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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Leviticus 16

Verses 2-3

Leviticus 16:2-3.16.3

I will appear in the cloud.

Jehovah appearing in a cloud

The cloudy dispensations. By a cloud I understand a density approaching to darkness and gloom; and yet that very density and darkness inhabited by the glory of God. If the glory of God were to burst upon us without a cloud, it would be nothing less than a consuming fire. The Church of God has to pass through dispensations that are cloudy in her public capacity, in God’s providential dealings with her individual members. Look, for instance, at the Church of God as a body at the present time. Is she not beclouded? Are there not clouds of ignorance, superstition, idolatry, despotic power--clouds of carnal wickedness under the name of Christianity, overspreading Zion? The cloud is still more dense when it overwhelms the soul, as it regards its conflicts when darkness overspreads the mind, and the poor believer cannot pray, cannot sing, nor cannot believe.

The appearance that is promised. “I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat.” He appears as a wonder-working God; and when in any of the dispensations to which I have referred, the hand of God is seen, how are the souls of God’s people filled with awe! “I will appear.” Is it the Church that is overwhelmed with a cloud? I will appear for her deliverance, though I may suffer her to pass through fire and through water first. Is it Providence that is mysterious--every hope cut off, all prospects darkened? “I will appear,” says Jehovah. Mark the promise--it is positive--“I will appear.” The cattle upon a thousand hills are His property; the gold and the silver He declares are all His own; the hearts of kings are in His hands, and He turns them as rivers of water as He pleases. So that He appears working wonders frequently in the world, and those very things which were most threatening appear to be the very things that God was making use of for the real advantage of His people.

The mercy displayed. It is the mercy of the Triune Jehovah, the gift of mercy from God the Father--immutable, eternal, covenant mercy--the mercy of God. That mercy is fully and freely displayed in the person of Christ; yea, more, so far as regards our view of it--the mercy of God the Father laid up from everlasting, recorded in the covenant, fixed in decree, is, to a certain extent, concealed from us, until we discover it in the person of Christ. But when we are brought to view Him as the mercy promised, and then mark the display of that mercy in His incarnation, in His obedience, in His merit, in His blood, in His sufferings, in His victories, in His present employment before the throne, why He is all mercy--mercy embodied in the person of the glorious Mediator. And then, if we look at the merciful dealings of God the Holy Ghost with His people, in melting their hearts, making them new creatures, giving them life Divine, perfecting the work He has first commenced in personal experience--why we come to this conclusion that our God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the God of mercy, a merciful God. Then mark the transcendent glory of this mercy, how it is displayed in the face of misery, and rebellion, and ingratitude, and all our wanderings, and all our wants.

The effects which follow when Jehovah comes down and appears in the midst of the cloud. It is not merely for a momentary interposition, but for a permanent deliverance, and mercies may be expected by all the praying seed of Jacob. Now allow a familiar illustration here. If a benevolent individual, very wealthy, were accustomed to take a seat, as they used to do in olden times, at the gate of the city, or in any other place of public concourse, and to do so for the very purpose of distributing his bounty, would not that gate be crowded? Who would not go there? Even if we did not want pecuniary alms, if honours, jewels were to be distributed by this person, who would not be there? Who would not receive some token of the kindness and favour of such an one? My hearer, is it not grievous that you and I are not oftener at the mercy-seat? (J. Irons.)

The concealing cloud

I once visited an invalid woman. She had been confined to bed for a long time, and when I spoke to her, she said: “I think the Lord has forgotten me altogether.” The eye of faith had grown dim through bodily weakness, and I replied to her, “Did you ever go down the river and see the lighthouse?” She said she had. “Well, suppose you lived on the opposite side from it, and one day the mist came down, and it grew so thick that you could not see the lighthouse on the other side; would you believe it was there?” “Oh, yes,” she said, “because I had seen it before.” “And there is another thing would make you believe, I said; “you would hear the shrill whistle coming from the lighthouse warning mariners of the danger that was near. In the same way you should believe that the Lord is still near you; that He has not forgotten you, although a cloud has come between you and God; if you will but listen, you will hear His voice speaking to you; the mist will soon roll away if you look right at Him with the eye of faith.” She did look, and beheld Jesus as precious to her as ever. (J. Cameron.)

Verses 3-34

Leviticus 16:3-3.16.34

Make an atonement.

The annual atonement

Before Adam transgressed he lived in communion with God, but after he had broken the covenant he could have no more familiar fellowship with God. Under the Mosaic dispensation, in which God was pleased in His grace to dwell among His people and walk with them in the wilderness, it was still under a reserve: there was a Holy Place wherein the symbol of God’s presence was hidden away from mortal gaze. No man might come near to it except in one only way, and then only once in the year, “The Holy Ghost thus signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first Tabernacle was yet standing.” Our subject illustrates the appointed way of access to God. This chapter shows that the way of access to God is by atonement, and by no other method. I want you to notice that, of course, this was only a type. The great Day of Atonement did not see an actual atonement made, nor sin really put away; but it was the figure of heavenly things to come. The substance is of Christ.

Now, then, let us come to the text, and note, first, what was done on that particular day. The text tells us what was done symbolically--“On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”

1. The persons themselves were cleansed. If any of them had become unclean so as to be denied communion with God and His people, they were made clean, so that they might go up to the Tabernacle, and mingle with the congregation. All the host were that morning regarded as unclean, and all had to bow their heads in penitent sorrow because of their uncleanness. After the sacrifice and the sending away of the scapegoat the whole congregation was clean and in a condition to rejoice. It is a far simpler thing to remove outward stains than it is to purge the very substance and nature of man; yet this is what was done on the Day of Atonement typically, and this is what our redeeming Lord actually does for us. We are outlaws, and His atonement purges us of outlawry, and makes us citizens; we are lepers, and by His stripes we are so healed as to be received among the clean.

2. Their persons being made clean, they were also purged of all the sins confessed. Sin that is confessed is evidently real sin, and not a mere dream of a morbid conscience. There is a certain mythical cloud of sin which people talk about, and affect to deplore, and yet they have no sense of the solid heinousness of their actual iniquity. Sin confessed with tears, sin which causes the very heart to bleed--killing sin--this is the kind of sin for which Jesus died. Sin which you dare not confess to man, but acknowledge only as you lay your hand upon the Divine sacrifice--such sin the Lord removes from you. The passage is very particular to mention “all sins.” “The goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities.” This includes every form of stir, of thought, of word, of deed, of pride, of falsehood, of lust, of malice, of blasphemy. This comprehends crimes against man, and offences against God, of peculiar blackness; and it does not exclude sins of inadvertence, or carelessness, or of omission. Transgressions of the body, the intellect, the affections are all blotted out.

3. It seems that the Divine atonement puts away the sin of sin--the essence and heart of sin. Sin has its core, its mortal spot, within each iniquity there seems to lie a something more essentially evil than the act itself: this is the inner hate of the mind. Whatever may be the sin of the soul, or the soul of the sin, atonement has been made for it all. The Lord Jesus has not left upon those for whom He has made atonement a single spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, so far as their justification is concerned. He has not left an iniquity for which they can be condemned before the bar of judgment. “Ye are clean every whit” is His sure verdict, and none can contradict it

4. Not only were all the sins that they had committed put away, but also all their holy things were purged. I do feel so glad that our Lord has atoned for the sins of our holy things. I feel so glad that Jesus has purified our prayers. Many saints spend much time in hearty, earnest cries to God; but even on your knees you sin; and herein is our comfort--that the precious blood has made atonement for the shortcomings of our supplications. We need pardon for our psalms and cleansing for our hymns. Jesus puts away not only our unholy things, but the sins of our holy things also.

5. Once more, on that day all the people were cleansed. This gives great comfort to those of us who love the souls of the multitude. All who believe are justified from all things.

Now we notice, in the second place, how it was done.

1. The atonement was made first of all by sacrifice. We know that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin; but very distinctly do these point to the sufferings of our Redeemer. The woes He bore are the expiation for our guilt.

2. Notice, next, that the atonement was made not only by the blood of sacrifice, but by the presentation of the blood within the veil. With the smoke of incense and a bowl filled with blood Aaron passed into the most Holy Place. Let us never forget that our Lord has gone into the heavenly places with better sacrifices than Aaron could present. His merits are the sweet incense which burns before the throne of the heavenly grace. His death supplies that blood of sprinkling which we find even in heaven.

3. Furthermore, atonement was made effectual by its application to the thing or person cleansed. The atonement was made for the Holy Place: it was sprinkled seven times with blood. The same was done to the altar; the horns thereof were smeared seven times. So to make the atonement effectual between you and God the blood of Jesus must be sprinkled upon you by a lively faith.

