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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Leviticus 16

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XVI.

The solemn yearly expiation for the high-priest; and for the people.

Before Christ 1490.


Verse 1

Leviticus 16:1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron The death of the sons of Aaron giving occasion for the declaration of the before-mentioned laws; (see ch. Leviticus 10:10 and ch. 11:) they are here inserted, and are to be read as in a parenthesis; and the present chapter is to be considered as in natural dependence upon the tenth.


Verse 2

Leviticus 16:2. Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not We have in this chapter an account of one of the most solemn and important ceremonies of the law; to the spiritual intent of which, we are immediately directed by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews. Spencer observes, that God wisely made the ritual institutions of the Jews to answer a double end, both to keep up a certain regard to the [Mosaic] modes and forms of worship; and, at the same time, to exhibit a figure or shadow of a new and better dispensation, which was to take place under the Messiah. Thus the whole ceremony practised at the solemn feast of expiation, appears to have been typical, and intended to prefigure the great atonement made by Jesus Christ, the High-Priest of our profession. Accordingly, the writer to the Hebrews observes, that the high-priest entering once a year into the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice, figured Christ's entering into heaven by his own blood, to obtain eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:28.) And because Christ's death and resurrection could not both be fitly shadowed out by one animal, which the priest, having once killed, could not again make alive; therefore God appointed two; that in the slain animal Christ's death, and in the living one his life and victory, might be foreshewed; see ch. Leviticus 14:5. With this key, the reader will better understand the whole of this chapter. The high-priest, according to his office, went every day, morning and evening, into the holy place: but here it is enjoined, that he enter not into the holy place within the vail, which is commonly called the most holy place, except only upon one day in the year, that of expiation for the sins of the whole people, Hebrews 9:7. It is true, upon extraordinary occasions the high-priest was allowed to go within the vail; as for the purpose of consulting the oracle, &c. but otherwise he was allowed in ordinary to enter but once a year; a prohibition, which, some have imagined, arose from Aaron's sons breaking into the most holy place, there to offer incense; and which presumption, according to these commentators, occasioned their death. But the reason is subjoined why Aaron should not presume to come within the vail without due preparation: though that reason does not strike us through our translation; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat: it should be rendered, when I shall appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat; ne moriatur tum cum ego in nube apparebo super propitiatorium, says Houbigant; i.e. "lest if he shall enter the most holy without due preparation, and more than once in a year, he may perish through that very cloud, in which I am about to appear. Approaching my presence improperly and unbidden, may procure him death; for to such that Presence is death;" see Exodus 19:21; Exodus 19:25. Some think that the cloud here mentioned, means the cloud of incense arising from the censer brought into the holy of holies by the high-priest. We may just remark, that several of the heathen nations had sacred places, or adyta, which were entered but once a year, no doubt, after this example; see Outram de Sacrif. lib. 1: cap. 3.


Verse 3

Leviticus 16:3. Thus shall Aaron come,—with a young bullock, &c.— Two solemn sacrifices were to be offered by the high-priest for himself and his family, (Leviticus 16:6.—in which family, some have thought, are included not only the priests, but the Levites also) preparatory to his entrance into the holy of holies: a sin-offering, in confession of his own weakness, and need of a better intercessor; see ch. Leviticus 4:3. Hebrews 7:27 and a burnt-offering, in token of his entire dedication of himself to God.


Verse 4

Leviticus 16:4. He shall put on the holy linen coat This being a day of humiliation, Leviticus 16:29 the high-priest was not to be clothed, as usual, in his peculiar garments, but in those of the common priests: and, probably, these linen garments were designed to suggest not the humiliation only, but the purity which the present solemn occasion was intended to inculcate: to which every ceremony seems to lead; particularly the washing himself entirely with water.

REFLECTIONS.—Aaron had sustained a heavy loss in his two sons, and might well fear to minister before such a jealous God. He is therefore now to begin to make the annual atonement for himself and his house, as well as for the people. One day in a year must he come before the mercy-seat, where God appeared in the cloud; and then alone, with the blood of the sin-offering, in his ordinary garments of service, to denote that, as a sinner, he was on a footing with his brethren. Such was the bondage, darkness, and distance of that dispensation. But now, since Jesus is once for us entered, every believer has boldness and access to the mercy-seat continually; and, instead of fearing death from the presence of the Lord, finds his nearness the true and happy life of his soul.


