Leviticus 16

The Day of Atonement

1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of two of Aaron's sons when they approached the presence of[a] the Lord and died.[b]
2 The Lord said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.[c]
3 "Aaron is to enter the [most] holy place in this way: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.[d]
4 He is to wear a holy linen tunic, and linen undergarments are to be on his body. He must tie a linen sash [around him] and wrap his head with a linen turban.[e] These are holy garments; he must bathe his body with water before he wears them.
5 He is to take from the Israelite community two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.[f]
6 "Aaron will present the bull for his sin offering and make atonement for himself and his household.
7 Next he will take the two goats and place them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
8 After Aaron casts lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for Azazel,[g]
9 he is to present the goat chosen by lot for the Lord and sacrifice it as a sin offering.[h]
10 But the goat chosen by lot for Azazel is to be presented alive before the Lord to make purification with it by sending it into the wilderness for Azazel.
11 "When Aaron presents the bull for his sin offering and makes atonement for himself and his household, he will slaughter the bull for his sin offering.
12 Then he must take a firepan full of fiery coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense, and bring [them] inside the veil.
13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, so that the cloud of incense covers the mercy seat that is over the testimony, or else he will die.[i]
14 He is to take some of the bull's blood and sprinkle [it] with his finger against the east side of the mercy seat; then he will sprinkle some of the blood with his finger before the mercy seat seven times.[j]
15 "When he slaughters the male goat for the people's sin offering and brings its blood inside the veil, he must do the same with its blood as he did with the bull's blood: he is to sprinkle it against the mercy seat and in front of it.
16 He will purify the [most] holy place in this way for all their sins because of the Israelites' impurities and rebellious acts. He will do the same for the tent of meeting[k] that remains among them, because it is surrounded by their impurities.
17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the [most] holy place until he leaves after he has made atonement for himself, his household, and the whole assembly of Israel.[l]
18 Then he will go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He is to take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put [it] on the horns on all sides of the altar.
19 He is to sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse and set it apart from the Israelites' impurities.[m]
20 "When he has finished purifying the [most] holy place, the tent of meeting, and the altar, he is to present the live male goat.
21 Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites' wrongdoings and rebellious acts-all their sins.[n] He is to put them on the goat's head and send [it] away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task.[o]
22 The goat will carry on it all their wrongdoings into a desolate land,[p] and he will release it there.
23 "Then Aaron is to enter the tent of meeting, take off the linen garments he wore when he entered the [most] holy place, and leave them there.
24 He will bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes.[q] Then he must go out and sacrifice his burnt offering and the people's burnt offering; he will make atonement for himself and for the people.
25 He is to burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.
26 The man who released the goat for Azazel is to wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; afterwards he may reenter the camp.
27 The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought into the [most] holy place to make atonement, must be brought outside the camp and their hide, flesh, and dung burned up.[r]
28 The one who burns them is to wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterwards he may reenter the camp.
29 "This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth [day] of the month you are to practice self-denial[s] and do no work,[t] both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.
30 Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.
31 It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you,[u] and you must practice self-denial; it is a permanent statute.
32 The priest who is anointed and ordained[v] to serve as [high] priest[w] in place of his father will make atonement. He will put on the linen garments, the holy garments,
33 and purify the most holy place. He will purify the tent of meeting and the altar and will make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly.
34 This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement for the Israelites once a year because of all their sins."[x] And all this was done as the Lord commanded Moses.

Leviticus 16 Commentary

Chapter 16

The great day of atonement. (1-14) The sacrifices on it, The scape-goat. (15-34)

Verses 1-14 Without entering into particulars of the sacrifices on the great day of atonement, we may notice that it was to be a statute for ever, till that dispensation be at an end. As long as we are continually sinning, we continually need the atonement. The law of afflicting our souls for sin, is a statue which will continue in force till we arrive where all tears, even those of repentance, will be wiped from our eyes. The apostle observes it as a proof that the sacrifices could not take away sin, and cleanse the conscience from it, that in them there was a remembrance made of sin every year, upon the day of atonement, ( hebrews 10:1 hebrews 10:3 ) . The repeating the sacrifices, showed there was in them but a feeble effort toward making atonement; this could be done only by offering up the body of Christ once for all; and that sacrifice needed not to be repeated.

