In Lev 10:17 is it the offering or the priest that bears the sin? Does the Hebrew text translated as "it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community" mean that the offering took away the sin or that by eating it the priest would then bear the guilt? By eating it does the priest somehow bear guilt or does he remain unaffected? I am new to learning Hebrew so I need some help.


“Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before the LORD."


“Why have you not eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has given it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?

  • 1
    to refers to the purpose or means of the sacrifice. It can be better translated as "given you as atonement". Eating is a part of process. NABRE version: “Why did you not eat the purification offering in the sacred place, since it is most holy? It has been given to you that you might remove the guilt of the community and make atonement for them before the Lord.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 5:02

5 Answers 5


It is the same meaning in both translations. "Bear" in the KJV/NKJV needs to be understood as "carried away", which is the NIV translation. So there is no difference.

The idea is not that the priests have special digestive enzymes that dissolve the sin, nor that the priests have some special virtue that nullifies the sin, but that the priests carry the sin offering into the holy place, because they literally take the meat into the holy place where they sit down to eat it. Moses is so clear about this he repeats himself, so let's read it ourselves:

Lev 10.17b-18 KJV

God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded.

Notice that it is the bearing, and not the eating, that makes atonement.

As it says in Leviticus 6:26:

The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.

It is the bringing into the holy place, and really bringing the blood into the holy place -- that atones. To see this, consider the offerings in which the entire animal is burned and nothing is eaten. That happens when blood is sprinkled on the holy place. Nothing is eaten, but the blood is brought into the holy of holies and atonement happens.

Underlying this is the idea that God has limited sight in matters of sin and judgment. This occurs throughout the bible. E.g. Gen 18.20-21:

And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

The reason God limits his vision is because otherwise it would be impossible for God to dwell among people. Everyone would be instantly vaporized by judgment. So there is an established area of death and of life, with zones of increasing presence: world -> holy land -> the camp -> inside tabernacle courtyard -> holy place -> holy of holies. To make amends, you have to bring the offering into the appropriate level of his presence for the atonement to be made.

But of course sinful people cannot enter that holy place, which is why the priests mediate by interacting with the people and then carrying their offerings into the holy place for them. So yes, the priests are holy, but it is not their holiness which atones, but their holiness allows them to carry the atonement into God's presence.

The eating of the offering is to console the sinner, to confirm to him that his offering was accepted so that his conscience is cleared. It was also a blessing for the priests, that they feed off of mediation. But the atonement happens when the blood is brought before the Lord in the holy place.

  • Do you associate the abiding mercy or forbearance of God concerning sinners with limited vision on His part? I have always considered God's provision of access to Him more as an immense condescension based in His clarity of vision. Does He not clearly see our sin? Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 13:25
  • "see" is a metaphor as it is a category error to "see" sin anymore than one can "smell", "hear" or "touch" sin, so let's not mix Hellenistic hermeneutics with Semitic hermeneutics, as in the OT to "see", or "smell", or "hear" sin are all different. Look up "see", "face", and "presence" in a good theological dictionary. Also why the blood must be covered up with dirt, or why a forgiven sin is "covered", or why God came down to see the tower of Babel, or why the stench of Nineveh rose up to his presence, or God went to see Sodom after he heard its sin.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 15:33
  • Genesis 3:9 Did God not know where Adam was? Hermeneutical semantics aside, I cannot fear the God who might not be aware of my sin because his vision is limited. Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 15:56
  • This is hopeless Hellenism. Stop trying being a Greek examining some phenomena to find underlying laws and attributes like a scientist studying an animal.This can only lead to contradictions and confusion. Instead, look at patterns of behavior and speech, recurring narrative themes, and methods by which God approaches man. At least that's what I do. I wont let others drag me into foolish debates about God's nature. I have no interest in developing a "theory" of what God can and cannot do, nor am I interested in erecting some crystalline theology. I'll stick to learning the narrative themes.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 17:41
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    Of course, as it is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 39.28 and looks toward Rev 6.16. But at this time, we are grateful for God's mercy that his face is hidden and our sins are not seen, as per Psalm 51.9
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 18:45

In a very literal sense it is neither the offering nor the priest. In a metaphoric sense, both did.