4. Further, inasmuch as no one type was sufficient, the Lord set forth the method of the removal of sin, as far as we are concerned, by the scapegoat. One of two goats was chosen to live. It stood before the Lord, and Aaron confessed all the sins of Israel upon its head. A fit man, selected for the purpose, led this goat away into a land not inhabited. What became of it? Why do you ask the question? It is not to edification. You may have seen the famous picture of the scapegoat, representing it as expiring in misery in a desert place. That is all very pretty, and I do not wonder that imagination should picture the poor devoted scapegoat as a sort of cursed thing, left to perish amid accumulated horrors. But please observe that this is all mere groundless fancy. The Scripture is entirely silent as to anything of the kind, and purposely so. All that the type teaches is this: in symbol the scapegoat, has all the sin of the people laid upon it, and when it is led away into the solitary wilderness, it has gone, and the sin with it. We may not follow the scapegoat even in imagination. It is gone where it can never be found, for there is nobody to find it: it is gone into a land not inhabited--into “no man’s land,” in fact. Stop where the Scripture stops. Sin is carried away into the silent land, the unknown wilderness. The sins of God’s people have gone beyond recall. Where to? Do not ask anything about that. If they were sought for they could not be found; they are so gone that they are blotted out. Into oblivion our sins have gone, even as the scapegoat went out of track of mortal man. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”

5. Yet the ceremony was not quite finished; for now everybody who had had a hand in it must needs be washed, so that everybody might be clean. Everybody becomes purged; the whole camp is clean right through. No sin remains upon Him on whom the Lord once laid the iniquities of us all. The great atonement is made, and everything is cleansed, from beginning to end. Christ hath put it all away for ever by the water and the blood which flowed from His riven side. All is purified, and the Lord looks down on a clean camp; and soon He will have them rejoicing before Him, each man in His tabernacle, feasting to the full.

In the third place, I ask your attention, for a brief interval, to this special point--who did it? The answer is, Aaron did it all. Now fix your eye on the great Antitype of Aaron. There was none with our Lord: He trod the winepress alone. He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. He alone went to where the thick darkness covered the throne of God, and none stood by to comfort Him. “All the disciples forsook Him, and fled.” Worship our Lord as working salvation by His own single arm. Let that truth abide in your hearts--our High Priest alone has made reconciliation.

Lastly, what were the people to do for whom this atonement was made? There were two things they had to do that day, only I must add that one of them was doing nothing.

1. For the first thing, they had to afflict their souls that day. It was a day of confession of sin. And should not confession be made with sorrowful repentance? To acknowledge sin without grieving over it is to aggravate sin.

2. Not only was it a day of confession, but it was a day of sacrifice. No tender-hearted Israelite could think of that bullock, and ram, and goat dying for him, without saying, “That is what I deserve.” When we think of our dying Lord our emotions are mingled: we feel a pleasing grief and a mournful joy as we stand at Calvary.

3. Once more, it was a day of perfect cleansing, and hence, by a strange logic, a day of the affliction of the soul; for, Obadiah 1:0 when sin is forgiven, when by Divine assurance we know that God has blotted out our sins like a cloud, then it is we mourn over our iniquities. Afflict your soul when you remember what you once were.

4. On the Day of Atonement they were to afflict their souls, and yet they were to rest. Can these things come together--mourning and resting? I never am so truly happy as when a sober sadness tinges my joy. Nothing is more really sweet than the bitterness of repentance” Nothing is more healthful than self-abhorrence, mixed with the grateful love which hides itself in the wounds of Jesus. The purified people were to rest; they were to rest from all servile work. I will never do a hand’s turn to save myself by my own merits, works, or feelings. I have done for ever with all interference with my Lord’s sole work. They were assuredly to cease from all sinful work. How can the pardoned man continue in sin? We have done with toiling for the devil now. We will no more waste our lives in his service. We are slaves no longer: we quit the hard bondage of Egypt and rest in the Lord. We have also done with selfish work; we now seek first the kingdom of heaven, and look that all other things shall be added unto us by the goodness of our Heavenly Father. Henceforth we find rest by bearing the easy yoke of Christ. We joy to spend and be spent in His beloved service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Day of Atonement

. First, the person who was to make the atonement. And at the outset we remark that Aaron, the high priest, did it. Inferior priests slaughtered lambs; other priests at other times did almost all the work of the sanctuary; but on this day nothing was done by any one, as a part of the business of the great Day of Atonement, except by the high priest. Old rabbinical traditions tell us that everything on that day was done by him, even the lighting of the candles, and the fires, and the incense, and all the offices that were required, and that, for a fortnight beforehand, he was obliged to go into the Tabernacle to slaughter the bullocks and assist in the work of the priests and Levites, that he might be prepared to do the work which was unusual to him. All the labour was left to him. So Jesus Christ, the High Priest, and He only, works the atonement. There are other priests, for “He hath made us priests and kings unto God.” Every Christian is a priest to offer sacrifice of prayer and praise unto God, but none save the High Priest must offer atonement.

1. Then it is interesting to notice, that the high priest on this day was a humbled priest. As Mayer tells us, he wore garments, and glorious ones, on other days, but on this day he wore four humble ones. Jesus Christ, then, when He made atonement, was a humbled priest. He did not make atonement arrayed in all the glories of His ancient throne in heaven. Upon His brow there was no diadem, save the crown of thorns; around Him was cast no purple robe, save that which He wore for a time in mockery; in His hand was no sceptre, save the reed which they thrust in cruel contempt upon Him; He had no sandals of pure gold, neither was He dressed as king; He had none of those splendours about Him which should make Him distinguished among men. Oh! my soul, adore thy Jesus, who when He made atonement, humbled Himself and wrapped around Him a garb of thine inferior clay.

2. In the next place, the high priest who offered the atonement must be a spotless high priest; and because there were none such to be found, Aaron being a sinner himself as well as the people, you will remark that Aaron had to sanctify himself and make an atonement for his own sin before he could go in to make an atonement for the sins of the people. We have a spotless High Priest; we have one who needed no washing, for He had no filth to wash away,

3. Again, the atonement was made by a solitary high priest--alone and unassisted. No other man was to be present, so that the people might be quite certain that everything was done by the high priest alone. God kept that holy circle of Calvary select to Christ, and none of His disciples must go to die there with Him. O glorious High Priest, thou hast done it all alone!

4. Again it was a laborious high priest who did the work on that day. It is astonishing how, after comparative rest, he should be so accustomed to his work as to be able to perform all that he had to do on that day. I have endeavoured to count up how many creatures he had to kill, and I find that there were fifteen beasts which he slaughtered at different times, besides the other offices, which were all left to him. He was ordained priest in Jeshurun, for that day, toiled like a common Levite, worked as laboriously as priest could do, and far more so than on any ordinary day. Just so with our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, what a labour the atonement was to Him! It was a work that all the hands of the universe could not have accomplished; yet He completed it alone.

The means whereby this atonement was made (see Leviticus 16:5; Leviticus 16:7-3.16.10). The first goat I consider to be the great type of Jesus Christ the Atonement; such I do not consider the scapegoat to be. The first is the type of the means whereby the atonement was made, and we shall keep to that first.

1. Notice that this goat, of course, answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing that was sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year. Even so was our Lord a perfect Man, in the prime and vigour of His manhood.

2. And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel, as we are told at the fifth verse. The public treasury furnished the goat. So Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before He died. Thirty pieces of silver they had valued Him at--a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat so they brought Him to be offered, not indeed with the intention that He should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly. Indeed, Jesus Christ came out from the midst of the people, and the people brought Him. Strange that it should be so! “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”; His own led Him forth to slaughter; His own dragged Him before the mercy-seat.

3. Note, again, that though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still. Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall east lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die; and even the very man who sold Him was appointed to it--so saith the Scripture. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s.

4. Next, behold the goat that destiny has marked out to make the atonement. Come and see it die. The priest stabs it. Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling for a moment; observe the blood as it gushes forth. Ye have here your Saviour. See His Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in His heart; behold His death agonies; hear His sighs and groans upon the Cross; hark to His shriek, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and you have more now to think of than you could have if you only stood to see the death of a goat for your atonement. As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so thy Saviour dying for thee made the great atonement for thy sins, and thou mayest go free.

5. But mark, this goat’s blood was not only shed for many for the remission of sins as a type of Christ, but that blood was taken within the veil, and there it was sprinkled. So with Jesus’ blood, “Sprinkled now with blood the throne.”

We now come to the effects.

1. One of the first effects of the death of this goat was the sanctification of the holy things which had been made unholy. Is it not sweet to reflect that our holy things are now really holy?

2. But observe, the second great tact was that their sins were taken away. This was set forth by the scapegoat.

3. One more thought concerning the effects of this great Day of Atonement, and you will observe that it runs throughout the whole of the chapter--entrance within the veil. Only on one day in the year might the high priest enter within the veil, and then it must be for the great purposes of the atonement. Now the atonement is finished, and you may enter within the veil: “Having boldness, therefore, to enter into the holiest, let us come with boldness unto the throne of the heavenly grace.” The veil of the Temple is rent by the atonement of Christ, and access to the throne is now ours.

Now we come to notice, in the fourth place, what is our proper behaviour when we consider the day of atonement. You read at verse 29, “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls.” That is one thing that we ought to do when we remember the atonement. “Law and terrors do but harden,” but methinks the thought that Jesus died is enough to make us melt. Then, better still, we are to “do no work at all,” as ye find in the same verse (29th). When we consider the atonement, we should rest, and “do no work at all.” Rest from your own righteousness; rest from your toilsome duties: rest in Him. “We that believe do enter into rest.” As soon as thou seest the atonement finished, say, “It is done, it is done!” Then there was another thing which always happened. When the priest had made the atonement, it was usual for him, after he had washed himself, to come out again in his glorious garments. When the people saw him they attended him to his house with joy, and they offered burnt-offerings of praise on that day: he being thankful that his life was spared, and they being thankful that the atonement was accepted; both of them offering burnt-offerings as a type that they desired now to be “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.” The atonement is finished; the High Priest is gone within the veil; salvation is now complete. He has laid aside the linen garments, and He stands before you with His breastplate, and His mitre, and His embroidered vest, in all His glory. Hear how He rejoices over us, for He hath redeemed His people, and ransomed them out of the hands of His enemies. Come, let us go home with the High Priest; let us clap our hands with joy, for He liveth; the atonement is accepted, and we are accepted too; the scapegoat is gone, our sins are gone with it. Let us, then, go to our houses with thankfulness, and let us come up to His gates with praise, for He hath loved His people, He hath blessed His children, and given unto us a day of atonement, and a day of acceptance, and a year of jubilee. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Moses and Christ; the Day of Atonement

The divine redeemer.

1. His humiliation.

2. His sinlessness.

The divine sacrifice.

1. God admits vicarious suffering into His righteous rule.

(1) Involuntarily we suffer for one another.

(2) The finer instincts of the animal world lead the parent to endure suffering and death to shield and save the young.

(3) Voluntarily, man interposes to rescue his brother by his own loss and suffering.

(4) In proportion to the spiritual nobility of men we find voluntary vicarious suffering in their hearts and lives.

2. The sacrifice of Christ avails to remove all condemnation.

The human worshipper--Our sinning, seeking selves.

1. Without personal participation everything will be as nothing.

2. The spirit in which we must participate is that of penitence and faith. (W. Clarkson, B. A.)

The Day of Atonement

Now, what did such a ritual mean? If it be said that the Divine forgiveness depended upon such a day, then why did the world wait twenty-five hundred years before its appointment? If absolutely necessary, why was it not enjoined upon Abraham, and especially upon Adam in Paradise? What is the meaning of sacrifice? What relation does it bear to forgiveness of sin? We observe--

1. God’s character is not changed by sacrifices. He neither regards sin with less hatred, nor loves the sinner more because of these. The Sacrifice of Calvary--compared with which all others are as shadows to the light--was the natural outcome of the Divine nature, rather than the means of changing that nature (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-62.4.10).

2. These mere sacrifices possessed no intrinsic value. If there were a value in these, it must have been either to Him in whose name they are offered, or to man for whom they were offered. Happily for us the Scriptures settle both points (Isaiah 1:13; Micah 6:6-33.6.8; Psalms 40:6; Psalms 51:16-19.51.17). Thus much, therefore, follows: these sacrifices were not transactions of any intrinsic value to God, in themselves considered. Every part of that ceremonial for the childhood age was a Divine lesson, pointing to a greater offering and sacrifice to come. While God accommodated His laws to the perception of childhood, He made use of them to proclaim eternal truths--a fact we shall see illustrated in the lessons of the Day of Atonement. In it we have--

The divine testimony against sin.

The basis of atonement.

The necessity for a perfect high priest. (D. O. Mears.)

The climax of sacrificial worship--the Day of Atonement

. There is the voluntary humiliation of the high priest. The Day of Atonement was the high priest’s day: he undertook the atoning work, and no man was to venture near the Tabernacle (Leviticus 16:17) while he was engaged in it. The first thing required of him was humiliation.

The high priest was required next to perfume the audience-chamber with incense. Prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of the redemptive work. It seems evident from this that we must put away those business-like illustrations of atonement as a hard bargain driven on the one side and paid literally and in full on the other. We must allow a sufficient sphere in our conceptions for the play of intercession and appeal, and remember that while it is a God of justice who is satisfied, He proves Himself in the transaction a God of grace.

After the incense there is brought in the blood, first of his own sin-offering and then of the people’s. The blood of Jesus Christ is symbolised by both, and the act of sprinkling it before God is also to be attributed to our great High Priest. The law of mediation is that self-sacrifice stimulates the element of mercy in the Judge. And if it be objected that surely God does not require such an expensive stimulant, the reply is, that the self-sacrificing Son and the stimulated Father and Judge are in essence one. The act is consequently a Divine self-sacrifice to stimulate the element of mercy towards man and make it harmonise with justice.

But the high priest was expected not only to secure the pardon of sin, but also to put it away by the dismissal of the scapegoat. For the pardon of sin is not all man needs. He requires sin to be put away from him. Now this putting away of sin was beautifully represented in the dismissal of the scapegoat. This second sin-offering, after having the sins of the people heaped upon its head by the priestly confession, is sent away in care of a faithful servant in the wilderness, there to be left in loneliness either to live or die. Here again we have a type of Jesus.

The high priest having thus disposed of sin, resumed his glorious garments and offered the burnt-offerings for himself and the people. It is Christ who offers this burnt-offering, and is the Burnt-offering. That is to say, He has offered for men a perfect righteousness, as well as afforded us a perfect example. Our consecration to God is ideally to be a perfect one--but really how imperfect! But Christ is made unto us sanctification; we are complete in Him; we are accepted in the beloved; and we learn and try to live as He lived, holy as He was holy. Moreover, upon the burnt-offering was presented the fat of the sin-offering, the Lord thus emphasising His satisfaction with the atonement, and His acceptance of it.

The washing of the three men officiating on the day of atonement conveys surely the idea of the contaminating power of sin. (R. M.,Edgar, M. A.)

The Day of Atonement

The authority for the day and its measures.

1. Both authorised of God (Leviticus 16:1-3.16.2).

2. Both, then, Divinely important.

(1) In regard to the definiteness of the day.

(2) In regard to the meaning and order of its ceremonies.

The typical meaning of the jewish atonement-day.

1. The Divinely stated reason for its appointment (Leviticus 16:16).

(1) The fact of sin and the necessity for its expiation by blood.

(2) Sin necessitates atonement if it is to be pardoned.

(3) This fact bespeaks the antagonism of sin against the Divine will, and the holiness and righteousness of the Divine character.

2. The Divinely appointed measures for its observance.

(1) In respect to the agent.

(2) In respect to the measures themselves.


1. The hatefulness, heinousness, and guiltiness of sin are here shown.

2. God’s desire to provide for the removal of its guilt, and the prevention of its consequences, demonstrated.

3. The comprehensiveness of the provision in the atonement. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The Day of Atonement -

. Note the chief services of the day of atonement.

Show that the sacrifices then offered were strictly propitiatory. When you consider the two goats as together constituting the sin-offering, you must receive as the only satisfactory account of the transaction that which sets forth the scapegoat as exhibiting the effects of the expiation which was represented by the death of the other. The sins of the people were laid upon the head of the scapegoat, and borne away to the wilderness; but this scapegoat was a part of the sin-offering, and therefore, by combining the parts of the sin-offering, you have before you both the means and the effect: you have the means, the shedding of blood without which there is no remission; you have the effect, the removal of guilt, so that iniquity, though searched for, can nowhere be found. It seems certain that such was the view entertained by the Jews, who were wont to treat the scapegoat as actually an accursed thing. Though not commanded by the law, they used to maltreat the gnat Azazel--for by this name was the scapegoat known--to spit upon him, and pluck off his hair. Thus they acted towards the goat as they acted towards Christ, who, in a truer sense than the Azazel, was “made sin for us.” And if further proof were needed of the idea which the Jews themselves attached to the ceremony of the imposition of hands on the head of the victim, it is to be found in the forms of confession which their writers have transmitted as used ordinarily in expiatory sacrifices. It appears, for example, that when an individual presented his own sacrifice, he laid his hands on the head of the offering, saying amongst other things, “Let this victim be my expiation”--words which were universally considered equivalent to an entreaty that evils which ought in justice to have alighted upon the offender might fall upon the sacrifice. And it is every way worthy of note, as marking the traditional idea of the great day of expiation, that the modern Jews, as well as the ancient, hold fast the notion of a strict propitiatory atonement. Where, then, can be the ground for doubting, that by “atonement,” in our text, is to be understood what we understand by it in Christian phraseology; that there was effected a real removal of guilt and its consequences from the Jewish transgressor, when on the great and solemn day of expiation, in compliance with a Divine statute an atonement was made for the children of Israel for all their sins once every year?

And here we bring you back to the main argument we have all along had in hand--the inferring from the character of the legal sacrifice that of the Christian. If you can once show that the sacrifices of the law typify the sacrifice of Christ, and that the sacrifices of the law were strictly propitiatory, it follows as an irresistible deduction--notwithstanding the cavils of philosophising sects--that the Lamb of God died truly as a Sin-offering, making, by His death, atonement for the world. Indeed, if no reference were made to the Old Testament, the language of the New is so explicit that nothing but the most determined prepossession could fail to find in it the doctrine that Christ’s death was a propitiatory sacrifice. But the connection between the two dispensations, and therefore the two Testaments, is so strict in every point, that it were no just examination of the gospel which would keep the law out of sight; therefore we come to examine more definitely the correspondence between the sacrifice of the Saviour and those which have just been reviewed. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The Day of Atonement

By referring to Leviticus 16:29, you will find that this Day of Atonement was appointed for “the seventh month.” Seven, as you remember, is a symbol of completeness. This location of these solemnities in the seventh month, would therefore seem to refer to the fact noted by the apostle, that it was only “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son to redeem them that were under the law.” He lived when the world was sufficiently at peace to give Him a hearing--when the human mind was maturely developed, and competent to investigate His claims--when the ways were sufficiently open for the immediate universal promulgation of His gospel--and when the experience of four thousand years was before men to prove to them how much they needed such a Teacher and Priest as He. His appearance, therefore, to take away our sins, was in “the fulness of time”--in the Tisri or September of the world--when everything was mature and ripe. He put the Day of Atonement in “the seventh month.” You will also notice that this great expiation service occurred but once in a complete revolution of time--“once a year.” A year is a full and complete period. There is no time which does not fall within the year. And the occurrence of the Day of Atonement but once in the entire year plainly pointed to another great fact noted by the apostle, that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” There is no repetition in His sacrificial work. “Christ was once offered”; and in that one offering of Himself, all the eras of human existence were condensed and included. It was the event of this world’s year. It is also to be observed, that the atoning services of this remarkable day had respect to the whole nation at once. They were “to make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.” Most of the other offerings were personal, having respect to particular individuals, and to special cases of sin, uncleanness, or anxiety. But on this day the offerings were general, and the atonement had respect to the entire people. This recalls another great evangelic truth, namely, that Christ “died for all”--“gave Himself a ransom for all”--“by the grace of God tasted death for every man”--and “is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.”

It was to the high priest a day which imposed numerous inconveniences, anxieties, and humiliations. And so was it with our great High Priest when He undertook to expiate the guilt of man. Separated from His heavenly home, He became a suffering, laborious, self-denying servant. No gold glittered upon His brow, or tinkled with His steps, or mingled its glory with royal colours to adorn His robe. No jewelry sparkled on his shoulders or on His breast. No chariots of grandeur bore Him to the place of His mighty deeds of love. And thus amid privations, humiliations, and anxieties which made Him sorrowful even unto death, did He go through with the services of the great day of the world’s expiation.

2. It was to the high priest a day which imposed all its services upon him alone. Thus, when Jesus undertook the expiation of the world’s guilt, “of the people, there was none with Him.” Isaiah says, “I looked, and there was none to help.” His “own arm brought salvation.” He “His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree.”

3. The Day of Atonement was to the high priest also a very oppressive and exhausting day. His duties, in his complete isolation, were really crushing. So laborious and trying was his work that after it was over the people gathered round him with sympathy and congratulation that he was brought through it in safety. But it was only a picture of that still more crushing load which was laid upon our great High Priest when making atonement for the sins of the world. None among all the sons of the mighty could ever have performed the work which He performed, and lived. All His life through there was a weight upon Him so heavy, and ever pressing so mightily upon His soul, that there is no account that He ever smiled. Groans and tears and deep oppression accompanied Him at almost every step. And when we come to view Him in His agonising watchings and prayers in the garden, and under the burdens of insult and wrong which were heaped upon Him in the halls of judgment, and struggling with His load along that dolorous way until the muscles of His frame yielded, and He fell faint upon the ground, and oppressed upon the Cross until His inmost soul uttered itself in cries which startled the heavens and shook the world; we have an exhibition of labour, exhaustion, and distress, at which we may well sit down and gaze, and wonder, and weep, in mere sympathy with a sorrow and bitterness beyond all other sorrow.

We come now to look at the atonement itself. Here we find that several kinds of offerings were to be made. The object was to make the picture complete, by bringing out in different offerings what could not all be expressed by one. They were only different phases of the same unity, pointing to the one offering of Jesus “Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God.” There is a multiplication of victims, that we may see the amplitude and varied applications of the one great atonement effected by Christ Jesus. The most vital, essential, and remarkable of these atoning services was that relating to the two goats, as provided for in verses 7-10, 15-17, 21, 22. One of these goats was to be slain as a sin-offering, and the other was to have the sins of Israel laid upon its head, and then to be taken away alive and left in the wilderness. The one typified the atonement of Christ in its means and essence; the other the same atonement in its effects.

A word now with regard to the people to be benefited by the services Of this remarkable day. That the services and offerings of this day were meant for the entire Jewish nation is very clear and distinct. But not all were therefore reconciled and forgiven. The efficacy of these services, in any given case, depended upon the individual himself. The atonement day was to be a day of contrition, of weeping, of soul-sorrow for sin, of confession, reformation, and return to God, a day of heart-melting and charity. Without these accompaniments its oblations were vain, its incense useless, its solemnities but idle ceremonies. And, as it was with the type, so it is with the Antitype. Would you, then, have Christ’s atoning day to be a blessing to thy soul, come to it with a moved and melting heart; come to it with thy spirit bowed for thy many, many sins; come to it as the humbled prodigal came back to the kind father he had wronged; come to it as the poor heart-broken publican came, smiting thy guilty breast and crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was one of the most interesting, as it was perhaps the most solemn and impressive, of all the holy days of the Jews. For seven days previously the high priest had been making preparation for taking up his abode within the Temple precincts. The services of the day began with the first grey light of dawn; for then the high priest, after performing the ordinary morning service, arrayed himself in his fine white liner garments and prepared to go within the awful sanctuary where the Shechinah dwelt. But first he must confess his own sins, and so he lays his hand upon the head of the bullock, which was to be for his sin-offering, and said, “O Jehovah, I have committed iniquity, I have sinned, I and my house.” Ten times in this prayer he repeated the name of Jehovah--a word which had an awful significance in the ears of every Jew; and every time he repeated it, those who stood near cast themselves with their faces to the ground, while the multitude responded, “Blessed be the name; the glory of His kingdom is for ever and ever.” “After some other ceremonies,” says Edersheim, “advancing to the altar of burnt-offering, he next filled the censer with burning coals, and then ranged a handful of frankincense in the dish destined to hold it. Every eye was now strained toward the sanctuary as, slowly bearing the censer and the incense, the figure of the white-robed priest was seen to disappear within the Holy Place--the place that had never been visited by any other except the high priest, and which he had not seen for a full twelvemonth. After that nothing further could be seen of his movements. The curtain of the most Holy Place was folded back, and he stood alone and separated from all the people in that awful gloom of the holiest of all, only lit up by the red glow of the coals in the priest’s censer.” What a sight met his eyes as they became accustomed to the gloom!--the mercy-seat; on either side the outstretched wings of the cherubim; and above them the visible presence of Jehovah in the cloud of the Shechinah. He whose name alone, in after-years, the Jews dared not pronounce was there, and upon him, revealed in the cloud, gazed the white-robed priest as he stood alone in that awful presence. Then, when the smoke of the incense filled the place, came this prayer from the lips of the priest: “May it please thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that neither this day nor during this year any captivity come upon us. Yet if captivity befall us this day or this year, let it be to a place where the law is cultivated. May it please Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that want come not upon us either this day or this year. But if want visit us this day or this year, let it be due to the liberality of our charitable deeds.” After further prayer and other ceremonies the priest returned to the people, and then began perhaps the most unique and interesting service of the day--the sending away of the scapegoat. Earlier in the day two goats, as similar in all respects as could be found, were chosen; lots were cast upon their heads, one being reserved for a sacrifice, the other to be sent into the wilderness. Upon the horns of the latter a piece of scarlet cloth or “tongue” was tied, telling of the guilt it had to bear. After the sacrificing of the first animal the priest laid both his hands upon the head of the second and confessed the sins of the people. “O Jehovah, they have committed iniquity; they have transgressed; they have sinned,” &c. “Then,” as Edersheim further says, “a strange scene would be witnessed. The priest led the sin-burdened goat out through Solomon’s Porch and, as tradition has it, through the Eastern Gate, which opened upon the Mount of Olives. Here an arched bridge spanned the intervening valley, and over it they brought the goat to the Mount of Olives, where one specially appointed took him in charge.” The distance between Jerusalem and the beginning of the wilderness was divided into ten stations, where one or more persons were placed to offer refreshment to the man leading the goat, and then to accompany him to the next station. At last they reached the wilderness, and their arrival was telegraphed by the waving of flags from one station back to another until in a few minutes “it was known in the Temple and whispered from ear to ear that the goat had borne upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.” (F. E. Clark.)

Spiritual significance of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement

We cannot regard the symbolical arrangements of this Day of Atonement without feeling that it is a matter of supreme importance, of urgent, indispensable necessity, that some means be devised whereby man may be separated, and separated for ever, from his sins--their guilt, their power, their memory. All the ceremonies of this day declare this fact, as do all the arrangements of the old economy, and indeed all the utterances of God’s Word. What is the meaning of those abortive attempts to discover some scapegoat, who, if he cannot wholly bear, may at least share the burden and the blame? The religions and the irreligions, the beliefs and the infidelities of men declare the same fact with unmistakable plainness. Nothing can be more evident than that men have the haunting consciousness of sin, from which they seek to escape; some in one way, some in another. Man everywhere has knowledge enough of sin to feel that it would be indeed a good thing to be separated, if not from sin itself (and from that the sinner is not willing to part) at least from those wretched, miserable consequences which follow in its train. Turning away from the vain and fruitless efforts of men in this direction, we find that what is impossible with men is possible with God. We find, indeed, that God has interposed in a very wonderful way to secure this result--the separation of man from Bin, and all the hateful and deadly consequences of sin, and that by the sacrifice and substitution of His own Son, our Saviour. And the arrangements of the Day of Atonement were Divinely ordered that they might prefigure, in its character and consequences, that true atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ--that complete and finished sacrifice offered once for all by Him, “who is a priest, not according to the law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an endless life”--“a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizelek.” And, as we have already remarked, our attention is especially directed to two things--the means of atonement, and the result, the consequences of atonement; in other words, to the sacrifice for sin, and the separation from it. We have a picture of the one in the goat slain and the blood sprinkled; we have a picture of the other in the leading forth into the wilderness of the sin-burdened goat, to return no more. The truth to which there is need for the most express testimony to be borne is the atonement of Christ--atonement by means of blood-shedding and blood-sprinkling. Whether men bear or forbear, whether it seem to them wisdom or foolishness, we must everywhere proclaim the same truth, that the only atonement made known in God’s Word is atonement by sacrifice by the substitutionary sacrifice of God’s own Son. (T. M. Morris.)

The garments of the priest

They were of pure white linen. The ordinary “golden garments” were laid aside, for only the vestments of snowy purity must be worn when the high priest enters into the Holy of Holies. The most extraordinary care, too, must be taken to avoid defilement of every kind. Five times during the Day of Atonement must the priest bathe his whole body; ten times must he wash his feet; many times must he change his garments. These precautions, at first thought, seem to our modern views unnecessary and finical, but when we remember Him to whom all these symbols point, what type can express His purity who was holy, harmless, and undefiled; who lived among sinners yet without sin; who lived in leprous Judaea yet without spot or taint of leprosy? The sinlessness of Christ! What can typify it? The snow, perhaps we think, as it falls from the laboratory of the clouds, each flake a crystal of exquisite form and all covering with a fleecy mantle every brown, dirty, unsightly thing in the landscape. But the snow itself, when it touches earth, soon becomes defiled. The lamb washed in the running stream soon loses his purity; the high priest himself, even for a single day, could not keep his garments unpolluted, but must change them and wash his flesh over and over and over; but our High Priest came and lived among sinners for three-and-thirty years, and yet knew no sin. Pure as was the priest’s linen robe, it is but a poor, faulty representative of the robe of righteousness of our High Priest. (F. E. Clark.)

There shalt be no man in the Tabernacle . . . when he goeth in to make an atonement

When sin is to be accounted for, we must face God each for himself, coming alone, one by one, into His presence. Friends and loved ones can be with us in sinning, but not in answering for sin. Help and cheer and sympathy can be given to us by our fellows, up to the time when we are to meet God and give an account of ourselves; then “every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” then “every man shall bear his own burden,” then “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour,” then “every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” How we lean on human helpers: children on parents, husband and wife on one another, scholar on teacher, people on pastor, friend on friend! But there shall be no one of these earthly supporters with us when we enter the holy place of God’s presence, seeking an atonement for our sins. Then we must stand alone, face to face with God. (H. C. Trumbull.)

Trusting in the Substitute

A good old Christian woman in humble life was once asked, as she lay on her dying pillow, the ground of her hope for eternity. She replied, with great composure, “I rely on the justice of God”; but seeing that the reply excited surprise, added, “Justice, not to me, but to my Substitute, in whom I trust.”

A proffered substitute

During the Franco-Prussian War, an English clergyman was travelling in the district occupied by the German army. There he met a German gentleman, whose route lay in the same direction, and quickly becoming friends, they resolved to accompany each other. As they walked out one day they saw a small company of soldiers come out of the camp with a handcuffed prisoner in their midst. Wondering what was about to be done, they waited until the party had approached, then asked the officer what they were going to do with that man. “Shoot him.” “Why?” “He has been robbing the dead, and by the law of the land he must die.” “Poor man,” said the clergyman, “is he prepared to die?” “I do not know,” replied the officer, “but you can speak to him if you like.” The minister at once took advantage of the permission, and began to speak to the prisoner about his soul. He had not spoken long when the wretched man burst into tears. The clergyman stopped, thinking something he had said had broken him down, but he was speedily undeceived by the man exclaiming, “Oh, sir, I am not weeping because of anything you have said, or because I am going to die; I am weeping because I do not know what will become of my wife and children when I am gone.” These words touched the old German gentleman, who said as he gazed with tears in his eyes at the prisoner, “I tell you what. I have no one in the world to feel my loss. I shall take your place, and as your law demands a life I shall lay down mine.” And turning to the officer, he continued, “Now, please, take off these handcuffs and put them on me.” “But,” interposed the Englishman, “think what you are doing; is there no one who will miss you?” “No one.” “Well,” said the officer, as soon as he had recovered from his amazement, “I have no power to do what you wish, but you can come to the camp and hear what the general says.” But it turned out the general had not the power: the general, however, said, “The Crown Prince is here, and he has the power.” To the Crown Prince they went, and when he heard the strange story he was very much affected. “Our laws,” he said, “will not admit of a substitute being executed for another, but though I cannot take your life, I can give you a present of this man’s life. He is yours.” The prince could pardon, but God cannot pardon without a Substitute, even Jesus who died in our stead that we might live. (W. Thompson.)

Need for the great atonement

Mr. Hardcastle, when dying, said, “My last act of faith I wish to be to take the blood of Jesus, as the high priest did when he entered behind the veil; and when I have passed the veil I would appear with it before the throne.” So, in making the transit from one year to another, this is our most appropriate exercise. We see much sin in the retrospect; we see many a broken purpose, many a misspent hour, many a rash and unadvised word; we see much pride and anger, and worldliness and unbelief; we see a long track of inconsistency. There is nothing for us but the great atonement. With that atonement let us, like believing Israel, end and begin anew. Bearing its precious blood, let us pass within the veil of a solemn and eventful future. Let a visit to the fountain be the last act of the closing year, and let a new year still find us there. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Christ’s anesthesia for the remembrance of sin

If the Creator of the universe has provided in nature an anaesthesia for physical pain, shall He not much more, in grace, provide one for moral pain? There is a wholesome and necessary pain for both the physical and the moral natures--the pain which gives warning of the disease, or indicates its presence; but when the physician comes, his province is to effect the cure without the pain as far as possible, as it is a retarding element in the process of recovery, exhausting the patient’s strength, which is all needed for recuperation. Just such a useless devitalising pain for the soul would be the eternal regretful remembrance of sin, therefore it is that God declares, “Your sins and transgressions shall not be remembered nor come into mind”; “Blessed is he whose transgression is covered”; “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “As far as the east is from the west, so far will I remove thy transgressions from thee”; “I will not look upon them nor remember them.” And yet in this age of questioning people say, “How shall I not remember when science tells me memory is indestructible?” As well may the patient in his incredulity ask, “How shall I not feel the knife penetrating to the bone, when the mere scratch of a pin gives me pain?” Christ is the anaesthesia for the soul’s regretful remembrance of sin.

Sinners always ready to conceal their sin

It is said of the elephant that before he drinks in the river he troubleth the water with his feet, that so he may not see his own deformity, and it is usual with such as are well struck in years, not so much to mind the looking-glass, lest therein they behold nothing but hollow eyes, pale cheeks, and a wrinkled front, the ruins of a sometime more beautiful visage. Thus it is that men by nature are hardly drawn to the confession of their sins, but every man is ready to hide his sins by excusing them with Aaron, by colouring them with fair pretences, as did the Jews, by laying them on others as Adam did, or by denying them with Solo-men’s harlots; they are ready to decline sin through all the eases, as one said wittily: in the nominative by pride, in the genitive by luxury, in the dative by bribery, in the accusative by detraction, in the vocative by adulation, in the ablative by extortion, but very loth to acknowledge them in any case, very hardly brought to make any confession of them at all. (T. Adams.)

Value of repentance

In the country of Arabia, where almost all trees are savoury, and frankincense and myrrh are even as common firewood, styrax is sold at a dear rate, though it be a wood of unpleasant smell, because experience proveth it to be a present remedy to recover their smell, who before had lost it. We all of us have lived in the pleasures of sin, have our senses stuffed and debilitated, if not overcome; and the best remedy against this malady will be the smelling to styrax, the unsavoury and unpleasing smell of our former corruptions; thus David’s sin was ever before him, and St. Augustine (as Possidonius noteth), a little before his death, caused the penitential psalms to be written about his bed, which he still looking upon, out of a bitter remembrance of his sins, continually wept, giving not over long before he died. This practice will work repentance not to be repented of. (J. Spencer.)

Christian’s confession of sin

You may have noticed in the biography of some eminent men how badly they speak of themselves. Robert Southey, in his “Life of Bunyan,” seems at a difficulty to understand how John Bunyan could have used such depreciating language concerning his own character. For it is true, according to all we know of his biography, that he was not, except in the case of profane swearing, at all so bad as most of the villagers. Indeed, there were some virtues in the man which were worthy of all commendation. Southey attributes it to a morbid state of mind, but we rather ascribe it to a return of spiritual health. The great light which shone around Saul of Tarsus brighter than the midday sun, was the outward type of that inner light which flashes into a regenerate soul, and reveals the horrible character of the sin which dwells within. Believe me, when you hear Christians making confessions which seem to you to be unnecessarily abject, it is not that they are worse than others, but that they see themselves in a clearer light than others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Hindrances to repentance removed

They who have water running home in conduit pipes to their houses, as soon as they find a want of that which their neighbours have in abundance, by and by they search into the causes, run to the conduit-head, or take up the pipes to see where they be stopped, or what is the defect, that so they may be supplied accordingly. Even so must every man do, when he finds that the grace of repentance flows into other men’s hearts, and hath no recourse or access into his soul, by and by sit down and search himself what the cause should be, where the hindrance is that stays the course, where the rub lies which stoppeth the grace of repentance in him, seeing they that live lit may be) in the same house, sit at the same table, lie in the same bed, they can be penitent for their sins, sorry that they have offended God, and so complain in bitterness of soul for their sins; but he that had the same means, the same occasions, more sins to be humbled for, more time to repent, and more motives to draw him to the duty, is not yet moved with the same, nor any way affected with the sense of sin; this must needs be matter of high concernment to look about him. (J. Spencer.)

True repentance

I think that men look upon repentance and humiliation before God very much as they do upon a voyage from the tropics to the North Pole. Every single league as they advance toward the Arctic region they leave more and more behind them greenness, and fruit, and warmth, and civilisation, and find themselves more and more in the midst of sterility, barrenness, ice, and barbarism. I think that men repent toward the frigid zones. They think that to go to God is dreary and desolate in the extreme. It is not. The sinner is an Esquimaux! He lives in ice and burrows underground, and is but little better than a beast. But if by any means he becomes fired with a conception of a better clime, and leaving his hibernating quarters, he takes the ship Repentance and sails toward the torrid zone, at every league he is surprised by the new forms of vegetation by which he is surrounded. He has seen oak-trees only about as high as his knee. Not long after he sets out on his voyage he is astonished to see them as high as his head. By and by, as he draws near the tropics, he is lost in wonder and ecstasy to see them lifting themselves far above him in the air. And with what satisfaction does he compare the delightful home that he has found with the miserable one that he has left behind. (H. W. Beecher.)

Two kids of the goats for a sin-offering.--

Christ typified by the two goats

. As to the goat that was put to death. To die as a sacrifice for human guilt was the great end of Christ’s life and mission into our world. Thus was He represented by the goat that was sacrificed. Notice how the figure was still further carried out.

In the goat which was kept alive.

1. Over the head of this goat the sins of the people were confessed, and on it symbolically laid. Thus Jesus came to be our Surety and Substitute.

2. Iniquities, transgressions, and sins, were confessed, and laid on the scapegoat. Showing us here the extent of Christ’s sacrifice for all kinds of guilt, whether arising from neglect of God’s commands or the wilful violation of His righteous prohibitions. In the sacrifice of Christ there was an atonement for every kind of sin, and for all grades and classes of sinners.

3. The scapegoat was dismissed into the wilderness with the imputed iniquity of the people upon it. Thus has Jesus truly borne our guilt away. He has obtained for a world of transgressors the offer of pardon. For the polluted race of Adam the means of purity. For condemned and dying sinners the favour of God and the gift of eternal life. Notice--

How the benefits of the scapegoat were conferred upon the people. Aaron was to lay both his hands upon the head of the scapegoat, and there confess all the sins of the people. How clearly does this show us the appointed medium by which we enjoy the salvation of Christ.

1. There must be implicit faith or confidence in His person and sacrifice.

2. Faith in Jesus will ever be accompanied by sincere repentance. It will be connected with ingenious confession, deep contrition, entire self-abasement, and self-loathing before God, with earnest forsaking of the paths of impenitence and sin.


1. We see here the connection between sin and death. Sin deserves death, exposes to death; where it is unforgiven it will involve in eternal death. “The soul that sinneth,” &c.

2. In Christ’s death is the only real sacrifice for sin: “He died for our sins.” What a glorious truth! How precious! how momentous!

3. Faith is the only medium of securing to the soul the benefits of that death. (J. Burns, D. D.)


1. Of the divers lots appointed for men, of some unto life, some unto death.

2. Ministers should have a great care to govern their families.

3. Christ alone sufficient to save us.

4. Remission of sins not procured by any strength in man, but by faith in Christ.

5. Righteousness not by the words of the law, but by faith only in Christ. (A. Willet, D. D.)

Moral observations

1. Divine secrets not curiously to be searched into.

2. To approach and draw near before God with holiness and reverence.

3. Of the force and efficacy of prayer.

4. Of the profit and fruit of fasting.

5. Remission of sins only granted to the penitent.

6. Evil thoughts and lusts to be cast away. (A. Willet, D. D.)

The two goats

The two goats really formed one and the same figure--one was slain and one was led off into the wilderness; but to typify that the figure was one, and the same, they must both be exactly alike, they must cost the same price, they must be bought at the same time; one was slain for sin, the other was led away far into the wilderness, bearing the sins of all the people laid upon His head. Our Lord, in His life and death, combined both these types. He was slain for sin and bears the sin away. There is one element of this ceremonial that we must carefully note. The idea of vicarious sacrifice is very prominent. This element must never be lost out of our doctrine of the atonement. An atonement without the sacrifice is no atonement. “According to the law I may almost say all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from the shedding of blood is no remission.” Bring every beautiful thought and theory into the atonement that belongs there: the example, the upholding of law, the lustral effect on man’s moral nature, are all there; but this is there too. Through the vicarious sacrifice of the God Man our sins are borne for ever away into the wilderness, and are remembered no more against us. (F. E. Clark.)

The two goats--various interpretations

There have been disputes about the interpretation of this. I may state that Faber, a very acute and able critic upon Leviticus, thinks that the one goat was sacrificed for sin-representing Christ’s death; that the scapegoat was dedicated to the evil spirit-representing Christ put into the power of Satan to be tempted in the wilderness. The reason that he thinks so is that the word for goat of “scape” is azazel; and that name was applied to the fallen spirit by the Jews. And therefore Faber thinks it was one goat for a sacrifice--to denote Christ’s atonement; the other goat let loose to Satan, or sent away to Satan--to represent the Saviour given up into the hands of the wicked one to be tempted for a season. The second interpretation is by Bush, the American commentator, a man of great sagacity and talent; and he thinks that the one goat that was slain as a sacrifice represented Christ’s atonement for us, but that the other goat represented the Jewish races let loose, bearing the fearful responsibility of having trodden under foot the precious blood of Christ, and crucified the Son of God, and stained their name and their nation with the infamy of that crime; and that they, a blasted race, driven into the desert, were represented by the scapegoat that was here let go. And he thinks on the same ground, that when the lots were cast, and Jesus was condemned and Barabbas was let go, that that was the carrying out of the same great symbol--Barabbas, the representative of the Jews, let go, but branded with an inexpiable crime; and Jesus, the Great Atonement sacrificed for the sins of all that believe. These criticisms, however, are more plausible than true. I do think the old-fashioned interpretation is the just one, and there is no valid reason for superseding it: that the one goat sacrificed on the altar was the symbol of Christ our Saviour or Atonement sacrificed for us; and that the other goat let loose into the desert was the symbol and representation to the children of Israel of Jesus rising from the dead, bearing the sins that He had exhausted, entering into heaven, and there ever living to make intercession for us. I know there are difficulties even in accepting the last of these; but those difficulties, if they do not completely vanish, are much diluted when you notice the accompaniments or the rites by which this goat was let loose into the wilderness: that the priest was to lay his hands upon the head of the scapegoat--the one that was presented alive; over it he was to confess all the sins of the children of Israel, and then this scapegoat was let loose with the sins of Israel upon its head. Now, the very phraseology that is applied to the scapegoat is applied to Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away”--that carrieth away “the sins of the world.” And I cannot conceive a more beautiful type of Christ our Saviour, or a more expressive exhibition of the mode in which we become interested in Him than that of the high priest laying his hand upon his head, transferring the sins of Israel to it, dismissing it, and the sins blotted out, no more remembered, carried into a desert, passed away from the reminiscences of Israel and of God for ever. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

The cloud of the incense.

Intercession of Christ

The doctrine of the intercession of Christ.

1. AS typically exhibited under the law.

2. As actually fulfilled in Christ. He not only suffered on the Cross, but ascended; not on His own account, but ours. Illustrated by common analogies: as an advocate appears on behalf of his clients; a king on behalf of his subjects; a general as representative of his troops; a priest at the altar as representative of whole body of worshippers; so Christ appears as the representative of all His believing people. As our King He appears in beauty; as Captain of salvation appears victorious; as Elder Brother; as Priest, Counsellor, Advocate. Grand expression of His love. Not content to offer one life on the Cross. He consecrates His new existence. Though raised to the throne of reverence, does not overlook His little flock (John 17:1-43.17.26.).

The benefits we derive from it.

1. The forgiveness of our sins. “If any man sin.” After all done for us, we are guilty and undeserving. But while our sins are crying out against us on earth, Christ is pleading in heaven.

2. Relief of our sorrows. Christ possesses a capacity of sympathy, especially in mental distresses, tenderness of conscience, &c. Hannah prayed, but Eli’s heart was not touched with feeling of her infirmity.

3. The acceptance of our duties. These are maimed and imperfect. Enough evil in them to render them offensive and displeasing to God. But Christ presents them (Revelation 8:2).

4. The frustration of spiritual enemies. Satan is the avenger, but Christ is our Advocate. “Peter, I have prayed for thee.” (S. Thodey.)

Verses 20-22

Leviticus 16:20-3.16.22

The goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities.

The scapegoat a type of Christ

The typical sacrifice here enjoined.

1. Appointed by God. Therefore an atonement fully equal to our guilt; a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice; an oblation which satisfies the unbending law and even the infinitely holy mind of the great Jehovah, which leaves justice nothing to ask for, and the redeemed sinner nothing to dread.

2. The efficacy of the sacrifice enjoined in it must be traced to the Divine appointment.

The conduct which Aaron was commanded to observe with respect to it. The mere appointment of these two animals as a sin-offering was not sufficient to atone for the transgressions of the Israelites: the one must be slain, and the other must be presented before the Lord and have particular ceremony performed over it, before Israel can be pardoned.

1. A part of this ceremony consisted in the confession of guilt. We are called on to be very earnest in our efforts to become acquainted with the full extent of our depravity; to be often looking into our hearts and reviewing our lives, and to be particular and minute in acknowledging the sins which we discover there.

2. It tells us that the high priest, slier having confessed over the goat the sins of the people, was to transfer them to the victim before him; he was to put them on its head, thus intimating that their guilt no longer rested on them but on the devoted animal on which his hands were laid. The spiritual meaning of this part of the ceremony is plain. It was designed to teach us figuratively the same blessed truth which has now been revealed to us without a figure, and which constitutes the substance and glory of the gospel, that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”; that, “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree”; that the Lord hath laid on Him “the iniquities of us all.”

The benefits which resulted from Aaron’s obedience to the injunctions given him. After the appointed confession had been made over it, and the sins of the people put upon its head, the goat was to be sent away into an uninhabited wilderness.

1. This was undoubtedly designed to show us the completeness of that pardon of sin which Christ has purchased by the sacrifice of Himself for the believing sinner. It is a pardon extending, not to a few iniquities, but to all.

2. But the pardon the believing penitent receives through Christ is an everlasting, as well as a complete pardon. This is strongly implied in the text. The goat was not only to bear away all the iniquities of the children of Israel, but it was to bear them away into “a wilderness,” into “a land not inhabited”; a land cut off from all other countries; a desolate, unvisited, and almost inaccessible region, in which the devoted animal was to be let go, and where it would remain unseen and forgotten till it perished. The Israelites therefore had not only the assurance that all their past iniquities were pardoned, but they were taught also by this ordinance that they had no reason to fear the return of them, or the revoking of this pardon. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

The scapegoat

. The scapegoat represented the substitution of christ in the place of sinners.

This substitution of christ has made ample satisfaction for sin.

This atonement by christ extends to all sins.

1. Iniquities. Some say these refer to our original depravity.

2. Transgressions. The violations of the positive laws of God.

3. Sins. Neglect of His holy commands. Perhaps they are used to denote that the scapegoat bore away sins of every kind and description.

That Christ, as typified by the scapegoat, has effected substitution for all people.

In what way the benefits of Christ’s substitution are received.

1. Faith is requisite.

2. Sins confessed and repented of.


1. Man’s criminal and dangerous condition. Laden with iniquities and sins.

2. The only way of avoiding the terrible results of transgression. “By Jesus Christ.”

3. The only means by which the blessings of salvation are to be received. By true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

4. Let all men thus avail themselves of the redemption that is in Christ. (J. Burns, D. D.)

The scapegoat

. The innocent victim.

1. Innocent. Had no sins of its own to bear. Thus Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24). With sins of its own how could it atone for the sins of others? No man selected who might ceremonially bear the sins of the people away, and then return after being ceremonially purified.

2. Divinely selected. Chosen by lot. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Jesus was the Lamb of God. The lamb of Divine selection. Hence how great should be our confidence in this Saviour!

3. Representative. Goat generally regarded as representing evil propensities, and therefore as specially illustrating the wicked (Matthew 25:32-40.25.46). So Jesus took our nature. Likeness of men and of sinful flesh (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3).

The imputed transgressions.

1. Of all the people, and all their iniquities. Vast number, variety, &c., of their sins. Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. Died for our sins.

2. Transferred from the people by the will of God. By the grace of God Jesus tasted death for us. Our sins laid upon Him according to the mercy of God.

3. Transferred by the priest with confession. They were to be acknowledged as the people’s sins. Confession of sin a condition of our acceptance. Not that God does not know, but that the act of confession brings our guilt home more to our own heart, and tends to promote humility and an earnest desire for mercy. Besides, God has willed it (chap. 5:5; Hosea 5:15), and added promises of mercy to such as obey (Leviticus 26:40-3.26.42; Proverbs 28:13). And pardon follows (Psalms 32:5; 1 John 1:9).

4. Bearing this burden, the goat was then lead away into the wilderness. Away from the camp, whither it might never return to defile it. The iniquity to be clean gone for ever. The people not to be punished for the sins thus “removed far” from them. Christ bore our reproaches, and was crucified outside the camp.

The delivered people.

1. Deliverance from sin the greatest deliverance. Other deliverances being temporal, but this eternal; others bodily, &c., this spiritual.

2. It would promote happiness. They felt that a great load had been removed. Rejoiced in spiritual liberty. The joy of imputed innocence. Now looked upon with favour, their sins being borne away. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”

3. It would excite gratitude. Otherwise they would have had to answer for their sins. Apply this to Jesus, and those who are saved from wrath through Him.


1. Christ Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.

2. He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made, &c.

3. The duty of confession and personal faith. (J. C. Gray.)

The scapegoat

. That the separation of man from his sins is a subject of tremendous moment.

1. The moral struggles of mankind show the necessity of man being separated from his sins.

2. The influence of sin on human nature shows this. It has mortalised our bodies, clouded our intellects, polluted our affections, burdened our consciences, enfeebled and enslaved our powers.

3. The intervention of Christ shows this.

That a penitential approach to God through sacrifice is the divine method of separation.

1. Sin deserves death.

2. Through the death of another, the sinner’s death may be avoided.

That the separation of man from his sin, if effected through the true sacrifice, is complete. (Homilist.)

Man’s need of a scapegoat

As soon as man sins, and his conscience becomes at all alive to the fact, and troublesome on account of it, he begins at once to look around for some “scapegoat.” The sinner always feels, after the first flush and excitement of sin have passed away, and the fire of its passion has died out, that it would be an exceedingly desirable thing to put the guilt, burden, and consequences of sin as completely away from himself as possible. Now that the fleeting pleasure of sin has been extracted and only the bitter dregs remain, the sinner would willingly and by any means get quit of them, and so he casts around a glance of inquiry, hoping to discover some “scapegoat” with whom he may share the blame of sin, or upon whom he may put it altogether. The first sinners, in this matter, set an example which all sinners from that time to this have diligently copied. Adam shabbily put the blame upon his wife, and Eve foolishly put the blame upon the serpent, and both impiously sought to put the blame upon God. Do we not in the offering of these vain excuses see our first parents looking about for a “scapegoat,” who shall at least share the burden of their recently contracted and still unacknowledged and unabsolved guilt? And thus has it been with all sinners from that time to this. Still do we find men seeking to explain the fact of sin, and to excuse the guilt of sin, by referring to something outside of themselves. A man, for instance, commits some sin: his conscience calls him to some kind of reckoning. And what, under such circumstances, does he do? He does not, it is to be feared, cry out in penitence before God, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight,” but instead of this he looks about for some “scapegoat.” His conscience charges him with having told a lie. Well, if it were a lie, it was a very white one; it was certainly told with the very best of intentions; it was to obviate some very unpleasant consequences which would have injuriously affected not only himself but others. A man gets drunk. He cannot but admit that he was “overtaken,” or “overcome,” but he would like all his friends to know that the circumstances were very peculiar, indeed, quite exceptional; it was the excitement of the company which led him on, and not the love of the drink. Another man takes some unfair advantage of his neighbour: Well, he dares to say that his neighbours have often taken advantage of him. He swears: ‘Tis an old habit into which he unconsciously lapses. He indulges in ungovernable outbursts of anger: Well, he always had a hasty temper, and no one could know how much he had to annoy and provoke him. You remind a man that he is very seldom found in God’s house on the Lord’s day, and might be very often met in the fields, or on the river or rail: He knows it isn’t altogether the right sort of thing to do; he certainly was brought up differently at home and at school; but then he is so pent up during the week that he wants a little fresh air on Sunday. You expostulate with another who, while rarely or never running into any actual excess, spends a great deal too much time and money in the public-house. He excuses himself by reminding you that persons in his station have not the same comforts at home which those have who live in larger houses and on larger incomes; and that those who expostulate or condemn would moderate their complaints if they knew more about the matter. And thus, but that time would fail us, I might go through a much longer catalogue, and show you how in every case men, as soon as their conscience becomes troublesome, look about instinctively for some scapegoat. They endeavour to discover something in their character, their temperament, their circumstances, their education, their companionship, their occupation--something, in short, outside of themselves, which shall bear in some degree the blame and guilt of sin, which all the while they are indulging and cherishing. All such attempts are vain. All such excuses empty and unavailing. These scapegoats break down under the burden imposed upon them, and have no power to carry the guilt, the bitterness, the clinging memory of one single sin into the wilderness of oblivion. It is my pleasing task to direct your attention to the true Scapegoat: the provision which God Himself has made for separating the sinner from his sins, and from all their terrible consequences, finally and for ever. A provision which in its Divine fulness is sufficient to meet, and more than meet, all the exigences of our sinful nature. (T. M. Morris.)

Heathen imitations of the scapegoat

From this law of God, no doubt, did spring that custom among the heathen who, offering sacrifices, used to ban and curse the head of the beast offered in sacrifice with these words, “That if any evil be so come, either upon the sacrificers themselves, or upon the whole country of Egypt, it would please the gods to turn all upon that head.” The Massilians also yearly used to make an atonement or expiation for their city with some holy man, whom, decked and set out with holy garments and with garlands, after the manner of a sacrifice, they led through the city, and putting all the evils upon his head that might anyway hang over their city, they cast him into the sea, sacrificing of him so unto Neptune, speaking these words with great solemnity, “Sis pro nobis piaculum” (“Be thou an expiation for us”). Thus the heathen caught at things, but not in a right manner, whereby we may well see what a darkness it is to be deprived of the light of the Word of God. In like manner receiving it from the doctrine of the old Fathers, by the tradition of Noah’s sons, that there should in time come a Man who, taking upon Him the sins of all men, should become a sacrifice for the salvation of all men; and notwithstanding the manner how this should be, they used in great extremities and perils--as plagues, famine, wars, &c.

to offer up men to their gods to appease their wrath thereby. So in Livy we read Quintus Curtius did in a time of pestilence; the Decii, father and son, in a time of hard war with the Latines and Samnites; Codrus, king of the Athenians, in Lycurgus; Menceceus in Euripides, and the daughters of Erecteus offered themselves to be sacrificed for their country. So Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1-12.16.20.); Manasseh (chap. 21.), and the King of Moab (chap. 3.), their own sons. This was a great mistaking you plainly see, and therefore let it move you to send up thankful thoughts to God for your better knowledge and understanding. (Bp. Babington.)

The solitary sin-bearer

The solitude of the sin-bearer is something altogether distinct from the solitude of the Holy One. The solitude of holiness separated Him from sinners; but that separation, which made Him lead in His humanity a strange, lonesome life, yet brought Him into such full contact with all the glorious beings and the realities of the spirit-world, that such a solitude could hardly be looked upon with any considerable regret, or be the source of actual pain. The solitude of the sin-bearer is different from that of the representative of holiness and purity. Consider the causes of this solitude.

1. Wherever sin exists it is an isolating principle. Its tendency is to induce seclusion and separation, to shut the person who is possessed of it from all connection with that which is outside itself.

2. The scapegoat was to bear upon its head all the confessed iniquity of the children of Israel, and to bear it into a land of separation. Christ was the Scapegoat of the human family. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read that He, by the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself to God. The scapegoat finds the land of separation at last, all alone in the darkness. He bore our sins into the land not inhabited. No witnessing spirit can find them there; no denizen of those dreary regions can rediscover them. They are lost sight of by man; the angels find them obliterated from their view; and God Himself has turned His back upon them, and left them in the land of separation. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

“And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited

”:--When confessed sins are fairly laid upon Him who is appointed to bear them, they will never come back to those who confessed them. He will carry them “unto a land not inhabited”--a land where there are no talebearers or gossips to keep the story of those sins alive. Forgiven sins will be also forgotten sins: in the day of final account, not one of them will appear against the transgressor. Sins which are not laid upon the Scapegoat must be faced by the sinner in the presence of the universe. Sins which the Scapegoat has borne away into the land not inhabited cannot then be found in all the universe. God Himself will have forgotten them: for His promise is that those sins and those iniquities He will remember no more for ever, (H. G. Trurnbull.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 16". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.