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40 Days Before Yom Kippur

Then the LORD said to Moses,
"Write down these words,
for in accordance with
these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights
without eating bread or drinking water.
And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant
-- the Ten Commandments.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands,
he was not aware that his face was radiant
because he had spoken with the LORD.
Exodus 34:27-29

About The Number 40

According to the Bible, 40 is the number for waiting, preparation, testing or punishment. It is the number to start a new chapter of the history of salvation. Forty would also indicate the duration of a generation or a long period.

The Biblical records of the number 40 include:

  • The 40 days of rain in the Flood (Gen 7:4,17)
  • The arrangement of the life of Moses in three periods of 40 years:
  • Prince of Egypt (Acts 7:23) from a nobody in the world to a somebody in the world
  • Prince of Desert (Exodus 7:7) from a somebody in the world to a nobody in God
  • Prince of Israel (Deut 34:7) from a nobody in God to a somebody in God
  • The 40 years' rule or reign of:
  • Eli (1 Sam 4:18)
  • Saul (Acts 13:21)
  • David (1 Kings 2:11)
  • Solomon (1 Kings 11:42)
  • Jehoash (2 Kings 12:1)
  • The 40 or 80 years of rest (Judges 3:11,30; 5:31; 8:28)
  • The 40 years of Philistine oppression (Judges 13:1)
  • The 40 days' challenge of Goliath (1 Sam 17:16)
  • The 40 days' fast of:
  • Moses (Exodus 34:28)
  • Elijah (1 Kings 19:8)
  • Jesus (Matthew 4:2)
  • The 40 days before the destruction of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4)
  • The 40 days before the Ascension (Acts 1:3)

40 years constitutes a generation or the period at the end of which a man attains maturity. The period of 40 years in the wilderness was a generation in the course of which the old Israel died out and a new Israel took its place (Num 32:13).

The rabbis regarded 40 years as the age of understanding, the age when a man reaches his intellectual prime. In the Koran (Sura 46), a man is said to attain his strength when he attains to 40 years. It was at that age, according to tradition, that Muhammad came forward as a prophet. In this way, 40 came to be used as a number for completeness in regards to people, things as well as seasons.

About Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishri. It is the most important and holiest day of the Jewish year. It is the Day of Atonement when the High Priest goes into the Holy of Holies to atone for the sins of all the people.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will happen on Yom Kippur when Jesus comes to take His Bride back to Himself. A Jewish wedding is called a private Yom Kippur.

This year 2003 Yom Kippur begins on Sunday evening, October 5, and continues until Monday night, October 6, 2003.

40 Days Before Yom Kippur

From 28 August 2003 to 6 October 2003 is 40 days: 4 days (28 to 31 Aug) plus 30 days (1-30 Sep) plus 6 days (1-6 October 2003).

27 August 2003 is the final day of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Planetary Society declares August 27, 2003 Mars Day. The Hindu pilgrims believe, based on the date and the alignment of the sun, moon and Jupiter, that taking a bath in one of the four locations in India will absolve them of their sins. It is considered the most auspicious day to bathe in Nasik's Godavari River. This year 39 people were killed in river stampede at India pilgrimage on this date. It is an important date for idol worshippers.

According to Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is the time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai preparing the second set of tablets after the golden calf incident (Ex. 32; 34:27-28). He ascended on Rosh Chodesh Elul and descended on the 10th of Tishri, at the end of Yom Kippur, when repentance was complete. Elul marked the beginning of a period of 40 days that Moses prayed for God to forgive the people for worshipping the golden calf.

Moses was with God for two periods of forty days and forty nights each. The first period was recorded in Exodus 24:18 through Exodus 31:18. At the end of which, God gave Moses the first set of tablets, wherein contained the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). But the first set was destroyed at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses cast them down upon seeing the people worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32:19)
that they had created, and committing the sins centred around the idol.

After the golden calf was destroyed, Moses went up Mount Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul (the first day of the 12th month of the Civil Calendar) and prayed to God for a second period of forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34) so that God would spare His people and return His full Presence to be among them.

God responded favorably to Moses’ prayers by commanding Moses to write a new set of tablets - wherein were inscribed the Ten Commandments.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke." Exodus 34:1

He also restored His Presence to His people by authorizing the construction of the Tabernacle as the Dwelling Place of His divine Presence in the midst of them.

