Ceremonial Uncleanness, and The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 15-16)

The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 15-16)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 15-16

Leviticus 15 – Laws Concerning Ceremonial Uncleanness

Having addressed the dreaded scourge of leprosy in the two chapters prior to today’s Scripture reading, the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron regarding other bodily afflictions that would arise and reckon the worshipper ceremonially unclean, and unable to approach the Tabernacle to worship and offer sacrifices.

Leviticus 15:1-17 addresses men with various physical ailments that would render not only their flesh, but also their clothes and bed linens unclean (15:3-13). Strict guidelines were given to inhibit the spread of disease among the people, as well as to remind men to not lightly approach the LORD without offering sacrifices to Him (15:14-17).

Leviticus 15:18-33 details guidelines that were to be observed regarding the woman who had an issue of blood (15:19). The LORD, for the sake of the woman’s health, gave instructions that were applicable to not only her menstrual cycles (15:20-24), but also irregular issues (15:25-27) that might arise and be deemed unclean. When the woman’s time had passed, on the eighth day she was to present the required sacrifices (15:29-30) and be declared clean.

Why were these guidelines important? The obvious was for hygienic reasons; however, we find they were also a reminder to Israel that God had set them apart from the heathen nations, and called them to be a holy people.

Leviticus 15:3131Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.

Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement, and the Sacrifices Offered

Leviticus 16 is a crossroads in our study of the Book of Leviticus. The text moves us from the descriptions of the various offerings, and the guidelines concerning them, to the commencement of sacrificial offerings by Aaron, the high priest.

We are reminded that the office of the high priest was a holy office, and Aaron’s ministry on behalf of the people was a sacred duty. The LORD instructed 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” (16:2).

The high priest was to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies,” once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29). That day, known as the Day of Atonement, and also known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” was the most holy day on the God’s calendar. Six months after the observance of the Passover, the Day of Atonement was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for his sins, “a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering” (16:3, 6), and the sins of the nation “two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering” (16:5, 8-10, 15a).

Casting lots upon the goats, the one upon which the lot fell would be offered as a “sin offering” (16:9), while the other goat would be the “scapegoat” (16:10). The high priest would first sacrifice the young bull for his sins, taking its blood and sprinkling it upon the mercy seat (16:14). He would then sacrifice the goat that was the sin offering for the nation, and take its blood to sprinkle upon the mercy seat (16:15) as an atonement “because of their transgressions in all their sins” (16:16). The blood of the young bull, and the blood of the goat was then sprinkled upon the altar (16:18).

The live goat, identified as the scapegoat, was brought to Aaron. The Scripture says he was to 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: 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (16:21-22).

The “fat of the sin offerings” was to be burned upon the altar, while the skins, and flesh of the bullock and goat were to be taken out of the camp and burned (16:25, 27-28).

The Day of Atonement, like the Passover, were to be observed annually by Israel. The pattern of blood sacrifices was a perpetual reminder that the penalty of sin is death, and there can be no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year, and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, until Christ was sacrificed for our sins. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith