Leviticus 16:22
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
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(22) Unto a land not inhabited.—Literally, unto a land cut off, that is, a place the ground of which is separated from all around it, hence a summit, a peak standing out by itself, a precipice.

In the wilderness.—Where no human beings dwell, but which is the abode of evil spirits. It will be seen that the directions here are simply to conduct the goat into the wilderness, where it is apparently to be let loose to pursue its own course. During the second Temple, however, the authorities decreed that the animal must be destroyed. Accordingly one of the priests who was appointed to execute this mission led the goat to a rock called Zuck, in the wilderness, situate about twelve miles, or ninety furlongs, from Jerusalem. Between the holy city and this steep rock, ten booths were erected at intervals of one mile, and persons were located in every booth to accompany the messenger to the next tent, which was distant a Sabbath day’s journey. From the last booth to the rock, which was double this distance, the messenger had no companion, but he was carefully watched by the occupants of the last booth to see that he performed the ritual according to the prescribed order. On his arrival at the mountain he divided the crimson thread, which was the badge of the goat, into two; one half he fastened to the rock, and the other he tied between the two horns of the victim, and then pushed the animal down the projecting ledge of the rock, when it was dashed to pieces before it reached the bottom. Hereupon the persons stationed at the last booth to watch the proceedings waved linen cloths or white flags, thus signalling from station to station to the priests in the court of the Temple the arrival of the goat at its proper destination.



Leviticus 16:22

The import of the remarkable treatment of this goat does not depend on the interpretation of the obscure phrase rendered in the Authorised Version ‘for the scapegoat.’ Leaving that out of sight for the moment, we observe that the two animals were one sacrifice, and that the transaction with the living one was the completion of that with the slain. The sins of the congregation, which had been already expiated by the sacrifice, were laid by the high priest on the head of the goat, which was then sent away into the wilderness that he might ‘bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited’ {Leviticus 16:22}. Nothing depends on the fate of the goat, though, in after times, it was forced over a precipice and so killed. The carrying away of expiated sin, and not the destruction of unexpiated sinners, is the meaning of the impressive rite, and, had it been possible, the same goat that was sacrificed would have been sent into the desert. As that could not be done, an ideal unity was established between the two: the one sacrificed represented the fact of expiation, the one driven away represented the consequences of expiation in the complete removal of sin. The expiation was made ‘within the veil’; but a visible token of its completeness was given to help feeble faith, in the blessed mystery of the unseen propitiation. What was divided in the symbol between the twin goats is all done by the one Sacrifice, who has entered into the holiest of all, at once Priest and Sacrifice, and with His own blood made expiation for sin, and has likewise carried away the sin of the world into a land of forgetfulness, whence it never can return.

The clear meaning of the rite is thus obtained, whatever be the force of the difficult phrase already referred to. ‘Scapegoat’ is certainly wrong. But it may be questioned whether the Revised Version is right in retaining the Hebrew word untranslated, and, by putting a capital letter to it, marking it as a proper name {‘for Azazel’}. The word occurs only here, so that we have no help from other passages. It seems to come from a root meaning ‘to drive away,’ and those who take it to be a proper name, generally suppose it to refer to some malignant spirit, or to Satan, and interpret it as meaning ‘a fiend whom one drives away,’ or, sometimes, ‘who drives away.’ The vindication of such an interpretation is supposed to lie in the necessity of finding a complete antithesis in the phrase to the ‘for Jehovah’ of the previous clause in Leviticus 16:8. But it is surely sacrificing a good deal to rhetorical propriety to drag in an idea so foreign to the Pentateuch, and so opposed to the plain fact, that both goats were one sin offering {Leviticus 16:5}, in order to get a pedantically correct antithesis. In the absence of any guidance from usage, certainty as to the meaning of the word is unattainable. But there seems no reason, other than that of the said antithesis, against taking it to mean removal or dismissal, rather than ‘a remover.’ The Septuagint translates it in both ways: as a person in Leviticus 16:8, and as ‘sending away’ in Leviticus 16:10. If the latter meaning be adopted, then the word just defines the same purpose as is given more at length in Leviticus 16:22, namely, the carrying away of the sins of the congregation. The logical imperfection of the opposition in Leviticus 16:8 would then be simply enough solved by the fact that while both goats were ‘for the Lord,’ one was destined to be actually offered in sacrifice, and the other to be ‘for dismissal.’ The incomplete contrast testifies to the substantial unity of the two, and needs no introduction, into the most sacred rite of the old covenant, of a ceremony which looks liker demon-worship than a parable of the great expiation for a world’s sins.

The question for us is, What spiritual ideas are contained in this Levitical symbolism? There is signified, surely, the condition of approach to God. Remember how the Israelites had impressed on their minds the awful sanctity of ‘within the veil.’ The inmost shrine was trodden once a year only by the high priest, and only after anxious lustrations and when clothed in pure garments, he entered ‘with sacrifice and incense lest he die.’ This ritual was for a gross and untutored age, but the men of that age were essentially like ourselves, and we have the same sins and spiritual necessities as they had.

The two goats are regarded as one sacrifice. They are a ‘sin offering.’ Hence, to show how unimportant and non-essential is the distinction between them, the ‘lot’ is employed; also, while the one is being slain, the other stands before the ‘door of the Tabernacle.’ This shows that both are parts of one whole, and it is only from the impossibility of presenting both halves of the truth to be symbolised in one that two are taken. The one which is slain represents the sacrifice for sin. The other represents the effects of that sacrifice. It is never heard of more. ‘The Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world.’ ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.’

I. The perfect removal of all sin is thus symbolised.

Notice {1} the vivid consciousness of sin which marked Judaism.

Was it exaggerated or right?

The same consciousness is part of all of us, but how overlaid! how stifled!

That consciousness once awakened has in it these elements-a bitter sense of sin as mine, involving guilt; despair as to whether I can ever overcome it; and fearful thoughts of my relation to God which conscience itself brings.

{2} The futility of all attempts to remove these fears.

False religions have next to nothing to say about forgiveness. Sacrifices and lustrations they have, but no assurance of absolution. Systems of philosophy and morals have nothing to say but that the universe goes crashing on, and if you have broken its laws you must suffer. That is all, or only the poor cheer of ‘Well! you have fallen, get up and go on again!’ So men often drug themselves into forgetfulness. They turn away from the unwelcome subject, and forget it at the price of all moral earnestness and often of all happiness; a lethargic sleep or a gaiety, as little real as that of the Girondins singing in their prison the night before being led out to the guillotine.

It is only God’s authoritative revelation that can ensure the cure, only He can assure us of pardon, and of the removal of all barriers between ourselves and His love. Only His word can ensure, and His power can effect, the removal of the consequences of our sins. Only His word can ensure, and His power effect, the removal of the power of evil on our characters.

{3} Still the question, Can guilt ever be cancelled? often assumes a fearful significance. Doubtless much seems to say that it cannot be.

{a} The irrevocableness of the past.

{b} The rigid law of consequences in this world.

{c} The indissoluble unity of an individual life and moral nature, confirmed by the experience of failure in all attempts at reformation of self.

{d} The consciousness of disturbed relations with God, and the prophecy of judgment. All this that ancient symbol suggested. The picture of the goat going away, and away, and away, a lessening speck on the horizon, and never heard of more is the divine symbol of the great fact that there is full, free, everlasting forgiveness, and on God’s part, utter forgetfulness. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’ ‘I will remember them no more at all for ever.’

II. The bearing away of sin is indissolubly connected with sacrifice.

Two goats were provided, of which one was offered for a sin offering, indicating that sacrifice came first; then the removal of sin was symbolised by the sending away of the second goat. There is an evident reference to this sequence in the words ‘without shedding of blood there is no remission.’ The two goats represent Christ’s work; the one in its essence, the other in its effect.

The one teaches that sacrifice is a necessary condition of pardon. Forgiveness was not given because the offerer confessed his guilt or because ‘God was merciful,’ but because the goat had been slain as a sin offering. There is deep spiritual truth for us in this symbolism. We do not need to enter on the philosophy of atonement, but simply to rest on the fact-that the only authority on which we can be sure of forgiveness at all indissolubly associates the two things, sacrifice and pardon. We have no reason to believe in forgiveness except from the Bible record and assurance.

Was the Mosaic ritual a divinely appointed thing? If so, its testimony is conclusive. But even if it were only the embodiment of human aspirations and wants, it would be a strong evidence of the necessity of some such thing as forgiveness.

The shallow dream that God’s forgiveness can be extended without a sacrifice having been offered does not exalt but detracts from the divine character. It invariably leads to an emasculated abhorrence of evil, and detracts from the holiness of God, as well as introduces low thoughts of the greatness of forgiveness and of the infinite love of God.

III. The bearing away of sin is associated with man’s laying of his sins on the sacrifice appointed by God.

We have seen that the two goats must be regarded as together making one whole. The one which was slain made ‘atonement . . .because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins,’ but that expiation was not actually effective till Aaron had ‘laid his hands on the head of the live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, . . .and put them on the head of the live goat, and sent him away into the wilderness.’ The sacrifice of the slain goat did not accomplish the pardon or removal of the people’s sins, but made it possible that their sins should be pardoned and removed.

Then the method by which that possibility is realised is the laying hands on the scapegoat and confessing the sins upon it. The sins which are actually forgiven, by virtue of the atonement made for all sins, are those which it bears away to the wilderness.

This answers, point for point, to repentance and faith. By these the possibility is turned into an actuality for as many as believe on Christ.

Christ has died for sin. Christ has made atonement by which all sin may be forgiven; whether any shall actually be forgiven depends on something else. It is conceivable that though Christ died, no sin might be pardoned, if no man believed. His blood would not, even then, have been shed in vain, for the purpose of it would have been fully effected in providing a way by which any and all sin could be forgiven. So that the whole question whether any man’s sin is pardoned turns on this, Has he laid his hand on Christ? Faith is only a condition of forgiveness, not a cause, or in itself a power. There was no healing in the mere laying of the hand on the head of the goat.

It was not faith which was the reason for forgiveness, but God’s love which had provided the sacrifice.

God’s will is not a bare will to pardon, nor a bare will to pardon for Christ’s sake, but for Christ’s sake to pardon them who believe. ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.’ ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ ‘Through this Man is preached the remission of sins.’

Leviticus 16:22. Unto a land not inhabited — ארצ גזרהerets gezra, a land cut off separated, remote from intercourse with men. The Seventy render it αβατον, untrod, unpassable, a land through which none travelled. The sending away into this desert land the goat, over which the sins of the people had been humbly and penitently confessed, and to which they were figuratively transferred, was certainly a fine and most expressive emblem that, on condition of the repentance of mankind, and their faith in him who was represented by this goat, and was in due time to take away the sins of the world, God would remember their sins and iniquities no more.

16:15-34 Here are typified the two great gospel privileges, of the remission of sin, and access to God, both of which we owe to our Lord Jesus. See the expiation of guilt. Christ is both the Maker and the Matter of the atonement; for he is the Priest, the High Priest, that makes reconciliation for the sins of the people. And as Christ is the High Priest, so he is the Sacrifice with which atonement is made; for he is all in all in our reconciliation to God. Thus he was figured by the two goats. The slain goat was a type of Christ dying for our sins; the scape-goat a type of Christ rising again for our justification. The atonement is said to be completed by putting the sins of Israel upon the head of the goat, which was sent away into a wilderness, a land not inhabited; and the sending away of the goat represented the free and full remission of their sins. He shall bear upon him all their iniquities. Thus Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world, by taking it upon himself, Joh 1:29. The entrance into heaven, which Christ made for us, was typified by the high priest's entrance into the most holy place. See Heb 9:7. The high priest was to come out again; but our Lord Jesus ever lives, making intercession, and always appears in the presence of God for us. Here are typified the two great gospel duties of faith and repentance. By faith we put our hands upon the head of the offering; relying on Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, pleading his satisfaction, as that which alone is able to atone for our sins, and procure us a pardon. By repentance we afflict our souls; not only fasting for a time from the delights of the body, but inwardly sorrowing for sin, and living a life of self-denial, assuring ourselves, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God. Sinner, get the blood of Christ effectually applied to thy soul, or else thou canst never look God in the face with any comfort or acceptance. Take this blood of Christ, apply it by faith, and see how it atones with God.Unto a land not inhabited - Unto a place cut off, or (as in the margin) a place "of separation."

It is evident that the one signification of the ceremony of this goat was the complete removal of the sins which were confessed over him. No symbol could so plainly set forth the completeness of Yahweh's acceptance of the penitent, as a sin-offering in which a life was given up for the altar, and yet a living being survived to carry away all sin and uncleanness.

20-22. he shall bring the live goat—Having already been presented before the Lord (Le 16:10), it was now brought forward to the high priest, who, placing his hands upon its head, and "having confessed over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins," transferred them by this act to the goat as their substitute. It was then delivered into the hands of a person, who was appointed to lead him away into a distant, solitary, and desert place, where in early times he was let go, to escape for his life; but in the time of Christ, he was carried to a high rock twelve miles from Jerusalem, and there, being thrust over the precipice, he was killed. Commentators have differed widely in their opinions about the character and purpose of this part of the ceremonial; some considering the word "Azazel," with the Septuagint and our translators, to mean, "the scapegoat"; others, "a lofty, precipitous rock" [Bochart]; others, "a thing separated to God" [Ewald, Tholuck]; while others think it designates Satan [Gesenius, Hengstenberg]. This last view is grounded on the idea of both goats forming one and the same sacrifice of atonement, and it is supported by Zec 3:1-10, which presents a striking commentary on this passage. Whether there was in this peculiar ceremony any reference to an Egyptian superstition about Typhon, the spirit of evil, inhabiting the wilderness, and the design was to ridicule it by sending a cursed animal into his gloomy dominions, it is impossible to say. The subject is involved in much obscurity. But in any view there seems to be a typical reference to Christ who bore away our sins [Heb 10:4; 1Jo 3:5]. No text from Poole on this verse.

And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited,.... Where it would never be seen, and from whence it would never return more; and so was a proper type of Christ, who has borne all the sins of all his people in his own body on the cross, and all the punishment due unto them; and so has made full satisfaction for them, and has removed them from them, as far as the east is from the west, and out of the sight of avenging justice; so that when they are sought they shall not be found, nor shall they ever return unto them, or be brought against them any more; see Isaiah 53:12,

and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness; that is, the man that was appointed to have him thither; and so the Targum of Jonathan,"and the man shall let go the goat into the wilderness of Zuck; and the goat shall go upon the mountains of Beth Chadure (or Chadudo), and a tempestuous wind from the Lord shall drive him down, and he shall die.''The manner of conducting this whole affair was this; they made for him a causeway (i.e. for the man that had the goat committed to his care, to have it out of the court, and out of the city), because of the Babylonians, who would pluck him by the hair, and say, Get out, begone, get out, begone. The nobles of Jerusalem accompanied him to the first booth, for there were ten booths from Jerusalem to Zuck, which were ninety furlongs, seven and a half to every mile; at every (i.e. twelve miles) at every booth they said to him, Lo food, lo water, and they accompanied him from booth to booth, excepting the last of them; for there was not one went with him to Zuck, but stood afar off, and observed what he did: what did he do? he parted a scarlet line, half of it he bound to the rock, and half of it he bound between his horns (the goat's), and pushed him backwards, and he rolled and went down, but before he came half way down the mountain he was dashed to pieces; then he (the man) went and sat under the last booth until it was dark--they said to the high priest, the goat is got to the wilderness; but from whence did they know that the goat was got to the wilderness? they made watchtowers or beacons, and they waved linen cloths, and so knew when the goat was come to the Wilderness (k). But the Scripture is entirely silent about the death of this goat, though it no doubt died in the wilderness, only says that it was let go, and was at liberty to go where it would; intimating that the people of Israel were free from all their sins, and they should be no more seen nor remembered; typical of the deliverance and freedom of the people of God from all their sins by Christ. This affair was imitated by Satan among the Heathens, particularly the Egyptians, as has been observed by many out of Herodotus (l); who relates, that they used to imprecate many things upon the head of a beast slain for sacrifice, and then carried it to market, where were Grecian merchants, to whom they sold it; but if there were none, they cast it into the river, execrating the head after this manner, that if any evil was to befall either themselves that sacrificed, or all Egypt, it might be turned upon that head. And on account of this custom, which obtained among all the Egyptians, no one among them would ever taste the head of any animal; which Plutarch (m) also affirms, who says, that having made an execration upon the head of the sacrifice, and cut it off, formerly they cast it into the river, but now they give it to strangers. And a like custom obtained among other nations, as the Massilians and Grecians (n).

(k) Yoma, c. 6. sect. 4, 5, 6, 8. (l) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 39. (m) De Iside & Osir. (n) Vid. Outram. de Sacrificiis, l. 1. c. 22. sect. 14.

And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
22. The goat that was sent away was a symbol of the entire removal of the sins for which the blood of the sacrificed animals had already made atonement (Leviticus 16:14-15; Leviticus 16:18). In Leviticus 16:20 it is expressly said that the high priest had made an end of atoning.

22. a solitary land] Heb. a land cut off, ‘a land not inhabited,’ as A.V., or a land from which return was cut off.

Verse 22. - Then the goat went forth, bearing upon him all their iniquities. The slain goat had symbolized and ceremonially wrought full atonement or covering of sins; but in order to impress upon the mind of the nation a joyful sense of entire liberation from the burden of sin, the second symbol of the disappearing goat is used; so that not only sin, but the consciousness and the fear of the taint and presence of sin, might be taken away from the cleansed and delivered people. The goat is to bear the iniquities of the people unto a land not inhabited. The latter words - in the original, eretz gezerah - would be more correctly translated, a laud cut off, that is, completely isolated from the surrounding country by some barrier of rock or torrent, which would make it impossible for the goat to come back again. Thus the sins were utterly lost, as though they had never been, and they could not return to the sanctified people. The Hebrew word gazar, to cut (1 Kings 3:25; Psalm 136:18), is represented in Arabic by jazara, and the substantive gezerah by jaziruh, which means an island, or an area surrounded by rivers. The word is still in use in countries where Arabic is spoken, as the designation of a district divided from the neighbouring territories by rivers cutting it off, and making it a sort of island or peninsula. Into such a district as this, the man who led the goat was to let him go. In later times, contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic appointment, the goat was pushed over a projecting ledge of rock, and so killed, a device of man clumsily introduced for the purpose of perfecting a symbolism of Divine appointment. It was more in accordance with the original institution that "the arrival of the goat in the wilderness was immediately telegraphed by the waving of flags, from station to station, till a few minutes after its occurrence it was known in the temple, and whispered from ear to ear, that the goat had borne upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited" (Edersheim, 'Temple Service'). Both the goat that was sacrificed and the goat that served as remover of sins typified Christ. The first presents him to our faith as the Victim on the cross, the other as the Sin-bearer on whom the Lord laid "the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). "The reason for making use of two animals is to be found purely in the physical impossibility of combining all features that had to be set forth in the sin offering in one animal" (Keil). Leviticus 16:22After the completion of the expiation and cleansing of the holy things, Aaron was to bring up the live goat, i.e., to have it brought before the altar of burnt-offering, and placing both his hands upon its head, to confess all the sins and transgressions of the children of Israel upon it, and so put them upon its head. He was then to send the goat away into the desert by a man who was standing ready, that it might carry all its sins upon it into a land cut off; and there the man was to set the goat at liberty. עתּי, ἁπάξ λεγ. from עת an appointed time, signifies opportune, present at the right time, or ready. גּזרה, which is also met with in this passage alone, from גּזר to cut, or cut off, that which is severed, a country cut off from others, not connected by roads with any inhabited land. "The goat was not to find its way back" (Knobel). To understand clearly the meaning of this symbolical rite, we must start from the fact, that according to the distinct words of Leviticus 16:5, the two goats were to serve as a sin-offering (לחטּאת). They were both of them devoted, therefore, to one and the same purpose, as was pointed out by the Talmudists, who laid down the law on that very account, that they were to be exactly alike, colore, statura, et valore. The living goat, therefore, is not to be regarded merely as the bearer of the sin to be taken away, but as quite as truly a sin-offering as the one that was slaughtered. It was appointed עליו לכפּר (Leviticus 16:10), i.e., not that an expiatory rite might be performed over it, for על with כּפּר always applies to the object of the expiation, but properly to expiate it, i.e., to make it the object of the expiation, or make expiation with it. To this end the sins of the nation were confessed upon it with the laying on of hands, and thus symbolically laid upon its head, that it might bear them, and when sent into the desert carry them away thither. The sins, which were thus laid upon its head by confession, were the sins of Israel, which had already been expiated by the sacrifice of the other goat. To understand, however, how the sins already expiated could still be confessed and laid upon the living goat, it is not sufficient to say, with Bhr, that the expiation with blood represented merely a covering or covering up of the sin, and that in order to impress upon the expiation the stamp of the greatest possible completeness and perfection, a supplement was appended, which represented the carrying away and removal of the sin. For in the case of every sin-offering for the congregation, in addition to the covering or forgiveness of sin represented by the sprinkling of blood, the removal or abolition of it was also represented by the burning of the flesh of the sacrifice; and this took place in the present instance also. As both goats were intended for a sin-offering, the sins of the nation were confessed upon both, and placed upon the heads of both by the laying on of hands; though it is of the living goat only that this is expressly recorded, being omitted in the case of the other, because the rule laid down in Leviticus 4:4. was followed.

(Note: The distinction, that in the case of all the other sacrifices the (one) hand is ordered to be laid upon the victim, whilst here both hands are ordered to be laid upon the goat, does not constitute an essential difference, as Hoffmann supposes; but the laying on of both hands rendered the act more solemn and expressive, in harmony with the solemnity of the whole proceeding.)

By both Israel was delivered from all sins and transgressions; but by the one, upon which the lot "for Jehovah" fell, it was so with regard to Jehovah; by the other, upon which the lot "for Azazel" fell, with regard to Azazel. With regard to Jehovah, or in relation to Jehovah, the sins were wiped away by the sacrifice of the goat; the sprinkling of the blood setting forth their forgiveness, and the burning of the animal the blotting of them out; and with this the separation of the congregation from Jehovah because of its sin was removed, and living fellowship with God restored. But Israel had also been brought by its sin into a distinct relation to Azazel, the head of the evil spirits; and it was necessary that this should be brought to an end, if reconciliation with God was to be perfectly secured. This complete deliverance from sin and its author was symbolized in the leading away of the goat, which had been laden with the sins, into the desert. This goat was to take back the sins, which God had forgiven to His congregation, into the desert to Azazel, the father of all sin, in the one hand as a proof that his evil influences upon men would be of no avail in the case of those who had received expiation from God, and on the other hand as a proof to the congregation also that those who were laden with sin could not remain in the kingdom of God, but would be banished to the abode of evil spirits, unless they were redeemed therefrom. This last point, it is true, is not expressly mentioned in the test; but it is evident from the fate which necessarily awaited the goat, when driven into the wilderness in the "land cut off." It would be sure to perish out there in the desert, that is to say, to suffer just what a winner would have to endure if his sins remained upon him; though probably it is only a later addition, not founded in the law, which we find in the Mishnah, Joma vi. 6, viz., that the goat was driven headlong from a rock in the desert, and dashed to pieces at the foot. There is not the slightest idea of presenting a sacrifice to Azazel. This goat was a sin-offering, only so far as it was laden with the sins of the people to carry them away into the desert; and in this respect alone is there a resemblance between the two goats and the two birds used in the purification of the leper (Leviticus 14:4.), of which the one to be set free was bathed in the blood of the one that was killed. In both cases the reason for making use of two animals is to be found purely in the physical impossibility of combining all the features, that had to be set forth in the sin-offering, in one single animal.

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