What was the Day of Atonement?
In Leviticus 23:26-32 mention is made in the list of festivals of the Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of the 7th month. It is ordered that for this day there shall be a holy convocation at the sanctuary, a fast, an offering by fire, and rest from labor from the 9th day of the 7th month in the evening. In addition to the chief passage, Lev 16, which is treated under a separate head, we have the following: In Exodus 30:10 it is mentioned in the directions that are given for the construction of the altar of incense that Aaron, once a year, is to make an atonement on the horns of the altar, with the blood of the sin offering, which is used for the purpose of an atonement for sin. According to Leviticus 25:9 the year of jubilee begins with the Day of Atonement.
Nu 18 speaks of the duties and the rights of the priests and the Levites. In contrast with the latter, according to Numbers 18:7, Aaron and his sons are to perform the duties of the priesthood in all matters pertaining to the altar and of the service within the veil and shall render this service. We have here doubtless a comprehensive law for the entire priestly order, so that from this alone it cannot be determined that the service within the veil, by which reference is made to the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, has been reserved for the high priest alone, just as in Deuteronomy 10:8 ; Deuteronomy 33:8 , everything that pertains to the whole tribe of Levi is found combined, without thereby the division into high priest, priests and Levites, being regarded as excluded.
A holy convocation
Numbers 29:7-11 contains in connection with the laws treating of sacrifices also the enactment, that on the 10th day of the 7th month there shall take place a holy convocation at the sanctuary, fasting and rest from labor. In addition to the sin offering, which is brought for the purpose of atonement for sin, and in addition to the regular burnt offerings and the accompanying meal offerings and drink offerings, burnt offerings also are to be brought, namely, one young bullock, one young ram, seven lambs of the first year (all without blemish); then meal offerings, namely, three-tenths (compare Numbers 28:12-14 ) of fine flour mingled with oil for each bullock; two-tenths for each ram; one-tenth for each lamb; then a sin offering, namely, one he-goat.
Ezekiel in his vision of the new temple, of the holy city and the holy country (chapters 40 through 48), in Ezekiel 45:18 , gives a series of enactments for the festivals and the sacrifices. According to these, on the 1st day of the 1st month and on the 7th day of the 1st month (on the 1st day of the 7th month according to the Septuagint), the sanctuary is to be cleansed through a young bullock without blemish, the priest taking some of the blood of the sin offering and putting it on the posts of the temple, on the four corners of the altar and on the posts of the gate of the inner court; and this is to be done for the sake of those who perhaps have sinned through error or ignorance.
Further, that sacrifice which is to be brought on the Passover by the princes for themselves and all the people of the land (compare Ezekiel 45:22 ) appears to present a clear analogy to Lev 16. As for the rest, Ezek 40 through 48 cannot without further consideration be put on the same level with the other legal enactments, but are to be regarded as an ideal scheme, the realization of which is conditioned on the entrance of the wonderful future (compare EZEKIEL ).
Contents, Structure and Position
Lev 16:1-28 contains instructions given by Yahweh to Moses for his brother Aaron (Leviticus 16:1, Leviticus 16:2).
Leviticus 16:1-10 contain presuppositions, preparations and summary statements of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement. According to Leviticus 16:1 , Leviticus 16:2 , Aaron is not allowed to enter the holy place at any time whatever, lest he may die as did his sons with their unseemly fire offering (compare Leviticus 10:1 ); Leviticus 16:3-5 tell what is necessary for the ceremony: For himself four things: a young bullock as a sin offering (compare Leviticus 16:6 , Leviticus 16:11 , Leviticus 16:14 , Leviticus 16:15 , Leviticus 16:27 ); a ram for burnt offering (compare Leviticus 16:24 ); sacred garments, namely, a linen coat, linen breeches, linen girdle, linen mitre (compare Leviticus 16:23 , Leviticus 16:32 ); a bath.
For the congregation: two he-goats as a sin offering (compare Leviticus 16:7 , Leviticus 16:15-22 , Leviticus 16:25 , Leviticus 16:27 , Leviticus 16:28 , Leviticus 16:32 , Leviticus 16:33 ), a ram as a burnt offering (compare Leviticus 16:24 ). The passages in parentheses show how closely the succeeding parts of this account are connected with this introductory part, Leviticus 16:1-10 . In other parts of Lev also it is often found that the materials used for the sacrifices are mentioned first, before anything is said in detail of what is to be done with this material. Compare Leviticus 8:1 , Leviticus 8:2 with Leviticus 8:6 , Leviticus 8:7 , Leviticus 8:10 , Leviticus 8:14 , Leviticus 8:18 , Leviticus 8:22 , Leviticus 8:26 and Leviticus 9:2-4 with Leviticus 9:7 , Leviticus 9:8 , Leviticus 9:12 , Leviticus 9:15-18 . In Leviticus 16:6 Aaron's sin-offering bullock is to be used as an atonement for himself; Leviticus 16:7-10 refer to the two goats: they are to be placed at the door of the tent of meeting ( Leviticus 16:7 ); lots are to be cast upon them for Yahweh and Azazel (Leviticus 16:8 ); the first to be prepared as a sin offering for Yahweh (Leviticus 16:9 ); the second, in accordance with the law, to be sent into the desert (Leviticus 16:10 ).
Leviticus 16:11-24 describe the ceremony itself and give fuller directions as to how the different sacrificial materials mentioned under (A) are to be used by Aaron: Leviticus 16:11-14 speak of the atonement for Aaron and his house; Leviticus 16:11 , of his sin-offering bullock to be killed; Leviticus 16:12 , of burning coal from the altar and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small to be placed behind the veil; Leviticus 16:13 , of the cloud of incense to be made in the Holy of Holies, so that the top covering is hidden and Aaron is protected from the danger of death; Leviticus 16:14 , of some of the blood to be sprinkled once on the front of the top covering and seven times in front of it. Leviticus 16:15-19 prescribe the ceremony with the first sin-offering goat for the congregation: in Leviticus 16:15 , Leviticus 16:16 , the ceremony described in Leviticus 16:14 is directed also to be carried out with the goat, as an atonement for the inner sanctuary, cleansing it from blemishes; in Leviticus 16:16 the same thing is directed to be done in regard to the tabernacle of revelation, i.e. the holy place, in Leviticus 16:17 , no one is permitted to be present even in the holy place when these ceremonies take place; in Leviticus 16:18 , Leviticus 16:19 , the altar too is directed to be cleansed by an atonement, some of the blood of both sin-offering animals being smeared on the horns and sprinkled seven times on the ground.
Leviticus 16:20-22 prescribe the ceremony with the second sin-offering goat for the congregation: Leviticus 16:20 directs it to be brought there; in Leviticus 16:21 there takes place the transfer of guilt; Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the goat; shall confess all guilt over him; shall lay them upon the head of the goat; shall through a man send him into the desert; in Leviticus 16:22 , the goat carries the guilt into an uninhabited land; in Leviticus 16:22 , he is not to be let go until he is in the desert. Leviticus 16:23 , Leviticus 16:24 , the concluding act: in Leviticus 16:23 , Aaron takes off his linen garments in the tent of meeting, and in Leviticus 16:23 puts them down there; in Leviticus 16:24 , he bathes in the holy place and again puts on his usual clothing; in Leviticus 16:24 he brings the burnt offering for himself and his people. (The statement 'for himself and his people' at this place concludes the ritual as such.)
Leviticus 16:25-28 are explanatory, with three additional directions. In Leviticus 16:25 , the fat of the sin offering is directed to be consumed into smoke on the altar; Leviticus 16:26 , he who has taken away the second goat must wash his clothes and bathe himself, and only then is he permitted to enter the camp; Leviticus 16:27 , the fat, flesh and dung of the sin-offering animal, and then the blood that was brought into the (inner) sanctuary, are to be burned outside of the camp; Leviticus 16:28 , he who has burned these must wash his clothes, and must bathe, and only after this can he enter the camp. (In this case Leviticus 16:25 and Leviticus 16:27 correspond, and also Leviticus 16:26 and Leviticus 16:28 ; and in addition Leviticus 16:26 , Leviticus 16:27 , Leviticus 16:28 are united by their reference to the camp.)
Leviticus 16:29-34 : Over against these sections (A)-(C) (16:1-28), which contain the instructions for the high priest, we have a fourth ( Leviticus 16:29-34 ), which already through the address in the second person plural and also by its contents is intended for the congregation. In Leviticus 16:29-31 , the demand is made of the congregation. As in Leviticus 23:26 ; Numbers 29:7 , a fast and absolute rest are prescribed for the 10th day of the 7th month as the Day of Atonement; in Leviticus 16:32-34 , a number of directions are given in a summary to the congregation on the basis of Leviticus 16:1 , namely, Leviticus 16:32 , how the atonement is to take place: the priest who is anointed; he shall be consecrated; that he perform the service in his father's place; in his linen garments; Leviticus 16:33 prescribes when and for whom the atonement is to take place: for the holy of holies; for the holy place; for the altar; for the order of priests and all the people; in Leviticus 16:34 , the one Day of Atonement in the year for all sins is declared to be an everlasting statute. The statement that Aaron (Leviticus 16:2 ), according to Yahweh's command, did as Moses directed aptly closes the whole chapter.
The Significance of the Day of Atonement
The Significance for Israel
The significance of the day is expressed in the name "Day of Atonement" Yōm ha -kippurı̄m ̌ : Leviticus 23:27 f; Leviticus 25:9 ) in the same manner as it is in the fast which was enjoined on the congregation as a sign of sorrow for their sins (this fasting being the only one enjoined by the law: Leviticus 16:29 , Leviticus 16:31 ; Leviticus 23:26 ; Numbers 29:7 ), as also finally and chiefly in the entire ritual (Exodus 30:10 ; Leviticus 23:28 ; Numbers 29:11 ; Lev 16; compare also Ezekiel 18:20 , Ezekiel 18:22 ).
Then, too, the atonement takes place for the sanctuary which has been defiled by the contamination of the Israelites (Exodus 30:10 ; Leviticus 16:16-20 , Leviticus 16:33 ; compare also Ezekiel 45:18-20 ). In particular, mention is made of the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16:33 , called Miḳdash ha -ḳōdhesh ; otherwise in Lev regularly ha -ḳōdhesh ), then of the holy place (Leviticus 16:16 , Leviticus 16:20 , Leviticus 16:33 ), and then of the altar (Leviticus 16:18 , Leviticus 16:20 , Leviticus 16:33 ). In the last-mentioned case it is a matter of discussion whether the altar of incense is meant, as is claimed by Jewish tradition, on the basis of Exodus 30:10 , or the altar of burnt offerings, for which reference could be made to the additional statements in Leviticus 16:18 , to those of Leviticus 16:16 , and to the conclusion in Leviticus 16:17 .
The altar of incense (Exodus 30:10 ) would then be included in the atonement of the tent of meeting. The somewhat remarkable position of Leviticus 16:17 would then at the same time find its motive in this, that, while Leviticus 16:6 and Leviticus 16:11 mention an atonement only for Aaron and his house, the atonement of the Holy of Holies and of the holy place in Leviticus 16:17 is for Aaron, his house, and the whole congregation, while the atonement of the burnt-offering altar in the forecourt ( Leviticus 16:18 ) would be intended only for the sins of the congregation.
The atonement, however, takes place for all the transgressions of the congregation since the last Day of Atonement (compare Leviticus 16:21 f, 30, 34). In reference to the significance of what is done with the second goat of sin offering, compare Leviticus 16:8 , Leviticus 16:20 , and AZAZEL , II, 1. In this way Delitzsch has correctly called the Day of Atonement "the Good Friday of the Old Testament." How deeply the consciousness of sin must have been awakened, if the many otherwise commanded private and congregational sacrifices did not make such an institution superfluous, and if even the high priest himself stood before God as a sinner (Leviticus 16:6 , Leviticus 16:11 ). On this day, with the exception of the mitre, he does not wear the insignia of his high-priestly office, but wears white garments, which in their simplicity correspond to the earnestness of the situation.
The repetition of the bath, both in his case and in that of the other persons engaged in the ceremony (Leviticus 16:4 , Leviticus 16:24 , Leviticus 16:26 , Leviticus 16:28 ), was necessary, because the mere washing of the hands and feet (Exodus 30:19 f) would not suffice on this occasion (compare Numbers 19:7 , Numbers 19:19 , Numbers 19:21 ). The flesh of the sin-offering animals was not permitted to be eaten but had to be burned (Leviticus 16:27 ) because it was sacrificed also for Aaron's sin, and its blood was carried not only into the holy place but also into the Holy of Holies (compare Leviticus 16:27 with Leviticus 6:23 ; Leviticus 4:11 f, 21; Exodus 29:14 ; Leviticus 8:17 ; Leviticus 9:11 ; Leviticus 10:19 ). And in comparison with the consciousness of sin that had been aroused, how great must on the other hand God's grace appear, when once in each year a general remission of all the sins that had been forgiven was guaranteed.
