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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Now in chapter sixteen, we deal with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The high priest wasn't to go into the Holy of Holies at any time.

The Lord began to speak to Moses and this was given after the death of the sons of Aaron, [and now God is becoming more specific of the ministry of the priests, and how that they are not to go into the Holy of Holies at any time,] that they die not: [for God said,] I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. And so Aaron shall come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. And he shall put on a 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 the holy garments; therefore he shall wash his flesh in water, and so put them on ( Leviticus 16:1-4 ).

Now on the Day of Atonement, now during the rest of the year the other priests would offer the sacrifices, but on the Day of Atonement, actually the high priest would have to do all the work. If you count the number of animals and all that he had to kill and butcher, and offer, it comes to some thirty some animals that he had to deal with, plus he had to bathe five times.

Now on this particular day, he did not wear the beautiful garments of the high priest, the ephod, and the blue mitre, and all that. But on this day he wore just the plain linen of the robes of the priesthood. The first thing he had to do is offer an offering for his own sins. He had to take care of his own sins first. Then, having offered the offerings for his own sins, then he would offer for the sins of the people.

Of course, as you look at this, it is all looking forward to Jesus Christ. So there is just beautiful symbolism all the way through, with the exception that there is no equivalent in Christ for the sin offering that the high priest offered for himself. For Jesus did not have to offer any sacrifice for Himself being sinless. There's no New Testament equivalent to that. But Christ has become our High Priest, and He entered into the heavens of which the earthly tabernacle was only a model. Not with the blood of goats, but with His own blood. His was not an annual affair, for the high priest must each year offer, but Jesus once and for all, and is forever sitting down now at the right hand of the Father, until His enemies are made His footstool. But in the work of Aaron on the Day of Atonement, you find tremendous symbolism to Christ our great High Priest, going in and offering for us, and for our atonement before God.

Speaking of the Old Testament and the sacrifices, Paul the apostle tells us in Colossians that, "these were all a shadow of things to come, but the substance is Christ" ( Colossians 2:17 ). These things were all just shadows of Jesus Christ. He's the substance. So Christ standing there at the division of history, casts the shadow in the Old Testament in the sacrifices and in the holy days. They were all shadows of Jesus Christ. None more important or powerful than this Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, when the priest made atonement for the people, in the offerings we see the work of Jesus Christ.

Now there were two goats that were brought, and the high priest Aaron would take the two goats, and would cast lots on the two goats; one was for the Lord, and the other was a scapegoat.

Verse nine:

And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for the sin offering. 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. 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 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 the blood of the bullock, sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times. And then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, to 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: And shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and for their transgressions ( Leviticus 16:5-12 , Leviticus 16:14-16 )

So now on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when the high priest, doing all of his work alone, no help on this day, even as Jesus alone bore our sins, suffered in our place.

Now the high priest would only come into the Holy of Holies one day a year, that was all. This was coming into the presence of God manifested there within the Holy of Holies, the mercy seat. On this Day of Atonement, he would enter the Holy of Holies three times. First of all, coming in offering the sin offering for himself. Then with the blood of the bullock as a sin offering for the people. Then with the blood of the goat as a sin offering for the people, coming into the Holy of Holies offering these sin offerings that God might make a covering of the sins of the nation.

Now this is the law of God for sin. As we get into a subsequent chapter, God deals with the importance of the blood, in chapter seventeen. He forbids any eating of blood, and in verse eleven He said, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes the atonement for the soul." The covering, it's the blood that makes the covering.

I point that out to point up to me what is a great disparity today among the Jews. Though they observe still Yom Kippur as the holiest day of the year, yet I have questioned the Jews, as to how they hope to have forgiveness of their sins. The standard pat answer that the Jew gives to me, as far as the basis for the forgiveness of his sin, is that Yom Kippur is now the day of reflection in which you think over your past year. You think of all of the evil things that you have done, and you think of all of the good things that you have done. Your hope and purpose is that your good outweighs your evil.

Now if you know some crooked Jew that's been given you a bad time, you might go to him the day before Yom Kippur, because quite often this time of the year they're really striving hard to make up for all of the other mismanagement during the year. So on the next day when they're reflecting, they're gonna come out okay on these balances. And yet the fallacy of it all, because God has established the basis for relationship with Himself.

The way that God has established the basis for a relationship is through blood sacrifices. For it is through the blood that atonement is made. God also declared in the law, "For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" ( Hebrews 9:22 ). Sin is that which has always separated man from God. Under the law there is not one word about balancing your good works against your evil. God made a covenant with these people, a covenant whereby they might relate to Him. A covenant whereby they might come to Him, but that covenant whereby they might come to Him was actually a covenant that involved the shedding of the blood of an animal. For it is through the blood that atonement is made.

Now one thing the law shows is not how approachable God is but how unapproachable God is by the normal man. Under the law there is no easy approach to God. There was only one man that could really approach God, and that was the high priest, and that was only once a year, and that was only after many sacrifices and many washings. So their own law shows them that God is unapproachable by them.

When I have challenged the Jew on this issue, he really has no real answer. But only gives you some of the lame things that the Rabbis have taught them, which have no scriptural basis. The Old Testament doesn't really present us a God that can be approached by anyone, at anytime. In fact the sixteenth chapter begins, "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 said unto Moses, Speak to Aaron thy brother that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil." You're not to come here just anytime. You're only to come here once a year. And then only as you follow all of the ceremony that God is laying out here.

Now if God was so unapproachable, then what makes the Jew think that God is any more approachable today? If He could only be approached through blood sacrifices, how do they think that they can approach Him with their own works, which God's word in their own Testament declares is "as filthy rags in the sight of God." In the Old Testament any endeavor to approach God, by any other method than the prescribed method by God, was considered by God an abomination. So they are not true to their own scriptures. Having forsaken the way of God, they have now thought to establish their own righteousness by their works apart from the law of God. As Paul said, "Those to whom the law was given never did attain to the righteousness that is in the law". Because having departed from the law of God, they are seeking now by works to be righteous before God. Paul, in Romans shows the fallacy of their whole approach to God today.

Now we have an approach to God. Something that Israel no longer has. They don't have any offering for sin, they don't have any temple; they don't have any high priests. But we have approach to God today through Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who has entered into heaven for us, not into the earthly tabernacle made with hands, but into the very presence of God, the heavenly of which the earthly temple was only a model. There Jesus has entered in, and by His entering in was the sacrifice for us. He then flung wide the door, and said, "Okay, all of you kids come on in." All the children who by faith, believe, and trust in Jesus Christ, now have a free access to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and the blood of His new covenant that He has established with man. "Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we might receive mercy in our time of need" ( Hebrews 4:16 ).

What a beautiful thing we have through Jesus Christ. So we are not coming to God apart from a blood sacrifice. For it is the blood that makes the atonement. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. That is why Jesus shed His blood, and that is why God put such a high respect for blood in the minds of these people, emphasizing over and over, the high respect that they should have for blood, even the blood of animals. It is to teach them the high respect, so that when God's blood was shed for our sins, it should be something that is held in highest respect, and reverence.

In Hebrews we are told that, "He who despised Moses' law was stoned in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye he could be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and who hath countered the blood of His covenant wherewith He was sanctified an unholy thing" ( Hebrews 10:28-29 ). The reverence that God would have us to have in respect, God would have us have for blood, even the blood of the animal, how much more respect for the blood of Jesus Christ.

I shudder when people speak disparagingly concerning the blood of Jesus Christ. I shudder when people say, "Oh Christianity is a bloody religion." I shudder when men like Voltaire say, "The blood of Christ, the blood of pigs, there's no difference." I shudder at such blasphemy. God wants you to have the very highest respect for the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed that your sins might be put away. But the glorious thing about Jesus Christ, and about His sacrifice for our sins, it was only necessary once, and it covered for all. We don't have to bring sin offerings. His sacrifice was sufficient for every one of us, and has provided the basis whereby God can forgive you of your sins.

But let me tell you this, in the scripture there is no other basis whereby God can forgive you of your sins. There's no way that you as a sinner can have fellowship with God until the sin issue is dealt with. Something has to be done about your sin. God is a holy God; there's no sin that can dwell in His presence. Thus, for you to become one with God, have fellowship with God, something must be done about your sin. So no man can really have fellowship with God apart from Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ is to them that perish foolishness, but to us who are saved thereby it's the power of God, whereby I've been cleansed of my sins, so that now I can come to God through Jesus Christ.

So the sixteenth chapter is absolutely a fabulous chapter to study as you see Aaron the high priest going in, sprinkling the blood before the mercy seat, making the atonement in the holy place for the uncleanness of Israel. That was with the blood of the bullock, and then going back in with the blood of the goat. The two goats, one was for the Lord, sacrificed as the sin offering. But the other one, the scapegoat, these speak of the twofold work of Jesus Christ. Jesus not only provides the forgiveness of your sins, but He also provides you power over sin, to separate your sins from you.

Now this second goat, the scapegoat, after having slain the first goat upon whom the lot fell and offering it as a sacrifice, he took the second goat and he laid his hands upon the head of this second goat. Over the head of the second goat, he confessed all the sins of the nation, transferring all of the sins onto this second goat. Then this second goat was led by a priest out of camp, out into the wilderness, and it was let go to just run off in the wilderness. It was the scapegoat, and it spoke of the separation of us from sin.

Now as the years went on there was a highly developed ritual that went with this as the temple was finally established in Jerusalem, there was a certain area where the scapegoat was generally released. There were men that would stand at vantage points all the way out to the Judean wilderness. The priest would be going out and the people would all be waiting back in the great area of the temple mount. The priest as he would lead this scapegoat into the wilderness, finally he'd come to the wilderness area where he turned it loose.

As it ran and when it disappeared, he would give a signal to the fellow back on the mountain peak, who would give the signal to the next guy, who would send to the next, to the next, to the next. And in just a few moments the signal would come from the Mount of Olives to those down in the temple mount that the scapegoat has gone, the sins are gone. There would be this great rejoicing of the people, the singing of the Hallel songs, the praises unto God, and as the news would come back that the goat carrying the sin was gone. I think of that great rejoicing when we realize that our sins are gone, never to be remembered again. Christ having borne them, carried them, and the victory, the power that He gives to us over sin.

So this Day of Atonement, the most important day in the Jewish calendar. It's worthy to study and compare with Jesus Christ.

So in verse thirty-four,

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

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/leviticus-16.html. 2014.
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