The Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur

Biblical Basis


In the Hebrew Scriptures there are only three references to the Day of Atonement and they are all found in the law:


Leviticus 23:26-32                                           Instructional

Numbers 29:7-11                                             Instructional

Leviticus 16:1-34                                             Instructional


There are seven things that the passages above lay down as the foundations for the Day of Atonement in the Torah [Books of Moses]:


1. The Date – Leviticus 23:27

The date is the 10th day of the 7th month which is Tishrei.

2. A Holy Convocation – Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:7

3. They are to afflict their souls – Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:7

Nothing is said of fasting.

4. Offering on the Feast – Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:8-11

Make an offering by fire. See Leviticus 16.

Burnt Offering – One young bull, one ram, seven male lambs each a year old without blemish.

Meal Offering – Fine flour mingled with oil.

Sin Offering – One male goat

These offerings do not take the place of the regular daily offerings.

5. Purpose of the Feast of Yom Kippur – Leviticus 23:28

To make atonement.

6. Punishment for not observing the feast – Leviticus 23:29

Cut off from their people.

7. A Sabbath – Leviticus 23:31-32; Numbers 29:7

No manner of work was to be done. It is a Sabbath of Rest.


Leviticus 16 gives a very detailed account as to what was to occur on the Day of Atonement.  Leviticus 16 is the illustration of the truth in Leviticus 17:11.  This chapter can be divided into seven parts as well as seven deductions:

1. The Holy of Holies – Leviticus 16:1-2

The approach to God was always limited, and it was never true that there are many ways to God.  There always was only one way.  Under the Law of Moses the one way was by means of the Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement sacrifice.

2. The Preparation – Leviticus 16:3-5

The atonement was always by blood – Leviticus 17:11.

3. The Presentation – Leviticus 16:6-10

There was the necessity of a mediator.  Under the Law of Moses the mediator was the High Priest.

4. The Atonement for the Priest – Leviticus 16:11-14

Because the human mediator, the High Priest, was himself a sinner, he needed the protection of blood.  So for that reason a bull had to be offered to atone for his own sins.  His sins had to be dealt with before he could begin to deal with the sins of the people.

5. The Atonement for the People – Leviticus 16:15-22

The two goats were for atonement for the people.  The story of the two goats illustrates that the removal of sin comes only after the shedding of blood.  Only because the blood of the first goat was shed could the second goat take away the sins of Israel.

6. The Cleansing of the Participants – Leviticus 16:23-28

 The atonement included the covering of both known and unknown sins.  The presence of sin was always assumed to be true.  The entire Mosaic system was based upon the premise that sin was the problem. Because sin was always assumed to be there, the Day of Atonement included atonement for known and unknown sins both.

7. Restrictions and Specifications – Leviticus 1

Confession of sin always followed the shedding of blood.  After the blood was shed and atonement was made, then sins were confessed.


Modern Jewish Practices


1. The Basic Tenant

Modern Judaism says that on the Day of Atonement man can achieve atonement for his own sins.

2. Substitutions

Modern Judaism has also inaugurated certain substitutions for the biblical practice.  In place of the affliction of the soul it is now the affliction of the body.  So it has become a day of fasting and prayer.  The second substitution, especially among the ultra-orthodox, is that in place of a goat, which was the biblical sacrifice, they sacrifice a rooster for the men and a chicken for the woman.


3. No Sacrifices

Most Jews today do not sacrifice anything, not even a chicken.  They have inaugurated certain substitutions for sacrifices.  There are three such substitutions:

a. Repentance involves three elements: first, there should be remorse for the past; second, a commitment for the future; and third, a confession of sin.

b. Prayer

c. Charity

4. A Day of Preparation

The Day of Atonement is looked upon as a day of preparation for the joy of the next holy season, the Feast of Tabernacles [Succot].  So in preparation, among the ultra-orthodox Jews there is the sacrifice of a chicken.  For a male, a rooster is offered and for a female, a hen. There is a special Hebrew prayer recited at the killing of the chicken which states: “This is my substitute.  This is my exchange.  This is my atonement.  This fowl will go to its death and I shall enter a good and long life of peace.”

5. The Concept

The Jewish concept of this day is that it is a day of judgment.  On this day, Judaism teaches, there is the weighing in Heaven of good deeds and bad deeds in order to determine whether one is going to be inscribed for a good year or not.

6. The Atonement of Sins

Jewish practice raised the question as to exactly what sins are atoned. There is a statement made in the Jewish Talmud: “If a man says, ‘I shall sin’ and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is coming, will it atone?  It does not atone.”  If a man sins a deliberate sin on the assumption that that sin will be removed on the Day of Atonement then the Day of Atonement will not remove that sin.

So what sins are atoned for on the Day of Atonement?  According to Judaism, sins between God and man are atoned by the Day of Atonement, but sins between man and man are not forgiven on the Day of Atonement until the offender has appeased the offended.  A famous rabbi of the Talmudic period said, as he was commenting on Psalm 51, “He who repents is regarded by God as if he went up to Jerusalem and offered sacrifices to Him.”

7. Repentance

Because of the central role of repentance in modern Jewish practice, the rabbis teach that whoever repents is regarded by God as if he had gone up to Jerusalem and offered sacrifices to Him.

8. Expiation

Another Rabbinic teaching states that sin offerings and guilt offerings and death on the Day of Atonement do no expiate sin without repentance.  If there is no repentance, none of these things will avail.

9. The Services

On a normal day there are three Jewish services.  The first is known as the Shacharit which is the morning service.  Second is the Mincha which is the afternoon service.  Then third is the Maariv which is the evening service.

On the Sabbath day there is a fourth one added which is known as the Musaf which means “the additional service.”  On the Day of Atonement there is a fifth service added known as the Neilah which means “the concluding service.”

10. The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is read during the Mincha service which is the afternoon service.  Jonah is read on the Day of Atonement to teach two things:

a. That one cannot run from God

b. That with repentance God will forgive even as He forgave the sins of Nineveh.

11.  Confession

There is a special confession known as the Ashamnu Confession which is recited on this occasion.  The word Ashamnu means “we have sinned.”  The confession begins “we have sinned, we have acted treacherously.”  As they cite a whole list of various sins, the breast is smitten with the recitation of each sin.  The Ashamnu confession is recited at all five services of the Day of Atonement.

12.  The Kol Nidrei

There is a special prayer recited or sung today known as the Kol Nidrei which means “all vows” which is sung in the evening service. This is a special prayer which contains an annulment of all vows made innocently or under duress such as forced conversion.  When Jews were forcefully converted to Christianity, they were exempted from the vow made under duress by means of this prayer on the Day of Atonement.


This renunciation of all vows refers to personal religious vows and not vows made to man.  Any obligations they have made to other men must be fulfilled and the singing of the Kol Nidrei does not exempt a Jew from fulfilling his vows to men.  Although it is only done in the evening service, it is chanted three times to emphasize its importance.

13.  The Yizkor

The Yizkor is a special prayer that is recited in remembrance of those that have passed away.  For some Jewish groups it is performed in the morning service and for others it is performed in a different service. But all recite the Yizkor prayer at some point during the day.

14.  The Affliction of the Body

The Day of Atonement is not so much an affliction of the soul today, but an affliction of the body.  The affliction, according to rabbis, is five forms of self-denial:

a. Abstain from eating and drinking in order to enhance spirituality.

b. Refrain from washing and bathing for these things cause comfort and they are not to feel comfortable on this day.

c. Refrain from being anointed, for in ancient days people were anointed with oil and this was a refresher.  Today this prohibition includes hand and facial creams for the same reason.

d. No wearing of leather shoes or sandals.  These are luxury items and on the Day of Atonement one is not to show off any luxury items. Furthermore, the rabbis taught that on the Day of Atonement the whole earth is holy ground and therefore shoes or rubber or canvas must be worn so that the ground may be felt.

e. No co-habitation or sexual relationships with a spouse.

15.  A Day of Rest

Because this is the Shabbat Shabbaton, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, there is no work allowed.  There is to be no carrying of anything from the private to the public domain, no kindling of fires, and no working with animals.  Anyone who violates this Shabbat Shabbaton is considered as if he had rejected the Law of Moses in its entirety.


Summary of Jewish practices:

It should be noticed quickly that today’s atonement does not deal with blood and when it does as in the case of the ultra-orthodox, a substitution is used.  Also if you read the three passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that deal with Yom Kippur, all of the above 15 items listed are not in the text of scripture.  They too are replacements because the final atonement of sin has taken place 2,000 years ago.

Messianic Implications – In the Prophets

The book of Isaiah in particular teaches the concept of substitution and atonement in two passages:

1.  Isaiah 53

2.  Isaiah 49:5-8

Rabbinic Judaism deflects the teaching away from Yeshua being the Messiah of Israel.  I would recommend reading Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s book called Jesus Was A Jew published by Ariel Ministries as well as his manuscript #119 for a full discussion on theses passages.


