5:2 Or when there is6 a person who touches anything ceremonially7 unclean, whether the carcass of an unclean wild animal, or the carcass of an unclean domesticated animal, or the carcass of an unclean creeping thing, even if he did not realize it,8 but he himself has become unclean and is guilty;9
tn The word “ceremonially” has been supplied in the translation to clarify that the uncleanness involved is ritual or ceremonial in nature.
sn Lev 5:2–3 are parallel laws of uncleanness (contracted from animals and people, respectively), and both seem to assume that the contraction of uncleanness was originally unknown to the person (vv. 2 and 3) but became known to him or her at a later time (v. 3; i.e., “has come to know” in v. 3 is to be assumed for v. 2 as well). Uncleanness itself did not make a person “guilty” unless he or she failed to handle it according to the normal purification regulations (see, e.g., “wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening,” Lev 15:5 NIV; cf. Lev 11:39–40; 15:5–12, 16–24; Num 19, etc.). The problem here in Lev 5:2–3 is that, because the person had not been aware of his or her uncleanness, he or she had incurred guilt for not carrying out these regular procedures, and it would now be too late for that. Thus, the unclean person needs to bring a sin offering to atone for the contamination caused by his or her neglect of the purity regulations.