Tag Archives: Theophany

Leviticus 16:

The Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur:
This is perhaps the most important chapter in Leviticus.  It is the most solemn day of the year in the Jewish calendar.  It is the only day mandated by Jewish law to fast.  The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur is the “reset button” for the Jewish liturgical year.  Yom Kippur is the day to remove and destroy impurity for the nation for the year.  It is the reset button to get the Israelites back to square one in terms of ritual purity. This is the day to restore everyone and everything (people, priests and Tabernacle) to the original sanctification. It is the day when Yahweh allows the Israelites to, in effect, start over again.  This is the New Testament equivalent to the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation.  Once the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple, and then later, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, Yom Kippur morphed from ritual purification to the atonement of sins of the people. Yom Kippur became became associated with the forgiveness of sins rather than ritual purifications.  This is the only day of the year when someone could enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle.  In this case, is was the High Priest who could enter the Holy of Holies.  The blood of the sacrifice was applied to the people just as in the Theophany from Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19) to re-enact the Sinai Covenant (Ex. 24).  Yom Kippur was the yearly renewal of the Sinai Covenant.  The blood was applied to the people and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.

God Appears in Human Form?:
On Yom Kippur, Yahweh would “ra’ah” or appear in a cloud over the Mercy Seat.  Other instances of this Hebrew word (Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; etc.) that God would appear in human form on the Mercy Seat; that is, the High Priest Aaron would see God in human form echoing each year the face to face meeting on Mt. Sinai in the Theophany.

Ark of the Covenant / the Mercy Seat / God’s Throne Room:
The Ark of the Covenant had two cherubim with folded wings that acted as God’s footstool.  This is the Mercy Seat or the Purging Seat where God dwelt with Israel in the Meeting Tent.  On Yom Kippur, the one day of the year when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, he would sprinkle blood seven times on the Mercy Seat.  This was a means of expiation and purgation; originally for making Israel ritually pure, but later, for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus’ blood and His Cross, of course, are the ultimate fulfillment of Yom Kippur and the Day of Atonement, and the forgiveness of sins. With God in, visible form, sitting on His throne seat, this, in fact, is a kind of “throne room scene” of God here on earth. The Throne-room of God from Heaven is now making an appearance on earth; “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Reset Button:
Once a year, God would remove all impurities from the Israelites, but later, it is seen as forgiving all sin.  It is the true “reset button” to make all things new.  Each year, no matter what happened, Israel could start over again on Yom Kippur.  The merciful God from His “Mercy Seat,” or “purgation seat”, forgives all of Israel’s sins.  Everything would be restored to its original condition. This is a “statute forever,” perhaps foreshadowing Baptism and Reconciliation (which continued it into the New Covenant times).  In Levitical terms, the Day of Atonement restored equilibrium to the Israel nation and made them new again in ritualistic purity and cleanliness.  [In Baptism, Christians are washed clean of original sin and made anew in the Blood of Christ, new creations; similarly, in Reconciliation, we are forgiven our sins, and made anew in the forgiveness of Christ.]

The Two Goats / Azazel and the Sacrifice Goat:
On Yom Kippur, two goats were chosen: one would be sacrificed, and one would be sent off into the wilderness bearing the sins of the nation, this is the Azazel goat.  The Azazel goat is where the notion of a “scapegoat” comes from, ie, the goat that bears the sins of someone else.  The first goat is a sin offering for the Lord and is slain.  The second goat, the Azazel goat, is an expiation, a purging of the impurities, or later, the sins, of the nation of Israel. The High Priest, the representative of the nation, laid his hands on the goat, a symbolic transfer of impurities and guilt, and then, the Azazel goat was sent off into the wilderness, presumably to its death.  The wilderness and the desert were the place of the demonic, wildness chaos, sin and death. It was the opposite of the Tabernacle, God’s place, the new Eden.  Everything outside the Tabernacle was wilderness, desert, chaos, sin, and death. [When Jesus is about to begin His ministry, He immediately heads out into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by the devil.]  Here, the Azazel goat is banished into the desert to take away Israel’s impurities and sins from the camp of Yahweh and the nation.  The Azazel goat removes impurities out of the sacred space of the Temple into the place it belongs, the demonic geography of the wilderness.  The goat is the vehicle for the removal of those impurities.

Azazel:
As a matter of note, the term Azazel appears also in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q180), where Azazel is a demon; in fact, the leader of the fallen angels that sinned in Genesis 6:1-4 and 1 Enoch.  Thus, once a year, the High Priest would lay hands on the Azazel goat, and confess all the sins of the nation of Israel, symbolically transferring the sins of the nation to the Azazel goat.  The Azazel goat would then bear the sins (impurities) of Israel away from Yahweh’s sacred space of Israel and the Tabernacle, off into the godforsaken land of the desert wilderness.  The wilderness imagery is one of supernatural evil, non-holy ground; non-sacred space outside the Tabernacle.  It was a place spiritually sinister with forces of chaos and death, where the pagans offered sacrifice to goat-demons.  The Azazel goat would possibly be driven off a cliff too, in effect, the impurities and sins of the nation would never make it back.

Christianity and the Cross:
The first sacrificed goat would in the New Testament make Christians fit for God’s presence.  The second goat, the Azazel goat, would remove sins from Christians. In the New Testament, Christ fulfills the type of each goat.  Christ makes us fit to be in God’s presence, and removes sins from our lives.  Christ is the goat sacrificed for our sins on the Cross.  He is also the goat where our sins are laid upon His body and He bears them away from us. Christ becomes sin for us, by bearing our sins.  Azazel is the ultimate embodiment of evil, as the leader of the fallen angels/demons, who led the world astray.  This is reminiscent of Christ being foreshadowed by the bronze serpent raised upon the pole. The serpent (as the serpent from the Garden of Eden, who led mankind astray into Original Sin) was raised upon the pole, and all who looked upon it were healed.  Similarly, the demonic Azazel goat has the sins of the nation cast upon it.  It is Christ, who takes on sin for our sake, who is sacrificed and carried sin away from us.  This is the “suffering servant” of Isaiah, who is pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, and by His “stripes” we are made whole.  Christ’s atoning death on the Cross is the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. The goats of the Day of Atonement are just prefigurements of the real atoning death of the Messiah, the Son of God, to come.  Jesus is the true, sacrificial atonement.  Good Friday is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which was just a prefigurement of the Cross. Jesus’ death on the Cross is the true “Reset Button” for all Christians and believers.  We are made new creations in Christ and His Cross. His sanctifying grace flowed forth as blood and water from His side, and perpetuated in perpetuity in through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Exodus 16-19:

The Manna and the Quail:
From Elim, the Israelites set out into the desert of Sin.  Just as the Egyptians had suffered ten plagues sent from Yahweh, so now too, the Israelites will be tested by God with ten trials, the first of which was the bitter water at Marah.  The next test the Israelites suffer is hunger. They grumble to Moses that they are starving and have nothing to eat.  The Lord then said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not.” (Ex. 16:4)  In the morning God promises to give them bread to eat and in the evening flesh to eat.  God says, “In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.” (Ex. 16:12) Here is a frequent pairing in Scripture of bread and meat. Moses later instructs Aaron to put some of the manna in the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments tablets. Jesus, who is the Eucharist, is carried in the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary.

Manna Foreshadows the Eucharist:
In John 6, Jesus references the manna in the desert as a sign of Himself in the Eucharist as the true bread from heaven.  This typology and foreshadowing of the Eucharist are obvious, and perhaps, the most striking of all the events of Exodus. The description of the manna even resembles that of a Communion host – white wafers.  Just as the Israelites live off the manna from heaven for their 40 years in the wilderness until they reach the promised land of Israel, so too, the Church lives off the body and blood of Christ in our earthly pilgrimage until we reached the promised land of heaven. “The Israelites ate this manna for forty years, until they came to settled land; they ate manna until they reached the borders of Canaan.” (Ex. 16:35)  God nursed the Israelite nation like a mother to a small child giving them food and water for forty years in the desert.  For forty years, He sought to break them of their slave mentality, and nurture them into a more mature faith and dependence upon Him.

Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse and the Eucharist:
“Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32)  “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;  he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6:48-58)

Quail:
“In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.  On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was.  But Moses told them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. ” (Ex. 16:13-15)  Manna is a conjunction of the words what is this?  Again, the miracle of the manna and the quail link the bread and the flesh together as one miraculous event, in which Yahweh feeds and sustains His people.

