This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Leviticus 16 - The Day of Atonement (Part 1)

"1 And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died; 2 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat." — Leviticus 16:1, 2 KJV.


This chapter contains the most solemn and significant ordinance found in the entire Levitical code, in the opinion not only of the modern Jews, but of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The great scheme of symbol worship culminated on the day of atonement. It was celebrated in the latter part of the month of September, and it seems to have been a sort of condensation of all the sacrifices of previous months, and to be an atoning or purifying of the tabernacle, the altar, the priests, and the people. Although the main part of the Mosaic ritual was sacrificial, as the guilt of sin was perpetually calling for new acts of purification, yet on this one day the idea of atonement rose to its highest expression in one grand comprehensive series of actions. This solemn service affords the most exact representation of the perfect atonement of Christ which can be found in all the Levitical ritual. See Hebrews 9. It also sets forth sanctification through the blood of sprinkling as the second grand element of salvation. How far the people understood and profited by the spiritual lessons of this day we know not. But ceremonially their sins were all pardoned. After stating the occasion of the institution, (verses 1, 2,) the chapter is divided into three parts: An outline of the whole ceremonial, (3-10,) a detailed description of certain rites, (11-28,) and general rules respecting the day of atonement. Verses 29-34.


1. After the death of the two sons of Aaron —
This judgment of Jehovah is recorded in chap. 10, on which occasion the important safeguards respecting the high priest’s entrance into the most holy place were given. Why this record does not immediately follow chap. x, its natural place, is unknown.

2. Come not at all times — Many of the ancient pagan shrines were inaccessible, and hence they were called adytum and abaton, “not to be approached.” This seclusion of the idol within the penetralia of the temple was requisite in order to preserve the veneration of the people, through the operation of that law of the human mind by which the mysterious is clothed by the imagination with extraordinary qualities. But no such reason is the ground of this prohibition. Jehovah’s majesty needs no imaginary splendours. The old covenant says, “Obey and live, disobey and die;” the new one says, “Believe and be saved, believe not and be damned.” Both covenants are essentially the same, inasmuch as faith is the root of obedience, and unbelief and disobedience are in the New Testament expressed by the same word — ἀπείθεια. In the cloud — Not the cloud of incense required to soften the insufferable splendours of the shekinah, but the shekinah itself. Hence the Targum of Jonathan, “The glory of my shekinah shall be revealed.” A resplendence beamed forth from between the cherubim; but to make the vision supportable to mortal eyes God hid himself while revealing himself. The cloud is the same as that mentioned in Exodus xl, which appeared over the mercy seat whenever the high priest came before it. The rabbins postulate a cloud continually hanging over the cherubim. Luther, on the contrary, says that “over the propitiatory and cherubim there was nothing located which might be seen, but by faith only was God believed to be seated there.” In the Scriptures the manifested glory of the Son of Man, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, is often associated with a cloud. Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:7. The mercy seat — We are required by the truth to say that this expression, so poetical and so consolatory to the God-fearing soul, is not a literal translation of the original Hebrew, כַּפֹּֽרֶת (capporeth), the cover of the ark, in which were enshrined the tables of the law. This cover was underneath the luminous cloud, and hence was the footstool or throne of Jehovah, as the sanctuary in which it was placed is called “the place for thee to dwell in.” Exodus 15:17. The כַּפֹּֽרֶת was a massive gold plate equal to the ark in length and breadth, at either end of which was a solid golden cherub. We find no scripture to sustain Ewald’s assertion that the ark had a cover distinct from this plate, yet it is usually mentioned separately. Exodus 25:17. The word כַּפֹּֽרֶת may be derived from the Piel form of the verb כּפר (caphar), to cover, in which form it signifies to make atonement; it is very doubtful whether the noun ever signifies an instrument of propitiation (propitiatorium, Vulgate, ἱλαστηρίου, the Seventy) in the Pentateuch. Yet it is more probable that in later Hebrew, as in 1 Chronicles 28:11, it acquired the additional meaning of an atonement for sin. This relieves the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews of the imputation made by Furst, that he adopted a gloss in Hebrews 9:5. In Hebrews 4:16 the כַּפֹּֽרֶת is very beautifully styled “the throne of grace,” to which we may come, not with trembling and overwhelming awe, as did the high priest, but “boldly.”

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