Yom means “day” in Hebrew, and Kippur is a derivative of ‘to cover’, meaning to atone (Day of Atonement).
(Interestingly Noah was instructed in Genesis 6:14 to cover the ark with pitch, derived from Hebrew ‘kaphar‘, the root word for atonement)
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews. After Rosh Hashanah and the following 10 Days of Awe (Repentance), Yom Kippur is the day commanded by God “... on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before the LORD.” (Leviticus 16:30).
Lev. 16:7-10 “Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.”
v. 15: “He shall then slaughter the people’s goat of sin offering, bring its blood behind the curtain, and do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull: he shall sprinkle it over the cover and in front of the cover.”
v. 21-22: “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat [scapegoat]; and it shall be sent off [set free] to the wilderness through a designated man.”
v. 34. “This shall be to you a law for all time: to make atonement for the Israelites for their sins once a year.”
In the past, Jews from all over would gather in the Temple to experience the sacred sight of the High Priest performing his service, obtaining forgiveness for all of Israel.
These sacrifices that were required during the Temple era are not required in the new covenant Church. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the substitute sacrificial lamb and paid the sin debt in full for all, through the shedding of His blood — to be received by faith. (Romans 3:25)
In the Septuagint, the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word for “atonement cover” is the same one used of Christ and translated “sacrifice of atonement” in Romans 3:25. Some interpreters add that the Greek for this phrase could speak of a sacrifice that satisfies the righteous wrath of God (traditionally rendered “propitiation”).
The sins of God’s people, punished temporarily and partially in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament period, were totally punished in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Click HERE for prayers from the Machzor, the special prayerbook for Yom Kippur.