Jewish Holy Day: The Day of Atonement

The Wednesday night class at Sunset Church of Christ that meets at 5:30 is being taught about the Feasts of Israel by Brian Garnett, one our our instructors at Sunset International Bible Institute. This past Wednesday, I was the substitute for Brian as he has left for the Philippines for some short-term mission work.

My topic was The Day of Atonement, the most solemn and holy celebration under the Law of Moses. It is spoken about in detail in Leviticus 16 and 23. What follows is the handout I created to accompany my “lecture.”

Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur

“Shadows of Good Things to Come”

INTRODUCTION:

  1. Yom Kippur (Day of the Covering) or the Day of Atonement was the 6th major religious event in the Jewish calendar
    1. On the 10th day of the Seventh month, Tishri
    2. The Feast of the Trumpets had been on the first of Tishri (Leviticus 23:23-25) followed by nine days of introspection and repentance in anticipation of the Day of Atonement.
    3. Five days after the Day of Atonement will begin the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).
  2. The month of Tishri marked the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar, as opposed to Nisan, which began their religious calendar!

UNIQUE THINGS ABOUT THE DAY OF ATONEMENT

  1. Was the most holy day of the Jewish year
    1. A “sabbath of solemn rest” – Leviticus 16:31
    2. Absolutely no work allowed, even more restrictive than weekly Sabbaths
  2. The only commanded annual fast (“afflict yourselves” or “deny yourselves”) – Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:7 – compare with Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21.
  3. While sin sacrifices were made essentially every day in front of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, this is the day in which all the sins will be “covered” (kippur) and taken away (Azazel).
  4. The offering for sin will take place in the Holy of Holies, not at the altar of sacrifice.
  5. The high priest will be the only person involved in the ceremonies, all the people and other priests being onlookers.
  6. It is the only day each year in which anyone, in this case the High Priest, is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. On this day, he will enter the Holiest Place three times!

WHAT TOOK PLACE ON THIS DAY(Leviticus 16):