Verse 7-8

Leviticus 16:7-8. He shall take the two goats The two goats made but one offering, and are so spoken of in the 5th verse, two kids of the goats for a sin-offering; in token of which, they were both to be presented before the Lord; when lots were to be cast upon them, Leviticus 16:8 which was done in the following manner: the priest, placing the two goats, the one on his right hand, the other on his left, stood by the altar, and casting into an urn or box two lots of wood or metal, upon one of which were written the words for Jehovah, and on the other for Azazel: he then shook the urn, and putting in both his hands, took up a lot in each, and let fall the right hand lot upon the goat which stood on his right hand, and the left hand lot upon the other; by which the fate of each was determined according to the following verses.


Verse 10

Leviticus 16:10. The scape-goat The opinions respecting this scape-goat, and the meaning of the original word, have been as various as absurd. The true and mystical meaning of the ceremony has been pointed out in the observation from Spencer on the 2nd verse. The sacrifice was evidently of the same kind with that of the two birds, appointed for the purification of the leper. It is not easy to devise a ceremony more strongly expressive of the great Sin-offering of the world; who, though impassible in his Divine Nature, yet suffered and died in his human, the iniquities of us all being laid upon him; fully expiating which, he entered into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us, bearing our sins, upon our true confession, and as it were transferring them to him, Leviticus 16:21 into the land of separation or forgetfulness, never more to be remembered against us. Hebrews 9:24-26. With respect to the original word עזאזל azazel, or ozazel, it may be necessary just to remark, as so much has been said concerning it, that it is derived from עז ez, a goat, and אזל azel, to go away; a scapegoat: Accordingly the LXX, with us, render it by αποπομπαιος, sent away; Aquila, τραγον απολελυμενον, the goat dismissed; and Symmachus, απερχομενον, going away, See Parkhurst on the word.


Verse 13

Leviticus 16:13. He shall put the incense, &c.— The bullock being slain, the high-priest was to take some of the blood of it into the holy of holies, bearing in his hand a censer with incense burning upon it, to prevent him from seeing the mercy-seat, lest the Divine Presence should be too bright for him, and occasion his death: and, accordingly, the Jews tell us, that he entered side-ways, not daring to look directly upon the glory of the place; and that, having filled the sanctuary with a cloud of smoke, he went out backward, having his face directed to the mercy-seat: this done, he was to sprinkle the blood seven times upon the mercy-seat. Ainsworth well observes, that the burning of incense, preceding the sprinkling of the blood, served as a preparation to the high-priest's admission into the holy place by prayer; which, as we have before observed, was figured by incense, and with which it was accompanied, Revelation 8:3-4 and further, hereby the merits of Christ's intercession were signified, through which alone our prayers and our persons become acceptable, and we obtain an access to God, even the Father.


Verse 14

Leviticus 16:14. And he shall take of the blood, &c.— Houbigant renders this verse, Then, taking part of the blood of the bullock, he shall sprinkle it seven times towards the east, over-against the vail: in like manner he shall sprinkle it seven times with his finger before the mercy-seat. Note; Jesus, our better High-Priest, is for us entered into the holy place, with nobler Blood, even his own; an Atonement which once offered, is complete and everlasting. Blessed be God for such a High-Priest!


Verse 15

Leviticus 16:15. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering Having performed the ceremonies requisite for his own expiation and that of his family, he was to proceed, in the same manner, to make expiation for the sins of the whole people, whose transgressions in the foregoing year rendered their place of worship unfit for God's habitation; and, therefore, the victim's blood was offered by the priests, as a sign of their having forfeited their own blood or life, and as an atonement for them, through the blood of the great Mediator. All this, as the apostle to the Hebrews has set forth, served abundantly to shew the imperfection of the legal dispensation; see Hebrews, chap. 10: Note; 1. Our most solemn services need pardon; even our prayers and duties must be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. 2. When Jesus gave himself for us, of the people there was none with him: the work was all his own, and to him be all the glory of it ascribed.


Verse 21

Leviticus 16:21. And Aaron shall lay both his hands See Exodus 29:10 and, for the spiritual meaning of this ceremony, see Leviticus 16:10 of this chapter, and the reflections at the conclusion of it. Most other nations had their piacular sacrifices, to which they first transferred the sins of the public, imprecating upon them all the evils which might have befallen themselves, and then they put the victims to death. Many went so far as to offer human sacrifices to this effect; from a superstitious notion, that the more valuable the matter of the sacrifice was, the more acceptable it was to their gods. Thus we are told, that among the people of Marseilles, in time of a plague, one of their poor was accustomed to offer himself to be maintained for a twelvemonth at the public charge, upon some kind of food which they reckoned more pure and holy than ordinary; after which, being dressed up like a victim, he was led over all the town, amidst curses and solemn imprecations that upon him might fall all the evils of the whole community; and then he was thrown into the sea, or over a precipice. (See Petronius Arbiter, Sat. ad sin.) Justin tells us the same of the Carthaginians; see his 18th book, 6th chap. From Lactantius we learn, that Saturn was honoured in the same impious manner. (Instr. lib. i. c. 21.) And the case was the same in many other nations.* Who can fail discerning in all this a manifest reference to the desire of all nations, the grand piacular sacrifice for the sins of the whole world?

* See Herod. lib. ii. c. 39. and Plutarch de Isid. & Osir. p. 363.

By the hand of a fit man into the wilderness A fit man signifies, a man who is fitted, ready, or appointed. The rabbins say it was one of the priests. This person was to convey the scape-goat into a land of separation, and there to dismiss him, according to the express letter of the law; Leviticus 16:22 though some say, it was usual to throw the goat down a rock; which, though it might be done in after-times, is in evident contradiction to the letter of this passage. Indeed, if we are to believe the accounts which the rabbins have given us, a multiplicity of ceremonies were added to this institution, for which there is no authority in the law: and, on that account, they claim not the attention of a commentator.


Verse 22

Leviticus 16:22. The goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities See Isaiah 53. 1 Peter 2:24. Many learned writers, and among the rest Dr. Jackson on the Creed, maintain, that our blessed Saviour entered on this great day of atonement on his office of Mediator: for on this day, they assert, he was baptized: and as being then declared by a voice from heaven to be the Son of God, and immediately driven by the spirit into the wilderness, John the Baptist could not but look upon him as the Redeemer typified by the scapegoat: and as he went into the wilderness on the day of atonement, immediately after the people had confessed their sins, John could not but acknowledge that Christ was sent to take upon him the sins of the world, and do them away, by being in a proper season slain as a sacrifice for them. We learn the nature of Christ's sacrifice very fully from these and the like ceremonies: see Outram de Sacrificiis.


Verse 24

Leviticus 16:24. He shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place Not only the high-priest, but the person who bore the goat into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:26.) was to wash, after touching an animal which they judged so polluted; and which, as being a substitute for a sinful people, none could touch without contracting some pollution. And hence the words καθαρμα, περικαθαρμα, which properly signify a piacular deprecatory sacrifice, were applied to denote the vilest and most contemptible objects: in which sense St. Paul, speaking of the ill usage which he and his brethren met with in the world, says, we are περικαθαρματα; as despicable in the eyes of the heathen world, as those condemned persons who were offered up by way of public expiation, 1 Corinthians 4:13. Porphyry observes the same custom of washing among the heathens, who, in their deprecatory sacrifices, permitted no man, who had meddled with them, to come into the city, or to go into his own house, who had not first washed his clothes and his body in some river or spring water.

And put on his garments The solemn and deprecatory offering being finished, the high-priest was to put off the linen garments, Leviticus 16:23. (which, as we have observed on Leviticus 16:4 were emblematic of the occasion) and to leave them in the tabernacle; never more to be worn, according to Maimonides and others; after which he was to put on the garments peculiar to his office; and in these to offer the burnt-offering for himself and the people; hereby signifying his own, as well as their, total consecration to God: and thus the atonement was completed.


