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Leviticus: Chapter 16

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1The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died. 2The LORD said to Moses:

Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat a Or the cover that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. a Or the cover 3Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and 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, and then put them on. 5He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

6Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7He shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting; 8and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. b Or treaty, or testament; Heb eduth 9Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer it as a sin offering; 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel b Or treaty, or testament; Heb eduth shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. b Or treaty, or testament; Heb eduth

11Aaron 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. 12He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense, and he shall bring it inside the curtain 13and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat a Meaning of Heb uncertain that is upon the covenant, b Traditionally rendered a scapegoat or he will die. 14He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat, a Meaning of Heb uncertain and before the mercy seat a Meaning of Heb uncertain he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.

15He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat a Meaning of Heb uncertain and before the mercy seat. a Meaning of Heb uncertain 16Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins; and so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which remains with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17No 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. 18Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement on its behalf, and 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. 19He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

20When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and 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. c Or shall fast 22The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.

23Then Aaron shall enter the tent of meeting, and shall take off the linen vestments that he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. 24He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, and put on his vestments; then he shall come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, making atonement for himself and for the people. 25The fat of the sin offering he shall turn into smoke on the altar. 26The one who sets the goat free for Azazel d Or marry shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp. 27The 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 consumed in fire. 28The one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp.

29This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, a Gk: Heb lacks your and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. 30For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD. 31It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; a Gk: Heb lacks your it is a statute forever. 32The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. 33He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.

Notes:

a Or the cover

b Or treaty, or testament; Heb eduth

c Meaning of Heb uncertain

d Traditionally rendered a scapegoat

a Or shall fast

a Or marry

b Gk: Heb lacks your

Text Commentary view alone

16.1–34 : The Day of Atonement.

In its present context this chapter describes an annual sanctuary purification rite that occurs every fall, on the tenth day of the seventh month (September‐October), accompanied by the people's fasting (v. 29; 23.26–32 ). It may have originally been a sanctuary purification rite, not connected to a particular day nor requiring fasting ( 16.29–34 are not original to the chapter, and are part of the Holiness tradition found mainly in chs 17–26 ). Thus it makes sense that the ceremony, in vv. 1–28 , is prescribed immediately after, and contains a reference to, the death of Aaron's sons in Lev 10.1–7 (cf. 16.1; see 11.1–15.33n.; Num 7.1–89n.). The sanctuary needed purification because the priests’ corpses had polluted it (cf. Lev 10.4–5; Num 19 ). Cf. Ezek 45.18–20 .

2 :

Mercy seat, see Ex 25.17–22n. Cloud, see Ex 40.34–38n.

3 :

4.3 .

4 :

See 8.6–7.

6–19 :

The primary goal of the sin offering is to achieve “atonement” (Heb “kipper”; cf. the noun “kippûr,” “atonement,” as in the later Jewish term for the occasion, “Yom Kippur,” based on a similar term in 23.27–28; 25.9 ). With the sin/purification offering, the Heb verb refers to the removal of impurity from certain sanctuary furniture and locales caused by sin and severe personal pollution (Ex 30.10; Lev 6.23; 8.15; 16.16,18,20,27,33; cf. Ezek 43.20, 26; 45.20; see Lev 4.1–35n. ). The focus of the chapter is thus on the purification of the sanctuary, not, as in later times, on repentance of the individual. “Kipper” should therefore be translated as “purify” or “make purification on behalf of.” When used in a summary fashion in sacrificial contexts, the term appears to indicate that all negative effects of the sin or personal pollution have been resolved, and thus carries the notion of “appeasement” (Num 17.11; 25.13; cf. Ex 30.15–16; Lev 17.11; Num 31.50 ). Other sacrifices, except for the well‐being offering, may also achieve atonement (the burnt offering, Lev 1.4; cf. 14.31; 15.15; Num 6.11 ; the guilt offering, Lev 5.16; 14.21; 19.22; Num 5.8 ).

7 :

Tent of meeting, see 1.1n.

8 :

Azazel, meaning “angry/fierce god,” probably a demonic figure (cf. 17.7 ), in contrast to the LORD, i.e., Yahweh. This is the “scapegoat” of older translations.

16 :

The first part of the verse might be alternatively rendered: “Thus shall he purify the sanctuary from the impurities of the people of Israel and from their rebellious acts, including all their sins.” On rebellious acts, i.e., deliberate sins, in the scheme of the sin offering system, see 4.1–35n.; cf. Num 15.30–31n. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, now that the inner room of the tent has been purified (vv. 11–16a ), its outer room is purified. The procedure is not spelled out, but is probably similar to that in 4.5–7,16–18 (cf. Ex 30.10).

18–19 :

The open‐air altar, a third locale of the sanctuary area, is here purified. Horns, see Ex 27.2n.

21 :

Both his hands, this gesture transfers sins to the head of the scapegoat (cf. 24.14; Num 27.18,23 , where apparently two hands are used for transfer). This differs in form and meaning from the one‐handed gesture that precedes the slaughtering of sacrificial animals (see 1.4; 3.2; 4.4 ; this gesture is not found with birds or grain offerings), which may seek to identify the animal as belonging to the offerer who brings it (cf. Num 8.5–26n.). This scapegoat ritual is somewhat redundant with the earlier purification rituals, but the purity of the sanctuary was so significant that redundancy was sensible. Though the goat to Azazel is part of a purgation offering complex (cf. Lev 16.5 ), it is not sacrificed or killed according to the biblical text, though further development of this ritual in early rabbinic literature assured that the scapegoat would die, so it could not return with the sins.

29 , 31 :

Deny yourselves, in addition to abstaining from food and anointing (Dan 10.12 ), sexual intercourse may be prohibited (2 Sam 12.15–24 ). These verses derive from the Holiness School (see Introduction), which viewed Yom Kippur in terms that are broader than the Priestly Torah described in vv. 1–28 .

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