There was no offering or sacrifice for the presumptuous sin. The person who presumed in his sin 1) despised the Word of the Lord; 2) brought reproach to the Eternal; and 3) died in his guilt. That is a very serious situation.
Notice that it does not say that he will be "cut off" from his people. It says that he will be "completely cut off" from his people, that is, done—finished. There is no sacrifice for presumptuous sin.
This contrast here—between unintentional and intentional sin—helps define what presumptuousness is. Presumptuous sin is intentional willful. It is doing something boldly, brazenly, audaciously, arrogantly, rebelliously, defiantly.
Remember verse 31 says that it brings despite on God's Word. And, if we commit such a sin, we are doing it in defiance of what God has said. It is being headstrong, and haughty—no matter what God has said on the matter. It is just pushing "our agenda" right on through, no matter what God may have to say on it. We could say, it is taking matters into our own hands and damn the torpedoes.
In the sense that there is no sacrifice (or atonement) for this type of sin, there is a link to the unpardonable sin. There may be contrition after a presumptuous sin like this, and God may not forgive it. When we are talking about something done arrogantly, willfully, in despite of God's Word and bringing reproach upon God Himself—then you are talking of very serious guilt. Will the blood of Christ erase such despite?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
This verse defines guilt as breaking God's commandments. Guilt is a condition, a state, or a relationship. It is the result of two forces drawing different ways. At one point stands righteousness, and at the other, sin. In the Old Testament, the ideas of sin, guilt, and punishment are so interwoven that it is impossible to describe one without mentioning the other two. Sometimes one word is used interchangeably for the others.
The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant's failure to carry out a master's orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.
The state of sin is a surrender of freedom; it is like being enslaved to a drug. Like a chemical addiction, sin can become an unshakable habit, so that every next time makes it easier to absolve ourselves of guilt. Even petty sins, if numerous enough, can immobilize us until they completely harden our hearts.
A couple of examples of guilt will help clarify its effects. One is Cain's despondent complaint to God after he had slain Abel. “Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear!'” (Genesis 4:13). The word “punishment” includes both the sin committed and the guilt attached to it. Guilt assures us of eventual misery.
Another example is that of Joseph's brothers, who were late to recognize their guilt in selling Joseph into slavery. They probably felt their guilt in varying degrees all along, but it was not until they felt threatened by receiving the consequences that they admitted it. “Then they said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us'” (Genesis 42:21). Their guilt had separated them from God, their brother Joseph, and even from their father, Jacob.
In the Psalms, it is apparent that willful and persistent sin can never be separated from guilt or from consequent punishment. Notice Psalm 69:27-28: “Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” David writes of the wicked in Psalm 109:7, “When he is judged, let him be found guilty.”
Ignoring guilt does not make it go away. A penalty of sin must be paid. Unless we submit to God and accept Christ's sacrifice for our sins, we will pay the ultimate price—our lives!
Martin G. Collins
Should We Ignore Our Feelings of Guilt?
Notice these verbs: "Despise," "reproach," "cut off." There is a difference in attitude reflected in the person who sins unintentionally, even though the person is conscious of what he is doing.
There is no forgiveness here. He bears his guilt right to the grave. So, murder, which involves deliberateness, is the willful taking of a life, and to sin presumptuously is to do it willfully.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice
The word presumption does not quite mean in Hebrew what it does in English. In English, it simply means "to assume," to take a matter upon oneself without considering all the factors and doing it. However, in the Old Testament, it carries the idea of acting arrogantly—of rebellion. In fact, it means to do something with audacity or to be headstrong. It refers to those who overstep their bounds or dare to act in a disobedient manner. A willfulness is implied in the word that is not contained in English, making it much more forceful.
In other words, a person who sins presumptuously is fully aware of what he is doing; he is fully educated and not in ignorance either of what he is doing or the potential cost of doing it, and he deliberately sets his mind to do it. It is an act of rebellion, an audacious setting one's will, despite all he knows, to go ahead and do it anyway.
By these usages, the word "unintentional" in Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15 can include within it someone who is conscious of what he is doing but does not act audaciously. He does not plan it. He is not rebellious—but weak. God will forgive that, but He will not forgive the sin that is presumptuous according to usage of the word in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, the word begins very similar to the English usage of the word. It means "to think" or "suppose." Howevver, according to the context in which it is used in the New Testament, it contains the idea of dealing proudly, defiantly, and recklessly. It means to look down upon. A tremendous amount of pride is implied in it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Numbers 15:31: