We are going to talk briefly about the fifth and last category of korbanot, the Korban Asham or “guilt offering” (Lev 5.1 to 6.7). In Lev 7.1-10 we have the Law (Torah) of the Asham and the Asham is Kodshai Kodashim, which means it is most holy and eaten within the Azarah. It is killed north (judgment) of the Mizbeach (Lev 1) and the blood is dashed around the Mizbeach because it was not expiatory. It is an offering brought from the sheep or the goats. If the worshipper cannot afford the sheep or goat, he can bring two turtle doves. If he cannot afford that then he can bring one tenth of an ephah of flour with no oil or levona. The inner organs of the korban is burnt on the Mizbeach.
This korban is mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution or cleansing from defilement. The Asham was “man to man” if he deceives his neighbor or companion (Luke 10.29), and also against the Lord (Lev 6.2). It is also brought if one is ritually impure or a person has benefited from an object belonging and dedicated only to the Temple. An example of benefitting from a thing dedicated to the Lord would be the dirt at the end of the Amah (conduit) that brought blood and water out of the Temple to Akeldama. The ground there was very fertile. You could not take that soil and sell it to make a profit for yourself. In another example, anciently, stones from a defiled Altar at the time of the Maccabees were not thrown away and the Bronze Serpent was kept in the Temple. These things were not used for any benefit of another. Another example would if you ate from korbanot that was only meant for the Kohanim or the Levi’im. This is called “Korban Mei’la” or “embezzlement.” Sin with a slave, half-slave or someone designated for someone else also meant you gave a Korban Asham. Servants were paid and cared for and you could not abuse them in any way.
A person who took a Nazarite vow, like Paul did in Acts 18.18, gave an Asham when they came out of the vow. A Meztora, or a “leper”, also gave an Asham (Lev 14.12-17). When someone thought he committed a sin where a Korban Chata’at (Sin) was required, but isn’t sure that he still committed the sin, would bring what was called a “Taliy” or “pending offering” because his korban isn’t final. So, he would bring a Korban Asham. If he later finds out it was a sin, and he needed a Korban Chata’at, he brings one.
Why does the Torah institute a korban in the case of a person who isn’t sure he sinned or not? Because it teaches we are to avoid any situation that might lead to sin. Negligence in spiritual matters is not good (Zeph 1.12; Rev 3.16; 1 Kings 18.21).
A ram was usually brought as a korban in cases against holy items, theft, commission of a fraud or false oaths. Monetary restitution was brought to the victim, plus 20 % of the value to cover the earnings of the kohanim.
Guilt had two aspects, legal and emotional. The legal aspect covers the act of breaking the a law, and the emotional covers the conscience that the Lord has given. In other words, the Asham is laying the groundwork for Teshuvah, or “repentance.” The Korban Asham teaches us that a mere apology is not enough sometimes to make things right. So, something like punitive damages is required and added. The offender takes on some of the harm to themselves that they caused the victim. The Korban Asham deals with the conscience also and brings a measure of “closure” and “shalom” to the situation that they caused. There is no “shifting” of guilt to something else like in today’s psychiatry. The Korban Asham also takes away the need for the victim to act as a vigilante and take matters into their own hands. We could see this grief and anger at an offense in the O.J. Simpson trial. Not getting satisfaction during the criminal verdict, the Goldman family (victim’s family) took Mr. Simpson to a Civil trial. The motivation was to get justice, satisfaction and peace in what happened.
Yeshua died on the cross but his death did not release us from making restitution. He said as much is Matt 5.23-24 when he said, “So when you are offering your gift on the Altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the Altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” This is, in essence, the idea behind the Korban Asham. Loving your neighbor as ourselves is at the heart of the Torah’s requirement for restitution. Zacchaeus offered more restitution than the Torah required, and Yeshua said salvation had come to him (Luke 19.1-10).
Yeshua also was saying in Matt 5.23-24 that settling matters with people who have something against us is necessary before we can do business with the Lord. The Korban Asham teaches us that the Lord does not forgive at the expense of other people harmed by what we have done. He does not offer us a release of our conscience until we have made things right to those we may have harmed. This is the Torah (instruction) of the Korban Asham.
In Part 12, we will continue discussing the various ceremonies in the Temple and pick up with the Passover ceremony. Details for this ceremony can be found in the Mishnah tractate Pesachim.