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Guilt and God - Unintentional Sins

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All human beings are guilty in the sight of God, and all require forgiveness and expiation of their sin. Guilt can arise through failing to know what is right, through failing to do what is right and through giving in to temptation to do wrong.

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Laws for Sin Offerings

4 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the ⌊Israelites⌋, saying, ‘If a person sins by an unintentional wrong from any of Yahweh’s commands that should not be ⌊violated⌋, and he ⌊violates⌋ ⌊any of them⌋— 3 if the anointed priest sins, ⌊bringing guilt on the people⌋, then, concerning the sin that he has ⌊committed⌋, he shall bring ⌊a young bull⌋ without defect for Yahweh as a sin offering. 4 He shall bring the bull to the tent of assembly’s entrance before Yahweh, place his hand on the bull’s head, and slaughter the bull before Yahweh. 5 The anointed priest shall take ⌊some of⌋ the bull’s blood and shall bring it to the tent of assembly, 6 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and shall spatter ⌊some of⌋ the blood seven times before Yahweh in front of the sanctuary’s curtain. 7 The priest shall put ⌊some of⌋ the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before Yahweh, which is in the tent of assembly, and all the rest of the bull’s blood he must pour out on the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the entrance of the tent of assembly.

8 “ ‘He must remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering: the fat that covers the inner parts and all of the fat that is on the inner parts, 9 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, which is at the loins, and the liver’s lobe that he must remove in addition to the kidneys— 10 just as it is removed from the ox of the fellowship offerings’ sacrifice—and the priest shall turn them into smoke on the altar of the burnt offering. 11 But the bull’s skin and its meat, in addition to its head, ⌊its lower leg bones⌋, its inner parts, and its offal— 12 he shall carry all of the bull ⌊outside the camp⌋ to a ceremonially clean place, to the fatty ashes’ dump, and he shall burn it on wood in the fire; it must be burned up on the fatty ashes’ dump.

13 “ ‘If Israel’s whole assembly did wrong unintentionally and the matter was concealed from the assembly’s eyes, and they acted against ⌊any of⌋ Yahweh’s commands that should not be ⌊violated⌋, so that they incur guilt, 14 when the sin that they have ⌊committed⌋ against that command becomes known, the assembly shall present ⌊a young bull⌋ as a sin offering, and they shall bring it before the tent of assembly. 15 And the elders of the community shall place their hands on the bull’s head before Yahweh, and he shall slaughter the bull before Yahweh. 16 Then the anointed priest shall bring ⌊some of⌋ the bull’s blood to the tent of assembly, 17 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and shall spatter it seven times before Yahweh in front of the curtain. 18 He must put ⌊some of⌋ the blood on the altar’s horns before Yahweh ⌊in the tent of assembly⌋, and all the rest of the blood he must pour out on the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the tent of assembly’s entrance. 19 He must remove all its fat from it, and he shall turn it into smoke on the altar. 20 He shall do to the bull ⌊just as⌋ he did to the sin offering’s bull, so he must do to it. The priest shall make atonement for them, and ⌊they will be forgiven⌋. 21 He shall bring the rest of the bull ⌊outside the camp⌋, and he shall burn it ⌊just as⌋ he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly.

22 “ ‘When a leader sins and commits an unintentional wrong against ⌊any of⌋ the commands of Yahweh his God that should not be ⌊violated⌋, so that he incurs guilt, 23 or his sin he has ⌊committed⌋ is made known to him, he shall bring ⌊a male goat⌋ without defect as his offering. 24 He shall place his hand on the he-goat’s head and slaughter it in the place where he slaughtered the burnt offering before Yahweh; it is a sin offering. 25 The priest shall take ⌊some of⌋ the sin offering’s blood with his finger, and he shall put it on the horns of the altar of the burnt offering, and he must pour out the rest of its blood on the base of the altar of the burnt offering. 26 He must turn all of its fat into smoke on the altar like the fat of the fellowship offerings’ sacrifice, and the priest shall make atonement for him ⌊because of⌋ his sin, and ⌊he will be forgiven⌋.

27 “ ‘If ⌊anyone⌋ of the people of the land sins by an unintentional wrong by ⌊violating⌋ one of Yahweh’s commands that should not be ⌊violated⌋, so that he incurs guilt, 28 or his sin he has ⌊committed⌋ is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering ⌊a female goat without defect⌋ as his offering for his sin that he ⌊committed⌋.

Committed (literally: sinning): (4x’s)
2627 חָטָא (ḥā·ṭā(ʾ)): v.; ≡ Str 2398; TWOT 638—1. LN 88.289–88.318 (qal) sin, do wrong, bear blame, be guilty, i.e., commit an infraction of law or agreement, implying a penalty must be paid or forfeited (; ); (hif) commit sin, cause guilt (); 2. LN 53.28–53.32 (piel) purify, cleanse, i.e., make an object ceremonially clean by certain actions, including an offering (); (hitp) purify oneself (; ,, ; , , +); 3. LN 85.65–85.66 (qal) miss, i.e., no longer be visibly present, pertaining to an object no longer being in a normal or assumed place (; ); 4. LN 31.8–31.13 (qal) err, miss the way, i.e., have an opinion that is a wrong view (); 5. LN 67.118–67.135 (qal) fail to reach, i.e., pertaining to having a time period cut short (); 6. LN 57.55–57.70 (piel) bear a loss, i.e., lose an object with remedy from another source (); 7. LN 53.16–53.27 (piel) offer a sin offering (; ); 8. LN 83.18–83.22 (hif) miss, i.e., take aim at a specific object but not be able to hit the object, and so have the projectile occupy a space outside what is intended (); 9. LN 15.34–15.74 (hitp) retreat, i.e., leave an area by linear motion ([EB 25])
Unintentional (4x’s):
7684. שְׁגָגָה shegâgâh, sheg-aw-gaw´; from 7683; a mistake or inadvertent transgression:—error, ignorance, at unawares, unwittingly.

8705 שְׁגָגָה (šeḡā·ḡā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 7684; TWOT 2324a—1. LN 88.289–88.318 unintentional wrong, accidental error, i.e., a mistake which has culpability, yet the wrongdoing has not been made by intention or commission (Lev 4:2, 22, 27; 5:15, 18; 22:14; Nu 15:24, 25,26, 27, 28, 29; Ecc 5:5[EB 6]; 10:5+); 2. LN 13.104–13.163 accident, i.e., that which happens without intent, usually implying a bad thing that has happened (Nu 35:11, 15; Jos 20:3, 9+)

שׁגה (šgh): see 8706

Guilt as the objective condition of sinners

Leviticus 6:1–7 ESV
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.”
James 2:10 ESV
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.
See also ; ; ; ;

Guilt results from unintentional sin

Leviticus 4:13 ESV
13 “If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt,
See also ; ;
Leviticus 4:22 ESV
“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt,
Leviticus 4:27 ESV
“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt,
Acts 3:17–20 ESV
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,

Guilt as an accumulation of sin

Hosea 13:12 ESV
12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is kept in store.
See also ; ;
Ezra 9:6 ESV
saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.
Isaiah 1:4 ESV
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
Isaiah 24:20 ESV
The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

God’s knowledge of human guilt

Psalm 69:5 ESV
5 O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
See also ; ; ;
Genesis 4:8–10 ESV
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
Joshua 7:1–26 ESV
1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel. 2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” 10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’ ” 16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
Jeremiah 2:22 ESV
Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.
1 Corinthians 4:4–5 ESV
4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

God’s anger at human guilt

2 Chronicles 24:18 ESV
18 And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.
See also ; ; ; ; ;
Numbers 32:10–13 ESV
10 And the Lord’s anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, 12 none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’ 13 And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.
2 Kings 22:11–13 ESV
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
Hosea 12:13–14 ESV
13 By a prophet the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was guarded. 14 Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.
Romans 1:18 ESV
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Romans 2:5–8 ESV
5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Ephesians 5:6–7 ESV
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

God’s determination to punish the guilty

God himself punishes the guilty

Numbers 14:18 ESV
18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
See also ; ;
Exodus 20:5 ESV
5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Jeremiah 25:12 ESV
12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
Nahum 1:2–3 ESV
2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Human judges are to punish the guilty

Deuteronomy 25:1–3 ESV
1 “If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, 2 then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. 3 Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.
See also ; ; ;
Proverbs 17:15 ESV
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 24:23–25 ESV
23 These also are sayings of the wise. Partiality in judging is not good. 24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, 25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.
Romans 13:1–5 ESV
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
1 Peter 2:13–14 ESV
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
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