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Law of Atonement

16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who had died when they [irreverently] approached the presence of the Lord.(A) The Lord said to Moses,

“Tell Aaron your brother that he [a]must not enter at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil (the Holy of Holies), before the [b]mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die, for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.(B) Aaron [as high priest] shall enter the Holy Place in this way: with [the blood of] a young bull as a sin offering and [the blood of] a ram as a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be belted with the linen sash, and dressed with the linen turban (these are the holy garments). He shall bathe his body in water and put them on. He shall take from the congregation of the Israelites [at their expense] two male goats as a sin offering and one ram as a burnt offering. Then Aaron shall present the bull as the sin offering for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting. Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord, the other lot for the [c]scapegoat. Then Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell and offer it as a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot fell for the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement on it; it shall be sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat.

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as the sin offering for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household (the other priests), and he shall kill the bull as the sin offering for himself. 12 He shall take a censer full of burning coals from the [bronze] altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil [into the Most Holy Place], 13 and put the incense on the fire [in the censer] before the Lord, so that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is on [the ark of] the Testimony, otherwise he will die. 14 He shall take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the east side of the mercy seat; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for [the sins of] the people and bring its blood within the veil [into the Most Holy Place] and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.(C) 16 So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place (Holy of Holies) because of the uncleanness and transgressions of the Israelites, for all their sins. He shall also do this for the Tent of Meeting which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness (impurities).(D) 17 There shall be no person in the Tent of Meeting when the high priest goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place [within the veil] until he comes out, so that he may make atonement for himself (his own sins) and for his household and for all the congregation of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar [of burnt offering in the court] which is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. 19 With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on the altar of burnt offering seven times and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

20 “When he has finished atoning for the Holy Place and the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the wickedness of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat [the scapegoat, the sin-bearer], and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is prepared [for the task]. 22 The goat shall carry on itself all their (the Israelites) wickedness, carrying them to a solitary (infertile) land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.(E)

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place (Holy of Holies), and shall leave them there. 24 He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come out and offer his burnt offering and that of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And he shall offer up in smoke the fat of the sin offering on the altar. 26 The man who released the goat as the [sin-bearing] scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 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 (Holy of Holies), shall be taken outside the camp; their skins, their meat, and their waste shall be burned in the fire.(F) 28 Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

An Annual Atonement

29 “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month (nearly October) on the tenth day of the month you shall [d]humble yourselves [by fasting] and not do any work, whether the native-born or the stranger who lives temporarily among you; 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.(G) 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall humble yourselves; it is a permanent statute. 32 So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve and minister as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall wear the holy linen garments, 33 and make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the Tent of Meeting, and for the altar [of burnt offering in the court]. He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 This shall be a permanent statute for you, so that atonement may be made for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.” So he did just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Blood for Atonement

17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded, saying, “Any man from the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp and has not brought it to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting to [e]offer it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, that man shall be guilty of bloodshed. He has shed blood and shall be cut off from his people [excluding him from the atonement made for them]. This is so that the sons of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they were sacrificing [to idols] in the open field [where they killed them], that they may bring them in to the Lord, at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. The priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting and offer the fat up in smoke as a sweet and soothing aroma to the Lord. So they shall no longer offer their sacrifices to goat-idols or demons or field spirits with which they have played the prostitute. This shall be a permanent statute for them throughout their generations.”’

“Then you shall say to them, ‘Any man from the house of Israel or any of the strangers living temporarily among you, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting to offer it to the Lord shall be cut off from his people [excluding him from the atonement made for them].

10 ‘Any man from the house of Israel, or any stranger living temporarily among you, who eats any blood, against that person I shall set My face and I will cut him off from his people [excluding him from the atonement made for them].(H) 11 For the [f]life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life [which it represents].’(I) 12 Therefore I have said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any stranger living temporarily among you eat blood.’ 13 So when any Israelite or any stranger living temporarily among them, catches [g]any ceremonially clean animal or bird when hunting, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.

14 “For in regard to the life of all flesh, its blood is [the same] as its life; therefore I said to the Israelites, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the [h]life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off [excluding him from the atonement made for them].’ 15 Every person who eats an animal which dies [of natural causes] or was torn by a predator, whether he is native-born or a stranger, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be [ceremonially] unclean until evening; then he will become clean.(J) 16 But if he does not wash his clothes or bathe his body, he shall bear his guilt [for it will not be borne by the sacrifice of atonement].”

Laws on Immoral Relations

18 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, and you shall not do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes (practices, customs). You are to follow My judgments (precepts, ordinances) and keep My statutes and live by them. I am the Lord your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which, if a person keeps them, he shall live; I am the Lord.(K)

[i]No one shall approach any blood relative of his [j]to uncover nakedness (have intimate relations). I am the Lord. You shall not uncover the [k]nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother. You shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, either the daughter of your father or of your mother, whether born at home or born elsewhere. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; their nakedness you shall not uncover, for they are your own nakedness [that is, your own descendants]. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter; born to your father, she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s blood relative. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s blood relative. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother’s wife; you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife. You shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, nor shall you take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover their nakedness (have intimate relations with them); they are [her] blood relatives; it is an outrageous offense. 18 You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.

19 ‘Also you shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness during her menstrual impurity and ceremonial uncleanness. 20 You shall not have intimate relations with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them [by fire as a sacrifice] to Molech [the god of the Ammonites], nor shall you profane the name of your God [by honoring idols as gods]. I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie [intimately] with a male as one lies with a female; it is repulsive.(L) 23 You shall not have intimate relations with any animal to be defiled with it; nor shall a woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

24 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled; therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. 26 But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments (precepts) and shall not commit any of these repulsive acts, neither the native-born, nor the stranger who lives temporarily among you 27 (for all these repulsive acts have been done by the men who lived in the land before you, and the land has become defiled); 28 [do none of these things] so that the land will not vomit you out, should you defile it, as it has vomited out the nation which has been before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these repulsive acts, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people [excluding them from the atonement made for them]. 30 So keep My command: do not practice any of the repulsive customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves by them; I am the Lord your God.’”

Footnotes

  1. Leviticus 16:2 The high priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place only once a year. The Day of Atonement was the most sacred of all the festivals and the prescribed purpose of this inclusive sacrifice was to atone for the sins of both the nation and the individual believer, and in this way reconcile God’s chosen people to Himself. Only by carefully following all of God’s instructions, could the high priest enter God’s presence and live.
  2. Leviticus 16:2 Lit propitiatory.
  3. Leviticus 16:8 Lit goat of removal, or else a name, Heb: Azazel. This goat’s release (v 10) symbolized the carrying away of Israel’s sin.
  4. Leviticus 16:29 It is assumed by many that humbling oneself is a reference to fasting, but if so, there is no reason to limit the idea to that. The rabbis taught that it was forbidden to eat, drink, wash, anoint oneself (with oil for the hair), put on footwear, or have marital relations. Fasting was defined as eating less than the volume of a large date and drinking less than a mouthful of liquid.
  5. Leviticus 17:4 At this point the Israelites were not permitted to eat meat at will. But, after the animal was offered as a burnt offering, most of it was returned to the owner as a gift from God.
  6. Leviticus 17:11 Lit soul.
  7. Leviticus 17:13 Lit an animal or bird which may be eaten.
  8. Leviticus 17:14 Lit soul.
  9. Leviticus 18:6 This passage (vv 6-18) states incestuous prohibitions.
  10. Leviticus 18:6 This Hebrew euphemism for sexual relations occurs in each verse in the passage.
  11. Leviticus 18:7 The father’s nakedness is a reference to his wife in her role as his sexual partner, i.e. the nakedness that belongs to him alone by virtue of their marriage (cf 1 Cor 7:4). Otherwise, the literal meaning would refer to intimate relations with the father himself, including homosexuality. The text itself states that this is not the meaning, especially in 20:11a (The man who lies...has uncovered his father’s nakedness).

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