Atonement

The description of how the priest is to atone for himself and the nation at large is given in Leviticus 16. The process is quite complex and follows 13 steps which map to the tribes. Each step in the ritual, then, acts out or reveals the main aspect of that tribe. What better way to atone for each of the tribes.

Beginning

The Leviticus 16 passage has an opening and closing thought that frame the ritual itself. Here's the beginning of the passage.

1The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. (Leviticus 16:1-2 NIV)

1And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died; 2And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:1-2 KJV)

1FSYahvah spoke with Moses after the death of the 2 children of Aaron, when they offered strange fire before Yahvah and died. 2Yahvah said to Moses, Speak with Aaron your brother that he does not come at all times into the holy place inside the veil before the mercy seat which is on the ark that he does not die, for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:1-2 BRB)

Middle

The ritual itself, which maps to the tribes, sits in the middle of the passage, from verse 3 through 28.

Tribe Step Characteristic
Judah 1) High priest chooses young bull and ram. Planning

3"This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:3 NIV)

3Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:3 KJV)

3FSThus Aaron will come into the holy place: With a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:3 BRB)

Reuben 2) Washes and dresses. Intimacy

4He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. (Leviticus 16:4 NIV)

4FSHe will put on the holy linen coat and he will have linen pants on his body and will be girded with a linen belt and will put a linen mitre on his head because these are the garments of the holy place, therefore he will bathe his body in water and then put them on. (Leviticus 16:4 BRB)

4He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. (Leviticus 16:4 KJV)

Gad 3) Goes into crowd to receive goats and second ram. Going

5From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:5 NIV)

5And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:5 KJV)

5FSHe will take from the assembly of the children of Israel 2 kids of the goats for a sin offering and 1 ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:5 BRB)

Asher 4) Needs to atone self and family. Purifying

6"Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. (Leviticus 16:6 NIV)

6And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. (Leviticus 16:6 KJV)

6FSAaron will offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself, and atone himself and his house. (Leviticus 16:6 BRB)

Naphtali 5) Lot cast to discover Yahvah's goat. Certifying

7Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 8He is to cast lots for the two goats -- one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. 9Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.

11"Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. (Leviticus 16:7-11 NIV)

7And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.scapegoat: Heb. Azazel 9And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.fell: Heb. went up 10But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. 11And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: (Leviticus 16:7-11 KJV)

7FSHe will take the 2 goats and present them alive before Yahvah at the door of the tent of time. 8Aaron will cast lots on the 2 goats, 1 lot for Yahvah and 1 lot for the scapegoat. 9Aaron will bring the goat on which Yahvah's lot fell and offer it for a sin offering. 10But the goat on which the lot of scapegoat fell will be presented alive before Yahvah to atone with it and to send it away as a scapegoat into the wilderness.

11Aaron will bring the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and will atone himself and his house, and will kill the bull of the sin offering. (Leviticus 16:7-11 BRB)

Manasseh 6) Lot cast to discover scapegoat. Recursion
(see Joseph)
Simeon 7) Makes cloud in holy of holies. Counseling

12He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die. 14He is to take some of the bull's blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover. (Leviticus 16:12-14 NIV)

12And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: 13And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: 14And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. (Leviticus 16:12-14 KJV)

12FSHe will take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before Yahvah and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small and enter inside the veil, 13and he will put the incense on the fire before Yahvah that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the testimony that he does not die. 14He will take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat eastward; before the mercy seat he will sprinkle of the blood with his finger 7 times. (Leviticus 16:12-14 BRB)

Levi 8) Atones nation. Atoning

14He is to take some of the bull's blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

15"He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (Leviticus 16:14-16 NIV)

14FSHe will take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat eastward; before the mercy seat he will sprinkle of the blood with his finger 7 times.

15Then he will kill the goat of the sin offering which is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16He will atone the holy place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins, and so he will do for the tent of time which remains among them in the middle of their uncleanness. (Leviticus 16:14-16 BRB)

14And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

15Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: 16And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.remaineth: Heb. dwelleth (Leviticus 16:14-16 KJV)

Issachar 9) No one else in tent. Working

17FSThere will not be a man in the tent of time when he goes in to atone in the holy place until he comes out and has atoned for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of the children of Israel. (Leviticus 16:17 BRB)

17No one is to be in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel. (Leviticus 16:17 NIV)

17And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. (Leviticus 16:17 KJV)

Zebulun 10) Removes defilement. Starting

18"Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. (Leviticus 16:18-19 NIV)

18And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. 19And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. (Leviticus 16:18-19 KJV)

18FSHe will go out to the altar that is before Yahvah and atone it, and will take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat and sprinkle it around on the horns of the altar. 19He will sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger 7 times, and cleanse it and holy it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. (Leviticus 16:18-19 BRB)

Joseph 11) Confesses over and sends away scapegoat. Discerning

20And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 21And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:a fit…: Heb. a man of opportunity 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.not…: Heb. of separation (Leviticus 16:20-22 KJV)

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. 21He 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 desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert. (Leviticus 16:20-22 NIV)

20FSWhenever he has made an end of atoning for the holy place and the tent of time and the altar he will bring the live goat, 21and Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions and all their sins putting them on the head of the goat and will send it away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. 22The goat will bear on him all their iniquities to a barren land, and he will leave the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:20-22 BRB)

Benjamin 12) Burns rams. ?

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. 24He shall bathe himself with water in a holy place 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. 25He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar. (Leviticus 16:23-25 NIV)

23And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. 25And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar. (Leviticus 16:23-25 KJV)

23FSAaron will come into the tent of time and will put off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and will leave them there. 24He will bathe his body in water in the holy place and put on his garments, and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and atone himself and the people. 25The fat of the sin offering he will burn on the altar. (Leviticus 16:23-25 BRB)

Dan 13) Burns bull and goat outside the camp. Separating

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. 27The 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 offal are to be burned up. 28The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. (Leviticus 16:26-28 NIV)

26And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp. 27And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. 28And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. (Leviticus 16:26-28 KJV)

26FSHe who let the goat go for a scapegoat will wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and will come into the camp afterward. 27The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, some of whose blood was brought in to atone in the holy place, they will carry forth outside the camp, and they will burn in the fire their skins and their meat and their dung. 28He who burns them will wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and afterward he will come into the camp. (Leviticus 16:26-28 BRB)

End

And here's the close of the chapter.

29"This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work -- whether native-born or an alien living among you -- 30because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. 31It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32The 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 33and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people 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. (Leviticus 16:29-34 NIV)

29And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 32And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:consecrate: Heb. fill his hand 33And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. 34And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses. (Leviticus 16:29-34 KJV)

29FSThis will be a statute forever to you that in the 7th month in the 10th day of the month you will humble yourselves and not work at all, both you and the proselytes who stay among you, 30for on this day the priest will atone you that you may be clean from all your sins and that you may be clean before Yahvah. 31It will be a sabbath and a rest to you and you will humble yourselves. It is a statute forever. 32The priest who will be anointed and whose hands are filled to minister in the priest's office in his father's place will atone and will put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments, 33and he will atone the holy of holies and he will atone the tent of time and the altar and he will atone the priests and all the people of the assembly.

34This will be an everlasting statute for you to atone the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.

They did as Yahvah commanded Moses. (Leviticus 16:29-34 BRB)

Notes

Judah has Selection Day. It's the 10th day of the 1st month, the day a lamb is selected for the Passover meal. It's a day where the Passover is planned ahead of time. Here in the atonement ritual the pattern is the same. The priest has to select or raise or decide where to buy or how to acquire a young bull and a ram before the ritual itself ever begins. This planning ahead is smack in the middle of Judah's special ability as a tribe.

Reuben has a theme of intimacy. Intimacy meaning closeness or transparency in a relationship. The second step in the ritual involves the high priest taking a bath. Being naked for a bath is, well, intimate, or personal. Then the priest dresses for the ritual. This too, is a private or at least personal act.

Gad has a theme of going and plundering or receiving things. This idea of "raiding" (as his dad called it) shows up when the priest leaves the immediate area of the tent to go into the crowd and receive the goats and the ram.

Asher has many passages that correlate him with oil. One aspect of oil that I think is also a main characteristic of Asher is the aspect of purity. If oil is not pure it will not burn well and the lamp will not give it's light. In the ritual the issue is purity. The priest must first atone for himself before he can atone for the nation. This is a little bit like getting the plank out of your own eye before helping your brother with the speck in his. The priest needs to be in right standing with God himself before he can make much in the way of a request for the rest of the country.

Naphtali has "beautiful words" according to Jacob in Genesis 49. Words, we know, are just labels, not the reality or thing itself. Naphtali's holiday is First Fruits, the day you offer a sample of the crop to get a sense of what the whole crop will be like. His tabernacle item is the incense altar, the place where the incense is burned to create a smell, or sense. Naphtali has to do with sensing or smell. His gate of the city is the dung gate, a smelly place. So in this ritual his part is the act of casting lots to find the scapegoat. Note that the scapegoat is already determined, by God, but unknown by the priest. So he casts two lots, one on each goat, and they both agree that one is the scapegoat and the other is the sin offering. The process reveals or gives the priest a sense of what happens to each animal, but it is not the step of letting the scapegoat go or the act of making the offering, just the act of putting a word or label on each, of sensing what's already happening in God's plan, of realizing what's going to happen.

Manasseh is often pictured as a miniature of the whole. Recursion is the term for this. Here Manasseh lands on the step when the priest offers the bull to atone for himself and family. Later, Levi will offer the goat on behalf of the whole nation. So this first round of atonement, the smaller of the two, appears to be Manasseh's recursive use of the larger story.

Simeon is the son Jacob did not want to enter his counsel. So for his step of the ritual the priest takes coals from the altar, and some incense, and puts them on the incense altar inside the veil such that a cloud of smoke is created between the priest and the mercy seat where God sits. The result is even though the priest enters this innermost room of the tent he still has visual separation from God. Amazing.

Levi is the tribe whose holiday is the Day of Atonements. So it's not a big surprise that his step of the ritual involves taking the blood of the goat into the innermost room to atone the tribes.

Issachar has a pattern of "working" or "bearing burdens" elsewhere in Scripture. At his point in the ritual the passage rests from the regular definition of what the priest does to say that no one else should be in the tent when this is all happening. In other words, no one else should be doing any work. So even Issachar, the hard worker, should take a break for this ritual.

Zebulun has a theme of origins. In the ritual we're told that the act of atoning with blood removes "defilement" from the tent and the surrounding courtyard. You might miss how this relates to Zebulun if you did not know the spelling of defilement in the original language. The spelling tells us the definition of the word, or it's concept space. That's another story, but the definition of defilement is something that is "twisted from the start." So to remove defilement is to remove something that has an origin or beginning from some time ago. This step of the ritual is exactly in Zebulun's concept space.

Joseph is the tribe that led most of Israel. He's also identified as the "brow" or "forehead" in Scripture. In this step the priest places his hands on the head of the scapegoat and confesses the sins, iniquities and transgressions of the nation. Then a helper takes the goat into the wilderness and lets it go, thus carrying the sins of the nation away from them. The two steps probably picks up something about Ephraim and Manasseh, but in any case the placement of the hands on the head of the goat and the ability to articulate the actual sins and iniquities and transgressions of all the tribes is something that goes along with Joseph since he's ultimately the tribe that becomes a "community of nations."

Benjamin sits on the step where the rams are sacrificed as a burnt offering. I'm not sure why this relates to Benjamin.

Dan sits on the last step of the ritual which involves removing the young bull and the goat to a burn pile outside the camp. Dan is the tribe that had trouble taking land, eventually pushing back the sea instead of other peoples. A clever answer anyhow. This step plays to Dan in that it involves doing something on the periphery or outside the camp.