Leviticus 16:2
And the LORD said to Moses, Speak to Aaron your brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is on the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) That he come not at all times.—Moses is therefore to warn his brother Aaron, the high priest, that if he wishes to escape a similar fate, he is not to presume to enter the Holy of Holies except on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. As Aaron here stands for all those who in future are to succeed him in the pontificate, so Moses, who teaches him his duty, stands for his successors who are hereafter to impart instruction to the high priests on these most solemn occasions. Hence during the second Temple the tuition and preparation of the high priest for his functions devolved upon the Sanhedrin, who prescribed most minute rules for his guidance. Seven days before the Day of Atonement he was separated from his wife, and lodged in a chamber in the Temple, lest he should contract defilement, which might unfit him for the performance of his pontifical duties. The elders or the representatives of the Sanhedrin read and expounded to him the ordinances contained in this chapter; which he had to practise in their [presence, so as to make sure that he could rightly perform all the ceremonies. This continued during the whole night previous to the Day of Atonement, when he was kept awake, so as to prevent any pollution arising from a dream or accident by night.

He read, in the silent hours of darkness, the Books of Job, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles; and if he was no scholar, and could not read, the elders read them to him. As it was deemed important that he should not fall asleep, the priests who surrounded him alternately snapped their fingers, and made him walk on the cold pavement of the court. When the chief of the thirteen priests who were appointed to perform the ordinary duties in connection with the service in the sanctuary had ascertained that the morning had dawned, that the ashes had been removed from the brazen altar, and that the time of the early sacrifice had arrived, the high priest was conducted to the baptistery, where he immersed his whole body in water.

Into the holy place.—This is here more minutely defined by “within the vail,” thus showing that the Holy of Holies is meant. In the succeeding portions of this chapter, however, the expression “holy” is used for “Holy of Holies” without this adjunct. (See Leviticus 16:3; Leviticus 16:16-17; Leviticus 16:20; Leviticus 16:27.)

Before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark.—Or, according to the accents of the received text, nor come to the mercy seat, which, &c. The present text exhibits the view of the Pharisees—that the high priest, though at some distance from the ark, is yet hid through the frankincense on the burning coals in the Holy of Holies itself (see Leviticus 16:12-13); whilst the Sadducees maintained that he must put it on the coals already in the court, because they deemed it improper to work in the presence of the Lord, and because the pontiff would otherwise see the ark. The Authorised Version, therefore, here, as elsewhere, follows the view of the Sadducees, and departs from the received accents, which are an essential part of the traditional text.

For I will appear in the cloud.—That is, because the Lord appeared over the mercy seat and between the cherubim in the bright luminous cloud which constituted the symbol of His Divine presence (see Exodus 25:22), therefore even the high priest must not approach it except on the occasion here prescribed. The Sadducees, however, render it, only in the cloud of incense will I be seen on the cover, that is, in the cloud arising from the burning incense which the high priest is to produce by fumigation before he enters the Holy of Holies, and which is to conceal the manifested Deity.

Leviticus 16:2. That he come not at all times — Not whensoever he pleaseth, but only when I shall appoint. Into the holy place without the veil, the high- priest, or one of the inferior priests, went every morning and evening when they offered incense but into this holy place within the veil, commonly called the holy of holies, or the most holy place, as none but the high-priest was to enter, so neither was he to enter it at all times, as a common place of worship, or to perform divine service there at his pleasure. He was ordinarily to enter it only once a year, and that on the great day of atonement, or expiation for the transgressions of the whole Israelitish nation. Upon extraordinary occasions, he might also enter it oftener, as when he was to consult the oracle of God, or when the tabernacle was to be taken down or set up, according to the journeyings of the people. Lest he die — For his presumption. For I will appear in the cloud — A bright and glorious cloud over the mercy-seat. This sacred apartment he was to look upon as the place of the special residence of the divine glory, and therefore was not to enter there but when appointed, and in such a manner as God directed.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.The holy place within the vail - See Exodus 26:33-34; Hebrews 9:3.

The cloud - Compare Exodus 16:10 note.

The mercy seat - See Exodus 25:17 note.

2. Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, &c.—Common priests went every day into the part of the sanctuary without the veil to burn incense on the golden altar. But none except the high priest was allowed to enter within the veil, and that only once a year with the greatest care and solemnity. This arrangement was evidently designed to inspire a reverence for the most holy place, and the precaution was necessary at a time when the presence of God was indicated by sensible symbols, the impression of which might have been diminished or lost by daily and familiar observation.

I will appear in the cloud—that is, the smoke of the incense which the high priest burnt on his yearly entrance into the most holy place: and this was the cloud which at that time covered the mercy seat.

That he come not at all times; not whensoever he pleaseth, but only when I shall appoint him, to wit, to take down the parts and furniture of it upon every removal, and to minister unto me once in the year, Exodus 30:10.

Holyplace, i.e. into the most holy, or the holy of holies, as the following words demonstrate, which is sometimes called only the holy place, as Hebrews 9:2,3; the positive degree put for the comparative, which is not unusual in Scripture.

Within the veil, to wit, the second veil. See Leviticus 4:6.

That he die not, for his irreverence and presumption. I will appear, visibly and gloriously; that is, as it were, my presence-chamber whither the priest shall not dare to come but when I call him. In the cloud; either in that dark place, for there was no light came into it, and clouds and darkness go together, and one may be put for the other; or in a bright and glorious cloud, which used to be over the mercy-seat, or rather in the

cloud of incense mentioned afterward, Leviticus 16:13. And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother,.... 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" (p), 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 (q). Some have observed (r), 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 (s), and particularly the temple of Minerva, into which only a priest entered once a year (t); 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.

(p) "ad sanctitatem", Pagninus, Montanus. (q) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 1. sect. 9. (r) Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1. So Tikkune Zohar, correct. 18. fol. 28. 1.((s) Eliac 2. sive, l. 6. p. 392. Boeotica, sive, l. 9. p. 578. Arcadica, sive, l. 8. p. 522. (t) Ib. Arcadica, p. 531.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at {a} 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.

(a) The high priest entered into the holiest of holies just once a year in the month of September.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 2. - 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. Nadab and Abihu having died for their rash presumption in venturing unbidden into the tabernacle, it was natural that Aaron, who had as yet but once penetrated into the holy of holies, should be struck with fear, and that he should desire Divine instruction as to the times and manner in which he was to appear before the Lord, lest he should be struck dead like his sons. If the attempt to enter the outer chamber of the tabernacle had been so fatal to them, what might not be the result to him of entering within the vail which hung before the mercy-seat which is upon the ark? The mercy-seat - capporeth, ἱλαστήριον, propitiatorium - formed the top of the ark, and was the place where God specially exhibited his Presence, on the occasions of his manifestation, by the bright cloud which then rested upon it between the cherubim. It was this Presence which made it perilous for Aaron to appear within the vail unbidden or without the becoming ritual; for man might not meet God unless he were sanctified for the purpose (Exodus 19:14, 21-24; 1 Samuel 6:19). The words, for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat, refer to the Divine Presence thus visibly manifested (see 1 Kings 8:10-12), and not, as they have strangely been misinterpreted, to the cloud of smoke raised by the incense burnt by the high priest on his entrance. They do not, however, prove that the manifestation was constantly there, still less that it was continued, according to Jewish tradition, in later times. "The reason for the prohibition of Aaron's entrance at his own pleasure, or without the expiatory blood of sacrifice, is to be found in the fact that the holiness communicated to the priest did not cancel the sin of his nature, but only covered it over for the performance of his official duties; and so long as the Law, which produced only the knowledge of sin, and not its forgiveness and removal, was not abolished by the complete atonement, the holy God was and remained to mortal and sinful man a consuming fire, before which no one could stand" (Keil). After the issue had ceased, she was to purify herself like the man with an issue, as described in Leviticus 15:13-15. - Obedience to these commands is urged in Leviticus 15:31 : "Cause that the children of Israel free themselves from their uncleanness, that they die not through their uncleanness, by defiling My dwelling in the midst of them." הזּיר, Hiphil, to cause that a person keeps aloof from anything, or loosens himself from it, from נזר, Niphal to separate one's self, signifies here deliverance from the state of uncleanness, purification from it. Continuance in it was followed by death, not merely in the particular instance in which an unclean man ventured to enter the sanctuary, but as a general fact, because uncleanness as irreconcilable with the calling of Israel to be a holy nation, in the midst of which Jehovah the Holy One had His dwelling-place (Leviticus 11:44), and continuance in uncleanness without the prescribed purification was a disregard of the holiness of Jehovah, and involved rebellion against Him and His ordinances of grace.
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