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Deeper Commentary


Lev 16:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before Yahweh and died-
The High Priest had to cleanse himself meticulously before entering the Most Holy. Access was now limited to the Most Holy as a result of inadequate preparation by some in the past. The Lord’s death reversed all this, it opened up the veil, for us to pass through with the utmost effort made by us in personal sanctification, in order to further God’s glory in the salvation of others. We cannot simply refuse to enter, turn away from the torn veil. To do so is to turn away from what the cross has achieved, and to place ourselves outside its scope. We must go forward, go onwards into the presence of God to replicate in essence the Saviour’s work, with the awed and humble spirit of the High Priest entering the Holiest on the day of atonement. He would surely have carefully analyzed his motives, as to why he was passing through that veil, and whether he was sufficiently personally sanctified for the work he was doing. He would have been comforted by knowing that his motives were solely for the glorification of his God in the redemption for his people which he was seeking to obtain. And our passing through the veil is likewise not a case of mere curiosity to get closer to the Divine, but in order to glory Him through what we may thereby do for others.

The Yom Kippur ritual has its context in the death of Aaron's sons for desecrating the tabernacle (Lev. 16:1). The cleansing of not only the sins of the people, but also the tabernacle, was therefore in the context of Israel's desecration of the tabernacle- and not because physical bits of furniture somehow became unclean of themselves without human fault. This introductory verse, leading on as it does to the Day of Atonement ritual, raises the question of whether it was intended as an annual feast or rather an emergency ritual to be used when presumptuous sins had been committed and the tabernacle defiled. The only time in the Bible we read of the feast being called is in Num. 29, when the tabernacle had indeed just been defiled by Cozbi and Zimri and then by Phinehas bursting in to the most holy place to slay them. All the stress on "Aaron" rather than some more generic reference to 'the High Priest at the time' rather supports this view. Lev. 16:29 says that the fasting aspect was to indeed be observed on the 10th day of the 7th month, but this is after the commands about the scapegoat- which I suggest were for emergency use.

Lev 16:2 and Yahweh said to Moses, Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the Most Holy Place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, in case he die; for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat-
This is one of a number of examples where the Law God gave Moses was changed by Him in consideration of human weakness. This shows that God’s law isn’t set in stone; those who argue that we must keep the Sabbath today must face the fact that God can change and abrogate His own laws. The wonderful thing in this case is that God meditated upon the sin of Aaron’s sons, and didn’t wish to put Aaron in the way of temptation which might be too much for him; because God never allows us to be tempted beyond our capabilities (1 Cor. 10:13). The way God here recognizes the extent of His own holiness and as it were seeks to protect humanity from being harmed by it is similar to how He warned Israel not to come too near to the burning mountain (Ex. 19:21), and how He urged Moses not to come too near to the burning bush (Ex. 3:5). This isn’t God distancing Himself from us, but His seeking to establish understanding of His holiness whereby we can ultimately draw near to Him in Christ (Heb. 10:22). When we struggle with God’s distance from us we must bear this in mind.

In the face of sin amongst His people, there are levels of God's withdrawal of His presence. The way the glory progressively departed from the temple as recounted in Ezekiel is a graphic illustration of this. Under the Law, Aaron initially could come at will within the Most Holy. But after the blasphemy of his sons, apparently for being drunk on duty, he was only allowed to come once per year, and only after an elaborate ritual emphasizing human sinfulness (Lev. 16:2 ff.). Likewise it seems that God's original intention was that the Angel of the presence should travel in the midst of Israel in the wilderness. But after the golden calf apostasy, God announced that He was still with Israel, but His Angel would "go before thee... for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiff-necked people: lest I consume thee in the way" (Ex. 33:2,3).

Lev 16:3 Herewith shall Aaron come into the sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering-
We note the contrast with Moses, who lived in a tent outside the tabernacle with the cloud of glory ever nearby, and the radiance from the Angel within it shining off his face. Aaron was being warned not to assume that intimacy with God experienced by Moses was the right of every man or priest. Relationship with God must be built up. It is not for us to assume that the close relationship with God enjoyed by another can be ours without personal effort at building that relationship.

The rabbis have pointed out that the Day of Atonement ritual is exactly at the mid point of the Torah. As if here we have the central point of God's revelation in the Torah- salvation by grace through the future sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, regardless of the surrounding laws and accounts of Israel's historical failures. Hebrews 9 is clear that Yom Kippur points forward to the Lord's work on the cross- for the sake of our sins and salvation. Paul argues that the blood of bulls and goats couldn't take away sin, or otherwise there would be no need for Yom Kippur. That is of course true, but it is a nuanced statement. The sin offerings did achieve forgiveness- offer sacrifice X for sin Y and you will be forgiven. That was what was offered by God and it was true and legitimate; He wasn't lying nor playing with words. But what was unforgiveable according to the law of Moses was sin outside those specified situations, and particularly the sin of presumption. This is why the language of the day of Atonement is alluded to by David in his penitential psalms regarding Bathsheba. It is these sins which were outstanding. It's why in Num. 29 the Israelites were told to keep a makeshift Day of Atonement seeing they had sinned presumptuously. And it is these sins which are the sins of every man apart from the Lord. It is the total eternal redemption from all sin which is what the ritual spoke of.  There is no Biblical record of Israel ever keeping the Day of Atonement with the release of the goats etc., and one wonders whether it was specifically intended for them in the wilderness- hence the release of the scapegoat into the desert to symbolize their freedom from sin now in that same desert.  Paul does however imply that the High Priest often did the ritual- whereas the Lord did it only once. And there is historical evidence they did at times keep it.  But the Biblical record of Israel's negligence to annually keep the feast as commanded suggests their failure to humbly accept the significance of their sins of presumption. 

Lev 16:4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches on his body, and shall put on the linen sash, and he shall be clothed with the linen turban. They are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water, and put them on-
The ideas of washing in water and being clothed in white linen are interpreted in the New Testament as applying to Christian baptism, and the imputation of righteousness, as clean as the white linen clothes of the priests (Rev. 19:8). This means that the work of even the high priest himself is to be aspired to by every Christian. The veil was rent at the Lord's death so that the way into the holiest was open to every believer. They were to follow the High Priest into the holiest- but what did he do there? He obtained forgiveness for others. And it is our mission likewise to do this, through bringing others to the saving experience of the Lord's work. This was a high, challenging call for Jews in the first century, who assumed the priesthood did all their religious work for them, and they were effectively just spectators at a show.

The High Priest was not to wear his holiest clothes but rather to dress as a standard priest. This was to show that the atonement was not due to ritual garments, but due to the work of the High Priest relating to the blood of atonement. This points up the significance of the Lord's work on the cross.

Lev 16:5 He shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering-
This repeats the usual progression from sin offering to burnt offering to peace offering (although that isn't specifically required here- the experience of forgiveness was the equivalent). Conviction of sin leads to a desire to make complete dedication to God, which results in the peace with God celebrated in the peace offering. We note that both goats including the live one were together one sin offering. We are saved by the Lord's death and also "by His life". They spoke of His death and resurrection.

Lev 16:6 Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house-
This has been wrongly interpreted to mean that the Lord Jesus likewise offered for Himself, as if He were alienated from God by His nature. Whatever we posit about human nature, we say about the Lord Jesus who fully had our nature. And He was undefiled and perfect before God. He showed us what is possible within human nature. See on :11.

Lev 16:7 He shall take the two goats, and set them before Yahweh at the door of the Tent of Meeting-
This looks ahead to the death of the Lord Jesus "before Yahweh"; His special presence was at Golgotha. The freedom of Barabbas appears to in some way reflect the language of the scapegoat.

Lev 16:8 Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh, and the other lot for the scapegoat-
The two goats represent the death and resurrection of Christ. The scapegoat bounding away in relieved, joyful freedom symbolizes the genuine freedom and joy of forgiven sin which we can experience in Christ. It’s clear that human beings are eager for a scapegoat, we seem wired with a psychological need for one, someone upon whom we can place our sins and thereby feel free from them personally. The scapegoat has been provided for us in Christ, and therefore we shouldn’t seek to scapegoat others.

The Hebrew for "scapegoat" is azazel, and there has been much misunderstanding of the term. It simply means the removed or separated one, and although the word doesn't occur elsewhere, the idea connects with what we have been reading in the last three chapters of Leviticus, where condemned sinners were to separated or removed from the community. The Lord Jesus was associated with the condemned, and died for them; and yet He is also represented by the goat which ran free into the wilderness in resurrection life. The scapegoat was a goat, and Azazel means 'removal'. It simply spoke of the removal of sin as shown by the goat running free into the desert. The atonement achieved in private by the High Priest was now made visible to all, as they saw the goat disappearing further and further into the distance until it, like their sins, was no longer visible nor on their horizon. In the wilderness journey to the promised land, we likewise run free of sin. As the goat was "let go" into the desert, so Israel had been "let go" from Egypt into the desert, speaking of our release from sin through baptism into the Lord Jesus. This is the truth that the Lord says makes free- freedom from sin, our own sins, our own unforgiveable sins, our fears about them, and freedom to serve Him in response. But the scapegoat was the sin offering and in that sense also represented the Lord Jesus as well as our sins now removed. Perhaps Paul has this in mind when he writes of the Lord on the cross becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13) or being "made sin" (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:3). He is the place of propitiation, the hilasterion, the mercy seat, the lid of the ark where the blood of the day of Atonement was sprinkled; and this is the propitiation, hilasmos, for sins (1 Jn. 2:22; 4:1). Exiled from the sanctuary and religious structures of his day by Saul's persecution, David felt he was dwelling beneath the cherubim wings- over that sprinkled blood with the glory of Yahweh around him.

