Why is Yom Kippur Important?

Why is Yom Kippur Important?

Yom Kippur begins on the night of the 10th day of the seventh new moon. This is a day to afflict our souls by doing no work at all, a day where, under the Levitical priesthood, was the only day the high priest could go into the holy of holies and make atonement for the sins of the people. However, with the change in the priesthood, our sins are completely atoned for in Jesus.

Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 23: 26 – 32

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month is a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation to you; and ye shall humble your souls, and offer a whole-burnt-offering to the Lord. 28 Ye shall do no work on this self-same day: for this is a day of atonement for you, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.

29 Every soul that shall not be humbled in that day, shall be cut off from among its people. 30 And every soul which shall do work on that day, that soul shall be destroyed from among its people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your habitations. 32 It shall be a holy sabbath to you; and ye shall humble your souls, from the ninth day of the month: from evening to evening ye shall keep your sabbaths.

Yom Kippur under the Levitical priesthood

Leviticus 23: 26 – 32 tells us the instructions for the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar Tishrei – usually occurring in September or October. It is the second High Holiday occurring in the Fall. And this is the day where we are to humble ourselves, to do no manner of work, and to observe this day as a holy sabbath.

On this day the high priest would bathe and put on the consecrated linen tunic. Then, He would then take a goat and make atonement for himself and his family first. Next, two other goats would be taken, the High Priest would cast lots for which the goat that would be the goat that would atone for the sins of the whole congregation of Israel. 

A calf and a goat would be killed for a sin offering. The blood of the calf and goat would be sprinkled by the high priest seven times on the mercy-seat and would be placed on the horns of the altar. 

The High Priest would place his hands on the head of the scapegoat and declare all the iniquities, all the unrighteousness and all the sins of the children of Israel over the live goat and that goat would be sent into the wilderness. The high priest would bathe again following the sacrifices, put on clean garments, and then return to the congregation of Israel.

Is Yom Kippur a commanded fast day?

To afflict our souls has been interpreted as meaning to fast, and on this day we would afflict our souls with prayer and fasting.

 This is not wrong and would be very appropriate for Yom Kippur. This is often the way our forefathers would afflict themselves.

“But I, when they troubled me, put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall return to my [own] bosom.”

-Psalms 35:13

“And I proclaimed there a fast, at the river Aue, that [we] should humble ourselves before our God, to seek of him a straight way for us, and for our children, and for all our property.”

-Ezra 8:21

“saying, Why have we fasted, and thou regardest not? [why] have we afflicted our souls, and thou didst not know it? Nay, in the days of your fasts ye find your pleasures, and all them that are under your power ye wound.”

-Isaiah 58:3

Leviticus 23: 28 says – to not do any work on the Day of Atonement. On this day we are commanded not to do any work, we are not specify commanded to fast.

The word afflict or humble in verse 26 in Hebrew is Anah, עָנָה, which means “to be bowed down or afflicted”(BibleHub “anah”). 

The word for fasting or a fast in Hebrew is Tsum,  צוֹם (BibleHub “tsum”). Tsum is not mentioned in Leviticus 23, only anah. 

While fasting would be appropriate for this day, Yom Kippur is not a commanded fast day. We are commanded to not do any work what so ever on this day. It is a strict no workday, a holy sabbath day forever. 

How do we observe the Day of Atonement?

We can observe the Day of Atonement, by meditating on the verses that explain how Jesus is our atonement for our sins. 

We can spend this day in prayer. Praying for our friends and family, for the nation fo the Hebrews, thanking the Lord for our salvation, and anything else!

We rest. This a holy sabbath day, go for a walk, relax with family, sleep in!


Jesus is our High Priest and our atonement

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 57: 16 – 21

16 I will not take vengeance on you forever, neither will I be always angry with you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have created all breath. 17 On account of sin for a little while I grieved him, and smote him, and turned away my face from him; and he was grieved, and he went on sorrowful in his was. 18 I have seen his ways, and healed him, and comforted him, and given him true comfort; 19 peace upon peace to them that are far off, and to them that are nigh: and the Lord has said, I will heal them. 20 But the unrighteous shall be tossed as troubled waves, and shall not be able to rest. 21 There is no joy to the ungodly, said God.

Hosea 14: 1 – 2

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord thy God; for the people have fallen through thine iniquities. 2 Take with you words, and turn to the Lord your God: speak to him, that ye may not receive [the reward of] unrighteousness, but that ye may receive good things: and we will render in return the fruit of our lips.

Ibrim (Hebrews) 9: 11 – 14

11 But Messiah, having become a High Priest of the coming good matters, through the greater and more perfect Tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, 12 entered into the Most Set-apart Place once for all, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, having obtained everlasting redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the defiled, sets apart for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of the Messiah, who through the everlasting Spirit offered Himself unblemished to Elohim, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living Elohim?

Ibrim (Hebrews) 10: 1 – 4; 11 – 18;

1 For the Torah, having a shadow of the good matters to come, and not the image itself of the matters, was never able to make perfect those who draw near with the same slaughter offerings which they offer continually year by year. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? Because those who served, once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those offerings is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

11 And indeed every priest stands day by day doing service, and repeatedly offering the same slaughter offerings which are never able to take away sins. 12 But He, having offered one slaughter offering for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of Elohim, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being set apart.

15 And the Set-apart Spirit also witnesses to us, for after having said before, 16 “This is the covenant that I shall make with them after those days, says יהוה, giving My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them,” 17 and, “Their sins and their lawlessnesses I shall remember no more.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer a slaughter offering for sin.

Yom Kippur is a day of humbling ourselves and repenting before the Lord. This is a day where we remember how atoning our sins was done under the Levitical priesthood and rejoicing that Jesus is the only atonement for our sins forever. This is a day of rest, meditating on the word, and prayer. May you have a restful, and meaningful Yom Kippur. Shalom!


All Old Testament scriptures are from the Septuagint and all New Testament Scriptures are from The Scriptures 2009 translations unless otherwise stated.

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