What is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and 10 Days of Awe?

By Melissa McLaughlin

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and 10 Days of Awe

The Day of Atonement, in Hebrew known as Yom Kippur, is the second of three fall Feast Days (or Festivals) listed in the Old Testament. The Day of Atonement was established by God in Leviticus 16. (Also Leviticus 23:26-32 and Numbers 29:7-11.)

The first fall Feast Day is The Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah in Hebrew). The Feast of Trumpets is held on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew civil calendar, the month of Tishri. The Feast of Trumpets inaugurates 10 days of repentance, soul-searching, introspection regarding sin, expressing remorse for sin and asking God for forgiveness.

The Day of Atonement follows on the tenth day of this seventh month, Tishri. The Day of Atonement marks the tenth and final day of repentance and is the most solemn and highest holy day of the Jewish calendar. This sacred period is referred to as High Holy Days or Days of Awe (in Hebrew Yamim Nora’im).

For Christians, The Day of Atonement foretells Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The Day of Atonement was the only day God allowed the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies, the place where His Presence dwelled, in order to offer a special sacrifice for sins. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle was torn in two the day Jesus died on the cross for our sins. (Matthew 27:50-51) This signified the sacrifice for sins was now complete and from this point forward we could draw near God’s Presence through the atoning blood of our Savior.

The period from The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah) to The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is referred to as 10 Days of Awe. During this time, God’s people are called to remember His powerful holiness, bow down in reverent awe and repent of sin.

What happened on The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)?

On The Day of Atonement the High Priest offered a blood sacrifice to the Lord, to cover or atone for the sins of the people. This sacrifice then restored the relationship between God and His people that had been broken by sin during the previous year.

Two goats were offered. One was a blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.

This first sacrifice appeased God’s wrath. Unlike human wrath or anger, God’s wrath is better understood as God’s just judgment or righteous ruling for sin. Sin is serious. Sin is rebellion against a good God. Furthermore, sin cannot be permitted in the presence of a holy, perfect, pure God. The blood sacrifice satisfies the required payment of justice before a just God.

The second goat was released into the wilderness as a “scapegoat” which symbolized the peoples’ sins being carried away. Never to be seen again. (Psalm 103:11-12)

This special, once-a-year sacrifice on The Day of Atonement was above and beyond the daily individual sacrifices for sin and represented the seriousness of the peoples’ sins.

(Information sources: What is The Day of Atonement in the Bible By Mary Fairchild of Learning Religions , What is the significance of The Day of Atonement By Compelling Truth ,

Messianic Sabbath)

Why is Atonement Needed Anyway?

Can you think back to the last time you were wronged?

An injustice or hurt

A betrayal or lie

An abuse, theft or murder

When a wrong has been done, our immediate response is, “That’s wrong. The guilty one needs to be brought to justice and pay for this.”

Even our easily corrupted hearts desire justice, fairness and rightness to be carried out. We seek a rightful consequence, penalty or repayment.

Why this cry for justice?

Where do human beings get this inborn desire for justice? From our Creator God. The One who created us, is Himself righteous, just and true.

Unlike our biased earthly justice, the justice of God is perfect. And since God sees all and knows all, He can exact absolute justice.

The Justice of God

God does not give a wink, turn a blind eye or sweep our sins under the carpet. His just judgments cannot be bribed or bent like the judges of mankind. For He is Sovereign God, Righteous Judge, Supreme Ruler. And He is altogether good. To allow for evil or sin in His presence, He would cease being good.

Consequently, the penalty for sin must be paid. This is God’s righteousness and justice.

Sin Separates us From God

God revealed His righteousness, goodness and justice to His people from the beginning.

When Adam and Eve first rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, they were cast out and separated from God. Since that day, our innate sin-nature has separated humanity from our Creator. We stand bare and helpless, in need of One who can bridge that immeasurable gap.

Sacrifice for Sins

God outlined His laws of righteousness in the book of Exodus. Sin is not overlooked. Every sin is accounted for. The guilty must pay a penalty to atone for their wrongs.

Why pay a penalty for sins? Sin is the choice to defy or go against God. Since evil cannot exist in His perfect Presence, something must be done to restore our relationship with God or we remain permanently separated from the very God who gave us life and breath.

Salvation by Substitution

To account for this, God in His mercy, allowed a substitute to take the place of the sinner. In the book of Leviticus God instituted the system of animal sacrifices, which ultimately pointed ahead to Jesus Christ, the final sacrificial Lamb.

Why a blood sacrifice? God is the Creator of life and to oppose Him brings death. The death of the animal was offered as a substitute sacrifice, paying the penalty in our place, for our sins.

What does this mean for Christians today?

Though we may not formally celebrate The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, we can remember the powerful symbolic meaning that points to Christ through this Old Testament Feast Day.

  • God is holy. God is absolutely just, righteous, perfect and good.
  • Sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God.
  • Sin separates us from God.
  • A just penalty must be paid for sin.
  • God made a way of salvation by substitution.
  • We are sinners in desperate need of a Savior.
  • Jesus is that Messiah! Our Savior, King and LORD!

May we repent and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and LORD. Christ is the once-and-for-all sacrifice sent by God to pay the penalty for our sins (the atoning blood sacrifice), that our sins may be taken away forever (the scapegoat). (Hebrews 10:1-18)

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29b

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:19

Sources and Resources:

This year The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah) is from sundown September 8-9, 2021. This begins the 10 Days of Awe. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is sundown September 17-18, 2021. The Messianic Sabbath website lists information about dates of additional Biblical Feast Days.

To participate in global prayer and simulcasts during the 10 Days of Awe and The Day of Atonement, read more on The Return website.

What is The Day of Atonement in the Bible By Mary Fairchild of Learning Religions

What is the significance of The Day of Atonement By Compelling Truth

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement By Hebrew4Christians.com

What is the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible? By Melissa McLaughlin

What is the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in the Bible? By Melissa McLaughlin

What is the Main Message of the Bible? By Melissa McLaughlin

For a deeper look at the Day of Atonement and its New Testament applications, read more in this study of the book of Hebrews By Melinda Inman – Outside the Gate

24 thoughts on “What is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and 10 Days of Awe?”

  1. I am learning so many new things from your blog. I am so thankful that Jesus came so we no longer need to make such sacrifices. And what a blessing that we can go to Christ directly now instead of going thru a high priest. Great information Melissa.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Yvonne! I am learning, too! The more we read and dig into the Bible, the more riches we mine. I have recently seen so many advertisements for The Day of Atonement and 10 Days of Awe. The more I notice the connections between the Old and New Testaments, the more I recognize even how beautiful our Savior is. Amazing grace!

  2. Thank you for sharing this great information, Melissa. I have been joining in with several different websites this year, rejoicing in the fullness that Jesus has brought for us! And I am planning to log in to The Return this weekend too. May the Lord pour His mercy upon us now. Our world needs Him so much, in these last days. Blessings and love to you dear friend.

    • You’re welcome, dear Bettie! Yes, there are more Christian groups gathering together in these last days to pray and call for a final outpouring of the Holy Spirit before Jesus’ return. I am planning to log into The Return, as well. As the sorrows of this world grow heavier, our hearts long for heaven. But I still pray for the lost to be drawn to Christ before it’s too late. May our prayers ring on, until that Day. Bless you, sweet friend.

  3. What an excellent, clear, and easy to understand description of these days which still continue to be so important to Jewish people. Today Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the first Jew and the first woman to lie in state there. As an observant Jew, she would have kept these days.

    For believers, these days laid the groundwork for Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, our sacrificial lamb. Our forgiveness is secured and our salvation made fast by Who Jesus is and what Jesus did. How thankful I am that we might have peace and know that this problem of our sins has been taken care of for eternity. What would we do without Jesus!

    Still, as believers, I wonder what would happen if our entire nation had a Feast of Trumpets type solemn assembly, inaugurating 10 days of repentance, soul-searching, introspection regarding sin, expressing remorse for sin and asking God for forgiveness. Such a holy day might change the current course of our nation.

    • Oh Melinda, you captured it all so well. What would we do without Jesus! When we see the threads that weave the Old and New Testaments together, we see more fully the magnitude of Christ’s finished work on the cross. I agree with you, our whole nation and body of Christ in this country should indeed call a solemn assembly with 10 days of fasting, repentance and prayer. There are several groups which are attempting this very thing. If you have time, check out the link I listed below. The Return.
      Though everyone may not participate in such a holy day, we can stand in the gap for others. May we have ears to hear and hearts to respond to the Lord’s call for each of us. Thank you for reading and sharing your deep insights!

  4. Wow, Melissa. This is wonderful teaching. I loved reading the symbolic meanings that all point to Christ and His sacrifice. And the 10 Days of Awe when “God’s people are called to remember His powerful holiness, bow down in reverent awe and repent of sin.” Sin is serious and separates us from a Holy God.

    In reading through Genesis, I thought about how after the first sin, the Bible says God covered Adam and Eve in animal skins. It was the first animal sacrifice as a covering for sin. Then the priest sacrifices for the people until Christ became the ultimate sacrifice. May we never take that lightly and realize our sin and repent quickly!

    • I agree, Karen. The symbolic meanings of Christ that are included in this Old Testament feast day are incredible. As we look back, as believers, through the lens of the New Testament, we see how God was aligning all the pieces to prepare for His Son, our Savior, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the World.
      I have often thought about that same passage in Genesis, where God covered Adam and Eve. A sacrifice was made for sin even then. We do easily forget, the price that is paid for our sin. Oh Jesus, give us a fresh vision of your life, death and resurrection. You brought us back from death and darkness with your blood. Let us never forget or take you for granted!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Melissa. My husband and I have been watching some special services of prayer and repentance for our country today. It seems fitting in so many ways. May we return to the Lord, individually and as a country.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I had always wondered about the Dsy of Atonement and how Hebrews would deal with that since there is no temple and no animal sacrifice. This us why there is such a strong conviction to rebuild the temple.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Tom! As I read the New Testament, especially Hebrews, my understanding goes so much deeper the more I grasp about the Old Testament, including the temple and animal sacrifices. It makes the sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins, so much more stunning to me.

  6. There is so much rich history to our faith! I love your article explaining some of this heritage of atonement. Understanding why sin must be atoned for is often challenged in this day and age. I am fairly certain it is because people have lost touch with how Holy our God is! Thank for the reminder.

    • I agree, Lisa! The history of our faith is deep and rich. You are right, very few people want to even admit that there is such a thing as “sin” because each person wants to define for themselves what is right and wrong. But God is our Creator and He is holy. He defines sin. One of the key issues is that we must humble ourselves before a Mighty God who sees all and knows all. At its core, Christianity requires humility, acknowledging we are sinners before a holy God and Jesus is our Savior. May this truth penetrate all the deception of mankind.


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