Yom Kippur is considered to be the most important time in Jewish life. By its very nature, this shall be a comprehensive and lengthy study in which I shall endeavor to cover as many aspects as possible. It may reveal things you have not seen before, so I urge you to prayerfully digest the material.
Yom HaKipurim, otherwise known as Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement occurs ten days after New Year, Rosh Hashanah and is a time of reflection, self-evaluation and of repentance. It takes place from sunset on the ninth day to sunset on the tenth and is also referred to as Shabbat Shabbaton, Sabbath of Solemn Rest or Sabbath of Sabbaths.
It is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and provides prophetic insight regarding the Second Coming of the Messiah, the restoration of national Israel and the final judgment of the world. It reveals the High-Priestly work of Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek as seen in Hebrews 5:10, 6:20.
The term Yom Kippur is actually written in the plural as Yom HaKipurim, possibly because the purification process cleansed from a multitude of transgressions, iniquities and sins thus alluding to the two great atonements given by the Lord. One provides the cleansing and forgiveness for those among the nations who turn to Jesus and the other is for the purification of ethnic Israel during Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD at the end of days.
Yom Kippur is the only one of God’s commanded Feast days of worship where a fast is required.
Kippurim can be read as Yom Ke-Purim, a “day like Purim” or a day of deliverance and salvation as seen in the Book of Esther.
We could then consider the day on which Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross as the greatest “Purim” of all, because through Him we are eternally delivered from the hands of our enemies.
In traditional Judaism, the day of Yom Kippur marks the climax of the ten day period of repentance called the “Days of Awe,” or yamim nora’im. According to one Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous, the tzaddikim, are written in the Book of Life and the destiny of the wicked, the resha’im, are written in the Book of Death—but most people will not be inscribed in either book. They will have ten days until Yom Kippur to repent before sealing their fate, giving the term Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. On Yom Kippur, every soul’s name will be sealed in one of the two books.
It may sound complicated and please bear in mind that, as it is in “Christianity”, there are different groups in Judaism that have slightly different approaches to the form of worship. Nevertheless, the foundations are consistent and are remarkably significant to us.
Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the Name of YHVH to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. This “life for a life” principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel.
In traditional Judaism, the day of Yom Kippur marks the climax of the ten day period of The festival of Rosh Hashanah does not actually appear in the Hebrew Bible, nor is it referred to as the Jewish New Year. Instead, the children of Israel were commanded to celebrate a “feast of trumpets” on the first day of the seventh month in Leviticus 23:24. In the original Hebrew, this day is called Yom Teruah, which means “a day of trumpeting” and it is very significant.
Essentially it was a call to arms. Various trumpet calls were made for differing purposes. Sometimes a shofar or ram’s horn was used. On other occasions a silver trumpet was used and as silver is a type or symbol of redemption, its use has significance to us.
The sound of a trumpet signified the start of a battle, as seen in Joshua’s conquest of Jericho in Joshua 6:5.
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with tremendous power and glory. He will send out his angels with a great shofar;m and they will gather together his chosen people from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other “And the Son of Man… will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds”. Matthew 24:31
On that day a great shofar will sound. Those lost in the land of Ashur will come, also those scattered through the land of Egypt; and they will worship ADONAI on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim. Isaiah 27:13
Christians have an expectation that one day, that I believe is not far away now, we shall hear a trumpet call:
Look, I will tell you a secret—not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed... 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Several years ago when I was driving to attend a meeting on the Gold Coast in Australia, I suddenly saw an immense angel who was dressed in a military uniform that looked like a Roman officer’s uniform. It was made of unusual materials and metals and shimmered and gleamed mysteriously as he suddenly appeared. He was facing North, straddling the road near the theme park areas of Dreamworld and Movie world. He was standing in a military kind of posture with his left foot on the mountain where I lived and his right foot in the ocean. He extended his right hand and a silver trumpet appeared in it. I heard him suck in his breath as he put it towards his lips preparing to blow. I took my hands off the steering wheel, fully expecting that it was the “rapture” (a silly thing to do on the motorway) and excitedly yelled out something on the lines of, “This is it. I’m coming home”.
