|CLICK HERE TO PRINT!||[CLOSE WINDOW]|
In this chapter we stand upon the summit of Moses' law, where, in the most impressive ritual of the entire system, the Judaic High Priest performed an atonement for Israel, the same being an inspired shadow of that Greater High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, who would give his life as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world! (1 John 2:2). The Jews still observe this day which falls upon the tenth day of their first month of the civil year, Tishri, the same being the seventh month of their religious year, the very numbers of these months symbolizing the truth that the Atonement marks the beginning of Israel's national life and the fruition and completeness (the seventh month) of their religious life.
"Yom Kippur" is the name which the Jews have given this day. [~Yowm] means day; and [~Kippur] refers to the mercy-seat, a translation given by William Tyndale to the word for the lid or covering of the Ark of Covenant, the [~kappereth], which in a figure means the covering of sins, or atonement. In Hebrew writings, the day is sometimes called simply [~Yoma], meaning "The Day."
Critical writers profess dissatisfaction with the placement of this chapter. They would have put it somewhere else! But, as Seiss expressed it, "Its proper place seems to be exactly where God put it."F1 The theological point of departure for this chapter was accurately discerned and convincingly presented by Gordon J. Wenham, a highly-respected, present-day scholar:
(Paraphrase). It began in Lev. 10, referred to from the outset here, where the death of two of Aaron's sons demonstrated the wrath of God against all who dared to approach God improperly. The intervening chapters (Lev. 11--15) gave careful instructions regarding what was or was not clean, and the next logical and necessary step is taken here in Lev. 16, where the proper procedure must be observed by the High Priest to preserve him and the other priests from a fate like that of Nadab and Abihu.F2
However, much more than the preservation of the lives of the priests is involved. The elaborate rules for cleanness in Lev. 11--15 demonstrated the absolute certainty that all people would at times be "unclean," that their unworthiness to approach God was, in a sense, constant, that this would of necessity contaminate the very articles and structure of the tabernacle itself, and that even those sacred items thus contaminated would need to be purified, or to have an atonement made for them, the same being one of the great purposes discernible here. (See Lev. 16:16ff). Along with this, there also appears the purpose of taking away the sins of Israel itself. Surely, we stand at the heart of the O.T. system right here.
One of the most amazing things regarding the Day of Atonement is the scarcity of mention of it throughout the O.T. The historical books paid little or no attention to it, and the observance of it was apparently suspended entirely, along with the rite of circumcision, during the time of the journeys in the wilderness. Only a few of the specific occasions of its observance are found in the whole Bible. These facts, of course, have set the critical community in a frenzy of desire to make this chapter "a later intrusion" into the sacred record, or of a much later date than the times of Moses, or any other postulation that might be pressed into the service of their assault upon the Scriptures. The scarcity of Biblical reference to Israel's observance of this day, however, is typical. There are a number of the most important events in the O.T., and precisely some of those that are the most prophetic witnesses of Jesus Christ that are mentioned only one time. For example, the deployment of the story of Melchizedek in Gen. 14, is the basis of several chapters in the Book of Hebrews, despite the fact of there being no other reference whatever to Melchizedek in the O.T. (except in Ps. 110:4). The Passover itself is also distinguished in that only four or five occasions of this actual observance by Israel may be found in the Bible, including that of Josiah.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
Summary of Procedures:
(1) The High Priest came to the Holy Place with a young bullock for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering (Leviticus 16:3).
(2) He bathed himself all over (Leviticus 16:4).
(3) He put on, after divesting himself of his High Priestly regalia, the pure white linen garments, even less ornate than that of the ordinary priests. Not as a semi-royal person clothed in his full authority and dignity, but as a servant he would perform his duties (Leviticus 16:4).
(4) He received from the people two he-goats for a sin-offering and one ram for a burnt-offering. Note that the two goats were but one offering, a sin-offering (Leviticus 16:5).
(5) He offered the bullock as a sin-offering for himself and "his house," meaning all the priesthood (Leviticus 16:6), following the regulations in Lev. 4.
(6) He offered the two goats "before Jehovah," at the door of the tent of meeting (Leviticus 16:7). This is an emphatic declaration that both goats were here presented to God Himself.
(7) He cast lots for the goats, not to determine who was to receive them, that having already been decided and stated in Lev. 16:7, but for the purpose of determining which goat would serve in which phase of their dual offering to Jehovah. (Leviticus 16:8).
