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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 16

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-34

The Great Day of Atonement


Leviticus 16:2.—Come not at all times into the holy place within the veil. It was but natural that the solemn judgment which befel Nadab and Abihu “when they offered before the Lord and died” (v 1) should have rendered Aaron apprehensive lest he also might err in his ministries before Jehovah. God’s message of direction, therefore, came to guide him in his sacred duties; for He will show the good and the right way to such as desire to do His will, albeit He is swift to rebuke those who adventure to act presumptuously in His sacred presence.

For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Shall we not “stand in awe and sin not” where we know that God is present? That “cloud” softened His exceeding glory, so as to allow the eye of mortal man to look and yet live; and that “mercy-seat” suggested the divine pitifulness towards the sinner who desired to approach Him in reconciliation. Nevertheless, there might be no trifling, no profanity in His holy light; for God is severe as well as gracious. Man should fear before Him. And since there is no scene where God is not present, should we not cultivate reverence, and live as in readiness to meet Him? Within His house still there should be solemnity; His worship demands homage; “the Lord is in His holy temple.” He will be gracious to the lowly and devout wherever they approach Him, shielding His great glory from them as with a “cloud” while they seek with supplications and offerings His “mercy seat.”

Leviticus 16:3.—Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place. Only “once a year”; on the august Day of Atonement. This restriction carried a pensive lesson: “that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest”; that the hindrances to man’s free approach to God had been only partially removed; that no provision was in existence for his abiding in the holy presence. Man might, by special arrangements of grace, enter where God dwelt, but he could not tarry there. Because atonement was not then complete; for types could not “take away sins” so satisfactorily as to qualify man for continuous nearness to God. Only in the perfect work of Jesus Christ can sinners gain abiding fitness for this highest privilege.

Sin offering and a burnt offering. These again meeting the twofold aspects of atonement (vide chaps. 4 and 6); meeting every requirement of God’s holiness and of man’s guilt.

Leviticus 16:4.—He shall put on the holy linen coat Attired “in fine linen, clean and white” (Revelation 14:7-8), symbolic of a blameless righteousness:—the inherent perfection and purity of Christ our High Priest, and the derived sanctity of His redeemed and priestly followers. Being divested of His glorious robes, and appearing simply in these “garments of righteousness,” suggests to us our Lord’s condition while He was engaged in making “atonement”; His majesty and splendour laid aside, but adorned with faultless sanctity and grace. Such meek purity became Him most while engaged in the sad work of atoning for human transgression and wrong.

Leviticus 16:5-10.—Two kids of the goats: the one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. The two goats formed one sin offering God takes His share and is well pleased therewith; for there was a portion in Christ’s sacrifice which was specially welcome to His Father, the perfect worthiness, the sweet subjection, the willing suffering of His Son—that was “the Lord’s lot.” The other part was for the sinner’s release, removing from the transgressor the guilt and penalty of sin; and in the virtue of Christ’s work through which we have “remission of sins” we find the sinner’slot.” “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12).

Leviticus 16:11-19—The sin offering for priest, people, and sanctuary. The incidents were as follows; the young bullock was slain; while its blood was being gathered into a vessel Aaron entered within the veil carrying a censer of burning coals in his right hand and a platter of fragrant incense in his left; placing the burning coals at the foot of the Ark he cast the incense thereon and thus filled the Most Holy shrine with a soft cloud, thereby veiling the Ark from open vision: he then returned for the vessel of blood, and going again within the veil he sprinkled the Mercy Seat therewith, thus making atonement for his own sin and for his priestly associates; for the “sweet savour of Christ” and the “blood of sprinkling” are needed even for consecrated and priestly souls. Leaving the Holy of Holies, where the incense still burned, he offered on the altar the goat which had been allotted as the sacrifice for the people’s sin, afterwards re-entering the veil to sprinkle also its blood of atonement upon and before the Ark. Thus three entrances were made that day into the Most Holy of All. No other priest was allowed within the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:17) during these solemn incidents; for unworthiness excluded every one, since “none doeth good and sinneth not.” The faultlessly Divine Priest alone—typified in Aaron—might have access to where the Glory dwelt. With the sprinkling of blood Aaron also made atonement for the defilement of the sanctuary and the altar; symbolically purifying them from all defilements which had incidentally accumulated through neglect or misdemeanour during the year. For uncleanness clings to our holiest things and our best deeds, and “almost all things are by the law purged with blood.”

Leviticus 16:20-22.—The live goat. Propitiation by death has been enacted in these first regulations. The release of the living is signified by the second typical arrangement. It pictorially shows us the taking away of sin from the sinner by his Substitute; “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” but it also expresses the removal from the believer’s conscience of the burden and grief of his transgressions—the confession of iniquities leading to their being carried into oblivion; “the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.” Glad remission indeed! “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isaiah 38:17); they are annulled by God; and as for ourselves, “the worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins” (Hebrews 10:2); they are obliterated for the believer. And is every iniquity and transgression thus borne into forgetfulness? Yes. “All their iniquities” (Leviticus 16:21-22). This is remission of sins to the full! Hence the “peace which passeth all understanding”; for, “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Leviticus 16:23-24.—Aaron shall put off the linen garments. The magnificent attire re-assumed by Aaron when the sin offerings were completed may remind us of the glory which did follow when our Lord had finished atonement; He re-assumed His majesty; though still, as High Priest for man in the heavenly sanctuary, He perpetuates sacrificial merits for His people. “The fat of the sin offering,” etc. (comp. Leviticus 4:10), the choicest virtues of our Redeemer’s atonement still go up from the altar as a delightsome offering unto the Lord.

Leviticus 16:29-34.—A statute for ever unto you. Every year the Day of Atonement should be solemnly set apart, and its ordinances devoutly observed. Such seasons for self-mortification, for severance from the affairs of this life, for concentrated attention to the needs of our souls and the claims of God, foster humility and reverence, bring eternal realities powerfully before our thoughts, and impress us with the preciousness of the Redeemer’s work. Our peril is in habitual heedlessness; we are borne on in the rush of secular concerns. The Lord’s Day ought to bring us a healthful pause, enough to correct our worldliness and awaken to spiritual attention. But it is for our good that we check life’s ensnaring routine, and secure an interlude in which to give supreme consideration to the wonders of God’s redeeming grace and the urgency of our spiritual interests: “that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30): “it shall be a sabbath of rest unto you.”



And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord (Heb. La-JEHOVAH), and the other lot for the scapegoat (Heb. La-Azazel).”

In the eastern part of the Court of Priests in the Temple, i.e., close to the worshippers, stood an urn, called Calphi, in which were two lots of the same shape, size, and material; (in the second temple these were of gold); the one bore the inscription “la-JEHOVAH,” for Jehovah,; the other “la-Azazel,” for Azazel. The two goats were placed with their backs to the people, and the faces toward the sanctuary (westward). The high priest now faced the people, shook the urn, thurst his two hands into it, drew out the two lots, laying one on the head of each goat. Popularly it was considered a good augury if the right hand lot had fallen “for Jehovah.” The two goats must be altogether alike in appearance, size, and value. The lot having designated each of the two goats, the high priest tied a tongue-shaped piece of scarlet cloth to the horn of the goat “for Azazel,” and around the throat of the goat “for Jehovah.” The goat that was to be sent into the wilderness was now turned round face to the people, waiting, as it were, till their sins should be laid on him to carry them forth “to a land not inhabited.” Afterwards the high priest, laying both his hands on the head of this goat, confessed and pleaded as follows:

“O Lord, the house of Israel Thy people have trespassed, rebelled, and sinned before Thee. I beseech thee, O Lord, forgive now their trespasses and sins which Thy people have committed, as it is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant, saying that in that day there shall be ‘an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.’ ”
While the prostrate multitude worshipped at the name of JEHOVAH, the high priest turned his face towards them as he uttered the words “Ye shall be cleansed,” as if declaring to them the absolution and remission of their sins.

