The Day of Atonement Goats

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

(Devotion Drawn from the Old Testament)

For the Jewish feast called the Day of Atonement, God required two identical goats. They each prefigured Christ Jesus, as they separately yet distinctly portrayed the removal of sin.

One goat would be slain as the national sin offering. Its blood would ultimately be sprinkled by the High Priest toward the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place.  This was a central ceremony on the Jewish Day of Atonement, and the blood of this sin offering goat indicated atoning forgiveness for the nation of Israel before God, who declared Himself to be seated above (or on) the mercy seat.  The author of the book of Hebrews has this as his central topic, demonstrating Christ’s blood to be the fulfillment of such Day of Atonement blood.[1]

The second goat was called the “scapegoat.” Upon the head of the scapegoat the High Priest would lay his hands and nonspecifically confess the sins of the nation of Israel which had been committed during the past year, thus depositing these sins upon the goat. In Christ’s day, the goat was brought to the Mount of Olives while God’s people at Jerusalem called out for the scapegoat to be gone.  From the Mount of Olives a non-Jew was hired to lead this sin-bearing goat deep into the wilderness, never to return.

Jesus is our scapegoat.[2] He carried all humanity’s sins, for God made Him to be sin.[3] He, like the scapegoat, went to the Mount of Olives, and before He was led by non-Jews to the cross the people at Jerusalem cried out, “Away with Him.” Most importantly, he carried the sins of the people into the deepest wilderness—the grave—never to return again with those sins.  He rose again for our justification, for our sins are gone and we are declared righteous before God!

God knew all along that He would send His Son, and all Old Testament shadows—including that of the two goats on the Day of Atonement—would become one profound reality in Him.

Oh Holy Spirit, grant me grace to trust Jesus as my atoning sacrifice and as my great scapegoat.  Amen.

[1] E. g. Hicks, Sacrifice…, 236: “[The author of Hebrews] has been stressing the analogy of our Lord’s sacrifice with one special aspect of Jewish sacrifice, namely, the sin offering, and in particular the great sin-offering of the Day of Atonement.” 238: “The one special form of Jewish sacrifice that is dwelt upon [in Hebrews] is the sin-offering in its fullest form on the Day of Atonement.”  It should also be noted that a Bull was also offered as a sin offering for the high priest and his family. It is apparent that its blood was sprinkled, with that of the national sin offering, toward the mercy seat.

[2] Some have considered the scapegoat to be typical of Satan.  Many (including me) do not consider this to be a viable or consistent line of thinking; rather we see Christ being typified by the scapegoat.

[3] Some have surmised that John the Baptist—himself a Jewish priest—put the world’s sins upon Jesus at His baptism.  We believe this makes theological sense.