Leviticus 16-18 On this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you

From Leviticus 16-18

Yom Kippur, better known as the day of atonement is the most important day in the religious calendar of Israel. On that day the high priest entered the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (or temple) to atone for the sins of all Israel. The basic idea of atonement is a “covering” of sin; the purpose is to accomplish reconciliation between man and God.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The passage describing the day of atonement begins with the sobering reminder of the death of Aarons two sons. They had offered unauthorized fire and suffered the consequences. With this as the context, the Hebrew people were instructed set apart one day of the year to make atonement for their sins.

The Hebrew word כָּפַר kaphar rendered as atonement means to cover over, pacify and make propitiation. It assumes Israel has sinned and disobeyed the LORD, incurring his wrath. The sin offerings are gifts given to God. They make compensation for their sin (Lev 5.6-7,15; 6.6; 19.21), appease him (Lev 1.9,13,17; 4.31) and propitiate his wrath. Thus reconciling the two parties.

On the day of atonement Aaron had to prepare himself, by washing and putting on the appropriate clothing. He has to give sin offerings to make atonement for himself and his house. Then he began to make atonement for the people, the sanctuary, the tabernacle and its altar.

Our passage picks up from here with the scapegoat.

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. (Lev 16.20-22)

‘Put them on the head’. Aaron was to confess the transgressions of the people and laying his hands on the goat, put them on its head. Thus the sins the people of Israel bore and carried were transferred to the goat. The goat was to bear the load of the sins of the people and carry them away.

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. (Lev 16.23-28)

‘One lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel’ (v8-10, 26). The Hebrew term Azazel occurs four times in Lev 16 but nowhere else in the Bible. The phrase “for Azazel” occurs in parallel to “for the LORD”, the wording suggests that two divine figures are being contrasted by the two goats. Jewish texts of the Intertestamental period show that Azazel was understood as a demonic figure, possibly a goat demon (Lev 17.17). The act of sending the live goat bearing the sins of the people out into the wilderness—unholy ground—was to send the sins to where they belonged—the demonic domain. (Heiser, M., The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16: A Goat for Azazel)

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.

30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses. (Lev 16.29-34)

‘Statute forever’. The day of atonement became one of the most significant events in the Hebrew calendar. They were commanded to observe this day and atone for the nations sins every year.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.

Throughout the year purification offerings removed evils from their offerers and left those evils at the sanctuary, where they accumulated. Thus, the evils were moving into the sanctuary. This stage resulted in forgiveness or physical cleansing for the offerer.

On the yearly “Day of Purgation,” special purification offerings removed from the sanctuary and camp the evils that had accumulated in the sanctuary throughout the year. This stage resulted in moral cleansing for the Israelites.

The overall contour is a dramatic reversal in the flow of evil. What goes in must come out!

Whereas the Lord uniquely and paradoxically frees human beings from impurities and sins by allowing these evils to penetrate his holy domain through purification offerings, he then turns the evils around by “the purification offering of purgation,” sends them away, and gets rid of them forever. (Gane, R., 2004. Leviticus, Numbers, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

Story of Jesus

No longer do God’s people observe the day of atonement. It has happened once for all on the cross. Jesus is the one who bore our sins on the cross and payed the ransom to set us free. He is God’s sin offering made for us. In Jesus’ sacrifice we are made clean, our sins are atoned for and taken away.

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20.25-28)

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