Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 18

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-30



Leviticus 18

1. What requires Leviticus 16 to immediately follow Leviticus 10?

Ans. – Both the chronological order and the context require it. The first verse connects chronologically and expressly with the death of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. The contextual line of thought as repeatedly given is this:

(1) A place for the sinner to appear before Jehovah, given in Exodus.

(2) With what the sinner shall come – or offerings and sacrifices, Leviticus 1-7.

(3) Through whom the sinner shall approach Jehovah, or the appointed priesthood, Leviticus 8.

(4) Inauguration of the tabernacle service, Leviticus 9.

(5) The divine punishment for breach of the order of this service, Leviticus 10.

(6) The culmination of this service in the Day of Atonements. All other matters in the book are subsidiary to this climax. So that the chronological order and the contextual order require that Leviticus 16 shall be considered immediately after Leviticus 10.

2. What is the importance of this section of Leviticus in the judgment of the Jews?

Ans. – They counted it the most important part of the Pentateuch. It was called by pre-eminence "The Day," "The Great Day of the Holy Year." It was reckoned by them as the very heart and citadel of their law.

3. What is the relation of this chapter on the atonement to the prophets?

Ans. – It is the basis of all the evangelical sections of the prophets and the Psalms.

4. How is it regarded by New Testament authors?

Ans. – As the most expressive and vital of all the Old Testaments foreshadowings of the Messiah’s vicarious sacrifice and the atonement based thereon. Now, any book or section of the Bible that holds such a place in the Jewish thought, in the prophets and in the New Testament, must be of extraordinary importance.

5. What New Testament book elaborately expounds this chapter?

Ans. – The letter to the Hebrews.

6. What can be said of the uniqueness of its ceremonials?

Ans. – There is nothing like it elsewhere in the world, either in the Pentateuch or other parts of the Bible, and nothing corresponds to it in the worship of heathenism. The whole conception is impossible of human origin; the ordinance must have been, as our Lord frequently taught, a supernatural revelation, since no man could have ever thought it out, and only men aided by the Holy Spirit would be able to grasp it. Indeed, to this day and throughout their history, the unaided Jewish mind is unable to grasp the idea of a suffering Messiah, vicariously expiating the sins of the people. They did not on this point believe their own prophets. Isaiah in the commencement of that remarkable chapter (Isaiah 53:1) complains, "Lord, who hath believed our report?" and then gives his particulars of the suffering Messiah. The apostles themselves very slowly accepted it. In Matthew 16, just after his great confession, Peter rebuked Christ for distinctly declaring his death and said, "God forbid it," and the disciples, even after the resurrection, clung with an almost incorrigible persistency to wrong conception of the things, so that Jesus said, "O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have taught; how that the Messiah must needs suffer and that remission of sins should be preached in his name." It has ever been the issue between the Jew and the Christian.

7. What do the radical critics urge against it?

Ans. – (1) That the sense of sin and the need of expiation and of atonement based thereon, as expressed by this ordinance, could not have existed in the days of Moses. (2) They urge that later Jewish history contains no record of the observance of such a day of atonement. (3) They urge that only after their return from Babylonian captivity was such a sense of sin called for by this ordinance, developed in the Jewish mind. Now, I have put in three sentences the contents of about fifty books. This is the quintessence of radical criticism on Leviticus.

8. What is the reply thereto?

Ans. – (1) The chief part of the objection of the radical critics is based on the assumption of a human origin of the ordinance, namely, that it must arise from an adequate human sense of sin. But this sense of sin the Jews never had in their whole history and least of all on their return from Babylonian captivity. The object of the ordinance was not to give man’s sense of sin, but God’s sense of sin, and thereby to develop in man the proper sense of sin. The Jews as a nation not only never had the sense of sin called for by this ordinance at the time that the radical critics affirm after the Babylonian exile, but they never will have it until the time, yet future set forth in Isaiah 66:8-9; Ezekiel 36:16; Ezekiel 7:14; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1. I could write many volumes of these passages of Scripture. They tell when the Jews will understand the day of atonement; they tell how it will be brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Reply to the second objection of the radical critics: It is true that the later Biblical history does not indeed specifically record an observance of this day and of thousands of other matters, since it was never intended to be complete history, but only an outline of salient points bearing on the future kingdom of God. But while there is no specific reference, yet very many references in the prophets and psalms necessarily pre-suppose this ordinance and its observance. Indeed they would be inexplicable without it.

(3) Reply to the third part of the radical criticism: The record of the ordinance here in its proper place not only expressly refers it to Moses at Mount Sinai, but gives what no postexile author would have thought of, viz.: the occasion of its introduction in the death of Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 16:1. There is not the slightest scrap of historical evidence to support the incredible feats which they attribute to nameless men of postexile times. They turn over all the great things of the Bible to people that nobody ever heard of, indeed Dillmann, a chief of their own tribe, is compelled to admit that the theory of postexile origin of this ordinance is "absolutely incredible."

9. What is the object of the whole service on the Day of Atonement?

Ans. – Atonement, based on vicarious expiation for all sins, the sins of Aaron and his house, the sins of the sanctuary itself, all the sins of all the people, whether the sins of ignorance or knowledge, and (2) redemption from Satan’s power.

10. What was the time allotted for the observance of this day?

Ans. – Once a year and on the tenth day of the seventh month of the year.

11. Regardless of the day’s position in the week, how must it be classified? That is, whether is be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday; how must it be classed?

Ans. – The tenth day of the month must be classed as the Sabbath of sabbaths, a high sabbath, in which the people must do no work.

12. What distinguishes it from all Jewish festivals?

Ans. – The festivals were all joyous, but on this day the people must fast and afflict their souls. It must be a day of broken hearts and penitence or they must be cut off from the people. You don’t find that in connection with any other ordinance in the Old Testament.

13. How in this regard does the New Testament correspond?

Ans. – An impenitent soul cannot take hold of Christ’s atonement. "Repent, repent; except ye repent ye perish."

14. How else is the day’s service distinguished from all others?

Ans. – (1) It was the only day in the year when the most holy place could be entered. (2) One man only could enter it that day, the high priest. (3) Before he could enter it, he must be divested of all his garb of glory used on the other days of service, and be clad in simple, spotless white as the commonest Levite. (4) No other priest or Levite could assist in the service of this day, the high priest alone must officiate throughout.

15. What is the New Testament correspondence to this?

Ana. – Now, I won’t attempt to give it all, but I will give enough for you to think of:

(1) As here, once for the year; there, once for all the sacrifice dies and the atonement is made.

(2) As here once a year the high priest laid aside his garb of glory, so Jesus once for all laid aside his glory that he might in his humiliation expiate and atone for sins. And as the high priest assumed his garb of glory when atonement was made, so Jesus, after atonement, was glorified with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.

(3) As the high priest alone officiated, so of the people there was none with Jesus in sacrifice and atonement. When he died, no angel to support him and not even the presence of God to cheer him. You might go on and add a great many other correspondences; as, here the high priest lifts the marvelous, triple-colored veil in order to approach the mercy seat in the most holy place, 60 Jesus through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, laid aside his flesh in order to approach the true mercy seat in heaven and there sprinkle his own blood on the mercy seat.

16. Where is there no New Testament correspondence?

Ans. – Aaron, the typical high priest, had to offer the sacrifice for himself and his house and so qualify himself to be the mediator for the people, but as Jesus knew no sin and there was no guile in him, he did not have to make an offering for himself.

17. Apart from the sacrifice that the high priest offered for himself as preparatory to undertaking the work of the Day of Atonement, what are the sacrifices for expiation and atonements, and explain?

Ans. – Two goats both as sin offerings, both for the sins of the people confessed on their heads; both are presented before the Lord.

18. Why two?

Ans. – It takes two ideally considered as one to represent the two ideas of redemption: (1) Redemption toward God;

(2) Redemption from Satan.

19. How were they selected for their separate parts?

Ans. – Lots were cast determining one for Jehovah and the other for Azazel.

20. Describe the disposition of the goat for the Lord.

Ans. – The goat for the Lord was sacrificed for a sin offering and the blood was carried into the holy of holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat. This is the only time in the year that this was done. It was carried hot, fresh, smoking, past the veil into the most holy place and sprinkled on the not enter the most holy place. He stood before it, but only mercy seat. In all the ordinary sacrifices, the high priest did passed inside one time in a year. The body of that goat was then carried outside of the camp and burned, thus expiating sin Godward, thus satisfying the divine law, thus placating God’s wrath against sin and thus reconciling God to man.

21. What does that part teach?

Ans. – (1) It teaches the infinite demerit of sin. (2) It teaches the absolute necessity of satisfying divine justice against sin in order to the salvation of the sinner. (3) It teaches that mercy cannot prevail at the expense of justice.

22. Describe the disposition of the other goat.

Ans. – Now our record says very plainly that Aaron took the other goat and confessed on that goat also the sins of the people, and then he sent that goat to Azazel away out in the wilderness, by a safe person. He was to be turned over to Azazel in the wilderness, and that person then returned.

23. What was the first interpretation of the goat for Azazel?

Ans. – There are only two theories worth considering; there are some others but they are so obviously untenable that they are not worth considering. There is one brought out by the King James Version that you find in a great many commentaries, and that is, that Azazel is to be considered abstractly and meaning "removal." Hence, the first goat would be the goat for expiating sin, and the second goat would be the goat to symbolically show the removal of sin which had been expiated. In other words, the first goat was to express the means of expiation, and the second was to express the effect of the expiation; or, to apply it to Christ, that Christ’s dying expiates sin; Christ’s living after his resurrection removes sin as embodied in such scriptures as these, "As far as the east is from the west he has removed our sins from us." Now these thoughts are all scriptural and very comforting, but whether that is the interpretation of this particular passage is the question.

24. What is the objection to this view?

Ans. – (1) The first objection to this theory is that "Azazel" is a proper name as much as "Jehovah" is a proper name and not an abstract noun. (2) That "Azazel" is put there over against "Jehovah" and contra-distinguished from Jehovah. One goat for Jehovah and the other for Azazel, and a man must strain the meaning of the words to give Azazel here the idea of an abstract noun. (3) That this theory leaves out one great feature of redemption accomplished by atonement, and takes the bottom from under some of the most impressive of the prophecies, and of the New Testament teachings.

25. What, then, in the estimation of the author, is the true theory?

Ans. – 1 remember an editor was staggered when I offered to present a true theory of Azazel in a sermon before the Southern Baptist Convention, and he advised me to leave Azazel out of the sermon. I said, "I will put him in and explain it and make the people believe it." What, then, is the true theory? That on this Day of Atonement there is redemption Godward in the goat that died for sin, and that redemption based on expiation of sin toward God makes possible redemption from the power of the devil. But the devils only hold is that men are sinners. Now you expiate their sins, then Satan’s power fails, and his authority is over death, and death is the wages of sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But in the expiation of sin the penalty of the law, death, is removed, then the devil’s authority over death for the one whose sin is expiated, passes away.

26. What are the scriptural supports of this theory?

Ans. – See the author’s sermon on "Three Hours of Darkness." That carries through the entire Bible the power of Satan, and shows how in the Day of Atonement the power of Satan was broken. I can give you this conception of the thought: That first goat died, but he died unto the Lord for the expiation of the sins of the world, a very honorable position for a goat. You remember in one of Aesop’s Fables a wolf approaches a sheep and asked if it would not be eaten by the wolves, for it would be offered as a sacrifice on the altar of the gods anyway. To the wolf the sheep replied, "It is more honorable to die on the altar of the gods than to go down a wolf’s throat." So that first goat, though he dies, had a glorious object in view.

Now, look at this living goat. In the first place, he is burdened with all the sins of the people, and he carries that burden himself away from the flock. He had to go into the wilderness to meet Azazel, who is the devil. He goes out there carrying these sins, but not sins unforgiven, they are sins forgiven; their forgiveness has Just been achieved by the death of the other goat, and therefore he can meet the devil.

If I were an artist, I would paint that fight in the wilderness; that brave little goat and Azazel in the form of a serpent as they fight it out to the death and the serpent bites the heel of the goat, but the goat crushes out the life of the serpent with his hoof. Hear its cries, "Who shall deliver me from the terrible one?" Hence in psalms we have the prayer that Christ offered on the cross. He prays for two things, for the sins of the world are on him. He says, "0 save me from the sword." And the reply is given in Zechariah: "Awake, 0 sword, and smite the shepherd." Then he complained not only of the sword but of the roaring lion, and he prays, "Save me from the lion," and in that three hours of darkness, which was supernatural and which was "Devil Darkness," Christ was alone, and met it as that little goat met Azazel in the wilderness. He bruised the serpent’s head because he carried with him the sins forgiven, in the goat that died unto God.

I said the two goats were ideally one. In giving object lessons, it takes two to present the complete thought just like it takes two or more parables to represent the kingdom of Heaven. But in the New Testament antitype, the person is the same; Christ is the sacrifice for sin represented by the goat that died unto God; Christ is the living goat that meets Satan in his realm, and triumphs over him; so that the great object in Leviticus 16 is to show that atonement is based on expiation of all sins and redemption from the power of Satan, the usurper, that held men captive because of sin.

27. What are the objections to this view and the reply thereto?

Ans. – (1) That it sends the goat off to be sacrificed to demons. What is the reply to that part of the objection? That it is not so. That goat was not sent off to be sacrificed, but to whip in the fight and not die through the power of Satan. In the very next chapter you will find there is an express law against offering sacrifices to demons. (2) The second objection is that Azazel is not found elsewhere in the Bible. Neither are a great many of the names of Satan elsewhere mentioned than in a single passage. He had a great variety of names and each name represented a certain thought. For instance, as the adversary of God and man he is called Satan. That means an adversary; as a slanderer of God and an accuser of men he is called devil and means slanderer; as the chief of demons he is called Beelzebub; as a wily, slimy, sly tempter he is called the serpent, the Old Dragon; as the usurping king holding the world under his dominion while the world is covered with sin, he is Azazel. The Jewish tradition almost uniformly construes Azazel in Leviticus 16 to mean the devil, and you will find in their rabbinical writings this very name Azazel.

28. When must the high priest carry the blood of the sacrifice beyond the veil into the most holy place and sprinkle it on the mercy seat to make atonement?

Ans. – On the same day that the sacrifice is slain, and while the blood is yet hot and has not had time to coagulate, or thicken.

29. What is the New Testament significance of this fact?

Ans. – It shows us where Christ’s spirit went and what his spirit did between his death and his resurrection. Jesus died saying, ".Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and the spirit of Jesus in the exercise of the functions of atonement, immediately on its dissolution from his body, went into the heaven of heavens, and there presented in the most holy place in heaven his expiating blood and with it made atonements for the sins of the people.

The importance of this truth cannot be overestimated. For instance, when you come to study that remarkable passage in the letter of Peter where it is said that Christ by his spirit went and preached to the spirits in prison, a great many commentators hold that on the death of his body, Christ’s spirit went to hell and there preached to lost souls that perished in the flood, preached the gospel of regeneration. The whole doctrine of such interpretation is utterly at war with the uniform teachings of what the high priest does on the Day of Atonement; that he must go to heaven and not to hell, and why he must go there, and what he must do. In the next case it contradicts the teaching that probation ends with death; that there is no such thing as carrying the gospel to those who died impenitent.

If you do not get the true conception of this Day of Atonements, you miss the center wheel upon which the idea of interpretation of Mosaic legislation revolves. If you do not get the true conception of that, it takes the bottom from under all the evangelical meaning of the deepest, most profound writings and teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles; and particularly if you do not understand the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, do not ever try to understand the letter to the Hebrews.

Now you are at liberty to adopt for your private opinion that first theory of Azazel if you want to. Some good people do, but I do not know that all the sound, modern interpreters, while they seem not to have gone as far with the thought as I have, say that Azazel means the devil, and that the goat was to meet the devil in the wilderness. And I am quite sure that it comes in more harmoniously than any other explanation of this part of the Word of God.

Here is an invaluable recipe for knowing when you have gotten the right interpretation of a passage. You may run it through the whole Bible without overturning any other doctrine. You may know you have the right interpretation when it articulates with the whole system of the divine truth without ever making ajar. If a man comes up with a wagon load of bones and begins to articulate them and he puts a hand where one of the feet ought to be, and he puts a rib over the shoulder, there is a skeleton but you don’t get any symmetry in your skeleton. You may know you have put some bones in the wrong place. This is a good rule for interpretation.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Leviticus 18". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/leviticus-18.html.
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