The Scapegoat of Leviticus Sixteen -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 115:460 (Oct 1958)
Article: The Scapegoat of Leviticus Sixteen
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg

The Scapegoat of Leviticus Sixteen

Charles Lee Feinberg


[Charles L. Feinberg is Director of Talbot Theological Seminary, Los Angeles, California.]

It is admitted on all hands that Leviticus 16 is one of the mountain peaks of the Scriptures. With striking clarity and force the ceremonies and ordinances of the Day of Atonement are depicted by Moses. Delitzsch has well called the Day of Atonement the Good Friday of the Old Testament. No more significant truths could possibly engage the mind of the believer than those set forth in this chapter of Leviticus (C. H. Mackintosh, Notes on Leviticus, pp. 277-302). Mackintosh says: “We must rank the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus amongst the most precious and important sections of inspiration…” (ibid., p. 277). The Day of Atonement was the most important in the Mosaic system, because on that day the removal of sin was given its highest expression. The situation can best be explained thus. In Israel many sins were committed wilfully and unwittingly. For the first kind there was no sacrifice possible (Ps 51:16); for the second type trespass and sin offerings were specified according to the nature of the offense, when the sinner was aware of his sin. However, when the sinner remained unaware of his guilt, no offering was brought and those sins remained in a sense unaccounted for. If this condition were to be unrelieved, the sacrificial system would fall short of its ultimate purpose. To meet this pressing and everpresent need in Israel the Lord instituted the Day of Atonement with its impressive ritual (cf. Keil and Delitzsch, The Pentateuch in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, II, 394–95). Kellogg has stated with clarity: “In it the sacrificial law of Moses attains its supreme expression;

the holiness and the grace alike of Israel’s God, their fullest revelation. For the like of the great day of atonement, we look in vain in any other people. If every sacrifice pointed to Christ, this most luminously of all. What the fifty-third of Isaiah is to his Messianic prophecies, that, we may truly say, is the sixteenth of Leviticus to the whole system of Mosaic types,—the most consummate flower of the Messianic symbolism. All the sin-offerings pointed to Christ, the great High Priest and Victim of the future; but this…with a distinctness found in no other” (S. H. Kellogg, The Book of Leviticus, p. 272).

At the heart of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement was the ritual of the sin offering of the two goats. This ceremony, which is described with such fulness, is never mentioned again in t...

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