Leviticus 15–16: The Day of Atonement

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 60

The first fifteen chapters of Leviticus all have something to do with how individuals became “right” with God through sacrifice or how they become ceremonially “clean” before Him by obedience to His laws of cleanliness. Leviticus 15 contains further instructions about how human functions relate to being clean or unclean under the law of Moses. We must realize, however, that there is no real forgiveness of sins without sincere repentance and the Atonement of Christ. Leviticus 16 describes a sacred ceremony that the Lord commanded the Israelites to perform once a year at a specific time that symbolized how Jesus Christ would atone for the sins of all people. While the rites described in Leviticus 1–15 were individual in application, the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16 symbolized atonement for the sins of the whole Israelite nation and was a day when the entire house of Israel fasted and rested.

Understanding the Scriptures

Leviticus 16

Linen (v. 4)White cloth 
Breeches (v. 4)Underclothing 
Girdle (v. 4)Sash 
Cast lots (vv. 8–10)To throw marked stones or a die for the purpose of randomly choosing something. When holy men cast lots, it was an expression of faith that God would oversee an event and make his will known. In Leviticus 16, one stone was marked for the Lord and another for the scapegoat. When Aaron threw the stones, depending on how they landed, one goat was chosen to be sacrificed and the other was chosen to be the scapegoat. 
The testimony (v. 13)The ark of the covenant 
Hallow (v. 19)Make sacred 
Reconciling (v. 20)Atoning for 
Stead (v. 32)Place 

Leviticus 16:10—The Scapegoat

Scapegoat was the name given to the goat that “escaped” into the wilderness, never to return, with the blood, or sins, of the people on him. The scapegoat symbolized that through the Atonement all of Israel’s sins could be forgiven, never to return.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A as you study Leviticus 15–16.

Activity A iconA Sacred and Important Ceremony

Leviticus 16:3–28 contains instructions for the priest on the Day of Atonement. The following outline gives six general steps involved in the ceremony. Write answers to the questions about each step.

  1. 1.

    What is symbolized by what the Lord asked Aaron to do in verse 4? (see vv. 3–5). (Hint: Make sure you know what “linen” is.)

  2. 2.

    Why did Aaron need two goats? (see vv. 6–10).

  3. 3.

    Why do you think Aaron needed to make atonement for himself before making atonement for the people? (see vv. 11–14). How is this step different from when Christ performed His Atonement? (see Hebrews 9:6–14; Alma 34:8–12).

  4. 4.

    Why would Aaron need to cleanse the holy place of the temple? What does this requirement tell you about the importance of cleanliness in the sight of God and about the power of the Atonement? (see vv. 15–19).

  5. 5.

    How do both goats (the one used for the offering and the one used as the scapegoat) represent Christ and His Atonement? (see vv. 20–22).

  6. 6.

    What do Aaron’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of the man who led the scapegoat into the wilderness symbolize? (see vv. 20–22; see also D&C 36:5–6).