Day of Atonement: Leviticus 16

Exodus  30:10  And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

The high priest was only allowed to enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle once a year, on this day, the Day of Atonement.

Very specific rituals were to be done, before, during and after his going into The Holy of Holies

God did not give these commands capriciously, but because He wanted to convey the meaning of the Day of Atonement


Leviticus 16:1  Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died;

profane fire is not in the orginal text but let’s turn to where this event is recorded:

 Leviticus 10:1  Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it [this appears to be at the golden altar of incense, which stood in the holy place right before the veil that was the entrance to the holy of holies], put incense on it, and offered profane fire [because it was offered in an ungodly manner] before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. [There is no telling what else they may have done]

Leviticus 10:2  So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

[We are given a little more insight in :3 why this happened]

Leviticus 10:3  And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace.

Now back in Leviticus 16 God is giving instructions, specifically for the Day of Atonement so that it would all be done decently and in order

Leviticus 16:2  and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time [it was only on the Day of Atonement that he could go] into the Holy Place inside the veil [the holiest of the holy places], before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die [like his sons]; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

Not only could no one go into the HOLY OF HOLIES whenever they wanted at any time, but it was only to be Aaron who was the High Priest.

Leviticus 16:3  “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.

Aaron did not bring a whole bull or ram with him into the HOLY OF HOLIES, this was done outside the tent which we can see in Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9:6  Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.

Hebrews 9:7  But into the second part [HOLY OF HOLIES] the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;

The writer of Hebrews also sheds some light on the meaning behind this part of the ritual.  The sacrifice was for Aaron and the Israelites for their sins of ignorance.  We will glean some more understanding on this in a few verses.

Leviticus 16:4  He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.

This is a departure from the normal garb of the High Priest.  Instead of the more ostentatious

robes that he wore, Aaron was now supposed to don a much more humble tunic and trousers made of linen.

Revelation 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Revelation 19:8  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

It was a symbol of righteousness and as the verse says, the garments are holy.

What we are seeing is that God wanted Aaron to come before Him in a specific manner:  He was to be without sin, washed and pure, and in righteousness.

Leviticus 16:5  And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering.

Here we are introduced to the 2 goats of significance – which we will address in depth just a little later.

There is also the ram for the burnt offering that we read about initially in :3 and well as the young bull of :3 which is addressed again here in :6

Leviticus 16:6  “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.

Sin offerings were done in the courtyard outside of the tent.  From there the blood was taken into the most holy place while the remains of the animal were left outside.

But what was the purpose in Aaron making this sin offering in the first place?

It was for his Atonement, a cleansing and forgiving, so that he could come before God in the HOLY OF HOLIES.

After this was done, then in :7

Leviticus 16:7  He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

This might be a good time to show you an artist’s rendition of the tabernacle in the wilderness, so that you can kind of follow along and perhaps see these things in your mind.

Leviticus 16:8  Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat [this is a poor translation from our point of view b/c of what it connotes to us].


From H5795 and H235; goat of departure;

This term has been used quite often for the devil, his minions the demons and what not throughout history…because this is indeed what this goat of departure, the Azazel represents.

One goat will be “for the LORD”  and the other lot for the Azazel or for Satan

According to several commentaries Aaron casts lots by taking two gold pieces that were exactly the same, one the words “for the Lord,” and the other “for Azazel” etched into them.

After shaking them up, he put both his hands into the container simultaneously and took up a lot that he had cast in each—he put the lot in his right hand on the head of the goat which was on his right, and the left on the left.

Leviticus 16:9  And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.

It was to be sacrificed or killed as an offering unlike that Azazel:

Leviticus 16:10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat [azazel] into the wilderness.

We will address what it means to “make atonement upon it” later in verses 21-22

Leviticus 16:11  “And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering [:3 and :6], which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull [on the altar near the entrance to the courtyard] as the sin offering which is for himself.

Leviticus 16:12  Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD [which was in the holy place], with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. [that is into the HOLY OF HOLIES]

Revelation 5:8  Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Leviticus 16:13  And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.

In other words this is how to avoid ending up like Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 16:14  He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. [a number of perfection and completeness]

He was in process of coming before God in a righteous and perfect presentation.  Aaron, as High Priest, was now representing our present High Priest and foreshadowing what Christ would later be doing.

Hebrews 6:19  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

Hebrews 6:20  where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:26  For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;

Hebrews 7:27  who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 7:28  For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Leviticus 16:15  “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

This meant that Aaron would have to go back out to the altar for the burnt offerings to do this and then back into the HOLY OF HOLIES.

Also note importantly that the sin offering was for the people as a whole.  Throughout the year they would make their sin offerings individually, but now this one goat that the lot fell upon would be for all of them as a whole.

Leviticus 16:16  So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

All their sins would be placed upon the one “for the Lord” that represented Christ.

Just as he came and took all the sins of mankind, at once, upon Himself and became our sacrifice.

Leviticus 16:17  There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.

Leviticus 16:18  And he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around.

Leviticus 16:19  Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

What we are seeing is a complete cleansing of everything from Aaron and the clothes that he is wearing to the Israelites, to even the tabernacle itself.  They were to once a year represent the ridding of their entire world of SIN.

Now notice what happens in the next 2 verses that we have already alluded to.

Leviticus 16:20  “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.

Now that everything that has been “contaminated” by sin has been cleansed and atoned for:

Leviticus 16:21  Aaron [the High Priest] shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat [the azazel], and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.

Leviticus 16:22  The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

This obviously represents a time in the very near future after Christ returns, when he place the cause of sin on the head of Satan where it rightly belongs.  It pictures the time spoken of in:

Revelation 20:1  Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

Revelation 20:2  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Revelation 20:3  and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

Until this happens mankind cannot readily be at one with God.  We cannot have Atonement.  We cannot be “set at one” with God, because of Satan.

This is what the Day of Atonement represents.  The time when Satan and sin that he is the father of will be taken into a wilderness, a bottomless pit, and left there so that mankind as a whole can now begin their journey of reconciliation and salvation.

Leviticus 16:23  “Then Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of meeting, shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them there.

Leviticus 16:24  And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people.

Puts on the more Kingly  attire

After Christ returns to Earth and the binding of Satan, Christ will turn His attention to the people that remain, who continue to sin and have yet to accept His sacrifice

Leviticus 16:25  The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar.

Leviticus 16:26  And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

Continues to try keep the place holy and sinless

Leviticus 16:27  The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. And they shall burn in the fire their skins, their flesh, and their offal.

Let’s just notice the extent to which these rituals go to foreshadow the future:

Hebrews 13:12  Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Hebrews 13:13  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

Leviticus 16:28  Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

Do you see the emphasis on remaining sinless and holy

Leviticus 16:29  “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls [fast to humble yourself, put off the things of this world, draw closer to God], and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you.

Leviticus 16:30  For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.

This is the Day of Atonement and what was to be done:

Leviticus 16:31  It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.

Leviticus 16:32  And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments;

Leviticus 16:33  then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.

It will be for everyone and everything in the Congregation of God

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

Hebrews 9:6  Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.

Hebrews 9:7  But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;

Hebrews 9:8  the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

Hebrews 9:9  It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—

Hebrews 9:10  concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

Hebrews 9:11  But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

Hebrews 9:12  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:13  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,

Hebrews 9:14  how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

 It was an amazing ritual on a very important day that foreshadowed times ahead, some which have already passed and some that are still yet to come.  It is still meaningful to us today as it continues to give us valuable insight into the plan of God