The Scapegoat

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
"And the (scape)goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Lev. 16:2222And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:22). This brings before us one of the most striking types of the atoning work of Christ that the Old Testament gives. It was the day of atonement, and there were two parts to it: first, that which was needed to make atonement for Aaron and his house (vv. 3, 6), then also what was needed for the congregation of Israel. For the priestly house it was a young bullock for a sin offering; for the congregation, two kids of the goats. In the latter case, lots were to be cast upon the goats-one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. The one upon which the Lord's lot fell was to be offered for a sin offering. If we follow what took place with it, we shall better understand the significance of the scapegoat and why there was nothing answering to it in the case of the priests. In both, the blood of the sin offering having been shed outside the tabernacle had to be brought in within the veil and sprinkled upon the mercy seat which covered the ark; that was where the glory of God abode in Israel.
Once was enough for God who could estimate the value of the blood presented to Him in type, but it was His will that there should be the sevenfold sprinkling of it before the mercy seat for Aaron to give him complete evidence that the need of God's glory having been met as to sin, he might safely draw near to God. Aaron's eye rested where God's did, and that was enough for him. But for the sins of the people generally, what went on within the holiest was not known to them. Yet all depended for them on the acceptance before the Lord of the blood of the goat upon which His lot had fallen. God had to be met for their sin according to all that He is in His own holiness and righteousness, in order that there might be the removal of their sins. The glory of God shining down upon the blood-stained golden mercy seat was the beautiful expression in type of how He would be glorified by the work of Christ in propitiation on the cross as in Romans 3:22-2622Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:22‑26). But the people knew nothing of this until the high priest came out. Then he was to bring the live goat and lay both his hands upon its head and confess over it "all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." v. 21.
We can picture the scene to ourselves as every eye in Israel, at least of any who believed God, would be fixed on the spot where the goat stood, and as the priest's lips moved to confess their sins they would know that that goat stood representatively before God as bearing their sins. And now if they could only ascertain what was done with the goat, they would know what was done with their sins. How deeply they would be interested then in seeing the goat being led away by a responsible man into a land not inhabited so as not to be seen any more. They would know then that the sins of one year, at least for anyone who believed God, were gone from God's sight and mind.
Taken out of type, we find the accomplishment of what the scapegoat represented in another aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection. Propitiation, as in the first goat whose blood was shed and sprinkled on the throne of the Lord in Israel, was worldwide and laid the ground in divine righteousness, not only for the passing over of the sins of past ages in God's forbearance, but for God now to be just and the justifier of any poor ungodly sinner that believes in Jesus. But now we find the antitype for the scapegoat in Christ having been delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification according to Romans 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25). That is, as Isaiah 53 foretold, where repentant souls were brought to take the only true place for any of us before God, owning that "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," it became also true to such that "the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." And Peter, looking back on the wonderful accomplishment of the prophecy (1 Pet. 2:24, 2524Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24‑25)), can say, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." The two goats were necessary to present to Israel in type, these two aspects of the work of the Lord Jesus,. But how far does the glorious antitype exceed anything thus given them! For when the eye of faith looks back to see Christ as having borne my sins, all my sins, on the cross, it can now look up to see Him risen and glorified at God's right hand. And as it says in 1 Cor. 15:1717And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17), "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins"; we know that as He is risen, the faith of the simplest believer is not in vain-we are no longer in our sins. Moreover, for Israel the atonement in type was only available for one year, as we see in the last verse of Lev. 16 But because of the infinite satisfaction found by God in the one perfect offering of Christ, our sins and iniquities are remembered no more; there is no more conscience of sins for the believer. (See Heb. 10:1-181For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:1‑18).)
And thus is made good to us what only belonged to Aaron and his house in type in Lev. 16; that is, not only are our sins gone by the work of Christ, but we have unhindered access to God in the holiest. For verse 19 of Heb. 10 goes on, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near." Thus we need the epistle to the Hebrews as well as that to the Romans to complete for us the instruction conveyed in the type of the great day of atonement in Lev. 16 And I trust that no believer will be satisfied in merely seeing that his or her sins are gone forever by what answers to the scapegoat-Christ as the Substitute for His people-but will also realize by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit what is their portion now of access to God in the unclouded light of His own presence. This could never have been known by even Aaron when he went into the holiest made with hands with the blood of the bullock. For "the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" (or literally "had its standing"; Heb. 9:88The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (Hebrews 9:8)). Now He signifies, as in chapter 10, that no veil exists any longer nor is there any unsettled question of sin to hinder our drawing near to the very presence of God. The blow of divine judgment that fell upon Christ for our sins rent the veil that barred the way, and has removed forever from before God the sins that would have hindered our availing ourselves of the opened way.
What blessed instruction the types afford us now that we have the key to all in the Person and work of Christ.