Leviticus 16

The Day of Atonement

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[a] 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.
6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.
7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.[b]
9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering.
10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.
11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.
12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain.
13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.
14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.
15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.
16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.
18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar.
19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.
20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat.
21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task.
22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.
23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there.
24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people.
25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.
26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.
27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up.
28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.
29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves[c] and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you—
30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.
31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.
32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments
33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.
34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it 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.

Cross References 66

  • 1. S Leviticus 10:1
  • 2. Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7
  • 3. S Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 10:19
  • 4. S Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 6:19
  • 5. S Exodus 26:34
  • 6. S Exodus 25:22
  • 7. S Exodus 40:34; S 2 Samuel 22:10
  • 8. ver 6; Leviticus 4:1-12; Hebrews 9:24,25
  • 9. S Leviticus 4:3
  • 10. ver 5
  • 11. S Leviticus 8:13
  • 12. S Exodus 28:39
  • 13. ver 32; S Exodus 28:42; Exodus 29:29,30; Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 20:26,28
  • 14. ver 24; S Exodus 29:4; Hebrews 10:22
  • 15. Ezekiel 9:2; Ezekiel 44:17-18
  • 16. S Leviticus 4:13-21
  • 17. ver 20; S Leviticus 4:3; 2 Chronicles 29:23; Psalms 50:9
  • 18. Leviticus 9:7; Hebrews 5:3; Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:7,12
  • 19. Numbers 26:55,56; Numbers 33:54; Numbers 34:13; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:6; Judges 20:9; Nehemiah 10:34; Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24; Psalms 22:18; Proverbs 16:33
  • 20. ver 10,26
  • 21. Isaiah 53:4-10; S Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2
  • 22. S ver 6,24,33; Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:7
  • 23. S Leviticus 10:1; Revelation 8:5
  • 24. S Exodus 25:6; Exodus 30:34-38
  • 25. S Exodus 25:17
  • 26. S Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 22:9
  • 27. S Leviticus 4:5; Heb 9:7,13,25
  • 28. S Leviticus 4:6
  • 29. S Leviticus 4:13-21; Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:7,12; Hebrews 13:11
  • 30. Hebrews 9:3
  • 31. S Leviticus 4:17; Numbers 19:19; Isaiah 52:15; Ezekiel 36:25
  • 32. S Exodus 29:36; S Romans 3:25
  • 33. S Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:25
  • 34. Exodus 29:4; S Exodus 40:2
  • 35. S Leviticus 4:7
  • 36. S Leviticus 4:25
  • 37. Ezekiel 43:20
  • 38. S ver 5
  • 39. S Exodus 29:10
  • 40. S Leviticus 5:5
  • 41. S Exodus 28:38; Isaiah 53:12
  • 42. S Exodus 28:42
  • 43. Ezekiel 42:14; Ezekiel 44:19
  • 44. S Leviticus 6:16
  • 45. ver 3-5
  • 46. Leviticus 1:3
  • 47. S ver 11
  • 48. S ver 8
  • 49. S Leviticus 11:25
  • 50. Leviticus 14:8
  • 51. S Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:12,21; Hebrews 13:11
  • 52. Numbers 19:8,10
  • 53. S Exodus 12:14
  • 54. Leviticus 25:9
  • 55. ver 31; Leviticus 23:27,32; Numbers 29:7; Isaiah 58:3
  • 56. S Exodus 31:15; S Leviticus 23:28
  • 57. Exodus 12:19
  • 58. S Exodus 30:10
  • 59. Psalms 51:2; Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 36:33; Zechariah 13:1; Ephesians 5:26
  • 60. Ezra 8:21; Isaiah 58:3,5; Daniel 10:12
  • 61. Acts 27:9
  • 62. S Exodus 30:30
  • 63. S ver 4; S Exodus 28:2; Numbers 20:26,28
  • 64. S ver 11,16-18; Ezekiel 45:18
  • 65. S Exodus 27:21
  • 66. Hebrews 9:7,25

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or "purification offering" ; here and throughout this chapter
  • [b]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain; also in verses 10 and 26.
  • [c]. Or "must fast" ; also in verse 31

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

Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.