A strange scene was then witnessed; the priests led the sin-burdened goat through “Solomon’s porch,” and, as tradition has it, through the eastern gate which opened upon the Mount of Olives. Here an arched bridge spanned the intervening valley, and over it they brought the goat to the Mount of Olives, where one, specially appointed for the purpose, took him in charge. Tradition enjoins that he should be a stranger, a non-Israelite. Scripture tells us no more of the destiny of the goat that bore upon him all the iniquity of the children of Israel than that they “shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:22), but tradition supplements this information.

The distance between Jerusalem and the beginning of “the wilderness” is computed at nearly 90 stadia, making precisely ten intervals, each half a Sabbath-day’s journey from the other. At the end of each of these intervals there was a station, occupied by one or more persons detailed for the purpose, who offered refreshment to the man leading the goat, and then accompanied him to the next station. By this arrangement two results were secured: some trusted persons accompanied the goat all along his journey, and yet none of them walked more than a Sabbath day’s journey. At last they reached the edge of the wilderness; here they halted, and the attendant, viewing afar off, while the man led the goat forward, tore off half the scarlet tongue and stuck it on a projecting cliff; then, leading the animal backwards, he pushed it over the projecting ledge of rook.

If tradition be correct on this point it must have been a modern innovation, for originally the goat was set free.
There was a moment’s pause, and the man, now defiled by contact with the sin-bearer, retraced his steps to the last of the ten stations, where he spent the rest of the day and night. But the arrival of the goat in the wilderness was immediately telegraphed by the waving of flags from station to station, so that in a few minutes after its occurence it was known in the temple.
In a subject so obscure great difference of opinion exists as to the significance of the word “Azazel.” Those opinions most worthy of notice are: It is to be taken—

1. As a designation of the goal itself. Most old interpreters hold this view: regarding it as meaning the goat sent away, or let loose. In accordance with this the Vulgate renders it Caper emissarius; Luther, der ledige Bock; the Septuagint uses the term ὁ άποπμπᾶις applied to the goat itself. Theodoreb and Cyril of Alexandria, consider the meaning of the Hebrew to be the goat sent away, and regard that as the sense of the word used in the Septuagint.

2. As the name of the place to which the goat was sent. Thus Vatlabus, Deyling, Kimchi, Abenezra, and others regard it as the desolate spot in the wilderness; Bochart and Carpvoz as any lonely place; and the Arabian version, some Rabbins, LeClerc and others, as “Mount Azaz,” or the cliff down which the goat was thrown.

3. As a personal being to whom the goat was sent. They, Gesenius, Ewald, Rosenmüller, Dr. Wette, Knobel and many of the Rabbins think that “Azazel” was an evil demon. Origen considers it was Satan. Spencer supposes the goat was given up to the devil, and committed to his disposal. Hengstenberg affirms very confidently that “Azazel” cannot possibly be anything but another name for Satan. He repudiates the notion that the goat was in any sense a sacrifice to Satan, but urges that it was sent away laden with the sins of God’s people, now forgiven, in order to mock their spiritual enemy in the desert, his proper abode, and to symbolize by its free gambols their exalting triumph. He argues that the origin of the rite was Egyptian, and that the Jews substituted Satan for Typhon, whose dwelling was the desert.

4. The interpretation most harmonious with the scope of Scripture and with the nature of the service is that “Azazel” denotes “a free going away,” or “an entire and utter removal.” Michaelis and Jahn give the former rendering of the word, and Tholuck, Thompson, Bähr and Winer the latter.

Dr. Endersheim (in his work, “The Temple, its Ministry and Service”), says, “The word Azazel is, by universal consent, derived from a root which means ‘wholly to put aside,’ or ‘wholly to go away.’ Whether, therefore, we render the la-Azazel by ‘for him who is wholly put aside,’ that is the sin bearing Christ, or ‘for being wholly separated,’ or ‘put wholly away, or aside,’ that is, the putting away of sin, the truth is still the same, as pointing

(1) to the temporary and provisional removal of sin by the goat ‘let go’ into ‘the land not inhabited,’ and

(2) to the final, real, and complete removal of sin by the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6).”

And, as if to add to the significance of the rite, tradition has it that when the sacrifice was fully accepted, the scarlet mark which the scapegoat had borne became white (Isaiah 1:18), but adds that this miracle did not take place for forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

“Smith’s Dictionary” (see Day of Atonement) suggests that “the slain goat” should be viewed as setting forth the act of sacrifice, in giving up its own life for others “to Jehovah,” in accordance with the requirements of divine law: and the goat which carried off its load of sin for “complete removal,” as signifying the cleansing influence of faith in the sacrifice.… But for us the whole spiritual truth has been revealed in historic fact, in the life, death, and resurrection of Him who was made sin for us, who died for us, and rose again for our justification. This Mediator it was necessary should in some unspeakable manner unite death and life.


Topic: A UNIQUE DAY IN ISRAEL (Leviticus 16:2-3)

I. A LAW OF SEPARATION: Hindrances to abiding nearness to God. “That he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil.”

1. God was enclosed from man within that veil; man excluded from God: sin’s effect.

2. No permanent abiding place had been secured for even the most privileged within God’s presence; atonement was not perfect (Hebrews 10:1-4).

3. Perfection for man could not come of Levitical priesthood or sacrifices: and the faulty, the unclean, could not abide in God’s sight.

II. A LAW OF RECONCILIATION: Atonement removing obstructions from between man and God. Access within the veil effected, through—

1. A spotless priest. “These are holy garments” (Leviticus 16:4). “Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place” (Leviticus 16:3).

2. The ample atonement. “With sin-offering, and burnt-offering” (Leviticus 16:3); satisfying all God’s claims against the sinner; and sufficing for all man’s guilt and requirements.

3. Privileged recipients. “Make atonement for himself and his house” (Leviticus 16:6); representing the Church (Hebrews 3:6).

III. A LAW OF FELLOWSHIP: Admission into the most sacred Presence.

1. By blood of sprinkling: Evidence of substitutionary death. “Seven times” applied (Leviticus 16:14): perfect redemption.

2. By merits of the Saviour’s grace; sweet incense burned before the Lord (Leviticus 16:12-13): “sweet savour of Christ.” By the fragrant merits, by the precious blood of Christ, we may “enter into the holiest.” [See Addenda to chap. xvi., Mercy Seat.]

Topic: TYPICAL ENACTMENT OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 16:3, seq.)

Both the day and the observances were authorised of God (Leviticus 16:1-2); both, therefore, divinely important.

(1) In regard to the definiteness of the day.
(2) In regard to the meaning and order of its ceremonies.


1. The divinely stated reason for its appointment (Leviticus 16:16).

(1) The fact of sin and the necessity for its expiation by blood, both unmistakeably and divinely declared. This is significant, as it bears upon the atonement of which this was only a type.

(2) Sin necessitates atonement if it is to be pardoned: “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

(a) Aaron’s personal preparations typical of the purity and holiness of our Lord (Leviticus 16:4 : Hebrews 7:26).

(b) Aaron’s typical work (Leviticus 16:17-18).

i. Our Lord was absolutely alone in His great atoning work.
ii. Though Aaron here typifies Christ, he must not himself forget that he is a sinner, and therefore must atone for his own sins. In this he was not a type of Christ (Hebrews 7:27).

(3) This fact bespeaks the antagonism of sin against the divine will, and the holiness and righteousness of the divine character.
2. The divinely appointed measures for its observance.

(1) In respect to the agent to carry out the measure.

(a) It was not anyone who volunteered, but Aaron the priest (Leviticus 16:2-6).

(b) So is the case of our Lord (Hebrews 5:4-5).

(2) In respect to the measures themselves.

iii. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled first upon the mercy seat eastward, and then before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14), and then in the “holy place,” and lastly upon “the altar that is before the Lord.” Thus the atoning blood was sprinkled everywhere, from the throne of God within the veil to the altar which stood in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation (comp. Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 9:28).

iv. Now follows the typical act of releasing the live goat (Leviticus 16:20-22).

The two goats were designed to represent the two aspects of Christ’s atonement: First, that on which “the Lord’s lot” fell being doomed to death showed that the DEATH of Christ alone could vindicate the majesty, truth and holiness of the character of God. Secondly, the live goat over which Aaron confessed the people’s sins, and thus typically was ordained to “bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited” (Leviticus 16:22), signified the completeness of the divine act in the remission of the sins of him who, by confession and faith in Christ, transfers them to Him.

v. An instructive and significant scene follows (Leviticus 16:27-28). The burnt offering represents consecration. Here, first, of our Lord; having atoned for our sins, He has consecrated Himself to His Father for His Church, to protect, guide, sympathise with, intercede for, and ultimately present her without spot unto the Father (Ephesians 5:25-27; John 14:3; Romans 8:34). Secondly, we have here represented the consecration of the believer.

vi. The perpetuity of this memorial.

1. The hatefulness, heinousness, and guiltiness of sin are here shown.
2. God’s desire to provide for the removal of its guilt, and the prevention of its consequences demonstrated.
3. The comprehensiveness of the provision in the atonement.—Rev. D. C. Hughes.

Topic: THE SLAIN GOAT AND THE SCAPEGOAT (Leviticus 16:8-10; Leviticus 16:15-16; Leviticus 16:21-22)

On this day many victims died. Each holy altar, each holy place received the reconciling sign of blood. Each sacrifice proclaims that substituted sufferings avail.
Christ, their full truth, has once laid down His life. That once is all-sufficient for all the sins of all His people.
But in the service of the atoning day one part stands singularly forth. Two goats are brought for a sin offering. The priest receives them at the tabernacle door. Lots are cast. Man’s mind may not select. Some unseen hand takes one for death and bids the other live. This scene reveals the council of eternal love. Before the worlds, God’s will called Jesus to the saving work. Each portion of the scheme was pre-resolved. Each was consigned to His receiving hands.

I. THE SENTENCED GOAT DIED; and mark the uses of its blood.

With this the high priest ventures within the mystic veil; the mercy seat receives the drops; the holy tent is strewn throughout; seven times the golden altar s horns are touched.

1. Blood is our peace. The wounded conscience writhes; sin is deepest misery. But when the Spirit shows the blood, all dread forebodings cease. It proves that peace is signed in heaven.
2. Blood has a sin-expelling power. How can that be loved which pierced the Lord?
3. Blood drives Satan back. Nothing can daunt him, no place exclude him, but this blood of Christ.
4. Blood bars the entrance to doom. A Christ-washed soul may not enter there.
5. Blood removes the hindrances to heaven. Behold the countless multitudes before the throne. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
6. The blood fills paradise with songs. This is the substance of their mighty anthem: “Thou wast slain,” etc. They cannot sing above who have not washed on earth.


1. On its head is transmitted all Israel’s guilt. The substitute receives the whole. The scapegoat takes the burden on its head.
2. It is borne by him afar; beyond the camp, beyond all sight, beyond the track of man. Unseen, unknown, forgotten, it departs from mortal view; buried in oblivion’s land.

Faith knows this scapegoat well; there is no brighter picture of full pardon of all sin in Christ. Daily the soul tells out all its sin upon the head of Christ, who waits to bear it, and carry it far away. Christ hastens away with the accursed load, and God’s all-searching eye finds it no more.

Is the east distant from the west? Can we move through the intervening space? As we advance the horizon still recedes; infinite separation divides. Thus far the scapegoat bears our guilt away (Psalms 103:12).

Can we recover what is buried in ocean depths? Such is the grave of sin (Micah 7:19).

Are objects visible upon which the back is turned? Thus sins are hidden from God (Isaiah 38:17).

How does a mass of blackening clouds wrap the sky in a pall of impenetrable night! Heed the voice of pardoning grace: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgression,” etc. (Isaiah 44:22).

No search finds His people’s sins. A land of infinite forgetfulness conceals them (Jeremiah 50:20).

God’s pledge stands. “I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). The scapegoat ordinance confirms the truth.

Ponder this ordinance. Sins, many, vile and hateful, pass to our Scapegoat, and so pass away. Faith transfers them; Christ removes them; God forgets them.
Have your hands touched the Scapegoat’s head? If not, your loathsome load remains.—Dean Law.

Topic: INTERCESSION OF CHRIST (Leviticus 16:12-14)

And he shall take a censer full of burning coals from off the altar, and his hands full of sweet incense and bring it within the veil.”

We derive great advantage from being able to compare the Old Testament with the New. Since we see religion is essentially the same thing in all times and ages.
There are not two ways of acceptance with God: one under the law and another under the gospel—but one way for Jew and Gentile: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, etc.”
The fault of the Jews who entered not into the proper spirit of their own religion: that they valued the shell of their religion, but saw not the Pearl of great price. They fully estimated, perhaps over estimated the adornments of the casket, but certainly overlooked the bright Jewel within. They rejoiced in the pomp of their worship, the splendour of their ritual, the imposing grandeur of their sacrifices and the miraculous attestation that their religion came from God, but were strangely remiss in not discovering its real spirituality of design, and its intimate connection with the person and work of Christ. They cried “The Temple of the Lord are we,” but when the Lord of the Temple came, they treated Him with opposition and contempt. Had they been good Jews, they would have been good Christians. Our Lord implies this—“If ye believed his writing (marg.) ye would have believed my words.” If they had been true disciples of Moses they would have been of Christ.

Let us be warned, and pray that we may see the spiritual design both of their dispensation and of our own.


1. As typically exhibited under the law.

Here Moses describes the ceremony of the great day of expiation and atonement. Aaron went into the most holy place to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice before the mercy seat. No human being was permitted to accompany him. All the worshippers remained without (Luke 1:8-9; Luke 1:12). Aaron was to enter on behalf of the children of Israel—so that what he did within the veil was not merely on his own account but on theirs, all of which was a great type of Christ (Hebrews 9:11). He used no words, but what he did was significant enough. He appeared there that the virtue of the blood shed on the altar might be applied to the acceptance of the tribes be represented in the forgiveness of their sins, and the answer of their prayers. Herein a type of Christ.

2. As actually fulfilled in Christ. He not only suffered on the cross, but ascended Not on His own account but ours.

It mainly consists in His presenting Himself before God in our nature, and in the merit of His finished atonement as the ground of our acceptance, and in the intimation of His will (in thought if not in words), that the purchased blessing of His salvation may be theirs, and that all law-charges and accusations against them may be hushed and cancelled.
To appear in the presence of God.” Not for Himself but for us. Teaching us that His state of transcendant happiness has not removed Him to an inaccessible distance, and has neither dissolved nor impaired His gracious connection with us, but maintains, without any detraction from His own perfect bliss, the most generous sympathy with our interests and wants.

It puts a glory on His atonement—that everything is to pass through His hands. A shining testimony of the holiness of God, and the efficacy of Christ’s work. No wonder if, having finished His work, He should appear above with large accessions of splendour to repossess the glory He had before all worlds. But here is the point of admiration, He does not appear for His benefit but for ours. Illustrated by common analogies:—as an advocate appears on behalf of his clients; a king on behalf of his subjects; a general as representative of his troops; a priest at the altar as representative of whole body of worshippers; so Christ appears as the representative of all His believing people. As our King He appears in beauty; as Captain of salvation appears victorious; as Elder Brother; as Priest, Counsellor, Advocate.

Grand expression of His love. Not content to offer one life on the Cross. He consecrates His new existence. Though raised to the throne of reverence, does not overlook His little flock (John 17:0).


i. The forgiveness of our sins. “If any man sin.” After all done for us, we are guilty and undeserving. But while our sins are crying out against us on earth, Christ is pleading in heaven.

Every contrite sinner has liberty to apply by faith the merits of the atoning sacrifice. Nay, every sinner is condemned for not doing this. “Whosoever cometh.” But for this, our state would be less safe than under the law. Every Jew, to whatsoever tribe he belonged, might carry his sacrifice to the priest, and as he saw him enter the veil might say, “He is gone thither for me, sprinkled the Holy Place for me.” So every Christian now.

ii. Relief of our sorrows. Christ possesses a capacity of sympathy, especially in mental distresses, tenderness of conscience, etc. Hannah prayed, but Eli’s heart was not touched with feeling of her infirmity.

iii. The acceptance of our duties. These are maimed and imperfect. Enough evil in them to render them offensive and displeasing to God. But Christ presents them (Revelation 8:2).

Your tears of penitence, labours of faith, songs of gratitude, vows of obedience, He presents. Amid worship of angels, saints, and martyrs He disdains not to present the sighings of the prisoner, the tears of contrite, the prayers of the child whose mind is opening to devotion, and ejaculation of dying.

iv. The frustration of spiritual enemies. Satan is the avenger, but Christ is our advocate. “Peter, I have prayed for thee.”—S. THODEY, A.D. 1840.

Topic: THE WORTH OF SACRIFICES (Leviticus 16:16-30)

Of all the days of the Jewish year this was The Day, the meeting-time of God and man.

The priestly tribe could minister on all other days; none but the High Priest on this. No foot but his should press the floor of the sacred tent. Dressed in purest white, repeatedly cleansed with pure water, he entered—one man for the nation, into the holy of holies.

What did the elaborate ritual of the day mean? If divine forgiveness depended upon such a day, then why did the world wait for twenty-five hundred years before the Day’s appointment? If absolutely necessary, why was not the day and its ritual enjoined upon Abraham, and even upon Adam in Paradise? What is the meaning of sacrifice? Observe—

1. God’s character is not changed by sacrifice. He neither regards sin with less hatred, nor loves the sinner less in consequence. The burnt offerings and sacrifices of the centuries have not added jot or tittle to His immeasurable love. The sacrifice of Calvary was the natural outcome of the divine nature, rather than the means of changing that nature. This sacrifice, like all others, expressed His change of attitude.

2. These mere sacrifices possessed no intrinsic value. In themselves considered, sacrifices are a “vain oblation” (Isaiah 1:13; comp. Micah 6:7; Psalms 51:16; Hebrews 10:6). So, though thousands stood by the altar with their offerings, with a multitude of sacrifices, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

Bearing these facts in mind, that the divine nature is unchanged by them, also that mere sacrifices are unpleasing to Him and powerless to take away sin; what is their nature and history, and why commanded?

Of the 4,000 years ending with the Sacrifice of Calvary, 2,500 had passed ere sacrifices were instituted. God says by Jeremiah, “I spake not unto your fathers concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jeremiah 7:22). They were instituted after the sinful worship of the golden calf at Sinai.

But the fact is evident that they were instituted because there was a necessity: yet since, as we have seen, it was not a necessity on God’s part, it must have been for man’s sake.

In the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement God proclaims eternal truths.


These were the chosen people whose God alone was holy. Yet behold the people all in abasement: it is the cry, “We have sinned!”

1. Not one of all the people could offer a sacrifice: not one was sinless: the high priest alone was allowed to act for them.

2. One spot alone was sacred, curtained with richest fabrics: and this one spot thus curtained was the divine rebuke against sin.


Our sinfulness cannot change God’s nature, although it changes His attitude towards us.

1. The whole sacrificial order of the Day of Atonement was given for the cleansing from sin. Just as Christ afterwards came to “save His people from their sins.”

2. Every sacrifice was one of blood, from Abel’s downward. Why? “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it you upon the altar to make an atonement for your soul.”

3. This affirms that the God of love must respect His holy law even at the expense of death. These sacrifices were the elementary lessons declaring that by-and-by the law would be made honourable by the costliest of all sacrifices.


In silence, on that great silent Day, stood priests and people while the high priest entered the holy place and fulfilled his task.

1. His unworthiness for such deeds was impressed upon him every moment. He must offer sacrifices “for himself”: then five times he washed his whole body, and ten times his hands and feet. He must lay aside his own garments and wear the whitest linen.

No imperfect man could become a perfect priest, any more than an imperfect sacrifice could give a perfect conscience. Salvation depends on a more perfect High Priest than Aaron.

2. Our Great High Priest needed no such cleansing. “He offered himself without spot to God.”

Verily the Day of Atonement was the culminating day of Jewish history. Its sunrise was upon Sinai, its sunset upon Calvary. In the morning the people said to Moses, “Let not God speak to us lest we die!” but in the evening the surging crowd heard the sacred lips proclaim to a world longing for salvation, “IT IS FINISHED!”—Rev. David O. Mears.


This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the chil of Israel for all their sins once a year (Levi. Leviticus 16:34)

The day of atonement was pre-eminenently intended to typify that great day of vengeance of our God, which was also the great day of acceptance of our souls, when Jesus Christ “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” That day of atonement happened only once a year, to teach us that only once should Jesus Christ die; and at a set and appointed time; not left to choice of Moses, or convenience of Aaron, but on a peculiar set day (Leviticus 16:29), to show that God’s great day of atonement was appointed and predestinated by Himself. Christ’s expiation occurred but once, and then not by any chance; God had settled it from before the foundation of the world; and at that hour when God had predestinated, on the very day that God had decreed Christ should die, was He led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers He was dumb.

I. THE PERSON WHO WAS TO MAKE THE ATONEMENT. Aaron the high priest did it. “Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place; with a young bullock for a sin offering and a lamb for a burnt offering,” Inferior priests slaughtered lambs; other priests at other times did almost all the work of the sanctuary; but on this day nothing was done by any one, as a part of the business of the great day of atonement, except by the high priest. Old rabbinical traditions tell us that everything on that day was done by him, even the lighting of the candles, and the fires, and the incense, and all the offices that were required, and that, for a fortnight beforehand, he was obliged to go into the tabernacle to slaughter the bullocks and assist in the work of the priests and Levites, that he might be prepared to do the work which was unusual to him. All the labour was left to him. So Jesus Christ, the High Priest, and He only, works the atonement. There are other priests, for “he hath made us priests and kings unto God.” Every Christian is a priest to offer sacrifice of prayer and praise unto God, but none save the high priest must offer atonement, go within the veil, slaughter the goat, and sprinkle the blood.

