THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
by Avram Yehoshua
Unlike Passover which recognizes and rejoices over Israel’s deliverance from oppression and slavery, Yom Kipor (pronounced yom key-pour), centers around the High Priest’s ceremony that cleanses the nation for past sins of the year. Leviticus 16 gives a detailed account of what happened in the days of Moses. The life of the nation hung in the balance. Nothing approached this day in solemnity. This was the most holy day of the year. Atonement or forgiveness was not automatic.
Sin means separation from God; non-life, death. The daily question was, ‘How could a man in covenant regain his status of righteous when he sinned?’ God provided for the individual Israeli in the Mosaic sacrificial system. And for the nation as a whole, He gave them the Day of Atonement. This day of fasting is a holy Sabbath, the only day of fasting commanded by God in Scripture.
Sacrifice represents the penalty that God exacts for sin: death. The animal dies but is a picture of what should happen to Israel. Atonement happens on this day due to the sacrifice, the giving up of one life for another. Atonement is also expressed in words like expiation which means, ‘to root out, to do away with, to cover, to blot out, to wipe away sin.’ It can be spoken of as ‘at-one-ment’ or ‘peace’ between God and Israel. Another word that describes what happens is reconciliation. God and Israel are in perfect fellowship again after Israel has broken it. Fellowship is restored as if the sin never happened. The Day was associated with mercy, forgiveness and restoration.
All ancient peoples recognized the need for the giving up of a life for the forgiveness of sin and the restoring of fellowship with their gods. We see this in the grade B movies where the village virgin is thrown into the volcano as a human sacrifice, to appease the volcano god.
In biblical times pagans would sacrifice their new born infants at ceremonies designed to appease the god. It was a high price to pay for good relations with the gods but the ancient peoples did it; so great was their fear of, and need of their gods. The Prophet Micah alludes to this pagan practice when he states:
‘Will Yahveh be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, Oh Man, what is good and what Yahveh requires of you: to do justice; to love forgiving-loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:7-8, my translation).
The reference to giving one’s firstborn for personal sin springboards off of what the surrounding nations were doing for offending their gods. They were offering their sons and daughters into the sacrificial fires of their gods, and even Israel would succumb to this horror (2nd Kgs. 16:3; 17:17; Jer. 7:31, etc.). Satan is very cruel and those who want to remain blind, walk in perversion and death.
Yom Kipor is literally Yom HaKiporim, the Day of Coverings. The God of Israel covered or forgave Israel’s many sins by the death of a goat. When we step back from this ceremony, it seems very strange to our eyes. How could the death of a goat cleanse all of Israel from sin? But this is God’s world and He makes the rules and the ceremonies for His people. This particular one of course, pictured Yeshua giving His Life for the sins of Israel, that we might remain in Covenant with Yahveh.
Aaron the High Priest
The greatest function of the High Priest of Israel was done on the Day of Atonement as he reconciled sinful Israel with their holy God, Yahveh. The High Priest first had to offer a bull for a sin sacrifice for himself and his family (Lev. 16:3, 6). He was not to come into the Holy of Holies, where Yahveh literally dwelt in the midst of His Shekinah Glory Presence, on any day that he chose. He could only come in on one day of the year; Yom Kipor (16:2, 29).
Aaron the High Priest would bathe and put on linen garments to perform his high priestly functions (v. 4). These were not the majestic clothes that he usually wore which reflected his position in Israel. They were simple linen garments. He would receive two goats from the community of Israel and whichever the lot fell on, would be the sin sacrifice for Israel to Yahveh (v. 5). The other goat would have the sins of Israel placed upon its head also, but would not be sacrificed. It would be driven into the Wilderness, into a barren place (vv. 8, 10). Aaron would also sacrifice two rams, one for himself and his family, and one for Israel. These were whole burnt offerings to Yahveh, symbolizing that Aaron and Israel were wholly dedicated to Yahveh.
Aaron would first take incense with him into the Holy of Holies, and the blood of the bull for his own sins and those of his House, and he would sprinkle the Gold Cover of the Ark of the Covenant, seven times (vv. 13-15). Then he would sprinkle the ground in front of the Ark, seven times also. He would repeat this procedure with the blood of the goat for the nation (vv. 3, 11-15.)
