After the death of Aaron's two sons - they died when they came before God with strange fire - God spoke to Moses:
"Tell your brother Aaron not to enter into the Holy of Holies, barging inside the curtain that's before the Atonement-Cover on the Chest whenever he feels like it, lest he die, because I am present in the Cloud over the Atonement-Cover.
"This is the procedure for Aaron when he enters the Holy Place: He will bring a young bull for an Absolution-Offering and a ram for a Whole-Burnt-Offering;
he will put on the holy linen tunic and the linen underwear, tie the linen sash around him, and put on the linen turban. These are the sacred vestments so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.
Then from the Israelite community he will bring two male goats for an Absolution-Offering and a Whole-Burnt-Offering.
"Aaron will offer the bull for his own Absolution-Offering in order to make atonement for himself and his household.
Then he will set the two goats before God at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting
and cast lots over the two goats, one lot for God and the other lot for Azazel.
He will offer the goat on which the lot to God falls as an Absolution-Offering.
The goat on which the lot for Azazel falls will be sent out into the wilderness to Azazel to make atonement.
"Aaron will present his bull for an Absolution-Offering to make atonement for himself and his household. He will slaughter his bull for the Absolution-Offering.
He will take a censer full of burning coals from the Altar before God and two handfuls of finely ground aromatic incense and bring them inside the curtain and
put the incense on the fire before God; the smoke of the incense will cover the Atonement-Cover which is over The Testimony so that he doesn't die.
He will take some of the bull's blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the Atonement-Cover, then sprinkle the blood before the Atonement-Cover seven times.
"Next he will slaughter the goat designated as the Absolution-Offering for the people and bring the blood inside the curtain. He will repeat what he does with the bull's blood, sprinkling it on and before the Atonement-Cover.
In this way he will make atonement for the Holy of Holies because of the uncleannesses of the Israelites, their acts of rebellion, and all their other sins. He will do the same thing for the Tent of Meeting which dwells among the people in the midst of their uncleanness.
There is to be no one in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household, and the whole community of Israel.
"Then he will come out to the Altar that is before God and make atonement for it. He will take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and smear it all around the four horns of the Altar.
With his finger he will sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times to purify and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the Israelites.
"When Aaron finishes making atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar, he will bring up the live goat,
lay both hands on the live goat's head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat's head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready.
The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness.
"Finally, Aaron will come into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen clothes in which he dressed to enter the Holy of Holies and leave them there.
He will bathe in water in a Holy Place, put on his priestly vestments, offer the Whole-Burnt-Offering for himself and the Whole-Burnt-Offering for the people, making atonement for himself and the people,
and burn the fat of the Absolution-Offering on the Altar.
"The man who takes the goat out to Azazel in the wilderness then will wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. After that he will be permitted to come back into the camp.
The bull for the Absolution-Offering and the goat for the Absolution-Offering, whose blood has been taken into the Holy of Holies to make atonement, are to be taken outside the camp and burned - their hides, their meat, and their entrails.
The man assigned to burn them up will then wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Then he is free to come back into the camp.
"This is standard practice for you, a perpetual ordinance. On the tenth day of the seventh month, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work,
because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. In the presence of God you will be made clean of all your sins.
It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance.
"The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father is to make the atonement: He puts on the sacred linen garments;
He purges the Holy of Holies by making atonement; He purges the Tent of Meeting and the Altar by making atonement; He makes atonement for the priests and all the congregation.
"This is a perpetual ordinance for you: Once a year atonement is to be made for all the sins of the People of Israel." And Aaron did it, just as God commanded Moses.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)