The Jewish apocryphal Book of Enoch was instrumental in forging the Jewish misunderstanding of Satan as a personal being. This book shifts the blame for sin from humanity to a Satan-figure called Azazel, whose name is taken from the scapegoat: "The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin" (1 Enoch 9:6; 10:8). There is a subtle but significant difference between this and the Biblical record in Gen. 6:11- which states that the earth became corrupt before God because of human sin. The Biblical record makes no attempt to pass the blame for this onto any other being- humanity was punished because they sinned. It would in any case be surely unethical for God to punish humanity because of what 'Azazel' supposedly did.

But the two goats were in a sense one "for Yahweh" and the other "for Azazel". It could be that there is indeed an allusion to wrong understandings about an 'Azazel' being who supposedly lurked out in the uninhabited desert, the supposed haunt of demons and evil. The allusion was in order to deconstruct this wrong idea. The real issue was not Azazel; it was human sin which needed atonement for. The real 'Azazel' was not a Satan like being out in the desert. It was human sin, which had now been dealt with. Just as 'Satan' is not a real cosmic being, but is defined in the New Testament as human sin, which has been dealt with and its power negated by the Lord's death on the cross. It was to that death which the day of Atonement pointed ahead to. Hence even the azazel goat was offered before Yahweh (:10) before its release- and not offered to any Satan like being.

Lev 16:9 Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for Yahweh, and offer him for a sin offering-
This is the language used in Is. 53:4,6 about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, upo
n whom God laid the iniquity of us all. The Jewish commentator Ibn Ezra refers to a tradition that at the age of 33, a man would understand the meaning of this. It can be no coincidence that the Lord Jesus was sacrificed at age 33. The thoughtful Jews would have perceived that He was indeed the sin offering.

Lev 16:10 But the goat on which the lot fell for the scapegoat shall be presented alive before Yahweh to make atonement for him, and then sent away as the scapegoat into the wilderness-

ESV: But the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel”. Atonement was made "over it"; the sending away free was part of the atonement.
Presented alive [Heb. 'stood up'] before Yahweh clearly looks ahead to the Lord's resurrection (Acts 1:3).
The description of the believer as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) alludes to the scapegoat, the only living sacrifice, which was a type of the risen Lord (Lev. 16:10 LXX = Acts 1:3). As the Lord ran free in His resurrection, bearing away the sins of men, so we who are in Him and preach that salvation can do the same. As Christ bore away our iniquities (Is. 53:11), so “we then that are strong ought to bear the iniquities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1).

The cycle of revenge and paying back has to be resolved in sacrifice- many societies have shown that. I was a few times in far northern Russia, and it was fascinating to hear the traditions of the Chukchi people. In the past, they say, when a big crime was committed and the criminal convicted, an innocent person had to be sacrificed. The study of primitive societies reveals this basic human need for a scapegoat. There was a psychological value to the Mosaic rite of the scapegoat (Lev. 16:10). All the sins, all the grudges that called for revenge, were to be placed upon that animal, and it was released into the desert. They could watch it scampering away into the bush. This is how we are to understand the placing of human sin- yes, the sins committed against you this day by others- upon the Lord as He hung on the cross. And we must remember that “Vengeance is mine [not ours, not the state’s], and requital" (Dt. 32:35). That taking of vengeance, that requital, was worked out by God on the cross.

Lev 16:11 Aaron shall present the bull of the sin offering which is for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull of the sin offering which is for himself-
Aaron was a sinful mortal, and had to offer for himself. This has been misread to mean that the Lord Jesus, the great high priest, had to offer as it were for the sin of being human. But I suggest this is a careless reading of the type, driven by a desire to prove a theological point. The New Testament commentary is at Heb. 5:3; 7:27: "And because of it, he is required to offer sacrifices both for his sins and also for the sins of the people". The "weakness" of the high priest included moral weakness, which required him to offer also for his own sins. But the Lord Jesus had none of this. The references to the High Priest are to present the Lord Jesus by way of both similarity and contrast. Thus the way the high priest served standing is contrasted with the way the Lord serves sitting (Heb. 10:11); and the contrast here at this point is that the Lord had no sins to offer for. The Lord indeed was subject to weakness (Heb. 5:2), but without the need to offer sin offerings for his own sins.   

Heb. 7:27 must be given its full weight in what it says about the Lord Jesus: "Who needs not to offer up sacrifices daily, like those high priests, first for his own sins and then for those of the people. For this he did once for all, when he offered up himself". "This he did once" is a contrast with how the old High Priest offered ["this"] daily [Jesus did it only "once"]. The reference to "first for his own sins, then for the people's" is as it were in parenthesis, a throw away comment, to indicate again the inferiority of the old High Priests who themselves were sinners and therefore needed to offer for their own sins as well as those of God's people. My own suspicion that Paul was the author of Hebrews is based upon the style of writing we have there which we see in Paul elsewhere- so often, a comment is made in passing like this example of commenting that the old Priests had to offer for their own sins too. This kind of style is typical of Paul, Ephesians and Colossians are full of this kind of thing- making an argument, but throwing in a comment in the midst of it, a kind of aside, which often phases the reader. It is not the day of atonement which is in view here, because the contrast is with the "daily" offerings of the priests. A sincere priest would have offered daily sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. The Lord Jesus didn't need to do this; the parallels with the Levitical priesthood are by way of both contrast and similarity. They stood; He sits. They offered animals, He offered "Himself". But as He offered for "the people" so too did the mortal priests; but He did so once, whereas they did so daily. They offered for their own wins too; He did not. If the Lord in any sense had needed to offer for His own "sins", He would have had to do so daily. But He offered only one offering, for us. That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures is the clear emphasis of the entire Biblical revelation. "This He did" refers to His offering for the people, for us; and not for His own 'sins'. This point is underlined in the next verse, which notes that the priests were morally weak, whereas the Son of God is perfect and shall be forever, unable to sin.

Lev 16:12 He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from off the altar before Yahweh, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil-
Incense represents prayer offered by Christ (Rev. 8:3,4); the way it was taken beyond the veil into the Most Holy Place reflected how prayer,  be it the ‘mere’ words of a woman waiting at a bus stop, enters into Heaven itself.  The people were outside confessing their sins; their prayers for forgiveness were represented by this incense. The fire of the altar was ideally intended to be that kindled at the time of Lev. 9:24 when the tabernacle was consecrated. It was to be kept perpetually burning by the sacrifices being continually placed upon it, a lamb every morning and every evening. The fire which never went out or was 'quenched' (Lev. 6:13). is a double symbol. The phrase is used multiple times with reference to the wrath of God in condemning sinners; it is the basis of the idea of eternal fire which will not be quenched. Rather like the cup of wine from the Lord being a symbol of either condemnation or blessing. So we have a choice- be consumed by the eternal fire now as living sacrifices, or be consumed by it anyway at the last day.

Lev 16:13 and he shall put the incense on the fire before Yahweh, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the testimony, so that he will not die-
For "the fire", see on :12.
Incense smoke in the surrounding religions was supposed to drive away demons; but the image is used to represent prayer and Yahweh's glory (Lev. 16:3,13; Rev. 5:8). And thereby fear of demons was to be replaced by fear of God's holiness and human sin.

Lev 16:14 He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times-
The High Priest sprinkled the blood eastwards, on the mercy seat. He would therefore have had to walk round to God's side of the mercy seat and sprinkle the blood back the way he had come. This would have given the picture of the blood coming out from the presence of God Himself; as if He was the sacrifice. Acts 20:28 seems to teach (in the AV) that God purchased the church with His own blood. His manifestation in His Son was especially intense.

Lev 16:15 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with his blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat-
The idea of entering within the veil is clearly in view when Paul speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus resulting in a hope which "enters into that within the veil" (Heb. 6:19; 9:3,7). The typical meaning of this was therefore that finally, all Israel, the true people of God however defined, would enter within the veil, thanks to the blood of the ultimate sin offering. Those identified with the blood would, like the blood, enter within the veil, and remain there in fellowship with God, in His very presence. We show that identity with the Lord's blood through baptism, the breaking of bread and a life lived in Him. 

Paul surely has the Day of Atonement in mind when he writes of the blood set forth on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark, which was done annually at the Day of Atonement: "[We] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat], through faith in his blood, to show His righteousness in the passing over of the sins done previously, in the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:24,25). Israel's faith in the sprinkled blood [which they themselves never saw] was faith that their past sins had been forgiven. We too never saw the physical blood of the Lord, but we believe likewise that our past is now passed. The way God "set forth" the Lord's blood invites us to see God Himself working on the Day of Atonement as the priest for us, using the blood of His Son.

The implication of Lev. 16:14,15 is that the High Priest went beyond the veil twice during this ritual- once to atone for his own sins, and once for the sins of the people. But Heb. 9:12 labours that the Lord did this only once, and thus entered Heaven itself- for us, for our sins. Because the point of contrast is that He had no personal sins to atone for. So the idea that the Lord offered for Himself and then for us is actually the opposite of what Heb. 9:12 is teaching. The "type" was by way of contrast and not similarity. Those who have failed to appreciate this have gone further after this wrong turning, and ended up constructing theories of 'atonement for human nature' which are foreign to the scriptures.   

Lev 16:16 and he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins; and so he shall do for the Tent of Meeting that is situated amongst them, in the midst of their uncleanness-
Clearly the atonement was not made for the inanimate structure of the Holy Place. Rather was it for the sins of Israel. The idea would be that nobody is perfectly pure, and therefore the priests had indeed entered the Holy Place whilst impure; and this was being atoned for. The wonder was that God met with sinful man "in the midst of the uncleanness"- and this was to be recognized through these rituals.