After this, Aaron would place the blood of the goat on all the articles of the Tabernacle (the seven branched Lampstand, the Gold Altar of Incense, the Gold Table which held the Bread of Yahveh, the Bronze Wash Basin and the Bronze Altar of Sacrifice), cleansing them from defilement. Having been in the midst of sinful Israel for the past year (vv. 16-19), these things became polluted.
Then he would take the goat termed azazel, and placing his hands upon its head, confess all the sins of Israel upon it (v. 21). The goat would be driven into a barren place in the Wilderness, bearing the sins of Israel ‘on its head’ (v. 22).
Aaron then bathes again, puts on his full high priestly garments and offers both his and the com-munity’s sacrifice for dedication, the rams (vv. 23-24). The bull that Aaron used for his own sin sacri-fice is not burnt on the Bronze Altar but taken outside the Camp of Israel and burned in its entirety (v. 27).
This ceremony took place mid-way through the biblical year, six months after Passover. Yom Kipor is on the seventh month and the tenth day (v. 29) of God’s year. It’s a day when Yahveh states that Israel is cleansed from all her sins (v. 30). Israel for her part, humbled herself and afflicted themselves (fast), on this ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ (v. 31).
Cease From Striving
Yahveh emphasizes the importance of the Day of Atonement by stating that all Israel must afflict or humble themselves and that anyone who didn’t would be cut off. Three times it states (within six verses), that the people must afflict themselves (Lev. 23:27, 29, 32), and those who didn’t would be cut off from the people. To afflict, humble or deny meant that Israel was to realize that they didn’t have anything in themselves to boast about before God. It was a proper attitude for one to appear before God, looking to Him for forgiveness, without pride in their hearts.
Fasting, going without food and water, was the way that the physical meaning of the word ‘to afflict’ was carried out. Fasting is a way of setting apart that which is necessary for physical life and was pleasurable to Israel. It allowed them to enter into what Yahveh was doing for them in a very focused way. It spoke of their setting apart their carnality, their flesh, their ‘physical’ for the things of God, that His Will would be done in their life. It’s the greatest picture of death to self: if you don’t eat, you die. And three times (within four verses), Yahveh says that they must not work on this day. The penalty being that they would be destroyed by God Himself (Lev. 23:28-29, 31).
We are to cease from our strivings ‘do to’ for God, die to self and ‘rest’ in Him, that He might work His works through us, by His Spirit. Fasting for one day weakens us. We don’t want to do anything. It shows us that we really don’t have much, in our own strength. With this understanding of our carnal condition, it makes it easier for us to give way to Him in all things, every day.
In Lev. 23:32 (and also 16:31), we find the term Shabat Shabatone שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן a Sabbath of absolute rest. It speaks of perfect trust in Yahveh for the forgiveness of, and freedom from, their sin and guilt. It speaks of not striving in one’s own strength to please God.
When God speaks of rest on Shabat (Hebrew for Sabbath), it’s not confined to the physical. Yahveh was telling them that they had to learn to really trust Him for their very life, their food, their clothes and their well being. This would bring them true peace and rest. They couldn’t make atonement for themselves and they had to realize this in the depth of their being. They were given this special opportunity once a year. It pictured them accepting, by way of obedience and trusting in their God, the covering or forgiveness of their sins that God provided.
As we might expect, for Israel to realize this total forgiveness once a year was a very precious source of life for them. Every Israeli knew he stood in good fellowship or ‘at peace’ with his God. Yahveh was removing the sins of Israel and all were to cease from their work and striving to be holy, and allow God to cleanse them and make them holy. Yahveh was setting them free again, a picture of the Sacrifice of Yeshua.
We see that Yom Kipor was not established to appease an angry God but quite the contrary, that Yahveh, the holy and loving God, made a way for forgiveness to be had for His people Israel. This also allowed Him to continue to literally dwell in the midst of His people. Even with the best intentions, Israel sinned against Him. Their response was gratefulness and a life that desired to love Him with all their heart, soul and strength and their neighbor as themself.
The Symbolism of the Day of Atonement
The Book of Hebrews declares Yeshua to be the Eternal High Priest of Israel (3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5, 10; 7:26, etc., see also Ps. 110:4 and Zech. 6:12-13). Aaron’s bathing pictured the purity and moral cleanliness of Yeshua. Aaron on this day wore only the simple, white linen garments, a picture of Yeshua as humble and pure. Yeshua, God the Son, became a Man and He further humbled Himself by His sacrificial death to truly atone for Israel (both Jew and Gentile who believe in Him).
Aaron needed a sacrifice for himself before He could offer the sacrifice for Israel. This spoke of the mediator himself needing to be cleansed from sin so that he could be sinless before Yahveh, in order to reconcile Yahveh and sinful Israel. Yeshua, sinless (2nd Cor. 5:21, Heb. 4:15), only needed to offer Himself as the Sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-15; 10:12), for sinful Israel.
Aaron could only come into the Holy of Holies one day a year. And in this, he had to stand and perform his duties and leave. Yeshua, once He gave His own life’s Blood, is now seated in the very Presence of Yahveh (Heb. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2). Not even the angels sit in the Presence of the King of Israel. Yet this High Priest, Yeshua the Messiah, has sat down in His Presence. This speaks of Yeshua as deity, and also His completed sacrifice, once and for all. He doesn’t have to repeat it. His Work as Forgiver, Purifier and Cleanser of Israel is fulfilled (Mal. 3:3).
The goat that was sacrificed for the sins of the people pictured Yeshua as the Sacrifice. The goat symbolized His humanity and ours. We are all like goats, very stubborn. Of course, Yeshua overcame His Adamic nature by death to self. Now, in Yeshua, we die to self, that our stubbornness may not determine our eternal existence. The alternative, as carnal believers, is that we continue to be ‘god’ in our life and on Judgment Day, will be sent to Hell for not trusting in Yahveh and what He has done for us.
When Aaron would sprinkle the blood of the goat seven times upon the Ark Lid and seven times upon the ground or dirt, we see the Picture of Yahveh and Israel being brought together by the Blood of Yeshua. The Ark Cover pictures Yahveh as it’s pure gold. The dirt pictures what Israel is made from. Yahveh and Israel have now been brought together, reconciled and made one, by the Blood of Yeshua. In a very real spiritual sense, the Father has been sprinkled with the Blood of His Son to effect reconciliation in Israel.
The Mercy Seat, is not really a seat, and the word for mercy is not found in the Scriptures relating to the Ark’s Lid or Cover. Twenty seven times the word kah-po-ret כַּפֹּרֶת is used and it always refers to the cover that was upon the Ark of the Covenant. It’s a cover of pure gold (Ex. 25:17), called kah-po-ret zah-hav כַּפֹּרֶת זָהָב which literally is a .gold cover.’ The phrase, ‘mercy seat’ comes from the idea that God is sitting upon it, and that Israel’s sins are forgiven on the Day, God being merciful.
Leprosy in Scripture is also seen as a typical picture of sin. Leprosy literally eats away or rots the flesh while one is still alive. This is an apt description of what sin does in our relationship with God. Sin eats away or rots the soul, while one is still ‘in covenant’ with God. But the relationship is not what it should be.
The goat termed azazel1 in Hebrew (Lev. 16:8, 10, 20), pictured the Israeli who said they ‘believed in God’ but he really didn’t trust Him. It was ‘just words.’ He wasn’t relying on God and the sacrifice to cleanse him. Instead, he was relying on his own righteousness, or his self-righteousness.
The symbolism for today is of the believer who says he ‘believes in Jesus’ but doesn’t surrender his life to Him, that God might mold the Image of His Son upon them. In this the believer has been stubborn (like a goat), toward the Holy Spirit. The believer at this point, like the Israeli before him, is relying on his own self-righteousness and won’t submit to God’s way of dealing with sin. Therefore he will carry his own sins upon his own head on the Great Day of Judgment in Heaven. He will then be sent into what the barren or solitary place (Lev. 16:22) symbolized: Hell.
Rabbi Eliya deVidas (1575 A.D.), in effect has said the same thing. He wrote that the meaning of Is. 53:5, which says,
‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities’ is that since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer for them himself.’2
The unrighteous ‘believer’, not learning to trust God to deal with his sins, continues to bear them himself, trying in some way, ‘to prove’ that he is ‘good enough.’ This is ‘works righteousness’ a righteousness based on the doing of ‘good deeds.’ But the doing of good deeds can never transform the soul into the nature of God. Only the Blood of Yeshua can.
Another parallel of the unclean leper, with the believer who is stubborn, is seen from where the leper was sent to live; outside the Camp. In Lev. 13:46, it states this about the leper:
‘He shall remain unclean. All the days during which he has the disease, he is unclean. He must live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the Camp.’
The leper’s uncleanness or sin separated him from Israel proper. In Revelation, those who are unclean sinners won’t be allowed into the heavenly city of Jerusalem but will ‘live outside the Camp’:
‘But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and fornicators and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the Lake that burns with Fire and brimstone, which is the second death’ (Rev. 21:8).
‘and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it’ (the holy City), ‘but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’ (Rev. 21:27).
‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter by the gates into the City. Outside are the dogs’ (male prostitutes), ‘and the sorcerers and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying’ (Rev. 22:14-15).
The second goat on Yom Kipor pictured the sinner who didn’t trust in the first goat to make them clean before God. As such, they were symbolically removed from the people of God. This is what will happen to all who profess Yeshua, but have denied the cleansing Work of His Spirit in their lives.
Many have thought that this goat was sent or given to Satan. This makes azazel out to be a proper noun (a name), for a goat headed demon god. But this is not acceptable. On Israel’s holiest day of the year, would Yahveh have them offer a goat to Satan? And in the very next chapter after the ceremony for the Day of Atonement in Lev. 16, Yahveh expressly states that Israel was not to offer up any sacrifices to goat headed demons:
‘They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their genera-tions.’ (Lev. 17:7)
The perverse understanding, that azazel was a fallen angel, comes from a Jewish tradition, prevalent in Yeshua’s day. It was adopted by many ancient Christian theologians and is still with us today. Azazel was not a fallen angel or satyr (goat headed demon) but an ancient technical term that means, the ‘entire removal of sin’.3 In this case, azazel should be translated as, ‘the goat of total removal of sin’ from the Camp of Israel. In the days of Aaron the High Priest, they would take this goat far out into the Wilderness and leave it there. It wasn’t part of Israel any longer.
The King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, following Davidson4 and others, comes close to this when they translate azazel as, ‘scapegoat.’ It’s one that bears another’s sin. As such, it was a picture of the Israeli who didn’t trust Yahveh. But scapegoat, in one sense, could be used for any general sin sacrifice as it bore the sin of the person offering it. What was different about this goat was that it wasn’t sacrificed and that it represented those who didn’t trust in God for their sins to be dealt with. As such, it pictured total removal of these Israelis from the Camp. So ‘scapegoat’ is not a good term for it.
In the days of Yeshua, they’ take this goat and lead it over a cliff. What it prophetically pictures is the departure or total removal of all carnal believers from the Bride of Messiah on the Day of Judgement.
Yeshua is not the scapegoat, as many unfortunately teach and believe. The scenario for Lev. 16, the Day of Atonement, has Israel’s sins already being forgiven by the death of the first goat (a picture of Yeshua), whose blood is sprinkled on the Ark and the Earth in front of it. This allowed Yahveh to reside in the midst of Israel.
The second goat, not sacrificed (and therefore not able to atone for anyone’s sins), is led out of the Camp of Israel (Lev. 16:22), separated from Israel, to ‘live’ in a place ‘cut off’ from God and Israel. This goat pictured the Hebrew who, although ‘believing in God’ with his mouth, didn’t really believe or trust God with his heart. This goat pictured the Hebrew whose sins remained upon himself, for the sins of Israel were placed upon this goat and it says that it would bear those sins upon itself (Lev. 16:21-22). This Hebrew didn’t accept God’s way of forgiveness, symbolizing the believer that trusts in himself, who will be condemned to Hell.
