For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

16:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died;”


When God speaks through Moses it is in law unmingled with grace. There would be no pardon for disobedience.  The two sons died, not for doing what God had forbidden, but for doing what He had not commanded.  The only fire to be used in the Tabernacle was that which at its setting up, had fallen from heaven upon the brazen altar, but Nadab and Abihu had used fire from some other source in connection with the burning of the incense, which is a type of worship.  That miraculously given fire from heaven is a type of the Holy Spirit, and the lesson for us is that our worship must be at His impulse, and not what is impelled simply by the flesh.


It is of further instruction to note the meanings of the names of these two sons: Nadab means the willing one; and Abihu, father (i.e worshipper) of Him (God).  As Aaron’s sons, these two priests represent believers, sons of the true Aaron, and the meanings of their names combine to declare both willingness and desire to worship God.  Our willingness or desire to worship however, must not be exercised apart from the direction of the Holy Spirit, this being particularly true of the corporate worship offered on the first day of each week, as we sit around the Lord’s table to eat the Lord’s Supper.  There is the great danger there of being influenced by those around us so that our audible participation is more for their ears than God’s; for the display of our knowledge, rather than the expression of genuine love for the Lord.


The frequency with which that preeminently important meeting is marred by will-worship is too obvious to require comment.


16:2.  “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.”


God Himself appointed the day and the manner in which Aaron was to enter the Holy of Holies, and the type is fulfilled in His having appointed the first day of the week for the eating of the Lord’s Supper.  It is an ordinance not to be observed at any other time.  The cloud hovering over the mercy seat was the symbolic representation of the Divine presence.  When we assemble to eat the Lord’s Supper we should never forget that we are in that same holy Presence.


As Aaron entered into the Holy Place through the vail, so do we today enter God’s presence “through the vail, that is to say His (Christ’s) flesh...” Hebrews 10:19-22, to present our worship “before the mercy seat” there being a mercy seat for us only because of the Lord’s vicarious death. 


“... which is upon the ark.”  Within the ark were the tables of the law, Aaron’s rod that had budded, and at the end of the wilderness journey, the golden pot of manna.  The ark speaks of Christ, in Whose heart God’s law was enshrined here on earth; Aaron’s budding rod reminding us of the burgeoning life that is ours in Christ because it is His life; and the golden pot of manna portraying Him, the true Bread, now glorified in heaven.  It is in the Christ represented by the ark and the things within it, Who is the sure foundation upon which rests all our hope for time and eternity.


“... that he die not.”  To disobey would be to die, and the lesson being taught is that disobedience brings death for the saint as well as the sinner, the difference relative to the saint being that time spent in disobedience is time in which he might as well have been dead, for that time will merit no reward at the Bema.


16:3.  “Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.”


It is Christ Who is typified here as our great High Priest offering Himself without spot to God.  The young bullock represents Him in all the vigor of young manhood, going to Calvary as the strong, patient, willing Servant of God and man, to die in our stead for the remission of our sins.  The ram (the leader of the flock) is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sinless preeminent One, Who though Head of all creation, has been willing to take our guilty place at Calvary and submit Himself to death so that our sins might be forgiven, and we reconciled to God.


Unlike the order connected with the presentation of the offerings where the burnt offering is mentioned first, here it follows the sin offering, the explanation being that here the focus is on the expiation of sin, which must be atoned for before there can be either worship or glory for God.


16:4.  “And he shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.”


The white linen speaks of spotless righteousness, the coat or outer garment representing the righteousness which man saw in Christ; the linen breeches (underpants) portraying the righteous devotion which God saw in the heart of His Son.  The girdle is the emblem of service (Christ girded Himself with a towel when He washed the disciples’ feet), reminding us that the Lord came to earth “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28.  The linen miter (the headdress of the high priest) points symbolically to the truth that the mind of Christ was also spotlessly pure, and ours are to be also, as it is written, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jeses; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,”


We who belong to Christ are also to be marked by that same holiness, not just for the eye of man, but of God, He beholding the same righteousness in our hearts and minds.  Our service too, portrayed by the girdle, is to be rendered out of a pure motive, and according to God’s Word.  How often it is otherwise, being rendered for the praise of men rather than of God!  The purity of mind represented by the linen miter is also to mark our thoughts, for God knows them.


Its being emphasized that all of these were holy garments is to impress upon us that what they represent in our lives is also to be holy, as it is written, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (living); because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy,” 1 Peter 1:15-16.


The command to “wash his flesh in water” before donning these linen garments, corresponds to what is written in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” the pure water being the written Word, see Ephesians 5:26, “the washing of water by the word.”  This holiness which God commands, will not be seen in our lives apart from our reading and obeying the written Word.


16:5.  “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.”


That the two goats and the ram represent Christ is made clear in verses 8-10, which will be discussed in detail in our examination of those verses.


Since the burnt offering always speaks of worship, the lesson being taught here is that sin must be dealt with before worship is offered, otherwise worship becomes a travesty.


16:6.  “And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.”


Usually Aaron is a type of Christ our Great High Priest, but in this instance he is the representative of sinful Israel, and must therefore present the prescribed offering for his own sin and that of his household before he can officiate as representative of the people.


16:7.  “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”


16:8.  “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”


These two verses declare typologically that when the Lord died, He did so in two different capacities: the goat that was for the Lord represents Him as the obedient Son offering Himself without spot to God, purely for the Father’s glory; the other, the scapegoat, portrays Him as our Representative, our Substitute, He by dying in our stead, bearing our sins into the land of God’s forgetfulness to be remembered no more.


16:9.  “And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.”


This points to the fact that if our sins were to be atoned for, Christ must die in our stead, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin, Hebrews 9:22.


16:10.  “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”


Woven into the fabric of this verse is the truth that the Lord would not only expiate our sins by His death, but that His resurrection is the proof that God the Father has accepted Him as our Substitute, that assurance being given us in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”  Had Christ not been raised from death, what assurance would we have that He had expiated our sins; that the Father had accepted His life instead of ours?  None!


16:11.  “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;”


Since the only difference between this verse and verse 6 is that here we have recorded the actual slaying of the bullock, the comments on verse 6 apply here also.


16:12.  “And 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 bring it within the vail:”


The burning coals taken from the brazen altar to the golden altar represent the Holy Spirit.  Without that fire there would be nothing to manifest the fragrance of the incense, and the spiritual lesson being taught is that the Holy Spirit has an essential part to play in our worship.  If it isn’t He Who indites our homage as expressed in hymns sung, prayers offered, Scriptures read, then all we have is the equivalent of the High Priest’s placing the incense on the golden altar, but without the burning coals to transmute it into the fragrant cloud that delighted God’s heart, because it represented the Spirit-directed worship of His people.


But let’s look for a moment at the incense itself.  Where did it come from?  It was part of the offerings of the people.  It is to be noted however, that it was to be “beaten small” but since that incense represents our worship, and since worship is simply the presentation to God of what has resulted from our occupation with Christ as revealed in the written Word, the beating of the incense translates into the fact that the equivalent of the “beating” is that careful, prayerful reading of Scripture, that patient meditation upon what we have read, which results in our hearts being filled with those thoughts of Christ which the Holy Spirit may be pleased to use when we sit at the Lord’s table, remembering His sufferings and death, and presenting our worship to the Father.


Without the “beating” of the incense our worship is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, as offensive to God as it is distressing to spiritual believers compelled to witness the activity of the flesh intruding into and marring what pertains exclusively to the realm of the Spirit.


16:13.  “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:”


This continues to emphasize the impossibility of presenting acceptable worship apart from the impulse of the Holy Spirit.  Nor should we fail to note the connection between the fragrant cloud and the mercy seat: there can be no worship apart from an appreciation of our indebtedness to God’s mercy in having given His Son to die in our guilty stead for the expiation of our sins.


“... that he die not.”  Apart from the fire, the incense could not be transmuted into smoke, and to have presented it without the fire would have brought instant death to the offender.


Wind is simply air in motion, and wind is one of the biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, see e.g., Acts 2:2-4, so that the fragrant smoke suspended in the air over the mercy seat is the symbolic figure of Spirit-indited worship.  To have placed the incense on the mercy seat apart from the fire would have been the typological equivalent of the travesty engaged in by apostate Christendom, which mistakes fleshly religious ritual for worship, and which will also bring death to the offender unless he is awakened and saved.


16:14.  “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.”


“... with his finger” indicates the contact of the blood with the person of Aaron, and is the reminder that until a sinner, by faith, makes personal application to himself of Christ’s blood, he cannot be saved.  Only believers, that is, those who have by faith appropriated the blood of Christ to themselves, are called by God “a royal priesthood,” 1 Peter 2:9.


The blood was to be sprinkled on, and in front of the east side of the mercy seat, the reason being related to the fact that, contrary to popular but erroneous opinion, the east speaks not of good, but of evil, and of distance from God.  Note for example that when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, they went out eastward.  When Cain killed Abel he too went eastward away from God’s presence.  It is instructive to note, in fact, that there is not one biblical mention of the east in a good connotation.  The wise men came from the east to worship Jesus, and very significantly it is recorded that when returning, “they departed into their own country another way,” Matthew 2:12.  They did of course return eastward, but the divine Penman has been careful not to describe their return as having been eastward.  Every man in his natural state is traveling spiritually eastward: away from God, towards hell and the lake of fire.


Since seven is the number of perfection and completeness, the sprinkling of the blood seven times, speaks of the efficacy of Christ’s blood to cleanse every repentant believer from every spot and stain of sin.


16:15.  “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.”


“... the goat of the sin offering ... for the people,” here represents Christ as the One who was willing to take our sins upon Himself, as described in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,,” and again in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” and again in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows ....”


The comments on verse 3 relative to the blood of the bullock, apply here also.


16:16.  “And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.”


The blood of the bullock was to make atonement for the defilement transmitted not only to the outer part of the Tabernacle, but also to the most holy place where the shekinah glory was enshrined.  The pollution of the Tabernacle indicates that many of the priests were wicked, including the High Priest, for he was the only one who entered the most holy place, and that only on the day of atonement, to present the sacrificial blood.


16:17.  “And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.”


To many believers the OT is nothing more than a fragmented historical record; an account of the worship ritual which God appointed for Israel; the songs written by David; the recorded words of the prophets, etc.  Some see, in a very general way, a few easily discerned types of Christ; others may see many types of Christ, but even these may fail to see that some of the details in the typological pictures, when studied carefully, focus on some particular aspect of Christ’s great work accomplished at Calvary.  One such detail is that connected with the ritual of the day of Atonement, as recorded in this section of Scripture.


Keeping in mind that Aaron is a type of Christ, we find in this little detail an announcement of the truth that He alone could do that great work; but then we find that other Scriptures emphasize the very same aspect of the Lord’s sacrifice, e.g., in Psalm 88:18 we read, “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness,” this verse adding the further detail that the Lord was not only alone, but alone in impenetrable darkness, for the meaning here is not so much that the acquaintances were put into darkness, but that the Lord, from the darkness which enshrouded His soul, was unable to see them.


Then again in Psalm 102:7 we read, “I am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop,” the emphasis here being not only on the Lord’s being alone, but on His worthlessness in the eyes of men, see e.g., “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing ...?” Matthew 10:29.  Man’s evaluation of Christ was only that of a gored slave, the compensation to be paid to the master of such a slave being a mere 30 pieces of silver, the same amount for which Judas sold the Lord, Exodus 21:32.


A further detail is added in Matthew 26:56, which records the flight of all the disciples when the multitude came to take the Lord.  He was left alone to suffer brutal treatment at the hand of His enemies, in spite of the assurance given earlier by the disciples that they would not forsake Him.


But more terrible to the Lord than all of these was that in the hour of His deepest need, His Father forsook Him, evoking His desolate despairing cry, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?”  Why?  Because in that awful hour when He expiated your sins and mine, the Holy One Who knew no sin, was made sin, made a curse; and concerning the Father Who must deal with Him as our Sin-Bearer, it is written in Habakkuk 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity ....”


Why did the Lord expose Himself to such terrible wrath?  It was so that the Father might look with favor upon us, seeing us purged from every spot and stain of sin, as holy in His sight as was the Lord Himself until that day when He was willing to be made sin, and to die in our guilty stead, so that we might be pardoned, and receive God’s priceless gift of eternal life.


16:18.  “And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.”


This was the great brazen altar located in the open space just inside the Tabernacle’s curtained entrance, and before the similar portiere to the tent of meeting itself; and an obvious question arises relative to the making of atonement for that altar: why should there be need of such propitiation?  The answer appears to be two fold: in the process of construction it had been defiled by the touch of the men who made it, for like all other men, they were sinners; and it was polluted by all the sins of the camp in the midst of which it was located.


The placing of the blood of the bullock and of the goat on the horn at each corner of the altar portrays the universality of sin.  No place and no thing on earth is free from its contagion, as it is written, “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” Romans 8:22.


16:19.  “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.”


Aaron’s being a type of Christ, and his sprinkling of the blood upon the altar “with his finger,” points to the close personal involvement of Christ with our sin: He took our sins upon Himself.  The seven-fold sprinkling however, speaks also of the perfection of His expiatory work.  Every sin has been atoned for so that no man need die unforgiven, except those who refuse to trust Him as their personal Savior. 


To hallow something or someone is to set apart or sanctify it or him for a special holy purpose, and here the hallowing of the brazen altar refers to its being sanctified or set apart for the presentation of Israel’s sacrifices, each one of which was a type of Christ.


“... from the uncleanness of the children of Israel” reminds us that even though they were God’s chosen people, they were sinful, hence the need of their presenting a sin offering before they could offer a burnt sacrifice, which always represents worship.


16:20.  “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:”


Reconciliation is associated with the idea of bringing together in harmony or peace, and here the idea is very clearly of reconciling the Tabernacle, the dwelling place of a holy God, with the camp of sinful Israel, the dwelling place of a sinful people, reconciliation having been effected by the shed blood of the sacrificial bullock and goat, which we have seen to be types of Christ.  He, by the shedding of His own precious blood, has made possible the reconciliation of a holy God and believing men and women who have accepted Him as Savior and Lord.


Since the Tabernacle was not only the place where reconciliation had been made, but also the place to which Israel came to worship, the lesson for us is that our reconciliation to God through the death of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, should result in our assembling to present our worship on the first day of each week, He being represented by the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper on the table, around which we gather to remember His death, and to present our worship.


16:21.  “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 in 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:”


16:22.  “And the goat shall bear upon him all the iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.”


The fact that Aaron had to lay both his hands upon the head of  the scapegoat, may have been to indicate that he was not just confessing his own sin - as might have been implied had he used just one hand - but also the sins of the nation.  It may also indicate the confession, not just of some sins, but of all of them.


This ritual is the symbolic presentation of the procedure by which sinners are saved.  The spiritual equivalent of Aaron’s laying both hands on the goat’s head is when a man confesses that he is a sinner without a shred of righteousness, but who has the faith to see that Christ has willingly taken his sins upon Himself, accepting responsibility for all of them, and expiating them by dying as his Substitute.


Christ is both the goat and the fit man, as it is written, “He offered himself without spot to God,” Hebrews 9:14; the wilderness being the equivalent of the place of forgetfulness spoken of in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,” and repeated in Hebrews 10:17, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”


The release of the scapegoat in the wilderness may also speak symbolically of the fact that Christ, having laid down His life for the expiation of our sins, has taken it up again in resurrection power, as He Himself declared, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” John 10:17-18.


16:23.  “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:”


This type was fulfilled on the resurrection morning, as recorded in Luke 24:12, “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.”


16:24.  “And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.”


The Lord’s resurrection continues to be described here in symbolic language, the washing of Aaron’s body pointing typically to the fact that the Lord, having taken our sins upon Him, and having died to expiate them, arose in power and glory with no taint of our sin still upon him.  Aaron’s normal priestly garments were of glory and beauty, see Exodus 28:2, and in this present context, declare in symbol, that the Lord, having completed His great work of making atonement for sin, arose in all His inherent eternal power, glory and beauty.


The burnt offering was the one in which the flames transmuted the whole carcase to smoke, which ascended to God in emblematic worship.  The difference between Aaron’s presentation of his burnt offering, and Christ’s offering of Himself without spot to God, was that Aaron’s was offered in thanksgiving for the remission of his sins: Christ’s was offered, not for forgiveness of His sins - He had none - but exclusively for the Father’s glory.


16:25.  “And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar.”


Fat, which except in very small amounts, is too rich for human digestion, speaks in the present context, of that aspect of Christ’s offering of Himself to God, which transcends human comprehension.  Its being burnt here as part of the sin offering continues to emphasize that Christ’s being made sin for us is a phenomenon which only God the Father could evaluate at its true worth.


16:26.  “And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.”


This demonstrates the virulent nature of sin: it contaminates everything it contacts.  As he who had done nothing more than lead the scapegoat into the wilderness, was contaminated, and therefore excluded from the fellowship of the camp of Israel, so is man in his natural sinful state debarred from heaven, and from any fellowship with God.


There was however, a simple remedy: the man had only to wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water; and so is it relative to man’s fitting himself for the presence of a Holy God: he has only to confess himself a sinner; repent, and trust in Christ as his Savior.


16:27.  “And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth outside the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.”


Though sin-blinded Israel failed to understand it, the type was fulfilled that day when the Lord Jesus Christ was led outside the city of Jerusalem, and crucified.  See, e.g., Lamentations 1:13, “From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevailed against them ....” 


The skin speaks of what man could see, i.e., the Lord’s physical sufferings; but the flesh, the inward part, represents what man couldn’t see: Christ’s inward anguish.  The dung speaks of our sins, which the Lord took upon Himself, and expiated by His death.


16:28.  “And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.”


This continues to demonstrate the deadly virulence of sin, and ought to help us comprehend how terrible it was for the Lord to take our sins upon Himself, something of what it meant to Him being revealed in His agony in the garden: it caused His sweat to become as “great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” Luke 22:44.


16:29.  “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:”


God’s numerical system is based on seven, the number of completeness or perfection, eight being simply the number of a new beginning.  The twelve months of the year correspond to the number of the tribes of Israel, and are always associated with those under Divine government, just as ten is associated with God as the Administrator of all things, e.g., the Ten Commandments which express the requirements of His government.  The Church, of which Israel is a type, is also associated with the number twelve, for it is built upon the doctrine of the twelve Apostles.


“... afflict your souls” is generally understood to mean that that day was to be one of fasting and abstention from work, the prohibition relative to work being the symbolic reminder that salvation cannot be secured by works, as it is written, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9.  The emphasis upon its being applicable to Jew and Gentile alike, is the warning that the principle of salvation through faith, and not of works, applies to all men.


The feast of the Day of Atonement was unique in that it was the only one of the annual feasts in which Israel was to fast.


16:30.  “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”


The fact that the day of atonement ritual had to be repeated annually, declares its impotence to expiate sin eternally.  It was merely another of the OT ceremonies that foreshadowed the perfect and eternal efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice, which puts the believer’s sins away for ever, see Hebrews 1:3, “... when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  His sitting down signifies the completion of a work that needs no repetition.


It is emphasized that it was the priest who made the atonement, and in this God is pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ as our great High Priest who has fulfilled the type by the presentation of Himself as our Substitute, as it is written, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14.


16:31.  “It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.”


For the significance of “afflict your souls,” see comments on verse 29.


16:32.  “And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:”


The priest who anointed and consecrated his son as his successor here, is the one of each generation whose term of office had expired.  Since the linen clothes were white, and white is the color of purity, these garments represent the righteousness that was to characterize the priests.  The OT priests however, are types of believers of this present dispensation.  We are called a royal kingdom of priests, see 1 Peter 2:9, so that their being clad in white linen is the symbolic announcement of the truth that we are responsible to live righteously as a testimony to the reality of our professed faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.


16:33.  “And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.”


The sanctuary was the innermost compartment of the Tabernacle; and the altar was the brazen altar sitting exposed to the elements immediately between the entrance gate (curtained doorway) and the Tabernacle proper, the tent of meeting.


The necessity of making atonement for all the things and people mentioned here is related to the fact that they were all of the earth, and were therefore contaminated by the sin brought into the world by Adam’s disobedience.  The need of their being atoned for, i.e., purified, is because they were now being dedicated to the service of Jehovah, the Holy God; and the lesson being taught in this is that holiness is to mark believers in every compartment of their lives: thoughts, words, and deeds, not just in our “religious” activities, but in the secular also.


16:34.  “And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.  And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.”


The fact that this is described as “an everlasting statute” is to remind us that God requires holiness of those who profess to be His people, whether they be Israel or the Church.  Until Christ’s death and resurrection, this typological order was to be followed once each year, for the OT ordinances could make nothing permanently perfect, see Hebrews 7:19, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”  How different is the order established by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ!  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:12, and again, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” Hebrews 9:12.


Aaron faithfully obeyed the commands given him by God through Moses, and it would be well with us were we to yield similar obedience to God’s commands.

[Leviticus 17]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough