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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 16

 

 

Verses 1-34

THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT (vv. 1-34)

This is a chapter of central importance in the book of Leviticus. It forms a basis for, and is explained in, the epistle to the Hebrews. Aaron's two sons had died for offering “strange fire to the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2). We are reminded of this in verse 1 of chapter 16 in order to be impressed with the seriousness of any approach into the holy presence of God. The priests, and even the high priest were forbidden to come at all times into the holiest of all, inside the veil. This is a contrast to the Lord Jesus in the actual fact of His personal glory, for He was always, by virtue of His person, in the intimacy of the presence of God.

Yet, Aaron is typical of Christ as High Priest, the representative of His people, and what He does for their sakes is to be distinguished from what He is entitled to personally.

Verse 2 tells us that God Himself would be present in the cloud on the mercy seat, therefore it was only one day of the year that Aaron alone could enter the most holy place. Verse 29 indicates this to be on the tenth day of the seventh month. The Lord fully described the ritual which Aaron was to strictly observe.

He was to bring a young bull as a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Having washed his flesh in water, he was to put on, not his garments of glory and beauty, but those of linen (v. 4). These speak of the moral purity of the Lord Jesus in His perfect Manhood.

Also, from the congregation he was to take two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram as a burnt offering (v. 5).

Then Aaron was first to present his own bull of the sin offering before the Lord, not yet to kill it (v. 6 — JND trans.), though it was that which was to make atonement for him and his house. Similarly, he was to present the two goats before the Lord at the tabernacle door (v. 7).

Following this he was to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. For only one was to be sacrificed to the Lord as a sin offering. Then it was offered, but the other one was again presented before the Lord alive. Though it is said the first goat was offered, yet not until verse 15 are we told the goat was slaughtered.

It therefore appears that the bull for Aaron and his house was first slaughtered (v. 11). Then Aaron was to bring from the altar a censer full of coals and his hands full of finely ground sweet incense, put on the fire to form a cloud of incense that would cover the mercy seat when Aaron entered the holiest of all. If he failed to do this when entering the most holy place, he would die. But also, he must bring with him some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the east side and in front of the mercy seat seven times (v. 14).

The spiritual significance of this is indicated in Hebrews 9:11-12 : “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of bulls and calves, but with (or “by”) His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Some have imagined that the Lord Jesus literally took His shed blood into heaven when He ascended there, but this is confusing the type with the antitype. Because of the value of the shedding of His blood, He entered heaven on behalf of His redeemed people, having obtained eternal redemption. The throne of God has been perfectly vindicated by virtue of the blood of Christ having been shed at Calvary. His resurrection and ascension to heaven have confirmed the fact that redemption is fully accomplished.

Now he must kill the goat that is specifically said to be “for the people” (v. 15), bring its blood inside the veil and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before it. The bull had been for Aaron and his house (v. 6). This implies the Lord Jesus and the priestly family, which today is the Church of God, for all believers now are priests (1 Peter 2:5). The two goats picture the one sacrifice of Christ on behalf of Israel, the first one being that which actually makes atonement by being offered up. But because Israel has not recognized the sacrifice of Christ, though it has really been for them, the results of that sacrifice will not be applied to Israel until they finally turn to the Lord.

Therefore the high priest was to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confessing over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, putting them on the head of the goat and sending it away by a suitable man into the wilderness (v. 2). Thus the atonement, though definitely made for Israel, does not at the time have application to Israel: their sins are still not gone, though confessed by the high priest (Christ), and the value of the atonement is for Israel delayed, while the nation is dispersed among the nations, “in the wilderness.” How striking a witness this is to the fact that God knew perfectly well that Israel would reject their Messiah and remain a long time in sad unbelief!

After sending the scapegoat away into the wilderness, Aaron was to come into the outer sanctuary of the tabernacle, take off his linen garments and leave them there, to wash his body and put on his normal garments of glory and beauty, then to come out and offer the burnt offering for himself and that also for the people (v. 24). His coming out in those garments signified that the work of atonement was done to the satisfaction of God. The burnt offerings signified that God was glorified in the perfection of the sacrifice. It is noted here also that the fat of the sin offering was to be burned on the altar. This was commanded in Leviticus 4:8-10, though otherwise the bodies of those animals whose blood was taken into the sanctuary were burned outside the camp (Leviticus 4:11-12), which also verse 27 of this chapter confirms. This speaks of Christ as the sin offering bearing the unmitigated judgment of God.

The one who burned the animals was to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water (v. 26), showing that only the contact with that which was put under the judgment of God had a defiling influence, though when the burning took place, no more defilement would be spread.

On the tenth day of the seventh month Israel was to recognize as a permanent statute of God that they should afflict their souls and do no work (v. 29). This speaks of humbling themselves in serious self-judgment. When we reach Leviticus 23:1-44 we shall see how this is emphasized when “the set times of Jehovah” are discussed (vv. 26-32). Those set times speak of God's dealings from the time of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary until the morning of millennial blessing for Israel.

The great day of atonement pictures the national repentance of Israel when the Lord Jesus, their Messiah, appears to them when they are in the throes of the great tribulation. “They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). Revelation 1:7 adds to this, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth (the land) will mourn because of Him.”

Verse 32-34 lay special emphasis on the work of “the priest who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place.” Typically this priest is Christ, who has been not only the great sacrifice Israel needed, but the one Mediator between God and men, the One who intercedes and who has offered Himself for us. It is He through whom Israel is blessed, and also through whom the whole temple service is sanctified. He makes atonement for the priests (the priestly family, the Church) and for the people (that is, Israel). This statute was to allow no lapsing, no intermission, but was to be faithfully kept every year (v. 34).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 16:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/leviticus-16.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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