Understanding Yom Kippur


The English equivalent for Yom Kippur is The Day of Atonement. The word atonement has to be seen from a Hebraic understanding to fully grasp its meaning. Kippur is from the Hebrew word ‘kaphar’ meaning to cover, so on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) a covering was made for the previous year’s sins.

This atonement or covering consisted of a blood sacrifice of an innocent animal. The goat selected for YHWH had to be sacrificed before Him for the sins of Israel as Leviticus chapter 16 verses 9 and 15 clearly teach.

Lev 16:9 – And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord ’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. (Verse l4 then shows the instructions for the blood of the bull for himself).

Lev 16:15 – Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

The Law of Adonai is this, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement (a covering) for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement (a covering) for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11. So Yom Kippur was Israel’s most awesome and solemn holy day in which the people would afflict their souls. Lev 23:27. This life for a life principle was the foundation of the sacrificial system. Blood represents life itself. Blood is a living fluid as it brings nourishment to the body and cleanses waste. Because of its unique biological function the Lord had set it apart and reserved it solely for the purpose of atonement. That is why the Lord Y’shua was set apart as our atonement and again that is why He shed His royal blood. This is why the verse before and after Leviticus 17:11 teaches us not to eat blood but verse 11 clearly states the blood is given upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. The Lord states, “I have given it to you upon the altar”.
Today Israel has no altar and so has no blood offering to atone for their sins. They have been taught to ignore Yeshua the Messiah’s blood atonement and instead look to prayers, repentance and good deeds. Sadly, this will not do, they are breaking God’s Word on what is acceptable and what isn’t to Him. Prayers, repentance and good deeds are important ‘but without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.’ We need to make atonement and blood is the only way, just as Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah and Anointed One of God is the only way to Heaven. (see John 14:6).

There are 3 separate passages which outline the biblical observance of Yom Kippur:

1. The Divine instructions for the High Priest ~ Leviticus 16: 1-34.

2. The Divine instructions for the People – Leviticus 23:26-32.

3. The Divine instructions for the Sacrifices — Numbers 29:7-11.

The Preparation.


Only on Yom Kippur was the High Priest allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to stand before the presence of God’s glory. To do so the High Priest was required to wear white garments woven from white linen. Before doing this he would wear his majestic purple robe hemmed with tiny golden bells so that the people could hear him representing them. This was overlaid with the golden breastplate, studded with the twelve precious stones as a constant reminder that he represented the 12 Tribes of Israel before the one true God. A rope with gold entwined in it would be tied to his feet so that he could be pulled out from behind the veil or curtain if he was struck down for some reason by the Lord.

The solemnity of the occasion is seen in that the High Priest would wash in a golden bath near the Court of the Priests carried out behind a linen curtain through which the people could see the shadow of his movements to confirm every requirement was adhered to. They had a vested interest in making sure their sins would be forgiven through the whole ceremonial and sacrifices carried out that day. (Today we may note how many turn up on Yom Kippur, for the Shul’s [commonly known as Synagogues] are full to capacity like no other Shabbat in the year). Such is the desire in the Jewish heart to seek forgiveness from the Lord God Almighty for the sins of the year.

We should note that a substitute High Priest was also appointed in case of his death or if the first became unclean in performing his duties that day. Why? Because there could be no mistakes on the day otherwise Israel’s sacrifices would be disqualified and unacceptable leaving the sins of the people uncovered before the altar. cf Leviticus 17:11. Re the act of blood atonement.

The Morning Service.


On any other day the High Priest would only wash his hands and his feet. On this awesome day before God he would bathe five times and change his clothes five times. After the first ceremonial cleansing he would then perform the regular daily service.


The Afternoon Service.


Here we see the main focus of Yom Kippur for in addition to the sin offering a bull, a ram and seven lambs were sacrificed as burnt offerings (see Numbers 29:7-l l).

The 8 stages of atonement on Yom Kippur were as follows:

1. The Confession of the High Priest. By laying his hands on the bull as his substitute.

2. The Two Goats. One for YHWH as a SIN offering for the people of Israel. The other known as The Scapegoat to be sent into the wilderness never to return. The High Priest however held the two lots before the two goats and declared them as ‘a sin offering unto the Lord’ as both were seen as ‘one’ singular offering.

3. The Sin Offering for the Priesthood. The High Priest now returns to the bull and confesses the sins of the priests upon its head.

4. Burning the Incense within the Holy of Holies.

5. Sprinkling the Blood. Now the High Priest took the golden bowl with the bull’s blood and returned to the Holy of Holies. He sprinkled it once upward and 7 times downward.

6. The Goat. The High Priest then kills the goat of the sin offering for the people as verse l5 states and then the High Priest enters for the third time into the Holy of Holies and does with the blood of the goat as with the blood of the bull. Verse l6 teaches that the Lord also now sees the Holy place atoned for by the blood of this goat selected by lot for Him because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel. Everything had to be cleansed, the Temple and the people, High priest and priests.

7. The Scapegoat. The High Priest comes out and lays his hands on the head of the goat and confessed the sins of the people upon it as verse 21 teaches. It is then taken out into the wilderness.

8. The Remaining Offerings. These were the burnt offerings as opposed to the SIN offerings through the bull and goats. The High priest entered the Holy of Holies for the fourth time to remove the fire pan and incense ladle, then bathed for the fifth time and changed into his golden garments.


The Evening Service:


The regular evening service was performed and Yom Kippur finally drew to an end. ‘It was Finished’ and this was the victorious cry of the Lord Yeshua before yielding His spirit on the tree.

Concluding Remarks:

When we read Leviticus chapter I6 we must do so in context in that all the verses relate to each other and towards the Sin Offering for the people of Israel including the High Priest and the priesthood. The Art of Hermeneutics is the study of God’s Word through recognised exegetical rules that must be used otherwise we can make the Scriptures say anything we want to. When we read of Scripture verses being manipulated to give fanciful exegesis which would never be taken seriously in any academic institution except as foolish humanistic insights. Scholars would quickly dismiss them as being of no importance towards serious study of the Holy Bible which is to understand God’s instructions and plan for us.

Leviticus chapter 16:1-34

Verse 5 teaches that both goats were for a sin offering.

Verse 5 ‘….the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering,

That is why in the Afternoon Service teaching above in note 2, I have made the point of the two goats being seen as one singular offering before the Lord. (Keil and Delitzch Yom Kippur vol I, p.687)

Both were the main offering for the Nation, one had its blood shed as atonement for their sins. The other goat had their sins laid upon it and it was then removed from their presence bearing Israel’s sins. There is type and shadow here once again regarding the Messiah as through His blood our sins are completely removed. The scapegoat was not seen on its own as the main offering! Both means BOTH! Two for a sin offering. They were viewed as one SIN offering due to verse 30 — all your sins.

Verse 15 states the priest shall ‘kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people.’ Again it is literally and grammatically shown to be from the Lord to the people for their sins forgiven through blood atonement.

Verse 16 then teaches that the Temple had to also be atoned for due to the impurity of the children of Israel. Impurity because of their sins!

Verse 30 clearly teaches that the priest would make – an atonement for the sins of the people so that they would be clean from all their sins before the Lord. The word all means ALL! The Day of Atonement was for all the years sins taken care of at one time! Free from guilt, so that they could be at one with God.


Blood was required by the Lord God, the verses teach this quite clearly.

Cf Lev 17:11. The Lord gave the blood on the altar to Israel as the atonement for their souls. Why? Because the rest of the verse states: for it is the blood that that maketh an atonement for the soul.

In context then, looking at the whole chapter verse 30 relates to that which was previously given by God. Put as simply as possible then –

It is a summing up of the atoning by the priest to cleanse them from all their sins as verse 30 clearly states and teaches.


Throughout the year there was provision from God for the penitent to seek forgiveness from sins committed through blood sacrifice by going to the priest. One more facet to atonement is illustrated by a related word to ‘kaphar’ this being ‘kopher’ – which means by a ransom of money. Exodus 21:30 allows a sum of money to be paid for an individual deserving death due to his ox previously goring to death an individual and then again to a second person. If a ransom was then demanded this was paid as a substitute enabling the guilty owner under the Law to live. Then in Exodus 30:12 every Israelite was to give the ransom money of half a shekel for the service of the sanctuary.

The Jewish writer of the Book of Hebrews clearly does a midrash (to search out) with Leviticus and those scholars Jewish and Gentile who have received the New Testament revealing the New Covenant through Messiah Yeshua ( cf. Jeremiah 31:31) have cross referenced Hebrews 9:22 (without the shedding of blood there is no remission) with Lev 17:1 1. The Old and the New Testaments marry beautifully together.

The answer is always in the Bible as believers know, and so in closing, the following verse sums up the process for all who come against His Word and message of life.

Isaiah 29:11 And the vision of all (Holy Writ) is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he sayeth, I cannot; for it is sealed.

Salvation belongs to God and so ‘….to those who receive Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. ’ John 1:12.

The wonderful name of Y’shua (Jesus) the Messiah.

Date : 02/02/2020    

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