Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-34


1. The Day of Atonement


1. The command how Aaron was to enter (Leviticus 16:1-5 )

2. The presentation of the offerings (Leviticus 16:6-10 )

3. The blood carried into the Holiest (Leviticus 16:11-19 )

4. The scapegoat (Leviticus 16:20-22 )

5. Aaron’s burnt offering and that for the people (Leviticus 16:23-25 )

6. The ceremony outside of the camp (Leviticus 16:26-28 )

7. Cleansed and resting (Leviticus 16:29-34 )

A brief rehearsal of the ceremonies of this great day of atonement, with a few explanatory remarks, will help in a better understanding of this chapter. The day of atonement was for the full atonement of all the sins, transgressions and failures of Israel, so that Jehovah in His holiness might tabernacle in their midst. On that day alone the Holiest was opened for the high priest to enter in. That all connected with this day is the shadow of the real things to come, and that in the New Testament we have the blessed substance, is well known. The Epistle to the Hebrews is in part the commentary to Israel’s great day of atonement. The way into the Holiest by the rent vail which is revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, was not made known on the day of atonement. The day itself was celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month, and it was a Sabbath of rest in which they were to afflict their souls (chapter 23:27-29). What is called “afflict” was fasting, the outward sign of inward sorrow over sin. When this was omitted the atonement did not profit anything “for whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.” Only true faith manifested by repentance gives the sinner a share in the great work of atonement.

Aaron is the central figure in the day of atonement. All is his work with the exception of the leading away of the scapegoat. Aaron is the type of Christ. Aaron had to enter the Holiest with the blood of sacrifice, but Christ entered by His own blood. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12 ). Aaron had to come into the holy place with a sin offering and a burnt offering. Nothing is said about a meal or a peace offering. These would be out of keeping with the purpose of the day. As we have seen, the sin and the burnt offerings foreshadow the perfect work of Christ in which God’s righteous claims are met and in which atonement is made for the creature’s sins. Aaron had to lay aside his robes of beauty and glory and put on white linen garments after he had washed his flesh in water. Christ did not need fine linen garments, nor was there any need in Him for washing. Aaron wearing these garments and washed in water typifies what Christ is in Himself. Aaron had to take next two kids of the goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He had to offer the bullock of the sin offering (chapter 4:3). Such an offering for Himself Christ did not need (Hebrews 7:27 ). But Aaron’s offering was an atonement for his house. And Christ is Son over His house, whose house we are (Hebrews 3:6 ). The bullock offering made by Aaron typifies therefore the aspect of Christ’s work for the Church. The two goats were for the people Israel. Lots were cast by Aaron, and one goat was taken by lot for Jehovah and the other for the scapegoat. After the choice by lot had been made Aaron killed the sin offering for himself and his house. Then having taken a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar, with his hands full of sweet incense, he entered within the vail, into the Holiest. The cloud of incense covered the mercy seat. He then sprinkled the blood with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward and seven times before the mercy seat. How blessedly all this foreshadows Christ and His work! The incense typifies the fragrance of His own person, and the sprinkled blood is the type of His own precious blood, in which God accomplishes all His eternal and sovereign counsels of grace.

“The blood which is sprinkled upon the believer’s conscience has been sprinkled ‘seven times’ before the throne of God. The nearer we get to God, the more importance and value we find attached to the blood of Jesus. If we look at the brazen altar, we find the blood there; if we look at the brazen laver, we find the blood there; if we look at the golden altar, we find the blood there; if we look at the vail of the tabernacle, we find the blood there; but in no place do we find so much about the blood as within the vail, before Jehovah’s throne, in the immediate presence of the divine glory.”

In Heaven His blood forever speaks,

In God the Father’s ears.

Then the first goat was killed and the blood was also sprinkled in the same manner. “And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness” (verse 16). “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of the things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Hebrews 9:22-23 ). Christ brought the one great sacrifice on the cross and then entered into heaven itself. Having made by Himself purification of sins He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Christ Himself, in the Holiest, is the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. Aaron and his presence in the Holiest behind the vail is described in verse 17: “And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, one for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.” We see again the difference which is made in the atonement for Aaron and his household and atonement for all the congregation of Israel. It foreshadows the atonement made by the one sacrifice of Christ for the church and for Israel. Israel, however, does not yet possess the blessings and fruits of this atonement on account of their unbelief. We shall soon see how this great day of atonement foreshadows the forgiveness of their sins in the future. The true priest having gone into heaven with His own blood and being there alone, the day of atonement is now. And we who believe and constitute His church have boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, His flesh. This entire age is the day of atonement, and it will end when He comes forth again.

When the work was finished by Aaron and he had come forth again the live goat was brought. Aaron then put his hands upon it and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, all their transgression, and all their sins. All these were put symbolically upon the head of the goat and a fit man sent the goat away into the wilderness. “And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.” We cannot follow the different views expressed on the meaning of the second goat. However, we mention a few. The word for scapegoat is in the Hebrew _azazel. Some take it that _Azazel is an evil being. Inasmuch as it saith that one goat is to be for Azazel, Azazel must also be a person. Some critics claim that all this is a kind of relic of demon worship; such a statement is not only wrong, but pernicious. Others claim that the goat sent to Azazel in the wilderness shows Israel’s sin in rejecting Christ, and that they were on account of it delivered to Satan. There are still other views which we do not mention. Jewish and Christian expositors declare that Azazel is Satan, and try to explain why the goat was sent to him.

The best exposition we have seen on this view is by Kurtz: “The blood of the first goat was carried by him into the holiest of all, on this day (on which alone he was permitted to enter) and sprinkled on the mercy-seat. The sins for which atonement was thus made, were put upon the head of the second goat, which was sent away alive into the wilderness of Azazel (the evil demon, represented as dwelling in the wilderness), in order that the latter might ascertain all that had been done, and know that he no longer retained power over Israel. This whole transaction expressed the thought that the atonement made on this day was so complete, and so plain and undeniable, that even Satan the Accuser (Job 1:0 and 2; Zechariah 3:0 ; Revelation 12:10-11 ) was compelled to acknowledge it. In the sacrifice of this day, consequently, the sacrifice of Christ is shadowed and typified more clearly than in any other, even as we read in Hebrews 9:12 : “By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

There is no need for all these speculations. “Azazel” is not at all an evil being or Satan. The Hebrew word signifies “dismissal”--”to depart.” It is translated in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) with _eis _teen _apopompeen, which means “to let him go for the dismissal.” Both goats are for sin offering. The first goat represents Christ dying for the sins of His people. The second goat laden with those sins which were atoned for by the blood of the first goat, represents the blessed effect of the work of Christ, that the sins of His people are forever out of sight. It is a blessed harmony with the two birds used in connection with the cleansing of the leper.

And here the dispensational aspects come in. Before the transgressions of Israel could be confessed over the scapegoat and before the goat could be sent forever away with its burden, never to return, the high priest had to come out of the Holiest. As long as he remained alone in the tabernacle the scapegoat could not carry off the sins of the people. When the Lord appears the second time, when He comes forth out of Heaven’s glory as the King-Priest, then the blessed effect of His death for that nation (John 11:51 ) will be realized and their sins and transgressions will forever be put away. Then their sins will be cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19 ) and they shall no more be remembered (Isaiah 43:25 ). That this is the true meaning of the scapegoat taking the sins of the people into the wilderness and therefore forever out of sight, we shall learn also in the twenty-third chapter. The feasts and holy seasons mentioned there are: Passover (redemption by blood); firstfruits (resurrection); feast of weeks (Pentecost); feast of trumpets (the regathering of Israel); the day of atonement (when Israel repents and is forgiven); the feast of tabernacles (millennial times). Israel therefore is unconsciously waiting for Christ’s return as their forefathers waited outside, till Aaron came back to put their sins on the scapegoat.

Of the many other interesting things for brief annotation we but mention the rest connected with this great day (verse 31). In the Hebrew “Sabbath of rest” is “Sabbath sabbatizing.” No work had to be done on that great day. The work was completely on God’s side, man must not attempt to supplement that work. But let us also remember the dispensational application. When Israel’s great national day of atonement and repentance comes, when they shall look upon the One, whom they pierced and the great mourning and affliction of soul takes place (Zechariah 12:9-12 ), the glorious Sabbath will follow. Rest and glory will come at last to them as His redeemed people, while the glory of the Lord will cover the earth and all the earth will have rest.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/leviticus-16.html. 1913-1922.
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