Category Archives: LEVITICUS 16 The Day of Atonement

The details of the most important day in israel’s calendar, and its fulfilment in Christ.

LEVITICUS 16 The Day of Atonement

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER

Leviticus 16 gives the account of what was done on the Day of Atonement, the sixth of the seven feasts of Jehovah, as listed in Leviticus 23. As we shall see when thinking of verse 24, not everything that happened that day is mentioned in this chapter. Various sacrifices were offered on the altar of burnt offering beforehand. The emphasis in this chapter is the ceremonies that obtained cleansing from sin. So notable and crucial was this day that the Jews called it “The Day”, for everything depended on the outcome of the rituals that day.

Not only was it a notable day, but it was a national day, as we see from the singular form of the word “people” in verse 15. God dwelt among the nation, and they must be nationally fitted for His presence. The only way the benefits of the day were not received by an individual in Israel was by him opting out of those benefits by refusing to afflict his soul, and by carrying on working. In other words, refusing to repent and act in obedient faith. With men now it is different, for the propitiatory work of Christ is for the whole world, even the whole world that lieth in the wicked one, 1 John 2:2, 5:19. Now, men have to opt in, for the work of Christ was not national, but universal. There is provision for all.

The great object of the Day of Atonement was to make propitiation; which is why the mercy-seat was the focal point of the ceremony. When the writer to the Hebrews refers to that mercy-seat, he uses the word which means place of propitiation. For the mercy-seat was not a seat to sit on, but the word seat is used in the same sense as when we speak of London as “the seat of government”; or Windsor Castle as “the seat of the House of Windsor”. The idea is of a settled place. So on the ark of the testimony there was a settled place for mercy to be shown, which mercy was obtained by the blood of propitiation being sprinkled on it once every year.

At this point we need to define the word propitiation. It may be understood like this: “Propitiation is that aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary by which He gave to God the full and final satisfaction with regard to every claim God had against sin, enabling mercy to be shown to the repentant sinner on a just basis”.

WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR PROPITIATION?

1. Because sins offend God.

As God is the Absolute Standard of righteousness and holiness, all deviations from this standard are highly offensive to Him. Such is the intensity of His holiness that the simple mention of it is enough to make the posts of the doors of the temple in heaven move, Isaiah 6:3,4. His reaction to sin and iniquity is to turn from it, for He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look upon iniquity, Habakkuk 1:13. The very presence of sin in the universe is a grief to God.

2. Because as Moral Governor of the universe, He must be seen to deal with sins.

God has enemies, both devilish and human, and He must be clear of any charge which they may level against Him that suggests He has ignored sins, or at least, ignored some sins. Eternity must not be allowed to run its course without this matter being settled. God deals with some sins instantly, but the majority seem to have gone unpunished. Sentence against an evil work has not been executed speedily, Ecclesiastes 8:11, since God is longsuffering, and waits to be gracious. This situation might give rise to the charge of indifference to sins, and so God must act to defend His honour.

3. Because God must have a just basis for continuing to have dealings with sinful men.

One of the main purposes of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement in Israel was that God might continue to dwell amongst them despite their uncleanness, Leviticus 16:16. So also when Christ was down here. It was only because God was not imputing trespasses so as to instantly judge them, but rather was working to reconcile unto Himself, that He was prepared to have dealings with men in the person of His Son. See 2 Corinthians 5:19.

4. Because if men are to be shown mercy, have their sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God, there must be a solid basis upon which these things can happen.

God declares Himself to be a Saviour God- He cannot be fully satisfied solely by judging men . The fact that “God is light” demands that this be done, but “God is love” too, and delights to manifest Himself in grace.

5. Because the cycle of sin must be broken.

In other words, if there is not to be an eternal succession of creations, falls, remedies for fall, and new creations, then there must be that established which is once for all, giving the complete answer to the question of sin. Unless this complete answer is given, the new heavens and new earth will not be safe from disturbance.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF PROPITIATION?

1. The demands of God are fully met.

To satisfy God as the Moral Governor of the universe, an adequate and final answer must be found to the question of sin. The demands of His holiness and righteousness are such that every sin must be responded to. Only Christ is adequate for this situation. He it is who has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, Hebrews 9:26. To put away in that verse means to abolish. As far as God is concerned, and in this context, sin is not. No charge can henceforth be made against God that He has ignored the presence of sin. On the contrary, He has taken account of each and every sin through His Son’s work at Calvary. John wrote, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2. Of course “the sins of” is in italics in that verse. But the words must be supplied because they are implied in the “ours” of the previous statement. If John had written “not for usonly”, then the translation could have continued “but also for the whole world”. Since, however, he uses the possessive pronoun “ours”, which shows he is writing about the sins people possess, then “the sins of” must be inserted. Now the apostle will write later that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19. He sees mankind divided into two clearly defined sections, believers, and the whole world.

John not only clearly distinguishes between believers and the world, but just as clearly states that Christ is the propitiatory offering for both classes. That Christ became the propitiation for the whole world does not mean that the whole world will be saved, since propitiation is only made good to a person when he believes. It does mean, however, that no charge may be levelled against God for not making provision for men. Gospel-blessing may be genuinely offered to all men, for there is abundant provision for all.

2. God’s dealings are vindicated.

In Old Testament times God blessed men by reckoning them righteous when they believed in Him. Romans 3:24,25 indicates that the propitiatory work of Christ vindicates God for so acting. In can be seen now that God was blessing anticipatively, crediting believers with the results of Christ’s work before they had been achieved. He also remitted, or passed over, their sins in forbearance, holding back from judging those sins in virtue of what His Son would do at Calvary.

3. God’s glory is fully displayed.

There is no attribute of God which has not been fully expressed at Calvary. This is why the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, Romans 5:11. Atonement in this verse means reconciliation, one of the effects of propitiation. By His sacrificial work at Calvary Christ has brought the character of God out into full and glorious display. Those who are brought by faith into the good of that work are enabled to behold that display, and rejoice in it. Would we know Divine holiness, or righteousness, or love, or wrath, or any other aspect of the Person of God? Then we must look to the cross for the sight of it. We shall not be disappointed.

4. God’s mercy is available.

The repentant sinner who called upon God to be merciful to him, is the first person in the New Testament to use the word propitious- “God be merciful to me on the basis of propitiation”. He went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13,14. Under the terms of the New Covenant, God promises that “I will be merciful (propitious) to their unrighteousness, Hebrews 8:12. The mercy-seat was the same width and breadth as the ark, telling us that the ark (the person of Christ) and the mercy-seat, (the work of Christ), were perfectly matched. But we are not told the thickness of the gold of the mercy-seat, for there is an infinite supply of mercy for those who believe, enough to keep them secure for all eternity.

5. God’s forgiveness is assured.

In Hebrews 10:5-8 we have the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist telling of His work of sacrifice. Then we have the Spirit’s testimony telling us of the results of that work, Hebrews 10:15-17. God promises emphatically that He will not remember the sins and iniquities of His people any more, since He brought those sins into remembrance at Calvary, and Christ dealt with them effectively there. “No more” means in no way, nor at any time. Note that God pledges to positively not remember, not negatively to forget. We may forget, and then remember again, whereas God promises never to remember for ever.

6. God’s people are preserved.

The Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene after He was risen, and instructed her to tell the brethren that He was about to “ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God”, John 20:17. Thus He would still be the link between His people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.

The basis of His advocacy is two-fold. His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2. The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning. The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers. But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work. He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins. Not was, but is. In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.

He is also our High priest. The language of Hebrews 2:17,18 is as follows, “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted”. These verses form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness. Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18. Too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost. The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted. When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause. Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help. The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”. He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.

But what if we fall, and sin? In that case He comes to our aid in another way. We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20. The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary. But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this. Moses said, “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17. One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God. As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17. We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people. He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation. This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.

7. God’s purpose for the earth is furthered.

When Adam the head of the first creation fell, all creation had to be subjected to vanity, or else a fallen man would have been head over an unfallen creation. Now that He has obtained rights over the earth by His death, the Lord Jesus is able to bring in new conditions for God. He can now righteously deliver the present creation from the bondage of corruption into which the fall of man brought it, Romans 8:19-23. Colossians 1:20 assures us that on the basis of the blood of His cross, all things, whether in earth or in heaven, can be reconciled to God, for that alienation between God and His creation which took place at the Fall, can be remedied. Notice it is things, not people, that are spoken of in that verse as being reconciled.

