Leviticus 16:

2The Lord said...6Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household...9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering...30...Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.

but Hebrews 10 says:

4It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

I see three possibilities:

  1. Is Hebrews talking about future sins?
  2. Is Hebrews saying that it was possible, but something changed and it's now impossible?
  3. Can one be "clean from sin" without sins being "taken away"?

Am I close? What does "clean" mean?

6 Answers 6


'Clean' (טָהֵר) in Leviticus 16

The Hebrew verb טָהֵר / taher is used consistently throughout the Hebrew Bible in terms of cleansing or purifying, and so in the context of Leviticus 16 the stated meaning is that by performing the described ritual, the High Priest would have his sins cleansed and he would become pure. This ritual purification was required once a year in order for the High Priest to become fit for service (Leviticus 16:32-34).

In Hebrews, the author is discussing the fitness of this and other sacrificial rituals to literally absolve sins, and deals with the theological issues of whether or not the blood itself was the effective component of the sacrifices. Going by the passage in Hebrews 10, I see a fourth option:

Hebrews 10 - an interpretation of 'removing sins'

The author of Hebrews is saying it was never possible for the blood of animals to take away or cleanse sins. To understand this, we need to read verse 4 in its wider context:

"For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship. For otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers would have been purified once for all and so have no further consciousness of sin? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:1-4 NET)

The author is arguing that the Law, including animal sacrifices, held no power in itself to forgive sins, but was a shadow of the reality to come.

"But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy." (Hebrews 10:12-14 NET)

He sees Jesus' one sacrifice being effective for all time (v12, v14), past, present and future. And he goes on to flesh this out throughout the rest of the chapter and then through chapter 11, where he demonstrates that all the 'holy ones' of the past were commended by faith, which was demonstrated by their actions (cf. James 2:22). And this was done with the future in view:

"For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us." (Hebrews 11:40 NET)


In other words, all these 'holy ones' of the Old Covenant were commended for their faith, and so by their faith in God they would receive salvation through Jesus together with us. Did the blood of bulls take away their sins? No. Did their faith in God to forgive through genuine faith and repentance take away their sins? Ultimately, yes. And this was demonstrated in genuine sacrifices, which was always to be an act of faith and not a mere blood transaction.

So, 'what does clean mean?' - it does truly mean to be clean of sins, but in the Hebrews author's view this was accomplished by their faith in God to save them - and not by the blood of bulls.

  • 1
    (+1) The prophets, of course, already knew this (or some adumbration of it), perhaps most incisively articulated by Amos and Isaiah.
    – Susan
    Mar 28, 2016 at 11:17
  • 1
    @JoshuaBigbee - Thanks! Have added some comments to frame the Leviticus passage in its context and introduce the topic properly. The OP's question focuses mainly on its meaning in light of Hebrews, so I think this should remain the focus of the answers interpreting the overall interpretation of 'clean', however.
    – Steve can help
    Mar 28, 2016 at 14:42
  • 1
    OP here–I didn't intend to focus on Hebrews, but rather to make sense of the apparent contradiction. Your last sentence about faith cleaning them rather than bulls and goats is the entire answer for me :) Thanks!
    – adamdport
    Mar 28, 2016 at 15:27
  • 2
    Not really @joshuabigbee - Hebrews isn't talking about 'future' sins as in his first option, as if distinct from past sins, it's talking about all sins. The author's argument is that the past and future are the same and absolved by the same means, with no 'dispensation' between them per se. Hence the 'together with us' from 11:40, which follows a statement about how none of these forefathers 'received' what was promised.
    – Steve can help
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    @WoundedEgo Okay, so are you suggesting any improvements to the above conclusion? So far I'm not picking up anything that hadn't been adequately covered above. Unless you've got questions about the explanation of 10:4, which states that it's impossible for the blood of bulls to take away sins?
    – Steve can help
    May 17, 2016 at 12:32

The Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon for the word “clean” is to be morally clean or purified.[טָהֵר]. The sense is to be ceremonially clean or pure.

The first time the word is used is in Genesis. It provides a good picture of how this works:

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify (וְהִֽטַּהֲר֔וּ) yourselves and change your clothes. (Genesis 35:2 NIV)

Jacob had his family clean themselves by putting away their idols and changing their clothes.

Chapter 16 of Leviticus describes the Day of Atonement. After fulfilling all of the requirements:

...Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. (Leviticus 16:30 NIV)

The word “atonement” means to cover over [כָּפַר] The blood of the animals sacrificed made the people clean by covering sin. The writer of Hebrews makes the point that it did not take away sin.

The meaning of "take away" is to take from, take away, remove, carry off, cut off [ἀφαιρεῖν].

The blood of bulls and goats could cover sins. Just as Jacob's family could put away their idols and change their clothes and be pure before God, the events of the Day of Atonement could make the people clean before the LORD by covering sin.

Only the blood of Jesus can take away sin.

The difference may also be seen in how the annual calendar of the LORD is arranged. The first month of the year has the Passover, the seventh month has the Day of Atonement. The Passover is a full 24-hour day but the key events of remembrance begin at sunset and occur at night. The Day of Atonement is a full 24-hour day but the key events take place during the day. Passover remembers the night that LORD passed over the houses marked with blood; the Day of Atonement is a day on which the sins are covered. "Passing over" houses marked with blood and covering sins by sprinkling blood embody the same principle of the LORD seeing blood and ignoring sin.

When the calendar is viewed from the perspective of God's plan on dealing with sin, the two events cover both Night and Day: the LORD passes over at Night and sins are covered during the Day. At the Passover the LORD passed over the house of people and their sins, redeeming the first born. The Day of Atonement makes people clean by providing a covering of the sins.

Jesus was crucified at Passover making a once for all sacrifice allowing God to Passover the house and redeem the first born; the blood of Jesus makes people clean by taking away their sin, purifying them forever.


Leviticus 16 describes the rites of Yom Kippur (aka "The Day of Atonement"). In the first rite Aaron the high priest bathes in a Miktam making his body clean and dons linen underwear, a linen coat, linen sash and a linen turban. This was the garb of a regular priest, not the high priest. The high priest normally wore more decorative attire and an ephod "for glory and beauty" (Ex 28) but on this day of mourning for sin, he wore very simple, linen clothes. Isaiah prophesied a day when the people of God would no longer wear mourning clothes but would wear beauty, celebratory oils and garments of praise:

Isa 61:2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; Isa 61:3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Isa 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

The next thing he would do is offer a male ox as a "burnt offering/"sin offering" for himself and his household. What I want to stress here is that at this point in the ritual the rites are for the preparation of the high priest so that he may enter the holiest place. It is in the holiest place that he will lay his hands on the head of the second goat, the living goat and figuratively place the sins of the People on it and then send it out alive outside of the camp:

Lev 16:6 "Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. ... Lev 16:11 "Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. Lev 16:12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil Lev 16:13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. Lev 16:14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

There were 3 animals during this ceremony. The first was the bull that was offered for Aaron and his family, the last was the living goat that carried away the sins of the people and the second was another goat to make atonement for the people and to sanctify the altar:

Lev 16:15 "Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Lev 16:16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. Lev 16:17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. Lev 16:18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. Lev 16:19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

So these first rites were all to express the remorse of the people and to prepare the chief priest and the altar so that the priest may conduct the real business of the day which was to lay his hands on the scape goat and let it go:

Lev 16:10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. ... Lev 16:20 "And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. Lev 16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. Lev 16:22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

SO ALSO the death of Jesus was prepatory for priestly service and was not the actual intercession for the people!:

Heb 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Heb 7:28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

So my first point that I've tried to establish is that Hebrews 7:27 and 10:4 are NOT referring to the living goat of the ritual where the sins of the people were figuratively carried off but rather the preparatory rituals that allowed the priest to conduct that ritual without being killed for trespassing.

The theme of "To the Hebrews" is the idea that the Jewish believers no longer needed a temple, priests, offerings and what have you by showing that they are actually approaching the heavenly temple (the real temple), Jesus was a better high priest, offerings were no longer necessary, etc. So the argument we're in the midst of is the argument that Jesus is more qualified that the Aaronic priests to make intercession because:

  • the Aaronic priests were mortal:

Heb 7:23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, Heb 7:24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Heb 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

  • their rituals did not perfect their natures so every year they had to repeat the ritual:

Heb 10:1 For the Law, being only a reflection of the blessings to come and not their substance, can never make perfect those who come near by the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year. Heb 10:2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped offering them, because the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer be aware of any sins? Heb 10:3 Instead, through those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year, Heb 10:4 for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

By contrast, Jesus ever lives and HAS been made perfect:

Heb 10:11 Day after day every priest stands and repeatedly offers the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. Heb 10:12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God."

