The Day of Atonement. Lev. 16

In the Jewish calendar there were two days in the year that stood out more prominently than all the rest. One was the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month; the other was the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. The one commemorated the redemption of Israel from Egypt by the blood of the lamb and by power, and it was in die nature of a joyous feasts but the other brought to mind their sins of the past year in which they were called upon to afflict dieir souls, and it was more in the nature of a fast. It is called by the Jews “Yom Kippur”. Passover, on the first month of the year, speaks of the initial aspect of Calvary-typifying the great truth of redemption; Yom Kippur, towards the end of the year speaks of the full harvest of the cross-propitiation and reconciliation. Passover was for the individual and the family, Yom Kippur was national.

The Hebrew verb translated “to make atonement” is kaphar, found only once in its simple form, and translated “and shall pitch it (the ark of Noah) within and without with pitch” (Heb. kopher); in its intensive or strengthened form it occurs about one hundred times, usually rendered “to make an atonement”, or to make reconciliation.

“At this point it is important to notice that the word ‘atonement’ does not occur in the New Testament. Its place is taken by die word ‘reconciliation’, (see Rom. 5. 11, R. V.). Unfortunately at the time that the A.V. was translated the two words atonement and reconciliation were used practically as equivalents, but there is no possibility of confusion in the language given by the Holy Ghost.

In atonement sins are covered and thus hidden from sight, but in reconciliation they are cancelled, obliterated, and pass out of existence.

In atonement the heart could rest for a brief period, at most one year, upon die blood of an animal sacrifice; in reconciliation the soul is brought to God in unclouded acceptance, and enjoys a title without a flaw.

In a sentence, we may sum the matter up by saying that the doctrine is an inspired foregleam of the forbearance of God in Old Testament times, while the truth of reconciliation is the crown and glory of the Gospel.” From notes of H. St. John.

Procedure on the Day Of Atonement, Lev. 16. 4-11.

(a) Aaron, after washing, robes himself in white linen garments. In all his functions at the altar and in his work of atonement inside the veil, he is dressed in white robes. This reminds us of the sinless, impeccable character of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(b) The selection of five animals: a bullock and two he-goats for sin offerings; a ram for a burnt offering for Aaron and a ram for a burnt offering for the nation.

A Threefold Entry of Aaron Within the Veil, Lev. 16. 12-19.

Firstly with the golden censer filled with incense placed upon the fire from off the brazen altar. The cloud of incense covers the mercy seat. This is the only time the censer is inside the Holiest, Heb. 9. 4. This could be compared with the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17 and His agonizing prayers in Gethsemane before the cross.

Secondly, the bullock for a sin-offering for Aaron and his family is slain at the altar, and its blood is taken inside the Holiest and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat eastward and seven times before it.

Aaron like ourselves was a sinner and needed atonement. But not our sinless Great High Priest.

(c) Thirdly, one of the he-goats for a sin offering is slain at the altar and the blood is taken into the Holiest and sprinkled once upon the golden mercy-seat and seven times before it. Typically this is the great work of atonement. The holiness of God and the claims of divine justice are satisfied by the blood sacrifice of a substitute. But note carefully, the ritual had to be repeated year after year. It all pointed forward to the once-for-all sacrifice at Golgotha, Heb. 9-10.

After the sprinkling of the atoning blood of the sin offering in the Holiest, Aaron “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 … And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, (i.e. the golden incense altar, Exod. 30. 10), 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. 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.”

Note: A fivefold atonement. (1) For the Holy Sanctuary, 16. 16, 20, 33; (2) For the Tent of Meeting, 16. 16, 20, 33; (3) For the Altar, 16. 18, 20, 33; (4) For the Priests, 16. 6, 11, 17, 24, 33; (5) For the People, 16. 17, 24, 30, 33, 34. The whole environment and the people are thus atoned for by the sprinkled blood. The many-sided character of the atonement effected on that day explains the description given it, literally the day of atonements (Heb. Yom Hakkippurim) 23. 27; 25. 9; cf. 23. 28.

The Scapegoat, Lev. 16. 20-22.

The blood of the goat of the sin offering is taken into the Holiest and sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat. That is propitiation.

Aaron now comes out to the altar, lays his hands on the head of the live goat, and confesses all the sins, iniquities and transgressions of the people, putting them on the head of the goat. That is substitution.

"This was the only occasion upon which that procedure was followed. When an individual Israelite offered a sin offering, he himself was to lay his hand upon its head, Lev. 4. 27, 29. Here it is Aaron. The typical lesson in the latter case is well expressed in Isaiah 53. 6, ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all*.In the former it is the individual sinner identifying himself with his substitute”. Wm. Rodgers.

The scapegoat is then led by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, a land not inhabited, and left there. This typifies remission.

The fat of the sin offering is then burned on the altar and the bodies burned without the camp, Heb. 13. 11.