  1. FIRST THING to know about the Tabernacle and its services: it was a copy of what is in heaven – Exodus 25:8-9,40; 26:30; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23-24. Later this was true of the Temple as well – 1 Chronicles 28:11-19. So, whatever we see in the carrying out of the Day of Atonement in the Tabernacle is a playing out of what happens in Heaven.
  2. A holy convocation or sacred assembly, meaning all the people who could were to be present – Leviticus 23:27; Numbers 29:7.
  3. Burnt offerings (worship), grain offerings (gifts to God) and sin offerings (to be clean) began the occasion – Numbers 29:7-11.
  4. The High Priest prepares himself (Leviticus 16):
    1. He removes his high priestly robes and washes himself – 16:4
    2. He then dresses in the attire of a regular priest – 16:4
  5. The High Priest makes preparation to enter the Holy of Holies:
    1. He selects a ram for a burnt offering (see #2 above) and a young bull for his own sin offering – 16:3,6
    2. The people then provide him with a ram for their burnt offering and two goats for their sin offering – 16:5
    3. He kills the bullock by cutting its throat, then catches some of the blood in a vessel – 16:6,11
    4. He brings the two goats in front of the entrance into the Holy Place, presents them to the LORD, then casts lots to designate one “for the LORD” and the other “for Azazel” (Azazel means “remove or carry away”; some translations say “scapegoat”) – 16:7-10
  6. Entering the Holy of Holies:
    1. Inside the Most Holy place in the tabernacle, there is only the Ark of the Covenant. Later, in the Temple, Solomon added two large images of cherubim standing behind and over the Ark – I Kings 6:27.
      1. Above the cover of the Ark between the small cherubim mounted on it was an eternally burning flame and cloud representing the LORD’s own presence there – Leviticus 16:2; Exodus 25:17-22
      2. At times the flame and cloud filled the whole Tabernacle or Temple (Exodus 40:34-35; I Kings 8:10-11); at other times it hovered above the Tabernacle (Numbers 9:15) or led Israel in the Wilderness (Exodus 13:21; Numbers 9:15-21)
    2. Before entering the Most Holy Place for the first time, the High Priest prepares a censor (firepan, NASB) of coals and incense. He places the fragrant, smoking censor of incense into the Most Holy Place far enough to fill the room with the smoke but does not go in himself into the Presence of the LORD above the Ark – Leviticus 16:12-13.
    3. The High Priest now enters the Holy of Holies with the bullock’s blood. He sprinkles it seven times both on and in front of the cover of the Ark – called the “atonement cover” (NIV) or “mercy seat” (NASB, ESV).
      1. The “mercy seat” is kapporeth in Hebrew and always refers to the covering of the Ark. It is from the Hebrew kaphar which means “a cover or lid,” and figuratively then to “hide, purge, cover over, atone, reconcile.”
      2. The Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament used the Greek word hilasterion for the “mercy seat.” That Greek word is then used 4 times in the New Testament (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; 4:10) and translated as “propitiation or atonement.” The best English rendering might be “mercy seat sacrifice.”
      3. It is thought of as the Mercy Seat of the LORD because it represents the Throne Seat upon which God Himself sits!
      4. The sprinkled blood at the Mercy Seat made atonement for the High Priest’s own sins. Now the High Priest is holy enough to make an offering for everyone else.
    4. Leaving the Holy of Holies, the High Priest now slaughters the goat chosen for the LORD, catches its blood and re-enters the Holy of Holies to sprinkle its blood at the Mercy Seat for the atonement of the people – Leviticus 16:15.
    5. Exiting once again the Holy of Holies, the Priest now sprinkles blood in the Holy Place and at the Great Altar to purify and sanctify the entire Tabernacle area which had been touched or affected by the sins of the past year – Leviticus 16:16-20.
    6. Now the High Priest returns to the goat selected as “for Azazel” (to remove or carry away) – Leviticus 16:20-22.
      1. This live goat is offered or given to the LORD.
      2. The High Priest lays his hands on the head of the goat and confesses all the iniquities and transgressions of the people of Israel… figuratively transferring the sins to the goat.
      3. Then a man chosen for the task (a priest?) leads the goat away far into the deserted wilderness and releases him. This man must wash himself and his clothes on his return before rejoining the camp – Leviticus 16:21-22,26.
      4. Now the sins of all the people are symbolically both atoned for (at the Mercy Seat) and taken away to never come back (by the scapegoat).
    7. The atoning sacrifices finished, the High Priest removes his garments, washes, then puts on his high priestly robes once again – Leviticus 16:23-24.
    8. The fat from the bodies of the slain bullock and goat are taken to the Great Altar and used as burnt offerings (worship) – Leviticus 16:24-25.
    9. The remains of the bullock and goat are now given to a man, probably a priest, to take outside the camp. There they are burned then buried. That man then must wash himself and his clothes before returning to the camp – Leviticus 16:27-28.
    10. The Day of Atonement was to be an enduring or permanent annual practice – Leviticus 16:31,34
    11. “It is on this day… you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” (Leviticus 16:30)

      THE GOOD THINGS WHICH CAME IN CHRIST:

      1. The book of Hebrews has the most complete explanation of how the Day of Atonement was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – Hebrews chapters 9 & 10.
        1. A “shadow” is not a copy but the general shape of the object casting the shadow. And the Day of Atonement is not an exact duplicate of Jesus’ sacrifice, but strikingly similar.
        2. The Tabernacle and its services were also a copy of things in Heaven.
        3. Combining (a) and (b) above results in an amazing set of parallels!
      2. Comparison:
        1. The High Priest divested himself of his glorious garb to appear as a simple priest on a level with everyone else. SO DID JESUS – Philippians 2:5-9; Hebrews 2:9-18.
        2. Atonement for sin took place by offering blood at the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. JESUS WENT BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD IN HEAVEN, THE REAL MERCY SEAT, TO MAKE HIS SACRIFICE – Hebrews 9:11-14.
        3. The Day of Atonement was an annual event, so the High Priest had to repeat his work each year. BY CONTRAST, JESUS ACCOMPLISHED ATONEMENT ONCE AND FOR ALL PEOPLE AND ALL TIME – Hebrews 10:12.
        4. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, for their death was not a sufficient payment for the penalty of all the sins committed. THE DEATH OF JESUS WAS SUFFICIENT, FOR HE WAS GOD’S OWN SON – John 1:29; Hebrews 9:28; Matthew 20:28; Acts 4:12.
        5. After completing the sacrifices to obtain cleansing for the people, the High Priest again took up his glorious attire and resumed his service of interceding between the LORD and man. SO DID JESUS! HE TOOK BACK THE GLORY OF HIS DEITY AND NOW INTERCEDES FOR US – Acts 2:32-36; Philippians 2:9; Romans 8:34.

      Richard Cravy, © Copyright 2020

      This article is from reprinted Richard Cravy. Please see original for comments.

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