2. The high priest on this day was a humbled priest. “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” (Leviticus 16:4). On other days he wore the golden garments; the mitre with a plate of pure gold around his brow, tied with brilliant blue; the splendid breastplate, studded with gems, adorned with pure gold and set with precious stones; the glorious ephod, the tinkling bells, and all the other ornaments wherewith he came before the people as the accepted high priest. But on this day he had none of them. On that day he humbled himself just as the people humbled themselves. Jesus Christ, when He made atonement, was a humbled priest. He did not make atonement arrayed in all the glories of His ancient throne in heaven. Upon His brow there was no diadem save the crown of thorns; around Him was cast no purple robe, save that which He wore for a time in mockery; on His head was no sceptre, save the reed which they thrust in cruel contempt upon Him. But oh! adore Him, for it was the simple clean linen of His own humanity, in which He made atonement for your sins.

3. A spotless high priest; and because there were none such to be found, Aaron had to sanctify himself and make atonement for his own sin before he could go in to make an atonement for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:3). Yea, more, before he went within the veil with the blood of the goat which was the atonement for the people, he had to go within the veil to make atonement there for himself (Leviticus 16:11-13). Aaron must not go within the veil until his sins had been typically expiated, nor even then without the burning smoking incense before his face, lest God should look on him and he should die, being an impure mortal. Moreover, it is said, that he had to wash himself many times that day (Leviticus 16:4; Leviticus 16:24). So you see it was strictly provided for that Aaron on that day should be a spotless priest; not so as to nature, but, ceremonially, care was taken that he should be clean. But we have a spotless High Priest, who needed no washing, needed no atonement for Himself; needed no incense to wave before the mercy seat to hide the angry face of justice; needed nothing to hide and shelter Him; He was all pure and clean. Adore and love Him, the spotless High Priest, who, on the day of atonement, took away guilt.

4. The atonement was made by a solitary high priest—alone and unassisted. “And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place” (Leviticus 16:17). Matthew Henry observes, that no disciple died with Christ: when He was put to death His disciples forsook Him and fled; they crucified none of His followers with Him, lest any should suppose that the disciple shared the honour of atonement. Thieves were crucified with Him because none would suspect that they could assist Him: but if a disciple had died, it might have been imagined that he had shared the atonement. God kept that holy circle of Calvary select to Christ. O glorious High Priest, Thou hast done it all alone. “I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me.” Then give all the glory unto His holy name, for alone and unassisted He made atonement for your guilt.

5. Again, it was a laborious high priest who did the work on that day. There were fifteen beasts which he slaughtered at different times, besides the other offices, which were all left to him. He who was ordained priest in Jeshurun, for that day toiled like a common Levite, worked as laboriously as priest could do, and far more so than on any ordinary day. Just so with our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, what a labour the atonement was to Him! It was a work that all the hands of the universe could not have accomplished; yet He completed it alone. There was the bloody sweat in Gethsemane, the watching all night, then came the shame, the spitting, the cruel flagellations in Pilate’s hall; then there was the via dolorosa through Jerusalem’s sad streets; then came the hanging on the cross, with the weight of His people’s sins on His shoulders. Ay, it was a divine labour that our great High Priest did on that day—a labour mightier than the making of the world: it was the new making of a world, the taking of its sins upon His almighty shoulders and casting them into the depths of the sea. Jesus, though He had toiled before, yet never worked as He did on that wondrous day of atonement.


“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” (Leviticus 16:5; see also Leviticus 16:7-10). The first is the type of the means whereby the atonement was made.

1. It answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year. Even so was our Lord a perfect man, in the prime and vigour of his manhood. And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel (Leviticus 16:5). The public treasury furnished the goat. So Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before He died. Thirty pieces of silver they had valued Him at, a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat, so they brought Him to be offered; not with the intention that He should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly they fulfilled this when they cried “Crucify Him!”

2. Though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still. Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” This mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” So it is true that man put Christ to death, but it was of the Lord’s disposal that Jesus Christ was slaughtered, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”

3. Behold the goat marked out to make the atonement, and see it die. The priest stabs it. Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling; observe the blood. Ye have here your Saviour. See His Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in His heart; behold His death agonies. Mark the blood from His open side. As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so thy dying Saviour made the great atonement for thy sins.

4. That blood was taken within the veil, and there sprinkled. So with Jesus’s blood, “Sprinkled now with blood the throne.” The Saviour’s blood has made atonement within the veil; He has taken it there himself. By this one offering atonement was made for ever.

III. We now come to the EFFECTS.

1. One of the first effects of the death of this goat was the sanctification of the holy things which had been made unholy. “He shall sprinkle it upon the mercy seat: and he shall make an atonement for the holy place,” etc. (Leviticus 16:15). Where God dwelt should be holy, but where man comes there must be some degree of unholiness. This blood of the goat made the unholy place holy. So of this sanctuary, our praises and our prayers, there is blood on them all; our holy Sabbath services have been sprinkled with the blood of the great Jesus, and as such they will be accepted through Him. Is it not sweet to reflect that our holy things are now really holy; that though sin is mixed with them all, and we think them defiled, yet the blood has washed out every stain: and our Sanctuary service is as holy in God’s sight as the service of the cherubim, and is acceptable as the psalms of the glorified; we have washed our worship in the blood of the Lamb, and it is accepted through Him.

2. The second great fact was that their sins were taken away. This was set forth by the scapegoat. The first goat was a type of the atonement; the second is the type of the effect of the atonement. The second goat went away, after the first was slaughtered, carrying the sins of the people on its head, and so it sets forth, as a scapegoat, how our sins are carried away into the depths of the wilderness. But mark, this goat did not sacrificially make the atonement: it is the fruit of the atonement; but the sacrifice is the means of making it. So by the death of Christ there was full, free, perfect remission for all those whose sins are laid upon His head. For on this day all sins were laid on the scapegoat’s head—sins of presumption, ignorance, uncleanness, sins little and sins great, sins against the law, morality, ceremonies, sins of all kinds were taken away on that great day of atonement.

3. An interesting fact is here worth mentioning. Turn to Leviticus 25:9, and you will read: “Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.” So one of the effects of the atonement was set forth to us, the scapegoat is gone and the sins are gone; and no sooner are they gone than the silver trumpet sounds.

The year of jubilee is come,
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

On that day sinners go free; on that day our poor mortgaged lands are liberated, and our poor estates which have been forfeited by our spiritual bankruptcy are all returned to us. So when Jesus dies, slaves win their liberty, and lost ones receive spiritual life again; when He dies, heaven, the long lost inheritance, is ours. Blessed day! Atonement and jubilee ought to go together. Have you ever had a jubilee in your hearts? If you have not, it is because you have not had a day of atonement.

4. One more effect of this great day of atonement: entrance within the veil. Only on one day in the year might the high priest enter within the veil, and then it must be for the great purposes of the atonement. Now, the atonement is finished, and you may enter within the veil; “Having boldness, therefore, to enter into the holiest, let us come with boldness unto the throne of the heavenly grace.”


1. “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” (Leviticus 16:29). That is one thing that we ought to do when we remember the atonement. Sure, sinner, there is nothing that should move thee to repentance like the thought of that great sacrifice of Christ which is necessary to wash away thy guilt. “Law and terrors do but harden,” but methinks, the thought that Jesus died is enough to make us melt. It is well, when we hear the name of Calvary, always to shed a tear, for there is nothing that ought to make a sinner weep like the mention of the death of Jesus. On that day “ye shall afflict your souls.” And even you, Christians, when you think that your Saviour died, should afflict your souls: ye should say,

Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Drops of grief ought to flow, to show our grief for what we did to pierce the Saviour. “Afflict your souls,” weep for Him that died; weep for Him who was murdered by your sins.