The work of propitiation and substitution completed, Aaron now goes into the holy place, lays aside his white linen garments, puts on his garments of glory and beauty, and comes out to the waiting people to offer the ram of the burnt offering, vv. 23-24. Presumably the ceremonies of the day would end with the benediction of Numbers 6. 23-26:

"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

The passages of Scripture that have a direct reference to the Day of Atonement are:

The Feast of Atonement, Lev. 23. 28-32. This points forward to the day described in Zechariah 12-14 when Israel will repent of her sin in then-piercing of their own Messiah and will be restored to covenant relationship with Jehovah, her great sin atoned for and remitted.

Israel’s Conversion, Zech. 12-14. Paul’s dramatic conversion through the revelation of the risen Christ is a vivid picture of that event, 1 Tim. 1. 16.

Note the order of events:

Israel back in the land in unbelief. A rebuilt temple.

Rise of a satanic trinity. Antichrist leader of the nation.

Breaking of the covenant and the Great Tribulation.

A remnant testimony in Israel. The olive tree blossoms.

Armageddon. The carcass surrounded by vultures.

Appearing of the King, Rev. 1. 7; 19. 11-21.

Conversion of Israel, Zech. 12. 10-13. 1.

This involved first, their repentance. They mourn as for an only son. Christ is the only Son of the Father. The repentance is national, domestic and individual, public and private. Then, a nation will be born in a day, but not en masse. It is never so in Scripture. See the history of Joseph for an illustration of comforting the repentant transgressors, Gen. 45. Four families are singled out; two are well known, David and Levi. But who are Nathan and Shimei? Not Nathan the prophet, but Nathan the son of David. Shimei, not of the tribe of Simeon, but the son of Gershom, grandson of Levi. Thus there are two from the royal and two from the priestly families.

At that time a fountain will be opened for sin and for uncleanness, Zech. 13.1. This fountain was actually opened at Golgotha, but Israel will come into its blessing when their eyes are opened to see it. It will be their Day of Atonement and forgiveness.

(c) Doctrine of the Day of Atonement in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There are ten distinct references to the Day of Atonement in Hebrews from 2. 17 to 13. 11. Seven of these are in chapter 9:

The golden censer, v. 4. Inside the veil on the Day of Atonement only.

The mercy-seat with the overshadowing cherubim, v. 5.

The blood of the bullock for Aaron and his family, v. 7.

Purifying the heavenly things, vv. 21-23.

Appearing to put away sin. Goats of the sin-offering, vv. 12, 26.

Appearing in presence of God in garments of glory and beauty, v. 24.

Appearing the second time, apart from any question of sin, v. 28. This is
the final appearing to offer the burnt offering.

The sin offering is burnt without the camp, Heb. 13. 10-13.

Note: It is vitally important to understand the difference between the type represented in the ritual of the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament, and the teaching concerning the antitype in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The word “atonement” occurs 48 times in Leviticus, sixteen of these occurrences are in chapter 16. The Hebrew verb kaphar means “to cover”. The golden cover of the ark of the covenant, was called the mercy seat (Heb. kapporeth). It covered the broken tables of the law given at Mt. Sinai. It was on the golden mercy-seat that the atoning blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on Yom Kippur. But this had to be repeated year after year. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”, Heb. 10. 4. The Old Testament ritual was a shadow of good things to come. It was a graphic picture of the reality which took place at Golgotha.

As we have already noted, the word “atonement” does not occur in the New Testament. It is found in Romans 5. 11 in the K.J.V. But there in the R.V. and in every other occurrence in the N.T. the Greek word family katallage is translated “reconciliation’. That of course is one of the results of the work of Christ on the cross, 2 Cor. 5. 19; Eph. 2. 16; Col. 1. 20. The New Testament word for the shedding of the blood of Christ on the cross is “propitiation’. It occurs in the following passages:

To make propitiation (Gk. hilaskomai), Heb. 2. 17.

That by which propitiation is made (Gk. hilasmos), 1 John 2. 2; 4. 10.

The mercy seat (Gk. kilasterion), Rom. 3. 25; Heb. 9. 5.
Propitiation was completed by the death and shedding of the precious blood of the Saviour at the cross, and sealed at His resurrection and ascension. Subsequently he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high making it a throne of grace. It is now a mercy-seat. It was by (Gk. <fta=through) His own blood that He entered in once-for-all into the holiest having obtained eternal redemption, Heb. 9. 12. He appeared that He might put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, 9. 25. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once-for-all, 10. 10. He offered one sacrifice for sins forever, 10. 12. Now there is no more offering for sins, 10. 18. Further, the sacrifice of Christ fully satisfied the righteousness of God, that He might be just when He justifies those that believe in Jesus, Rom. 3. 25-26. In the perfect and finished work of Christ the guilty sinner can find forgiveness of sins, redemption, reconciliation and acceptance in the Beloved, Eph. 1.6.


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