Heb 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Heb 7:28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

He is forever free from sin and death:

Rom 6:9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. Rom 6:10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once [a single time]: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Heb 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Heb 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Heb 9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Heb 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

BUT the apparent contradiction of the OP is actually a confusion of referents. The passage in Leviticus is referring to the overall result of the Yom Kippur ritual, that the sins of the people were actually followed with the forgiveness of the sins of the people while the Hebrews 10 assertion is that the preparatory ritual where the priest atones for himself and his family was limited in that his sins were forgiven but he himself was not made perfect.

It is important to understand that the ritual of Yom Kippur was NOT just theater but was actually the way that God DID forgive the sins of the people, as stated in Leviticus 16:30, as noted in the OP:

Lev_4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. Lev_4:26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_4:31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_4:35 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_5:10 And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_5:13 And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering. Lev_5:16 And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_5:18 And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him. Lev_6:7 And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein. Lev_19:22 And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him. Num_14:19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. Num_15:25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their ignorance: Num_15:26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance.

Rom 3:25 Whom 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;

However, it made nothing perfect. Everyone left the ritual and went back to sinning.

AND, YHVH complains that the People have all, to a man, forsaken his ways and abandoned his laws:

Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Heb 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

So the Jews did find forgiveness of their sins on Yom Kippur but they did not continue in the covenant. They would sin willfully and grievously so another covenant had to be forged.

So to the original questions:

  • Is Hebrews talking about future sins?


  • Is Hebrews saying that it was possible, but something changed and it's now impossible?


  • Can one be "clean from sin" without sins being "taken away"?

Yes, sins can be forgiven without sins being taken away but they will "re-present".

  • Great Insights. Can we talk more about this Understanding. The tenor of your answer is that. Sins were Forgiven in the Old testament but didn't make any one Perfect. Is this then the real.nutrient of the New Convenant? Jan 4, 2023 at 21:43
  • Also. Can you deal with th Hebrew and the greek words used in each Verses? Jan 4, 2023 at 21:43

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:4, ESV

Hebrews 10:4 means something more than atonement by the phrase 'take away sins'.

This verse is in the central section of Hebrews concerning the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus (chapters 8-10). Jeremiah 31 is quoted at length twice in this section which is a big clue that forgiveness is not the only priestly mediation on the radar:

15And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:15-18, ESV

The wider biblical context shows God's frustration with the people of Israel at this stage in salvation history: despite abundant grace the hearts of the people are moving further away from God. Similar passages in Joel and Ezekiel convey the same idea as Jeremiah. This passage from Isaiah is one of many that reveal God's patience running out because the cycle of sacrifice and return to sin is not effecting a lasting improvement in the moral character of Israel:

11“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:11-17ESV

A new and better covenant is required, which involves a fundamental change at the level of the heart. It is this superior covenant the the author of Hebrews has been asserting is now fulfilled in Jesus, and therefore it must necessarily involve the fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy of changed hearts.

Am I close? What does "clean" mean?

'clean' in Leviticus really does mean atonement…

For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. Leviticus 16:30, ESV

…but Jesus is mediating regeneration by his priestly ministry and not just atonement, and it is in this sense that he now 'takes away sins' in a manner that the Levitical sacrifices could not: they mediated atonement but not the heart change God desires.

This is a heavily edited and abbreviated version of a blog post I wrote on this subject, titled "The Work of the Cross on the Heart". It is also related to this BH post on the word 'conscience' in Hebrews.


Physical Purity, of the Flesh

On the Day of Atonement, the priest would make an atonement for the people of Israel to cleanse them, so that they would be clean from all their sins before Yahveh.1

30 For on this day, the priest shall make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, so that you may be clean from all your sins before Yahveh.

ל כִּי בַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם מִכֹּל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם לִפְנֵי יַהְוֶה תִּטְהָרוּ

However, this cleanliness or purity acquired from atonement was a physical cleanliness, for the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote,2

13 For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies resulting in the purity3 of the flesh

ΙΓʹ εἰ γὰρ τὸ αἷμα ταύρων καὶ τράγων καὶ σποδὸς δαμάλεως ῥαντίζουσα τοὺς κεκοινωμένους ἁγιάζει πρὸς τὴν τῆς σαρκὸς καθαρότητα

The result (as indicated here by πρὸς) of the blood of bulls and goats, and the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer (and the water of purification or sprinkling),4 was a purity or cleanliness of the flesh.

Also note that the priest made an atonement "for the holy sanctuary...for the tabernacle of the congregation...for the altar."5 We need only ask ourselves, "Could atonement for these inanimate objects produce anything but physical purity?"

Furthermore, in the Old Testament, whenever an individual became unclean or contracted uncleanness (impurity), the necessary action often involved bathing one's flesh and clothes in water.6 Evidently, the bathing eliminated physical uncleanness or impurity.

One consequence of the physical impurity or uncleanness acquired from contacting a source of defilement was the inability to participate in the worship of God with the rest of the community of Israel.

For example,7

20 But the soul8 who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which are Yahveh's, while his uncleanness is upon him, then that soul shall be cut off from his people.

כ וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר מִזֶּבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים אֲשֶׁר לַיהוָה וְטֻמְאָתוֹ עָלָיו וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ

On the other hand, those in a state of physical purity (i.e., clean and holy) were allowed to participate and eat of the sacrifices.9

Similarly, Moses commands the Israelites to be separated from their uncleanness so that they did not die with their uncleanness when they defiled the tabernacle (and, by implication, the later temple).10

31 And you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness so that they do not die with their uncleanness, when they defile My tabernacle that is among them.

לא וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר מִזֶּבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים אֲשֶׁר לַיהוָה וְטֻמְאָתוֹ עָלָיו וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ

Carl Friedrich Keil wrote,11

Continuance in it was followed by death, not merely in the particular instance in which an unclean man ventured to enter the sanctuary, but as a general fact, because uncleanness as irreconcilable with the calling of Israel to be a holy nation, in the midst of which Jehovah the Holy One had His dwelling-place (Lev. 11:44), and continuance in uncleanness without the prescribed purification was a disregard of the holiness of Jehovah, and involved rebellion against Him and His ordinances of grace.

Spiritual Purity, of the Conscience and the Heart

Unlike the gifts and sacrifices of the Old Testament which "could not perfect the worshipper according to the conscience,"12 because the sacrifices offered yearly were a reminder of sins previously committed,13 thereby defiling the conscience, the blood of Christ cleanses one's conscience from dead works to serve the living God,14 and with the same blood, our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience.15

In Summary

The sacrifices of the Old Testament were able to produce physical purity of the body, but spiritual purity of the conscience is only produced by the blood of Christ, offered by his own eternal divine spirit, which removes sins, God the Father remembering them no more for those who are in His Son.


1 Lev. 16:30.

2 Heb. 9:13

3 or "cleanliness." Both are abstract nouns as indicated by the suffix -ity and -ness, equivalent to the Greek suffix -της.

4 Num. 8:7: Heb. מֵי חַטָּאת; LXX ὕδωρ ἁγνισμοῦ; Num. 19:9: Heb. מֵי נִדָּה; LXX ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ.

5 Lev. 16:33

6 Lev. 15:16

7 Lev. 7:20

8 i.e., person

9 Lev. 7:19

10 Lev. 15:31

11 Commentary on Lev. 15:31, p. 394

12 Heb. 9:9

13 Heb. 10:3

14 Heb. 9:14

15 Heb. 10:22


Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Trans. Kingsbury, Thomas L. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Clark, 1872.

Keil, Carl Friedrich. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Martin, James. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.


Aliasing = signal engineering term of a message masqueraded as another message when they share the same shadow.

The whole concept of "sin" has to be revisited in the Bible. And the revisit has to be done on the Hebrew. It has to be done on the Hebrew so that it is not subject to "bait-n-switch" mode of arguments.

"Sin" is yet another concept that is subjected to chaining of aliases. Let's consider

  • A intersect B = R1, and then inaccurately saying A = B just because there is an overlap R1.
  • then chaining {B intersect C = R2}
  • and then {C intersect D = R3}.
  • Where such chaining finally claims that A = D, due to the commonalities R1, R2, R3, whose unrelatedness is ignored.

