Leviticus 16:12
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 veil:
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(12) A censer full of burning coals.—After the bullock was slain, and before its blood was sprinkled, the high priest took the censer, which on this occasion was a golden one, and filled it with brightly glowing coals. These he took off from that part of the ever-burning fire on the altar of burnt offering or brazen altar which was next to the west, towards the Holy of Holies, where the Lord had His dwelling. This is the sense which the canonical law attached to the phrase here “before the Lord.”

And his hands full of sweet incense.—Having provided himself with two handfuls of the finest incense, and holding the censer with the fire in his right hand, and the cup with the incense in his left, he now entered for the first time through the second vail into the Holy of Holies, advanced to the ark of the covenant, and deposited the censer between its two staves. During the second Temple he stepped forward to the stone which was the substitute of the Ark, and placed the censer upon it.

16:1-14 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, Heb 10:1,3. 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.A censer - See Exodus 25:38 note.

The altar before the Lord - i. e. the altar of burnt-offering on which the fire was always burning.

11-19. Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself, &c.—The first part of the service was designed to solemnize his own mind, as well as the minds of the people, by offering the sacrifices for their sins. The sin offerings being slain had the sins of the offerer judicially transferred to them by the imputation of his hands on their head (Le 4:4, 15, 24, 29, 33); and thus the young bullock, which was to make atonement for himself and the other priests (called "his house," Ps 135:19), was killed by the hands of the high priest. While the blood of the victim was being received into a vessel, taking a censer of live coals in his right hand and a platter of sweet incense in his left, he, amid the solemn attention and the anxious prayers of the assembled multitude, crossed the porch and the holy place, opened the outer veil which led into the holy of holies and then the inner veil. Standing before the ark, he deposited the censer of coals on the floor, emptied the plate of incense into his hand, poured it on the burning coals; and the apartment was filled with fragrant smoke, intended, according to Jewish writers, to prevent any presumptuous gazer prying too curiously into the form of the mercy seat, which was the Lord's throne. The high priest having done this, perfumed the sanctuary, returned to the door, took the blood of the slain bullock, and, carrying it into the holy of holies, sprinkled it with his finger once upon the mercy seat "eastward"—that is, on the side next to himself; and seven times "before the mercy seat"—that is, on the front of the ark. Leaving the coals and the incense burning, he went out a second time, to sacrifice at the altar of burnt offering the goat which had been assigned as a sin offering for the people; and carrying its blood into the holy of holies, he made similar sprinklings as he had done before with the blood of the bullock. While the high priest was thus engaged in the most holy place, none of the ordinary priests were allowed to remain within the precincts of the tabernacle. The sanctuary or holy place and the altar of burnt offering were in like manner sprinkled seven times with the blood of the bullock and the goat. The object of this solemn ceremonial was to impress the minds of the Israelites with the conviction that the whole tabernacle was stained by the sins of a guilty people, that by their sins they had forfeited the privileges of the divine presence and worship, and that an atonement had to be made as the condition of God's remaining with them. The sins and shortcomings of the past year having polluted the sacred edifice, the expiation required to be annually renewed. The exclusion of the priests indicated their unworthiness and the impurities of their service. The mingled blood of the two victims being sprinkled on the horns of the altar indicated that the priests and the people equally needed an atonement for their sins. But the sanctuary being thus ceremonially purified, and the people of Israel reconciled by the blood of the consecrated victim, the Lord continued to dwell in the midst of them, and to honor them with His gracious presence. From off the altar, to wit, of burnt-offering, where the fire was always burning, and whence fire was taken for such uses as these.

Incense; of which see Exodus 30:34,35,38.

Within the veil, i.e. into the holy of holies, Leviticus 16:2. And he shall take a censer,.... A fire pan, a sort of chafing dish or perfuming pot; this was a golden one, as appears from Hebrews 9:4; hence Christ, the Angel of God's presence, our interceding High Priest, is said to have such an one, Revelation 8:3; and so Josephus says (g), it was a golden one the high priest used on the day of atonement; with which agree the Misnic doctors (h), who say, on other days he took off the coals with a silver one, and poured them into a golden one, but on this day he took them off with a golden one:

full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord; these were bright lively coals, not smoking and half extinct; and they were taken from off the altar of burnt offering, from the western side of it, as Jarchi says, which was towards the holy of holies, where the Lord had his dwelling: these burning coals denoted the sufferings of Christ, which were properly punishments for the sins he bore, flowed from the wrath of God comparable to fire, were the curses of a fiery law, and equal to the sufferings of the wicked, often expressed by fire; they were many, and very painful and excruciating, though no ways inconsistent with the love of God to him as his Son, for they were endured by him as the surety of his people, and by which he expressed his flaming love and affection for them: he himself is altar, sacrifice, and priest, the altar which sanctifies the gift; and the coals as on the altar, denote the sufferings of Christ as upon him, which he was able to bear; and the taking off the coals signifies the cessation of his sufferings; and the altar, coals, and taking of them off, being before the Lord and in his sight, show that Christ, as a divine Person, is, and always was before him; that his sufferings were ever in view, being appointed and foretold by him, and when endured were grateful to him, a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour; and that the cessation of them was in his presence, and according to his will; and Christ now is the Lamb in the midst of the throne, as though he had been slain, where, as such, he is always beheld with pleasure and acceptance by the Lord:

and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small; both his hands, as Aben Ezra, two handfuls of this he took and put into a cup: of this sweet incense and its composition, see Exodus 30:34; this was small itself, but on the evening of the day of atonement it was put into the mortar again, as Jarchi says, and beaten very small, and so was, as expressed in the Misnah (i), "small of small": this may represent the intercession of Christ our high priest for his people; for as the prayers of the saints are set before the Lord as incense, Psalm 141:2; so the intercession and mediation of Christ in favour of the acceptance of their prayers is signified by "much incense", Revelation 8:3; and which is always acceptable to God, and may well be expressed by sweet incense: handfuls of it may denote the largeness of his intercession, being for all the elect of God, and for all things for them they stand in need of; and the infinite perfection and virtue of his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, to make his intercession effectual: and being "beaten small" may signify his intercession made for particular persons, and those the meanest, and for particular things of every sort they want; as well as it may point at the fragrance and acceptance of Christ's mediation on such accounts, the incense being more fragrant the smaller it is beaten:

and bring it within the vail: not the incense only, but the burning coals of fire also, the one in one hand, and the other in the other hand; so the Misnah (k); they brought out to him (the high priest) the cup and the censer; he took his handful and put it into the cup, a large one according to its largeness, and a small one according to its smallness, and so was its measure; he took the censer in his right hand, and the cup in his left, and went into the sanctuary, until he came between the two rails which divide between the holy and holy of holies: this was typical of Christ our high priest, who is entered within the vail into the holiest of all, with his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, where he ever lives to make intercession for us; not that Christ is considered in heaven as in a suffering state, for he is in a most exalted one; but the virtue and efficacy of his sufferings and death always continue, and which he ever improves on the behalf of his people, by interceding for them; and their faith and hope enter within the vail, and deal with him as having suffered for them.

(g) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 8. sect. 3.((h) Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4. (i) Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4. (k) lb. c. 5. sect. 1.

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 {c} vail:

{c} The holiest of holies.

Verses 12, 13. - This is the first entry of the high priest into the holy of holies. He takes with him a censer - literally, the censer, that is, the censer that he was to use on the occasion - full of burning coals of fire from off the altar; and his hands are full of sweet incense beaten small; his object being to fill the holy of holies with the smoke of the incense which may serve as at least a thin vail between himself and the Presence of the Lord, that he die not (cf. Exodus 33:20, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live;" cf. also Genesis 32:30; Deuteronomy 5:24; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22). Here we see taught the lesson of the vision of God, as he is, being impossible to the human faculties. He must be vailed in one way or another. After passing through the outer chamber of the tabernacle, the high priest found himself in the smaller chamber where stood the ark. Immediately he threw the incense on the coals of the censer, until the holy of holies was filled with the smoke, after which, according to later practice, he offered a prayer outside the vail. The following form of prayer, breathing, however, the spirit of ages long subsequent to the tabernacle, or even the first temple, is found in the Talmud: - "May it please thee, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, that neither this day nor this year any captivity come upon us. Yet if captivity befall us this day or this year, let it be to a place where the Law is cultivated. May it please thee, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, that want come not upon us this day or this year. But if want visit us this day or this year, let it be due to the liberality of our charitable deeds. May it please thee, O Lord, the God of our fathers, that this year may be a year of cheapness, of fullness, of intercourse and trade; a year with abundance of rain, of sunshine, and of dew; one in which thy people Israel shall not require assistance one from another. And listen not to the prayers of those who are about to set out on a journey (against rain). And as to thy people Israel, may no enemy exalt himself against them. May it please thee, O Lord our God, the God of our fathers, that the houses of the men of Saron (exposed to floods) may not become their graves" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service'). With the bullock Aaron was to make atonement for himself and his house. The two he-goats he was to place before Jehovah (see Leviticus 1:5), and "give lots over them," i.e., have lots cast upon them, one lot for Jehovah, the other for Azazel. The one upon which the lot for Jehovah fell (עלה, from the coming up of the lot out of the urn, Joshua 18:11; Joshua 19:10), he was to prepare as a sin-offering for Jehovah, and to present the one upon which the lot for Azazel fell alive before Jehovah, עליו לכפּר, "to expiate it," i.e., to make it the object of expiation (see at Leviticus 16:21), to send it (them) into the desert to Azazel. עזאזל, which only occurs in this chapter, signifies neither "a remote solitude," nor any locality in the desert whatever (as Jonathan, Rashi, etc., suppose); nor the "he-goat" (from עז goat, and עזל to turn off, "the goat departing or sent away," as Symm., Theodot., the Vulgate, Luther, and others render it); nor "complete removal" (Bhr, Winer, Tholuck, etc.). The words, one lot for Jehovah and one for Azazel, require unconditionally that Azazel should be regarded as a personal being, in opposition to Jehovah. The word is a more intense form of עזל removit, dimovit, and comes from עזלזל by absorbing the liquid, like Babel from balbel (Genesis 11:9), and Golgotha from gulgalta (Ewald, 158c). The Septuagint rendering is correct, ὁ ἀποπομπαῖος; although in Leviticus 16:10 the rendering ἀποπομπή is also adopted, i.e., "averruncus, a fiend, or demon whom one drives away" (Ewald). We have not to think, however, of any demon whatever, who seduces men to wickedness in the form of an evil spirit, as the fallen angel Azazel is represented as doing in the Jewish writings (Book of Enoch 8:1; 10:10; 13:1ff.), like the terrible field Shibe, whom the Arabs of the peninsula of Sinai so much dread (Seetzen, i. pp. 273-4), but of the devil himself, the head of the fallen angels, who was afterwards called Satan; for no subordinate evil spirit could have been placed in antithesis to Jehovah as Azazel is here, but only the ruler or head of the kingdom of demons. The desert and desolate places are mentioned elsewhere as the abode of evil spirits (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24; Revelation 18:2). The desert, regarded as an image of death and desolation, corresponds to the nature of evil spirits, who fell away from the primary source of life, and in their hostility to God devastated the world, which was created good, and brought death and destruction in their train.
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