The Old Covenant Type:
Yom Kippur (annual Day of Atonement Feast Day in Israel) was the most solemn day of the year for the people of Israel. It was often simply referred to as “The Day.” It was a day that atonement was made for the priest and his family, the community, the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting, and the altar. It was a solemn day. The Day of Atonement also was known as the “Great Fast” or “The Day of the Fast.”
Yom Kippur was designated by Yahweh as a day in which “You shall afflict your souls.” By definition, this was understood to mean: “fasting.” Yom Kippur was not the only fast within Judaism, but was the only fast mandated by Scripture. The Israelite who failed to devote himself to fasting and repenting on Yom Kippur was to be “cut off from his people” (Lev. 23:29) Yom Kippur was also a day with prohibitions against all forms of work. Those who likewise chose to ignore this regulation would suffer the death penalty (Lev. 23:30).
Yom Kippur was also a very solemn day for the priesthood of Israel. Only on that singular day of the year was the high priest permitted to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple and stand before the presence of Yahweh’s glory. We see the service for Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16:
- “Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the LORD and died. The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. “Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for 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 girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on.” (Leviticus 16:1-4. NASB)
The high priest was required to wear holy garments woven from white linen instead of his normal colorful garments overlaid with the golden breastplate. His linen garments were worn only on that day and never again.
It was absolutely critical to the nation that their high priest not become ritualistically unclean and, thereby, disqualify himself from performing his Yom Kippur duties. To safeguard against this possibility, the priest was required to leave his home one week before Yom Kippur to stay in the priest’s headquarters in the Temple area. During the week, the high priest was twice sprinkled with the ashes of a red heifer to circumvent the possibility that he had become unclean through touching a dead body. Such was the normal cleansing process for ceremonial defilement (Numbers 19:1-10).
The afternoon Temple service was the main focus of the Yom Kippur observance. Through the sacrifices of this service, atonement was made for the sins of the priesthood and people of Israel for the preceding year.
The high priest began the afternoon service by moving to the Court of the Priests, where a young bull awaited him between the altar and the Temple porch. Since this bull was the sin offering for the high priest and the priesthood, the ceremony took place near the Temple where the priests ministered. The high priest would press his two hands against the head of the young bull, as a sign of identification with it as his substitute, and make a confession of his sin. Three times during his confession, he would pronounce the covenant name of the Lord (YAHWEH).
The high priest was next escorted by two priests to the eastern side of the altar. On his right was the deputy high priest (the priest appointed to take his place in case he became unable to fulfill his duties). On his left, he was escorted by the chief priest of the division of priests chosen to minister that week. In all, the priesthood was divided into 24 courses of priests, with each course serving one week on a rotating 24-week schedule (1 Chr. 24:7-19).
Two goats stood there, side by side, awaiting the high priest. They were identical in size, color, and value. They faced the Temple and gazed at the high priest and his entourage as they approached:
- “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 and the other lot for the scapegoat. “Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. “But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.” (Leviticus 16:7-10. NASB)
Two golden lots were placed inside a golden vessel sitting on the stone pavement nearby. One was inscribed with “FOR YAHWEH,” and the other with “FOR AZAZEL” (the scapegoat). The high priest shook the vessel and randomly took one lot in each hand. As he held the lots to the foreheads of the goats and determined the outcome, he declared them “a sin offering to the Lord.” The two goats together were viewed as one singular offering.
The goat upon which the lot fell for “Azazel” was immediately identified by a crimson strip of wool tied to one of its horns. It was then turned around to face the people, whose sin would later be placed on its head.
The scapegoat was called the ‘azazel.’ This appears to be a contraction of two Hebrew words. ‘az, which is one of many Hebrew words for a goat and means: “to be strong,” and ‘azal, which means: “to cause to go away, or be removed.” So this word together means: “the goat that was removed or sent away.” Tindale, the 16th century translator of the Old Testament, was apparently responsible for translating this word first into the English escapegoat, which was later shortened to scapegoat.
The goat determined FOR YAHWEH was left to face the large stone altar; the place where it was shortly to be offered as a sin offering.
The New Covenant antitype (fulfillment):
Jesus Christ is our “SCAPEGOAT” for our sins. We can see the Messiah represented in both the goat who was slaughtered and its blood taken into the Most Holy of Holies (as Christ did upon His ascension when He entered into the heavenly Holy of Holies with His literal shed blood (Heb. 9:22-24). Yom Kippur typology), and as the goat who bore our transgressions upon Himself and lead into the wilderness. The idea of releasing the goat into the wilderness shows the removal of our sins; that God removed our sins by placing them on Messiah at the cross, then He descending into Hades/Sheol after His physical death and shedding His blood on the cross forever removing them from us and leaving them there in the wilderness, never to be remembered again (Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread Typology).
Christ completed the atonement for sin once for allwhen He ascended into the heavenly Holy of Holies in AD 30, and any and all faithful believers who put their faith in Him are forgiven of all sin (past, present, and future).
“11But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation . 12Not with the blood of goats and calves, but WITH HIS OWN BLOOD HE ENTERED THE MOST HOLY PLACE once for all, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION.” (Heb. 9:11-12).
“28so Christ was OFFERED ONCE TO BEAR THE SINS OF MANY. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear A SECOND TIME, apart from sin, FOR SALVATION.” (Heb. 9:28).
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”]