The Day of Atonement

Chapter 16 Two of Aaron’s sons died while offering incense to the Lord.[a] After that time, the Lord spoke to Moses. The Lord said, “Talk to your brother Aaron. Tell him that he cannot go behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place anytime he wants to. The mercy-cover is in the room behind that curtain on top of the Holy Box, and I appear in a cloud over that mercy-cover. If Aaron goes into that room, he will die!

“Before Aaron enters the Most Holy Place, he will offer a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron will wash his whole body with water and put on the special clothes. He will put on the linen underwear next to his body, the linen robe, the linen belt, and then he will put the linen turban on his head.

“From the whole community of Israel, Aaron will accept two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Then he will offer the bull for the sin offering. This sin offering is for himself. He will do this to purify[b] himself and his family.

“Then Aaron will take the two goats and bring them before the Lord at the doorway of the Meeting Tent. Aaron will throw lots for the two goats. One lot will be for the Lord. The other lot will be for Azazel.[c]

“Then Aaron will offer the goat chosen by the lot for the Lord. Aaron will make this goat a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by the lot for Azazel will be brought alive before the Lord. Then this goat will be sent out to Azazel in the desert. This is to make the people pure.

11 “Then Aaron will offer the bull as a sin offering for himself. He will purify himself and his family. He will kill the bull for the sin offering for himself. 12 Then he will take a firepan full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord. Aaron will take two handfuls of sweet incense that has been ground into powder and take it into the room behind the curtain. 13 He will put the incense on the fire before the Lord. Then the cloud of incense will hide the mercy-cover that is over the Box that holds the Agreement.[d] This way Aaron will not die. 14 Aaron will dip his finger into the bull’s blood and sprinkle it on the front of the Holy Box. Then he will sprinkle the blood seven times onto the front of the mercy-cover.

15 “Then Aaron will kill the goat of the sin offering for the people. He will bring this goat’s blood into the room behind the curtain. He will do with the goat’s blood as he did with the bull’s blood. He will sprinkle the goat’s blood on the mercy-cover and in front of it. 16 In this way Aaron will purify the Most Holy Place from all the uncleanness and sins of the Israelites. He will also purify the Meeting Tent, because it stands in the middle of people whose sins have made them unclean.

17 “No one must be in the Meeting Tent when Aaron goes in to purify the Most Holy Place. No one is to go in there until Aaron comes out after purifying himself, his family, and all the Israelites. 18 Then Aaron will go out to the altar that is before the Lord. Aaron will make the altar pure. He will take some of the blood from the bull and from the goat and put it on the corners of the altar on all four sides. 19 Then he will dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it on the altar seven times. In this way Aaron will make the altar holy and clean from all the sins of the Israelites.

20 “So Aaron will make the Most Holy Place, the Meeting Tent, and the altar pure. Then he will bring the living goat to the front of the tent. 21 He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat. Then he will confess the sins and crimes of the Israelites over the goat. In this way Aaron will lay the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert. A man will be standing by, ready to lead this goat away. 22 So the goat will carry all the people’s sins on itself into the empty desert. The man who leads the goat will let it loose in the desert.

23 “Then Aaron will enter the Meeting Tent. He will take off the linen clothes that he put on when he went into the Holy Place. He will leave these clothes there. 24 He will wash his whole body with water in a holy place. Then he will put on his clothes. He will come out and offer his burnt offering and the people’s burnt offering. He will make himself and the people pure. 25 Then he will burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

26 “The man who led the goat to Azazel must wash his clothes and his whole body with water. After that he may come into the camp.

27 “The bull and the goat for the sin offerings will be taken outside the camp. (The blood from these animals was brought into the Holy Place to make the holy things pure.) The skins, bodies, and body waste of those animals will be burned in the fire. 28 Then the man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe his whole body with water. After that he may come into the camp.

29 “This law will always continue for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month, you must not eat food.[e] You must not do any work. None of the travelers or foreigners living in your land can do any work either. 30 Because on this day, the priest will do this to make you pure and wash away your sins. Then you will be clean to the Lord. 31 You must humble yourselves[f] because this day is a very important day of rest for you. This law will continue forever.

32 “In the future, this ceremony will be done by the priest who will be anointed and appointed to serve after his father. That priest will put on the holy linen clothes 33 and make the Most Holy Place, the Meeting Tent, and the altar pure. He will also make the priests and all the people pure. 34 That law will continue forever. Once every year you will purify the Israelites from all their sins.”

So they did everything that the Lord had commanded Moses.


  1. Leviticus 16:1 Two of Aaron’s sons … Lord See Lev. 10:1-2.
  2. Leviticus 16:6 purify Or “make atonement.” The Hebrew word means “to cover,” or “to erase” a person’s sins. Also in verses 11, 16, 17, 34.
  3. Leviticus 16:8 Azazel This name means “scapegoat,” “the goat for God,” or “the goat demon.” This might be the name of a particular place in the desert where the goat was released. Also in verse 10, 26.
  4. Leviticus 16:13 Box that holds the Agreement Literally, “Testimony.” See “Agreement” in the Word List.
  5. Leviticus 16:29 not eat food Literally, “humble yourselves.”
  6. Leviticus 16:31 humble yourselves This also means that the people were not supposed to eat any food on this day.