The angel disappeared and the Lord corrected me, saying that this was not what I supposed, but the “Call to assembly”.
He wants His people to be ready for that great event, but sadly it seems that many people are not ready, so He keeps telling us through different means that times have changed—that we need to be looking for His appearance and to prepare ourselves for it.
Throughout Jewish history, the Feast of Trumpets has been an opportunity for the people of Israel to come before God and to implore Him to judge the world favorably.
There is an annual ritual, once performed by the High Priest that symbolized the taking away of the sins of the people as seen in Leviticus 23 and Hebrews 9:22 and it included the shedding of blood to atone for the sins of the people. The first place that the word “atonement” is used is in Exodus 29:32 - 33.
And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And they shall eat those things with which the atonement was made to consecrate and to sanctify them.
Christians may regard it as another Jewish tradition, but its symbolism to us is more important than we often imagine.
The Tabernacle and its furniture and the priesthood represented in typology form, the life, work and ministry of the Lord.
The Lord said to Moses,“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
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. 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. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:20-22
He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins. Leviticus 16:29-34
Every year at this time, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) performed a special ceremony to purge defilement from the Tabernacle (mishkan) or Temple (Bet Ha-Mikdash). In in addition to the regular daily offerings, he brought a bull and two goats as a special offering, and the bull would be sacrificed to purge the mishkan/temple from the defilements caused by misdeeds of the priests and their households. See Leviticus 16:6. He sprinkled the blood of the bull inside the veil of the Holy of Holies upon the kapporet (the cover of the Ark of the Covenant) and then drew lots, selecting one of the two goats to be a sin offering on behalf of the people.
This goat was designated L’Adonai (to the Lord).
He then entered the Holy of Holies, sprinkled the blood of the goat upon the kapporet , laid both hands upon the head of the second goat (Azazel) whilst confessing the sins of the people. The Azazel was then taken away into the wilderness, carrying on it “all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited” according to Leviticus 16:22. It is said that a rope was tied around his ankle in case he died whilst performing these duties, but this seems to be a medieval legend and is not revealed in scripture.
According to the Talmud, a scarlet cord was tied around the neck of the scapegoat that was reported to have turned white as the goat was led away from city. However, for the last forty years before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the scarlet cord failed to change color.
While the High Priest performed these functions, the people fasted and after completing his tasks, the garments of the High Priest were covered with blood. Only after this did the Lord accept the sacrifice. One tradition that I cannot verify states that as the High Priest hung out his garments they turned from bloodstained crimson to white. Perhaps what Isaiah 1:18 said literally happened.
Azazel was an innocent animal. Jesus was innocent. The sins of the people were transferred onto it. Our sins were transferred onto Jesus. This symbolized the reality of scriptures like Psalm 103:12 and elsewhere that our sins are never to be seen again.
This ritual points us to Jesus as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21. John describes Golgotha as being the hill “near the city” in John 19:20 where Jesus died. The scapegoat was taken out of the city and Jesus was taken out of the city to be killed.
It is a visible picture that the sins and uncleanness are being removed from us and then put on to Him.
The high priest had to offer up incense before the Lord inside the veil, “so that he does not die.” The incense cloud covered the mercy seat and God showed mercy. Incense often represents prayers reminding us that Jesus as our high priest also offers intercession for us that we may receive mercy from God. See Romans 8:34.
In the next step, the priest took some of the blood of the bull sacrifice and sprinkled it on the mercy seat that is on top of the Ark of the Covenant.
The bull’s blood was offered for the high priest and his own family and only after first receiving forgiveness could he represent the people. He sprinkled the blood seven times and as seven represents the number of perfection or completeness, this reminds us that God’s forgiveness is complete.
Those whom He cleans, are completely clean.
Yom Kippur is referred to as shabbat shabbaton (תֹןָּ ַׁ תַַּׁ), that is a time when all profane work (melakhah) is set aside to focus on the holiness of the Lord. The first time we see this phrase is in Exodus 16:23, where the people were not permitted to collect manna in the desert during the seventh day. It was later incorporated into the law concerning Sabbath day in Exodus 31:15; 35:2. It also occurs regarding Rosh Hashanah in Leviticus 23:24, Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16:31; 23:32, two days of Sukkot in Leviticus 23:39, the two days of Passover in Leviticus 23:7-8 and the day of Shavuot in Numbers 28:26.
By adding these days, there are seven prescribed days of “complete rest” before the Lord and the sages identified Yom Kippur as the Sabbath of these other special Sabbath days, that is, Yom ha-kadosh (דַָֹּׁיֹם ה), the holy day.
Seven days before Yom Kippur, the High Priest was separated corresponding to the seven-day seclusion of Aaron and his sons before the inauguration of the Tabernacle in Leviticus 8:33.
You may wonder about any significance and it is interesting to note that according to Jewish tradition Yom Kippur is the only day that Satan is unable to lodge accusation against Israel.
The gematria of “satan” (טָןָׂ) is 364, so it implies that the accuser was able to denounce Israel for 364 days of the year, but on the 365th day, Yom Kippur, he is rendered powerless. This tradition also states that this symbolizes that he is rendered totally powerless in the world to come.
Such things line up with Christian beliefs! When Jesus cried out triumphantly, “Teleo” on the cross that means It is finished, he not only broke satan’s power forever, but fulfilled everything in typology form, all of the Jewish Feasts of the Lord. Those who trust in God’s salvation through Jesus can now enter into our ultimate shabbat.
A perpetual commemoration
..”And this shall be for you a law forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you afflict your beings, and do no work, the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.
It is on such a basis that Jews commemorate festivals like Yom Kippur. As the people created a religious calendar, atonement seemed to be a natural part of a new year’s worship and is a central feature of the seventh month new year celebrations. The Jews established such a feast on a yearly basis to give it regularity and ensure that the sanctuary and people were regularly purified and restored to their holy condition. God could only visit His people when the place of worship, the priests, and the people were pure. The ritual was also the major cleansing and atoning ritual in the Bible.
Israelite ceremonies like this were required often throughout the Old Testament, symbolizing the need for mankind to be cleansed of sin, but it wasn’t until Jesus came to make the “once for all” sacrifice that the need for cleansing ceremonies ceased. See Hebrews 7:27.
The blood of bulls and goats could only atone for sins if the ritual was continually done year after year, while Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. When His sacrifice was made, He declared, “It is finished” in John 19:30. He then sat down at the right hand of God and no further sacrifice was ever needed according to Hebrews 10:1-12.
The sufficiency and completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is also seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat removed the sins of the people into the wilderness where they were forgotten and no longer clung to the people.
Sin is both propitiated and expiated God’s way—only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Propitiation is the act of appeasing the wrath of God, while expiation is the act of atoning for sin and removing it from the sinner. Both together are achieved eternally by Jesus. When He sacrificed Himself on the cross, He appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking that wrath upon Himself.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9.
The removal of sin by the second goat was a living parable of the promise that God would remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west as per Psalm 103:12 and that He would remember them no more as seen in Hebrews 8:12; 10:17.
Jews today still celebrate the annual Day of Atonement, which falls on different days each year in September-October, traditionally observing this holy day with a period of fasting and intensive prayer. Jews also often spend most of the day in synagogue services.
Yom Kippur completes the penitential period of ten days known as Days of Awe that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the season of repentance and prayer Jews hold in great regard.
One tradition says that God inscribes our names in a book and we know from Philippians 4:3 and Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:27 and 22:19 that there is such a book. Is your name there?
This is something I desire for you, hence my approach to ministry and I shall close with a traditional Jewish Yom Kippur greeting;
G’mar Hatimah Tovah
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