Let’s look at some of the Jewish traditions in regards to the scapegoat in the ceremonies of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). According to the Mishna (the earliest rabbinic interpretation of the biblical commandment) the high priest divided a thread of crimson wool, tied one half to the Temple door, and the other half to the horn of the scapegoat itself. They say that the scarlet thread on the Temple door would turn white which was to indicate that their sins were forgiven.
The Talmud records four ominous events that took place every year for the forty years before the Temple’s destruction, which would be from the time that Messiah died: 1) The lot for Yahweh’s goat would always come up in the left hand. They thought it was a good sign if it came up in the right hand. 2) The scarlet thread on the Temple door stopped turning white. 3) The Western most light on the Temple Menorah would not stay lit. 4) The Temple doors would open by themselves.
We read in the Jerusalem Talmud: “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, “The Yerushalmi,” p.156-157).
A similar passage in the Babylonian Talmud states:
“Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves” (Soncino version, “Yoma” 39b).
Since both Talmuds recount the same information, this indicates the knowledge of these events was accepted by the widespread Jewish community.
The first of these miracles concerns a random choosing of the ”lot” which was cast on the Day of Atonement. The lot chosen determined which of two goats would be “for the Lord” and which goat would be the “’Azazel” or ”scapegoat.” During the two hundred years before AD 30, when the high priest picked one of two stones, and each year the priest would select a black stone as often as a white stone. But for forty years in a row, beginning in AD 30, the high priest always picked the black stone! The odds against this happening are astronomical, over one trillion to one!
The lot for Azazel, the black stone, contrary to all the laws of chance, came up 40 times in a row from AD 30 to AD 70! This was considered a dire event and signified something had fundamentally changed in this Yom Kippur ritual.
The second miracle concerns the crimson strip or cloth tied to the Azazel goat. A portion of this red cloth was also removed from the goat and tied to the Temple door. Each year the red cloth on the Temple door turned white as if to signify the atonement of another Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Lord.
This annual event happened until AD 30 when the cloth then remained crimson each year until the time of the Temple’s destruction. This undoubtedly caused much stir and consternation among the Jews. This traditional practice is linked to Israel confessing its sins and ceremonially placing this nation’s sin upon the Azazel goat. The sin was then removed by this goat’s death. Sin was represented by the red color of the cloth. But the cloth remained crimson à that is, Israel’s sins were not being pardoned and ”made white.” As God told Israel through Isaiah the prophet:
- “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB)
The clear indication is that the whole community had lost Yahweh’s attention in relation to something that occurred in AD 30. The yearly atonement achieved through the typical Yom Kippur observance was not being realized as expected. Atonement apparently was now to be gained in some other way.
The next miracle, which the Jewish authorities acknowledged, was that the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord. This too occurred for forty years, beginning in AD 30. These doors were 70 feet high and 50 feet wide. They were made of cedar. The Jerusalem Talmud states:
“Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, “Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars.’” (Zechariah 11:1) (“Sota” 6:3).
The fourth miracle was that the most important lamp of the seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out, and would not shine. Every night for 40 years (over 12,500 nights in a row) the main lamp of the Temple lamp stand went out of its own accord à no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against this event!
It should be clear to any reasonable mind that there is no natural way to explain all these four signs connected with the year AD 30. The only possible explanation has to be supernatural.
What did the Jewish nation do in AD 30 to merit such a change at Yom Kippur? On the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice the Messiah, Jesus, was cut off from Israel, Himself put to death as a sacrifice for sin. Atonement was now no longer achieved through the two goats as offered at Yom Kippur. Like an innocent Passover lamb, the Messiah was put to death.
Matthew 27:28: They stripped Him and put a scarlet (red) robe on Him. Here we see the lamb that takes away the sins of the world, with a scarlet robe. The type of the scapegoat is replaced by the antitype of Jesus.
Unlike Temple sacrifices or the Yom Kippur events where sin is only covered over for a time, the Messianic sacrifice comes with the promise of forgiveness of sins through grace given by God to those who trust in Jesus as Messiah to propitiate (satisfy the wrath and judgment owing, and to remove by being paid. Rom. 3:22-25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). This is a onetime event for each person’s lifetime and not a continual series of annual observances and animal sacrifices. The mechanism providing forgiveness of sin changed in AD 30.
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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)”]