The Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-16:34)

“Yahweh spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before Yahweh and died.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron that was mentioned in chapter 10.   It is obvious that they did something wrong with the incense that caused Yahweh’s fire to consume them.  There are consequences to actions.

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary, inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die. I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.   Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place, with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  He shall put on the holy linen tunic.  He shall have the linen undergarments next to his body, fasten the linen sash, and wear the linen turban.  These are the holy vestments. He shall bathe his body in water.  Then put them on.  He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.”

Aaron is not to come as he pleases into the sanctuary or he will die.  This is pretty straight forward.  However, there is a time when he should come into the  holy place, with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  He has to have on all the holy vestments and bathe beforehand.  He also needs to bring a bull, 2 male goats, and a ram for a sin offering and burnt offering for himself and his house.

“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.   He shall take the two goats, and set them before Yahweh at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for Yahweh and the other lot for Azazel.  Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for Yahweh, and offer it as a sin offering.  But the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before Yahweh to make atonement over it.  It will be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.  Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.  He shall slaughter the bull as a sin offering for himself.   He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before Yahweh, and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense.  He shall bring it inside the curtain.  He shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the covenant, or he will die.   He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat.  Before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.”

First Aaron offers up a bull as a sin offering for his own atonement.  The goats are a different story.  They cast lots for the goats; one gets sacrificed to Yahweh, while the other goes to Azazel, who is an ancient goat demon who haunted the desert, who might have been a fallen angel.  Aaron slaughters the bull as a regular sin offering.  This time Aaron will make sure the correct incense is put into the censer.   Aaron will take the blood from the bull and the goat and sprinkle it 7 times before the mercy seat with his finger.

“He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain.  Then he shall do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.  Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.  So he shall do for the tent of meeting, which remains with them in the midst of their uncleanness.  No one shall be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the sanctuary until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel.   Then he shall go out to the altar that is before Yahweh and make atonement for it on its behalf.  He shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat, and put it on each of the horns of the altar.  He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleanness of the people of Israel.”

Aaron kills the goat also and brings its blood inside the curtain.  He makes atonement as he did with the bull’s blood.  All this is to make amends for the uncleanness of the people of Israel.  No one should be with Aaron when he is in the tent of meeting.  When he comes out he sprinkles blood 7 times on the altar of holocausts and on its horns.

“When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat.  Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat.  He shall confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task.  The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region.  There the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.”

Aaron then lays both his hands on the head of the live goat.  He confesses all the iniquities, transgressions, and sins of the people of Israel.  He puts this all on the head of the goat and sends it away into the wilderness.  Someone leads the goat into a barren region where the goat is set free.   The sins of the people are put on this goat to go into the wilderness to Azazel.  Thus we have the origin of the term ‘scapegoat.’ Blame it on the goat.

“Then Aaron shall enter into the tent of meeting.  He shall put off the linen vestments that he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there.  He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, and put on his vestments.  He shall come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, making atonement for himself and for the people.  The fat of the sin offering he shall turn into smoke on the altar.  The one who sets the goat free for Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water.  Afterward he may come into the camp.  The bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp.  Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned in fire.  The one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water.  Afterward he may come into the camp.”

Now Aaron takes off his sacred linen clothes and bathes himself and puts on his regular clothes. He used the fat of the sin offering on the holocaust altar.  Someone has to bring the skin, the flesh, and the dung of the bull and the goat outside the camp and burn it. Both he and the person who took the goat into the wilderness have to wash their clothes and bathe their bodies.

“This shall be a statute to you forever.  In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves.  You shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.  For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you.  From all your sins you shall be clean before Yahweh.   It is a Sabbath of complete rest to you.  You shall deny yourselves.  It is a statute forever.  The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen vestments, the holy vestments.  He shall make atonement for the sanctuary. He shall make atonement for the tent of meeting.  He shall make atonement for the altar.  He shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.   This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins.  Moses did as Yahweh had commanded him.”

This became a permanent statute for the Israelites.  In the 7th month, on the 10th day of the month, they have to deny themselves.  They do not work on that day.  For Jewish people today, this is the Yom Kippur, the  holy day of atonement, which usually occurs in September.  This is like the Sabbath.  The high priest will make atonement for the sanctuary, the tent of meeting, the altar, the priests, and all the people of the assembly.  The high priest makes atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for their sins.  Moses did this because Yahweh had commanded him to do so.

The ordinary person (Lev 4:27-4:35)

“If anyone of the ordinary people among you sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by Yahweh’s commandments ought not to be done you incur guilt.  When the sin that you have committed is made known to you, you shall bring a female goat without blemish as your offering for the sin you have committed.  You shall lay your hand on the head of the sin offering.  The sin offering shall be slaughtered at the place of the burnt offering.  The priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.   He shall pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.  He shall remove all its fat, as the fat is removed from the offering of well-being.  The priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar for a pleasing odor to Yahweh.  The priest shall make atonement on your behalf.  You shall be forgiven.”

If any ordinary person sins unintentionally, they are to bring a female goat as a sin offering.  This is a female goat and not a male. The same rules applies here as with the priests, the whole congregation, and the ruler.  You lay your hand on its hand and slaughter it.  Then you splash the blood on the horns and burn the fat.  Once again, there is no mention of what happens to the remains of this goat.

“If the offering you bring as a sin offering is a sheep, you shall bring a female without blemish.  You shall lay your hand on the head of the sin offering.  It shall be slaughtered as a sin offering at the spot where the burnt offering is slaughtered.  The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.  He shall pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.  You shall remove all its fat as the fat of the sheep is removed from the sacrifice of well-being.  The priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar, with offerings by fire to Yahweh.  The priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed.  You shall be forgiven.”

You can also bring a female sheep, but not a male sheep. The ritual is same as that for a goat.  All these sacrifices refer to unintentional guilt, so that everyone is forgiven if the ritual is done right.  There seem to be four categories of people, the priests, the whole congregation, the ruler, and then the individual.

The ruler (Lev 4:22-4:26)

“When a ruler sins, doing unwittingly any one of all the things that by the commandments of Yahweh his God ought not to be done.  He incurs guilt.  Once the sin that he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a male goat without blemish.  He shall lay his hand on the head of the goat.  It shall be slaughtered at the spot where the burnt offering is slaughtered before Yahweh.  It is a sin offering.  Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.  He will pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering.  All its fat he shall turn into smoke on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of well-being.  Thus the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.  He shall be forgiven.”

If the ruler unintentionally sins, he had to offer a male goat without blemish, not a bull.  Interesting enough, there are no rulers mentioned yet, so that it obviously places this prescription at a later date when there is a settled society.  Once again, he lays his hand on its head and slaughters him at the holocaust table outside the tent.   This time the blood stays at the base of this holocaust table and not the table in the tent.  The fat then becomes the offering. Thus the priest makes atonement on his behalf for his sin and he is forgiven. There is no mention of what happens to the rest of the goat.

The well-being offering (Lev 3:1-3:17)

“If the offering is a sacrifice of well-being, if you offer an animal of the herd, whether male or female, you shall offer one without blemish before Yahweh.  You shall lay your hand on the head of the offering and slaughter it at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  Aaron’s sons, the priests shall dash the blood against all sides of the altar.  You shall offer the sacrifice of well-being as an offering by fire to Yahweh.   You shall offer the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is around the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.  Then Aaron’s sons shall turn these into smoke on the altar with the burnt offering that is on the wood on the fire.  It is an offering by fire of a pleasing odor to Yahweh.”

The communal meal of well-being was a common ancient practice.  The animal could be male or female, but without blemish.  This offering does not have to use only a male animal only.  Like the holocaust offering, you lay your hand on its head and then bring it to the entrance of the tent where the priests kill the animal.  He then dashes the blood against all sides of the holocaust altar at the entrance to the tent.  This offering by fire is also a pleasing odor to Yahweh. This offering is from the fat that covers the entrails, the kidneys, and the liver.  

 “If your offering for a sacrifice of well-being to Yahweh is from the flock, male or female, you shall offer one without blemish.  If you present a sheep as your offering, you he shall bring it before Yahweh and lay your hand on the head of the offering.  It shall be slaughtered before the tent of meeting.  Aaron’s sons shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar. You shall present its fat from the sacrifice of well-being, as an offering by fire to Yahweh.  You offer the whole broad tail, which shall be removed close to the backbone, the fat that covers the entrails, all the fat that is around the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver, which you shall remove with the kidneys.   Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire to Yahweh.  If your offering is a goat, you he shall offer it before Yahweh.  Lay your hand on its head.  It shall be slaughtered before the tent of meeting.  The sons of Aaron shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar.  You shall present as your offering by fire to Yahweh, the fat covering the entrails, and all the fat that is around the entrails.  You shall offer the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver which you shall remove with the kidneys.   Then the priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire for a pleasing odor.   All fat is Yahweh’s.  It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements.  You must not eat fat or any blood.”

The same procedure goes for a sheep or a goat.  You can eat these animals, but not the fat or the blood, because all the fat belongs to Yahweh.  He just loves the smell of burning fat.  This is a perpetual statue throughout all generations to come.