Once a year on the day of atonement, the priest goes into the holy of holies and makes an atonement of the sins of the people of Israel. Releasing the scapegoat is part of this ceremony.
In Luke 1, Zacharias was in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement when an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that his barren wife Elisabeth would conceive a child. This child would be John the Baptist. Read Luke 1 to find out what the angel did to punish Zacharias because he did not believe his words.
Leviticus 16 – Day of Atonement
When: After the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered strange fire before the Lord and died. (Leviticus 10)
The Lord (to Moses): Speak to Aaron your brother, that he is not to come all the time into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is on the ark; so that he does not die: for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat.
Aaron shall come into the holy place in this way:
• He shall wash his flesh in water
• He shall put on the holy garments (listed in vs 4)
• He shall offer a bullock for the sin offering for himself, and make an atonement for himself and for his house
• He shall take a young bullock for a sin offering
• He shall take a ram for a burnt offering.
• He shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself and for his house, and he shall kill it.
He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and fill his hands with sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil.
He shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the testimony, that he does not die.
He shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat eastward; and he shall sprinkle it with his finger seven times before the mercy seat.
Aaron shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. He shall cast lots for the two goats; one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat.
Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell and offer him for a sin offering.
But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
Aaron shall 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 on the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat.
He shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness and transgressions of the children of Israel, and for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remains among them in the middle of their uncleanness.
When Aaron goes in to make an atonement in the holy place, no man shall be in the tabernacle of the congregation, until he comes out, having made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
He shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar. And he shall sprinkle of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
When he has finished reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands on 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 on the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the man shall let the goat go in the wilderness, and the goat shall carry all their iniquities to a land not inhabited:
And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, take off the holy linen garments and leave them there: He shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself and for the people.
And he shall burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar. And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.
And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skins, and their flesh, and their dung shall burned in the fire. And he that burns them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.
This shall be a statute for ever to you:
• On the tenth day of the seventh month, the priest shall make an atonement for you to cleanse you.
• It shall be a sabbath of rest for you; you shall do no work at all, whether it is one of your own country, or a stranger that lives among you.
• You shall be clean from all your sins before the Lord.
The priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the holy linen garments: And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.
This shall be an everlasting statute to you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.
And Aaron did as the Lord commanded Moses.