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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Leviticus 16



Verse 1

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

After the death of the two sons of Aaron. It is thought by some that this chapter has been transposed in the sacred record out of its right place, which was immediately after the narrative of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-5). That appalling catastrophe must have filled Aaron with painful apprehensions lest the guilt of those two sons might be entailed on his house, or that other members of his family might share the same fate by some irregularities or defects in the discharge of their sacred functions. And therefore this law was established, by the due observance of whose requirements the Aaronic order would be securely was established, by the due observance of whose requirements the Aaronic order would be securely maintained and accepted in the priesthood.

Verse 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.

Come not at all times ... Common priests went every day to burn incense on the golden altar into the part of the sanctuary without the veil. But none except the high priest was allowed to enter within the veil (Leviticus 4:6), and that only once a year, with the greatest care and solemnity. "The holy place," for the most holy place (Hebrews 9:2-3): the sacred writers frequently use the positive for the other degrees of comparison. 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 - i:e., in darkness, according to Bahr, who supposes that the reference is to the dense cloud of fragrant smoke mentioned Leviticus 16:13. But this view of thick impenetrable darkness is contradicted by Exodus 40:34 and Numbers 9:15. Vitringa ('Obs. Sac.,' tom. 1:, pp. 161-171) maintained the same opinion, believing that, while the ark of the covenant was called God's habitation, He was present only in an invisible manner, being known to His people that He was present there by the oracles issued from that sacred crypt. But it is expressly said here, "I will appear [ be`aanaan (Hebrew #6051)] in the cloud," the known cloud by which Yahweh accompanied the Israelites through the desert, and in a condensed form took possession of the tabernacle.

It has, indeed, been a subject of discussion, whether this cloud constantly rested upon the ark, and there is no distinct intimation given upon the subject, although the visible symbol was believed to be there by the later Jews, who gave it the name of shechinah-a bright and glorious halo. But there can be no doubt that at the annual entrance into the adytum, the most holy place, by the high priest, the spiritual presence of God did embody itself in the cloud, as it had formerly done, above the capporeth (see Hengstenberg, 'Christol.,' 2:, pp. 384-386) - i:e., 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 enveloped the mercy seat.

Verse 3-4

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

Thus shall Aaron come. Since the duties of the great day of atonement led to the nearest and most solemn approach to God, the directions as to the proper course to be followed were minute and special. And here follows the programme: a full detail of the manner in which he should make a reverent and acceptable entrance.

With a young bullock ... and a ram. These victims he brought alive, but they were not offered in sacrifice until he had gone through the ceremonies described between this and Leviticus 16:11. After having purified himself by the ablution of his entire person, he was to put on an appropriate dress. But he was not to attire himself on that occasion in the splendid robes that were proper to his sacred office, but in a plain dress of linen, like the common Levites; for, as he was then to make atonement for his own sins, as well as for those of the people, he was to appear in the humble character of a suppliant. That plain dress was more in harmony with a season of humiliation, as well as lighter and more convenient for the duties which on that occasion he had singly to perform, than the gorgeous robes of the pontificate. It showed that when all appeared as sinners, the highest and lowest were then on a level, and that there is no distinction of persons with God.

Verses 5-10

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.

Shall take of the congregation ... two kids of the goats ... and one ram. The sacrifices were to be offered by the high priest respectively for himself and the other priests, as well as for the people. The bullock (Leviticus 16:3) and the goats were for sin offerings, and the rams for burnt offerings.

The goats, though used in different ways, constituted only one offering. They were both presented before the Lord, and the disposal of them determined by lot-a solemn appeal to God (Proverbs 16:33) which Jewish writers have thus described: The priest, placing one of the goats on his right hand and the other on his left, took his station by the altar, and cast into an urn two pieces of gold exactly similar, inscribed, the one with the words, "for the Lord," and the other, for "Azazel" (the scape-goat). After having well shaken them together, he put both his hands into the box and took up a lot in each: that in his right hand he put on the head of the goat which stood on his right, and that in his left he dropped on the other. In this manner the fate of each was decided.

Verses 11-14

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:

Aaron shall bring the bullock ... , [ w

Verses 15-19

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:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 20-22

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:

He shall bring the live goat. Having already been presented before the Lord (Leviticus 16:10), it was now brought forward to the high priest, who, placing his hands upon its head, and having confessed over it "all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, transferred them by this act to the goat as their substitute.

The Septuagint version is even more literal and explicit than ours: Kai epitheesei Aaroon tas cheiras autou epi teen kefaleen tou chimarou tou zoontos, kai exagoreusei ep auton pasas tas anomias toon huioon Israeel kai pasas tas adikias autoon kai pasas tas hamartias autoon kai epitheesei autas epi teen kefaleen tou chimarou tou zoontos, kai exapostelei en cheiri anthroopou etoimou eis teen ereemou kai lepsetai ho chimaros ef' heautoo tas hamartias autoon eis geen abaton. Many of the expressions used in this translation are identical with those met with in the writings of the apostles, who employed the translation of the Septuagint (cf. Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; Revelation 5:9)].

It is observable that this is the only passage of the Bible in which the import of the solemn act-the imposition of hands on the head of the victim-is clearly and fully explained. It was a symbolical transference of the sins of the people to the beast. But 'sin signifies here, as it does in many passages of the books of Moses (cf. Leviticus 4:2), the doing of something which ought not to have been done. So that the sacrifices on the any of atonement were intended only to expiate outward sins, which, being unknown, had not been expiated by the ordinary sacrifices' (Erskine, 'On the Nature of the Sinai Covenant'). It was then delivered into the hands of a fit person [ `itiy (Hebrew #6261); Septuagint, hetoimon (Greek #2092), ready prepared], who was appointed to lead him away into a distant, solitary, and desert place, where in early times he was let go, to escape for his life.

The Jews have a tradition that the conductor of the live goat into the wilderness led it not by a common halter, but, a piece of scarlet cloth tied round its horns-that in after-times, instead of letting it loose in the wilderness, he took it to the summit of a lofty crag, at a short distance from Jerusalem, and hurled it down the precipice. This cloth having been torn into shreds, one part was allowed to remain on the animal's horns, while the other was spread on the rock; and if at the time of precipitation, its red colour was changed into white, that was the recognized token of acceptance-a remarkable circumstance, which is supposed to be the origin of Isaiah's metaphor (Isaiah 1:18), "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." The Rabbinical writers, who record this information, add, that for forty years before the destruction of their second temple - i:e., from the time of our Lord's death, this piece of scarlet cloth never changed its hue (Dr. Patrick; also Prideaux, vol.

ii., p. 3, 8vo).

Commentators have differed widely in their opinions about the character and purpose of this part of the ceremonial the discrepancies arising principally out of the various interpretations put upon the word Azazel [derived by Bochart and Gesenius from 'aazal, he removed, or separated; by others, `eez (Hebrew #5795), a goat, and '

Verses 23-28

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:

Aaron shall come into the tabernacle. On the dismissal of the scape-goat the high priest prepared for the important parts of the service which still remained; and for the performance of these he laid aside his plain linen clothes, and having bathed himself in water, he assumed his pontifical dress. Thus gorgeously attired, he went to present the burnt offerings which were prescribed for himself and the people, consisting of the two kids which had been brought with the sin offerings, but reserved until now. The fat was ordered to be burnt upon the altar, the rest of the carcasses to be cut down and given to some priestly attendants to burn without the camp, in conformity with the general law for the sin offerings (Leviticus 4:8-12; Leviticus 8:14-17). The persons employed in burning them, as well as the conductor of the scape-goat, were obliged to wash their clothes and bathe their flesh in water before they were allowed to return into the camp.

Verses 29-34

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:

This shall be a statute for ever unto you. The words "for ever" are to be understood in a general and indefinite sense, as denoting the duration of the Mosaic economy. This day of annual expiation for the aggregate sins, irreverences, and impurities of all classes in Israel during the previous year, was to be observed as a solemn fast, the only public fast ordained in the Mosaic law; in which 'they were to afflict their souls.' On that day no peace offering was made; for, since it was a day of affliction, the people did not eat with God or rejoice with Him-it was reckoned a Sabbath, kept as a season of "holy convocation," or assembling for religious purposes; and the persons who performed any labour were subject to the penalty of death. It took place on the tenth day - i:e., from the evening of the ninth to the evening of the tenth of the seventh month, Tisri, five days before the Feast of Tabernacles, corresponding to our third of October; and this chapter, together with Leviticus 23:1-44; Numbers 29:7-11, as containing special allusion to the observances of the day, were publicly read. The rehearsal of these passages, appointing the solemn ceremonial, was very appropriate, and the details of the successive parts of it-above all, the spectacle of the public departure of the scape-goat under the care of its leader must have produced salutary impressions both of sin and of duty that would not be soon effaced.

Verse 32. The priest whom he shall anoint ... in his father's stead. The high priests alone were qualified to perform the service on the great day of atonement; and they were required, under penalty of death, to adhere strictly to the terms on which even their entrance was permitted.

Shall put on the linen clothes. [The word for linen here is baad (Hebrew #906), betokening, in the opinion of some writers, that they were made of a material inferior in value to sheesh (Hebrew #8337). But in the Mishna, the 'holy garments were by the high priest on the day of atonement were formed of linen from Pelusium - i:e., the fine linen of Egypt.' But the former view is probably the correct one, as appears from the distinctive use of the two terms in Exodus 39:28.]

Verse 33. He shall make an atonement ... The phrase, "Who needeth not daily" [ kath' (Greek #2596) heemeran (Greek #2250)] (Hebrews 7:27), must mean every great day of atonement, which was once a year.


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 16:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

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