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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-2


This chapter is the heart of the book. It is its foundation. Here the question is answered how a holy God can live among an unholy people and have fellowship with them.

The offerings in the first chapters of this book are almost always made by individual Israelites, either voluntarily – burnt offering and grain offering –, or compulsorily – sin offering and guilt offering. There is no question of a special day. The sacrifices on the Day of Atonement must be made annually on a prescribed day and are for the whole people. The emphasis is on the sin offering and the blood. In picture the cross is presented in the most fundamental way in this chapter as the place where the Lord Jesus died as the sin offering, thereby laying the foundation for the community between God and His people.

The Passover represents the foundation of salvation, the liberation from Egypt. The Day of Atonement covers more. This makes it possible for a redeemed people to have fellowship with God and to approach Him in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is a picture of the heaven of heavens where the throne of God stands and where we may approach boldly as priests. “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). The letter to the Hebrews is in fact one great comment on Leviticus 16. This is especially evident in the differences between Leviticus and the letter to the Hebrews:

1. The veil is still closed here; in the letter to the Hebrews the entrance is free.
2. Aaron is a sinful high priest, while the Lord Jesus is perfect.
3. In Leviticus we see a repetition of sacrifices and thus a recurring remembrance of sins (Hebrews 10:1-Leviticus :); in the letter to the Hebrews it is about an offering that has been made once and for all: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
The repetition proves that it is nothing more than a symbol; the strength lies in pointing to the offering of the Lord Jesus.
4. In Leviticus the priest stands; in the letter to the Hebrews there He has sat down (Hebrews 10:11-2 Kings :).

Reason for the Day of Atonement

The starting point of this chapter is the death of two of the most privileged people on earth. If it is impossible for them to enter the presence of God without dying, then the total loss of man is established. How then can a man approach God? God reveals this in picture in this chapter. It answers the question: How can the holy God dwell among such men? God indicates the way.

The high priest lays the foundation for this by the offering he makes every year. On that one day he may enter the holy place. But not without blood, that he must offer for himself and for the people (Hebrews 9:7). The blood comes from different offerings. Every offering speaks of the Lord Jesus.

Verses 3-4

How Aaron Must Enter the Sanctuary

When entering the holy place Aaron does not wear his official clothing for glory and for beauty with which he represents the people before God. He wears simple white linen clothes. This speaks of the personal purity and practical righteousness of the Lord Jesus. He is the only One who was able to complete the work on the cross for the benefit of others. On the cross He did not look after the interests of the people in view of their weaknesses, but made Himself one with their sins. He made their sins His, as He prophetically speaks of “My iniquities” (Psalms 40:12).

Verses 5-11

The Offerings That Aaron Must Bring

There are two sin offerings: one for Aaron and his house, the other for the people. There is a difference in animals: a bull and a goat. There is also a difference in number: one bull for himself and his house and two goats for the people. Aaron and his house represent the Lord Jesus and God’s heavenly people, the church (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:6). The people are God’s earthly people Israel. A bull is a greater offering. The church has a greater insight into and appreciation for the work of the Lord Jesus than Israel.

Two goats are needed to represent the truth of the atonement. The first goat is for the LORD, the second for the people. First, God’s holy demands must be met, then the needs of the people. Both goats also present two aspects of atonement. The goat for the LORD represents the work of the Lord Jesus by which all the holy demands of God are fulfilled. In this way the offer of the reconciliation based on the work of the Lord Jesus can be made to all men. The work is so great and perfect that all men can be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-Joshua :; Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 5:19-Ecclesiastes :).

The other goat, that is sent away, proposes the substantiation. On this goat are confessed the sins of all who belong to the people of God (Leviticus 16:21). In this we see that the Lord Jesus has borne the sins, not of all men, but only of those who accept God’s offer of reconciliation, that is, those who repent. The Lord Jesus gave His life “as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Here is not “for all”, but “for many”. The word ‘for’ here has the meaning of ‘instead of’, while the word ‘for’ in 1 Timothy 2 means ‘extending to’, in the sense of an offer (1 Timothy 2:6).

Verses 12-13

The Incense

The high priest enters the sanctuary with his hands full of incense. For Aaron as a sinful person it is, that he may not die. The cloud of incense fills the sanctuary and envelops him. The Lord Jesus Himself does not need any incense to enter the sanctuary. He entered by virtue of all His glories, His attributes, all of which are like a pleasant fragrance to God. Incense does not speak so much of what He has done, but of what and Who He is.

Verse 14

The Blood of the Bull

The blood of the bull is sprinkled on and in front of the mercy seat. The blood on the mercy seat is for God. He sees the blood as a covering, a fulfilment of His holy demands written on the tables of the law that lie in the ark under the mercy seat. One sprinkling is enough for Him. He knows perfectly the value of the blood.

The blood in front of the mercy seat is for us, priests. We may approach God on the basis thereof to serve Him as priests. For the priest, the blood is sprinkled seven times. That is to give us absolute certainty that we can be there because of the value of that blood.

Verses 15-19

The Goat for the LORD

The goat which is for the LORD (Leviticus 16:8) is slaughtered for the sake of the people. Its blood, as well as the blood from the bull, is sprinkled on and before the mercy seat in the sanctuary. This is for the atonement of the sanctuary because of the sins of the Israelites, that God may continue to dwell among them.

God’s honor is restored through the work of the Lord Jesus. He has returned to God what He has not stolen, namely God’s glory (Psalms 69:4). The dishonor we have done to God has been taken away by the Lord Jesus by glorifying Him, obeying Him in everything, and completing His work perfectly. Therefore first the goat is slaughtered which is for the LORD. God must have the first place, only then will our need come.

The foundation of reconciliation with God was established by the Lord Jesus. God has demanded all His righteous demands as the holy and righteous God from the Lord Jesus. He made Him sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:3). The Lord Jesus has perfectly fulfilled all God’s demands and desires. God is perfectly satisfied with regard to sin. On that basis God can now offer the reconciliation to every human being (2 Corinthians 5:20). Every human being can be reconciled to God (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:6). In sending Christ to earth, God has stretched out His reconciling hand to the world (2 Corinthians 5:19).

The Lord Jesus is now in heaven. No man is present when he “through his own blood” enters the heavenly sanctuary as the basis of an eternal salvation which he has acquired (Hebrews 9:11-2 Kings :). He is “designated by God as High Priest” (Hebrews 5:10). Because we may enter the sanctuary (Hebrews 10:19; Ephesians 2:18), we may know what Israel does not know yet, because the veil is still closed for them.

Blood is applied to the sanctuary, to the objects which are therein, and to the tent of meeting and the altar. In Hebrews 9 it says that the tabernacle is a copy of heaven (Hebrews 9:23-Jeremiah :). On the basis of the blood, once all things – not: all people! – will be reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20).

Verses 20-22

The Live, Send Away Goat

Aaron makes himself one with the live goat – laying on hands is making one with. Then he confesses all the sins, which are “all the iniquities”, the evil deeds of the Israelites. The sins are put on the goat, as it were. Then the goat is released into the wilderness.

It refers to the Lord Jesus, Who has taken upon Himself the sins of all who believe in Him (1 Peter 2:24). He has confessed every sin of every believer before God as His own sin, and He has borne the judgment over those sins. God says: “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). The believer may know and say: “You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17). He has thrown them “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). He has put them away “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalms 103:12), that is, infinitely far away. They are borne “to a solitary land”. Where sin is, there is no dwelling place for God, neither for people who are reconciled with God.

Verses 23-26

Other Garments, Bathe, Offering

After having sprinkled his blood his special work is done and he puts on his normal clothes again. Then he brings the ram for a burnt offering for himself and for the people. With the burnt offering he also brings the fat of the sin offering on the altar. This also speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus. The atonement cannot be separated from the perfect glorification of God, which is contained in the same work.

Everyone who has been in contact with sin must cleanse himself. The water bath of the Word works the cleansing.

Verses 27-28

Burnt With Fire Outside the Camp

From the sin offerings the blood is brought into the sanctuary and the bodies are brought outside the camp. This is also the place of the Christian (Hebrews 13:11-1 Chronicles :), following the Lord Jesus. The camp stands for the organized religion in Christianity, where man is respected and takes the position of mediator between God and man. As a result, the Lord Jesus is not given the first and only place. The Christian is with Christ in the sanctuary in heaven; on earth he is with Him in a place of reproach.

Verses 29-31

Statute for the Day of Atonement

Thinking of the reconciliation brings humility. After all, it is our sins that have made the work of the Lord Jesus necessary. We have dishonored God through our sins.

No work may be done on that day. The work of the Lord Jesus excludes any human activity. For everyone for whom this work has been completed, the result is: peace.

Verse 32

High Priestly Follow-Up

This verse shows that the ordination in Israel is imperfect. There is succession of the priesthood, while the Lord Jesus is High Priest permanently (Hebrews 7:23-Jeremiah :).

Verses 33-34

Atonement Once a Year

These verses are a summary of this chapter. Although this law can only be fulfilled in the seventh month, we already read here that it is done “as the LORD had commanded Moses”. Here is looked ahead to the realization.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/leviticus-16.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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