The English word "sin", like the words bless, blessed, faith, etc are pretty meaningless whose definition are highly aliased, whose meanings are houses built on shifty sand, where the meaning changes convenient to the topic. They are tainted with ideas of the relationship between humankind and their deities, such that even its meaning in Pauline epistles has been inaccurately translated so as to retrofit non-biblical concepts.

Let us establish the etymology of the Greek word [αμαρτία] amartia, as found in Christian scriptures, translated as English "sin". In its allegorical attempts, amartia is quite accurate translation of the Hebrew word [חטא]. The Greek word amartia is of weaponry/sport origins, missing the mark

  • in archery where the arrow misses its target.
  • or where a spear thrown that misses its target.

Interesting comparison: [αμαρτεω] amarteo (missing the mark) vs [ομαρτεω] omarteo (in tandem, accompany, encounter).

Let us establish the meaning of the Hebrew word [חטא] XT'. It means divert, separate, move away. The causative [מחטיא] and the non-finite [חטיא] means cause to divert = to miss a target.

Similarly, let us compare with the word [קרב] QRV and its passive verbal-noun [קורבן] QURVaN, which means vicinity, co-located, encounter. Where

  • [קרב] QRV in its various declensions is used in the Bible to describe vicinity, intimacy, privacy in location, in relation/relationships, as well as vicinity/encounter in battle.
  • Where [קורבן] QURVaN is mostly translated as "sacrifice" being aliased to the Latin word "sacred".
  • Where modern Hebrew [קריב] QaRIV (and modern/medieval Arabic Qarib) mean intimacy, closeness and internal.
  • Where modern Hebrew [קורבן] QURVaN (following its Arabic counterpart Qorban) has unfortunately mutated to mean "tragedy", "loss of life", "sacrifice".

As a note to temporality of the verses I reference: Pls note that bible translators have been struggling to reconcile the stative mode of speech vs subjunctive and concocted an inversive-vav theory to reconcile such modes to European/Romance grammar, ignoring that till this day, there are modern stative languages, where the temporal references are not declined in individual words, but sequentially chained from a preceding/starting reference. That is to say, the inversive-vav theory is a terribly inaccurate anachronistic concept, which is not even consistently applied. As though the semitic shepherds of the fields and soldiers in army would go thro all the trouble to speak with obfuscated rules to align their speech to Greek/Latin temporal grammar.

Let us blank our minds of all presumptions, and for the moment be biblical textual fundamentalists. Let us not add words and concepts not found in the Hebrew text. Let us for this exercise ignore the etymology of the English word "sin", but simply use the word "sin" as a convenient bookmark for the words "separation/divergence" [חטא] and [αμαρτία], so that this "sin" is not presumed evil.

I find it interesting that Lev 16:6 has the word and its antonym within the same sentence: [חטא] and [קרב].

  • והקריב אהרן
    • then Aaron brings close/near
  • את פר החטאת
    • the bull of separation
  • אשר לו
    • in regards to him
  • וכפר בעדו
    • then cover throughout him
  • ובעד ביתו
    • and his house(household?)

What is "bull of separation"? Is the bull a [קורבן] QURVaN to mitigate [חטאת] XTATh separation? Or, is the bull intended to cause a separation?

Again verse 9 uses both the word and its antonym in the same sentence

  • והקריב אהרן
    • then Aaron brings close/near
  • את השעיר
    • the goat
  • אשר עלה עליו הגורל ליי
    • regarding HaShem's fate/destiny over him
  • ועשהו חטאת
    • and he makes a separation

Note that verse 10, the separation is effected between the two goats!!!

Then in verse 11, the bull is slain to effect a separation. The original Hebrew does not say "sin offering" or "separation offering". Either that it says "sin" or it says "separation".

One could argue that "making a sin" idiomatically implies "making a sin offering". YAPP - yet another presumptuous presumption. [חטאת] is translated as "sin" all over the Bible, why the difference here (and in Ezekiel)?

What is this "separation"?

Verse 16:

  • וכפר על הקדש
    • then cover on the sacred
  • מטמאת בני ישראל
    • from uncleanness of sons of Israel
  • ומפשעיהם
    • and from their transgressions/violations
  • לכל חטאתם וכן יעשה
    • of/to all/any separation thence indeed shall be done
  • לאהל מועד השכן אתם
    • of/to tabernacle of schedule of their habitation
  • בתוך מטמאתם
    • within/among their uncleanness

Is this "separation" denoting separation from G'd, or an instruction to perform separation?

  • What is the "tabernacle of schedule of their habitation"?
  • Is it {tabernacle of schedule} of their habitation,
  • or is it tabernacle of {schedule of their habitation}
  • ??

This is how I see it

  • "Separation/sin" is not inherently bad, but simply a word whose meaning depends on the phrasal context. Separation/divergence/sin from G'd is not the same as separation/divergence/sin for G'd.
  • It's just another neutral verb, preposition, participle.
  • The bull and the goats are dowries/gifts effecting separation. To send away the uncleanness and transgressions.
  • This act of separation is to be done covering oneself, one's household, and one's habitation as well as all of Israel. "Covering" [כפר] meaning "to exclusively include".

Whereas Ez 45:19 says "the blood of separation":

  • ולקח הכהן
    • and takes the priest
  • מדם החטאת
    • the blood of separation

Whereas Ez 46:20 associates[חטאת] specifically with the word "offering/gift".

  • זה המקום אשר יבשלו
    • this is the place where shall it be cooked
  • שם הכהנים את האשם ואת החטאת
    • there the priesthood for the guilt and the separation
  • אשר יאפו את המנחה
    • of which they shall burn the gift


In the Hebrew of the Bible, the word "sin" like the word "satan" are not specific entities. There is no such a specific person named "Satan". There is no such an evil called "sin". "Sin" [חטא] is merely an event/state/activity word, like "go". If "sin" is evil, then we could actually fraudulently turn every occurrence of the word [הלך = go] and its declensions as a wicked concept.

It's only when the Bible says "separation/sin from G'd", or "go from G'd", or "separation of transgression" that we then could say a wickedness is being described. The word [חטא] itself has no bearing of evil or wickedness.

One must read the chronological books of Genesis to Malakhi, free and independent of any books after Malakhi to form a framework, and then test to see if the books after Malakhi are in alignment with that framework - that is the true test whether Christian books can claim to inherit the heritage of Jewish scriptures. You must cleanse your mind and separate/sin yourselves from all doctrinal memory and read Genesis to Malakhi in Hebrew for and by themselves.

Otherwise, anyone could concoct a new religion/cult and then instruct adherents to interpret Genesis - Malakhi based on the scriptures of that cult, and instructing "anytime the grammar or syntax of the Hebrew does not agree with our cultic scriptures, you need to twist the grammar/syntax to align with our cult".

  • 1
    For the record, it wasn't my downvote. Personally, I find this answer difficult to apply to the OP's question because it doesn't make any obvious reference to Lev 16:30's "clean" which is the core of the question, nor to Hebrews 10:4, which is the other half of his question. Even the conclusion makes practically zero reference to the OP's question, which academically makes it a poor answer in its current form.
    – Steve can help
    May 5, 2016 at 15:15
  • The purpose is to point out the irrelevance of the question. To answer the question is to accept that the original language of Leviticus is English or Greek. To delve on this subject by explaining the meaning of the English words is unbiblical. Sorry, to delve on this question based on the English word is biblical so long as the original language of your bible is English.
    – Cynthia
    May 6, 2016 at 12:28
  • And to many people the original language of their bible is indeed English - and in many instances Shakespearean English.
    – Cynthia
    May 6, 2016 at 12:29
  • That may be true, but in that case the language of your conclusion is still insufficient to make it a good answer. Yes, you make hints at the irrelevance of the question, but you still quite comprehensively avoid its wording in doing so. This will remain a poor answer until it makes some form of reference to the question it's dealing with, at least to use the question's language to question its underlying assumptions and give a structured response. As it is, it just reads like a tangent.
    – Steve can help
    May 6, 2016 at 12:32
  • G'd expect us to work hard for our own salvation. No, I meant, G'd expects us to work hard at cooperating with other humans to achieve salvation collectively. One must be able to see the treasure in the field and then buy that field so that you may possess that treasure. If you really need help to see the treasure, that is a problem for your salvation. Then you are saying that G'd prefers an intellectually unthinking drone as His eternal companion.
    – Cynthia
    May 8, 2016 at 7:46

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