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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-34




This chapter, containing the account of the institution of the ceremonial to be used on the Day of Atonement, would take its place chronologically immediately after the tenth chapter, for the instructions conveyed in it were delivered to Moses "after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord and died" (Leviticus 16:1), when the fate of Nadab and Abihu would naturally have led Aaron to desire a more perfect knowledge than had as yet been imparted to him as to the manner in which he was to present himself before the Lord. Logically it might either occupy its present position, as being the great and culminating atoning and cleansing ceremony, or it might be relegated to a place among the holy days in Leviticus 23:1-44, where it is, in fact, shortly noticed. That it is placed here shows that the most essential characteristic of the Day in the judgment of the legislator is that of its serving as the occasion and the means of "making an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and making an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and for making an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation" (Leviticus 23:33).

Annually there gathered over the camp, and over the sanctuary as situated in the midst of the camp, a mass of defilement, arising in part from sins whose guilt had not been removed by the punishment of the offenders, and in part from uncleannesses which had not been cleansed by sacrifices and the prescribed ceremonial rites. Annually this defilement had to be atoned for or covered away from the sight of God. This was done by the solemn observance of the great Day of Atonement, and specially by the high priest's carrying the blood of the sacrifices into the holy of holies, into which he might enter on no other day of the year; while the consciousness of deliverance from the guilt of sin was quickened on the part of the people by their seeing the scapegoat "bear away upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited" (Leviticus 23:22).

Leviticus 16:2

Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not. Nadab and Abihu having died for their rash presumption in venturing unbidden into the tabernacle, it was natural that Aaron, who had as yet but once penetrated into the holy of holies, should be struck with fear, and that he should desire Divine instruction as to the times and manner in which he was to appear before the Lord, lest he should be struck dead like his sons. If the attempt to enter the outer chamber of the tabernacle had been so fatal to them, what might not be the result to him of entering within the vail which hung before the mercy-seat which is upon the ark? The mercy-seat—capporeth, ἱλαστήριον, propitiatorium—formed the top of the ark, and was the place where God specially exhibited his Presence, on the occasions of his manifestation, by the bright cloud which then rested upon it between the cherubim. It was this Presence which made it perilous for Aaron to appear within the vail unbidden or without the becoming ritual; for man might not meet God unless he were sanctified for the purpose (Exodus 19:14, Exodus 19:21-24; 1 Samuel 6:19). The words, for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat, refer to the Divine Presence thus visibly manifested (see 1 Kings 8:10-12), and not, as they have strangely been misinterpreted, to the cloud of smoke raised by the incense burnt by the high priest on his entrance. They do not, however, prove that the manifestation was constantly there, still less that it was continued, according to Jewish tradition, in later times. "The reason for the prohibition of Aaron's entrance at his own pleasure, or without the expiatory blood of sacrifice, is to be found in the fact that the holiness communicated to the priest did not cancel the sin of his nature, but only covered it over for the performance of his official duties; and so long as the Law, which produced only the knowledge of sin, and not its forgiveness and removal, was not abolished by the complete atonement, the holy God was and remained to mortal and sinful man a consuming fire, before which no one could stand" (Keil).

Leviticus 16:3

Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place. "Thus" would be translated more literally by With this. He must come supplied with the specified offerings, dressed in the appointed manner and using the ceremonial here designated. The efficacy of the acts of the high priest on this day and throughout his ministrations depended not upon his individual but on his official character, and on his obedience to the various commandments positively enjoined. Personal worthiness would not qualify him for his service, nor personal unworthiness hinder the effect of his liturgical acts (cf. Art. 26, 'Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament'). Aaron's special offerings for himself on this great day are to be a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.

Leviticus 16:4

His special garments for the occasion are the holy linen coat,… the linen breeches,… a linen girdle,… and the linen mitre. In the original the definite article is not expressed. The reading should therefore be, He shall put on a holy linen coat, and he shall have linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with a linen mitre shall be attired. The clothing was white from head to foot, differing therein from the dress of the ordinary priest, inasmuch as the sash or girdle of the latter was of variegated materials, and differing also in the shape of the mitre. The white clothing was not intended to symbolize humility and penitence, as some have thought, for white is not the colour in which penitents are naturally dressed. Rather it was symbolical of the purity and holiness which the ceremonies of the day symbolically affected, and which was specially needed to be exhibited in the person of the high priest. In the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel, the angel of God is clothed in linen (Ezekiel 9:2, Ezekiel 9:3, Ezekiel 9:11; Ezekiel 10:2, Ezekiel 10:6, Ezekiel 10:7; Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6, Daniel 12:7). And the colour of the angelic raiment is described in the Gospels as white: "his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow" (Matthew 28:3); "they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment" (Mark 16:5); "two men stood by them in shining garments" (Luke 24:4); she "seeth two angels in white sitting" (John 20:12). So, too, the wife of the Lamb, in tile Book of the Revelation, has it "granted to her that she should be arrayed in fine linen clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:7, Revelation 19:8). The white linen dress of the high priest, therefore (which must have given the appearance of the English surplice tied in at the waist), was intended to symbolize the purity and brightness which forms the characteristic of angels and saints, and, above all, of the King of saints. "The white material of the dress which Aaron wore when performing the highest act of expiation under the Old Testament was a symbolical shadowing forth of the holiness and glory of the one perfect Mediator between God and man, who, being the radiation of the glory of God and the image of his nature, effected by himself the perfect cleansing away of our sin, and who, as the true High Priest, being holy, innocent, unspotted, and separate from sinners, entered once by his own blood into the holy place not made with hands, namely, into heaven itself, to appear before the face of God for us and obtain everlasting redemption (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:24)" (Keil). The symbolism of the holy garments as indicating holiness and purity, is strengthened by the command that Aaron is to wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.

The high priest's acts on this day, so far as they are recounted in this chapter, were the following.

1. He bathed.

2. He dressed himself in his white holy garments.

3. He offered or presented at the door of the tabernacle a bullock for a sin offering for himself and his house.

4. He presented at the same place two goats for a sin offering for the congregation.

5. He cast lots on the two goats, one of which was to be sacrificed, the other to he let go into the wilderness.

6. He sacrificed the bullock.

7. He passed from the court through the holy place into the holy of holies with a censer and incense, and filled the space beyond the vail with a cloud of smoke from the incense.

8. He returned to the court, and, taking some of the blood of the bullock, passed again within the vail, and there sprinkled the blood once on the front of the mercy-seat and seven times before it.

9. He came out again into the court, and killed the goat on which the lot for sacrifice had fallen.

10. For the third time he entered the holy of holies, and went through the same process with the goat's blood as with the bullock's blood.

11. He purified the other part of the tabernacle, as he had purified the holy of holies, by sprinkling with the atoning blood, as before, and placing some of it on the horns of the altar of incense (Exodus 30:10).

12. He returned to the court, and placed the blood of the bullock and goat upon the horns of the altar of burnt sacrifice, and sprinkled it seven times.

13. He offered to God the remaining goat, laying his hands upon it, confessing and laying the sins of the people upon its head.

14. He consigned the goat to a man, whose business it was to conduct it to the border of the wilderness, and there release it.

15. He bathed and changed his linen vestments for his commonly worn high priest's dress.

16. He sacrificed, one after the other, the two rams as burnt offerings for himself and for the people.

17. He burnt the fat of the sin offerings upon the altar.

18. He took measures that the remainder of the sin offerings should be burnt without the camp.

In Numbers 29:7-11, twelve sacrifices are commanded to be offered by the high priest on this day, namely, the morning and evening sacrifice; a burnt offering for the people, consisting of one young bullock, one ram (as already stated), and seven lambs; and cue goat for a sin offering; so that in all there were fifteen sacrifices offered, besides the meat and drink offerings. The punctiliousness of the Jews in later times was not content that the ceremonies should begin on the day itself. Preparations commenced a full week previously. On the third day of the seventh month, the high priest moved from his house in the city into the temple, and he was twice sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer, by way of precaution against defilement. He spent the week in practicing and rehearsing, under the eye of some of the elders of the Sanhedrim, the various acts that he would have to perform on the great day, and on the night immediately preceding it he was not allowed to sleep. In case of his sudden death or disqualification, a substitute was appointed to fulfill his function.

Leviticus 16:5

And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats. It was necessary that the sacrifice offered for a person or class of persons should be provided by the offerer or offerers. The two kids of the goats, or rather the two he-goats, constituted together but one sin offering. This is important for the understanding of the sequel.

Leviticus 16:6

And Aaron shall offer his bullock … and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. The first step is an expiatory offering to reconcile the officiating priest and the remainder of the priestly house to God. This was necessary before his offerings for the people could be accepted. It indicates the defects inherent in a priest whose nature was only that of man, which is compassed about with infirmities. The offering here commanded is not the slaying, but the solemn presentation, of the bullock to the Lord. In after times the following form of confession was used by the high priest when he laid his hand upon the bullock:—"O Lord, I have committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned, I and my house. O Lord, I entreat thee, cover over the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before thee, I and my house; even as it is written in the Law of Moses thy servant, 'For on that day will he cover over for you, to make you clean; from all your transgressions before the Lord ye shall be cleansed" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service').

