Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
And the Lord spake ... Israel - This formula is the commencement of a distinct section of the Law.
If a soul shall sin - The sin-offering was a new thing, instituted by the Law. The older kinds of sacrifice Lev 2:1; Lev 3:1 when offered by individuals were purely voluntary: no special occasions were prescribed. But it was plainly commanded that he who was conscious that he had committed a sin should bring his sin-offering. In the abridged rules for sin-offerings in Num 15:22-31, the kind of sin for which sin-offerings were accepted is contrasted with that which cut off the perpetrator from among his people (compare Lev 4:22 with Lev 4:30). The two classes are distinguished in the language of our Bible as sin through ignorance and presumptuous sin. The distinction is clearly recognized in Psa 19:12-13 and Heb 10:26-27. It seems evident that the classification thus indicated refers immediately to the relation of the conscience to God, not to outward practices, nor, immediately, to outward actions.
The presumptuous sinner, literally he who sinned "with a high hand," might or might not have committed such a crime as to incur punishment from the civil law: it was enough that he had with deliberate purpose rebelled against God (see Pro 2:13-15), and ipso facto was "cut off from among his people" and alienated from the divine covenant (see Lev 7:20; Exo 31:14; compare Mat 12:31; Jo1 5:16). But the other kind of sin, that for which the sin-offering was appointed, was of a more complicated nature. It appears to have included the entire range of "sins, negligences and ignorances" for which we are accustomed to ask forgiveness. sin-offerings were required not only when the conscience accused the offender of having yielded to temptation, but sometimes for what were breaches of the Law committed strictly in ignorance Lev 4:13, Lev 4:23, Lev 4:28; Lev 5:17, and sometimes on account of ceremonial pollution. They are thus to be regarded as protests against everything which is opposed to the holiness and purity of the divine Law. They were, in short, to be offered by the worshipper as a relief to the conscience whenever he felt the need of atonement.
Sin through ignorance - Sin through error; that is, through straying from the right way. See Psa 119:67; Ecc 5:6.
The priest that is anointed - i. e. the high priest. (Compare Lev 8:12; Lev 21:10; Exo 29:7). On the anointing of the other priests see the note at Lev 8:13.
The graduation of the sin-offerings is remarkable. It might seem that the distinction addressed itself more pointedly to each individual according to his rank and consequent responsibility (see Lev 4:32).
According to the sin of the people - Rather, to bring guilt on the people. The whole nation is concerned in every transgression of its representative.
The treatment of the blood was special in the sin-offerings. In the inferior sin-offerings it was smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering Lev 4:25, Lev 4:30, Lev 4:34, while in this offering for the high priest, and in that for the nation, the high priest himself sprinkled the blood seven times within the tabernacle and smeared it on the horns of the altar of incense Lev 4:6-7, Lev 4:17-18. The different modes of sprinkling appear to have marked successive degrees of consecration in advancing from the altar of burnt-offering to the presence of Yahweh within the veil.
Before the vail of the sanctuary - This is generally understood to mean the floor of the holy place in front of the veil.
Pour - All the blood that was left after the sprinkling and the smearing should be disposed of in such a manner as to suit the decorum of divine service. It had no sacrificial significance.
A clean place where the ashes are poured out See Lev 1:16 note. It was a place free from impurities, not like those referred to in Lev 14:40, Lev 14:45. The flesh, though it was burned in an ordinary way, and not sent up in the fire of the altar (see Lev 1:9 note), was not to be confounded with carrion, but was associated with the remains of the sacrifices. The priests could not eat the flesh of this victim or of that offered for the sin of the congregation, as they ate that of other sin-offerings Lev 6:26. Compare Lev 10:17-18, because they were in these cases in the position of offerers. Lev 16:27; Heb 13:11. The same rule was observed in regard to the meat-offering of the priests, Lev 6:23. It was only of the peace-offering that the offerer himself could partake.
Congregation ... assembly - Each of the Hebrew words signifies the people in a collected body. It does not appear that there is any difference between them in the connection in which they are here used.
When the sin ... is known - Compare Sa1 14:31-35.
In this case the imposition of hands is performed by the elders in behalf of the nation. But in other respects the rites were performed by the high priest in the same manner as in the sin-offering for himself.
The altar ... in the tabernacle - i. e. the altar of incense (compare Lev 4:5-7).
Ruler - Either the head of a tribe Num 1:4-16, or the head of a division of a tribe (Num 34:18; compare Jos 22:30).
Or if his sin - Rather, And if his sin.
Come to his knowledge - i. e. when he had become conscious of his sin.
A kid of the goats - A shaggy he-goat, in distinction from a smooth-haired he-goat. It was the regular sin-offering at the yearly festivals Lev 16:9, Lev 16:15; Num 28:15, Num 28:22, Num 28:30, and at the consecration of the priests Lev 9:3; while the smooth-haired goat appears to have been generally offered for the other sacrifices Psa 50:9; Isa 1:11.
See Lev 1:11.
The common people - literally, as in the margin, "the people of the land." Compare Lev 20:2, Lev 20:4; Kg2 11:18. It was the ordinary designation of the people, as distinguished from the priests and the rulers.
A kid of the goats - A shaggy she-goat.
A lamb - A sheep. See Lev 3:7 note. Three points are to be observed in regard to the victims for sin-offerings.
(a) The common people had to offer a female, as the less valuable animaI; they might present either a sheep or a goat to suit their convenience:
(b) the rulers had always to offer a male-goat:
(c) the goat was preferred to the sheep, unlike the victim for a peace-offering or burnt-offering.
The sin-offerings were not accompanied by meat-offerings or drink-offerings. See Num 15:3-11.