Verses 15-34 Here are typified the two great gospel privileges, of the remission of sin, and access to God, both of which we owe to our Lord Jesus. See the expiation of guilt. Christ is both the Maker and the Matter of the atonement; for he is the Priest, the High Priest, that makes reconciliation for the sins of the people. And as Christ is the High Priest, so he is the Sacrifice with which atonement is made; for he is all in all in our reconciliation to God. Thus he was figured by the two goats. The slain goat was a type of Christ dying for our sins; the scape-goat a type of Christ rising again for our justification. The atonement is said to be completed by putting the sins of Israel upon the head of the goat, which was sent away into a wilderness, a land not inhabited; and the sending away of the goat represented the free and full remission of their sins. He shall bear upon him all their iniquities. Thus Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world, by taking it upon himself, ( John 1:29 ) . The entrance into heaven, which Christ made for us, was typified by the high priest's entrance into the most holy place. See ( Hebrews 9:7 ) . The high priest was to come out again; but our Lord Jesus ever lives, making intercession, and always appears in the presence of God for us. Here are typified the two great gospel duties of faith and repentance. By faith we put our hands upon the head of the offering; relying on Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, pleading his satisfaction, as that which alone is able to atone for our sins, and procure us a pardon. By repentance we afflict our souls; not only fasting for a time from the delights of the body, but inwardly sorrowing for sin, and living a life of self-denial, assuring ourselves, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God. Sinner, get the blood of Christ effectually applied to thy soul, or else thou canst never look God in the face with any comfort or acceptance. Take this blood of Christ, apply it by faith, and see how it atones with God.

Footnotes 24

  • [a]. LXX, Tg, Syr, Vg read they brought strange fire before; Nm 3:4
  • [b]. Lv 10:1-2
  • [c]. Nm 7:89; 16:42; 1 Kg 8:10-12; Heb 9:5
  • [d]. Lv 4:3-12; 8:18; 9:2
  • [e]. Lv 6:10; 8:7-8; Ex 28:42-43; Ezk 44:17-19
  • [f]. Lv 4:23-24; 8:18-21; 9:15
  • [g]. Azazel may be the name of a demon; traditionally, scapegoat
  • [h]. Nm 29:11
  • [i]. Nm 16:46-48; Ps 141:2
  • [j]. Lv 4:6; Heb 9:4-5
  • [k]. Lv 4:6-7,17-18
  • [l]. 1 Tm 2:5; Heb 9:7
  • [m]. Heb 9:12-14
  • [n]. Ezr 10:1; Neh 9:2-3; Dn 9:20; Jms 5:16; 1 Jn 1:9
  • [o]. Lit wilderness in the hand of a ready man
  • [p]. Ps 103:12; Isa 53:4,6,12; 1 Pt 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5
  • [q]. Lv 8:6-9
  • [r]. Lv 4:11-12; Heb 13:11-12
  • [s]. Traditionally fasting, abstinence from sex, and refraining from personal grooming
  • [t]. Lv 23:27-32; Nm 29:7
  • [u]. Lv 23:3,32; Ex 35:2
  • [v]. Lit and will fill his hand
  • [w]. Lv 8:12,33
  • [x]. Ex 30:10; Heb 9:7,26

Chapter Summary


This chapter treats of the day of atonement, and of the rites, sacrifices, and services of it, directs when Aaron should come into the holy of holies, Le 16:1,2; and in what habit he should then appear, and with what offerings both for himself, and for the people, Le 16:3-10; and that having slain his own sin offering, and that for the people, he should offer incense before the mercy seat, and sprinkle that with the blood of both, Le 16:11-15; and by these offerings make atonement for the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, Le 16:16-19; and having done this, he was to take the live goat, lay his hands on it, confess over it, and put upon it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then send it away by a fit man into the wilderness, Le 16:20-22; upon which he was to put off his linen garments, wash his flesh, and put them on again, and offer the burnt offering for himself, and for the people, Le 16:23-25; also he that let go the goat, and he that carried and burnt the sin offerings without the camp, were to wash themselves and clothes also, Le 16:26-28; the observance of this day, once a year, which was on the tenth of the seventh month, as a day of affliction and atonement, was to be a statute for ever to the children of Israel, Le 16:29-34.

Leviticus 16 Commentaries

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