sālach [and] chattā’t
Today’s first word has such deep theological significance that its forty-six occurrences speak exclusively of God’s forgiveness of man, never of men forgiving each another. As well as “to forgive,” the Hebrew sālach (H5545) means “to pardon or to spare.” Its first occurrence, in fact, demonstrates this profound importance. After Israel’s sin at Sinai, Moses interceded for the people, praying, “O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon [sālach] our iniquity and our sin” (Exo_34:9).
The deepest significance of sālach, however, lies in the very fact that almost half its occurrences are in Leviticus and Numbers, the books that most strongly emphasize the Levitical, sacrificial laws. In Lev_4:1 to Lev_5:13 (cf. Lev_6:24-30), for example, we read of the sin offering (chattā’t, H2403, a derivative of chātā’). This was a blood sacrifice—for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Lev_4:20; also Heb_9:22)—and was offered in the case of unintentional sin (Lev_4:2), sin committed out of weakness (in contrast to defiant, rebellious sin, for which only judgment awaited in Num_15:30-31). Sālach appears no less than six times in this Leviticus passage (Num_4:20; Num_4:26; Num_4:31; Num_4:35; Num_5:10; Num_5:13), where it is always translated “forgiven,” and underscores God’s forgiveness of sin through His mercy and grace.
What, then, is the significance of all this to the believer today? True, once-for-all forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ. Since “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins,” it was Christ alone who “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Heb_10:4; Heb_10:12). The OT sin offering specifically prefigured the reality that Christ would be “made . . . sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co_5:21). Further, as the sin offering was taken outside the city (Lev_4:21; cf. Heb_13:11), so would the Lord Jesus be taken outside the city (Heb_13:12; cf. Joh_19:17-20).
Further still, in the very next verse in Hebrews, the believer is challenged to “go forth therefore unto [Christ] without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb_13:13). In other words, we are to leave behind all false religion (which Judaism had now become) and embrace our Lord totally, even suffering for Him (Php_1:29; 2Ti_3:12; 1Pe_4:12-16).
Scriptures for Study: What city does Heb_13:14 refer to (cf. 2Co_5:1)? Then, in 2Co_5:15, what kind of sacrifice do we offer God now?