The Ministry in the Sanctuary by the Priests
The Day of Atonement

  1. In addition to the regular offerings of the sanctuary, what special service was commanded of the Lord ? Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:34; Hebrews 9:7, 25.

Provision was made for the sins of the people during the year. That forgiveness of wrong was ample, and that pardon was freely and fully granted. But the Lord arranged that “once every year” a special and important service should be conducted which completed the annual round of services in the sanctuary. This particular service included the offering of sacrifices, the purification or cleansing of the sanctuary itself, with the vessels used during the ministry by the priests.

“The sins of Israel being thus transferred to the sanctuary, the holy places were defiled, and a special work became necessary for the removal of the sins. God commanded that an atonement be made for each of the sacred apartments, and for the altar, to ‘cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.’

“Once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, the priest entered the most holy place for the cleansing of the sanctuary. The work there performed, completed the yearly round of ministration.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 355.

  1. At what time during the year was this special service to be performed? Leviticus 16:29, 30.

It should be observed that the ministry performed upon this day was a thorough and extensive work. That the people must be cleansed from all their sins was the command of the Lord.

To prepare the camp of Israel for this significant and important event, ten days prior to this special occasion a solemn service was conducted, when the trumpet was blown and a warning sounded. This preceding service, observed on the first day of the seventh month, was a holy convocation. It was to be regarded as a sabbath. The people were prohibited from performing secular labor on this first day of the seventh month. An offering must be presented to the Lord. Leviticus 23:23-25.

Till the present day the orthodox Jew in all parts of the world calls the ten days prior to the Day of Atonement, from the first day of the seventh month to the tenth day of this same month, “the ten days of repentance.” These are preparatory days to the solemn Day of Atonement.

During many centuries of the Christian Era, the Jewish people have had this day, called in the Bible “The Blowing of Trumpets,” grossly perverted. The day is not now called by this name; it is called (Rosh Hashanah), the Jewish New Year. To justify their course in calling this period Rosh Hashanah, New Year, there is a treatise in the Mishna, one of the Jewish commentaries, entitled Rosh Hashanah, in which the Talmudists say:

“There are four periods of commencement of years, viz, on the first of Nisan. Esther 3:7. This is the New Year to compute the kings and the festivals. The first of Elul, the sixth Jewish month (Nehemiah 6:15), is a New Year for the tithe of cattle. … The first of Tishri, the seventh Jewish month, is a New Year for the ordinary civil year, for the computation of the seventh years, and of the jubilees, Leviticus 25:1-6, also for the planting of the trees and herbs.”—Treatise VII, chap. I.

The Talmud teaches that Rosh Hashanah is an important period. In the prayers for the New Year’s we find the following written:

“On the New Years day it is written, and on the Day of Atonement it is sealed, who shall pass away from the world, and who shall be created into the world; who shall live, and who shall die; who shall live the length of his days, and who shall have his days shortened.”

Instead of the people’s observing this one day as a sacred day, the first day of the seventh month, the rabbis have added a day. The pious Jew observes the first two days of the seventh month instead of one day. Both these days must be observed as a sabbath, and the people are not permitted to do any secular labor. Here is the Talmudical law enforcing this added day:

“These are the six days on which the Scripture has forbidden the doing of work. The first and the seventh day of Passover; the first and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles; the day of the Feast of Pentecost; and the first day of the seventh month. All these are called holy days.”—Hilchoth Youm Tov (Laws of the Holidays).

“But to us who observe two days, what is unlawful on the first day is also unlawful on the second day; and he who disregards the latter, is to be excommunicated.”—Orach Chayim (The Ways of Life).

“Though the second holy day is of the words of the scribes only, everything which is considered unlawful on the first, is not permitted on the second. And every one who profanes the second holy day, even though it be the New Year’s [this New Year’s is the first day of the seventh month, called in the Bible “the Blowing of Trumpets”], whether it be a matter relating to the Sabbath, or to work, or by going beyond the limit of the Sabbath, he is to be excommunicated, or to be beaten with the flogging of rebellion, provided he be not a Talmudist.”—Hilchoth Youm Tov.

What the Talmud means in regard to excommunication may be inferred from the following rabbinical laws:

“How is an excommunicated person to conduct himself, and how are others to conduct themselves toward him? It is unlawful for an excommunicated person, as for a mourner, to trim his beard or hair, or to wash himself all the days of his excommunication; neither is he to be associated in pronouncing the benediction; neither is he to be reckoned as one of ten, wherever ten persons are required. [According to rabbinical law, in order to conduct the worship of God in the synagogue, it is necessary to have ten males present who are above the age of thirteen years,] Neither may any one sit within four ells of him.”

“But if he die in his excommunication, the tribunal send and lay a stone on his coffin to signify that they stone him, because he is separated from the congregation. And it is unnecessary to say that he is not mourned for, and that his funeral is not to be attended.”

“Whosoever remains thirty days in his excommunication without seeking to be absolved, he is to be excommunicated the second time. If he abide thirty days more without seeking absolution, he is then to be anathematized.”—Hilchoth Talmud Torah (Laws of Teaching the Law).

After the man has been anathematized, he is to be dealt with in the following manner:

“He is not to teach others nor to be taught; he may learn by himself that he may not forget the learning. He is not to be hired, nor to hire. Men have no dealings with him, nor any business, except a little, that he may get a livelihood.”—Hilchoth Talmud Torah.

A few of the laws of the “flogging of rebellion” for not sacredly observing a second holy day when the Scriptures say Israel should keep holy only one day for the “Blowing of Trumpets,” follow:

“An Israelite who tells a Gentile to do a certain work for him on the Sabbath, although he has transgressed, and is to be flogged with the flogging of rebellion, yet he may lawfuly make use of that work when the Sabbath is over, if he wait as long as it would take to accomplish the work.”—Hilchoth Shabbath (Laws of the Sabbath).

“If a Gentile slaughters, even though he does it in the presence of an Israelite, with a proper knife, his slaughtering is carrion; and he that eats it is to be flogged according to the written law, for it is said, ‘And one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice.’”—Hilchoth Shechita (Laws of Slaughtering Animals).

“If an Israelite does not know the five things which invalidate the act of slaughtering, as we have explained, and slaughters by himself, it is unlawful to eat of his slaughtering, both for himself and others; for this case is much the same as doubtful carrion. He that eats of it the quantity equal to an olive, is to be flogged with the flogging of rebellion.”—Ibid.

“He is to be beaten until his soul goes out, without any consideration of his strength, and without dividing the flogging into three. And in like manner, whoever transgresses the words of the wise men, he is to be beaten without number, and without consideration. Why is this called, ‘The flogging of rebellion’? Because he has rebelled against the words of the law, and against the words of the scribes.”—Baal Aruch.

To this day in Palestine the Jews who do not follow the teachings of the Talmud strictly, observe only one day instead of two days as holy time.

  1. What name was given to this tenth day of the seventh month? Leviticus 23:26, 27.

This special day is called in Scripture the “Day of Atonement.” The Jewish people the world around also call it (Yom Kippur), which means “Day of Atonement.” Upon this day all wrongs are righted among that people. It is considered by the children of Abraham as the most sacred and solemn day of the year. The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume II, page 288, published by Funk and Wagnall’s Company, New York, makes the following comment in regard to this day:

“The serious character impressed upon the day from the time of its institution has been preserved to the present day. No matter how much else has fallen into desuetude, so strong is its hold upon the Jewish conscience that no Jew, unless he have cut himself entirely loose from the synagogue, will fail to observe the Day of Atonement by resting from his daily pursuits and attending service in the synagogue. With a few exceptions, the service even of the Reformed synagogue is continuous through the day.”

  1. How was the service conducted on this particular day? Leviticus 16:5.

The services on the Day of Atonement centered in the most holy place of the sanctuary. From the people were to be received two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. The reason why the goats were taken from the congregation on this day was because the entire people of God were especially interested in the ministry of this important day.

The atonement on this day included “all the people of the congregation,” “whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:’ Leviticus 16:33, 29.

  1. What was the high priest to do with these goats? Leviticus 16:7, 8.

When the congregation gave to the high priest these two goats, he brought them to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The priest then cast lots upon these animals, one lot for the Lord, the other lot for the scapegoat. The Hebrew expression for the casting of the two lots is as follows:

“One lot to Jehovah,”(goral echad la-Yehovah), “and one lot to Azazel,” (we-goral echad la-Azazel). The word “Azazel” is a proper noun, intended to represent Satan. While the text has rendered the Hebrew word “Azazel,” “scapegoat,” from time immemorial the Hebrew people have regarded the word “Azazel” as synonymous with the evil spirit, Satan. (See Leviticus 16:8, margin.)

  1. Following the casting of the lot, what was to be done with the animals ? Leviticus 16:9, 10.

Following the casting of the lot, when the decision was reached as to which of the goats was for the Lord and which for Azazel, the Lord’s lot was to be offered for a sin offering. The other lot, the goat dedicated to Azazel, the scapegoat, must be presented alive before the Lord, and eventually this goat was sent away into the wilderness alive; it was not killed on this same day.

On the word “Azazel” the Jewish Encyclopedia makes the following remarks :

“Azazel.—The name of a supernatural being mentioned in connection with the ritual of the Day of Atonement. After Satan, for whom he was in some degree a preparation, Azazel enjoys the distinction of being fhe most extrahuman character in sacred literature. …

“Far from involving the recognition of Azazel as a deity, the sending of the goat was … a symbolic expression of the idea that the people’s sins and their evil consequences were to be sent back to the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity.

“The very fact that the fwo goats were presented before Jehovah before the one was sacrificed and the other sent into the wilderness, was proof that Azazel was not ranked with Jehovah, but regarded simply as the personification of wickedness in contrast with the righteous government of Jehovah. …

“Nay, more; as a demon of the desert, it seems to have been closely interwoven with the mountainous region of Jerusalem. …

“This is confirmed by the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels. … Azazel is represented in the Book of Enoch as the leader of the rebellious giants in the time preceding the flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, … and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity; until at last he was, at the Lord’s command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael [see note] and chained to the rough and jagged rocks, … where he is to abide in utter darkness until the great day of judgment, when he will be cast into the fire to be consumed forever.”—Vol. II, pp. 365, 366.

The consensus of opinion among Hebrew writers and scholars from time immemorial is that Azazel represents the evil one, Satan.

  1. What was the priest to do with the Lord’s goat? Leviticus 16:15, 16.

The priest was commanded to take the Lord’s goat, and kill it for a sin offering for the people. The blood of this sin offering must be taken into the most holy place of the sanctuary. The Scripture says that the blood of this offering must be brought “within the veil.” Verse 15. In connection with taking the blood of the sin offering within the veil, the priest must “do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock.” Verse 15.

The sacred ark containing the Law of God
The Sacred Ark Containing the Law of God

What the priest did with the blood of the bullock which he offered for himself and his family, was to “sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.” Verse 14.

“On the Day of Atonement the high priest, having taken an offering for the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, above the tables of the law. Thus the claims of the law, which demanded the life of the sinner, were satisfied.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 356.

The apostle Paul emphasizes the taking of the blood into the most holy place on the Day of Atonement: “Into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.” Heb. 9:7. “Nor yet that he should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others.” Verse 25.

  1. Was the priest permitted to sprinkle the blood of an offering within the veil at any other time? Leviticus 16:2.

Even though the high priest was commanded to enter into the most holy place “once every year,” “not without blood,” should he have attempted to enter into this most sacred shrine at any other time of the year, he would have met instant death. For the Scripture states:

“The Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not.” Leviticus 16:2.

