The high holy day of Yom Kippur falls on the Hebrew calendar date of 10 Tishrei. In 2011, Yom Kippur occurs on October 7-8. Since Jewish calendar dates begin at sundown of the night before, all Yom Kippur observances begin on the 7th and conclude on the 8th at nightfall. This is the holiest day of the year for Jews all over the world. Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement, its biblical name (Lev. 16; 23:27-32).
Leviticus 17:11 (NKJV) states, “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
Leviticus 16 lays out in practice the truth of this verse. For the sins of the people, two goats would be selected. One goat would be sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. After the shedding of blood, the priest would lay his hands on the live goat known as the goat for azazel or “removal.” This goat was also called the scapegoat because the sins of the people were transferred to the goat as their substitute. The goat was then released into the wilderness to return no more.
There are two legends concerning the scapegoat. Two goats were presented before the High Priest, and lots were cast to decide which goat would die and which goat would live. The first legend states that for centuries the lot always fell to the right side, or the right goat, which emphasized good fortune. But as of 30 AD the lot always fell to the left side, or the left goat, which emphasized bad fortune.
So the rabbis recognized that something unique happened in conjunction with that goat in the year 30 AD. But unfortunately those charged with recording this never drew the proper conclusion: the Messiah had died and the final sacrifice for sin was made, so sacrificing the goat was no longer acceptable.
The second Jewish legend concerning the two goats is known as the Legend of Azazel. It is based upon Isaiah 1:18, where the prophet stated that “though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” It became a Jewish custom to tie a red ribbon around the neck of the live goat. As this goat was sent out into the wilderness the red ribbon would miraculously turn white symbolizing that God had forgiven Israel’s sins for that year.
The same Jewish legend states that the red ribbon stopped turning white forty years before the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Forty years earlier was 30 AD, the year of the crucifixion – the year of the final sacrifice for sin. What the rabbis failed to conclude from this legend is the reason why the red ribbon stopped turning white. The reason why God was no longer forgiving the sins of Israel by means of the two goats is found in Hebrews 10:18: “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Jesus’ body crucified on a cross, and His blood shed as the perfect offering for the sins of all, is the final sacrifice. Forgiveness is yours for the asking. Many Jews have accepted Messiah Yeshua as Lord and Savior and are now saved by grace through faith.
I pray that those who have not yet experienced this forgiveness will today learn this simple truth: There is a God in heaven who loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son to be the final sacrifice for your sins (Jn. 3:16). God raised Him from the dead on the third day (1 Cor. 15:4), and now our Messiah sits at the right hand of God to intercede on your behalf (Rom. 8:34) if you will receive Him as Lord and Savior of your life. We can tell you more.
Chuck Storm is an evangelist and Bible teacher living in Indiana, USA.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org