Q: #451. Were there sacrifices for intentional sin in the Old Testament?
By: Steve Shirley
A: This study came about as the result of a sermon I heard recently where the pastor said, "The sacrificial system in the Old Testament was God's way of atoning for and giving forgiveness of accidental sins... There is no sacrifice in the Old Testament for sins you do on purpose." This was interesting to me. I had always believed there were sacrifices for intentional sin, so I HAD to get right on that.
So, here is what I found. The above quote is taught by a vast majority of teachers, however, it appears to be incorrect. There are verses showing what I believed to be true, that there were sacrifices for "intentional" sins in the Old Testament. However, the vast majority of sacrifices were indeed for "unintentional sins." In the Old Testament there were 5 main offerings. The two pertaining to this study are "sin offerings" and "trespass / guilt offerings." In looking at "sin offerings," I could find nowhere where God said to offer a "sin offering" for an intentional sin. A number of places say they were for "unintentional sin" (Lev 4:1-3,13,22-23,27-28)(Num 6:9-12)(Num 15:22-29).
"Trespass / guilt offerings" were also primarily for "unintentional sins" (Lev 5:2,3,4,15,17,18), however, there are also examples of "trespass / guilt offerings" being offered for "intentional sins" as well. Here are some examples:
(Lev 5:1) 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.
(The heading for Chapter 5 is "The Trespass Offering." Verse 1 seems to clearly be speaking about intentional sin, even though the following 3 verses are clearly about unintentional sin. Then, in Lev 5:5-13, we see that a sacrifice needed to be offered for committing these sins.)
(Lev 6:1-7) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, (2) If a soul sin, and commit
a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep,
or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; (3) Or
have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these
that a man doeth, sinning therein: (4) Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty,
that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten,
or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, (5) Or all that about which
he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part
more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.
(6) And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock,
with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: (7) And the priest shall make an
atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he
hath done in trespassing therein.
(Again, verses 1-5 are speaking about intentional sin which was committed, with a "trespass offering" needing to be made and sacrificed to make atonement for that sin.)
(Lev 19:20-22)(NASB) 'Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man,
but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not,
however, be put to death, because she was not free. (21) He shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord
to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. (22) The priest shall also make atonement
for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed, and the
sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.
(Another intentional sin, with a "trespass /guilt offering" needing to be made for atonement.)
(Ezra 10:18-19) And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. (19) And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
(Also see: Num 5:5-10, Num 5:11-31)
So again, there were sacrifices in the Old Testament for intentional sins. These were sins for which a "trespass / guilt offering" was to be given. However, most "trespass / guilt offerings" were for unintentional sins. There were no "sin offerings" for intentional sins.
Aside from this distinction, what were the differences between a "sin offering" and a "trespass / guilt offering?" I will answer this in the next question.