I began this series a short while ago, and I will conclude it today with this post. I mentioned at the beginning that there was a single exception to the general rule that ‘without blood there was no atonement.’ This exception applies only to the one who is too poor to afford two turtledoves as his sin offering, but as we shall see, even it is no real exception at all! Some have supposed that because Leviticus 5:11-13 allows a sin offering without blood, it then makes Jesus unnecessary as the Blood Offering, of which all offerings under the Mosaic Covenant were a type. Let’s look at the scripture.
Leviticus 5:11-13 JPS But if his means suffice not for two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he shall bring his offering for that wherein he hath sinned, 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. (12) And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as the memorial-part thereof, and make it smoke on the altar, upon the offerings of the LORD made by fire; it is a sin-offering. (13) And the priest shall make atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in any of these things, and he shall be forgiven; and the remnant shall be the priest’s, as the meal-offering.
First of all this scripture, as it is, is taken out of context, whenever it is presented in an argument as proof that the sin offering was unnecessary. Notice that verse-13 says the priest makes atonement for the one who has sinned “in any of these things.” What things are referred to here? These words pertain to three minor sins of which the poor person became guilty. The first is mentioned in v.1 where the man failed to acknowledge that he is a witness to a matter of wrongdoing. If one failed to accuse the guilty or to defend the innocent by telling the truth in a matter, he was guilty.
The second sin has to do with becoming ceremonially unclean and not being aware (Leviticus 5:2-3). One may touch an unclean beast, a dead animal or even an unclean person without realizing what had occurred. When this one became aware of what had been done to him by the unclean thing or person, he needed to confess his guilt by bringing his sin offering.
The third sin concerns swearing rashly (Leviticus 5:4). Again the one sinning at first does not realize what he had done. When it occurs to him, he must bring his sin offering to the priest and he will be forgiven.
It is for these sins only that the handful of meal could be substituted for blood in a sin offering and then only by those who were too poor to afford two turtledoves. Notice:
Leviticus 5:4-5 JPS or if any one swear clearly with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall utter clearly with an oath, and it be hid from him; and, when he knoweth of it, be guilty in one of these things; (5) and it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that wherein he hath sinned;
Leviticus 5:13 JPS And the priest shall make atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in any of these things, and he shall be forgiven; and the remnant shall be the priest’s, as the meal-offering.
Clearly, these things refer to minor sins of omission, inadvertently becoming ceremonially unclean, and speaking too quickly when silence would have been wise. This has nothing to do with stealing, killing or adultery. It does not deal with idol worshiping, using God’s name inappropriately or not observing the Sabbath. It has nothing to do with any overt act, but rather deals with someone who has not trained himself to live uprightly in all things. It deals with someone who may be afraid, may not be in the habit of scrutinizing his everyday behavior, as it relates to holiness, or it refers to someone who may speak without understanding the gravity of the circumstance.
Ordinarily, the two turtledoves or two young pigeons were used in the offering of a poor person (cf. Leviticus 12:8; 14:21-22, 30-31). Therefore, Leviticus 5 is speaking of a person who is really destitute, not just falling upon hard times. Such is often the case of a person whose character is lax. He is negligent or unwise in many things and so is more apt to find himself lacking in those things, which other ordinary people have in abundance.
Even this one exception to the blood sacrifice does not overrule the use of blood as the only means in which sin was forgiven under the Mosaic Covenant. On the contrary, even the ancient Jewish rabbis admitted there is no forgiveness without blood. The life is in the blood, so the life of the animal was taken in the stead of the sinner’s. Atonement was made in blood to show the gravity of the nature of sin. Sin requires the life of the sinner. With what is the sinner able to redeem his own life? Repentance alone is not enough, just as an offering without the heart is not pleasing or acceptable to God. One cannot merely be sorry for one’s iniquity. The life will be brought into account. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the life of a clean animal could be substituted for that of the sinner. Under the New Covenant it is the life of Christ that has been sacrificed for all. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).
Jesus’ sacrifice nearly 2000 years ago was just as pertinent then as it is today. He has many critics, but where is that critic who is able to reasonably show what actually occurred between man and God, and how we may be restored to the place mankind once enjoyed in the presence of God? The problem is there are many who wish to show how Jesus isn’t really needed, but no one is able to show how or why God would accept us without him. People theorize and generalize, but no one—no one—has an accurate plan whereby he could reasonably demonstrate how the relationship between man and God gets restored without the shedding of blood, and, if blood is necessary, then whose blood is valuable enough to restore all of mankind? Who in all of human history has that kind of power with God? Think about these things as we continue to look back at what Jesus did for all of us. May God help us to remember and appreciate the Love that was demonstrated before mankind that Passover day centuries ago.