During our research for the next article about Y’shua being the branch, we found some very compelling answers to questions we have had for a long time. We would like to share it with you. It is just another piece added to the puzzle; another small part that helps us to understand YHVH’s awesome plan better. It also helps to make our foundation a bit stronger as well. This is getting increasingly important in the times we live in. Deception is increasing, and we need to see to it that we are not deceived (Matt 24:4). We are hammering on this, because it is so very important. Not one of us can say we are strong; we will not fall (1Cor 10:12).
Our topic is Y’shua as a guilt offering. When you read that Y’shua rendered Himself as a guilt offering in Isaiah 53:10, have you considered why specifically a guilt offering? Why not a sin offering or a peace offering, for example? Is it even important? We have often wondered about this. We know that Y’shua sacrificed His life for us; He took our sin upon Himself and suffered the punishment for it. However, if we are to understand what He did as a sacrifice, surely He must be sacrificed in the prescribed way. That would make it human sacrifice, and we know that YHVH is against human sacrifice (Lev 18:21; Deut 18:10-13), so how are we to understand this?
A guilt offering
Let us look at Isaiah 53:10 in a bit more detail.
10 But YHVH was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of YHVH will prosper in His hand.
This is quite profound! In order to understand Isaiah 53:10, we need to understand what exactly a guilt offering is.
The Hebrew word for “guilt offering” is “asam”
871 אָשָׁם (ʾā·šām): n.masc.; ≡ Str 817; TWOT 180b—
1. LN 53.16–53.27 guilt offering, i.e., an atoning sacrifice (Lev 5:15b);
2. LN 88.289–88.318 guilt, i.e., liability to a standard, with some implication of punishing consequences (Ge 26:10);
3. LN 38.1–38.13 penalty, i.e., a thing which must be forfeited in a judicial decision (Lev 5:6, 7, 15; 5:25[EB 6:6]);
4. LN 57.152–57.171 damage, i.e., the result of a wrong that is committed against another (Nu 5:7, 8), note: Ezr 10:19 in MT see 8722
Intentional and unintentional sin
A guilt offering “asam” is brought for both unintentional and intentional sin. It is often taught that sacrifices only atoned for unintentional sin. This is not true! When you read Lev 5:15 onwards, you first get the impression that this guilt offering is only for unintentional sin. However, when you continue to read the whole passage Lev 5:15-6:6, you will see that it also atoned for intentional sin. Deception, robbery, extortion and lying cannot be done unintentionally.
A guilt offering is different and quite unique compared to the other offerings. There is another difference…
Not only is a guilt offering an atoning sacrifice, it is also a penalty or damage. Here is a quote from the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary to explain this.
d. Reparation Offering (ʾāšam). This offering has generally been translated “guilt offering.” This translation was predicated on etymological considerations; the root ʾāšēm can often mean “to be, feel guilty.” Yet as Milgrom has shown (1976), though feelings of guilt are integral to the atonement process, the basic feature of the sacrifice is its function as a means of reparation. Unlike other sacrifices which one “offers” (hiqrîb), the ʾāšām can “be payed” (šillēm, hēšı̂b). Also, unlike other sacrifices, the ʾāšām can be converted into a monetary equivalent and simply paid.3
This is indeed very different from the other offerings. No other offering could be “paid” or substituted, if you will. Payment is a means of substituting something for something else with the same value. In this way, it was not necessary for Y’shua to follow the normal sacrificial requirements. It was not required of Him to be slaughtered, nor His entrails removed, and He was not to be burned or eaten either. Y’shua was the substitute payment, and this is totally according to YHVH’s instructions.
Do you realize how profound this is?
We can also link this to the Kinsman redeemer, who paid the full price. The wages for sin is death (Rom 6:23), so the full price due would be death. Y’shua paid that price! You can read a more detailed study on why Y’shua is the Kinsman redeemer in the article “Redemption – Part 2 – The Kinsman Redeemer.”
This does not take away from the fact that Y’shua rendered Himself as guilt offering. It actually explains how He could make the payment with His life. It is another layer or facet, if you will.
