Day of Atonement
The Ransom and Judgment of Sin
By David M Rogers
Published: September 2009
Table of Contents
As well known as any of the biblical holy days, Yom Kippur is a solemn day of fasting and repenting for observant Yehudim around the world. This is the day, according to tradition, that the Almighty decides on the eternal fate of the souls of all men. On Yom Kippur, when each person is brought up before Elohim, along with his life and works, He either is satisfied with the person and receives him, or he appoints him his place among the heathen.
Messianic believers see Yom Kippur as a picture of a time of paramount importance in Messiah Yahusha's redemption of his people Israel, and of the restoration of all things. This day is a remembrance of the ransom which Mashiach provided for his people by his own death on the stake. The life for life principle as seen in the sacrificial instructions for the temple service suggests that the day of Kippur was a picture of the ransom and substitution for sin which Yahusha provided for all who place their faith in him. Looking forward, Yom Kippur foreshadows the great day of judgment of all men and the putting away of transgression from the universe.
But putting aside tradition, what does the Bible say about Yom Kippur? Though the instructions regarding the temple service on Yom HaKippurim are laid out in detail in Vayiqra (Leviticus) 16, the commandment to observe it is summarized for us in Vayiqra 23:
Yahuwah spoke to Mosheh, saying, "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of the kippurim; it shall be a set-apart miqra for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to Yahuwah. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of the kippurim, to kippur on your behalf before Yahuwah your Elohim. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a Shabbat shabbaton to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your Shabbat." (Vayiqra 23:26-32)
First let it be noted that the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar is to be a set-apart miqra. A miqra is a meeting or proclamation of the message of Elohim. The proclamation on this day is to be focused on the purpose for the day.
Furthermore, no work is to be done on this day. It is called a Shabbat shabbaton, which means a Sabbath of complete rest. There is a strong warning against doing any work at all on this day. One who works is to be cut off from his people. Yahuwah further stresses the magnitude of transgressing this statute by pointing out that he himself will "destroy" from among his people the person who does any work on that day. It is a solemn day so working would detract from the importance of the substance of the day.
Yom HaKippurim is set to occur on the tenth day of the seventh month. There is significance in the choosing of the tenth day. We might ask ourselves, what else happened on the 10th of a month? And the answer is that on 10th day of the 1st month a lamb was chosen to be sacrificed as the Pesach. And judgment for sin was to be placed upon this lamb. This lamb's life was to be taken, in place of the life of the firstborn in the house. Its blood was placed on the doorposts and lintel of the house, signaling the death angel not to strike dead the firstborn in that house. Essentially, the death and blood of the lamb provided protection against death for those who obeyed the command.
In both the first month and the seventh month, the tenth day is essentially a day of judgment. The lamb was chosen on this day in the first month and was shortly thereafter slain in a judgment for sin. Likewise, the animal chosen on the 10th day of 7th month - a goat - was chosen to be sacrificed. It's life was taken in substitute for the life of another - the nation of Israel. And judgment for sin was placed upon this goat. (More about this goat later).
Because a judgment was to take place on this day, we are given another instruction regarding the observance of this day:
This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you (Vayiqra 16:29).
The Hebrew word here translated humble is hn[ (pronounced "anah") which means to be crouched, hunched up, wretched, suffering, to bend, to be bowed, to become weak, to be degraded, to be humiliated.
It should be clear that the afflicting that we are to do on this day is not the same as the affliction that the pagans perform on themselves. In their mourning process, the pagans cut and slash themselves so that the blood flows, tattoo themselves and cut their hair and beards. Yahuwah strictly forbids this kind of self-affliction. He instructs us:
You shall not trim the side of your heads and you shall not ruin the side of your beard and you shall not slash your body for a dead person or incise a tattoo on yourself. I am Yahuwah (Vayiqra 19:27-28).
You are the sons of Yahuwah your Elohim; you shall not cut yourselves nor make baldness between your eyes on behalf of the dead (Devarim 14:1).
In the Messianic Scriptures, Sha'ul interprets the Tanak's teaching about pagan ritual practices:
These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body--a wisdom with no true value--they in reality result in fleshly indulgence. (Colossians 2:22-23).
Those who do not have loyalty to Yahuwah and his Word are involved in all manner of meaningless and useless rituals, including ridiculous cutting and slashing of the body in a mourning for the dead ritual. There are several religious groups even in the modern era which performs these mourning rites.
But Yahuwah's people are to mourn and demonstrate repentance differently. The affliction spoken of in Vayiqra 16:29 has to do with denial of the body, not in harsh treatment of it. So, the traditional teaching that fasting fulfills this instruction to afflict yourselves makes sense. When, in a controlled manner, we deny our bodies of food and water, we "suffer" and "become weak" and sometimes are "hunched up." This is what the Almighty is looking for in us because this proper form of self denial is intended to exhibit in us an attitude of serious and genuine repentance.
In another Scripture, Yahuwah explains why he requires fasting from his people:
All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Yahuwah swore [to give] to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which Yahuwah your Elohim has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahuwah (Devarim 8:1-3).
Fasting is a means of getting us to refocus on what is truly important. By denying ourselves, and by the discomfort this brings, we are enabled to recalibrate the priority of listening to the instructions which come from the very lips of our Creator.
This afflicting of ourselves should lead us to ponder, what are we to be asking of Yahuwah on this day? The answer can be found when we consider the meaning and purpose of Yom HaKippurim.
We have been rendering the name of this day as Yom HaKippurim rather than the more traditional Yom Kippur, or as in Christian circles Day of Atonement. The Hebrew Scriptures calls this day Yom HaKippurim or Yom Kippurim (note the plural). Yom Kippur seems to be the popularized shorthand way of referring to this day.
Now the million dollar question is: what is kippurim? Some Hebrew sources suggest that kippurim comes from two words, Ki (pronounced "ki"), and rPu (pronounced "pur"). On the Day of HaKippurim (purim is the plural of pur), two lots were cast. Putting the two words together, ki which means "as, like," and purim which means lot, we arrive at the meaning of kippurim - "like Purim" or "like lots."
Recall from the story of Esther that Purim was the name given to the celebration of the victory over the notorious Haman. Pur is a word that is a synonym to the word goral which means "a lot that is cast." This is evident from the following Scripture:
In the first month (that is, the month of Nisan), in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus' reign, pur (that is, the lot) was cast [Hebrew lr"AGh; aWh rWP ] before Haman in order to determine a day and a month. It turned out to be the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar). (Esther 3:7)
The pur or goral was cast to determine a time when Haman was going to destroy all the Yahudim who lived in the kingdom of Ahasuerus. Thus, in this view, purim and goralot mean the same thing.
Another possible interpretation of kippurim assumes the root word to be rPuKi (pronounced caphar) whose meaning may be to cover, conceal. The “mercy seat” was the caporet (again, from caphar) or “covering” or “lid” of the ark of the covenant. Thus, Yom HaKippurim is thought by some to be the day of “covering of our sins” (i.e. “pacify the deity”) until such a time as Messiah would cleanse us (get rid of) of the same. This meaning is also possible.
More likely, rPuKi (or kippur) means “ransom” or “to offer a substitute.” This rendering makes more sense in light of the sanctuary service (the temple sacrifice ritual). Every Israelite was to give to the service of the sanctuary the "ransom" money of half a shekel (Ex 30:12). Egypt, in Elohim's sight, was given as a "ransom“ (copher) for the restoration of Israel (Isaiah 43:3).
Furthermore, this word "ransom" is parallel to the word "redeem" in Psalm 49:7:
No man can redeem the life of another or give to Elohim a ransom for him.
Here, redeeming a life is shown to mean the same as ransoming that life. Since redeem means to buy back, or to free from captivity by payment of a ransom, its easy to see how the ransom of a man's life by an animal is the same as purchasing his life back from the death penalty.
Every animal offered as a sin offering at the alter of sacrifice was given as a substitute for the person whose sin required it. There are forty-nine instances of this usage in Leviticus alone and no other meaning is there witnessed. The life of the sacrificial animal specifically symbolized by its blood was required in exchange for the life of the worshipper. This is what "atonement" or the day of the "ransoms" is all about. Though everyone who sins must pay the penalty for sin, there is a ransom or "substitute" that can be made.
