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Leviticus 16:2-24

Context
16:2 and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother that he must not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil-canopy 1  in front of the atonement plate 2  that is on the ark so that he may not die, for I will appear in the cloud over the atonement plate.

Day of Atonement Offerings

16:3 “In this way Aaron is to enter into the sanctuary – with a young bull 3  for a sin offering 4  and a ram for a burnt offering. 5  16:4 He must put on a holy linen tunic, 6  linen leggings are to cover his body, 7  and he is to wrap himself with a linen sash 8  and wrap his head with a linen turban. 9  They are holy garments, so he must bathe 10  his body in water and put them on. 16:5 He must also take 11  two male goats 12  from the congregation of the Israelites for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. 16:6 Then Aaron is to present the sin offering bull which is for himself and is to make atonement on behalf of himself and his household. 16:7 He must then take the two goats 13  and stand them before the Lord at the entrance of the Meeting Tent, 16:8 and Aaron is to cast lots over the two goats, 14  one lot for the Lord and one lot for Azazel. 15  16:9 Aaron must then present the goat which has been designated by lot for the Lord, 16  and he is to make it a sin offering, 16:10 but the goat which has been designated by lot for Azazel is to be stood alive 17  before the Lord to make atonement on it by sending it away to Azazel into the wilderness. 18 

The Sin Offering Sacrificial Procedures

16:11 “Aaron is to present the sin offering bull which is for himself, and he is to make atonement on behalf of himself and his household. He is to slaughter the sin offering bull which is for himself, 16:12 and take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord 19  and a full double handful of finely ground fragrant incense, 20  and bring them inside the veil-canopy. 21  16:13 He must then put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the cloud of incense will cover the atonement plate which is above the ark of the testimony, 22  so that he will not die. 23  16:14 Then he is to take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the eastern face of the atonement plate, 24  and in front of the atonement plate he is to sprinkle some of the blood seven times with his finger. 25 

16:15 “He must then slaughter the sin offering goat which is for the people. He is to bring its blood inside the veil-canopy, 26  and he is to do with its blood just as he did to the blood of the bull: He is to sprinkle it on the atonement plate and in front of the atonement plate. 16:16 So 27  he is to make atonement for the holy place from the impurities of the Israelites and from their transgressions with regard to all their sins, 28  and thus he is to do for the Meeting Tent which resides with them in the midst of their impurities. 16:17 Nobody is to be in the Meeting Tent 29  when he enters to make atonement in the holy place until he goes out, and he has made atonement on his behalf, on behalf of his household, and on behalf of the whole assembly of Israel.

16:18 “Then 30  he is to go out to the altar which is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He is to take 31  some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it all around on the horns of the altar. 16:19 Then he is to sprinkle on it some of the blood with his finger seven times, and cleanse and consecrate it 32  from the impurities of the Israelites.

The Live Goat Ritual Procedures

16:20 “When he has finished purifying the holy place, 33  the Meeting Tent, and the altar, he is to present the live goat. 16:21 Aaron is to lay his two hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins, 34  and thus he is to put them 35  on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man standing ready. 36  16:22 The goat is to bear on itself all their iniquities into an inaccessible land, 37  so he is to send the goat away 38  in the wilderness.

The Concluding Rituals

16:23 “Aaron must then enter 39  the Meeting Tent and take off the linen garments which he had put on when he entered the sanctuary, and leave them there. 16:24 Then he must bathe his body in water in a holy place, put on his clothes, and go out and make his burnt offering and the people’s burnt offering. So he is to make atonement 40  on behalf of himself and the people. 41 

1 tn Heb “into the holy place from house to the veil-canopy.” In this instance, the Hebrew term “the holy place” refers to “the most holy place” (lit. “holy of holies”), since it is the area “inside the veil-canopy” (cf. Exod 26:33-34). The Hebrew term פָּרֹכֶת (parokhet) is usually translated “veil” or “curtain,” but it seems to have stretched not only in front of but also over the top of the ark of the covenant which stood behind and under it inside the most holy place, and thus formed more of a canopy than simply a curtain (see R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 3:687-89).

