Leviticus 16:2

2 The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

Leviticus 16:2 in Other Translations

KJV
2 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
ESV
2 and the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.
NLT
2 The LORD said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.
MSG
2 "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.
CSB
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.

Leviticus 16:2 Meaning and Commentary

Leviticus 16:2

And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother,
&c.] Who was the high priest; and what is here said to him was binding on all high priests in succession from him: that he come not at all times into the holy [place];
or "holiness" F16, which was holiness itself, or the most holy place, as distinguished from that which was sometimes called the holy place, where stood the incense altar, the showbread table, and the candlestick, into which Aaron went every day, morning and evening, to do the service there enjoined him; but into the holy of holies here described, as appears by the after description of it, he might not go at all times, or every day, or when he pleased, only once a year, on the day of atonement; though, according to the Jewish writers, he went in four times on that day, first to offer incense, a second time to sprinkle the blood of the bullock, a third time to sprinkle the blood of the goat, and a fourth time to fetch out the censer; and if he entered a fifth time, he was worthy of death F17. Some have observed F18, that this respected Aaron only, and not Moses; that though Aaron might not go in when he pleased, and only at a time fixed, yet Moses might at any time, and consult the Lord upon the mercy seat, see ( Exodus 25:22 ) . Pausanias makes mention of several Heathen temples which were opened but once a year, as the temples of Hades Dindymene, and Eurymone F19, and particularly the temple of Minerva, into which only a priest entered once a year F20; which perhaps was in imitation of the Jewish high priest: within the vail, before the mercy seat, which [is] upon the ark;
this is a description of the holy place, into which the high priest might not go at any time, or at pleasure; it was within the vail that divided between the holy place, and the most holy, where stood the mercy seat, which was a lid or covering to the ark, at the two ends of which were the cherubim, the seat of the divine Majesty; which was a type of heaven for its holiness, being the habitation of the holy God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and of holy angels, and holy men, and where only holy services are performed; and for its invisibility, where dwells the invisible God, where Christ in our nature is at present unseen by us, and the glories of which are not as yet to be beheld; only faith, hope, and love, enter within the vail, and have to do with unseen objects there; and also for what are in it, as the ark and mercy seat, types of Christ, through whom mercy is communicated in a way of justice, he being the propitiation and the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness. And this caution was given to Aaron, that he die not;
by appearing in the presence of God without his leave and order: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat;
this one would think should be a reason why he should not die, when he came into the most holy place, because there was the mercy seat, and Jehovah on it: and besides the cloud of incense on it, he went in with, for so many understand by the cloud, the cloud of incense: thus Aben Ezra says, the sense is, that he should not enter but with incense, which would make a cloud, and so the glory not be seen, lest he should die: and Jarchi observes, that the Midrash, or the more mystical and subtle sense is, he shall not go in but with the cloud of incense on the day of atonement; but the more simple meaning, or plain sense of the words is, as the same writer notes, that whereas he did continually appear there in the pillar of cloud; and because his Shechinah or glorious Majesty is revealed there, he is cautioned not to use himself to go in, i.e. at any time; with which agrees the Targum of Jonathan,

``for in my cloud the glory of my Shechinah, or divine Majesty, shall be revealed upon the mercy seat.''
And this being the case, such a glory being there, though wrapped up in a cloud and thick darkness, it was dangerous to enter but by divine order.
FOOTNOTES:

F16 (vdqh la) "ad sanctitatem", Pagninus, Montanus.
F17 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 1. sect. 9.
F18 Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1. So Tikkune Zohar, correct. 18. fol. 28. 1.
F19 Eliac 2. sive, l. 6. p. 392. Boeotica, sive, l. 9. p. 578. Arcadica, sive, l. 8. p. 522.
F20 Ib. Arcadica, p. 531.

Leviticus 16:2 In-Context

1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD.
2 The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.
3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.
5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

Cross References 6

  • 1. Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7
  • 2. S Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 10:19
  • 3. S Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 6:19
  • 4. S Exodus 26:34
  • 5. S Exodus 25:22
  • 6. S Exodus 40:34; S 2 Samuel 22:10