2. Then, we are to “do no work at all” (Leviticus 16:29). When we consider the atonement, we should rest, and “do no work at all.” Rest from your works as God did from His on the great Sabbath of the world; rest from your own righteousness; rest from your toilsome duties; rest in Him. “We that believe do enter into rest.” No longer seek to save thyself; it is done, it is done for aye!

3. When the priest had made the atonement, after he had washed himself, he came out again in his glorious garments. When the people saw him they attended him to his house with joy, and they offered burnt offerings of praise on that day: he being thankful that his life was spared, and they being thankful that the atonement was accepted; both of them offering burnt offerings as a type that they desired now to be “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.” Let us go into our houses with joy. The atonement is finished; the High Priest has laid aside the linen garments, and He stands before you with His breastplate, and His mitre, and His embroidered vest, in all His glory. How He rejoices over us, for He hath redeemed His people, and ransomed them out of the hands of His enemies. Come, let us go home with the High Priest; the atonement is accepted, and we are accepted too; the scapegoat is gone, our sins are gone with it. He hath given unto us a day of atonement, and a day of acceptance, and a year of jubilee.—C. H. Spurgeon, A.D.1856: Abbreviated.

Topic: THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 16:1-5)

The Mosaicritual here reaches a climacteric point. On this annual day of national expiation every kind of sin was confessed and atoned for, which might have escaped notice before. Propitiation being offered for the whole nation, all the people received forgiveness. The day gave all other days a deeper meaning, its rites interpreted and intensified all other ceremonies. Notice—

I. THE TIME; when the day of atonement was instituted. “After the death of the two sons of Aaron.” (a) It was just after a great catastrophe. The fire of the Lord had flashed out, revealing the divine indignation against the reckless priests. Thus the Lord showed, that, though the workers may sin and die, the work must go on; that in the midst of deserved wrath He remembers mercy. (b) It was just at a great crisis. The Jewish theocracy was being consolidated, and those rites and ceremonies completed that would distinguish the Jews for ever from all other nations. The basis was being laid, broad and deep, for the operations of God to bless the world. All the light of nature and revelation, of the patriarchial dispensation and the human conscience, was centred in the day of atonement, (c) It was just before a great career. Israel had before them a great mission, they had been miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage, were to pass the wilderness and enter the promised land. They were to be the custodians of the Word of God, and the representatives of real religion. Through them all the nations of the earth were to be blessed; with them Jehovah would dwell; by them, make Himself known to the world; and eventually through their posterity He would come, and in very deed would dwell with man on the earth.

II. THE PERSON by whom the atonement was to be made. “The Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother,” etc. Any of the priests could offer the daily sacrifices; but, the annual one could be offered by the high priest alone. For so great and distinguished an office (a) a human agent was selected. A man—feeble, sinful, sorrowful, and dying—Moses’ brother, and a brother of the whole race. What dignity God puts on man! How He selects feeble agents to accomplish mighty results, and makes men co-workers with Himself in the most solemn and sublime engagements. (b) A human agent was directed. Moses—to convey directions about the duties Aaron should perform in connection with his high office. The Lord never calls men to work for Him without giving them, at the same time, ability to do it, and directions how to do it. Aaron but faintly fore-shadowed our great High Priest; for Christ was God, as well as man, and needed not to be instructed. He knew the Father’s will completely, and did it perfectly; and knew also what was in man, and needed for man.

III. THE SPIRIT in which the person was to officiate. Aaron was not to come at all times unto the holy place; so, he was to possess (a) a reticent spirit. His sons, who were slain before the Lord, had not restrained themselves, but rushed unbidden into the holy place; Aaron was to take warning by their fate, hold himself under restraint, not be too free and familiar with sacred things, even though he might be tempted to go into the holy of holies more than once a year. (b) A devout spirit. The most holy place was calculated to inspire the priests with reverent feelings. That it was to be entered but once a year would impress the mind of Aaron with religious awe, as well as the fact that, on entering, he had to attire himself in special vestments and offer specified sacrifices. The holy of holies was the audience chamber of the theocratic King, the seat and throne of the divine kingdom among men. The peculiar privilege of meeting God face to face once a year demanded the deepest solemnity and profoundest reverence. (c) A sanctified spirit. Not only was Aaron to feel becomingly reverent, when he offered the atonement, but he was also to possess a suitable disposition in other respects. He was commanded to lay aside his splendid pontifical robes, and attire himself in the simple sacerdotal garments of an ordinary Levite He did not appear now as the representative of the people simply, but as a sinful man seeking pardon for himself and the whole nation. The clean white linen in which he officiated would symbolise purity; and the complete washing before putting it on would represent sanctity of character.

When Christ came to our world to atone for men, He laid aside His glory and took upon Him the clean white garment of the virgin’s nature; He came in a spirit that pleased God, that met all the requirements of the divine law, thereby securing a perfect and everlasting righteousness, which is unto all and upon all who believe.

IV. THE RESULTS the officiator was to expect. The Lord, always present in the cloud upon the mercy seat, had promised the people that on the day of atonement He would “appear” unto them. (a) There would be the special manifestation of the divine presence. Not in the cloud of incense ascending from the swinging censer in Aaron’s hand, but in the supernatural cloud that did not waste away—did not change like other clouds; that was lighted up, not with rays of the natural sun, but with beams of divine brightness. The divine appearance was supernatural. (b) There would be the mysterious manifestation of the divine presence. The Lord would appear, but it would be in the cloud, His glory would be veiled; for no man could literally see His face and live. The Deity was to be seen “through a glass darkly.” He was to be apprehended, but not comprehended. (c) There would be the gracious manifestation of the divine presence. It was upon “the mercy seat” that the Lord promised to appear. Had the Deity erected a judgment seat, instead, among the people, they would all, not only have been condemned, but speedily consumed. But the day of atonement would work propitiation, and win both pardon and peace.

If the gospel is in any part of the book of Leviticus, we have it here; and, read in the light of the ninth chapter of Hebrews we see the great atonement of the Redeemer foreshadowed in the ceremonies connected with this national day of expiation. Through Christ’s atonement the veil has been rent in twain; we may now draw near to God, and know Him as our Father; for Christ was “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” Through Him we have now received the atonement.—F. W. B.

Topic: AARON’S SIN OFFERING FOR HIMSELF (Leviticus 16:5-14)

The holiness communicated and imputed to the high priest at his consecration, did not free him from liability to commit sin and incur guilt. Hence, previous to presenting an atonement for the sins of the whole nation Aaron was commanded to present a sin offering for himself and his house. He needed clean hands and a pure heart when entering into the most holy place. According to the word of the Lord so Aaron did. Observe—

I. It was AN OBEDIENT ACT. The bullock was to be taken and slain by the high priest’s own hands, indicating ready and unquestioning acquiescence with the divine will. Such obedience is still indispensible to acceptable worship and sacrifice.

II. It was A FRAGRANT ACT. A censer full of burning coals, of the fire from off the altar of the Lord, was taken within the veil, and sweet incense, beaten small, put upon the fire, that its fragrance might fill the holy place.

III. It was A REVERENT ACT. The cloud of the incense was to cover the mercy-seat, that the offerer die not. He was not to gaze with unclouded eyes upon the place where God made Himself specially known. He was to be reminded of the infinite and unapproachable majesty, as well of the infinite meekness and mercy of Jehovah; and, that though privileged to draw near the mercy seat, he must worship with profound reverence.

IV. It was A SUPPLIANT ACT. The blood of the bullock was to be sprinkled upon the mercy seat, eastward, and before it, with his finger seven times. The incense would not only denote cheerful but also expectant worship, for it suggests the sweet and ascending nature of prayer. The blood sprinkled on and before the mercy seat would seem to cry for mercy; and indicate, not only prayer, but propitiation.—F. W. B.



(1) Both were divinely appointed. Aaron was chosen and anointed to be the high priest of Israel. Christ was set apart, and ordained as the High Priest of man, and “anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.”

(2) Both atoned “alone” on the great day of atonement. No one was allowed to enter the most holy place with Aaron; and Christ “trod the winepress alone”; neither man, nor angels shared with Him the suffering and oblation of the cross.

(3) Both were divinely accepted. Assurances were given that the great oblation would be accepted; and, when offered, indications were vouchsafed that Jehovah was well pleased. Aaron’s return from the solemn seclusion of the most holy place was proof he had pleased Jehovah; for unacceptable sacrifice would have been visited with death to the offerer. So, when Christ came from the darkness of the grave after His atonement it showed He was accepted, and Jehovah satisfied.

(4) The blessings of both were discriminately dispensed. The atoning blood only bedewed those who felt and confessed their guilt. So, while the atonement of Christ is sufficient for all, it is only efficient and applied where hearts are truly broken and contrite.


(1). Aaron had to make the atonement once a year; showing how imperfect and temporary the efficacy of his offering was; but Christ offered His atonement once for ever, never to be repealed or repeated.

(2). Aaron atoned for himself, needed to obtain pardon before he could atone for the people; but Christ was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” and needed not to atone for Himself; He “did no sin, neither was any deceit found in his mouth.”

(3). Aaron offered a sacrifice that was provided for him; but Christ offered Himself; was both priest and victim; and it was the infinite dignity of His nature that gave infinite value to His sacrifice.

(4). Aaron offered a material sacrifice, but Christ ‘poured out his soul unto death.” He gave His blood, i.e., His life and love to reconcile the world unto God.

(5). Aaron offered for HIMSELF and the sins of ISRAEL ONLY. Christ did not offer for Himself but He offered “for the sins of the whole world.”

(6) Aaron’s offering only atoned for inadvertant sins, for faults and failings of men; for high-handed sins, and wilful transgressions there was no remedy; when those were discovered, they were met with the penalty of death. But the sacrifice of Christ atones for ALL SIN, even the most flagrant and heinous (see Hebrews 10:0).—F. W. B.


Special significance was given to the day of atonement by directions concerning it being reiterated, by freedom from all ceremonial defilement being insisted upon. The priests burnt incense every day on the golden altar without the veil, but the high priest alone was permitted to enter into the holy of holies within the veil once a year. This statute would awaken solemn reflection, and be an abiding precaution against undue familiarity with the visible symbolic presence of Jehovah. The day of atonement was to be observed—

I. ANNUALLY. “And it shall be a statute for ever unto you.” The tenth day of the seventh month (Tisri) in every year was to be observed down to the time when the great antitype would render the annual repetition of the rite unnecessary. The day gave a rounded completeness to the oblations of the year; the ceremony would be perpetually needed, for each succeeding generation would require the blessings of propitiation and forgiveness.

II. PUBLICLY. The whole nation was commanded to join in celebration with great unanimity. “Whether it be one of your own country, or of a stranger that sojourneth among you.” The blood of the sacrifice was to be taken by the high priest within the veil, and sprinkled secretly upon the mercy seat, but he was to reappear among the people, pronounce publicly his benediction, and show openly that the sacrifice had been completed, the end of the ceremony secured. The service included, because it was intended for, all.

III. TRANQUILLY. “It shall be a sabbath of rest to you.” No manner of work to be done by any who were in the camp. Thus disengaged from all secular toil, the people could concentrate their thoughts upon the solemn engagements of the day, with undistracted minds and undivided hearts. The exercises of the day were not sanguinary struggles with the Almighty for victory over His wrath against sin, but an exhibition of His mercy in opening a way of propitiation for all who would embrace opportunity. The tranquillity of the day of atonement was symbolic of the rest of soul Israel might enjoy under a consciousness of sin forgiven and restoration to the divine favour; suggestive of the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and which those enjoy who are made one with Him by sacrifice.

IV. CONTRITELY. “Ye shall afflict your souls.” According to many Jewish writers, the children of Israel submitted to manifold deep humiliations on that day, observed it as a solemn fast. They were not commanded to afflict their bodies or rend their garments, but to present the sacrifice of broken and contrite hearts, which God will never despise. This would necessitate the suppression of worldliness, the repression of every sinful passion. When the hands of the high priest were placed upon the head of the scapegoat, and the sins of the people confessed, faith and repentance were to be exercised or the ceremony would be a mere farce, and offensive to Him who expects worshippers to draw near in spirit and in truth.

Many objections have been alleged against the doctrine of atonement by vicarious sacrifice, against propitiation by “blood.” Those difficulties dwindle away as the light of the New Testament is thrown upon them. The Epistle to the Hebrews shows that “blood” represented life, which is symbolic of (a) priceless worth; (b) highest sanctity; (c) choicest gift. Thus the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin, because it represents and means that His life and love were poured out for the sake of the world’s redemption.

Against the doctrine of divine mediation reason can bring no valid objection; for nature, by abundant analogies and illustrations, suggests its probability in the realm of grace. The sacrifice of Christ was (a) universal; (b) efficacious; (c) voluntary; (d) final. Our duty and privilege to accept the blessings typified by the day of atonement. Our only hope for time and eternity is in Christ. The music that will hush all the discords of earth swells from the new song of Moses and the Lamb.—F. W. B.



“He shall come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat

The day of atonement the most solemn day in the Jewish Calender. Everything about it calculated to awaken interest and solemnity. Other offerings had respect to particular persons and sins, this to the whole nation and all sin. Thus was prefigured the great sacrifice of Calvary, which atoned for sins of whole world. Nadab and Abihu had displayed presumption and irreverence in drawing near to the Lord, and for their wicked conduct had been slain; now, Aaron is commanded not to go into the holy of holies but once a year, lest he should also die. Notice—

I. THAT ACCESS INTO JEHOVAH’S PRESENCE WAS RESTRICTED. Every day ordinary offerings could be presented, and divine favour secured; but, lest the people should become unduly familiar, and therefore irreverent, restraint was put upon their communion, they were not allowed to enter the most holy place at all, and the high priest only on the day of atonement Access into God’s special presence could only be—

1. In a special place. The holy of holies; within the veil, where was the mercy seat crowned with the shekinah cloud. God is everywhere, His favour may be secured in every place: but, His full presence and glory are only beheld in heaven, within the veil.

2. At special times. On the day of atonement special revelations were made of divine mercy, special benedictions were bestowed upon the people. God’s love was signally displayed when Christ effected the atonement upon the cross; special blessings come upon man on the days of rest that remind us of the seal of the atonement, of the resurrection of Jesus on the morning of the third day.

3. By special persons. Only the high priest could enter within the veil, thus teaching Israel how great and worshipful Jehovah was. There was only One in the whole universe who could offer atonement for the sins of the world, and appear in the presence of God for us, the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus.

4. After special preparation. Aaron had to present offerings for himself, and become cleansed from all ceremonial uncleanness, the preparation very thorough and complete. Christ, our Great High Priest, needed not to sacrifice for Himself, nor to seek purification; but He was made perfect through sufferings, and passed through the baptism of Gethsemane on the way to Calvary.

