Leviticus Chapter 16


The great day of atonement. (Verse 1-14.)

The sacrifices on it, The scape-goat. (Verse 15-34.)

This chapter is the centerpiece of the book of Leviticus and deals with the “Day of Atonement.” Hebrews 9:22 says that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. On this day that occurred once a year, the high priest would lay aside his garments of beauty and put on a simple, pure white robe. He would enter the most holy place of the tabernacle with the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkle it before God upon the mercy seat (vs. 15); this act would enable God to forgive the sins of his people for another year. The priest would then put back on his garments of beauty and intercede for the people. The comparison to Christ is all too clear. Jesus laid aside his glory and came to earth as a man. He died on the cross only once as our sacrifice for sin. At the time of his death, he entered heaven itself with his own blood and presented it before God as the payment for our sin transforming God’s throne from a seat of judgment to a “mercy seat” for all who believe. With this task completed, Jesus once again took back upon himself the fullness of the glory of God and continues to intercede on our behalf. To see these points, read carefully Hebrews chapter nine – notice especially verses 11-14 & 24-25. This sacrifice needed to be repeated every year.

Study Question

How many times was it necessary for Christ to offer his sacrifice according to Hebrews 9:25-26 & 10:10-12?

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died;

The two sons of Aaron were Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire upon the altar which is recorded for us earlier in chapter ten. God could still use Moses and his remaining two sons even though they had sinned.

   Who hasn’t? You are not disqualified from the ministry if your child decides one day to turn his back on what you diligently taught him or her. They answered for their own sin.

2 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.

n this chapter we see the mercy seat mentioned seven times in all which is symbolic of completeness. It appears in 22 verses in the Bible. There is 22 letters in the Hebrew Alphabet. This is not a coincidence.

   The LORD would appear upon the mercy seat, between the golden Cherubim’s, which is upon the Ark of the Covenant. Here the LORD begins to instruct Moses concerning the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

3 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.

4 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.

Once a year the high priest alone would put on only linen garments, no priestly garb, no breast plate, nothing, he was stripped down of his usual clothing just as Christ was stripped of his purple robe when he offered himself and offering for sin at the exact time Israel’s high priest was offering for the sins of the nation.

   How many high priests were there at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion? Two! Why? One for the examining of the lamb and one to examine the LAMB OF GOD in the flesh!

5 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.

6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

Here is where the types of offerings that each pictured Christ and his suffering for the sins of the world differed from what happened on the day Christ was crucified.

   Christ did not have to offer a bullock or a ram or a goat or anything else for his own sins because he was without spot or blemish (he never sinned).   He did however take the sins of the whole world upon himself and he became sin for us.

9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

10 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.

Barabbas was guilty, and Jesus was innocent, but on that day that Jesus was crucified, and Barabbas was set free, do you think he hung around? No! 

    He fled into the wilderness fearing he too may be hunted down at a later time for his crimes. Jesus took my place and yours and we can escape the penalty of sin if we will by faith believe what he did on our behalf in dying for us and being raised for our justification.

11 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:

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 vail:

13 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:

The right kind of incense had to be offered in the right way or the priests would lose their lives as did Nadab and Abihu. This served as a constant reminder to those who followed after Nadab and Abihu to take the commandments of the LORD seriously.

   I can bet Aaron was sure to remind Eleazer and Ithamar to offer the right kind of fire to the LORD. Do you serve the LORD whatever way, wherever and whenever it suits you? I hope not. Read Numbers 3 for more on Nadab and Abihu’s story.

    The smoke would ascend and be a sweet savour unto the LORD but as the smoke ascended and filled the room it made the sanctuary cloudy and the cloud would cover the mercy seat and limit the visibility of the high priest at that time.

14 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.

15 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:

16 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.

Not only did the LORD require the individual Israelite to be cleansed but he demanded the Priest also to be cleansed and the instruments and clothing they used to be cleansed but also the Tabernacle had to be cleansed so it could be a place to cleanse the people in the atoning (covering) of their sins.

17 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.

18 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.

19 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.

20 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:

21 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:

22 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.

The priest’s sins had to be atoned for, the tabernacle had to be cleansed as well as the altar so that the sins of the children of Israel could be atoned for and only one person could do it. The high priest alone in the prescribed way at the prescribed time.

   The scapegoat would have all the sins of the nation placed upon him by the high priest and then be led away into the wilderness by the hand of a fit man and Israel’s sins would be taken far away never to be remembered no more.

   They would not have to be dealt with again because there was a substitute that took their place.  

23 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:

24 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.

25 And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar.

   Again, the high priest washes himself with water after removing his linen garments and putting back on his regular garments for his everyday work in the Tabernacle before he was to offer his offering and the offering for the people.

26 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.

27 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.

28 And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.

  Here we see the different participants all have the same requirements to wash their clothes as well as themselves immediately upon finishing their part of the offerings for the Day of Atonement and then and only then were they then allowed to come back into the camp.

29 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:

30 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.

31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

32 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:

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.

34 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.

  The Day of Atonement as all the other Feasts were Sabbaths of rest and no work was to be done as the nation was to mourn over their sin.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 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 10:1,3. 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.

Verse 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