Being Made the Scapegoat (Leviticus 16:20-34)

In this early portion of the “cross words” series, we have been talking about propitiation and atonement. I earlier wrote that I would bet that the word “propitiation” is not one that any of you use during normal daily conversation. However, our study today involves a word that is very commonly used, though I’d venture that the vast majority of people have no idea whatsoever that it comes from the Bible and from the book of Leviticus.

When we use the term scapegoat, we are usually saying that someone is having the blame for something quite unjustly placed upon them, rather than upon the person or people who should properly bear it. For example, I might use the term to say, “Tony Romo has become the scapegoat for the failure of the Dallas Cowboys in recent years.”  Though I am only very marginally a fan of football and of the Cowboys, whenever I watch them play, the poor guy is running for his life because the offensive line totally stinks! Okay – all you Ravens, Redskins, and Steelers fans – don’t get lost in the illustration … you get the point.

So, on the Day of Atonement there were two goats. Lots were cast, and one was chosen to be slain for the blood sprinkling we read about yesterday. The second goat had the high priest lay both hands on its head and confess the sins of the people onto it. Then, a cross country runner (possibly from the Tribe of Randy?) was given the task of taking the goat out to a distant and remote place of the wilderness and leaving it there. This symbolized the removal of sin from the nation.

The rest of the text today talks about the details of what is to become of the carcasses of the animals given for sacrifice. As well, there are details about the washing and cleansing of the priest, the scapegoat runner, and the guy who got rid of the carcasses by taking them outside the camp.

The passage also details that this annual day was to be a Sabbath rest – a time very much set aside by everyone. This ceremony is twice said to be remembered as a lasting ordinance in the nation. For those of you who recently tracked with us through the Deuteronomy “Revive” series, you will recall how many times Moses said that the Israelites were to remember and teach the rising generations about the Lord and His deeds. In like manner, this day was to have special significance that would be evident to all – especially the young. And it was to be forever celebrated and observed.

In our teaching series, we have introduced a second word – expiation – which is closely connected to the first word propitiation. You might think of both of them as speaking of satisfaction; but whereas propitiation is about the satisfaction achieved by God’s wrath being averted, expiation is the satisfaction because of the payment or taking away of sin. Propitiation is Godward and is the first goat, whereas expiation is manward and is the second goat. See, you can handle these big words! Maybe through them around in the office a bit this week!

Leviticus 16

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves[c] and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Remember the Good Friday Service at 7:00 – a study of the cross word “Atonement”

More words for the puzzle:

Mercy – This word is closely connected to all that we have talked about so far in terms of propitiation / satisfaction / the mercy seat on the top of the ark. It relates to the placation of God’s anger and the averting of His wrath that toward us results in mercy extended.

Favor – Similar to above, favor is the extension of grace and mercy where wrath is deserved.

puzzle day 8