The Sin Offering (4:1–35)
In the first type of sin offering (for priest and community), a bull was sacrificed, and some of its blood was sprinkled on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense (verse 7) inside the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle).11 The fatty portions of the bull were then burned on the altar of burnt offering and the rest of the bull was burned outside the camp (verse 12); this anticipated the ultimate sin offering, Jesus Christ, who was crucified outside Jerusalem—“outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11–13).
In verse 13, we are told that even though the community is unaware [of their sin], they are guilty. They are “guilty” in God’s sight; that is, a law has been broken, a sin has been committed—and sin must be punished.12 But what happens if the community or an individual (verses 22,27) never realizes that a sin has been committed?Such a sin is atoned for by the daily burnt offerings and also on the annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus Chapter 16).
But if the community or individual does become aware that a sin has been committed, then a sin offering must be offered without delay (verse 14), and the community or individual will be forgiven by God (verses 20,26,31,35). This was the whole purpose of the sin offering: to obtain forgiveness from God and to be restored to fellowship with Him.
22–35 The second type of sin offering was offered by a leader (verse 22) or an ordinary member of the community (verse 27). Here a less expensive animal was sacrificed: a male goat for a leader and a female goat for an ordinary Israelite (verses23,28). However, for poor people, a lamb (verse 32), two doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 5:7), or even a grain offering (Leviticus 5:11) could be offered. Thus provision was made for even the poorest people to obtain forgiveness for their sins.
Because the sins of individuals were of less consequence than the sins of the high priest or the whole community, the blood of the sacrifice did not need to be sprinkled on the altar of incense within the tabernacle.
Instead, it was sprinkled on the main altar of burnt offering located in the courtyard outside the entrance to the tabernacle. Also the priests were allowed to eat the leftover meat of the sacrificed animal. In all other respects, however, the sin offering for individuals was carried out in the same way as that for the priest and community described in verses 3–21.
Further information about the sin offering is given in Leviticus 6:24–30; Numbers15:22–29.