I. The great day of national humiliation, and the only one commanded in the Mosaic law. [Fasts] The mode of its observance is described in Levi 16, and the conduct of the people is emphatically enjoined in (Leviticus 23:26-32)
II. Time: It was kept on the tenth day of Tisri, that is, from the evening of the ninth to the evening of the tenth of that month, five days before the feast of tabernacles. Tisri corresponds to our September-October, so that the 10th of Tisri would be about the first of October. [Festivals]
III. How observed: It was kept by the people as a high solemn sabbath. On this occasion only the high priest was permitted to enter into the holy of holies. Having bathed his person and dressed himself entirely in the holy white linen garments, he brought forward a young bullock for a sin offering, purchased at his own cost, on account of himself and his family, and two young goats for a sin offering, with a ram for a burnt offering, which were paid for out of the public treasury, on account of the people. He then presented the two goats before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle and cast lots upon them. On one lot "For Jehovah " was inscribed, and on the other "For Azazel." A phrase of unusual difficulty. The best modern scholars agree that it designates the personal being to whom the goat was sent, probably Satan. This goat was called the scapegoat. After various sacrifices and ceremonies the goat upon which the lot "For Jehovah" had fallen was slain and the high priest sprinkled its blood before the mercy-seat in the same manner as he had done that of the bullock. Going out from the holy of holies he purified the holy place, sprinkling some of the blood of both the victims on the altar of incense. At this time no one besides the high priest was suffered to be present in the holy place. The purification of the holy of holies and of the holy place being thus completed, the high priest laid his hands upon the head of the goat on which the lot "For Azazel" had fallen and confessed over it all the sins of the people, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The goat was then led, by a man chosen for the purpose, into the wilderness, into "a land not inhabited," and was there let loose. The high priest after this returned into the holy place bathed himself again, put on his usual garments of office, and offered the two rams as burnt offerings, one for himself and one for the people.
IV. Significance. In considering the I. meaning of the particular rites of the day, three points appear to be of a very distinctive character.
The white garments of the high priest.
His entrance into the holy of holies.
The scapegoat. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 9:7-25) teaches us to apply the first two particulars. The high priest himself, with his person cleansed and dressed in white garments, was the best outward type which a living man could present in his own person of that pure and holy One who was to purify his people and to cleanse them from their sins. But respecting the meaning of the scapegoat we have no such light to guide us, and the subject is one of great doubt and difficulty. It has been generally considered that it was dismissed to signify the carrying away of the sins of the people, as it were, out of the sight of Jehovah, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. If we keep in view that the two goats are spoken of as parts of one and the same sin offering, we shall not have much difficulty in seeing that they form together but one symbolical expression; the slain goat setting forth the act of sacrifice, in giving up its own life for others "to Jehovah;" and the goat which carried off its load of sin "for complete removal" signifying the cleansing influence of faith in that sacrifice.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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