What Does "Afflict the Soul" Mean?
Almost every year since I've been keeping Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) I get asked this question: What does it mean to afflict the soul (KJV)? This question is asked because in Scriptures like Leviticus 23:26-32 Yahweh instructs the Israelites to afflict their souls on the 10th day of the 7th month. Other Bible translations say to practice self denial (HCSB), humble yourselves (NET), or deny yourselves (NIV).
The Hebrew word for afflict (KJV) is the word anah. This word is found in other passages of Scripture that deal with how people would afflict their selves or practice self denial.
Ezra 8:21 | I proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River, so that we might humble (anah) ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions.
Psalm 35:13b | I humbled (anah) myself with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.
Isaiah 58:3, 5 | Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied (anah) ourselves, but You haven't noticed... Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny (anah) himself...
These three passages equate fasting with self denial or humbling one's self. This is not the only form of self denial, but it is probably the most common form. The human body thrives on nourishment from food and drink. An extremely good way to practice self denial is to deny your body this same food and drink, i.e. to fast. Other ways may include refraining from sex as well as personal grooming, and the list could be added to.
That fasting was the common way to practice self denial on the Day of Atonement is seen in a proper understanding of Acts 27:9. We read here:
Acts 27:9 | By now much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous. Since the Fast was already over...
Commentator Adam Clarke has this to say in regards to this verse:
Sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past - It is generally allowed that the fast mentioned here was that of the great day of atonement which was always celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month, which would answer to the latter end of our September; see Lev. 16:29; 23:27, etc. As this was about the time of the autumnal equinox, when the Mediterranean Sea was sufficiently tempestuous, we may suppose this feast alone to be intended. To sail after this feast was proverbially dangerous among the ancient Jews. See proofs in Schoettgen.
Also note commentator John Gill on this verse:
The Syriac version reads, "the fast of the Jews"; this was the day of atonement, which was the grand fast of the Jews, on which day they afflicted their souls, Lev. 23:27 in memory of the worshipping of the golden calf; on that day they neither eat nor drink, nor do any work, neither do they wash, nor are they anointed, nor do they bind on their shoes, or make use of the marriage bed; nor do they read anything but sorrowful things, as the Lamentations of Jeremiah, until the setting of the sun, and the rising of the stars; and hence this day is called by them יום צום, "the day of fasting", and צום הגדול, "the great fast, and the day of the fast of atonement, and the fast of the atonement": now this day was on the 10th of the month Tisri, which answers to the latter part of our September, and the former part of October; so that it was now Michaelmas time, when winter was coming on, and sailing began to be dangerous; about this time of the year the Pleiades set, which brings on tempestuous weather, and unfit for sailing...
12/30/2020 05:29:40 am
Now we are under the new covenant, will there be any need of this great fast?
9/14/2021 07:36:05 am
Eric, Once a year on the day of Atonement the High priest would appear in the Holy of Holies in the wilderness temple and would utter the name of Elohim which is YHWH and make sacrifice for the sins of himself and the people. What does that remind you of? Bible translators have replaced our heavenly Fathers name 6832 time in scripture with "LORD" One of their reasons is that the Jews erroneously had a tradition that it was against the third commandment to utter the name YHWH. But I digress. Yahushua Messiah is our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. When He made the ultimate sacrifice that made grace possible the curtain in the temple was split in two, from the top to bottom. This signifies that we now have access to the mercy seat, throne of grace 24/7/365. In ancient Israel only the High priest could offer this yearly sacrifice for sin.Now it is done once and for all. The day of atonement was a shadow of the true sacrifice for sin.This feast is commanded to be kept by all believers as we are grafted in Israelite's subject to the commands of scripture and receiver of all the promises including salvation through Yahushua Messiah. Grace not works - obedience because we love Him and want to please and obey Him. He came and fulfill the Torah which is an example to us who fail miserably at it, but are save by grace even tho we are sinners. Sin is the transgression of the law, and we all sin. All the biblical holy days picture YHWH plan for mankind to have an eternal future with Him HalleluYah! Yes we need this great feast
9/16/2021 07:25:27 pm
9/17/2021 10:17:29 am
Carlos, Colossians 2:16-17 Exactly, well noted. This was the body of Messiah. Do not let anyone outside of the body of Messiah judge you or create a disturbance. Brother Paul is stating since Yahushua died for our sins and the Sabbath and Holy days and New Moons are shadows of His death and resurrection and return to earth and His kingdom, do not let anyone who is not a believer judge you for the way you are keeping them. The question here is not whether to keep them or not, but the disciples being judged by pagans for 'how' they were keeping them. Gnostic's believed that anything dealing with the flesh was evil and they were judging the brethren for feasting during the Holy days and having fellowship meals and so forth on the New Moon and Sabbaths. The Sabbaths and New Moon remain shadows and are not done away with. Let the body of Messiah judge a believer not pagan outsiders. HallaluYah
10/20/2021 03:16:29 am
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
10/20/2021 03:57:17 am
If afflicting the soul means self denial, as already shown through the Hebrew word quoted above, then self denial does not necessarily mean fasting. I mean you fast and still not be denying the flesh, as shown through the Isaiah 58 quoted, also above. After all, they have been keeping all those religious activities all the years, but didn't deliver the promise. The law only leads to condemnation 2 Corinthians 3:19. Galatians 3:17. God never intended the law for our deliverance, but condemnation.
Self-imposed religion and neglect of the body are man-made regulations, as the scripture points out. This passage is not referring to the Torah, which was only ever good for us--else we need to be worshipping a better god. It refers to additions to the Torah, which is basically Jesus' entire topic of conversation with the scribes and Pharisees.
10/6/2022 11:18:54 am
One of the most contradictory things I've seen of the apostle Paul, is that he relished observing the feasts and at the same time taught that "Christ our passover was sacrificed once and for all". Not only did he observe them, but he led Gentile converts of the apostolic churches in Asia Minor into doing the same, yet he argued strongly with Peter not to 'judaize' as contemporary 'scholars' often state. Why would God allow this man to write over half of the New Testament? Either Paul was a very confused hypocrite, leading others into confusion, or the New Covenant is not what the 'experts' are teaching that it is.
1/17/2023 10:54:19 am
"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), to win those under the law. To those without the law I became like one without the law (though I am not outside the law of God but am under the law of Christ), to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
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Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.