Breaking a vow
There is another reason for the absolute significance of a guilt offering. Milgrom has a theory regarding this. We will share his theory with you and then share our understanding with you.
You are probably wondering who Milgrom is?
Jacob Milgrom (1923–2010) was a prominent American Jewish Bible scholar and Conservative rabbi, best known for his comprehensive Torah commentaries and work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Jacob Milgrom spent most of his career at the University of California, Berkeley, where he headed the Department of Near Eastern Studies. He was known for his research on Biblical purity laws and considered the world’s leading expert on Leviticus.4
Just some clarification before we quote this theory. There is a reference to the Pesher source in the quote. The Pesher source referred to here is most likely referring to the commentary in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many scrolls were found with commentary written on the scroll itself. This is referred to as pesher.
i/ˈpɛʃər/ (Hebrew: פשר, pl. pesharim) comes from a Hebrew word meaning “interpretation” in the sense of “solution.” It became known from one group of texts, numbering some hundreds, among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The pesharim give a theory of scriptural interpretation, previously partly known, but now fully defined.5
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary explains his theory as follows:
The most detailed recent study of the reparation offering is that of Milgrom (1976). In many respects his work represents a major advance over previous studies. He offers a persuasive hypothesis as to how the reparation and purification offerings should be differentiated, but one should be aware that his proposal cannot account for every single example in the Pesher source. Before presenting his theory, those conditions which call for the reparation sacrifice should be listed: (1) the act of misappropriating or misusing an item of sacred value (Lev 5:14–16); (2) sinning inadvertently and not knowing it (Lev 5:17–19); (3) swearing falsely in regard to damages done to another person (Lev 5:20–26—Eng 6:1–7); (4) the rite of purification of the leper; (5) the rite of renewing the vow of the Nazirite who has become unclean (Num 6:10–12); (6) having sexual relations with a slave who has been betrothed to another man (Lev 19:20–21).
Milgrom sees a thread of continuity between cases 1, 3, and 5. In each case something sacred to the deity has been violated. The first case is most obvious; it explicitly says the person has misused a sacred item. As Milgrom observes, this text is very similar in function to the problem of desanctifying an animal that is unfit for sacrifice which is discussed in Lev 27:9–13. Lev 27:9–13 charges a penalty for this desanctification, a penalty equaling the value of the animal plus one-fifth. Milgrom believes that it is not coincidental that Lev 5:14–16 charges the same penalty for misusing a sacred item. In both cases we are dealing with a situation where an item’s sacred status has been profaned. Lev 25:9–13 stipulates the charge imposed for the right to do this, whereas Lev 5:14–16 stipulates the penalty imposed for the crime. The case of swearing falsely can also be grouped here because a false vow necessarily entails a misuse of the divine name which was originally invoked by the person in question. Indeed as Milgrom demonstrates, violation of vows and desecration of sacred items are treated as parallel phenomena in Ancient Near Eastern legal materials. Finally, the case of the Nazirite who has become unclean also represents a case in which a sacred item has been sullied. In this case it is the Nazir himself who had become like a priest himself and hence “holy to the Lord” (Num 6:8). As Milgrom shows, the example of the Nazir has a formal parallel with the case of land dedicated to the sanctuary (Leviticus 27). Both are a result of a vow; both are for a limited period of time; but most importantly both vows can be prematurely terminated and have similar penalties for doing so. Whereas the Nazir brings an ʾāšām, the donor of the land must provide the equivalent of the entire value of the land plus an additional 20 percent (in other words, the equivalent of the ʾāšām).
The example of the leper and the betrothed slave girl are the most difficult for Milgrom’s theory. Neither are said to have violated a sacred item in any way. Milgrom tries to explain the case of the leper on the grounds that elsewhere in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible, leprosy is often the result of a serious sin against the sancta of a particular deity. On these grounds Milgrom suggests that the leper must bring an ʾāšām because he suspects he may have so offended the deity. The slave girl cannot be accounted for in this theory (Schwartz 1986).
The case of a person sinning and not knowing it also provides some problems. The text in question (Lev 5:17–19) is so similar in wording to the material in Leviticus 4 that some scholars have suggested that this material is a doublet of the purification rite that has been misplaced by the Pesher editor. Milgrom presumes that the Pesher source knew what it was doing when it put this narrative here. The crucial feature that separates Lev 5:17–19 from the purification offering in Leviticus 4 is that the individual in question sins and does not know it. Leviticus 4, on the other hand, deals with cases where inadvertent sin is later realized or made known to the offender. Lev 5:17–19, then, appears to presume a case wherein an individual suffers from either a guilty conscience or, perhaps like Job, suffers the effects of divine retribution but cannot pinpoint the cause. In the Ancient Near East there are many cultic and ritual materials that deal with this exact problem. In each case, when an individual felt the effects of some divine chastisement, the presumption was that the individual had offended the deity in some way. On the basis of this comparative model Milgrom suggests that Lev 5:17–19 functions in the very same way. In this regard its redactional placement after Lev 5:14–16 is quite understandable: whereas vv 14–16 dealt with a known infraction against sancta, vv 17–19 deal with a supposed or alleged infraction.
In summary, one could say that the basic distinction between the purification and reparation offerings is that the purification offering deals with the issue of impurity while the reparation offering deals with profanation of sacred items. Though not every example in the Pesher source can be explained this way, the overwhelming majority can.3
We have quoted the whole passage for context . However, what stood out for us is the following part.
Why is this significant? Let us step back into history, but before we do this, first read this verse in the book of Psalms.
9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name.
The Hebrew word for redemption is “pedut” meaning the paying of an amount or price for the release of someone or something from captivity.
7014 פְּדוּת (peḏûṯ): n.fem.; ≡ Str 6304; TWOT 1734b—LN 37.127–37.138 redemption, ransom, i.e., the paying of an amount or price for the release of someone or something from captivity (Ex 8:19[EB 23]; Ps 111:9; 130:7; Isa 50:2+), note: for NIV text in Ex 8:19, see 71512
This is even more far-reaching if you consider the second part of the verse also. “He has ordained his covenant forever.” What does this mean? Allow us to paraphrase this for better understanding: “He has sent payment to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever.” What happens if one of the parties to a covenant is in breach of the covenant? For an in-depth study on this topic of breaking the covenant, we would like to refer you to our series on Covenants, especially the article “Breaking the Covenant – Covenants Part 2.” You can also read “What exactly is the Sinai Covenant?” for more understanding of the covenant made at Sinai.
From this, we have learned among other things, that the covenant YHVH made is eternal. He did not abandon Israel when they breached the covenant, He did not implement a plan B. He provided a way to bring them back, and we shall see that this “way” is Y’shua who rendered Himself a guilt offering.
Let us look at what happened at Sinai?
The Covenant at Sinai, making a vow
YHVH entered into a covenant with Israel. They made a vow of obedience. In Exodus 19, YHVH spoke to Moses and he related what was spoken to Israel. They responded with “All that YHVH has spoken we will do!”
5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which YHVH had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.
The people were instructed to consecrate themselves, and YHVH spoke the ten words to them also known as the ten commandments. The people became fearful and asked YHVH to speak through Moses. He thereafter did. He gave Moses more instructions, Moses recounted it to the people and they again affirmed that they would obey.
3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of YHVH and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which YHVH has spoken we will do!”
Moses wrote everything down, read it to the people and they again responded “All that YHVH has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that YHVH has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
There could be no misunderstanding. Israel as a nation vowed to keep this covenant with YHVH.
Did Israel keep their vow to be obedient? We know they didn’t. So, what would happen to them if they disobeyed? We learn this in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28. These two passages give a detailed account of the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience.
When Israel sinned, they were in breach of the covenant. They need to be brought back to good covenantal standing, for we know that YHVH has ordained His covenant forever?
40 ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
From this we learn that they “have to humble themselves so that they make amends for their iniquity.” How do they do that? From the Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon we learn that this “make amends” that was translated from the hebrew word “rasa” means to pay as a means to appease the creditor.
(2) i.q. Hiphil, to satisfy, to pay off, Lev. 26:34, 41; 2 Ch. 36:21.
NIPHAL—(1) to be graciously accepted, as a sacrifice (see Kal No. 1), Lev. 7:18; 19:7; 22:23, 27; also 1:4; 22:25, in which passages there is added a dative of benefit, לוֹ, לָכֶם. Of the same meaning is הָיָה לְרָצוֹן Lev. 22:20.
(2) pass. of Kal No. 2 and Hiphil, to be paid off, Isa. 40:2.
PIEL, to make any one well pleased, i.e. to ask or seek his favour, Job 20:10, “his children shall seek the favour of the poor,” or, what comes much to the same thing, “shall conciliate (or reconcile themselves to) the poor,” by restoring the goods taken from them, compare Arab. رضا II. to conciliate.
HIPHIL, to pay, to pay off, i.q. Talmud הִרְצָה (pr. to appease a creditor, compare the Germ. befriedigen, and the obsolete vergnügen, for to pay), Lev. 26:34, “then the land shall lie waste, and shall pay the sabbaths (she owes).” Compare Kal No. 2 and Niphal.6
This “payment” was brought in the form of a sacrifice. This is confirmed by all the Scriptures concerning the sacrificial system. Repentance is intricately linked to the sacrificial system. When a person repented, an offering was brought. This offering brought restoration or brought them in right standing with YHVH.
Before we go into more detail, read verses 44 and 45 of Leviticus 26.
44 ‘Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am YHVH their Elohim. 45 ‘But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their Elohim. I am YHVH.’ ”
YHVH will remember FOR THEM the covenant. This just shows us His grace and mercy again. He will remember the covenant for them. This is even more profound if you look at the meaning of the word remember, zakar. The Hebrew word “zakar” is used here meaning “to recall information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner”
2349 I. זָכַר (zā·ḵǎr): v.; ≡ Str 2142; TWOT 551—1. LN 29.6–29.12 (qal) remember, i.e., to recall information or events (2Ki 9:25); (nif) remembered (Eze 33:13); 2. LN 29.16–29.18 (qal) remember, i.e., to recall information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner (Ex 6:5)2
There is not a single redundant word in Scripture. Let us paraphrase this verse in Leviticus 26 for better understanding . YHVH will recall information or events with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner and He will do it for them, on their behalf.
He will remember and respond and provide redemption or “payment,” and we know He did. He manifested Himself as man in the form of Y’shua and rendered Himself a guilt offering. The broken vow is now restored. He did it for Israel and for us; for every person who believes in Him. For, if we believe in Him, we become part of Israel, His chosen people. You can read more about this in the article “Who is Israel and why you would want to be a part of Israel”
We are redeemed through our belief in Y’shua, the Messiah, Who rendered Himself a guilt offering for us.
A guilt offering is a “payment” to bring restoration. A guilt offering is for all sin, intentional and unintentional. A guilt offering could be substituted for a suitable “payment,” it need not be an animal slaughtered in the prescribed way. So now you should be able to understand that Y’shua was not a human sacrifice. Yet, via the workings of the guilt offering, He could pay the price for our transgressions, iniquity and sin.
How fitting that our Messiah Y’shua would render himself a guilt offering. He took all our transgressions upon Himself and took the punishment for it. All we need to do is accept this free gift of salvation and live in obedience to Him who gave us life.
We are to repent of our iniquity, transgression and sin and receive forgiveness through Y’shua. The next step after that is to start living like Y’shua did, in obedience to every word of YHVH. Y’shua kept all the commandments and He taught that the commandments are to be obeyed.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Now that you have been redeemed throught Y’shua rendering Himself as a guilt offering, you have a choice. Do you want to be great in the kingdom or least in the kingdom? The choice is yours.
In our next article we will look at Y’shua in prophecy as the Branch.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Anderson, G. A. (1992). Sacrifice and Sacrificial Offerings: Old Testament. In (D. N. Freedman, Ed.)The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.
- Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Tags: asam, atonement, breaking the covenant, covenant, guilt offering, intentional and unintentional sin, Isaiah 53, Messiah, Milgrom, payment, restoration, sacrifice, Sinai covenant, substitute, Y'Shua, Yhvh
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