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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Day of Atonement

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The tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (Sept.—Oct.) on which the high priest entered the inner sanctuary of the Temple to make reconciling sacrifices for the sins of the entire nation (Leviticus 16:16-28 ). The high priest was prohibited from entering this most holy place at any other time on pain of death (Leviticus 16:2 ). Nor was any other priest permitted to perform duties within the Temple proper during the ritual for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:17 ). The days' ritual required the high priest to bathe and be dressed in pure linen garments as a symbol of purity (Leviticus 16:4 ). The ceremony began with the sacrifice of a young bull as a sin offering for the priest and his family (Leviticus 16:3 ,Leviticus 16:3,16:6 ). After burning incense before the mercy seat in the inner sanctuary, the high priest sprinkled the blood from the bull on and in front of the mercy seat ( Leviticus 16:14 ). The priest cast lots over two goats. One was offered as a sin offering. The other was presented alive as a scapegoat (Leviticus 16:5 ,Leviticus 16:5,16:7-10 ,Leviticus 16:7-10,16:20-22 ). The blood of the goat used as the sin offering was sprinkled like that of the bull to make atonement for the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:15 ). The mixed blood of the bull and goat were applied to the horns of the altar to make atonement for it (Leviticus 16:18 ). The high priest confessed all of the people's sins over the head of the live goat which was lead away and then released in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21-22 ). Following the ceremony, the priest again bathed and put on his usual garments (Leviticus 16:23-24 ). The priest then offered a burnt offering for the priest and the people (Leviticus 16:24 ). The bodies of the bull and goat used in the days' ritual were burnt outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27-28 ). The Day of Atonement was a solemn day, requiring the only fast designated by the Mosaic law. All work was also prohibited (Leviticus 16:29 ; Leviticus 23:27-28 ).

The writer of Hebrews developed images from the Day of Atonement to stress the superiority of Christ's priesthood (Hebrews 8:6 ; Hebrews 9:7 ,Hebrews 9:7,9:11-26 ). Hebrews 13:11-12 uses the picture of the bull and goat burned outside the camp as an illustration of Christ's suffering outside Jerusalem's city walls. According to one interpretation Paul alluded to the day's ritual by speaking of Christ as a sin offering ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ). See Atonement .

Chris Church


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Day of Atonement'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/d/day-of-atonement.html. 1991.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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