Leviticus 16:2 MEANING

Leviticus 16:2
(2) That he come not at all times.--Moses is therefore to warn his brother Aaron, the high priest, that if he wishes to escape a similar fate, he is not to presume to enter the Holy of Holies except on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. As Aaron here stands for all those who in future are to succeed him in the pontificate, so Moses, who teaches him his duty, stands for his successors who are hereafter to impart instruction to the high priests on these most solemn occasions. Hence during the second Temple the tuition and preparation of the high priest for his functions devolved upon the Sanhedrin, who prescribed most minute rules for his guidance. Seven days before the Day of Atonement he was separated from his wife, and lodged in a chamber in the Temple, lest he should contract defilement, which might unfit him for the performance of his pontifical duties. The elders or the representatives of the Sanhedrin read and expounded to him the ordinances contained in this chapter; which he had to practise in their [presence, so as to make sure that he could rightly perform all the ceremonies. This continued during the whole night previous to the Day of Atonement, when he was kept awake, so as to prevent any pollution arising from a dream or accident by night.

He read, in the silent hours of darkness, the Books of Job, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles; and if he was no scholar, and could not read, the elders read them to him. As it was deemed important that he should not fall asleep, the priests who surrounded him alternately snapped their fingers, and made him walk on the cold pavement of the court. When the chief of the thirteen priests who were appointed to perform the ordinary duties in connection with the service in the sanctuary had ascertained that the morning had dawned, that the ashes had been removed from the brazen altar, and that the time of the early sacrifice had arrived, the high priest was conducted to the baptistery, where he immersed his whole body in water.

Into the holy place.--This is here more minutely defined by "within the vail," thus showing that the Holy of Holies is meant. In the succeeding portions of this chapter, however, the expression "holy" is used for "Holy of Holies" without this adjunct. (See Leviticus 16:3; Leviticus 16:16-17; Leviticus 16:20; Leviticus 16:27.)

Before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark.--Or, according to the accents of the received text, nor come to the mercy seat, which, &c. The present text exhibits the view of the Pharisees--that the high priest, though at some distance from the ark, is yet hid through the frankincense on the burning coals in the Holy of Holies itself (see Leviticus 16:12-13); whilst the Sadducees maintained that he must put it on the coals already in the court, because they deemed it improper to work in the presence of the Lord, and because the pontiff would otherwise see the ark. The Authorised Version, therefore, here, as elsewhere, follows the view of the Sadducees, and departs from the received accents, which are an essential part of the traditional text.

For I will appear in the cloud.--That is, because the Lord appeared over the mercy seat and between the cherubim in the bright luminous cloud which constituted the symbol of His Divine presence (see Exodus 25:22), therefore even the high priest must not approach it except on the occasion here prescribed. The Sadducees, however, render it, only in the cloud of incense will I be seen on the cover, that is, in the cloud arising from the burning incense which the high priest is to produce by fumigation before he enters the Holy of Holies, and which is to conceal the manifested Deity.

Verse 2. - 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. Nadab and Abihu having died for their rash presumption in venturing unbidden into the tabernacle, it was natural that Aaron, who had as yet but once penetrated into the holy of holies, should be struck with fear, and that he should desire Divine instruction as to the times and manner in which he was to appear before the Lord, lest he should be struck dead like his sons. If the attempt to enter the outer chamber of the tabernacle had been so fatal to them, what might not be the result to him of entering within the vail which hung before the mercy-seat which is upon the ark? The mercy-seat - capporeth, ἱλαστήριον, propitiatorium - formed the top of the ark, and was the place where God specially exhibited his Presence, on the occasions of his manifestation, by the bright cloud which then rested upon it between the cherubim. It was this Presence which made it perilous for Aaron to appear within the vail unbidden or without the becoming ritual; for man might not meet God unless he were sanctified for the purpose (Exodus 19:14, 21-24; 1 Samuel 6:19). The words, for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat, refer to the Divine Presence thus visibly manifested (see 1 Kings 8:10-12), and not, as they have strangely been misinterpreted, to the cloud of smoke raised by the incense burnt by the high priest on his entrance. They do not, however, prove that the manifestation was constantly there, still less that it was continued, according to Jewish tradition, in later times. "The reason for the prohibition of Aaron's entrance at his own pleasure, or without the expiatory blood of sacrifice, is to be found in the fact that the holiness communicated to the priest did not cancel the sin of his nature, but only covered it over for the performance of his official duties; and so long as the Law, which produced only the knowledge of sin, and not its forgiveness and removal, was not abolished by the complete atonement, the holy God was and remained to mortal and sinful man a consuming fire, before which no one could stand" (Keil).

16:1-14 Without entering into particulars of the sacrifices on the great day of atonement, we may notice that it was to be a statute for ever, till that dispensation be at an end. As long as we are continually sinning, we continually need the atonement. The law of afflicting our souls for sin, is a statue which will continue in force till we arrive where all tears, even those of repentance, will be wiped from our eyes. The apostle observes it as a proof that the sacrifices could not take away sin, and cleanse the conscience from it, that in them there was a remembrance made of sin every year, upon the day of atonement, Heb 10:1,3. The repeating the sacrifices, showed there was in them but a feeble effort toward making atonement; this could be done only by offering up the body of Christ once for all; and that sacrifice needed not to be repeated.And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother,.... Who was the high priest; and what is here said to him was binding on all high priests in succession from him:

that he come not at all times into the holy place; or "holiness" (p), which was holiness itself, or the most holy place, as distinguished from that which was sometimes called the holy place, where stood the incense altar, the showbread table, and the candlestick, into which Aaron went every day, morning and evening, to do the service there enjoined him; but into the holy of holies here described, as appears by the after description of it, he might not go at all times, or every day, or when he pleased, only once a year, on the day of atonement; though, according to the Jewish writers, he went in four times on that day, first to offer incense, a second time to sprinkle the blood of the bullock, a third time to sprinkle the blood of the goat, and a fourth time to fetch out the censer; and if he entered a fifth time, he was worthy of death (q). Some have observed (r), that this respected Aaron only, and not Moses; that though Aaron might not go in when he pleased, and only at a time fixed, yet Moses might at any time, and consult the Lord upon the mercy seat, see Exodus 25:22. Pausanias makes mention of several Heathen temples which were opened but once a year, as the temples of Hades Dindymene, and Eurymone (s), and particularly the temple of Minerva, into which only a priest entered once a year (t); which perhaps was in imitation of the Jewish high priest:

within the vail, before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; this is a description of the holy place, into which the high priest might not go at any time, or at pleasure; it was within the vail that divided between the holy place, and the most holy, where stood the mercy seat, which was a lid or covering to the ark, at the two ends of which were the cherubim, the seat of the divine Majesty; which was a type of heaven for its holiness, being the habitation of the holy God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and of holy angels, and holy men, and where only holy services are performed; and for its invisibility, where dwells the invisible God, where Christ in our nature is at present unseen by us, and the glories of which are not as yet to be beheld; only faith, hope, and love, enter within the vail, and have to do with unseen objects there; and also for what are in it, as the ark and mercy seat, types of Christ, through whom mercy is communicated in a way of justice, he being the propitiation and the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness. And this caution was given to Aaron:

that he die not; by appearing in the presence of God without his leave and order:

for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat; this one would think should be a reason why he should not die, when he came into the most holy place, because there was the mercy seat, and Jehovah on it: and besides the cloud of incense on it, he went in with, for so many understand by the cloud, the cloud of incense: thus Aben Ezra says, the sense is, that he should not enter but with incense, which would make a cloud, and so the glory not be seen, lest he should die: and Jarchi observes, that the Midrash, or the more mystical and subtle sense is, he shall not go in but with the cloud of incense on the day of atonement; but the more simple meaning, or plain sense of the words is, as the same writer notes, that whereas he did continually appear there in the pillar of cloud; and because his Shechinah or glorious Majesty is revealed there, he is cautioned not to use himself to go in, i.e. at any time; with which agrees the Targum of Jonathan,"for in my cloud the glory of my Shechinah, or divine Majesty, shall be revealed upon the mercy seat.''And this being the case, such a glory being there, though wrapped up in a cloud and thick darkness, it was dangerous to enter but by divine order.

(p) "ad sanctitatem", Pagninus, Montanus. (q) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Celim, c. 1. sect. 9. (r) Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1. So Tikkune Zohar, correct. 18. fol. 28. 1.((s) Eliac 2. sive, l. 6. p. 392. Boeotica, sive, l. 9. p. 578. Arcadica, sive, l. 8. p. 522. (t) Ib. Arcadica, p. 531.

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