said, atonement is made, and the sin shall be
forgiven. The saving of churches and kingdoms from ruin, is
owing to the satisfaction and mediation of Christ.

#22-26 Those who have power to call others to account, are
themselves accountable to the Ruler of rulers. The sin of the
ruler, committed through ignorance, must come to his knowledge,
either by the check of his own conscience, or by the reproof of
his friends; both which even the best and greatest, not only
should submit to, but be thankful for. That which I see not,
teach thou me, and, Show me wherein I have erred, are prayers we
should put up to God every day; that if, through ignorance, we
fall into sin, we may not through ignorance abide in it.

#27-35 Here is the law of the sin-offering for a common person.
To be able to plead, when charged with sin, that we did it
ignorantly, and through the surprise of temptation, will not
bring us off, if we have no interest in that great plea, Christ
hath died. The sins of ignorance committed by a common person,
needed a sacrifice; the greatest are not above, the meanest are
not below Divine justice. None, if offenders, were overlooked.
Here rich and poor meet together; they are alike sinners, and
welcome to Christ. From all these laws concerning the
sin-offerings, we may learn to hate sin, and to watch against
it; and to value Christ, the great and true Sin-offering, whose
blood cleanses from all sin, which it was not possible that the
blood of bulls and of goats should take away. For us to err,
with the Bible in our hands, is the effect of pride, sloth, and
carelessness. We need to use frequent self-examination, with
serious study of the Scriptures, and earnest prayer for the
convincing influences of God the Holy Spirit; that we may detect
our sins of ignorance, repent, and obtain forgiveness through
the blood of Christ.