Verse 29

Leviticus 16:29. This shall be a statute for ever unto you, &c.— For ever, i.e. while your state and polity shall last: In the seventh month, i.e. of the sacred year, answering to our September: On the tenth day of the month, or, as it is said in ch. Leviticus 23:32 the ninth day at even, because the Jewish day began at the even. This day was thought to be appointed rather than any other, because it is supposed that Adam fell upon it. (see Genesis 3:24.) Maimonides thinks that it was the day on which Moses came down from the mount with the second tables, and proclaimed to the people the remission of their great sin in worshipping the golden calf. The phrase, ye shall afflict your souls, doubtless signifies, that they should not only use all the external marks of humiliation, but also, and especially, truly mortify their souls by sincere repentance; see Isaiah 58:5-7. It was to be a solemn fast. In Leviticus 16:31 the phrase it shall be a sabbath of rest, is, it shall be a rest of rests; i.e. a day of complete rest from all secular and servile employs; and, like the sabbath, wholly dedicated to religious duties.


Verse 32

Leviticus 16:32. The priest whom he shall anoint, &c.— The priest who shall be anointed, and who shall be consecrated. Houbigant.


Verse 34

Leviticus 16:34. To make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins The rabbis observe, that all these rites of expiation, however solemnly performed, were nothing in the sight of God without repentance and sincere resolutions of new obedience: so neither, under the Christian dispensation, can any man be entitled to the merits of Christ's atonement, without genuine repentance; a deficiency in which renders the most pompous forms of external worship mere solemn mockery. "The ceremonies of this sacred day," says Henry, "afford us on one side a type of what Christ our great High-Priest hath done for our salvation, delivering us from our sins by the free oblation of himself; after which, entering into the holy places, not made with hands, he hath opened an access for us by the efficacy of his death and the merits of his intercession. On the other hand, we see what we ought to do, in order to partake of the sacrifice and intercession of the Son of God. By faith we should lay our hands upon that precious Victim, regarding it as the only price of our redemption, and as the only means of salvation. By repentance we should afflict our souls, renounce sin, die to it, and live again unto righteousness."

