Leviticus 16
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

The regulations for the observance of an annual rite of expiation follow appropriately after the laws of purification contained in chs. 11–15.

And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died;
1. On the introductory clauses see App. I (d), pp. 163 ff.

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.
The ritual to be observed (1–28)

2. into the holy place within the veil] the veil (pârôketh), which separates the ‘holy place’ from the ‘most holy’ (here called ‘the holy place within …’), cp. Exodus 26:31-33.

the mercy-seat] Heb. kappôreth, here and in Leviticus 16:13-15, a solid gold plate of the same size as the top of the ark (2½ by 1½ cubits), to which the two cherubim were fixed, as described in Exodus 25:17-21. It was the place where the Lord appeared (Leviticus 16:2); from which He gave His commands (see note on Leviticus 1:1); the most holy spot in the most holy place, the ‘footstool’ of the Lord who sitteth enthroned upon the cherubim (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5, cp. Leviticus 16:1; Psalm 132:7, cp. Leviticus 16:5). The Heb. word is formed from kipper, to make propitiation, and means that which propitiates. The Gk. ἱλαστήριον exactly corresponds, and from the Vulg. propitiatorium the word ‘propitiatorie’ was used in Wiclif’s translation. This word is the best English equivalent for the Heb., and indicates the nature of the solemn rite performed within the veil on the Day of Atonement. As ‘oratory’ is the place of ‘oration’ or prayer, so ‘propitiatory’ in the sense of ‘place of propitiation’ would fitly express the Heb. word which is rendered in EVV by ‘mercy-seat.’ See note on Exodus 25:17 (C.B.); Art. Mercy-seat in Enc. Bib.; and Art. Tabernacle in HDB. iv. 665 a. The mercy-seat is described as ‘upon the testimony’ in Leviticus 16:13. ‘The testimony’ is the name given to the two tables on which the Ten Words were written, so called because they contain the ‘testimony’ or witness of God’s will for man. See note on Exodus 25:16, and Intr. to Pent. App. II. pp. 221 f.

that he die not] Here and in Leviticus 16:13 there is reference to the penalty attending breach of the rules to be observed in the service of the sanctuary. A general warning is given in Leviticus 22:9 to the priests who keep the charge of the Lord, ‘lest they bear sin for it, and die therein, if they profane it.’ The expression in the text is found in Exodus 28:35 with reference to putting on the robe of the ephod with the bells on its skirt when going in unto the holy place; in Exodus 28:43 the same penalty is threatened for omitting to wear the linen breeches; in Exodus 30:20 for omitting to wash before entering the holy place; in 8:35 in connexion with the ceremonial prescribed at the inauguration of the priesthood; also in Exodus 10:6-7; Exodus 10:9, Numbers 4:19 (of the Kohathites, cp. Leviticus 16:15; Leviticus 16:20), Numbers 17:10, Numbers 18:3; Numbers 18:32, Numbers 35:12. The variety of the offences for which the penalty of death is threatened in these passages should be noticed. The expression ‘that he die not’ is used generally in connexion with infringement of rules by priests, Levites, and people, and its use here does not imply any reference to the story of Nadab and Abihu.

Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
3. Herewith] with the offerings and ceremonies set forth in what follows.

He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.
4. The linen garments here mentioned are the garments described in Exodus 28:39-43. Cp. Leviticus 16:23-24.

And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
5. The two he-goats are described as one Sin-Offering.

And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
6, 7. The animals for the Sin-Offerings are presented ‘before the Lord.’ The verb in Leviticus 16:7, ‘and set them,’ is different from that in Leviticus 16:6, ‘and Aaron shall present’; after the lots are cast, Aaron ‘presents’ the goat ‘upon which the lot fell for the Lord’ (Leviticus 16:9). No distinction is made in A.V.

And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
8. for Azazel] for the scapegoat, A.V. For this peculiar feature of the Day of Atonement see Appendix V, pp. 185 ff.

And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
10. to make atonement for (mg. over) him] The meaning of this phrase is obscure. It probably refers to some ceremony of atonement performed over the goat, before being sent into the wilderness. Kennedy (ad loc.) suggests that it was an early purification rite, here reintroduced, but otherwise unknown. The name ‘scapegoat’ is to be traced back to the caper emissarius of the Vulg. Neither this nor the R.V. mg.’s rendering, dismissal, can be obtained etymologically from the Heb.

In Leviticus 16:3-10 we find prescribed how Aaron is to come into the holy place, the garments which he must wear, the animals which he is to bring, and their destination: the following Leviticus 16:11-28 contain a detailed account of the whole ceremonial.

And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:
11. According to the Mishna (Tal. Bab. Yoma), the high priest on presenting his bullock (Leviticus 16:6) made a confession of sin to which the people answered ‘Blessed be the Name of the glory of His Kingdom for ever and ever.’ He cast lots upon the goats, and declared which was for the Lord, and they answered ‘Blessed be the Name, etc.’ (fol. 39 a). He put a tongue-shaped piece of scarlet wool upon the head of the goat to be sent away, and came beside his bullock (Leviticus 16:11) the second time and repeated his confession, and they answered ‘Blessed be the Name, etc’ (41b). He killed the bullock, and caught the blood in a bowl; he took the censer and put burning coals from the altar in it (43b). They brought him the cup and the censer; he filled his hands with incense and put it into the cup; he took the censer in his right hand and the cup in his left (47a), and went into the temple, and when he came to the altar, he heaped the incense on the burning coals and the whole house was filled with smoke; he returned, and offered a short prayer in the outer house, but did not prolong it, lest (by a lengthy absence) he should cause terror in Israel (51b, 52b). In the second temple the high priest placed the censer on a stone in the Holy of Holies, called ‘foundation, which was three fingers high. [There was no altar in the second temple.] He took the blood of the bullock and returned within the veil, and sprinkled of it once upwards and seven times downwards; he went out and placed the bowl on a column in the sanctuary. He then killed the goat, and brought the blood within the veil, and sprinkled it as he did with the blood of the bullock; he went out and placed the bowl on a column in the sanctuary [tradition varies as to whether the column was the same as that on which the bowl containing the bullock’s blood had been placed]; he then sprinkled the blood of the bullock on the veil on the outside, and afterwards the blood of the goat, both sprinklings being once upwards and seven times downwards, as he sprinkled the blood within the veil; he then mixed the blood of the bullock with that of the goat (53b), and went out to the altar that is ‘before the Lord,’ the golden altar [but cp. note on Leviticus 16:18], and began cleansing it; he sprinkled on the middle [the clean place] of the altar seven times, and some of the remainder of the blood he poured out on the western base of the outer altar [the altar of Burnt-Offering] and the remainder of the blood he poured out on the southern base of that altar (58b). If the high priest did not perform the work of the Day of Atonement in the prescribed order, it was invalid (60b). Concerning the two goats for the Day of Atonement, it is commanded that they should be alike in colour, height, and price, with provision in the event of one of the goats dying (61b). The high priest placed his two hands on the goat to be sent away, and said (Tal. Bab. Yoma, 66a): O Lord, Thy people the house of Israel have committed iniquity, and transgressed, and sinned before Thee. O Lord pardon now the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which Thy people, the house of Israel, have iniquitously done, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, as it is written in the law of Moses Thy servant, ‘For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord’ (Leviticus 16:30).

And the priests and the people when they heard the Name from the mouth of the priest, bowed, and worshipped, and fell on their faces and said, ‘Blessed be the Name, etc.’ (66a). The goat was conducted to a place called Ẓôḳ, about 12 miles from Jerusalem (66b), where it was thrown backwards from the edge of a cliff. Booths were placed at the end of each of the first ten miles; the nobles of Jerusalem accompanied the goat to the first booth, and the rest of the people as far as the last booth from which they watched the actions of the man who took charge of the goat. Watchmen made signals when the goat arrived at the edge of the wilderness, and its arrival was thus made known to the high priest (67a, 68b).

This treatise, though it contains many additional directions not found in Scripture, throws light on some parts of the Biblical account. It makes clear the occasions on which the high priest enters the Most Holy place: (1) he goes in with the censer and the incense as ordered in Leviticus 16:12-13; (2) after going out to fetch the blood of the bullock he enters the Most Holy place the second time (Leviticus 16:14); he then kills the goat, the Sin-Offering of the people; and (3) enters the Most Holy place the third time with the blood of the goat (Leviticus 16:15). It also mentions the mixing of the blood of the bullock with that of the goat, which seems implied in Leviticus 16:18. The text of Leviticus 16:14-15 ordains sprinkling upon the mercy-seat, according to EVV, and the generally accepted meaning of the Heb. But according to the Jewish tradition the sprinkling was in front of the mercy-seat, and the mercy-seat itself was not touched with the blood.

And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:
And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:
13. the testimony] ‘çduth, always with the definite article, except in the Psalms. This was something put into the ark, Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21; Exodus 40:20; cp. ‘which I shall give thee,’ Exodus 25:16, with Exodus 31:18, ‘And he gave unto Moses … the two tables of the testimony.’ They are so called Exodus 32:15, and are identified with the first tables on which the ten words were written, Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 9:10-17. The first tables being broken were replaced by others which were put into the ark, Exodus 34:28-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5. Hence the ark is called the ‘ark of the testimony,’ and the tabernacle is called the ‘tabernacle (mishkân) of the testimony,’ Exodus 38:21; Numbers 1:50; Numbers 1:53; Numbers 10:11, and the ‘tent (’ohel) of the testimony,’ Numbers 9:15; Numbers 17:7; Numbers 18:2 (note that of these three passages which are all that contain the expression, the first is correctly rendered by A.V., but the other two are rendered ‘tabernacle of witness’).

The mercy-seat (kappôreth) which is upon the ark is described here as ‘the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony’; and the veil (pârôkheth) which is before the ark is described (Exodus 27:21) as ‘the veil which is before the testimony,’ and (Leviticus 24:3) as ‘the veil of the testimony.’

And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
16, 17. for (in) the holy place] by ‘the holy place,’ here distinguished from the ‘tent of meeting’ as in Leviticus 16:20; Leviticus 16:23, is meant the Holy of Holies, and so in Leviticus 16:2-3; Leviticus 16:27. The tent of meeting which was among an unclean people required periodical cleansing. The altar was cleansed when it was erected (Exodus 29:36; Leviticus 8:15) and also anointed (Leviticus 8:11), but it required cleansing.

And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.
18. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord] The Mishna sees here a reference to the golden altar (Yoma, 58 b), but this must be questioned: throughout this chapter ‘the altar’ is mentioned, and in Leviticus 16:12, where it undoubtedly means the altar of Burnt-Offering, it is described as ‘the altar before the Lord,’ as in this verse. The words ‘and he shall go out,’ after the purification of the whole tabernacle enjoined in Leviticus 16:16-17, can hardly have any other meaning than ‘he shall go out of the tabernacle into the court in which was the brasen altar.’ In Exodus 30:10 the high priest is commanded to make atonement for the altar of incense once a year with the blood of the Sin-Offering of atonement, but the performance of this rite is not recorded here.

And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:
20. when he hath made an end of atoning] The three things mentioned here indicate the order in which the atonement was made—for the holy place (i.e. the Holy of Holies); the tent of meeting (the outer part of it) and the altar (outside the tabernacle)—and the course of the high priest was from W. to E.

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
21. The words of confession are given (p. 92) from the Mishna.

21. a man that is in readiness] a fit man, A.V., one appointed (as R.V. mg.) for the purpose. In the time of the second temple, one that was not an Israelite was usually chosen (Tal. Bab. Yoma, 66 a and b).

And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
22. The goat that was sent away was a symbol of the entire removal of the sins for which the blood of the sacrificed animals had already made atonement (Leviticus 16:14-15; Leviticus 16:18). In Leviticus 16:20 it is expressly said that the high priest had made an end of atoning.

22. a solitary land] Heb. a land cut off, ‘a land not inhabited,’ as A.V., or a land from which return was cut off.

And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there:
23. The high priest now removed the special garments in which he had performed the service of the day, and after again washing, put on the usual high priestly garments (Exodus 28) and offered the Burnt-Offerings. In Numbers 29:7-10 a young bullock and seven he-lambs of the first year are also prescribed. According to tradition these were offered after the ram for Aaron, and the ram for the people.

And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.
And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar.
25. And … shall he burn] The position of this verse has been the subject of much comment. In Leviticus 16:11-19 no definite instruction has been given to burn the fat portions of the Sin-Offerings, but the manner in which the blood of the victims should be applied for the purification of the sanctuary and altar has been fully described. A supplementary notice has been inserted here, apparently in order that this important part of the ceremonial should be mentioned.

And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.
26–28. The bullock and the goat for the Sin-Offerings were not eaten, as their blood had been brought into the holy place (Leviticus 6:30). They were carried forth and burnt in the fire. The ordinary Heb. word for ‘burn’ is here used—the burning was not sacrificial. The Sin-Offering was most holy (Leviticus 6:25). Whatsoever touched the flesh thereof was holy (Leviticus 6:27), and those who carried them out must remove the contagion of holiness by washing their clothes and bathing. The same ceremony was required of the man that let go the goat for Azazel (Leviticus 16:26). Whether this goat was regarded as sin-laden and unclean, or whether it shared the holiness of the Sin-Offering (the two goats constitute the Sin-Offering; see Leviticus 16:5), is not stated. It may be noted that in Leviticus 4:1-21 those who carried the Sin-Offerings outside are not required to undergo this rite of washing and bathing.

And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.
And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
29. in the seventh month, etc.] A certain sanctity attached to the day which closed the first decade of the month. See Driver on Exodus 12:3. In view of the fact that the Feast of Ingathering was placed five days later, Dillm. suggests that from very early times there may have existed a ceremonial of purification in preparation for that festival.

The choice of the 24th day of the same month for the solemn service of confession of sin in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:1) seems to shew that this statute, whatever be its age, was not on that occasion considered to be binding.

afflict your souls] Here and Leviticus 16:31, Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 23:29; Leviticus 23:32, Numbers 29:7 of the Day of Atonement; the expression occurs Numbers 30:13; Psalm 35:13 (with the addition of ‘with fasting’); Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:5 (also with ref. to fasting) †: cp. Ezra 8:21; Isaiah 58:10.

the homeborn, or the stranger] See notes on Leviticus 17:13; Leviticus 17:15.

Statute of yearly atonement (29–34)

On the annual Day of Atonement the people are to practise self-denial and to abstain from work. According to Benzinger this section forms an original and independent law (with the exception of 34 b), involving a simple rite for expiation of guilt, and afterwards combined with directions as to the conditions under which the high priest should enter the Holy of Holies. See App. p. 163.

For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.
It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.
31. a sabbath of solemn rest] Heb. shabbath shabbâthôn, here and Leviticus 23:32 of the Day of Atonement; Exodus 31:15; Exodus 35:2; Leviticus 23:3 of the sabbath; Leviticus 25:4 of the sabbatical year. Shabbâthôn is used of the first day of the seventh month, Leviticus 23:24, and of the first and eighth days of Tabernacles, Leviticus 23:39. In Exodus 16:23 the order of the two Heb. words is inverted, with ref. to an ordinary sabbath, ‘a solemn rest, a holy sabbath.’

And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:
32. shall be consecrated] See on Leviticus 8:33.

And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.
33. all the people of the assembly] An unusual expression, contrasting them with the priests who were also members of it.

And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.
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