Aaron would finish by offering dedication sacrifices for himself and Israel, having bathed again to appear before Israel in his glorious priestly clothes. This pictures Yeshua being raised by Yahveh to His present glorified state. One day we shall all see Him as He is (1st John 3:2).
The bull of Aaron’s was taken outside the Camp and burned. This is what the writer of Hebrews speaks of, in us joining Yeshua outside the Camp, in His shame. Yeshua was sacrificed ‘outside the Camp’ meaning the city walls of Jerusalem.5
Being ‘outside the Camp’ meant that one was not part of Israel. Yeshua was rejected by the sinful leadership of Israel that day. Yet God used something ignominious, the rejection and death of Messiah, to call all those who desire to be cleansed from their sins, to identify with Messiah in His rejection and death (Heb. 13:7-16).
The dating of the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh Hebrew month, conveys total and full, holy completion. Seven is the biblical number for holiness and completion (e.g. the seven days of Creation week), and ten conveys the unity and strength of the number one, multiplied or magnified (the zero on the end simply amplifying the one). Both numbers together convey a sense of total completion, fullness and holiness that rids Israel of sin in its entirety. Hallelu-Yah! The Day of Atonement symbolized the total removal of sin from Israel, both in terms of those who trusted Yah-veh, and those who didn’t.
Original holiness was restored on this day. And Yahveh was able to continue to dwell among His people. This was the reason for the sacrifice and death of one, so the other could be freed (from sin), and live.
Yahveh is very serious about our observance of this day. His mentioning that people would be cut off, is the most powerful way for Him to express the importance of this Day for all of us. It’s a time for us to renew our faith and trust in Him. It’s a full day of fasting, praying, praise and Scripture that we might see afresh our position or place in Yeshua, and what He’s done for us in forgiving our sins and making us holy. It’s a time of reaffirming, of receiving from Yeshua our High Priest, a greater understanding of Who He is, and what He has done for us. And then we can pray for Jews and Gentiles to come to believe in Messiah Yeshua, along with our friends, relatives and anyone else the Lord brings to mind.
The Prophetic Picture of the Day of Atonement
Unlike the spring and summer Feasts, the Day of Atonement has yet to see its fulfillment in terms of it being a prophetic picture. It reflects the Great White Throne Judgment of Heaven:
‘Then I saw a great white Throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence Earth and Heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the Throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them. And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death, the Lake of Fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire’ (Rev. 20:11-15).
This is the fulfillment of Yom Kipor, the Day of Atonement, for it’s a Day of Judgment for one’s sins. One must have the Blood of the Lamb of God upon their soul to be written in the Book of Life.
Before Judgment Day Yahveh will save Israel ‘after the flesh.’ This should happen when Yeshua returns to reign for a thousand years. The Apostle Paul wrote:
‘For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery so that you will not be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and so all Israel will be saved. Just as it is written,
‘The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My Covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ (Rom. 11:25-27)
The Prophet Zechariah writes what will happen to the Jewish people on that day, and the nations that come against her:
And in that Day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the House of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced. And they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn’ (Zech. 12:9-10).
‘In that Day, a Fountain will be opened for the House of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity’ (Zech. 13:1).
When Israel looks upon Yeshua, the Pierced One, they will see both their blindness and their sinful hearts. They will be so overwhelmed by their new understanding of who Yeshua is, that they will weep bitterly over their past blindness. Yahveh will not leave them there. His Fountain of Life will cleanse them from their sins and bring them into His Kingdom. Their past sins will be atoned for. The ‘sign’ that Yeshua spoke of will be His return to rule:
‘And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the Heavens, and then all the tribes of the Earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the Heavens with power and great glory.’ (Mt. 24:30)
The traditional interpretation of ‘all the tribes of the Earth will mourn’ should give way to, ‘all the Tribes of the Land (of Israel), will mourn’.6 The Hebrew word for Earth and land (of Israel), is identical. In this context, Yeshua is speaking of Israel recognizing their Messiah.
The prophetic picture of the autumn Feasts looks like this:
1 First, the Tribulation. Israel, like much of the world will be devastated.
2 Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets): The King Himself comes to establish His rule in Jerusalem at Ezekiel’s Temple for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6). This is the Day of Joy Unspeakable expressed by tremendous shouting and praise.
3 Yom Kipor: There are ten days between Yom Teruah and Yom Kipor. This would equate with the thousand year reign of the Lord before the Great Day of Judgment, right after judgment on Gog and Magog (Ezk. 38:2, 3, 14ff, Rev. 20:8).
Yom Kipor will be the Day of Judgment for the world, after the thousand year reign of Messiah Yeshua in earthly Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4-6).
ORTHODOX JUDAISM AND THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
After the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus, the Jewish people found themselves in a very serious dilemma concerning sacrifice and forgiveness of sins. With no Temple, the Rabbis said there could be no sacrifice.7 And with no sacrifice, there was no way to cleanse anyone of their sins, either on a daily basis or for Yom Kipor. And with that, the function of the Aaronic Priests, as designed by Yahveh, fell into disuse. The Rabbis devised another way for sins to be dealt with.
The Rabbis became the authority for the Jewish people. This is when ‘Orthodox Judaism’ or ‘Rabbinic Judaism’ rose to prominence over the Temple, it’s sacrifices and the Aaronic Priesthood. Orthodox Judaism is not what Yahveh gave to Moses. It lacks the very center or core of Israel’s relationship with Yahveh: priest, Tabernacle (and later Temple), and sacrifice.
The Rabbis realized that something had to fill up the gap where the sacrifices were on the Day of Atonement. They finally came to this: if one did good works or justice, and continually returned to God through prayer, and fasted and prayed on the Day of Atonement (and read the passage in Lev. 16 in the synagogue), then God would see this and accept. It would be, they said, as though the High Priest offered up the prescribed sacrifices for the day.
The Rabbis ‘ordained’ this by twisting Scripture from Hosea that says, ‘For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.’ (6:6) And with that, they set up a system of religion that ‘looks like Moses’ but is not. This is Israel ‘doing their own thing’ in contradistinction to what God has called for, or rather, the best that they could do under the circumstances.
Some Orthodox Jews, knowing the importance of the blood for forgiveness of sin (Lev. 16; 17:11, etc.), will take a rooster or a chicken a day or two before, and slay it for their atonement. This is condemned by the Rabbis but one can easily see the tension between what the Rabbis offer, and what Yahveh has commanded for the remission of sin.
The synagogues are packed on this day, the whole community collectively seeking forgiveness from God. For the previous nine days, since the rabbinic but not biblical, ‘Rosh HaShannah’ (the New Year), they have been seeking forgiveness for past sins against their fellow man. On this day, they direct their thoughts wholly to God.
The Rabbis say that on Yom Kipor, the judgment for one’s life, for the coming year, is entered into the ‘book’ and is sealed. This of course, has nothing to do with the Day of Atonement for one’s past sins but is really a superstition for the future.
For this day, no food or water will be taken. It’s a complete fast, just as Moses and Jesus did. Unfortunately, Jews are not allowed to bathe on this day, something that we saw the High Priest doing twice. The wearing of cosmetics and deodorants, etc., is also prohibited, along with the wearing of leather shoes (which symbolizes luxury). On this day, all men and women are equal. Money and status don’t matter (that’s why no leather shoes; in the ancient world, leather shoes or sandals were a sign of luxury). And there is to be no sexual relations on the night of Yom Kipor. This finds biblical reference in that when Israel was to meet Yahveh at Mt. Sinai, God demanded that for the three days preceding, no one was to engage in sex (Ex. 19:15).
Most of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they wanted to. Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so.
It’s customary to wear white on this Day. It symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that one’s sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18). Some people wear a Kittel, the white robe in which the dead are buried. Both the color and the fact that it’s clothes that one is buried in, convey the sense of one’s desire to be white and pure (sinless) before Yahveh and totally focused on Him (dead to self).
