It is also called the Reparations offering or Trespass offering. Someone breaks the boundaries of the holy and becomes aware of it later, or he does some dishonest things; then the guilt offering is for him. Of course the New Testament (NT) streamlines and fulfills it in Christ (References: Leviticus 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7)
As I note in many of these posts that touch on the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, the Spirit-inspired writers of the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) encourage us to read the Old Testament, particularly the priesthood and the ministry of the priests, as containing types and shadows of the substance or reality, which is Christ and his heavenly priesthood.
They [priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Heb. 8:5)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. (Heb. 10:1)
Then the author of Hebrews writes many, many verses explaining the realities of the copies and shadows. They are revealed most clearly in Jesus’s sacrifice and his priesthood in the heavenly, eternal sanctuary.
Peter explicitly makes the water of the flood during the time of Noah symbolic:
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Pet. 3:21)
Paul writes that food and festivals are but the shadow, while Christ is the substance:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)
Even the lives of the people in the OT serve as exemplary warnings for us:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11)
With their permission, so to speak, I apply their typological and symbolic method here.
For a general overview of the interrelations between the Old Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant, click on: What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old? Many (not even close to all) elements are retained, and what is kept is improved on or streamlined.
The NIV is used here, unless otherwise noted. Readers are invited to go to biblegateway.com, choose their own translation, and open another window to follow along.
What is the main purpose of the guilt offering?
It was to provide a way of atonement for the sin or violation of desecrating holy things. The priest is to distinguish between the holy and profane (or common), the clean and unclean. It is for individual sins, rather than the sin of the community (Kellogg, pp. 157-58)
Let’s contrast the guilt and sin offerings. The guilt offering was used for someone who desecrated holy things, by mishandling them. In contrast, the sin offering was used to atone for contaminating holy things. The main focus of the sin offering was that it purified holy things and it could consecrate (make holy) sacred objects (but not people) with this purification (see Lev. 8:15; 16:19). (DOTP 720). The main focus of the guilt offering was that re-consecrated holy things, including people. It also included making reparations for breaking the holy things.
For example, in Lev. 14:12-18, the priest set about to cleanse the leper, and he sacrificed male lambs as a guilt offering. He put the blood on the right ear lobe, on the right thumb, and right big toe. This speaks of complete wholeness, from top to middle and to bottom. Then he took some oil and poured it on the palm of his own left hand and sprinkle it with his finger before the Lord seven times. Then the priest smeared on the right ear of the one to be cleansed and on the right thumb and right toe and on top of the guilt offering. For poor people the offering changed, but the goal was purification. Then the process was repeated again on the eighth day. He sacrificed the animals and put some of the blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb and right big toe.
The bottom line here is that the man with the skin disease could be purified; that is, his condition could be changed. He went from impure and unclean, to pure and clean.
All these nuanced differences seem to be for specialists. So let’s step back and get the big picture. Why was the sacred v. the common so important? The background to the sin and guilt offerings is a theocracy with a holy tabernacle (and later temple), where God could dwell. He did not visit–or live in–his sacred precinct casually and sloppily. God is very awesome in his holiness. God declared certain things, particularly his tabernacle and later temple, holy. And humans had to distinguish between the holy and common, as follows: “So that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (Lev. 10:10). And when men unknowingly or knowingly violated or profaned the holy things, God made a way of atonement for them so that they could be forgiven.
How did the priest effect the ritual?
This section is divided into four parts.
Known Violation (Lev. 6:14-16)
For a known violation of a holy thing by straying from the rules—like eating some meat that belonged only to the priest—he offered a ram without defect. Jesus was our once-and-for-all sacrifice—and was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Or he could convert it to a silver sanctuary shekel (about 10 grams or two-fifths of an ounce). He must restore whatever value the holy thing had and add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. Then the priest will make atonement for it with the guilt-offering ram, and the man will be forgiven.
By way of review, here’s is the basic meaning of atonement:
In English the word literally means “at-one-ment,” or reconciliation, being at one with God (the -ment suffix means the “result of”). The Hebrew verb is kapar (used 102 times) and is generally translated as “to atone,” “to wipe clean,” and “to appease.” In Gen. 32:20, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to “wipe” (atone) the anger off his brother Esau’s face. The gift of the burnt offering was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, not by blood manipulation primarily (that is the sin offering), but by a gift. As it turned out, Esau was not angry because time healed his wounds, and he was prosperous. The main point, however, is that sacrifice and gifts atone for or wipe away just wrath. The sacrifice of an animal during the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13), for example, was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, by blood manipulation primarily. Then God’s judicial wrath would be lifted and he would smile on his people again. Jacob and Esau were reconciled. Either by gift or blood manipulation or handling, God and his people were reconciled.
The blood was splashed against the sides of the altar. I like to keep this section separate, since it is important. It is about blood manipulation:
The priest is to splash it on the four sides of the altar. The altar speaks of total dedication and sacrifice, and only the blood was splashed on its side is the access point to devotion to God. In other words, Jesus’s blood leads people to be totally dedicated and consecrated to God. Any other pathway is just a shortcut that God doesn’t accept. Jesus said he is the gate (John 10:7). Anyone who shepherds God’s flock without coming through the gate, but had climbed over the wall is a thief and robber. He is the good shepherd, and he lays down his life for the sheep, which speaks of sacrifice (John 10:14-15). Jesus said he is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). Bottom line here: don’t listen to anyone who denies the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His shed blood applied by faith to the heart is the only way to be truly dedicated and consecrated to God.