The very ingenious editors of the Prussian Testament, Messrs. De Beausobre and L'Enfant, observe, that "this fast, in general, was the most lively representation of the atonement which was made for the sins of mankind by the blood of JESUS CHRIST." It is observable, that Philo-Judaeus had some notion of this truth; for, in his Treatise de Somn. p. 447 he says, that the Word of God, whereby he means the Son, is the Head and Glory of the propitiation, i.e. of what renders men acceptable to God. These passages of Scripture, that Jesus Christ gave his life a ransom for many, Matthew 20:28 that he was made the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 4:10 that he was the propitiation, not only for our sins, but also for those of the whole world, 1 John 2:2 and such like expressions, which occur almost in every page of the Gospel, can mean nothing more, than that Jesus Christ has, by the sacrifice of himself, performed that, which was only prefigured by the sacrifices under the law, and particularly by the general and solemn expiation we are now speaking of. The same Jewish author, quoted just before, had also some notion of this matter. It will be proper to set down his very words; not as if we thought they were any confirmation of the Christian religion, but only to shew that these were truths which the wisest part of the nation acknowledged, and had found out by close and serious meditation, accompanied with Divine illumination. He says then, that whereas the priests of other nations offered sacrifices for their own countrymen only, the high-priest of the Jews offered for all mankind, and for the whole creation. (See Phil. de Monar. p. 637.) And not only these sacrifices, which were offered on the day of expiation, were a more exact representation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ than any other; but also the person, by whom the atonement was made, was in every respect qualified to represent the High-Priest of the Christian church: and that, 1. Upon the account of his dignity, which, according to the Jews, was at its utmost height when he entered into the holy of holies; for which reason he was called great among his brethren, ch. Leviticus 21:10. This dignity was so very considerable, that Philo does not scruple to say, agreeable to his lofty and rhetorical way of speaking, that the high-priest was to be something more than human; that he more nearly resembled God than all the rest; and that he partook both of the divine and human nature. (See de Monar. p. 63 and de Somn. p. 872.) It seems to have been with a design of expressing both the holiness and dignity of the high-priest, that the law had enjoined none should remain in the tabernacle while the high-priest went into the holy of holies; see Leviticus 16:17. [Further, the high-priest of the Jews, upon the day of atonement, put not on at the first his best suit of apparel, but was content with the holy linen garments which he wore in common with other priests; hereby signifying, that when our blessed Lord should come into the world, to do the will of God, he should not make a splendid figure, nor array himself with all that glory of which he is truly possessed.] 2. The high-priest represented our Saviour by his holiness: To denote which, a greater quantity of oil was used in the anointing of the high-priest, than in that of his brethren; whence he was called the priest anointed, ch. Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5. Nothing can better represent the great holiness of Jesus Christ, than this great plenty of oil used in the consecration of Aaron. 3. The high-priest represented Jesus Christ by his being, on the day of atonement, a mediator between God and the people. For though Moses be called a mediator in the New Testament, yet it is certain, that the high-priest was invested with this office on the day of expiation. Moses must indeed be acknowledged as a mediator, God having by his means made a covenant with the children of Israel. But, as they were very apt to transgress the law, it was necessary there should be a mediator, who, by his sacrifices and intercession, might reconcile them to God. Now this was the high-priest's function; so that Moses and Aaron were exact types of the two-fold mediation of Jesus Christ. By him was the new covenant made, and by his own blood has he for ever reconciled God to mankind. 4. The entrance of Jesus Christ into heaven once for all, there to present his own blood to God, as an atonement for our sins, was very clearly typified by the high-priest's going once a year into the holy of holies with the blood of victims; see Hebrews 12:24. As for the two goats, we learn from the epistle of St. Barnabas, (which must have been written not long after the destruction of Jerusalem) that they were even then looked upon as typical.

Further reflections, 1st, On the fast of anniversary atonement in general: and, 2nd, on the ordinance of the scape-goat in particular.

I. On the fast of anniversary atonement in general.

Whatever our great High-Priest has done on earth beneath, or in heaven above, for the salvation of his people, was prefigured in this venerable solemnity. This the inspired writer to the Hebrews having at great length illustrated to our hand, it will not be necessary to enlarge upon. Let it suffice briefly to hint at the typical sense of some of the principal sacerdotal actions reserved for this memorable day.

The happy effects of the holy rites practised on this great anniversary, are said to be a cleansing the people from all their sins, Leviticus 16:30. Now, it is evident that these carnal ordinances have many marks of weakness and imperfection. If we speak of real atonement, it was utterly impossible that the blood of these bullocks and goats could take away sin as pertaining to the conscience. They were but brute creatures, of an inferior nature to the priest that offered them, and to the people for whom they were offered. They were offered by a sinful man, who needed an atonement for himself. They were offered year by year continually, and in them a remembrance was again made of sin every year. Now, if they could have made the comers to them perfect, would they not have ceased to be offered? Most certainly they would: because that the worshippers once purged, should have had no more conscience of sin. In all these things the priest of our profession has the pre-eminence. He needed not, like Aaron and his successors, to offer for himself, being harmless and undefiled. He needed not to shed the blood of others; for he was able to offer up himself. He needed not repeat his sacrifice oftener than once; for by one offering he hath for ever perfected all them that are sanctified. These necessary allowances being made, of the vast disparity between the type and Jesus Christ, we shall touch upon some of the grand evangelical mysteries which were enigmatically preached to the Jews in the transactions of this day.

That in future time a true and proper atonement should be made for the sins of Israel; or, to use the style of the prophet Zechariah, that "God would remove the iniquity of his land in one day," Zechariah 3:9 this seems to have been the leading doctrine held forth in all the sacrifices, but especially in those which were offered on this occasion.—Yet a little while, and God will exhibit a propitiation in the promised Messiah, who shall finish transgression, and make an end of sin, and perfectly do that will of God, which cannot be fulfilled by any legal sacrifices or burnt-offerings. And how shall this great event be brought to pass? How shall the Messias redeem Israel from all his iniquities? What shall he do? What shall be done unto him? How shall he begin; and in what manner shall he finish the arduous work? These questions may all be answered by these anniversary rites.

It was signified, that the great Maker of atonement should assume the nature of the persons for whom it should be made: for their high-priest was one of their brethren, and taken from among men.—That he should be constituted a public person: for the high-priest officiated on this occasion as the representative of the people.—That in this character he should suffer the punishment of death, and his life be violently taken away: for the sin and burnt-offerings were slain.—That the blood of Jesus should be shed in a public manner without the gate: for the bodies of the sacrificed beasts were burned without the camp.—That he should, when the work of purging our sins was finished, disappear on earth, and enter within the vail of these visible heavens, into the happy place where God resides among the blessed angels: for when the high-priest had shed the blood of the bullock and the goat, he went out of the sight of the Israelites, entering within the vail into that venerable apartment, where were the symbols of the Divine Presence, and where JEHOVAH sat enthroned between the cherubims.—That though the heavens should contain him, and the world see him no more, he should still be carrying on his priestly work in the presence of God: for when the Jewish priest entered within the vail, he perfumed the mercy-seat with incense, and sprinkled it with blood. Indeed, unless the high-priest had gone into the holiest of all with his blood and incense, he had not discharged the most glorious part of his work. If he had only offered the victims, and gone no further than the middle court, the inferior priests had been upon a level with him; for these things they did as well as he: so if Jesus Christ had continued upon earth, where he offered up himself; if he had not gone to the Father, and retired from the view of men, he could not have been a priest in the most eminent sense of the word: the most glorious parts of his function were still to be discharged, and the resemblance between him and the Jewish high-priest would have been very imperfect. But rejoice, O ye that believe on his name, who make his atonement the grand basis of your comfort; for we have a great High-Priest, who was once upon earth, but is now passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. There he appears as a Lamb that was slain, and stands with his golden censer, to offer up the incense of his intercession with the prayers of all saints. A time will come, when the interposing vail shall be drawn aside, and the great High-Priest return with sound of trumpet, to bless his expecting people, and absolve them from all their iniquities before an assembled world: for "to them that look for him, he shall appear a second time, without sin, unto salvation." Hebrews 9:28.

II. On the ordinance of the scape-goat.

The goat is none of those creatures which are supposed to have the most amiable properties. It may therefore seem singular, that the Lamb of God should be prefigured by such beasts, as are, for their uncleanly and unruly temper, emblems of the wicked, who in the last day shall be separated from the godly by the Judge of all the earth. But perhaps even this circumstance in the type might signify, that Christ was to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh. The goat, though commonly held an unclean creature, was, notwithstanding, of the number of clean beasts in the law of Moses: and Jesus Christ, though reputed among men a sinner, was most pure and righteous in the eye of God.

But wherefore two goats? Or if two, why not both used in the same manner? Why was one of them put to death, and the other saved alive? Doubtless they are both to be viewed as types of the great Propitiation. The first may signify that complete satisfaction which Christ made to Divine justice by the offering up of himself; and the second, the happy consequence of this propitiatory sacrifice, in finishing transgression, making an end of sin, and carrying it, as it were, into the land of forgetfulness; so that, to use the elegant words of Jeremiah, "the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." Jeremiah 50:20. Nor ought it to seem strange, that such a momentous truth should be inculcated so many various ways on the same occasion: for it is a singular effect of the goodness of God, to exhibit such interesting truths in different views, that we may have strong consolation. Besides that all similitudes and types fall infinitely short of the great mysteries they point at, therefore they are multiplied, that they may mutually supply the deficiences of each other: for here the saying is made good, "Two are better than one; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow."

That the first goat was an emblem of Christ sacrificed for us, as much as any other sacrifices, is clearly evident: but we are now to attend to the mystery of the scape-goat, and its likeness to Jesus Christ.

It was, like the other, to be taken from the congregation of Israel, and doubtless purchased with the public money. So Christ was taken from among his brethren, and bought, in some sense, for thirty pieces of silver out of the public treasury, that he might be numbered with transgressors, and bear the sins of many.

It was, like the other, presented at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord and all the people. So Christ presented himself to do his heavenly Father's will before God and the people, when, at the passover-solemnity, he went up to Jerusalem, not ignorant of what was to be done to him by Jews and Gentiles.

The sacred animal being thus presented, the high-priest was to lay both his hands upon its head, devoting it by this action to the service of God, and translating the sins of Israel upon it in a typical manner. Perhaps it might signify, that the hand of Divine Justice was to lie heavy on the surety of sinners; and it is expressly affirmed by the prophet, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6.

That this was the meaning of the rite, appears more evidently from the following one. For in this posture did the high-priest confess all the sins of the people from whom the goat was taken. Why should their sins be confessed in this manner, if it was not to signify, that they were in some sort laid upon the head of the innocent victim? It was thus the great Doer of God's will, who knew no sin, was made sin, for us. The goat could not be guilty of these sins, for it was a brute beast: nor could its antitype, who was spotless and sinless, be a transgressor of the law. Yet both the one and the other did bear the sins of many, to which it was impossible in the nature of things that they could be accessary in the smallest degree. It was not thy sin, O spotless Victim, but the sin of the world, which consigned thee over to the bloody and shameful cross! Ours were the sins which took hold upon thee, and justified thy death. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him." Isaiah 53:4-5. How else could his heavenly Father, for whom it is no more good to punish the just than to clear the guilty, have been pleased to bruise him?

The devoted creature, thus laden with sin, is, by the hand of a proper person, conducted into the wilderness. Why should not this wilderness be viewed as an emblem of those afflictions to which the surety was exposed by the sins he was charged with? Or shall we say, it might be a faint intimation, that the blessing of the atonement should be extended to the world of Gentile sinners, which, in the style of the prophet, is called the wilderness of the people? Or, rather, the meaning may be, that, as the mystic goat was never more looked after, (for probably it would soon perish, if not by hunger, at least by wild beasts,) so Jesus Christ, by his atoning blood, would take away the sin of the world, and remove away all the iniquities of his faithful people, as far as the east is distant from the west. O condemning law, thou hast nothing to lay to their charge, for Christ is dead! Yea, rather he is risen again! therefore it is God that justifieth!

What thanks shall be rendered to that gracious Redeemer, who was manifested to restore to God that glory which he took not away, and to take away that sin of man which he did not introduce? But there are, alas! too many to whom this all-important truth is of small account, (for some deride, and more despise it,) yet to the weary soul, to the conscience burdened with guilt, it is grateful and delicious, as the full flowing stream to the hunted hart. The happy soul, to which the doctrine of the atonement is experimentally known, hears, upon the matter, the voice of the great JEHOVAH speaking to her in such ravishing accents as these: "I have made thine iniquity to pass from thee;" or in the words of Nathan to the penitent king David, "the Lord hath taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die." Who would not be constrained by this love, to put away the evil of their doings from before his eyes who has put away the guilt of them from before his face?

Draw near all ye whose consciences are burdened with the intolerable pressure of a thousand aggravated iniquities, who are ready to cry, "Mine iniquities are gone over my head, they are a burden too heavy for me." Psalms 38:4. While some, with Cain, go from the presence of the Lord, and drown their dismal thoughts in the delights of sense, or else in the whirl of business—while others have no ground of comfort but the general and unatoned mercy of God—while a third sort derive comfort to their troubled hearts from their own imperfect righteousness, their tears of repentance, their sorrow for what is past, and their resolutions to do better for the future; confers your iniquities over the head of the New-Testament scape-goat: for "he, who [thus] confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find mercy." Proverbs 28:13. Thus runs the gracious promise of the Holy One of Israel, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities." Isaiah 53:11. But he, who despises this way of peace, shall bear his own burden, whosoever he be.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Leviticus 16:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/leviticus-16.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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