Yom Kippur is the holiest and most solemn day in the Hebrew calendar and it was instituted by God in Leviticus 23:27-28, there are 7 Feasts of the Lord and Yom Kippur is number 6.
All the Feasts of the Lord represent in various ways God’s plan of redemption and they reflect how Jesus the Messiah, represents and fulfils them – Yom Kippur is no different.
Man’s greatest predicament is that he is sinful and therefore separated from God – God is holy and cannot abide sin – because God knew man would sin, He instituted His plan of redemption. Because God cannot and will not tolerate sin, He made sure that His plan of redemption would provide the means for man to be reconciled to Himself. The feasts of the Lord reveal how God would redeem His human creation.
Yom Kippur takes place on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (the 1st month of the annual Hebrew calendar but it’s the 7th month of the religious Hebrew calendar); Rosh Hashanah begins on 1st of Tishri and it begins what is termed the 10 ‘Days of Awe’ or ‘Aseret Yemei Teshuvah’ – the ‘Ten Days of Repentance’ and they are meant to be days of personal preparation, reflection and repentance for sin and wrong doing in whatever forms they’ve taken and a subsequent turning to God by the individual. Yom Kippur has a very sacred and solemn Biblical history and unbelievable significance when we look at Jesus’ act of redemption on our behalf.
Leviticus 23:27-28, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation (sacred assembly) for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.’
‘On your behalf’ can only be done by a substitute.
The actual details of what took place on Yom Kippur are found in Leviticus 16.
The name ‘Yom Kippur’ means a ‘Day like Purim’ in that it’s similar to the celebration of the Feast of Purim which is the celebration of deliverance and salvation from death and annihilation that can be read about in the book of Esther.
Remember how Haman duped the king into allowing him to schedule a day when the kingdom would rise up against every Jewish person and slaughter them all, and how Esther took her own life into her hands, putting her life on the line and approached the king on behalf of her people. A substitute is a go-between, a mediator. The plot and threat against the Jews was exposed and the Jews were permitted to defend themselves and were subsequently saved.
Esther 4:16, Esther said to her uncle Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; don’t eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus, I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
She was willing to give her life on behalf of her people.
So then the name Yom Kippur was given to the Day of Atonement over time because like Purim, the Jews were saved from annihilation and Yom Kippur is salvation from God’s judgment of annihilation through the substitutionary sacrifice of an animal. Yom Kippur comes from the root word ‘kafar’ which itself is derived from the word ‘kofer’ which means ‘ransom,’ and the word ‘ransom’ is parallel to the word redeem which means ‘to atone by offering a substitute’. Yom Kippur then is about salvation and deliverance from sin through a substitute.
The ritual and requirements of Yom Kippur in the Old Covenant are both fascinating and gruesome.
The role of the High Priest is very important in this celebration, he of course really fills the role of the go-between, the mediator, so to speak.
The Holy of Holies was the small room in the heart of both the Temples and the original Tabernacle, and was only entered once per year and only by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. The High Priest would undergo extensive and numerous ceremonial cleansings, he would wear special garments specifically for this day and he would offer a bull as a sin offering for himself and his own family first; the priests. Then he would present 2 goats as sin offerings for the people. He would lead them to the doorway of the Tabernacle and later on the Temple, when the Tabernacle was replaced, and there, cast lots to see which one would be killed as a sacrifice, and which one would become the ‘scapegoat’. This is where the term ‘scapegoat’ comes from.
We’ll look more closely next time and why there were two goats and what happened to them.