Significance from a Christian Standpoint
"The Day of Atonement, the good Friday of the Old Testament" - these words express not only the highest significance of the day but also its limitations. As the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, the entire law, Thus too the Day of Atonement in particular contained only the shadow of future good things, but not these things themselves (Hebrews 10:1 ), and is "like in pattern to the true" (Hebrews 9:24 ).
Christ Himself entered into the holy place, which was not made with hands, namely, into heaven itself, and has now appeared before God, by once for all giving Himself as a sacrifice for the removal of sin (Hebrews 9:23 ). By this act the purpose of the Old Testament sacrificial cult and its highest development, namely, the Day of Atonement, understood in its typical significance, has been fulfilled, and at the same time surpassed and thereby abrogated (compare LEVITICUS ). Accordingly, our hope, too, like an anchor - (Hebrews 6:19 ), penetrates to the inner part of the veil in the higher sense of the term, i.e. to heaven.
On the History of the Day of Atonement
(1) The Facts and the False Conclusions
The Day of Atonement is stated to have been instituted in the times of Moses (Leviticus 16:1 ); the ceremony takes place in the tabernacle (tent of meeting); the people are presupposed to be in the camp (Leviticus 16:26 ); Aaron is still the high priest. Very remarkably there is but little evidence of the observance of this prominent day in the later history of Israel. Down to the time of the Exile there is found a deep silence on this subject.
The days of atonement in Ezekiel 45:18 (compare under I, 1) differ in number and observance from that in Lev 16. According to Zechariah 3:9 , God in the Messianic future will take away the guilt of the land in a single day; but this too presents no more than an analogy to the results of the Day of Atonement. On the other hand, there is no reference made to the day where we could expect it. Not only 2 Chronicles 7:7-9 in connection with the consecration of Solomon's temple, and Ezra 3:1-6 , in the account of the reintroduction of the sacrificial services after the return from the Exile, are silent on the subject, which fact could possibly be explained in an easy manner; but also Neh 8 f. According to Nehemiah 8:2 f, Ezra begins on the 1st day of the 7th month in the year 444 bc to read from the law; on the 2nd day of the 7th month remembrance is made of the ordinance treating of the feast of tabernacles, and on the 22nd day of the 7th month ( Nehemiah 8:13 ), this festival is observed; on the 24th day of the 7th month a day of penance is observed (Nehemiah 9:1 ); but of the Day of Atonement coming in between Nehemiah 8:1 and Nehemiah 9:1 , namely, on the 10th day of the 7th month, which would seem to make the day of penance superfluous, nothing is said.
From these facts the Wellhausen school has drawn the conclusion, in accordance with its principles elsewhere observed, that all those legal enactments that have not in the history a sufficient evidence of having been observed, did not exist until the time when they have such historical evidence; that therefore the Day of Atonement did not originate until after the year 444 bc. It is claimed that the day originated in the two days of atonement mentioned in Ezekiel 45:18-20 (compare under I, 1); in the four national fast days of Zechariah 7:5 , and Zechariah 8:19 , and in the day of penance of 444 bc, just mentioned, on the 24th day of the 7th month, which is said to hav e been repeated on the following New Year's day, the 10th day of the 7th month; and that by the sacred character of its observance it soon crowded the New Year day upon the 1st day of the 7th month (compare Leviticus 23:23 ; Numbers 29:1 ; contrary to Leviticus 25:9 and Ezekiel 40:1 ).
In this way it is thought that Leviticus 16:29 first originated, and that at a still later time the complicated blood ritual had been added (compare under I, 1, 2). But it is to be observed that in still later times there is found no more frequent mention of the Day of Atonement than in the earlier, although it is the custom of modern criticism to place a much larger bulk of Biblical literature into this later period. It is only when we come to Jesus Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 50:5ff) that the high priest Simon is praised, when he came forth from behind the veil; and this is certainly a reference. to the Day of Atonement, although no further mention is made at this place of the ceremony as such. Then there is a further silence on the subject down to Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (6:19; 9:7, 13ff; 10:1ff; compare under II, 2). It is probable too that the fasting mentioned in Acts 27:9 is based on the Day of Atonement. We have in this manner a characteristic example to show how carefully we must handle the argument from silence, if we do not want to arrive at uncomfortable results.
(2) The Historicity of the Day of Atonement
Since Lev 16 constitutes only one part of the Levitical legislation, the question as to the original and historical character of the day cannot be fully discussed at this place (see LEVITICUS ). At so late a period, naturally all the data that would lead to an explanation of the origin of such a fundamental institution as the Day of Atonement are lacking. It is all the more impossible to separate Lev 16 from the other priestly ordinances, because the name of the lid of the ark of covenant hakappōreth ̌ : Exodus 25:17 ; Exodus 26:34 ) stands in the clearest relation to the ceremony that takes place with this ark on the Day of Atonement.
The impossibility of splitting up Lev 16 as is the manner of critics, or even as much as separating it from Lev 11 through 15, has been sufficiently demonstrated above (compare under I). Against the view which forces the Priest Codex down at least to the Exile and to claim the tabernacle as the product of imagination and as a copy of the temple of Solomon (see EXODUS ), we have still the following to add: If the ark of the covenant was no longer in existence after the Exile and if, according to Jeremiah 3:16 , the Israelites no longer expected its restoration, then it would have been absolutely impossible in the ritual of the Day of Atonement to connect the most important ceremony of this ritual with this ark and on this to base the atonement.
In the second temple, as is well known, the incense pan was placed on the "foundation stone" in the Holy of Holies, because there was no tabernacle. Against these facts the counter-arguments mentioned above cannot stand. Even those who deny the existence of the Day of Atonement do not lay much stress on 2 Chronicles 7:1-9 and Ezra 3:1-6 ; but Neh 8ff also does not deserve mention, since in this place the emphasis lies on the purpose of showing how the congregation was to declare its adherence to the law, and how the Day of Repentance, which had been observed since the beginning of the history of Israel, was instituted to be observed on the 24th day of the 7th month for all sins (Ezra 9:1 ), and was not made superfluous by the celebration of the Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the 7th month, on which day only the sins of the last year were taken into consideration.
But Ezekiel changed or ignored also other pre-exilic arrangements (compare EZEKIEL ), so that he is no authority in deciding the question as to the earlier existence of the Day of Atonement. Finally, attention must be drawn to the fact that the Passover festival is mentioned in prophetic literature, in addition to the mere reference in Isaiah 30:29 , only in Ezekiel 45:21 ; the ark of the covenant only in Jeremiah 3:16 ; the Feast of Tabernacles only in Hosea 12:9 ; Ezekiel 45:25 ; and that in its historical connection the Feast of Weeks is mentioned incidentally only in 2 Chronicles 8:13 , and possibly in 1 Kings 9:25 , and is not at all found in Ezek (compare Ezekiel 45:18 ), although the existence of these institutions has for a very long time been called into question.
2. Further Development
The Day of Atonement, in accordance with its purpose in later times, came more and more into the foreground and was called "the great fast" or "the great day," or merely "the day." Its ritual was further enlarged and the special parts mentioned in the law were fully explained, fixed and specialized. Compare especially the tract "Yoma" in the Mish; and for the further elaborations and stories in poetry and prose on the basis of the Talmud, see, e.g. Delitzsch's translation from Maim, Ha -yādh ha -ḥăzāḳāh , in the supplement to his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews , 1857. According to these accounts, e.g. the high priest had to be a married man.
Already seven days before the beginning of the Day of Atonement he was ordered to leave his house and had to submit to a series of purifications and had to practice for the performance of the different purification ceremonies, some of which were difficult. The last night he was not allowed to sleep and had to spend his time in studying the sacred writings. On the Day of Atonement he took five baths and ten washings. Four times he enters the Holy of Holies (with the incense), with the blood of both sin offerings, and when he brings out the utensils used with the incense he makes three confessions of sins (for himself, for himself and his house, for Israel); 10 times in all he utters the name of Yahweh; 43 times he sprinkles; in addition he must read certain sections of the Scriptures or repeat them from memory.
When he returns home he celebrates a festival of rejoicing, because he has without harm been able to leave the sanctuary. In addition, he had performed severe physical work, and especially difficult was the manipulation of the incense. The modern estimate put on the Day of Atonement appears from the following citation of Wellhausen: "The rite and the sacrifice through the unfavorable circumstances of the times have disappeared; but it has retained the same sacred character. He who has not yet entirely broken with Judaism observes this day, no matter how indifferent he may be otherwise to old customs and festivals."