Messianic Implications – In the Writings

In the book of the Psalms there are many Messianic passages but one in particular deals with the biblical concept of the Day of Atonement.  That passage is Psalm 22 where He is viewed as a sacrifice who will suffer and die for sin.


Messianic Implications – Book of Hebrews

In the New Testament book of Hebrew it is filled with references of Yeshua being the atonement, a better High Priest, better than Moses; for His vicarious sacrifice on the cross is clearly referenced in several passages:

1.  Hebrews 4:14-16          A Better Position

2.  Hebrews 5:1-7:28         A Better Priest

3.  Hebrews 8:1-13            A Better Covenant

4.  Hebrews 9:1-10            A Better Sanctuary

5.  Hebrews 9:11-10:18      A Better Sacrifice

6.  Hebrews 13:10-16         A Better Altar

I would recommend getting Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s book called The Messianic Hebrew Epistles published by Ariel Ministries.


Messianic Implications – Fulfillment of the Day of Atonement


In the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement there is a key word that must be understood and that word is affliction.  Before Israel embraces their Messiah there will be an affliction of the soul and the body as the Hebrew Scriptures teaches.  This Feast will be fulfilled in the Tribulation before Israel embraces Messiah Yeshua.  This is reflected in two passages:


Hosea 5:15-6:1-3

Zechariah 12:10-13:1


In these two passages the affliction of the soul and body of national Israel will be accomplished.  See Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s manuscript #119.




In the fulfillment of the Feasts of the LORD you have the ministry of Yeshua being accomplished on the day of the Feasts.  Let us review:


Spring Feasts:

1. Passover was fulfilled on the day of the Feast by the death of Yeshua.

2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by the sinlessness of His bloody offering.

3.  The Feast of First-Fruits was fulfilled by the resurrection of Yeshua.

4.  The Feast of Weeks was fulfilled by the birth of the Church the body of Messiah.


This ended the spring cycle of feasts which were all fulfilled in the First Coming of Messiah Yeshua.  Then between the first and second cycle of feasts there was a four month interval which is symbolic of the Church Age which interrupts the program of the Feasts of Israel.  Then comes the second cycle of Feasts, the Fall Feasts.


5.  The Feasts of Trumpets will be fulfilled by the Rapture of the Church.

6.  The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled by the Great Tribulation, for on the last couple of days, Israel will finally recognize Yeshua as their Messiah and confess their sin and ask Him to come and deliver them form the armies of the anti-Christ.

7.  The next feast is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths and it will be fulfilled by the Messianic Kingdom.

On the Day of Atonement in 30 AD several months after the first Feast, Passover, a couple of things are recorded by Josephus, the Talmud and one in the Gospel account of Matthew in the New Testament.  Remember 70 AD was when the Temple was destroyed, so 40 years before that date is 30 AD. Here is what the Talmud and Gospel account records:


1.  Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the scarlet cord stopped turning white showing that Yom Kippur sacrifice was not accepted by God.  This is by far the most interesting of the Jewish sources that has to do with the legend of Azazel.  The Azazel is the Jewish name for the scapegoat.   In the ritual for the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, two goats were brought into the Temple, one was killed as a blood sacrifice, the other one after the laying on of hands was chased out into the wilderness, symbolically carrying the year’s sins.  That was the scapegoat.

According to Jewish writing of this period, it became the custom to tie a red ribbon around the scapegoat, and when the goat was sent out to the wilderness the ribbon turned white.  The changing of the color of the red ribbon to white signified that God had forgiven the sins of Israel for that year.  The Jewish legend goes on to say that the red ribbon stopped turning white, 40 years before the destruction of the Temple.  So, as of the year 30 AD, God was no longer forgiving the sins of Israel by means of the Yom Kippur sacrifice of the slaying of on goat, and the sending forth of the other in to the wilderness.

2.  Josephus says that there was a sudden mysterious extinction of the middle light of the Menorah in the Holy Place that was to be kept burning continually.  While the other six remained lit, the one in the middle suddenly went out.

3.  Both Josephus and the Talmud both mention that the very heavy Temple doors, which took several men to close and open, suddenly and inexplicably opened on their own accord.  One of the chief rabbis of that day, Yochanan Ben Zakkai, a witness according to the Talmud, when he saw this happening turned around and said to the Temple, “O Temple, O Temple, there is no need for you to say anything, I know that you are destined for destruction.”

4.  In Matthew 27:51 it is recorded that the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom.


See Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s manuscript #119