« Atonement Atonement, Day of Atrium »

Atonement, Day of


Institution and Ritual.

The great Hebrew and Jewish fast-day, occurring annually; called in Lev. xxiii, 27-28 yom ha-kippurim, in the Talmud simply yoma, “the day” ; in vulgar Hebrew yom kippur. The legal provisions are given in Lev. xvi (cf. Ex. xxx, 10); xxiii, 26–32; Num. xxix, 7–11. Since these enactments, in spite of their relative differences, are not sufficient to define the very important ritual in all details, a supplementary tradition became necessary; the Mishnaic treatise Yoma is devoted to the celebration of the day during the Second Temple. According to Lev. xvi, 29, xxiii, 27, Num. xxix, 7, the day fell on the tenth of the seventh month (Tishri); it was to be a Sabbath of rest (” sabbath of sabbaths,” Lev. xvi, 31), on which all labor was prohibited, and the congregation had to meet in the sanctuary (Lev. xxiii, 27-28). A general fast—the only one enjoined in the Mosaic Law—was prescribed for the day. By this fast, the “afflicting of the soul,” the members of the congregation were to bring themselves into a penitential mood appropriate to the serious atonement act. The day is therefore called sometimes simply “the fast-day” (Josephus, Ant., XIV, iv, 3, where, however, as in XIV, xvi, 4, the “third month” causes some difficulty; Philo, De septenario, 296 M) or “the fast” (Philo, 278 M; Acts xxvii, 9); by the rabbis also “the great fast” to distinguish it from the fast-days which were introduced after the Exile. The stranger who dwelt in the land was also obliged to rest from work, but he was not obliged to fast (Lev. xvi, 29).

The rite to be performed in the sanctuary is described in Lev. xvi, 3–28. Aaron (i.e., the high priest), attired in plain priestly clothing is to offer, first for himself and his house, a young bullock for a sin-offering. He is to bring its blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle with it the Kapporeth, the expiatory covering of the ark. In the same manner he has to deal with the blood of the goat, appointed as a sin-offering for the people. With this blood the other vessels of the sanctuary also were afterward sprinkled. Two goats were presented before God for the people, and the high priest cast lots, designating the one goat “for Yahweh” as a sin-offering, the other “for Azazel” (A. V. “scapegoat;” see Azazel); on this second goat the high priest laid his hands and confessed the sins of the people, which the goat was to carry away into the wilderness. Thither it was led by a man, so that it could not return (with the two goats compare the two birds, Lev. xiv, 4-7). The sin is to remain in the territory of the unclean desert-demon Azazel (cf. Zech. v, 5–11). When this act was over the burnt offering for the high priest and the people and other offerings were brought. The great importance of this day is seen from the fact that the high priest officiates personally, and his functions are mostly performed in the Holy of Holies, which he could enter only on this day; furthermore, from the purpose of the whole, to purify priest and congregation, and the habitation of God and its vessels, from all defilement. On this account this day is also referred to as a type in the New Testament (cf. especially Heb. ix, 7, 11 sqq., 24 sqq.; also the Epistle of Barnabas vii).

Date of Origin.

The antiquity of this fast-day, its Mosaic origin, and even its preexilic existence, is denied by Vatke (Biblische Theologie, i, Berlin, 1835, 548), George (Feste, Berlin, 1835, 200 sqq.), Graf, Wellhausen, Kuenen, Reuss, and others. It is indeed strange that this important festival is nowhere mentioned in preexilic writings except in the Law. But this may be accidental. At all events it is a rash inference that so solemn a festival must be of late origin, because the old festivals of the Hebrews were of a joyous character. In favor of the higher antiquity of this usage is the fact that the entire action takes place by the ark of the covenant, which did not exist after the Exile and of whose absence nothing is said in the Law. The desert-demon Azazel (for which in later times one would rather expect Satan as opposed to Yahweh) also points back to the Mosaic time of the abode in the wilderness. It may, however, rightly 357be inferred from the fact that the Day of Atonement is not mentioned in preexilic literature that it did not pass into the consciousness and life of the people, like the three great festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles. It was a festival connected mainly with the priesthood and sanctuary, hence it was more strictly observed at the center of the legitimate worship. There came a change in the postexilic time, in which the Temple at Jerusalem exercised greater influence upon the people. But even then we see that in spite of the prescribed self-mortification the people knew how to indulge in joyful recreation; from the Mishnah (Taanit iv, 8) we learn that on the Day of Atonement (no doubt in the evening, after the high priest had returned to his home), the maidens all went forth, arrayed in white garments, into the vineyards around Jerusalem, where they danced and sang, inviting the young men to select their brides (cf. Delitzsch, Zur Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie, Leipsic, 1836, 195–196). The Gemara finds such joy perfectly legitimate on a day when atonement was made for Israel. After the destruction of Jerusalem the celebration of the Day of Atonement was continued, although the sacrificial rites could no more be performed. The grand festival with its solemn earnestness had so deeply impressed itself upon the people, that it could not be wholly dispensed with. (For the later usages see Orach Chayim, translated by Löwe, 150 sqq.; Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica, chaps. xxv–xxvi.) In general the penitential prayers in the synagogue have taken the place of the atoning temple-sacrifices. Nevertheless, the cessation of the sacrifice is deplored; in some places the house-father takes a cock, the mother a hen, which are killed as a substitute for the sacrifice.

C. Von Orelli.

The late date of the origin of the festival would seem to be made certain by the following considerations: (1) Its absence from the list of feasts given in the earlier books can not be accidental, especially in view of the radical character of its practical prescriptions. (2) These prescriptions and their moral sanction were not in keeping with the spirit of the earlier laws, in which there is no suggestion of fasting and contrition. (3) Transition stages between the prophetic and the priestly legislation are indicated in the ideal conception of Ezekiel, the prophet-priest, with its two single days of atonement (xlv, 18–20), also in the intervening institution by Ezra of a general fast on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month, with no mention of the tenth day of the priestly code. (4) The old festivals of the Hebrews were of a joyous character, while the Levitical Day of Atonement was one of great solemnity.

J. F. M.

Bibliography: The Mishna tract Yoma, translated into Latin with notes by R. Sheringham, London. 1648; the same, ed. H. L. Strack, Leipsic, 1904; an Eng. transl. is in J. Barclay, The Tahmud, London, 1878; the Tosephta on this tract and Jerusalem Gemara in Ugolini, Thesaurus, xviii, 153 sqq.; Maimonides, Yad ha-Ḥazakah, transl. by F. Delitzsch. Hebräerbrief, pp. 749 sqq., Leipsic, 1857; J. Lightfoot, Ministerium templi, chap. xv, in Opera, i. 671–756, Rotterdam, 1686; J. G. Carpsov, Apparatus historico-criticus antiquitatum sacri codicis, pp 433 sqq., Frankfort, 1748; J. Lund, Jüdische Heiligthümer, pp. 1161 sqq., Hamburg, 1738; J. H. Otho, Lexicon rabbinico-philologicum, pp. 182 sqq., Geneva, 1675; J Meyer , De temporibus sacris Hebræorum, in Ugolini, Thesaurus, vol. i; C. W. F. Bähr, Symbolik den mosaischen Cultus, ii, 664 sqq., Heidelberg, 1839; M. Brueck, Pharisäische Volkssitten und Ritualien, Frankfort, 1840; H. Kurtz, Der alt-testamentliche Opferkultus, pp. 335 sqq., Berlin, 1862; B. Wechsler, Zur Geschichte der Versöhnungsfeier, in Jüdische Zeitschrift, ii (1863), 113–125; Nowack, Archaeologie, ii, 183–194; Benzinger, Archaeologie, pp. 200, 398, 401, 427; the works on Old Testament theology, and the commentaries to Lev. xvi, particularly Driver’s Leviticus, in SBOT, 1898. On the critical question consult Franz Delitzsch, in ZKW, i (1880), 173–183. For the later Judaism, consult J. F. Schröder, Satzungen und Gebräuche des talmudisch-rabbinischen Judenthums, 130 sqq., Bremen, 1851; S. Adler, in ZATW, ii (1882), 178 sqq., 272; L. Dembitz, Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home, Philadelphia, 1898; M. Jastrow, in AJT, i (1898 ), 312 sqq.

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