(8) He offered the goat as a sin-offering that was identified by the lot (Leviticus 16:9), meaning that phase of this particular sin-offering, since both goats were part of that one sin-offering to Jehovah (Leviticus 16:5).
(9) He received instructions regarding the other goat which was to be sent away as "the remover of sin" (Leviticus 16:10).
(10) Having already killed the bullock which was the sin-offering for himself and his house (recapitulated in Lev. 16:11), he took a censer full of live coals from the altar and his hands full of sweet incense and went to the veil through which the Holy of Holies would be entered (Leviticus 16:12).
(11) He entered within the veil (Leviticus 16:12).
(12) He put the incense upon the fire (which he brought inside in the censer) producing a thick cloud of smoke from the incense (Leviticus 16:13), sufficient to cover the mercy-seat, so that he would not die.
(13) He sprinkled the blood of the bullock (Leviticus 16:11) seven times on the mercy-seat on the east side (the front side). "Upon the mercy-seat," and "before the mercy-seat" would mean that the blood was sprinkled twice seven times (Leviticus 16:14).
(14) He then killed one of the goats of the sin-offering, as determined by the lot (Leviticus 16:15).
(15) He then repeated, in full, the procedures recounted above in (11) and (12), entering within the veil with live coals and the sweet incense (Leviticus 16:15), and sprinkling the blood seven times upon the mercy-seat and seven times before it. The blood sprinkled here was that of the first goat offered as one-half of the sin-offering of the people.
(16) He then, through the device of sprinkling blood of the people's sin-offering, made atonement for the Holy Place, the larger sanctuary of the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:16), the same being one of the great purposes of the whole Day of Atonement.
(17) He then, alone, with even the whole area of the Holy Place being cleared of any observers, entered the Holy of Holies (the 3rd time) and completed the atonement for himself, his house, and all the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:17).
(18) He then left the Holy of Holies and went into the Holy Place where a special atonement service for the great altar was performed by the sprinkling of the blood upon the horns of it (Leviticus 16:18,19).
(19) The atonement was extended to include the tent of meeting in its entirety. And when Aaron had finished with this, "he presented the live goat" (Leviticus 16:20). To whom? To the Devil? Certainly not! He presented it to God. It was already God's, having been designated so from the moment of its being brought "before Jehovah" (Leviticus 16:7). We are outraged and disgusted by the critical nonsense about this goat's being for a demon, or the Devil, named Azazel. Allegations to that effect are examples of criticism having gone absolutely insane!
(20) Aaron then laid his hands upon the heads of the live goat and confessed "all the iniquities ... all their transgressions ... even all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat" (Leviticus 16:21).
(21) He then, by the hand of a special messenger, dispatched the goat, bearing all the sins of Israel into a "land that is cut off," where it was commanded that the goat be released (Leviticus 16:22).
These twenty-one specific steps (the sacred number three multiplied by the sacred number seven) constituted the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement. The balance of the chapter merely records the various "mopping up" activities after the ceremonies were concluded. Aaron, after concluding the ceremonies, came out, bathed himself, changed to High Priestly regalia, offered, the burnt-offerings for himself and for the people, making atonement and concluding the observance of the instructions for the sin-offerings as given in Lev. 4. Also, the messenger who had led the goat away and the ones who carried the remains of the sacrifices "without the camp" washed their clothes and bathed themselves (Leviticus 16:23-28). The concluding paragraph of the chapter (Leviticus 16:19-34) called for the observance of this Day of Atonement throughout the history of the Chosen Nation, providing for a solemn fast on that Day, the same being the only fast commanded by God in the entire O.T.
In his office as High Priest, Aaron was a type of the Son of God himself, our Great High priest. Of course, there were inevitably some great dissimilarities. Jesus had no need to offer sacrifices for himself, as did Aaron, but in other particulars there is an amazing correspondence. It will be remembered that Jesus, being first arrayed in that gorgeous purple, scarlet, and (perhaps also) blue robe, had it stripped from him prior to the crucifixion, and was clothed again with his own clothes which were of a very humble variety, even as were those which Aaron wore here after having been divested of the formal dress of the High Priest. There was also another distinction:
"When the high priest went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he had to wear a simple linen garment without seams, a garment of the type Jesus wore when he went to the Cross as our sacrifice (John 19:23,24)."F3
Another analogy appears in the requirement that two he-goats were to constitute the single sin-offering for the people. No single animal could have typified what Jesus did for mankind in the removal of sin. He not only made the sacrifice in his death for our sins, but he bore them away from us forever, exactly after the analogy of the second goat, called the scapegoat. One animal could not have typified this, hence, the requirement for two.
