Numbers 6.6-11 – The nature of sin
Posted: 1 July 2010 in Numbers

All the days that he [a Nazarite] separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.

Although this passage refers to the consecration of a Nazarite, and there are not too many of them around nowadays, there is something here which may be of more general applicability.

It is common to think of sin in terms of moral failure. In the above passage, however, there is no suggestion that a Nazarite, who accidentally defiles his consecration, is thereby guilty of any deliberate wrong doing, or even of carelessness. And yet he is still required to offer an atonement for sin. There would seem to be here a conception of sin as something objective, which adversely impacts upon the divine/human relationship, quite independently of any moral failure.

If that is what sin is, then it may help to explain why, quite independently of any actual sins, original sin puts members of the human race in need of salvation. There has been a rupture in the divine/human relationship, whose ontological dimensions mean that it can only be put right by God himself.

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