The Day of Atonement
(Picking up in the midst of the chapter)
Peculiar Rituals in the Old Testament
Leviticus 16:1–34 describes the rituals that took place on the very first Day of Atonement. In summary, on this day, Aaron (Moses’ brother and the first high priest) was to perform various offerings that were meant to make atonement for the people of Israel. Before we discuss the Atonement rituals, a brief description of the Tabernacle is beneficial.
The Tabernacle, which was originally a portable structure, was the place where the Israelites would bring their sacrifices for sin or praise. They approached God through the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle had many elements to it. There was a campsite designated for each of the twelve tribes of Israel outside of the edifice. The Tabernacle itself stood inside an enclosure or courtyard approximately 150 feet long by 75 feet wide. Anyone could go inside the courtyard but only the priest could go inside the Tabernacle. Within the Tabernacle was an inner room called the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter this inner room and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. There was only one entrance to the courtyard, just as there is only one path to God, through Jesus Christ.
As one entered the courtyard, the first object in view was the brass altar. This altar was about seven and one half feet square by four and one half feet high. This was where the ordinary person would make his offerings as “an aroma pleasing to the LORD” (Lev. 1:9). The next object inside the courtyard was the bronze basin, with its bronze stand for washing. Aaron and his sons were consecrated, or set apart, as priests when they washed their entire bodies at the entrance to the tent of meeting (Exod. 29:4–9). One had to wash before he came into the Tabernacle. Christians need to make every attempt to be cleansed of sin as well. Sin hinders our relationship with God.
(Chapter 7 is a description of the Day of Atonement, the Old Testament observance, te New Testmament significance and the prophetic implications.)