Prayer on Yom Kippur — a Psalm of David

Posted by on Oct 13, 2019

The primary reason of a prayer on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the most set-apart day of the year, is the way to ask YHVH for forgiveness of sins committed against Him.

The prayer on Yom Kippur is not limited, however, only to sins committed against Him, as commonly understood, but to our neighbor, as well.

Prayers for forgiveness should not and are not limited to one day of the year, i.e. Yom Kippur, either. A prayer for Yom Kippur, as the name plainly says, is a prayer for atonement, and every day can be a day of atonement, if there is necessity for it.

But that does not replace Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) as an appointed time of YHVH.

When Mosheh returned from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the renewed Covenant, the people rejoiced and that day, the tenth day of the seventh month, became Yom Kippur, because on it Israel was atoned for the sin of the golden calf.

Read more about Yom Kippur and how the Messiah fulfilled it in the series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH.

Thus, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, became a day of rejoice, but also a day of affliction of the souls with humility and fast.

For any soul who is not afflicted on that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. (Lev 23:29)

The affliction of the soul comes through prayers and fast, hence the necessity for a prayer on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

There is also misunderstanding that Yom Kippur is a day for the corporate atonement for the nation of Israel, because Israel as nation sinned against YHVH. Although this is true, the individual repentance and atonement are still needed in the prayer on Yom Kippur.

The sin of the golden calf was not merely a corporate violation of the Covenant, but also individual. It is the present author’s understanding that the three thousand people that died at Sinai were those who gave their gold ornaments for the making of the golden calf. Thus, the golden calf sin boils down to the individual sin of everyone who participated in the sin and it is not only a corporate sin.

The need for a prayer on Yom Kippur

The Torah of YHVH explicitly takes a firm stand against murder, adultery, and other forms of sexual immoralities. But the Torah also prohibits coveting which is the base of all iniquities, from which flow all actions of the heart that consume and destroy the soul.

But coveting is not merely lust, the desire of the heart, but the impulse that urges to actions. It is the first step in the process of sinning against YHVH. Thus, it is not just the lust that is forbidden in the Torah, but rather the plan and the action to actualize the sinful thought.

However, the one who reads the human mind and knows the intention of the heart, goes beyond the letter of the Law to expose the lust of the flesh. Yeshua could not have stressed more on lust, when He said, “If you have looked on woman with lust, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart!”

The David story

David’s army was waging war against Ammonites but he himself remained in Jerusalem. And one evening, David rose up and saw Uriyah’s wife bathing, and she was very beautiful. David sent for the woman and she came at his request without any hesitation to his desire. Defilement from sexual intercourse rendered her unclean till the evening (Lev 15:18). Bathsheva returned to her home after she cleansed herself from the defilement of the sexual act.

When she discovered that she was pregnant, she sent a short message to David: “I am pregnant”.

David had Uriyah, one of the mighty men of David, sent to him by his general Yoav. Upon arrival, David sent him to his wife Bathsheva with the intent that Uriyah should spend a night at home with his wife and thus he would be regarded as the father of the child. But David’s loyal soldier lay down at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his master and did not go his house. 

When the king saw that his plan was frustrated, he wrote a letter to Yoav his general to send Uriyah back to the battle field against the strongest enemies that he might be slain and die.

When Uriyah’s wife heard of her husband’s death, she mourned for her husband. When her mourning was over, David took her home as his wife, after which she bore him a son begotten in adultery.

Then YHVH sent Nathan the prophet to David with the story of two men, one rich and the other poor. The rich one had many flocks and herds and the poor one had only one little ewe lamb. And the rich man made a party but did not take from his own flock but the poor man’s lamb. When David herd the story, his wrath burned greatly and he said to Nathan, “As YHVH lives, the man who has done this is a son of death! Also, he has to repay fourfold for the lamb, because he did this deed and because he had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to him, “You are the man!”

The moral of the David story

The Torah says that in act of adultery, both the man and the woman are guilty of sin and are to be put to death (Lev 20:10). The very act of bathing in the uncovered court of a house before king’s palace, into which it was possible for anyone to look down from the roof, does not say much for Bathsheva’s modesty, but for her art of seduction.

Nevertheless, the greatest guilt rests upon David, the beloved of YHVH, who did not resist the temptation to the lust of the flesh. Consequently, neither David not Bathsheva are to be regarded as free from blame, but on the contrary.

When David recognized himself in the story, what did he do? Did he run to the Temple to bring the choicest bull in Israel to expiate his sin? Did he despised the prophet for having told him the truth? No, he did none of those.

David knew that there was no sacrifice in the Torah that could possibly expiate his grave sin against Uriyah. He knew that all sacrifices for sins and guilt in the Torah are for unintentional sins, sins made by mistake or due to the lack of knowledge of the laws. But David was not unlearned in the Torah of YHVH, on the contrary, he was indeed very knowledgeable.

David knew that he was a dead man! He knew that the only wage of an intentional sin was death. And David indeed committed an intentional sin worthy of death.

How many sins did David commit?

