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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-34


When was the law of this chapter revealed to Moses (Leviticus 16:1 )? This has led some to think that the chapter is misplaced and that it should follow chapter 10, an idea strengthened by the fact of its cutting into the middle of these laws concerning the clean and the unclean.

What prohibition is laid upon Aaron, and with what penalty (Leviticus 16:2 )? Is there a suggestion here that the disobedience of Nadab and Abihu was aggravated by their entering into the Holy of Holies when they should not have done so?

With what sacrifices was Aaron to appear (Leviticus 16:3 ), and in what apparel (v.4)? What further ceremonial precaution must he take?

What is the offering for the people on this occasion (Leviticus 16:5-7 )? What peculiarity is mentioned in the case (Leviticus 16:8-10 )? What is the ceremony connected with the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:20-26 )?

In what month and on what day of the month were these ceremonies to occur (Leviticus 16:29 )? What kind of a day was this to be (Leviticus 16:31 )?


This Day of Atonement was the most important in the whole Mosaic system of sacrifices, for then the idea of the removal of sin received its highest expression.

To illustrate: It must be that countless sins were committed by the people collectively and individually of which they were unaware, and which were not covered by any of the daily offerings. If, then, there were not some great act of atonement covering everything to the fullest extent, the sacrificial system had fallen short. To meet this the law of the Day of Atonement was instituted.

On this day atonement was made for Aaron and his house (Leviticus 16:6 ); the holy place and the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:15-17 ); the altar and the outer court (Leviticus 16:18-19 ); and the whole congregation of Israel (Leviticus 16:20-22 ; Leviticus 16:33 ); and this “for all their iniquities, and all their transgressions, even all their sins” (Leviticus 16:21 ), i.e., unknown to everyone except God (compare Hebrews 9:7-9 ).

Notice further among other things, (1) that only the high priest could officiate on this day (Leviticus 16:17 ); (2) that he could do so only after certain preparations, among them the bathing of himself, the laying aside of the “garments for glory and beauty” and the donning of a vesture of unadorned white; and (3) that he entered the Holy of Holies sprinkling the blood even on the mercy seat in that secret place where no other Israelite might tread.

All these things impress us that the sin offering on this day, more than any other, symbolizes in the most perfect way the one offering of Christ who now appears in the presence of God for us.

The Scapegoat

The significance of the scapegoat is difficult to determine. The Revised Version translates the word by the name Azazel, whose meaning is not clear. Either it is a name of an evil spirit conceived of as dwelling in the wilderness, or else an abstract noun meaning removal or dismissal (RV margin).

If we take it in the latter sense, then the scapegoat may be regarded as bearing away all the iniquities of Israel, which are symbolically laid upon him, into a solitary place where they are forever away from the presence of God and the camp of his people. Thus to quote Kellogg, as the killing and sprinkling of the first goat set forth the means of reconciliation with God, so the sending away of the second sets forth the effect of that sacrifice in the complete removal of those sins as already indicated (compare Psalms 103:12 ; Micah 7:19 ).

If, however, the word is taken as the name of a person, then the understanding would seem like this: Satan has a certain power over man because of man’s sin (Hebrews 2:14-15 ; 1 John 5:19 RV; Revelation 12:10 ). To this evil one, the adversary of God’s people in all ages, the live goat was symbolically sent bearing on him the sins of Israel.

These sins are considered as having been forgiven by God, by which it is symbolically announced to Satan that the foundation of his power over Israel is gone. His accusations are now no longer in place, for the whole question of Israel’s sin has been met and settled in the atoning blood.


1. What makes the Day of Atonement the most important in the Mosaic system?

2. Can you quote Leviticus 16:21 ?

3. How does the Revised Version translate “scapegoat”?

4. If the word be an abstract noun, how would you understand its meaning?

5. If the name of a person, how?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/leviticus-16.html. 1897-1910.
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