Friday, November 20, 2009


We are in the middle of the book of Leviticus. Immediately before the chapter we will be examining in this study, God explains in Leviticus 15 how bodily discharges make people unclean. For example, a woman's period makes her unclean and requires a sin sacrifice to make atonement for her uncleanliness (Leviticus 15:28-30).

God abruptly changes over from bodily discharges to one of the most important days of the Judaic calendar. It is the Day of Atonement, and it is the subject of this study.

If there was one event in the Old Testament which most completely foreshadowed the primary role Jesus would take, one might expect it to be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As it is suggested, it was through God's grace that Jesus took on the responsibility for our sins, thereby making God's forgiveness possible; the pinnacle of Christian doctrine. Yom Kippur offered the Jewish entire community atonement for the sins of the past year. So let us take a closer look at if and how this holiday foreshadowed the coming of Christ.

Leviticus 16 outlines what is to be done on the Day of Atonement.

It starts out by saying that the High Priest, Aaron, should not come into the Most Holy Place on any other day, because God is in a cloud on top of the Ark of the Covenant, and so God will kill him if he enters at some other time (Leviticus 16:2). So God is right away establishing His mercy and desire to interact with His creations, or lack thereof.

The High Priest is to bathe and put on his holy underwear and special belled uniform (Leviticus 16:4), because otherwise God would have to kill him. You remember when Jesus put on His special uniform? No? That is right, Jesus did not have such a uniform.

The High Priest also had to make a sin offering and a burnt offering to God (Leviticus 16:3). Obviously, Jesus did not sin, so He would not have needed the sin offering. Because the burnt offerings were for atonement too, Jesus would not need that either. So these offerings are inapplicable to Jesus.

After the High Priest slaughters his sin offering, he can go behind the curtain and into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle bull's blood seven times in front of the Ark, provided first that he puts incense on burning coals to create enough smoke to conceal where God is so that God will not kill him (Leviticus 16:11-14). This is part of the atonement process of the priest, so we would not expect Jesus to need this either. However, note that incense smoke was not required in the previously prescribed priestly atonement (cross-reference Leviticus 4:3-7), and again shows an eagerness on the part of God, the epitome of love, to kill His priest just for seeing Him. Also note that there was no Ark involved Jesus' story.

With the High Priest's sins handled, we turn to the sins of the community. As we see in Leviticus 16:5, the community required two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Note that this is a different process than the one prescribed for community sins in Leviticus 4:13-21.)

The two goats play interesting roles. Effectively, a coin is flipped to see which goat will die and which goat will live (Leviticus 16:7-10).

The goat marked for death is treated as a sin offering; slaughtered with some of its blood sprinkled on and in front of the Ark, and also put on the horns of the altar (Leviticus 16:15-19). This offering effectively cleanses the stain of the Israelites' sin from the Most Holy Place, Tent of Meeting, and the altar, consecrating them (Leviticus 16:16, Leviticus 16:19). Note that this blood cleansed these items, not the Israelites. This sacrifice was not for forgiveness of the community.

For absolving of sin, we look at the goat which will live. Leviticus 16:20-22 gives us the origin of the term scapegoat. The High Priest brings the goat, known as the scapegoat, in front of the Tent of Meeting, lays both hands on its head, and confesses the sins of the Israelites; thereby transferring the sins of the community onto the goat. The goat is then given to an appointed man, who then takes it out into some part of uninhabited desert and releases it. This action literally removed the sin from the Israelites. At least, that is according to the Old Testament. You know, God's Word.

Now before you go thinking that the live goat represents Jesus, consider these issues: The wages of sin is death, but the goat does not die or get killed from the sins applied to it. Jesus was not simply lead out of Jerusalem into the desert like the goat. Instead, Jesus was supposedly crucified and resurrected. Also, as we can tell from Leviticus 16:26, which requires the scapegoat-handling man to wash himself and his clothes before coming back to the Israelites' dwelling place, the live goat was considered unclean. I'm pretty sure that given Jesus was God, it would be tough for Him to be unclean by Biblical standards, especially after He had taken away the sins of the world.

Do you remember that ram that the community needed for a burnt offering? Well, in Leviticus 16:23-24 you will find that it is the burnt offering which finally offers atonement to the people for their sins. You may remember that there was nothing even loosely resembling a burnt offering in the story of Jesus, so that is a significant foreshadowing discrepancy.

As we have seen in this study, the High Priest of the Old Testament Day of Atonement does not bear even the slightest allusion to Jesus. The Old Testament process of preparation for the forgiveness is foreign to the story of Jesus. And the offerings themselves, particularly the scapegoat and the burnt ram, do not appear to forecast Jesus' sacrifice in any shape or form.

All in all, the only way to claim that this is a foreshadowing of Jesus is to look at it from very far away, where you can only see that there is an offering made for atonement where something dies, something lives, and everyone is forgiven (or at least the Israelites are).

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