Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Fire. It was upon this occasion that the feast of expiation (kippurim) was instituted, to enforce the reverence due to holy things, and particularly to the tabernacle. Hebrew adds, “before the Lord,” (Haydock) and does not specify strange fire; but the Chaldean and the Syriac do. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Enter not. No one but the high priest, and he but once a year, could enter into the sanctuary: to signify that no one could enter into the sanctuary of heaven till Christ our high priest opened it by his passion, Hebrews x. 8. (Challoner) — When the tabernacle was to be removed, and when he had to consult the Lord, he might also enter, arrayed in his pontifical attire. If the high priest was prevented by any legal uncleanness, the next priest was substituted to perform his office. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] xvii. 8.) Adjutor vicarius propter cognationem ei datus est.
Ver. 4. Washed. On this day the high priest appeared in linen clothes, like one of the inferior priests, without the jewels; though Josephus (Jewish Wars v. 15,) asserts the contrary. (Calmet) — This was a feast of sorrow and of penance. (Tirinus) — Perhaps he put on his more costly attire before he entered the holy of holies, ver. 23, 24. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Calf, or young bull, which Aaron offered for himself and all the family of Levi, to expiate the sins which they might have committed during the year. If their sins were voluntary, they were obliged also to have perfect charity and contrition. The ram was offered for the sins of the people. Moses speaks of the red heifer, (Numbers xix.) which was also offered, out of the camp, for the people. This solemn day was to be kept by all as a rigid “fast from meat, drink, washing, anointing, wearing shoes, or using marriage.” This is the idea which the Oriental nations generally have of a fast. They commence at midnight, and end with the following sun-set; after which they eat what they think proper. (Calmet) — On the day of expiation, the Jews made a tenfold confession of their sins. (Morinus, pœnit. ii. 22.)
Ver. 8. The emissary-goat: caper emissarius; in Greek, apopompaios; in Hebrew, Hazazel. The goat to go off, or as some translate it, the scape-goat. This goat, on whose head the high priest was ordered to pour forth prayers, and to make a general confession of the sins of the people, laying them all, as it were, on his head; and after that to send him away into the wilderness, to be devoured by wild beasts, was a figure of our Saviour, charged with all our sins, in his passion.
Ver. 11. After….celebrated. These words are not in the Hebrew.
Ver. 12. Censer, which resembled one of our chalices; without any chains, &c., Apocalypse v. 8. (Calmet)
Ver. 13-14. The cloud, — The blood, &c. This is to teach us, that if we would go into the sanctuary of God, we must take with us the incense of prayer, and the blood, that is, the passion of Christ. Where also note, that the high priest, before he went into the holy of holies, was to wash his whole body; and then to put on white linen garments; to signify the purity and chastity with which we are to approach to God. (Challoner) — The Septuagint call this goat apopompaion, “the averter of evils, or the one sent away.” Hazazel is taken by Spencer Julian, the apostate, (ap. St. Cyril. 9. and ep. 39,) to mean the devil; as if the goat was sent or sacrificed to him, which is very foolish. (Calmet) — East. That is, the forepart of the mercy-seat, which was not to be touched with the blood, (Menochius) no more than the veil. (Rabbins)
Ver. 15. Oracle. He probably took this blood at the same time with that of the calf, Hebrews ix. 7. (Menochius) — Though some Rabbins assert, the high priest entered the holy of holies four times on that day. (Drusius) — Pausanias tells us, that the temples of Dindymenes and Orcus were opened only once a year. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Filth. God deigned to have his tabernacle in the midst of the camp, where so many sins, and marks of disrespect, as well as legal uncleannesses, were found. (Haydock) — Sin so defileth the soul, that the most holy place is contaminated thereby. (Theodoret, q. 22.)
Ver. 17. Out. Even the other priests were excluded from the tabernacle. The high priest placed incense on the censer as soon as he entered within the veil, and prayed for all blessings, in few words, that the people might not be uneasy, fearing lest something had befallen him. This was the form: “Be pleased to grant, O Lord our God, that this year may be warm and rainy, that the sovereign power may abide in the house of Juda, that thy people may not be deprived of any of the necessaries of life; and hear not the petitions of travellers,” (which are commonly vain and selfish) of “of sinners,” as others translate. (Calmet) — Those who were forbidden to be present on this occasion, might have made the same objections as Protestants do against the law of the Church, which prescribes a language not commonly understood by all, in the administration of her sacraments. Have either any reason to be offended? (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Let him pray for himself. Hebrew, “he shall expiate or purify it,” the altar of incense. Josephus says he also sprinkled with blood the great altar of holocausts, ver. 20. (Antiquities iii. 10.)
Ver. 22. Desert, to be devoured by wild beasts, (Menochius) or hurled down a precipice.
Ver. 24. Flesh, which was, in some sort, defiled by touching the goat. — Garments, belonging to his office. — Come out of the holy of holies. (Calmet) — The remainder of the day was spent in joy. The priest washed himself, as a sign that he had obtained pardon. (Menochius)
Ver. 26. Camp. This was always required of those who had burnt the bodies of the victims out of the camp, as ver. 28, and Numbers xix. 7. (Outram) — In some of the sacrifices for sin, the priests might eat part of the flesh. But here all was consumed, as the victim was offered for the sins of all.
Ver. 29. Tenth. Beginning on the evening of the ninth Tisri, which corresponds with part of our September and October, and is the first month of the civil year, chap. xxxiii. 32. Afflict, by a rigid abstinence from all that might give delight to the body. Children of seven years old begin to join in this mortification. Boys of 13, and girls of 11 years old complete, were obliged to fast. See ver. 6. The Samaritans pray all the day, and give no food even to infants during the 24 hours. (Calmet) — Moses was the first who shewed them the example; and this was the only day which he prescribed to be kept as a fast. The Jews afterwards appointed many more. (Haydock) — Maimonides says, this festival was instituted in memory of the descent of Moses from Mount Sinai the third time, when he came to announce to the people that God had pardoned their idolatry. Usher thinks it was in memory of Adam’s fall. The Jews still observe it in some degree. As they are not allowed to sacrifice, they kill a white cock, and the women a hen, on the 9th at evening. Those with child kill both. They confess their sins, receive 39 lashes, ask pardon of those whom they have offended, and generally spend the fore part of this month in acts of piety and of penance. (Buxtorf, Syn. 20.) — Stranger; a proselyte of justice, such as were bound to observe the law.
Ver. 31. Of rest. Hebrew, “of sabbaths;” that is, a day of most perfect rest; so that even meat is not allowed to be dressed on it, as it is on other festivals, chap. xxiii. 27. (Calmet) — Religion. Fasting is therefore an act of religion. (Du Hamel)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
When and how the high priest must enter into the sanctuary. The feast of expiation.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses,* after the death of the two sons of Aaron,** when they were slain upon their offering strange fire:
2 And he commanded him, saying: Speak to Aaron thy brother,* that he enter not at all into the sanctuary, which is within the veil before the propitiatory, with which the ark is covered, lest he die, (for I will appear in a cloud over the oracle)
3 Unless he first do these things: He shall offer a calf for sin, and a ram for a holocaust.
4 He shall be vested with a linen tunic, he shall cover his nakedness with linen breeches: he shall be girded with a linen girdle, and he shall put a linen mitre upon his head: for these are holy vestments: all which he shall put on, after he is washed.
5 And he shall receive from the whole multitude of the children of Israel two buck-goats for sin, and one ram for a holocaust.
6 And when he hath offered the calf, and prayed for himself, and for his own house,
7 He shall make the two buck-goats to stand before the Lord, in the door of the tabernacle of the testimony:
8 And casting lots upon them both, one to be offered to the Lord, and the other to be the emissary-goat:
9 That whose lot fell to be offered to the Lord, he shall offer for sin:
10 But that whose lot was to be the emissary-goat, he shall present alive before the Lord, that he may pour out prayers upon him, and let him go into the wilderness.
11 After these things are duly celebrated, he shall offer the calf, and praying for himself and for his own house, he shall immolate it:
12 And taking the censer, which he hath filled with the burning coals of the altar, and taking up with his hand the compounded perfume for incense, he shall go in within the veil into the holy place:
13 That when the perfumes are put upon the fire, the cloud and vapour thereof may cover the oracle, which is over the testimony, and he may not die.
14 He shall take also of the blood of the calf, and sprinkle with his finger seven times towards the propitiatory to the east.
15 And when he hath killed the buck-goat for the sin of the people, he shall carry in the blood thereof within the veil, as he was commanded to do with the blood of the calf, that he may sprinkle it over-against the oracle,
16 And may expiate the sanctuary from the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and from their transgressions, and all their sins. According to this rite shall he do to the tabernacle of the testimony, which is fixed among them in the midst of the filth of their habitation.
17 *Let no man be in the tabernacle when the high priest goeth into the sanctuary, to pray for himself and his house, and for the whole congregation of Israel, until he come out.
18 And when he is come out to the altar that is before the Lord, let him pray for himself, and taking the blood of the calf, and of the buck-goat, let him pour it upon the horns thereof round about:
19 And sprinkling with his finger seven times, let him expiate, and sanctify it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
20 After he hath cleansed the sanctuary, and the tabernacle, and the altar, then let him offer the living goat:
21 And putting both hands upon his head, let him confess all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their offences and sins: and praying that they may light on his head, he shall turn him out, by a man ready for it, into the desert.
22 And when the goat hath carried all their iniquities into an uninhabited land, and shall be let go into the desert,
23 Aaron shall return into the tabernacle of the testimony, and putting off the vestments, which he had on him before when he entered into the sanctuary, and leaving them there,
24 He shall wash his flesh in the holy place, and shall put on his own garments. And after that he is come out, and hath offered his own holocaust, and that of the people, he shall pray both for himself and for the people:
25 And the fat that is offered for sins, he shall burn upon the altar.
26 But he that hath let go the emissary-goat, shall wash his clothes, and his body with water, and so shall enter into the camp.
27 But the calf and the buck-goat, that were sacrificed for sin, and whose blood was carried into the sanctuary, to accomplish the atonement, they shall carry forth without the camp, *and shall burn with fire, their skins, and their flesh, and their dung:
28 And whosoever burneth them, shall wash his clothes and flesh with water, and so shall enter into the camp.
29 And this shall be to you an everlasting ordinance: *The seventh month, the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no work, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you.
30 Upon this day shall be the expiation for you, and the cleansing from all your sins: you shall be cleansed before the Lord.
31 For it is a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls by a perpetual religion.
32 And the priest that is anointed, and whose hands are consecrated to do the office of the priesthood in his father’s stead, shall make atonement: and he shall be vested with the linen robe and the holy vestments,
33 And he shall expiate the sanctuary, and the tabernacle of the testimony, and the altar, the priests also and all the people.
34 And this shall be an ordinance for ever, that you pray for the children of Israel, and for all their sins once in a year. He did therefore as the Lord had commanded Moses.
1: Year of the World 2514. — ** Leviticus x. 1.
2: Exodus xxx. 10.; Hebrews ix. 7.
17: Luke i. 10.
27: Hebrews xiii. 11.
29: Leviticus xxiii. 27. and 28.