Trespass-offering (אָשָׁם, asham, once [Le 6:5] fern. אִשׁמָה, which properly denotes the act of trespass, as elsewhere). This sacrifice was offered for individuals only, and chiefly for such transgressions as were not punishable by the laws of the State (Le 7:19). The victim sacrificed was different on different occasions.
1. A trespass-offering was brought when a person did not inform of a crime committed by another (Le 5:1); when a person had touched any unclean object, and had omitted the sacrifice of purification (ver. 2, 3); when a person had, through forgetfulness, neglected to fulfill his rash vow.
In each of these cases the offering was a ewe or a she-goat; or, if the sacrificer were poor, it might consist of doves or fine flour, without oil and incense (ver. 4-13).
2. When a person had, through mistake, applied to a common purpose anything which had been consecrated to a holy use (ver. 10, 16; 22:14), or had in any way violated an engagement, or denied stolen property, or concealed any lost thing which he had found. In these cases the offering was a ram, and the restoration of the alienated property, with one fifth of the value; in the former case to the priest, in the latter to the owner or his heirs (Le 6:2-7).
3. When any person had, through ignorance, done something forbidden, the victim was a ram (Le 5:17-18).
4. When a man had a criminal connection with a betrothed female slave (Le 19:20; Le 22), or had, in later times, contracted an idolatrous marriage, the victim was a ram (Ezr 10:19). So also a Nazarite who had contracted defilement by touching a dead body (Nu 6:9-12), and a leper who had been healed, were to bring a lamb for a trespass- offering (Le 14:12,24). In this offering the victim was slain on the north side of the altar, the blood sprinkled round it, and the pieces of fat burned upon it. SEE SIN-OFFERING.
Among the Hebrews trespass-offerings, like all other expiatory sacrifices, were symbolical representations of the great work, for the effecting of which the Messiah was promised to fallen man (Ps 40:6,8; Heb 8:3; Heb 9:14,26,28; Heb 10:5,10). As it was the design of the Mosaic law to remind the Hebrews that they were guilty of sin and liable to death, so every sacrifice was a memorial of this mournful truth, as well as a type of the work of our Redeemer. When a Hebrew had committed a trespass against the divine law, providing the transgression: was such as admitted an expiation, he had to offer the requisite sacrifices before he could be restored to his civil privileges. With this a mere worldly-minded Hebrew was content; but, as no mere animal sacrifice could make atonement for sin, to the sincere believer the sacrifice was only the symbol and type of something spiritual. It reminded him that his sins had not only excluded him from the divine favor, but that he deserved death and subsequent agony; it directed him to the need of a sacrifice for sin ere God would forgive his transgression; and it assured him that, just as by sacrifice he had been restored to his civil and political rights, so by faith in the great sacrifice for sin on the part of the lamb of God might he be restored to the divine favor, and to a place in that spiritual kingdom of which the Hebrew nation was the type. SEE PROPITIATORY SACRIFICES.