It is commonly accepted that sins David committed were adultery and murder. But these are not the only sins he committed. Let us return to the David story.

First and foremost, the beauty of a naked woman and her attractive appearance are no excuse for adultery. All guilt and responsibility are upon the man although both man and woman are guilty of sin. This is much true for David who was the beloved of YHVH and king of Israel.

When David saw the beautiful Bathsheva bathing, he inquired of her and sent his servants for her. And that was the first sin David committed — lust. He coveted his neighbor’s wife and that was a direct violation of the tenth commandment of the Covenant of YHVH.

After David coveted Bathheva, he convinced her to lay with him. He abused his authority and power as a king to attract the woman; not to mention that he was also a well-fit and handsome man. Bathsheva was not violated but seduced by David’s personal charm. And that was his second sin–seduction.

The third sin David committed was the actual act of adultery and the conception of a human life in sin — a violation of the seventh commandment of the Covenant.

When Bathsheva conceived and informed David, he plotted without delay the conspiracy to cover up the transgression, which was his fourth sin.

In his plot to cover up the adultery, David again abused his position of king and commander and involved in his affair an innocent man — his general Yoav. When Uriyah was brought to David, the king tried to deceive him with vain talking to go home and lay with his wife. That was nothing less than a violation of the ninth commandment.

And when nothing went well according to David’s plot to cover up his sins, he committed the worst sin of them all — taking innocent life — a transgression of the sixth commandment of the Covenant of YHVH.

So, King David committed six evildoings against YHVH — all of them transgressions of the Torah. But the most crucial of them was the lust — David’s first sin. All sins start with lust and coveting. That is why, Apostle Ya’akov wrote about lust,

When lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin. And sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death. (Jam 1:15).

The moment of truth

When the prophet Nathan exposed the mortal sin of the king, David realized he was a dead man. He realized that he had done an unpardonable sin entailing a total loss of grace of YHVH, because he transgressed intentionally the Torah.

It was not that he did not know that lust, seduction, adultery, conspiracy, lies, and murder, were grievous sins. David knew. He also knew that there were no sacrifices that could possibly atone for the six crimes against YHVH, because he knew that those sacrifices were for unintentional sins — sins by mistake.

The sins David committed angered YHVH. But what David did not know was that he committed the greatest of them — he despised the Word, the Torah, of YHVH to do evil. Thus said YHVH Elohim of Israel,

I anointed you king over Israel and I delivered you from the hand of Shaul. (2Sa 12:7)

Why have you despised the Word of Yehovah to do evil in His eyes? You have struck Uriyah the Hittite with the sword, and his wife you took to be your wife, and you have killed him with the sword of the children of Ammon. And now, the sword does not turn aside from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriyah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus said Yehovah, “Behold, I am raising up evil against you, from your own house, and shall take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it in secret, but I shall do this deed before all Israel, and before the sun”. (2Sa 12:9-12)

But because not everything was lost for David, namely his humility, he humbled himself before the prophet and YHVH and wrote the Psalm of David — a psalm that can be a prayer on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This psalm is a sincere prayer from the broken heart and the crushed spirit of David. And what prayer can be a better prayer on Yom Kippur than Psalm 51?

The Prayer on Yom Kippur

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David; When Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheva. (Psa 51:1-2)

This psalm written from the heart is prayer for the remission of the unpardonable sin before YHVH. Although the primary reason of the psalm is the sin of adultery and his guilt of blood in the murder of Uriyah, the guilt in his conscience spoke not merely of adultery and murder, but of the evil against YHVH, and YHVH alone.

A prayer for Yom Kippur must be a true repentance of a broken heart and humble spirit. The prayer must contain (1) repentance and (2) a plea for forgiveness.

Repentance is a process that go through three stages: (1) admission of sin and taking responsibility; (2) confession; and (3) behavioral change.

The repentance

Show me favor, O Elohim, according to Your mercy; according to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash me completely from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin, for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You alone, have I sinned, and done evil in Your eyes that You might be proven right in Your words, be clear when You judge. Behold, I was formed in iniquity and in sin, my mother conceived me. (Psa 51:3-7)

David here begins his repentance with admission of his mortal sin as the root of the evil he has done against YHVH. Although, he sinned against his loyal soldier by stealing his wife and by purposely sending him to a sealed death, in his admission he most certainly declares that his sin is a sin against YHVH and YHVH alone and that the mercy, favor, and forgiveness will come from the One whose laws he has transgressed. David continues to declare that whatever decision YHVH will make, He will be proven right in His words (i.e. His laws), because they are righteous.

The confession moves backwards even to David’s conception, where we find a controversy which we will solve right here.

Verse 7 says, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (JPS). Thus rendered, the verse says that David was born in iniquity and his mother conceived him in an act of adultery or whoring. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The choice of the verb in verse 7 decides the question whether by iniquity and sin is meant the guilt and sin of David or of his parents. The verb conceived (lit. to burn with desire) generally has reference to coition and not to birth (as in JPS), and iniquity and sin may characterize conception, if it is done in act of whoring.

However, the choice of translation and of a comma by the present author determines the meaning of verse 7 thus, “My mother conceived me; I was formed in iniquity and in sin, rather than “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (JPS).

Thus, the meaning is merely, that his parents were sinful human beings, and that this sinful state operated from David’s conception and from this point had passed over to him. The meaning is not that the act of coition is sinful (propagation is not a sin but a command from the very beginning) and David was conceived in adultery or in whoring by his mother, as JPS, KJV and all translations allude to, but that every human being is formed in the mother’s womb with the potential to sin.

Man, from his first beginning onwards, is stained with sin and the proneness to sin with its guilt and its corruption begins at conception and consequently the sin-prone nature of man will reveal, inasmuch as he allows himself to be determined by sin.

David realized his sinful nature, but instead of declaring it in the beginning, where it would sound more like an excuse for his sin, rather, he set it at the end, perhaps, with the hope that YHVH would consider it.

The plea for forgiveness

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You make me know wisdom. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O Elohim, and renew an upright breath within me. Do not cast me away from Your face and do not take Your Set-apart Breath from me. Restore to me the joy of Your deliverance and let a willing breath uphold me! (Psa 51:8-14)

Note: Here the present author has decided to the Hebrew word ruach as breath (lit. wind), rather than as the obscured Latin word “spirit”.

Truth in the inward parts (lit. kidneys) is an upright nature in man. The kidneys being the most inward and hidden parts are, in the Hebraic mindset, the seat of the tenderest feelings, in man’s inmost experience and perception, in his most secret life both of conscience and of mind. The kidneys are also the seat of wisdom and understanding to the heart (Job 38:36) and of counsel and instruction (Psa 16:7).

David is pleading to be cleansed with hyssop in order to become whiter than snow, metaphor for purity and righteousness (see also Isa 1:18). But there is here no mention made in the plea of atonement by blood, because as said above David was completely aware of the uselessness of the blood sacrifices in his case of intentional sin.

The operation of justifying grace of YHVH on a man stained by blood could not be possibly imparted through animal sacrifices. And the hope for forgiveness of sins was more forcibly denoted by the metaphor of hyssop that would make him whiter than snow.

The Set-apart Breath, Ruach HaKodesh, of YHVH is none other than that which came upon him to anoint David as king of Israel (1Sa 16:13). This Set-apart Breath, David grieved and forfeited by sins. Hence, he prays YHVH to show favor rather than execute His right to punish him.

The behavioral change and restitution

Let me teach transgressors Your ways and sinners shall turn back to You. Deliver me from blood-guilt, O Elohim, Elohim of my deliverance, Let my tongue sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise. (Psa 51:15-17)

In this part of David’s prayer, the plead for justification is followed by the prayer for renewing. A clean heart that is not stained by sin and clear consciousness is asking YHVH for the chance to teach the sinners His ways (the laws) by which they should live.

If assured of his justification, David is promising to turn back to Elohim the transgressors by means of the testimony about His mercy and favor which he will experience.

The sacrifices

For You do not desire slaughtering, else I would give it. You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken breath and a contrite heart, O Elohim, these You do not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Tsiyon; build the walls of Yerushalayim. Then You shall be pleased in slaughtering of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering, then they shall offer young bulls on Your altar. (Psa 51:18-21)

David further assures us that Elohim does not desire slaughtering for sin, nor does He delight in them. On the contrary, He would despise them, if men bring them to His altar to justify themselves.

But the sacrifices YHVH desires to see in the sinners are a broken breath and a contrite heart; them Elohim does not despise. They are the ones He requires when great transgressions are committed against Him.

The inward part of a man is said to be broken and crushed when his sinful nature is broken, his sinful self is slain, his impenetrable hardness is softened, his haughty vanity brought low, when he in his mind has become as nothing, and when YHVH is everything to him. Of such a heart, desire for grace of YHVH, brings the sacrifices that are truly worthy of His acceptance and well-pleasing to Him.

From this sacrifice of the contrite heart, the Prayer for Yom Kippur comes back to the Temple sacrifices offered in a right state of mind. The present author cannot emphasize more the meaning of the Torah and the right reason of bringing the sacrifices to the Temple: namely these sacrifices are for unintentional sins; there are no sacrifices in the Torah that can possibly atone for intentional sins.

When we ask YHVH for forgiveness with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, then and only then He shall be pleased in slaughtering of righteousness and burnt offering on His altar.

Note: Today there is no Temple as the one that once stood in the heart of Jerusalem. There is no Levitical priesthood and the Levites are not ritually prepared for the resume of the Temple service. But, the Temple of YHVH will stand again on the mount and the Torah and the sacrifices will be fully restored for the glory of YHVH, as He said through the prophet Ezekiel (chapters 40 through 48). This Temple, known as the Third Temple or the Millennium Temple will be built by the Messiah at His coming.

And out of loins of David a Son came who echoed David’s clean heart that those who are more forgiven, more love. David loved YHVH before his sin and he loved Him even more after the sin.

This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.


May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.