Yom Kippur and the Dedication of Solomon's Temple
Segment of Chapter 6
The Message of the Covenant
Yom Kippur and the dedication of Solomon’s Temple
On the Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of the 7th month every year. It actually begins on the 9th day at evening, spanning from evening to evening. It is undoubtedly the most important day on the Hebrew calendar. In English, this observance is known as the Day of Atonement and it was the day that atonement for sin was made. Atonement is precisely how and when forgiveness is granted so this is exactly why it is the most important day. However, in the year the temple opened, it is certain that Israel missed the observance of Yom Kippur. Obviously, during the year that the temple was dedicated, Yom Kippur, a day supposed to be observed with fasting, occurred on the day this feast began.
Leviticus 23:26 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 27 Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 28 And ye shall do no manner of work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any manner of work in that same day, that soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of solemn rest, and ye shall afflict your souls; in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye keep your sabbath. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Yom Kippur in Levitical Tradition
Considering the admonishment that no one is righteous, it is obvious that the Day of Atonement was an important occasion.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
If one considers that Solomon held a 14-day feast beginning on the 9th day of the 7th month, it becomes obvious that it would have been impossible to observe Yom Kippur because they were to observe it with fasting – not feasting. This is what “afflict your souls” means, fasting. Furthermore, it would have been impossible for them to observe it until they properly dedicated the altar because no sacrifices would have been acceptable.
2 Chronicles 7: 9 And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly; for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Consider that Solomon also consecrated the courtyard and offered sacrifices there that same day because the altar he built elsewhere would not hold all of the offerings (2 Chronicles 7:7). Obviously, it would be impossible to dedicate that space properly in a few minutes if it takes 7 days. According to Ezekiel, after dedicating the altar for 7 days, only on the 8th day and thereafter are any sacrifices acceptable. Therefore, they could not have observed Yom Kippur acceptably the year the temple was completed for that reason alone. It is highly probable, however, that at least a few people at Gibeon, that is to say Zadok the priest and the few people left at that altar did observe Yom Kippur. King David left Zadok in charge of that altar. That could certainly explain why and how Zadok’s descendants will be the only priests allowed to minister before the Lord in the future. Otherwise, the whole nation of Israel appeared at Solomon’s special assembly.
King David Assigns the Priests
Ezekiel 43:26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it; so shall they consecrate it. 27 And when they have accomplished the days, it shall be that upon the eighth day, and forward, the priests shall make your burnt-offerings upon the altar, and your peace-offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Because the sacrifices at the temple were not acceptable until after they properly dedicated the altar, it is likely that no sacrifices at Solomon’s Temple were ever acceptable. In fact, it is highly probable that no offering on any altar after the one made by Bezalel at Horeb fell into disuse was acceptable. Ezekiel notes that the descendants of Zadok are the only Levites that the Lord will permit to minister before Him in the inner sanctuary of the future. It is highly pertinent that King David left Zadok in charge of the altar at Gibeon and that altar was the altar made by Bezalel at Horeb.
Without a doubt, Yom Kippur, the 10th day of the 7th month, is the holiest day of the year for Jews. On Yom Kippur, all of the people are to fast and do no work. In the following passage the JPS translation expresses fasting as “afflict your souls.” Other translations vicariously render this phrase as “ye shall deny yourselves.” For this day, the prescribed sacrifice is 10 animals plus the goat and scapegoat in addition to the prescribed daily sacrifice. On this particular holy day, the prescribed sacrifice was especially important and distinct from all others; so, following the procedures to the letter would be necessary because this was an exceptional event.
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement
It is impossible that the people observed Yom Kippur during the year that they dedicated the temple for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which is that there is no mention of its observance. Furthermore, there is no mention that they sacrificed any goat. As the sin offering, it was the key element. An additional requirement of the Day of Atonement was a scapegoat, but the narratives from the dedication make no mention of any goats whatsoever. Some other translations of the Bible apart from the Jewish Publication Society Tanakhs do mention goats. No word-for-word translations nor the 1917 or NJPS Tanakhs mention any goats at all. Therefore, it is highly improbable that they sacrificed any goats at all. However, since this disparity exists, it is probably more telling to focus on the scapegoat. Apart from that, one might wish to consider that no one besides the High Priest was to be anywhere in the temple during this time. Goats were also required for Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles that also should have occurred during the time of Solomon’s carnival. Conducting the Day of Atonement without a sin offering would be somewhat difficult since that was the purpose of the whole day.
2 Chronicles 7: 5 And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Leviticus 16:5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats for a sin-offering, and one ram for a burnt-offering. 6 And Aaron shall present the bullock of the sin-offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself, and for his house. 7 And he shall take the two goats, and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer him for a sin-offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the Lord, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Unfortunately, failure to observe Yom Kippur was a very grievous error because it carries a very severe penalty. While there is some Jewish lore that this was not a major issue, from the words of the prophets it is crystal-clear that that is not the case.
Leviticus 23:26 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying:
The 7th month of Ethanim roughly corresponds to the months of late-September to mid-October on the Gregorian calendar, so these holy days occur in the early fall after the year's harvest has been brought in to the barns. In the Western world, many cultures observe their fall festivals at about this same time.
'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'
Since Jeremiah clearly states that the summer has ended he is obviously not referring to the Feast of First Fruits harvest of early summer. The climate in ancient Israel supported two harvests. Evidently, the plowman could overtake the reaper in those days as it will be again (Amos 9:13).
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