Podcast Episode

What Is the Day of Atonement?

At the center of the center of the Torah is the Day of Atonement. What is the significance of this day the biblical authors have placed at the heart of the Torah? What does this day accomplish? And what’s with the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore the Day of Atonement and the ultimate atonement accomplished by Jesus on the cross.

Episode 6
1hr 9m
Jul 4, 2022
Play Episode
Show Notes


When the author of Hebrews says it’s impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins, he’s not saying something new. What he’s saying is what is already the message of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is telling us that the animal sacrifices are just a symbolic gift of Yahweh of a down payment of something bigger that needs to happen, which is a blameless human that is to come and stand in the holy place and offer their life.


  • On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a goat on the lid of the atonement seat to cover over Israel’s ritual impurities (not having to do with sin), as well as their moral failings and sin. It’s as if this lid, the very place where God’s presence touches down on earth, is also the very place God himself has provided a substitute.
  • The goat’s blood sprinkled in the holy of holies makes atonement for Yahweh’s sacred space, not for the people.
  • During the Day of Atonement, Israel’s sins are placed upon a second goat. The goat doesn’t die––it’s sent away, carrying Israel’s “garbage” to a spiritual being only referred to as azazel. Azazel appears to be another name for the being referred to as Satan, the evil one, and the enemy throughout the story of the Bible.

Gatekeepers of Eden

In part one (00:00-20:20), Tim and Jon review the storyline of Leviticus so far. God has given Israel the gift of a new Eden space, a new space where Heaven and Earth are one, in the tabernacle. Through the blood of animal sacrifices, Israel is able to draw near to Yahweh in his holiness. The tribe of Levi works as priests in the tabernacle, guarding the border between heaven and earth.

However, it takes hardly any time at all for the Levites to fail, too. Aaron’s sons rebel against Yahweh, and God takes their lives (Leviticus 10). Immediately after this, Yahweh gives Israel laws of purity and impurity to guide how they are to enter his presence (Leviticus 11-15). Impurity is not sin, but anything that would pollute God’s holy space.

At the center of the center of the Torah are instructions for the Day of Atonement, the way Israel would purify Yahweh’s tent and atone for their sins.

The Day of Atonement

In part two (20:20-37:53), Tim and Jon explore Leviticus 16, which describes the Day of Atonement, the one day every year the high priest could enter the holy of holies, where Yahweh resided. (Only the high priest was allowed to enter this space.)

When the high priest appears before the people, he wears elaborate regalia––robes and jewels––but when he enters the holy of holies he strips down to a far simpler linen tunic (Leviticus 16:4). He has to come more humbly before Yahweh. First, he makes an offering to atone for his own sins, and then he makes a separate offering to atone for the sins of Israel.

One of the high priest’s duties on the Day of Atonement is to cast lots for the fate of two goats. One would be sacrificed, and one would be sent out into the wilderness for azazel. Most of our modern English translations of the Bible translate this word as “scapegoat.” Many early Bible interpreters took azazel to be the name of a spiritual being who resided in the wilderness.

The high priest would sprinkle the blood of the other goat on the lid of the atonement seat to cover over Israel’s ritual impurities (not having to do with sin), as well as their moral failings and sin. It’s as if this lid, the very place where God’s presence touches down on earth, is also the very place God himself has provided a substitute.

What or Who is Azazel?

In part three (37:53-51:08), Tim and Jon explore the nature of the atonement accomplished with the Day of Atonement. The goat’s blood sprinkled in the holy of holies makes atonement for Yahweh’s sacred space, not for the people. The failings of the people have polluted Yahweh’s sacred space, and these offerings purify his space once more.

If Yahweh’s space isn’t purified, Israel’s sins will eventually pollute the holy of holies to such a degree that Yahweh will leave. His departure from Israel in the book of Ezekiel is depicted in this way.

The significance of the second goat sent to azazel is highly debated. The text seems to indicate that this goat is not a sacrifice, but part of an elimination ritual. The goat doesn’t die––it’s sent away, carrying Israel’s “garbage,” as the sins of the nation are placed upon it. And it’s sent to a spiritual being only referred to as azazel, not to appease this being, but rather as an insult to it. Israel’s spiritual refuse shows up on azazel’s doorstep. Azazel appears to be another name for the being referred to as Satan, the evil one, and the enemy throughout the story of the Bible.

How Does Jesus Fulfill the Day of Atonement?

In part four (51:08-01:08:30), Tim and Jon discuss how Jesus fulfills the Day of Atonement.

Jesus’ death is littered with language from Exodus and Leviticus. At the last supper he merges language from the Passover with language used in Leviticus to describe the blood of sacrificial animals poured out. Jesus shows himself as the fulfillment of the Passover and the Day of Atonement. In fact, Jesus fulfills the role of both goats in the Day of Atonement ritual. His blood atones for humanity and makes a way for God and humans to dwell together, like the goat offered in the holy of holies. Similar to the goat for azazel, Jesus suffered outside Jerusalem near a burial plot, like a display in the presence of azazel.

When the author of Hebrews says it’s impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins, this isn’t new information (Hebrews 10:4). Animal sacrifices were always seen as a temporary means to an end, satisfied in the sacrifice of Jesus and the ongoing, ultimate display of the Father’s love for humanity.

Referenced Resources

  • Sin, Impurity, Sacrifice, Atonement: The Priestly Conceptions, Jay Sklar
  • Cult and Character: Purification Offerings, Day of Atonement, and Theodicy, Roy Gane
  • Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here.
  • You can experience the literary themes and movements we’re tracing on the podcast in the BibleProject app, available for Android and iOS.

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • "Wanna Get Away with Me?" by Xihcsr
  • "Pockets" (Artist Unknown)
  • "Butterfly" by Swørn

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Tyler Bailey. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by MacKenzie Buxman and Ashlyn Heise.

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Scripture References
Genesis 3
Genesis 3:15
Isaiah 53
Matthew 4:1-11
Daniel 7
Genesis 3:24
Genesis 4:16
Isaiah 14:12
Romans 5:8
Exodus 32:30-32
Genesis 11:1
Leviticus 1-7
Leviticus 17:11
Leviticus 8-10
Leviticus 11-15
1 Peter 2:24
Luke 22:14-23
Leviticus 16
Exodus 12
Exodus 40
Genesis 22:1-19
Leviticus 10
Leviticus 8-9
Leviticus 17-27
Leviticus 9
Leviticus 8:15
Psalms 15
Leviticus 8
Leviticus 13-14
Leviticus 16:1
Leviticus 16:1-2
Exodus 13-14
Leviticus 16:4
Leviticus 16:5-10
Leviticus 16:8
Leviticus 16:14-16
Ezekiel 10
Leviticus 16:21-22
Matthew 6:13
Proverbs 16:33
Genesis 44:18-34
Hebrews 10:4
Hebrews 13:12-13
1 John 4:8-10
Mark 10:35-45

What Is the Day of Atonement? 

Series: Leviticus Scroll E6

Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie

Jon: We are at the center of Leviticus. If you've been following along, you've been reading the Torah with us, from Genesis to Numbers, the first five books of the Bible. And today, we happen to be at the center of the second movement of Leviticus, which is at the center of Leviticus, which is the center of the Torah.

Tim: This chapter is in the section that's at the center of the center of the center of the Torah. So we know we're close to the heartbeat [00:00:30] of the message of the Torah when we enter into the tent on the Day of Atonement.

Jon: This chapter is not in the middle by chance. The Day of Atonement is something to pay attention to. It is the solution to a problem that we have encountered many times, that God wants to work with humans to bless and rule the world, but we're not up to the task. In fact, in this section, God has chosen priests, set them apart to act on behalf of Israel, who he sets apart to act on behalf of all [00:01:00] humanity. And what do these priests do? They bring death right into the center of the tabernacle.

Tim: When death has been introduced into the very heart of the tent, which is the source of all life, we need to deal with the problem there, not just out there in the camp. We need to deal with the pollution that's taking place in the tent. And that's what the Day of Atonement is all about.

Jon: The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur happens one time a year. The high priest first makes a sacrifice for his own sins, and then casts slots for the fate of two goats. One goat [00:01:30] symbolically receives the sin of Israel and then sent away into the wilderness. The second goat is sacrificed in the tabernacle and its blood, its life, its blameless life is brought into the holy of holies and it's sprinkled on the cover of the ark of the covenant, the throne of God himself. And the cover of the ark is called the atonement lid.

Tim: And so the moral failings are compensated for and the effects of our moral failings are reversed [00:02:00] by the blood of the substitute put on the atonement lid, it's as if this lid, the place where God's presence touches down, is the place where God has provided the substitute.

Jon: The Day of Atonement happens every year, year after year. It was never thought of as a permanent, lasting atonement, but it was designed to stir in Israel the expectation of something even greater.

Tim: When the author of Hebrews says it's impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins, [00:02:30] he's not saying something new. What he's saying is what is already the message of the Hebrew Bible, because the Hebrew Bible is telling you that the animal sacrifices are just a symbolic gift of Yahweh, of a down payment of something bigger that needs to happen, which is of a blameless human who would come and stand in the holy place, not for their life.

Jon: I'm Jon Collins. This is BibleProject podcast. Today, Tim Mackie and I meditate on the heart of the Torah, the yearly ritual [00:03:00] called The Day of Atonement. Thanks for joining us. Here we go. Hey, Tim.

Tim: Hey, Jon.

Jon: Here we are in the scroll of Leviticus. It is an intimidating book.

Tim: Yeah. It's the book of the Bible in which many people trying to read through the Bible just give up.

Jon: Just go, "Enough is enough."

Tim: Yeah. And it's understandable.

Jon: [00:03:30] One example of that is what we talked about last week.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Which was chapters, five chapters ...

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: ... of ancient purity law code, about things you can touch and not touch. It makes you pure, impure.

Tim: Bodily fluids, skin diseases, it's all very strange.

Jon: It's like, who cares? This is weird. I thought this book was supposed to help me understand what it means to be a good person and, like, go to heaven one day.

Tim: Yeah, sure.

Jon: [00:04:00] And here I am reading ancient purity laws.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: The reason we were reading ancient purity laws is because right in the center of the Book of Leviticus, we just came off of a story where ... Man, where do you start these conversations?

Tim: I know. Yeah, here, a mega, mega start.

Jon: We're gonna go all the way back.

Tim: God made a good world. He installed humans as his partners in ruling the world. Through folly and ignorance, they forfeit that opportunity, introducing death [00:04:30] into the world that spread so intensely that God has to set in motion a plan to both purify his world from all the death and violence and bloodshed that humans spread on it, and but then also, to carry forward the plan to partner with humans. So he keeps choosing smaller and smaller groups of humans to be his partners. And at this point in the biblical story, he's chosen one family, the people of Israel, and then within that family, one family of priestly [00:05:00] representatives to be these representative humans, a new Adam and Eve so to speak, on behalf of everybody else. And the space that they are to do that in is a lot like the garden of Eden. In fact, it is described and looks very similar to the garden of Eden from the beginning of the story. That's how Leviticus fits in.

Jon: You're referring to the tabernacle.

Tim: I'm referring to the sacred tent that is the tabernacle. That's right.

Jon: And all the rituals around the tabernacle are what the book of Leviticus are about.

Tim: [00:05:30] That's right.

Jon: In what way do you interact with this space that set apart to allow you to be close to God and in partnership with God? Or the word we would use, or the Bible uses, is to be holy?

Tim: To be holy, yeah. God has staked an outpost of Eden and God's presence and holiness in the middle of the desert among the people of Israel. And now that these people is hosting that divine Eden presence, and this one group within Israel [00:06:00] is the steward of the boundary between that space and the rest of Israel, how are they to live and behave? So one thing God gives them is the gift of being able to come right up to his presence, to approach God with sacrifices and offerings, which are called the coming near things. That's what Leviticus 1 through 7 is about. And then, when God gives Israel the gift of a priesthood, representatives who will live and work in that place, there's a seven-day ordination ritual and [00:06:30] these Israelites are re-created to be priests who will serve in the space. And on the eighth day, that is their first day on the job ...

Jon: First day on the job.

Tim: ... the two sons of Aaron decide to try and usurp their dad's authority and rewrite the liturgy by doing what's good in their own eyes.

Jon: They replay the fall. Not obeying God's commands, taking the knowledge of good and bad on their own terms. We've seen it now unfold in the biblical narrative over and over. It just leads to [00:07:00] violence.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: And shame and ...

Tim: Death.

Jon: ... death.

Tim: Yeah. In this case, the two sons were rebelliously rewriting the liturgy inside the tent.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And so, because of their severe, not just negligence, but willful rebellion, God deals with them severely and takes their lives. And that results in dead bodies inside the tent. So God tells their dad, Aaron, hey, Aaron, [00:07:30] here's why this happened, and Aaron is silent because he knows that God's right. Or at least he believes that God is right. And then, God tells Aaron, okay, no more drinking on the job so that you can have a sober mind to discern between what is holy and what is common, between what is pure and impure.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And that's how that story ended. With a crisis in the tent. And so, Israel and the priests are to be a people who live in every aspect of their being [00:08:00] out the story, that even in their own bodies retells the biblical story, that we are outside Eden, that we're dying. We're in a state of impurity. We come into contact with, we have brushes with death and substances. And here we get into the section of the book, which outlines all of these ways that Israelites could become ritually impure. That was the last conversation. So this is chapters 11 through 15. And these are the main ways that Israelites can become [00:08:30] ritually impure. So just to summarize, it's not bad to be ritually impure.

Jon: There wasn't a moral failure.

Tim: You didn't break a command. It's temporary. There's a way to move out of a state of ritual impurity. But the thing that is precarious about being in a state of ritual impurity is that you are not allowed to walk into the presence of the source of all life in the tent, or the courtyard of the tent. You have to stay away. So you become ritually impure by touching dead bodies, [00:09:00] by touching certain animals, by having a skin disease or touching mold or fungus, or coming into contact with bodily reproductive fluids.

Jon: And if you want to hear more about that, that's what we talked about ...

Tim: Previous conversation.

Jon: ... previous conversation.

Tim: But those were taboo substances that, in their cultural imagination, were identified with death.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And to be in contact with death puts you in a state of temporary impurity, because you could [00:09:30] pollute or bring death into the presence of God if you were to come into the temple. And that doesn't put God at danger. What it does is pollute or vandalize the holy space with the scent of death. It's like bringing in the scent of death, so to speak.

Jon: And we're being told all this as Torah, as instruction.

Tim: Wisdom instruction for later generations of Israel who are reading the whole collection of the, the Hebrew Bible.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Correct. So, it teaches us that God wants [00:10:00] to and has staked an outpost of pure life and goodness here in the middle of our world outside Eden.

Jon: And it's precarious.

Tim: But it's precarious for us.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: So learning how to honor the holiness and purity and goodness of the author of all life means recognizing when I've been in contact with death, and living in a state of temporary distance from God's holy space, not because I did something wrong, but as a Torah, as instruction, it begins to shape [00:10:30] me into somebody who comes to love the life-giving presence of Yahweh, and wanting every part of my life and my diet to just be in the presence of the author of my life.

Jon: And it's taking the opportunities, the normal situations that you're gonna be in when you have the birth of a child, or when you have to bury a loved one or when you come in contact with disease.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Mark those moments as, in a way, sacred, saying this is a big deal.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: This [00:11:00] is signifying the frailty of my condition. It's not good.

Tim: Correct. And so that's why being ritually impure and coming into contact with death or these signs of death is not in itself morally wrong, but it is a reminder that I'm outside of Eden.

Jon: Something is wrong.

Tim: Something is wrong in the world because we're all dying.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And why are we dying? We're dying because none of us have yet been able to live up to our true potential as images of God. And we [00:11:30] live in a world, that back in our family story, these early stories of Genesis, you know, our ancestors all the way back have forfeited the opportunity to take hold of life that is truly life that's given to us by God. And so ritual impurity reminds me that I'm not in Kansas anymore. (laughs) We're not in Eden. And so, it is, in that way, associated with sin and the failure to live by God's commands [00:12:00] and wisdom. So this all leads up to a need to resolve this crisis.

