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Scripture reading – Leviticus 15-16
Laws Concerning Ceremonial Uncleanness
Having addressed the dreaded scourge of leprosy in the two chapters before today’s Scripture reading, the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron regarding other afflictions that would render a worshipper ceremonially unclean. As such, one would not be permitted to approach the Tabernacle to worship and offer sacrifices.
Leviticus 15:1-17 addressed men with various physical ailments that rendered 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 and to remind men not to approach the LORD lightly without bringing an offering (15:14-17).
Detailed guidelines were to be observed by women who had an issue of blood (Leviticus 15:18-33). For the sake of women’s health, the LORD gave instructions that applied not only to their menstrual cycles (15:20-24), but also to irregular issues of blood that might arise and she be deemed unclean (15:25-27). When a woman’s time passed, she was to present required offerings on her eighth day and be declared clean.
Why were those guidelines important? Not only for hygienic reasons, but also as a reminder to Israel that the LORD set them apart from the nations and called them to be holy (15:31).
The Day of Atonement and the Sacrifices Offered
Leviticus 16 is a crossroads in our study of the Book of Leviticus. The text moves from the descriptions of 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. Therefore, 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).
As high priest, Aaron entered 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 as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” was the holiest day on 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 (16:3, 6) and the nation’s sins (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). In contrast, 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 offer 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 burned upon the altar. In contrast, the bullock and goat’s skins and flesh were burned out of the camp (16:25, 27-28).
The Day of Atonement, like the Passover, was 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 people’s sins until Christ was sacrificed for our sins. According to the author of the Book of Hebrews, Jesus Christ is the believer’s sacrifice and high priest (Hebrews 9:24-28) who “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” (Hebrews 9:28).
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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