2 tn Heb “to the faces of the atonement plate.” The exact meaning of the Hebrew term כַּפֹּרֶת (kapporet) here rendered “atonement plate” is much debated. The traditional “mercy seat” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) does not suit the cognate relationship between this term and the Piel verb כִּפֶּר (kipper, “to make atonement, to make expiation”). The translation of the word should also reflect the fact that the most important atonement procedures on the Day of Atonement were performed in relation to it. Since the Lord would “appear in the cloud over the atonement plate,” and since it was so closely associated with the ark of the covenant (the ark being his “footstool”; cf. 1 Chr 28:2 and Ps 132:7-8), one could take it to be the place of his throne at which he accepts atonement. See J. Milgrom, Leviticus (AB), 1:1014; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus (WBC), 234-35; and R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:691, 699. Cf. NIV “the atonement cover”; NCV “the lid on the Ark”; NLT “the Ark’s cover – the place of atonement.”

3 tn Heb “with a bull, a son of the herd.”

4 sn See the note on Lev 4:3 regarding the term “sin offering.”

5 sn For the “burnt offering” see the note on Lev 1:3.

6 sn The term “tunic” refers to a shirt-like garment worn next to the skin and, therefore, put on first (cf. Exod 28:4, 39-40; 29:5, 8; 39:27). It covered the upper body only. For detailed remarks on the terminology for the priestly clothing in this verse (except the “linen leggings”) see the notes on Lev 8:7-9 and the literature cited there.

7 tn Heb “shall be on his flesh.” As in many instances in Lev 15, the term “flesh” or “body” here is euphemistic for the male genitals (J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:1017, and J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 222; cf. the note on Lev 15:2), which the priest must be careful not to expose during such ritual procedures (see Exod 20:26 with 28:42-43).

8 sn The sash fastened the tunic around the waist (Exod 28:4, 39; 29:9; 39:29).

9 tn Heb “and in a turban of linen he shall wrap.”

sn The turban consisted of wound up linen (cf. Exod 28:4, 37, 39; 29:6; 39:31; Lev 16:4). It is usually thought to be a “turban,” but it might be only a “turban-like headband” wound around the forehead area (HALOT 624 s.v. מִצְנֶפֶת).

10 tn Heb “and he shall bathe….”

11 tn Heb “And he shall take.”

12 tn Heb “he-goats of goats”; CEV “two goats, both of them males.”

13 tn Heb “the two he-goats,” referred to as “two he-goats of goats” in v. 5.

14 tn Heb “and Aaron shall give lots on the two he-goats.” See the note on Lev 8:8 for the priestly casting of lots in Israel and the explanation in B. A. Levine, Leviticus (JPSTC), 102, on Lev 16:8-9. J. Milgrom, Leviticus (AB), 1:1019-20, suggests, however, that the expression here signifies that, the lots having been cast, the priest was to literally “place” (Heb “give”) the one marked “for the Lord” on the head of the goat to be sacrificed and the one marked “for Azazel” on the head of the one to be released in the wilderness in order to avoid confusing them later in the ritual sequence.

15 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term עֲזָאזֵל (’azazel, four times in the OT, all of them in this chapter; vv. 8, 10 [2 times], and 26) is much debated. There are three or perhaps four major views (see the summaries and literature cited in J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:1020-21; B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 102; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 237-38; D. P. Wright, The Disposal of Impurity [SBLDS], 21-25; M. V. Van Pelt and W. C. Kaiser, NIDOTTE 3:362-63; and M. S. Moore, NIDOTTE 4:421-22). (1) Some derive the term from a combination of the Hebrew word עֵז (’ez, “goat”; i.e., the word for “goats” in v. 5) and אָזַל (’azal, “to go away”), meaning “the goat that departs” or “scapegoat” (cf., e.g., the LXX and KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT). This meaning suits the ritual practice of sending the so-called “scapegoat” away into the wilderness (vv. 10, 21-22, 26). Similarly, some derive the term from Arabic ’azala (“to banish, remove”), meaning “entire removal” as an abstract concept (see BDB 736 s.v. עֲזָאזֵל). (2) Some see the term as a description of the wilderness area to which the goat was dispatched, deriving it somehow from Arabic ’azazu (“rough ground”) or perhaps עָזָז, (’azaz, “to be strong, fierce”). (3) The most common view among scholars today is that it is the proper name of a particular demon (perhaps even the Devil himself) associated with the wilderness desert regions. Levine has proposed that it may perhaps derive from a reduplication of the ז (zayin) in עֵז combined with אֵל (’el, “mighty”), meaning “mighty goat.” The final consonantal form of עֲזָאזֵל would have resulted from the inversion of the א (aleph) with the second ז. He makes the point that the close association between עֵז and שְׂעִירִים (shÿirim), which seems to refer to “goat-demons” of the desert in Lev 17:7 (cf. Isa 13:21, etc.), should not be ignored in the derivation of Azazel, although the term ultimately became the name of “the demonic ruler of the wilderness.” The latter view is supported by the parallel between the one goat “for (לְ, lamed preposition) the Lord” and the one “for (לְ) Azazel” here in v. 8. The rendering as a proper name has been tentatively accepted here (cf. ASV, NAB, NRSV, TEV, CEV). Perhaps a play on words between the proper name and the term for “goat” has occurred so that the etymology has become obscure. Even if a demon or the demonic realm is the source for the name, however, there is no intention here of appeasing the demons. The goal is to remove the impurity and iniquity from the community in order to avoid offending the Lord and the repercussions of such (see esp. vv. 21-22 and cf. Lev 15:31).