Still another analogy is seen in the fact that before Aaron entered upon this ministry of Atonement on the sacred Day, he had to bathe himself, just as Jesus began his ministry by being immersed of John in the Jordan river. Despite the blindness of many commentators who cannot see this and never mention it, the striking analogy is most certainly there. In all of these adjacent chapters, a similar thing is witnessed in the release of one of two birds in certain sacrifices, the birds serving even somewhat better than the scapegoat, in that they flew into the heavens, whereas the goat merely wandered around in the wilderness.
It is interesting that all of the instructions for the priests here, even those for Aaron, were not communicated to Aaron, but to Moses, who thus holds a place even superior to that of Israel's high priest. "The peculiarly exalted role of Moses runs through Exodus to Deuteronomy, and is evident here as well."F4
The fact that Aaron's entry into the Holy of Holies was restricted to his performance of these duties on the Day of Atonement was significant:
"Holiness communicated to Aaron did not cancel his sin, but only covered it for the performance of his official duties. So long as the Law which produced a knowledge of sin, but not its forgiveness, existed, the holy God was and remained to mortal men a consuming fire."F5
The fact of these Day of Atonement rituals having to be repeated every year "shows that the question was not really settled."F6 Sins were not in any ultimate sense forgiven, for, "There was a remembrance made of the sins year by year" (Hebrews 10:3), not merely of the sins committed since the last day of atonement, but all their sins; note the emphatic triple mention of this in Lev. 16:16 and Lev. 16:21.
There were some remarkable differentiations in Aaron's attire for these sacred duties that stressed the chasm between the priests of paganism, who are called three times in the Sacred Text the [~chemarin], meaning "the BLACK-ROBED ones" (Zeph. 1:4; 2 Kings 23:5; and Hos. 10:5). Aaron was clad totally in WHITE for these ceremonies, and particular mention of the WHITE linen breeches was included.F7 Those breeches also carried a sharp repudiation of the conduct of the priests of paganism, "Where ritual nakedness, especially for priests, was a feature of some of their ancient religions."F8
The simplicity and humility of Aaron's dress here showed, that when men appear before God as sinners, "The highest and the lowest were on a level, for God is no respecter of persons."F9 As a matter of fact, Wenham declared that, "On the Day of Atonement, Aaron looked like a slave."F10 So he did, and Jesus fulfilled the picture perfectly when, upon the night of his betrayal, he took a towel and girded himself and washed the feet of his apostles (John 13:1-5)!
Our observation that the two goats (Leviticus 16:5) actually constituted only ONE offering is corroborated by all conservative scholars. As Maclaren said, "They (the two goats) are spoken of as constituting but ONE offering."F11
Aaron shall cast lots
Jamieson described this procedure thus:
"The priest placed one of the goats on his right hand, and the other on his left. Two pieces of gold exactly alike, inscribed "for Jehovah" and "for Azazel" were then placed in a bag or covered box, and the priest placed both hands inside and took out both pieces, one in each hand. That in his right hand he placed on the head of the goat on that side, and that in his left hand on the other goat's head. This determined the fate of each."F12
The capitalization of this word making a proper name out of it is ridiculous, such being a work entirely of man, not of God, and it is rejected here categorically as extremely ridiculous. The basis for this corrupt translation comes principally from two arguments:
(1) The Hebrew word for [~`aza'zel] has no article ([~la-`aza'zel]); so, from this, it is alleged by commentators who don't know their grammar that it must refer to a person, but as Meyrick pointed out, theirs "is a grammatical error." "When a noun expresses an office or a function, it does NOT require a definite article in Hebrew any more than it does in French."F13 Meyrick cited half a dozen Biblical references confirming this.
(2) The second argument is somewhat more convincing, but still wrong. "There is, of course, a great likelihood that when two phrases, `for the Lord' and `for something else' are set in contrast with each other that, if the first refers to a person, then so also does the second. But it is an incredibly rash assertion that this is always the case."F14 The instance here is one in which it is impossible for that to be the case. Moses did not write in a strait-jacket, restricted and smothered by all the rules that grammarians observe. And it has been the mark of great men in all ages that the rules never failed to get kicked around somewhat in their writings and lectures. We think of that instance when Sir Winston Churchill was heard to end a sentence with a preposition, upon which a critic pointed out what he considered an error. The incomparable Churchill froze his critic with a stare and replied, "Indeed, indeed! This is bastard English, up with which I will not put!" Those who overheard it, declared that a belly laugh put the critic to shame and left Churchill's "error" uncorrected. The same kind of belly laugh is deserved by the "Azazel" rendition.
Think of the implications of this, if it could be accepted as correct. The critics themselves have spelled it out for us:
"The most popular explanation among commentators is that Azazel is the name of a demon that lived in the wilderness.F15 Azazel was the name of something that was the opposite of God. This means that we should identify him as the chief of the forces of evil, hence, the Devil.F16 He was probably some demon of the desert.F17 Azazel is understood to be the name of one of those malignant demons with which the superstition of the Israelites peopled the wilderness and all waste places."F18
Well, there you have it! This particular example of scholarly "fembu" leads to the acceptance of the most bizarre and preposterous declarations ever advanced by so-called "believers in Christ." Can such men actually accept the proposition that on the great Day of Atonement itself, one of the principal features of it was a sacrifice to the Devil! Men should reject such notions, not with cautious scholarly reserve, but with the same blunt denial that the advocates of this rendition make of the whole Word of God. The Lord specifically forbade the recognition of any evil power (Leviticus 17:7). How can it be thought that God Himself recognized the Devil here by sending him a sacrifice, in fact sharing with him, on a share and share alike basis, the sin-offering of Israel? The discernment of Maclaren in this was correct:
"It is surely sacrificing a great deal to rhetorical propriety to drag in an idea so foreign to the Pentateuch, and so opposed to the plain fact that both goats were one sin-offering (Leviticus 16:5), just in order to get a pedantically correct antithesis.F19
What then, is the correct rendition for the word here given as Azazel? We are happy to note that Meyrick has not only answered this but justified and defended it with the most thorough discussion of the whole question that may be found anywhere. He rendered the passage: "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and one lot for a remover of sins."F20 In this rendition is also the apparent reason for the difficulty of putting this thought into language. The words "for the Lord" and "for the remover of sins" do not apply to the Lord and some other person, but to the two goats and the diverse functions each played in the sin offering of Israel. In the Bible, especially in the N.T., there are many examples where grammatical constructions cannot convey the truth at all. For example, Christ is spoken of as THE BEING, THE WAS, and THE COMING! This is the literal rendition of the Greek text of Rev. 1:4.F21 It is not grammatical in either Greek or English. And Moffatt stated, "This is a deliberate violation of grammar to preserve the immutability and absoluteness of the divine name."F22 The same kind of violation of the pedantic rules of rhetoric is discernible in Lev. 16:8. (See further discussion of the false word Azazel at end of this chapter.)
That the cloud of incense may cover the mercy-seat
This did not cover the `glory' that Aaron might not gaze upon it, but it covered him that Jehovah might not look upon him and his sin!F23
Aaron's entering into the supreme sanctuary, the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood upon the mercy-seat symbolized the entry of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, into heaven itself, the Most Holy place indeed, there to offer his blood once for all for the cleansing and forgiveness of sins. That it was "within the veil" means that Christ offered his blood in heaven, after he passed through the veil of death. (See Heb. 8--10 for remarkably full discussion of all the analogies here.)
The big thing in all these rituals was to make it possible for the people to have access to God. The sins of Israel were a constant and continual impediment to this, and even their worship tended repeatedly to contaminate with the stain of sin the very altars and precincts of the holy tabernacle itself, hence, the need for this annual cleansing. Certainly one of the great purposes of this sacred day was that of making it possible for Israel's access to the knowledge and fellowship of God to continue.
Note particularly that Aaron went "alone" beyond the veil, with no human witnesses permitted to view his actions. Christ also "trod the winepress alone" (Isaiah 63:3). No earthly witness beheld the offering of Jesus' blood in heaven.
He shall present the live goat
To whom was this goat presented? To some wilderness demon, or to the Devil himself?. Who could believe it? The preposterous suggestion of Micklem that, The goat for Azazel may therefore represent a concession to popular demandsF24 is simply incompatible, in our opinion, with a CHRISTIAN view of this passage. It would require us to believe that some of the most vital and typical representations of Jesus Christ in these Day of Atonement rituals were due to the superstitious and rebellious demands of the Jews for Moses to recognize their fool notions about demons in the ordering of these sacred ceremonies! That cannot be the way in which these regulations were made.
