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The Temple - Its Ministry and Service #18

The Day of Atonement #1


by Alfred Edersheim



'But into the second (tabernacle) went the high-priest alone once
every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and
for the errors of the people ... But Christ being come an high
priest of good things to come ... by His own blood He entered
once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for
us.'--Heb. ix.7,11,12.


     IT may sound strange, and yet it is true, that the clearest
testimony to 'the weakness and unprofitableness' 'of the
commandment' is that given by 'the commandment' itself. The
Levitical arrangements for the removal of sin bear on their
forefront, as it were, this inscription: 'The law made nothing
perfect'--having neither a perfect mediatorship in the
priesthood. nor a perfect 'atonement' in the sacrifices, nor yet
a perfect forgiveness as the result of both. 'For the law having
a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the
things, can never with these sacrifices which they offered year
by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.' 1  And   
this appears, first, from the continual recurrence and the
multiplicity of these sacrifices, which are intended the one to
supplement the other, and yet leave something to be still
supplemented; and, secondly, from the broad fact that, in
general, 'it is 

1 Heb. x.1.

not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats
should take away sins.' 1  It is therefore evident that the
Levitical dispensation, being stamped with imperfectness alike in
the means which it employed for the 'taking away' of sin, and in
the results which it obtained by these means, declared itself,
like John the Baptist, only a 'forerunner,' the breaker up and
preparer of the way - not the satisfying, but, on the contrary,
the calling forth and 'the bringing in of a better hope.' 2


     As might have been expected, this 'weakness and
unprofitableness of the commandment' became most apparent in the
services of the day in which the Old Testament provision for
pardon and acceptance attained, so to speak, its  "climax." On
the Day of Atonement, not ordinary priests, but the high-priest
alone officiated, and that not in his ordinary dress, nor yet in
that of the ordinary priesthood, but in one peculiar to the day,
and peculiarly expressive of purity. The worshippers also
appeared in circumstances different from those on any other
occasion, since they were to fast and to 'afflict their souls;'
the day itself was to be 'a Sabbath of Sabbatism,' 3  while its
central services consisted of a series of grand expiatory
sacrifices, unique in their character, purpose, and results, as
described in these words: '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 congre
gation.' 4  But even the need of such a Day of

1 Heb. x.4.    
2 Heb. vii.19; see marginal rendering. 
3 Rendered 'Sabbath of rest' in Authorised Version.
4 Lev. xvi.33.

Atonement, after the daily offerings, the various festive
sacrifices, and the private and public sin offerings all the year
round, showed the insufficiency of all such sacrifices, while the
very offerings of the Day of Atonement proclaimed themselves to
be only temporary and provisional, 'imposed until the time of
reformation.' We specially allude here to the mysterious
appearance of the so-called 'scapegoat,' of which we shall, in
the sequel, have to give an account differing from that of
previous writers.


     The names 'Day of Atonement,' or in the Talmud, which
devotes to it a special tractate, simply 'the day' (perhaps also
in Heb. vii.27  1), and in the Book of Acts 'the fast,' 2 
sufficiently designate its general object. It took place on the
tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri), that is, symbolically,
when the sacred or Sabbath of months had just attained its
completeness. Nor must we overlook the position of that day
relatively to the other festivals. The seventh or sabbatical
month closed the festive cycle, the Feast of Tabernacles on the 
15th of that month being the last in the year. But, as already
stated, before that grand festival of harvesting  and
thanksgiving Israel must, as a nation, be reconciled unto God,
for only a people at peace with God might rejoice before Him     
in the blessing with which He had crowned the year. 3  And the
import of the Day of Atonement, as preceding the Feast of
Tabernacles, becomes only more striking,

1 In that case we should translate Heb. vii 27, 'Who needeth not
on each day (viz. of atonement), as those high-priests, to offer
up his sacrifices,' etc.
2 Acts xxvii.9.
3 See ch. xiv. So also Keil, Oehler, Kurtz, Hupfeld, and almost
all writers on the subject.

when we remember how that feast of harvesting prefigured the
final ingathering of all nations. In connection with this point
it may also be well to remember that the jubilee Year was always
proclaimed on the Day of Atonement. 1


     In briefly reviewing the Divine ordinances about this day, 2
we find that only on that one day in every year the high-priest
was allowed to go into the Most Holy Place, and then arrayed in a
peculiar white dress, which differed from that of Scripture
of the ordinary priests, in that its girdle was white, and not of
the Temple colours, while 'the bonnet' was of the same shape,
though not the same material as 'the mitre,' which the
high-priest ordinarily wore. 3  The simple white of his array, in
distinction to the 'golden garments' which he otherwise wore,
pointed to the fact that on that day the high-priest appeared,
not 'as the bridegroom of Jehovah,' but as bearing in his
official capacity the emblem of that perfect purity which was
sought by the expiations of that day.' 4  Thus in the prophecies
of Zechariah the removal of Joshua's 'filthy garments' and the
clothing him with 'change of raiment,' symbolically denoted--'I
have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.' 5  Similarly those
who stand nearest to God are always described as arrayed 'in
white.' 6

1 Lev. xxv.9.  According to the Jewish view, it was also the day
on which Adam had both sinned and repented; that on which Abraham
was circumcised; and that on which Moses returned from the mount
and made atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
(Of course none of that is provable by the Scriptures - Keith
2 Lev. xvi.; xxiii.26-32 ; Numb. xxix.11. 
3 This appears from the Hebrew terms.
4 According to "Yoma," iii. 7, the High Priest wore in the
morning white raiments of "Pelusian," and 'between the evenings'
of "Indian" stuff--respectively valued (no doubt, extravagantly)
at about 118 and 79 English pounds.
5 Zech. iii.3,4.    
6 See Ezek. ix.2, etc.; Dan. x.5; xii 6.

     And because these were emphatically 'the holy garments,' 
'therefore' the high-priest had to 'wash his flesh in water, and
so put them on,' 1  that is, he was not merely to wash his hands
and feet, as before ordinary ministrations, but to bathe his
whole body.


     From Numb. xxix.7-11 it appears that the offerings on the
Day of Atonement were really of a threefold kind - 'the continual
burnt-offering,' that is, the daily morning and evening
sacrifices, with their meat-and-drink-offerings; the festive
sacrifices of the day, consisting for the high-priest and the
priesthood, of 'a ram for a burnt-offering,' 2  and for the
people of one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the
first year (with their meat-offerings) for a burnt-sacrifice, and
one kid of the goats for a sin-offering; and, thirdly, and
chiefly, the peculiar expiatory sacrifices of the day, which were
a young bullock as a sin-offering for the high-priest, his house,
and the sons of Aaron, and another sin-offering for the people,
consisting of two goats, one of which was to be killed and its
blood sprinkled, as directed, while the other was to be sent away
into the wilderness, bearing 'all the iniquities of the children
of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins' which
had been confessed 'over him,' and laid upon him by the
     Before proceeding further, we note the following as the
"order" of these sacrifices - first, the ordinary morning
sacrifice, next the expiatory sacrifices for the high-priest, the
priesthood, and the people (one bullock, and one of the two
goats, the other being the so-called scapegoat); then the festive
burnt-offerings of the priests and the people, 3  and with them
another sin-offering;

1 Lev. xvi.4.  
2 Lev. xvi.3.  
3 Numb. xxix.7-11.

and, lastly, the ordinary evening sacrifice, being, as Maimonides
observes, in all fifteen sacrificial animals. According to Jewish
tradition, 1  the whole of the services of that day were
performed by the high-priest himself, of course with the
assistance of others, for which purpose more than 500 priests
were said to have been employed. 2  Of course, if the Day of
Atonement fell on a Sabbath, besides all these, the ordinary
Sabbath sacrifices were also offered. On a principle previously
explained, the high-priest purchased from his own funds the
sacrifices brought for himself and his house, the priesthood,
however, contributing, in order to make them sharers in the
offering, while the public sacrifices for the whole people were
paid for from the Temple treasury. Only while officiating in the
distinctly expiatory services of the day did the high-priest wear
his 'linen garments;' in all the others he was arrayed in his
'golden vestments.' This necessitated a frequent change of dress,
and before each he bathed his whole body. All this will be best
understood by a more detailed account of the order of service, as
given in the Scriptures and by tradition. 


     Seven days before the Day of Atonement the high-priest left
his own house in Jerusalem, and took up his abode in his 
chambers in the Temple. A substitute was appointed for him, in
The case he should die or become Levitically unfit for his
duties. Rabbinical punctiliousness went so far as to have him
twice sprinkled

1 Special references would here be too numerous, and we must in
general refer to "Mish. Yoma," and to the tractates of Maimonides
on the order of that service, which latter we follow very
2 Comp. Jost. "Gesch. d. Judenth." vol. i. p.164.
3 The reader will readily distinguish what is derived from
Scripture and what merely from tradition.

with the ashes of the red heifer - on the 3rd and the 7th day of
his week of separation - in case he had, unwittingly to himself,
been defiled by a dead body. 1  During the whole of that week,
also, he had to practise the various priestly rites, such as
sprinkling the blood, burning the incense, lighting the lamp,
offering the daily sacrifice, etc. For, as already stated, every
part of that day's services devolved on the high-priest, and he
must not commit any mistake. Some of the elders of the Sanhedrim
- were appointed to see to it, that the high-priest fully
understood, and knew the meaning of the service, otherwise they
were to instruct him in it. 
     On the eve of the Day of Atonement the various sacrifices
were brought before him, that there might be nothing strange
about the services of the morrow.  Finally, they bound him by a
solemn oath not to change anything in the rites of the day. This
was chiefly for fear of the Sadducean notion, that the incense
should be lighted before the high-priest actually entered into
the Most Holy Place; while the Pharisees held that this was to be
done only within the Most Holy Place itself. 2  The evening meal
of the high-priest before the great day was to be scanty. All
night long he was to be hearing and expounding the Holy
Scriptures, or otherwise kept employed, so that he might not fall
asleep. 3  At midnight the lot was cast for removing the ashes
and preparing the

1 Numb. xix.13.     May not the 'sprinkling of the ashes of an
heifer' in Heb. ix.13 refer to this? The whole section bears on
the Day of Atonement.
2 The only interesting point here is the Scriptural argument on
which the Sadducces based their view. They appealed to Lev. xvi.
and verse 2, and explained the expression, 'I will appear in the
cloud upon the mercyseat,' in a rationalistic sense as applying
to the cloud of incense, not to that of the Divine Presence,
while the Pharisees appealed to verse 13.
3 For special Levitical reasons.

altar; and to distinguish the Day of Atonement from all others,
four, instead of the usual three, fires were arranged on the
great altar of burnt-offering.


     The services of the day began with the first streak of
morning light. Already the people had been admitted into the
sanctuary. So jealous were they of any innovation or alteration,
that only a linen cloth excluded the high-priest from public
view, when, each time before changing his garments, he bathed -
not in the ordinary place of the priests, but in one specially
set apart for his use. Altogether he changed his raiments and
washed his whole body five times on that day, 1  and his hands
and feet ten times. 2  When the first dawn of morning was
announced in the usual manner, the high-priest put off his
ordinary (layman's) dress, bathed, put on his golden vestments,
washed his hands and feet, and proceeded to perform all the
principal parts of the ordinary morning service.  Tradition has
it, that immediately after that, he offered certain parts of the
burnt-sacrifices for the day, viz. the bullock and the seven
lambs, reserving his own ram and that of the people, as well as
the sin-offering of a kid of the goats, 3  till after the special
expiatory sacrifices of the day had been brought. But the text of
Lev. xvi.24 is entirely against this view, and shows that the
whole of the burnt-offerings and the festive sin-offering were
brought after the expiatory services. Considering the relation
between these services and sacrifices, this might, at any rate,
have been expected, since a

1 In case of age or infirmity, the bath was allowed to be heated,
either by adding warm water, or by putting hot irons into it.
2 The high-priest did not on that day wash in the ordinary laver,
but in a golden vessel specially provided for the purpose.
3 Numb. xxix. 8-11.

burnt-offering could only be acceptable "after", not before,


     The morning service finished, the high-priest washed his
hands and feet, put off his golden vestments, bathed, put on his
'linen garments,' again washed his hat hands and feet, and
proceeded to the peculiar part of the day's services.  The
bullock for his sin-offering stood between the Temple-porch and
the altar. It was placed towards the south, but the high-priest,
who stood facing the east (that is, the worshippers), turned the
head of the sacrifice towards the west (that is, to face the
sanctuary). He then laid both his hands upon the head of the
bullock, and confessed as follows:-- 'Ah, JEHOVAH! I have
committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned - I and my
house. Oh, then, JEHOVAH, I entreat Thee, cover over (atone for,
let there be atonement for) the iniquities, the transgressions,
and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned
before Thee, I and my house - even as it is written in the law of
Moses, Thy servant: "For, on that day will He cover over (atone)
for you to make you clean; from all your transgressions before
JEHOVAH ye shall be cleansed."'    
     It will be noticed that in this solemn confession the name
JEHOVAH occurred three times. Other three times was it pronounced
in the confession which the highpriest made over the same bullock
for the priesthood; a seventh time was it uttered when he cast
the lot as to which of the two goats was to be 'for JEHOVAH;' and
once again he spoke it three times in the confession over the
so-called 'scape-goat' which bore the sins of the people. All
these 10 times the high-priest pronounced the very name of
JEHOVAH, and, as he spoke it, those who stood near cast
themselves with their faces on the ground, while the multitude
responded: 'Blessed be the Name; the glory of His kingdom is for
ever and ever.' 1  Formerly it had been the practice to pronounce
the so-called 'Ineffable Name' distinctly, but afterwards, when
some attempted to make use of it for magical purposes, it was
spoken with bated breath, and, as one relates 2  who had stood
among the priests in the Temple and listened with rapt attention
to catch the mysterious name, it was lost amidst the sound of the
priests' instruments, as they accompanied the benediction of the


     The first part of the expiatory service - that for the
priesthood - had taken place close to the Holy Place, between the
porch and the altar. The next was performed close to the
worshipping people.
     In the eastern part of the Court of Priests, that is, close
to the worshippers, and on the north side of it, stood an urn,
called "Calpi," in which were two lots of the same shape, size,
and material - in the second Temple they were of gold; the one
bearing the inscription 'la-JEHOVAH,' for Jehovah, the other
'la-Azazel,' for Azazel, leaving the expression 3 (rendered
'scape-goat' in the Authorised Version) for the present
untranslated. These two goats had been placed with their backs to
the people and their faces towards the sanctuary (westwards).

1 In support of this benediction, reference is made to Deut.
2 Rabbi Tryphon in the "Jerus. Talm." Possibly some readers may
not know that the Jews never pronounce the word Jehovah, but
always substitute for it 'Lord' (printed in capitals in the
Authorised Version). Indeed, the right pronunciation of the word
has been lost, and is matter of dispute, all that we have in the
Hebrew being the letters I.H.V.H. - forming the so-called
tetragrammaton, or 'four-lettered word.'
3 Lev. xvi.8,10,26.

     The high-priest now faced the people, as, standing between
his substitute (at his right hand) and the head of the course on
ministry (on his left hand), he shook the urn, thrust his two
hands into it, and at the same time drew the two lots, laying one
on the head of each goat. Popularly it was deemed of good augury
if the right-hand lot had fallen 'for Jehovah.' The two goats,
however, must be altogether alike in look, size, and value;
indeed, so earnestly was it sought to carry out the idea that
these two formed parts of one and the same sacrifice, that it was
arranged they should, if possible, even be purchased at the same
time. The importance of this view will afterwards be explained.


     The lot having designated each of the two goats, the
high-priest tied a tongue-shaped piece of scarlet cloth to the
horn of the goat for Azazel--the so-called 'scapegoat'--and
another round the throat of the goat for Jehovah, which was to be
slain. The goat that was to be sent forth was now turned round
towards the people, and stood facing them, waiting, as it were,
till their sins should be laid on him, and he would carry them
forth into 'a land not inhabited.' Assuredly a more marked type
of Christ could not be conceived, as He was brought forth by
Pilate and stood before the people, just as He was about to be
led forth, bearing the iniquity of the people. And, as if to add
to the significance of the rite, tradition has it that when the
sacrifice was fully accepted the scarlet mark which the
scape-goat had borne became white, to symbolise the gracious
promise in Isa. i.18; but it adds that this miracle did not take
place for forty years before the destruction of the Temple!


To be continued


As we shall see in the next section that Edersheim, like many
others, thinks BOTH goats were for the Lord, or representing the
Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. This is NOT correct, one
reason being, if both represented Christ then no lots would have
needed to have be drawn; secondly, the typology does not fit in
any shape with Christ as to what was to be done to the "scape-

Keith Hunt

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