Jon: The crisis being?

Tim: Okay, so this is what's interesting. So this is how the center of Leviticus is shaped. You had that narrative about Aaron and his sons.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: That was chapters 8 through 10. Then, you get God saying, hey, to Aaron, don't drink on the job. Your sons—

Jon: And now, here's my purity laws.

Tim: Here's the purity laws that are given to you, the reader.

Jon: Not for the priests, but for everyone.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, for everybody. I mean, the priests will, you know, enact these rituals, [00:12:30] but it's just interesting, you get the story about rebellion that introduces death and impurity into the tent, then you get this block of laws about ritual impurity and the ways to resolve it.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And the ways to resolve it, we didn't so much focus on this in the last conversation, so ...

Jon: That's right.

Tim: ... we'll do it now.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Every one of them is resolved by a period of waiting, usually by a multiple of seven.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Then it's resolved by going through the waters, washing. And then by offering of a chatat sacrifice, which is [00:13:00] the Hebrew word for purification offering. It's usually translated sin offering in our modern translations. And that is where an animal is offered as a blameless representative substitute before God. And its blood, which is its life, this is our conversation all the way back to ...

Jon: Yeah. Here's another, like, ancient ritual to upload.

Tim: Yeah, totally. The blood represents its life, and its life gets sprinkled on the altar. Sometimes, it gets sprinkled on me [00:13:30] as a way of saying this animal's life is now covering me, and its life is conquering the death and impurity that I was in contact with and making me now pure to be able to go into the presence of God.

Jon: Which is a meditation on I need something outside of myself to atone for me.

Tim: That's right. This is where the imagery of being washed in the blood comes from.

Jon: You're talking about, like, the hymns that some Christians sing?

Tim: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, in a lot of Christian worship [00:14:00] songs of poetry, which is a strange ...

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: ... almost nonsensical when you first hear it. Because you're like, getting rinsed with blood would make me dirty. (laughs)

Jon: Yeah, what's the song? There is power, power.

Tim: Wonderworking power.

Jon: In the blood.

Tim: In the blood of the Lamb.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. So that imagery comes from Leviticus chapters 13 and 14. People are cleansed by being sprinkled with blood of a blameless substitute. So [00:14:30] all of that begins to shape your life into a story of cycles.

Jon: And sorry, I always go here, and I'm so sorry, but there's nothing, like, magical about the goat blood.

Tim: Oh, totally. Actually, here, wait on it.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Because this will all lead up to the Day of Atonement, which is what we're gonna talk about for the rest of this conversation.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: But all those cycles of touching death, waiting in a period where I recognize my mortality, then I'm washed, [00:15:00] then I'm covered, cleansed by the blood of a blameless substitute so that I can reenter into God's presence. These are all cycles in the book of Leviticus that are building up, building up, building up to a great act of cleansing that needs to take place. Not just for individuals, but for the whole tent. And so here we come to Leviticus chapter 16. And just check out how the chapter begins. So Leviticus 16.

Jon: So we just finished the purity [00:15:30] laws.

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: They come to a close.

Tim: That's right. And what they taught me was God has provided a way to make the impure person restored to a place of purity so they can live in his presence. It's through the sprinkling of the blood so that the life of a blameless substitute can cover over and wash away the impurity. So that's happened multiple times now in Leviticus 11 through 15. And then, we start with Leviticus chapter 16. It says, now, Yahweh spoke [00:16:00] to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of Yahweh and died. That's the introduction to Leviticus chapter 16, which is the description of the Day of Atonement. In other words, we're still in the eighth day. This is still the same day.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: In terms of the narrative—

Jon: You could have taken out all those purity laws and this would have been a seamless—

Tim: This would be the next thing.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: So, if you're thinking about it in literary terms, the seventh [00:16:30] day inauguration of the priesthood in chapters 8 and 9, the eighth day, their first day on the job, this Leviticus 9, the rebellion of Aaron's sons on the eighth day of Leviticus 10, and then all the speeches about the purity laws are happening on the eighth day. The narrative hasn't shifted time or place.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Then, Leviticus 16 comes along and links back and says, yeah, all that stuff about purity, impurity, and even what's about to be said right now is a response to that [00:17:00] rebellion. And what did happen on the eighth day? Oh, yeah, rebellion, the introduction of death into Yahweh's living room. So the Day of Atonement is revealed to Aaron and Moses on the day that death was introduced into the tent.

This is similar to how in the garden of Eden, even his act of severity of exiling them and telling them, you're gonna live outside Eden, you're gonna die now, is laced with mercy and a promise, of the snake-crushing [00:17:30] seed of the woman. So here, his words to Moses and Aaron on the day of the rebellion of Aaron's sons is laced with a promise.

Jon: You're talking about when Adam and Eve, when he comes to tell them, like, death has come?

Tim: Yeah. This is Genesis chapter 3.

Jon: Genesis chapter 3.

Tim: Yeah, yeah. You just authored your own deaths.

Jon: You're now slaves to the earth. Like, this is bad.

Tim: Yes.

Jon: Right in there, God also promises that a seed of the woman, meaning a future child ...

Tim: A child, yeah.

Jon: ... [00:18:00] will be someone who will crush the snake. And the snake is the one that caused Adam and Eve ...

Tim: Yes.

Jon: ... to corrupt.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: And so God promises a solution. And it's gonna be a human who's gonna crush the snake.

Tim: Yeah, undo what the snake has done.

Jon: And while crushing the snake, being bit by the snake.

Tim: Being bit, yeah. The victory and rescue will happen through one who also dies, yeah. And that's a little riddle [00:18:30] that begins to be unpacked in every cycle of the melody through, as you go throughout the rest of the Hebrew Bible. And we're looking at another one right here. The failure of the two sons of Aaron in the Eden tent, introducing death into the tent, is now linked to all these laws about the spreading of impurity through the camp. But God wants to provide for it by washing and purifying through the blood of a blameless substitute. [00:19:00] And that all leads up to Leviticus 16, which is now gonna be not just about how individual Israelites can be restored from impurity to a place of purity in life, but how the tent itself and all of Israel, when death has been introduced into the very heart of the tent, which is the source of all life, we need to deal with the problem there.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Not just, like, with your average Israelite out there in the camp.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: We need to deal with the pollution that's taking place in the tent. [00:19:30] And that's what the Day of Atonement is all about. This chapter is in the section that's at the center of the center of the center of the Torah. So we know we're close to the heartbeat of the message of the Torah when we enter in to the tent on the Day of Atonement. This chapter is super, super important. So, we're gonna take some time to go through it, shall we?

Jon: Let's do it.

Tim: [00:20:00] Okay. We've already read the first sentence, but I'll just read it again. Leviticus 16. “Now Yahweh spoke to Moses after the death [00:20:30] of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the Lord and died.” So, in other words, within the narrative, the guidelines about a Day of Atonement are being revealed to Moses on the eighth day of the inauguration of the tent, the day that everything went terribly wrong. So the actual Day of Atonement will fit into another slot in Israel's religious calendar. But I guess the first one will be about six months from this day in terms of narrative time.

Jon: Because it's [00:21:00] an actual day of the year.

Tim: Yeah. In the seventh month, on the 10th day of the month.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Yeah. Whereas right now, we are on still in the earlier part of the year. That was about five or six months away. Anyway. “The Lord said to Moses, speak to your brother Aaron so that he won't enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil before the atonement lid, which is on the ark, or he will die.”

Jon: Oh, so now the high priest might [00:21:30] die.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: By even going in.

Tim: Yeah. And why would he die? Because I will appear in the cloud over the atonement lid.

Jon: And we talked about this atonement lid thing.

Tim: Yeah. Back in the tabernacle furniture conversation.

Jon: Yes. (laughs) Yeah. It's the only piece of furniture we really talked about. I think we—

Tim: We talked about the table for the bread and the menorah ...

