Yom Kippur is a solemn day for the people of God to humble themselves before Him and seek His forgiveness. Observant Jews fast from food and water for a period of 25 hours on this day, the same interval of time as the weekly Shabbat. The annual, temporary atonement for sin on Yom Kippur pointed prophetically to Yeshua’s eternal sacrifice that would atone for all the sins of the world in God’s appointed time.
The priests of Israel, the kohanim, played a major role in the execution of the festal mandates. There’s was a hereditary ministry comprised of the descendants of Aaron.Yom Kippur was the day of days for the high priest (kohen hagadol), a type of Yeshua. In the holiest nation on earth, on the holiest day of the year, the holiest man on earth entered the holiest place on earth…the Holy of Holies, where he came face to face with his Creator!
In preparation for the atonement sacrifice on Yom Kippur, the high priest bathed five times in a mikvah, a ritual immersion bath. According to the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, the high priest also washed his hands and feet ten times during that day. He eventually entered the Holy of Holies according to the prescribed manner, where he sprinkled the blood of a bull and a goat on the Mercy Seat. The congregation of Israel held its collective breath, while waiting for the sins of the priesthood and the sins of the nation to be forgiven (Lev 16:1415).
Melodious bells hung from the hem of the high priest’s robe. The first thing we notice about the bells is their golden composition, a universal symbol of divinity. The bells were present to bring honor and glory to God. Next, we observe the placement of the bells around the hem of the garment, alternating between the pomegranates and possibly numbering as many as 72 according to some sources. Imagine the continuous jingling as the priest went about his daily tasks in the Tabernacle and Temple.
Bells are meant to be attention-getters. Some scholars claim the bells announced the presence of the high priest on Yom Kippur as he ministered before the Shekhinah, the manifest glory of God, signaling to the people that he was still alive on that fateful Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin). Some argue that the cessation of the tinkling bells indicated the high priest’s death, which would require pulling his corpse away from the presence of God by a rope that was secured around his waist. Others claim the high priest did not appear before the Lord with the bells on that day.
Unfortunately, we see through a glass dimly with thousands of years of Bible history having passed by. Someday when we sit at the Lord’s feet to learn of Him, we will know the whole story of the ancient traditions. There will be no more unanswered questions, no more suppositions, educated guesses, and sacred cows to amuse, confuse, and frustrate us. We can say with certainty, however, that the golden bells were like angelic messengers–heralds of good news, proclaiming the advent of the Holy One of Israel who, like the royal pomegranate, would endure crushing for the eternal benefit of humanity.
The Priestly Robes
The high priest wore two styles of garments, the Golden Garments and the White Garments. The Golden Garments were worn on a daily basis as the high priest ministered in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. The White Garments that were worn daily by the ordinary priests were worn once a year by the high priest on Yom Kippur, the day of fear and trembling for all Israel. On this day of days, the high priest changed his clothing every time before entering the Holy of Holies. The sacred robes that atoned for evil speech were never worn again because they had been in the presence of Almighty God (Lev 16:23).
The Role of the Two Goats on Yom Kippur
Two goats, identical in appearance, played a significant role in the Tabernacle and Temple ritual on Yom Kippur (Lev 16:20-22). After the casting of lots, one goat was sacrificed, prophetic of Yeshua’s crucifixion. Then the high priest laid hands heavily on the scapegoat, a symbolic gesture of transferring the heavy weight of sin to the innocent substitute animal, a type of Yeshua. The scapegoat was escorted to the wilderness and released in earlier days, symbolic and prophetic of the resurrection, but it was thrown off a cliff during the time of Yeshua, never to return to the camp again. The riddance of the scapegoat symbolized the removal and forgiveness of sin.
A scarlet cord was tied to the horns of both goats and to the door of the Temple. The scarlet cord spoke of sin and redemption. The Talmud claims the scarlet cord turned white, a sign that Israel’s sins had been forgiven. Church tradition claims the cord failed to turn white after the crucifixion. Sin can only be forgiven by Yeshua. The iniquities of repentant sinners were removed when the Savior of the World paid the ultimate price with His redeeming blood (Heb 9:11-12).
*For additional information about the Feasts of the Lord, see my book: By Divine Appointment, available from NoreenJacks.com.
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Dr. Noreen Jacks conveys her passion for the Word of God and her visions of hope for those in need of spiritual restoration. She enjoys biblical archaeology, cultural anthropology, linguistics, and history of the Bible lands and its people.