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Leviticus 5:1-4

Context
Additional Sin Offering Regulations

5:1 “‘When a person sins 1  in that he hears a public curse against one who fails to testify 2  and he is a witness (he either saw or knew what had happened 3 ) and he does not make it known, 4  then he will bear his punishment for iniquity. 5  5:2 Or when there is 6  a person who touches anything ceremonially 7  unclean, whether the carcass of an unclean wild animal, or the carcass of an unclean domesticated animal, or the carcass of an unclean creeping thing, even if he did not realize it, 8  but he himself has become unclean and is guilty; 9  5:3 or when he touches human uncleanness with regard to anything by which he can become unclean, 10  even if he did not realize it, but he himself has later come to know it and is guilty; 5:4 or when a person swears an oath, speaking thoughtlessly 11  with his lips, whether to do evil or to do good, with regard to anything which the individual might speak thoughtlessly in an oath, even if he did not realize it, but he himself has later come to know it and is guilty with regard to one of these oaths 12 

1 tn Heb “And a person when he sins.” Most English versions translate this as the protasis of a conditional clause: “if a person sins” (NASB, NIV).

sn The same expression occurs in Lev 4:2 where it introduces sins done “by straying unintentionally from any of the commandments of the Lord which must not be done” (see the notes there). Lev 5:1-13 is an additional section of sin offering regulations directed at violations other than those referred to by this expression in Lev 4:2 (see esp. 5:1-6), and expanding on the offering regulations for the common person in Lev 4:27-35 with concessions to the poor common person (5:7-13).

2 tn The words “against one who fails to testify” are not in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied to make sense of the remark about the “curse” (“imprecation” or “oath”; cf. ASV “adjuration”; NIV “public charge”) for the modern reader. For the interpretation of this verse reflected in the present translation see J. Milgrom, Leviticus (AB), 1:292-97.

3 tn The words “what had happened” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied.

4 tn Heb “and hears a voice of curse, and he is a witness or he saw or he knew, if he does not declare.”

5 tn Heb “and he shall bear his iniquity.” The rendering “bear the punishment (for the iniquity)” reflects the use of the word “iniquity” to refer to the punishment for iniquity (cf. NRSV, NLT “subject to punishment”). It is sometimes referred to as the consequential use of the term (cf. Lev 5:17; 7:18; 10:17; etc.).

6 tc The insertion of the words “when there is” is a reflection of the few Hebrew mss, Smr, and LXX that have כִּי (ki, “when, if”; cf. vv. 3 and esp. 4) rather than the MT’s אֲשֶׁר (’asher, “who”). Many English versions render this as a conditional clause (“if”).

7 tn The word “ceremonially” has been supplied in the translation to clarify that the uncleanness involved is ritual or ceremonial in nature.

8 tn Heb “and it is hidden from him,” meaning that the person who contracted the ceremonial uncleanness was not aware at the time what had happened, but later found out that he had become ceremonially unclean. This same phrase occurs again in both vv. 3 and 4.

9 sn Lev 5:2-3 are parallel laws of uncleanness (contracted from animals and people, respectively), and both seem to assume that the contraction of uncleanness was originally unknown to the person (vv. 2 and 3) but became known to him or her at a later time (v. 3; i.e., “has come to know” in v. 3 is to be assumed for v. 2 as well). Uncleanness itself did not make a person “guilty” unless he or she failed to handle it according to the normal purification regulations (see, e.g., “wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening,” Lev 15:5 NIV; cf. Lev 11:39-40; 15:5-12, 16-24; Num 19, etc.). The problem here in Lev 5:2-3 is that, because the person had not been aware of his or her uncleanness, he or she had incurred guilt for not carrying out these regular procedures, and it would now be too late for that. Thus, the unclean person needs to bring a sin offering to atone for the contamination caused by his or her neglect of the purity regulations.

10 tn Heb “or if he touches uncleanness of mankind to any of his uncleanness which he becomes unclean in it.”

11 tn Heb “to speak thoughtlessly”; cf. NAB “rashly utters an oath.”

12 tn Heb “and is guilty to one from these,” probably referring here to any of “these” things about which one might swear a thoughtless oath (J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 45), with the word “oath” supplied in the translation for clarity. Another possibility is that “to one from these” is a dittography from v. 5 (cf. the note on v. 5a), and that v. 4 ends with “and is guilty” like vv. 2 and 3 (J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:300).



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