5. For special purposes. Aaron went in to atone and intercede, to fulfil the will and purposes of Jehovah in relation to Israel. Christ died to remove sin, to open gate of heaven to all believers for the regeneration and redemption of humanity.


(a) Impressed the people with the deep solemnity of the ceremony.

(b) Produced profound reverence in their hearts for the worship of Jehovah.

(c) Awakened expectations of special blessings.

The veil of the Temple has been rent in twain; we may go with holy boldness to the throne of grace; yet reverence ought to be cultivated, worship is to be associated with godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.—F. W. B.

Leviticus 16:10-12.—Theme: SIN REMOVED.

The two goats, presented at the door of the tabernacle before the Lord, were but one offering, though one was allowed to escape into the wilderness. The goat slain would indicate that atonement could be effected only by the shedding of blood; the scapegoat would teach that in atonement sin is not only forgiven, but completely taken away. The gospel and the law agree here.

I. THAT SIN TO BE FORGIVEN MUST BE CONFESSED. The people could not atone for their sins, but they must offer the sacrifice of broken and contrite hearts. As Aaron laid his hands on the goat and confessed the sins of the people he would be showing in the most emphatic way that personal faith and repentance were needed in order that guilt might be forgiven. So God requires still that those who seek His pardoning mercy shall feel sorry for their sins and confess them with humble, lowly, and believing hearts.

II. THAT SIN TO BE FORGIVEN MUST BE REMOVED. Not connived at or covered up, not clung to and repeated when the pardon is secured, but taken away for ever; not only the guilt, but the love and practice of sin gone. Christ atoned for, and removed sin. Redemption is to produce sanctification and righteousness. Holiness is the outcome of propitiation, the end of the law and the gospel Christ has secured by His atonement pardon for the guilt of sin and the annihilation of its existence when His kingdom shall be complete, and He “all and in all.”—F. W B.

Leviticus 16:13Theme: INTERCESSION.

The incense may be regarded as symbolic of the merits of the atonement and intercession of the high priest. Sweet ascending fragrance from live coals off altar of sacrifice suggests concerning intercession—

I. ITS BASIS. Sacrifice, mercy-seat: the cloud covered the place where God met propitiously with man.

II. ITS SANCTION. God commanded it; had it before Him. Aaron could swing the censer with holy boldness when and where divinely directed.

III. ITS EFFICACY. Saved life of the priest, “that He die not”; showed that the ceremony had been acceptably observed; gave Aaron warrant to complete the rite and bless the people. Our great High Priest presents the merits of His own sacrifice within the veil; the fragrance of His life and death avail for all who come to God by Him Our prayers and praises may rise mingled with the merits of His intercession, and find acceptance in the holiest of all.—F. W. B.


Aaron, having offered the appointed sacrifice, laid aside his linen garments, washed his person in pure water, arrayed himself in his gorgeous vestments, and stood before the people as their earthly representative and head. Every act in the service pointed to the holiness of God, to His disapproval of every form of sin Sanctification from the stains of guilt, and assumption of the beautiful garments of holiness, essential to acceptable fellowship with the Lord; for—

I. DEFILEMENT CANNOT APPEAR IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD. Only sin can separate between God and man, but sin, producing defilement of the soul, withdraws the sinner far from God, renders him unfit for the divine presence. When our first parents sinned they fled from the presence of the Lord; the atonement heals the breach, effects righteousness within a man, and shows how the perfect righteousness of another may be set over to his account; and this because—

II. PROVISION HAS BEEN MADE FOR THE REMOVAL OF DEFILEMENT. Aaron’s ablutions of his flesh were symbolic of moral cleansing, and suggest to us how guilt may now be removed. In the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness we may have every stain removed, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. The old man, with the lusts of the flesh, must be put off, and the new man put on, transforming the worshippers into new creatures in Christ Jesus.—F. W. B.

Leviticus 16:30.—Theme: THE ATONING SACRIFICE

Israel was taught both helplessness and need, in that atonement had to be made for the nation by one who stood as mediator in its stead. Atonement was made in Jehovah’s own way, the people were to reverently submit to the arrangements, and by repentance and faith avail themselves of the blessings presented Observe—

I. THE ATONEMENT WAS OF A VICARD US CHARACTER. The innocent suffered for the guilty, the priest atoned for the people.

II. THE ATONEMENT SECURED SPIRITUAL PURITY. “That ye may be clean from all your sins”

(a) The moral depravity of man needed it.

(b) The holy nature of Jehovah demanded it.

Once, in the fulness of time, atonement has been made for the sins of the world; a way has been opened for the removal of guilt here, for admission unto perfect holiness and blessedness hereafter.—F. W. B.



“Propitiation,” or mercy seat (the same word as in Hebrews 9:5). If we would have mercy it must be through Christ; out of Christ no mercy is to be had. We read in the old law—

First: None might come into the holy of holies, where the mercy seat stood, but the high priest; signifying that we have nothing to do with mercy but through Christ our High Priest.

Secondly: The high priest might not come near the mercy seat without blood (Leviticus 16:14), to show that we have no right to mercy but through the expiatory sacrifice of Christ’s blood.

Thirdly: The high priest might not, upon pain of death, come near the mercy seat without incense (Leviticus 16:13), indicating that there could be no mercy from God without the incense of Christ’s intercession.

So that, if we would have mercy, we must get a part in Christ—Watson.


There was in the year 1856 exhibited in the Art Union a fine picture of the scapegoat dying in the wilderness: it was represented with a burning sky above it, its feet sticking in the mire, surrounded by hundreds of skeletons, and there dying a doleful and miserable death. Now, that was just a piece of gratuitous nonsense, for there is nothing in the Scripture that warrants it in the least degree. The rabbis tell us that this goat was taken by a man into the wilderness and there tumbled down a high rock to die; but, as an excellent commentor says, if the man did push it down the rock he did more than God ever told him to do. God told him to take a goat and let it go: as to what became of it neither you nor I know anything; that is purposely left. Our Lord Jesus Christ has taken away our sins upon His head, just as the scapegoat, and He is gone from us—that is all: the goat was not a type in its dying, or in regard to its subsequent fate. God has only told us that it should be taken by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. The most correct account seems to be that of one Rabhi Jarchi, who says that they generally took the goat twelve miles out of Jerusalem, and at each mile there was a booth provided where the man who took it might refresh himself till he came to the tenth mile, when there was no more rest for him till he had seen the goat go. When he had come to the last mile he stood and looked at the goat till it was gone, and he could see it no more. Then the people’s sins were all gone too. Now, what a tine type that is if you do not enquire any further! But if you will get meddling where God intended you to be in ignorance, you will get nothing by it. This scapegoat was not designed to show us the victim or the sacrifice, but simply what became of the sins. The sins of the people are confessed upon that head; the goat is going; the people lose sight of it; a fit man goes with it; the sins are going from them, and no v the man has arrived at his destination; the man sees the goat in the distance skipping here and there over the mountains, glad of its liberty; it is not quite gone; a little farther, and now it is lost to sight. The man returns, and says he can no longer see it; then the people clap their hands, for their sins are all gone too. Oh! soul; canst thou see thy sins all gone? We may have to take a long journey, and carry our sins with us; but oh! how we watch and watch till they are utterly cast into the depths of the wilderness of forgetfulness, where they shall never more be found against us for ever.—C. H. Spurgeon.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/leviticus-16.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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