Lev. 16; 23:26-32. Once a year on Yom Kippur, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer a blood sacrifice upon the mercy seat. After the Babylonian captivity, the ark and mercy seat were no longer in the Holy of Holies, and God had departed from the temple. There was nothing there but a rock protruding a few inches above the ground. In spite of this, they continued to go through the ritual of sprinkling the blood in the room. The story goes that priests wore bells on their robes and they would tie a rope around a foot of the priest, so that they could hear if he was still alive and if not, they could pull him out in case they died in there. Normally nobody could look upon God and live, but on this one day (when the ark was there before God left the sanctuary) an exception was made when the priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and be in the presence of the Shekinah glory of God. The priest didn’t wear the usual colorful garments, but wore special linen garments that were just for the occasion. Two goats had been chosen beforehand. Lots would be cast over them, one for the Lord and one for the scapegoat. The one for the Lord would be offered as a sin offering. They would take the blood of the goat and other animals that had been sacrificed and sprinkle them on the mercy seat. The other goat would be presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement. The priest would lay his hands upon the head of the goat, confess the iniquities of the children of Israel, putting all their sins on it, and then send it away into the wilderness for Azazel. The scapegoat as it was known would be taken out and pushed over a cliff. The two goats were considered one offering. One shed the blood as the penalty for sin, and the other took away the sins to be forgotten. Christ was able to do both things. Tradition has an interesting story about the scapegoat. When choosing which goat would be sacrificed and which would become the scapegoat, the priest would choose lots from a golden urn, one with the right hand, one with the left. If the lot for the Lord came up in his right hand, it was considered a good omen. If it came up in the left, it was a bad omen of impending doom. For about forty years before the destruction of the temple, (from the time of Christ’s crucifixion) it had come up in the left hand. After choosing the goats, a red sash was tied around the horns of the scapegoat. When the goat was led out into the wilderness, a portion of the sash was taken and tied to the temple door. Before the goat was pushed over the precipice, the sash was again divided with part being tied back onto the goat’s horns and part being tied to a protrusion from the precipice. According to tradition when the goat met its end, the red sashes would turn white, letting the people know that their sins were forgiven. From the time of Christ’s death until the destruction of the temple it is said that the sashes quit turning white.
In referencing back to Azazel, Scripture is a little vague as to what this is, and it seems that in Judaism, they have no idea what it means also; however, the Book of Enoch says that Azazel is a demon who was the leader of the fallen angels that corrupted man in Noah’s day and caused the world to be destroyed by the flood. They educated mankind in heavenly secrets that led mankind to sin. The angels charged Azazel before the Lord with his crimes. He was then punished by being bound hand and foot and thrown into darkness among the sharp and jagged rocks of the wilderness, where he remains until the day of judgment when he will be thrown in the fire. Tribal groups of Biblical times worshipped goat-devils of the desert or wilderness. Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15 speak of devils, but when one looks up the Hebrew word, it turns out that the Hebrew definition for devils in these two verses actually means a he-goat, faun, or satyr. So indeed the mythological faun (as I have always suspected) is not a myth at all, but indeed the appearance of a particular species of devils. As we will see when we come to Revelation, they are not the only “mythological” creatures that are actually devils. While it is speculation, it would appear from all this information (the Scriptural part is obviously reliable) that 1) there exist devils who are half-goat/half-man, 2) that ancient tribal people worshiped goat-devils who lived in the wilderness, 3) that one of these goat-devils is named Azazel as he was chained there as punishment, 4) and that he was given a scapegoat as a sacrifice for the sins of Israel.
According to Jewish writings from that time, when the destruction of Jerusalem came, it was not a surprise to the people. They felt that God had been warning them that it was going to happen and that they were being given time to restructure their worship around the synagogue instead. They felt that these following signs were the warning of the impending doom: 1) the lot for the scapegoat did not come up in the right hand of the priest, 2) the sash no longer turned white, 3) the westernmost light on the temple candelabra would not burn. This light was used to light the other candles in the candelabra and 4) the temple doors would open by themselves (kind of creepy). They felt this was a fulfillment of Zech. 11:1 “Open thy doors O Lebanon that fire may devour thy cedars.” I’m sure they were also a little scared of the fact that the veil of the temple was rent in two at Christ’s death.
After the destruction of the temple there were no priests or sacrifices, so the rabbis decided to replace them with repentance, prayer, fasting, charity, personal suffering, study of the Law, and of course one’s own death. As charity is one of the substitutions for sacrifice, long tables with alms plates for every charity going are put out in the synagogue. While only practiced in orthodox circles today, in times past a pious man would take a white chicken (rooster for a male, and a hen for a female) and wave it over his head three times while reciting “This is a substitute for me; this is in exchange for me; this is my atonement. This cock (or hen) shall be consigned to death, while I shall have a long and pleasant life and peace.” They then slaughtered the bird and either ate it for the evening meal and gave its financial worth to the poor, or gave the chicken itself to the poor, even though this kind of sacrifice is not specified in Scripture. Nowadays people tie some money in a handkerchief and swing it around their head three times while reciting a similar phrase.
The day before Yom Kippur, people eat a large meal in preparation for the complete fast (not even water is allowed during the fast) that is incumbent on all who are thirteen years and older, except for the seriously ill. Then they take the mikvah, a ritual bath, to cleanse themselves before going to public confession in the synagogue later that evening. This is not a confession of one’s personal sins, but a corporate ritual confession. Women wear white and men wear kittels (a white robe worn over the clothing). Besides fasting, there are some other restrictions to be observed: no bathing (I’m glad some take the ritual mikvah beforehand), no anointing the body with oil, no wearing of leather shoes, no sexual relations, no cooking, no using fire, and no carrying of heavy objects. These would appear to be more the rabbis’ ideas rather than God’s. Yom Kippur ends with the blowing of the shofar, (the last trump) which is supposed to herald the coming of the Messiah. It also symbolizes the closing of the gates of heaven. (Amazing how they have no idea what the meaning of the “last trump” symbolizes for us, yet it is there in their observance.) Then everyone goes home to hammer the first nail of the Sukkah, the booth for the Feast of Tabernacles which begins in a few days. Then they can sit down to a big festive meal.
The shofar sounding on Yom Kippur also announces the Jubilee year when land and estates are returned to their rightful owner and slaves are given their freedom.
Another interesting piece of information was found in a book about Jewish Feasts and Festivals (written by a Jew, not a Christian). It seems that one of the readings (which they find a total puzzle) is Lev. 18. This author says that it “talks about forbidden sexual relations.” He suggests a couple of reasons it might be read, 1) that on Yom Kippur of all days, they need to be especially careful in this area, and that 2) it reflects a strange tradition which says the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur were the merriest days of the year, for young women would dress in white and go out in the fields to dance, and young men would come and choose brides. Here is another obvious tradition that God had a hand in, that they have no idea what it is about, but it is so obvious to us. Yom Kippur to them is a solemn day, a day of atonement and judgment. To us, it is the Lord’s returning for his bride, so of course we joyously dance (in white for righteousness) and wait for our bridegroom to come for us. As to the reading, Lev. 18 is all about illicit and perverted sex. Incest, homosexuality, fornication, and God’s warning that they were not to defile themselves with these things, as this is why he punished the nations before them as they defiled the land with these sins. He talks of how he will cut off the land and the people for these sexual sins. It can be seen that this is talking about the Day of the Lord and His wrath upon the world for its perversions, among chief is the sexual sins of our world. Pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, etc. This always has been an abomination to God and caused nations to fall, and will again bring God’s wrath down on our nation as well as other nations. Again, the Jews don’t understand, but we certainly do. Another reading which they don’t understand is the book of Jonah. They don’t understand the symbolism of the three days and nights in the belly of the whale, but the connection to Jesus’ three days and nights in the grave can’t be missed. They also have some suggestions as to why this is read, some of which I think are probably a good reason it is read. 1) It is an example of a whole city with no relationship to God who repent their evil ways and are forgiven. For them this speaks to the whole idea of repentance at Yom Kippur. For us this relates to the N.T. story (Matt. 20) where the workers agree to work all day for a particular wage. During the day more workers are hired, but given the same wage at the end of the day. The first workers complain that those hired at the end of the day didn’t work the same length of time. They are told that they agreed to the wage, so they have no reason to complain, that the employer has the right to give what wage he wants. We should not rejoice at the end of days to see people who have rejected the Lord and persecuted us punished. We should still show mercy and want them to accept the Lord, right up to the end. God has said that as much mercy as we show others, He will show us (James 2:13). It also reminds us that the Scriptures say that when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, all Israel will be saved (Rom.11:25-26). The story of Ninevah will be their story at the return of Christ. They will repent. We should not begrudge them that, even though they have rejected their Messiah for 2000 years. 2) The message that God cares compassionately for all living things and prefers repentance to destruction. (Well, that’s a given as to how He feels, but unfortunately it isn’t how the world reacts). 3) Jonah shows us we cannot escape God’s will for us. We cannot flee His service if He intends for us to do something. (A message to all of us). The author of the book on Jewish festivals makes an interesting observation. Jonah was the only successful prophet in the whole Bible. The only one to whom people listened and actually repented. Yet it was this very knowledge that he would succeed, (not doubts about his failure) that made him flee. He knew they would repent. Jonah 4:1-2 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord and said, I pray thee O lord, was not this my saying, (I said that they would repent) when I was yet in my own country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” This is an interesting observation, one that I had never considered. This would make a good discussion topic if anyone wants to comment here.
Just as traditions says that the messiah is crowned King on Rosh haShanah, it also says that Yom Kippur is the day when God closes the books and He decides people's fates. It also says it is the Day that the Day of the Lord will begin, and the resurrection will occur. This makes perfect sense that Christ would be crowned King in heaven before He comes to earth, that He gives the world ten more days to decide their fates (book of life or God's wrath) and then He comes on Yom Kippur to resurrect/rapture His people and pour out His wrath on the world. By the time this day comes, the world will have lost all sense of the calendar and it is most probable that nobody will know when the day will occur.
Lastly, as Yom Kippur draws to a close, the ritual of blessing the moon is performed. In tradition circles, Jews go outside near the beginning of every month and bless the moon. Interestingly according to one of their writings (this particular writing is not from the Bible, but this information is found in the Bible, they just don’t know it.) at the end of days, the moon will be restored to a splendor equal to the sun. In a way that will happen, although it will not be a splendorous thing as they think. It will be terrifying, as it will be because the sun is seven times brighter, (Is. 30:26) as will be seen when we get to Revelation, but now is not the time to go over that Scripture.
Leviticus 25:8-55 "And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession. And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another: According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God. Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
And the land shall yield her fruit, and he shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store. The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession. But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession. And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile. But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.
And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour. And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight. And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him. For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
The Jubilee year is the year when everyone from Israel goes free, both from servitude, and from financial problems. They regain what they have lost in the way of land. Israelites who were sold into servitude due to financial problems could be redeemed during the fifty years by kinsmen for a price, dependent upon how many years until Jubilee, but whether a servant of an Israelite or a stranger, he was set free at Jubilee. The heathen bondsmen. however, remained forever as a servant of the family to be inherited as property. Property whether farmland or village land reverted back with the same rules of redemption as people. The exception was that houses inside walled cities had one year to be redeemed after being sold, and after that they were lost. The Levites could redeem anything at any time for they were to keep their land and houses for perpetuity. The land was not to be sown or reaped on the Jubilee year which also followed a Sabbath year. God's way of handling that was to give them three years worth of food on the sixth year in the seven year cycle. He guaranteed that they would be eating it not only through the seventh year, and Jubilee year (8th) year, but also into the ninth year.
When Christ first began His ministry, He stood up and read a passage from Isaiah in the synagogue. Luke 4:17-21 "And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
The passage in Isaiah says a little bit more. Isaiah 61:1-3a "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion"
Christ was reading a passage which referred to the ultimate Jubilee when the Messiah would come and fulfill those things in the greatest possible way. Israel would be set free for all time, they would redeem the land they had lost, their spirits would be set free from sin. He stopped short of the end of the passage about the day of vengeance, because at that time, He was there to preach the gospel. Had they been willing and accepted Him, the day of vengeance would have followed, but they rejected Him. So Christ indicated by this passage that His coming has to do with Jubilee, which is announced with a trumpet blast at Yom Kippur, as the captives were liberated, not only physically from their ailments (if not from their servitude to Rome), but spiritually too as they were set free from the bonds of sin. His Second Coming will also have to do with a Jubilee, for the last trump, at which time the resurrection/rapture occurs, will be on Yom Kippur when the last trumpet for the year is blown on that particular year.