Israel was commanded to fast every year on the day of atonement. God knew fasting would help them to afflict their souls. So on this one day a year as the High Priest was to enter the Most Holy Place, God wanted them to fast. They were to afflict their soul (fast) from sunset to sunset. Thus, while the high priest was killing the bull and the goat, entering the most holy place, and confessing their sins over the scapegoat, the entire nation of Israel had begun their fasting the night before. God knew that as this day dawned, their growing hunger would help keep them focused. Each time they thought of eating, they would remember this was the day of atonement and they could not eat until sunset. As the hunger grew more and more acute, the truly holy and faithful ones went one step further as they used that hunger to heighten their feelings of persistent pleading along with godly sorrow, repentance, and true remorse over their own sins that were being confessed that day.
- In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work... For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you... you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, (Lev. 16:29-30; 23:26).