8. God’s intention to create a new heavens and new earth can be realised.

Unless the sin which has marred the first creation is dealt with, God cannot righteously introduce an eternal earth and heavens, for it would not have been evident that He was able to deal with the fall of the first creation. Having dealt with it through Christ, He is able to bring in new things that will never be spoiled. Daniel was told that Messiah the Prince would bring in “everlasting righteousness”, Daniel 9:24, and this He will do, on the basis of His death. It only remains for God to announce “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5, and a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, shall be established, 2 Peter 3:13. At last there will be a settled and congenial place for righteous to dwell in, after all the turmoil brought in by Adam’s sin. At last those profound words spoken by John the Baptist will be fully brought to pass, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Verses 1-2 The reason why entry to the Holiest of All was limited.  
Verses 3-10 A summary of the events of the day.  
Verses 11-14 The sprinkling of the blood of a sin offering for Aaron and his house.  
Verses 15-17 The sprinkling of the blood of the sin offering for Israel.  
Verses 18-19 The sprinkling of the blood on the altar of incense.  
Verses 20-22 The sending away of the scapegoat with its burden of sins.  
Verses 23-25 The burnt offerings and the fat of the sin offering.  
Verse 26 The return of the fit man.  
Verses 27-28 The burning of the sin offerings.  
Verses 29-34 Instructions to the Israelites.

Before we think of the detail of the chapter, we ought to notice certain cautionary lessons to bear in mind about it.

1. The Lord Jesus was not a priest on earth. Hebrews 7:28 makes that very clear, for the word of the oath that constituted Christ as High Priest is expressly said to be “since the law”. This latter phrase means, not that the oath was since the law was given, but since the law-age came to an end. And since the law-age came to an end at Calvary, then the oath must be after this. In fact, Hebrews 5:6 and 10 uses Psalm 110, an ascension psalm, to show that that is when God saluted Christ as High Priest. So we shall be making a mistake if we try to see in Aaron’s activities on the Day of Atonement a prefiguring of Christ’s priestly activities.

2. The foregoing will prevent us making another mistake, namely seeing a chronological sequence in the fulfilment of the day of atonement ceremonies. We are shown in Hebrews 13:11,12 that just as a man took the carcases of the beasts used as sacrifices outside the camp and burnt them, so Christ went outside the camp, too. But He went outside the camp to go to the cross, whereas the carcases were burnt on the day of atonement at the end of the day, after the other parts of the ceremony had taken place.

3. We should bear in mind that what happened at the altar, at the mercy-seat, at the altar of incense, outside the camp, and out in the distant wilderness, all tell us things about what happened at Calvary.

4. We should also bear in mind that Aaron, the mercy-seat, the five offerings of the ceremony, the fit man, and the other man who burnt the carcases, all have something to contribute to an understanding of what the Lord Jesus did at the cross.

5. The Old Testament teaches mainly by way of contrast, so we need to be aware of that as we go through the passage.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 16, VERSES 1 TO 10

16:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died;

16:2 And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

16:3 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.

16:4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.

16:5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

16:6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

16:7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Verses 1-2 The reason why entry to the Holiest of All was limited.

16:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died;

And the Lord spake unto Moses- we immediately notice that the Mediator of the Law is in control of events, for it is the preservation of the covenant people that is in view in the chapter.

After the death of the two sons of Aaron- the consecration of the priesthood is detailed in 60 verses of Scripture, in Leviticus 8 and 9, yet by verse 2 of chapter 10 two of them are dead. We are reminded of the words of Hebrews 7:28, “the law maketh men high priests that have infirmity”.

When they offered before the Lord, and died- so this is not because they have died by natural causes. Fire has come out from the Lord and devoured them, 10:2, for they transgressed the first day they were in office, and offered strange fire before the Lord, “which He commanded them not”. How important it is to approach God with reverence and godly fear: for “our God is a consuming fire”, Hebrews 12:28,29. Not the fear of sinners afraid of God’s wrath, but saints, fearing to enter His presence in a light or faulty way.

Not only did Nadab and Abihu sin on that fateful day, but the other two sons of Aaron also failed in that they burnt the goat of the sin-offering, instead of eating it, Leviticus 10:16,17. The purpose of them eating it was “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”. So atonement was made when the priests ate the sin offering. This having broken down, the people are vulnerable, for the priests have shown that they cannot be relied on to bear the iniquity of the congregation. So it is that the day of atonement became an annual necessity.

16:2 And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother-this reminds us of the incident when Aaron and Moses embraced at Horeb, Exodus 4:27, illustrating the fact that the mediator of the law, Moses, and Aaron the High Priest, were united together in the service of God. No one person could combine the two offices except Christ. Note that Aaron is said to officiate as Moses’ brother, and as a priest, not as high priest, for not until the end of the day’s work will he put on his garments for glory and beauty, his high-priestly garb. He will be robed in simple and plain garments, for he is a sinner too.

That he come not at all times- ideally, the priesthood would have been allowed unlimited access to the presence of God. The sin of Nadab and Abihu showed that was not suitable. How different it is for the Christian priest, who has unlimited access to God.

Into the holy place within the veil- this was called the Holiest of All, or the Most Holy Place. The holy place without or outside the veil was simply called the Holy Place, see Exodus 26:33. There are no degrees of holiness in the heavenly sanctuary, for there is no dividing veil there. This holy place was where fire had come out to devour Nadab and Abihu, hence the need for care when seeking to enter. There is a plan of the tabernacle at the end of these notes.

Before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark- the veil is said to be before the mercy-seat, not just as to its position, but to draw attention to the fact that it is a protecting curtain, shielding the priests as they moved in the Holy Place. Aaron is going beyond that shield, so must come according to Divine commandment and prescription. The word for mercy-seat is kapporeth, which has the idea of covering. It is first used in Genesis 6:14, where Noah pitched (kaphar) the ark within and without with pitch, thus ensuring that the waters of the flood did not penetrate into the ark.

The word used of the mercy-seat in Hebrews 9:5 is hilasmos, the place of propitiation. So we are not to think that atonement in the Old Testament was a temporary thing, just covering over the sins for the time being until Christ’s work dealt with them effectively.

The mercy-seat was upon the ark, and fitted the ark exactly. There was no indication of the depth of the solid-gold mercy-seat however. After all, who can measure the mercy of God? The ark is a vessel that has much to tell us about Christ as to His person as the Son of God; the mercy-seat has much to tell us about His work. The writer to the Hebrews implied that it was possible to speak “particularly” or in detail about the ark, although it was not appropriate to do it at the time of writing, Hebrews 9:5.

That he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat- Aaron’s two eldest sons had died because they entered into God’s presence in a manner that He had not prescribed, the incense they brought being strange incense, and it did not shield them. Only the graces of Christ as illustrated by the sweet incense in the tabernacle can give us peace in presence of God. There were two clouds in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement; the cloud of glory, otherwise known as the Shekinah, and the cloud of incense shielding Aaron from the sight of that glory. No man can see God and live, but Christians behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6. The glory they see there is the moral glory of one who is the Only Begotten with the Father, John 1:14.

Verses 3-10 A summary of the events of the day.

16:3 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.

Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place- by this expression is meant the Holy Place where the mercy-seat was. The word “thus” means “with this”. Aaron did not actually bring the animal itself in, but the blood of the animal, that was brought in, is the soul of animal, for the life of the flesh is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11. The Lord Jesus, however, entered into the presence of God with His work fully completed. He did not enter with His blood, but by His blood, as Hebrews 9:12 makes clear.

With a young bullock for a sin offering- the bullock is to be in the full vigour of its life. Sin must be actively and forcefully dealt with, and the sin offering blood was the prescribed way. How glad we are to know that Christ vigorously dealt with sin at Calvary in all the energy of His Deity and pure manhood combined. This bullock is for Aaron and his remaining sons, emphasising that he was not sinless, even though high priest in Israel. As Hebrews 7:27 makes very clear, the Lord Jesus did not need a sin offering for Himself, being altogether free from sin.

And a ram for a burnt offering- both a sin offering and a burnt offering are needed on the day of atonement, for there needs to be something for the heart of God as well as the mind of God. The mind of God was set against sin, and the heart of God longed for that which would speak to Him of His Son. Both the fat of the bullock and the carcase of the ram burn on the altar at the same time at the end of day of atonement.

16:4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.

He shall put on the holy linen coat- garments speak of character, and here we see Aaron needing to put on garments to fit him for the presence of God. His character is such that he is not fit as he is. He has to be made ceremonially fit for a task that he is not personally fit for. Christ needs no special garments, for He is ever acceptable in the presence of His Father. He could say to His Father, “I know that Thou hearest Me always”, John 11:42. He was confident of this, for He knew the mind of His Father perfectly. The coat is expressly said to be holy, and being made of linen, (which speaks of practical righteousness, Revelation 19:8), presents to us a picture of the character of one who combined righteousness and holiness perfectly in His person.

And he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh- Adam and his wife realised they were naked after they had sinned, and so were ashamed, Genesis 3:7. They had not been ashamed before, Genesis 2:25. Sin always brings shame, especially when God makes His presence known. Adam, of course, had to learn that the fig-leaf aprons of his own devising did not prevent him being afraid when God called to him. Only the garments made as a result of sacrifice could fit him for God’s presence, Genesis 3:21. Christ, however, is always fit for His Father’s presence, for He is the Only Begotten in the bosom of the Father, John 1:18. What He means to God because of His spotless character fits Him to act for men.

And shall be girded with a linen girdle- the girdle speaks of willingness to serve. The long and flowing Eastern robes must be tied in if activity is not to be impaired. So in the upper room the Lord Jesus girded Himself with a towel, and thus signified His readiness to serve His own. So here, for Aaron is not only to be active on his own account, but also on account of his family and his nation. He has solemn tasks ahead of him, and he must prepare himself to serve. Notice that he does not wear his normal girdle, which was embroidered with coloured threads in the same way as the ephod, Exodus 28;8. He is coming, not in garments of glory and beauty, but in simple and plain garments as befits one who is dealing with sin. This girdle tells of Christ’s ministry at Calvary, whereas the embroidered girdle tells of His ministry in heaven consequent upon His work at Calvary, for He is the minister of the sanctuary, Hebrews 8:2. When He took the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men, He took servant-hood for ever, for it is part of God’s original intention for man that he should serve God. The service of Christ takes various forms, but His ministry at Calvary when He performed the highest service of all, even the giving of His life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45, is signified by the linen girdle of Aaron.

And with the linen mitre shall he be attired- head-coverings in Scripture speak of subjection and submission to another. As the representative of Israel, it was appropriate for Aaron to have his head covered as a sign of the nation’s submission to God. Now that Christ has come, an extra tier of submission has been introduced, as 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 explains. Now the man is to be uncovered, because Christ has come to bring in a situation where the man is enabled to be the image of God, (as Adam ought to have been, but failed), and the sister takes the honourable place of signifying the submission of believers to God by covering her head, and thus is the glory of the man, who, in the administrative dealings of God, is to represent and glorify God on behalf of himself and the sisters, as Christ did when He was here. The sisters have their part to play in this by covering their heads in submission to the man, and thus emphasising their assent to Divine order.

But in pre-Christ times it was different, hence the head-covering of Aaron. We are reminded, nonetheless, that the Lord Jesus, as He came into servant-hood, accepted the headship of God, as 1 Corinthians 11:3 plainly declares in the words, “the head of Christ is God”. So it is that in the upper room He said to His own, “That the world may know I love the Father, and as I have received commandment even so I do, arise, let us go hence”, John 14:31. Just a few hours before the cross, then, He signified His submission to His Father by obeying His commandment. The commandment in question being to lay down His life of Himself, as we read in John 10:8.

These are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on- as far as Aaron was concerned, the garments were holier than he was, so he has to be ceremonially washed to signify the removal of public sin before he was fit to put them on, let alone to enter the presence of God. He had sinned in the matter of his sons and their failure, and he must ceremonially and publicly renounce those sins before he can officiate for the nation again as their priest. (Compare what Saul did when he washed away his sins by being baptised, Acts 22:16. He had sinned publicly by persecuting believers, and now he must just as publicly renounce those sins in the waters of baptism).

The garments are not holy in any literal sense, but by the holiness of association with holy ceremonies. The Sabbath day is an ordinary day in physical terms, but for Israel it has holy associations, and therefore is a holy day. The mount where the Lord Jesus was transfigured was an ordinary mountain the day before, and the day after, but when the transfiguration was taking place it became a holy mount, as Peter, (who was present) describes it, 2 Peter 1:18.

It does not seem to be the case that the Lord Jesus was ever said to be washed in the gospel records. Certainly the woman of Luke 7 is said to wash His feet, but the idea is of raining copious tears upon Him. Simon had not given Him the courtesy of the usual Eastern welcome, where the host would wash the feet of his guests. What he had omitted, the woman supplied, but in a far more meaningful way. The counterpart of this in the Old Testament is the fact that when the carrying of the vessels of the tabernacle through the wilderness is detailed in Numbers 5, there is no specific mention of the laver. Thus we are presented with the idea of one who travelled through this defiled scene without in any wise contracting defilement. He is, indeed, the “undefiled in the way”, who is “blessed”, Psalm 119:1.

16:5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

In verse 3 we are told what animals Aaron brought for himself and his house, and now, after the mention of his garments, we are told what he took from the children of Israel by way of offerings. He has to be marked out as their representative by distinctive clothing, before he can take, as one with authority, the offerings from them. As a person, Aaron had forfeited the right to assert his authority, for he had sinned in connection with the day of consecration by not seeing that the ceremony was performed correctly, see chapter 10. Now he is washed and clothed, and he can begin to act for others again.

And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel-note that all the parties concerned had to provide their own offerings, for they were under law, which, being a covenant conditional upon their obedience, put the onus upon them. Under grace, however, God freely gives to us, and He has provided the offering in the person of His Son. This is one reason why He is called the Lamb of God, for He is God’s choice and provision.

Two kids of the goats for a sin offering- the two animals make one offering, but one dies, and its blood is sprinkled before God, and the other lives on, but bears the sins of the people away into a place from which it cannot return. The one knows what it is to die, the other knows what it is to bear sin. In this way we are presented with a double type, for both animals represent Christ. The goat that dies is Him as one who died on Calvary’s tree; the other is Him as one who “bare our sins in His own body on the tree”. One provides the blood for the eye of God, the other provides the body bearing sin for the eye of men, as they see it disappear into the wilderness. The one makes propitiation by its death, the other endures isolation whilst it is alive. The Lord Jesus poured out His soul unto death, Isaiah 53:12, and also endured the wrath of God in the three hours of darkness on the cross.

And one ram for a burnt offering- both Aaron and the people are required to supply a burnt offering. This safeguards the person of Christ, for we must not think that when He is dealing with sin, and forsaken because of it, He is any less delightful to His Father. The burnt offering emphasises acceptance with God, and He was always the darling of His Father’s bosom. So the sin offerings are for the demands of God against sin, whereas the burnt offerings are for the delight of God as they remind Him of what lengths His Son will go to so that sin can be dealt with finally. We see these two aspects in the words of John the Baptist, himself the son of a Levitical priest. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, John 1:29, is the sin offering side, and Behold the Lamb of God, verse 36, with no mention of sin, the burnt offering side. The Lamb of God bearing sin alone, and the Lamb of God as the one who is not alone, for His own follow Him.

16:6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

This verse is a summary of what takes place as detailed in verses 11-14. At least two things come out in the verse, however. First, that Aaron is a sinner, like the rest of the people. Hebrews 7:27 brings out the contrast with Christ, for “He needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s”. Second, that the offerings for Aaron and his house were distinct from the offerings for the nation. This highlights the fact that the nation had forfeited its rights to be a kingdom of priests, as was intended under the covenant of the law, Exodus 19:6. There is no such distinction with Christians, for all are priests to God, as 1 Peter 2:9 makes very clear.

16:7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Verses 7-10 are a summary of what is described more fully in verses 15-19, but certain truths are presented to us here which are not found again. First, the two goats stand together at the door of the tabernacle, thus reminding us that what each will do will have relevance to the presence of God. One goat will provide blood which will be taken into God’s presence. The other goat will take sins away from God’s presence, for the tabernacle remained among them in the midst of their uncleanness only because sins were dealt with in God’s prescribed way, verse 16. Second,Aaron presents both goats, or as it may be rendered, “made them stand”. They are not willing victims, for they have to be made to stand, but they do provide us with a contrast, for the Lord Jesus was not forced to undertake the work of atonement, but willingly volunteered. This is set out in Hebrews 10:7, where He is heard to say, “Lo I come…to do Thy will O God”. We see it also when we read that He “offered Himself without spot to God”, Hebrews 9:14, which means He made Himself available as the sacrifice.

16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

The casting of lots was a way of determining the will of God in Old Testament times, and also up to the Day of Pentecost. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord”, Proverbs 16:33. Now the will of God is found by the believer reading the Word of God and seeking to understand it by the indwelling Spirit. The decision derived from the casting of lots, however, was simply so that men might know what was in the mind of God. Behind and beyond that was the determination of God. So it is that the apostle Peter charges the nation of Israel with the taking, crucifying, and slaying, of Jesus of Nazareth. But to ensure they realised that they were not in control of that event, he makes it clear that He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The hands that took Him were wicked hands, yet they did God’s will unwittingly. So Calvary was not a mistake, or a model, (as if Christ were just showing people how to die well), or even only martyrdom, but the means whereby the determining will of God was to be put into effect. So it is that He was the lamb “foreordained before the foundation of the world”, 1 Peter 1:20. Peter also speaks of the sufferings of the Christ, and the glory that should follow”, 1 Peter 1:11. By sufferings of Christ he means, not simply sufferings that we now know belong to Christ, but rather, sufferings that pertained to Him, as part of what being the Messiah entailed. We are glad to know that glories pertain to Him also. He Himself told His own of this on the Emmaus Road when He said “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”, Luke 24:26. The “ought” indicating that He owed it to God to suffer, just as He owed it to God to be glorified, so that God can be further glorified in Him, John 17:1.

16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell-in the case of these two animals, the one that is marked out as the Lord’s is to die, and the other goat is the scapegoat by default. In the case of Christ, however, He is marked out for both of the things these goats do; He is to die, and to bear sin, and He does not do the latter by default, but by God’s foreordination. The mention of the Lord’s lot falling on one animal does serve to distinguish what the two goats effect, for one’s blood propitiates God, the other carries the nation’s guilt away, so in a sense the people have a special interest in the scapegoat, but always remembering that it would not be an effective sin offering on its own.

And offer him for a sin offering- this may be rendered “make him sin”, and has obvious links with 2 Corinthians 5:21, where we read that God “hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”. Whatever God’s reaction to sin is, will be His reaction to this goat. So with Christ, and hence His suffering in the hours of darkness as He is forsaken of His God.

This also highlights the fact that to offer is not the same as to burn on the altar. The wise men presented gifts to the infant Jesus, and the word for present is the equivalent to the word “offer” here. They simply brought their gifts near, and made sure it was known that they were giving them up in favour of Him. So with the believers in Rome, who were exhorted to offer their bodies a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1. The idea is of worshipful surrender. In the case of the people of Israel, a goat as their offered substitute was brought near on their behalf, for they, by their sin, had forfeited their right to approach God for themselves.

16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

This is a summary of what is described in verses 20-22.

But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him- it might be asked that since atonement is by blood, as Leviticus 17:11 definitely says, how is a live goat able to make atonement? Some try to solve this matter by saying it should be “make atonement for him”. Two problems then arise, one when the matter is viewed typically, and one when it is viewed literally. The first problem is that to say “make atonement for him” seems to make Christ in need of atonement, which is clearly not true. The second problem is that animals do not sin, so do not need atonement, at least in that sense. The fact is that the two goats constitute one sin offering, as verse 5 expressly says, and so we learn that atonement is as much by Christ’s forsakenness as it is by His blood. The two aspects of what happened on the cross must not be separated. They should be distinguished and individually appreciated, indeed, but not severed, for our sins have caused us to be separate from God, and only Christ being abandoned by God can deal with that. Our persons deserve death, and only the death of one who subsequently rose again can we be brought into the good of His atoning work on the cross.

And to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness- the goat is not let go in the sense of left to roam free. It is led out into a place from which it cannot return, as verses 21 and 22 will tell us. The goat is condemned to banishment, as a fit illustration of what happens to sinners when they continue in their sin. It also illustrates what happened at Calvary, as we shall see.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 16, VERSES 11 TO 17

16:11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

16:12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil:

16:13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

16:14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

16:15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:

16:16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

16:17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

Verses 11-14 The sprinkling of the blood of a sin offering for Aaron and his house.

16:11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house- we now come to the detail of what is summarised for us in verse 6. Notice that Aaron is said to make atonement, and then kills the bullock, so we learn that the expression “make atonement” is a summary of what follows, so is mentioned before the killing of the animal. We are presented with the contrast to this in Hebrews 7:27, which tells us that Christ “needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself”. So every day of atonement, Aaron needed to deal with his own sins by means of a sacrifice external to himself, and then do the same for the people’s sins. Christ, by contrast, does not need to have a sin offering, for He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”, as the previous verse says. Nor does He need a sacrifice external to Himself when He is dealing with the sins of others, but presents Himself as the all-sufficient sacrifice. The point of the passage is to show that the Lord Jesus has the moral authority to save to the uttermost. If He has a “day by day” need, as Aaron had, to deal with personal sins, then He is clearly not fitted to serve as High Priest for ever, for there must, in that case, be a principle of corruption within Him. But it is gloriously otherwise, and He may continue without interruption His ministry on our behalf. The day of atonement highlighted the fact that “the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity”, Hebrews 7:28, whereas the word of God’s oath has made the Lord Jesus high priest, and He is consecrated for evermore, with no interruption or failure for ever. He entered into His priestly ministry on the basis of the fact, first of all, that He is sinless, and secondly, that He has personally dealt with the sins of men. Aaron could not claim either of those things.

And shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself- the prescribed ritual for the priest when he offered for himself, was that he should lay his hand upon the head of his sin offering, and then kill it before the Lord, Leviticus 4:4. This meant that he was now identified with his offering, and God reckoned the man’s sin to have been transferred to his offering. Whatever should have happened to the man because of his sin, is about to happen to his substitute-offering. Did he deserve to be judged for his sins? Then the animal will burn in the fire. Did he deserve to die because his sins demonstrated he had a sinful nature, (for the wages of sin is death)? Then the animal will die for him. Does God demand the evidence that the sinner has found a suitable substitute? Then the animal’s blood is sprinkled before Him to give that evidence. And this is what happens on the day of atonement.

It was the offerer who was to kill his sin offering. We shall look in vain for a knife in the list of equipment that was used in connection with the brazen altar. The conclusion we must draw, therefore, is that the sinner himself must bring a knife, and must personally kill his offering with it. Thus there is forcibly brought to his notice the wickedness of his sins, as he sees his substitute die instead of him. It is true that Israel are charged with killing the Prince of Life, Acts 3:15, but this did not make their act sacrificial. They had no interest in having Christ as their sin offering. The fact is that He laid down His life of Himself, and no man took it from Him, John 10:18. His was the initiative all the time, for He was acting, not according to the will of men, but in obedience to His Father’s commandment.

16:12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil:

And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord- this is the first entrance of Aaron into the Holiest of All on this important day. He will come in twice more, thus cautioning us against thinking that this entrance corresponds to the entrance of Christ into the heavenly sanctuary. Nadab and Abihu had come with incense, but when they put it upon the fire they brought, then strange fire resulted. So the burning of the incense revealed the strangeness of the fire. They clearly had not obtained the fire from the altar, which fire had come down from God the previous day, Leviticus 9:24. Since the fire was not from God, it is no surprise to find that the incense finds it out as being strange, even that which is not suitable for God’s presence. There are many who claim to draw near to God as Christians, but even if they appear to think and speak well of Christ, (the incense), if they have not been to the altar first, (that is, are not in the good of Christ’s sacrifice), they run the risk of committing the same sin as the two sons of Aaron.

It is noticeable that fire that came out from the presence of God to consume the sacrifices on the altar, Leviticus 9:24, and fire came out from God to consume Nadab and Abihu, 10:2. The one spoke of God’s approval of what the priests had done around the altar, the other spoke of His disapproval, for they had misused the fire.

It must have been with trembling hands that Aaron went to the altar and took the fire to put in his censer. How could he do this without thinking of what had happened to his sons? How the words of verse 2 must have sobered him, “that he die not”. If he fails, he will die, and with him, the nation will be destroyed. And somewhere out in that camp is “Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah”, 1 Chronicles 2:10, and he is in the line of the Messiah, Matthew 1:4.

By burning coals we are to understand charcoal, the incinerated remains of the wood that has been used to consume the sacrifices that have already been offered that day, Numbers 29:7-11. These are authentic coals, closely associated with the accepted sacrifices. The fire is held in a censer, which Hebrews 9:4 tells us is a golden one. Think how precious the coals are if they are to be carried in a censer of gold. Gold speaks of glory, and there is a glory about the fire that has been associated with the burnt offerings put upon the altar, for they provide the link between the sacrifices of a sweet savour on the altar, (telling of the acceptableness of Christ to His Father even in death), and the incense, (speaking of the acceptableness of Christ in His life).

And his hands full of sweet incense beaten small- no doubt the censer swung upon the arm of Aaron as he approached the Holy of Holies, for his hands were full of incense. The incense was very precious to God, and He forbad anyone to make anything like it, Exodus 30:37,38, for there is no-one who can come near to Christ in His graces and virtues. The incense was a symbol of prayer, as we may learn from Luke 1:9,10. Prayer is the expression of dependence, and Christ was the supremely dependant man, in stark contrast to Nadab and Abihu who manifested a spirit of independence and rebellion.

The incense is beaten small, telling of the life-sufferings of Christ which, instead of causing bitterness as is often the case with other men, only brought out the sweetness further, for the smaller the particles of incense were, the more surface area there would be for exposure to the fire of the coals.

And bring it within the veil- the Lord Jesus approached Calvary in the consciousness that He was totally acceptable to His Father. Aaron has no such confidence however, for he could not look upon the glory of God and live; he must be shielded from the glory by a cloud of incense. His hands are full of what speaks to God of His Son in His life, and his censer is full of that which speaks to God of His Son in His death, and that being the case, he can stand in the presence of God in the worth of another.

16:13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord- the incense is not in contact with the coals until Aaron has reached the Holy of Holies. All the fragrance is therefore reserved for God, who alone can appreciate fully that of which it speaks.

That the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony- Aaron is shielded by the incense cloud, for there is another cloud in the Holy of Holies, and that is the glory-cloud, for God dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy-seat, 2 Samuel 6:2. Aaron is not fit to see the glory, but he makes a cloud of incense which speaks to God of His Son, who is ever suited to the presence of God.

That he die not- as his sons did. This is why those waiting at the gate of the court were so relieved to see Aaron come out from the sanctuary, for it meant he had not died, and his work was accepted. We see an illustration of this in Luke 1:21, where the people were waiting for Zecharias to emerge from having burnt incense.

16:14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

And he shall take of the blood of the bullock- clearly Aaron has emerged out of the sanctuary and moved to the altar, and taken some of the blood of the bullock that he slew previously, no doubt carrying it in a bason, and now enters the Holiest of All again, where the cloud of incense still lingers to shield him from the glory. (The golden censer is linked with the Holiest of All in Hebrews 9:3,4, so possibly the censer was left there to produce incense even when Aaron was outside at the altar). The life or soul of the bullock is in its blood, and so the sin offering, represented by its blood, is now presented in the very presence of God. Hebrews 9:7 calls this the offering of blood, even though the word offering is normally used in relation to an animal in its entirety.

And sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward-note the emphasis on the quality of the blood, for it is only as much as can be held on a single finger. We remember the language of Peter, “the precious blood of Christ”, 1 Peter 1:19. Who can evaluate the preciousness of the soul of Christ to His Father? But it is because of that value that those who believe are forgiven. And it is because of that value that His death suffices to make propitiation.

There are those who believe that this means Aaron stood facing eastward as he sprinkled the blood. If this were the case, however, would the phrase not read “sprinkle it eastward”, rather than “the mercy-seat eastward”? The latter phrase makes the word eastward refer to the mercy-seat rather than the sprinkling. Man was driven out from the east of Eden, and now if, in repentance, he retraces his steps and turns to God, he finds that the blood is there for his forgiveness.

The blood is sprinkled on the top of the mercy-seat, but on the eastward part of it, (the part most accessible to Aaron), so is directly under the eye of God who dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy-seat. This shows that a suitable sin-offering has been killed, and its life has been forfeited in favour of Aaron and his house.

And before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times- now Aaron sprinkles the blood before the mercy-seat, which expression literally means “at the front of the mercy-seat”. The mercy-seat was a thick piece of gold, thick enough to support the over-arching golden cherubim, but how deep we are not told, for who can put a limit on God’s mercy? So it was on the edge of this slab of gold that Aaron sprinkled the blood seven times. So now the blood is facing God, and is facing man; both can see, and rejoice in propitiation made. To dispel any fears, the blood for the eye of man is sprinkled seven times. The Hebrew word for seven means “to be full, to be satisfied, to be complete”. Thus Aaron is assured that as far as he and his house are concerned, there has been given a full, satisfactory and complete answer to the demands of God against their sins. He may impart that joyful news to his household on his return to them at the end of the day. Indeed, they know this as soon as he emerges out of the sanctuary to continue with the next stage of the proceedings.

Verses 15-17 The sprinkling of the blood of the sin offering for Israel.

16:15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:

Having returned to the altar, (thus indicating that the Lord Jesus did not fulfil the ceremonies of the day in a chronological order, or else He must have gone to Calvary more than once), he kills the goat for the people and sprinkles its blood as he did the blood of the bullock. The ceremony is identical, for the priest and the people are all sinners, but the priest needs the larger offering, since his responsibility is greater. Aaron is able to kill the goat as the representative of the people, now that his own sins have been atoned for. This is why the bullock and the goat are not killed, and their blood sprinkled, at the same time, for Aaron must be cleansed first before he can act for the people.

16:16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

And he shall make an atonement for the holy place- atonement is a result of propitiation, and can apply to things as well as sins, for they can be defiled by contact with sinners. In a day to come, God has promised to be “merciful to His land, and to His people”, Deuteronomy 32:43, the word merciful being based on the word for propitiation. And in Colossians 1:20 we learn that Christ is going to “reconcile all things to Himself”. So the work of Calvary secures the restoration of the land of Israel, and indeed the whole of creation, from the defilement of man’s sin. In particular, its sin of crucifying God’s Son. Here, the holy place means the Holiest of All, (see verse 17), and so that place is now brought into right relationship with God, no doubt needing this because Moses was permitted to enter there as Mediator of the Covenant of the Law.

Because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins- God dwelt amongst an unclean people, and He must secure His honour in the light of that. See on verse 21 for transgressions and sins.

And so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation-strictly speaking, the tabernacle of the congregation was the covering of goat’s hair that was over the inner curtain of fine twined linen, the latter being the tent, or dwelling place of God, see Exodus 26:1 (tabernacle = mishcan, dwellingplace), and verse 7 (covering upon the tabernacle = the tent upon the mishcan). The second covering represents the tabernacle as the place the people have an interest in. Reference to Exodus 40:21 and 22-26 will show that the ark was put in the tabernacle, whereas the three items of furniture in the Holy Place are said to be in the tent of the congregation, even though the inner curtain and the next curtain both spanned both places. It was a question of what each related to. The tabernacle proper related to God, the tent of the congregation related to the people. So this particular phase relates to what happens next, when the altar is atoned for, whereas the first part of this verse has to do with what has already taken place in connection with the mercy-seat.

That remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness- God continued to dwell in the midst of the camp of Israel despite their many defiling sins. The heathen looking on at that situation might suggest that the God of Israel ignored sins, or at best, compromised with them. They would ridicule a God who gave a law condemning sin, but who also allowed that sin. To remove any such charge, God preserves His honour by demanding that atonement be made.

A parallel situation prevailed when Christ was on earth, for “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”, John 1:14. If He is God, how can He do this without compromise? The answer is found lower down in the passage, where John the Baptist is heard to exclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, verse 29. Because Calvary was in prospect, neither the honour of God or His Son was compromised.

16:17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

Only Aaron was authorised to act in the matter of making atonement on this national day. We are reminded of the words of Hebrews 1:2,3, “His Son…when He had by Himself purged our sins”. Only He could go to Calvary and so purge sins that the Majesty of God was satisfied therewith. The expression “by Himself” not only means that He acted alone, but also that the glory is His alone. Although we know that the Father is glorified also. There would be a contradiction there, were it not for the fact that the Father and the Son are one, John 10:30. The Son asked to be glorified, so that He could glorify the Father, John 17:1.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 16, VERSES 18 TO 34

16:18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; 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.

16:19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

16:20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:

16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:

16:22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

16:23 And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there:

16:24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.

16:25 And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar.

16:26 And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.

16:27 And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.

16:28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.

16:29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:

16:30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

16:31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

16:32 And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:

16:33 And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

16:34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Verses 18-19 The sprinkling of the blood on the altar of incense.

16:18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; 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 go out unto the altar that is before the Lord- there might seem to be a difficulty here. Is this a reference to the altar in the court outside, or to the altar of incense in the Holy Place? The words of Leviticus 4:18 seem conclusive, however. It is written there: “And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation”. So there is a clear distinction made in that verse between the two altars, and it is the altar of incense that is called the altar before the Lord. This is confirmed to us by Exodus 30:10, referring to the altar of incense, where we read that “Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord”. The reference to atonements in the plural would possibly refer to the atonement for the priests and the atonement for the people, and also atonement for sanctuary, holy place and altar, made separately by the blood of different animals.

And make an atonement for it- the special attention given to the altar of incense would reflect the fact that Nadab and Abihu had used it in the rebellion against God. It must be purified from association with that rebellion.

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- in Scripture, horns speak of power, and we are reminded that as a result of His work at Calvary, the Lord Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him”, Hebrews 7:25. The word “able” being the Greek word “dunamis”, from which we get the English word dynamite. The power of the intercession of the Lord Jesus is such that He can save to the uttermost. The blood on the mercy-seat would tell us that “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end”, where the word for end is the same as the word for uttermost. He loves and saves to the same extent and with the same energy. Peter was at an extremity when he cried “Lord, save me”, and the Lord “stretched out His hand and caught him”, Matthew 14:30.

It seems that the blood of the bullock and the goat are mingled together on the finger of Aaron, for he takes “of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat”, but sprinkles “it” upon the altar. So the prayers of the nation and of the priests are safeguarded by the application of blood together. There is not a separate sprinkling of each as there was on the mercy-seat.

16:19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times- again the quality of the blood is emphasised, and also the completeness of the work, with the mention of the word seven again.

And cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel- we are not told that Nadab and Abihu actually used the altar of incense, but they certainly associated it with their sin by the use of incense. Not only is their sin remedied, but also the uncleanness of the children of Israel is taken into account.

We may gain an insight into the current intercession of the Lord Jesus for His own, by noting what He said to the Father in John 17, for He prayed that prayer anticipating His return to heaven. On the one hand He said “these things speak I in the world”, verse 13, but on the other hand He said, “And now I am no longer in the world”, verse 11. He also said, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself”, verse 19. This, of course, does not mean that He needed to be change from being unsanctified to being sanctified. Rather, He is using the word in the basic sense of setting Himself apart. So just as the altar of incense is hallowed on the day of atonement, so that it can be used through the following year in the service of God, the Lord Jesus has separated Himself by returning to heaven, and commencing an intercessory work which shall never cease.

Verses 20-22 The sending away of the scapegoat with its burden of sins.

16:20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:

And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place-in verse 16 we read of “atonement for the holy place”, and here of “reconciling the holy place”, so to reconcile and to make atonement are being used as identical terms. Yet they do not exhaust the meaning of what happened, for the blood is the blood of propitiation, which involves the satisfying of the demands of God, as well as sheltering from the wrath due to sin, whether that sin be on the people, or on the tabernacle and its vessels because of that. The holy place, (meaning the Holy of Holies), is reconciled when blood is sprinkled on the mercy-seat.

And the tabernacle of the congregation- as we have seen, this refers especially to the first part of the tabernacle structure, even though it stretched out over both compartments.

And the altar- the sprinkling of blood on the altar of incense seems to be that which reconciles the tabernacle of the congregation.

He shall bring the live goat- this goat and its fellow had already been presented, that is, made to stand before the door of the tabernacle, verse 7, but now Aaron is said to bring the goat. Where does he bring it to? Does he bring it to the gate of the court, so that the people can clearly see what is happening to their goat?

16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat- this is an act of identification and association by Aaron, as the Divinely-chosen representative of the people. When Aaron had offered the other goat for a sin-offering, he would have laid his hands on that goat as well, in accordance with Leviticus 4:4,15,24,29, and 33. By this had been signified that the offerer was relying on the offering to the extent that the sin he was responsible for was transmitted to the animal-offering. Here, however, Aaron is confessing sins as he lays his hands on the goat, so that they are now resting on the animal and not on the nation. It is not so much the imputation of sin to the animal, as with the goat that died, but the transfer of the burden of sin to the animal so that it can be carried away.

Notice that both hands are laid on the head of the goat, for Aaron is resting entirely on what this goat will do, he is not laying one hand on the goat, and relying on something else as well.

And confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel- not only will the nation see the goat depart, they can hear their sins confessed. They are being given visible and vocal assurances that God is dealing with their sins, and the same sins they hear confessed, are the sins they see disappearing into the distance. Iniquities are literally inequities, the unbalanced way we live our lives, contrary to God’s character.

And all their transgressions in all their sins- notice that it is not transgressions and sins, exactly, but transgressions in all their sins. To transgress is to go across God’s commandments, deliberately setting our will in a contrary course, even though we know what His will is.

Sins are acts which miss the mark, the failure to be “on target”, the target being the will of God. So there are two aspects to those things which Aaron confessed over the head of the goat; iniquities, which are wrong dealings with men, and transgressions and sins, wrongs against God. Sins prohibited by both tables of the law are being dealt with to God’s satisfaction.

Putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away- the word for “send away” here is the same as in Genesis 3:23, where we read that God “drove out” the man. As Isaiah said, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you”, Isaiah 59:2. We recall that Isaiah also said, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all”, Isaiah 53:6. So it is that the scapegoat becomes like those who are banished from God’s presence through sin, yet it also becomes like the One who accepted from God the responsibility of dealing with sin, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

By the hand of a fit man into the wilderness- we are now introduced to the fit man, who combines with the scapegoat to provide a double illustration of the person of the Lord Jesus. Consider the following features of the Lord Jesus that show Him to be fit to do the work of bearing sin:

1. He was fit because He is totally sinless.The well-known trilogy of verses from the New Testament makes this abundantly clear. Peter, the man of intention, wrote, “He did no sin”, but he went on to write, “Who His own self bare our sins”, 1 Peter 2:22,24. Paul the man of intelligence wrote, He “knew no sin”, but also wrote, God “hath made Him to be sin for us”, 2 Corinthians 5:21. John the man of intuition wrote, “In Him is no sin”, but before that wrote, “He was manifested to take away our sins”, 1 John 3:5. So the apostles are careful to tell us when He was dealing with sin, the Lord Jesus was completely fitted to do so by His own sinlessness.

This is why there needs to be a double illustration, for the fit man cannot bear the load of sins, but the goat can. The fit man is not sinless, but the goat, being a non-moral creature, is. The goat is not inclined to go away from its familiar surroundings, the fit man can do this, and take the goat with him. The goat does not come back, but the fit man can, and does.

2. He was fit because He is fully intelligent.The fitness of the fit man lay in his knowledge of the wilderness, and his ability to take the goat from whence he was confident it would not return. He had experience of the wilderness without the scapegoat, and therefore was able to use that experience as he went with the scapegoat. The Lord Jesus had experience of the wilderness. He had been led into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil, Matthew 4:1, and was there exposed to the onslaughts of the Evil One, so that it became more than a physical wilderness, as He faced the prince of darkness alone. As He came out from His wilderness experience, John the Baptist saw Him coming to him, and this moved him to exclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29. So the close connection is made between His wilderness triumph, and His fitness to take away sin. Of course He was not bearing sin when tempted of the Devil, for the apostle Peter is very specific that He bare sins “in His own body on the tree”, 1 Peter 2:24, yet nonetheless the wilderness experience was very real, and a foretaste of the pressure that was to come.

He was also fit because He knew fully what were His Father’s demands upon Him. As the Son of His Father, He was perfectly acquainted with His Father’s mind, and as such was fit to undertake the work His Father had in mind for Him.

3. He was fit because He was ready and willing.The phrase “fit man” has been rendered “a man standing ready”. And this corresponds to the words of John the Baptist when he told the people that “there standeth one among you that ye know not”, John 1:26. Significantly, this was said near the Jordan, where the Lord Jesus had signified His commitment to go to Calvary by being baptised. He had come into the world with the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will O God”, and now He was patiently waiting His Father’s time. And this links with another thought about the word “fit”, and that is that it has connection with the word “time”. The fit man was God’s timely man, ready to act the moment the word of command came. He indicated to His own that that commandment had indeed come, when He said, “As the Father gave Me commandment even so I do”, John 14:31. His hour had come.

4. He was fit because in the event He was successful. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was not only God’s answer to man’s rejection of Him, but also the infallible sign that the work He did at Calvary was entirely successful. The apostle in effect asks two questions at the end of Romans chapter 4. Why was He delivered? Answer: for our offences. Why was He raised again? Answer: for our justification, by which is meant “because of” our justification by His death. Just as the fit man returned without the goat, his mission successful, so the Lord Jesus has emerged in resurrection, with the question of sins fully dealt with. If some sins were still upon Him, and had not been carried away, then God could not have raised Him.

16:22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited- the land of separation and desolation is the destination of this scapegoat, bearing as it does the tremendous load of Israel’s sins. Having heard the sins confessed, they now see them carried away, and no doubt many in Israel mused upon the fact, so graphically presented to them, that sins do indeed separate, and they do mean that, if unforgiven, those sins will consign the sinner to the place of forsaken-ness. God made provision, however, so that the goat might experience the isolation, whilst they could enjoy the continued presence of God amidst the camp of Israel. We see the fulfilment of this at Calvary, where the lamb of God bore away the sin of the world. This is not to say that the whole world is therefore free of its sin. Rather, it means that all the sin has been answered for, and those who believe enter into the good of it. As we can see from Leviticus 23:29, any in Israel who failed to afflict their souls, (meaning repentance), and cease from work, (meaning resting in faith), were to be cut off from the nation. Now the reverse is the case, for no-one is blessed through Calvary unless they believe the gospel. If in Israel’s case they could opt out of the blessing, in the case of men now they need to opt in.

And he shall let go the goat in the wilderness- so Aaron sent the goat away from the gate of the tabernacle which faced east, and the fit man let it go. The one removed the sins from the camp of Israel, the other ensured that the sins were sent to a place of no return. This reminds of the psalmist, who rejoiced that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us”, Psalm 103:12. We are glad it is as far as the east is from the west, for that is an infinite distance. If it had been as far as the north is from the south, then that would be a limited distance.

The goat as he wandered in the desolate place was largely unaware of his situation. He may have been fearful, but he would soon become used to his plight. Not so with the Lord Jesus at Calvary. So intense was the suffering He endured because He was forsaken of God, and became the object of His wrath against the sins He was taking responsibility for, (for to “bare sins”, means to “take responsibility for sins”), those hours of darkness and abandonment were limited to just three. But into those hours was compressed an infinite amount of suffering, because an infinite God was satisfying Himself infinitely. No wonder there is wrung from the lips of the Lord Jesus that most heart-rending of cries, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The goat bore its load of sins until it died, whereas the Lord Jesus carried the load of sins until He emerged from the darkness, for He was in full fellowship with His Father when He gave up His spirit in death. He endured the darkness and the abandonment that His people might know the light and glory of heaven for eternity.

Verses 23-25 The burnt offerings and the fat of the sin offering.

16:23 And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there:

And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation- this is the fourth time that Aaron has entered into the tabernacle, twice to make his way to the Holiest of All, once to go to the altar of incense, and now to change his garments.

And shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there- so in the Holy Place there is a constant reminder of the distinctive work of the day of atonement, as signified by the special garments that Aaron wore on that occasion. Is it not true that the distinctive and once-for-all work of the Lord Jesus will be remembered in heaven for all eternity? And the holy and righteous character He displayed when down here, and which fitted Him for the work, will never be forgotten.

16:24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.

And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place- as with the plain linen garments, so with the garments of glory and beauty, they were more holy than Aaron was, hence the need for him to bathe before he put them on. Even Aaron’s work of dealing with sin involved contact with animals that were part of a sin-cursed creation, and therefore brought him defilement.

And put on his garments- each of the items of the garments of glory and beauty has something to tell us of the moral glory and beauty of Christ. He was ever glorious and beautiful in character, of course, but now His temporary adoption of the character of a sin-bearer is over, those glories can shine forth without interruption.

And come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people- we see how that the events of the day of atonement are not fulfilled by Christ in chronological order, for as the end of the ceremonies draws near, we are again presented with an illustration of Calvary. We shall see the same thing in connection with the burning of the carcases. We must never forget that the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary had the character of a burnt offering, as well as a sin offering. What was a duty for Aaron was a delight for Christ. He was surrendered utterly to His Father’s will, and was in full communion with His Father both before and after the three hours of darkness, for before the darkness he said, “Father forgive them”, Luke 23:34, and after the darkness, but when still upon the cross He said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit”, verse 46. Just because Peter says He bare our sins in His own body on the tree, we need not conclude that He was bearing sins all the time He was hanging there. After all, He was hanging on the tree when He was dead, was He bearing sins then? Surely not.

And make an atonement for himself, and for the people- the burnt offering makes atonement because man has not been what he should have been, as well as has not done what he should have done. Not only the sins of himself and the people are dealt with, but also their shortcomings, all those ways in which they had not been perfect before the Lord.

16:25 And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar.

And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar- the word for burn here is to burn as incense, to make a soothing fragrance. After all the trauma of the work of propitiation, there arises now to God from the same animal that dealt with sin, an aroma sweet. The burning-as-incense of the burnt offering now mingles with the burning of the fat of the sin offering. Now the fat was taken off the sin offering in the same way as it was taken off the peace offering, as Leviticus 4:8-10 tells us. This fat from the inwards of the animal, (speaking of the exercises of the heart of Christ even as He dealt with sins), assists the flame of the burnt offering already on the altar. We are told this in Leviticus 3:11, where the fat is the food of the offering, or in other words, that which feeds the flame that burns the sacrifice. We should remember that in Numbers 29:8-11 we are told that one young bullock, one ram, seven lambs, and the normal continual burnt offering of the morning lamb, was offered on the altar as a matter of routine on the day of atonement, apart from the sacrifices offered by Aaron. Thus the altar was loaded with offerings to God, and the fat of the sin offering assists in the burning of this great amount of flesh.

Verse 26 The return of the fit man.

16:26 And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.

And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water- even superficial contact with the sin-bearing scapegoat involved defilement, so both clothes (speaking of character), and flesh (speaking of constitution), must be bathed. In contrast the Lord Jesus remained at all times pure and holy, for even when bearing sin He was personally sinless. He only suffered wrath because He was our representative.

And afterward come into the camp- the fit man must wash outside the camp, so that he does not bring any defilement from the wilderness into the camp that is newly-cleansed by the blood of atonement. Of course there is a medical reason for this, but the spiritual lesson is the main one.

So not only does Aaron return from where he went, signifying that what he had done had been accepted, so also did the fit man. Both represent Christ in resurrection, for the darkness of those three hours is over for ever, and He can emerge into the light of the resurrection morning because His work on the cross is sufficient to justify.

Verses 27-28 The burning of the sin offerings.

16:27 And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.

And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place- only sacrifices the blood of which was taken right in to God were burnt. All the others were to be eaten by the priests, to make atonement constantly for the people, Leviticus 10:16-18, (with which compare Hebrews 2:17). This is one area in which the priesthood failed on the final day of their consecration. This is why the writer to the Hebrews is careful to say, “The bodies of those beasts, whose blood was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burnt without the camp”, Hebrews 13:11.

Shall one carry forth without the camp- we are not told who this person was, but he had the onerous task of carrying the carcases of the bullock and the goat some distance through the camp of Israel, until he reached the outside. He must have made many journeys if he did this alone, for the burden was more than could be carried at one time. As we picture him in our minds, those minds also go to the words of Hebrews 13:12,13, where we read, “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate”. Both men are in public view as they do their Divinely-given task, but how different the experience of each! One simply carries the bodies of beasts, and makes a fire so as to consume them, the other goes forth outside the camp to feel the heat of the fire Himself, as God’s fiery vengeance against sin is concentrated against Him. The animals were dead when they were burnt, but He was very much alive, with every sense alert. He had refused the stupefying drink offered to Him on the cross, so He felt all the pain unrelieved. Coupled with the fact that His senses were not dulled at all by sin, as with us.

And they shall burn in the fire- we now meet with others, for the “one” is now accompanied by “they”. No doubt in practical terms this meant that the fire was kept burning by these others, whilst the single man went back and forth to bring out the carcases. In spiritual terms it has a challenge for us, for did not the writer to the Hebrews continue by saying, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach”, Hebrews 13:13.

This ought to be easy for us to do, seeing how He has suffered for us; love to Him should make us want to be where He is- outside the camp. He went outside the city walls of Jerusalem, for that was what corresponded to being outside the camp. In Galatians 4:25 the apostle Paul sees in the Jerusalem of his day, (“Jerusalem which now is”, as opposed to the Jerusalem that shall be when Christ reigns there), the place where the law given at Sinai was prolonged and practised. It was outside of such a place that the Lord Jesus positioned Himself. The duty of each believer is to distance himself from every manifestation of Judaism that is found in the world. We have not to go on a pilgrimage so as to physically pass through the gate of Jerusalem, for the writer, having spoken of the camp, then the gate, reverts back to the camp when he applies the lesson to his readers. It ought to be easy for us to do this, since the word is “go forth unto Him”, indicating that He is outside, waiting to welcome us to the place of separation from all that denies the fullness and finality of the work of Calvary. The fact that the carcases were burnt showed that their blood had been accepted in the very sanctuary itself. We too can be confident that what the Saviour did was accepted by God

Their skins, and their flesh, and their dung there is now a fire burning outside the camp, and a fire burning on the altar within the court of the tabernacle, and the smoke can be thought of as mingling together as it arose to God, telling of accepted sacrifices, and sins cleansed. The skins are equivalent to a man’s clothing, which in turn is indicative of character. The burning of the skins displays the anger of God against our sinful character. The burning of the flesh, would indicate God’s displeasure against our sinful constitution, whereas the burning of the dung speaks of God’s anger against the distastefullness of our sinful ways. Thus the wrath of God was exhausted against every part of us in the person of our substitute.

16:28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.

And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes- the narrative now reverts back to the single person, as if he is representative of the others who seem to assist him. He must wash his clothes even though he has only carried animal bodies. They may carry disease, however, so precautions must be taken, for the flocks and herds of Israel must be safeguarded, or else there would be no more offerings to God. There was no stain on the character of Christ, however, after His work of suffering for sin. The psalmist could call the one placed in the tomb God’s Holy One, Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27. And the clean, new, and fine linen cloth in which He was wrapped, with the spices, emphasised the same lesson.

And bathe his flesh in water- the man himself must be purified after his task, for he must have no stain upon him afterwards. So the man is made ceremonially like Christ morally, for He is no longer the sin-bearer; that role is for ever passed for Him. He died unto sin once, but now lives to God, Romans 6:10.

And afterward he shall come into the camp- so the three men involved in the day of atonement ceremony all came back from where they went. Aaron came out from the tabernacle; the fit man came back from the wilderness; the unnamed man came back from outside the camp. Each has something to tell us about the finished work of Christ. Aaron tells us that the blood has availed in the presence of God; the fit man tells us that Christ has borne our sins away; the unnamed man tells us that the fire has done its work, and the sin-offering is consumed. Each man left something behind as he came out. Aaron left his garments, the fit man left the goat; the unnamed man left a pile of ashes, all tokens of work well done and accepted. So Christ will be eternally remembered for the character He displayed at Calvary, the sin-bearing He went through with, and the fire He endured and exhausted.

Verses 29-34 Instructions to the Israelites.

16:29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you- in the Old Testament, the expression “for ever” or “to everlasting”, often simply means “from now on with no end in sight”. For instance, the hills are called “everlasting hills” in Genesis 49:26, although like everything else they shall melt with fervent heat and be dissolved, 2 Peter 3:10. They are everlasting, all other things being equal. And we read of sacrifices being offered “year by year continually”, Hebrews 10:1, continually signifying that there seemed to be no end in view. As far as the work of Christ is concerned, however, it really is for ever. Consider the expressions in the epistle to the Hebrews such as: “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified”, Hebrews 10:14. “And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more“, verse 17. So it is also that the writer can speak of “eternal redemption”, 9:12; “eternal inheritance”, 9:15; everlastingcovenant”, 13:20. And all this because Christ puts the stamp of His eternal person on all that He does.

That in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month- because Leviticus chapter 16 is not concerned with the progress of the religious year, as chapter 23 is, then the actual date of the day can be reserved to the end. By this means the two chapters are linked together. Of course the Passover lamb was selected on the 10thday of the month, so the redeeming lamb and the sin-bearing goat are connected, in that both were chosen on the same day, albeit of different months.

Ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all- the day of atonement was a national day, but the individual Israelite was only in the good of what happened when he complied with the conditions laid down by God. Those conditions are two in number, and amount to repentance and faith, the same conditions on which anyone now comes into the good of the work of Christ. Affliction of soul means the contrition which comes when sins are thought of as God thinks of them. Ceasing from work is the same as faith, for we read, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”, Romans 4:5.

Whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you- even in Old Testament times, when God was dealing almost exclusively with the nation of Israel, there is indication that He desires all men to be blessed. It is very evidently the case now, for God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”, Timothy 2:4-6. The ransom paid for all is the sure sign of God’s desire that all men should be saved. The only thing that prevents this is their refusal to afflict their souls and cease from work, or in other words, repent and believe the gospel.

16:30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you-they are to afflict their souls and cease from work on the same day as the priest makes atonement, so that there is the direct connection between the two.

To cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord- the emphasis in the chapter is on the effect sins have on God’s honour. Can He continue to dwell amongst a people who are so obviously sinful? Only by the cleansing that the blood of atonement affords can He remain among them “in the midst of their uncleanness”, verse 16. We are reminded of the exclamation of the apostle John, as his heart was lifted up in praise to the Lord, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever”, Revelation 1:5,6. And also his other words, “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin”, 1 John 1:7. And yet again, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1 John 1:9.

16:31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you- on whatever day of the week the tenth day fell, it was to be reckoned a sabbath. There seems to be a difference between not doing any servile work, (as was required on the days of unleavened bread, Leviticus 23:7; the wave-loaves day, verse 21; the blowing of trumpets, verse 24; and the feast of tabernacles and ingathering), and not doing any work at all, servile or otherwise, on the day of atonement, Leviticus 23:28. Perhaps this is why the expression here is “sabbath of rest”, (the word sabbath meaning to repose, or rest), as if to say “a real and total rest from any sort of work”. As they rested, the Israelites would know that another was working hard on their behalf in the tabernacle. So believers today can rest in the work of another, even the Lord Jesus, who did His unique and mighty work at Calvary.

And ye shall afflict your souls- to test whether their ceasing from work was merely to comply passively, the requirement to afflict the soul is mentioned again. There must be the positive and active engagement in what was happening that day for the blessing available to be received.

By a statute for ever- as far as Israel knew, there was no point in the foreseeable future when things would be different, and the day of atonement would become unnecessary. This was the situation in the Old Testament, but now things are so very different.

16:32 And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:

Not only was there seemingly no end to the ritual, but an endless line of priests is envisaged, each consecrated simply because their father had been high priest and had now died, and all needing to put on the holy garments to make them ceremonially what they were not morally. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood”, Hebrews 7:23,24. The reason He continues ever being that He has endless life as the Son of God, as is said earlier in that chapter, in verse 16.

16:33 And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. 

This is a summary of the events of the day of atonement, emphasising that Aaron’s successors would need to do exactly the same as he did, for none of them was able to do a work which rendered the day obsolete. If in verse 33 the emphasis is on the person of the priest, here the emphasis is on his work.

16:34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.

The words “statute” and “commanded” remind us that the chapter is for people under the law, whereas now there has been a change, and the Christian has a High Priest who acts in grace, on the basis of a finished work, as opposed to Levitical priests, who acted under law, on the basis of a work that was never completed. It is noticeable that when Psalm 40 is quoted in connection with the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 10:5-7, the words “Yea, Thy law is within My heart” are omitted. This would emphasise for us that the Lord Jesus went to Calvary not because He was forced to do so by any legal requirement, but because He was willing. Having come to do God’s will, and having successfully finalised that will, He is now sat down of the throne of the One who sent Him forth in the first place.

“He did as the Lord commanded” finds its glorious and fulfilling counterpart in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, “As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do”, John 14:31.