At Pesach, the lamb's blood on the doorpost indicated that a lamb had supplied the full payment for the penalty of sin for the firstborn of a household in Israel on the night they came out of Egypt. On Yom HaKippurim, the slaughtering of the goat chosen for Yahuwah as a sin offering indicated that the sin and the penalty for sin for the entire nation of Israel was paid for. All the sacrifices for sin at the alter before the tabernacle were "ransoms" - substitutes for a human beings' transgression of the Law.
Leviticus 16 provides us the most detailed information in all the Bible about Yom HaKipparim. Here, the instructions for the ceremony which the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is to perform are enumerated. This is to be done once a year:
29 "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the
seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work-- whether
native-born or an alien living among you--
This day is the most important of the year for the Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest, whose work is to wipe clean the sins of the entire nation:
1 Yahuwah spoke to Mosheh after
the death of the two sons of Aharon who died when they approached
In summary, the Cohen is to wash himself, dress himself and then make a series of offerings, first for himself, then for the community. Of the two goats he brings, one is selected by lot (the pur) to be slaughtered, the other to be released in the wilderness. The first is done for Yahuwah, the second for Azazel (usually rendered "scapegoat", more about him below).
After the animals are slaughtered, the blood of the bull is sprinkled in front of and on the lid of the ark of the covenant for the sin of the Cohen, and then the blood of the goat is sprinkled in front of and on the lid of the ark for the sin of the nation. Next, the Cohen hagadol comes out of the most holy place and does the same on the alter to cleanse it.
Finally, he lays his hands on the live goat (for Azazel) and confesses over it all the sin of Israel. Then he sends it, by the hands of a capable man, to be released in the wilderness. And the Cohen again washes, puts on his regular clothes, and performs the burnt offerings for himself and for the people.
The most interesting part of this ritual is coming to an understanding of the two goats. The one is chosen for Yahuwah to be slaughtered, and the other is chosen for Azazel to be released with all the sins of the community transferred from the Cohen hagadol to the head of this goat. What is the significance of this ceremony? What or who do these goats represent?
The goat chosen for Yahuwah to be offered as a sin offering takes upon himself the "sin of all people" or you might say "the sin of the whole world." Of course, this is an allusion to what Yochanan says in his historical account of the life and ministry of Yahusha Messiah. Just as Yahusha identified himself with the Pesach lamb, taking upon himself the sin of the world, and dieing as a substitute (ransom) for all who would place their trust in him, this goat also pictures Messiah's death. Here, the one goat is offered as a sin offering for the whole community of Israel. So, it would appear, the goat chosen for Yahuwah represents the death of Messiah as a substitution for all Yisrael to ransom all Yisrael from the yoke of sin.
But what about the goat chosen by lot "for Azazel"? Who is Azazel? There is no other mention of Azazel in the TaNaCh (Old Testament). If the one goat is offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the nation, and the other goat takes the blame for all the sin of the community and is cast out to the wilderness, common sense should at least point us in the right direction of identifying Azazel. He seems to be the antithesis to Yahuwah.
The Book of Jude (Yehudah) speaks of the judgment of Yahuwah as prophesied by Enoch, the seventh from Adam.
14 Hanok, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Master is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
This reference to the writing of Hanok (Enoch) provides a measure of credibility to the Book of Enoch. Since Jude cited the Book of Enoch as a reliable source for teaching, we will consider its information, too. Interestingly, we do have what is believed to be the Book of Enoch and it reads essentially the same as Jude quoted him. Enoch reads:
Behold, he comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against him. (Enoch 2:1)
This same Book of Enoch also speaks of Azazel. Here is an excerpt from the Book of Enoch about Azazel (rendered "Azazyel" in the translation of Enoch I am referencing):
Moreover Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered. Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways. (8:1-2)
Azazel (Azazyel) was instrumental in the "altering" of the world due to the vanity of physical beauty, the crafting of jewelry (the overuse and abuse of which the Scripture condemns), and the forging and use of war implements.
Shortly after that passage, Enoch is shown a scene of judgment:
And now to you, O you Holy One of heaven, the souls of men complain, saying, Bring judgment to us from the Most High. Then they said to their Lord, the King, You are Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings. The throne of your glory is for ever and ever, and for ever and ever is your name sanctified and glorified. You are blessed and glorified. You have made all things; you possess power over all things; and all things are open and manifest before you. You behold all things, and nothing can be concealed from you. You have seen what Azazyel has done, how he has taught every species of iniquity upon earth, and has disclosed to the world all the secret things which are done in the heavens. (9:3-5)
Here, the teaching of every manner of iniquity in the earth is attributed to Azazyel. The Scriptures attribute the knowledge of sin to Satan, the deceiver of all mankind. Enoch is describing how "the souls of men" are complaining to Elohim about the works of Azazyel, and are asking for Yahuwah to judge him for it.
Next, Enoch is told of the coming flood which was to engulf the whole earth. This is the judgment of Elohim which was to cause everything on the earth to perish. And instructions were to be given to mankind regarding how he may escape this judgment.
Then explain to him the consummation which is about to take place; for all the earth shall perish; the waters of a deluge shall come over the whole earth, and all things which are in it shall be destroyed. And now teach him how he may escape, and how his seed may remain in all the earth. Again the Lord said to Raphael, Bind Azazyel hand and foot; cast him into darkness; and opening the desert which is in Dudael, cast him in there. Throw upon him hurled and pointed stones, covering him with darkness; There shall he remain for ever; cover his face, that he may not see the light. And in the great day of judgment let him be cast into the fire. Restore the earth, which the angels have corrupted; and announce life to it, that I may revive it. (10:4-10)
In conjunction with the judgment, Azazyel was to be bound and thrown into darkness, covered and held for the ultimate judgment, when he would be cast into the fire. Similarly, the book of Revelation describes Satan as being bound and thrown into a pit where he would be covered and sealed:
He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Revelation 20:3)
Also, recall that Satan is to be ultimately thrown into the Lake of Fire as his finally destiny:
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)
Again, Satan's destiny as revealed in the Scriptures fits perfectly with the description of Azazyel's judgment. The identity of Azazyel as Satan is almost complete.
And finally, hope is given to mankind. A promise that not all men would be destroyed in the flood.
All the sons of men shall not perish in consequence of every secret, by which the Watchers have destroyed, and which they have taught, their offspring. All the earth has been corrupted by the effects of the teaching of Azazyel. To him therefore ascribe the whole crime. (Enoch 10:11-12)
Again, it is repeated that the reason for this judgment on Azazyel is that he corrupted the whole earth. And the final nail in the coffin of evidence is that Azazyel is to be ascribed with the whole crime. All the blame of sin on the earth and the fall and corruption of mankind is to be placed on Azazyel. It is all his fault and doing. He must bear the entire blame for the rebellion against the Creator.
This blame which Azazyel must bear corresponds with the fate of Azazel in Vayikra 16. The Cohen HaGadol lays his hands on the goat which was selected "for Azazel" and he confesses all the sins of the nation over him. He then sends the goat out into the wilderness, bearing the sin of Israel, and left there. This is the picture of Satan's judgment at the time of the flood and the ultimate destiny of Satan being cast into the Lake of Fire.
This annual ritual of confessing all the sins of the nation onto the head of the goat is a prophetic picture of the judgment of Satan, when he will be held to account for his rebellion and corruption of the universe. Though Messiah died as a substitute payment for the transgression of all who confess and repent of their sins, Satan will still bear the blame for all sin and will be judged for his primary role in the rebellion. This will occur at the appointed time of Yom HaKippurim - Judgment Day.
The New Testament writers describe the final Judgment as an appointment. First, in an episode when Yahusha was rebuking demons, the evil spirits acknowledge that Yahusha would deal with them at "the appointed time":
"What do you want with us, Son of Elohim?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Matthew 8:29)
And, Sha'ul told the men of Athens about the appointed day of judgment:
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
And regarding judgment, Sha'ul instructed the believers at Corinth:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Master comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from Elohim. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Yom HaKippurim is that appointed time for judgment.
Yom HaKippurim was the annual judgment of sin during the time of the temple service. It pictures the Messiah's ransom by his own death on the tree. This appointed day will be fulfilled again in the end time judgment of sin when Satan will be captured and punished forever. On this day on the calendar, as we look back and look forward, all followers of Yahuwah should humble themselves before him and seek his forgiveness and kindness.