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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Leviticus 16:3. A young bullock and a ram. It appears from Numbers 28:29-30, that seven lambs and a he-goat were added to the sacrifice, and perhaps a thousand victims from individuals.

Leviticus 16:4. The holy linen coat. Herodotus, in Euterpe, says that the Egyptian priests are clothed with a linen robe only, and wear shoes made of papier wood.

Leviticus 16:8. The other lot for a scape-goat. עזאזל Azazel, from Az, a goat, and zail, he went; referring to the goat sent away to the desert. So Buxtorf. Other critics would turn the words, “The other lot for the goat sent to the mount of Azazail.” In later times the Jews sent the goat to a rock, from which it was precipitated and killed; but we know of no such name for that rock or mount, nor does it appear to have been known to Moses. Vatablus supposed the mount to be near mount Sinai. The chief difficulty lies at the 26th verse, where the word occurs twice. Let the goat go for a scape-goat; the literal reading is here preferred by many Let Azazail go for a scape-goat.

Leviticus 16:14. With his finger. Seven times he sprinkled upon the covering or mercy-seat, and seven times upon the pavement before the mercy-seat. It is remarkable that our Saviour bled seven times for us. His head was crowned with thorns, his back was scourged, his hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and his side pierced for our redemption. It is equally remarkable that the holy scriptures give us a sevenfold view of the atonement for all mankind, even as these victims bled for the whole nation of the Jews.

(1) Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

(2) He is our vicarious sacrifice, having suffered the just for the unjust.

(3) He is the propitiation, or mercy-seat sprinkled with blood, for the sins of the whole world.

(4) We are redeemed with his most precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.

(5) He is our peace, having made peace by the blood of the cross.

(6) He is the fountain in which the house of David, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the gentile hosts might wash their garments, and make them white as snow.

(7) In a word, he shed the blood of the covenant, which makes all its blessings forever our own. See Hebrews 9:0.

Leviticus 16:17. There shall be no man in the tabernacle. The highpriest might enter there, and that about four times in the year: for there is only one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

Leviticus 16:21. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him the iniquities of Israel. Herodotus, who travelled in Egypt, says in Euterpe, “When the Egyptians had carefully examined a bull to see that he had no defect, then they led him before the altar, and poured wine on the fire. After slaughtering the victim, they cut off his head and burned the body; and having loaded the head with maledictions, they took it to the market to sell it to the Greeks; but if they found no market with foreigners, then they threw the head into the river.” This custom has a striking resemblance to the scape-goat of the Hebrews.

Leviticus 16:29. On the tenth day of the month ye shall afflict your souls. This is the day, says Maimonides, in which Moses descended from the mount with the second two tables in his hand, and announced to the people the pardon of their sins. On this account it is chosen as a hallowed day of repentance and devotion. This is equally admonitory to the christian church: we should review our errors, and confess our sins to the Lord.


The day that Moses descended from the mount, and obtained a pardon for the revolted nation, when they had sinned in worshipping the molten calf, was annually observed as a day of national atonement. Seven days before the arrival of this great day, the highpriest retired to his chamber, and began to sanctify his person. Each of these seven days he officiated at the altar, inuring himself to the sacred service. The festival was observed with the greatest solemnity; every one was enjoined to abstain from meat and labour, under the penalty of excommunication.

The highpriest thus purified, put off his splendid costume; and putting on white robes, proceeded to the sacred duties of the day. This was to offer a bullock for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering, that his own sins might be expiated before he dared to approach the Lord in behalf of the nation. In these preparatory oblations, we see the superior glory of Christ, who laid aside his robes of glory and majesty; and being arrayed in innocence, proceeded to make atonement for our transgressions. Sinners also may learn hence to approach the Lord, not in the splendid fashions of the day, but in humility of heart, and with penitential confessions of sin. Then it is that our great Highpriest enters into the heavens by his own blood, covers the throne of God with a cloud of incense, and pleads the atonement of his death for the pardon of our transgressions.

The second scene of this august festival was, the two young goats presented at the door of the tabernacle in behalf of the people. That for the altar was not accepted by choice, but determined by lot. This should teach sinners, that they are not accepted of God for any worthiness of their own, but conformably to the grace and covenant of God. The priest next took the other goat, and laying his hand on its head he confessed over it, in a most solemn and devotional way, the sins of the nation; and then tying a scarlet bandage round its horns, he sent it to the desert. In later times it was sent to a promontory about twelve miles from Jerusalem: and being pushed from the summit of the rock, was dashed in pieces by the fall. Men were arranged at different distances, with white clothes, to give the signal one to another when the goat had arrived in the desert. Hence, in less than a minute, by this ancient kind of telegraph, the penitent nation were apprized of the arrival of the animal in the wilderness. In these goats we see again a most significant figure of the propitiation made by Jesus Christ for sin. See him, like the first goat, endure part of his sufferings in Jerusalem, and the other part on the rock of Calvary. Behold him red in his apparel, as the goat with the scarlet thread; but it was that our sins, whose tints are deep like scarlet and crimson, might be white as snow; it was that our sins might be buried in his grave, and be remembered no more for ever.

Oh Lord, open thou mine eyes, to behold wonderful things out of thy law. Let me see in all these victims, laden with iniquity and dying for sin, the love of my Redeemer, who bare our sins in his own body on the tree. Let me see in the hallowed altar smoking with victims, in the censer covering the mercy-seat with a cloud of perfumes; let me see in the spotless person of this priest, the more glorious person of Christ, atoning by his death, pleading by his merit, and giving me, a sinner, boldness of access by the richest invitations of his love. In the millions of Israel and of the proselytes let me see the converted multitudes, waiting in thy courts for acceptance, and an entrance into the holy of holies, which was denied them while on earth. Let me see in the victim dragged into the desert, the joyful tidings of the Messiah crucified, and then carried to the gentile world. Let many nations be sprinkled with his blood, and let Ethiopia soon stretch out her hands to God.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/leviticus-16.html. 1835.
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