This was the first major painting Hunt made during his first stay in the Holy Land. He had the idea for it while researching Jewish rituals for another painting, 'The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple' (now in Sudley House).
During his research, Hunt learnt that on the Festival of the Day of Atonement, a goat was sent out from the temple with a piece of scarlet cloth on its head, symbolising the sins of the congregation. It was believed that if these sins were forgiven the cloth would turn white.
Lever bought the picture in 1923 for £4950 from the 1923 Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery.