KJV Leviticus 22 : 14

And if a man eat of the holy thing unwittingly, then he shall put the fifth part thereof unto it, and shall give it unto the priest with the holy thing.

I found the above text a little baffling that one who eats Teruman unwittingly is penalised yet according to the Mishmnah somehow one who eats it deliberately is not penalised with the fifth

Terumot.7.1 -

One who eats Terumah [produce consecrated for priestly consumption] intentionally must pay the principal value but need not pay the [additional] fifth. The Tashlumin [payments for what was wrongfully eaten] are Chulin [non-sacred produce, and] if the priest wishes to forego [the payments], he may forego.

One would have thought that it should be the other way round

I don't much about Hebrew or the Mshna but just came across the passage which baffled me a little bit

Why is one who eats unintentionally made to add a fifth?

  • The reason is not stated.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 22:39
  • 1
    About mishnah and law you should ask on Judaism SE.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 5:15
  • @Michael16 Right, these come from thousands of years later. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 14:18

3 Answers 3


This rule of fifths is a general rule for when the things of God are taken back to the Levites. See Leviticus 5:15. We're not told the reason for the rule of fifths, but Leviticus 22:14 is simply following that.

Why does Leviticus 22:14 only talk of unintentional eating? Because, you're not allowed to eat it intentionally. That would be a crime that deserves punishment far more than any sort of restitution. One of the tasks of the priests is to keep unuthorised people from eating it (Leviticus 22:13). The eating of the holy things is part of a priest's duties. To deliberately eat the holy things as a non-authorised person would be a severe act of rebellion against God.

Why then the Teurmot? Because, the Teurmot are uninspired writings that don't come from the same source as the Bible.

  • Deut 20.13 doesn't seem related to the topic. About the remark on inspiration, your interpretation can equally be ignored by the same logic.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 5:15
  • You're right - wrong citation. Leviticus is just as inspirited as Leviticus by definition, not so the Teurmot. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 9:07
  • I meant by your own post or interpretation of Lev or any other book can be equally ignored as uninspired, using your logic to ignore the ancient mishna or any Jewish interpretation of the sages.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 9:09
  • @Michael16 - Yes, the answer to "How can Kyle Johansen's writings contradict the Bible" would be "Because Kyle Johansen is not an inspired writer" (as shown by getting my Lev 22.13 cite wrong). Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 22:42

We can find some hints in scripture.

Fifth part as a general rule of compensation for trespass

First, the requirement of adding a fifth part is not just about "holy things" but is the general requirement for making amends as part of a trespass offering:

Numbers 5:6–7 (KJV 1900)

Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty; Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.

Leviticus 6:1–5 (KJV 1900)

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:

Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely;

he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.

The extra 20% has to be given to the one who was cheated.

Therefore it makes sense that if one takes from the holy things, that a fifth part has to be given to the priest (Lev 5.16, Lev 22.14)

Note that there is a duality (both linguistic and symbolic) between "fifth" and "five". E.g. When the Philistines want to make a trespass offering for stealing the ark:

1 Samuel 6:4 (KJV 1900)

Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
Five is the same root as fifth ch-m-sh.

Fifth part as the redemption fee

Anytime something (or someone) is vowed to the Lord, it can be redeemed by paying the value plus a fifth. This applies to all things and people except those "devoted" to the Lord, who cannot be redeemed for the 20% fee and must be put to death. This includes offering land to God and then taking it back. See Leviticus 27.13, 27.15, 27.19, 27.27, 27.31. Even tithes and first fruits can be redeemed for an extra 20%.

This makes the 20% penalty a generic redemption penalty. We can view the eating of the consecrated bread as special case since it was devoted to the Lord but the congregation used it. So the congregation owes 20% and obviously the person who did the eating should be the one to pay the redemption fee.

Contrast with grace

From this we can get at least a hint as to why 20% is required, in that it is dual to 5, the number of grace. Grace is an unearned gift, whereas the redemption fee is a paid price -- the opposite of grace. It is also the root for fat and stomach.

Joseph gave the Egyptians an impossible burden -- they would have 20% (chimesh) of their labor confiscated by Pharoah and then would need to buy it back in order fill their bellies (chamash) during the lean years. The amount the Egyptians paid is the redemption price: 120% of their income, since 20% was taken from them and they had to buy it back.

This creates a crushing debt that is impossible to pay, since the redemption price is designed so that you cannot pay it for yourself, as it's set at 120% of your life earnings (see table in Leviticus 17 of various redemption prices for different people based on age and sex).

As the Egyptians struggled to pay this impossible debt, they sold all their possessions, all their land, and eventually became slaves of Pharaoh on Joseph's instructions.

But for Benjamin, whom Joseph favored, he gave him a five times (chamash) portion of food (Gen 43.34) - this was completely unearned, but the result of favor, and thus grace. He gave all his brothers a coat, but for Benjamin, five coats (Gen 45.22). Again, an unearned abundance.

Thus the world is divided into those who are from Egypt and so struggle to pay their own redemption price - a debt that they cannot possibly pay -- and those who get five times unearned blessings as a result of grace. Who are the recipients of grace? Those who come out of the same womb as Joseph, e.g. those who are born from above. Everyone else must slave as they try to redeem themselves.


Why does Leviticus 22:14 only talk of unintentional eating?

  1. Because intentionally, when you do what you are not supposed to do, it is a sin with higher punishment and Leviticus 22:9 (death) will deal with you.

  2. Unintentional sin is called ignorance..!!

Ignorance does not excuse sin. Sin is sin, whether it was done in ignorance or not, and there is still a payment due concerning sins of ignorance. However, God deals somewhat differently with sins of ignorance than he does outright rebellion. Consider Luke 12:47-48, James 4:17, and Acts 17:30

Christ made reference in Luke saying

Luke 12:47, 48

47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

  1. That is why even the one who unintentionally ate won't go scot-free but has to pay for the Fifth requirement so you don't do it again, but rather be careful.

  2. Just as Christ made reference, He who knows, but still ignores to do (now that is intentional) now here Leviticus 22:9 will take effect (death)

Leviticus 22:9

They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the LORD do sanctify them.

  1. James also made reference to this

James 4:17

So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.

(You and I know all sinners or sin leads to death as Leviticus 22:9 said.)

Closing and defending point: that ignorance or unintentional is no more excuse.

Acts 17:30

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Jun 9 at 13:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.