16 tn Heb “which the lot has gone up on it for the Lord.”

17 tn The LXX has “he shall stand it” (cf. v. 7).

18 tn Heb “to make atonement on it to send it away to Azazel toward the wilderness.”

19 tn Heb “and he shall take the fullness of the censer, coals of fire, from on the altar from to the faces of the Lord.”

20 tn Heb “and the fullness of the hollow of his two hands, finely ground fragrant incense.”

21 tn Heb “and he shall bring from house to the veil-canopy.”

22 tn The text here has only “above the testimony,” but this is surely a shortened form of “above the ark of the testimony” (see Exod 25:22 etc.; cf. Lev 16:2). The term “testimony” in this expression refers to the ark as the container of the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them (see Exod 25:16 with Deut 10:1, 5, etc.).

23 tn Heb “and he will not die,” but it is clear that the purpose for the incense cloud was to protect the priest from death in the presence of the Lord (cf. vv. 1-2 above).

24 tn Heb “on the faces of the atonement plate toward the east.” Some have taken this to mean that the ark was stationed just behind the veil-canopy on the eastern side of the most holy place. Thus, the high priest would need to enter and walk toward the west end of the most holy place and then turn eastward in order to face the ark and sprinkle the blood in an eastward direction. The rendering here, however, requires that the ark was stationed on the western end, or perhaps in the middle of the area, so that as the priest entered he was already facing the ark and would sprinkle the blood on the eastern face of the atonement plate, in a westward direction (see, e.g., J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 239 versus J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:1032).

25 sn Presumably in this case the blood was sprinkled seven times on the ground in front of the ark on which the atonement plate was mounted.

26 tn Heb “and he shall bring its blood into from house to the veil-canopy.”

27 tn Heb “And.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have resultative or even inferential force here.

28 tn Heb “to all their sins.”

29 tn Heb “And all man shall not be in the tent of meeting.” The term for “a man, human being” (אָדָם, ’adam; see the note on Lev 1:2) refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female.

30 tn Heb “And.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) indicates the sequence of events here.

31 tn Heb “And he shall take.”

32 tn Heb “and he shall purify it and he shall consecrate it.”

33 tn Heb “And he shall finish from atoning the holy place.” In this case, the “holy place” etc. are direct objects of the verb “to atone” (cf. v. 33a below). In this case, therefore, the basic meaning of the verb (i.e., “to purge” or “wipe clean”) comes to the forefront. When the prepositions עַל (’al) or בֲּעַד (baad) occur with the verb כִּפֶּר (kipper) the purging is almost always being done “for” or “on behalf of” priests or people (see the note on Lev 1:4 as well as R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:698, the literature cited there, and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 110, for more details).

34 tn Heb “transgressions to all their sins.”

35 tn Heb “and he shall give them.”

36 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term עִתִּי (’itti) is uncertain. It is apparently related to עֵת (’et, “time”), and could perhaps mean either that he has been properly “appointed” (i.e., designated) for the task (e.g., NIV and NRSV) or “ready” (e.g., NASB and NEB).

37 tn The Hebrew term rendered “inaccessible” derives from a root meaning “to cut off” (cf. NAB “an isolated region”). Another possible translation would be “infertile land” (see HALOT 187 s.v. *גָּזֵּר and cf. NRSV “a barren region”; NLT “a desolate land.”

38 tn Heb “and he [the man (standing) ready, v. 21] shall send the goat away.”

39 tn Heb “And Aaron shall enter.”

40 tn Heb “And he shall make atonement.”

41 tn Heb “on behalf of himself and on behalf of the people.” After “on behalf of himself” the LXX adds the expected “and on behalf of his household” (cf. vv. 6, 11, and 17).



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