The Trespass Offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7; 7:1-6)
The final sacrifice that God taught the Israelites to bring was very closely related to the sin offering described in the previous chapter, except that it involved some form of compensation. There is a wide array of different situations in which the trespass offering was necessary, but F. Duane Lindsey summarizes: “the common occasion of the guilt offering was an offense that caused damage or loss whether unintentional or deliberate, and either against God or against man.” These offenses included mishandling things that were sacred (5:14-16) and fraud or deception directed against another person or his belongings (6:1-7). The examples from chapter 6 include lying about one’s neighbor while under oath, committing extortion, or finding lost property and lying about having found it. In every case, a wrong was committed that resulted in some injury or loss, and the law of the trespass offering was meant not just to atone for the offense but also to make up for the loss.
While the circumstances requiring a trespass offering varied, its actual requirements were the simplest of all the sacrifices. To atone for this type of sin required a ram without blemish to be taken from the flocks, plus a 20% penalty to be paid to the offended party. The ram was to be brought to the Tabernacle and slaughtered in the same manner as the burnt offering (1:11), and its blood sprinkled around the altar and fat burned on the altar in the same manner as the peace offering (3:2-5). The rest of the animal was cooked and eaten by the priests in the holy place in the same manner as the sin offering (6:26,29). If the Lord was the offended party, because the trespass involved doing wrong in regard to one of the holy things, then the 20% penalty was paid to the priest as part of the atonement ceremony. But if the offense was committed against another person, the guilty man had to restore whatever was taken or lost plus the fine of 20% of its value and then bring his trespass offering to the priest to make atonement before the Lord.
For the OT Israelite, the trespass offering served to make restitution to the person injured by the sin in addition to restoring peace between the worshiper and God. The offering of a ram emphasized the need for bloodshed to atone for sin, but the monetary penalty demonstrated the real and costly effect of sin on others. The prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Christ, pictured his death as a trespass offering when he said, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin” (53:10). The phrase, “an offering for sin,” is literally a trespass offering, so that we may say along with Gordon Wenham that Christ’s death “compensates for the sins of the people and makes many to be accounted righteous.”
For the NT Christian, then, we may say that Christ’s death does more than simply provide for purification from the stain of our sin. It compensates God for our sins, so that our spiritual failures are not chargeable to us as debts, because the perfect trespass offering has been made and our penalty paid in full. Truly we are blessed who have trusted in Christ Jesus whose life was made a trespass offering, because
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.