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Day of Atonement

Day when the high priest offered sacrifices for Israel's sins.

The Horned Alter

The high priest put blood on the horns of the altar on the Day of Atonement

Altar from Megiddo
10th - 9th cent. B.C.

The Day of Atonement was the most solemn day of the Jewish year. It took place in the fall. The high priest was called upon to enter the inner part of the sanctuary, or "holy of holies," in order to make atonement for the people. A bull and goat were slain in the outer courtyard. Then the high priest sprinkled some of the blood before the mercy seat in the inner chamber. This was the only time during the year that anyone was allowed to enter the holy of holies. After this, the high priest put blood on the horns of the altar in the forecourt. The high priest also placed his hands on a live goat, confessed the sins of the people, then released the goat into the wilderness as a way of removing sin from the community (hence the term "scape goat"). The book of Hebrews draws on the ritual of the Day of Atonement when depicting the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Lev 16 - Day of Atonement ritual


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