Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions

By Roland De Vaux ; John McHugh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
THE LATER FEASTS

DURING the last centuries of Old Testament times, several new feast were introduced into the liturgical calendar.1 We shall restrict ourselves here to those which are still observed: the Day of Atonement, the Hanukkah and Purim.


1. The Day of Atonement

The Yom Kippur is still one of the most solemn feasts of the Jews. In the New Testament times, the yôm hakkipurîm or 'Day of Expiations' was already important enough to be called' The Day', without further qualification, and this is its name in the treatise (Yomah) which the Mishnah devotes to it. It has always been observed on the 10th Tishri (September-October).

Before the Babylonian names were adopted for the months of the year, the Day of Atonement was fixed for the same date, i.e. for the 10th of the seventh month ( Lv 23: 27-32; Nb 29: 7-11, both late Priestly texts). Details of the ritual are given in Lv 16, which is also a late text.

(a) The ritual of expiation. No work whatever was to be done on this day; instead, penance and fasting were enjoined, and there was to be a meeting in the Temple at which special sacrifices were to be offered, to make expiation for the sanctuary, the priests and the people. The ritual outlined in Lv 16 is evidently made up of various strata, for the text has been re-edited several times: there are a number of doublets (vv. 6 and II, vv. 9b and 15, vv. 4 and 32); VV. 2 and 3 do not follow logically, and on the other hand, v. 4 should not come between vv. 3 and 5, etc.; there are two conclusions (vv. 29a and 24); and vv. 29b-34 are an addition commenting on the preceding rites, which reminds us of Lv 23: 27-32.

This ritual is a combination of two ceremonies which were different both in their spirit and in their origin. First, there is a Levitical ritual: the high priest offered a bull as a sacrifice for his own sinfulness and for that of his 'house', i.e. of the Aaronite priesthood; then he entered--the only occasion during the year behind the veil which shut off the Holy of Holies, to incense the mercy-seat (kapporeth)2 and to sprinkle it with the bull's blood (vv. 11-14). Next he offered a goat for the sin of the people; he took the

____________________
1
Cf. pp. 473-474.
2
Cf. pp. 300-301.

-507-

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