Another common error in understanding the nature of atonement provided by these rites is seen in such declarations as this:
"All the sins that had not been dealt with through the regular and occasional sacrifices throughout the year, were confessed and atoned for on the Day of Atonement, so that a right relationship with God might be maintained by the people of Israel."F25
However, it was not merely the sins committed since their last sacrifice that required atonement -- it was all of their sins. There is a triple reference in Lev. 16:16 to all, even ALL the sins of Israel which Aaron confessed on the head of the goat, and again in Lev. 16:21, the same triple emphasis on ALL Israel's sins is repeated. This is what the N.T. referred to in the statement that, "There is a remembrance made of sins year by year" (Hebrews 10:3), and the reason for this was emphatically stated in the very next clause. Why? "It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin." There was, of course, a type of forgiveness here, but it was actually a "passing over" of the sins done aforetime (Romans 3:25). No sin was ever finally disposed of and forgiven until the death of CHRIST on Calvary. There was even on this very Day of Atonement a proof that sins were NOT terminally forgiven. After the blood had been sprinkled upon the mercy-seat in the supreme act of the atonement itself, Aaron promptly came out and confessed upon the goat's head all of the sins that were the object of the atonement just made. People who find free and total forgiveness of sins in the O.T. are simply finding something that is not there. Yes, there are some marvelous statements that seem to say the opposite, but all of them are directed to what God would still accomplish IN THE FUTURE, and not to something ALREADY achieved. If true forgiveness for mankind had been possible under Moses' law, Christ would not have been needed at all! (See Gal. 3:21-25). It was what the law "could not do" that Christ came to do.
The "mopping up" activities after the high ceremonies of the day ended are in view here. The orders were for Aaron to go ahead and complete the usual ritual for the sin-offerings, already slain that their blood might be used in the atonement ritual, and that the carcasses should be carried outside the camp and burned. That the Atonement services were over is indicated by the fact that Aaron bathed himself and changed to the formal regalia of his office. Other procedures in the final activities included the ceremonial washing and changing garments of the men who carried out the burning of the carcasses, and of the person charged with loosing the goat in a distant wilderness.
Afflict your souls
This means observe a fast, as indicated by Ps. 35:13 and Isa. 58:3,5. This was the only fast enjoined in the Mosaic law.F26 The Jews understood the command to afflict your souls as a command to abstain from food, drink, bathing, perfuming, sandals, and intercourse.F27
What has all this to do with people today? We are expected to respond to the Great Atonement provided for ourselves in the Great Antitype, of whom these ancient symbols were eloquent witnesses. As the author of Hebrews put it:
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water ... let us provoke one another to love and good works, not neglecting the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day drawing nigh" (Leviticus 10:22-25).
This word is found nowhere else in the Bible, and it certainly does not belong here. Its injection into the sacred text is contrary to the whole text in which we find it and is totally unjustified. Enough of this kind of sinful tampering with the Holy Scriptures will send millions of people back to the King James Bible. No believer can accept the notion (carried with this word) that God Almighty through Moses commanded that a demon or the Devil himself split the sin-offering of the children of Israel, taking an equal share of it! "A demon of this kind could not possibly be placed in contrast with Jehovah as in Lev. 16:8."F28 It should also be observed that in the most significant passage (Lev. 16:20ff) the word "Azazel" is not found at all, and it most surely would have appeared in those verses if it had actually occurred in Lev. 16:8 and Lev. 16:9. Those verses (Leviticus 16:8,9) should have been rendered after this manner:
"Aaron shall cast lots over both goats, and the one lot (i.e., for the one goat) for Jehovah, and one lot for the goat that is to go far away."F29
The ASV and many subsequent versions and translations of the disputed word here as a proper name are without any doubt whatever incorrect, false, misleading and detrimental to understanding the passage. None of the great versions of past centuries conformed to this ridiculous recent fad. The LXX, the Douay, the KJV, etc., all reject it. Even the ingenious "interpretations" based upon understanding Azazel as the proper name of the Devil or of a demon are so forced and imaginative that practically all of the current crop of interpreters avoid them altogether and go (by implication) for Devil worship as being a legitimate part of the Scriptures.
As a final note, we have a parallel type of error to the rendition that gave us Reed Sea instead of Red Sea. (See the note on that subject at the end of Exo. 13 in my commentary on Exodus.)
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.