Lev 16:17 No one shall be in the Tent of Meeting when he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, and has made atonement for himself and for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel-
This means no priest was allowed into the holy place nor the tabernacle. This atonement was not to be achieved by the priesthood but by the High Priest alone with the blood- all looking forward to the Lord's work. Apart from the release of the live goat, the work of the High Priest was done unobserved by anyone else, as it were in secret. Just as the inner struggles of the Lord in achieving our atonement are to some extent hidden from us; we experience and witness only the atonement and freedom achieved.
 The people saw only the result of it. They did nothing really, and the Day of Atonement differed from the other feasts and sacrifices in that the people did nothing- apart from fast and repent. Just as we can "do" nothing for our own atonement. Any confession of personal sin was done in their heart- there was no mechanism whereby they told the High Priest their specific sins, and he then placed them somehow on the goat. The people trusted in the work of the High Priest and waited for him to emerge and pronounce that the atonement was indeed achieved. He has in one sense already appeared in the resurrection of the Lord, and in another sense we await His appearing "without sin unto salvation". This means that His second coming equates with the appearance of the High Priest to pronounce forgiveness and the release of the goat. His work of atonement is therefore going on also right now, in Heaven, for our sakes- with us largely ignorant of what He is doing invisible to our eyes. But what He is doing there now is what in essence He did on the cross, again effectively invisible to human eyes. The proclamation of forgiveness and release of the goat then equates with the great commission to spread the news of it to everyone.

This perhaps helps us to understand the ultimate loneliness of the Lord Jesus in making His offering. These rituals have been misunderstood, in my opinion, to mean that the Lord Jesus offered for Himself, for His family [the believers] and for the world. That is indeed what the mortal, sinful High Priest did, but the type works by way of difference rather than exact correspondence. The New Testament therefore emphasizes that the Lord Jesus, unlike the Mosaic High Priests, offered only one sacrifice to achieve atonement- and that was "for us" (Heb. 10:14). The idea that the Lord atoned for the world as well as "for us" would imply some kind of universal salvation, of which the Bible is silent. Christ died for our sins, the sins of His people- that is the Biblical emphasis. See on :11.

The Lord Jesus in Hebrews 9 is presented as the fulfilment of what was typed and foreshadowed in the day of Atonement rituals. But the majority of the 'fulfilment' was in the dissimilarity rather than the similarity. The High Priest entered and offered many times, the Lord only once; He sits mediating, the High Priest stands; the High Priest entered with the blood of another, but the Lord with His own blood. One other such point is that the Day of Atonement achieved "atonement" and "cleansing from iniquity", the Hebrew word meaning far more than 'covering' but also being used about appeasement of anger [e.g. of Esau's anger with Jacob being appeased]. Yes, God's wrath was turned away by the blood representing His Son's future sacrifice. But this is contrasted with the way the Lord's work achieved "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). Not simply turning away of Divine wrath and purification from our dirt, but a wonderful and eternal redemption into the eternity of God's Kingdom, eternal in that there is no further let alone annual facing of our sin.

Lev 16:18 He shall go out to the altar that is before Yahweh and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the bull’s blood, and some of the goat’s blood, and put it around it, on the horns of the altar-
The New Testament observes that the blood of this bull and goat could not take away sins- even though the live goat apparently carried the sins away into the wilderness. If sin had really been carried away, there would have been no need for this annual day of atonement ceremony (Heb. 10:3,4). The conclusion is therefore drawn that God only operated this system of atonement on the basis that the blood of the sacrifices pointed forward to the blood of Christ, and on the basis of His faith and knowledge that Christ would make the perfect sacrifice, God accepted the animal blood on the basis that it was symbolic of Christ’s blood.

Verse 17 has spoken of the High Priest's exit into the court, so the altar in view is not the altar of incense but the altar of burnt offering.

Lev 16:19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and make it holy from the uncleanness of the children of Israel-
Inanimate objects didn't need atonement. The cleansing was a recognition of the fact that the Israelites were unclean morally, and they had approached the altar and tabernacle furniture only technically clean when they were unclean morally.

Lev 16:20 When he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat-
As explained on :19, this is not to imply that the furniture itself was somehow morally unclean; this atonement was because of "the uncleanness of the children of Israel" who had approached into God's presence whilst still sinners.

Lev 16:21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them on the head of the goat, and shall send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness to do this-
We note "both his hands", whereas in all the other purification offerings in Lev. 3 and 4, only one hand was laid upon the sacrifice. This heightens the sense of total identity with the live goat, who would now run free, speaking of the Lord's resurrection.

