The first five chapters of Leviticus detail a number of offerings that could be made by the Israelite people – for forgiveness, atonement, etc. In general there are five major offerings – the Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1), The Meat Offering (Leviticus 2), the Peace Offering (Leviticus 3), the Sin Offering (Leviticus 4, and the Trespass Offering (Leviticus 5). There are also various offerings which are subsets of these – like the wave offering, heave offering and thank offering. I thought it would be good to cover these at a high level.
The Sin Offering and Trespass Offering (Leviticus 4 and 5) – The first three offerings – burnt, meat and peace – are a picture of justification before God. They allow the one bringing the offering to be restored to salvation. These last two offerings deal with the problem of sin. They deal with the problem, but don’t really serve as a means to salvation. If you sin, you bring an offering. They promote reconciliation with God. And, in an important difference from the first three offerings, th sin and trespass offering are required. That is, they must be performed in the event of sin.
What is the difference between the two? It’s simple. The sin offering is brought when a person or a community sins in ignorance, and then discovers that they have sinned. It would be like bringing an offering when you become aware of the nature of sin in your life – like when you realize that you are selfish or greedy. The trespass offering, on the other hand, was brought for reconciliation of specific committed sins – it is for specific sin events, not for “heart issues”.
“Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” — Hebrews 9:26