The author of Hebrews writes of Jesus entering the heavenly tabernacle: “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). So in effect, he splashed his own blood on the eternal altar.
Rev. 6:9 says about the martyrs who are at the alter in heaven: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (see Rev. 16:7). If they died by the sword, then their blood was precious. Their life was in it (Lev. 17:11). Their blood was not splashed at the altar, but the symbolism does exist indirectly.
See these posts:
Jewish commentators on Lev. 4:20 say that a Hebrew verb for “forgive” is salach (pronounced sah-lahkh), and it refers only to God’s forgiveness (Torah, p. 771). The forgiveness of God runs deep in NT Greek, and makes no such distinction in the Greek verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee). Humans have to forgive, as well.
See the post: What Is Biblical Forgiveness?
The NT Greek nouns are hilasmos (used twice and pronounced hih-lahs-moss) and hilasterion (also used twice and pronounced hih-lah-stay-ree-own). The first noun appears in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and means “an atoning sacrifice, propitiation.” Propitiation means “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the sacrifice that atones for sins. Our sins destroyed and separated us from God, but the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us to God (1 John 1:6-7).
For more information, please click on this post:
To forestall objections that falsely accuse God of being primitive or petty or a child abuser, please see this post: Christ’s Death on Cross = Cosmic Child Abuse?
Unknown Trespass (Lev. 5:17-19)
For an unknown trespass, the man did not realize it at first but comes to understand later, perhaps by someone calling his attention to it. Or he may suspect or guess he violated the holiness of an object. Whatever the case, he had to do the following. He must bear his punishment for the iniquity. He must bring a ram without defect (Christ is our sacrifice without sin, in Heb. 4:15). Or he could convert it into silver shekels. Then the priest makes atonement on his behalf for his error, and the man will be forgiven.
Trespass by Deception or False Oath (Lev. 6:1-7)
A man commits a trespass by deceiving his neighbor, about something held in trust or a pledge or a stolen item or extortion and a lost item he found and swore falsely. The guilty man must restore it and pay one-fifth or twenty percent. Then the guilt offering is the same as in the previous section.
The Place and Consumption of the Guilt Offering (Lev. 7:1-7)
The man found guilty must slaughter the ram, and the priest shall splash the blood on the side of the burnt offering. The fat and entrails are offered up on the burnt altar and burn them up in smoke. The other parts may be eaten only by the any male among the priests; more specifically, it belongs to the priest who makes atonement for it.
The offerer slaughtering the animal speaks of us bringing Christ and his sacrifice to God. We stand by his blood.
A review of the five main offerings:
Burnt offering: full surrender of the worshiper symbolized by the victim animal to God, and full surrender and consecration must come before fellowship with God;
Grain offering: consecration to God of the fruit of his labors; people are at rest in Christ;
Peace / fellowship offering: sustenance of life from God’s table and peace with God; Fellowship offering: joy and fellowship with God and humans; humanity needs fellowship with God
Sin offering: expiation of sin by the shedding of blood; it is beneficial for the Israelite worship to have his sins forgiven. The animals stands in for him.
Guilt offering: expiation of sins even for sins a man may not know he committed; providing an Israelite a way of ridding himself of guilt benefits him psychologically. Sometimes he is also responsible for restitution.
How does Jesus fulfill the guilt offering?
First, Is. 53 is about the Messiah. He became a guilt offering:
Yet the Lord was pleased to crush him severely.
When you make him a guilt offering … (Is. 53:10, CSB)
The Hebrew word “guilt offering” is asham, which appears in Lev. 5:6, 7, 15, 16, 18, 19; 6:6 (twice), 17; 7:2, 5, 7, 37. But that verse can be translated in different ways, so caution is needed in applying it.
Second, we already quoted the verse:
[L]let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:22)
In context to the above verse, Jesus’s blood (v. 19) cleanses our guilty conscience from sin.
Third, Jesus accepted the Gentiles (non-Jews) by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts.
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9)
The Spirit living in the born-again believers’ heart purifies it.
Fourth. believers in Jesus must not, therefore, be contaminated by allowing the world to pollute them. Why? Because they are now the temple, and God himself walks among them:
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.” [Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27]
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.” [Is. 52:11; Ezek. 20:34, 41]
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” [2 Sam. 7:8, 14] (2 Cor. 6:16-18)
Finally, since the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) never abrogated or canceled holiness and purity and a clean conscience, in light of all those biblical promises, Paul writes in the next verse in the next chapter:
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Cor. 7:1)
How does this post help me grow in Christ?
The command Paul has just written to Timothy about is to command people not to teach false doctrines about things that have no proof, like myths and genealogies and controversial speculations. Note how purity and a good conscience come up again:
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (! Tim. 1:8)
As noted in the previous section, God never canceled holiness from the Old Testament to the New. The good news is that when we mess up, Jesus’s blood can always be sprinkled on our hearts, so our conscience can be cleansed again.
The Guilt Offering from a NT Perspective