The Day of Atonement – How Atonement was Done (Leviticus 16)

The first part of the service was designed to solemnize his own mind, as well as the minds of the people, by offering the sacrifices for their sins. The sin offerings being slain had the sins of the offerer judicially transferred to them by the imputation of his hands on their head (Le 4:4,15,24,29,33); and thus the young bullock, which was to make atonement for himself and the other priests (called “his house,” Ps 135:19), was killed by the hands of the high priest. While the blood of the victim was being received into a vessel, taking a censer of live coals in his right hand and a platter of sweet incense in his left, he, amid the solemn attention and the anxious prayers of the assembled multitude, crossed the porch and the holy place, opened the outer veil which led into the holy of holies and then the inner veil. Standing before the ark, he deposited the censer of coals on the floor, emptied the plate of incense into his hand, poured it on the burning coals; and the apartment was filled with fragrant smoke, intended, according to Jewish writers, to prevent any presumptuous gazer prying too curiously into the form of the mercy seat, which was the Lord’s throne. The high priest having done this, perfumed the sanctuary, returned to the door, took the blood of the slain bullock, and, carrying it into the holy of holies, sprinkled it with his finger once upon the mercy seat “eastward”–that is, on the side next to himself; and seven times “before the mercy seat”–that is, on the front of the ark. Leaving the coals and the incense burning, he went out a second time, to sacrifice at the altar of burnt offering the goat which had been assigned as a sin offering for the people; and carrying its blood into the holy of holies, he made similar sprinklings as he had done before with the blood of the bullock. While the high priest was thus engaged in the most holy place, none of the ordinary priests were allowed to remain within the precincts of the tabernacle.  The sanctuary or holy place and the altar of burnt offering were in like manner sprinkled seven times with the blood of the bullock and the goat. The object of this solemn ceremonial was to impress the minds of the Israelites with the conviction that the whole tabernacle was stained by the sins of a guilty people, that by their sins they had forfeited the privileges of the divine presence and worship, and that an atonement had to be made as the condition of God’s remaining with them. The sins and shortcomings of the past year having polluted the sacred edifice, the expiation required to be annually renewed. The exclusion of the priests indicated their unworthiness and the impurities of their service. The mingled blood of the two victims being sprinkled on the horns of the altar indicated that the priests and the people equally needed an atonement for their sins. But the sanctuary being thus ceremonially purified, and the people of Israel reconciled by the blood of the consecrated victim, the Lord continued to dwell in the midst of them, and to honor them with His gracious presence.

 

The National Atonement  , of which the Lord “speaks particularly” in Leviticus 16: “And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron, thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy-seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat:” verse 2. For what purpose and when could he enter it? “To make an atonement for all Israel, (the whole nation,) for all their sins once a year” “on the tenth day of the seventh month,” verses 34, 29. This was the most important day of the year. The whole nation having had their sins previously forgiven by the atonement made in the Holy, now assemble about their Sanctuary, while the High Priest, attired in his holy garments for glory and beauty, verse 4, Exodus 28, having the golden bells on the hem of his robe that his sound may be heard when he goeth in before the Lord, the breast-plate of judgment on his heart, with their names therein that he may bear their judgment, also in it the Urim and Thummim (light and perfection), and the plate of pure gold, the holy crown, (Leviticus 8:9, Exodus 28:36), with ” HOLINESS TO THE LORD ” engraved upon it, placed upon the fore-front of his mitre that he may bear the iniquities of the holy things, enters the Holy of Holies to make an atonement to cleanse them, that they may be clean from all their sins before the Lord, verse 30.  {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.5}

 

The victims for the atonement of this day were, for the priest himself, a young bullock for a sin-offering, verse 3, and for the people, two goats; one for a sin-offering and the other for the scape-goat, and a ram for a burnt-offering, verses 5-8. He killed or caused to be killed the bullock for a sin-offering for himself, verse 11. “Then 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 bringing it within the veil; 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. 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,” verses 12-14. So much in preparation to make an atonement for the people; a description of which follows:   {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.6}

 

“Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering which is for the people and leaving [bring] his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat. And he shall make an atonement for (cleanse, see marginal references,) the holy place (within the veil, verse 2), because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for (i.e. atone for or cleanse), the tabernacle of the congregation (the Holy) that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness,” verses 15, 16; “And he shall go out (of the Holy of Holies) unto the altar that is before the Lord (in the Holy) and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood (for himself), and of the blood of the goat (for the people), 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,” verses 18, 19. The altar was the golden altar of incense in the Holy upon which the blood of individual atonements was sprinkled during the daily ministration. Thus it received the uncleanness from which it is now cleansed. Exodus 30:1-10; “Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once a year, with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement.” We see from verse 20, that at this stage of the work “he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar,” i.e. the Holy of Holies, the Holy, and the altar in the latter.   {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.7}

 

We have before seen that atone, reconcile, cleanse, etc., signify the same, hence at this stage he has made an end of cleansing those places. As the blood of atonements for the forgiveness of sins was not sprinkled in the court, but in the tabernacle only, the entire work of cleansing the Sanctuary was performed within the tabernacle. These were holy things, yet cleansed yearly. The holy place within the veil contained the ark of the covenant, covered with the mercy-seat, overshadowed by the cherubims, between which the Lord dwelt in the cloud of divine glory. Who would think of calling such a place unclean? Yet the Lord provided at the time, yea, before it was built, that it should be annually cleansed. It was by blood, and not by fire, that this Sanctuary, which was a type of the new covenant Sanctuary was cleansed. {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.8}

 

The high priest on this day “bore the iniquities of the holy things which the children of Israel hallowed in all their holy gifts.” Exodus 28:38. These holy things composed the Sanctuary. Numbers 18:1. “And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou, and thy sons, and thy father’s house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the Sanctuary.” This “iniquity of the Sanctuary” we have learned was not its own properly, but the children of Israel’s, God’s own people’s, which it had received from them. And this transfer of iniquity from the people to their Sanctuary was not a mere casualty, incident on scenes of lawless rebellion, bloodshed or idolatry among themselves, not the devastation of an enemy; but it was according to the original arrangement and regular operation of this typical system. For we must bear in mind that all the instructions were given to Moses and Aaron before the erection of the Sanctuary. Provision was made to make atonement for sins committed in ignorance; but not till after they were known, Leviticus 4:14, 5:3-6, then of course they became sins of knowledge. Then the individual bore his iniquity, Leviticus 5:1-17; 7:1-8, till he presented his offering to the priest and slew it, the priest made an atonement with the blood, Leviticus 17:11, and he was forgiven, then of course free from his iniquity. {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.9}

 

Now at what point did he cease to bear his iniquity? Evidently when he had presented his victim slain; he had then done his part. Through what medium was his iniquity conveyed to the Sanctuary? Through his victim, or rather its blood when the priest took and sprinkled it before the veil and on the altar. Thus the iniquity was communicated to their Sanctuary. The first thing done for the people on the tenth day of the seventh month was to cleanse it, thence by the same means, the application of blood. This done, the high priest bore the “iniquity of the Sanctuary” for the people “to make atonement for them,” Leviticus 10:17. “And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place (within the veil, verse 2) and the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar (or when he hath cleansed the Sanctuary), he shall bring the live goat: 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 and 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: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited (margin, of separation) Lev 16:20-22. This was the only office of the scape-goat, to finally receive and bear away from Israel all their iniquities into an uninhabited wilderness and there retain them, leaving Israel at their Sanctuary, and the priest to complete the atonement of the day by burning the fat of the sin-offerings, and offering the two rams for burnt-offerings on the brazen altar in the court, verses 24, 25. The burning without the camp of the carcasses of the sin-offerings closed the services of this important day, verse 27.   {1846 ORLC, LOM 40.10}

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