National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

The Festival or Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur, is a significant observance in the Old Testament of the Bible. It is considered the most important day in the Jewish calendar and falls on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei, according to the Hebrew calendar.

The Day of Atonement is described in the book of Leviticus, specifically in Leviticus 16. It was a day set apart for the Israelites to repent, seek forgiveness for their sins, and reconcile with God. The purpose of the Day of Atonement was to make amends for the sins of the entire community of Israel and to restore their relationship with God.

The observance of the Day of Atonement involved several rituals and practices. The high priest played a crucial role in carrying out these rituals. He would enter the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle or later the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, to make atonement for the sins of the people.

The rituals included the following:

1. The high priest would bathe and dress in special garments.
2. He would bring two male goats for a sin offering and a bull for a sin offering for himself.
3. One of the goats was selected to be a scapegoat. The high priest would confess the sins of the people over it and send it into the wilderness, symbolically carrying away the sins of the people.
4. The other goat was sacrificed, and its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and in the Most Holy Place to atone for the sins of the people.
5. The high priest would then offer burnt offerings and make atonement for himself, the priests, and the people.
6. The people were required to afflict themselves through fasting and refraining from work. It was a day of solemn assembly and repentance.

The Day of Atonement was a time for the Israelites to reflect on their actions, seek forgiveness, and renew their commitment to God. It emphasized the importance of repentance and the need for reconciliation between humanity and God. It served as a reminder of the seriousness of sin and the need for atonement to restore the relationship with God.