In the sacrificial system we have two elements: (a) the animal, eg, the lamb, and, (b) the priest. BOTH represented Christ but the shadow could not remove sin.

A. The sacrificial system could not remove sin and had no salvific value

  • Heb 8:5 - The place where they [the priests] serve is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.
  • Heb 9:9 - It [the sanctuary] is an illustration for the present time, because the gifts and sacrifices being offered were unable to cleanse the conscience of the worshiper.
  • Heb 10:4 - because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
  • Ps 51:16, 17 - For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
  • 1 Sam 15:22 - But Samuel declared: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to His voice? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, and attentiveness is better than the fat of rams.

See also Heb 9:8, 9, 11-14, 10:1, Col 2:16, 17, Isa 1:10-17, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22, Hos 6:6, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Jer 6:20, Micah 6:6-8, etc

B. The sacrificial animals (lambs, etc) only represented Jesus who removes sin

  • John 1:29 - The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
  • 1 Cor 5:7 - For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
  • 1 Peter 1:19 - but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.

C. The Priests were a metaphor of Jesus ministry as Priest

  • Heb 4:14, 15 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.
  • Heb 7:23-28 - Such a high priest [Jesus] truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer daily sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people; He sacrificed for sin once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Thus, the OT ceremonial/Levitical system was only a shadow of the realities (Col 2:17, Heb 8:5, 10:1). That is, neither the OT priest nor the sacrifice could take away sin - that is done in Christ alone.

Acts 4:12 - Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

  • Could you explain: While yes it is true that it was only a shadow Hebrews 4:2 says that the sanctuary taught the gospel, that it was instructive; and Heb 9:9 that it was symbolic. What is the purpose of symbolizing something if there is no reality or antitype? If according to Lev 10:17 the priest bore sin then how is that typical of Jesus, how does He bear sin as a priest?
    – Derek
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 22:10
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    @Derek - The priest represented the Great High Priest who bore sins. Just as the lamb bore the sins and represented Christ. Both are symbols of a greater reality.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 23:54
  • But if sin is atoned for by death then how exactly does a high priest bear that sin AFTER the death off the sacrificial animal? If "both are symbols of a greater reality" then what is that reality? If this is truly a symbol or type then where is the textual explanation of the antitype?
    – Derek
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 1:19
  • 1
    @Derek - these are ALL symbols of the death of Jesus, the atonement for our sins (Rom 3:23-26). The lamb and its death symbolized Jesus, the work of the high priest and priests symbolize Jesus and His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 8, 9, 10). All this is quoted in my answer above. Read the quoted texts.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 1:38
  • Irrelevant to the question using cross ref reasoning to negate the whole law of sacrifice, based on misunderstanding of the NT. Deserves downvotes
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 7:01

The sin offering bears the sin. Sin is dealt with by death.

The word 'לָשֵׂ֣את' (what the NIV translates at 'take away') is fairly clear. It means 'carry', it doesn't mean 'make vanish'. It does take it away, but only in it's death.

Holiness is very important to God and sin is the antithesis to holiness. The priests have to make themselves holy for certain of their tasks (for example, the high priest entering the holies of holies). If the priests were bearing the sins then they would not be able to accomplish this.

The ESV translates it as:

“Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?

However, it is an outlier and most translations do not translate it that way.

Moses is wroth at Aaron and sons' failure to eat the offering not because eating the offering was necessary so that they might bear the sins, but in failing to eat it they are failing to respect what God has done and what God made holy was holy. This is why Moses is satisfied in the following exchange, since that was not the motive for refusal. (Leviticus 10:19-20: NIV)

19 Aaron replied to Moses, “Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?” 20 When Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

  • If the sin is "vanished" by the death then how is it that the priest can be said to bear guilt of something that vanished when the animal died? That's what I don't understand. And if the priest is "carrying" the guilt then where does he carry it to? What is the process to dispose of this guilt being carried?
    – Derek
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 22:06
  • It is not the priest that bears the sin. It is the sin offering, and the ESV is the only major version to translate it contrariwise. Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 10:41
  • I think that the sin is born by the sacrificial lamb, representing "Jesus bearing the sins of this world" (1 Peter 2:24) and dying for us on the cross...sin defiles the sanctuary, and on the day of atonement in Lev 16, the sanctuary is cleanse and sin is transferred to the goat (Azazeel) by the high priests laying on of hands, who is then cast out of the camp into the wilderness where eventually the goat dies (representing the final awarding of punishment for all sin to Satan
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 2, 2022 at 23:21

Who bears the sin in Leviticus 10:17? The priest or sin offering?

A "Questions From Readers" in the February 15, 2011, Watchtower helps to understand what is happening:

The laws that Jehovah had given Moses specified that the priest who offered up a sin offering was to eat part of it in the courtyard of the tent of meeting. Doing so was considered to be answering for the sins of those who made the sacrifice. However, if some of the blood of the sacrifice was taken into the Holy Place, the first compartment of the sanctuary, the offering was not to be eaten. Instead, it was to be burned.​—Lev. 6:24-26, 30.

It appears that after the tragic events of that day, Moses saw the need to make sure that all of Jehovah’s commandments had been followed. On discovering that the goat of the sin offering had been burned, he indignantly asked Eleazar and Ithamar why they had not eaten it as directed, because its blood had not been presented before Jehovah in the Holy Place.​—Lev. 10:17, 18.

Verse 17 clearly states "the guilt of the community". So the sin offering was for Aaron's brother's actions. The article mentioned above states "Perhaps he felt that their eating of it would not be pleasing to Jehovah, even though they bore no direct responsibility for the error committed by Nadab and Abihu.​" [bold mine]

In addition, a question in a comment asks "how is the guilt removed by digestion?" The article above gives the answer "Doing so was considered to be answering for the sins of those who made the sacrifice."

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


The Kohanim (Sons of Aharon) bear the guilt of הַחַטָּאת [The-Sin] offering. - If the priest eats the sin offering then the community's guilt is put in the priest, as stated in [Leviticus 10:17].

Why did you not eat the sin offering in the sacred area? For it is most holy, and He has given it to you to remove the guilt of the community and to make expiation for them before YHVH. (מַדּ֗וּעַ לֹֽא־אֲכַלְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־הַחַטָּאת֙ בִּמְק֣וֹם הַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ כִּ֛י קֹ֥דֶשׁ קׇֽדָשִׁ֖ים הִ֑וא וְאֹתָ֣הּ ׀ נָתַ֣ן לָכֶ֗ם לָשֵׂאת֙ אֶת־עֲוֺ֣ן הָעֵדָ֔ה לְכַפֵּ֥ר עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה)
  • He has given it - to you [ Sons of Aharon בְּנֵ֣י אַהֲרֹ֔ן ] - to remove the guilt of the community.

How is the sinner's guilt removed by kohanim's consumption of the sin offering ??

  • [Exodus 29:33] explains if kohanim eat the sin offering, their mitsvah conveys : כֻּפַּ֣ר בָּהֶ֔ם "atonement in-them".
  • The sinner's guilt has been heard (confession), seen (offering) & felt (eaten) by the sons of Aharon - conveying the sinner's guilt was fully acknowledged by Elohim.
  • Yes, but what does this mean ? And how is the guilt removed by digestion ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 17:11
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    @NigelJ The Hebrew word is נָשָׂא [strongs 5375] meaning to lift, carry or bear implying movement of something from location to another. It seems that maybe the sin is "removed" in the sense of the priest taking the sin and bearing it upon himself. Does this typify Christ "he shall bear their iniquities"? I don't know, thus my question in the OP. In Lev 6:30 something cannot be eaten if the blood has been taken into the Holy Place. Why is it that ministration of blood precludes eating the flesh? I don't know.
    – Derek
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 22:03
  • @Derek There is also Christ being 'made' (or effected) sin. Which may have to be borne in mind.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 22:59

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