All Israel's "transgressions" were forgiven by the day of Atonement, or we could instead say that the fact they had been forgiven them by grace already was celebrated then. The word "transgressions" in the Day of Atonement ritual in Lev. 16:21 etc. translates pehshah, a rather uncommon word in the Mosaic law. We read in Ex. 23:21 that Israel should not rebel against their guardian Angel because He would not pardon their pehshah (Ex. 23:21), even though God was capable of forgiving pehshah (Ex. 34:7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving... transgression"). That capability was due to His extreme grace, and this was celebrated by the forgiveness of transgression achieved and memorialized on the day of atonement. The word is often used by David about his sin with Bathsheba, which was the presumptuous sin for which there was no forgiveness under the Mosaic rituals. But such transgression was dealt with by the Day of Atonement just as it was by the grace shown to David (Ps. 25:7; 32:1,5; 39:8; 51:1,3). David defines "the sin of presumption" as "the great transgression" (Ps. 19:13), and yet from such apparently unforgiveable "transgression" the blood of the day of Atonement could cleanse; or celebrate that the impossible to forgive had actually been forgiven. No wonder the joyful feast of tabernacles followed right after Yom Kippur. The same word is used in Is. 53:5,8 of how the Lord's death was "for our transgressions... for the transgressions of My people was He stricken". Thus when the modified day of Atonement was kept in Num. 29 before Israel entered Canaan and after their shameless transgression with Midian, they were being reminded that all their transgressions / rebellions had been forgiven on account of the Atonement blood- which was looking forward to that of the Lord who died for the transgressions of His people.  

Time and again, the difference between Moses' account of history and the surrounding myths is seen in the fact that Moses emphasizes human sin. There was a common ancient Near East belief in Azazel as a desert demon who looked like a goat. Perhaps Moses wished to address this idea when he called the scapegoat of the day of Atonement ritual "Azazel" and sent the goat into the desert (Lev. 16:21)- as if to say 'Now for you, Israel, no belief in that Azazel- the Azazel for us is simply a literal goat, bearing our sins in symbol, which we let loose into the desert'. Again and again, Moses sought to refocus his people on the practical, the literal, the concrete, and away from the myths which surrounded them. And yet he does this by alluding to those myths, so as to alert Israel to the fact that the new, inspired record which he was writing was fully aware of the myths God's people were being assailed with.

Praise is related to the realization that sin has been forgiven. Hezekiah's praise on realizing God's mercy to him was expressed in a desire to walk in quiet fellowship with God for the rest of his life. There is no suggestion that praise was some kind of ecstatic exuberance of emotion. The normal Hebrew word translated "praise" is also translated "confess" in the context of confessing sin (Lev. 5:5; 16:21; 26:40; Num. 5:7). Contrition of heart because of appreciating our own failures is therefore one way of praising Yahweh's Name. So often does the word "praise" occur in the context of praising the Name of Yahweh, or the praising of "the God of Israel", i.e. Yahweh.

Lev 16:22 The goat shall carry all their iniquities on himself to a solitary land, and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness-
Is. 53:8 alludes here in saying that on the cross, the Lord Jesus was cut off from the land of the living. The experience of both goats was found in His sacrifice. "Solitary land" is Heb. 'a land cut off', ‘a land not inhabited,’ as A.V., or a land from which return was cut off. Our sins are sent to a land of no return. Atonement means they will never return to our account. Just as we may take comfort in this with regard to our own sins, we are to understand that God treats the sins of our brethren the same way. And we therefore are not to keep grinding away about them. There are many references to the Day of Atonement in Is. 53: "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all... he shall bear their iniquities... he bore the sin of many", interpreted by Peter in 1 Pet. 2:24 as "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree". But the living goat was a symbol of both the Lord, and us. For we are to be and feel a "living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1). And the scapegoat was the only sacrifice which was an "offering" but stayed alive. Possibly Rom. 6:13 likewise alludes to the 'presentation' of the live goat before Yahweh (Lev. 16:10), and applies it to all baptized into the Lord Jesus: "No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life"; indeed we are "alive to God" (Rom. 6:10). "Let us go forth with Him without the camp" (Heb. 13:12) may also be an allusion.

The phrase "let go" is often used of how God let Israel go from Egypt, overruling how the wicked Pharaoh refused to let the people go. The term is used later in the Mosaic legislation; the way Israel had been "let go" from Egypt was to determine how they "let go" others from slavery (Dt. 15:12,13,18); their own experience of redemption was to influence how they released others. Just as ours should. The letting go of the bird and scapegoat into the wilderness was likewise to remind them of how they had been let go from Egypt into the wilderness without being slain for their sins- all by grace (Lev. 14:7,53; 16:10,21,22,26).

"All their iniquities" needs some reflection. All unforgiven sin, all undealt with issues, every kind of sin, including apparently unforgiveable rebellion and presumption, all was now dealt with. Including we can assume those sins for which there was no ritual prescribed, and for sins of presumption. This was exactly the situation of Israel that seventh month, as they prepared to enter the Kingdom by grace alone, despite all their presumptuous sins. The RSV translation suggests that atonement was made upon the goat so that it may then be sent into the wilderness: “But the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel”. This of course admirably fits with the Lord's work- it was the atonement achieved which enabled both He and His Israel to be set free, free in the glorious liberty of God's dear children. And thinking it through, if this translation is correct, the atonement was complete before the goat was released. Confession and placing the sins on the goat was enough for the freedom to be experienced, on the basis of the blood and death of the sin offering goat. And yet after this was done, there had to be the burnt offering of :24- for faith without works is dead. On the basis of what the goat rituals had achieved, there had to be dedication to Yahweh- which is what the burnt offering spoke of. Another obvious response to it was that the years of Jubilee began on the day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27; 25:9). Grace was to be shown to others because of the grace received.

The wages of sin is death, but Israel had not died for their sins. So we must not think that they were unforgiven until the day of Atonement, and then the blood magically made the sins of no account. As Israel stood there, they were forgiven. They were not dead. The atonement ritual was therefore a reminder to them that they had been saved by grace, on account of the blood and the work of the High Priest. The enquiring mind would have perceived that they had not been slain because of something or someone which that blood and High Priest represented- the future Messiah, the Lord Jesus.  

John's Gospel has several Day of Atonement allusions, starting with “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). The sin of the Jewish world was "taken away" by the scapegoat bearing that sin off into the desert. It seems to me that it is the "sin bearing" of the Day of Atonement, rather than only the Passover lamb, which is in view. But in a kaleidoscope of images, the Passover lamb has the image of the scapegoat superimposed upon it. Jn. 17 has the Lord praying that He might be sanctified so that He might sanctify "them", His people- very much the spirit of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

Lev 16:23 Aaron shall come into the Tent of Meeting, and shall take off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them there-
The Lord was buried in linen garments after His death; so as noted on :11, the typical meaning of these things is often by way of contrast rather than equivalent similarity.

Lev 16:24 Then he shall bathe himself in water in a holy place, and put on his garments, and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people-
As discussed on :11, the Lord Jesus didn't need to do this; the parallels with the Levitical priesthood are by way of both contrast and similarity. They stood; He sits. They offered animals, He offered "Himself". But as He offered for "the people" so too did the mortal priests; but He did so once, whereas they did so daily. They offered for their own sins too; He did not. If the Lord in any sense had needed to offer for His own "sins", He would have had to do so daily. But He offered only one offering, for us. That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures is the clear emphasis of the entire Biblical revelation.

Lev 16:25 The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar-
Some manuscripts have :23 after this verse :25. The altar in view is that of burnt offering and not the incense offering (Ex. 30:9). There is special emphasis upon the fat, which was perceived as the best part of the animal, and the most covered inward parts. After recognizing our sin, we must be prepared to offer these to God. David understood the spirit of the trespass offering when after his sin with Bathsheba he offered to God his inward parts (Ps. 51:6). Elsewhere the idea is as in LXX "the fact [even] the fat tail" (as Lev. 3:9). There were species of sheep with a large fatty tail, which was considered in their culture to be a great delicacy. We see here how the law of Moses was limited in application to an immediate context, and was simply not intended to be a global law for all time. But the take away lesson is that we are to give to God whatever is for us, in our culture and worldview, the best and most desirous.

Lev 16:26 He who lets the goat go for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp-
Throughout the rituals there is the idea that those involved in making this atonement were themselves "compassed with infirmity" (Heb. 5:2). The thoughtful Israelite would have perceived that there was something lacking in all this; sinners were making atonement for sinners. There was thereby presented the need and longing for a righteous priest who was morally sinless although able to understand and relate to the weakness of men. And that need was met in the Lord Jesus.

Lev 16:27 The bull for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried forth outside the camp; and they shall burn their skins, their flesh, and their dung with fire-
The Lord Jesus suffered and died, shedding the blood of atonement, "outside the camp" (Heb. 13:13). We are bidden go forth to the Lord Jesus "outside the camp", just as those who "sought Yahweh" did when there was no tabernacle (Ex. 33:7). The people watching Moses as he walked out to it, without the camp, therefore looks ahead to a faithless Israel lining the via Dolorosa and watching the Lord walk out to His place of crucifixion. And we are to get behind Him and follow Him there, stepping out from the mass of Israel. As the Lord Jesus suffered "outside the camp", so various parts of the Mosaic sacrifices were to be burnt there (Lev. 4:12,21; 8:17; 9:11; 16:27); and yet it was the blood of those sacrifices which achieved atonement (Heb. 13:11; Num. 19:3,9). "Outside the camp" was the place of excluded, condemned sinners (Lev. 13:46; 24:14; Num. 5:3,4; 15:35,36; 31:13,19), and it was here that the Lord Jesus died, in identification with us. 

Lev 16:28 He who burns them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp-
As discussed on :26, in all these
rituals there is the idea that those involved in making this atonement were themselves unclean. The thoughtful Israelite would have perceived that there was something lacking in all this; sinners were making atonement for sinners. And thus the desire was prepared for the perfect priest, the Lord Jesus.

Lev 16:29 It shall be a statute to you forever: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no kind of work, the native-born, or the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you-
This was to help them understand that no works could produce atonement. It was all of grace.
"Afflict your souls" is the word used of how the Egyptians had afflicted the Hebrews (Ex. 1:11,12). Repeatedly, Israel were taught that they were to remember the state they had been in prior to their redemption from affliction; and redeem others from their affliction on that basis, and never to afflict people as Egypt had done to them. All this is an abiding principle for us. True redemption of others has to be rooted in an awareness of our own affliction. This is particularly necessary for those who were as it were schooled into Christ by reason of their upbringing.

Lev 16:30 for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before Yahweh-
Every kind of sin was atoned for (:21). Sins of ignorance, of omission rather than commission, were all met in this atonement. And likewise even moreso with the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. There should therefore never now be any sense that some sins are dealt with, but others aren't.

The Hebrew here and especially in Lev. 23:28 definitely reads as if it is the day of atonement which made atonement. This verse has been clung on to by Judaism at times when the temple was not standing and the sacrifices associated with the day of atonement were not offered. Their argument was and is that it is the day of atonement which makes atonement, because the atonement is from God's sovereign grace. And indeed there is some truth in this. For it was ever impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, and Paul's argument in Hebrews is based upon the implications of the day of Atonement. It indeed looks ahead to another and more ultimate atonement, by God's grace through His pronouncement. And that pronouncement was made regardless of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices; it was made over the blood of His crucified Son.

Lev 16:31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict your souls; it is a statute forever-
They were to "do no kind of work" (:29). Because this was the day of atonement (:30). The point was that God was providing atonement by His grace and on account of the blood which represented Christ’s blood- and not on the basis of our works.

Lev 16:32 The priest who is anointed and who is consecrated to be priest in his father’s place shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, even the holy garments-
The language here is pregnant with allusion to the future Lord Jesus, the "Christ" or anointed priest, who operated in the name and place of His Father, God Himself.

Lev 16:33 Then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary; and he shall make atonement for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar; and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly-
It is clarified in :19 that this cleansing of the furniture was to make them "holy from the uncleanness of the children of Israel". Inanimate objects didn't need atonement. The cleansing was a recognition of the fact that the Israelites were unclean morally, and they had approached the altar and tabernacle furniture only technically clean when they were unclean morally.

Lev 16:34 This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel once in the year because of all their sins. It was done as Yahweh commanded Moses-
The Sabbath is described as a perpetual, eternal ordinance between God and His people (Ex. 31:16). Yet in the New Testament we read that the Old Covenant has been done away; and the Old Covenant clearly included the ten commandments (Dt. 4:13), one of which was concerning the Sabbath. For this reason the New Testament is at pains to explain that Sabbath keeping is not now required of God’s people (Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 14:1-3). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is described as an everlasting covenant (Is. 24:5; Dt. 29:29), but it has now been done away (Heb. 8:13). The feasts of Passover and Atonement were to be “an everlasting statute unto you” (Lev. 16:34; Ex. 12:14); but now the Mosaic feasts have been done away in Christ (Col. 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 5:7). The Levitical priesthood was “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:13), but “the priesthood being changed (by Christ’s work), there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). There was an “everlasting covenant” between God and Israel to display the shewbread in the Holy Place (Lev. 24:8). This “everlasting covenant” evidently ended when the Mosaic Law was dismantled. But the same phrase “everlasting covenant” is used in 2 Samuel 23:5 concerning how Christ will reign on David’s throne for literal eternity in the Kingdom. In what sense, then, is God using the word olahm, which is translated “eternal”, “perpetual”, “everlasting” in the Old Testament? James Strong defines olahm as literally meaning “the finishing point, time out of mind, i.e. practically eternity”. It was God’s purpose that the Law of Moses and the associated Sabbath law were to continue for many centuries. To the early Israelite, this meant a finishing point so far ahead that he couldn’t grapple with it; therefore he was told that the Law would last for ever in the sense of “practically eternity”. For all of us, the specter of ultimate infinity is impossible to intellectually grapple with. We may glibly talk about God’s eternity and timelessness, about the wonder of eternal life. But when we pause to really come to terms with these things, we lack the intellectual tools and linguistic paradigms to cope with it. Therefore there is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible text to speak of absolute infinity. We know that death has been conquered for those in Christ, therefore we have the hope of immortal life in his Kingdom. But God speaks about eternity very much from a human viewpoint.