Leviticus 16:7, Leviticus 16:8

It must be carefully noted that. as the two goats made one sin offering (Leviticus 16:5), so they are both presented before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. By this solemn presentation they became the Lord's, one as much as the other. After this, Aaron is to cast lots upon the two goats. The two goats, of the same size and appearance as far as possible, stood together near the entrance of the court. And by them was an urn containing two lots. These the high priest drew out at the same moment, placing one on the head of one goat, the other on the head of the other goat. According as the lot fell. one of the goats was taken and at once offered to the Lord, with a view to being shortly sacrificed; the other was appointed for a scapegoat, and reserved till the expiatory sacrifices had been made, when it too was offered to the Lord, and then sent away into the wilderness. After the lot had been chosen, the two goats were distinguished from each other by having a piece of scarlet cloth tied, the first round its neck, the second round its horn. One lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. The last word is in the original la-azāzel, and being found only in this chapter, it has caused a great discrepancy of opinion among interpreters as to its meaning. It has been diversely regarded as a place, a person, a thing, and an abstraction. The first class of interpreters explain it as some district of the wilderness; the second understand by it an evil spirit; the third take it as a designation of the goat; the fourth translate it, "for removal." The first interpretation may be summarily rejected. If a localized spot were meant, that spot would have been left behind by a people constantly on the move. The second hypothesis—that azāzel was an evil spirit, or the evil spirit—has been embraced by so considerable a number of modern expositors, that it is necessary to dwell upon it at some length. But, indeed, it has little to recommend it. It has been argued that azāzel must be a proper name, because it has no article prefixed to it, la-azāzel. This is a grammatical error. When a noun expresses an office or a function, and has the preposition le or la prefixed to it, it does not take an article in Hebrew any more than in French; e.g; in the verse, "Jehu … shalt thou anoint to be king (or for king) over Israel; and Elisha … shalt thou appoint to be prophet (or for prophet) in thy room" (1 Kings 19:16), the Hebrew is le-melek and le-navi, without the article. The same idiom will be found in 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 7:14. With greater plausibility it is argued that 2 Samuel 7:8 contrasts Jehovah and Azazel, and that if la-Yehovah be translated "for Jehovah," or "for the Lord," la-azāzel must be translated "for Azazel." It may be allowed that there is a prima facie likelihood that, where words are thus contrasted, if one designates a person, the other would designate a person. But it is an incredibly rash assertion that this is always the case. All depends upon the idea which the speaker or writer has in his mind and desires to express. As part of the same argument, it is urged that the preposition, being the same in both clauses of the sentence, must be translated by the same word. This is certainly not the case. The natural meaning of le with a proper name is "for," and with a word expressing the performance of some function (technically called nomen agentis) it means "to be" (see the passage quoted above from 1 Kings 19:16). Unless, therefore, azāzel be a proper name (which has to be proved, not assumed)the preposition need not and ought not to be translated by "for" but by "to be." The word le is used with great latitude, and often in a different sense in the same sentence; e.g; Exodus 12:24; Le Exodus 26:12. The objections to the theory that azāzel means an evil spirit are of overwhelming force. It will be enough to name the following.

1. The name azāzel is nowhere else mentioned. This could not be, if he were so important a being as to divide with Jehovah the sin offering of the congregation of Israel on the great Day of Atonement.

2. No suitable etymology can be discerned. The nearest approach to it is very forced—"the separated one."

3. The notion of appeasing, or bribing, or mocking the evil spirit by presenting to him a goat, is altogether alien from the spirit of the rest of the Mosaic institutions. Where else is there anything like it?

4. The goat is presented and offered to Jehovah equally with the goat which is slain.

To take that which has been offered (and therefore half sacrificed) to God and give it to Satan, would be a daring impiety, which is inconceivable. That la-azāzel means "for removal" is the opinion of Bahr, Tholuck, Winer, and others. There is nothing objectionable in this interpretation, but the form of the word azāzel points rather to an agent than to an abstract act. Azāzel is a word softened (according to a not unusual custom) from azalzel, just as kokav is a softened form of kav-kav, and as Babel is derived from Balbel (Genesis 11:9). Azalzel is an active participle or participial noun, derived ultimately from azal (connected with the Arabic word azala, and meaning removed), but immediately from the reduplicate form of that verb, azazal. The reduplication of the consonants of the root in Hebrew and Arabic gives the force of repetition, so that while azal means removed, azalzal means removed by a repetition of acts. Azalzel, or azāzel, therefore, means one who removes by a series of acts. "In this sense the word azāzel is strictly expressive of the function which is ascribed to the scapegoat in Exodus 26:21, Exodus 26:22; namely, that he 'be sent away, bearing upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel into the wilderness.' It properly denotes one that removes or separates; yet a remover in such sort that the removal is not effected by a single act or at one moment, but by a series of minor acts tending to and issuing in a complete removal. No word could better express the movement of the goat before the eyes of the people, as it passed on, removing at each step, in a visible symbol, their sins further and further from them, until, by continued repetition of the movement, they were carried far away and removed utterly". That it is the goat that is designated by the word azāzel is the exposition of the LXX; Josephus, Symmachus, Aquila, Theodotion, the Vulgate, the Authorized English Version, and Luther's Version. The interpretation is founded on sound etymological grounds, it suits the context wherever the word occurs, it is consistent with the remaining ceremonial of the Day of Atonement, and it accords with the otherwise known religious beliefs and symbolical practices of the Israelites. The two goats were the single sin offering for the people; the one that was offered in sacrifice symbolized atonement or covering made by shedding of blood, the other symbolized the utter removal of the sins of the people, which were conveyed away and lost in the depths of the wilderness, whence there was no return. Cf. Psalms 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us;" and Micah 7:19, "He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." The eighth verse should be translated as it stands in the Authorized Version, or, if we ask for still greater exactness, And Aaron shall east lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and one lot for a remover of sins.

Leviticus 16:9, Leviticus 16:10

These verses might be translated as follows:—And Aaron shall bring in the goat upon which the lot for the Lord fell, and shall offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, upon which fell the lot for a remover of sins, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to send him away for a remover of sins into the wilderness. We are justified in inserting the words, "of sins," after "a remover," because "the use of the word azal, from which the word rendered by 'remover' is derived, is confined in the Hebrew dialect to the single purpose or institution which is here under consideration; so that this particular word must have conveyed to the mind of a Hebrew hearer or reader this notion of a removal of sins, and none other". The goat is both presented before the Lord, and subsequently (Leviticus 16:20) offered to him, the priest laying his hands upon him and making a confession of the sins of the people. After he has thus become the Lord's, how could he be given up to Satan? The purpose of his being set apart is to make an atonement with him (not for him, as some commentators explain it wrongly). As atonement was made by the blood of the sacrificed goat ceremonially covering sin, so it was also made by the live goat symbolically removing sin. But the atonement in both cases has reference to God. How could an atonement be made by an offering to Satan, unless Satan, not God, was the being whose wrath was to be propitiated, and with whom reconciliation was sought?

Leviticus 16:11

After having offered the bullock for his own sin offering, and presented the two goats, which constituted the sin offering of the people, and offered one of them, Aaron kills the bullock for the sin offering. A considerable interval had to elapse before he could make use of the bullock's blood for purposes of propitiation, and during this interval, occupied by his entrance into the holy of holies with the incense, the blood was held by an attendant, probably by one of his sons, and prevented from coagulating by being kept in motion.

Leviticus 16:12, Leviticus 16:13

This is the first entry of the high priest into the holy of holies. He takes with him a censer—literally, the censer, that is, the censer that he was to use on the occasion—full of burning coals of fire from off the altar; and his hands are full of sweet incense beaten small; his object being to fill the holy of holies with the smoke of the incense which may serve as at least a thin vail between himself and the Presence of the Lord, that he die not (cf. Exodus 33:20, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live;" cf. also Genesis 32:30; Deuteronomy 5:24; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22). Here we see taught the lesson of the vision of God, as he is, being impossible to the human faculties. He must be vailed in one way or another. After passing through the outer chamber of the tabernacle, the high priest found himself in the smaller chamber where stood the ark. Immediately he threw the incense on the coals of the censer, until the holy of holies was filled with the smoke, after which, according to later practice, he offered a prayer outside the vail. The following form of prayer, breathing, however, the spirit of ages long subsequent to the tabernacle, or even the first temple, is found in the Talmud:—"May it please thee, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, that neither this day nor 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, the God of our fathers, that want come not upon us 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. May it please thee, O Lord, the God of our fathers, that this year may be a year of cheapness, of fullness, of intercourse and trade; a year with abundance of rain, of sunshine, and of dew; one in which thy people Israel shall not require assistance one from another. And listen not to the prayers of those who are about to set out on a journey (against rain). And as to thy people Israel, may no enemy exalt himself against them. May it please thee, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, that the houses of the men of Saron (exposed to floods) may not become their graves" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service').

Leviticus 16:14

The second entry of the high priest into the holy of holies took place very soon after the first entry. Immediately that he had returned after lighting the incense, and perhaps offering a prayer, he took of the blood of the bullock, which he had previously killed, went back without delay, and sprinkled it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward, that is, on the front of the ark beneath the Presence enthroned upon the mercy seat, and shrouded by the smoke of the incense; and before the mercy seat, that is, on the ground in front of it, he sprinkled of the blood with his finger seven times. In after times, when the ark was gone, the high priest sprinkled upwards once and downwards seven times.

Leviticus 16:15

The third entry was made as soon as he had killed the goat which formed a moiety of the sin offering of the congregation, when he brought his blood likewise within the vail, and did with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, sprinkling it the same number of times as before. "By the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies is set forth that atonement could only be effected before the throne of Jehovah" (Clark).

Leviticus 16:16

The two sprinklings, first with the bullock's blood, then with the goat's blood, on the front of the ark and on the ground before it, effected the symbolical atonement which was required annually even for the holy of holies because it was pitched in the midst of sinful men. There remained the outer chamber of the tabernacle and the altar of burnt sacrifice to be atoned for. Accordingly, the high priest proceeds to do so for the tabernacle of the congregation, that is, to make a similar atonement by similar means outside the vail as he had made inside it. He would therefore have made one sprinkling with the blood upon the vail, and seven sprinklings before it, after which he placed the blood upon the horns of the altar of incense, according to the command given in Exodus 30:10. In later times it became customary also to sprinkle the top of the altar of incense seven times.

Leviticus 16:17

There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation. From the first entry until the work of atonement was completed, both for the holy of holies and for the tabernacle, no one but the high priest was to be allowed within the door of the tabernacle, not only that there might be no witness of the withdrawal of the awful vail, but also that the rite of purification might not be interfered with by an impure presence. Even on the Day of Atonement the dwelling-place of God, typical of heaven, was closed to the eye and foot of man, "the way into the holiest of all being not yet made manifest" (Hebrews 9:8), until the Divine High Priest opened the way for his people by his own entrance.

Leviticus 16:18, Leviticus 16:19

The holy of holies and the outer chamber of the tabernacle having been reconciled, the high priest shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord—that is, the altar of burnt sacrifice in the court, standing in front of the tabernacle, not the altar of incense, as has been supposed by some—and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times. This completes the ceremony of "making an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and making an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar" (Leviticus 16:33.)

