It is observed that there is a distinct change in the writing after chapter ten. In chapters 1-10 the Lord is seeking to emphasize the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. This is done by the necessity of sacrifices and the need for a priest. However, due to the sin of Aaron's two sons (ch. 10:1-2), God then began to teach them on a lower level, emphasizing the inward corruption of man and the world he lives in as a defiling place. In this section God deals with what a person can or cannot eat (ch. 11), this is followed by uncleanness due to giving birth (ch. 12). The next chapter is concerned with leprosy (ch. 13), whither it is in person, garment, or house (ch.14), and finally contact with that which is defiled, defiles the individual (ch. 15). Evidently these are not sins. It is not a sin to have a baby or eat a pork sausage, so what is God seeking to teach the ancient Israelites and us today? Such is the holiness of God that even that which is defiling, disfigured, or dead, cannot be tolerated. It is evidences of sin. God wants man to realize that holiness cannot tolerate corruption. To reinforce this we observe the fact that there are more of the spoken words of God in Leviticus than any other book in the scriptures, and through those words God stresses His holiness. The table shows the relative words which emphasize sin and defilement in Genesis to Leviticus.
The end of Exodus records: “Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation” (Ex. 40:35) yet Leviticus states: “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation” (Lev. 9:23). How can this change be made possible? Moses and Aaron were still sinful men, God was still holy, so how was the change effected? The answer is that between Ex. 40:35 and Lev. 9:23 there are sacrifices and a priest.
If, in the first section there is emphatically taught the carefulness with which man could approach God (ch. 1:1), in this section the emphasis is on how careful the priest must be when approaching God. Position before God in grace does not mean man could be presumptuous in approaching God, nor that the people could live carelessly with God in their midst. Though God encouraged the people to approach Him (Lev. 1:1), they would have been very cautious about approaching Him for they had seen the manifestation of Him at Sinai, and it was frightening (Ex. 19:12-13). Consequently, that would have listened very carefully to the instructions God gave on how they were to approach.
Before entering the Holiest of all, the high priest had to walk through the Holy place. As as he walked toward the Holiest of all, he walked “in the light” of the lamp-stand. In that approach he moved horizontally, but when we come to God it is spiritual and vertical. The priest progressed from walking in the light to the Holiest of all. We, in approaching God, are automatically in the Light.
There is one question to be faced: “Since there was a sacrifice for the whole congregation, if a sin had been committed unwittingly (Lev. 4:13-21), why have a day of Atonement?” For instance, Achan sinned in that which he stole and hid, the entire congregation was unaware of it (Josh. 7:1, 18-24). When there was an awareness of a sin committed the suitable sacrifices were to be offered (Lev. 4:14-21). But, other sins could be committed about which the congregation knew nothing and they never came to the light, what then? That is where the Day of Atonement comes into effect. It was the gracious provision of God for sins committed, of which as individuals and a congregation knew nothing, by which He could still dwell among them. When we consider that there are twenty-seven words used to indicate what sin is, how could we then know the multitude of sins we commit?
Another observation is that when the whole congregation sinned, the sacrifice was a bull (Lev. 4:13-21). It should be observed that the word translated “bullock” does not indicate a bullock which is a castrated animal, and consequently unfit for sacrifice, but it is simply a “bull”.
Atonement was made on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:6, 10, 16, 21-22, 30, 34) but by the sacrifice of the Lord sin was put away (Heb. 9:26). On that ancient day the High Priest entered the holiest of all with the blood of the animals (Heb. 8:3; 9:12) and so effected cleansing for the nation. In the lovely enactments of the Day of Atonement we see in type the Lord bearing the judgment for sins (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24) and taking iniquity away (2 Cor. 5:19). It must not be thought that because the High Priest carried the blood into the Holiest, that the Lord entered Heaven carrying His blood. He entered into Heaven by virtue of His blood, and by divine grace we enter the holiest by the same precious blood.
The hymn writer wrote:
How then can I approach God? I approach God by virtue of the richness of the sacrifice of Christ.
The chapter begins with a solemn remembrance, the judgmental death of the two sons of Aaron (ch. 10:1-2) and with it a solemn warning (ch. 16:2). The sin of Nadab and Abihu was not the worshipping of a false God but the false worshipping of the true God. These two men died seemingly on the very day of their consecration. Ezekiel’s wife died on the very day Jerusalem was taken. In both cases they were sovereign acts of God. Regarding Aaron's sons, it was a judgment against their presumptuousness. In the case of Ezekiel’s wife, it was Ezekiel’s response to that death that signified the response of the people to the fall of Jerusalem.
The Day Of Atonement
The first observation is that the chapter dealing with Day of Atonement contains a series of doublets:
What Does “Atonement” Mean?
There is the suggestion that the word “atonement” means to make it at-one-ment. One has said that this is entirely fanciful, nevertheless, while one may argue over the preciseness of the definition, yet by the very ways the Hebrew word is used it does signify reconciliation being so translated (Lev. 8:15). Reconciliation means discord removed and oneness restored.
What then does the word “atonement” mean? William Wilson, in his Old Testament Word Studies, gives these definitions: “to cover, to cover sin, or to secure the sinner from guilt or punishment”. He adds: “This word conveys the idea both of pacification of wrath, and of the covering of transgression, but does not seem to express of itself the idea of full and adequate satisfaction for sin”.
“Atonement” is an Old Testament doctrine. Therefore, is a shadow of the fulness of salvation, and as the Holy Spirit informs when He said they “were not the very image” (Heb. 10:1). Consequently, we are not to be surprised when “atonement” is only mentioned once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:11), and the word ought to be “reconciliation”. Therefore, in the strictest sense our sins are not atoned for, they are not just covered, but are cleansed (1 Jn. 1:7), for God had brought us into something grander than being atoned. This does not mean it does not have seed truths for us as also the other types do, but it still was a shadow of the, real that is Christ.
The Hebrew word in its first occurrence, which according to the law of first mention, means “to cover”. “Make thee an ark of gopher wood . . . thou shalt pitch (kaphar) it within and without with “kaphar” (Gen. 6:14). Thus in its seed form it indicates that which protected from the judgment of God on an ungodly world. Later Jacob was going to meet Esau, his brother, one whom he had wronged and knew he deserved Easu’s wrath to be vented on him. He sent a gift and said: “I will appease him”, that is nullify his anger by trying to restore in part that which he was deprived of (Gen. 32:20). Later still, Aaron was to make “atonement for the altar”. Evidently since the altar was not a living thing and was amoral, it could not have done wrong to deserve the wrath of God as with the men the flood destroyed. Neither could it, in itself, deprive another of that which was rightfully theirs as Jacob had done. So, why did the altar need atonement? (Ex. 29:37) That is another study.
The word atonement is translated: “forgiven” (Deut. 21:8); “merciful” (Deut. 32:43); “purged” (1 Sam. 3:14); “pardon” (2 Chron. 30:18); “pacify” (Prov. 16:14); “disannulled” (Isa. 28:18); “put it off” (Isa. 47:11); and “to make reconciliation” (Ezek. 45:15).
Some may say “God does not need to be pacified”. This is to ignore the fact that: “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psa. 7:11), and man is “treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5).
God must not lose anything. He who was wronged, must have that in which He was wrong restored, and a fifth added (Lev. 5:16). It is this the Psalmist spoke of when speaking prophetically of the Lord. He said: “Then I restored that which I took not away” (Psa. 69:4). The work of Christ on the cross removes the guilt of my action which demanded the righteous judgment and wrath of God, thereby God’s justice is satisfied and He rests. Reconciliation is a result, as is justification and propitiation.
The deity of Christ establishes the infinite intrinsic value of his person. Since Jesus Christ is the God-man, truly God and truly man, His death is of infinite intrinsic value and all-sufficient as a sacrifice. The book of Hebrews clearly says that the sufficiency of Christ's death negated the need for additional sacrifices (Heb. 10:10, 26). It is of interest to observe that in the cleansing on the Day of Atonement, there is no mention of forgiveness.
The Chronological Order For The Day’s Events
The Day of Atonement began like ever other day. The morning sacrifice had to be sacrificed, the lights on the candlestick had to be trimmed, and the sweet incense burned (Ex. 30:7). But, it was also unlike any other day because it was the only “feast” which was characterized by “humbling their souls” (Lev. 16:31; 23:27; Num. 29:7). This meant careful self examination before God. Irrespective of what day it was, first, second, fifth (as we would say, Monday, Tuesday, etc., they did not name the days for centuries later) it was to be a “Sabbath” which meant no unnecessary work would be done (Lev. 23:26-32). Anyone doing such would be put to death (Lev. 23:29).
The Fit Man
In disposing of the ashes of the burnt offering it was the priest who carried them outside the camp (Lev. 6:11); with the ashes of the red heifer it was a man that is clean (Num. 19:9); and with the ashes from the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement it was a fit man. I would understand it to be either a priest or a Levite (Ezra 6:20).
When it is the burnt offering the emphasis is on the office of the man, in the red heifer it is on his being clean, and in Lev. 16 it is his being fit. This is the only time the word translated “fit” is used in the scriptures, and it indicates a man who is ready and has the ability. Only Christ could be both the scapegoat and the fit man. He alone had the ability to take sins away in perpetuity by His burial and resurrection. The man went away with the goat but came back alone, the sins of the past year were gone forever, but the man was back. Thus, the goat and the man are two pictures of the same event. The goat prefiguring our Lord as He took our sins away, and the man as Christ, the man of the hour, who alone could put them away and come back forever. I cannot help but think of the old hymn:
Living He loved me, dying He saved me
The people heard the priest confess their sins over the animal, perhaps they saw him laying his hands on the animal, symbolically their sins upon the animal, and it was done in daylight. However, when Christ bore our sins man never saw their sins being laid upon Christ, despite it being daylight, it was a scene clothed in darkness. Man did hear that awful cry: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (Matt. 27:46). In type, the execution of the first goat and the transference of sins by the man on the second goat had to be two events showing two different truths, but when it came to our Lord, they were the same event.
Mere words can never convey the intensity of the pains He bore, and it is only as the Holy Spirit enlightens us to a little of what those sufferings entailed that we can appreciate them. At this point a question must be asked: When Christ was being made “sin for us” under the “curse of God” and “baring the sins”; or was wounded, bruised, chastised, and smitten; did man or demonic beings have any part in those vicarious sufferings of the Lord for sin?”
I do not touch the subject of satanic hordes punishing Christ in Hell for that is so blasphemous I am surprised any believer would accept it. The decision to be made is: “Did Christ suffer for sins the entire six hours on the cross, or only in the last three? It must be observed that there is a distinction made by the Holy Spirit between the two sets of three hours. We read: “And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mk. 15:33). Those who teach our Lord suffered vicariously for the entire duration of His time on the cross will use the words of Paul and Peter when they wrote: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13) and He bore “our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). Neither of these indicate duration but are dealing with the fact that He bore our sins on the tree.Indeed, there is not a single case where the words “on the” (1 Pet. 2:24) occur in the New Testament that it signifies an entire duration. Furthermore, it has been stated that the word “on”, in 1 Pet. 2:24, means “up to” so that the passage reads: “He bare our sins in His own body up to the tree”. Robertson in His “Word Pictures” translated it: “Upon the tree” as does the ASV, Montgomery, and Young's literal. Darby has it “on” as does RSV, and Webster. In none of these is there any hint of “up to”. The only version which so translates it as “to the tree” is the Aramaic. I submit that none of these two passages are proof texts that the Lord suffered vicariously for the entire time on the cross, but rather it is man putting an interpretation on them. But, this does not prove it was exclusively in the hours of darkness He suffered at the hand of God. That is now to be considered. It is not sufficient to say: “He suffered for sins in the three dark hours”. There must be the presentation of evidence.
If I believe the sufferings in the two sets of three hours were different, and believing, I understand the distinctions to be as the following table shows:
The Double Picture Through The Goats
I want to make it clear that I am only skimming the surface of this sacrifice. Many are the untouched pictures which can be developed.
The goat is one of the richest foreshadows of our Lord, for apart from any other observation, it is connected more often with the sin offering than any other animal. The word from which its Hebrew name comes means: “to be strong, prevail to strengthen”. Automatically there is brought to mind the words: “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor. 13:4), but He was “raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43).
However, there is one point emphasized three times in Lev. 16 it is “alive” (vv. 10, 20, 21). The goat that was killed prefigured our Lord suffering and His death for sin, but that is now over. Unlike the sacrificed goats which had to be repeated year after year, the sacrifice of our Lord never again needs to be repeated. This one is alive, prefiguring our Lord as the living One who had carried our sins away, never to be brought back again. Paul writes: “We shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10) that is, because of His resurrection we are justified (Rom. 4:25). He being resurrected, our faith is not in vain, we are not in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).
Lessons To Be Learnt
The lessons were very stark. One cannot be casual with God, or just approach Him in whatever way pleases the individual. God is not only morally superior to us, but in positional glory He is to be feared. There ought to be respect for people of position be they monarch, dictator, judge or police officer. How much then for God, the Almighty.
On this day the High Priest goes on a journey. It begins outside the court and then all else is within the court, the Holy place, and the holiest of all. On other days of the year people could be in the court to offer their offerings, the priests could be inside the Holy place performing their duties, but this day was different. It was a man totally alone with God.
It is observed that the bull was for Aaron and his house, the priestly family. How blessed to see our High Priest.
He puts the fire on the incense in the holy of holies and it’s cloud arises. Oh what a picture, a man standing in the presence of God, standing on blood sprinkled ground, standing before the throne of God sprinkled with blood and enveloped in the fragrance of the incense from the coals. We stand before God and are “in Christ”, in that man who in the crucible of the fire of God His fragrance arose.
Some of The Truths Of The Day Of Atonement And The New Testament
These are not the only references in Hebrews for there is reference made to the sin offering being burnt without the camp in (Lev. 16:27; Heb. 13:10-13).
God is a magnificent thinker for at times He brings out the most wonderful truths from the opposite perspectives, and this is one of those situations. In Leviticus, the Day of Atonement was that sins would be put away, but in Hebrews the teacher tells us it was to bring to remembrance the sins of the people (Heb. 10:3). How comforting this is within the context of Hebrews for there is being shown the superiority of the work of Christ over the Old Testament sacrifices. The work of our Lord forever nullified all animal sacrifices. Well may we sing:
No blood no altar now, the sacrifice is ore
We thank Thee for the blood, the blood of Christ Thy Son
In Leviticus 16:9 the clause: “And offer him for a sin-offering” is intriguing for literally it is: “shall make him sin”. In the Latin version it has: “and shall make him sin” which may be the thought in Paul’s mind when he wrote: “He hath made him to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Rowan Jennings, Abbotsford,