The utmost sacredness was associated with all the parts of the service of the sanctuary, but a special sanctity was commanded in connection with the entrance and ministry into the holy of holies. Under no circumstances was the priest permitted to approach the inner apartment of the sanctuary after the dedication exercises were completed and the structure was consecrated to the Lord’s service, except on the tenth day of the seventh Bible month, the Day of Atonement.

  1. For what purpose was this service instituted? Leviticus 16:16.

The service of the Day of Atonement was instituted to provide for the closing up of the ministry of the sanctuary for the year. On this day everything connected with the sanctuary was to be made clean. It was in reality a cleaning-up day. The reason given for the service on this day is:

“Because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” Leviticus 16:16.

During the year the sins of the people had been carried into the holy place of the tabernacle. The blood representing the sins forgiven was sprinkled against the veil before the most holy place. Blood of certain of the offerings was placed upon the horns of the altar. The sprinkling and the application of the blood in the sanctuary and upon the instruments in the holy place made defilement. This work in the tabernacle was carried on day by day. There was no cessation. The time came when there must be a thorough cleaning up of what had been taking place through the year. Then, too, there were Israelites who were neglectful during the year, who had not lived up to their privileges. These were to be given a final opportunity.

Every provision was made by the Lord for every soul—for the stranger and the sojourner—and for every occasion; for this cleansing from sin, conducted in the sanctuary, was figurative. While forgiveness and pardon were effective through the blood of the spotless sacrifices offered, there was a larger, a broader, and a more comprehensive work to be accomplished through the mediation of the great High Priest who would minister in the sanctuary and the tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man. But we must not anticipate.

  1. How many were permitted to minister in the sanctuary on this special day during the time the high priest was in the most holy place? Leviticus 16:17.

During the time the high priest was officiating in the most holy place, no ministry was conducted in any other part of the sanctuary. The work conducted in the most holy place on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest was ministering in the inner apartment, was the exclusive work performed during this time, for the Scripture says: “There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.” Leviticus 16:17.

Be it observed that the atonement was being made in the most holy place by the high priest. During the other days of the year, when sacrifices were offered, there was a portion of the ministry conducted by the associate priests. But at this particular time, during the period of the high priest’s service in the most holy place, no ministry of any character was permitted in any other part of the sanctuary. Only the high priest officiated, from the time he began the work in the most sacred place.

Then, too, it should be remembered that the ministry of the priest in the most holy place was not alone for a single individual in Israel, nor for the priest himself, neither for the priest’s family, but this “atonement” was “for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.”

  1. How comprehensive was the work to be accomplished on this Day of Atonement? Leviticus 16:30, 33; 23:28.

From what has already been said of the work at this annual service, the high priest’s mission on this day was a comprehensive one. The results of this day likewise were far-reaching for all the people.

First, the efforts of this day included the home-born Israelites and the stranger or sojourner who was among that people. Leviticus 16:29.

Second, this day’s services involved the atonement “to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Leviticus 16:30. That is to say, the ministry of this day was to involve a thorough cleansing of the people of all their sins, and a complete cleansing of all in the camp of Israel. When this day’s ministry terminated, the people and the camp of Israel were wholly cleansed. If any of the people were not thus cleansed, they were cut off from Israel. The Day of Atonement was the outstanding cleaning-up day in God’s symbolic plan of salvation for Israel.

Third, the services of this day meant “an atonement for the holy sanctuary, … an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and … an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.” Leviticus 16:33.

A most solemn and sacred obligation rested upon the high priest in his efforts to cleanse the camp of Israel on this most sacred of all days.

Read Lesson 12

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NOTE: There is only one archangel, or chief angel, and His name is not Raphael, but Michael. In Jude 9 we read that He contended with the devil over the body of Moses. In I Thessalonians 4:16 we are told that it is “the Lord Himself” who has the voice of the Archangel, and in Daniel 10:23 the angel Gabriel mentions “Michael your Prince.” Michael it was who in the beginning fought with Satan and his angels. Revelation 12:7. Christ Himself will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16. Michael is Christ. [return to text]
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