Fasting on Yom Kippurim

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Should we be humbling our souls by fasting on Yom KippurimI have seen so many articles about Yom Kippurim this past week that my head is spinning! I love these feast times; so much to learn so little time. It sometimes feels like drinking from a fire hose! To get back to the articles; many people seem to be of the opinion that it is not necessary to fast on Yom Kippurim. We understand this differently, WE ARE TO FAST ON YOM KIPPURIM!

Don’t just dismiss this article if you are not in agreement, bear with us as we show you YHVH’s truth from His Word, then go forth and share this so that others can learn and apply it too!

Before we start, I would like to remind you of two truths: firstly:  Y’Shua taught:

Matthew 5:17–19
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Y’Shua has not changed one yod or tittle of the law! It will remain as is until heaven and earth pass away and that has not happened yet! Secondly, perpetual, in Hebrew “olam,” means everlasting, an unlimited duration of time, forever, eternity! Keep this in mind as you read this!

What is commanded on this day?

What has YHVH instructed us to do on this day? We find the instructions twice in the book of Leviticus, but there is something very intriguing in the way these commandments are structured in the text. The phrases

  • this is a permanent statute (A),
  • you shall humble your souls (B) and
  • not do any work(C)

are repeated twice, but the second time in reverse order ABC CBA. The concepts of being cleansed by the atonement and who this instruction was meant for, forms the centre of this structure. Wow!

Leviticus 16:29–31
29 “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before YHVH. 31 “It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.

This is Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry is parallel in nature, and what we see here is in literary terms called a chiastic structure. What could be the purpose of this?

Chiastic structure (also called chiastic pattern or ring structure) is a literary device for chiasmus applied to narrative motifs, turns of phrase, or whole passages. Various structures of chiasmus are commonly seen in ancient literature to emphasize, parallel, or contrast concepts or ideas. Examples of chiastic structures are the A,B,C…C,B,A pattern and the ABBAABB…ABBA pattern. Chiastic structures are sometimes called palistrophes, chiasms, symmetric structures, ring structures, or concentric structures.

These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of Odyssey and Iliad. Various chiastic structures are also seen in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, where biblical writers used chiasmus to give meaning to their writings or to highlight details of particular importance.

The ABC…CBA chiastic structure is frequently used to emphasize the innermost concept, i.e., C, the concept that appears either twice in succession or only once, showing that the other ideas all lead up to the middle idea or concept.>

These commandments are repeated in Leviticus 23, and here we see the same chiastic structure. This time we find in the centre the punishment for not obeying these commandments. Do you think YHVH is trying to convey something to us?

Leviticus 23:27–32
27 “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to YHVH. 28 “You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before YHVH your Elohim. 29 “If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. 30 “As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 “You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.”

There are three areas that are emphasized by this structure. These areas are of exceptional importance:

  • Firstly; the instructions are accentuated: this is perpetual; we shall not work, and we shall humble our souls.
  • Secondly, the reason for this day is emphasized; to cleanse us of sin.

Leviticus 16:30
30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before YHVH.

  • Thirdly, the accent is placed on the punishments for not obeying.

Leviticus 23:29–30
29 “If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. 30 “As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.

Looking at the commandments from this point of view shows us the importance of adhering to it. This is certainly no coincidence!

Understanding the instructions

Now that we have determined the importance of these instructions, we need to be sure we understand what it means.

“You shall do no work at all”

The instruction not to work is different here compared to the other feasts. At the other appointed times we are commanded not to do any laborious (servile) work; here it is called a Sabbath of complete rest; “sabbat sabbaton” in Hebrew; . Absolutely no work is to be done!

8701 שַׁבָּת (šǎb∙bāṯ): n.fem. and masc.; ≡ Str 7676; TWOT 2323b—1. LN 67.184 Sabbath, i.e., the seventh day of the week, known in many cultures as “Saturday,” an important day dedicated to rest and worship (Ex 16:23); 2. LN 67.177 week, i.e., unit of seven days (Lev 23:15+); 3. LN 23.78–23.87 sabbath, rest period, i.e., a period of time for resting, which may or not be the seventh day of the week, with a focus on this as a period for rest

8702שַׁבָּתֹון (šǎb∙bā∙ṯôn): n.masc.; ≡ Str 7677; TWOT 2323d—LN 23.78–23.87 rest period, sabbath observance, i.e., a period of time for resting, as a consecrated observing of rest (Ex 16:23; 31:15; 35:2; Lev 16:31; 23:3, 24, 32, 39; 25:4, 5+), see also domain LN 67.142–67.162 1

“You shall humble your souls”

How are we to observe this instruction? Let us first look at the context of this phrase in Scripture. What did it mean in Biblical times when someone said they “humbled their soul“?

  • How did Daniel humble himself? The context of Daniel 9 is Daniel confessing his sin and the sins of his fathers after he discovered in the Scripture that the time of exile was over. He approached YHVH by prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 9:3–5
3 So I gave my attention to YHVH Elohim to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to YHVH my Elohim and confessed and said, “Alas, O YHVH, the great and awesome Elohim, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.

  • Once again, in Daniel chapter 10, Daniel was humbling himself with fasting in order to gain an understanding of a vision given earlier.

Daniel 10:12
12 Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your Elohim, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.

How did he humble himself before YHVH? We find the answer a view verses earlier.

Daniel 10:2–3
2 In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3 I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.

  • David also humbled his soul with fasting and so did the people in Isaiah’s and Ezra’s time.

Psalm 35:13
13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.

Isaiah 58:3
3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers.

Ezra 8:21
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our Elohim to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

Fasting enables people to humble themselves before YHVH. The context of all the Scriptures we have quoted here is approaching YHVH, either with a request or in repentance. You can read more about how we are to fast HERE!

What is the meaning of the word fast; “som” in Hebrew?

7427צֹום (ṣôm): n.masc.; ≡ Str 6685; TWOT 1890a—LN 53.65 fast, i.e., a condition or time of voluntarily abstaining from food as a religious disciple (2Sa 12:16; 1Ki 21:9, 12; 2Ch 20:3; Ezr 8:21; Ne 9:1; Est 4:3; 9:31; Ps 35:13; 69:11[EB 10]; 109:24; Isa 58:3, 5,6; Jer 36:6, 9; Da 9:3; Joel 1:14; 2:12, 15; Jnh 3:5; Zec 8:19+), note: possibly Ps 109:24 is a medical fast, see also domain LN 23.1–23.39 1

Let us find a second witness. What do the actual words for “humble” and “soul” mean?

6700 II.עָנָה (ʿā∙nā(h)): v.; ≡ Str 6031; TWOT 1651, 1652—1. LN 25.223–25.250 (qal) be afflicted, disturbed, oppressed, i.e., be in a state of feeling anxiety and distress (Ps 116:10; 119:67; Isa 31:4; Zec 10:2+), note: for a focus on the state of trouble itself, and not just the feeling, see also domain LN 22.1–22.14; (nif) afflicted, suffering, oppressed (Ps 119:107; Isa 53:7; 58:10+); (piel) afflict, oppress, mistreat (Ge 15:13); (pual) be afflicted, have hardships (Ps 119:71; 132:1; Isa 53:4+); (hif) afflict, oppress (1Ki 8:35; 2Ch 6:26; Ps 55:20[EB 19]+); (hitp) suffer affliction (1Ki 2:26; Ps 107:17+); 2. LN 88.51–88.58 (nif) humble oneself, i.e., pertaining to a state of unpretentious attitudes or behavior, often implying that the humble one has a proper awareness of one’s proper (lower) status before God or in society (Ex 10:3+); (pual) deny oneself (Lev 23:29+); (hitp) humble oneself, submit (Ge 16:9; Ezr 8:21; Da 10:12+); 3. LN 88.271–88.282 (piel) rape, formally, humble, violate sexually a female, often by force or coercion, implying a dishonoring of the female and her families and clans (Ge 34:2; Dt 21:14; 22:24, 29; Jdg 19:24; 20:5; 2Sa 13:12, 14, 22, 32; La 5:11; Eze 22:10, 11+); 4. LN 68.34–68.57 (hif) silence, cease, stop, i.e., cause a state to cease to exist or be ineffective, as an extension of conquering or subduing an opponent (Isa 25:5+), note: Ru 1:21; 2Sa 22:36 some sources parse as 6699 qal 1

1652עָנָה (ʿānâ) III, afflict, oppress, humble.

1652a עָנָו (ʿānāw) humble.
1652b עֲנָוָה (ʿănāwâ) humility.
1652c עֱנוּת (ʿĕnût) affliction (Ps 22:25).
1652d עָנִי (ʿānî) poor, afflicted.
1652e עֳנִי (ʿŏnî) affliction, poverty.
1652f תַּעֲנִית (taʿănît) humiliation (by fasting, Ezra 9:5).

The primary meaning of ʿānâ III is “to force,” or “to try to force submission,” and “to punish or inflict pain upon,” mostly in the Piel. Birke-land (see Bibliography) defines the verb “to find oneself in a stunted, humble, lowly position.” Consequently it is not predicated of God in the Qal. It is be distinguished from ʿānâ I, answer; II, occupy; IV, sing. It differs both from ṣārar which connotes restriction or binding; from yāgâ, the emotional side of distress (i.e. sorrow, grief), from šāpal, the objective state or condition of being low and/or humble, and from kānaʿ implying submission to another’s will. 2

Look at all the possible meanings in the proper context of an instruction given by YHVH. He will not command us to inflict pain on ourselves, as He commanded not to cut ourselves for the dead (Lev 19:28). He will also not command us to afflict others. He does not and will not contradict Himself. We always should ask for and apply wisdom and look at the proper context when we do a word study, as this is often where all the wild and wonderful theology originates from.

The Hebrew word for soul is “nepes” or nefesh
1395a נֶפֶשׁ (nepeš) life, soul, creature, person, appetite, and mind are the more common of the twenty-some varieties of meaning utilized in KJV.
(ASV conforms with these uses in a majority of cases, while RSV deviates freely, sometimes reverting to “soul” where KJV has another expression but more often replacing “soul” with words like “being,” “person,” any “one,” “he” who, “self,” “I/me,” etc., and “appetite.” Both revisions, in fact, make substitutions by using terms found in other passages in KJV.) The Ugaritic and Akkadian have cognates with the somewhat similar breadth of meaning but both include the meaning “throat.” 2

James gives us a good reason to humble our souls before YHVH.

James 4:6
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “Elohim is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We have seen from Scripture that people usually fasted when they wanted to approach YHVH, either with a request or in repentance. Have you ever asked yourself the question, why fasting?

What could be the significance of fasting?

We have determined by two witnesses that fasting is the way we are to humble your soul. But why fasting? Fasting can be an expression of heartfelt sorrow. It could be due to very difficult circumstances or sorrow over your own or other people’s sin. The fasting described in the Scripture is not only a ceasing from eating or drinking. It is a humbling of the soul, a deep sorrow that is experienced. Psalm 69 holds the key to understanding this.

Psalm 69:9–10
9 For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. 10 When I wept in my soul with fasting, It became my reproach.

David was suffering for YHVH’s sake. The insults of those who insulted YHVH fell on him and he wept in his soul with fasting. This, to me, describes the deep sorrow he felt. The fasting was an expression of his sorrow.

I recently read an article that confirmed this for me, the author describes fasting as a deep felt sorrow that makes you lose your appetite. She concluded with the following:

Fasting is a deep sense of sorrow and anguish to the point of losing your appetite either for ourselves (due to sin) or for others (due to injustice or an awful situation). Fasting demonstrates our love for God, and our love for others – the two greatest commandments in the bible! With this in mind, I now see how fasting brings us closer to God and hopefully you do too.

You can read the article at the link, it is well worth a few minutes of your time.

Why did YHVH not accept the fast written of in Isa 58?

Isaiah 58:3–12
3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. 4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. 5 “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to YHVH? 6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? 7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of YHVH will be your rear guard. 9 “Then you will call, and YHVH will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And YHVH will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

58:3a. The people voiced their concern that they were in difficulty though they seemed to be doing what the Law required. They fasted and humbled themselves, but they feared that God had not seen it or noticed. Apparently, they thought that by going through the “motions” of religion (without any inward reality of faith) they would be blessed.
(3) The response of the Lord (58:3b-14). The Lord responded by pointing out that He was more interested in their obedience than their rituals. Unfortunately they, like many people, had confused rituals with relationship, outward acts with true obedience.
58:3b-5. Their fasts did not alter their poor relationship with others. They were disregarding other peoples’ needs by exploiting their employees (cf. Deut. 24:14-15; James 5:1-6) and by quarreling and fighting. Therefore their prayers would not be heard, for their kind of fasting was not what the Lord accepted. Their hearts, not just their heads, needed to bow before the LORD.

58:8-12. If the people had inner righteousness (revealed in outward acts of justice and mercy, vv. 6-7), then…the LORD would bless them (cf. Deut. 28:1-14) with light (often a picture of blessing; cf. Isa. 58:10), healing (spiritual restoration), righteousness (high standards), protection from trouble, and answered prayer (vv. 8-9a). If they would do away with … oppression and gossip and would help others in need (cf. v. 7), then the Lord would bless them (give them light; cf. v. 8). He would give guidance, satisfaction, strength, fertility (like a spring), and physical restoration (rebuilding the ruins).4

This passage in Isaiah is very profound! Do we fast on Yom Kippurim without the inward reality of why we are fasting? Are we just observing a religious ritual while neglecting the really important things? Our observance of the commandments means nothing if we do not love others and display mercy and justice towards them. If we do not look after the widows and the poor, and if we judge others and gossip about them.

This passage in Isaiah does not negate or replace the commandment to fast on Yom Kippurim, on the contrary; it helps us to do proper introspection before Yom Kippurim to evaluate our own spiritual and physical state. Before we conclude this article, here is a verse from the Apostolic writings that confirms that Yom Kippurim is indeed a day of fasting.

Fasting in the Apostolic Scriptures

Acts 27:9
9 When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them,

The fast referred to here is the fast of Yom Kippur. It takes place during the fall season.

 It was already past Yom-Kippur, literally, “past the Fast.” It is as a matter of course that Luke writes of the Jewish holiday Yom-Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is evidence that Sha’ul continued observing Jewish practices, keeping the Law until the end of his life (see 13:9, 21:21, 22:3). It also lends strength to the contention that Luke himself was Jewish or a proselyte to Judaism; he would otherwise be unlikely to measure time for his Gentile reader (1:1–4) by the Jewish calendar.

 Shipping became increasingly risky after mid-September and was rarely engaged in after mid-October because of the likelihood of storms. Yom-Kippur can occur between September 14 and October 14.  3

Do you still doubt?


Yom Kippurim is the day of coverings. Y’shua is our covering; He took our sin upon Himself and died on the stake in order to atone for us. Many say, therefore, that we need not observe this day any longer or that we no longer need to fast, but is this really true? YHVH said we are to observe this perpetually, we are commanded not to work and to humble our souls. He also specified who this commandment was for.

The book of Hebrews is quoted to say that the law was changed or done away with. We have recently posted an article “The new high priest on Yom Kippirum“ explaining the untruth in this, showing how words added to the text has skewed the message. We do not have the authority to take away or add commandments. Even Y’shua said He didn’t come to abolish the law.

Matthew 5:17–20
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

We are to be careful what we teach people, do we teach that the law or even some of the commandments have been done away with? Or do we teach people to keep all of YHVH’s commandments out of loving obedience to Him? Refer to our article on False prophets.

Please share this message, if this was important enough for YHVH to repeat it so many times, it should be important to us too!


  1. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Coppes, L. J. (1999). 1652 עָנָה. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (682). Chicago: Moody Press.
  3. Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : A companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed.) (Ac 27:9). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.
  4. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Is 58:3–12). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Our latest posts:


8 responses to “Fasting on Yom Kippurim”

  1. […] it is so beautiful. With this glorious time of change comes the fall festivals: Yom T’Ruah, Yom Kippur ( more correctly Yom Kippurim -plural) and Sukkot, a season of repentance and joy. Repentance, […]

  2. […] why fasting? What exactly is fasting and what is the purpose of doing […]

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I have found it interesting that the other feasts include a provision for preparing food, but not Yom Kippur. It seems to be yet another support for fasting.

    1. Amy Guenther

      I had never noticed that correlation before, thank you! More confirmation to fast, for me, too.

  4. Thank you for your teaching. It has enhanced my understanding of fasting for Yom Kippurim.

  5. […] clearly we are indeed to fast and repent on this day. Please read the article titled “Fasting on Yom Kippurim“ if you would like to learn more about why we are to […]

  6. Kelilah

    Remember…. a Human Sacrifice is an Abomination to YHVH. There was never a Human Sacrifice for the Atonement for Sin EVER mentioned throughout the whole Tanakh. In every Scriptures where YHVH mentions forgiveness of our sinsa and remembering no more our wickedness…. NEVER does he say to accomplish this forgiveness HE must send a man to shed blood and die as a Human Sacrifice. Never is Yeshua mentioned as a Human Sacrifice to obtain forgiveness of mankind’s sins. Listen to YHVH not to men… Pay attention to YHVH and what HE teaches not to what man teaches.

  7. Amy Guenther

    Thank you for this post! Very helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *