a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Day of Atonement


The L ord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the L ord and died. 2The L ord said to Moses:

Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. 3Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and shall have the linen undergarments next to his body, fasten the linen sash, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy vestments. He shall bathe his body in water, and then put them on. 5He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

6 Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7He shall take the two goats and set them before the L ord at the entrance of the tent of meeting; 8and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the L ord and the other lot for Azazel. 9Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the L ord, and offer it as a sin offering; 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the L ord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

11 Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house; he shall slaughter the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the L ord, and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense, and he shall bring it inside the curtain 13and put the incense on the fire before the L ord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the covenant, or he will die. 14He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.

15 He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins; and so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which remains with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17No one shall be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the sanctuary until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. 18Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the L ord and make atonement on its behalf, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat, and put it on each of the horns of the altar. 19He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

20 When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. 22The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.

23 Then Aaron shall enter the tent of meeting, and shall take off the linen vestments that he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. 24He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, and put on his vestments; then he shall come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, making atonement for himself and for the people. 25The fat of the sin offering he shall turn into smoke on the altar. 26The one who sets the goat free for Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp. 27The bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp; their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be consumed in fire. 28The one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp.

29 This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. 30For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the L ord. 31It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. 33He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the L ord had commanded him.

3. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place. The rites and formality are now described; first, that Aaron should put on the holy garments, and wash his person; secondly, that he should offer a bullock and ram for a burnt-offering; thirdly, that he should take two goats from the people, one of which should be sent away alive, and the other slain in sacrifice. We have stated elsewhere why the priests were to be dressed in garments different from others, since he who is the mediator between God and men should be free from all impurity and stain; and since no mortal could truly supply this, a type was substituted in place of the reality, from whence believers might learn that another Mediator was to be expected; because the dignity of the sons of Aaron was only typical, and not true and substantial. For whenever the priest stripped himself of his own garments, and assumed those which were holy and separated from common use, it was equivalent to declaring openly that he represented another person. But if this symbol were not sufficient, the ablution again taught that none of the sons of Aaron was the genuine propitiator; for how could he purify others, who himself required purification, and made open confession of his uncleanness? A third symbol also was added; for he who by a sacrifice of his own atoned for himself and his house, how was he capable of meriting God’s favor for others? Thus then the holy fathers were reminded, that under the image of a mortal man, another Mediator was promised, who, for the reconciliation of the human race, should present Himself before God with perfect and more than angelical purity. Besides, in the person of the priest there was exhibited to the people a spectacle of the corruption whereby the whole human race is defiled, so as to be abominable to God; for if the priest, both chosen by God, and graced with the sacred unction, was still unworthy on the score of his uncleanness to come near the altar, what dignity could be discoverable in the people? And hence to us now-a-days also very useful instruction is derived; viz., that when the question arises how God is to be propitiated, we are not to look this way and that way; since out of Christ there is no purity and innocence which can satisfy the justice of God.

7. And he shall take the two goats. A twofold mode of expiation is here presented to us; for one of the two goats was offered in sacrifice according to the provisions of the Law, the other was sent away to be an outcast, or offscouring (κάθαρμα vel περίψημα 242242     The two Greek words here used are the same as those employed in 1 Corinthians 4:13 ως περικαθάρματα (or, with others, ὡσπερεὶ καθάρματα) τῦ κόσμυ ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι· which our A. V. translates, “we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” Commentators seem to be agreed that they are citative by St. Paul of the Hebrew words in Lamentations 3:45, which A.V. translates “offscouring and refuse.” C. (Comment. on Cor., vol. 1, p. 1650 says that κάθαρμα “denotes a man who, by public execrations is devoted, with the view to the cleansing of a city, etc." ) The fulfillment of both figures, however, was manifested in Christ, since He was both the Lamb of God, whose offering blotted out the sins of the world, and, that He might be as an offscouring, (κάθαρμα,) His comeliness was destroyed, and He was rejected of men. A more subtle speculation might indeed be advanced, viz., that after the goat was presented, its sending away was a type of the resurrection of Christ; as if the slaying of the one goat testified that the satisfaction for sins was to be sought in the death of Christ; whilst the preservation and dismissal of the other shewed, that after Christ had been offered for sin, and had borne the curse of men, He still remained alive. I embrace, however, what is more simple and certain, and am satisfied with that; i.e., that the goat which departed alive and free, was an atonement, 243243     “Piaculum.” — Lat.Une beste maudite.” — Fr. that by its departure and flight the people might be assured that their sins were put away and vanished. This was the only expiatory sacrifice in the Law without blood; nor does this contradict the statement of the Apostle, for since two goats were offered together, it was enough that the death of one should take place, and that its blood should be shed for expiation; for the lot was not cast until both goats had been brought to the door of the tabernacle; and thus although the priest presented one of them alive “to make an atonement with him,” as Moses expressly says, yet God was not propitiated without blood, since the efficacy of the expiation depended on the sacrifice of the other goat. As to the word Azazel, 244244     C. adopts the opinion of S. M. in regarding Azazel as the name of a place. Most lexicographers agree that, עזאזל cannot well mean anything else than what is its necessary translation, if divided thus עז אזל, viz., the goat departing. — W although commentators differ, I doubt not but that it designates the place to which the scape-goat was driven. It is certainly a compound word, equivalent to “the departure of the goat,” which the Greeks have translated, whether properly or not I cannot say, ἀποπομπαῖον I am afraid that the expiation is decidedly too subtle which some interpreters give, that the goat was so called as “the repeller of evils,” just as the Gentiles 245245     Thus Jupiter is addressed: —
   Δῶρον ἀλεξικάκοιο Διὸς — Orph. Λίθικα, i.

   and Lactantius says, that an image of Apollonius was worshipped at Ephesus, “sub Herculis Alexieaci nomine constitutum.” — De Just. v. 3.
invented certain gods, called ἀλεξικάκους. What I have said agrees best with the departure of the goat; although I differ from the Jews, who conceive that this place was contiguous to Mount Sinai; as if the lot for Azazel were not cast every year, when the people were very far away from Mount Sinai. Let it suffice, then, that some solitary and most uninhabitable spot was chosen whither the goat should be driven, lest the curse of God should rest upon the people.

VIEWNAME is study