Word Studies: Atonement

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Word Study​​ ​​ atone;​​ atonement


atone​​ (V);​​ atonement​​ (N)​​ -​​ from the Hebrew word​​ kapar​​ meaning - to cover over, pacify, propitiate. The first appearance in the Bible of​​ kapar​​ is found in Genesis where God gives instructions to Noah on how to build the ark. ​​ 

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch​​ <kapar> it within and without with pitch.​​ Genesis 6:14 (KJV)​​ words in chevrons (<​​ >) supplied by this author.

God was telling Noah to cover the ark with a sealant​​ (pitch)​​ to keep the water out.​​ Today we might say “Seal it with a sealant”.​​ 

Old Covenant (Mosaic Law)

Under the Mosaic Law, there were numerous requirements for​​ the​​ Israelite​​ priests to offer animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin.​​ The most holy of these sacrificial offerings was known as​​ Yom Kippur, aka,​​ Day of Atonement​​ (Lev. 23:27-32).

But​​ these sacrifices were only a temporary covering​​ for the​​ sins of the Israelites. Why? Because the blood of animals could never remove man’s sin​​ (Hebrews 10:1-4). These sacrifices foreshadowed the sacrifice of​​ the coming Messiah (Jesus). However, the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross​​ would not just cover man’s sins, but would​​ gloriously​​ take them away forever!​​ (John 1:29)

1​​  For the Law, since it has​​ only​​ a shadow of the good things to come​​ and​​ not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.​​ 2​​  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?​​ 3​​  But in those​​ sacrifices​​ there is a reminder of sins year by year.​​ 4​​  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.​​ Hebrews 10:1-4 (NASB)​​ 

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!​​ John 1:29 (NASB)

That is why there is no longer a need for​​ these​​ repeated ritual sacrifices. Our great high priest Jesus paid the ultimate price with His shed blood/death on the cross​​ once and for all. There is no further sacrifice needed!

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ​​ once for all.​​ Hebrews 10.10​​ 

17​​ “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."​​ 18​​ Now where there is forgiveness of these things,​​ there is no longer​​ any​​ offering for sin.​​ Hebrews 10.17-18​​ 



It is not uncommon that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is referred to as an atonement for sin. But nowhere in the New Testament is the word​​ atonement​​ used*. The shed blood/death of Jesus has completed its work in providing payment for man’s sin debt and thus, reconciling him to God. Reconciled simply means we have been changed from enemies of God to friends of God​​ (2 Cor. 5:19Col. 1:20). Rejoice that you have a friend who will never leave you! For more on​​ reconciliation​​ read​​ here​​ on this website.​​ <make link>

*Note​​ –​​ The word​​ atonement​​ does​​ appear in​​ Rom. 5:11​​ KJV, however, a more accurate translation uses the​​ Hebrew word​​ katallagen, which is translated​​ as​​ reconciliation​​ (NASB, ESV, NKJV).



1.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary

2.​​ Strong’s Concordance

3.​​ The Feasts of the Lord; 1997; Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal