Leviticus 16:1. This chapter would naturally have followed the tenth, where the death of Aaron’s sons is related, if that event had not given occasion for declaring the forementioned laws about those uncleannesses that disqualified an Israelite for approaching the sanctuary.
Leviticus 16:2. That he come not at all times — Not whensoever he pleaseth, but only when I shall appoint. Into the holy place without the veil, the high- priest, or one of the inferior priests, went every morning and evening when they offered incense but into this holy place within the veil, commonly called the holy of holies, or the most holy place, as none but the high-priest was to enter, so neither was he to enter it at all times, as a common place of worship, or to perform divine service there at his pleasure. He was ordinarily to enter it only once a year, and that on the great day of atonement, or expiation for the transgressions of the whole Israelitish nation. Upon extraordinary occasions, he might also enter it oftener, as when he was to consult the oracle of God, or when the tabernacle was to be taken down or set up, according to the journeyings of the people. Lest he die — For his presumption. For I will appear in the cloud — A bright and glorious cloud over the mercy-seat. This sacred apartment he was to look upon as the place of the special residence of the divine glory, and therefore was not to enter there but when appointed, and in such a manner as God directed.
Leviticus 16:3. Thus shall Aaron come — Preparatory to his entering on this solemn service the high-priest was to offer two sacrifices in behalf of himself and his family. These were, 1st, A bullock for a sin-offering, (no other sacrifice being allowed for the sin of a high-priest,) in confession of his own infirmities and transgressions, and those of his family, and to put him in mind that he needed pardon himself, and was but an imperfect intercessor with God, Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:7. 2d, A ram for a burnt- offering, in token of his dedicating himself wholly to God, with a promise of new obedience. See note on Leviticus 1:3. Aaron shall come into the holy place with the bullock — That is, with the blood of it; for its body was to be offered upon the altar of burnt-offerings.
Leviticus 16:4. He shall put on the holy linen coat — Upon other days, when the high-priest officiated, he was bound to put on all the garments mentioned Exodus 28:4, four of which were called golden garments, because there was a mixture of gold in them; but on this day he put on only the four linen garments here specified, which were common to him with the ordinary priests. The reason whereof was, that this was not a day of feasting and rejoicing, but of mourning and humiliation, at which times people were to lay aside their ornaments. At this solemn season the high- priest was to wear nothing but linen, and that probably not only in token of humiliation, but also because it is a more proper emblem of purity than woollen, as it is more easily cleansed, and washes whiter. These are holy garments — Peculiarly so; to be used only when he was in the exercise of this solemn part of his sacred office. Therefore shall he wash his flesh in water — Besides the washing of his hands and feet, as upon other days, at the beginning of the service, the high-priest was, on this day, to wash his whole body before he put on these holy garments, and entered on the solemn service of the day; which significant rite fitly betokened that peculiar holiness and purity which become all that approach God in his worship, and especially all that minister in holy things.
Leviticus 16:7. He shall present them before the Lord — The scape-goat was presented at the door of the tabernacle before the Lord, as well as the other goat, to signify that they were both consecrated to him; indeed they both made but one sin-offering, Leviticus 16:5.
Leviticus 16:8. One lot for the Lord — To be sacrificed to him upon his altar. Both this and the other goat typified Christ; this in his death and passion for us, that in his resurrection for our deliverance. The other lot for the scape-goat — The Jewish doctors tell us that this goat, on which the sins of the nation were transferred, was loaded with all marks of reproach, and imprecations, and that the people prayed that all those evils which they thought due to themselves might fall upon it. Thus was Christ made a curse for us, while on him was laid the iniquities of us all.
Leviticus 16:10. For a scape-goat — This seems to be the most literal and obvious meaning of the original word אזאזל, Azazel, evidently derived from עז, ez, or gnez, a goat, and אזל, azel, to go away. In this sense the Seventy understand it, rendering the word αποπομπαιος, sent away; Aquila also, who translates it απολελυμενον, dismissed; and Symmachus, who renders it απερχομενον, going away. Nor does there appear to be any solid reason for thinking it was the name of a mountain, to which the goat was sent, much less that the angel of death, or the devil, was intended by the word, as some have said; for surely in that case it could be no type of Christ’s resurrection, as it is generally supposed to have been.
Leviticus 16:11. The bullock — Mentioned in general, Leviticus 16:6; the ceremonies respecting which are here particularly described. This was a very different sacrifice from that of the red heifer spoken of Numbers 19., as evidently appears upon comparing the two places. He shall kill the bullock which is for himself — Here we may clearly see, as the apostle to the Hebrews argues, the utter insufficiency of the Jewish dispensation to “make the comers thereunto perfect,” or to furnish those who were under it with every thing necessary for their complete justification and salvation. It made nothing perfect, because it made men priests that were sinful creatures like others, and had need to offer year after year for their own sins; for “there was a remembrance made again of sins every year.” But in Christ we have a very different high-priest and intercessor, who is, and when on earth was, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens, who needeth not daily (as the Jewish high-priests) to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins and then for the people’s: for this he did; he offered for the people’s sins, having none of his own to expiate, once when he offered up himself. For “the law made men priests which had infirmity, but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore, and is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
Leviticus 16:13. He shall put the incense upon the fire — The high-priest, having begun the solemn service with slaying the bullock, as a sin-offering of deprecation and atonement for himself and the other priests, lighted his incense-vessel, or censer, at the great altar of burnt-offering, and at his entrance into the holy of holies, threw the incense upon the burning coals, and so filled the place with a cloud of smoke, to prevent him from seeing the ark, and being struck with the glory issuing from between the cherubims, where the Shechinah or emblem of the divine presence resided: or, as others say, that he might not offend by too curiously gazing on the symbols of the divine glory. If we may believe the Jews, he entered sideways, as not daring to look directly on the glory of the place, and that, having filled the sanctuary with a cloud of smoke, he went out backward, having his face directed toward the mercy-seat, in reverence for the divine majesty, which was there represented.
Leviticus 16:14. He shall take of the blood — He went out of the holy place, and then entered it a second time. We must observe, that as the burning of the incense preceded the sprinkling of the blood, it was hereby signified that he was to be prepared for entering into the most holy place by prayer, and was to enter it in a spirit of prayer, which was figured by incense, and which the offering of incense accompanied, Revelation 8:3-4. A lively emblem this of the intercession of our great High-Priest, and the efficacy of his merits. He shall sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat — To teach us, that God is merciful to sinners only through and for the blood of Christ. With his face eastward, or upon the eastern part, toward the people, who were in the court which lay eastward from the holy of holies, which was the most western part of the tabernacle. This signified that the high-priest in this act represented the people, and that God accepted it on their behalf; before the mercy-seat — On the ground.
Leviticus 16:15. Then shall he kill the goat — He went out of the holy of holies and killed it, and then returned thither again with its blood. And whereas the high-priest is said to be allowed to enter into that place but once in a year, that is to be understood of one day in a year, but there was occasion of going in and coming out more than once upon that day.
Leviticus 16:16. Because of the uncleanness of Israel — For though the people did not enter into that place, yet their sins entered thither, and would have hindered the effects of the high-priest’s mediation on their behalf, if God had not been reconciled to them. In the midst of their uncleanness — In the midst of a sinful people, who defile not themselves only, but also God’s sanctuary. And God hereby showed them how much their hearts needed to be purified, when even the tabernacle, only by standing in the midst of them, needed this expiation.
Leviticus 16:17. There shall be no man in the tabernacle — In the holy place, where the priests and Levites were at other times. This was commanded for the greater reverence to the divine majesty, then in a more special manner appearing, and that none of them might cast an eye into the holy of holies, as the high-priest went in or came out.
Leviticus 16:18. The altar before the Lord — That is, the altar of incense, where the blood of sacrifices was to be put, particularly the blood of the sin- offerings offered upon this day of atonement, and which is most properly said to be before the Lord; that is, before the place where God in a special manner dwelt. His going out relates to the holy of holies, into which he was said to go in, Leviticus 16:17.
Leviticus 16:19. Seven times — To signify its perfect cleansing (seven being a number of perfection) and our perfect reconciliation by the blood of Christ.
Leviticus 16:21. All the iniquities — He mentions iniquities, transgressions, and sins, to denote sins of all sorts, and that a free and full confession was to be made, and that the smallest sins needed, and the greatest sins were not excluded from, the benefit of Christ’s death here represented. On the head — Charging all their sins and the punishment due to them upon the goat, which, though only a ceremony, yet being done according to God’s appointment, and manifestly pointing at Christ, upon whom their iniquities and punishments were laid, (Isaiah 53:5-6,) it was available for this end. And hence the heathens took their custom of selecting one beast or man, upon whom they laid all their imprecations and curses, and whom they killed as an expiatory sacrifice for their sins, and to prevent their ruin. A fit man — Hebrew, a man of time, that is, of years and discretion, who might be trusted with this work. Into the wilderness — Which signified the removal of their sins far away both from the people, and out of God’s sight. And here the goat being neglected by all men, and exposed to many hazards from wild beasts, which were numerous there, might further signify Christ’s being forsaken both by God and by men, even by his own disciples, and the many dangers and sufferings he underwent.
Leviticus 16:22. Unto a land not inhabited — ארצ גזרהerets gezra, a land cut off separated, remote from intercourse with men. The Seventy render it αβατον, untrod, unpassable, a land through which none travelled. The sending away into this desert land the goat, over which the sins of the people had been humbly and penitently confessed, and to which they were figuratively transferred, was certainly a fine and most expressive emblem that, on condition of the repentance of mankind, and their faith in him who was represented by this goat, and was in due time to take away the sins of the world, God would remember their sins and iniquities no more.
Leviticus 16:23. He shall put off the linen garments — Having finished the solemn expiatory and deprecatory offering, he was to put off those garments which were appropriated to this service, and to leave them there.
And Maimonides and others say they were never to be used more, either by him or any one else, and that new ones were prepared every year.
Leviticus 16:24. He shall wash in the holy place — That is, in the court of the tabernacle, where stood the altar of burnt-offering, and the sacred laver. Here he was to wash or sprinkle his whole body, that he might purify himself after he had touched the goat which bare their iniquities, just as the man that carried him into the wilderness was to wash afterward. This ceremony signified that the creature was made so polluted and abominable by being a substitute for sinners, that none could touch it without contracting some pollution. And put on his garments — The garments peculiar to his office, wherein he officiated on other days. And this change of his garments was not without cause. For the common priestly garments were more proper for him in the former part of his ministration, because then he was to appear before the Lord in the most holy place, to humble himself, and make atonement for his own and for the people’s sins, and therefore his meanest attire was most fit. And the high-priestly garments were most proper for the latter part of his work, which was of another nature.
Leviticus 16:29. The seventh month — Answering part to our September and part to our October; when they had gathered in all their fruits, and were most at leisure for God’s service. This time God chose for this and other feasts, herein graciously condescending to men’s necessities and conveniences. This fast began in the evening of the ninth day, and continued till the evening of the tenth. Your souls — Yourselves, both your bodies, by abstinence from food and other delights; and your minds, by grief for former sins, which, though bitter, yet is voluntary in all true penitents, who are therefore here said to afflict themselves, or to be active in the work.
Leviticus 16:31. A sabbath — Observed as a sabbath day, by cessation from all servile works, and in diligent attendance upon God’s worship.
Leviticus 16:32. The priest whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate — This ought to be translated, who shall be anointed, and who shall be consecrated, as the Vulgate hath it. For an active verb without a person is frequently in Scripture to be taken passively; the well observing whereof will tend to the removing of many difficulties. For example; those words of Isaiah, quoted John 12:39-40, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, import merely, Their eyes were blinded, and their hearts hardened, as it is expressed Acts 28:27, and Matthew 13:14-15, compared with Isaiah 6:9. So, he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, is equivalent to, his heart was hardened, Exodus 7:22. So, he moved David, 2 Samuel 24:1, ought to be translated, David was moved, namely, by his own evil heart, or Satan’s instigation, 1 Chronicles 21:1.
Leviticus 16:34. This shall be an everlasting statute — By which were typified the two great gospel privileges; remission of sins and access to God, both which we owe to the mediation of the Lord Jesus. He shall make an atonement — for all their sins — Meaning all such sins as could be expiated by the law, which were, τα αγνοηματα, the errors, or sins of ignorance of the people, as the apostle expresses it Hebrews 9:6, where he speaks of the atonement made on this day. “To this sort of offences alone,” as Dr. Doddridge justly observes on the verse just referred to, “and not to those presumptuously committed, the efficacy of the atonement extended.” And even to justification from these, as the Hebrew doctors justly observe, all these rites of expiation, however solemnly performed, availed nothing in the sight of God, without repentance, and sincere resolutions of new obedience. Now, the two great gospel duties of repentance and faith are hereby typified; by which we obtain an interest in the atonement made by the death of Christ, and come to be entitled to the benefit of it. By repentance we must afflict our souls — inwardly sorrowing for our sins, and living a life of self-denial and mortification. And we must make a penitent confession of sin, and that with an eye to Christ whom we have pierced. By faith we must put our hands on the head of the offering, relying on Christ as the Lord our righteousness; pleading his satisfaction, as that which was alone able to atone for our sins, and procure us a pardon, and with a hand of faith on his sacrifice, must assure ourselves that, if we confess and forsake our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We may observe further here, that in the year of jubilee, the trumpet which proclaimed liberty was ordered to be sounded in the close of the day of atonement, Leviticus 25:9. For the remission of the debt we owe to God, our release from the bondage of sin, and our return to our inheritance above, are all owing to the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ. By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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