SEASONS: YOM KIPPUR 5778
READ THE CONTEXT: LEVITICUS 16
The essence of Israel’s most solemn appointment with the Lord is captured in the comprehensive description of the biblical feast of Yom Kippur—more commonly known to Christians as the Day of Atonement.
Yom, of course, is the Hebrew word for day. Kippur conveys the concept of covering. God’s instruction to Moses was explicit:
“It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever” (v.31).
The momentous 24-hour event of Yom Kippur draws attention to God’s provision for the annual covering of Israel’s national sin.
A profound message, however, is embedded in the ancient ritual for all who live in the 21st century. The following directive is included in Yom Kippur protocol:
“He [the high priest] shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.”
Of the numerous sacrifices during Yom Kippur, the offering of the two male goats was specifically connected to the people of Israel.
Two male goats chosen for their similarity in coloring and size were brought before the Lord. The high priest then would cast lots to determine which goat would act as the sacrifice on behalf of the people with the other allocated as the scapegoat.
The Sacrificed Goat
The blood of the sacrificed goat was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies according to God’s prescribed method to affect the forgiveness of sin (v. 15).
When the high priest laid both hands on the animal’s head and symbolically transferred the transgressions (intentional sins) of the people to the scapegoat, the animal symbolically carried them away.
The Hebrew word for scapegoat is azazel. It combines the Hebrew word az (goat) and azel meaning to carry or take away. Simply stated, azazel carries away sin.
After the transgressions of the people were transferred to the goat, it was taken into the wilderness as specified. (1)
A SINGLE SACRIFICE
The two goats embodied a single sacrifice. The first goat signified the means of atonement through the shed blood of the substitutionary sacrifice (Lev. 17:11). The scapegoat embodied the power of the atonement by visibly demonstrating removal of sin-guilt from the nation.
King David verbalized the lifeblood and magnificence of the scapegoat ritual declaring,
“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He [God] removed our transgressions from us.”
With regard to the scapegoat, God informed Moses,
“The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land . . . ” (Lev. 16:22).
Translated “bear,” the Hebrew word nasah means “to lift or carry.” Significantly, the prophet Isaiah used the same imagery and vocabulary in a Messianic prophecy to describe the atoning work of Messiah:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:4, 12).
The ritual of the two goats of Yom Kippur portrayed and prefigured the ultimate sacrifice that would deal decisively with the reality of sin forever. Unlike the yearly sacrifice to atone for sin, God’s provision of the Sacrifice would be permanent. The prophet Jeremiah makes the connection to the New Covenant requiring a perfect sacrifice for fulfillment (Jer. 31:31-34).
New Testament writers link that perfect sacrifice with the death of Jesus Christ at the hands of Roman soldiers (Rm. 5:6-8).
Referencing the Old Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews reiterates the connection,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer [the need for] an offering for sin” (Heb. 10:16-18 c.f. Jer. 31:31-34).
With regard to the required sacrifice as a prerequisite to the fulfillment of the New Covenant, the apostle Peter referred to the atoning death of our Lord as the One,
“who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24).
For Christians living in the 21st century, the scapegoat ritual of Yom Kippur is a profound reminder that God Himself provided the Perfect Sacrifice for sin.
Today, we can be assured that in putting our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our sin has been fully cleansed and completely removed—forever. Amen!
1) Tradition relates the goat was thrown over a cliff to prevent it from ever returning. The biblical record of God’s instruction to Moses simply required the release of the animal into “an uninhabited land . . . the wilderness” (v. 22).
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)