Leviticus 16:20, Leviticus 16:21

The second part of the ceremonies of the day now commences. It was not enough that the defilement of the sanctuary should be covered, and the sins of the priests and people atoned for by the blood of the sacrifices. There remained a consciousness of sin. How was this to be taken away? To effect this, Aaron proceeds to the unique ceremony of the day by which the utter removal of sin from the reconciled people is typified. He shall bring the live goat; this should be translated offer the live goat. It is the word used above for the offering of the goat that was slain, and it is the word always used for offering sacrifices to the Lord. The first goat had been offered in the usual manner, the offerer laying his hand on his head and perhaps praying over him. Now the second goat is offered, the high priest having to lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel,… putting them upon the head of the goat. The confession of sins, at first extempore, would naturally, as time progressed, become stereotyped into a liturgical form, as it is found in the Mishna: "O Lord, they have committed iniquity; they have transgressed; they have sinned,—thy people, the house of Israel. O Lord, cover over, I entreat thee, their iniquities, their transgressions, and their sins, which they have wickedly committed, transgressed, and sinned before thee,—thy people, the house of Israel. As it is written in the Law of Moses thy servant, saying, ' For on that day shall it be covered over for you, to make you clean; from all your sins before the Lord ye shall be cleansed'" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service '). During this confession of sins the people remained prostrate in humiliation and prayer in the court of the tabernacle, and it was the custom of the high priest to turn towards them as he pronounced the last words, "Ye shall be cleansed." At the conclusion of the confession, the high priest handed over the goat to a fit man, that is, to a man who was standing ready to take charge of him, and sent him away by his hand into the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:22

Then the goat went forth, bearing upon him all their iniquities. The slain goat had symbolized and ceremonially wrought full atonement or covering of sins; but in order to impress upon the mind of the nation a joyful sense of entire liberation from the burden of sin, the second symbol of the disappearing goat is used; so that not only sin, but the consciousness and the fear of the taint and presence of sin, might be taken away from the cleansed and delivered people. The goat is to bear the iniquities of the people unto a land not inhabited. The latter words—in the original, eretz gezerah—would be more correctly translated, a laud cut off, that is, completely isolated from the surrounding country by some barrier of rock or torrent, which would make it impossible for the goat to come back again. Thus the sins were utterly lost, as though they had never been, and they could not return to the sanctified people. The Hebrew word gazar, to cut (1 Kings 3:25; Psalms 136:18), is represented in Arabic by jazara, and the substantive gezerah by jaziruh, which means an island, or an area surrounded by rivers. The word is still in use in countries where Arabic is spoken, as the designation of a district divided from the neighbouring territories by rivers cutting it off, and making it a sort of island or peninsula. Into such a district as this, the man who led the goat was to let him go. In later times, contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic appointment, the goat was pushed over a projecting ledge of rock, and so killed, a device of man clumsily introduced for the purpose of perfecting a symbolism of Divine appointment. It was more in accordance with the original institution that "the arrival of the goat in the wilderness was immediately telegraphed by the waving of flags, from station to station, till a few minutes after its occurrence 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" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service'). Both the goat that was sacrificed and the goat that served as remover of sins typified Christ. The first presents him to our faith as the Victim on the cross, the other as the Sin-bearer on whom the Lord laid "the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). "The reason for making use of two animals is to be found purely in the physical impossibility of combining all features that had to be set forth in the sin offering in one animal" (Keil).

Leviticus 16:23, Leviticus 16:24

In later times another scene was interposed at this point. The high priest, having sent away the man with the goat, recited the passages of Scripture which commanded the observance of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34; Leviticus 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7-11), and offered prayers in which the people might mentally join. Then he went back into the tabernacle of the congregation (not into the holy of holies), and, as all the special atoning and purifying services of the day were now over, he there took off his linen dress, and put it away; and after bathing in the holy place, that is, in that part of the sanctuary set apart for that purpose, he put on his ordinary high-priestly garments, and sacrificed first a goat for a sin offering (Numbers 29:16), next his own burnt offering of a ram, and then the burnt offering of the people, which was also a ram and other victims (Ibid.).

Leviticus 16:25

After the flesh of the burnt sacrifice had been placed in order on the altar, the fat of the sin offering, that is, of the bullock (Leviticus 16:6) and of the goat (Leviticus 16:15) and of the other goat (Numbers 29:16), is placed upon it, and burnt upon the altar, according to the regular practice.

Leviticus 16:26

The man that let go the goat which served for a remover of sins is to wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh before he comes into the camp. This is not ordered on account of any special defilement attaching to the scapegoat, but only because it had been the symbolical sin-bearer, and therefore conveyed legal uncleanness by its touch. The man who bore the flesh of the ether goat to be burnt had to do exactly the same thing (Leviticus 16:25).

Leviticus 16:27, Leviticus 16:28

As the blood of the bullock and the goat which had been offered in the special expiatory sacrifices of the day had been carried within the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:14, Leviticus 16:15), their bodies had to be burnt without the camp (Leviticus 4:12). Our Lord being the antitype, not only of Aaron as the Great High Priest, but also of the expiatory sacrifices as the Great Sin Offering, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews notices that the fact of Christ's having "suffered without the camp" serves as an indication that his blood had in its atoning effects been carried by him into heaven, the antitype of the holy of holies (Hebrews 13:12). The flesh of the other goat, offered as a sin offering, would have been eaten by the priests in the evening, at a sacrificial meal (Leviticus 10:17, Leviticus 10:18).

Leviticus 16:29-31

The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement are not appointed for once only, but they are to be of annual observance. This shall be a statute for ever unto you, as long as the nation should exist, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all. The seventh is the sacred month, in which the first, the tenth, the fifteenth, and following days are appointed as holy seasons. The Day of Atonement is the single fast of the Jewish Church occurring once a year only. On it all the members of that Church were to afflict their souls, on pain of death (Leviticus 23:29). The fast began on the evening of the ninth day, and ended on the evening of the tenth, when it was succeeded by general feasting. During the whole of the twenty-four hours no work at all was to be done. In this respect the Day of Atonement was put on a level with the sabbath, whereas on the annual festivals only "servile work" was forbidden (see Le Leviticus 23:7, Leviticus 23:21, Leviticus 23:25, Leviticus 23:35). On this day, therefore, as on the weekly sabbath, it was not permitted to collect manna (Exodus 16:26), or to plough or reap (Exodus 34:21), or to light a fire (Exodus 35:3), or to gather wood (Numbers 15:32-36), or to carry corn or fruit (Nehemiah 13:15), or to sell food or other goods (Nehemiah 13:16), or to bear burdens (Jeremiah 17:22, Jeremiah 17:23), or to set out grain for sale (Amos 8:5). And these regulations applied to strangers that sojourned among them as well as to themselves. It was a sabbath of rest; literally, a sabbath of sabbatism. The purpose of the abstinence from food and labour was to bring the soul of each individual into harmony with the solemn rites of purification publicly performed not by themselves, but by the high priest.

Leviticus 16:32, Leviticus 16:33

That there may be no mistake, it is specifically enjoined that not only Aaron, but the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate—meaning, the high priest that shall be anointed, and shall be consecrated—to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead—that is, to succeed from time to time to the high priesthood—shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments. Again it may be noticed that the white robes are termed, not the penitential, but the holy, garments.

Leviticus 16:34

This shall be an everlasting statute unto you. It lasted as long as the earthly Jerusalem lasted, and until the heavenly Jerusalem was instituted, when it had a spiritual fulfillment once for all. "Of old there was an high priest that cleansed the people with the blood of bulls and goats, but now that the true High Priest is come, the former priesthood is no more. It is a providential dispensation of God that the city and temple of Jerusalem have been destroyed; for if they were still standing, some who are weak in faith might be dazzled by the outward splendor of the literal types, and not drawn by faith to the spiritual antitypes. If there are any, therefore, who, in considering the Levitical ritual of the great Day of Atonement, and in looking at the two he-goats—the one sacrificed, the other let go, charged with sins, into the wilderness—do not recognize the one Christ who died for our sins and took away our sins, and do not see there the 'everlasting statute' of which God here speaks by Moses, let him go up thrice a year to Jerusalem, and there search for the altar which has crumbled in the dust, and offer up his victims there without a priest. But no; thanks be to God, the earthly priesthood and temple are abolished, that we may raise our heart to the heavenly, and look up with faith and love and joy to him who offered himself once for all, and who ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Origen, 'Hom.' 10; as quoted by Wordsworth). And he did as the Lord commanded Moses; that is. Moses announced to Aaron the Law which was to be carried out about five months later.


Leviticus 16:1-28

Union and communion with God

is that which the undepraved heart of man most longs for, and which religion is especially intended to bring about. That this may be effected, the barrier of sin, and of that which represents sin—ceremonial uncleanness—must be broken down. If sin and uncleanness cannot be taken away so as to be as though they had not been, they must, according to their nature, be either punished as justice demands, or be so covered over as to be withdrawn from the sight of the Divine eye. This covering or atonement is wrought by sacrifices for sin, and ceremonial purifications. Hence the public and private sin offerings, and the various forms of cleansing. But in spite of penalties inflicted and sacrifices offered, a mass of crime and sin and uncleanness accumulates year by year, which has not been avenged or cleansed, and this defilement affects the very tabernacle of God and his holy things, as well as the congregation of living men. Therefore an annual atonement and reconciliation were required, which were effected each year on the great Day of Atonement.


1. Bathing.

2. Robing in white garments.

3. The sin offerings.

4. The entry into the holy of holies.

5. The sprinkling of the blood of the sin offerings on the ark and before the mercy-seat.

6. The scapegoat.

II. THEIR MEANING. All is typical of Christ.

1. Washing with his blood and in the waters of baptism.

2. Clothing with his righteousness.

3. Christ the Sin Offering on the cross.

4. Christ's ascension and entry into heaven (Hebrews 9:1-28, Hebrews 10:1-39).

5. Christ's life-blood offered on the cross, and carried by him into heaven.

6. Christ the Sin-bearer and the Remover of sins.


1. Reconciliation between God and man has been effected. For Christ has come and has offered himself as a sin offering. The mass of sins which gathered over mankind age after age, has been covered or atoned for by the blood of Christ, shed by him upon the cross; and those who were alienated are now reconciled. Christ is the all-prevailing Peacemaker, who has united man with man, and man with God. "He is our peace, who hath made both (Gentile and Jew) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;… for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:14-19). And this reconciliation was wrought by one offering, once for all offered. The high priest's atonement was made annually, for the blood of bulls and goats could not, effectually and permanently, but only symbolically and temporarily, take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.… For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12-14). And it was wrought for all mankind. How, then, are all to share in it? By realizing their adoption in Christ, which has been potentially bestowed upon the whole family of man, and is made effective to each individual by his "belief" "in the Word of truth," and his being "sealed" in baptism "with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13). The spiritual bathing, and clothing in white garments, which are now the privileges of every Christian, derive their sacramental force solely from the Sacrifice of the cross.

