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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 22–29
Verses 22–29

We have here the laws concerning sacrifices for sins of ignorance; the Jews understand it of idolatry, or false worship, through the error of their teachers. The case here supposed is that they had not observed all these commandments, Num. 15:22; 23. If they had failed in the offerings of their acknowledgment, and had not brought them according to the law, then they must bring an offering of atonement, yea, though the omission had been through forgetfulness or mistake. If they failed in one part of the ceremony, they must make it up by the observance of another part, which was in the nature of a remedial law. 1. The case is put of a national sin, committed through ignorance, and become customary through a vulgar error (Num. 15:24)--the congregation, that is, the body of the people, for so it is explained (Num. 15:25): All the congregation of the children of Israel. The ceremonial observances were so numerous, and so various, that, it might easily be supposed, some of them by degrees would be forgotten and disused, as particularly that immediately before concerning the heave-offering of their dough: now if, in process of time, upon consulting the law, there should appear to have been a general neglect of that or any other appointment, then a sacrifice must be offered for the whole congregation, and the oversight shall be forgiven (Num. 15:25; 26) and not punished, as it deserved, with some national judgment. The offering of the sacrifice according to the manner, or ordinance, plainly refers to a former statute, of which this is the repetition; and the same bullock which is there called a sin-offering (Lev. 4:13; 21) is here called a burnt-offering (Num. 15:24), because it was wholly burnt, though not upon the altar, yet without the camp. And here is the addition of a kid of the goats for a sin-offering. According to this law, we find that Hezekiah made atonement for the errors of his father’s reign, by seven bullocks, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats, which he offered as a sin-offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah (2 Chron. 29:21), and for all Israel, Num. 15:24. And we find the like done after the return out of captivity, Ezra 8:35. 2. It is likewise supposed to be the case of a particular person: If any soul sin through ignorance (Num. 15:27), neglecting any part of his duty, he must bring his offering, as was appointed, Lev. 4:27-35 Thus atonement shall be made for the soul that sins, when he sins through ignorance, Num. 15:28. Observe, (1.) Sins committed ignorantly need to have atonement made for them; for, though ignorance will in a degree excuse, it will not justify those that might have known their Lord’s will and did it not. David prayed to be cleansed from his secret faults, that is, those sins which he himself was not aware of, the errors he did not understand, Ps. 19:12. (2.) Sins committed ignorantly shall be forgiven, through Christ the great sacrifice, who, when he offered up himself once for all upon the cross, seemed to explain the intention of his offering in that prayer, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And Paul seems to allude to this law concerning sins of ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13), I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief. And it looked favourable upon the Gentiles that this law of atoning for sins of ignorance is expressly made to extend to those who were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel (Num. 15:29), but supposed to be proselytes of righteousness. Thus the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles.