This chapter is about the Day of Atonement. This is also known as Yom Kippur. It’s the holiest day of the year for people of the Jewish faith. Jewish people traditionally observe the day with a roughly 25-hour period of fasting & intensive prayer. This is usually done within the walls of a synagogue. (Wow. I feel like I just learned something. I found this out while doing the research for this.) Enjoy the read.
God spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s 2 sons (Abihu & Nadab), who died when they approached God. God tells Moses, “Tell Aaron not to come whenever he dang well pleases into the Holy of Holies (“Most Holy Place”), that’s behind the curtain/veil (We’ll get that veil/curtain later. Believe me, it’s a bigger deal than you think.) that’s in front of the Ark. If he does come in whenever he feels like it, he’s gonna die. Because I appear in the cloud over the Ark.”
God then told Moses exactly how Aaron was to enter the sanctuary area. Here’s the details: He (Aaron) had to have a young bull for a sin offering & a ram for a burnt offering. He’s got to put on the sacred garments (as described in Exodus 28 & Exodus 39) & had to do a ritual bath (The text just says that he had to bathe. But it essentially becomes a ritual bath because Aaron had to do this EVERY SINGLE TIME!) before he put on the clothes. Also from the Israelite community Aaron has to take 2 male goats for a sin offering & a ram for the burnt offering. (This is going get rather complicated. Just to go into the sanctuary/Holy of Holies! Poor Aaron. Just because of his sons. That’s what it looks like anyway.)
Aaron had to offer the bull for his & his households sins. Then he had to take the 2 goats & present them before God at the entrance of the Tent (of Meeting). Aaron then had to “cast lots” (Pretty much Aaron had throw dice or play eenie-meanie-minee-moe.) for the 2 goats. 1 lot for God, the other for the scapegoat. (It’s exactly what you think. They’re going to do some transference to the goat. Call it a transference effigy! Just you watch.)
Aaron then takes the goat who got chose to go to God & sacrifices it as the sin offering. The goat that was chosen to as the scapegoat is to be presented ALIVE before God to be used for making “atonement” by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (See. They just transferred all of their sins into the poor goat & then sent it out into the desert! That’s some straight up animal cruelty. You’re in the desert & you’re just going to send out this goat into it. With no water, food, shelter.)
Aaron then brings the bull for his (& his household) own sin offering to make atonement for them. He had to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. He couldn’t let one of his sons (who were also priests) do it for him. He takes the censer (which is like one of those things you see in Catholic services that you see someone swinging back & forth, it’s smoking like crazy. That’s a censer.) from the altar before God & 2 handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense. He had to take them behind the curtain. He’s to put the on fire incense before God & the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the “Testimony” (which is the Ark of the Covenant), so that Aaron won’t die!!! (Yep.) Then he does some sprinkling of bull’s blood around the atonement cover (So he’s sprinkling bull’s blood around the veil that separates the Ark from everyone.).
Aaron then slaughters the goat for the sin offering for the Israelites. He had to the blood of the goat & do the same thing he just did with the bull’s blood in the previous paragraph. This is how he make atonement for the “Most Holy Place” (a.k.a. the Holy of Holies) because for the uncleanness & rebellion of the Israelites (yes, rebellion. I mean, they can’t even keep it together when Moses went to do the 10 Commandments. Golden Bull, sigh.) or whatever they’re sins may be. Aaron’s to do the same for the Tent, which is among them in the center of their uncleanness. Here’s the kicker: NO ONE is to be in the Tent from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies until he comes out. Having made atonement for himself, his household, & the WHOLE Israelite community.
Then he goes out to the altar & does some more bull blood sprinkling on the altar. He does it on the horns of the altar & 7x to cleanse it. And to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.
When Aaron has finished making atonement for Holy of Holies, the Tent, & the altar, he will bring forward the live goat (the scapegoat). He’s to lay both his hands on the head of the goat & confess over it all the “wickedness and rebellion” of the Israelites, pretty much all their sins, & put them on the goat’s head. Aaron then sends the goat away into the desert in the care of another man (who was chosen for this task). The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place. Then man will release it in the desert. Then Aaron is to go into the Tent & take off the linen garments that he put on before he entered the Holy of Holies. He’s to leave them there. He then takes a another ritual bath, in a holy place & put back on his street clothes (the text says regular clothes/”garments.”).
Then Aaron comes out & sacrifices the burnt offering for himself & for the people (2 separate offerings). He’s to also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.
The man who released the goat as the scapegoat must wash his clothes & take a bath. He then can come back into the camp (where the Israelites made their home). The bull & goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Holy of Holies to make atonement, MUST/HAD to be taken outside of the camp. Their hides, flesh, & offal (the innards, intestines, heart, etc.) are to be burnt up. The man (yes, it had to be a man. Sorry ladies, the ancient Israelites & God seem very sexist here.) who burns these things up must wash his clothes & take a bath. Then he’s allowed to come back into camp.
On the 10th day of the 7th month, they had to fast (No eating anything.) & not do any kind of work (No cooking, no cleaning, nothing. A lot of orthodox Jewish to this day will still do this. They’ll cook all of their meals the day before the fasting was/is to occur.). This went for everyone, Jews & non-Jews living among them (like servants, slaves, etc. I’ve always found it weird that the ancient Jews had slaves when they were slaves themselves, at one time.). It was because on this day atonement was made for them, to cleanse them. Then, before God, they were cleansed from all of their sins. It’s a sabbath of rest.
The priest who’s anointed & ordained to succeed Aaron as high priest is to make atonement. He’s to put on the sacred linen garments & make atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent, & altar, all the priests, & all the Jewish community.
Atonement is to be made once a year for the sins of the all the Israelites.
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