Leviticus 16: The Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16

Leviticus chapter 16 is all about The Day of Atonement. It outlines the priests’ responsibilities as well as the expectations for the people. The Israelites were taught that this day was one on which they should “afflict themselves”.

Leviticus 16
Image courtesy of Canva.com

Leviticus 16 – the big points

1) The High Priest could only go into the Holy Place at God’s invitation and at a specific time.

2) Coming into God’s presence requires a change of garments. We have to put off our self-pride and put on humility.

3) When atonement was complete the priest emerged from the tabernacle in glory (the glory that came from God).

4) The Day of Atonement was repeated yearly showing that the sacrifices of man were unable to purify.

5) It all points to Christ. Christ the Perfect Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Christ the Perfect High Priest.

Praise the Lord for Jesus!

The Day of Atonement was one of those festival days that were established by the Lord. On this day the Israelites were to do no work and were to “afflict their souls”. This was also the day that the High Priest was to make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the people and their sins.

One question that may have crossed your mind is:

“What’s the deal with ‘afflicting your soul’?”

This is the question that Leviticus 16 answers because the thing is: sacrificing an animal was not to be done just so the priest could have something to eat. No, it was a very real ceremony that was to remind the people that though they were sinful beings God wanted to have a relationship with them.

However, because the wages of sin is death, there had to be blood between our sin and God. Something or Someone innocent had to die in our place. Hence the lamb.

Related: Jesus Died For Me

The Day of Atonement was to be that day when you reflected on the year that had passed and on what you had done and how God had kept you through. You were to come into the realization that you were a sinner and that only the grace of God had kept you alive thus far.

Maybe you were to think of all the innocent animals that given their lives to cover your sins. It was to make you long for the day when the promised seed of Genesis 3:15 would finally have victory over the enemy.

Related: Genesis3-15

The Day of Atonement for the Israelites was what a Communion Service is to us today. It pointed to Jesus – the Perfect Lamb who died so that we could be saved. This is what was alluded to in verses 3-4, the High Priest should go into the Holy Place dressed in the holy garments.

These garments represented the righteousness of Christ. The priest took off his ordinary robes and put on the clothes that were set apart for sacred duty. Once his role was done, he removed the clothing and donned his usual garb. Through grace, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Leviticus 16 - Grace is salvation

As a part of the ceremony, two lambs were chosen: one for the Lord and the other to be the scapegoat. I always knew a scapegoat to be someone who takes the blame for a guilty person.

When I first read this passage I thought that the scapegoat would have been the one to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. Imagine my surprise when the scapegoat goes free and the Lord’s lamb is killed. That’s grace.

God is letting us know that salvation comes from Him. Because without His contribution, we cannot be saved. God the Father sent His Son to die for the world. Then He accepted the sacrifice as being enough.

God the Son willingly gave up His kingdom in heaven to come to earth and walk among His creations and die the death of a criminal. Because of the sacrifice and great love of God the Father and God the Son,  we get liberty.


Lord, thank You for the plan of salvation. Thank You for giving Your Son’s life on our behalf, we deserved death but Your grace was such that Jesus died in our place. Help us to recognize the sacrifice and to give praise and honor and glory to Your name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you’ve ever read Leviticus 16, I’d love to hear how you learned more about God’s grace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *