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Chapter 47

The Atonement in the
Old Testament

Why was Abel's sacrifice more acceptable to God than Cain's?
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." Heb. 11:4.

To what did his sacrifice point forward?
"Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." 1 Peter 1:18-20.

By his sacrifice, what did Abel obtain?
"He obtained witness that he was righteous." Heb. 11:4.

With what sacrifice did God command Abraham to worship Him?
"And He said unto him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old... And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another." Gen. 15:1, 10.

How did Jacob manifest his faith in the promised Redeemer?
"And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac." Gen. 46:1.

What did the Lord command Moses to have made?
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering; ..and let them make Me a sanctuary: that I may dwell among them." Ex. 25:1, 8 (Acts 7:44) (Heb. 8:5). "Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work shalt thou make them." "And thou shalt make curtains goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: even curtains shalt thou make." "And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins." Ex. 26:1, 7, 14.

How many apartments had the sanctuary?
"And the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy." Ex. 26:33.
NOTE: The sanctuary, or tabernacle, was about forty-five feet (13.7+meters) wide, and divided into two parts, —the outer apartment, or "holy place," being two thirds of the whole building, and the inner apartment, or "most holy place," one third. Three sides of the building were of upright boards overlaid with gold, but the east, or front end, consisted of a curtain, was was put aside to form an entrance.

What was in the first apartment?
"For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary." Heb 9:2.

What other article was in the first apartment?
"And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the veil." Ex. 40:26 (Ex. 30:1-6).

What was contained in the second apartment, or the most holy place?
"And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant." Heb. 9:3-4 (Ex. 40:20, 21).

By what name was the cover of the ark known?
"And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee." Ex.25:21.

Where was God, by the symbol of His presence, to meet with Israel's high priest?
"And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony." Ex. 25:22.

What was in the ark, under the mercy seat?
"And He wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments... And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made." Deut. 10:4, 5.

When this building was completed, for what purpose was it used, and who daily officiated in the first apartment?
"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God." Heb. 9:6.

Who only was allowed in the second apartment? How often? And for what purpose?
"But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people." Heb. 9:7.
NOTE: The round of service in the earthly sanctuary was God's service. It had to do with the sins of the people; not that the blood offered there could take away their sins, for the Bible says expressly (Heb 10:4) that it could not do so. It could, however, show their faith in the efficacy of Christ's blood yet to be spilled, and to which the sanctuary work constantly directed their minds. The work done there was a type, or shadow, of Christ's atoning work, and, as such, carries with it a significance that cannot be overestimated. With this thought in view, we proceed to learn the process by which, in a figure only, their sins were put away from them

How does one commit sin?
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4.

And what is the wages of sin?
"The wages of sin is death." Rom. 6:23.
NOTE: Then if a man sinned in Israel; he violated one of the ten commandments that were in the ark, and under the mercy-seat of God. These commandments were the pillars of God's govenment; to violate one of them was to rebel against God's government, and so become subject to death But there was a mercy seat reared above these holy and just commandments. In the dispensation of HIs mercy, God grants the sinner the privilege of bringing a substitute, to meet the demands of the law.

When one of the common people thus sinned, what must he then do, to save his life?
"And if anyone of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord,... then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin-offering in the place of the burnt offering." Lev. 4:27-29.

What was done with the blood?
"And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar." Lev. 4:30.

How was the body of the sin offering to be disposed of?
"This is the law of the sin-offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord; it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it; in the holy place shall it be eaten." Lev. 6:25, 26. See verse 16.
NOTE: After a person discovered his sin by the law which demanded the death of the transgressor, he first brought his offering; then he confessed his sin while laying his hands on the head of the victim, thus transferring (in a figure) his sin to the victim; the victim was next slain, and some of its blood was put on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering; and the priests ate the flesh, thus transferring the sins to the priest who carried them to the day of atonement. This was the case with the sin-offering of the common people; but if a priest or the whole congregation had sinned, the victim was burned without the camp, and the blood was taken into the sanctuary. In this way sins were transferred to the sanctuary.

After the accumulation of the sins of the year in this way, what took place on the tenth day of the seventh month?
"And this shall be a statue forever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls;... For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Lev. 16:29, 30.
NOTE: It seems by this that the atonement was not completed till the end of the ceremonial year. Atonement signifies "expiation; satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury." Webster.

After making an offering for himself, what did the high priest next do?
"And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat." Lev.16:7, 8.

What was done with the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell?
"Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat." Lev.16:15.

Was it necessary to make this atonement?
"And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness." Lev. 16:16.
NOTE: As already seen, sins were conveyed into the sanctuary during the year by the blood and the flesh of the personal sin-offerings, which were offered daily at the door of the tabernacle, Here they remainad until the day of atonement, when the high priest went into the most holy place with the blood of the goat on which the Lord's lot fell; and bearing the sins of the year in before the mercy-seat, he there atoned for them before God, and so cleansed the sanctuary, or as the Dutch and German translations of Eze. 45:18 render it, "unsinned" the sanctuary.

After the high priest came out of the sanctuary with the sins still on him, having atoned for them in the most holy place, what did he next do?
"And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Lev. 16:20, 21.

Then who bore the sins of the people, after the high priest had put them off, and the camp was cleansed from them?
"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." Lev. 16:22.
NOTE: in this way the sins of Israel were disposed of each year. It will be noticed, however, that the atonement work of that dispensation only availed for those whose sins had been confessed and conveyed unto the sanctuary by the sacrifice of the victims offered daily at the door of the tabernacle. If any one chose to keep his sins upon himself, he received no atonement, but instead, was cut off from God's people at the close of that day's work; though the privilege of making an offering was extended to the people, even while the high priest was engaged In the closing exercises of the year. See Num. 29:7-11, and the work entitled, "The Sanctuary and 2300 Days," pages 289-297. It is clear, then, that no atonement can be made for a person before he confesses his sins. This subject is further discussed in th. following reading.

tabernacle (7K)


The sanctuary in the wilderness was constructed under the direction of Moses, in accordance with the pattern shown him in the mount (Ex. 25:7-8, 40; Heb 8:5).

Enclosing this wilderness tabernacle was a Court (sometimes called the Outer Court) which was made of white curtains attached to poles (Ex. 27:9-18) , and was about 75 feet wide by 150 feet long (based on an 18-inch cubit). Within the Court was the Altar of Burnt Offering, the laver and the Tabernacle. This altar was also called the Brazen Altar since there was a second altar, the Golden Altar, inside the Tabernacle. This outside Altar (Ex. 27:1-9) was hollow inside and overlaid with brass, and was 5 feet high and 7 1/2 feet square. Upon this altar were placed the animals that were offered as burnt sacrifice. Just beyond, stood the brass laver (Ex. 30:18-21), where the priests washed before entering the Tabernacle.

The earthly sanctuary (Ex. 26:1-37) was a tent with wooden walls, 4 layers as a roof covering, and gold and beautiful curtaining inside. About 15 by 45 feet in size, this Tabernacle was portable, so it could be taken apart and moved from place to place in the journeys of Israel through the wilderness. Divided by an inner veil into two rooms or apartments, it was the holiest place on earth. The priest entered the First Apartment every day with blood, and went past the seven-branched Golden Candlestick, with its seven lamps of fire (Ex. 25:31-40); past the Table of Shewbread, containing the dedicated bread that stood before the Presence of the lord (Ex. 25:23-30); and on to the Altar of Incense, or Golden Altar (Ex. 30:1-10), from whence the smoke of a specially prepared incense wafted up, over the top of the dividing veil (which did not reach to the ceiling) and into the Holy of Holies beyond. Upon the Golden Altar and dividing veil, the priest sprinkled some of the sacrificial blood (Lev. 4-5). A partial description of this may be found in Hebrews 9:1-7. All of the furniture within the First and Second Apartments was of solid gold, or covered with gold.

The Second Apartment, or Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:33) contained the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 26:17-22). Between two Cherubim was the glory of the Shekinah the Presence of God (Ex. 26: 22; 40:34). Beneath it was the Mercy Seat, a solid gold slab that covered the top of the Ark, wherein lay the foundation of God's government: the Moral law of Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3-17) which was written by the finger of God on stone (Ex. 24:12) and then placed in the Ark (Ex. 40:20). All of mankind is to be governed by those holy precepts, even down to the end of time (Rev. 12:17; 14:12) and beyond (Rev. 22:14; Isa. 66:22). Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, did the high priest enter the Second Apartment to cleanse the Sanctuary and the people of sin (Lev. 16:30, 33-34 and all of the chapter; Dan. 8:14).

Copyright © 1988 Research Institute for Better Reading, Inc., used by permission by Project Restore, Inc. at www.projectrestore.com
Created: 07/15/02 Updated: 01/04/05