2. Christ has opened for us the way to heaven. Christ is not only the antitype of the sin offering made for the congregation, but also of the high priest who sacrificed the offering; for he, the Priest, offered himself, the Victim. The holy of holies, wherein the presence of God exhibited itself, was the type of heaven. Into this place "went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" (Hebrews 9:7, Hebrews 9:8). Alone, the high priest entered beyond the mysterious vail, and no one might be present, even in the outer chamber of the tabernacle, at the time of his entrance, nor while he was fulfilling his functions before the ark. He could not take any one with him. Not even after the atonement had been made, could those who had been reconciled, whether priests or people, enter there. The vail was drawn again, and all was shrouded in silence and mystery as before. But "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24). At his ascension he entered heaven, and (unlike the high priest) there he remained at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:13), having received gifts for men from his Father, and having bestowed them upon his Church by the operation of his Spirit (Ephesians 4:8-11). And not only so, but he opened the way to all his followers. He was the mystical Head, and where the Head was, there the Body would be likewise. By his death he purchased for man an entrance into the presence of God, and an eternal continuance before the throne. "Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-22).

3. Christ has borne, and borne away, our sins. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4-6). "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:28). "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). Christ, by his sacrifice, not only earns for us forgiveness of sin, but also gives us a consciousness of their forgiveness. Those who, in self-abasement and self-abandonment, have thrown themselves at the foot of the cross, have arisen assured of the pardon of their sins, as though they had seen and felt the burden of them taken off from their necks, and carried step by step into a land cut off, from whence no return for them is possible. If there are any who feel overcome by the weight of their sins, they are taught here that, if they cannot bear them, there is One who can bear them, and that, though they cannot free themselves from them, yet they can be freed. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

IV. WARNING. Washed, robed, reconciled, and delivered from sin, and from the consciousness of sin,—what more could have been done for us that God has not done? What return are we to make? We are to live as children of God. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:23, Hebrews 10:24). Further warning. The danger of failing away after having been forgiven and admitted to the privileges of sonship. "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" Hebrews 10:26, Hebrews 10:27). One unclean spirit may be exchanged for seven (Matthew 13:43-45).

"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:25, Hebrews 12:29).

Leviticus 16:29-34

The annual reiteration of the purification made on the Day of Atonement

testifies to the imperfections of the Law. "For the Law can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? "(Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:2). Had they done their work perfectly, a repetition of them would not have been required, "because that the worshippers once purged should have bad no more conscience of sins" (Hebrews 10:2). There was a triple imperfection—in the priest, in the victim, in the effect of the sacrifices. The Levitical priesthood was formed of sinful men, as was testified by the sin offering which the high priest had first to offer for himself before he could offer one for the people: here there was no perfect mediator. The victims were a bullock and a goat; but "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4): here there was no perfect sacrifice. The atonement had to be repeated annually: here there was no perfect result from the offering made. By its very imperfection the Law points forward to and awakens the desire for a better covenant, with a priest after the order of Melchisedec, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26), with a sacrifice which could sanctify (Hebrews 10:10), and which is and can be only "once offered," because it is "a full, perfect, and sufficient Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction for the sins of the whole world" (Service for Holy Communion).


Leviticus 16:1-34

The great Day of Atonement

(Leviticus 16:29-31). One day in the year set apart to the most solemn representation possible of the two facts—the sinfulness of man, the righteous love of God. Atonement underlying the whole of the ceremonial Law, but the insufficiency of the dally sacrifices, set forth by the separation of one day for the special sacrifice, thus pointing to one atonement in which all other atone-meats should be perfected. Solemn warning in the death of the two sons of Aaron, proclaiming the unchangeableness of Divine Law, and unapproachableness of God in his infinite righteousness. Necessity that, while the cloud upon the mercy-seat spoke of holiness and majesty, there should be a more emphatic testimony to love and mercy. Yet that testimony must be in the way of Law and ordinance, therefore itself maintaining that God is just while he is merciful. These preliminary considerations prepare us to take the "great Day of Atonement" as a typical prophecy fulfilled in the revelation of Christ. Notice—


1. Personal perfection. For ordinary ministration, washing feet and hands sufficient. For the great day, entire cleansing. This must be. A fellow-creature, imperfect and sinful, may be employed as a channel of communication between God and us, hut not as the efficient Mediator undertaking for both. The spotlessness of Jesus must be more than relative, more than character; it must be absolute, therefore, only as we see it in the Incarnation. Nor can we find satisfaction in the humanity of Christ unless we believe that it was capable of rendering to God an infinitely acceptable sacrifice; therefore, while it was flesh, it must have been free from all taint of sin. We lay our sins on him; then he must be himself absolutely sinless, or else our sins will be increased by his. Only in the pre-existence of the Second Person in the Trinity can we find a support for this doctrine of personal perfection in the man Christ Jesus.

2. Official perfection. The high priest must be clothed in spotless garments. "Holy garments." He put off his "golden garments," and put on the white linen, emblematical of official perfection. The continual repetition of the sacrifices and the priestly ablutions, together with the special priestly offerings, represented the necessary imperfection of the ceremonial atonement. The priest's office was seen in its height of dignity in the high priest's office; the high priest's office in its most solemn duty, to enter the holiest once a year and make atonement for all. But the true High Priest and the true mediation were yet to come. The ministry of Christ was a perfect offering of man to God, in his active and passive obedience, and a perfect revelation and assurance of Divine favour to man; in the facts of his earthly life, promising healing and restoration for human woes, and life from the dead; in the development of a perfect humanity by example; in the unfolding and proclamation of the heavenly kingdom, which actually commenced in his person, and proceeded in ever-widening spheres of spiritual life in his Church; in his risen glory and the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, which were the completion of his official work as Mediator, for he said that if he went to the Father (that is, as Mediator), he would send the Comforter. Thus the vail was taken away, and the way into the holiest made manifest (Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-23). Our High Priest is not one of an imperfect succession of Aaron's sons, but after the order of Melchisedec, coming forth directly from God, and standing in unique perfection; the pledge at once of Divine acceptance and the spiritual liberty of the gospel.

II. VICARIOUS ATONEMENT. The three facts of the day were:

1. The blood of the victims shed and sprinkled.

2. The living way opened between the throne of God and. his people.

3. The public, solemn putting away of sins and their loss, as guilt, in the wilderness.

In the true atonement, thus represented, these are the essential factors—expiation, reconciliation, restoration.

1. Expiation. The blood of the bullock, the blood of the goat, brought in before the mercy-seat, sprinkled seven times, etc. No remission of sins without blood. A tribute to the holiness of God, therefore to the perfection of the Divine government. No peace can be true and abiding which has not its roots in the unchangeableness of God. Notice how the modern feeling of the steadfastness and uniformity of nature vindicates the necessity of a forgiveness of sin which is a maintenance of Law. The sufferings of Christ must be viewed, not as the arbitrary assignment of a penalty, but as the sufferings of the sacrificial Victim, i.e; of him whose blood, that is, his life, was freely offered to seal the covenant, and who, being in the form of a servant, obeyed even unto death; made of a woman, made under the Law, therefore both having a fleshly, mortal nature, and being in a position of obedience, wherein he must, as a true Son, "fulfill all righteousness." The cross was an open conflict between righteousness and unrighteousness, in which the true representative Seed of the woman, the true Humanity, was bruised, and, as a Victim, laid bleeding and dying on the altar; but in which, at the same time, the acceptance of the offering, as proved by the Resurrection and Ascension, was a manifestation of the victory of righteousness and the putting away of sin. The universality of the expiation was represented by the offering for priests and people alike, for the holy place, for the very mercy-seat, fur all the worship and religious life of the congregation. Apart from the merit of the Saviour's blood, there is no acceptance of anything which we offer to God. The attempt to eliminate all distinctive recognition of expiation from religious worship, is the folly of our times in many who reject the teaching of Christianity. A temple without a sacrifice, without the blood which is the remission of sins, is a contradiction of the first truth of Scripture, that man is a fallen being, and can therefore be acceptable to God only on God's own revealed terms of atonement.

2. Reconciliation (Leviticus 16:11-14). The true conception of salvation is not a mere deliverance from the punishment of sin, but living fellowship between God and his creature. The life of man is the outcome of God's wisdom, power, goodness, unchangeable and everlasting. He carries eternity and divinity in his very nature and existence. His future blessedness, yea, his very being, must be secured in God's favour. The burning coals of fire from off the altar, and the sweet incense beaten small, rising up as a cloud before the mercy-seat, betoken the intermingling of the Divine and human in the life of God's reconciled children. This is maintained by the offerings of faith and prayer: the light of Divine truth penetrating the mind and life of man, the heart rejoicing in God and seeking him by a constant reference of all things to him, and dependence of daily life on his mercy. When thus the will and love of God underlie all our existence and pervade it, there is an open way between this world and heaven; the two are intermingled. Man becomes what he was made to be—a reflection of his Maker's image. "I will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is our God." Christianity has the only true message of hope for the world, because it proclaims reconciliation between the infinite perfection of God and the polluted and imperfect humanity which he has redeemed.

3. Restoration (Leviticus 16:20-28). The scapegoat—an emblem of the entire deliverance of man from the guilt and misery of sin. The necessity of this proclamation of a new world. Heathen minds recognized the evil of sin, but lay under the spell of fatalistic despair. "No symbol could so plainly set forth the completeness of Jehovah's acceptance of the penitent, as a sin offering in which a life was given up for the altar, and yet a living being survived to carry away all sin and uncleanness." The commencement of all renovation of character and life is the sense of entire forgiveness, perfect peace with God. The sins are gone into the wilderness, they have not to be cleansed away by any efforts of ours. Spiritual restoration lies at the root of all other. "The kingdom of God" is first "righteousness," then "peace," and then "joy in the Holy Ghost." This is the Divine order of restoration. But as the priest put his hand upon the head of the goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, so in the Divine work of grace on behalf of man, there must be the living faith which blends the penitent submission of the human will with the infinite sufficiency of the Divine righteousness and power.—R.

Leviticus 16:31

A sabbath of rest.

"Ye shall afflict your souls." The true penitence is the true peace. The" sabbath" represents the joyful acceptance of the creature, and his entrance into the Divine satisfaction. The Lord rested, and he invites man to rest with him. Sin is the only obstacle to that reconciliation and fellowship which blends man's sabbath with God's sabbath. "Once a year" the Jews celebrated this restoration, to us a statute of daily life—every day a sabbath.—R.


Leviticus 16:1-34

The climax of sacrificial worship, the Day of Atonement.

cf. Joh 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:10. The sacrifices already considered all bring out with more or less emphasis the idea of atonement. But to render this cardinal idea of our religion still more emphatic, it was ordained that the tenth day of the seventh month in each year should be a day of special humiliation on the part of the people, and special ritual on the part of the priests. The directions about it were apparently given immediately after the presumption and death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. They must have ventured, we think, into the very "holiest of all," with their censers of unholy fire. The stages in atonement may be set forth in the following way: ―

I. 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 (Hebrews 9:17) while he was engaged in it. The first thing required of him was humiliation. He had to lay aside his glorious garments in which he usually ministered, and to assume plain white linen ones; he had to bring a sin offering for himself and household; he had thus to humble himself under the mighty band of God, before he could be exalted by admission to the Divine presence. Now, it requires the high priest with his sin offering to typify with any adequacy Jesus Christ. For he is both our High Priest and our Sin Offering. He humbles himself to die as a Sacrifice upon the cross; he is a voluntary Sacrifice—he offers himself (Hebrews 7:27). The humiliation of our High Priest can only be judged by our conception of the glory of Divinity which he temporarily resigned, added to the depth of ignominy into which in his crucifixion he came. All this was necessary that a way of reconciliation might be opened up for sinners.

II. THE HIGH PRIEST WAS REQUIRED NEXT TO PERFUME THE AUDIENCE CHAMBER WITH INCENSE. He proceeded with a censer of coals from off the altar, and a handful of incense, and was careful to fill the holy of holies with the fragrant cloud. Here again does it require the incense, in addition to the priest, to typify the relations of Jesus to our atonement. The work of atonement begins in his intercession. Think how he prayed during his life on earth—how earnest his prayer in Gethsemane was when he sweat as it were great drops of blood; think, further, how his intercession is continued in the heavenly places. Prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of the redemptive work. Without this incense, even the blood of the unblemished lamb would lose much of its effect.

It seems evident from this that we must put away those hard and 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.

III. AFTER THE INCENSE THERE IS BROUGHT IN THE BLOODY FIRST OF HIS OWN SIN OFFERING, AND THEN OF THE PEOPLE'S. The blood of Jesus Christ is symbolized by both, and the act of sprinkling it before God is also to be attributed to our Great High Priest. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 9:12). Now, the presentation of blood unto God, and the sprinkling of it seven times in the appointed place, represented the appeal which the self-sacrifice of Jesus, his Son, is so well calculated to make to the Divine mercy in the interests of guilty men. 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 harmonize with justice. Here then we have remission of sins secured through the shedding of the blood of Jesus. Pardon and reconciliation are thus put within the reach of the sinner.

IV. BUT THE HIGH PRIEST WAS EXPECTED NOT ONLY TO SECURE THE PARDON OF SINS, 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. He needs to be enabled to sing, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalms 103:12). Now, this putting away of sin was Beautifully represented in the dismissal of the scapegoat. This second sin offer-lug, after having the sins of the people heaped upon its head by the priestly confession, is sent away in care of a faithful servant to the wilderness, there to be left in loneliness either to live or die. Here again we have a type of Jesus. He is our Scapegoat. He carried our sins on his devoted head into that wilderness of desolation and loneliness, which compelled from him the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There did he fully atone for them, and secured their annihilation. As we meditate upon this portion of his mediation, we are enabled by the Spirit to realize that sin is put away through Christ's sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26). That desolation of the Redeemer into which he entered for us interposes itself, so to speak, between us and our sins, and we feel a wholesome separation from them. How can we ever love sin when we realize that it led our Lord to this?

V. THE HIGH PRIEST, HAVING THUS DISPOSED OF SIN, RESUMED HIS GLORIOUS GARMENTS, AND OFFERED THE BURNT OFFERING FOR HIMSELF AND THE PEOPLE. The stages already noticed have been prayer, the remission of sins through the shedding of blood, and the putting away of sin through the dismissal of the victim. Now comes dedication as the crowning purpose of the atonement, and which the burnt offering all along has indicated. 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 emphasizing his satisfaction with the atonement, and his acceptance of it. The remainder of the sin offering, as a sacred thing, is carried to a clean place without the camp, and there burned. In no more beautiful way could God convey the assurance to his people that the ritual of atonement was complete and acceptable to him. It is when we gratefully dedicate ourselves to God, which is our reasonable service, that we receive the assurance of acceptance in the Beloved.

VI. THE WASHING OF THE THREE MEN OFFICIATING ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT CONVEYS SURELY THE IDEA OF THE CONTAMINATING POWER OF SIN. For the high priest, before he puts on the glorious garments and presents the burnt offering, is required to wash himself in water. The man who piloted the scapegoat to the wilderness has also to perform careful and complete ablutions. And so has the man who took the remains of the sin offering beyond the camp. For all three had to deal with sin, and are ceremonially affected by it. Most vivid must have been the impression thus produced upon the people. Sin would appear the abominable thing which God hates, when it is so defiling.

We have here the climax of the sacrificial worship. The Day of Atonement would be a rest indeed to the sin-burdened people. At the tabernacle they see in ritual how God could be reconciled to man, and how he could pardon and put away sin. As the smoke of the burnt offering passed up to heaven, many a soul felt that a burden was gone, and that the heavens were smiling once more. May the experience of the day of atonement abide in our hearts still, for we need it as much as the pilgrims long ago.—R.M.E.


Leviticus 16:1-4

The high priest on the Day of Atonement.

The Jewish high priest was an eminent type of Christ. He was this on ordinary occasions of his ministry, in respect to which Jesus is called "the High Priest of our profession" (Hebrews 3:1). But he was especially so upon this great occasion of his entrance into the most holy place,


1. The tabernacle was a figure of the universe.

(1) It represented the material universe. In allusion to this, Paul speaks of the universe as the great house built by the hands of God (see Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4). And our Lord, also, alluding to the temple with its many courts and offices, speaks of the universe as his Father's house (John 14:1).

(2) It likewise represented the moral universe. In this light it is also viewed by Paul in the same connection as that in which he likens it to the material (see Hebrews 3:6). In many places of Scripture the people of God are described under the similitude of the temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 2:5).

2. The holy places signified the heavens.

(1) Amongst the coverings were what our version calls "badgers' skins," but the original word (תחש), techesh, in ancient versions is explained to denote a colour, viz. blue. The covering may have been composed of rams' skins dyed blue, as the other covering was of "rams' skins dyed red." Blue was the proper colour to suggest the air, while the red would suggest the golden glow of the light in the ethereal heavens.

(2) Josephus, speaking of the gate of the porch of the temple, which stood always open, styles it an "emblem of the heavens." And the vail leading flora the porch to the holy place, made like Babylonish tapestry (Jos 7:1-26 : 21) of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, he compares to the elements ('Wars,' Leviticus 5:5). Josephus also describes the branched candlestick, with its seven lights, as emblems of the planets of the solar system.

(3) But whatever may be said of details, the broad fact is not left to conjecture or even to tradition; for Paul tells us plainly that the holy places were patterns of the heavens (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:23).

3. The most holy place figured the supreme heaven. (l) This must be obvious from the fact that the Shechinah was there. God appeared then in regal state upon his throne of glory. The cherubim around him represented the powers of creation, physical and intellectual, which all wait upon him to fulfill his will everywhere in the great universe. Their faces were so placed that, while they all looked inward upon the propitiatory, they also looked outward in all directions, upon the house.

(2) This innermost sanctuary Paul accordingly describes as "heaven itself "—an expression synonymous to the "third heaven," and "heaven of heavens" (Hebrews 9:24; 2 Corinthians 12:2, Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalms 115:16). It is the palace of God and of angels.

IX. THE ENTRANCE OF THE HIGH PRIEST INTO THE MOST HOLY PLACE ADUMBRATED THAT OF JESUS INTO HEAVEN. (See Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 9:24.)

1. He entered in his white garments.

(1) Not in his "golden robes." These are vulgarly supposed to have been his nobler vestments, and it is thought that entering in his white garments he appeared in "mean" attire, to express "humiliation" and "mourning" (see Matthew Henry, in loc.).

(2) But is this opinion just? Where are the white robes of the high priest so described in Scripture? Is it not rather the other way (see Ezekiel 44:17)? Are the seven angels (Revelation 15:6) described as in mean attire? As a matter of fact, did Jesus meanly or mourningly enter heaven? Was it not rather his entrance "into his glory" after his "sufferings" were "finished" (Luke 24:26)?

(3) The white robes represented the glorious body of his resurrection (see 1 Timothy 6:14-16; Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 9:25). And a specimen of the quality of these garments was given on the mount of transfiguration, when the light of his glory was so white that no fuller on earth could make linen to compare with it.

2. Note now the allusion to Nadab and Abihu.

(1) (See Leviticus 16:1; refer also to Le Leviticus 10:1, Leviticus 10:2.) This terrible event occurred in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 3:4), where the Law was given, and where these very men were called up with Aaron to witness the glory of the Lord (Exodus 24:1). Whatever induced them to offer strange fire, they became, in the sequel, a figure of Jesus, who came not with legal righteousness, and whom the fire of God was to search to the utmost.

(2) Aaron now became a similar type (see Leviticus 16:2). He was to die if he came near Jehovah, and so represented Jesus, who, in the union of his manhood with the Godhead, was to die. This issue was only averted from Aaron by the substitution of animal sacrifices, which were to procure the "forbearance of God," until Immanuel should put away typical sin sacrifices by the sacrifice of himself.

(3) To avert death from Aaron, God appointed that incense also should be fumed before the mercy-seat, in the cloud of which he would appear (Leviticus 16:2, Leviticus 16:12, Leviticus 16:13). The cloud tempered the fierceness of the fire of the presence of God, and showed that, in virtue of the intercession of Christ, man may see God and live.—J.A.M.

Leviticus 16:5-28

The sacrifices of the Day of Atonement.

Upon ordinary occasions sacrifices might be offered by common priests, who might act as representatives of the high priest or as representatives of the people, and so be types of Christ, or types of Christians. But upon this day the high priest must act in person, which leaves no doubt as to these transactions being eminently emblematical of Christ and of his great work. We notice—


1. In these Christ is viewed in his relation to his Church.

(1) The Christian Church is the house or family of Jesus (Hebrews 3:6).

(2) To his Church Jesus stands in the relations of

(a) Priest,

(b) Sacrifice,

(c) Bondsman.

He bears our sin in his own person, and dies for us, as Aaron would have died for his own sin and that of his house, had not the sin sacrifices been substituted to procure the forbearance of God until our competent Aaron should appear to satisfy all the claims of justice and mercy.

(3) Aaron, in making atonement for himself and his house, evinced that Christ should be a priest having compassion (see Hebrews 5:2, Hebrews 5:3). For though Jesus had no sin of his own, yet did he take upon him our nature, with its curse, so as to be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities". What a blessed assurance for us!

2. But Christ cannot be of the family of Aaron.

(1) Aaron for himself and for all his house needed sacrifices to atone for their own sins; how then could they put away sin from others? This they could only do typically and ceremonially (see Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27).

(2) Provision was made in the family of Aaron for the transmission of the priesthood from hand to hand; it was therefore never contemplated that any member of that house should have the priesthood in perpetuity. But this we must have in the office of a perfect Priest. His intercession must have no interruption (see Hebrews 7:23-25).

(3) To fulfill these conditions, Christ is come, a high priest after the order of Melchisedec (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 7:15-22). He sprang from Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-14). We may praise God for the perfection of the priesthood of Christ, which needs no supplement in the offices of mortals.


1. There was the burnt offering.

(1) This, under ordinary circumstances, for the individual might be a bullock, or a ram, or a he-goat, or, in case of poverty, a pigeon; but in this case for the nation, as in the consecration of the priests, the ram is specified. (Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10, Leviticus 1:14; Leviticus 8:18). It is suggested that this animal was chosen for the offensiveness of its smell, in order to represent the odiousness of sin.

(2) In this case also the high priest in person, and alone, officiated. No one was to remain with him in the tabernacle of the congregation (Leviticus 16:17). What an expressive figure of Christ (see Isaiah 63:3, Isaiah 63:5; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, Matthew 26:56; John 16:32)! No one could help Jesus in his great work of atonement.

2. The sacrifice of the two goats now claims attention.

(1) Two are brought, to foreshadow what one could not adequately, viz. that one part only of the compound person of Christ could die, while both parts were necessary for his making atonement. The animal on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat was to stand alive before the Lord, to make atonement with him (Leviticus 16:10; see Hebrews 8:3; 1 Peter 3:18). The "somewhat" which our high priest has to offer is his humanity, which his Godhead supported and rendered infinitely efficacious for the expiation of sin.

(2) In casting lots upon the goats, one for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat, we are taught that the sufferings of Christ were ordered by the providence of God (see Acts 4:28). This is amply evinced in the wonderfully detailed anticipations of prophecy.

(3) Aaron laid his two hands upon the head of the creature that was to be the scapegoat, and confessed the sins of the congregation. These were such as may not have been atoned for by the usual sacrifices. And they are summed up as "iniquities" and "transgressions" and "sins" (Leviticus 16:21). Laden with these,

(4) he was sent away "by the hand of a man of opportunity". Such was Simon the Cyrenian, who bore the cross on which the atonement was to be made for sin (Matthew 27:32; see Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). Jesus was hurried along to his execution by the rabble rather than by any officer appointed to lead him. And as the man of opportunity was to be unclean until he had bathed his flesh and washed his clothes, so will the blood of the murder of Jesus be upon the Jews until it is cleansed by their repentance and faith (comp. Matthew 27:25 and Joel 3:21).

(5) The scapegoat was to go away with its burden into a "a land not inhabited," or "land of separation," a "wilderness,'' a place in which it might be lost sight of. This was designed to teach us how effectually our sins are borne away into oblivion by Christ (Psalms 103:12; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; John 1:29; Hebrews 8:12). To set forth this important truth, it was also ordered that the bodies of those beasts whose blood was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, were burnt without the camp (Leviticus 16:27; Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:12). So, like the "man of opportunity," whoever burnt the sin offering became unclean, and so remained until he had washed (see Zechariah 13:1). Have we been purified from all complicity in the guilt of the crucifixion of Jesus?—J.A.M.

Leviticus 16:29-34

The Day of Atonement.

In this summary we have the design of the statute.


1. The work of Christ affects the material universe.

(1) The tabernacle, we have seen (see on Leviticus 16:1-4), was a type of the universe, material and moral; and that the holy places represented the heavens. The sprinkling of the tabernacle and its holy places, therefore, teaches that the universe is affected by the atonement of Christ (Leviticus 16:15-19, Leviticus 16:33; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 9:24; Revelation 5:6).

(2) Aaron, as the type of Christ, entered into the holiest place, but then only once in the year, nor could he without dying open an entrance into it even for his son, who, in his turn, could only enter there as the type of Christ. This showed that, while the tabernacle stood, the way into the holiest was not made manifest. But the vail was not only rent in the torn flesh of Jesus, so that he himself became the Way, but he entered heaven himself once for all (Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20).

(3) Do we avail ourselves of the privileges of our spiritual priesthood (Hebrews 10:21, Hebrews 10:22)?

2. The work of Christ influences the moral universe.

(1) Angels, therefore, manifested interest in the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow (Exodus 25:20; Daniel 8:13; 1 Peter 1:11-13). The sprinkling of the holy places teaches that, through the atonement of Christ, holy angels are reconciled to us. By the sanctifying power of his grace we are brought into sympathy with them.

(2) They are now, therefore, interested in the welfare of the Church; and are themselves a part of the great family of Jesus (see Daniel 12:5, Daniel 12:6; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:15; Philippians 2:9-11).


1. None were exempted from the need of it.

(1) Aaron and his house were in the same category with the people in this respect. Though types, they were yet sinful men.

(2) But through the blood-shedding of this day, all stood "clean from all sins before the Lord," i.e; he looked upon them and accepted them as clean. So in the great day of judgment will he look upon us and accept us as clean through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (Jude 1:24).

2. It was a general expiations.

(1) It occurred but once in the year. It was to atone for iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which, through ignorance, inadvertency, or perhaps neglect, had not been atoned for by ordinary sacrifices. Christ not only atones for particular sins, but for sin itself.

(2) It was repeated every year. The utmost the Jewish priest could do was to call sin to remembrance, and point to a greater than himself, who needed not to repeat his offering (see Hebrews 10:1-3).


1. In it they were to afflict their souls.

(1) (See Leviticus 16:31; also Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58:6, Isaiah 58:7, Isaiah 58:13; Daniel 10:3, Daniel 10:12.)

(2) Resting from the toil of the world, with afflicted souls, while their sins were called to their remembrance, suggests that repentance towards God must accompany faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

2. In it they were to rest.

(1) This suggested relief from the burden of sin. What a gracious sabbath in the soul is the sense of sins forgiven!

(2) This would be all the more expressive upon the year of jubilee, which, every forty-ninth year, came in on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9).

3. The time was the tenth day of the seventh month.

(1) Dr. Lightfoot computes that this was the anniversary of the day on which Moses came the last time down from the mount, bringing with him the renewed tables, and having the glory shining in his face.

(2) Jesus appears literally to have ascended into the heavens, as his type passed behind the vail, on the tenth day of the seventh month (see reasoning conducting to this conclusion in the appendix of Mr. Guinness's work on 'The Approaching End of the Age'). It was the time of the vintage, and maples the fullness of the atonement.

(3) It may prove that, on some anniversary of this day, Jesus will come down from heaven, in a glory immeasurably brighter than that in which Moses descended from the mount, to set up his kingdom upon this earth (see Acts 1:11). The vintage of his wrath upon his enemies precedes the sabbath of his kingdom.—J.A.M.


Leviticus 16:6

A solemn ceremony.

There was risk involved in drawing nigh to the manifested presence of the Deity. God desired not that the judgment upon Nadab and Abihu should be repeated; rather would he be "sanctified" by reverent approach at appointed seasons in appointed ways. The Almighty can cause the wrath of man to praise him, but he prefers to be honoured by the affection that seeks diligently to observe his precepts. Hence the directions issued concerning the great Day of Atonement, on which the high priest was to come into closest contact with Jehovah. Let us consider those directions so far as they related to the purging away of the uncleanness of the priests.


1. It prevented pride, keeping alive in his breast a sense of infirmity. The expression, "for his house," means his sons, and afterwards all who were of the priestly order. The pomp of office requires some guarantee against undue exaltation. A lofty position is apt to turn a weak man's head, and his fall becomes the more calamitous. It is certain that the highest in the Church of Christ cannot claim exemption from sin.

2. It enkindled sympathy with those for whom he had to exercise his sacred functions (see this beautifully insisted on in the Epistle to Hebrews 5:2, Hebrews 5:3). Note likewise the superiority of Christ's sympathy because of exquisite holy tenderness of spirit, un-blunted by passion. Jesus Christ acquired a fellow-feeling by his humiliation in becoming man, and in being tempted in all points like as we are, whereas Aaron was exalted to be a high priest, and needed to remember his humanity. If Aaron forgot this, and treated the worshippers gruffly, not only would their feelings be wounded, but his intercession would be so much the less efficacious, for even under the Law sentiment was requisite as well as symbol.

3. Its priority to the atonement made for the people emphasized the truth that only the cleansed can make others clean, only the sinless can rightly intercede for the sinful. Because Jesus Christ is holy, he sanctifies his followers. He who was eminently forgiving could pray to his Father to forgive his murderers. None but believers saved through grace should preach the gospel.

4. It prophesied the eventual supersession of Aaron's order by a perfect priesthood. There was evidence of defect in its very face. Not always could God be satisfied with or man rejoice in imperfect mediation. An intercessor needing forgiveness for himself, a purifier who had constantly to cleanse himself, pointed to the advent of One who should have no need to offer up yearly sacrifice on his own account, whose purity should be real, not merely ceremonial and symbolical.


1. The attire, The gorgeous clothing of colour, gold, hells, and pomegranates, was laid aside, the whole body washed in water, and a garb of white linen donned. It was a day in which the fact of sin was prominent, and splendour ill befitted such an occasion. Besides, the high priest was not to look upon himself this day as representing God to the people, but as presenting the people to God, and a humble demeanour, indicated by plain attire, was appropriate to this function. Then, too, the white linen spoke of the holiness which the day's services were to secure. It was the garment of salvation, in which God manifested his willingness to be the Saviour of the people from their sins.

2. The sacrifices, a sin offering and a burnt offering. Leaving consideration for the present of what was peculiar to the day in the former, here note

(1) that a harmony is observable in all God's laws. Whilst this sin offering had its special rites, in other respects it was to be treated according to the general rules—a portion consumed on the altar, and the carcass burnt outside the camp. A likeness is traceable in the dealings of God, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Underlying features are discerned similar to those ascertained in other departments. Miracles have their customary analogies and laws; the operations of the Spirit proceed on familiar lines and principles; the worship and service of heaven will present some of the aspects that have marked the gatherings in the sanctuaries of earth.

(2) Again we observe how purification precedes consecration. The burnt offering followed the sin offering. After fresh ablution, the high priest arrayed himself in his usual vestments, and proceeded to place the holocaust upon the altar, to be the emblem of unreserved surrender to God's glory. Having been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and thus redeemed from sin, we are enabled to dedicate ourselves to the service of God. It is in vain that men attempt the latter without the former.

3. The entrance into the holy of holies. How solemn and full of awe the moment in which the priest drew aside the vail and came near to the Divine presence! He was alone with God! It was dark but for the mysterious light that appeared between the cherubim, and the glowing coals on which he put the incense. Not too clearly might man contemplate even "the cloud" that was the enwrapment of Jehovah; the cloud of incense must cast an additional covering over the mercy-seat. Not lingering to indulge profane curiosity, the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sin offering upon the front of the mercy-seat, and upon the floor of the holy place. What a view was thus obtained of the majesty of God! what thoughts of his condescension in permitting a sinful creature to have such access to him! May not we learn the impiety of seeking to pry too closely into the mysteries of the Divine existence? Prayer becomes us in appearing before him; then do we know most of God, and protect ourselves from death. And the prayer is made efficacious through the atoning blood. The ark containing the commandments which we have transgressed is covered by the golden plate of Divine mercy, and that mercy is everlastingly secured by the atonement wherewith it is honoured and appealed to.

CONCLUSION. The privilege of the high priest was nothing to what we enjoy. What boldness we may use in entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus! What remission of sins, what freedom from guilt, what liberty and gladness are ours! Our High Priest has ordered as our Forerunner, not for us merely, into heaven itself (Hebrews 9:8). As Aaron came forth from the sanctuary to the Israelites, so shall Christ appear, apart from sin, to them that wait for him unto salvation. He shall "receive us unto himself."—S.R.A.

Leviticus 16:29-34

The Day of Atonement.

This was a day second to none in importance. The rites then celebrated were the most awe-inspiring of all, and concerned the whole nation, which stood watching outside the sacred enclosure of the tabernacle. Not the slightest deviation from the established ritual was allowable; it was too significant and solemn in character to permit of alteration.

I. It was A DAY OF UNIVERSAL ATONEMENT. The high priest made atonement for himself and the order of priests, for the people of the congregation, for the brazen altar, for the tabernacle, and for the sanctuary. Thus was taught the truth that sin mingles with the holiest of men and their deeds, with the holiest things and places. Defilement attaches to our highest acts of worship, to our best thoughts and prayers. The tabernacle needed cleansing because of the "uncleanness" of the people (Leviticus 16:16) among whom it was situated. The noblest men receive some degree of contamination from their surroundings, and the purest principles have some alloy adhering to them through use. Mere ignorance of specific transgressions was not sufficient to obviate the necessity of atonement. Sin was there, though they should discern it not. "I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified." Could any spectacle more vividly impress upon the mind the reality of sin and the need of its removal?

II. It was A DAY OF HUMILIATION. "Ye shall afflict your souls." The word implies self-denial and consequent fasting, Not lightly was sin to be regarded! We are ever ready to extenuate our guilt and to minimize its enormity. The transgressions in respect of which a sin offering was prescribed were not high-handed acts of rebellion, but such as resulted from man's frailty, from natural depravity. Yet this was not deemed an excuse of itself, it only showed the importance of providing for its atonement. No man with a perception of the magnitude of his iniquity can retain a heart at case, a conscience at rest. If there be such quietude, it is an evidence of the deadening influence of sin. Though sin has been overruled to the glory of God, it is in itself abominable, and must be viewed with abhorrence. Well may we bow before God in deep abasement!

III. It was A DAY OF REST. No work of any kind was permitted—it was a "sabbath of sabbaths." All the attention of the people was concentrated upon the ceremony observed by the high priest. What a rebuke here to those who cannot spare time to think of their state before God! Surely the transcendent importance of religion justifies occasional abstention from ordinary labour. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit eternal life? The constitution of our minds does not enable us to think seriously of many things at once. Let not the concerns of the soul be thereby shelved. If we will not afford the necessary period here, there will come a long season of forced meditation, when the subject of sin and its forgiveness shall pierce us through and through with unutterable remorse.

IV. It was A FIXED DAY. God, in his merciful forethought, set apart the tenth day of the seventh month, lest the Israelites should forget the duty incumbent upon them. There are many advantages in having a time determined upon for religious worship. It comes regularly, and even children look for it. It prevents excuses, ensures due remembrance, and leads to fitting preparation. What is to be done at any time is practically for no time. But the observance of such days needs to be guarded against degenerating into formalism and routine. And under the gospel no adventitious sacramentarian importance must be annexed to these seasons, otherwise we fall under the censure of the apostle, as observing "days, and months, and seasons, and years." Oh! for wisdom to distinguish between the true and the false in ordinances!

V. It was A DAY OF YEARLY OBSERVANCE. The imperfection of other sacrifices and purifications was thus clearly demonstrated, for however attended to they did not exclude the Day of Atonement. And the yearly repetition of the day itself told the same tale, pointed the same moral of the impotence of the sacrifices of the Law to "make the comers thereunto perfect" (see Hebrews 10:1-4). The day served its purpose indeed, but only by shadow and prefiguration. Compared with the Crucifixion, it was but a "splendid failure" to pacify the conscience, cleanse the heart, and quicken the life of those who participated in its effects.

VI. It was A DAY OF HUMILIATION THAT PREPARED THE WAY FOR A JOYOUS FESTIVAL. After five days commenced the Feast of Tabernacles, distinguished for its rejoicing beyond all others. The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement closed with a burnt offering, in which the people symbolically renewed their self-dedication to the worship and service of God; and very appropriately the chief feature of the Feast of Tabernacles was the large number of burnt offerings presented, as if the people should testify their gladness at the thought of pardoned iniquity, and of belonging to a God who so graciously blessed them and granted the increase of their fields. The man whose sin is forgiven and put away is truly happy. He can devote himself to God with glad ardour. The cloud that brought the storm and darkness has passed to the far horizon, and now it is brightened with many hues from the dazzling sun. Grief on account of sin is not designed to mar permanently the pleasure of our days. The depression is succeeded by elevation of soul.

The surgeon's lance may have pained us, but now we are tranquil through the relief afforded.—S.R.A.


Leviticus 16:1, Leviticus 16:2

The peril of privilege.

Was it, then, necessary to contemplate the possibility of Aaron's dying at his post? Was he, the chosen servant of God, who had been so solemnly inducted into his office (Leviticus 8:1-36, Leviticus 9:1-24), in actual peril of death as he ministered unto the Lord? Could he draw too near to God, so as to endanger his very life? It was even so. His two sons, Nadab and Abihu, had paid the extreme penalty of their sin in the service of Jehovah; "they offered before the Lord, and died" at their post. And if Aaron had violated the precepts here given, it is certain that from "the cloud upon the mercy seat" would have flashed the fatal fire which would have destroyed the high priest himself. We are not afraid now

(1) of such condign and signal punishment as befell the sons of Aaron: God does not visit us thus in these days; nor

(2) of coming too often or drawing too near to God. The barriers which then stood between the manifested Deity and the common people are removed. We may "come at all times" to the mercy-seat, and are in much greater peril of God's displeasure for "restraining prayer," than for intruding into his presence without need. Nevertheless, privilege has its own peculiar peril, and the penalty is very serious: it is death; not physical, but spiritual, eternal death. There may be in our case—

I. PRESUMPTION FROM OFFICIAL POSITION. It is only too possible that those who "offer before the Lord" may come to regard their official duties as things which avail before him, independently of the spirit in which they are rendered. "Many will say,… have we not prophesied in thy Name … and in thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:22, Matthew 7:23). Many may say, "Have we not preached thy gospel, taught thy truth, evangelized in thy Name?" etc; and—trusting in their official works instead of looking to their inner spirit, and instead of attaching themselves to Christ in penitence and faith—be condemned at his bar.

II. FORMALISM FROM FAMILIARITY. It is all too possible for those who "offer before the Lord" to die a spiritual death, because they lose all real and living appreciation of the things they say and do. There is a subtle but powerful tendency in the human mind to do mechanically and unintelligently that with which it is exceedingly familiar. Not even the most sacred words or solemn rites are proof against it. We may, at the desk, or pulpit, or even at the table of the Lord, take words upon our lips which find no answer in the soul. We may be obnoxious to our Lord's reproach (Matthew 15:8). To use sacred language without sacred feeling is to move away from the fountain of life; to have entered the precincts of habitual formalism is to have passed the outer portals of the kingdom of death.

III. DISOBEDIENCE FROM DISREGARD TO THE WILL OF GOD. We are not bound to a rigid correspondence with every minute New Testament practice. There are some matters in which changed circumstances demand other methods. But we are bound to search the Scriptures to find the will of our Lord in the worship we render and the work we do for him. If we follow nothing better than "the traditions of men," or our own tastes and inclinations, we may find ourselves in the wilderness—a long way from the water of life.

Whatever position we occupy in the Church of Christ, however much of "the honour that cometh from man" we may enjoy, it is essential that we:

1. Cherish the spirit of humility, and exercise a living faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Realize the truth we speak, and spiritually participate in the services we conduct.

3. Have supreme regard to the will of our Master, seeking to learn that will as devoutly, patiently, studiously, as we can. These things must we do "that we die not" before the Lord.—C.

Leviticus 16:2-17

Type and antitype-the priest.

The high priest offering sacrifices for the sin of the people was a clear type of" the High Priest of our profession," who offered the one sacrifice for sin, who became the Propitiation for our sin, even for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). We have—


1. Aaron acted under Divine direction. He was appointed by God to take the post he took, and was charged to do everything he did. He might not deviate in any particular from the instructions which came from heaven. "Aaron shall" is the continually recurring strain; almost every other verse contains this formula; departure from direction was utter failure in his work and death to himself (Leviticus 16:2).

2. Aaron divested himself of his rich attire—he wore not the ephod with precious stones, nor the mitre glittering with golden crown; this splendid attire he laid by on this occasion, and he put on the simple linen coat, and was girded with a linen girdle, and wore a linen mitre (Leviticus 16:4).

3. Aaron did his priestly work alone. "There shall be no man in the tabernacle when he goeth in … until he come out" (Leviticus 16:17). No other foot but his might enter within the vail; no other hand but his might sprinkle the blood on the mercy-seat.

4. Aaron bore a heavy burden for the people. "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." So Christ, the great antitype,

(1) was appointed of God (Hebrews 5:4, Hebrews 5:5); he was "the Anointed," the Sent One; he "came to do his Father's will," and though under no such minute commandments as those which regulated the actions of Aaron, he was ever consulting the will of the Father, doing "nothing of himself" (John 5:19-30; John 8:28; John 9:4).

(2) Divested himself of the robe of his divinity, and put on the frail garment of our humanity (John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:7).

(3) "Trod the winepress alone." "Ye shall leave me alone," said he (John 16:32) and alone he agonized in the garden, and alone he suffered and died on the cross. His was a most lonely life, for not even his most loved disciple understood the meaning of his mission; and his was a lonely death, none of those who stood weeping by being able to take any part in the sacrificial work he then wrought out.

(4) Bore so heavy a burden for us that his heart broke beneath it.


1. Aaron was compelled to present offerings for himself (Leviticus 16:6, Leviticus 16:11-14).

2. Had to present an offering that was provided for him; a bullock had to be brought from the herds of Israel (Leviticus 16:6), or he would have been a priest without an offering.

3. Could offer no availing sacrifice for deliberate transgressions: presumptuous sin had already paid the penalty of death. But Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest,

(1) needed not to present any sacrifice for himself; the holy, harmless, undefiled One, separate from sinners, did not need to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins (Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27).

(2) Had no need to procure a victim, for himself

" … came down to be
The offering and the priest."

He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).

(3) Offered a sacrifice which avails for all sin. His blood "cleanseth us from all sin" (1Jn 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 7:25, etc.).—C.

Leviticus 16:7-10, Leviticus 16:15, Leviticus 16:21, Leviticus 16:22

Type and antitype-the offering.

The most striking feature of the whole service on the great Day of Atonement was the action of the high priest in regard to the two goats brought to the tabernacle door (Leviticus 16:7). They clearly point to that "Lamb of God" who came to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). That there were two goats rather than one presents no difficulty at all; there might well have been more than one to typify the Sacrifice which they foreshadowed. We learn—

I. THAT GOD ADMITS VICARIOUS SUFFERING INTO HIS RIGHTEOUS REALM. The innocent goat would shed its blood, would pour out its life, that the guilty human souls might not die, but live. It was a Divine appointment, and shows clearly that the propitiatory element was allowed by the Holy One of Israel. The vicarious principle has a large place in the kingdom of God on earth. Involuntarily and also voluntarily we suffer for others and others for us. Man bears the penal consequences of his brother's sin. He does so when he cannot avoid so doing; and he does so frequently with his own full consent; indeed, by going far out of his way on purpose to bear it. Vicarious suffering runs through the whole human economy. But there is only One who could possibly take on himself the penalty of the world's sin—only One on whom could possibly be "laid the iniquity of us all." That one is the spotless "Lamb of God," that Son of God who became sin for man; he, "for the suffering of death was made a little lower than the angels," and took on him a mortal form. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;… he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities," etc. (Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

II. THAT THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST AVAILS TO REMOVE COMPLETELY ALL CONDEMNATION. When the children of Israel saw the live goat, over whose head their sins had been confessed, being led away into the waste wilderness where it would never more be seen (Leviticus 16:22), they had a very vivid assurance made through their senses to their soul that "their transgressions were forgiven, and their sins covered." No such dramatic assurance have we now, but we may have the utmost confidence that our sins are forgiven us "for his Name's sake;" that "there is no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus," to us "who have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:39; Romans 5:9). Trusting in the slain Lamb of God, we may see, by the eye of faith, all our guilt and all our condemnation borne away into the land of forgetfulness, where God will remember it no more for ever.

III. THAT NO SACRIFICE WILL AVAIL ANYTHING WITHOUT ACTIVE PARTICIPATION ON OUR PART. Useless and unavailing altogether the slaying of the one goat and the sending away of the other without the act of confession and the imposition of hands by the high priest (Leviticus 16:21); this part of the solemn ceremonial was essential; apart from that everything would have been vain. And without our personal spiritual participation the sacrifice of the Lamb of God will be all in vain.

1. There must be the confession of our sin; a confession of sin which springs from contrition for sin, and is attended by a determination to put all sin away (repentance).

2. Faith in the Divine Redeemer. "Our faith must lay its hand on that dear head of his."

3. And this must be the action of our own individual soul. Whatever guidance and encouragement we may gain from the ministers of Christ, we ourselves must repent and believe.—C.

Leviticus 16:29-31

The great anniversary-sacred seasons.

The Jews had other special days beside the Day of Atonement. They had their weekly sabbath, the new moon sacrifices, their festivals or "holy convocations" (Leviticus 23:1-44), etc. But this was the "grand climacteric;" there were "high days" during the year, but this was the day of the year to every devout Israelite. No other was comparable to it in solemnity and sacred importance. Several features of peculiar interest combined to raise it above all other occasions.

1. It was the one annual solemnity prescribed by the Law.

2. It was a day of perfect rest from labour (Leviticus 16:29, Leviticus 16:31).

3. It was the one day of universal fasting enjoined or encouraged in the Law (Leviticus 16:29, Leviticus 16:31).

4. It was a day of self-examination and spiritual humiliation (Leviticus 16:29).

5. On that day the high priest went perilously near to the manifested presence of God—then, and then only, entering within the vail, and standing in presence of the mercy-seat and the mysterious, awful Shechinah (Leviticus 16:12).

6. On that day unusual sacrifices were offered unto the Lord, and a striking spectacle witnessed by the whole camp, the live goat being led away into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21).

7. Then, also, the people felt themselves in an unusually blessed relation to Jehovah—free, as at no other time, from all their sin; they were "clean from all their sins before the Lord" (Leviticus 16:30). We may, therefore, well pronounce this the great anniversary of the Hebrew Church. It must have had hallowing influences in both directions of time: it must have been anticipated with interest and awe; it must have left behind it sacred shadows of holy feeling—of unity, reverence, joy in God. The holding of this anniversary "by statute for ever" suggests to us—

I. THAT IN CHRIST JESUS THE OBSERVANCE OF DAYS IS AN OPTIONAL THING. There are valid grounds for believing that it is the will of Christ we should observe the Lord's day as the disciples of him who is "the Resurrection and the Life." But the enforcement of the observance of sacred days by statute binding on the Christian conscience is expressly disallowed (Galatians 4:10, Galatians 4:11; Romans 14:5, Romans 14:6; Colossians 2:16).

II. THAT IT IS WISE, AS A MATTER OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, TO OBSERVE SOME ANNIVERSARIES. God has, in his providential arrangements, made certain points to be regularly recurring. Time is so measured that we must be periodically reminded of interesting events. God put the lights in the firmament in order that they might not only "give light upon the earth," but that they might be "for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years " (Genesis 1:14).

1. A Church should observe:

(1) the day of its institution, or

(2) the day on which it was conscious of revival, or

(3) any particular day which is, to itself, fruitful of sacred suggestions.

2. Individual Christian men may observe

(1) the last day of the old year,

(2) the first day of the new year,

(3) the anniversary of their birthday, or

(4) the anniversary of the day which has the most hallowed associations to their mind,—the day of religious decision or that of reception into the visible Church of Christ.


1. Solemn retrospect; with careful retreading of past experiences, free and full acknowledgment of God's goodness and our own manifold shortcomings, simple faith in the Divine promise of forgiveness through Christ.

2. Thoughtful forecast; with studious consideration of what may yet be done for the Master and mankind, devout reconsecration of self to the service of the Saviour, believing prayer for Divine guidance and guardianship through future years.—C.

Leviticus 16:33, Leviticus 16:34

The imperfect ritual and the All-sufficient Sacrifice.

If we place ourselves at the standpoint of a devout and inquiring Hebrew worshipper, we can suppose ourselves to ask, on the morning and evening of the Day of Atonement—

I. WHY THIS ANNUAL CEREMONY? Have not numerous sacrifices been presented all the year round without intermission? Have not daily offerings been laid on the altar, morning and evening? and double sacrifices every sabbath day? and special offerings every month? And have not the people been bringing their presentations, from flock and herd, as piety has dictated, or special circumstances have required, all through the seasons? Have not these "come up with acceptance" before the altar of Jehovah? Has not sin been atoned for? What need, then, of these annual solemnities, of this very special ceremony at the tabernacle?

And if to such reflecting worshipper it should occur that the blood of lambs and bullocks, of doves and pigeons, was no real substitute for the forfeited life of men, would he not take a further step in his inquiry, and ask—

II. CAN THIS SUFFICE, ALL OTHER FAILING? What is there in the ceremonies of this sacred day which will avail, if all the year's sacrifices are insufficient? Will the fact that one man will stand in the inner instead of the outer side of a separating vail, and sprinkle blood on one article of tabernacle furniture rather than another,—will this make the difference between the adequacy and the inadequacy of animal sacrifice for human sin? Will the ceremony of slaying one goat and leading the other out into the wilderness constitute the one needful thing that is wanted to remove the guilt of a nation? Surely something more and something greater is wanted still. To these suggested and probable inquiries of the Hebrew worshipper, we reply—

III. THESE TYPICAL SOLEMNITIES DID NOT SUFFICE. It was a striking mark of their insufficiency that the very altar and tabernacle of the congregation, even the "holy sanctuary" itself (Leviticus 16:33; see Leviticus 16:16 and Heb 4:1-16 :21), had to be "atoned for." Even they became affected by the "uncleanness of the children of Israel." Here was imperfection legibly written on the holy things. And our instructed reason tells us that these things were inherently unsatisfactory. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Such "gifts and sacrifices could not make him that did the service perfect" (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 7:18, Hebrews 7:19). They only served for a time, and drew their temporary sufficiency from the fact that they were to be completed and fulfilled in one Divine Offering, which should be presented in "the fullness of time." And thus we come to—

IV. THE ONE ALL-AVAILING SACRIFICE. In the one Great Sacrifice at Calvary, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is everything which a guilty race requires.

1. No need, now, for annual sacrifices; "in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year" (Hebrews 10:3). "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever," etc; "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Not "once a year," but once for all, once for ever!

2. No need for purifying the holy place. He hath passed into the heavens; has sat down at the right hand of God. The "uncleanness" of man cannot stain his throne of grace.

3. No question as to the efficacy of his atonement. "If the blood of bulls and of goats," etc. (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14).

4. No limit to the application of his atoning death. The cross of Christ is that on which not merely "all the people of the congregation" (Leviticus 16:33), but all human souls in every land and through every age may look, in which they may glory, at which they may leave their sin and fear, from which they may date their inextinguishable hope and their everlasting joy.—C.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/leviticus-16.html. 1897.
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