YOM KIPPUR AND THE TWO GOATS
Yom Kippur is commonly referred to in English as the Day of Atonement. For a Jew, Yom Kippur is the most solemn and holy day of the year because of its God-designated protocols which deal with the sins of His people, the sons of Israel. The feast’s observance takes place yearly in September or October.
The Hebrew word Kippur actually means “covering.” The word “atonement” (covering) is not used in the New Testament because God’s covering of sins under the Old Testament has been graciously replaced by God’s forgiveness of sins in Jesus.
For Christians, one of the most fascinating sacrifices in the Jewish observation of Yom Kippur during Jesus’ earthly ministry was the sacrifice of the two male goats (Lev. 16:7).
A word-for-word English translation of the Bible might be helpful in referencing and better understanding the scriptures cited (e.g., The New American Standard Bible. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1995).
This essay will provide the details of this two-goat sacrifice which make it so fascinating.
Yom Kippur’s Sacrifices
God designated several yearly sacrifices contained in the Yom Kippur protocols (Num. 29:7-11). One of the several sacrifices was seven one-year-old male lambs without defects.
Another sacrifice was two male goats (Lev. 16:5-10, 15-22). God designated the two male goats together as a single offering.
By lot, one of the two male goats was selected to bear all the iniquities and transgressions of the sons of Israel. This goat was then separated from the sons of Israel by being sent away into the wilderness.
The other goat was designated as a sin offering and slaughtered, i.e., put to death.
Application of Yom Kippur to the Church
When Jesus presented Himself for baptism, John the Baptist identified Him as “. . . the Lamb (emphasis mine) of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Three important facts in John’s identification were:
- Jesus was identified as the Lamb of God;
- Jesus takes away (not just covers) sin; and
- Jesus’ death was for the world, not just for the sons of Israel.
As the Lamb of God and not from an animal flock or herd, Jesus was verified as a suitable male sacrifice without defect by Satan’s failed temptations. Thus, He could die on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for sins. Those sins would be permanently and irreversible forgiven forever, not just covered for a year.
Finally, because the world benefits from Jesus’ sacrificial death, gentiles were included in addition to the sons of Israel.
Because of the world-wide application of Jesus’ sacrifice, the church becomes a legitimate recipient of, and witness to, God’s grace through Jesus.
Application of the Two Goats to the Church
The single yearly Yom Kippur offering of the two goats illustrates the complete efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice for the human condition.
The human condition is two-fold: one part is the need for forgiveness of sins; the other part is the need for freedom from slavery to sin that permanently infects every human body.
The first male goat illustrates the results of Jesus’ sacrifice with respect to sins. Just like separating the sons of Israel from their sins for a year by sending the goat away into the wilderness, Jesus’ sacrifice superbly separates God’s people from their sins: “As far as east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
The second male goat’s death also illustrates Jesus’ sacrifice with respect to sin in believers’ bodies. As the Apostle Paul noted in his revealing letter to Rome, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all (emphasis mine)” (Rom. 6:10a). A second goat had to be put to death yearly as a sin offering, but Jesus’ death to sin was “once for all” and never needed to be repeated.
The two goats were designated a single offering, illustrating that by Jesus’ single death, He alone provided the much needed remedy for both sins and sin.
What makes the single two-goat offering so fascinating for the church is that it clearly illustrates how Jesus’ death has efficaciously and everlastingly solved the two-fold need for forgiveness of sins and the need for freedom from slavery to sin for those in Christ.
Hint for those in Christ: pray daily that the Spirit would put to death the practices of sin in your body (Rom. 8:13) so that the life of Christ may be manifested in you by a faith that works for God’s glory (2 Cor. 4:10-11, 15; Jas. 2:21-22 for a faith that works).