The Day of Atonement - Part 2

February 27, 2022

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath" (Leviticus 23:26-32).

The heart of the observance of the Day of Atonement is the sacrifice of one goat and the release of the scapegoat. Two issues are at stake here. First, what is the meaning of the ‘scapegoat’, and second, what does this ceremony say about the Israelite concept of atonement?

There are all kinds of interpretations regarding the ‘scapegoat’. Some are basic and fundamental, others are wild and far-fetched. One says the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness to appease ‘the goat-demon’ of the desert. Another says it was the means of sending Israel’s sins back to Satan. Another says the goat was to be thrown off a cliff (azazelx - cliff goat), while another says the goat was to be destroyed (azazel - goat of destruction). The biblical interpretation is that the sins of the people were laid on the goat, it was then taken out into the wilderness and released. The meaning is clear. Atonement is seen in both goats. One was sacrificed to God; it’s blood was to affect forgiveness for sin (propitiation). The other was taken away from the people and released in the wilderness; the sins of the people were removed, never to come back to them (expiation).

In Hebrews 9:7-10 the author wrote that the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies only once a year and needed to make sacrifice for himself with the blood of animals. But Jesus Christ entered once for all and offered His own blood as a sacrifice for His people. The ritual of the Day of Atonement foreshadowed this event. Now that Jesus Christ has come, the ritual of the Day of Atonement is fulfilled and therefore obsolete. The Gospels teach that the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies split open at the moment of Jesus' death, proving that the final and perfect atonement for sin had been made (Matt 27:50-51) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many (see also Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Amen.


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