A guilt offering (Hebrew: asham "guilt, trespass"; plural ashamot), also referred to in English as a trespass offering (KJV, 1611), is a type of Biblical sacrifice, specifically a sacrifice made as a compensation payment. It is distinct from the sin offering.
The main passage is Leviticus 7, which refers to the offering "for sin" or "for sins" (in the Greek Septuagint it is the [offering] peri tes plemmeleias περὶ τῆς πλημμελείας ).
The guilt offering is to be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered, and its blood is to be splashed against the sides of the altar.
— Leviticus 7:2, NIV
The transgressor furnished an unblemished ram for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as (in cases of sins against holy items, theft, commission of fraud or false oaths) monetary compensation to the victim for their loss, in the amount of 125% of the value of the thing misappropriated. Monetary restitution had to be given in the pre-exile version of the currency (the shekel of the sanctuary), rather than the currency of the time, giving rise to a need for currency exchange in the Temple (hence the New Testament narrative of Jesus and the Money Changers).
Such compensation payments were given on occasion of:
- infringing the rights of the priests to portions of other sacrifices (referred to in the text as God's holy things)
- unknown potential infringement of the regulations - as these infringements were uncertain and possibly had not occurred at all, this was voluntary (just in case) and there was no restitution element
- cheating a kinsman by
This was also given as part of the purification process for Tzaraat.
Notes and citations
- Plaut, W. Guenter, ed. (1981). The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
- Wilson, Kevin A. (2006). Conversations with Scripture: the law. Morehouse Publishing. "The final offering is the guilt offering, also called the restitution or reparation offering. ... Three cases are given in which a person had to offer a guilt offering: sinning against a holy item, committing an unknown sin, and swearing falsely in a matter concerning money."
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