Sin offering. The sin offering among the Jews was the sacrifice in which the ideas of propitiation and of atonement for sin were most distinctly marked. The ceremonial of the sin offering is described in Lev. 4 and 6. The trespass offering is closely connected with the sin offering in Leviticus, but at the same time clearly distinguished from it, being in some cases offered with it as a distinct part of the same sacrifice; as, for example, in the cleansing of the leper. Lev. 14. The distinction of ceremonial clearly indicates a difference in the idea of the two sacrifices. The nature of that difference is still a subject of great controversy. We find that the sin offerings were—
1. Regular. (a) For the whole people, at the New Moon, Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets and Feast of Tabernacles, Num. 28:15–29:38; besides the solemn offering of the two goats on the Great Day of Atonement. Lev. 16. (b) For the priests and Levites at their consecration, Ex. 29:10–14, 36; besides the yearly sin offering (a bullock) for the high priest on the Great Day of Atonement. Lev. 16. 2. Special. For any sin of “ignorance” and the like, recorded in Lev. 4 and 5. It is seen that in the law most of the sins which are not purely ceremonial are called sins of “ignorance,” see Heb. 9:7; and in Num. 15:30 it is expressly said that while such sins can be atoned for by offerings, “the soul that doeth aught presumptuously” (Heb. with a high hand) “shall be cut off from among his people.” … “His inquity shall be upon him.” Comp. Heb. 10:26. But here are sufficient indications that the sins here called “of ignorance” are more strictly those of “negligence” or “frailty,” repented of by the unpunished offender, as opposed to those of deliberate and unrepentant sin. It is clear that the two classes of sacrifices, although distinct, touch closely upon each other. It is also evident that the sin offering was the only regular and general recognition of sin in the abstract, and accordingly was far more solemn and symbolical in its ceremonial; the trespass offering was confined to special cases, most of which related to the doing of some material damage, either to the holy things or to man. Josephus declares that the sin offering is presented by those “who fall into sin in ignorance,” and the trespass offering by “one who has sinned and is conscious of his sin, but has no one to convict him thereof.” Without attempting to decide so difficult and so controverted a question, we may draw the following conclusions: First, that the sin offering was far the more solemn and comprehensive of the two sacrifices. Secondly, that the sin offering looked more to the guilt of the sin done, irrespective of its consequences, while the trespass offering looked to the evil consequences of sin, either against the service of God or against man, and to the duty of atonement, as far as atonement was possible. Thirdly, that in the sin offering especially we find symbolized the acknowledgment of sinfulness as inherent in man, and of the need of expiation by sacrifice to renew the broken covenant between man and God. In considering this subject, it must be remembered that the sacrifices of the law had a temporal as well as a spiritual significance and effect. They restored an offender to his place in the commonwealth of Israel; they were therefore an atonement to the King of Israel for the infringement of his law.