Manna Regulations and the Sabbath:
Moses instructs the Israelites that they should gather “an omer for each person.”  Moses further tells them, “Let no one keep any of it over until tomorrow morning.” (Ex. 16:19)  This was part of God’s test of them.  Yahweh was providing for their “daily bread,” just as Jesus included this line in the Our Father prayer “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We are to trust that God will provide for our needs each day.  “Morning after morning they gathered it, till each had enough to eat; but when the sun grew hot, the manna melted away.” (Ex. 16:21) On the sixth day, Yahweh provides extra manna for the following day, the Sabbath, when they are instructed to not collect any food.  This demonstration shows that it is indeed a miraculous event.  The manna rains down from heaven for six days a week, but on the day before the Sabbath, extra manna comes down and does not “become rotten or wormy.”  On the Sabbath, the manna miraculously does not come down.  This is the beginning of God’s commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day by resting.  “On the seventh day everyone is to stay home and no one is to go out.” (Ex. 16:29)  The manna from heaven is linked to the Sabbath and the seventh day of creation when God rested. In the Eucharist that we receive on the new Sabbath, we become new creations in Christ.

The Water from the Rock at Horeb, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit:
Here again, the Israelites are tested, and murmur and grumble against Yahweh and Moses. “Give us water to drink.” (Ex. 17:2)  The Lord answers Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Ex. 17:5-6)  The water flowed out of the rock at Horeb.  This prefigures Jesus offering us the life-giving waters of the Holy Spirit. Again, in the gospel of John it reads: “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.”  Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory.” (John 7:37-39)  Jesus is the new Moses, providing not just water to quench our thirst, but the life-giving waters of eternal life.

Battle with Amalek and Moses’ Raised Hands:
Amalek came and waged war against Israel. (Ex. 17:8)  This is the fourth trial and crisis to befall the Israelites.  The Amalekites were another race of giants that existed here. Moses then commands Joshua to pick his best warriors to go engage the Amalekites in battle, and as long as Moses keeps his hands raised up, “Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” (Ex. 17:11)  As they rested Moses’ tired arms upon Aaron and Hur, his hands remained steady till sunset. “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Ex. 17:13)  The Lord instructs Moses to write down this victory over Amalek “as something to be remembered.” “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” (Ex. 17:14)

The Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai:
The most likely location of Mt. Sinai is probably Jabal al-Lawz (28° 39′ 15″ N, 35° 18′ 21″ E) in Northwest Saudi Arabia.  There are many fascinating similarities to Jabal al-Lawz and the scenes described in Exodus, not the least of which is the top of the mountain is blackened as if it has been exposed to extreme fire and heat.  Many other details found in the next few chapters of Exodus match archeological and geographic features of the Jabal al-Lawz mountain and vicinity.  There is a large split rock formation that seems to have had water flowing out of it as the wear on the rocks indicates.  There are pillars around the mountain, presumably demarking a distance the Israelites should stay away from the mountain when Yahweh is there.  There is an altar of stones at the base of the mountain with painted reliefs of a calf or cow worship. The local nomads refer to it as the mountain of Moses. The list of similarities and matching descriptions goes on and on.

Israel, God’s Special Possession, a Holy Nation:
Yahweh tells Moses, “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Ex. 19:5-6)  This is one of the most important lines in the Jewish Pentateuch.  God tells Moses and the Israelites, if, if they keep His covenant, then they will be God’s special people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.  God is preparing them for a new Covenant.  A fulfillment of the old Abrahamic Covenant but now a deepening of it. God is drawing the Israelites out from the nations and separating them as a special, holy people to Himself alone.  Yahweh is drawing them into a new special relationship.  St. Peter draws on this same Exodus imagery and wording and applies it to Christian’s new creation in Christ.  He says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Great Theophany:
Yahweh tells Moses “I am coming to you in a dense cloud.” Tell the people to go sanctify themselves, “wash their garments and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.” (Ex. 19: 10-11)  Yahweh will descend on the mountain on the “third day.” The mention the third day echoes the three days of Jesus in the tomb, and on the third day Christ rises from the dead. The people are to prepare and make themselves holy for three days in preparation, even to wash their very clothes. Yahweh tells them to “set limits for the people all around the mountain” and “take care not to go up the mountain, or even to touch its base. If anyone touches the mountain he must be put to death.” (Ex. 19:12) They are to be stones or killed with arrows.  Only when the ram’s horn resounds, can they go to the mountain.  Moses warns the people, “Be ready for the third day.” (Ex. 19:15)

The Terrifying Presence of Yahweh on Mt. Sinai:
“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.  And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze and many of them perish.” (Ex. 19:16-21)  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  The Israelites were rightly terrified and afraid at the powerful presence of the Lord.  God came in a great display of power highlighting this seminal moment in the history of God’s people and the history of the world.