The Rabbis have made it a whole day of prayer in the synagogue. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin before sundown and go into the night. Then they return, early in the morning (about 8 A.M.), and continue until about 3 P.M. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 P.M. for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. The services end shortly after dark with the blowing of tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar. There is usually some form of refreshment served before the people go home to break the fast amongst themselves.
HOW TO OBSERVE THE DAY
Everyone who believers in Messiah Yeshua should be fasting and praying for forgiveness and cleansing on Yom Kipor. It’s on this day that Yeshua, as our High Priest unto His Father, seeks forgiveness for His Bride, for all her sins of the past year. If the prophetic character of Yom Kipor means anything, it means this. The Apostles, after the Resurrection, held this day in especial reverence as they kept all the holy days at the Temple (Acts 21:20).
Ruti and I fast all day from sundown on the evening before, till dark the following day. No food and no water. It’s an affliction or a humbling of ourselves before God (Lev. 23:27, 29, 32). On a ‘normal fast’ one drinks only water. But it’s actually easier to fast a day without water than with water. This is because the body, once satiated with water, wants food. But if there’s no water than that becomes the point that the body focuses on and food doesn’t seem that important.
As you come up to the fast, you might want to eat ‘light.’ Eat things that day like salad, brown rice, vegetables, soups, fruit and plenty of water. This will help the next day.
Break the fast with water first. Then some watermelon if you can. If not watermelon or something juicy like cantaloupe, perhaps some brothy soup. A bowl and a light sandwich or salad should be enough for the night. Of course, many sit down to a full meal and live to regret it.
It’s really wonderful to have a full 24 hour period to seek our Lord and to be with Him. To pray, to commune with the Master for hours is a privilege indeed. And actually, this is what Yahveh made us for; to fellowship and spend precious quality time with Him. This is a reality of the cup of com-munion. To come to know Him in a greater way and to fall in love with Him all over again.
In this humbling or affliction of going without food and water, symbolically we are ‘dead to self.’ To afflict ourself means not only to forego food and water. It also means to ‘stand’ before Yeshua as ‘dead’ or in humility. Ask Yeshua at the beginning of the fast to lead you; as to what to do, who to pray for, and how to wait upon Him. Here are some conceptual realities of the day that He might lead you to consider:
1 It’s a time to forgive those that have hurt you and have offended you, from your heart. And if you can’t, tell Him so, and ask Him to help you to do so. He will.
2 It’s a time specifically with Yeshua, our Father and the Holy Spirit, and to ask for our sins to be forgiven. We want to be honest with Him about our sins, our failures and our distractions. We have nothing to boast of or to say that we have earned a favorable judgment on our behalf. It’s a total gift from Him. He sacrificed Himself so we could be forgiven, cleansed and glorified. It’s a time to realize God’s total forgiveness and cleansing for the year’s past sins. It’s on this Day that we can come into a greater understanding of divine love and forgiveness.
3 It’s a time to meditate on our death so we can more fully obey Him in this life. This is known as a greater consecration unto Him. It’s a time to re-dedicate and re-consecrate ourselves to our King. As He came to do the Will of the Father, so we too should have the same desire to do His Will.
4 It’s a time to be quiet before Him, waiting upon Him, listening for His Voice. It’s a time to be in His Presence.
5 It’s a time to express our deep gratitude for what He has done for us.
6 It’s a time to praise and to worship Him. And to also read Scripture. Some texts to consider are Lev. 16; 23:26-32; Matt. 26-28 and Rev. 20-22. Even though Matthew deals with the Passover, it shows us our Yeshua and what He went through so we could have Atonement on the 10th day of the 7th month of every year, and also on the Day of Judgment.
7 It’s a time to pray for others, both believers and unbelievers.
On this Day we pray especially for ourselves first, that we would come to a deeper experiential understanding of where we are at in Him and Who He is. Ruti and I then turn ourselves to lifting up others, our family members, both believers and unbelievers. As the Lord leads, we pray for each of them and each other.
After that we turn our attention on the Jewish people and pray for them, that Yeshua would remove the veil that blinds them to Him, and that our efforts to bring them to Yeshua would bear much fruit. And also of course, anything that the Spirit wants to do through us, for others in the world. This is not set in concrete but is a flexible guideline that we follow.
He has called us to follow Him, to be obedient unto death. At the very least, death to self. And for this, we must seek Him continually. Johannes Schneider writes in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament that there are five places in the Synoptic Gospels where it’s recorded that Yeshua tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him.8 We must be ever learning Who our Messiah is that ‘we believe in’ (Mt. 11:28-30; 23:8, etc.). He who lives a lifestyle that doesn’t imply His Death, for the shaping of their practical life, is His enemy (Phil. 3:18).9 Schneider says that,
‘the proper starting’ point ‘is the carrying of the cross by the condemned man. This suggests a beginning of discipleship which then becomes a lasting state.’10
We must be ready to suffer, even unto death, for the Name of our precious Yeshua. With this heart attitude we will bear much fruit for Him. And when the Day of Judgment comes at the End of Time, we will hear Him say,
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your Master’ (Matt. 25:21).
We are His servants. He has bought us with the price of His life’s Blood (1st Cor. 7:23). We must be about our Messiah’s Business. This is the attitude to have on Yom Kipor, and every day thereafter.
Why Do We Observe the Day of Atonement?
1. To obey Yahveh (Lev. 23:26-32).
2. To follow in the footsteps of Yeshua. Yeshua observed the Day every year of His Life. Also, all the Apostles and believers continued to observe the day, before and after the resurrection (Acts 21:20 by inference).
3. To experientially know that our sins are forgiven for the past year and that we are ‘clean’ before God.
4. To forgive all those that have offended us.
5. To ‘find out’ exactly where we are with Yeshua, taking the whole day to seek Him, etc.
6. To pray for family, friends, Jews and others, as the Lord leads.
7. To spend 24 hours (at least our waking hours), in His Presence.
As we enter into the reality of this day, we find Him and ourselves in a way that no other day can bring us. For on this Day we come to sense the complete and total removal of our sins by our High Priest Yeshua. How can Yahveh dwell within us? Because of the ever present Blood of Yeshua our Messiah. Let us reverently and gratefully fall before Him and be silent.
Baron, David. The Servant of Jehovah (Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit; originally published in 1922; 2000).
Brown, Dr. Francis; Dr. S. R. Driver, Dr. Charles A. Briggs, based on the lexicon of Professor Wilhelm Gesenius. Edward Robinson, Translator. El Rodiger, Editor. The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1978).
Davidson, Benjamin. The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979).
Stern, Dr. David. Jewish New Covenant Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Covenant Publications, 1992).
word is a composition made up from the word for goat, the prefix
lamid, and a technical compound.
Baron, The Servant of
Jehovah (Jerusalem: Keren
Ahvah Meshihit; originally published in 1922; 2000), p. 13.
Francis Brown, Dr. S. R. Driver, Dr. Charles A. Briggs, based on the
lexicon of Professor Wilhelm Gesenius; Edward Robinson, Translator
and E. Rodiger, Editor, The
New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon
(Lafayette, IN: Associated
Publishers and Authors, 1978), p. 736.
Davidson, The Analytical
Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 593. Even he
though states that it literally means, ‘goat of departure’.
first time that a bull is burned outside the Camp for Aaron is the
1st day of his investiture and consecration as High Priest (Lev.
8:14-17). This of course is extremely significant for Yeshua. His
High Priesthood seems to have begun after His being sacrificed ‘outside the Camp.’
6 Dr. David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992), p. 74.
Thanks for changing Covenant to Testament in both places,
sacrifice could be made with an altar set up by the priests. It did
not have to be in Jerusalem, but it had been for so many centuries,
that the Rabbis said that it could only be done there. With that,
the priesthood was out of a job and the Rabbis ascended to
authority, as they retain today.
Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Editors, Geoffrey W. Bromiley,
Translator and Editor, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament,
vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999),
p. 577. Mt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23; 14:27. It must have
been important to the Evangelists to note it that many times.
vol. 7, p. 576.