Jon: Okay.

Tim: ... and, uh ...

Jon: You're right, we did.

Tim: ... the altar.

Jon: We just went into a lot of detail.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. So, the cloud and the glory [00:22:00] fire appeared, first, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into wilderness. It protected them at the passing of the Red Sea, moved up over the mountain, then it moved down over the tent where Moses couldn't go in. Then they got the guidelines about all the offerings. Then it appeared on the eighth day, when they inaugurated the tent, which is this day. This is that day. And now what we hear is that dangerous, good presence of [00:22:30] Yahweh is gonna be both a gift and a threat to Israel, and specifically, to their high priest in the holy of holies. So that the most holy place, the holy of holies, is not somewhere he can go except one day a year. But the point here is he can't just go in anytime he wants.

Jon: Is this a new development? Like before you kind of assumed he could?

Tim: Yeah, it wasn't made clear. Like, how often would somebody go in there?

Jon: We do know that only the high priest goes in there.

Tim: Only the high priest goes in there.

Jon: And now we know ...

Tim: [00:23:00] Yep.

Jon: ... even for the high priest this is treacherous.

Tim: That's right. So, he can't just go in at any old time. So the rest of the chapter is going to talk about the one time per year that he can go in.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So we begin mentioning the death of this guy's two sons because of how they went in. And now, here we are talking about their dad the high priest. So this is all being brought back into connection to that story. Okay. This is how Aaron will enter the holy place. [00:23:30] One, with a bowl for a purification offering. Second, with a ram for an ascension or going up offering.

Jon: And your translation is probably gonna say sin offering.

Tim: Correct.

Jon: You call it a purification offering.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: We talked about that in the offerings.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: Sin offering's a translation of a word that doesn't mean sin, right?

Tim: Yeah, it's, it's spelled with the same Hebrew root letters as the word “sin.”

Jon: Okay.

Tim: But when it's put into a certain verb form, for [00:24:00] Hebrew nerds, it's the Piel, the meaning of that verbal form is to purify from sin.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So it's a purification from sin offering. 

Jon: And that's what you use it for. Use it, sprinkle the blood to purify ...

Tim: Correct.

Jon: ... space.

Tim: That's right, yeah.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: So this is all standard stuff that you know already if you've been tracking with Leviticus so far. So you expect him to bring in a purification offering.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: You expect him to come with an ascension offering.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Next, he's gonna put on a holy linen tunic. He's gonna take off his standard gear.

Jon: [00:24:30] Oh, so it's a different gear.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Oh.

Tim: He's just gonna wear a very simple, thin white linen tunic and thin light, white linen underwear. So none of the fancy stuff.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: The crown, it goes off. Breastplate. It's really interesting.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: This is where he goes in to the most holy place.

Jon: Right.

Tim: You expect him to have it on. Most interpreters through history see this as the one day that he does go directly before Yahweh, he goes in [00:25:00] in a humble state. The rest of the time, when he's out more visible to people outside, he would look like a god, an image of God. But when he goes in before Yahweh, he goes in in a humble state. Interesting.

So before he goes in, he shall go through the waters, bathe his body, then put on the clothes. Now, here's the unique thing about this day. So after the waters, he takes from all the Israelites two goats for a purification offering [00:25:30] and another ram for an ascension offering.

Jon: And we've already done these two offerings.

Tim: The first animals were for himself and his household.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So the first bull and the ram are just for himself and his household.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Then these, he gets from Israelites, and these are for the whole community.

Jon: Okay. Yeah.

Tim: So he's gonna take the two goats and present them before Yahweh at the tent of meeting, and he's gonna get out dice. Dice. He shall cast lots for the two goats.

Jon: That's dice?

Tim: [00:26:00] Ancient dice, yeah. Some sort of little ... I mean, they're not described in great detail, but the goal overall—

Jon: It's a randomizer.

Tim: Yeah. The lot, usually they're called casting lots, but it's rolling ancient dice. And the dice will determine the fate of these goats. One lot will assign the goat for Yahweh. The other lot will assign the goat for Azazel. (laughs)

Jon: Who's this?

Tim: Azazel. It's a wonderful question, Jon. [00:26:30] So let me just show you Leviticus 16:8.

Jon: Sounds like a different god.

Tim: Leviticus 16:8. All of our English translations ... No, not all. Wonderful. NIV translates the word “azazel” as for the scapegoat. One lot for Yahweh, the other lot for the scapegoat. And even that English phrasing is a little bit odd. For the scapegoat?

Jon: Yeah. Instead of "as [00:27:00] the scapegoat."

Tim: Yeah. It makes you sound like this goat is being sent for some other ...

Jon: In behalf of.

Tim: ... for some other thing ...

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: ... named the scapegoat. And actually, that oddity is the problem at the heart of the NIV interpretation here. Um, the New American Standard also translates to scapegoat. So does King James. But the ESV transliterates the word “Azazel” with a capital A.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: One lot for Yahweh, one lot for Azazel.

Jon: [00:27:30] Like it's a name of something.

Tim: Yeah. And the NRSV does that as well. Why did they do that? Well, so notice the parallelism of verse 8. It's almost like a poetic line. “Aaron will cast lots for two goats, one lot for Yahweh, the other lot for Azazel.” So the sentence structure leads you to think that each lot will designate each goat for someone. The first lot is for someone. And then the way the Hebrew is phrased, [00:28:00] for Azazel, puts it in a parallel as if it's a name or a title of some kind. And then we'll just keep reading. “Then Aaron will offer the goat on which is the lot for Yahweh fell and make it a purification offering, and the goat on which the lot for Azazel fell shall be presented alive before Yahweh to make atonement for it to send it to Azazel into the wilderness.”

So, there's two ways this has been [00:28:30] translated throughout history. Two main ways. There is ample evidence that the earliest interpreters of Leviticus understood this as the name of a spiritual being. So I'm just looking here at the Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Kohler and Baumgartner, and their first kind of main entry here is a demon of the wilderness.

Lots of scholarly history do that. [00:29:00] The etymology, like what's the Hebrew root for the name, is they say uncertain, however, there has been an explanation offered by a Semitic scholar, Nicholas Wyatt. He thinks it derives from two roots. One is the word “azaz” in Hebrew, which means strong, and the other one is “el,” which means spiritual being. Powerful spiritual being, Azazel, who resides in the wilderness. The scapegoat interpretation, you [00:29:30] really have to do some legwork here. This is also an ancient interpretation. Actually, it gets really complicated and into Semitic philology, nerdiness stuff. But there are some people who think it's related to an Arabic cognate word, “lazala,” which means to remove and that it's a shorthand, a goat for removal. I'm compelled by the parallelism multiple times that these are both names or titles for the one to whom it is sent.

[00:30:00] So here's the next thing that is interesting. These two goats are unique. This is like a unique ritual that only happens on this day. So none of the other offerings involve anything like what's happening with these two goats. The second thing is the two goats are presented together as a singular offering. And there's no other offering that's quite like this.

So it makes clear what's true for all the others that they are symbolic rituals. [00:30:30] They tell a story. So you have to ask yourself, what story would be told by a singular offering made up of two animals, one of whom gives its life as a blameless substitute and is killed, and its life is brought in before Yahweh. And we're familiar with that from the other offerings. But then this other one doesn't die immediately, at least. It remains alive.

Jon: You haven't told the story of what happens to these goats.

Tim: Yeah, [00:31:00] totally. So let us do that. So first, the goat that is for Yahweh, he shall slaughter the goat of the purification offering that's for the people, and he will bring its blood inside the veil.

Jon: Inside the holy place.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: The holy of holies.

Tim: And this is it. This is like the time that he goes in once a year. He will do with its blood as he did with the blood of a bull, he will sprinkle it right on the atonement lid. On the mercy seat. And he shall make atonement for [00:31:30] the holy place because of the impurities of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins. So he will do this for the tent of meeting that dwells in the middle of them, in the middle of their impurities. So right here in verse 16, and this is kind of an easy way to remember it because it's chapter 16. 16:16 tells you the meaning. We're gonna link together the last many episodes of conversations here, [00:32:00] but this is a culminating moment in the book so far.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So tell me what you see here, or I can play tour guide. (laughs)

Jon: All right. Well, to catch up, we've got two goats.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: We're leaving aside this mystery of Azazel. But we'll come back to it.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Two goats. One is going to be an atonement—

Tim: Purification offering.

Jon: Purification offering.

Tim: That's right, yeah.

Jon: And we know from that purification offering the lifeblood is taken from the animal, and the [00:32:30] animal gave its life, even though it didn't deserve it because it didn't have blemish. So it's this idea of something without the moral failings that you had. Even though its blemishes weren't about moral failings.

Tim: They were a symbol of them, yeah.

Jon: They were a symbol of them.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Is dying on, on your behalf. The blood is drained out. The life is in the blood. There's some sort of life power still in that blood. The priest sprinkles it on objects and on the space. And it's ... [00:33:00] It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around, but it's this idea of our corruption, our moral failings isn't just something that screws with me and my relationship with maybe God, or with others, it actually screws up with the whole environment. There's this kind of pollution.

Tim: It's kind of a vandalism—

Jon: Vandalism is the metaphor you've been using.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: And that the lifeblood is this ritual kind of cleansing [00:33:30] to kind of clear the air, clean the slate, wash it clean.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: And so this is what's happening here.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: And, but also because of the transgressions in regard to their sins. Okay, so the sins creating the impurity that needs to be atoned for.

Tim: Yeah. There's two reasons given here in Leviticus 16:16. Making atonement, one, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel. So [00:34:00] this is like, this is the stuff that doesn't have to do with moral failings.

Jon: Impurities just means like being impure, what we just talked about.

Tim: Being ritually impure. And it's as if those ritual impurities of skin disease and of touching dead bodies, and of leaking reproductive fluids, and these are all symbols, fluids and substances, that are associated with death or the loss of life. It's as if the tent in the [00:34:30] middle of the camp is depicted as surrounded by a chaotic sea of encroaching death by dying people who live around the tent.

And those are constantly breaking at the shore, as it were, and spattering up little bits of impurity over the tent curtains and, like, slowly vandalizing. So that's one image.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So, that needs to be dealt with. And then the second reason given is because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins, their moral impurities.

Jon: And that's [00:35:00] also polluting?

Tim: It's also polluting.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: And so the singular act of atonement, it's dealing with both. And this is ... We're back to our conversation many episodes ago. The atonement is used in two ways. And a Hebrew Bible scholar here that I've learned the most from is Jay Sklar. His book, Impurity and Sin and Atonement in Ancient Israel, that's not the precise title, but we'll put a link in the show notes to this book. The atonement is used in two ways related to the two main meanings [00:35:30] of its root word. One is to provide a ransom. When you wrong someone, you owe them. And so, when we wrong each other, we wrong God. That's core to this idea. And so we owe God for wronging each other. And so, a blameless life being offered, unfairly, to give its life for my sins, is a ransom.

But then also, another metaphorical kind of scheme is that my sins [00:36:00] and impurities pollute the divine presence, like that encroaching waves of ickiness. And so that blood can overpower the forces of death by standing in my place as a blameless substitute, where life, a blameless life can cover over death and sin. Both stories are being told right here in Leviticus 16:16. And this goat, which is only one half of the Day of Atonement offering, the one that goes into the holy place by the priest [00:36:30] does that.

Jon: But the emphasis is on the pollution and the vandalism.

Tim: Yeah, I have to separate them to make sense of them. But the idea is, our signs of mortality, our impurities, which are not morally wrong, but they are signs that we're dying creatures. And then also, my moral failures, and death and moral failure is linked closely together in the biblical story, because the only reason we're all outside of Eden is because of humanity's moral failings. And so, [00:37:00] the moral failings are compensated for and the effects of our moral failings are reversed by the blood of the substitute put on the atonement lid. It's as if this lid, which is the place where God's presence touches down, is the place where God has provided the substitute.

[00:37:30] I'm not saying any of this makes deep, intuitive sense, but I'm saying it's a symbolic [00:38:00] ritual language that I've had to work a long time ...

Jon: Right.

Tim: ... to learn what it's saying. But I think once you sympathetically can enter into the symbols, you can see at least the story that it's telling.

Jon: And the atonement that's happening is atonement for the space, it's not atonement for the person.

Tim: Yeah. The blood is not being sprinkled on the people.

Jon: Right.

Tim: The blood is being sprinkled here because it's Yahweh's dwelling place that has been polluted.

Jon: Because that's another confusing thing is when I think of atonement, I think of a [00:38:30] ransom on behalf of a person.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: But there's this biblical concept of a place needs to have atonement.

Tim: And there are offerings, purification offerings, that people make for individuals and their own sins are atoned for. These are atonements for the corporate, all of the people throughout the course of the year, all the unconfessed sin, all the things that have never been dealt with.

Jon: So it is atoning the people in a way?

Tim: It is, but what it's providing atonement for is the effects [00:39:00] of their sins by polluting the sacred space in their midst. The other way this works is if this ritual is not upheld, and Israel's sins splash over the bounds of the tent and, you know, fill up the holy place, Yahweh will leave. That's how the Babylonian exile is presented in the book of Ezekiel. As the idolatry and injustice of Israel become so heinous, so unaccounted for, that Yahweh packs up and leaves. Which [00:39:30] is death. Because once the source of life leaves town, Babylon is just free to come, pluck Israel and Jerusalem for the taking.

Jon: But the classic sense of atonement, which is I have a debt obligation that needs to be paid so that I can be right with God and others.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: That is different than the one we're talking about.

Tim: Well, the Day of Atonement is for all the people.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: [00:40:00] And it's about how the collective sins of all the individuals in Israel represent an offensive act of pollution of Yahweh's living room. And if we want Yahweh to still be here, we need to approach God through this ritual. So it does compensate and atone for my sins, but it does so by being taken into the holy space and dealing with the [00:40:30] effects of my sin there.

Jon: Because I thought, in a previous conversation, you made a point of saying the sins are actually put on the scapegoat.

Tim: Oh, oh, oh, got it. So remember this, the purification offering, singular, is happening through two animals. So we're getting one aspect of it right here.

Jon: Oh, so this is summarizing both animals.

Tim: This is summarizing the one animal that was for Yahweh and that was slaughtered and brought into the tent.

Jon: Didn't you say that the scapegoat, which is the one that was for [00:41:00] Azazel—

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: That's the one that the priest puts—

Tim: And confesses sins over.

Jon: Confesses his sins over.

Tim: Yeah. This one does not carry the sins of Israel.

Jon: That's what I'm trying to get at.

Tim: Ah, I see, I see. No, no. This one represents a blameless life. Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Psalm 15, only the blameless one who does what is right and just. So this animal unfairly dies for the sins of the non-blameless and carries in its [00:41:30] life to cover over the effects of Israel's sins that have polluted the most holy place. That's the symbolism here.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So, it would be a contradiction in terms for it to bring the sins of Israel into the most holy place. What this, this animal is doing is erasing the effects of those sins ...

Jon: Okay.

Tim: ... through its blameless life.

Jon: All right.

Tim: What we also hear is nobody else should be in the tent when he brings in that goat. Just one representative human and Yahweh. [00:42:00] Okay, down to verse 20. So then he comes out. And when he finishes atoning for the holy place, and for the tent of meeting, and for the altar, because he actually sprinkles blood on all those. This is cool. So, where he goes is he takes the blood of that goat and he goes into the most holy place, which is going to the most westward point. The door is always facing east, toward the sunrise. So you go in through the door that brings you into the courtyard. You go pass the altar. You go in the east door to the holy [00:42:30] place. You go in the east door. So you're constantly going west. But what happens is he takes the blood in, and then he starts a journey from the western holy spot to go east.

Jon: To sprinkle the blood.

Tim: Yeah. And he's sprinkling at each key point on his eastward exile from the holy place. For sure, Adam and Eve are exiled at the east side of the garden.

Cain is exiled east of Eden. The Babylonians go east. So it's [00:43:00] as if the high priest is following the eastward exile of humanity from the early chapters of Genesis, sprinkling blood at every exile along the way. So then he comes out, and he comes to that goat that's alive. And he puts the two hands, and he presses them down on the head of that goat that's alive. And he confesses over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, all their transgressions and all their sins. Those are the three bad words.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: [00:43:30] We made a video series about each one of them. There's a variety of ways of describing human failure. Then he will place them on the head of the goat. Now, there's good symbolic language for you. Put the sin on the goat. (laughs)

Jon: Yeah, somehow.

Tim: Somehow. Then what he does is send it into the wilderness by the hand of a man of my time. A man of the time, a man of appointing ... That's a whole rabbit hole. We don't have time to go down.

Jon: Okay. [00:44:00] Someone, but someone will set him up.

Tim: And that goat will carry upon itself the iniquities of Israel to a land that is cut off. And he will send the goat into the wilderness.

Jon: The sins are exiled.

Tim: Yeah. So the holy of holies represents like the Eden tree of life center. And the one goat goes in there. The blameless goat goes in there. The living goat goes out into the wilderness, [00:44:30] to a cut-off land, the opposite end of the cosmos, in the biblical imagination. And what's interesting is Azazel is not brought up there.

Jon: Noticing that.

Tim: Here it's just called the realm of being cut off in the wilderness. Which is the opposite of God. So scholars call this the elimination ritual. And I learned a lot about this from reading lots of scholars. One particularly illuminating account [00:45:00] for this ritual was a scholar named Roy Gane in his book Cult and Character. It's a whole book about purification offerings in the Day of Atonement (laughs) and the problem of evil in the Hebrew Bible. So I'm just gonna talk through this kind of extended quote, but this was hugely illuminating for me. And he says, "No part of this goat, the living goat, is offered to Yahweh. This is not a sacrifice. It's an elimination ritual. The biblical prescription does not call for the [00:45:30] death of this goat, it is simply sent away as a ritual garbage truck, carrying controlled toxic waste to Azazel." Now, Azazel's precise nature is elusive. The common understanding of Azazel as a scapegoat, referring to the goat itself, is ruled out by the fact that the animal is sent to Azazel.

Jon: Right.

Tim: You could even sniff that out.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: In reading the NIV.

Jon: Right.

Tim: Yeah. So obviously, the goat [00:46:00] could not be sent to the scapegoat. The reason for the lot ritual before Yahweh is that he must decide the role of the goats through what appears to be chance. Through the lot ceremonies, the goats are designated as belonging to Yahweh and Azazel respectively, each being a party capable of ownership. The fact that Yahweh is a supernatural being could be taken to imply that Azazel is the same. But the [00:46:30] animal is not an offering to Azazel. Rather, the live goat transports Israelite failures to Azazel, who ends up having to take this noxious load. The ritual is an unfriendly gesture to Azazel.

Jon: You know what it makes me think of?

Tim: (laughs) Yeah, go ahead.

Jon: Do you know that prank where you take poop and put it in a paper bag? And then light it on fire and then leave it on someone's doorstep and [00:47:00] ring the doorbell?

Tim: Oh, wow. Never.

Jon: (laughs) I think I've seen it in a movie or something.

Tim: Okay. Yeah, yeah.

Jon: [inaudible 00:47:07] of that prank.

Tim: Wow.

Jon: It kind of feels like that.

Tim: Well, okay, here, let me finish. It kind of is like that, but it's also different.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: But Roy Gane, we'll continue because this is great. He said, "It's more like sending someone a load of chemical or nuclear waste."

Jon: (laughs) Yeah.

Tim: “Because it's Yahweh who commands the priests to perform the ritual, it appears that Azazel is his enemy. [00:47:30] It's likely, therefore, that Azazel is some kind of spiritual being, that his presence in the desert regions is the extreme opposite of God's holy presence in the holy of holies. However, the nature of Azazel's personality is not revealed in Leviticus, likely to avoid the danger that some might be tempted to honor him.” So this is more like the snake. It's a name for the snake. If the mosaic of the messianic deliver in Hebrew Bible is truly [00:48:00] a mosaic, they're a second Adam, they're like a king from the line of Judah, they're like the high priests, they're like the prophet like Moses, right? And the Hebrew Bible gives you all these characters to create a mosaic. And the same is true for the mysterious one Jesus called the evil one.

Jon: Yeah. Lucifer.

Tim: Aha, that is one name in the Latin translation edition.

Jon: In the Latin edition.

Tim: But the biblical images are the slanderer, the snake.

Jon: The slanderer is where we get Satan, [00:48:30] right? Or is that something else?

Tim: Um, the Satan, or the Satan, is the one who is opposed.

Jon: The opposed.

Tim: The opponent, yeah.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So Azazel, which, very possibly, is a Hebrew compound word meaning powerful spiritual being.

Jon: The morningstar?

Tim: Yeah, is an image from Isaiah 14. So but here, it's, the idea of Azazel is an image of a spiritual being, the nonexistent one. I mean, the one who exists [00:49:00] but in a state of chaos and darkness. And so, that evil one is the architect behind why we're all outside of Eden. So once a year, we send him a load of BS in a paper bag on fire. Right?

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And we send it out, like, send it back where it came from.

Jon: Ring the doorbell.

Tim: It's the elimination ritual. It's so illuminating. And both goats together, remember, are a singular purification offering.

Jon: How do you get that both goats are a singular—

Tim: [00:49:30] When he said ... Back when he said take two special goats ...

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: ... for a singular purification offering.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: And uniquely, this ritual, the purification happens through two goats ...

Jon: Right.

Tim: ... selected by lots, by Yahweh, right? A man may cast lots, but the decision comes from Yahweh, at the proverb. I don't remember what chapter it's in. So one is the blameless one who goes in and gives its life for sinful people and its blameless life [00:50:00] ransoms them from death, and also purifies the pollution of their iniquities. And then the other goat represents Yahweh's desire to do away with the effects of sin and evil once and for all by sending the load of waste back to the one who brought it into the world in the first place. This is the core of the Day of Atonement. It's remarkable.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: I mean, think, think [00:50:30] of the scene.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: When that goat is being led out, everybody's watching.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: It's a pretty profound moment.

Jon: Yes.

Tim: It'd be cool to re-create that cinematically in a way that could get viewers ...

Jon: That captures the mood.

Tim: ... sympathetically into the scene.

Jon: Yeah. [00:51:00] So can we talk about Jesus?

Tim: (laughs) Always. I'm always down to talk about Jesus.

Jon: So Jesus is talked about in terms of being an atoning sacrifice.

Tim: He talked about his own coming death as an atoning sacrifice, yes.

Jon: Yeah. [00:51:30] And when he does that, he means in probably both senses of purifying the land and also a ransom for our debt obligations?

Tim: Yeah. Yeah. What's interesting about Jesus is he is bringing together all of the mosaic tiles of depicting God's victory over the evil one and his dealing with the consequences of human sin and he's merged them all together. [00:52:00] So important passages here for Jesus are Mark 10:45, where, after two disciples come and say, “Hey, Jesus, you know, when you're enthroned as the king of the universe, could we sit at your right and left hands?” And Jesus says, “You have no idea what you're asking for. Are you gonna be able to be baptized, go through the waters that I'm gonna have to go through?” That's suggestive of—

Jon: Purification?

Tim: Purification, yeah. [00:52:30] “You know, the kings of our world,” he says, “love to become lords over people. They love to have authority.”

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: “But nah, here in this crew, the one who is great becomes the servant. Whoever wants to be first must become the servant of all, for even the son of Adam, son of humanity, didn't come to be served, but to become a servant, and to give his life as a lutron, [00:53:00] ransom for many.”

Jon: Atonement?

Tim: Yeah. A sacrificed atonement that ransoms someone from death, yeah.

Jon: The word “atonement” is not used.

Tim: No, it's the word “redemption.” Yeah, it's to purchase someone from a state of slavery leading on to death, yeah. But the point is here, he is activating the Son of, Daniel 7, the Son of Man. He's activating the suffering servant of Isaiah with this language. And he's activating [00:53:30] the Exodus narrative of redemption from death through the death of the Passover lamb.

Jon: Oh, yeah, because there's that image too.

Tim: Yep, there's that. That's Mark 10:45. Other key passages, I'll just ... I could go to any of the last supper narratives, but Jesus chooses Passover. I'll go to Luke 22's account of the last supper. But Jesus chooses the weekend of Passover to time his showdown with the powers in Jerusalem. In Luke's account, he says [00:54:00] I've desired to eat this Passover with you before I come. When he takes the bread, he says, “this is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, he took the cup and he said, this cup, which is poured out for you all, is the new covenant in my blood.”

Jon: Poured out versus sprinkled. That's interesting.

Tim: Yeah. Because remember, the blood would get taken from an animal, purification offering. It would get taken in to the holy of holies, sprinkled [00:54:30] and sprinkled in the holy place and then sprinkled on the altar. And then what's left in the bowl gets poured out at the base of the altar.

Jon: Ah, okay.

Tim: Yeah. So here, Jesus is merging together imagery from the purification offerings happening in the tabernacle.

Jon: The cup of the new covenant as the blood poured out.

Tim: Blood poured out. And the purification offerings that happen throughout the year culminate in this one great purification that is the Day of Atonement.

Jon: The Day of Atonement.

Tim: But he's doing this on ...

Jon: On [00:55:00] Passover.

Tim: … Passover.

Jon: Which is a different type of substitute.

Tim: A different narrative, but both had to do with the sins of Israel and the sins of the empires of this world lead to slavery and evil and death. And so Yahweh's gonna bring a great flood of justice over the land. But for anyone who wants to be covered by God's mercy, he provides a blameless substitute. That's the Passover lamb. But that's also essentially what the Day [00:55:30] of Atonement is about. He's brought Israel out into the wilderness, a land of danger and death. And he's provided a way for them to be washed of their sins and impurities. But man, if they don't deal with them, they're gonna pollute Yahweh's presence and he'll leave, which will leave them to die in the wilderness.

And so, the Day of Atonement goats become another way of looking into the mystery of what Passover is, become another way of looking into [00:56:00] the mystery of when Judah lays down his life for his brother Benjamin, become another way of meditating on the substitute ram that God puts in the place of Isaac on Mount Moriah, that become a way of meditating on the snake-crushing seed of the woman who both crushes the head of the snake, but also was struck by the snake at the same time. The Hebrew Bible is a huge mosaic. So all these narratives and, here, ritual [00:56:30] symbols to help us become wise about what's wrong with us and what's wrong with the world and what is God doing about it, what has God done about it. And Jesus, just in a very few little words, brings all of these narrative images together in a really provocative way. And the last supper is an important place for that.

Jon: What Christians like to say is that these sacrifices were pointing to or trying to enact [00:57:00] is what Jesus actually accomplished.

Tim: Yeah, yep. That's right.

Jon: That he's actually doing something that all of the symbolism was connecting to kind of the hope and power of.

Tim: Yeah. So here, an important distinction needs to be made between the actual historical activities happening in and around the tent, the tabernacle, and the Hebrew Bible's representation of all of that. Because the Hebrew Bible gives us a literary representation of [00:57:30] the Day of Atonement and the Passover but included within the collection of scrolls that have all of these other stories in it. And one scroll in the Hebrew Bible is Isaiah, which tells you what Israel and humanity really need is a person who will ascend to the high place and offer their life as blameless sacrifice. In other words, Leviticus is alongside Isaiah is alongside Genesis.

So when the author of Hebrews says it's impossible for the blood [00:58:00] of animals to take away sins, he's not saying something new. What he's saying is what is already the message of the Hebrew Bible. Because the Hebrew Bible is telling you that the animal sacrifices are just a symbolic gift of Yahweh, of a down payment of something bigger that needs to happen, which is of a blameless human who would come and stand in the holy place, not for their life. And that's what Moses's story is about. Does that make sense?

Jon: [00:58:30] So Jesus saw himself as, as the, the blameless goat whose blood is purifying. Now, there's this sense of the goat who bears the sins and is cast out. Does Jesus identify with that goat?

Tim: It seems like the Gospel out there want to associate Jesus with both goats. One, by being the blameless offer. But then, there's the emphasis that Jesus's death is happening outside the [00:59:00] city, near a burial plot, grave area, outside the city gate.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And so, the one place in the New Testament this is really exploited is in the letter to the Hebrews, where he says, “therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside the gate. So let us go out to him outside the camp, bearing his shame.” The purification [00:59:30] offering animals, their remains were taken outside the camp to a dumping site. So it could be that he's referring to that. He could also be referring to the goat that is exiled outside of the camp as well.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: You could join him.

Jon: Well, because there's 1 Peter 2.

Tim: Oh, yeah.

Jon: Jesus himself bore our sins in his body.

Tim: Yep.

Jon: That makes me think of like the ordination of the scapegoat. It was like taking the sins.

Tim: [01:00:00] Yeah, yeah. Bearing the sins.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Yep, yeah. What verse is that? Two?

Jon: Uh, 24.

Tim: There it is. Yeah, 2 verse 24. Yeah, he links Jesus to a sacrificial animal that carries our sins. And there's only one animal that's said to carry the sins of Israel, and that's the goat for Azazel.

Jon: Yeah, the scapegoat.

Tim: Yeah. So that is a good example. That little line comes from Leviticus 16. But [01:00:30] he's refracted that language through the way that's all summarized in Isaiah 53, which he's also quoting from right here. And then in the next line, where he says—

Jon: By his wounds you've been healed.

Tim: By his wounds we've been healed. So, he's reading the Day of Atonement through the poem about the suffering servant. That's what we're seeing Peter's mind is so saturated. That he thinks about the Day of Atonement through the prism, (laughs) through the looking glass of Isaiah 53. [01:01:00] He sees them as deeply connected.

Jon: Where did Isaiah get the idea that the suffering servant would bear the sins?

Tim: Yeah, yeah. I think from the Day of Atonement. And from the narratives about Moses, giving his life for the sins of the people and, and so on. So, yeah, this is the chapter that resolves the crisis at the center of the center of the center of the Torah. And the fact that it needs to happen every year also tells us that [01:01:30] it's like a stopgap. This is not new creation.

Jon: It doesn't settle it.

Tim: We haven't restored humanity back to Eden.

Jon: We're still enacting something.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. What God has given is a way for Torah, instruction, and a way for his people to understand who they are, what they need, what God wants to give them. This is what the ritual instructions of Leviticus are all about. Yeah.

Jon: I am shocked this is the first time I've [01:02:00] heard of Azazel.

Tim: Oh, yeah?

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. I was bothered too when I learned about Azazel.

Jon: I don't feel bothered, but I feel kind of shocked.

Tim: Yeah. It's right there in the ESV and the NRSV.

Jon: Yeah, I don't read those translations, I guess. Well, I don't really read Leviticus.

Tim: You don't really read Leviticus? Yeah, totally, yeah. Yeah, I hear that. No, it's, yeah, the evil one. Where did Jesus go to meet the evil one? He went to the wilderness.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: And then he met the evil one, who was [01:02:30] trying to convince Jesus not to give up his life but to take a shortcut to power.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Yeah, man, this, yeah. It's as if the Bible really is a unified collection, telling a core meta-story that Jesus claimed he was bringing to its fulfillment. It's remarkable.

Jon: Also, as a concluding note, when we were talking about the offerings before, you showed there was a sentence, and this was in the first movement, [01:03:00] I think, where God says, he's—

Tim: I have given them to you?

Jon: I'm giving them to you.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: This isn't like an obligation we owe to God to try to appease him but was a gift that God was giving to us.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: To know we can be in a right standing and to embrace this right standing.

Tim: Yeah. It's actually in the chapter right after the Day of Atonement.

Jon: Oh.

Tim: It's in Leviticus 17, where God says, “The life of flesh is in the blood, and [01:03:30] I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves.” God is presented as the initiator and the giver of the blameless life that will ransom from death and purify from the effects of sin.

Jon: God is giving the life of the blood to us.

Tim: Yeah. Life of a blameless one.

Jon: Of a blameless one.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: As a gift.

Tim: Yep. That is clearly how Jesus saw it, which is why [01:04:00] he presented himself as the gift of God, as God's gift to a failed Israel and a failed humanity. Which is, I think, why, you know, the apostles, and the apostle John among them, or whoever penned the letters of John, and whichever apostle you think it is, the one that abandoned him in Gethsemane or the one John the elder who stuck around with Jesus's mom by the cross. But either way, John's takeaway from having seen [01:04:30] Jesus die is the most simple, profound statement in the New Testament, "God is love." “And he demonstrated his love for us in this while we were ...” Well, actually, I'm merging now with Romans 5. While we are still sinners the Messiah died for us. God is ... The atonement is a revelation of the love of God, for Jesus and for the apostles. And I think, here in Leviticus too, it just takes a little more work for us to get there. [01:05:00] Well, so where do we go from here?

Jon: Where do we go? Well, we have one more movement of Leviticus to do.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, we do.

Jon: So that's the end of the second movement of Leviticus.

Tim: That's right, yep.

Jon: It started with the priests being inaugurated.

Tim: Yes.

Jon: And then failing. And then all these purity laws. And then the Day of Atonement.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. Remember, the failure of priests on day one created defilement and death in the middle of the tent.

Jon: Now, we're dealing with that. We're dealing with the central problem.

Tim: And there was a long aside [01:05:30] about all the ways impurity can creep into the life of God's people, and about how God wants to wash Israel clean and provide a gift of atonement for their impurities, leading up to the Day of Atonement when that space defiled by the rebellious priests, itself gets purified along with all of the camp of Israel. Where we're gonna go next is how should a group of people who have received the gift of God's love through the sacrifices of atonement, how should they live? [01:06:00] How should they respond to a people that has been, not just delivered from slavery, but then also delivered from the effects of their own failings? How should they live? What are the rhythms of life and standards of morality and ethics that God called them to? And that's what this last section is about. What we're gonna focus on is the theme that may not, at first blush, seem relevant to that, which is this theme of the seventh day rest [01:06:30] in Leviticus 17 to 27, but it is all connected ...

Jon: Okay.

Tim: ... in a powerful way. But for the moment, let us meditate on the love of God in the center of Leviticus.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. Next week, we're diving into the third and final movement of Leviticus, where we'll be exploring the theme of Sabbath.

Tim: You could just summarize it this way: God has come to dwell among his people. The tent has been purified by the Day [01:07:00] of Atonement. It's a reset. And the sins that have polluted Israel and polluted the tent are exiled in the form of a goat that's sent out of the camp. All that accomplishes is that God can live among his people. But what's the purpose of God living among his people? So that they can be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Jon: Today's show is produced by Cooper Peltz, edited by Dan Gummel and Tyler Bailey. Our show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Ashlyn Heise and MacKenzie Buxman have provided the annotations for [01:07:30] our annotated podcast in our app. BibleProject is a crowdfunded nonprofit. We exist to experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. Everything that we make is free because of the generous support of thousands of people just like you. So thank you for being a part of this with us.

Jerry: Hi, this is Jerry.

Malachi: And Malachi.

Jerry: And we're from San Antonio, Texas.

Malachi: We first heard about the BibleProject through friends at our church.

Jerry: And we use the BibleProject for gaining a deeper understanding of the Scripture that we read every day.

Malachi: Our favorite thing [01:08:00] about the BibleProject is how approachable it is for people of all ages and walks of life.

Jerry: We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.

Malachi: And we're a crowdfunded project by people like us.

Jerry: Find free videos, study notes, podcast, classes and more at bibleproject.com.

10 Episodes

Episode 10
What Does Leviticus Teach Us About Jesus?
How do you clean a tabernacle? What does “laying of hands” represent? Is the scapegoat a hyperlink to Cain and Abel? How was it even possible for Israelites to follow the law? In this episode, Tim and Jon respond to your questions about the Leviticus scroll. Thanks to our audience for your insightful questions!
59m • Oct 12, 2022
Episode 9
The Law of the Blasphemer
Blasphemy, principles of restitution, jubilee, exile, and the mercy and justice of God—it’s all there in the final lines of the scroll of Leviticus. Join Tim and Jon as they talk about the great gift and responsibility of carrying Yahweh’s name and discuss the wisdom and surprising hope of the Law that’s finally fulfilled in Jesus.
1hr 9m • Jul 25, 2022
Episode 8
What Israel's Feasts Teach Us
Are there specific times humans can meet with God in special ways? For ancient Israel, the answer was yes. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they explore the final movement of Leviticus, talk about the Sabbaths and festivals ancient Israelites celebrated every year, and discuss the significance of rituals and liturgies that allow us to see our time as a significant part of God’s story.
1hr 1m • Jul 18, 2022
Episode 7
Why Is the Sabbath So Important?
Throughout the Leviticus scroll, Yahweh instructs Israel, “Be holy as I am holy.” But what does that actually mean? As we enter into the third and final movement of Leviticus, we’ll find that living holy lives had everything to do with how Israel treated others and utilized their time, a theme reinforced by the continual command to honor the Sabbath. Join Jon and Tim as they explore the wisdom we can find in these ancient laws.
1hr 9m • Jul 11, 2022
Episode 6
What Is the Day of Atonement?
At the center of the center of the Torah is the Day of Atonement. What is the significance of this day the biblical authors have placed at the heart of the Torah? What does this day accomplish? And what’s with the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore the Day of Atonement and the ultimate atonement accomplished by Jesus on the cross.
1hr 9m • Jul 4, 2022
Episode 5
Purity and Impurity in Leviticus
Childbirth, non-kosher food, sex, death, disease—they’re all considered impure in the book of Leviticus. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they discuss the levitical laws of purity and impurity and how they create a way for humanity to share in God’s own life and form a surprisingly beautiful backdrop for Jesus’ miraculous healings.
1hr 6m • Jun 27, 2022
Episode 4
The Dangerous Gift of God’s Presence
In the second movement of Leviticus, Aaron and his sons agree to the terms of their covenant with Yahweh, signing up to be the gatekeepers of Heaven and Earth. But then Aaron’s sons offer unholy fire before Yahweh—and then they die. What’s going on here? A seven-day ceremony of consecration and celebration ends with everything going terribly wrong. Join Tim and Jon as they kick off the second movement of Leviticus, discussing the theme of holiness and a very difficult part of the story.
1hr 4m • Jun 20, 2022
Episode 3
What Did the Burnt Offerings Really Mean?
What is the significance of the offerings described in Leviticus? In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they walk through the five offerings ancient Israelites made to Yahweh and see how the purpose of these practices sound a lot like the teachings of Jesus. Even here in Leviticus, Yahweh’s hope for his people is the same: love God and love your neighbor.
53m • Jun 13, 2022
Episode 2
What Is Atonement?
A God who wants nothing more than to dwell with humanity, a way forward to a repaired relationship between Heaven and Earth, atoning sacrifices meant to communicate grace (not punishment)—you’ll find all of this in Leviticus. While the laws governing Israel’s sacrificial system can be some of the most challenging parts of the Bible to read, they’re an integral part of the unfolding story of the Bible. In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss the surprising beauty of sacrifice and atonement in the opening movement of Leviticus.
1hr 14m • Jun 6, 2022
Episode 1
How God Reveals Himself in Leviticus
"Holiness" is a word we frequently associate with the Bible, but what does it mean? As we pick up the story from where we left off in Exodus, we find even Moses unable to enter God’s presence—and a whole bunch of laws about situations many of us have never considered. What is going on in the scroll of Leviticus? And why is it important? In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they dive into the first movement of the Leviticus scroll, where we’ll trace the theme of sacrifice.
1hr 5m • May 30, 2022
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