When Moses went up the second time to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites blew the shofar in the camp. They did this to remind themselves that Moses had once again gone up Mount Sinai, so that they would not again commit the tragic mistake in misjudging the time of Moses' return, and fall into idol worshipping again.

Therefore, the Israelites in later generations accepted upon themselves the custom of blowing the shofar, beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul to remind themselves that the people of Israel in the desert had sinned, had repented, had been forgiven by God and restored to their former level of holiness. This blowing of the shofar would arouse in their hearts and minds the importance and effectiveness of true repentance.

Feast No. Of Days
Rosh Chodesh Elul

28-29 August 2003

30 days
of Returning to God
Rosh Hashanah
(also Rosh Chodesh Tishri)

27 September 2003 (Sat)

10 Days of Awe
or Days of Repentance
Yom Kippur

6 October 2003

Total 40 days

Note the Feast begins at sunset on the day before the date shown.

Counting from Tishri, the month of Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year), Elul is the twelfth and last month of the year. Like the names of the other months of the Hebrew Calendar, Elul is known as the month of "Returning to God" or "Repentance".

Although the Israelites believe that God always watches over the world, and is always waiting for their return, they also believe that He is more accessible during the 40-day period beginning with the start of the month of Elul and culminating in the first ten days of the Month of Tishri.

Elul is the month given each year to prepare for the Days of Awe. These days, also known as the Ten Days of Repentance, begin with Rosh Hashanah, and end with Yom Kippur.

This follows the principle behind Isaiah 55:6: "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." We therefore should make special efforts to renew our commitment to Him during this period of the year when He is "closest" to us.

True Repentance

We want to continually move closer to God, but our sin causes us to move away from God. The result of sin is a detriment and a failure in our relationship with God. But repentance is a generous gift from God, which allows us to correct and change our improper actions. The Law of the Lord tells us that no matter how far we stray or how many times we sin, God will wait for us to return to Him in true repentance.

There are four basic steps in true repentance:

  1. Leaving the Sin
  2. Regret
  3. Confession before God
  4. Acceptance for the future

1. Leaving The Sin
Leaving the sin consists of stopping the commission of the sinful act. One cannot truly repent if one continues to do the sin, even if he or she is able to perform the next three steps perfectly.

2. Regret
Regret consists in sincerely regretting one's wrong action. One must be genuinely ashamed and embarrassed over one's sins.

3. Confession Before God
Confession before God consists of an oral confession spoken out loud, in which one formulates in words the commitments and attitudes one has reached in his or her heart. One should say, "I have sinned, I have done such and such; I deeply regret my actions, and I declare before God, Who knows my innermost thoughts, that I will never do this sin again."

4. Acceptance For The Future
Acceptance for the future consists of resolving in one's heart never to commit the sin ever again.

The above four steps work only for sins committed against God. For sins committed against other people, one must first ask forgiveness from that person(s) before God will accept him or her. This is the source of the practice by many Jews to contact all of their family, friends and co-workers during this period to ask for forgiveness for anything they may have done to upset them during the past year(s).

These four steps are of course only valid if we do in true repentance after the act of sin. One cannot say in advance: "I can do this sin, then repent and He will forgive me..." It simply doesn't work that way as it may in other belief systems.

On the other hand, one should keep in mind that repentance is an ongoing process that cannot be accomplished overnight. No matter how many times a person may stumble in his or her journey with God, that person has to simply pick himself or herself up and keep trying to stay on the path of righteousness.

What God is really looking for is the sincerity of the heart of the person during repentance!

About The Month Of Elul

What does the name of the month Elul mean? Elul has been interpreted as an acronym, with its Hebrew letters "Aleph," "Lamed," "Vav," "Lamed" representing the words "Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words mean "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" and herein "my Beloved" refers to God, and "I" refers to His people. God wants us to become His beloved sons so that we can enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with Him.

According to Jewish tradition, the Day of Creation of the first Man is called Rosh Hashanah. But Man was created on the sixth day of the Creation of the Universe. Hence, by simple calculation, it follows that the Day of Creation of the Universe was five days earlier - the twenty-fifth of Elul. After repentance, we will be renewed as a new creation before God.

About another significance of twenty-fifth of Elul, it was the day Nehemiah finished rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). Our walls of salvation will be rebuilt and restored.

The 40 days before Yom Kippur is for us to get closer to God by returning to Him in true repentance. We will be renewed, rebuilt and restored.

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia